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Pope Francis on Wednesday met the Italian-American movie director Martin Scorsese whose latest film “Silence” recounts the persecution of a group of Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan. Scorsese was accompanied at the audience in the Vatican by his wife, his two daughters, the producer of the “Silence” film and the Prefect of the Secretariat for Communications Monsignor Dario Viganò. A Vatican statement said the meeting was very cordial and lasted 15 minutes.
Pope Francis told those present that he had read the novel on which the film “Silence” was based, written by the late Japanese author Shusaku Endo.
Scorsese gave the Pope two paintings on the theme of “hidden Christians,” one of them a much-venerated image of the Madonna painted by a 17th century Japanese artist. Pope Francis gave his guests rosaries.
The audience in the Vatican came after a special screening of “Silence” in Rome on Tuesday night for more than 300 Jesuit priests. The movie is due to premiere in the United States this December.
On Sunday morning, November 20, Pope Francis has officially closed the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, thus concluding the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
This Jubilee Year was the first one in history to be launched by two pontiffs, both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
This Sunday’s Mass is also a rare occasion due to the 17 new cardinals who are presiding on the altar with Pope Francis.
While “Mercy” was the theme for the year, “Compassionate like the Father,” was the motto. The year began on December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and is ending on the Solemnity of Christ the King.
Sunday 13 November saw the celebration of special Masses in churches and basilicas across the world – as well as in Rome’s Papal Basilicas – which included the solemn rite of the closing of the Holy Doors.
That’s with the exception of the Holy Door leading into St. Peter’s Basilica which will be shut by Pope Francis himself on the feast of Christ the King, on Sunday 20 November, as indicated by the Pope himself in the Bull announcing the Jubilee.
Representing the Pope in the Basilicas of St. John Lateran, St. Mary Major, and St. Paul Outside the Walls were the archpriests of the Basilicas, respectively: Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló and Cardinal James Michael Harvey.
According to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, it is estimated that 20.4 million people attended Year of Mercy events at the Vatican over the course of this year, many of them crossing the thresholds of the Holy Doors.
The opening of the door symbolically illustrates the concept that pilgrims are offered an “extraordinary path” toward salvation during the time of Jubilee, and walking through the Holy Door they were able to receive a plenary indulgence.
During his homily for the Mass at St. John Lateran, Cardinal Agostino Vallini spoke about how the Holy Door, just closed, was a visible sign of the Jubilee of Mercy, a year in which we learned “once again” that the fate of the world is not in the hands of men, “but in the mercy of God.”
He said that meditating on God’s mercy this year we have learnt that mercy is not a sign of weakness or surrender, but the “strong, magnanimous,” radiation of the loving omnipotence of the Father, who “heals our weaknesses, raises us from our falls and urges us to do good.”
Cardinal Abril y Castelló pointed out that although the Holy Door is being closed, “God’s door of mercy is always open” and he urged the faithful to be strong in this certainty and become credible witnesses of mercy in the world.
And in his homily, Cardinal Harvey also referred to the solemn closing of the Basilica’s Holy Door saying that “at the same time, we open an inner door to the next stage of our journey of faith, hope and charity”.
During his Angelus address on Sunday Pope Francis also pointed out that Holy Doors were being closed across the world, signaling the end of the Jubilee of Mercy.
“On the one hand, he said, the Holy Year has urged us to keep our eyes fixed on the ultimate fulfillment of God’s Kingdom, and on the other, to build a future on earth, working to evangelize the present, so as to make it a time of salvation for all.”
Ordinary jubilees occur every 25 or 50 years, and extraordinary jubilees are called for some particular occasions. Two extraordinary jubilees were called in the 20th century: in 1933, to mark the 1900th anniversary of Christ’s redemption in 33 A.D., and 1983, its 1950th anniversary.
St. Pope John Paul II also held a ‘Great Jubilee’ in the year 2000, marking the 2000th anniversary of Jesus’ birth and the start of the new millennium.
Cristina Siccardi’s new biography of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati has just been published by Ignatius. It tells the story of a privileged Italian youth, born into a wealthy family in 1901 (his father, Alfredo Frassati, was the founder and editor of Turin’s influential newspaper La Stampa) who died suddenly of polio in 1925.
From a worldly perspective he did not achieve much in his short life, but such was his radiant personality, his love of his faith and for the poor of Turin and his complete indifference to worldly ambition (he qualified as a mining engineer for the sole purpose of looking after the neglected members of Italy’s mining community), that his influence rapidly spread after his death. He has inspired many apostolic youth movements and societies around the world.
St John Paul II, who shared his love of mountaineering and skiing as well as his great capacity for friendship, celebrated Pier Giorgio’s beatification ceremony in 1990, describing him as “a man of the beatitudes.”
What draws one to this exuberant young man was the way he never allowed the sorrows he suffered in his life to make him sad; indeed, he wrote to his sister in the year of his death that “sadness should be banished from Catholic souls…[it] is a sickness worse than any other. That sickness is almost always produced by atheism…”
Although his friends knew he had special qualities, he was anything but conventionally pious: he smoked a pipe, enjoyed cigars and wine and was always the life and soul of the party – yet quietly going to daily Mass early in the morning before studying or joining trips to his beloved mountains.
It is also noteworthy that despite his father’s agnosticism and determination that his son should follow in his footsteps, his mother’s neurotic, self-centred personality and his parents’ unhappy marriage, Pier Giorgio never criticised them. He tried to obey them in all that did not touch his faith and his secret charitable works. It was only when he died and thousands of Turin’s poor flocked to his funeral that his parents began to understand their unusual and saintly son.
In his usual Wednesday General Audience, Pope Francis spent much of his time in the popemobile greeting the little ones.
Some of them wore funny costumes. Others experienced the pope’s concern, when he made sure they were properly dressed for the cold weather in Rome.
A group of pilgrims who were chefs, made sure the pope did not go hungry. They gave him this pizza with his name written on it, and this cake to sweeten his morning.
Pope Francis spoke about his encounter with the prisoners during the Jubilee of prisoners and highlighted a moment that really struck him.
“I met a group of prisoners from Padua and asked them what they would do the following day before returning to Padua. They told me, ‘We will go to the Mamertine prison to share in the experience of St. Paul.’ How nice! Listening to that made me feel good.”
He stressed the importance of knowing how to forgive and to avoid judging those who are wrong. He said it is very easy for one to “wash their hands” when someone talks about prisoners, saying they are in jail because they have done something wrong.
On November 20, the Jubilee of Mercy will end and the pope remembered how much this mercy influences the lives of believers.
“Mercy is transmitted through a gesture, a word, a visit. This mercy is an act that restores the joy and dignity of those who have lost it.”
He said visiting those in prison is also an act of mercy, recalling that even Jesus, St. Paul and St. Peter had to suffer the experience of being in prison.
The document signed in September by Orthodox and Catholics is not final, but it is an important step towards unity between the Churches.
It establishes the framework for dialogue in two crucial aspects: the meaning of papal primacy, and the way of carrying out the synod; the assembly of bishops.
MSGR. ANDREA PALMIERI
Pontifical Council for Christian Unity
“The primacy is possibly the trickiest subject in the historical dispute between Orthodox and Catholics, who have been separated for 1,000 years. That is why it was decided that we study together the first millennium, when Eastern Christians and Western Christians were in full communion.”
The document verses on how the Church operated in regards to primacy and synodality in its first 1,000 years of history.
In that time, Christians were divided amongst five patriarchal seats and Rome held the primacy of honor.
However, none of the patriarchs could make decisions in their jurisdiction without consent from the rest of them. This was synodality.
MSGR. ANDREA PALMIERI
Pontifical Council for Christian Unity
“The important aspect of this document is that it identifies the role of the Roman see for the communion of the Universal Church. This role is recognized in three issues. The bishop of Rome had a right to preside over liturgical ceremonies as bishop of the first see. Secondly, it recognizes his role in councils. He never participated directly but he did send delegates or sanctioned what had been agreed. Thirdly, this document recognizes the right of appeal to Rome. Bishops who believed their synod was not proceeding fairly could appeal to Rome.”
Amongst the signers of this agreement there are the Russian and Georgian Orthodox Churches, those traditionally more hostile towards the Vatican. The pope has met with their respective patriarchs. Pope Francis is reaping what was sown by his predecessors since Vatican II. There is still a long way to go, but this document is a breakthrough in the path of dialogue.