Monthly Newspaper • DIOCESE OF BRIDGEPORT

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Elderly Christians are called to be consistent in their faith, otherwise they risk becoming a sign of hypocrisy for future generations, Pope Francis said.

Addressing elderly men and women present at his weekly general audience May 4, the pope urged them to “please be attentive to young people, they are watching us.”

“Young people are watching us. And our consistency can open a beautiful path of life for them,” he said. On the other hand, “hypocrisy can do so much damage.”

The pope, who suffers from a torn ligament in his knee, remained seated in his popemobile while greeting pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published May 3, the pope said he is receiving therapeutic injections to alleviate the pain in his right knee.

Before concluding the audience, Pope Francis apologized for being unable to greet newlyweds personally and said he hoped the problem with his knee would “pass soon and I can go to you in future audiences.”

The pope continued his series of talks dedicated to the meaning and value of “old age” and reflected on the biblical figure of Eleazar, an elderly Maccabean who was killed for refusing to eat meat sacrificed to idols.

His example, the pope said, gives witness to “the special relationship that exists between the fidelity of old age and the honor of faith.”

“The honor of faith periodically comes under pressure, even violent pressure, from the culture of the rulers, who seek to debase it by treating it as an archaeological find, an old superstition, an anachronistic obsession,” he said.

Even when asked to “pretend to eat the meat without actually doing so,” he added, Eleazar refused to dishonor his faith and risk scandalizing younger generations in exchange for “a handful of days.”

“An old man who has lived in the coherence of his faith for a whole lifetime, and who now adapts himself to feigning repudiation of it, condemns the new generation to thinking that the whole faith has been a sham, an outer covering that can be abandoned, imagining that it can be preserved interiorly,” the pope said.

Older people who accept “that the practice of faith is irrelevant” also risk teaching young people to give in to gnosticism, he said, by making them believe that faith “can be faked or concealed because it is not particularly important for life.”

The gnostic interpretation of faith, he added, “nullifies the realism of Christian faith.”

“Christian faith is not just about reciting the creed, it means thinking about the creed, it means feeling the creed and doing the creed,” the pope explained.

“Instead, this gnostic proposal says, ‘Just pretend; the important thing is that you have spirituality within you and then you can do whatever you want.’ And this is not Christian. It is the first heresy of the gnostics, which is very fashionable these days in so many spirituality centers and such,” he said.

Pope Francis encouraged older Christians to give witness to the faith in a way that “shows the concrete signs of God in the life of the community and resists the perversions of the mind through the gestures of the body.”

“Perhaps it is up to us older people — and there are some present here — to give faith back its honor,” the pope said. “The practice of faith is not the symbol of our weakness, but rather the sign of its strength.”

“Faith deserves respect and honor,” he added. “We will show, in all humility and firmness, precisely in our old age, that believing is not something ‘for old people.’ And the Holy Spirit, who makes all things new, will gladly help us.”

By Junno Arocho Esteves | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Meeting with superiors general of women’s religious orders, Pope Francis arrived in a wheelchair — the first time he has used one publicly at the Vatican.

The 85-year-old pope has been experiencing severe knee pain for months and told an Italian newspaper May 3 that his doctor had advised rest and “injections” into the knee; the Vatican has not clarified whether the injections would be cortisone, hyaluronic acid or another therapy typically used to treat joint pain or deterioration.

When the pope met May 5 with members of the women’s International Union of Superiors General, he arrived in a wheelchair pushed by his personal aide, Sandro Mariotti.

The women superiors were holding their plenary assembly in Rome May 2-6, focusing on the theme, “Embracing Vulnerability on the Synodal Journey.” Pope Francis handed the UISG leaders his prepared text but responded to questions rather than reading the speech.

According to the UISG communications office, the discussion included the war in Ukraine, the need to offer long-term help to Ukraine and Ukrainians, the importance of discernment within religious communities, colonialism and the importance of being faithful to the founding charism of one’s order without being “rigid.”

One of the tweets from the office said the pope told them not to be “frozen nuns.”

The Vatican did not immediately release a transcript of the sisters’ questions and the pope’s responses.

In the text handed to the superiors, Pope Francis looked at the Gospel story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and telling them to do likewise.

“The church learns from her Master that, in order to be able to give her life in service to others, she is invited to recognize and accept her own fragility and, from there, to bow down before the fragility of others,” he said.

But, he wrote, service “is not a question of servitude. To lower oneself is not to withdraw into one’s own wounds and inconsistencies, but to open oneself to relationship, to an exchange that dignifies and heals, as it did with Peter, and from which a new journey with Jesus begins.”

In preparing for the Synod of Bishops in 2023 and, more in general, on working to ensure the church itself is more “synodal,” more collaborative and inclusive, he said, “I count on you, dear sisters, to accompany God’s holy people” as “experts in building communion, in fostering listening and discernment.”

“I count on you,” he wrote, “so that the synodal process that we are living in the church may also take place within your institutes, where young and old exchange their wisdom and visions of consecrated life; where all cultures sit at the same table of the kingdom; where stories are processed in the light of the risen Jesus and his forgiveness; (and) where the laity can participate in your spiritualities.”

Pope Francis also said that “synodal renewal” would involve communities of religious women caring for one another, especially for “small congregations or those that are decreasing to the point of finding sustainability difficult.”

Synodality also must be practiced within religious orders, he said, leading sisters to ponder and pray about the changes God may want in the ministries they perform and, particularly, “in the way we live the service of authority.”

“How can we work for an authority that is evangelical, an authority that does not leave wounds along the way, but growth?” Pope Francis asked.

While the sisters should “not be afraid in this search for new ministries and new ways of exercising authority evangelically,” they should take care that it not be “a theoretical and ideological search — ideologies mutilate the Gospel — but a search that starts from approaching the feet of wounded humanity and walking alongside wounded brothers and sisters, beginning with the sisters of your communities.”

By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service

FAIRFIELD—For the second year in a row, Fairfield University will recruit and train up to 500 college students to provide meaningful educational experiences for youth this summer, in collaboration with the Connecticut Office of Higher Education, Connecticut State Department of Education, and other public and private higher education institutions across the state.

The Connecticut College Corps program was launched in summer 2021 in response to Governor Ned Lamont’s plan to provide engaging educational experiences to K-12 students and families, who had school years significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Earlier this month Governor Lamont announced that the Connecticut State Department of Education will dedicate $8 million of federal American Rescue Plan funding to continue the state’s highly successful Summer Enrichment Program.

“College Corps CT benefitted K-12 children, undergraduate students, and the host sites where the corps members worked,” said School of Education and Human Development Dean Laurie Grupp, PhD. “We are excited that we have the opportunity to lead the program again this summer.”

Fairfield University is actively recruiting undergraduate college students who attend Connecticut colleges and universities, and Connecticut residents who attend college out of state, to work as Corps Members for approximately seven weeks supporting Connecticut summer programs. Corps Members will receive training by Fairfield University faculty to be prepared with the skills needed to provide K-12 students with enriching summer experiences so they are prepared for the upcoming academic year.

During the training, Corps Members will be introduced to concepts such as social-emotional learning, equity, diversity, academic support, and reflective practice followed by weekly check-ins with mentors during the program. College students who participated in the program last year reported positive, meaningful experiences at their sites as well as significant personal growth and learning.

“I have become more outgoing and assertive,” shared one 2021 Corps Member. “I learned how to teach my campers conflict resolution, emotional regulation, and how to have fun while using their imagination. By helping my campers have a fun summer, I helped myself reflect on my own thoughts, feelings, and opinions. I also gained more social skills through engaging with campers, coworkers, and parents.”

College students who are interested should visit fairfield.edu/collegecorpsct to learn more and apply. Corps members will be paid a taxable wage of $15.00 per hour. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

Fairfield University is a modern, Jesuit Catholic university rooted in one of the world’s oldest intellectual and spiritual traditions. More than 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students from the U.S. and across the globe are pursuing degrees in the University’s five schools. Fairfield embraces a liberal humanistic approach to education, encouraging critical thinking, cultivating free and open inquiry, and fostering ethical and religious values. The University is located on a stunning 200- acre campus on the scenic Connecticut coast just an hour from New York City.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Those who are called to be missionaries of mercy are entrusted with the important task of being the face and the voice of God’s love to those in need, Pope Francis said.

Pictured: Pope Francis greets priests during an audience with Missionaries of Mercy priests at the Vatican April 25, 2022. The pope commissioned the priests during the Year of Mercy for the special mission of preaching God’s mercy and showing it, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Let us never forget that God does not act in the daily lives of people through shocking acts, but in a silent, discreet, simple way, so as to manifest himself through people who become a sacrament of his presence. And you are a sacrament of God’s presence,” the pope told the priests during a meeting at the Vatican April 25.

The “missionaries of mercy” were priests chosen by the Vatican for the 2015-2016 Year of Mercy to preach about God’s mercy and, especially, to encourage Catholics to rediscover the grace of the sacrament of reconciliation.

In a permission later extended to all priests, Pope Francis granted them the power to absolve penitents who regretted having an abortion or playing a role in someone’s decision to have an abortion. He also authorized them to lift some penalties imposed by canon law.

Noting their increasing numbers, the pope said the missionaries of mercy “are a privileged instrument in the church” and, for this reason, were included his apostolic constitution reforming the Roman Curia, “Praedicate Evangelium” (“Preach the Gospel.”)

“I wanted to place you there, in the Apostolic Constitution, because you are a privileged instrument in the church today, and you are not a movement that exists today and does not exist tomorrow. No, you are in the structure of the church. This is why I wanted to put you there,” he said departing from his prepared remarks.

In his talk, the pope reflected on the biblical figure of Ruth, a young Moabite widow who “lives in a foreign country that considers her an intruder and not even worthy of solidarity.”

However, her generosity toward her mother-in-law, Naomi, and her complete trust in God are an example of how “we can overcome the many forms of exclusion and marginalization that lurk in our behavior.”

While God does not speak directly in the book, every one of Ruth’s “gestures of kindness toward Naomi — who considers herself ’embittered by God’ — becomes a tangible sign of the Lord’s closeness and goodness,” the pope said.

Pope Francis urged the missionaries of mercy to “keep all forms of judgment away from you and always put the will to understand the person in front of you first.”

“You are faced with a woman or man asking for forgiveness, and you have forgiveness in your pocket. Will it stay in your pocket? Or will your generosity give it to them?” he asked.

The pope also said that if the priests have specific requirements in order to forgive, then perhaps they “are not fit to be a missionary of mercy.”

“Always. Always forgive. Don’t put it off,” the pope said. If there is “a person asking you for forgiveness, who are you to ask if he or she may or may not be sincere? You take their word for it, and forgive. Always forgive. Please, always forgive. With Christ’s forgiveness you don’t play around, you don’t joke.”

By: Junno Arocho Esteves @ catholicnews.com

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis renewed his call for an Easter truce in Ukraine, as many in the country commemorate Christ’s resurrection under the shadow of war.

Pictured: An image of Jesus of Divine Mercy and the Angels Unawares sculpture are seen in St. Peter’s Square as people wait for Pope Francis to lead the Regina Coeli at the Vatican April 24, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Addressing pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Divine Mercy Sunday April 24, the pope offered good wishes to Eastern Catholic and Orthodox Christians who celebrated Easter that day, according to the Julian calendar.

“Christ is risen! He is truly risen!” he said. “May he grant us peace which has been overshadowed by the barbarity of war.”

The pope first called for an Easter truce during his Angelus address April 10. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres echoed the appeal of the pope and other European Catholic and Protestant leaders for an Easter cease-fire.

However, despite the appeals, Russia intensified its attacks on Ukraine and launched a missile strike that killed six people, including a mother and her 3-month-old baby, in Odesa April 23, the Reuters news agency reported.

After reciting the “Regina Coeli” with pilgrims, Pope Francis noted that “exactly today, it has been two months since this war began” and lamented the destruction and suffering wrought by Russia’s war.

“It is sad that in these days that are the holiest and most solemn days for all Christians, we hear more of the deadly roar of weapons instead of the sound of the bells that announce the Resurrection. And it is sad that weapons are taking the place of words more and more,” he said.

Pope Francis said an Easter truce would be “a minimal and tangible sign of a will for peace” as well as a way to offer safe passage for civilians wanting to leave and the safe delivery of aid to suffering Ukrainians.

The pope also called on world leaders to listen to the voice of the people “who want peace, not an escalation of the conflict.”

“May it end, in obedience to the words the Risen One said to his disciples on Easter: ‘Peace be with you,’” he said.

By: Junno Arocho Esteves @ catholicnews.com