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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from From 3 May 2016 to 18 May 2016.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Regina Cæli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Dear Religious: wake up the world! Be witnesses to a different way of thinking, acting and living!” @Pontifex 12 May 2016
  • “If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity, by divine love, then our communication will be touched by God’s own power.” @Pontifex 13 May 2016
  • “To communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness among the children of God.” @Pontifex 14 May 2016
  • “Come, Holy Spirit! Free us from being closed in on ourselves and instill in us the joy of proclaiming the Gospel.” @Pontifex 15 May 2016
  • “The gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed in abundance so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity.” @Pontifex 16 May 2016
  • “The world needs the courage, hope, faith and perseverance of Christ’s followers.” @Pontifex 17 May 2016
  • “The Jubilee is the party to which Jesus invites us all, without excluding anyone.” @Pontifex 18 May 2016

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popr-francis-teachingPope Francis has agreed to create a commission to study the possibility of women deacons.

Here are 12 things to know and share . . .

 

1) What has happened?

On Thursday, May 12, Pope Francis was meeting with a group of women religious who asked him about the possibility of creating a commission to study the possibility of women deacons, or deaconesses.

Edward Pentin reports:

Speaking to around 900 members of the International Union of Superiors General today, representing half a million religious sisters from 80 countries, the Pope was asked if he would establish “an official commission” to study the question of women deacons.

He replied: “I accept. It would be useful for the Church to clarify this question. I agree.”

 

2) Who would be on this commission, when would it meet, and when would we know its results?

At present, all of these are unknown.

The commission could be run under the auspices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

The International Theological Commission, which is an advisory body run by the CDF, could be tasked with studying the issue.

Alternately, a new commission run by the CDF could be created to study the question.

Or a special, independent commission could be created, though its results would be vetted by the CDF.

Since the pope has only just agreed to the proposal, no timetable has been announced.

The commission could begin meeting within a year, but it likely would be several years before its work would be finished.

Once it is finished, the resulting report(s) would be submitted to the CDF and/or the pope.

They might or might not then be released publicly.

 

3) Why doesn’t the Church presently ordain women to the diaconate?

The Church holds that:

Only a baptized man (Latin, vir) validly receives sacred ordination (CCC 1577).

Although the matter has been debated historically, the Church’s present understanding is that the diaconate belongs to the sacrament of holy orders:

Catholic doctrine teaches that the degrees of priestly participation (episcopate and presbyterate) and the degree of service (diaconate) are all three conferred by a sacramental act called “ordination,” that is, by the sacrament of Holy Orders (CCC 1554).

If the sacrament of holy orders can be validly received only by a baptized man and if the diaconate is a grade of holy orders then only a baptized man can be validly ordained a deacon.

Thus women could not be ordained to the diaconate, understood in its sacramental sense.

 

4) Are there other senses in which the term “deacon” can be used?

The Greek term for deacon is diakonos. Its basic meaning is “servant” or “minister,” and it can be used in a wide variety of senses.

Indeed, Jesus himself says the he came not to be served but to serve (diakonesai) in Matthew 20:28.

Similarly, Paul says he and Apollos are “servants” (diakonoi) in 1 Corinthians 3:5.

And all Christians are called to play this role, for “he who is greatest among you shall be your servant (diakonos)” (Matt. 23:11).

The term thus has a wide variety of meanings besides the one the Church understands as a grade of ordained ministry.

 

5) Were there female deacons—or deaconesses—in the early Church?

Yes. For example, St. Paul’s letter to the Romans was carried from Cenchreae (the port of Corinth, where Paul wrote it) to Rome by a deaconess named Phoebe. St. Paul writes:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well (Rom. 16:1-2).

In later centuries, deaconesses performed a variety of roles, primarily in ministry to women.

 

6) How could there be female deacons if only a male can be validly ordained?

This would be possible if the term “deaconess” was being used in a different way than to refer to the diaconal grade of ordained ministry.

Thus the canons of the First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) refer to deaconesses that have not been ordained:

And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity (canon 19).

In other words, these deaconesses were servants or ministers in the Church but did not exercise ordained ministry.

 

7) Does the Church teach infallibly that only men can be ordained?

At present, the Church teaches infallibly that:

[T]he Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful (John Paul II, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis)

This teaching is not regarded as being infallible due to a papal statement but because of the ordinary and universal exercise of the Magisterium (see here).

The Church thus infallibly teaches that that priestly ordination (i.e., ordination to the rank of priest or bishop) cannot be conferred on women, but this teaching has not been extended to diaconal ordination.

As we saw under (3), above, one can deduce that women cannot receive diaconal ordination from the fact that the Church teaches only a baptized man can be ordained and that the diaconate is a grade of holy orders, but the Church has not yet confirmed this inference as an infallible teaching.

 

8) Does that mean that the Church could one day revise this part of its teaching and allow women to be ordained to the diaconate?

That is, presumably, one of the questions the commission would be tasked with clarifying.

 

9) What might the commission recommend?

Assuming it issued a single report (as opposed to a set of reports reflecting the different positions of commission members), it might recommend a number of things, including:

  • No change to present teaching and discipline
  • Ordination of women to the diaconal grade of holy orders
  • Reintroduction of non-ordained deaconesses
  • Further study of the question

 

10) Would the commission’s recommendations change anything?

Commissions are advisory bodies. The Magisterium may take or not take their recommendations.

Any change to the Church’s present teaching and practice in this area would, at a minimum, require the pope’s authorization, and it might well involve a broader consultation of the Magisterium, such as by a synod of bishops.

 

11) What is the best guide to current, orthodox Catholic thought on the subject on women and the diaconate?

In 2002 the International Theological Commission, one of the advisory bodies operated by the CDF, issued a report titled From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles.

Although not a document of the Magisterium, it was approved for release by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and represents orthodox and learned Catholic opinion on the topic.

This document will likely serve as the starting point for the forthcoming commission on the question.

You can read it here.

 

12) What does the document say?

It has an extended section (IV. The Ministry of Deaconesses) dealing with the way deaconesses functioned in the early Church.

On the question of ordination, the document concludes by saying:

With regard to the ordination of women to the diaconate, it should be noted that two important indications emerge from what has been said up to this point:

  1. The deaconesses mentioned in the tradition of the ancient Church—as evidenced by the rite of institution and the functions they exercised—were not purely and simply equivalent to the deacons;
  2. The unity of the sacrament of Holy Orders, in the clear distinction between the ministries of the bishop and the priests on the one hand and the diaconal ministry on the other, is strongly underlined by ecclesial tradition, especially in the teaching of the Magisterium.

In the light of these elements which have been set out in the present historico-theological research document, it pertains to the ministry of discernment which the Lord established in his Church to pronounce authoritatively on this question.

The two points that it makes—that the ancient deaconesses “were not purely and simply equivalent to the deacons” and the support that tradition and the magisterium have given to the diaconal ministry as an element of holy orders—suggest that women could not be ordained to the diaconate. However, the matter was left to the future discernment of the Magisterium.

 

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Right now, this commentary is available exclusively on Verbum Catholic software.

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 29 April 2016 to 11 May 2016.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Letters

Regina Cæli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “There is the grave problem of labour, because of the high rate of young adults unemployed, but also for the issue of the dignity of work.” @Pontifex 2 May 2016
  • “Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God’s mercy, out of love for us, died on the cross, and out of love he rose again from the dead.” @Pontifex 3 May 2016
  • “May the challenges in the ecumenical journey encourage us to know each other better, pray together and unite in works of charity.” @Pontifex 4 May 2016
  • “Christ is our greatest joy; he is always at our side and will never let us down.” @Pontifex 6 May 2016
  • “Love, by its nature, is communication; it leads to openness and sharing. #ComMisericordia50” @Pontifex 7 May 2016
  • Tweet is picture of letter. @Pontifex 8 May 2016
  • “Jesus, ascended into heaven, is now in the lordship of God, present in every space and time, close to each one of us.” @Pontifex 9 May 2016
  • “May today’s challenges become forces for unity to overcome our fears and build together a better future for Europe and the world.” @Pontifex 10 May 2016
  • “What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all.” @Pontifex 11 May 2016

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 19 March 2016 to 1 May 2016.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Letters

Messages

Regina Cæli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Climate change represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity today, and the response requires the solidarity of all.” @Pontifex 21 April 2016
  • “A true ecological approach knows how to safeguard the environment and justice, hearing the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” @Pontifex 22 April 2016
  • “Dear Young Friends, your names are written in heaven in the merciful heart of the Father. Be brave and go against the tide!” @Pontifex 23 April 2016
  • “Dear Young People, with the grace of God you can become authentic and courageous Christians, witnesses to love and peace.” @Pontifex 24 April 2016
  • “All are called to love and cherish family life, for families are not a problem; they are first
    and foremost an opportunity.” @Pontifex 25 April 2016
  • “Let us break open our sealed tombs to the Lord – each of us knows what they are – so that he may enter and grant us life.” @Pontifex 26 April 2016
  • “Christian hope is a gift that God gives us if we come out of ourselves and open our hearts to him.” @Pontifex 27 April 2016
  • “Before the spiritual and moral abysses of mankind, only God’s infinite mercy can bring us salvation.” @Pontifex 28 April 2016
  • “Jesus conquered evil at the root: he is the Door of Salvation, open wide so that each person may find mercy.” @Pontifex 29 April 2016
  • “Work is proper to the human person and expresses the dignity of being created in the image of God.” @Pontifex 30 April 2016
  • “I address a cordial greeting to the faithful of the Eastern Churches who are celebrating Holy Pascha today. Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!” @Pontifex 1 May 2016

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 7 April 2016 to 20 April 2016.

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Regina Cæli

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Love is the only light which can constantly illuminate a world grown dim.” @Pontifex 14 April 2016
  • “In the darkest hours of a family’s life, union with Jesus can help avoid a breakup.” @Pontifex 15 April 2016
  • “Refugees are not numbers, they are people who have faces, names, stories, and need to be treated as such.” @Pontifex 15 April 2016
  • “Today is Benedict XVI’s birthday. Let us remember him in our prayers and thank God for giving him to the Church and the world.” @Pontifex 16 April 2016
  • “Each vocation in the Church has its origin in the compassionate gaze of Jesus, who forgives us and calls us to follow Him.” @Pontifex 17 April 2016
  • “We pray for the earthquake victims in Ecuador and Japan. May God and all our brothers and sisters give them help and support.” @Pontifex 18 April 2016
  • “The royal road to peace is to see others not as enemies to be opposed but as brothers and sisters to be embraced.” @Pontifex 19 April 2016
  • “To form a family is to be a part of God’s dream, to join him in building a world where no one will feel alone.” @Pontifex 20 April 2016

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 17 March 2016 to 13 April 2016.

Angelus

Apostolic Exhortation

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The phenomenon of migration raises a serious cultural issue which necessarily demands a response.” @Pontifex 31 March 2016
  • “Passing through the Holy Door, let us put our trust in God’s grace, which can change our lives.” @Pontifex 1 April 2016
  • “To be merciful means to grow in a love which is courageous, generous and real.” @Pontifex 2 April 2016
  • “Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.” @Pontifex 3 April 2016
  • “Christian faith is a gift which we receive in Baptism and which allows us to encounter God.” @Pontifex 4 April 2016
  • “The Lord asks us to be men and women who radiate the truth, beauty and the life-changing power of the Gospel.” @Pontifex 5 April 2016
  • “The Jubilee is a year-long celebration, in which every moment becomes a chance for us to grow in holiness.” @Pontifex 6 April 2016
  • “I encourage you to bear witness to Christ in your personal life and families: a witness of gratuitousness, solidarity, spirit of service.” @Pontifex 7 April 2016
  • “The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The family is the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The word of God is a source of comfort for every family that experiences difficulty or suffering.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “The family is a good which society cannot do without, and it ought to be protected.” @Pontifex 8 April 2016
  • “People with disabilities are a gift for the family and an opportunity to grow in love, mutual aid and unity.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “No one can think that the weakening of the family will prove beneficial to society as a whole.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “The strength of the family lies in its capacity to love and to teach how to love.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “Our teaching on marriage and the family cannot fail to be inspired by the message of love and tenderness.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “Every family, despite its weaknesses, can become a light in the darkness of the world.” @Pontifex 9 April 2016
  • “In our families, we must learn to imitate Jesus’ own gentleness.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “Love opens our eyes and enables us to see the great worth of a human being.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “Each new life allows us to appreciate the utterly gratuitous dimension of love.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “It is important for a child to feel wanted. He or she is not an accessory or a solution to some personal need.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “Open and caring families find a place for the poor.” @Pontifex 10 April 2016
  • “The divorced who have entered a new union should be made to feel part of the Church. They are not excommunicated.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “To know how to forgive and feel forgiven is a basic experience in family life.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “Fidelity has to do with patience. Its joys and sacrifices bear fruit as the years go by.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “Children are a wonderful gift from God and a joy for parents.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “The family is where we first learn to listen and share, to be patient and show respect, to help one another.” @Pontifex 11 April 2016
  • “The home is the place where we learn to appreciate the beauty of the faith, to pray and serve our neighbor.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “It is essential that children see that prayer is something truly important for their parents.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “To understand, forgive, accompany and integrate. That is the mindset which should prevail in the Church.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “The Church must pattern her behavior after the Son of God who went out to everyone without exception.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “The way of the Church is not to condemn anyone for ever, it is to pour out the balm of God’s mercy.” @Pontifex 12 April 2016
  • “The Lord’s presence dwells in families, with all their daily troubles and struggles, joys and hopes.” @Pontifex 13 April 2016

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Pope Francis is having his "Inaugural Mass"? What's happens in this Mass, and why is it important?Pope Francis’s much anticipated document on the family has now been released.

Here are 12 things to know and share . . .

 

1) What are the basic facts about the document?

It is called Amoris Laetitia (Latin, “the joy of love”), and it is what is known as a “post-synodal apostolic exhortation.”

An apostolic exhortation is a pastoral document in which the pope exhorts the Church. Although it contains doctrine, its primary focus is on pastoral care. (Apostolic exhortations are different than encyclicals, which do focus primarily on doctrine.)

When a pope issues an apostolic exhortation in response to a meeting of the synod of bishops (a gathering of bishops from around the world), it is called a post-synodal (“after the synod”) apostolic exhortation.

Amoris Laetitia was written in response to two meetings of the synod of bishops—one held in 2014 and one in 2015, both of which were devoted to the subject of the family.

You can read it here.

 

2) What subjects does the document cover?

It is a document that is 255 pages long, so it covers a wide array of topics connected with the family in today’s world. In his own summary of its contents, Pope Francis explains:

I will begin with an opening chapter inspired by the Scriptures, to set a proper tone.

I will then examine the actual situation of families, in order to keep firmly grounded in reality.

I will go on to recall some essential aspects of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family, thus paving the way for two central chapters dedicated to love.

I will then highlight some pastoral approaches that can guide us in building sound and fruitful homes in accordance with God’s plan, with a full chapter devoted to the raising of children.

Finally, I will offer an invitation to mercy and the pastoral discernment of those situations that fall short of what the Lord demands of us, and conclude with a brief discussion of family spirituality (AL 6).

At the two synods of bishops the subject of pastoral care for those who are divorced and civilly remarried and of people with a homosexual orientation were discussed.

Although these are not the focus of Amoris Laetitiae—and, in fact, represent only a small part of what it has to say—they also represent the subjects many people will be most interested to know about, so they are what we will cover here.

 

3) What does the document say about homosexuality?

It says very little. It notes that same-sex unions “may not simply be equated with marriage” (AL 52). It also says:

During the Synod, we discussed the situation of families whose members include persons who experience same-sex attraction, a situation not easy either for parents or for children.

We would like before all else to reaffirm that every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity and treated with consideration, while ‘every sign of unjust discrimination’ is to be carefully avoided, particularly any form of aggression and violence.

Such families should be given respectful pastoral guidance, so that those who manifest a homosexual orientation can receive the assistance they need to understand and fully carry out God’s will in their lives.

In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

It is unacceptable “that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex” (AL 250-251).

And that’s it. Contrary to the hopes of some, the document did not attempt to reframe the Church’s teaching on same-sex activity or same-sex unions.

 

4) What does the document say regarding Cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to give Holy Communion to some who are divorced and civilly remarried after a “penitential period.”

Nothing. This proposal is not brought up.

 

5) Does the document propose a specific, concrete solution to the problem of divorced and civilly remarried.

No. After reviewing a variety of defective marital situations in which people may find themselves, the document states:

If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases (AL 300).

Instead, the document articulates a set of principles to be applied to the pastoral care of such individuals.

 

6) What are these principles?

The chapter discussing them is more than 5,500 words long, so we can’t cover them fully, but they include:

  • Not watering down the Church’s teaching on marriage
  • Helping people grow toward realizing the Church’s teaching on marriage in their own lives
  • Recognizing that people in defective situations are not all in the same situation
  • Helping integrate such people into the life of the Church, based on what is possible in their individual cases.

 

7) What does the document say about not watering down the Church’s teaching on marriage?

In articulating the Church’s basic teaching, it states:

Christian marriage, as a reflection of the union between Christ and his Church, is fully realized in the union between a man and a woman who give themselves to each other in a free, faithful and exclusive love, who belong to each other until death and are open to the transmission of life, and are consecrated by the sacrament, which grants them the grace to become a domestic church and a leaven of new life for society (AL 292).

Later, it states:

In order to avoid all misunderstanding, I would point out that in no way must the Church desist from proposing the full ideal of marriage, God’s plan in all its grandeur. . . .

A lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal, would be a lack of fidelity to the Gospel and also of love on the part of the Church for young people themselves.

To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being (AL 307).

 

8) What does the document say about helping people grow toward realizing the Church’s teaching on marriage in their own lives?

It says:

The Fathers [of the synods] also considered the specific situation of a merely civil marriage or, with due distinction, even simple cohabitation, noting that “when such unions attain a particular stability, legally recognized, are characterized by deep affection and responsibility for their offspring, and demonstrate an ability to overcome trials, they can provide occasions for pastoral care with a view to the eventual celebration of the sacrament of marriage” (AL 293, emphasis added).

It also says:

Along these lines, Saint John Paul II proposed the so-called “law of gradualness” in the knowledge that the human being “knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by different stages of growth” (Familiaris Consortio 34).

This is not a “gradualness of law” but rather a gradualness in the prudential exercise of free acts on the part of subjects who are not in a position to understand, appreciate, or fully carry out the objective demands of the law.

For the law is itself a gift of God which points out the way, a gift for everyone without exception; it can be followed with the help of grace, even though each human being “advances gradually with the progressive integration of the gifts of God and the demands of God’s definitive and absolute love in his or her entire personal and social life” (ibid., 9).

 

9) What does the document say about people in defective situations not all being in the same situation?

It says:

The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment.

One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins.

The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio 84).

There are also the cases of those who made every effort to save their first marriage and were unjustly abandoned, or of “those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid” (ibid.).

Another thing is a new union arising from a recent divorce, with all the suffering and confusion which this entails for children and entire families, or the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family.

It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and the family (AL 298).

 

10) What does the document say about helping integrate such people into the life of the Church, based on what is possible in their individual cases?

It says:

I am in agreement with the many Synod Fathers who observed that “the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal. . . .

“Their participation can be expressed in different ecclesial services, which necessarily requires discerning which of the various forms of exclusion currently practiced in the liturgical, pastoral, educational and institutional framework, can be surmounted.

“Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother who welcomes them always, who takes care of them with affection and encourages them along the path of life and the Gospel.

“This integration is also needed in the care and Christian upbringing of their children, who ought to be considered most important” (AL 299).

It also says:

Naturally, if someone flaunts an objective sin as if it were part of the Christian ideal, or wants to impose something other than what the Church teaches, he or she can in no way presume to teach or preach to others; this is a case of something which separates from the community (cf. Mt 18:17).

Such a person needs to listen once more to the Gospel message and its call to conversion.

Yet even for that person there can be some way of taking part in the life of community, whether in social service, prayer meetings or another way that his or her own initiative, together with the discernment of the parish priest, may suggest (AL 297).

And it says:

Conversation with the priest, in the internal forum, contributes to the formation of a correct judgment on what hinders the possibility of a fuller participation in the life of the Church and on what steps can foster it and make it grow.

Given that gradualness is not in the law itself (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 34), this discernment can never prescind from the Gospel demands of truth and charity, as proposed by the Church.

For this discernment to happen, the following conditions must necessarily be present: humility, discretion and love for the Church and her teaching, in a sincere search for God’s will and a desire to make a more perfect response to it.”

These attitudes are essential for avoiding the grave danger of misunderstandings, such as the notion that any priest can quickly grant “exceptions,” or that some people can obtain sacramental privileges in exchange for favors (AL 300).

 

11) Does the document foresee any possibility for sacramentally absolving and giving Communion to people who are civilly remarried if they are not living as brother and sister?

It does. In the main text of the document, it begins by noting certain principles to be taken into account, stating:

For an adequate understanding of the possibility and need of special discernment in certain “irregular” situations, one thing must always be taken into account, lest anyone think that the demands of the Gospel are in any way being compromised.

The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations.

Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any “irregular” situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.

More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may know full well the rule, yet have great difficulty in understanding “its inherent values,” or be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin. . . .

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors: “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (CCC 1735).

In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability” (CCC 2352).

For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved. (AL 301-302).

The document thus envisions the case of a person who may be living in an objectively sinful situation but who is not mortally culpable because of a variety of factors of a cognitive or psychological nature.

Nothing in this is new. The Church has long recognized that people living in objectively grave sin may not be in a state of mortal sin. Consequently, the document goes on to state:

Because of forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin—which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such—a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end (AL 305).

At this point the text contains a footnote which states:

In certain cases, this [i.e., the Church’s help toward him growing in grace and charity] can include the help of the sacraments.

Hence, “I want to remind priests that the confessional must not be a torture chamber, but rather an encounter with the Lord’s mercy” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium [24 November 2013], 44: AAS 105 [2013], 1038).

I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak” (ibid., 47: 1039) (AL footnote 351).

The document thus envisions administering sacramental absolution and holy Communion to those living in objectively sinful situations who are not mortally culpable for their actions due to various cognitive or psychological conditions.

Since they are not mortally culpable, they could be validly absolved in confession and, being in the state of grace, they could in principle receive Communion.

 

12) Does the document say how common such situations are?

No. However, the fact it only makes this application of the principles in a footnote suggests that such situations are not common and that they are not to be presumed.

The same is indicated by the large number of cautions contained in the text regarding such things as:

  • The obligation to proclaim God’s full vision of marriage, not watering it down with “a lukewarm attitude, any kind of relativism, or an undue reticence in proposing that ideal” (AL 307).
  • That people in such situations should either become sacramentally married (AL 293) or separate (AL 298) or live as brother and sister (cf. AL footnote 329).
  • People who flout Church teaching on marriage need to listen to the Gospel message and convert (AL 297).
  • That misunderstandings like a “priest can quickly grant ‘exceptions’” must be avoided (AL 300).
  • That cognitive or psychological conditions must exist which keep a person’s objective grave sin from becoming mortal (AL 301-302, 307).
  • The need to avoid scandal (AL 299).

 

Looking for Something Good to Read?

May I suggest my commentary on the Gospel of Mark?

It goes through the whole text and provides fascinating information that you may have never heard before.

It also comes with a verse-by-verse study guide with questions that you or your study group can use.

And it comes with a lectionary-based study guide, so you can read along with Mark in the liturgy and ponder its meaning before or after Mass.

Right now, this commentary is available exclusively on Verbum Catholic software.

Verbum is an incredibly powerful study tool that I use every day, and I heartily recommend it to others.

I can also save you 10% when you get the commentary or one of the bundles of Verbum software. Just use the code JIMMY1 at checkout.

CLICK HERE TO GET JIMMY AKIN’S STUDIES ON MARK.

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new-testamentIt’s surprising, but with a little sleuthing, we can get good estimates of when the authors of the New Testament were born.

Let’s put on our detective hats and see what we can learn about Paul and his circle of New Testament authors.

(Yesterday we looked at the Twelve and the brethren of Jesus.)

 

Paul

We first meet Paul in Acts 7:58, at the stoning of Stephen, where Luke describes him as “a young man named Saul.”

Since the Jewish authorities were imposing the death penalty on Steven—something they were normally forbidden by the Roman authorities to do (cf. John 18:30), this event likely occurred during the period immediately after Pontius Pilate’s dismissal as governor in A.D. 36, before the new governor arrived.

Someone described as “a young man” is likely between 20 and 30, with an average age of 25. However, given the leadership role that Paul was granted in persecuting the early Church, we will assume he was 28. If Paul was that age in A.D. 36 then he would have been born around A.D. 8.

This becomes a key date for helping us determine the ages of Paul’s companions.

 

Mark

We first hear of John Mark in Acts 12, which takes place in A.D. 43. At the end of this chapter, Mark accompanies Paul and Barnabas to Antioch, and he subsequently became their junior travelling companion on the First Missionary Journey (cf. Acts 13:5), though he soon left their company and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13).

Based on our estimate of Paul’s year of birth, he would have been around 35 in A.D. 43, and Mark would have certainly been younger.

How much younger is hard to say, but we may have something of an analog in Timothy—the junior companion of Paul whose age we can most closely estimate.

As we will see below, Timothy began travelling with Paul when he was very young. It is probable that he was around 17 years old at the time.

This is probably unusually young for a Pauline traveling companion, but it indicates the kind of age that Paul’s junior companions could have at the beginning of their travels.

Mark was probably a bit older than this, though still a young man. We will assume that he was 23 when he first began travelling with Paul and Barnabas, in which case he would have been born around A.D. 20.

 

Luke

Although Luke was a travelling companion of Paul, he was a different kind of companion. The evidence we have indicates that he was more independent than Paul’s unmistakably junior companions (Mark, Timothy, Titus).

One line of evidence that indicates this is that he is not always with Paul in Acts. There are some passages—known as the “we” passages, where he uses the word “we” to describe the movements of Paul’s party. In these passages, he is present, but the “we” passages are interspersed with other passages where the party’s movements are described in the third person. Luke thus does not seem to have been with Paul on those occasions.

Also, unlike the unmistakably junior companions, we don’t have his absence explained by statements that Paul sent him on a mission (cf. Acts 19:22, 1 Tim. 1:3, Tit. 1:5). It thus seems that Luke may have made more of his own decisions about travel.

This is consistent with Paul’s description of Luke as “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14). Physicians commanded more respect than junior associates who had no other career, and Paul was probably reluctant to give Luke commands the way he did other companions.

Physicians also tended to be older. Even in the ancient world, becoming a doctor would have required a comparatively lengthy apprenticeship, and Luke would have acquired his profession and practiced for some time before becoming Paul’s companion.

All of this speaks to Luke being more of a contemporary of Paul rather than a junior companion. Since he was still young enough to travel extensively (and amid conditions of hardship; cf. 2 Cor. 11:23-27), and since he was a subordinate, if somewhat independent companion, he probably wasn’t notably older than Paul.

We will therefore assume that they were approximately the same age.

We first encounter Luke in Acts 16:10, when Paul is in Troas and the first “we” passage begins. This appears to have taken place in A.D. 49, when Paul—and by extension Luke—would have been around 41 years old.

We thus estimate that Luke would have been born around A.D. 8.

 

Paul’s Co-Authors

Unusually for writers in the ancient world, Paul lists three individuals—Sosthenes, Silvanus, and Timothy—as co-authors of some of his letters. Though people seldom think of these men in this light, they therefore count as New Testament authors, and so we will estimate their ages.

 

Sosthenes

The most mysterious of the co-authors is Sosthenes. Paul lists him as having helped in writing 1 Corinthians, which he penned around A.D. 53 from Ephesus, during the period referred to in Acts 19:10.

Scholars have debated whether he is the same Sosthenes mentioned in Acts 18:17, who Luke describes as “a ruler of the synagogue” in Corinth and who was beaten by a crowd.

This is possible, but it is not certain. Unfortunately, Luke does not give us enough detail about this Sosthenes, and it is not even clear if he is a Christian or a non-Christian Jew.

It is possible, if he were not a Christian at the time, that he later became one and relocated to Ephesus (perhaps due to further persecution in Corinth), and so Paul decided to include him as a co-author since the Corinthians already knew him.

Since “Sosthenes” was an uncommon Greek name and since Paul introduces him to the Corinthians in a way that suggests he is familiar to them (referring to him simply as “our brother”; lit., “the brother”), we will assume that he is the same person.

The ruler of a synagogue would not be young, and the crowd would presumably not beat an elderly man. It is thus probable that Sosthenes was between 40 and 60 at the time. We will assume that he was 50 at the time of the beating, which would have taken place in A.D. 51.

We thus assume that Sosthenes was born around A.D. 1.

 

Silvanus

We first hear of Silas (aka Silvanus) in Acts 15:22, where he is describe as one of the “leading men among the brethren” in Jerusalem. He, along with Judas Barsabbas, is sent from the Jerusalem Council to take a letter with the council’s results to Antioch.

The council took place in A.D. 49, and the fact Silas was then a leading man in Jerusalem means that he was not a young man. Also, Luke tends to note it when he introduces a young man (cf. Luke 7:14, Acts 7:58, 20:9, 23:17-18, 22), though not always (see below).

Silas was not too old to travel, though. Indeed, he was still able to travel in the mid-A.D. 60s, because he was the letter carrier for 2 Peter (1 Pet. 5:12).

He was also willing to accept a subordinate position to Paul on the Second Missionary Journey (Acts 15:36-18:22), so he probably was not significantly older than Paul.

All of this suggests that he was approximately Paul’s contemporary, so we will place his birth in A.D. 8, making him 41 at the time of the Jerusalem Council.

 

Timothy

We first meet Timothy in Acts 16:1, when Paul visits Lystra. Unusually, Luke does not introduce Timothy as a young man, though he must have been, for in 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul tells Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth.”

Acts 16:1 took place in A.D. 49, and 1 Timothy was written around A.D. 65—sixteen years later! For Timothy to still be described as young at that point means he must have been very young when he became Paul’s travelling companion.

The fact he is listed as a co-author after Silvanus in 1 Thessalonians 1:1 and 2 Thessalonians 1:1 also suggests he was younger than Silvanus.

A man of 40, or even a man near 40, would not have been despised for his youth, and so Timothy must have been in his early-to-mid 30s in A.D. 65, making him a teenager when he joined Paul.

We will assume that he was around 17 in A.D. 49, which would place his birth around A.D. 32.

 

John the Elder

There is a final figure we need to consider. Although John son of Zebedee is traditionally regarded as the author of the Johannine literature in the New Testament (i.e., John, 1-3 John, Revelation), there is reason to think that another figure—who the Church Fathers refer to as “John the Elder” or “John the Presbyter”—was responsible for at least some of it.

Thus St. Jerome and Pope Benedict XVI held John the Elder to have been the author at least of 2 and 3 John (both of which are addressed as being by “the Elder”). It is thought he may have had a role in other Johannine books also.

If he was responsible for any of these books, when he would have been born?

This is difficult to determine. The patristic evidence indicates that John the Elder was an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry, making him at least a contemporary of he apostles.

The fact he is referred to as “the Elder” also suggests he was not a young man when he was in his literary prime. If he wrote 2 and 3 John, he was probably in his late 50s or 60s at the youngest.

Unfortunately, without knowing more it is hard to establish any firm date, so we will assume that he was a rough contemporary of the apostles and would have been born around A.D. 4.

 

Conclusion

From the above, we can establish the approximate birth years of the traditional authors of the New Testament as follows:

  • Matthew: A.D. 4
  • Mark: A.D. 20
  • Luke: A.D. 8
  • John: A.D. 7
  • Paul: A.D. 8
  • Sosthenes: A.D. 1
  • Silas: A.D. 8
  • Timothy: A.D. 32
  • James: 25 B.C.
  • Peter: A.D. 1
  • John the Elder: A.D. 4
  • Jude: 13 B.C.

Or, to put them in chronological order:

  • 25 B.C.: James the Just
  • 13 B.C.: Jude
  • D. 1: Peter and Sosthenes
  • D. 4: Matthew and John the Elder
  • D. 7: John son of Zebedee
  • D. 8: Paul, Luke, and Silas
  • D. 20: Mark
  • D. 32: Timothy

Bear in mind that these are only approximations. People in the ancient world did not keep track of birth years as rigorously as we do, and we have very incomplete evidence. The actual years undoubtedly vary somewhat from these.

However, the estimates provide a starting point for answering questions like, “Could the traditional authors of the New Testament have written the books attributed to them?”

That’s a subject we’ll talk about soon.

 

Looking for Something Good to Read?

May I suggest my commentary on the Gospel of Mark?

It goes through the whole text and provides fascinating information that you may have never heard before.

It also comes with a verse-by-verse study guide with questions that you or your study group can use.

And it comes with a lectionary-based study guide, so you can read along with Mark in the liturgy and ponder its meaning before or after Mass.

Right now, this commentary is available exclusively on Verbum Catholic software.

Verbum is an incredibly powerful study tool that I use every day, and I heartily recommend it to others.

I can also save you 10% when you get the commentary or one of the bundles of Verbum software. Just use the code JIMMY1 at checkout.

CLICK HERE TO GET JIMMY AKIN’S STUDIES ON MARK.

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twelve apostlesWouldn’t it be neat to know more about the apostles?—like when they were born?

How about members of Jesus’ family?

It turns out, we can figure that out with more reliability than you might suppose.

Let’s put on our detective hats and see what we can discover . . .

 

A Key Insight

I was a child in the 1970s. It was a tumultuous time. It followed the youth rebellion of the late 1960s, and there were many, similar youth rebellions and protest movements in different parts of the world in the ’70s.

Listening to TV and radio reports of everything that was happening, I couldn’t help but notice that—over and over again—the people involved in these movements were young. It didn’t matter where in the world they were—Iran, West Germany, South Korea, or anywhere else—it was always young people and “students” who were involved.

The pattern was so striking that I asked my father—a university professor—why it was always young people involved in these revolutionary movements.

I don’t recall his exact words, but my memory is that he said they had less to lose. Young people haven’t yet put down roots in society. They haven’t married, gotten jobs, and established families, and so they could join revolutionary movements without threatening the lives that they were building for themselves and their loved ones.

One thing that I’m sure my father didn’t mention, though it’s true, is that passions also run high in youth. It’s part of the nature of the beast. In adolescence, our hormones are famously raging, and part of that continues into young adulthood.

Thus St. Paul warns St. Timothy:

Shun youthful passions and aim at righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call upon the Lord from a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22).

St. Paul undoubtedly meant the sexual passions that rage during youth, but youth is a passionate time for many reasons, not all of them sexual. Young people feel everything with a special passion, and that is part of what leads them into revolutionary movements all over the world.

Including Palestine.

Including in the first century.

In view of this, we would expect that the majority of the followers of the revolutionary movement started by Jesus of Nazareth would be young.

Specifically: They would be younger that he was.

I mean, if he was leading a revolutionary movement of young people, it is unlikely that the average age of his followers would be higher than his! Individual followers may have been, but this would not have been the norm.

That raises an important question . . .

 

What are the dates for Jesus’ birth and ministry?

Most scholars today think that Jesus was born around 6 B.C., and possibly earlier.

This date is based on the idea that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, who they hold to have died in 4 B.C.

The Gospel of Matthew indicates that Jesus was as much as two years old when Herod died (see Matt. 2:16), which would require a date of 6 B.C. or earlier—if Herod died in 4 B.C.

However, Herod did not die if 4 B.C. Instead, he died in 1 B.C. As a result, it turns out that the Church Fathers were correct in placing the birth of Jesus in 3/2 B.C.

Luke reports that John the Baptist began his ministry “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar” (Luke 3:1), or A.D. 29. He also reports that Jesus began his ministry (very) shortly after John and that “Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23).

This fits with the date established for his birth. If he was born in 3/2 B.C. then, bearing in mind there is no “Year 0” in the B.C./A.D. system, he would have been “about thirty” in A.D. 29. (In fact, his 30th birthday would have fallen in A.D. 29 if he was born in 2 B.C., due to the absence of a “Year 0”).

Since we can show that Jesus was crucified on April 3, A.D. 33, that means he was between 33 and 34 years old at the time of the Crucifixion.

This gives us a basis to calculate the probable ages of the apostles and the New Testament authors.

 

The Ages of the Twelve

If Jesus was thirty when he began his ministry and the twelve apostles tended to be younger than him, their average age would be somewhere in the twenties.

It’s hardly likely that Jesus was leading around teenagers—people around half his age—so the twenties are the correct time. Let us suppose that they were, on average, twenty-five years of age at the time Jesus’ ministry began.

If so, the average apostle would have been born around A.D. 4.

We can refine this estimate in a few cases, though, because among the Twelve there were at least two sets of brothers—Peter and Andrew (sons of Jonah) and James and John (sons of Zebedee).

We have no evidence that they were twin brothers. Twins are very uncommon, and we already have reason to think that Thomas was a twin (that’s what both his Aramaic and Greek names mean), so Thomas probably wouldn’t have been called “the Twin” (John 11:16) if there were other twins in the group.

Protocol would indicate that the brothers named first were older, so there must be some time between the births of the elder brothers (Peter and James) and the younger brothers (Andrew and John).

Although it is possible that only a year separated the older from the younger, this is unlikely. Not only do couples typically delay the resumption of marital relations after a birth, in the ancient world, ordinary mothers breast fed their children, which tended to delay the next pregnancy. There were miscarriages, stillbirths, and cases of infant mortality. Half of all children were girls, and there could even be an intervening brother who did not follow Jesus. Between these factors, a considerable amount of time is likely to have passed between the birth of the older brother and that of the younger. We will estimate the period as being six years.

This means that we may estimate Peter and James as having been born three years earlier than the average estimated birth year (i.e., in A.D. 1) and Andrew and John as being born three years later (i.e., in A.D. 7).

This would give us estimated birth years for three of the traditional authors of the New Testament:

  • Peter: A.D. 1
  • Matthew: A.D. 4
  • John son of Zebedee: A.D. 7

 

The Brethren of the Lord

Two of Jesus’ “brothers”—James the Just and Jude—also authored books of the New Testament.

There have been attempts to identify them with the apostles known as James son of Alphaeus and Jude Thaddeus.

However, this is implausible, because John’s Gospel unambiguously indicates that Jesus’ “brothers” were not disciples during his ministry, stating, “even his brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5). It is thus scarcely likely that two of them were among the apostles that followed him during his ministry.

We thus can’t use the average age of apostles to determine the age of these two figures. However, we may be able to determine their probable ages in another way.

If the theory—common in Protestant circles—were true that they were Jesus’ younger half-brothers (born to Joseph and Mary) then we might estimate their birth years based on Jesus’ birth year. However, this view is excluded by other information we have, which indicates that Mary remained a virgin after the birth of Jesus.

Since the time of St. Jerome, it has been common in Western Catholicism to propose that the brethren of the Lord were cousins. If so, we have no way of telling whether they were older or younger cousins (or both). We would know only that they were of the same generation as Jesus, which we could have determined anyway.

However, the earliest proposal for who the brethren of the Lord were—a proposal that dates to the A.D. 100s, making it older than either of the above views, and which has always been the view maintained in Eastern Catholicism and Eastern Christianity—is that they were Jesus’ step-brothers, that is, children of Joseph by a prior marriage. As an elderly widower, Joseph was not seeking to begin a family and thus was willing to serve as the guardian of a consecrated virgin like Mary.

If so, the brethren would have been older than Jesus—but by how much?

The Gospels identify Jesus’ brethren as James, Joses (Joseph), Jude, and Simon (Matt. 13:55, Mark 6:3a). They also indicate that he had at least two “sisters” (Matt. 13:56, Mark 6:3b).

We have already taken into account the effect that sisters would have had on the average gap between surviving sons, so if the above list reflects the birth order of Jesus’ brethren (as is probable), we may estimate that James was the oldest, that Joses was six years his junior, that Judas was twelve years his junior, and that Simon was eighteen years his junior.

We must also allow time for Joseph’s first wife to pass and for him to grieve and then become the husband of Mary. We will assume that this represented three years, since men with small children (as Simon would have been) tended to remarry quickly in the ancient world.

After marrying, it was customary to wait a year before beginning cohabitation, and Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit during this period.

That would give us the following estimates for the births of Jesus and his brethren:

  • James: 25 B.C.
  • Joses: 19 B.C.
  • Jude: 13 B.C.
  • Simon: 7 B.C.
  • Jesus: 3/2 B.C.

Of course, these are only estimates, and Jesus’ brethren—or some of them—may have been born much less than six years apart.

On the other hand, around A.D. 378, in his Panarion, St. Epiphanius of Salamis reports a tradition that James died at the age of 96. From Josephus, we know that James was martyred in A.D. 62, in which case he would have been born in 35 B.C., so the above estimates might be too late rather than too early.

Either way, however, the brethren would have been significantly older than Jesus, which may explain their attitude of disbelief during Jesus’ ministry. As Jesus said, a prophet has no honor in his own family.

From their perspective, Jesus was the much younger son of their father’s second wife, and it took the miracle of the Resurrection to convince them that he was the Messiah.

UP NEXT: We can also figure out when the other authors of the New Testament were born. Stay tuned!

 

Looking for Something Good to Read?

May I suggest my commentary on the Gospel of Mark?

It goes through the whole text and provides fascinating information that you may have never heard before.

It also comes with a verse-by-verse study guide with questions that you or your study group can use.

And it comes with a lectionary-based study guide, so you can read along with Mark in the liturgy and ponder its meaning before or after Mass.

Right now, this commentary is available exclusively on Verbum Catholic software.

Verbum is an incredibly powerful study tool that I use every day, and I heartily recommend it to others.

I can also save you 10% when you get the commentary or one of the bundles of Verbum software. Just use the code JIMMY1 at checkout.

CLICK HERE TO GET JIMMY AKIN’S STUDIES ON MARK.

If you liked this post, you should join Jimmy's Secret Information Club to get more great info!


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pope-francis-st-patrickThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 24 March 2016 to 30 March 2016.

Homilies

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Annointed with the oil of gladness to pass on the joy of the Gospel.” @Pontifex 24 March 2016
  • “Jesus loved us. Jesus loves us. Without limit, always, to the end.” @Pontifex 24 March 2016
  • “Impress, Lord, in our hearts the sentiments of faith, hope, love and sorrow for our sins.” @Pontifex 25 March 2016
  • “The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world.” @Pontifex 25 March 2016
  • “To live Easter means to enter into the mystery of Jesus who died and rose for us.” @Pontifex 26 March 2016
  • “Jesus Christ is risen! Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!” @Pontifex 26 March 2016
  • “Every Christian is a “Christopher”, that is, a bearer of Christ!” @Pontifex 27 March 2016
  • “Jesus shows us the real face of God, for whom power does not mean destruction but love, and for whom justice is not vengeance but mercy.” @Pontifex 28 March 2016
  • “If we open ourselves up to welcome God’s mercy for ourselves, in turn we become capable of forgiveness.” @Pontifex 30 March 2016

Papal Instagram

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