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Updated: 17 min 23 sec ago

Pope Francis talks nuclear war, North Korea during in-flight presser

Sun, 04/30/2017 - 02:50

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2017 / 02:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During a press conference Saturday aboard the papal plane from Egypt to Rome, Pope Francis said that in the face of conflict and the possibility of nuclear war, United Nations leaders need to provide a strong leadership, focusing on diplomacy and peaceful negotiation.

“I always say to resolve problems on the path of diplomacy, negotiation.”

To find diplomatic solutions to conflict “I believe that the United Nations has the duty to resume their leadership, because it's been watered down a bit,” he told journalists April 29.

Asked what he would say to leaders, considering the fear surrounding the possibility of nuclear attack from North Korea, the Pope said that he would call on them to resolve problems “along the path of diplomacy,” like he has called on leaders to resolve a variety of problems.

“The path is the path of negotiation, the path of diplomatic solutions,” he said. “This world war in pieces of which I've been talking about for two years, more or less, it's in pieces, but the pieces have gotten bigger, they are concentrated, they are focused on points that are already hot.”

“Things are already hot, as the issue of missiles in North Korea has been there for more than a year, now it seems that the thing has gotten too hot.”

The issue of nuclear weapons in North Korea has been at the forefront as the UN Security Council met April 28 to discuss how to enforce the several sanctions they have already imposed on North Korea, such as resolution 2321, passed in Nov. 2016, after North Korea’s latest successful nuclear test on Sept. 9 of that year.

Hours after their meeting, North Korea filed another missile – early Saturday local time – which exploded within seconds of being launched, American and South Korean defense officials said.

Ahead of the Security Council meeting, U.S. President Donald Trump said that if diplomatic efforts fail, the U.S. is willing to engage with North Korea directly over ending its nuclear weapons program.

Direct conflict is possible, though “he would love to solve things diplomatically,” he said in an interview with Reuters April 28.

The question concerning the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea was asked during the flight back to Rome after the Pope’s April 28-29 trip to Cairo, Egypt.

During the 32-minute long press conference, the Pope also addressed peace in the Middle East and the situation in Venezuela. He also responded to a question about populism, highlighting in particular the difference between populism in Europe and populism in Latin America.

Asked about a possible meeting with Donald Trump, he said that he had not been informed of any request, but that he always meets with heads of state if they ask.

During the brief trip, the Pope made his way to Egypt’s prestigious al-Azhar University and adjunct mosque, considered one of the highest authorities in Sunni Islam, where he met with Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayyeb and addressed participants in the International Peace Conference.

He then met with the country’s authorities, including President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, before heading to the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral for his meeting with Tawadros, the last official appointment of the day.

Saturday he celebrated Mass for around 15,000 people in Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium before meeting with local bishops, followed by a prayer meeting with priests, religious and seminarians before he boarded the plane to return to Rome.

Order of Malta elects new Grand Master amid ongoing reform

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 21:37

Vatican City, Apr 29, 2017 / 09:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Order of Malta elected Fra Giacomo Dalla Torre as their new Grand Master as the latest move in the ongoing reform their leadership, which the bulk of his one-year mandate will focus on.

Announced in an April 29 communique from the order, the election of Dalla Torre was the result of the Order of Malta’s daylong “Council Complete of State,” which fell shortly after the resignation of the Order’s former Grand Master, Matthew Festing, earlier this year.

Dalla Torre will swear an official oath before Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, the Pope’s special delegate to the Order, and members of the “Council Complete of State” that elected him Sunday, April 30, at the church of Santa Maria in Aventino.

Even though he's currently concluding a two-day trip to Egypt, Pope Francis was the first to be informed of Dalla Torre’s election through a letter. Notice was then given to other members and entities of the Order, including the 106 States with whom they currently hold diplomatic relations.

According to the Order’s communique, Dalla Torre will serve as Grand Master for a mandate of one year, and will work closely with the Order’s Sovereign Council to advance their humanitarian work and to strengthen the spiritual life of the Order.

The new Grand Master was born in Rome in 1944 and is an expert in art and art history. He holds a degree in philosophy from the University of Rome, with a specialization in Christian Archaeology and Art History.

He later began teaching courses in Classic Greek at the Pontifical Urbanianum University in Rome, and was eventually named head of their library and their chief archivist for important collections.

Dalla Torre entered the Order of Malta in 1985 and made his solemn vows as a professed knight in 1993. From 1994-1999 he served as Grand Prior of Lombardy and Venice, and from 1999-2004 was a member of the Sovereign Council.

In 2004, he was elected Grand Commander, and after the death of the 78th Grand Master Fra' Andrew Bertie, he stood in as interim Lieutenant. He has served as Grand Prior of Rome since 2008.

His first official engagement as Grand Master will be the May 5-9 international pilgrimage of the Order of Malta to Lourdes, which each year gathers some 7,000 members and volunteers of the Order to assist sick and disabled pilgrims.

Dalla Torre’s election comes after Festing’s Jan. 24 resignation, which he submitted upon the request of Pope Francis after a short, but intense spat with the Vatican.

Festing’s resignation marked the end of a month-long power struggle between the Order of Malta and the Holy See, which began with the forced dismissal of Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager from both his position, and his membership in the Order, in early December.

The Holy See then intervened, establishing a committee to investigate the decision. The Order then pushed back, saying Boeselager’s dismissal was an “internal act of governance,” making the Holy See’s investigative group “legally irrelevant” given the Orders’ sovereignty.

After a brief back and forth, the Holy See eventually responded Jan. 17 reiterating its confidence in the group and their work. Shortly after that Festing was called in for a private meeting with the Pope and was asked to resign.

Three days later the Order’s Sovereign council voted to accept Festing’s resignation and Boeselager, whose brother Georg von Boeselager was appointed a member of the Board of Superintendents of the IOR Dec. 15, was also reinstated as Grand Chancellor.

In February, the Pope appointed Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, substitute of the Secretariat of State, as his personal delegate to oversee the “spiritual and moral” reform of the Order, specifically their leadership, until a new Grand Master was appointed.

Shortly before Saturday’s vote, the Pope held a lengthy April 26 meeting with Becciu and the Order of Malta’s leaders, likely to discuss the election and their process of reform.

According to the Order of Malta, Dalla Torre’s primary focus during the coming year will be the reform of their Constitution, with special attention given to any “institutional shortages” the Order might have.

“The recent crisis has brought to light some weaknesses in the systems of control and in the balance of governance,” the communique read, adding that “the reform will take this into account.”

Special attention will also be paid to solidifying the spiritual life of the Order and to finding ways to increase the number of their professed members. Some consultations on how to do this have already been done, but suggestions from all of the Order’s members, professed or not, are welcome.

When Dalla Torre’s mandate is up next year, he will reconvene the “Council Complete of State” to either re-elect him, or to elect a new Grand Master.

Pope tells Egypt religious to never fear or flee from the cross

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 19:44

Cairo, Egypt, Apr 29, 2017 / 07:44 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis told Egypt’s priests and religious to never be discouraged or fear the challenges of their ministry, and warned against seven key temptations he said can keep them from being faithful to the Lord in their daily tasks.

“Do not be afraid of the burdens of your daily service and the difficult circumstances some of you must endure,” the Pope said April 29. “We venerate the Holy Cross, the instrument and sign of our salvation. When we flee the Cross, we flee the resurrection!”

Pope Francis met with Egypt’s priests, religious and seminarians at Cairo’s Al-Maadi Seminary on the final day of his April 28-29 visit to the country, intended to both offer support to local Christians and strengthen interfaith and ecumenical ties in the region.

After being welcomed by the seminary’s rector, Fr. Toma Adly Zaky, the Pope thanked Egypt’s religious for the good they do “amid many challenges and often few consolations,” and offered his encouragement.

While there are many reasons to be discouraged “amid many prophets of destruction and condemnation, and so many negative and despairing voices,” he voiced his hope that they would be “a positive force, salt and light for this society.”

However, “this will be possible if consecrated men and women do not give in to the temptations they daily encounter along their way,” he said, and highlighted seven key areas of temptation “described well” by the first monks of Egypt.

First, he warned against the temptation “to let ourselves be led, rather than to lead.” Christ, as the Good Shepherd, has the responsibility of leading his sheep, Francis said, explaining that “he cannot let himself be dragged down by disappointment and pessimism.”

Rather, “he is always full of initiative and creativity, like a spring that flows even in the midst of drought. He always shares the caress of consolation even when he is broken-hearted,” he said, and stressed that one’s fidelity to the Lord must always be strong, even when human gratitude is lacking.

The Pope then pointed to a second temptation “to complain constantly,” noting that it’s easy to complain about others, the faults or shortcomings of a superior, the state of the Church and even a lack of possibilities.

However, consecrated people are the ones “who turn every obstacle into an opportunity, and not every difficulty into an excuse,” he said, adding that “the person who is always complaining is really someone who doesn’t want to work.”

Francis also warned, as he often does when speaking to religious men and women, against the temptation of gossip and envy.

There is “a great danger” when consecrated people, instead of finding joy in the success of others, allow themselves to be “dominated by envy” and to hurt others through gossip, he said.

This danger is manifested when instead of striving to grow, religious “start to destroy those who are growing; instead of following their good example, they judge them and belittle their value.”

Envy, he said, “is a cancer that destroys the body in no time.”

A fourth attitude the Pope told religious to steer clear of is the temptation to compare oneself to others, because “enrichment is found in the diversity and uniqueness of each one of us.”

“Comparing ourselves with those better off often leads to grudges; comparing ourselves with those worse off often leads to pride and laziness,” he said, noting that those who always compare themselves “end up paralyzed.”

Jesting about the irony of being in Egypt, he also cautioned against the temptation of “to become like Pharaoh,” which he said means to “harden our hearts and close them off to the Lord and our brothers and sisters.”

The temptation here “is to think that we are better than others, and to lord it over them out of pride; to presume to be served rather than to serve,” he said, explaining that the only antidote to this “poison” is to become a servant to everyone.

Pope Francis then warned against the temptation to individualism, quoting a well-known Egyptian phrase that goes: “me, and after me, the flood!”

“This is the temptation of selfish people,” he said. “Along the way, they lose sight of the goal and, rather than think of others, they are unashamed to think only of themselves, or even worse, to justify themselves.”

The Church, on the contrary, is made up of the communion of faithful where the salvation of one depends on the holiness of all, he said, adding that anyone who adopts an individualist attitude “is a cause of scandal and of conflict.”

Finally, the Pope pointed to one last temptation to “keep walking without direction or destination.”

At times, “consecrated men and women can lose their identity and begin to be neither fish nor fowl,” he said. “They can live with a heart between God and worldliness. They can forget their first love.”

When this happens, they lose their clear and solid identity and begin walking aimlessly. As a result, instead of leading other people, “they scatter them,” he said.

Francis told those present that their identity as sons and daughters of the Church “is to be Copts – rooted in your noble and ancient origins – and to be Catholics – part of the one and universal Church: like a tree that, the more deeply rooted it is in the earth, the higher it reaches to the heavens!”

He noted that avoiding these temptations isn’t easy, but that it is possible “if we are grafted on to Jesus.”

“The more we are rooted in Christ, the more we are alive and fruitful,” he said. “Only in this way can we preserve the wonder and the passion of our first encounter with God, and experience renewed excitement and gratitude in our life with God and in our mission.”

Given Egypt’s rich monastic history, Pope Francis told the religious to draw from the example of figures such as Saint Paul the Hermit, Saint Anthony and the Desert Fathers.

“You too can be salt and light, and thus an occasion of salvation for yourselves and for all others, believers and non-believers alike, and especially for those who are poor, those in need, the abandoned and discarded,” he said, and assured them of his closeness.

Our only 'fanaticism' should be love, Pope tells Egypt's Catholics

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 15:40

Cairo, Egypt, Apr 29, 2017 / 03:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis told Egyptian Catholics that truly living the faith means ridding ourselves of hypocritical attitudes and focusing on the only obsession that counts: loving others, no matter how hard it is.

“God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity! Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him!” the Pope said April 29.

True faith, he said, “is one that makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane. It moves our hearts to love everyone without counting the cost, without distinction and without preference.”

Pope Francis spoke to the 15,000 people who attended his Mass at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo as part of his April 28-29 visit to Egypt. The trip comes largely as the result of a recent thawing in relations between the Vatican and the prestigious al-Azhar University, one of the highest institutional authorities in Sunni Islam, which had been strained since 2011.

The visit also takes place in wake of increasing attacks on Egypt’s Coptic community, and as such is meant to show support for Christians as well as cement Catholic-Muslim relations.

Egypt has around 272,000 Catholics and 213 parishes out of a total population of nearly 89 million. The country is predominately Muslim, with Christianity, including Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, and Catholics, making up only 10 percent of the population.  

In his homily, which was given in Italian with Arabic translation, Francis spoke about the qualities of a sincere faith, pointing out that we are called to love, serve, and help our brothers and sisters – never treating them like an enemy.

True faith, he said, “spurs us on to spread, defend and live out the culture of encounter, dialogue, respect and fraternity.” It also gives us “the courage to forgive those who have wronged us,” and to live out the corporal works of mercy.

Continuing, the Pope said “true faith leads us to protect the rights of others with the same zeal and enthusiasm with which we defend our own. Indeed, the more we grow in faith and knowledge, the more we grow in humility and in the awareness of our littleness.”

His words centered on the day’s Gospel passage for the third Sunday of Easter, which tells the story of the disciples meeting Jesus on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. The experience of the disciples, he said, can be summed up in three words: death, resurrection and life.

At first the disciples are full of disappointment and despair, not understanding how God could have allowed Jesus, their Savior, to be crucified, Francis observed. However, Jesus then approaches and walks with them, turning their despair into life.

“They could not understand why Almighty God had not saved him from such a disgraceful death,” he said. “The cross of Christ was the cross of their own ideas about God; the death of Christ was the death of what they thought God to be.”

However, in reality, “it was they who were dead, buried in the tomb of their limited understanding,” the Pope continued, adding: “How often do we paralyze ourselves by refusing to transcend our own ideas of God, a god created in the image and likeness of man!”

“How often do we despair by refusing to believe that God’s omnipotence is not one of power and authority, but rather of love, forgiveness and life!”

Eventually, it is in the “breaking of the bread,” the Eucharist, that the two disciples recognize the Risen Jesus and are “filled with joy, confidence and enthusiasm, ready to bear witness,” he said.

Unless we also “tear apart the veil clouding our vision and shatter the hardness of our hearts and our prejudices, we will never be able to recognize the face of God.”

It was precisely in this darkness and despair that Jesus approaches and “turns their despair into life,” Francis said, explaining that “when we reach the depths of failure and helplessness, when we rid ourselves of the illusion that we are the best, sufficient unto ourselves and the center of our world, then God reaches out to us to turn our night into dawn, our affliction into joy, our death into resurrection.”

We must follow the same path of the disciples, not remaining in doubt or despair, focused only on the cross, but coming to realize the truth and hope of the resurrection, he said, stressing that “we cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power.”

This experience must also translate into how we treat others, he said, saying “the experience of the disciples on the way to Emmaus teaches us that it is of no use to fill our places of worship if our hearts are empty of the fear of God and of his presence.”

“It is of no use to pray if our prayer to God does not turn into love for our brothers and sisters. All our religiosity means nothing unless it is inspired by deep faith and charity.”

The Pope said that in this sense, it’s useless to be concerned about our image, “since God looks at the soul and the heart and he detests hypocrisy. For God, it is better not to believe than to be a false believer, a hypocrite!”

Just like the disciples saw and believed, returning immediately to Jerusalem to share their experience, the Church also “needs to know and believe that Jesus lives within her and gives her life in the Eucharist, the scriptures and the sacraments,” he said.

Francis concluded by encouraging those present, “filled with joy, courage and faith” like the disciples of Emmaus, to “return to your own Jerusalem, that is, to your daily lives, your families, your work and your beloved country.”

“Do not be afraid to open your hearts to the light of the Risen Lord, and let him transform your uncertainty into a positive force for yourselves and for others,” he said.

“Do not be afraid to love everyone, friends and enemies alike, because the strength and treasure of the believer lies in a life of love!”