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Pope Francis: ‘The Lord wants a loving relationship with us’

Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Aug. 1, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

Vatican City, Aug 1, 2021 / 05:05 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said on Sunday that God wants us to move “beyond the logic of interest and calculation” and enter into a loving relationship with Him.

In his Angelus address on Aug. 1, the pope said that Catholics were called to mature in faith, leaving behind self-interest.

“We are not able to do this on our own. But the Lord wants a loving relationship with us: before the things we receive and do, there is Him to love. There is a relationship with Him that goes beyond the logic of interest and calculation,” he said.

In his Angelus address, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, John 6:24-35, in which a crowd seeks out Jesus following the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.

He noted that Jesus tells the people that they are looking for him “not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”

The pope said: “Here then is a first question we can ask ourselves: why do we seek the Lord? Why do we seek the Lord? What are the motivations for my faith, for our faith? We need to discern this because among the many temptations we have in life there is one that we might call idolatrous temptation.”

“It is the one that drives us to seek God for our own use, to solve problems, to have, thanks to Him, what we cannot obtain on our own, out of self-interest.”

Pope Francis gave his live-streamed address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square as he continues to recuperate from colon surgery. The 84-year-old began reading in a strong voice, pausing at one point to cough, then continuing with his reflection.

The pope stressed that people with an “immature faith” prioritized their own needs ahead of their relationship with God.

“It is right to present our needs to God’s heart,” he said, “but the Lord, who acts far beyond our expectations, wishes to live with us first of all in a relationship of love. And true love is disinterested, it is free: one does not love to receive a favor in return.”

The pope recalled that in the Gospel reading the crowd ask Jesus: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” He said that it was as if the people were asking how to move beyond a self-interested faith to one that pleases God.

“And Jesus shows the way: He answers that the work of God is to welcome the One whom the Father has sent, that is, Himself, Jesus,” he said.

“It is not adding religious practices or observing special precepts; it is welcoming Jesus, it is welcoming Him into our lives, living a story of love with Him. It is He who will purify our faith.”

The pope said that this applied not only to God but also to social relations.

“When we seek first and foremost the satisfaction of our needs, we risk using people and exploiting situations for our own ends. How many times have we heard from a person, ‘But this one uses people and then forgets’? Using people for your own profit: that’s bad. And a society that puts interests instead of people at its center is a society that does not generate life,” he commented.

“The Gospel’s invitation is this: rather than being concerned only with the material bread that feeds us, let us welcome Jesus as the bread of life and, starting out from our friendship with Him, learn to love each other. Freely and without calculation. Love given freely without calculation, without using people, with gratuitousness, with generosity, with magnanimity.”

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis greeted groups of young people gathered in the square from different parts of Italy.

He also acknowledged pilgrims from Peru, noting that the Latin American country had a new president, Pedro Castillo.

“I see some Peruvian flags and I greet you, Peruvians, who have a new president. May the Lord bless your country always,” he said.

Finally, he wished pilgrims a peaceful August, observing that it was currently warm in Rome.

“I wish everyone a good Sunday and a peaceful month of August ... Too hot, but may it be peaceful. Please don’t forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!”

Pope Francis thanks South Korea’s bishops for $1M COVID-19 vaccine donation

Pope Francis waves during his Angelus address at the Vatican July 25, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Jul 30, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis sent a letter to South Korea’s bishops thanking them for a donation of $1 million to be used to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for the poor.

“I would like to thank you for your gesture of Christian charity, which really touched me,” Pope Francis said in a July 21 letter published on the bishops’ conference website on Friday.

At their spring general meeting in March, the Korean bishops agreed to join a Vaccine Sharing Campaign which had been launched by the Archdiocese of Seoul, the Dioceses of Suwon, Daejeon, and Chuncheon, and the Korean Catholic Lay Apostolic Organizations Association.

The bishops launched the nationwide campaign on Easter Sunday. It will run until Nov. 27.

According to the bishops, the collection of funds to help pay for COVID-19 vaccines in poor countries is part of the Church in South Korea’s activities for the 2021 jubilee year, which is being held to mark the 200th anniversary of the births of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Venerable Choe Yang-Eop Thomas.

Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul noted in his Easter Sunday homily that Pope Francis had called for universal access to the COVID-19 vaccine more than once in his public speeches and prayers.

“We are living through difficult times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cardinal Yeom said, according to Vatican News.

Yeom said that “the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for those who live in poverty,” adding that the Catholic Church in South Korea would like to “turn this crisis into an opportunity.”

The campaign encouraged both Catholics and non-Catholics in South Korea to consider donating around 60,000 South Korean won, about $52, which would cover two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

“Your generosity and fraternity will allow the people suffering the most from the pandemic COVID-19 to receive the necessary aid,” Pope Francis said in his letter thanking the bishops for the donation of $1 million.

He added that the Office of Papal Charities would be responsible for using the money to help poor countries.

“I embrace you all and I kindly ask you to thank the priests, religious and faithful of your local Churches, granting them my sincere affection and my spiritual closeness,” the pope wrote.

Francis closed his letter by invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Andrew Kim. He also imparted his apostolic blessing on the bishops and those entrusted to their pastoral care.

“Please, continue to pray for me,” he said.

Pope Francis mourns ‘authoritative biblical scholar’ Cardinal Albert Vanhoye

Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, S.J. / Marc Girard via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Vatican City, Jul 30, 2021 / 05:10 am (CNA).

Pope Francis paid tribute on Friday to the late French Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, describing him as an “authoritative biblical scholar.”

The pope sent a condolence telegram on July 30 following the cardinal’s death on Thursday. At 98 years of age, Vanhoye was the world’s oldest cardinal at the time of his death.

In the message sent to Fr. Manuel Morujao, S.J., superior of the Residenza San Pietro Canisio in Rome, where Vanhoye had lived since 2013, the pope said: “On learning the news of the pious passing of dear Cardinal Albert Vanhoye, I wish to express my closeness to you, to the community of San Pietro Canisio, to the entire Society of Jesus, as well as to the family members of the late cardinal and to all those who knew and esteemed him, remembering with affection and admiration this brother who served the Lord and the Church with great dedication.”

“I think with gratitude of his intense work as a zealous religious, spiritual son of St. Ignatius, expert teacher, authoritative biblical scholar, esteemed rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute, diligent and wise collaborator of some dicasteries of the Roman Curia.”

“I also think of his love for the ministry of preaching, which he exercised with generosity, animated by a passionate desire to communicate the Gospel.”

Albert Vanhoye was born on July 24, 1923, in Hazebrouck, northern France. In 1941, at the age of 18, he crossed France on foot to enter the Jesuit novitiate in Le Vignau, southwestern France.

According to the website of the French-speaking Jesuit Province of Western Europe, this was a dangerous undertaking as part of France was then occupied by the Nazis. Vanhoye left the occupied zone clandestinely to avoid being caught and sent to work in Nazi Germany.

After earning a degree in Classics and studying philosophy and theology in Enghien, Belgium, he was ordained a priest on July 26, 1954.

He was sent in 1956 to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, where he completed a doctorate on the Epistle to the Hebrews. He took his final vows as a Jesuit in the Eternal City on Feb. 2, 1959.

In 1962, he was named a professor at the institute, also known as the Biblicum.

He was dean of the faculty from 1969 to 1975, and rector of the institute from 1984 to 1990.

Vanhoye was a member of the commission that prepared the 1979 apostolic constitution Sapientia Christiana on ecclesiastical universities and faculties.

As secretary of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, he helped to shape the 1993 document “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church” and the 2001 text “The Jewish People and their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible.”

He served as a consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Congregation for Catholic Education, and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

The French-speaking Jesuit Province of Western Europe said that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the CDF’s then prefect who later became Pope Benedict XVI, called upon Vanhoye “whenever a pontifical text mentioned Scripture or a book commenting on Scripture posed a problem.”

“Cardinal Ratzinger appreciated this tireless worker, humble and desiring only the good of the Church,” it said.

On Feb. 22, 2006, Benedict XVI announced Vanhoye’s nomination as a cardinal. He described the Jesuit as “a great exegete” and said that he was naming Vanhoye as one of three new cardinals over 80 “out of esteem for the services they have rendered to the Church with exemplary faithfulness and admirable dedication.”

Vanhoye received the red hat on March 24, 2006, having obtained a dispensation from the requirement to be consecrated as a bishop beforehand.

In 2008, Benedict invited the cardinal to preach at the annual Lenten retreat for members of the Roman Curia. Vanhoye focused his meditations on Christ, the High Priest, as described in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

In an interview at the time with L’Osservatore Romano, Vanhoye said that the Letter to the Hebrews was “the only book of the Bible which specifically develops the priesthood of Christ.”

The letter’s author uses the term archierèus, which means “priest-head.”

“Applied to Christ, the term indicates perfect fulfillment of the concept of priest in Christ. Christ is the perfect mediator between God and us. He brings us into his communion with the Father,” Vanhoye said.

Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and vice dean of the College of Cardinals, is due to celebrate Vanhoye’s funeral Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at 11 a.m. local time on July 31.

The Frenchman’s death leaves the College of Cardinals with 220 members, 123 of whom are eligible to participate in a conclave.

The world’s oldest cardinal is now the 97-year-old Slovakian Cardinal Jozef Tomko, president emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses.

In his telegram following Vanhoye’s death, Pope Francis said: “I raise my prayer to the Lord that, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he may receive this faithful servant of his into the heavenly Jerusalem, and I cordially impart my apostolic blessing to those who mourn his passing, with a special thought for those who lovingly assisted and accompanied him in his last days.”

UPDATE: Surgeon provides details on Cardinal Sarah's robot-assisted surgery

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, in Rome on Nov. 25, 2014. / Paul Badde.

Rome Newsroom, Jul 29, 2021 / 05:10 am (CNA).

Cardinal Robert Sarah, the retired prefect of the Vatican's liturgy office, underwent robot-assisted surgery on his prostate earlier this month, according to a surgeon at the Italian hospital where the procedure took place.

The urological operation was performed with the help of the da Vinci robot, a technology in use since 2016 at the Great Metropolitan Hospital (GOM) in Reggio Calabria, a city on the southernmost point of the Italian peninsula.

The GOM's health director and a leading surgeon confirmed to CNA July 29 that Cardinal Sarah had been operated on and that he was released from the hospital on July 27, after around 15 days in their care.

Salvatore Costarella said the procedure was to correct a problem with the prostate.

Cardinal Sarah's choice of the Reggio Calabria hospital “means a lot because we have an excellent hospital,” Costarella said, adding that “for us it is a reason for particular pride to have such an eminent person in our hospital.”

Doctors said in a press conference Wednesday that the surgery was successful and, thanks to the robot technology, was able to be carried out in a minimally invasive way.

Sarah, 76, was the most senior African prelate at the Vatican before his retirement as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in February.

According to Intuitive Surgical, the American company which makes the da Vinci Surgical System, robot-assisted urological procedures are: prostate surgery, kidney surgery, surgery to relieve kidney blockage, cyst removal from the kidney, bladder surgery, and surgery to fix the tubes connecting the bladder to the kidneys.

Cardinal Sarah is reported to have several engagements requiring travel on his schedule in the coming months.

It was announced last week that he is expected attend the 32nd Youth Festival in Medjugorje Aug. 1-6.

He is also scheduled to be the main celebrant at one of the daily Masses at the 52nd International Eucharistic Congress, taking place in Hungary’s capital city of Budapest Sept. 5-12.

Sarah’s personal secretary is the Italian layman Lorenzo Festicini, president of the humanitarian association Istituto Nazionale Azzurro, and a native of Reggio Calabria, the city where the cardinal’s surgery took place.

“It is important to realize that in Reggio Calabria there are excellent European-level doctors and centers where you can be treated and undergo delicate operations with cutting-edge methods,” Festicini said in a July 28 press conference.

One of the doctors who assisted with the surgery, Domenico Veneziano, said the da Vinci robot “guarantees the maximum precision with more satisfactory results with respect to traditional surgery, and with really quick recovery times.”

Speaking at the press conference, Fr. Giulio Cerchietti, an official of the Congregation for Bishops, praised the hospital for combining “quality, professionalism, humanity, and dedication.”

“All this nourished the trust with which the cardinal entrusted himself to this hospital where he felt at home, where he smelled the scent of homemade bread,” Cerchietti continued.

The priest added: “The first day he arrived, accustomed to taking notes, he wrote the phrase of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus: ‘Love has brought you here. Love will take care of you.’ The cardinal experienced the depth of these words here with you. We are grateful and you are in our prayers.”

According to the manufacturer, there are nearly 6,000 da Vinci systems used in 67 countries around the world.

There are 105 medical centers in Italy which use the medical robot, according to the Italian website “Urologia Robotica da Vinci.” The GOM is the only hospital in Calabria with the technology.


This story was updated at 9:17 a.m. MDT to clarify when Cardinal Sarah's surgery took place and the nature of his ailment.

Vatican says 5th Catholic bishop consecrated under China agreement

crystal51/Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Jul 28, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

A Vatican spokesman confirmed Wednesday that the fifth bishop to be created under the 2018 Vatican-China deal has been ordained.

Anthony Li Hui was appointed coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Pingliang by Pope Francis on Jan. 11, according to spokesman Matteo Bruni.

Bruni said that Bishop Li was ordained in the Cathedral of Pingliang, in the province of Gansu, on July 28.

Pingliang, in north-central China, has a wider metropolitan population of more than two million people.

According to UCA News, the 49-year-old Bishop Li was consecrated by Archbishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming, president of the state-sanctioned Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China.

Bishops’ conference vice president Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai and Bishop Nicolas Han Jide of Pingliang were concelebrants.

Representatives of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a state-endorsed organization founded in 1957, were also present.

Li was born in 1972 in Mei county in the province of Shaanxi. He was ordained a priest for Pingliang diocese in 1996. He also studied the Chinese language at Renmin University in Beijing.

Starting in 1998, Li worked at the secretariat office of the Chinese bishops’ conference and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association in Beijing.

Before his appointment as bishop, Li was secretary of the Chinese bishops’ conference.

In October 2020, the Vatican and China renewed their provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops for another two years.

Bishop Antonio Yao Shun of Jining, in the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia, was the first bishop consecrated in China under the terms of the Sino-Vatican agreement, on Aug. 26, 2019.

Bishop Li is the third bishop to be consecrated since the deal’s renewal.

Cardinal Becciu present at first day of Vatican finance trial

Giovanni Angelo Becciu, former prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, pictured June 27, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 27, 2021 / 11:15 am (CNA).

Cardinal Angelo Becciu was present Tuesday on the first day of a major Vatican finance trial to defend himself of charges of embezzlement and abuse of office.

Becciu is one of 10 defendants in what is the Vatican’s largest trial for financial crimes in the modern era. The cardinal is going before the Vatican tribunal for the first time since Pope Francis changed norms in April to allow cardinals and archbishops to be tried by lay judges.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

In a statement through his lawyer July 27, the cardinal said he that he was “calm” and awaited the continuation of the trial in order to prove his innocence of all the accusations against him.

“Cardinal Becciu, after today’s hearing, renews his confidence in the Tribunal, the impartial judge of the facts hypothesized only by the Promoter of Justice, as yet without any confrontation with the defense and with a view to the presumption of innocence,” the statement from lawyer Fabio Viglione said.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Defendant Msgr. Mauro Carlino, who worked in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and is charged with extortion and abuse of office, was also present at the seven-hour hearing on Tuesday. The remaining eight defendants were absent but represented by their lawyers.

The hearing took place in a multipurpose room of the Vatican Museums recently adapted for use by the court. The next audience was scheduled by the court for Oct. 5 after several of the defense lawyers asked for more time to prepare.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Some 30 lawyers attended the hearing, with some making motions and raising complaints about procedural issues.

In this trial, the Vatican court of first instance is made up of a three-judge panel consisting of tribunal president Giuseppe Pignatone, and two Italian law professors: Venerando Marano and Carlo Bonzano.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

According to a Vatican judge, only Italian businessman Gianluigi Torzi’s absence from the courtroom July 27 was justified, due to him being under precautionary measures in the U.K. while awaiting extradition to Italy at the request of Italian authorities.

At the center of the case on trial is the Secretariat of State’s purchase of a building at 60 Sloane Avenue in London. It was bought in stages between 2014 and 2018 from Italian businessman Raffaele Mincione, who at the time was managing hundreds of millions of euros of secretariat funds.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Vatican prosecutors maintain that the deal was problematic and designed to defraud the Secretariat of State of millions of euros.

Becciu resigned as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and from the rights extended to members of the College of Cardinals on Sept. 24, 2020.

The cardinal worked previously as the number two-ranking official in the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, the powerful curial department at the center of the investigation of financial malfeasance.

Msgr. Alberto Perlasca, Becciu’s former chief deputy at the Secretariat of State, was also investigated as part of the London property scandal, but is not among the defendants in this summer’s trial.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Vatican prosecutors identified Perlasca’s testimony, provided over the course of several interviews, as being important for reconstructing “some central moments” in the affair.

But at Tuesday’s hearing, a defense lawyer argued that Perlasca’s testimony from five interviews, in which he had no lawyer present, should be considered “inadmissible.”

A Vatican prosecutor argued that the depositions were legitimate because they were videotaped and “voluntary.”

Becciu said in a statement he will be suing Perlasca and Francesca Immacolata Chaouqui, another person questioned by investigators, “for slander for the very serious and completely false statements made during the investigations to the Promoter of Justice.”

The cardinal told journalists in the courtroom at the end of the hearing that he is “obedient to the pope who sent me to trial, I have always been obedient to the pope, he entrusted me with many missions in my life, he wanted me to come to trial and I am coming to the trial. I am calm, I feel calm in conscience, I have the confidence that the judges will be able to see the facts well and my great hope is the certainty that they recognize my innocence.”

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

Other defendants in the finance trial include several employees of the Secretariat of State: Fabrizio Tirabassi, who oversaw investments, will be tried on charges of corruption, extortion, embezzlement, fraud, and abuse of office.

Mincione has been charged with embezzlement, fraud, abuse of office, misappropriation, and self-money laundering.

Torzi, who was brought in to broker the final negotiations of the Vatican’s purchase of the London property in 2018, has been charged with extortion, embezzlement, fraud, misappropriation, money laundering, and self-money laundering.

His associate, the lawyer Nicola Squillace, faces the same charges minus extortion.

Enrico Crasso, who managed investments for the Vatican for over 25 years, was investigated on suspicions he was working together with Mincione and Tirabassi to defraud the Secretariat of State.

Crasso, who is the manager of the Centurion Global Fund in which the Holy See is the principal investor, faces the most charges: corruption, embezzlement, extortion, money laundering, self-money laundering, fraud, abuse of office, falsifying a public document, and falsifying a private document.

The Vatican has also charged three corporations owned by Crasso with fraud.

Cecilia Marogna, a self-described security consultant, is accused of embezzlement after a Vatican investigation into reports that she received hundreds of thousands of euros from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State in connection with Becciu, and that she had spent the money on luxury goods and vacations.

Marogna acknowledged receiving the money but insisted that the funds went to her Vatican security consultancy work and salary.

Marogna’s Slovenian-based company, Logsic Humanitarne Dejavnosti, D.O.O., is also being brought to trial on the charge of embezzlement.

The last two defendants are René Brülhart and Tommaso Di Ruzza, who previously led the Vatican’s internal financial watchdog.

Di Ruzza is charged with embezzlement, abuse of office, and violation of confidentiality.

Brülhart is being prosecuted for abuse of office. Both men have denied wrongdoing.

Pope Francis to UN chief: World hunger ‘a crime that violates basic human rights’

Steve Knutson via Unsplash.

Vatican City, Jul 27, 2021 / 03:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis described world hunger on Monday as “a crime that violates basic human rights.”

In a July 26 message to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, the pope called for a “new mindset” in the battle against malnutrition.

“We produce enough food for all people, but many go without their daily bread. This ‘constitutes a real scandal,’ a crime that violates basic human rights,” he said, quoting from his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti.

“Therefore, it is everyone’s duty to eradicate this injustice through concrete actions and good practices, and through bold local and international policies.”

The pope sent the message to the U.N. chief at the start of the Pre-Summit of the U.N. Food Systems Summit in Rome. The event, held on July 26-28, is seeking to build momentum ahead of the summit in New York in September.

The U.N. estimates that that nearly 690 million people -- 8.9% of the world population -- suffer from hunger, an increase of almost 60 million in five years.

“If we want to guarantee the fundamental right to an adequate standard of living and fulfill our commitments to achieve Zero Hunger, it is not enough to produce food,” wrote the pope, who returned to the Vatican on July 14 after undergoing colon surgery.

“We need a new mindset and a new holistic approach and to design food systems that protect the Earth and keep the dignity of the human person at the center; that guarantee sufficient food globally and promote decent work locally; and that feed the world today, without compromising the future.”

Pope Francis has consistently highlighted world hunger since his election in 2013.

He made a donation last year to the World Food Programme as the U.N. organization worked to feed 270 million people amid rising hunger caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The pope told the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in June that the pandemic should spur efforts to create a global food system capable of withstanding future shocks.

In his message to Guterres, who is a Catholic, the pope said: “We are aware that individual, closed, and conflicting -- but powerful -- economic interests prevent us from designing a food system that responds to the values of the common good, solidarity and the ‘culture of encounter.’”

“If we want to maintain a fruitful multilateralism and a food system based on responsibility, justice, peace and the unity of the human family is paramount.”

“The crisis we are currently facing is indeed a unique opportunity to engage in authentic, bold, and courageous dialogues, addressing the roots of our unjust food system.”

Pope Francis offers blessing to athletes at Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Iran and Poland compete in the volleyball tournament of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. / Tasnim News Agency via Wikimedia (CC BY 4.0).

Vatican City, Jul 26, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis offered his blessing on Sunday to athletes competing in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

In his Angelus address on July 25, the pope noted that the Games of the XXXII Olympiad began in Japan on July 23.

“Last Friday, the 32nd Olympic Games opened in Tokyo. In this time of pandemic, may these Games be a sign of hope, a sign of universal brotherhood under the banner of healthy competition,” he said.

“God bless the organizers, the athletes, and all those who collaborate in this great festival of sport!”

The world’s most-viewed international sporting event was postponed in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event, which ends on Aug. 9, is taking place largely without spectators.

The Catholic archbishop of Tokyo has asked visiting athletes and coaches to refrain from attending local Catholic churches due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Among the 11,656 athletes from 206 nations are committed Catholics such as U.S. gymnast Grace McCallum. At just 18 years old, she is competing in the team gymnastics events along with Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee, and Jordan Chiles.

McCallum does not travel anywhere without her rosary and a cross from her grandmother, the Central Minnesota Catholic magazine reported in 2019.

“She travels with those things to kind of bring her peace and calm,” her mother, Sandy McCallum, told the magazine.

Tokyo is also hosting the Summer Paralympic Games, from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

Among the competitors will be Mahira Bergallo Brzezicki, a 19-year-old Argentine athlete.

Bergallo, who was born with cerebral palsy, will compete in the shot put wearing a “bracelet with a cross.”

“I cling to faith a lot. God occupies a very large place in my life. God guided me and he guided me to where I am today,” she told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner.

“I always said to God to show me who I was. As a child, I asked myself ‘who am I?’, ‘what am I in this world for?’ and he showed me things that can only come from him.”

“Today I know what my path is and which way I have to follow and I’m more than happy to confirm it. I think this is and was what I was hoping for, and it’s even better.”

Pope Francis: With our small offering, Jesus can do great things

Pope Francis waves during the Angelus at the Vatican July 18, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2021 / 05:10 am (CNA).

With our small offering, Jesus can do great things, just like when he multiplied five loaves and three fishes to feed thousands, Pope Francis said Sunday.

“It would be good to ask ourselves every day: ‘What do I bring to Jesus today?’” the pope said during his weekly Angelus message July 25.

Speaking from a window of the apostolic palace, Francis said Jesus “can do a lot with one of our prayers, with a gesture of charity for others, even with one of our sufferings handed over to His mercy.”

“[We give] our small things to Jesus and he works miracles. This is how God loves to act: He does great things, starting from small, freely-given ones.”

Pope Francis has been convalescing at the Vatican since being released from hospital 10 days after undergoing colon surgery July 4. During July, the pope typically does not hold public audiences or meetings, though he has continued to give his weekly Angelus address.

On Sunday he reflected on the day’s Gospel passage from St. John, which recounts Jesus’ miracle of the multiplication of five loaves and two fishes to feed 5,000 people.

The pope said it is interesting that Jesus does not create the food from nothing; his disciples ask one boy to share everything he has to eat: “It seems to be an unreasonable proposal. Actually, unjust.”

“Why take away from one person what is not enough to feed everyone anyway?” he continued. “In human terms, it is illogical. But not for God. On the contrary, thanks to that small freely-given and therefore heroic gift, Jesus is able to feed everyone.”

“This is a great lesson for us. It tells us that the Lord can do a lot with the little that we put at His disposal,” he underlined.

Francis explained that this is the logic of Jesus Christ, and a quality holy people throughout history have demonstrated.

We often try “to accumulate and increase what we have, but Jesus asks us to give, to diminish,” he said.

Drawing attention to the tragedy of hunger which exists in the world today, he cited calculations which estimate that around the world, 7,000 children under the age of five die every day due to malnutrition.

He said “faced with scandals such as these, Jesus also addresses an invitation to us, an invitation similar to the one probably received by the boy in the Gospel, who has no name and in whom we can all see ourselves.”

The invitation is to “be brave, give what little you have, your talents and your possessions, make them available to Jesus and to your brothers and sisters. Do not be afraid, nothing will be lost, because if you share, God will multiply. Banish the false modesty of feeling inadequate, trust yourself. Believe in love, believe in the power of service, believe in the strength of gratuitousness.”

After praying the Angelus in Latin, Pope Francis recalled that July 25 this year marks the first World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly.

He asked people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to offer a round of applause for grandparents.

“Grandparents and grandchildren, young and old together manifested one of the beautiful faces of the Church and showed the covenant between the generations,” he said, inviting people to visit the lonely older members of our society.

“I ask the Lord that this celebration will help us who are more advanced in years to respond to his call in this season of life, and to show society the value of the presence of grandparents and the elderly,” he stated.

Noting that the 32nd Olympic Games began in Tokyo on July 23, Pope Francis said “in this time of pandemic, these games are a sign of hope, a sign of universal fraternity in the name of healthy competition.”

“God bless the organizers, the athletes and all who collaborate for this great celebration of sports.”

The pope also expressed his sympathy after a heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, the capital city of China’s Henan province, caused floods killing at least 33 people last week.

The dramatic floods, which caused landslides and overwhelmed dams, have submerged neighborhoods and trapped passengers in subway cars, according to CNN.

Henan authorities said last week the heavy rains in the province have displaced hundreds of thousands of people and caused an estimated $190 million in economic damage.

Pope Francis said he is praying for the victims and their families and expressed his solidarity with those who are suffering from the tragedy.

Pope Francis on Grandparents’ Day: Elderly are not ‘leftovers from life’

Pope Francis greets an elderly woman during his general audience Dec. 19, 2018. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jul 25, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

On the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, Pope Francis said he is worried about how an individualistic society treats its older members, and he urged young people to give them love and attention.

“I worry when I see a society full of people in constant motion, too caught up in their own affairs to have time for a glance, a greeting or a hug,” the pope said in a homily read by Archbishop Rino Fisichella July 25.

“Our grandparents, who nourished our own lives, now hunger for our attention and our love; they long for our closeness. Let us lift up our eyes and see them, even as Jesus sees us,” he stated.

Pope Francis’ homily was read during a Mass for around 2,500 elderly people and grandparents, together with their children and grandchildren, held in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Mass, scheduled to be said by the pope, was instead celebrated by Fisichella, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, while Pope Francis is convalescing at the Vatican after undergoing colon surgery July 4.

During July, Francis typically takes a break from public audiences and other meetings, though he has continued to give his weekly Sunday Angelus address.

In the pope’s homily, he reflected on the Gospel passage from St. John, which recounts the story of when Jesus fed multitudes through the miracle of the five loaves and two fishes.

Francis pointed to the last part of the passage, when Jesus directed his disciples to collect the leftover pieces of bread, so that “nothing may be lost.”

“This reveals the heart of God,” he said. “Not only does he give us more than we need, he is also concerned that nothing be lost, not even a fragment.”

“A morsel of bread may seem a little thing, but in God’s eyes, nothing is to meant to be thrown away. Even more so, no person is ever to be discarded,” he explained, adding that our grandparents and elderly “are not leftovers from life, scraps to be discarded.”

In January, Pope Francis established the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to take place annually on the fourth Sunday of July, close to the feast of the grandparents of Jesus, Saints Anne and Joachim.

The theme of this year’s grandparents’ day is “I am with you always,” taken from Matthew 28:20.

In a message released ahead of this year’s celebration, Pope Francis encouraged the elderly to continue to spread the Gospel even in their old age.

“There is something beautiful here. Your prayer is a very precious resource: a deep breath that the Church and the world urgently need,” he stated.

In his homily July 25, Francis said the Church needs “a new covenant between young and old.”

When Jesus fed the hungry crowd, he did so using loaves and fishes shared by a young man, he pointed out. “How touching it is, that at the heart of this miracle, by which some five thousand adults were fed, we find a young person willing to share what he had.”

“In our societies, we have frequently surrendered to the notion of ‘every man for himself.’ But this is deadly,” he said. “The Gospel bids us share what we are and what we possess, for only in this way will we find fulfillment.”

He urged young adults to visit their grandparents, their elderly relatives, and the older people in their neighborhood.

“They protected us as we grew, and now it is up to us to protect their lives, to alleviate their difficulties, to attend to their needs and to ensure that they are helped in daily life and not feel alone,” he said.

Pope Francis noted that for many of us, our grandparents “cared for us, ever since we were children. Despite lives of hard work and sacrifice, they were never too busy for us, or indifferent to us. They looked at us with care and tender love.”

“When we were growing up and felt misunderstood or fearful about life’s challenges, they kept an eye on us; they knew what we were feeling, our hidden tears and secret dreams,” he continued. “They held us in their arms and sat us on their knees. That love helped us grow into adulthood.”

“May we never regret that we were insufficiently attentive to those who loved us and gave us life,” he stated.

As part of the first World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, the Vatican has also granted a plenary indulgence to those who participate, either by attending a related spiritual event or by physically or virtually visiting the elderly, sick, or disabled on July 25.

An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins that have already been forgiven.

The usual conditions for a plenary indulgence, which must be met, are that the individual be in the state of grace by the completion of the acts, have complete detachment from sin, and pray for the pope’s intentions.

The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life released a prayer for the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. The full text of the prayer is below:

I thank You, Lord,

for the comfort of Your presence:

even in times of loneliness,

You are my hope and my confidence,

You have been my rock and my fortress since my youth!

I thank You for having given me a family

and for having blessed me with a long life.

I thank You for moments of joy and difficulty,

for the dreams that have already come true in my life and for those that are still ahead of me.

I thank You for this time of renewed fruitfulness to which You call me.

Increase, O Lord, my faith,

make me a channel of your peace,

teach me to embrace those who suffer more than me,

to never stop dreaming

and to tell of your wonders to new generations.

Protect and guide Pope Francis and the Church,

that the light of the Gospel might reach the ends of the earth.

Send Your Spirit, O Lord, to renew the world,

that the storm of the pandemic might be calmed,

the poor consoled and wars ended.

Sustain me in weakness

and help me to live life to the full

in each moment that You give me,

in the certainty that you are with me every day,

even until the end of the age.

Amen.