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  • March 31, 2020

    We concerned that religious nonprofits will be disqualified and/or severely deterred from applying for forgivable loans under CARES. We ask you to contact your member of Congress and advocate for SBA regulatory and other agency guidance that will ensure the inclusion of faith-based nonprofits in this program. We have created a tool for you to easily contact them via OneClickPolitics, which you can access HERE.

    The White House, Department of Treasury, and the Small Business Administration are moving fast to finalize implementing regulations for the Paycheck Protection Program (forgivable loans) in the recently passed CARES Act. 
    We concerned that religious nonprofits will be disqualified and/or severely deterred from applying for forgivable loans under CARES. We ask you to contact your member of Congress and advocate for SBA regulatory and other agency guidance that will ensure the inclusion of faith-based nonprofits in this program. We have created a tool for you to easily contact them via OneClickPolitics, which you can access HERE.
    First, Catholic institutions may be disqualified due to the size of our dioceses under affiliation rules in CARES. 
    Second, without access to these forgivable loans, we believe many faith-based nonprofits and their employees throughout the country, who perform extraordinary works of ministry for the least of these, will themselves face severe financial hardship during this pandemic.
    As a result, it is critical that SBA regulatory and other guidance on loans available to nonprofits under the CARES Act make the following explicit:  
    Based on Trinity Lutheran and related case law, no otherwise eligible nonprofit organization will be disqualified from loan eligibility because of the organization’s religious affiliation, its religious speech or activity, or the degree of its religiosity. 
    Owing to the marked differences between for-profit and nonprofit operations and the difficulty of applying to nonprofits affiliation and franchise rules designed for and applicable to for-profits, and in accord with Congress's intent to provide broad relief under the CARES Act, the following nonprofit organizations will be regarded as distinct entities, such that the employees of related organizations, even if affiliated, will not be counted in determining whether the entity has 500 or fewer employees: 
    -a school, 
    -a day care center, 
    -a child care provider, 
    -a senior center, 
    -a provider of food or of nutrition assistance, 
    -a provider of clothing, 
    -a provider of housing or other shelter 
    -a provider of financial assistance for housing or other shelter, 
    -a provider of adoption or foster care services, 
    -a job training or job placement provider,  
    -a place of worship. 
    Consistent with existing charitable choice provisions, a religious nonprofit that receives a loan or other funding under the Act shall retain its independence, autonomy, right of expression, religious character, and authority over its governance, and no religious nonprofit shall be excluded from receiving funding under the CARES Act because leadership with, membership in, or employment by that nonprofit is limited to persons who share its religious faith and practice.    
    No funds received by a religious organization under the CARES Act shall be deemed to be “federal financial assistance” for purposes of compliance with federal requirements outside the specific program in which the funds are sought or received. 
    Please use the OneClickPolitics tool in the email link above to advocate. Thanks for your advocacy to protect faith-based nonprofits!  
  • March 26, 2020

    While the hardships and precautionary restrictions placed upon the public during the COVID-19 pandemic have been burdensome and a source of sorrow for many, especially those who feel separated from communities of faith and places of spiritual refuge, a beautiful side effect has been the creative outpouring of opportunities for people of faith to spiritually join together to confront the current situation.

    A message from Daniel Cardinal DiNardo:

    While the hardships and precautionary restrictions placed upon the public during the COVID-19 pandemic have been burdensome and a source of sorrow for many, especially those who feel separated from communities of faith and places of spiritual refuge, a beautiful side effect has been the creative outpouring of opportunities for people of faith to spiritually join together to confront the current situation.

    Yesterday, on the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Holy Father asked Catholics to join with him in the praying of the Our Father at noon.  I had the opportunity to share in this prayer with the people of Galveston-Houston via livestream.  The recording of the video is still online for those who wish to access it, along with the daily spiritual reflections being offered by our clergy.

    In this update, I would like to share two more opportunities for common prayer.

    The first opportunity comes from Pope Francis. 

    Tomorrow, Friday, March 27, 2020 at 12 p.m. CDT (6 p.m. local time in Rome), the Holy Father will impart an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing on all of those tuning in worldwide.  The Urbi et Orbi blessing (meaning “to the city [of Rome] and to the world”) is traditionally offered each year in St. Peter’s Square on Christmas and Easter or in extraordinary fashion following the election of a new pope.  Those who take part in the blessing (in person, by television, radio, or internet), and express sorrow for their sins and promise to go to confession and receive the Eucharist as soon as they are able are offered the opportunity for a plenary indulgence. At this time it remains undetermined what television networks might be broadcasting the blessing, but at a minimum, the Holy Father’s address and blessing to the world will be accessible by livestream at www.vaticannews.va.  All of the faithful who are able to tune in are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity for prayer with the whole Church.

    The second opportunity is one that is more local and ecumenical. 

    In conversation with local religious leaders of different traditions, I have given my support to a city-wide Moment of Prayer and Reflection in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  On Monday, March 30, 2020 from 12 p.m. to 12:05 p.m. CDT, all people of faith and goodwill are asked to pause wherever they are and pray according to their own faith tradition.  We will unite our prayers for the intentions of an end to the pandemic, for the healing of those who are sick, for those who have died, and for strength and wisdom for our medical personnel and government leaders.  This effort is being organized by Pastor Harvey Clemons of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church with the assistance of Interfaith Ministries (www.imgh.org).

    May we all remain committed to solidarity in prayer together during this time of difficulty and distress.  As our Lenten pilgrimage continues, we persevere in offering our prayer, our fasting, and our charity that we may grow together in holiness and union with our Lord Jesus and that He may truly reign in us.

    Sincerely yours in Christ,

    Daniel Cardinal DiNardo
    Archbishop of Galveston-Houston

  • March 25, 2020

    On this Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord, the Catholic bishops of Texas offer some words of living faith and hope to our people in this extraordinary time of anxiety and illness. While we are facing so many unknowns, we can be certain of God’s faithfulness. The Annunciation of the Lord is a feast of hope in God's goodness and power to intervene on our behalf.

    On this Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord, the Catholic bishops of Texas offer some words of living faith and hope to our people in this extraordinary time of anxiety and illness. While we are facing so many unknowns, we can be certain of God’s faithfulness. The Annunciation of the Lord is a feast of hope in God's goodness and power to intervene on our behalf.

    The Magnificat, the song of praise sung by our Lady at the Visitation with her cousin Elizabeth, is a song of hope. Our Blessed Mother is filled with God’s grace. Her prayerful proclamation of complete dependence on and communion with God at the Annunciation inspires us all to rely on his grace, which will sustain us during this pandemic.

    Our faith calls us all to follow Mary’s example of trust and reliance on the Lord, and, most importantly, her living faith in the Lord.

    Together with our brothers and sisters around the world, we are threatened by the effects of this disease, and we must be united in our efforts to mitigate its spread. Our faith calls us all to follow Mary’s example of trust and reliance on the Lord, and, most importantly, her living faith in the Lord.

    The Blessed Virgin Mary sings of the fear of the Lord in her Magnificat, “He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation.” As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote, “Perhaps this is a phrase with which we are not very familiar or perhaps we do not like it very much. But ‘fear of the Lord’ is not anguish; it is something quite different. It is the concern not to destroy the love on which our life is based. Fear of the Lord is that sense of responsibility that we are bound to possess for the portion of the world that has been entrusted to us in our lives.”

    Our actions to stay at home, to maintain safe physical distancing, and even to withdraw from public life during this time are a tangible witness of our reverence for life and our solidarity with the community. We do this, not because of servile fear, but because of Christian hope – we are sure of God’s steadfast love and the promise of our salvation. By sacrificing for others and isolating ourselves for the common good, we witness our Christian hope that God will see us through the present darkness.

    In their journey from the slavery of Egypt to the promised land, the people of Israel were rescued by passing together through the Red Sea. This moment is like our Red Sea. Only by trusting in God and remaining in solidarity with one another can we cross over and leave the terrible foe.

    Remember, “Nothing is impossible for God.” Along with Mary in her Magnificat, we can all proclaim, “He has shown the strength of his arm and has scattered the proud in their conceit; he has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty; he has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham, and his children forever.”

    Hope and living faith in Jesus Christ are the antidote for all our fears, the answer to our futility and limitations, and opens the door to free us from the prison of our powerlessness and lack of control. We cannot love without hope.

    As a people of hope, we know we have a future beyond this crisis.  At this time of pandemic, we, the Catholic bishops of Texas, place our hope in the Lord and invite all the faithful to do the same.

    As a people of hope, we know we have a future beyond this crisis.  At this time of pandemic, we, the Catholic bishops of Texas, place our hope in the Lord and invite all the faithful to do the same.

    We wait in joyful hope for the blessed day when the Church can return to the public celebration of the Mass with renewed appreciation for its divine beauty and power. We are grateful for the sacrifices all Texans are making for the common good. In a special way, we praise the dedicated efforts of medical personnel, first responders, caregivers, custodians, cashiers and clerks, family members, and charitable service volunteers. We celebrate and we are grateful for your efforts to protect one another as acts of agape, of genuine self-giving love. Through the grace of God, may our common sacrifice this Lent lead to new life in the victory of Christ.

    - Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops

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Texas Catholic Herald

  • March 27, 2020

    In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis said he will give an extraordinary blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) at 6 p.m. Rome time March 27.

    Translations: Spanish and Vietnamese.

    COVID-19 is not God's judgment, but a call to live differently, pope says

    MARCH 27, 2020

    Read the pope's entire message here + ESPAÑOL

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The worldwide coronavirus pandemic is not God's judgment on humanity, but God's call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on, Pope Francis said.

    Addressing God, the pope said that "it is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others."

    Pope Francis offered his meditation on the meaning of the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for humanity March 27 before raising a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament and giving an extraordinary blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world).

    Popes usually give their blessing "urbi et orbi" only immediately after their election and on Christmas and Easter.

    Pope Francis opened the service -- in a rain-drenched, empty St. Peter's Square -- praying that the "almighty and merciful God" would see how people are suffering and give them comfort. He asked to care for the sick and dying, for medical workers exhausted by caring for the sick and for political leaders who bear the burden of making decisions to protect their people.

    The service included the reading of the Gospel of Mark's account of Jesus calming the stormy sea.

    "Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives," the pope said. "Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them."

    Like the disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee, he said, "we will experience that, with him on board, there will be no shipwreck, because this is God's strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things."

    The Gospel passage began, "When evening had come," and the pope said that with the pandemic and its sickness and death, and with the lockdowns and closures of schools and workplaces, it has felt like "for weeks now it has been evening."

    "Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void that stops everything as it passes by," the pope said. "We feel it in the air, we notice it in people's gestures; their glances give them away.

    "We find ourselves afraid and lost," he said. "Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm."

    However, the pandemic storm has made most people realize that "we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented," the pope said. And it has shown how each person has a contribution to make, at least in comforting each other.

    "On this boat are all of us," he said.

    The pandemic, the pope said, has exposed "our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities."

    In the midst of the storm, Pope Francis said, God is calling people to faith, which is not just believing God exists, but turning to him and trusting him.

    As Lent and the pandemic go on, he said, God continues to call people to "convert" and "return to me with all your heart."

    It is a time to decide to live differently, live better, love more and care for others, he said, and every community is filled with people who can be role models -- individuals, "who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives."

    Pope Francis said the Holy Spirit can use the pandemic to "redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people -- often forgotten people -- who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines," but are serving others and making life possible during the pandemic.

    The pope listed "doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves."

    "How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility," he said. And "how many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer."

    "How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all," he said. "Prayer and quiet service: These are our victorious weapons."

    In the boat, when the disciples plead with Jesus to do something, Jesus responds, "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?"

    "Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us," the pope said. "In this world that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything.

    "Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things and be lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet," Pope Francis said.

    "We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick," he said. "Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: 'Wake up, Lord!'"

    The Lord is calling on people to "put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be foundering," the pope said.

    "The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith," he said. "We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love."

    Pope Francis told people watching around the world that he would "entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, health of the people, and star of the stormy sea."

    "May God's blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace," he said. "Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak, and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm."

    Introducing the formal blessing, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, announced that it would include a plenary indulgence "in the form established by the church" to everyone watching on television or internet or listening by radio.

    An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. Catholics following the pope's blessing could receive the indulgence if they had "a spirit detached from sin," promised to go to confession and receive the Eucharist as soon as possible and said a prayer for the pope's intentions.

    But what is a plenary indulegence?

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis said he will grant a plenary indulgence to the faithful who watch or listen to his extraordinary blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) at 6 p.m. Rome time March 27.

    Special indulgences have also been granted to those suffering from COVID-19, their caregivers, friends and family and those who help them with their prayers.

    But what is this ancient practice of offering indulgences through prayer and penance and what is needed to receive them?

    An indulgence is not a quick ticket to heaven, as St. John Paul II once said; rather, it is an aid for the real conversion that leads to eternal happiness.

    Sins are forgiven through the sacrament of penance, but then there is a kind of punishment still due the sinner, the late pope explained during a general audience in 1999.

    God's fatherly love "does not exclude chastisement, even though this always should be understood in the context of a merciful justice which reestablishes the order violated," he said.

    The pope had said the "temporal" punishment that remains after forgiveness is a grace aimed at wiping away the "residues of sin," offering the reformed sinner the chance of complete healing through "a journey of purification" that can take place in this life or in purgatory.

    By God's grace, participation in a prayer or action that has an indulgence attached to it brings about the necessary restoration and reparation without the suffering that would normally accompany it. It frees a person from the punishment their sinfulness warrants as it is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven.

    The granting of an indulgence by the church is "the expression of the church's full confidence of being heard by the Father when, in view of Christ's merits and, by his gift, those of Our Lady and the saints, she asks him to mitigate or cancel the painful aspect of punishment by fostering its medicinal aspect through other channels of grace," the late pope said.

    An indulgence, then, is the result of the abundance of God's mercy, which he offers to humanity through Jesus Christ and through the church, he said.

    But this gift cannot be received automatically or simply by fulfilling a few exterior requirements nor can it be approached with a superficial attitude, St. John Paul said.

    The reception of an indulgence depends on "our turning away from sin and our conversion to God," he said.

    That is why there are several conditions for receiving an indulgence:

    -- A spirit detached from sin.

    -- Sacramental confession as soon as possible.

    -- Eucharistic communion as soon as possible.

    -- Prayer for the Holy Father's intentions.

    -- Being united spiritually through the media to the pope's special prayer and blessing on March 27.

    Those who are sick and their caregivers can also unite themselves spiritually whenever possible through the media to the celebration of Mass or the recitation of the rosary or the Stations of the Cross or other forms of devotion, according to Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court that deals with matters of conscience and with indulgences.

    If this is not possible, "they are asked to recite the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and an invocation to Mary," he told Vatican News March 21.

    "All others -- those who offer prayers for the souls of the dead, those who suffer and plead for an end to the pandemic -- are asked, where possible, to visit the Blessed Sacrament or to participate in eucharistic adoration. Alternatively, (they can) read the Holy Scriptures for at least half an hour or recite the rosary or the Way of the Cross," he said.

    The faithful can claim the indulgence for themselves or offer it on behalf of someone who has died. 

  • March 27, 2020

    “You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm.”

    “When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat... are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this. 

    It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40). 

    Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement. 

    The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our pre-packaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity. 

    In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters. 

    “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”. 

    “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons. 

    “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies. 

    The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled. 

    Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope. 

    “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7). 

    (Translated from Italian)

  • March 27, 2020

    The worldwide coronavirus pandemic is not God's judgment on humanity, but God's call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on, Pope Francis said.

    Read the pope's entire message here.

    VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The worldwide coronavirus pandemic is not God's judgment on humanity, but God's call on people to judge what is most important to them and resolve to act accordingly from now on, Pope Francis said.

    Addressing God, the pope said that "it is not the time of your judgment, but of our judgment: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others."

    Pope Francis offered his meditation on the meaning of the COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for humanity March 27 before raising a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament and giving an extraordinary blessing "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world).

    Popes usually give their blessing "urbi et orbi" only immediately after their election and on Christmas and Easter.

    Pope Francis opened the service -- in a rain-drenched, empty St. Peter's Square -- praying that the "almighty and merciful God" would see how people are suffering and give them comfort. He asked to care for the sick and dying, for medical workers exhausted by caring for the sick and for political leaders who bear the burden of making decisions to protect their people.

    The service included the reading of the Gospel of Mark's account of Jesus calming the stormy sea.

    "Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives," the pope said. "Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them."

    Like the disciples on the stormy Sea of Galilee, he said, "we will experience that, with him on board, there will be no shipwreck, because this is God's strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things."

    The Gospel passage began, "When evening had come," and the pope said that with the pandemic and its sickness and death, and with the lockdowns and closures of schools and workplaces, it has felt like "for weeks now it has been evening."

    "Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void that stops everything as it passes by," the pope said. "We feel it in the air, we notice it in people's gestures; their glances give them away.

    "We find ourselves afraid and lost," he said. "Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm."

    However, the pandemic storm has made most people realize that "we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented," the pope said. And it has shown how each person has a contribution to make, at least in comforting each other.

    "On this boat are all of us," he said.

    The pandemic, the pope said, has exposed "our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities."

    In the midst of the storm, Pope Francis said, God is calling people to faith, which is not just believing God exists, but turning to him and trusting him.

    As Lent and the pandemic go on, he said, God continues to call people to "convert" and "return to me with all your heart."

    It is a time to decide to live differently, live better, love more and care for others, he said, and every community is filled with people who can be role models -- individuals, "who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives."

    Pope Francis said the Holy Spirit can use the pandemic to "redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people -- often forgotten people -- who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines," but are serving others and making life possible during the pandemic.

    The pope listed "doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves."

    "How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility," he said. And "how many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer."

    "How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all," he said. "Prayer and quiet service: These are our victorious weapons."

    In the boat, when the disciples plead with Jesus to do something, Jesus responds, "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?"

    "Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us," the pope said. "In this world that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything.

    "Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things and be lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet," Pope Francis said.

    "We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick," he said. "Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: 'Wake up, Lord!'"

    The Lord is calling on people to "put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be foundering," the pope said.

    "The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith," he said. "We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love."

    Pope Francis told people watching around the world that he would "entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, health of the people, and star of the stormy sea."

    "May God's blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace," he said. "Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak, and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm."

    Introducing the formal blessing, Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter's Basilica, announced that it would include a plenary indulgence "in the form established by the church" to everyone watching on television or internet or listening by radio.

    An indulgence is a remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. Catholics following the pope's blessing could receive the indulgence if they had "a spirit detached from sin," promised to go to confession and receive the Eucharist as soon as possible and said a prayer for the pope's intentions.

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