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Ireland’s Knock Shrine to International Status

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Pope Francis on Friday elevated Ireland’s National Sanctuary of Our Lady of Knock to the status of an International Shrine of Eucharistic and Marian Devotion.

He described it as an “important moment in the life of the shrine” and “a great responsibility.”

Pope Francis said the designation would mean always having “your arms wide open as a sign of welcome to every pilgrim who may arrive from any part of the world, asking nothing in return but only recognizing him as a brother or a sister who desires to share the same experience of fraternal prayer.”

Paying tribute to the Irish faithful he said: “You have been a missionary people. We cannot forget how many priests left their homeland in order to become missionaries of the Gospel. Nor can we forget the many lay people who immigrated to faraway lands but still kept their devotion to Our Lady.”

The apparition in Knock occurred Aug. 21, 1879, when Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of the Knock parish church.

The silent apparition was witnessed by 15 people, ranging from young children to the elderly.

St. John Paul II visited Knock in 1979, the centenary of the apparition, as part of his apostolic pilgrimage to Ireland.

Pope Francis, who visited the shrine in 2018 during the World Meeting of Families, said the message that comes from Knock is that of “the great value of silence for our faith.”

“It is this silence in the face of mystery, which does not mean giving up on understanding, but understanding while aided and supported by the love of Jesus, who offered himself for all of us as the Lamb sacrificed for the salvation of humanity.”

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Vatican’s Cardinal Luis Tagle Ordains 24 Deacons

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A total of 24 deacons that successfully completed studies at the Rome’s Pontifical Urban College have been ordained according to reliable sources from Vatican.

The Rome’s Pontifical Urban College is a major seminary under the care of the Congregation for the Evangelization of People.

Vatican’s Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle presided over Mass and ordained these deacons on Saturday.

The 24 deacons come from Camerun, Benin, Senegal, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, India, China, South Korea, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, and give “witness to the universality of the Church and its mission”.

Cardinal Tagle recalled the Vatican II constitution Lumen Gentium which describes the role of the deacon “in service of the liturgy, of the Gospel, and of charity”, and quoting Saint Polycarp that they “be merciful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all.” 

He underscored that “deacons are called to be living signs of Jesus, whose lordship is expressed in humble service to all”. With the grace of God, they remind Christians of “our common call to serve as Jesus did.”

Recalling the Gospel reading, where Jesus says,”Remain in me, as I remain in you…I am the vine, you are the branches…without me you can do nothing”, Cardinal Tagle noted the special meaning this has today for the new deacons.

He said it is not enough to know that Jesus lives in us, but that “we must choose to live and remain in him”, so we may “become like him in love and service”.

He encouraged the new deacons to “show the world the greatness of humble service, which is the fruit of living in Jesus.”

He also entrusted them to the care and protection of Mary, our Mother, and of Saint Joseph, “both humble servants, who lived for and in Jesus.”

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Ramadhan Requires Prayer, Worship & Reflection

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The Muslim Holy month of Ramadhan is here with us again. It is a month of prayer, worship and reflection. World’s estimated 1.6 billion Muslims kicked off their Ramadhan on April 13 and will conclude on May 12.

Ramadan, also spelled Ramazan, Ramzan, Ramadhan or Ramathan, is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community.

The lunar calendar, which is followed by Islam, is 10 to 11 days shorter than the modern-day Gregorian calendar (which is based on the Earth’s rotation around the sun). This difference means Ramadan begins on a different day each year. This year it will begin in mid-April; in 10 years time it will begin in mid-January.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, which are compulsory commandments ordered by God. The other pillars are prayer, the declaration of faith, giving charity and going on the Hajj pilgrimage if the believer is physically and financially able. 

Muslims believe that through fasting they are able to strengthen their relationship with God. Time is spent participating in acts of worship, such as praying, reading the Quran and giving to charity.

Abstaining from food and drink during daylight hours allows Muslims to practise willpower and focus their energy on working on their faith.

Fasting also allows Muslims to empathise with those who are less fortunate, and be more compassionate to those in need.

Can anything invalidate a fast?

Yes, including intentionally eating or drinking, intercourse, smoking and menstrual bleeding. 

One question most Muslims get asked during Ramadan (alongside the infamous gasp of  “not even water?”) is what happens if you eat or drink by mistake? Can you not just take a doughnut when no one is looking?

Eating or drinking intentionally invalidates your fast, as the purpose of Ramadan is to practice self-restraint and engage in religious acts.

However, eating or drinking, if it is done through a genuine mistake, does not nullify your fast: followers can continue fasting as normal.

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Makkah Pilgrims Without Umrah Permits Face U$2,666 Fine

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Saudi Arabia announced that pilgrims who perform Umrah without a permit during the month of Ramadan will be fined as officials are trying to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

An official source at the Ministry of Interior said a fine of SR10,000 ($2,666) would be imposed on anyone who tries to perform Umrah without a permit, along with a SR1,000 fine for anyone who tries to enter the Grand Mosque in Makkah without a permit.

Saudi authorities are looking beyond Ramadan as the measure will be valid until the end of the pandemic or when “life returns to normal,” the source added.

The source said the ministry wants to ensure that all precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the virus are adhered to.

It also wants to ensure that approved regulations for performing Umrah and prayer are in line with the operational safety capacity at all Grand Mosque sites and squares.

Every pilgrim wishing to perform Umrah or prayers in the Grand Mosque must obtain a permit.

The source also said that security personnel will be on patrol at all security control centers, roads, sites and pathways leading to the central area surrounding the Grand Mosque.

Meanwhile, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif, minister of interior, who is also chairman of the Hajj Supreme Committee, approved the general emergency plan for Makkah and Madinah during Ramadan.

The director general of the General Directorate of Civil Defense, Lt. Gen. Sulaiman bin Abdullah Al-Amro, said COVID-19 inspection tours have been intensified at all facilities and sites frequented by pilgrims and visitors.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said on Thursday that the Umrah and Tawakkalna applications have been launched in their updated versions, through cooperation with the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence.

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