Catholic News Agency
Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec 1, 2017 / 11:59 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a classic off-the-cuff speech to priests and religious in Bangladesh, Pope Francis said it's sad to see unhappy consecrated people, but he loves looking into the eyes of elderly religious who have spent their lives serving in joy, which is the essence of their vocation.
In his Dec. 2 meeting with the priests and religious, the Pope told them to “have joy of heart,” and said he always feels great affection when he meets elderly priests, bishops, and nuns who have “lived a full life.”
“Their eyes are indescribable, full of joy and peace,” he said, noting that God still watches over those who haven't lived this way, “but there is that lack of sparkle in their eyes. They haven't had that joy.”
He said the spirit of joy is essential to consecrated life, and that “you cannot serve God” without it.
“I can assure you it's very painful when you meet priests, consecrated, bishops, who are really unhappy, with a sad face,” he said, adding that whenever he comes across someone like this, he wants to ask: “what did you have for breakfast today, vinegar?”
These people have “a vinegar face, a soured face,” he said, explaining that the “anxiousness and bitterness of heart” that comes when we focus on promotions or compare ourselves to others is counterproductive, and “there is no joy in that way of thinking.”
Pope Francis spoke to Bangladesh's consecrated community on the last day of his Nov. 27-Dec. 2 tour of Asia, which included stops in both Burma, and the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.
He arrived to Dhaka Nov. 30, and has so far met with the country's civil authorities, ordained 16 priests, spoke to the bishops and led an interreligious encounter where he met with Hindu, Buddhist, Anglican and Muslim leaders, including members of Burma's persecuted Rohingya minority. Before leaving, he'll also meet with the nation's youth, as the last encounter before returning to Rome.
In his meeting with religious, which was held at the Church of the Holy Rosary, one of the oldest churches in Bangladesh, the Pope listened to several testimonies before speaking, including Fr. Abel Rozario, a priest of the Archdiocese of Dhaka; Brother Lawrence; Fr. Franco; Sister Mary Chandra; and Marcellius, a seminarian.
After hearing their stories, Francis said he had prepared an 8-page speech for them, but tossed the remarks, jesting that “we come to listen to the Pope, and not to get bored!”
Speaking off-the-cuff in Spanish with his interpreter, Msgr. Mark Miles, offering simultaneous translation into English, the Pope said that as he was coming in, the image of a plant “sprouting from the stump of Jesse” in next Tuesday's reading from Isaiah came to mind.
The image of the plant growing in a spirit of wisdom and piety and blooming in a life of faith and service also applies to the life of a consecrated person, he said, noting that it all begins with a seed.
“The seed does not belong to you or to me, God sows the seed, and God is the one who provides for its growth,” he said, explaining that while God is the one who takes the initiative, we have to water the seed in order for it to grow.
In order to water the seed of the vocation we've been given, we have to “look after it,” as we would look after a child or someone who is sick or elderly: with tenderness.
“Vocation is looked after with human tenderness in our communities, where we live as priests, parishes,” he said, adding that “if there's no such tenderness, then the plant is very small, it doesn't grow and it can dry out.”
“Look after it with tenderness, because every brother in the presbyterate, in the episcopal conference, every religious in community, every brother seminarian, is a seed of God. And God looks at them with the tenderness of a father.”
However, Francis also noted that despite our best efforts, the enemy comes at night and plants weeds along with the good seeds that God has sown.
When these weeds come along, “there is the risk that the seed can be threatened and not grow,” he said, saying it is “awful” and “sad” to see these weeds grow within parishes or episcopal conferences.
In order to prevent the growth of the weeds, we need to know how to tell them apart from the good seeds, the Pope said, explaining that this process is called “discernment.”
“To look after means to discern,” he said, and urged them to pay attention to which direction their “plant” is growing in, and whether there is something – a friend or a community or family member – who is threatening the growth of the plant.
Prayer is also a key part of this discernment process, he said, adding that “to look after also means to pray, and to ask the one who planted the seed how to water that same seed.”
“If I'm having a crisis and falling asleep, we have to ask him to look after us. To pray means to ask the Lord to look after us, that he give us the tenderness that we have to then pass onto others,” he said.
Pope Francis then pointed to the various challenges that arise in parishes, seminaries, episcopal conferences and convents, saying these will always be present because each of us have defects and limitations that threaten the peace and harmony of community life.
Noting how Bangladesh is known for it's achievements in living and promoting interreligious harmony, he said the same efforts have to be made inside faith communities, and Bangladesh “has to be an example of harmony.”
Bringing up a point he often returns to, especially when speaking to religious, Francis said of the greatest “enemies” of harmony in religious life is gossip.
“The tongue, brothers and sisters, can destroy a community by speaking badly about another person,” he said, noting that “this is not my idea, but 2,000 years ago a certain St. James said that in his letter.”
To talk about the defects of others behind their backs rather than confronting the person about it creates an environment of distrust, jealousy and division, he said, and again referred to gossip as a form of “terrorism.”
It's terrorism, he said, because “when you speak badly of others, you don't say it publicly, and a terrorist doesn't say publicly 'I'm a terrorist.' A terrorist says it in a private, crude way, then throws the bomb and it explodes.”
The same thing happens in communities, and often times others pick up the bomb that has been left and they also throw it, he said, and told the religious to “hold your tongue” if they are tempted to speak badly about someone.
“Maybe you'll hurt you tongue if you bite it, but you won't hurt the other person.”
If a true correction needs to be made, Francis told them, if possible, to first confront the person face to face in charity, and to also let an authority know, so they can do something about it if needed.
“Say it to the person's face, and say it to another person who can do something, but with charity. How many communities have been destroyed through the spirit of gossip,” he said, and implored them “please, hold your tongue, bite your tongue.”
Pope Francis closed his address by urging the religious to ask themselves a series of questions: “do I look after the small plant, do I water it? Do I water it in others? Am I afraid of being a terrorist, and therefore never speak badly of others? And do I have the gift of joy?”
He then voiced his hope that the “plant” of their vocation continues to grow so that “your eyes will always sparkle with that joy of the Holy Spirit,” and asked for prayer.
Vatican City, Dec 1, 2017 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an encounter with interfaith leaders in Bangladesh, Pope Francis stressed the need to join together in promoting mutual respect and combating religiously-justified violence, saying this can't achieved through mere tolerance, but requires real knowledge and trust of the other.
In a Dec. 1 meeting with interreligious leaders in Bangladesh, Pope Francis praised them for their commitment to live together in “mutual respect and goodwill” in the country, “where the right to religious freedom is a founding principle.”
The fact that they are all meeting together, he said, “stands as a subtle yet firm rebuke to those who would seek to foment division, hatred and violence in the name of religion.”
Pointing to the commitment of interfaith leaders in Bangladesh to building a culture of encounter, Francis said this goal “entails more than mere tolerance.”
“It challenges us to reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding, and so to build a unity that sees diversity not as a threat, but as a potential source of enrichment and growth,” he said, adding that it also serves as a challenge to “cultivate an openness of heart that views others as an avenue, not a barrier.”
Pope Francis with the interreligious leaders on his second day in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which is the second phase of his Nov. 27-Dec. 2 tour of Asia. He was in Burma Nov. 27-30, and will stay in Bangladesh until Dec. 2.
So far, the Pope has been outspoken on the need for peace and healing, specifically in Burma, and has stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue, praising the strides Bangladesh has made in this area.
The theme of interreligious unity has been a major talking point of the Pope's visit to both countries, as Burma is a majority Buddhist nation and Bangladesh is majority Muslim. In Bangladesh, 86 percent of the population practices Islam. The 375,000 Catholics there represent less than 0.2 percent of the total population.
Pope Francis arrived to the interreligious encounter in a rickshaw, where he listened to testimonies from five leaders representing different religious communities in Bangladesh, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Anglicans and Catholics. Among the Catholics who spoke were a layman and Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario CSC, Archbishop of Dhaka, who is the first Bangladeshi cardinal, appointed by Francis in 2016.
Around 18 members of the Rohingya Muslim community were also present, including 5-year-old child. The Pope greeted them individually at the end of the event, listening as they each briefly explained their stories through an interpreter.
A largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State, the Rohingya have recently faced a sharp increase in state-sponsored violence in their homeland, leading the United Nations to declare the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
With an increase in persecution in their home country of Burma more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh, where millions are in refugee camps. The crisis, which boiled over ahead of the Pope's trip, has been a focal point of the visit.
In his speech to the interfaith leaders, Francis said there are three essential elements of the “openness of heart” that allow us to really encounter others: a door, a ladder and a path.
The door, he said, “is not an abstract theory but a lived experience” which enables one to have real dialogue, “not a mere exchange of ideas.” And going through this door requires “good will and acceptance,” he said, but stressed that this attitude is “not to be confused with indifference or reticence in expressing our most deeply held convictions.”
Pope Francis then turned to the image of the ladder, saying it is one “that reaches up to the Absolute.” By looking to this transcendent aspect of interreligious activity, he said, “we realize the need for our hearts to be purified, so that we can see all things in their truest perspective.”
Finally, he said the path they must take is one that leads “to the pursuit of goodness, justice and solidarity.”
“It leads to seeking the good of our neighbors,” he said, explaining that when religious concern for the good of others comes from an open heart, it “flows outward like a vast river, to quench the dry and parched wastelands of hatred, corruption, poverty and violence that so damage human lives, tear families apart, and disfigure the gift of creation.”
This spirit of openness, acceptance and cooperation among believers doesn't just contribute to a culture of harmony and peace, but is “its beating heart.”
The world desperately needs this heart to beat strongly, he said, in order “to counter the virus of political corruption, destructive religious ideologies, and the temptation to turn a blind eye to the needs of the poor, refugees, persecuted minorities, and those who are most vulnerable.”
“How much, too, is such openness needed in order to reach out to the many people in our world, especially the young, who at times feel alone and bewildered as they search for meaning in life!”
Pope Francis closed his speech thanking the leaders for their efforts to promote a culture of encounter among the different religions in Bangladesh, and prayed that they would help all believers “to grow in wisdom and holiness, and to cooperate in building an ever more humane, united and peaceful world.”
In his greeting to the Pope, Cardinal D'Rozario said the religious harmony that exists in Bangladesh “is rooted in our cultural identity.” The fact that they live peacefully in a multi-religious and multi-ethnic context, he said, is a heritage “we proudly enshrine in our hearts and we feel so much pain when this sacrosanct heritage is attacked and harmony is disturbed.”
He said Bangladesh continues to “march forward” with the hope of building up humanity through integral development and care of the planet, and voiced the Church's commitment to “cherish harmony and love peace” in the nation.
Francis was also greeted by five leaders of the different religious communities in Bangladesh, including Grand Imam and Mufti of Bangladesh, Farid Uddin Masud, on behalf of the country's Muslim community; Swami Dhruveshananda Adhyaksha on behalf of the Hindu community, and Sanghanayaka Suddhananda Mahathero on behalf of the Buddhist community, among others.
In his greeting, Imam Masud said the world today needs compassion and love more than anything else.
“The only remedy and solution to the problem of malice, envy and fighting among nations, races and creeds lies in the compassionate love preached and practiced by the great men and women of the world,” he said, and praised Pope Francis for his “tireless efforts” on behalf of the oppressed, regardless of religion, cast or nationality.
“This is a great inspiration for all of us,” he said, and pointed specifically to the Pope's support of the Rohingya Muslims from Burma, saying the Pope's concern for them “will bring a positive result in regard to the attempts to ensure their human rights.”
The Muslim community in Bangladesh, he said, “pay our tribute and show respect” to Pope Francis for his attention not only to the Rohingya, but to people of all faiths, adding that the Pope's role in promoting world peace “deserves our wholehearted respect.”
On his part, Swami Dhruveshananda Adhyaksha, representing the Hindu community, said that while the religions of those gathered may be different, “the objective is the same.”
“Just as all the rivers which originate from different sources blend into the same ocean, so all religions, though different, lead to the same beatitude,” he said, adding that “we have the duty to remain firm in the ideals we believe in, showing due respect for others.”
Likewise, Sanghanayaka Suddhananda Mahathero, Chief Patriarch of the Buddhists of Bangladesh and President of Bangladesh Bouddha Kristi Prachar Sangha, said the Pope's visit has “ushered a new horizon of interreligious harmony among all faiths” in Bangladesh.
He said he has been moved by Francis' “deep sense of kindness and compassion” toward the marginalized, and that the image of Pope Francis washing the feet of young African refugees is something that constantly stays in his mind.
“The Holy Father has achieved greatness,” he said, explaining that Bangladesh is committed to religious cooperation.
Affirming the sentiments of Bangladeshi resident Abdul Harmid, who in yesterday's speech to the Pope said the country has a “zero tolerance” policy on violent interreligious conflict, the Buddhist leader said “we gather here to invoke with one voice the blessings of peace and fraternity in our country.”
After the testimonies, the encounter closed with a prayer recited by Anglican Bishop Philip Sarkar, who asked for strength to fight together against the evils of discrimination, division and corruption in Bangladesh.
“There are many people today in our world who are the victims of terrorism, conflicts, oppression and exploitation,” he said, noting that religious and ethnic minorities all over the world are suffering hatred and discrimination, and pointing to the Rohingya crisis in neighboring Burma as an example.
He prayed that world leaders and those who have authority would be guided by “wisdom and kindness” so as to wield their power in service to their people with love and attentive care.
Sarkar then pointed to the “hypocrisy and pride” each of the religions present at times display, saying “we misunderstand and hate people of other faiths and create suspicion with each other. We don't know how to respect other religions and people of other faiths.”
He asked forgiveness for this, and prayed that God would help them to realize the depth of his love in order to “love others and live in service for others, but not judge others because of their faith or creed.”
The bishop closes his prayer asking that the interfaith leaders would be led by a spirit “of love and wisdom” in order to “show the path of true light and true life in this confused and dark world.”
Vatican City, Nov 30, 2017 / 05:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis arrived in Bangladesh with words of praise for the humanitarian assistance the nation has given to Rohingya Muslim refugees, and urged greater action on their behalf from the international community.
Speaking to Bangladeshi president Abdul Harmid and the nation's authorities and diplomatic corps, the Pope said that in recent months “the spirit of generosity and solidarity” the country is known for “has been seen most vividly in its humanitarian outreach to a massive influx of refugees from Rakhine State.”
He noted how Bangladesh “at no little sacrifice” has provided shelter and basic necessities for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims at their border.
With the eyes of the world watching the crisis unfold, no one “can fail to be aware of the gravity of the situation, the immense toll of human suffering involved, and the precarious living conditions of so many of our brothers and sisters, a majority of whom are women and children, crowded in the refugee camps,” he said.
It is therefore “imperative” that the international community “take decisive measures to address this grave crisis.”
Resolution, he said, means not only working to resolve the political problems that led to the mass displacement of people in recent months, “but also by offering immediate material assistance to Bangladesh in its effort to respond effectively to urgent human needs.”
Pope Francis spoke hours after arriving in Dhaka, Bangladesh, for the second phase of his Nov. 27-Dec. 2 tour of Asia. He was in Burma Nov. 27-30, and will stay in Bangladesh for two days before returning to Rome.
His visit comes amid boiling tensions over the mass exodus of the Rohingya, a largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State, from their homeland amid increasing state-sponsored violence that has led the United Nations to declare the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
With an increase in persecution in their home country of Burma more than 600,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to Bangladesh, where millions are in refugee camps.
Though the Vatican has said the crisis was not the original reason behind the Pope's visit to the two nations, it has largely overshadowed the trip, with many keeping a watchful eye on how the Pope would respond, specifically when it comes to use of the term “Rohingya.”
Despite widespread use of the word in the international community, it is controversial within Burma. The Burmese government refuses to use the term, and considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. At the request of local Church leaders in Burma, Pope Francis refrained from using the word, and he has also done so in Bangladesh.
In his speech to authorities, the Pope praised the natural beauty in Bangladesh, which is seen in its vast network of rivers and waterways, saying the vision is symbolic of the nation's identity as a people made up of various languages and backgrounds.
Pope Francis then pointed to the nation's first leaders, whom he said “envisioned a modern, pluralistic and inclusive society in which every person and community could live in freedom, peace and security, with respect for the innate dignity and equal rights of all.”
Bangladesh gained independence from West Pakistan in 1971 after a bloody nine-month war that began when Pakistani military attacked their eastern state in a bid to eliminate Bengali nationalists from the region. West Pakistan began their assault in March 1971, and surrendered in December of the same year, resulting in the independence of the People's Republic of Bangladesh.
The future of democracy in the young nation and the health of its political life, then, are “essentially linked” to fidelity to the original vision of the founding fathers, Pope Francis said.
“Only through sincere dialogue and respect for legitimate diversity can a people reconcile divisions, overcome unilateral perspectives, and recognize the validity of differing viewpoints,” Francis said, adding that true dialogue looks to the future and builds unity in the service of the common good.
This dialogue, he said, is also concerned for the needs of “all citizens, especially the poor, the underprivileged and those who have no voice.”
These words are especially relevant for Bangladesh, which is among the most populated countries in the world, but is also one of the poorest, with nearly 30 percent of the population living under the poverty line.
Francis said that while he came primarily to support the tiny Catholic community in the country, he is looking forward to meeting with interreligious leaders, as he did in Burma.
Interfaith dialogue has been a major theme of the Pope's visit, as Burma is a majority Buddhist nation and Bangladesh is majority Muslim. In Bangladesh, 86 percent of the population practices Islam. The 375,000 Catholics there represent less than 0.2 of the total population.
In his speech, Pope Francis noted that Bangladesh is known for the sense of harmony that exists between followers of different religions, saying this atmosphere of mutual respect and interreligious dialogue “enables believers to express freely their deepest convictions about the meaning and purpose of life.”
By doing this, religions are able to better promote the spiritual values which form the basis for a just and peaceful society. And in a world “where religion is often – scandalously – misused to foment division, such a witness to its reconciling and unifying power is all the more necessary.”
Francis said this witness was seen in an “eloquent way” after a brutal terrorist attack at a bakery in Dhaka last year left 29 people dead, prompting the country's leaders to make a firm statement that God's name “can never be invoked to justify hatred and violence against our fellow human beings.”
Speaking of the role Catholics play in the country, Pope Francis said they have an essential contribution, specifically through the schools, clinics and medical centers run by the Church.
The Church, he said, “appreciates the freedom to practice her faith and to pursue her charitable works, which benefit the entire nation, not least by providing young people, who represent the future of society.”
He noted how many of the students and teachers in Church-run schools are not Catholic, and voiced his confidence that in keeping with the Bangladeshi constitution, the Church “will continue to enjoy the freedom to carry out these good works as an expression of its commitment to the common good.”
The Pope closed his speech assuring his of his prayers “that in your lofty responsibilities, you will always be inspired by the high ideals of justice and service to your fellow citizens.”
In his greeting to Pope Francis, Bangladesh President Abdul Harmid thanked the Pope for his visit and stressed the importance the nation places on religious freedom and development.
“People are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely and without fear,” he said, adding that in Bangladesh they “cherish” religious liberty and therefore stand with the Pope in defending it, “knowing that people everywhere must be able to live with their faith, free from fear and intimidation.”
Harmid also pointed to Francis' message on mercy, which he said Bangladesh has put into practice with their welcome of the Rohingya Muslims.
“It is our shared responsibility to ensure for them a safe, sustainable and dignified return to their own home and integration with the social, economic and political life of Myanmar,” he said, adding that the Pope's “passionate” condemnation of the brutality they face brings hope for a resolution.
“Your closeness to them, your call for helping them and to ensure their full rights gives moral responsibility to the international community to act with promptness and sincerity.”
The president also pointed to the problem of radical terrorist violence, saying “no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism.”
The Bangladesh government, he said, is therefore pursuing a “zero tolerance” policy committed to eradicating the root causes of terrorism and violent extremism.
“We denounce terrorism and violent extremism, in all its forms and manifestations,” Harmid said, yet at the same time, like other Muslim majority countries, Bangladesh is also concerned about “the rise of Islamophobia and hate crimes in many western societies, which is adversely affecting lives of millions of peaceful people of faith.”
“We believe that inter-faith dialogue, at all levels of the society, is important to combat such extremist trends,” he said. He closed his speech with an appeal to protect the natural environment, and said the Pope's visit “renews our resolve towards building a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous world.”
Vatican City, Nov 26, 2017 / 06:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis said that when the Final Judgment comes, what will matter most is how much we loved God and others, especially through daily, concrete acts of charity toward those most in need.
“At the end of our life we will be judged on love, that is, on our concrete commitment to love and serve Jesus in the least of our brothers and the needy,” the Pope said Nov. 26.
“Jesus will come at the end of time to judge all the nations, but he (also) comes to us every day, in so many ways, and asks us to welcome him.”
Pope Francis spoke to around 30,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square before leading the Angelus prayer. Celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King, the Pope offered a reflection on the Last Judgment and Jesus’ “criteria” for entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
He explained how at the second coming, when Jesus appears “in divine glory,” he will summon all of humanity to him, separating the righteous from the unrighteous. And to the righteous he will say: “Come, blessed of my Father, receive as inheritance the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
This is because: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you dressed me, sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to see me.”
Francis noted how when Jesus speaks about the Final Judgment to his disciples, the men are surprised by his words, because they don’t remember meeting Jesus, let alone helping him in this way. So Jesus explains what he meant: “All you did to one of these the least of my brothers, you did to me.”
“This word never ceases to hit us,” Pope Francis said, “because it reveals to what extent God's love comes to us: to the point of being identified with us, but not when we are well, when we are healthy and happy, no, but when we are in need.”
In this way Jesus reveals “the decisive criterion of his judgment,” the Pope said, which is “concrete love for the neighbor in distress.”
We should ask the Virgin Mary to help us to not only meet Jesus in his Word and in the Eucharist, he continued, but “at the same time in the brothers and sisters suffering from hunger, illness, oppression, and injustice.”
“May our hearts welcome him into our life today, for we are welcomed by him into the eternity of his Kingdom of Light and Peace.”
After the Angelus Pope Francis expressed his sorrow for the attack on a mosque in Sinai, Egypt on Nov. 24 which killed more than 230 people and wounded hundreds more.
“I continue to pray for the many victims, for the wounded and for the whole community, so severely affected. God frees us from these tragedies and sustains the efforts of all those who work for peace, concord, and coexistence,” he said.
Just as those people were praying at the time of the attack, he then asked for a moment of silent prayer for those affected by the attack.
The Pope also recalled the beatification of Bl. Catalina de María Rodríguez, founder of the Congregation of Hermanas Esclavas of Corazón de Jesús, in Argentina on Saturday.
She lived in the 19th century and was first married. But when she became widowed she decided to consecrate herself to God and dedicate herself “to the spiritual and material care of the poorest and most vulnerable women.”
“We praise the Lord for this ‘passionate woman of the Heart of Jesus and of humanity,’” he said.
New York City, N.Y., Nov 25, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The international community must join forces to eliminate human trafficking and its root causes, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations said Tuesday.
“To eradicate trafficking in persons, we must confront all its economic, environmental, political, and ethical causes, but it is particularly important to prevent and end the wars and conflicts that make people especially vulnerable to being trafficked,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, said in an address this week.
“Wars and violent conflicts have become the biggest driving force of forced human displacement,” he said, noting that traffickers take advantage of the chaos of war to exploit vulnerable people, using them for sexual slavery or forced labor.
One typical consequence of war is a large population of displaced people, who usually become migrants and refugees in other countries, Auza added, which makes it especially important that countries also work to protect these populations.
In recent years, Europe has experienced a refugee crisis at a level unseen since World War II, with millions of people fleeing violence and instability largely in the Middle East, leaving a large number of people, particularly women and children, vulnerable to trafficking. According to reports from The Guardian, the European Union reported more than 15,000 cases of sex trafficking from 2013-2014, though authorities expect the actual number is much higher.
The United States had more than 5,000 reported cases of human trafficking in 2016.
“When states and the international community have failed to protect people from war and atrocities, such that people have felt compelled to flee their homes, we all have a great and urgent responsibility to protect them from further harm, including falling into the hands of human traffickers,” he said.
“The criminalization of forced migrants, and of undocumented and irregular migrants in general, exacerbates their vulnerabilities, drives them further into the clutches of traffickers and other extreme forms of exploitation, and renders them less likely to collaborate with the law enforcement authorities to catch and punish the traffickers,” Auza added.
While Auza praised previous efforts by the U.N. to eliminate human trafficking, “much more still needs to be done to achieve better coordination among governments, the judiciary, law enforcement officials and civil society.”
He also thanked faith-based communities and organizations who fight human trafficking and who accompany its victims, “in particular women religious, who have long been at the forefront in the fight against trafficking in persons,” he said.
“On the World Day against Trafficking in Persons this July, Pope Francis warned us all against ‘getting used’ to trafficking in persons, treating it as if it were a ‘normal thing,’ when in reality it is, he said, ‘ugly, cruel, criminal, an aberrant plague, a modern form of slavery, a crime against humanity,’” he said.
“In his name, my delegation renews the appeal for a universal commitment to ending this heinous crime.”
Vatican City, Nov 24, 2017 / 11:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a letter for the conclusion of a conference on labor on Friday, Pope Francis said work is about more than just doing something for money, but about cooperating with Christ’s work of redemption in how we care for others and the earth.
“According to Christian tradition, (work) is more than a mere doing; it is, above all, a mission,” the Pope said Nov. 24.
“We collaborate with the creative work of God when, through our work, we cultivate and preserve creation; we participate, in the Spirit of Jesus, in his redemptive mission, when by our activity we give sustenance to our families and respond to the needs of our neighbor.”
Jesus of Nazareth, who spent most of his life working as a carpenter, “invites us to follow in his footsteps through work,” he continued. This way, in the words of St. Ambrose, “every worker is the hand of Christ who continues to create and to do good.”
Pope Francis sent the letter for the conclusion of a Nov. 23-24 international conference at the Vatican on work and worker’s movements, and how these are at the heart of sustainable and integral human development.
At the same time that we consider the value of work, the Pope stressed the importance of not exaggerating the “mystical” side of work, as observed by Pope Paul VI. The person “is not just work,” Francis said. “There are other human needs that we must cultivate and consider, such as family, friends, and rest.”
This is why, he stated, it is important to remember that work must always serve the human person, and not the other way around. Therefore, “we must question the structures that damage or exploit people, families, the companies and our mother earth,” he said.
In the letter, the Pope decried the utilitarian attitude faced by many workers, who in their struggle for just work, have been forced to accept the presence of a utilitarian mentality which does not care if there is excess waste, “social and environmental degradation,” forced child labor, or pollution.
“Everything is justified by the money god,” Francis said, noting however that many of the people who participated in the conference have contributed to the fight against utilitarianism in the past and are “well positioned to correct it in the future.”
“Please address this difficult subject and show us, according to your prophetic and creative mission, that a culture of encounter and care is possible,” he said.
Drawing a connection between the three topics of time, work and technology, the Pope criticized the constant intensification of a rapid pace of both work and life, saying it is unfavorable for sustainable development.
Technology as well, which we receive many benefits and opportunities from, can also hinder sustainable development when “it is associated with a paradigm of power, dominance, and manipulation,” he said.
To talk about development in a fruitful way, we must start from what we have in common, he said, which is: our origin, our belonging and our destination. “On this basis, we can renew the universal solidarity of all people, including solidarity with the people of tomorrow.”
“We will also be able to find a way out of a marketplace and monetary economy that does not give work the value it is due, and move it towards another in which human activity is the center.”
Vatican City, Nov 24, 2017 / 09:26 am (CNA/EWTN News).- One of the Vatican's top diplomatic voices has criticized U.S. President Donald Trump's recent decision to end the Temporary Protected Status of thousands of Haitians taking refuge in the U.S., saying the country isn't yet ready for the influx after a slew of natural disasters devastated the island nation.
“That's a sad decision, because the Haitian population in the U.S. that arrived after the earthquake and after the storm that destroyed half of the island, cannot go back to a situation that still is very difficult,” Archbishop Silvano Tomasi told CNA Nov. 24.
Reconstruction in Haiti following the brutal 2010 earthquake that left hundreds of thousands dead before Hurricane Matthew struck in 2016, causing further devastation, “is not well-advanced,” Tomasi said, “because there are not enough resources for the people of Haiti.”
“We hope in the months ahead that there will still be some space to negotiate and delay, and continue the protection of status for Haitians in the United States.”
Archbishop Tomasi was formerly the Holy See's Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva, and is now Counselor for the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
He spoke during the Nov. 24 presentation of Pope Francis' message for the 2018 World Day of Peace, titled “Migrants and Refugees: men and women in search of peace,” and dedicated entirely to the issue of migration.
The message comes just four days after Trump administration announced it will be ending protected legal residency for an estimated 60,000 Haitians living in the U.S., giving them until July 2019 to return to their country.
Thousands of Haitians flocked to the United States in 2010 following a catastrophic earthquake that measured at 7.0 on the Richter scale and which killed more than 200,000, displaced more than 1 million, and destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in and around the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.
The Department of Homeland Security announced Monday that the “extraordinary conditions” necessitating TPS for Haitians in the United States “no longer exists.”
TPS, a policy begun in 1990, allows people who are unable safely to return to their home nations because of armed conflict, other violence, natural disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary circumstances to remain in the United States while the situation in their home country resolves.
However, the Trump administration's decision Monday has raised the question for many as to whether Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, will be able to support an influx of 60,000 people returning home after seven years.
As far as the Holy See is concerned, Tomasi said they are working with local bishops conferences and the apostolic nunciature in Washington D.C. “to sensitize...public opinion” on the issue, and to “deal with politically irresponsible people.”
They are also hoping to illustrate “the fact that we need not only to be compassionate, but to be attentive to the need of these populations, which is a fact that is of benefit also to the United States because it will create an area of peace and cooperation not only in the Caribbean, but in the region.”
When it comes to the migration issue, Tomasi said it's important to go beyond polemics and heated rhetoric.
Looking to what the reaction of many European countries has been to the arrival of refugees or asylum seekers, he said “there has been a multiplication of political parties where xenophobia dominates the goal of these organizations.”
“The solution is not to emphasize only security and control,” he said, but also involves thinking about how to welcome incoming migrants and refugees while taking into account “that the common good demands that both the necessity of the people arriving be taken into account, but also the limits that local communities welcoming them, accepting them, objectively have.”
“The important consideration I think is not to be too selfish, but to be open, to have a heart that is understanding and compassionate,” he said, adding that “we need to be men and women of compassion and empathy with the needs of others.”
Vatican City, Nov 24, 2017 / 07:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Friday encouraged Eastern Christians in the Middle East, who are experiencing persecution and violence, to take hope in the cross, where Christ sacrificed himself not to eliminate wounds, but to transform them.
“In all of this, the constant repetition of the sign of the cross is a reminder that the Lord of mercy never abandons his brothers and sisters, but embraces their wounds within his own,” the Pope said Nov. 24.
“By making the sign of the cross we recall Christ’s wounds, which the Resurrection did not eliminate but rather filled with light.”
“So too the wounds of Christians, including those still open, become radiant when they are filled with the living presence of Jesus and his love,” he continued, “and thus become signs of Easter light in a world enveloped by so much darkness.”
Pope Francis’ message was given to members of the Mixed Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
The commission is sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, which is an Eastern Christian Church found primarily in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon. The commission meets periodically to study and discuss points of theological difference.
In his message, Francis asked the Lord to bless the future work of the commission, that one day both Churches may celebrate “full communion in Christ’s Church.” He also emphasized an aspect of their new Joint Declaration, which refers to the sign of the cross as “an explicit symbol of unity among all sacramental celebrations.”
This is a beautiful reflection, he said, because “hope and peace” come from Christ’s glorious cross, “and from the cross flows the unity of the sacred mysteries we celebrate, as well as our own unity, for we were baptized into the same death and resurrection of the Lord.”
Pope Francis noted that when we make the sign of the cross, or when we look at a crucifix, it is an invitation to think of those who have endured great sacrifices by uniting their suffering to Christ’s. It also reminds us to remember those who “today bear a heavy cross upon their shoulders.”
The Assyrian Church of the East, and other Churches in the Middle East, are afflicted by grave persecution and are witness to “brutal acts of violence,” he stated. This suffering was recently “exacerbated” by the tragedy of the Nov. 13 earthquake that hit the border between Iraq and Iran, killing at least 500 people and injuring thousands of others.
Those who have died from tragedy and from persecution – giving their lives “in following the Crucified Christ” – are the “heralds and patrons” in heaven of our visible communion on earth, he exclaimed, encouraging them to trust in the intercession of the saints as they continue to patiently rebuild their devastated land.
Vatican City, Nov 24, 2017 / 04:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When it comes to migration, Pope Francis said the world, particularly Christians, must approach the issue with a “contemplative gaze” that goes beyond polemics and is guided by justice and solidarity, helping to build peace at both the global and local level.
Quoting St. John Paul II's message for the World Day of Peace in 2000, the Pope said, “we all belong to one family, migrants and the local populations that welcome them, and all have the same right to enjoy the goods of the earth whose destination is universal, as the social doctrine of the Church teaches.”
He referred to the biblical prophecies of Isaiah and the Apocalypse, which describe the “new Jerusalem” as a city whose gates are open to people from all nationalities. And in this city, “peace is the sovereign that guides it and justice the principle that governs coexistence within it.”
Christians must also have this “contemplative gaze,” he said, noting that when we look at migrants and refugees, we see that “they do not arrive empty-handed.” Rather, they bring with them their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the gift of their own culture, which enriches the lives of the nations that receive them.
Francis also pointed to the “creativity, tenacity and spirit of sacrifice” displayed by the many people, families and communities around who “open their doors and hearts to migrants and refugees, even where resources are scarce.”
A contemplative gaze on migration, he said, will also help guide global leaders in their discernment on the issue, and will encourage them to pursue policies of welcome “within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good,” while at the same time keeping in mind the needs of both the whole of humanity and the good of the individual.
“Those who see things in this way will be able to recognize the seeds of peace that are already sprouting and nurture their growth,” the Pope said.
And with this gaze, “our cities, often divided and polarized by conflicts regarding the presence of migrants and refugees, will thus turn into workshops of peace.”
Pope Francis' reflection was part of his message for the 2018 World Day of Peace, which this year is titled “Migrants and Refugees: men and women in search of peace.” Signed on the Nov. 13 feast of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the message was published Nov. 24.
Instituted by Bl. Pope Paul VI in 1968, the World Day of Peace is celebrated each year on the first day of January. The Pope gives a special message for the occasion, which is sent to all foreign ministers around the world, and which also indicates the Holy See’s diplomatic tone during the coming year.
So far Pope Francis’ messages have focused on themes close to his heart, such as fraternity, an end to slavery, including forced labor and human trafficking and nonviolence as a political strategy.
His messages for the event have consistently included bold pastoral and political advice for both ecclesial and international leaders, including his push for the abolition of the death penalty and amnesty for prisoners convicted of political offenses.
This year's message focuses largely on the four-point “action plan” the Holy See has developed for the migration issue and which Pope Francis and his diplomatic representatives have spoken of often, particularly at the level of the U.N. This plan consists of four verbs: to welcome, protect, promote and integrate.
These are the four “milestones” for action, Francis said, explaining in his message that to welcome means above all broadening access to legal pathways for entry into host countries. Doing this, he said, will no longer push migrants and displaced people “towards countries where they face persecution and violence.”
It will also help in terms of “balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights.”
When it comes to protecting migrants and refugees, this imperative reminds us of the need to both recognize and defend “the inviolable dignity” of those who flee from precarious situations in search of safety and security, in order to prevent their exploitation.
On this point, the Pope turned specifically to women and children, who are often exposed to risks and abuses “that can even amount to enslavement.”
To promote migrants and refugees, he said, implies promoting an integral human development of migrants and refugees, particularly where education for children and young adults is concerned.
Integrating, then, means allowing refugees and migrants “to participate fully in the life of the society that welcomes them, as part of a process of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation in service of the integral human development of the local community.”
With more than 250 million migrants around the world, 22.5 million of whom are refugees, opening our hearts is not enough, Francis said, but action is needed.
The 20th century was marked by wars, conflicts, genocides and 'ethnic cleansings,' he said, noting that this has not changed, but now other factors are contributing to the migration issue, such as an increase in the number of families seeking a better future with more professional and educational opportunities.
Referring to his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, the Pope noted that there is also a rise in the number of migrants fleeing growing poverty in their homeland caused by environmental degradation.
Most people migrate through regular channels, but some take more dangerous routes out of desperation when their own countries “offer neither safety nor opportunity, and every legal pathway appears impractical, blocked or too slow,” he said.
In many destination countries there has been a rise in rhetoric “decrying the risks posed to national security or the high cost of welcoming new arrivals.” And this rhetoric, he said, “demeans the human dignity due to all as sons and daughters of God.”
“Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great concern for all those concerned for the safety of every human being,” he said.
The numbers indicate that migrants will continue to play a major part in the international community in the future, Francis said. And while some consider this a threat, he invited the world “to view it with confidence as an opportunity to build peace.”
Pope Francis then turned to the proposal for the 2018 U.N. global compacts on migration and refugees, which he said will provide a framework for policy proposals and practical steps to be taken.
These compacts “need to be inspired by compassion, foresight and courage, so as to take advantage of every opportunity to advance the peace-building process,” he said. Only by doing this can international politics avoid “surrendering to cynicism and to the globalization of indifference.”
He stressed the need for greater dialogue and coordination within the international community, saying that beyond national borders, “higher numbers of refugees may be welcomed – or better welcomed – also by less wealthy countries, if international cooperation guarantees them the necessary funding.”
Quoting St. John Paul II's 2004 message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Francis said “if the dream of a peaceful world is shared by all, if the refugees’ and migrants’ contribution is properly evaluated, then humanity can become more and more of a universal family and our earth a true common home.”
Throughout history many people have believed in this dream, he said, including St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, a missionary who spent her life working with Italian immigrants in the United States.
“This remarkable woman, who devoted her life to the service of migrants and became their patron saint, taught us to welcome, protect, promote and integrate our brothers and sisters,” the Pope said.
He closed his message praying that through her intercession, the Lord would “enable all of us to experience that a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
Vatican City, Nov 23, 2017 / 10:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With plans to visit South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo this year thwarted by ongoing conflict, Pope Francis on Thursday led a prayer vigil for peace in the two countries, asking for an end to war and comfort for victims of the violence.
“We want to sow seeds of peace in the lands of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in all lands devastated by war,” the Pope said Nov. 23.
Pope Francis had planned to visit South Sudan this fall alongside Anglican Primate Archbishop Joseph Welby for an ecumenical trip aimed at promoting peace in the conflict-ridden country. However, due to safety concerns, the visit was postponed until the situation on the ground stabilizes.
Though he was unable to go, Pope Francis said in his homily for the prayer vigil that “we know that prayer is more important, because it is more powerful: prayer works by the power of God, for whom nothing is impossible.”
South Sudan has been in the middle of a brutal civil war for the past three-and-a-half years, which has divided the young country between those loyal to its President Salva Kiir and those loyal to former vice president Reik Machar. The conflict has also bred various divisions of militia and opposition groups.
Since the beginning of the war, some 4 million citizens have left the violence-stricken country in hopes of finding peace, food and work. In August alone Uganda received the one-millionth South Sudanese refugee, highlighting the urgency of the crisis as the world's fastest growing refugee epidemic.
For those who have not fled the nation, many internally displaced persons (IDPs) are seeking refuge in churches for protection from violence. Most IDPs are typically women, children and those who have lost their families in the war.
Many are too fearful to stay in their homes because they know they could be killed, tortured, raped or even forced to fight. And despite successful partnerships between the local Church, aid agencies and the government, refugees in many areas still need a proper supply of food.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, political unrest first erupted in 2015 after a bill was proposed which would potentially delay the presidential and parliamentary elections. The bill was widely seen by the opposition as a power grab on the part of Kabila.
Relations between the government and the opposition deteriorated further when a Kasai chief was killed last August, after calling on the central government to quit meddling in the territory, insisting it be controlled by the local leaders.
Catholic bishops in the country had helped to negotiate an agreement, which hoped to prevent a renewed civil war by securing an election this year for the successor of President Kabila. However, in January of this year, the bishops said the agreement was expected to fail unless both parties were willing to compromise. In March, the bishops withdrew from mediation talks.
With a history of bloody ethnic rivalries and clashes over resources, fears have developed that the violence in Kasai, a hub for political tension, will spread to the rest of the nation and even lead to the involvement of neighboring countries.
In the past year alone, more than 3,300 people have been killed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kasai region. The death toll includes civilians caught in the crossfire of a brutal fight between the Congolese army and an opposing militia group.
In his brief homily for the prayer vigil, Pope Francis noted how in the entrance hymn, the words “the risen Christ invites us, alleluia!” were sung in Swahili. As Christians, “we believe and know that peace is possible, because Jesus is risen,” he said.
The prayer vigil consisted of five prayers each followed by a song and prayers of intercession, as well as the famous prayer of St. Francis of Assisi asking God to make him an instrument of peace.
The prayers consisted of petitions for conversion; to overcome indifference and divisions; for women who are victims of violence in war zones; for all those who cause war and for those who have responsibility at the local and international levels; for all innocent victims of war and violence and for all those committed to working for peace in South Sudan and the Congo.
Quoting from St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, Pope Francis said that Jesus Christ “is our peace,” and that on the cross, “he took upon himself all the evil of the world, including the sins that spawn and fuel wars: pride, greed, lust for power, lies.”
“Jesus conquered all this by his resurrection,” he said, and, speaking directly to God, said, that “without you, Lord, our prayer would be in vain, and our hope for peace an illusion. But you are alive. You are at work for us and with us. You are our peace!”
Francis then prayed that the Risen Christ would “break down the walls of hostility” that divide peoples throughout the world, particularly in South Sudan and the DCR.
He asked that God would comfort women who have been victims of violence in war zones, and protect children who suffer from various conflicts “in which they have no part, but which rob them of their childhood and at times of life itself.”
“How hypocritical it is to deny the mass murder of women and children,” he said, noting that “here war shows its most horrid face.”
The Pope closed his prayer with a series of appeals, the first being that God would help “all the little ones and the poor of our world to continue to believe and trust that the kingdom of God is at hand, in our midst, and is justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
He asked that God would support all those who work daily to combat evil with good through words and deeds of fraternity, respect, encounter and solidarity, and prayed that the Lord would strengthen government officials and leaders with a spirit that is “noble, upright, steadfast and courageous in seeking peace through dialogue and negotiation.”
“May the Lord enable all of us to be peacemakers wherever we find ourselves, in our families, in school, at work, in the community, in every setting,” he said.
Vatican City, Nov 23, 2017 / 07:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said on Thursday to always be humble when serving others, especially the least of these, remembering how much you yourself have received that you did not deserve.
“When you do some activity for the 'little ones,' the excluded and the least, never do it from a pedestal of superiority,” Pope Francis said Nov. 23. “Think rather that all that you do for them is a way of returning what you have received for free.”
“Make a welcoming and friendly space for all the least of these of our time to come into your life: the marginalized, men and women who live in our streets, parks or stations; the thousands of unemployed, young people and adults,” he continued.
As well as the “many sick people who do not have access to adequate care; many abandoned elders; mistreated women; immigrants seeking a respectable life; all those who live in the existential suburbs, deprived of dignity and even the light of the Gospel.”
Learn to be, as St. Francis said, “sick with the sick, afflicted with the afflicted,” the Pope said.
Francis met Thursday with a group of around 400 Franciscans, members of the First and Third Ordinary Orders, encouraging them to approach everything they do with the humility of a child.
“That is why your relationship with Him should be that of a child: humble and confident and, like that of the Publican in the Gospel, (who is) aware of his sin,” and asks for God’s mercy.
The Pope said that the Franciscan concept of “minority,” or of humbling yourself, is an important aspect of their relationships with God, with their brothers in the order, and with all men and women, because for St. Francis, “man has nothing of his own if not his own sin, and his value is his worth before God and nothing else.”
But how do we remain humble in all our relationships and interactions with others? he asked. By avoiding any behavior of superiority, such as quick judgments, speaking badly of others behind their back, demanding repayment for favors, and using our authority to subdue others.
We should also try to avoid the temptation to become angry or upset at others’ sins. In all your interactions with fellow brothers of the order, follow “the dynamism of charity,” the Pope said.
“Therefore, while justice will bring you to recognize the rights of everyone, charity transcends these rights and calls you to fraternal communion; because it is not the rights you love, but the brothers, whom you have to accept with respect, understanding and mercy.”
Vatican City, Nov 22, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Seminarians studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome have a lot to be thankful for come Thanksgiving Day. Among them is their community, and also for home-baked pumpkin pie, made by their fellow students, the fifth-year student priests of the college.
Fr. Kevin Ewing, a newly-ordained priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, is the leader of this year’s seven intrepid volunteers, who during two afternoons before Thanksgiving will assemble and bake 90 pumpkin pies, to be eaten at the NAC’s annual Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.
Situated atop Janiculum hill overlooking the Vatican, the campus is home to roughly 250 seminarians and priests studying in Rome for the Church in the U.S., Canada and Australia, as well as numerous faculty members and graduate students.
Since the students aren’t able to return home for the holiday, they try to make it a big community event, especially for seminarians who may be experiencing their first time away from home for a holiday.
Fr. Daniel Hanley, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, VA and the director of admissions for the college, told CNA that his favorite part of the festivities “is the spirit that's engendered here among the men.”
During a time usually associated with family, it can be difficult for some students to be away from home, he said, but “the whole spirit of the house is a desire to make the day good for each other.”
And the fifth-year students baking the pies? That’s gone on a long time, something Hanley remembers as already a part of long-established tradition when he was a student in Rome in the early 2000s.
This year’s seven priests have limited baking acumen, but “as long as there’s enough people there willing to lend a hand and follow the recipe and watch the oven it’ll come out alright,” Ewing said.
Part of the tradition also includes the fifth-year priests, and transitional deacons not returning to Rome the following year, serving the dinner, Ewing explained: “It’s a way of giving back to the community in a way that we’ve received now for four or five years.”
On Thanksgiving, the day’s festivities will begin around 6 am with a newer development, the NAC’s very own 5k “Turkey Trot,” which starts at the college, and winds around the outside of the Vatican, before returning, uphill, to the seminary.
“Its claim to fame is it's the only Turkey Trot to go around a sovereign nation,” joked third-year seminarian Michael Buck.
An Australian, studying for the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Buck will be celebrating only his third Thanksgiving this year. He said that “discovering the tradition” has definitely been one of the great joys of being at the seminary.
Following the run, seminarians will meet back in their halls to enjoy a leisurely breakfast together before preparing for the noon Mass, which is “the center of our day,” stated Hanley.
The big meal will follow, including guests and friends from around Rome, especially American expats. Another tradition is for seating to be arranged according to home state, tables adorned with state-themed décor, such as sports jerseys or a papier-mâché cactus.
The Australian students – there are five – usually sit at a table together, but have decided this year to spread themselves out among the Americans, Buck said, as a way of more fully integrating into the holiday.
The dinner, which “captures most the festive atmosphere of the day,” according to Buck, will be a traditional American dinner in most ways – complete with turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy. But because they’re still in Rome, a dish of ravioli will provide an Italian twist.
After dinner there will be some free-time, and students often use that opportunity to make video calls home to their families.
Fr. Hanley noted that one of his favorite memories of Thanksgiving Day was walking into the chapel after dinner one year to offer a personal prayer of thanksgiving, and finding more than 100 seminarians praying before the Blessed Sacrament.
“It wasn’t an event, it was just that all these other men decided to go in and pray… and give thanks on Thanksgiving,” he said.
The final event of the holiday weekend will be the “Spaghetti Bowl,” an annual flag football match between a team of “new men” of the seminary, first-year and new transfer students, and a team of upperclassmen, nicknamed the “old men.”
A lot of the weekend is designed, Hanley said, to strengthen “the bond of the new men class – with each other – and then to strengthen their bond as members of this community.” Though most people would want to be home for Thanksgiving if they could, he noted that most seminarians seem to look forward to the weekend.
“There is certainly an atmosphere of thanksgiving and an atmosphere of taking stock” over the day’s celebrations, Buck explained, as well as joy for getting to spend the day together.
As an Aussie, Buck also wanted to offer his own gratitude for the holiday and getting to participate, saying he shares his own “thanksgiving for being able to share in Thanksgiving.”
Vatican City, Nov 22, 2017 / 11:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, Pope Francis blasted what he has often referred to as “ideological colonization,” which he said is a sin against God that leads to persecution.
This persecution can have both spiritual and cultural elements, and can have both religious and political motives, he said. Cultural persecution occurs when a new culture comes in and wants “to make everything new and to make a clean break with everything” that was there prior, wiping away “the cultures, the laws and the religions of a people.”
In the past, Francis has often used the term “ideological colonization” in describing what he views as the oppression of developing nations by more powerful ones, particularly in the West, who seek to impose their values on poorer countries by making the adoption of these values a condition for humanitarian aid or development money.
Two examples of this “ideological colonization” Francis has spoken of frequently are the distribution of condoms in developing nations and the promotion of gender theory.
Speaking from the chapel of the Vatican's Saint Martha guesthouse during his daily homily Nov. 21, the Pope centered his reflection on the martyrdom of Eleazar in the day's first reading from the Second Book of Maccabees.
Eleazar, a wise elderly man who was well respected by his peers, was forced by the king, Antiochus Ephiphanes, to eat pork, which the Jews considered unclean and forbidden for consumption. Under penalty of death, Eleazar refused to eat it, even when friends urged him to substitute the pork with another meat, pretending to eat it while really consuming something acceptable.
To do this, Eleazar argued, would not only be dishonest and go against his own life's convictions, but could also cause scandal for the youth, who would think that he had violated the law and may be tempted to do so as well.
He was then tortured and killed for choosing to remain faithful to God's law, which Pope Francis said was the result of a cultural persecution.
Francis said the persecution that eventually led to Eleazar's martyrdom began in the previous day's reading, also from Maccabees, when some of the people, after seeing the Antiochus Ephiphanes' power and beauty, asked the king to give them the faculty to “introduce the pagan institutions of other nations.”
Yet while many people left tradition behind and accepted the pagan way of doing things, there were some, like Eleazar and other martyrs spoken of in the Book of Maccabees, who sought to defend the “true traditions” of the people.
Francis called King Antiochus Epifanes the “perverse root” that gave birth to this persecution through a desire to cling to power.
“And this is the path of cultural colonization that ends up persecuting believers too,” he said, adding that “we do not have to go too far to see some examples: we think of the genocides of the past century, which were a new, cultural thing: 'Everyone equal, and those who don't have pure blood, out.'”
With this mentality, “there is no place for differences, there is no place for others, there is no place for God,” he said.
Pointing to how Eleazar died saying he wanted to leave the youth with a good example to follow, the Pope said Eleazar gave his life for love of God and of the Law, and so became “a root for the future.”
Faced with the perverse root that leads to this ideological and cultural colonization, “there is this other root that gives (his) life for the future to grow.”
Not everything new is bad, Francis clarified, pointing to the novelty of Jesus' message in the Gospel. Because of this, he stressed the importance of knowing how to discern, asking, “Is this new thing from the Lord, does it come from the Holy Spirit, is it rooted in God? Or does this newness come from a perverse root?”
In an apparent reference to abortion, the Pope noted how in the past “it was a sin to kill children,” but now “it is not a problem, it is a perverse novelty.”
God's novelty, he said, never “negotiates,” but rather, grows and looks toward the future, whereas ideological and cultural colonizations “only look to the present; they deny the past, and do not look to the future. They live in the moment, not in time, and so they can’t promise us anything.”
This attitude of trying to make everyone equal and eradicate differences, he said, is “a blasphemy against God the Creator,” because each time an ideological or cultural colonization comes along, “it wants to change Creation as it was made by (God).”
In the face of this, Pope Francis said there is only one remedy: “bearing witness; that is, martyrdom” of people such as Eleazar.
“Yes, I dialogue with those who think otherwise, but my testimony is thus, according to the law of God,” he said, noting that Eleazar doesn't think about money or power, but looks to the future and “the legacy of his testimony” for the youth.
Eleazar's witness, then, becomes a root that gives life to others, Francis said, and voiced his hope that this testimony “will help us in moments of confusion in the face of the cultural and spiritual colonization that is being proposed to us.”
Vatican City, Nov 22, 2017 / 03:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that when we attend Mass, it is as if we are approaching Jesus on the Cross at Calvary, and that at every Eucharist we not only experience Christ’s redemption, but we participate in it.
“When we go to Mass, it is as if we go to Calvary, the same,” Pope Francis said Nov. 22. “This is the Mass: to enter into this Passion, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.”
When we enter the church for Mass, we should think to ourselves: “I enter Calvary, where Jesus gives his life for me,” the Pope continued, saying he is sure we would respond to this “in silence, in weeping,” and also with joy, because we have been saved from death and sin.
At the general audience, Pope Francis continued his new catechesis on the Mass and the Eucharist by reflecting on what he said is the essential element of every Mass – that it is a "memorial of the Paschal Mystery of Christ."
Imagine that you are actually at Calvary, he continued. In that moment, you would look up and know that the man upon the cross is Jesus. Would you allow yourself to make chit-chat or take pictures? “No, because Jesus (is there)!”
Quoting from Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution of the Church, Francis said that “As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on.”
This means, he explained, that Christ’s Passion and death are taking place every time we celebrate Mass, and our participation in the Eucharist, “brings us into the Paschal Mystery of Christ.”
And if we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, “in faith,” he noted, then “we too can truly love God and neighbor, we can love how He loved us, giving life.”
In the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus, “pours upon us all his mercy and love, as he did on the cross, so as to renew our heart, our existence, and our way of communicating with Him and with our brothers.”
Christ’s Passion and death is the ultimate victory over death, Francis emphasized, because he transformed his death “into the supreme act of love.”
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Relations with mainland China have long been an interest for the Holy See, and the Vatican Museums have now partnered with a Chinese cultural institute in hopes of building stronger ties with the country through art.
Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums, said Nov. 21 that in recent months “we have found ourselves, perhaps unexpectedly, in a shared awareness, which is the common task that is required today, even more so in the past, of a reality such as ours: to be able to speak in a universal language.”
This language, she said, “can only be that of beauty, which is a powerful appeal to harmony (and) is an extraordinary vehicle to always speak, in every latitude and longitude (and) without fear, without barriers.”
“I think beauty – in the broadest sense of the term – is needed by everyone,”she said, and voiced her believe that beauty is “the key to what the Vatican Museums calls 'the diplomacy of art,' which is certainly not our discovery...but which today is up to us to carry forward and creatively reinterpret in a constant confrontation with the global scene that is in front of us.”
Jatta said she believes these are the types of initiatives the museums ought to be pursuing, and is convinced “that the activities that we present today will bring an abundant harvest and will be a positive sign of hope which, looking around, we all need!”
Jatta spoke at the presentation of an initiative being launched by the Vatican Museums and the China Cultural Industrial Investment Fund, who are joining forces to promote two different exhibits which will be displayed simultaneously in the Vatican Museums and the Forbidden City palace complex in Beijing in the spring of 2018.
The exhibits mark the first time the Vatican Museums and a Chinese cultural institution have collaborated, and are the result of a joint-project between the two called “Beauty Unites Us,” aimed at creating various forms of cultural collaboration through art.
The title of the exhibit that will be shown in the Vatican is “Anima Mundi: Human, nature and harmony,” while the exhibit on display in China is titled “Beauty Unites Us: The trip in the marvelous harmony between the Chinese people and the Vatican museums.”
According to a press release on the exhibits, they are meant to witness to how art can be an instrument of dialogue and encounter between people from different cultures.
Among the pieces selected for the simultaneous exhibit are 12 paintings from Chinese artist Zhang Yan, who has donated several of his works to Pope Francis, including one that will become a permanent addition to the Vatican's “Anima Mundi” museum.
The Vatican will send 40 works to China for the exhibit, including 38 pieces of ancient Chinese art from the “Anima Mundi” museum, and a painting by Zhang Yan that he donated to the Pope. After its debut in Beijing, the exhibit will travel to other major cities in China.
Speaking alongside Jatta at the press conference on the exhibits were Msgr. Paolo Nicolini, Administrative Delegate of the Vatican Museums; Fr. Nicola Mapelli, Curator of the “Anima Mundi” museums; Zhu Jiancheng, Secretary General of the China Culture Investment Fund; and painter Zhang Yan.
In comments to journalists, Zhu thanked the Vatican for their “scrupulous organization and warm hospitality.”
He voiced his belief that the exhibits “will open a new chapter in the cultural exchange between the Chinese people and the Vatican, so that there is a new approach and understanding between two countries with a deep cultural tradition.”
As the first of its kind, the event holds significant meaning in terms of mutual understanding and trust between the two parties, he said, and, quoting the third century BC philosopher Han Fei, said, “relations between nations depend on the closeness of peoples, and the closeness of peoples depends on the communication of hearts.”
“We all know that this is also the thought of Pope Francis,” he said, adding that “cultural exchange precedes diplomacy.”
The exhibits, then, are an event that “crosses borders, time and unites cultures, and which will further strengthen the friendship between China and the Vatican in favor of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See.”
In his comments, Zhang said it was “a great honor” to be at the Vatican, where there is currently an increase in the “strong commitment for the development of civil relations between China and the Vatican.”
On behalf of the 1.38 million people of Chinese nationality, Zhang expressed his “sincere homage to the true friendship of Pope Francis,” and to all those who have contributed to the cultural exchanges between China and the Vatican.
The two simultaneous exhibits, he said, “represent the two ends of a bridge of civil dialogue – as a messenger of this cultural exchange, it is my pleasure and privilege to transmit the greeting and friendship of the Chinese people.”
The artist stressed that no matter what nation we come from or what creed we profess, “nothing in the world is irrelevant with us.”
“Even Chinese culture and the Vatican need communication and exchange, as with all cultures on the earth,” he said, adding that the “disinterested friendship” between China and Pope Francis and the idea that we are all one family “push men to rethink the relationship between humanity, life, society and nature.”
“The aesthetics of art,” he said, “will reveal in us the complete awareness of the environment, benevolence and tolerance. Dialogue among us is possible and inevitable because of our common sense of benevolence.”
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 06:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis sent a video greeting to the people of Bangladesh ahead of his Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit to the country, saying he is looking forward to meeting everyone, especially Catholics and other religious leaders, and to bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“I want to meet the entire people,” he said. “In a special way, I cannot wait to meet the religious leaders in Ramna (Park).” Located in the central part of the capital city Dhaka, Ramna Park has a lake and trees and is considered one of the most beautiful areas of the city.
In the video, published Nov. 21, he also emphasized his wish to reaffirm the Catholic community of Bangladesh in “its faith and in its testimony of the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and calls us to open our hearts to others, especially the poor and needy.”
Francis also said that in his visit he comes as a “minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to proclaim his message of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace.”
This is a time when we all, both believers and non-believers, are called to promote understanding and respect, and support each other as part of “one human family,” he said.
The Pope's visit is the second leg of an apostolic trip to the countries of Burma – also known as Myanmar – and Bangladesh from Nov. 27 to Dec. 2.
He will arrive in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, from Burma on Nov. 30 in the afternoon. There will be a formal welcoming ceremony and then he will make a visit to the National Martyr's Memorial in Savar, about 22 miles north-west of the capital.
The National Martyr's Memorial in Savar is the national monument of Bangladesh. It stands in memory of all those who gave their lives in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which brought independence and separated Bangladesh from Pakistan.
He will also visit the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, which honors the former Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman, who was assassinated alongside his family in August 1975.
From there he will meet with the President of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid. Afterward he will deliver a speech in a meeting with governmental authorities, leaders of the civil society and with the diplomatic corps.
On Dec. 1, Francis will celebrate Mass and a priestly ordination at Suhrawardy Udyan Park. In the afternoon he will visit the Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina and the cathedral.
Later he will give speeches in meetings with the bishops of Bangladesh and with interreligious leaders and an ecumenical group for peace.
In the morning on Dec. 2 he will make a private visit to the Mother Teresa House in the Tejgaon district of Dhaka.
Afterward he will meet and address priests, religious, consecrated, seminarians and novices in the Church of the Holy Rosary, which was built in the late 1600s and is the oldest church building still-standing in Dhaka. The Pope will visit the church and the parish cemetery during his visit.
Francis' final encounter of the trip will be with youth at the Notre Dame College of Dhaka, where he will deliver a speech before leaving for the airport and the official leaving ceremony before departing for Rome. He is expected to land back in Rome at about 11p.m. local time.
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 05:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis' appointment of Fr. Shawn McKnight as the next bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, and Msgr. Mark Spalding as the new leader of the Diocese of Nashville.
In a Nov. 21 statement coinciding with the Vatican announcement, Fr. Michael Johnston, who until now has served as Apostolic Administrator for the Nashville diocese, voiced his gratitude to both Pope Francis for the appointment, and to Msgr. Spalding himself for his “generosity” in accepting the role.
Spalding, Johnston said, “is a man filled with enthusiasm and excitement” for his new responsibilities, and is someone who has “a strong work ethic, a deep love for the Lord and his people, and a great desire to lead and serve.”
“He has already expressed such a keen interest in learning about the Diocese of Nashville, in listening to our needs and our hopes and dreams, and then discerning the direction the Holy Spirit wishes to take us,” Johnston said. “With God’s gift to him of this spirit of service and willingness to lead us, we are truly blessed.”
Spalding, 52, who until now has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General and pastor of Holy Trinity parish and Holy Name parish, was born Jan. 13, 1965, in Lebanon, Ky.
After graduating from Bethlehem High School Bardstown, he entered St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and was ordained a priest Aug. 3, 1991, in the St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral of Bardstown.
Before his ordination, he studied from 1987-1991 at the American University in Louvain, Belgium, where he obtained a master degree in religious studies and a licentiate in canon law.
Since then, he has served at a number of parish assignments, including associate pastor at St. Joseph and chaplain at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, associate pastor at St. Augustine in Lebanon, Ky., associate pastor at St. Margaret Mary in Louisville and pastor of Immaculate Conception in LaGrange.
Since 2011 he has served the Archdiocese of Louisville as Vicar General. His ordination and installation as Bishop of Nashville will take place Feb. 2, 2018, at Sagrado Corazon in the Catholic Pastoral Center on McGavock Pike.
In his comments on Msgr. Spalding's appointment, Johnston said Louisville would be losing a “fine priest,” but offered his assurance that the bishop-elect would be “loved and cared for” as he begins his new role.
Fr. McKnight, who was born in Wichita, Kan. In 1968, got a degree in biochemistry from the University of Dallas before entering seminary in 1990.
He carried out his seminary studies at the Pontifical “Josephinum” College in Columbus, Ohio, and was ordained a priest May 28, 1994, for the Diocese of Wichita.
The bishop-elect then obtained a licentiate and doctorate degree in sacramental theology from the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm in Rome and published several articles on relevant pastoral and sacramental themes, finishing his studies in 2001.
After his ordination, he served the diocese in various pastoral, teaching and diocesan roles, the most recent being pastor of the Church of the Magdalen Parish in Wichita.
From 2000-2005, McKnight served as Director of diocesan Divine Worship and was a diocesan consultant and a member of the Presbyteral Council. From 2005-2010 he was a faculty member at Saint Meinrad Seminary working in the formation of permanent deacons.
After, from 2010-2015, the bishop-elect served as Executive Director of the USCCB's Office for Clergy and Consecrated Life. In 2015, he was assigned to the Church of the Magdalen parish, where he has served until now.
Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 05:00 am (CNA).- To prepare for Pope Francis’ trip to Burma, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the first and sole Burmese cardinal in the Church’s history, met with the Pontiff in a private audience Nov. 18. The cardinal offered the Pope three recommendations for his upcoming trip.
Cardinal Bo told CNA that “the meeting lasted about 30 minutes,” and that the Pope took each of his recommendations under consideration.
What did Cardinal Bo recommend?
First, he asked the Pope not to use the term “Rohingya” in speeches during the trip. Cardinal Bo explained that “the term is controversial.” In the Bengali language it means “a person who comes from the State of Rakhine”, though it is frequently suggested, and a matter of widespread controversy, that Rohingya are “a separate ethnic identity.”
“Extremists are trying to mobilize a population by using the word Rohingya, thus generating the risk of a possible new interreligious conflict,” the cardinal explained.
The term “Rohingya” often refers to Muslims from in the Rakhine State of Burma, who are not granted citizenship under Burmese law, and thus are stateless. The United Nations estimated that 582,000 Rohingya have fled Burma for Bangladesh. Pope Francis has made a number of appeals for the protection of the Rohingya.
Cardinal Bo said that the correct term is “Muslims of the Rakhine State.” He added that there are other minorities in Burmese territory who are enduring persecution and conflicts, among them the Kachin, Kahn, and Shahn people. He said these ethnic minorities also face displacement, but the “media are weak in telling their story.”
Cardinal Bo’s second recommendation was to include in the Pope’s schedule a meeting with General Min Aung Hlaing, the Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed Forces. Burma functioned as a military dictatorship for more than 50 years, until democratic reforms taking root in 2011.
Despite newly emerging signs of democratic reform in Burma, also called Myanmar, the military still wields considerable political authority, including the appointment of cabinet ministers, and one-quarter of the nation’s legislature.
Although the Pope’s agenda has no meeting scheduled with the general, Cardinal Bo thinks it is important that a meeting take place. “For sixty years,” he said, “the Church has had no dialogue with the Army, while now a relationship has started, and we hope that the dialogue will improve.”
Cardinal Bo stressed that “an official meeting between the Pope and the general” would raise some issues, but there could be “a discreet private meeting,” because “neglecting the government during this trip could bring more tensions in future.” Cardinal Bo said that the Pope “would advise the general to work for peace, and have a greater respect for Burmese ethnic minority groups.”
Finally, the Archbishop of Yangon offered the Pope the opportunity to include a meeting with some Burmese leaders who promote interreligious dialogue.
He told CNA that the group of leaders is composed of “about 15 people, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims (including Muslims of the Rakhine State) and Hindus.” Cardinal Bo suggested the Pope include a meeting with them before one of the Masses the Pope will celebrate in the country. He told the Pope that “the group for the interreligious dialogue cannot be set aside, because this group could give a great contribution to build peace in the country.”
All of these suggestions are part of the Church’s effort to bridge communities in Burma. Although Catholics represent just one percent of population, they have become a sort of reference point for the other religions based in Burma, the cardinal said.
The cardinal shared with CNA that “Pope’s speeches will touch many issues: the situation of the Muslims of the Rakhine State, but also that of other minorities who are suffering.”
He added that “the Pope will speak about the need to work for peace,” but he will also mention the “equal use of natural resources” and environmental issues.
Burma is very rich in natural resources, including oil, gas, minerals, precious stones and gems, as well as timber and forest products. Despite that, about one-quarter of population lives below the poverty line. The exploitation of timber and forests make urgent the need to tackle environmental issues.
Burma’s complicated political situation led Cardinal Bo to ask Western world that “there are in fact two government in Myanmar, and the military one is very powerful. The west was very judgmental and strongly criticized Aung san Suu Kyi [a democratic reformer who has been criticized regarding certain human rights issues], but people who criticize don’t know what it means to dialogue with the military.”
Cardinal Bo said that “the west should better understand and back Aung San Suu Kyi, as she is trying to do her best to improve the collaboration between the government and military forces.”
Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At a Nov. 17 ceremony at the Polish Embassy to the Holy See, Ambassador Janusz Kotanski delivered a relic of Pope St. John Paul II to Panama’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Miroslava Rosas Vargas. The relic is a gift from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz to the Church in Panama, as it prepares to host the 2019 World Youth Day.
John Paul II created World Youth Day in 1985 to harness the energy of young people and encourage them to participate in his call for a “new evangelization.” The first World Youth Day gathering took place in Rome in 1986. The gatherings, held every three years, draw millions of participants from around the world. The late Pope also created a special “youth section” within the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Laity, charged with coordinating World Youth Days.
In attendance at the ceremony delivering the relic were Polish Cardinal Stanis?aw Ry?ko, former head of the Pontifical Council for Laity and organizer of World Youth Day; Panamanian Cardinal José Luis Lacunza, and Hondurian Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the Council of Cardinals called by Pope Francis to advise him in the government of the Church. Cardinal Maradiaga’s presence was a reminder to many of the 2019 World Youth Day’s regional importance.
During the ceremony Cardinal Rylko called John Paul II the "Pope of the youth,” because of the focus on young people that defined his papacy and his pastoral ministry.
Ambassador Kotanski expressed hope that World Youth Day in Panama would continue the “renewed springtime of the Church” called for by the late Pope. He also noted that Polish youth have begun a prayer campaign for the success of the 2019 World Youth Day, and expressed hope that the prayer campaign and relic would be a bridge between Central American and Europe.
Ambassador Vargas of Panama remarked that "to host World Youth Day is a great privilege." The ambassador’s memories of John Paul II included "the sweet and profound look, typical of the saints, the invitation to dialogue and to communication, the faith and missionary zeal so that humanity can live in a better world."
John Paul II’s "values, his principles and his love live still,” Vargas added, giving thanks that the late Pope "will be always present in the prayers of us all."
This article was originally published in Italian by our sister agency, ACI Stampa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has established a third section, or department, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, which reportedly began its operations Nov. 9. The new section is named “Section for the Diplomatic Staff,” and is tasked with overseeing the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, stationed around the world.
Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski has been appointed to helm the third section. Previously the apostolic nuncio to Gabon, in 2015 Archbishop Pawlowski was appointed head of the Office for Pontifical Representations, a sort of “human resources office” within the Secretariat of State.
That office has been now elevated into an independent department, alongside the two sections that already constitute the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
The First Section of the Secretariat of State oversees the general affairs of the Roman Curia, and is led by the Secretariat’s “substitute,” currently Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu.
The second section, the “Section for the Relations with States”, is entrusted with the diplomatic activity of the Holy See. At the helm of the office is the Secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican “foreign minister.” Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, of Great Britain, holds the post.
The Pope established the third section via a letter sent in October to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and delivered to the Apostolic Nunciatures, the embassies of the Holy See, around over the world.
In his letter, the Pope expressed that he had “great care for those who assist the ministry of Rome”, both “those who work in the Holy See, and in the Vatican City State, and in the Apostolic See” and its related institutions.
The Pope recalled his address to the Roman Curia for the 2013 Christmas greeting, and said that “since the beginning” he proposed the criteria of “professionalism, service, and holiness of life” in order to be a good Vatican official.
Pope Francis also underscored that he expressed “vivid appreciation” for the work of “pontifical representatives,” an “important work, that undergoes peculiar difficulties.”
He then explained that his decision was motivated by the need to provide “more human, priestly, spiritual and professional accompaniment” to those who are “in the diplomatic service of the Holy See,” whether they are head of mission or even students at the Ecclesiastical Academy, where young priests are trained for diplomatic service.
The letter says that “the Office of the Delegate for the Pontifical Representation is strengthened into a Third Section, with the name of Section for the Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See”; the office “will depend from the Secretary of State,” will be given “a proper number of officials” and will demonstrate “the Pope’s attention to the diplomatic staff.”
The Pope’s letter also says that the delegate “will be able to regularly visit pontifical representatives” and will oversee the “permanent selection” of staff as well of “career advancement” for diplomatic personnel.
According to a source within the Secretariat of State, this reform is just one step toward a general reorganization of the Secretariat of State.
The Council of Cardinals has discussed several times the importance of clarifying and supporting the role of nuncios and diplomatic staff.