Host recognizes Holy Father’s voice; asks him how he is living these holy days.
Lorena Bianchetti, the host of an Italian television show called A Sua Immagine (“In His Image”), recognized the caller’s voice immediately. “Pope Francis!” she exclaimed. “Welcome to the program.”
“You recognized my voice!” the pope replied.
Lorena then thanked the pope for calling, “but above all, for what you are doing for all of us, for how you are participating in such a paternal way in our sufferings.”
Then, she had a question for the pope. “Your Holiness,” she asked, “how are you living these days?”
“I am thinking of the crucified Lord and of the many stories of history’s crucifixions, those of today, of this pandemic,” the pope replied. Then he listed those whom he has been mentioning frequently: doctors, nurses, sisters, priests. They have “died on the front lines, like soldiers, who have given their lives out of love.”
He compared them to Mary, steadfast at the foot of the cross. They found that cross, the pope said, “in their communities, in hospitals, treating the sick.”
They are the “crucified of today, dying out of love.”
The Holy Father has gone so far as to make this “dying out of love” a new path to canonization.
There had been three paths leading to beatification and eventual canonization: martyrdom “in odium fidei” [being killed because of your Catholic faith – translator’s note], recognition of the heroic living of virtue, and a third, called “equivalent canonization,” when a pope simply confirms a devotion to a saint who is already well-established in the Church. This equivalent canonization was the case of the Jesuit Pierre Faber (1506-1546) recognized by Pope Francis in 2013, or of Hildegard of Bingen, recognized by Pope Benedict XVI.
This new path spelled out by the pope in 2017, oblatio vitae, is taken from the Lord’s assertion, “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for a friend.”
Pope Francis established four criteria for this new path:
1. Free and voluntary offering of one’s life, and heroic acceptance propter caritatem (“motivated by charity”) of certain imminent death;
2. A direct link between the offering of one’s life and the premature death;
3. The exercise, at least to an ordinary degree, of Christian virtues before offering one’s life, and after, until death;
4. The existence of a reputation of holiness and signs thereof, at least after death;
5. The need of a miracle for beatification, which must happen after the Servant of God’s death, and through his or her intercession.
This new path resembles that of martyrdom inasmuch as it refers to giving one’s life, but not due to violence caused by “hate of the faith” (odium fidei), but rather, as an “heroic act of charity.” It is a kind of charity which, according to Archbishop Bartolucci, surpasses one’s natural instinct for self-preservation. This path has already been alluded to with the canonization of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who substituted himself for a condemned prisoner in Auschwitz. Kolbe is often referred to as a “martyr of charity.”
Pope Francis assured Lorena that he is near to those who are suffering, especially because of the pandemic. However, he is “looking up, looking toward hope, because hope does not disappoint. It does not take away pain, but it does not disappoint.”
Lorena then asked a further question: “So, Holy Father, once again, notwithstanding everything, this will be an Easter of the Resurrection, an Easter of peace?”
“Easter always ends in the Resurrection and in peace,” he replied. This does not mean a “happy ending,” he continued, “but a loving commitment that makes you tread a difficult path. But He trod it first. This comforts us and gives us strength.”