Twenty years ago, on the Feast of the Annunciation 1995, St. John Paul II published one of his signature encyclicals, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). It’s important to return to the richness of that teaching, as many who oppose the Church’s pro-life witness having been making mischief with Pope Francis’ remark that Catholics should not be obsessed with abortion.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza
LONDON, ONT. - A Polish-born Michaelite Father has been named auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of London.
Published in Canada

ROME - There is excitement here about the papal visit to Sri Lanka and the Philippines next week. For those with longer Roman memories, they know that it celebrates the 20th anniversary of an extraordinary pilgrimage by St. John Paul, one that marked the beginning of the heroic last decade of his pontificate.

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza

One of the exciting aspects of Pope Francis’ pontificate is how he is making fresh the profound teaching of his predecessors. For example, the Holy Father insists that “missionary discipleship” is the Church’s fundamental identity and it forms the heart of his preaching. The Church exists to make disciples who are eager then to share their faith in Jesus with others. If the Church forgets this and turns inward, neglecting her missionary dimension, she becomes less of who she should be. 

Published in Fr. Raymond de Souza
September 12, 2014

Remembering a saint

Before George MacDonald met Pope John Paul II 30 years ago his life looked bleak.

Published in Canada

TORONTO - Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body holds answers women seek from the Church, but many are unaware of its teachings.

Published in Youth Speak News

In the era in which Catholics saw their first Polish pope, the Church in France saw its first Jewish cardinal.         

Published in Movie News

VATICAN CITY - Catholics venerate Blessed John Paul II for his holiness, as demonstrated, among other ways, by his globetrotting evangelism and long-suffering endurance in the papacy despite his illness.

Published in Papal Canonizations

Saints are not saints because they fit some precast mould of perfection. The Church has proclaimed at least 20,000 saints over its two millennia and no two of them are the same.

Published in Papal Canonizations

VATICAN CITY - Blessed John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council in the conviction that it was necessary for the Catholic Church, yet without pre-conceived ideas of what it would accomplish, said Vatican II participants who recalled the event half a century later.

Published in Papal Canonizations

VATICAN CITY - The first anniversary of Pope Francis’ election brought stories highlighting the unique style he has brought to the papacy. But maybe people have forgotten how much of what passes today for papal “tradition” was actually an innovation of Pope John Paul II.

Published in Papal Canonizations

VATICAN CITY - Blessed John Paul II is remembered as was one of the most forceful moral leaders of the modern age.

Published in Papal Canonizations

VATICAN CITY - "They call me Holy Father and that is what I must be," the future St. John XXIII wrote in his diary.

Published in Vatican

Since the late Pope John Paul II coined the phrase in an address to Latin American bishops in the late 1970s, Catholic thinkers, writers, theologians and pastors have debated what the new evangelization really means. In the lineamenta sent to more than 200 bishops earlier this year in advance of the synod, Archbishop Nikola Eterovic offers several definitions. Among them:

o The new evangelization is primarily addressed to those who have drifted from the Church in traditionally Christian countries.
o There should also be a dialogue with those to whom religion is something foreign.
o The new evangelization is primarily a spiritual activity to recapture the courage and forcefullness of the first Christians and first missionaries.
o As an evangelizer, the Church begins by evangelizing herself.
o Evangelization is facing new challenges which are putting accepted practices in question and are weakening customary, well-established ways of doing things.
o The Church does not give up or retreat into herself; instead, she undertakes a project to revitalize herself.
o The new evangelization is a frame of mind, a courageous manner of acting.
o A new evangelization means, then, to work in our local churches to devise a plan... to transmit the Gospel of hope in a practical way.... becoming more and more the artisan of the civilization of love.
o A new evangelization also means to have the boldness to raise the question of God in the context of these problems.
o In the end, the expression new evangelization requires finding new approaches to evangelization so as to be Church in today’s ever-changing social and cultural situations.

Published in Vatican

VATICAN CITY - The cameras are trained on the cute baby being foisted up to the pope for a kiss and papal blessing, not on the dapper gentleman trying to handle the precious, often squirming, load with care.

Vatican ushers attend every weekly general audience, helping visitors with special needs and picking out the cutest babies in the crowd for the photo op of a lifetime. And they welcome dignitaries and heads of state visiting the pope with all the pomp and circumstance suited for their stature as "gentlemen in waiting."

These laymen, called "sediari" or chair-bearers, did just that for centuries: carried the pope on an elevated chair high above the crowds so everyone could catch a glimpse of the pontiff.

But Blessed John Paul II discontinued the practice when he was elected in 1978, preferring to walk and be close to the people.

The "sediari" stayed on, but their role no longer included carrying the pope on their shoulders -- until Blessed John Paul's death more than 26 years later.

When he died, Blessed John Paul's body had to be carried by 12 papal gentlemen on a red velvet stretcher in a solemn procession from the Apostolic Palace to St. Peter's Basilica.

Because so many of the papal ushers were young, only a few older veterans knew how to carry a pope either on the portable chair or the stretcher.

All ushers' eyes and ears were on Massimo Sansolini, who served four popes after he became a "sediario" in 1964.

He spelled out the correct procedure for smoothly and decorously lifting and carrying the papal platform so that it would stay as horizontal and secure as possible while the men navigated corridors and numerous marble staircases.

Two of his essential rules: "Carry it with just the shoulder, without help from the hand" and always begin walking with the left foot.

The rules were in his recently published Italian memoir, a follow-up to a volume he published in 1999 in which he told of his life as a papal gentleman, revealing the not-often-seen world of the Apostolic Palace, at the service of the pope.

Sansolini told reporters at the second book's launch April 23 that because there were always 12 "sediari" helping the pope -- the vicar of Christ -- he always felt like one of the apostles -- a servant of the servant of God.

In his book, he described how hard the men tried to remain calm and composed, fighting back the tears, as they transferred the pope's body before the crowds April 4, then carried the cypress casket from St. Peter's Basilica outside to the square during the April 8 funeral.

"No layperson had ever been as close to the sacred person of the pontiff as we had for 26 years straight," he wrote.

While those events briefly put Sansolini and his confreres in the world spotlight, their weekly routine is much less visible.

For the past 16 years, Sansolini has been in charge of helping disabled pilgrims get seating as close to the pope as possible during Wednesday general audiences and other special occasions.

There are special sections in the square or the Paul VI audience hall for church dignitaries, important guests, newlyweds and people with special needs. All the ushers also have their eyes open for parents with tiny infants and help them get as close as they can to the barricade in the general seating section to pass the baby to the pope in the popemobile.

Sansolini said no pope has ever complained about the tradition of individually greeting and blessing the disabled after the general audience, no matter how scarred or infirm they may be: "The pope's love knows no limits."

A typical Wednesday starts very early as Sansolini arranges the seating for the disabled section, leaving room for the wheelchairs between the plastic chairs for the caregivers.

Guests are asked to arrive a couple of hours early before the start of the audience so they can clear security and find their section.

Sansolini said he helps pass the time with all of them, chatting about their lives in whatever language they have in common. Sometimes, he said, just a caress or smile is all that it takes to forge a strong bond.

He said he has been humbled by the heroism of the mothers, fathers and caregivers of the gravely ill and physically or mentally challenged adults and children he sees every week.

"There are women like Mother Teresa all over, on every continent," caring for the unwanted or abandoned.

He said he is always touched by people he meets, from those afflicted with terminal cancer to Iraqi children bearing battle scars, "their tiny bodies, already martyred" in the bloom of their life.

Once he saw a mother come to the audience hall laden with bags and cases, which she scattered on the floor around her.

He was going to gently say something about the disarray, but let it go. He was glad he did, he wrote, because later she pulled out a series of bottles and a syringe and proceeded to feed her child through a stomach tube.

"Every time I am present at an audience I come out with greater faith" from witnessing the unconditional love, joy and hope in people, he said.

"The love of a parent overcomes everything! The human being reaches a fullness of dignity that knows no limits" when it overcomes all challenges and suffering with love and grace, he wrote.

Published in Features
Page 2 of 3