Ascension shows that no one is left behind en route to heaven, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus' ascension shows that, despite the difficulties in peoples' lives, they are all made for heaven, Pope Francis said. Reflecting May 12 on the Gospel reading from St. Mark, which recounts how Jesus "was taken up into heaven," the pope said that Jesus' ascension into heaven does not represent a detachment from humanity but rather precedes its ultimate destination: heaven.

Jubilee countdown: Preparations for 2025 Holy Year move into high gear

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- For more than 700 years, the Catholic Church has celebrated "jubilee" or "holy" years as special times to renew people's faith and experience God's forgiveness, particularly by going on pilgrimage. The official Vatican website for the Holy Year 2025 -- www.iubilaeum2025.va -- says, "In 1300, Pope Boniface VIII called the first Jubilee, also known as a 'Holy Year,' since it is a time in which God's holiness transforms us."

Pope encourages Swiss Guard to foster friendships, avoid isolation

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Meeting members of the Swiss Guard, including 34 new recruits, Pope Francis thanked them for their dedication and generous service protecting the pope every day. He told them they stand out for their professionalism and their "kind, attentive, indeed scrupulous style," during an audience at the Vatican May 6, ahead of the swearing-in ceremony for the new guards later that day. Family members of the new recruits were also present at the audience.

Jesus asks for faithfulness, but also friendship, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Jesus calls believers not only to be servants of his kingdom, as the prophets and Mary were, but also to be his friends, Pope Francis said. "Friendship is not the fruit of calculation, nor of compulsion, it is born spontaneously when we recognize something of ourselves in the other," he said May 5. "Jesus, in the Bible, tells us that for him we are precisely this: friends, people beloved beyond all merit and expectation, to whom he extends his hand and offers his love, his grace, his word."

Ignite the fire of faith in people’s hearts, pope tells religious

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Religious men and women need to be setting people's faith on fire, not stamping it out, Pope Francis said. "It makes me sad when I see religious who seem more like firefighters" than men and women who are ardently filled with the flame of faith and ready to share it with others, he told representatives of congregations founded by St. Magdalene of Canossa during an audience at the Vatican April 29.

Pope asks lay Catholics to prepare for synod’s ‘prophetic’ stage

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The most important outcome of the current Synod of Bishops on synodality is the synodal process itself and not the hot-button topics discussed, Pope Francis said. With the second synod assembly scheduled for October, the pope said the synod process is approaching its "most challenging and important" stage -- the point at which it must become "prophetic."

Spring semester: ‘School of Prayer’ now in session for Holy Year finals

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Every important journey should be preceded by adequate preparation, and the run-up to the Holy Year 2025 is no exception. Pope Francis asked Catholics to get ready for the jubilee journey with a Year of Prayer and now, a few months after the year was officially announced, a kind of prayer prep-school is in session. Every jubilee asks pilgrims to come to Rome ready, not just with lodging and logistics, but, most of all, with the right spiritual disposition, which is a heart ready to welcome the gifts of grace and forgiveness the jubilee offers.

Pope urges brothers working with youth to bring them hope

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Be loving and compassionate fathers to the marginalized, Pope Francis told members of the Brothers of Christian Instruction, commonly known as the La Mennais Brothers. "Your vocation impels you to go where others do not go, to the periphery, to the people who belong to the ranks of the rejected, those wounded by life and victims," he told the group during an audience at the Vatican April 22.

Share, listen to people’s encounter with Jesus, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must share their faith in the risen Jesus, Pope Francis said. They also should "talk about the good inspirations that have guided us in life, the good thoughts and feelings that help us so much to go forward, and also about our efforts and labors to understand and to progress in the life of faith, perhaps even to repent and retrace our steps," the pope said April 14 before leading the midday recitation of the "Regina Coeli" prayer. Greeting visitors in St. Peter's Square, the pope said it is good and important to share one's faith in Jesus.

Parish priests are lifeline to church’s mission, cardinal says

ROME (CNS) -- The success of the Synod of Bishops on synodality will much depend on also including parish priests in the process, said Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory of Washington. Of the more than 360 bishops, religious and laypeople who participated in the first assembly at the Vatican last October, the small number who were ordained priests "were scholars, missionaries (or) they were engaged in leadership in religious communities," he said.