Huge crowds flock to friars’ relics in Rome

Huge crowds flock to friars’ relics in Rome

Praying is not like taking an aspirin, something one does just to feel a little better, Pope Francis told thousands of members of Padre Pio prayer groups from around the world.

Prayer is not a business negotiation with God either, he said, addressing more than 60,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square on Saturday. Prayer was a “work of spiritual mercy”, a time to entrust everything to the heart of God.

The pilgrims were in Rome for the Year of Mercy and a week of special events that included veneration of the relics of St Padre Pio and St Leopold Mandic, both Capuchin friars who often spent more than 12 hours a day hearing confessions. Although many faithful believe the body of Padre Pio, who died in 1968, is incorrupt, Church officials have never made such a claim. When his body was exhumed in 2008, Church officials said it was in “fair condition”. Chemicals were used to ensure its preservation and the face was covered with a silicone mask.

Pushed through the centre of Rome on Friday in glass coffins on rolling platforms, the relics of Padre Pio and St Leopold were escorted by Italian military police, dozens of Capuchin friars and thousands of faithful. Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St Peter’s, welcomed the relics, blessed them with incense and accompanied them into St Peter’s Basilica where they were to stay for veneration until February 11.

Pope Francis told pilgrims that “the great river of mercy” that Padre Pio unleashed should continue through prayers and, especially, the willingness to listen and to care for others.

Cardinal Parolin: there is room for debate on celibacy

Celibacy helps priests to “travel light” as they minister and serve free from attachments that could hinder them in bringing Christ’s love to the faithful, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, has said.

Addressing a conference on priestly celibacy, Cardinal Parolin said the call to celibacy was not “antithetical to marriage”, but a different way of giving one’s self completely in a loving relationship.

Although celibacy is not demanded by the “very nature of the priesthood”, he told the conference at the Pontifical Gregorian University, there are “special advantages” that help priests in their ministry, including the “freedom to serve”.

Celibacy, he said, is “suitable for those called to the priestly ministry” and allows priests to “travel light” to “reach everyone, carrying only the love of God”, adding: “It is not the absence of profound relationships, but a space for them. It is a ‘path of freedom’ that the priest disciple fulfils together with Christ … for the Church and the world.”

The cardinal said the “demands of evangelisation” and Church history left the “field open for legitimate debates … while always safeguarding the beauty and majesty of the celibate choice.”

King: Jordan ‘is about to burst’

King Abdullah II of Jordan told a gathering of leaders in London last week that his country was now at “boiling point” because of an influx of refugees.

“Sooner or later, I think, the dam is going to burst,” he told the BBC, saying the influx of Syrians and Iraqis had drained Jordan of funds, vital social services, education and health care. Jordanian officials said the crisis had cost the country $6.6 billion over the past five years.