Pope Francis marked the beginning of Lent by sending off several hundred religious and diocesan priests as “missionaries of mercy” to local parishes. “Look upon your servants, Lord, that we are sending as messengers of mercy, salvation and peace. Guide their steps” and sustain them with “the power of your grace,” the Pope said during an Ash Wednesday liturgy in St Peter’s Basilica. “May Christ’s voice resound in their words and Christ’s heart in their gestures,” he said.
More than 700 of the 1,142 missionaries – dubbed “super confessors” – attended the Mass. Dressed in white vestments and purple stoles, the men received the Pope’s mandate to preach God’s mercy and his authority to pardon sins reserved to the Holy See. In his homily the Pope said their mandate is to be “signs and instruments of God’s pardon”. “Dear brothers, may you be able to help open the doors of people’s hearts” as well as bless, heal and raise them up with a father’s love, he said.
God knows the sins, weakness, wounds and fatigue people experience in their lives, and “He knows how much we need forgiveness, He knows that we need to feel loved in order to carry out the good,” he said. People cannot keep going on their own, and that is why the Apostle Paul doesn’t urge people to “do something, but to let themselves be reconciled by God, to allow him to forgive us”, he said. In fact, the first step on the road of a Christian life is recognising the need for divine mercy and to pass through that “open door which is Christ”, who offers everyone a new and joyful life. The problem, the Pope said, is people may be so hardened by sin or pride that “they bolt the lock on the soul”.
Official tells religious leaders to make faith ‘more Chinese’
A top Politburo official has told faith leaders that religious groups must promote Chinese culture and become more compatible with socialism. Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, said religious leaders must form a bridge between the Communist Party and hundreds of millions of Chinese who follow the country’s five officially recognised religions – Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Buddhism and Taoism, reported Ucanews.com.
Xinhua, China’s state news agency, said Mr Yu “called on religious groups in China to continue adding Chinese characteristics, dig into positive elements in their religions and make more effort in building a religious ideology with Chinese characteristics”. In another major shift on religious practice, the party’s Central Committee and State Council has issued a circular ordering retired officials to steer clear of religion, Xinhua reported last week. “[The circular] clearly stated that retired cadres cannot believe in religion, cannot participate in religious activities and must resolutely fight against cults,” the document said.
Catholic legal giant dies suddenly
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the longest-serving justice on the Supreme Court, has died in Texas, aged 79. Scalia, a Catholic, was appointed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. Five of the remaining eight justices are also Catholic. In 1992, Scalia told a group of Washington students that as Catholics they might feel out of step with the rest of the world, but they should learn to accept it and take pride in it.
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