True faith means loving others to the extreme, pope tells Egypt’s Catholics

Pope Francis and Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak of Alexandria
arrive to celebrate Mass at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo April 29. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

CAIRO (CNS) — The only kind of fanaticism that is acceptable to God is being fanatical about loving and helping others, Pope Francis said on his final day in Egypt.

“True faith,” he told Catholics, “makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane. It moves our hearts to love everyone without counting the cost.”

The pope celebrated an open-air Mass April 29 in Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium, built by the anti-aircraft branch of the Egyptian armed forces. The pope concelebrated with Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak of Alexandria and leaders of the other Catholic rites in Egypt.

After spending the first day of his visit in meetings with Muslim leaders, government officials, diplomats and members of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the pope dedicated the second day of his trip to Egypt’s minority Catholic community.

Arriving at the stadium in a blue Fiat, the pope was slowly driven around the stadium’s red running track in a small and low golf cart, far from the thousands seated in the stands high above. Yellow balloons and a long chain of blue balloons tied together like a rosary were released into the sky as a military helicopter circled high above the venue. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican

Catholic leaders decry fourth Arkansas execution in eight days

Sister Helen Prejean at the Vatican in 2016. (CNS file/Paul Haring)

Sister Helen Prejean at the Vatican in 2016. (CNS file/Paul Haring)

By Carol Zimmermann
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — After Arkansas executed its fourth death-row inmate in eight days April 27, Sister Helen Prejean, a longtime opponent of capital punishment, said “future generations will look back upon the events unfolding in Arkansas tonight with horror. The barbarity is overwhelming.”

Sister Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph of Medaille, tweeted that message 30 minutes after Kenneth Williams was pronounced dead.

His lawyers unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay, saying the inmate should not be executed because three health care professionals had determined he was “intellectually disabled.” Relatives of a man killed by Williams in a crash during his 1999 escape from prison also pleaded with the governor to call off his execution. Continue reading

Posted in U.S.

Text of common declaration on baptism, by Pope Francis, Pope Tawadros

Pope Francis is pictured with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II in Cairo April 28. The pope was making a two-day visit to Egypt. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis is pictured with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II in Cairo April 28. The pope was making a two-day visit to Egypt. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Catholic News Service

CAIRO (CNS) — Here is the text of the common declaration on baptism between Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, signed April 28.

1. We, Francis, bishop of Rome and pope of the Catholic Church, and Tawadros II, pope of Alexandria and patriarch of the See of St. Mark, give thanks to God in the Holy Spirit for granting us the joyful opportunity to meet once more, to exchange a fraternal embrace and to join again in common prayer. We glorify the Almighty for the bonds of fraternity and friendship existing between the See of St. Peter and the See of St. Mark. The privilege of being together here in Egypt is a sign that the solidity of our relationship is increasing year by year, and that we are growing in closeness, faith and love of Christ our Lord. We give thanks to God for this beloved Egypt, the “homeland that lives inside us,” as His Holiness Pope Shenouda III used to say, the “people blessed by God” (cf. Is 19:25) with its ancient Pharaonic civilization, the Greek and Roman heritage, the Coptic tradition and the Islamic presence. Egypt is the place where the Holy Family found refuge, a land of martyrs and saints.

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Posted in Vatican, World

Pope, Coptic patriarch honor martyrs, urge unity for peace

Pope Francis, accompanied by Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II,  lights a candle outside St. Peter's Church in Cairo April 28. The pope lit the candle in remembrance of victims of a December 2016 bombing inside the church. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis, accompanied by Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, lights a candle outside St. Peter’s Church in Cairo April 28. The pope lit the candle in remembrance of victims of a December 2016 bombing inside the church. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

CAIRO (CNS) — Placing flowers, lighting a candle and praying at the site where dozens of Coptic Orthodox Christians were killed by an Islamic State militant last year, Pope Francis and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II paid homage to those who were killed for their faith.

Pope Francis and Pope Tawadros walked in a short procession to the Church of St. Peter, where 29 people died and 31 were wounded Dec. 11. The faithful chanted a song of martyrs, and some clashed cymbals under the darkened evening sky.

Inside the small church, the leaders of several other Christian communities in Egypt as well as Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople sat before the congregation, which included family members of the victims.

A portion of one wall of the complex was splattered with blood, and pictures of those killed — many with bright smiles to the camera — were hung above. Some of the church’s stone columns were pock-marked from the debris or shrapnel sent flying from the explosion. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican, World

Unmask violence posing as holy,​ pope tells religious leaders in Egypt

Pope Francis embraces Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, at a conference on international peace in Cairo April 28. The pope was making a two-day visit to Egypt. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis embraces Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar University, at a conference on international peace in Cairo April 28. The pope was making a two-day visit to Egypt. (CNS/Paul Haring)

(Updated 12:02 p.m. ET)

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

CAIRO (CNS) — Calling his visit to Egypt a journey of “unity and fraternity,” Pope Francis launched a powerful call to the nation’s religious leaders to expose violence masquerading as holy and condemn religiously inspired hatred as an idolatrous caricature of God.

“Peace alone, therefore, is holy, and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his name,” the pope told Muslim and Christian leaders at an international peace conference April 28. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was in attendance.

Pope Francis also warned of attempts to fight violence with violence, saying “every unilateral action that does not promote constructive and shared processes is, in reality, a gift to the proponents of radicalism and violence.”

The pope began a two-day visit to Cairo by speaking at a gathering organized by Egypt’s al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s highest institute of learning. Continue reading

Posted in Vatican, World

Practical Christianity: Pope emphasizes real help for those in need

Pope Francis gives a thumbs up as he greets the crowd during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Keanine Griggs Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis’ unique approach to teaching the faithful combines speaking clearly and simply with showing people what steps — even small steps — they can take to make a difference, a Vatican official said.

“He is showing us a practical agenda for being a Catholic and being a Christian in the 21st century,” said Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, whom Pope Francis chose as one of two undersecretaries of the Migrants and Refugee Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

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Posted in Vatican, World

Cardinal Dolan slams DNC pledge to support only pro-abortion candidates

Cardinal Dolan (CNS file/Nancy Wiechec)

Cardinal Dolan (CNS file/Nancy Wiechec)

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) — New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan described the recent pledge from the Democratic National Committee’s chair to support only pro-abortion candidates “disturbing” and “intolerant.”

The cardinal, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, urged members of the Democratic party to “challenge their leadership to recant this intolerant position.”

The cardinal’s April 26 statement was in reaction to recent comments by DNC chair Tom Perez who said: “Every Democrat, like every American, should support a woman’s right to make her own choices about her body and her health. That is not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.” Continue reading

Posted in U.S.