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Vatican turns off fountains to conserve water for drought-hit Rome

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2017 / 07:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the city of Rome and much of Italy experiences a severe drought, the Vatican has turned off its fountains in an effort to preserve water and show solidarity with the city, which may be forced to ration water to about 1 million of the city’s residents.

As far as is known, this is the first time the Vatican has been forced to turn off its some 100 fountains, “so this is an exception,” Greg Burke, Director of the Holy See Press Office, told Reuters TV.

The water that comes into the Vatican is from the same sources as the water to the city of Rome, he said. “This is the Vatican's way of living solidarity with Rome, trying to help Rome get through this crisis.”

A prolonged heatwave in southern Europe and two years of well-below-average rainfall have caused a severe drought in Rome and the surrounding areas.

The two large fountains in St. Peter’s Square – Baroque masterpieces by 17th-century sculptors Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini – were turned off Monday. All 100 fountains will be turned off gradually over the next few days, including those in the Vatican Gardens.

“This decision is very much in line with the Pope’s thinking on ecology: you can’t waste and sometimes you have to be willing to make a sacrifice,” Burke said.

“We have very beautiful gardens in the Vatican. They might not be as green this year, but we'll survive.”

The decision to turn off the fountains is in line with Pope Francis’ commitment to the environment and concern for the protection of “our common home” that he laid out in his 2015 encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si.”

To preserve water, the city of Rome has turned off its drinking fountains and has also begun to turn off or lower the flow of many of its historic fountains. A ban on drawing water from the drought-hit Lake Bracciano, which lies about 25 miles from the city and supplies at least part of its water, will go into effect July 28.

Following this ban, the city may be forced to ration the water supply in up to eight hour intervals to around half of its 3 million residents.

In southern Italy and Greece, temperatures well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit combined with strong winds have caused forest fires leading to the closure of popular tourist sites, such as Mount Vesuvius near Naples, which had 23 wildfires on its slopes earlier this month.

Wildfires near the Calampiso seaside resort west of Palermo, the capital of Sicily, caused more than 700 tourists to be evacuated by boat July 12.

A Vatican seminar on water in February highlighted the complex challenges faced around the world in making the basic human right to water a reality for all people, including under environmental factors such as drought.

Pope Francis addressed participants in the seminar Feb. 24, reaffirming that water is indeed a basic human right.

“Our right to water is also a duty to water,” he said. “Our right to water gives rise to an inseparable duty. We are obliged to proclaim this essential human right and to defend it – as we have done – but we also need to work concretely to bring about political and juridical commitments in this regard.”

“God the Creator does not abandon us in our efforts to provide access to clean drinking water to each and to all,” he continued.

“With the ‘little’ we have, we will be helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity.”

Francis prays for Charlie Gard, as his parents end legal battle

Vatican City, Jul 24, 2017 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a US neurologist determined that an experimental therapy could no longer potentially be of aid to a British baby born with a disabling medical condition, his parents have given up a legal challenge to take him to the US for the treatment.

British and European courts had sided with English hospital officials who sought to bar Charlie Gard's parents from seeking treatment overseas.

Greg Burke, the Holy See press officer, said July 24 that “Pope Francis is praying for Charlie and his parents and feels especially close to them at this time of immense suffering. The Holy Father asks that we join in prayer that they may find God’s consolation and love.”

Charlie Gard, aged 11 months, is believed to suffer from a rare genetic condition called mitochondrial depletion syndrome, which causes progressive muscle weakness. The disorder is believed to affect fewer than 20 children worldwide. Charlie has been in intensive care since October 2016. He has suffered significant brain damage due to the disease and is currently fed through a tube. He breathes with an artificial ventilator and is unable to move.

His parents, Connie Yates and Chris Gard, had wanted to keep him on life support and transport him to the United States in order to try an experimental treatment. They raised more than $1.6 million to help seek his treatment in the US.

However, their decision was challenged in court by hospitals and an attorney appointed to represent Charlie. The parents appealed a High Court decision, and their appeal to the U.K.’s Supreme Court was rejected.

The efforts to keep Charlie's parents from seeking overseas treatment were based on deep ethical errors, a Catholic expert in medical ethics told CNA earlier this year. Dr. Melissa Moschella said the hospital's effort represented a “quality of life” ethic that says human life is valuable only if it meets certain capacities, and that it is moreover a violation of parental rights.

A neurologist in the US, Dr. Michio Hirano, had been willing to offer Gard nucleoside bypass therapy, while acknowledging it would not necessarily heal him. But after seeing a new MRI scan this week, Hirano declined to offer the therapy.

According to the Guardian, Connie said, “All our efforts are for [Charlie], we only want to give him a chance at life. There’s one simple reason for Charlie’s muscular deterioration [and] that was time,” noting the lengthy decisions from the courts of London which restricted Charlie from the U.S. treatment.

The representative for Charlie’s parents, Grant Armstrong said, “For Charlie, it’s too late, time has run out, irreversible muscular damage has been done and the treatment can no longer be a success.”

The child's life support is expected to be pulled in the next few days.

His parents now wish to establish a charity to research and combat mitochondrial depletion syndrome.

Pope: the choice between good, evil is one we all have to make

Vatican City, Jul 23, 2017 / 05:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said good and evil are often entwined, and that as sinners, we can't label any one group or institution as bad, since we all face temptation and have the ability to choose which path to follow.

“The Lord, who is wisdom incarnate, today helps us to understand that good and evil cannot identify with definite territories or determined groups of people,” the Pope said July 23.

Jesus tells us that “the line between good and evil passes through the heart of every person. We are all sinners,” he said, and asked for anyone who is not a sinner to raise their hand – which no one did.
 
“We are all sinners!” he said, explaining that with his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ “has freed us from the slavery of sin and gives us the grace of walking in a new life.”

Pope Francis spoke to the crowd of pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address, which this week focused on the day's Gospel passage from Matthew, in which an enemy secretly plants weeds alongside the wheat in a master's field.

The image, he said, shows us the good seed that is planted in the world by God, but also the bad seed planted by the devil in order to corrupt the good.

It not only speaks of the problem of evil, but also it also refers to God's patience in the master, who allows the weeds to grow alongside the wheat, so that the harvest is not lost.

“With this image, Jesus tells us that in this world good and evil are totally entwined, that it's impossible to separate them and weed out all the evil,” Pope Francis said, adding that “only God can do this, and he will do it in the final judgment.”

Instead, the parable represents “the field of the freedom of Christians,” who must make the difficult discernment between good and evil, choosing which one to follow.

This, the Pope said, involves trusting God and joining two seemingly contradictory attitudes: “decision and patience.”

Francis explained that “decision” in this case means “wanting to be good grain, with all of it's strengths, and so to distance yourself from evil and it's seductions.”

On the other hand, patience means “preferring a Church that is the leaven of the dough, which is not afraid to dirty her hands washing the feet of her children, rather than a Church of the 'pure,' which pretends to judge before it's time who is in the Kingdom of God and who is not,” he said.

Both of these attitudes are necessary, he said, stressing that no one is perfect, but we are all sinners who have been redeemed by Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.

Thanks to our baptism, Jesus has also given us the Sacrament of Confession, “ because we always need to be forgiven for our sins,” Francis said, adding that “to always look at the evil that is outside of us means not wanting to recognize the sin that is also within us.”

Jesus also teaches us a different way of looking at the world and observing reality, he said. In reflecting on the parable, we are invited to learn God's timing and to see with his eyes, rather than focusing on our own, narrow vision.

“Thanks to the beneficial influence of an anxious waiting, what were weeds or seemed like weeds, can become a product of good,” he said, adding that this is “the prospect of hope!”

Pope Francis closed his address praying that Mary would intercede in helping us to observe in the world around us “not only dirtiness and evil, but also the good and beautiful; to expose the work of Satan, but above all to trust in the action of God who renders history fruitful.”

After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, he voiced his sadness over “serious tensions and violence” in Jerusalem over the weekend, which have left seven people dead.

The deaths were the result of protests that were prompted by the placement of metal detectors at the entrance to the compound housing al-Aqsa mosque in the city, and have prompted world leaders to call for restraint on either side before the situation boils over.

Pope Francis invited pilgrims to join him in praying for a deescalation of the violence, and that “the Lord inspires in all proposals of reconciliation and peace.”

In latest appointments, Pope names new members of Roman Rota

Vatican City, Jul 20, 2017 / 06:15 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fr. Pierangelo Pietracatella and Fr. Hans-Peter Fischer are the newest members of the Roman Rota, and mark the latest in a string of appointments Pope Francis has made this summer as part of his ongoing effort to restructure the Roman Curia.

Hailing from the northern Italian diocese of Toronta, Fr. Pietracatella, a member of the Rota, has been named as its new Chief of Office.

Fr. Fischer, a priest of the archdiocese of Freiburg, located in Germany's black forest region, has been named an auditor of the Rota. He is the current rector of the Pontifical Teutonic College of Santa Maria in Campo Santo, located in the Vatican.

Composed of various auditors, the Roman Rota is one of the three courts of the Holy See, the other two being the Apostolic Penitentiary and the Apostolic Signatura.

The Apostolic Penitentiary is the tribunal in charge of cases involving excommunication and serious sins, including those whose absolution is reserved to the Holy See, while the Signatura functions as a sort of Supreme Court. The Rota, for its part, is akin to a court of appeals or court of “last instance,” and is also where marriage nullity cases are judged.

The Roman Rota is the Vatican's court of higher instance, usually at the appellate stage, with the purpose of safeguarding rights within the Church.

Among its responsibilities is the trying of appeals in marriage annulment cases. The annulment process was streamlined by Pope Francis in December 2015, giving the possibility of a stronger role to local bishops and cutting the automatic appeal of initial judgments, among other things.

Announced in a July 20 communique from the Holy See, the appointments to the Rota are the latest carried out by Pope Francis in his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia.

Earlier this month the pontiff made waves by choosing to not renew the 5-year term of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

In his stead, the Pope Francis on July 1 named Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria, former secretary of the congregation, to take the helm.

Just over two weeks later, on July 18, he tapped the congregation's undersecretary, Father Giacomo Morandi, to take Ladaria's place as secretary. The priest was also appointed titular Archbishop of Caere, however, the date of his episcopal consecration has not yet been set.

These latest appointments by Pope Francis are significant, since many curial officials were been named by Benedict before his resignation.

While Francis has made several of his own appointments since his election, the terms of the officials named by Benedict are now coming to an end, giving way for a curia that is shaped more by the mind of Francis as he moves forward in his process of Church reform.

Florida's abortion waiting period law awaits further testimony in courts

Tallahassee, Fla., Jul 19, 2017 / 04:43 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The attorney general of Florida has been given 60 days to gather evidence and testimonies in defense of a 2015 state law mandating 24-hour waiting periods for abortions.

The law's constitutionality is being challenged in the courts, and it has been on hold since its passage.

The decision was passed down by Florida Circuit Judge Terry Lewis after a July 19 hearing that had been meant to re-evaluate the law. In February, the Florida Supreme Court had upheld a lower court’s decision to stay the law after its passage in June 2015.

Among the plaintiffs challenging the law are the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Gainesville Woman Care, an abortion clinic which started the lawsuit.

When the matter came before the state Supreme Court, they issued a stay on the law while they considered the law. The temporary injunction was issued in February.

In a brief filed last month, lawyers defending the statute on the state’s behalf said the state “must be afforded a full and fair opportunity to canvas applicable relevant literature, to consult with and retain experts as needed and appropriate, to seek discovery from plaintiffs and their experts as well as from third parties, and to marshal and present relevant facts in the context of relevant law.”

Opponents of the law argue it is an unconstitutional violation of the state’s right to privacy, and singles out abortion from other riskier medical procedures that don’t require a waiting period.

“No mandatory abortion delay in this country has ever survived strict scrutiny,” the plaintiff’s lawyers wrote in a June 1 statement asking for a summary judgement on the case.

The Florida bishops' conference issued a statement supporting the law after its 2015 passage. They called it “good legislation” that “gives women one day to reflect upon the risks of abortion, one day to view the image of her unborn child’s ultrasound, and one day to consult with friends, family and faith.”

They also noted that 26 other states have such waiting period laws, and that Florida “already requires waiting periods before marriage, divorce, and the purchase of a handgun.”

Father Giacomo Morandi promoted to CDF secretary

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2017 / 12:19 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Tuesday appointed Father Giacomo Morandi secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Italian priest had been a subsecretary in the dicastery since 2015.

Fr. Morandi was also appointed titular Archbishop of Caere July 18; the date of his episcopal consecration has yet to be determined.

He was born in Modena in 1965, and was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Modena-Nonantola in 1990, at the age of 24.

Fr. Morandi obtained a licentiate in biblical sciences from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 1992, and a licentiate and doctorate in the theology of evangelization from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 2008. He has taught scripture at several institutions.

In the Modena-Nonantola archdiocese he has served as a pastor, episcopal vicar for catechesis, evangelization, and culture, archpriest of the cathedral chapter, and vicar general.

Since October 2015 Fr. Morandi has served as subsecretary at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Fr. Morandi's promotion from within the congregation fills the vacancy left by the July 1 appointment of Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, S.J., as the office's prefect.

Archbishop Ladaria had in turn taken the place of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, whose five-year term in the post had expired, and which was not renewed.

Corruption trial of former Vatican hospital officials begins

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2017 / 11:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One year after Vatican City charged a priest and a laywoman in the second “Vatileaks” trial, it has begun a legal process against two laymen accused of misallocating funds from the Vatican-owned children's hospital, Bambino Gesu.

The hearing, which began at 10 a.m. inside the Vatican July 18, focused on charges brought against the former president and treasurer, respectively, of Bambino Gesù, Giuseppe Profiti and Massimo Spina.

The Vatican announced July 13 it was charging the two with illicit use of hospital funds in the amount of  more than 422,000 euro ($480,000) for the refurbishment of the apartment where Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, emeritus Secretary of State, lives.

The alleged crime is said to have been carried out between November 2013 and May 28, 2014, and to have benefited the construction firm of Italian businessman Gianantonio Bandera, which was carrying out the renovations.

Profiti and Spina were summoned to appear before the court by a June 16, 2017, decree from the president of the Vatican Tribunal, Giuseppe Dalla Torre, with the first hearing set for July 18.

During the hearing, Profiti and Spina were accompanied by their lawyers: Antonello Basi for Profiti, and Alfredo Ottaviano for Spina.

The judicial board was made up of Paolo Papanti Pelletier, president, Venerando Marano, judge, and Carlo Bonzano, judge. The office of the Promoter of Justice was represented by the promoter himself, Gian Piero Milano, and by an added promoter, Roberto Zannotti.

After the charge was read, the lawyers made an initial request that journalists be removed from the courtroom due to noise and pressure put on the defendants from their affirmation or dissatisfaction with the proceedings, suggesting that in the future, they be placed in a separate room to watch a live stream of the hearing.

Milano refused the request, insisting it is a public hearing, and that public interest itself demands that the process be public.

A second objection the lawyers brought, but which was also immediately dismissed, was that the Vatican had no jurisdiction over the case, since the headquarters of Bambino Gesu is located in a piazza that is not Vatican-owned, and because the money was sent to England.

However, both Milano and the tribunal affirmed that the offense happened the moment the transfer was made, and since it was done through an APSA account, it was therefore a Vatican offense.

APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, oversees the Vatican's real estate and investments.

Ottaviani and Basi also argued that the defendants are not public officials, given their work for the Vatican. However, it was ruled that in the Vatican's statutes and laws, the definition of a public official does, in fact, include the responsibilities of Profiti and Spina.

The lawyers also requested that in future proceedings, all witnesses be called on the same day in order to avoid influence and pressure from the media, which was agreed on by everyone.  

Finally, at the request of the witnesses, a letter that in some way involves Cardinal Bertone was added to the trial documents.

Although the nature and contents of the letter are unknown, Ottaviani held that it was essential to the trial process, asking the tribunal permission to quote it as a testimony of the emeritus Secretary of State. Milano agreed, saying, “if needed, it will be discussed.”

The hearing closed by setting the dates for the next one: Sept. 7-9.

Among those present at the hearing from the public was Jeffrey Lena, legal adviser to the Holy See.

The Vatican reported it was conducting an investigation into this matter in 2016 after documents published in the “Vatileaks 2” scandal implicated there may have been an illicit transfer of funds from the hospital’s foundation.

Earlier this month, the Vatican held a press conference on the hospital to confirm that though it has had problems in the past, the Vatican has worked to resolve them.

The operations of the Bambino Gesù Hospital had come under scrutiny after a report by the Associated Press, which examined the hospital’s operations under its 2008-2015 administration, finding among other things that the Vatican-owned hospital had shifted its focus from its patients to profits and had subpar standards of care.  

In 2014, the Vatican conducted its own report on the hospital after fielding several complaints, and found many of the same things, including a focus on profits and breaches in accepted medical protocols including the reuse of disposable equipment, early awakening from surgery, and risk of infection due to overcrowding.

After the report, a widespread overhaul of the hospital staff and administration was conducted, and a 2015 report found that many of the previous issues had been resolved.

“For what regards the problems that were found, there was serious attention and effort to resolve them,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, said at the July 4 press conference.

The Bambino Gesù was founded in Rome in 1869 as the first pediatric hospital in Italy. In 1924 it was donated to the Holy See and became the “Pope's Hospital.” While it receives funding from the Italian government, it does not fall under the jurisdiction of the Italian government’s health authorities.

Vatican commission agrees to disagree on Cardinal Stepinac

Vatican City, Jul 18, 2017 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A commission of Catholic and Orthodox leaders tasked with examining the wartime record of Bl. Aloysius Stepinac concluded their final session last week, agreeing to disagree about the Croatian cardinal’s cause for canonization.

The Secretariat of the Holy See prepared a joint statement, adopted by both sides, at the conclusion of the commission’s sixth and final round of meetings at the Vatican July 12-13.

The document states that the opinions of either side remain unchanged, but also acknowledges that ultimately the competency for approval of the cardinal’s cause falls under Pope Francis.

“It has come to the conclusion that various events, speeches, writings, silences, and views are still subject to different interpretations. In the case of Cardinal Stepinac, the interpretations that were predominantly given by Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs remain divergent,” it states.

It included their thanks to Pope Francis for establishing the commission, which he did in May 2016 after receiving a letter from the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church Irinej, who stated his opposition to the cardinal's canonization.

They also expressed their gratitude for the atmosphere of the discussions which allowed “full freedom of expression.”

“From the commencement of the commission's work, the members were aware that the process of canonization of Cardinal Stepinac was in the exclusive competence of the Pope. They also admit that each Church has its own criteria for the canonization process,” it continued.

The Secretariat of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, accepted the outcome of the commission, which was led by Fr. Bernard Ardura, president of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences.

With the conclusion of the commission, the path to the canonization of Cardinal Stepinac is fully open. The proper requisites in place, it is in the hands of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, and then will go to Pope Francis for approval. It is believed the announcement of his canonization could take place soon.

Cardinal Stepinac, who is hailed as a hero in Croatia, has been a target of decades-long communist smears and disinformation. Despite this, he was beatified as a martyr by Pope St. John Paul II in October 1998.

Many in the Serbian Orthodox community are deeply skeptical of the cardinal's wartime record. Though one researcher of the period says the facts counter false claims about the beatified cardinal's record.

“What you have is a false narrative created by Soviet agents,” Prof. Ronald J. Rychlak told CNA/EWTN News in 2016.

Cardinal Stepinac was the Archbishop of Zagreb from 1937 until his death in 1960 at the age of 61. In Yugoslavia during the Second World War, the pro-Nazi Ustashe movement came to power under leader Ante Pavelic after the Axis occupied the country.

“Stepinac's sermons against the Ustashe were so strong. They prohibited them from being published, because they were so strong against the Ustashe,” Rychlak said. Instead, his words were secretly printed and circulated and occasionally broadcast over the radio.

He also severely condemned the Ustashe’s destruction of Zagreb’s main synagogue in 1941 and in an October 1943 homily, the archbishop condemned notions of racial superiority.

In 1946, Stepinac was put on trial for allegedly collaborating with the Ustashe’s crimes. The trial drew critical coverage from Western media like Time and Newsweek and protests from those who saw it as a show trial.

Archbishop Stepinac was denied effective representation and only met with his attorney for an hour before the trial. The government’s witnesses were told what to say, and the archbishop was not allowed to cross-examine them.

In 1953, Pope Pius XII made him a cardinal, although he was never allowed travel to the Holy See to be officially elevated. He died in 1960 of an alleged blood disorder, which was said to have been caused by the conditions he endured in jail. Recent tests of his remains by Vatican investigators show evidence he was also poisoned.

In June 2011 Pope Benedict XVI praised Cardinal Stepinac as a courageous defender of those oppressed by the Ustashe, including Serbs, Jews and gypsies.

He said the cardinal stood against “the dictatorship of communism, where he again fought for the faith, for the presence of God in the world, the true humanity that is dependent on the presence of God.”

Benedict XVI: Cardinal Meisner died a 'cheerful' man

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2017 / 09:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a letter sent for the funeral of the late Cardinal Joachim Meisner, retired Pope Benedict XVI praised the prelate as a passionate pastor, who died a happy man at peace with the Lord and his will for the universal Church.

“What particularly impressed me in my last conversations with the now deceased Cardinal was the serene cheerfulness, the inner joy and the confidence at which he had arrived,” Benedict said in the letter, read aloud by Archbishop Georg Ganswein at the prelate's July 15 funeral in Cologne.

Benedict, who had known Meisner personally, noted that the late prelate, a “passionate shepherd and pastor,” had found it difficult to leave his post in Cologne upon retirement, especially at a time when the Church needs persuasive priests “who resist the dictatorship of the Zeitgeist and who live and think the faith with complete determination.”

“However, what moved me all the more was that, in this last period of his life, he learned to let go and to live all the more deeply with the conviction, that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when sometimes the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.”

Cardinal Meisner, archbishop emeritus of Cologne, died July 5 while on vacation in Bad Füssing, Germany, at the age of 83. His funeral was celebrated July 15 in the cathedral of Cologne.

Archbishop of Cologne from 1989-2014, he retired with the permission of Pope Francis in February 2014, at the age of 80, the same year his age made him ineligible to vote in a conclave.

Meisner, alongside Cardinals Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Raymond Leo Burke, submitted five "dubia," or doubts, about the interpretation of Amoris laetitia to Pope Francis on Sept. 19, 2016.

The letter, made public in November, asked for clarification on Chapter 8 of the document, which touches on the reception of communion for divorced and remarried couples.

In May, the four – dubbed the "dubia cardinals" – sent a letter to the Pope requesting a private audience to discuss the content of the "dubia," since they have not yet received a response.

Cardinal Meisner, considered a leading conservative Catholic figure in Germany, stood in contrast to other German prelates who have propagated one of the more liberal interpretations of Chapter 8 of the post-synodal document.

In his letter, Benedict said that when he first received the news of Cardinal Meisners death, he couldn't believe it, as they had spoken over the phone the day before.

In the conversation, Benedict recalled that Meisner was “audibly grateful” to be on vacation, and to have participated in the beatification ceremony of Bishop Teofilius Matulionis – a Lithuanian priest who was consecrated a bishop in secret during Soviet persecution, and who spent the majority of his episcopate in prison before being poisoned by the USSR – the day before.

For Benedict, Meisner's whole life “was ingrained both with a love for the churches of the neighboring countries to the East, who had suffered under Communist persecution, as well as an appreciation for their holding fast amidst the suffering of those times.”

“Thus it is probably no coincidence that the final visit of his life was dedicated to a Confessor of the Faith from those lands.”

In addition to the beatification and the state of peace he had attained before his death, Benedict said there were two specific reasons the cardinal was so cheerful in his final years.

For one, “he repeatedly told me how it profoundly delighted him to see young people, especially young men, experience the grace of forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession – the gift of having truly found that life which only God can give them,” Benedict said.

The second thing he cited for putting the cardinal in “a joyful mood” was the “quiet growth of Eucharistic Adoration.”

Benedict recalled how at World Youth Day in Cologne in 2005, Meisner was adament that there be adoration, and a space for “ a silence in which only the Lord speaks to the hearts.”

While some of those in the field of pastoral and liturgical work thought it would be impossible or even “obsolete” to accomplish with such a large group of people, arguing that the Lord desires to be received and not looked at, what happened proved them wrong.

It became abundantly clear, Benedict said, “that you can not eat this bread like it were just some food, and that 'receiving' the Lord in the Eucharistic Sacrament makes demands upon every dimension  of our existence – that to receive necessarily also means to adore.”

This became “an interior event, one that remained, not only for the Cardinal, unforgettable. This moment remained ever present, like a great light, within him.”

Benedict concluded his letter noting how on the morning he died, Cardinal Meisner was found in his room with his breviary on his lap.

“He had died whilst in prayer, his gaze fixed on the Lord, in conversation with the Lord,” Benedict said, adding that “the manner of death which was granted to him yet again shows how he lived: gaze fixed to the Lord and conversing with the Lord.”

Jesus not only sows the seed, he’ll pull the thorns, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2017 / 05:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis said that in the parable of the seed and the sower Jesus invites us to reclaim the ‘soil’ of our hearts by bringing to him, in prayer and Confession, the stones and thorns in need of healing.

"Jesus invites us today to look inward: to give thanks for our good ground and to work on the ground not yet good,” he said July 16.

"Let us ask ourselves if our heart is open to welcome with faith the seed of the Word of God. Let us ask ourselves if the rocks of laziness are still large and numerous within us; we identify and we call by name the brambles of our vices."

"We find the courage to make a beautiful reclamation of the land, bringing to the Lord in Confession and in prayer our stones and our stumps. In doing so, Jesus, a good sower, will be happy to do an extra work: to purify our hearts, removing the stones and thorns that stifle his Word.”

Pope Francis addressed the crowds in St. Peter's Square before leading the Angelus Sunday, reflecting on the day's Gospel of the Parable of the Sower and the Seeds.

When Jesus used parables, he noted, as in today's Gospel, he uses simple language and imagery from everyday life to help explain the mystery of the Kingdom of God in terms that can "easily be understood by everyone."

"That's why they listened willingly and appreciated his message that came straight to their heart."

In the parable, we know that Jesus is the sower, and in this image he doesn't impose, but proposes, the Pope said. He throws the seed, attracting us not by conquering us, but by giving himself to us.

And this seed, "how can it bear fruit?" he asked. "If we welcome him."

"Therefore the parable concerns above all us: it speaks, in fact, of the soil rather than of the sower. Jesus performs, so to speak, a 'spiritual radiography' of our heart, which is the ground upon which the seed of the Word falls.”

“Our heart, like soil, can be good and then the Word brings so much fruit, but it can also be hard, impermeable. This happens when we hear the Word, but it bounces off of us just like on a road: it does not enter,” he said.

He pointed out that between the good soil and the road of asphalt or 'sanpietrini' – the name of the rounded cobblestones that can be found in St. Peter's Square and around Rome – there are two intermediate terrains: the stony and the thorny.

In the stony ground the seed germinates, but doesn't put down deep roots, the Pope said.

"So is the superficial heart that welcomes the Lord, wants to pray, love and testify, but does not persevere, tends to wear and never "takes off". It is a thick heart, where the rocks of laziness prevail over the good land, where love is inconsistent and passable."

What do the thorns in the thorny ground represent? "'The world's concern and the seduction of wealth', so Jesus says explicitly," he said.

We all have these brambles in our hearts, such as making idols out of worldly wealth or power, or only living for ourselves. "You need to tear them away, otherwise the Word will not bear fruit, Francis emphasized.

July 16 is also the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The Pope concluded his message by saying that the Blessed Virgin Mary is "unsurpassed in welcoming the Word of God and putting it into practice."

May she help you "to purify your heart and preserve the presence of the Lord."