Pope Francis to visit Morocco in 2019


Vatican City, Nov 13, 2018 / 04:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis will head to two cities in Morocco March 30-31, 2019, the Vatican announced Tuesday.

Pope Francis will visit the cities of Rabat and Casablanca, a Nov. 13 message stated. The schedule of the trip is not yet published.

According to papal spokesman Greg Burke, the visit takes place at the invitation of King Mohammed VI of Morocco and the Catholic bishops.

Francis will be the second pope to visit the country, after St. Pope John Paul II went in 1985 as the first pope to visit a Muslim country at the invitation of the state.

Morocco, which is located on the north-west side of Africa, is a majority Muslim country. The total population, as of 2014, was around 29 million. There were an estimated 21,000 Catholics in the country in that year; just .1 percent of the population. 

The country has two archdioceses; one in Ribat, the country’s capital city, and one based in Tanger.

After Pope Francis received an invitation to visit the country from King Mohammed earlier this year, there had been rumors about whether he would attend a United Nations gathering in December for the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration.

Now that the trip has been announced for March, what the pope’s agenda in Morocco will be has not yet been revealed, though it will likely focus on Christian-Muslim relations and migration.

The visit to Morocco falls just two months after the pope will travel to Panama Jan. 23-27, 2019, the only other Vatican confirmed apostolic visit in the upcoming year, though there have been comments from heads of state and bishops that say Francis may also be traveling to Romania and to Mozambique.

He has also expressed the desire to visit Japan. Cardinal Désiré Tsarahazana said at a Vatican press briefing Oct. 9 that the pope will visit Madagascar in 2019. Holy See spokesperson Greg Burke said at the time he could not confirm the trip, but that the possibility was “well under study.”


Cardinal O'Brien: Don't let Holy Land become a 'museum'


Vatican City, Nov 7, 2018 / 12:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, told journalists Wednesday that the order of knighthood is committed to providing good educational opportunities in the Holy Land to help Christians remain in their homeland.

“We don’t want the Holy Land to become a museum,” O’Brien said Nov. 7. He spoke in advance of the general assembly of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, which will take place near the Vatican next week.

O’Brien said he believes education, at all levels, is one of the greatest contributions the order has made. Education offers stabilization by giving young people in the Holy Land the foundation for a better future, and by contributing to inter-religious dialogue and harmony, since both Christians and Muslims attend order-funded schools, he noted.

The order provides around 80 percent of the total operating budget of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, supporting around 68 parishes, 44 schools, and 90,000 Christians in Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Cyprus.

This aid is coordinated through the governing body of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, called the Grand Magisterium.

O’Brien told EWTN Nov. 7 the order has seen success in the cooperation among Christians and between Christians and Muslims in the area of the patriarchate.

“The effective role that we play is in dialogue,” he said, “but especially in education, because for many [Christians in the Holy Land] there are no real solid education opportunities.” The order provides education for Christians “no matter what they can do to pay,” he said.

The order’s members “are committed to doing whatever’s necessary to advance the pastoral, educational, and humanitarian needs of Christians and others in Palestine, West Bank, Jordan, and Israel,” he said.

“And I think we very effectively do that... People depend on the help that they receive from us because there’s very little else to look for.”

The “consulta,” as next week’s general assembly is called, takes place every five years and brings together a portion of the estimated 30,000 knights and dames of the order to discuss future projects and the mission of the order.

Members come from 40 countries and make both a spiritual and financial commitment of support of the Church in the Holy Land, particularly the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.

O’Brien told EWTN that a part of the assembly will be to hear from members “what their local needs are, and to respond to them.”

“It’s very important that we know whom we’re serving and what they’re accomplishing in their various lieutenancies, and that they coordinate and collaborate together, and in and through us, to make our members’ charity and generosity more effective,” he said.


Vatican Christmas stamps feature artwork by inmate


Vatican City, Nov 12, 2018 / 11:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The artwork featured on the Vatican’s postage stamps for Christmas 2018 were painted by a man serving a life-sentence in a Milanese prison.

The two stamp designs, painted by Marcello D’Agata, depict the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Nativity of Christ.

The postage stamps were unveiled by Archbishop Mario Delpini of Milan at a Nov. 9 presentation in the Milan prison and can be purchased at the Vatican City post office. They are available in denominations of 1.15 or 1.10 euro ($1.29, $1.24), which is the postage required to mail directly to Europe and the Mediterranean region.

An Italian journalist had the idea for the Vatican stamps after having followed a philately initiative within the Milan prison for several years.

According to L’Osservatore Romano, a Vatican-supported newspaper, D’Agata was drawn to art from an early age. “I confess that as a child, as soon as a blank paper appeared before me, I never failed to draw on it,” he told the newspaper.

“Of course, they were just scribbles, but I liked it so much, because on those papers I gave shape and color to my emotions and, most of all, to my dreams.”

D’Agata said he had fallen away from artistic expression until a few years ago, when the director of the prison allowed a group of prisoners to take part in a drawing course, which served as a “source of inspiration and the dormant talents came back to life.”