Friday, September 12, 2014
This will be a busy weekend for Pope Francis a short trip on Saturday and a wedding ceremony on Sunday. On Saturday he will make a pilgrimage to the Italian War Memorial of Redipuglia, also known at the Memorial of the 100,000, in northeastern Italy. This trip is to pay tribute to all those who fell on the battlefield during the First World War which began 100 years ago - and, as Francis has specified, to the fallen of all wars past and present. See the special report below.

Sunday, September 14, feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Pope Francis who is the bishop of Rome - will marry 20 couples from the Diocese of Rome. The weddings take place just three weeks before the start of the synod on the family, and indicate the importance that Pope Francis indeed the entire Church gives to marriage in Gods plan. The last Pope to preside at a wedding ceremony was St. John Paul II who married 8 couples in a pouring rain, I might add! - in St. Peters Square on October 15, 2000 at the Jubilee of Families.

Lots of news for todays column but at least youll have the whole weekend to read it, should you so choose!


ITALIAN BIBLICAL ASSOCIATION - This morning the Holy Father met with the participants in the 43rd National Biblical Week, organised by the Italian Biblical Association, a meeting that inaugurated the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Dogmatic Constitution of Vatican Council II on the Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, promulgated on November 18, 1965.

INTERNATIONAL PEACE MEETING: War is never a necessity, nor is it inevitable. Another way can always be found: the way of dialogue, encounter and the sincere search for truth. The time has come for religious leaders to cooperate more effectively and pursue peace. This was the substance of the Holy Fathers message to the representatives of world religions that met in Antwerp, Belgium from September 7-9 for the 28th edition of the International Peace Meeting sponsored by the Sant'Egidio Community.

BISHOPS OF THE CONGO: Pope Francis Friday addressed the Catholic Bishops of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He deplored the use of child soldiers in the Republic and urged the countrys Catholic Bishops to strengthen their pastoral outreach to the young people in their nation. He also appealed to them to do all in their power to promote peace and disarmament. The bishops from the war-torn African country are currently in Rome on their ad limina visits.

POPE FRANCIS TO TRAVEL TO TURKEY: Turkish President Recep Tayyp Erdogan has issued an official invitation to Pope Francis to visit his country. Speaking to journalists on Friday, the head of the Holy See Press Office, Fr Federico Lombardi, said the Holy See had received the invitation and was preparing for a papal visit to Turkey at the end of November. He added that the duration of the trip and the program for the visit were still to be confirmed.

The Pope is expected to visit Istanbul on November 30th to celebrate the feast day of St. Andrew, founder of the Eastern Church and patron saint of the Orthodox world. While a delegation from the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity goes regularly to Turkey for the annual celebration, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1 invited Pope Francis to attend the event in person this year. Pope Francis will be following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who visited the Turkish cities of Ankara, Ephesus and Istanbul in November 2006.


Tune in to Vatican Insider this weekend when my guest will be Sr. Davilyn ahChick, a native of Honolulu and a Franciscan Sister of the Neuman Communities, the same community to which St. Marianne Cope belonged. As you know, Mother Marianne worked alongside F. Damien on the peninsula of Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai, tending to the victims of leprosy who had been exiled to this island paradise because of their disease. Marianne worked five years in Honolulu and then 30 years on Kalaupapa. Canonized in 2012, her remains were brought back to Hawaii this summer and now permanently rest in her shrine in the cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.

Prior to this event and just before the canonization I spoke to Sr. Davilyn in Honolulu and youll hear her tell the story of Mother Marianne.

Sister Davilyn has always been at the Honolulu airport when I have arrived in the islands, welcoming me with her wonderful, warm smile and a fresh, floral lei, an important symbol of welcome in Hawaiian history, as you see in these photos.

This photo was taken in the Honolulu cathedral just moments after St. Mariannes remains were placxed in the giant reliquary you see here. Sister Davilyn and I are bookends in this picture that shows several other Franciscan sisters standing next to Bishop Larry Silva.


Vatican Radio has prepared an exhaustive report on Pope Francis penitential pilgrimage on Saturday to the Italian War Memorial of 'Redipuglia', also known at the Memorial of the 100,000 in Italys Friuli-Venezia region. He goes there to pay tribute to all those who fell on the battlefield during the First World War and indeed, as he himself specified, to the fallen of all wars past and present.

The pilgrimage will begin with a visit to the nearby Austro-Hungarian cemetery in Fogliano where Pope Francis will pray and lay a wreath as a tribute to the fallen before celebrating Holy Mass at the War Memorial in the presence of civil and religious authorities. Following Mass he will give all the military chaplains and bishops present a lamp to take back with them to their diocese in remembrance of the fallen.

Veronica Scarisbrick reports that this visit marks a century since the beginning of this Great War, triggered on June 28, 1914 by the assassination of the heir to the throne of the Austro- Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Although the first shots of this conflict were fired a month later on July 28.

The Pope of the time was Saint Pius X who was to die on August 20 of this same year, and, say some, he died of a broken heart because of the senseless slaughter of this war. He was succeeded by Benedict XV, a former Vatican diplomat who found himself leading the Catholic Church at a crucial time in its history.

Pope Francis visits an area of Italy where there was heavy fighting and where the memory of this Great War lies thick on the ground and in peoples hearts and minds.

For the record, Italy sided with the Allied Forces in 1915, thats to say with Britain, France and Russia, and for three years fought the Austro-Hungarians on its Alpine borders. The conflict became known as 'La Guerra Bianca' or 'White War'. Austria - Hungary had sided with Germany during this war.

'Redipuglia' is in the Province of Gorizia and lies south of the border with modern day Slovenia. At the time of the Great War it was the eastern tip of the Italian War front and it was here along the Isonzo River that some of the bloodiest battles took place. Famously, Austrian forces, reinforced by German troops, routed the Italians at the Battle of Caporetto in the autumn of 1917, advancing more than 80 miles. However during the final two weeks of the war, the Italians counter-attacked with the help of British and French troops at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto. A victory of the Allied Forces which would lead to the Armistice of November 1918.

For Pope Francis the Great War in northern Italy is part and parcel of his family history. For, as this son of Italian immigrants to Argentina mentioned on June 6 while speaking to one of the Italian police forces, the Carabinieri, he vividly remembers the painful stories relating to World War I recounted to him by his paternal grandfather, Giovanni Carlo Bergoglio who fought in this war a decade before immigrating to the New World.

Pope Francis goes to Redipuglia in the footsteps of Saint John Paul II who paid tribute to the fallen here on May 3, 1992 and called here for peace in the world.

Commissioned during the fascist era, its layout is striking with its giant staircase leading uphill towards three great bronze crosses on the horizon of Monte Sei Busi. If youve ever visited you cannot have failed to be struck by the deafening silence which blends into the whiteness and immensity of the steps which have the words Presente engraved on them as a sort of roll-call of the fallen.

Right at the heart of the first row of steps lie the human remains of the only woman in the entire memorial, a nurse by the name of Margherita Kaiser Parodi Orlando, whereas at the top of the staircase lie two great tombs covered with bronze plaques where the remains of over 60.000 unknown soldiers lie. Before reaching the top of the hill there are sculptures representing the Way of the Cross and a chapel known as ' The Deposition', on which the three bronze Crosses stand in memory of Mount Golgotha.

Interestingly however, while the perception you have of this great white staircase follows an upwards movement, so towards heaven, in the minds of the architect Giovanni Greppi and of the sculptor Giannino Castiglioni the staircase was intended to follow an opposite movement, symbolic of an army descending from heaven.

At the foot of this flight of stairs, there stand some rather majestic-looking granite tombs where the remains of the five generals who led the soldiers into this war are housed, with as centrepiece being the remains of the Commander in Chief of the Third Army, the Duke of Aosta, Emmanuele Filiberto.


Fides news agency reports from Kaohsiung that the first church dedicated to St. John Paul II in the Chinese Catholic world was blessed and inaugurated on September 6 in Laiyi, in the Diocese of Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

Archbishop Peter Chen-Chung Liu of Kaohsiung presided at the Mass for the consecration of the new church. Mass was concelebrated by 20 priests in the presence of more than 1,200 faithful. Fr. Calogero Orifimma, an Italian missionary priest, is the pastor as well as the architect of the church. "The biggest and most beautiful news, of the new church, he told Fides, was the celebration of four baptisms during Mass, and two newborn boys were given the Christian name John Paul." The church is in the southern part of the island of Taiwan, inhabited by a community of 7000 Paiwan aborigines, 2000 of whom are Catholic.

Fr. Orifiammas vocation was inspired by John Paul II: After participating in World Youth Day 1997 in Paris, he decided to answer the call of the Lord and entered the seminary of Kaohsiung in Taiwan, where he was ordained a priest in 2007. Since he had a degree in architecture, he designed the church project in Chinese style, mostly inspired by local indigenous architecture. The work to build the church began in February 2013, thanks to the donations of the faithful of the diocese. Now the church has been inaugurated, even though there are still debts to be paid, so the pastor relies on the generosity of all Chinese Catholics.


From the Holy Land, Fides news agency, an organ of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, reports that pilgrimages to the Holy Land should be encouraged by the Episcopal Conferences around the world because they represent a form of concrete support for the local Christian communities in addition to pilgrims being able to give an important contribution to the never ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Bishops' Commission for Catholic Pilgrimages to the Holy Land has released a statement whose intent is to encourage pilgrims to visit the Holy Places of the land where Jesus lived, putting aside any hesitation or second thoughts after seeing the deaths and the devastation caused by the Israeli military intervention in the Gaza Strip and the missiles in Hamas.

"In recent weeks, says the text released by the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and sent to Fides Agency, violence has again visited the Holy Land. During these weeks of suffering, some groups of pilgrims have canceled their trip. "The members of the Episcopal Commission led by Bishop William Shomali, Patriarchal Vicar of the Latin Patriarchate, insist that even in the days of the military intervention, groups of pilgrims in the Holy Land did not run any risk and that "the pilgrimage itinerary between Nazareth, Tiberias, Jerusalem and Bethlehem has always been and continues to be safe."

Pilgrimages are also an effective way to support Christians in the Holy Land at both a spiritual and material level. Christian pilgrims "are warmly welcomed by Christians, Muslims and Jews because they are considered in this area of the world as bridges of peace between Palestinians and Israelis." This is also why the representatives of the Catholic Church in the Holy Land encourage "the pilgrims to come and walk where Christ walked, to be partakers with us in our witness of faith" and see for themselves "how they can become part of our dream of peace." The appeal of the Commission is particularly addressed to the worlds Episcopal Conferences so that "dioceses, parishes and associations, (might) spread our message of encouragement to the pilgrims."

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