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Catholics speak out against execution of two more Arkansas inmates

Little Rock, Ark., Apr 24, 2017 / 04:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As Arkansas prepares to conduct the first double execution in the U.S. since 2000, Catholics prayed for all involved in the execution and the victims of the capital crimes.

“All of the actions around these executions in Arkansas display the flaws of the death penalty,” said Catholic Mobilizing Network in a statement to CNA April 24.  

“Both Jack Jones and Marcel Williams are in poor health, raising the risk of complications likely to occur with the lethal injection protocol. Kenneth Williams, set to be executed on Thursday, has an outstanding intellectual disability case as well,” the organization said.

Voicing prayers for both the victims and those involved in the scheduled executions, the group noted that both “Jones and Williams have taken responsibility for their crimes,” and said that this action “should be met with mercy.”

“This forces you to ask the question, why so much energy, expense and focus on vengeance? This is an opportunity to stand for the dignity of all life,” the group said.

Arkansas is set to execute two men – Jack Jones and Marcel Williams – on Monday evening, after a federal district judge on Friday denied their request to have their executions stopped and the state Supreme Court on Monday afternoon denied them a stay of execution.

Jones and Williams, scheduled to be executed on Monday evening, claimed that the state’s use of the sedative Midazolam could fail to achieve the intended effect of rendering them unconscious before the next two drugs, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, were administered. If this happened, the inmates said they could experience excruciating pain during their death.

The state had originally planned to execute eight inmates in 10 days before their supply of the drug Midazolam – used in their three-step lethal injection protocol – expired, but several of the executions have been stayed.

Inmates challenged the state’s use of Midazolam, claiming that there was a significant risk that the drug would not work as intended, but the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed their claim.

Meanwhile, a Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffin had halted the state’s use of vecuronium bromide in executions, after the medical supplier of vecuronium claimed that the state bought the drug from them and was deceptive about its planned use. The manufacturer of vecuronium had opposed its use in executions.

The state Supreme Court vacated Griffin’s ruling, however, and commissioned an investigation into whether he had violated the code of conduct for judges after he had participated in a rally against the planned executions on the same day he issued his decision. Griffin was also barred from hearing future death penalty cases.

One of the inmates, Ledell Lee, was executed on Thursday, April 20 after the Supreme Court refused to grant a stay of execution.

Of the two set to be executed on Monday evening, Jones was convicted for the 1995 murder of Mary Phillips and the attempted killing of her daughter, while Williams was convicted for the 1994 killing of Stacey Errickson.

A report by the Fair Punishment Project claimed that Jones was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, had been physically abused by his father as a child, had been sexually abused by strangers, and had twice attempted suicide before the 1995 killing. Marcel Williams, the report claimed, had been physically and sexually abused as a child, and had been pimped out by his mother to strangers for lodging and food stamps.

Kenneth Williams is also scheduled to be executed by Arkansas on Thursday. He has asked the state Supreme Court to halt his execution based on his claim of intellectual disability. He reportedly has an IQ score of 70, “squarely within the intellectual disability range,” according to the Fair Punishment Project.

Other inmates have had their executions halted. After the state’s parole board recommended clemency for Jason McGehee, convicted in the 1996 killing of John Melbourne, Jr., his execution was suspended by a federal district court because of a 30-day period for public comment before the board officially made its recommendation to the governor. McGehee’s scheduled execution fell within that 30-day period.

Two other inmates, Bruce Ward and Don Davis, saw their executions halted by the state Supreme Court as the U.S. Supreme Court considers another case, McWilliams v. Dunn, involving a prisoner’s request for a mental competency evaluation by an expert not selected by the state. The Court held oral arguments in the case on Monday.

Stacey Johnson was granted a stay of execution by the state Supreme Court for a hearing on DNA evidence in his case.

Bishop Anthony Taylor of Little Rock has already spoken out against the scheduled executions. He wrote Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) on March 1 to ask for the eight death sentences to be commuted to life without parole.

“Though guilty of heinous crimes, these men nevertheless retain the God-given dignity of any human life, which must be respected and defended from conception to natural death,” Bishop Taylor wrote. “Since the penal system of our state is well equipped to keep them incarcerated for the rest of their life (and thus protect society), we should limit ourselves to non-lethal means.”

Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, chair of the U.S. bishops’ domestic justice committee, also called for the sentences to be commuted to life imprisonment.

“Indeed, serious criminal activity must be met with appropriate punishment,” he wrote. He cited Pope St. John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae which said that death sentences should not be served for punishment “except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society.”

The U.S. has “maximum security prisons” which “can neutralize an incarcerated person’s threat to the general public,” he added.

The planned executions follow a commutation of a Virginia inmate’s death sentence to life without parole by Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), who said that false information had been presented against Ivan Teleguz, 38, during the sentencing for a 2001 murder. The state’s bishops had praised the commutation “because we have a profound respect for the sanctity of every human life, from its very beginning until natural death.”

 

University meets harsh criticism for Plan B in vending machine

Washington D.C., Apr 24, 2017 / 04:32 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A California university came under fire for dispensing Plan B contraceptive pill in a vending machine, with one critic calling the move inadequate in meeting the real needs of women.

“Colleges and universities should be offering pregnant and parenting students options of housing, financial aid, diaper decks, and childcare instead of handing over abortion drugs,” said Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life.

“No woman should be forced to choose between the life of her child and her education,” she told CNA.

A study room at the University of California Davis recently installed a “Wellness To Go” vending machine that includes Plan B among other items such as condoms, tampons, pregnancy tests and Advil.

The move has been met with mixed reactions from students, with one calling it a “great thing for women,” according to CNN affiliate KTXL.

However, another student slammed the development as promoting recklessness and irresponsibility among UC Davis attendees.   

“It is promoting like 'Oh hey, go and have unsafe sex because then you have a backup option and it's gonna be cheaper than if you just wanna go to a drug store,'” Jordan Herrera told the affiliate.

Students for life coordinates a Pregnant on Campus Initiative, which provides resources for students who are pregnant and do not wish to undergo an abortion.   

Plan B has been the source of religious freedom troubles for pharmacists and drugstore owners who consciously object to dispensing the pills.

Greg Stormans and his family, who have been operating a small grocery store and pharmacy for the past four generations, had no idea they would be at the center of a firestorm in 2007, when the Washington Pharmacy Commission began to require pharmacies to dispense the abortion-inducing drugs Plan B and ella and make conscience-based referrals illegal.

In July 2007, the Stormans filed a lawsuit against Washington state to stop enforcement of the newly passed regulations. The legal battle continues to this day. In July 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reversed a district court’s decision to suspend the regulations.

Previously, Stormans would have been allowed to refer customers elsewhere if they requested Plan B or ella. However, the new Washington law requires Stormans to offer the drugs himself, becoming the first state in the country to prohibit customer referrals for religious reasons.

Since the lawsuit began, Stormans said that his family has received numerous threats. In addition, their business saw a drop in sales by 30 percent, and as a result, they were forced to take a pay cut and reduce staff by 10 percent.

Pope Francis to visit graves of two 20th century Italian priests

Vatican City, Apr 24, 2017 / 11:28 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will make a pilgrimage June 20 to visit the graves of two 20th century Italian priests in the towns of Bozzolo and Bariana, the Vatican announced Monday.

Fr. Lorenzo Milani and Fr. Primo Mazzolari both have reputations for being anti-establishment, though they were obedient to the Church throughout their lives. The Pope's visit to their graves will take place in a “private and unofficial manner,” the April 24 communique stated.

The pilgrimage takes place in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the death of Fr. Milani, who lived from 1923-1967. Pope Francis spoke about Fr. Milani in a video message to the participants of a presentation on the priest's complete works in Milan Sunday.

“I would love to remember him especially as a believer, in love with the Church even though he was wounded,” the Pope said in the message April 23, “and as a passionate educator with a vision of the school that seems to me to respond to the need of the hearts and the intelligence of our children and youth.”

Pope Francis' brief visit – only half a day – will begin with an early morning helicopter flight to Bozzolo June 20, landing at 9:00 a.m. He will be welcomed by the Mayor of Bozzolo and the Bishop of Cremona, Antonio Napolioni.

From there the Pope will proceed to the parish of St. Peter to pray at the tomb of Fr. Primo Mazzolari, after which he will give a commemorative speech to the faithful present at the church.

At 10:30 a.m. he will leave for Barbiana, arriving at the Barbiana church at 11:15 a.m. He will be welcomed there by Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, Archbishop of Florence and the Mayor of Vicchio, a municipality of Florence.

He will then visit privately the cemetery of the church to pray at the grave of Fr. Lorenzo Milani. Afterwards, Pope Francis will meet in the church with still-living disciples of Fr. Milani.

After a short visit to the rectory in the adjacent garden he will give a speech in the presence of around 200 people, including the disciples, priests of the diocese and some children living in family homes in the area. The Pope will return to the Vatican by about 1:15 p.m.

Fr. Milani came from a wealthy but secular family, the son of an atheist father and a Jewish mother. He studied art, which had a profound influence on his conversion to Catholicism and eventual entrance into the priesthood in 1947.

His “frankness that sometimes seemed too rough when not marked by rebellion” carried over even into his priesthood, Pope Francis noted in his video message. This led to some friction and misunderstandings with ecclesiastical and civil structures “because of his educational proposal, his preference for the poor, and defense of conscientious objection.”

Despite this, however, he was always deeply obedient to the Church and to her directives. He once wrote: “I will never oppose the Church because I need (her) several times a week for the forgiveness of my sins, and I would not know to whom else to go to look for it if I had left the Church.”

Fr. Primo Mazzolari lived from 1890-1959. He grew up in a small neighborhood of the town of Cremona, Italy, entering the seminary in 1902. Some have called him a “priest of the embankment,” because he grew up on the banks of the Po River and also at the “embankment” of the Church.

Very politically active, he intervened in the First World War and after, and was so anti-fascist he refused to sing the “Te Deum” after a failed attack on Mussolini by Tito Zaniboni in 1925.

His greatness already recognized, he was invited to the Vatican by both Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI before his death. In 2015 permission was formally granted to open the diocesan phase of Fr. Mazzolari's cause for beatification.
 
Andrea Gagliarducci contributed to this report.

Pope Francis comforts sister of French priest slain last year

Vatican City, Apr 24, 2017 / 10:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday comforted the sister of Father Jacques Hamel, an 85-year-old priest who was killed by ISIS sympathizers while celebrating Mass in Normandy, France last summer.

According to the Associated Press, the Pope gripped the hands of Roselyne Hamel and spoke quietly to her during an April 22 liturgy honoring the “new martyrs” of the 20th and 21st centuries in the Basilica of St Bartholomew on Rome’s Tiber Island.

Fr. Hamel was killed July 26, 2016 while celebrating Mass after two armed gunmen stormed a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy. The assailants entered the church and took the priest and four others hostage. Local law enforcement reported that the priest’s throat was slit in the attack, and that both of the hostage takers were shot dead by police. The attackers were identified as Islamist extremists.

Pope Francis issued a statement at the time decrying the “absurd violence.” He later said during a Mass in September at the Vatican in honor of Fr. Hamel that the slain priest “is blessed now,” according to Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen who was there.

The Pope referred to the priest as “an example of courage” because “he emptied himself to serve others, to build brotherhood among men.”

Last October, the French diocese of Rouen officially began an inquiry into the beatification of Fr. Hamel after the Pope waived the traditional five-year waiting period.

At the service Saturday, Roselyne shared with the congregation how her brother was “strong in his faith in Christ, strong in his love for the Gospel and for people, whoever it was, and – I am certain – also for his killers.”

She said that his death was a witness for the whole world, and continued the ‘yes’ with which he had given his life in service to Christ at the moment of his ordination.

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Pope Francis to visit Italian cities of Bozzolo, Barbiana in June

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will make a private visit to the northern Italian towns of Bozzolo and Barbiana on 20 June 2017 to pray at the tombs of Don Primo Mazzolari and Don Lorenzo Milani.

Bozzolo is in the Diocese of Cremona and Barbiana is in the Diocese of Florence.

A communique from the Holy See Press Office says the visit "will take place in a private rather than an official form".

The Holy Father recently dedicated a video message to Don Lorenzo Milani

Please find below the full programme of the Pope's visit:

Tuesday, 20 June

7.30   Departure by helicopter from the Vatican heliport

9.00   Arrival at the sports field of Bozzolo, Mantua

The Holy Father is welcomed by:

His Excellency Msgr. Antonio Napolioni, bishop of Cremona and the Mayor of Bozzolo

Parish of San Pietro: prayer at the tomb of Don Primo Mazzolari (1890-1959)

The Holy Father will give a commemorative address to the faithful present in the Church

10.30   Departure from the sports field of Bozzolo

11.15   Arrival at the forecourt in front of the Church of Barbiana

The Holy Father is welcomed by:

His Eminence Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, archbishop of Florence and the Mayor of Vicchio, Florence

Private visit to the cemetery, and prayer at the tomb of Don Lorenzo Milani (1923-1967), on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his death

In the Church: encounter with the living disciples of Don Milani and brief visit to the vicarage in the adjacent garden: the Holy Father gives a commemorative address, in the presence of the disciples, to a group of priests from the diocese and some young people housed in family residences (a total of around 200 people)

12.30   Departure from Barbiana

13.15   Return to the Vatican

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: The Spirit makes us free, without compromise, rigidity

(Vatican Radio) Never forget that our faith is concrete, and rejects compromises and idealizations. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Among those present at the Mass were the Cardinal counselors of the C-9, who are meeting with the Holy Father on Monday. The Pope reflected on the liberty the Holy Spirit gives us, which brings about the proclamation of the Gospel without compromises or rigidity.

Listen to our report: 

Following the Easter break, Pope Francis on Monday resumed his regular morning Masses, focusing his homily on the Gospel account of Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus. The Holy Father said that Jesus, with love and patience, explained to Nicodemus that he must be “born from above… born of the Holy Spirit.”

To understand this better, the Pope said, one can consider the first Reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John have healed a crippled man, and the doctors of the Law don’t know what to do, how “to hide” what happened, “because the event was public.” When they were questioned, Peter and John “answered with simplicity”; and when they were ordered not to speak about what happened, Peter responded, “No! We cannot remain silent about what we have seen and heard. And we will continue to do as we have been doing.”

The Word became flesh; our faith is concrete

See, then, the Pope said, “the concreteness of a fact, the concreteness of the faith” in contrast to the position of the doctors of the law who “wanted to enter into negotiations, to come to a compromise”: Peter and John “have courage, they have frankness, the frankness of the Spirit,” “which means speaking the truth openly, with courage, without compromises.” This is “the point,” “the concreteness of the faith”:

“At times we forget that our faith is concrete: the Word was made flesh; it is not made an idea. And when we recite the Creed, everything we say is concrete: ‘I believe in God the Father, Who made heaven and earth; I believe in Jesus Christ Who was born, Who died…’ These are all concrete things. Our Creed does not say, ‘I have to do this, I have to do that, I have to do something else, or that some things are for these ends.’ No! They are concrete things. [This is] the concreteness of the faith that leads to frankness, to bearing witness even to the point of martyrdom, which is against compromises or the idealization of the faith.”

At times, even the Church has fallen into “a theology of ‘yes you can,’ ‘no you can’t”

For these doctors of the law, he continued, the Word “was not made flesh: it was made law: and you must do this up to this point, and no further”; “you must do this, and nothing else”:

“And so they were imprisoned in this rationalistic mentality, which did not end with them. Because in the history of the Church – although often the Church Herself has condemned rationalism, illuminism – later it often happened that it fell into a theology of ‘yes, you can, no you can’t; up to this point, thus far.’ And it forgot the strength, the liberty of the Spirit, this rebirth of the Spirit that gives you liberty, the frankness of preaching, the proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

The Lord gives us the Spirit in order to proclaim the Gospel without rigidity

“Let us ask the Lord,” the Pope said, for “this experience of the Spirit Who comes and goes and bears us onward; of the Spirit Who gives us the anointing of the faith, the anointing of the concreteness of the faith”:

“The wind blows where it will and you hear the voice, but you don’t know where it is coming from or where it is going. So it is for anyone who is born of the Spirit: He hears the voice, he follows the voice, he follows the voice of the Spirit without knowing where it will end. Because he has made an option for the concreteness of the faith and the rebirth of the Spirit. May the Lord grand to all of us this paschal Spirit, of going forward along the path of the Spirit without compromises, without rigidity, with the liberty of proclaiming Jesus Christ as He Who has come: in the flesh.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Christians are the most widely targeted religious group in the world

Washington D.C., Apr 23, 2017 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When it comes to religious persecution, Christians are the most widely targeted community, said a new report released this week.

But despite oppression and threat of violence, the faithful “should not be afraid,” said a Pakistani archbishop.

Pakistan’s Christians have made vital contributions to the country’s history and must not refrain from professing their faith in the midst of the current persecution, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw, OFM of Lahore, Pakistan.

“Even under discrimination or some violent actions,” Christians should take courage, he said, citing the words of Jesus that “people will hate you on account of My name.”

“You are not guilty, but because you are Christians and because you are following the Gospel values…being honest, being more responsible, being more dutiful, more charitable,” he said of Pakistan’s Christians, violence and harassment will follow.

Archbishop Shaw spoke with CNA at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. at the April 20 release of the new report “Under Caesar’s Sword.” The archbishop leads the largest Catholic diocese in Pakistan, with around 500,000 members.

“Under Caesar’s Sword” documents not only the persecution of Christians around the world, but how they choose to respond to persecution. “Christians are the most widely targeted religious community,” the report explained, “suffering terrible persecution globally.”

There are three common responses of Christian communities to violence or harassment, the report noted: “survival,” “strategies of association,” and “confrontation,” which is “the least common response.”

Survival would entail communities choosing to remain where they are in the face of persecution, as minorities have in Iraq and Syria, and either gathering covertly for worship as underground churches do in China, or maintaining a tenuous relationship with regimes in power.

Communities utilizing “association” would develop relationships with other non-governmental organizations or international bodies like the United Nations, or would strengthen their social ties in their country through social services or practicing forgiveness.

Examples of this course of action would be Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt, who acted to protect each other’s churches and mosques from vandalism and violence in 2011.

Another example was in 1996 when, “anticipating martyrdom, Christian de Chergé, leader of the ‘Tibhirine Monks’ of Algeria who were martyred in 1996 during the uprising, wrote a letter to his would-be killers, forgiving them and inviting them to a future of living together in freedom.”

“Christian responses to persecution are almost always nonviolent and, with very few exceptions, do not involve acts of terrorism,” the report stated.

Christians in Pakistan, Archbishop Shaw explained, helped build and unify the country when it was founded in 1947, especially through the health and social sectors and the educational institutions which formed some of the country’s present-day leaders, including the prime minister and the speaker of the National Assembly.

However, following the nationalization of the country’s schools in 1972, Pakistan became “more Islamized” and Christians were marginalized more and more, the archbishop said. They currently only make up around two percent of the country’s population.

Their marginalization includes infringements upon their rights and mob violence. Acts of terror against Christians have also increased, with a suicide bomber killing 72 and injuring 340 last year in an attack on a Christian celebration of Easter Sunday at a park in Lahore.

Additionally, anti-blasphemy laws have resulted in 40 persons on death row or serving life in prison, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The laws, which do not require evidence for an accusation and which carry the harshest of penalties, have been used to harass Christians. Mob violence is utilized to pressure the government and the courts to issue or uphold harsh sentences for Christians for alleged crimes.

Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five, was convicted in 2010 for alleged blasphemy but the country’s Supreme Court suspended her death sentence and her case is still in question, Archbishop Shaw said.

Today, Christians don’t count as a full person according to the country’s witnessing law, which requires the testimony of two Christian men to equal that of one Muslim man when witnessing to a crime. Women are also considered below men, as four Christian women would have to testify to count as a full witness.

New textbooks in schools have also circulated which contain “hate material,” the archbishop said, which prevents a “harmonious society” from growing.

Archbishop Shaw said he tells Christians “you were born in Pakistan, so God has a special purpose for you to be born in Pakistan,” saying their presence there is no accident.

Christians should not back away from the public square, he insisted, but should be “assertive enough to profess your faith in a very dignified way.”

He exhorted them “not to fight,” in response to violence, “but that does not mean that you let people kill you. You have to be courageous to approach people in a very assertive way to share your values in being human and being a Christian.”

Christians should seek to grow in knowledge of their faith and their “religious traditions,” he said, and should share their faith with others through interreligious dialogue. This last part is key, he said, because if Christians and Muslims can have a “roundtable” to learn each other’s religious values, then they can find common ground.

Some of the worst persecution of Christians occurs in countries where they are isolated and which are largely closed off to outside research, the report said, countries like North Korea, Eritrea, Somalia, and Yemen.

Christians worldwide should seek to implement these practices of dialogue, bridge-building with other members of society, and non-violence, the report said.

“The benefits of these strategies may seem short-term and modest, but from the standpoint of those persecuted, the strategies reflect a kind of divine logic, one rooted not only in hope for reward and fulfillment in the life to come but also in the conviction that should these communities remain true to their faith, there will come a day when the persecuting regime or militant group may pass away and the church spring up and branch out with vigor, as it has done so often in history before,” the report stated, citing the early Christians’ faith amidst the persecutions by the Roman Empire.

“Those who wish to act in solidarity with persecuted Christians can imitate their creative and faithful pragmatism,” the report concluded.

Pope dedicates videomessage to Italian educator

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a video message to a festival organised to promote books and reading, which is taking place in Milan from 19 to 23 April.

The videomessage is dedicated to Don Lorenzo Milani, the prior of Barbiana, and writer of many works including “letter to a professor”.

The Italian priest is also being remembered at the event entitled “Time for Books”.

In the videomessage the Holy Father describes Don Milani as a believer, in love with the Church even though he was hurt, and a passionate educator with a vision for  school life.

He goes on to say that “going to school means opening the mind and heart to reality, to the richness of its aspects, its dimensions.”

The Pope adds that Don Milani displayed a spiritual restlessness, fueled by love for Christ, the Gospel, the Church, society, and school, which he increasingly dreamed of as a "field hospital" to help the wounded, and to help make the lives of the marginalized and discarded better.”

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Mercy is key to the life of faith, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2017 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Divine Mercy Sunday Pope Francis said mercy is essential in living the Christian life, because it not only allows us to understand ourselves and God better, but it also prompts us to recognize and help those in need.

 “Let us never forget that mercy is the keystone of the life of faith, and concrete way with which we give visibility to the Resurrection of Jesus,” the Pope said April 23.

Mercy, he said, is understood as a true awareness of “the mystery” that the Church is living, particularly during the Easter season.

Not only is mercy understood in various ways such as through the senses, intuition and reason, but we can also become aware of it through an act of mercy that we personally experience, he said, adding that “this opens the door of the mind to better understand the mystery of God and of our personal existence.”

“It makes us understand that violence, resentment and revenge have no meaning, and the first victim is whoever lives these sentiments, because it deprives them of their own dignity,” he said.

Additionally, mercy also allows us to open the door of our hearts and draw close to those who are “alone and marginalized,” recognizing those in need and finding the right words to say to comfort them.

“Mercy warms the heart and makes it sensitive to the needs of our brothers with sharing and participation,” Francis said, explaining that in the end, mercy “commits everyone to being instruments of justice, reconciliation and peace.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims during his Sunday Regina Coeli address on Divine Mercy Sunday, the first Sunday after Easter. The Regina Coeli is traditionally prayed instead of the Angelus throughout the liturgical Easter season.

In his brief speech, the Pope noted now the Sunday after Easter in the past was referred to as “in albis,” meaning “in white,” as a reminder of the white garments worn by those who had come into the Church on Easter Sunday.

In the time after Easter, he said, Sunday takes on “an even more illuminating” aspect, especially considering the previous traditional custom in which the garment would be worn by the person for the entire week after their baptism until the following Sunday, when they began their new life in Christ and the Church.

Francis then pointed to how the Sunday after Easter was later designated as Divine Mercy Sunday by Pope Saint John Paul II during the Jubilee year 2000.

“It was a beautiful institution!” he said, noting that his own Extraordinary Jubilee for Mercy concluded just a few months ago, on the Nov. 20, 2016, Solemnity of Christ the King.

In wake of the Jubilee, Divine Mercy Sunday “invites us to take up with strength the grace that comes from the mercy of God,” he said, noting that in the day’s Gospel from John, Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room, and gives them the message: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you.”

After saying this, Jesus then entrusts them with a special task, telling them “receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.”

“This is the meaning of the mercy that is presented to us on the day of the Resurrection of Jesus as forgiveness of sins,” Pope Francis said, explaining that the Risen Christ gave his Church as a first task “his same mission of bringing to all the concrete announcement of forgiveness.”

Francis said this commission is a visible sign of Christ’s mercy, which brings both peace of heart and the joy of a renewed encounter with the Lord.

He closed his address praying that Mary, the Mother of Mercy, would “help us to believe and live all of this with joy,” and led pilgrims in praying the Regina Coeli.

The Pope then greeted pilgrims from various countries around the world, giving a special shout-out to Spain, where yesterday the priest Fr. Luis Antonio Rosa Ormières was proclaimed a Blessed, and to all youth who had been confirmed or are currently candidates for Confirmation.

He then thanked everyone who sent him messages wishing him a happy Easter before asking for prayers and giving his blessing.

This film shows how mercy can transform your life

Bridgeport, Conn., Apr 23, 2017 / 03:08 am (CNA).- Personal stories about God’s mercy at work in the world today are the focus of a recent Catholic-produced documentary on Divine Mercy.

“These testimonies remind us that Divine Mercy is not just a devotion or theological concept – it is alive, it is present, and it is a force that can transform the world,” said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson.

The one-hour film “The Face of Mercy” depicts mercy as the antidote to evil even in great difficulty. Narrated by actor Jim Caviezel, the film interweaves history, theology, and testimonials about the importance of mercy in people’s lives.

Testimonies come from Immaculée Ilibagiza, who forgave those who murdered her family in the Rwandan genocide; a New York police officer who works for peace despite having been shot and paralyzed from the waist down; a young widow who forgave the killer of her husband; a baseball player who became a priest; and a former NFL linebacker who now shares Christ’s mercy with the homeless.

The film was produced by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal order with 1.9 million members worldwide.

Anderson said the film “highlights the sort of transformations that are possible in individual lives that embrace the way of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation.”

The film is available at Amazon.com, the Ignatius Press website, and the Knights of Columbus site Knights Gear.

More information is available at faceofmercyfilm.com.

 

This article was originally published on CNA Nov. 17, 2016.