Catholic News Agency
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2017 / 08:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an inauguration ceremony Thursday, the Vatican officially unveiled this year’s nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square, also lighting the 69-foot Christmas tree for the first time this year.
In an audience with the tree and nativity donors Dec. 7, Pope Francis reflected on the symbolism found in the two Christmas traditions, which he said are “signs of the compassion of the heavenly Father, of his participation and closeness to humanity” even in its “very difficulties.”
The branches of the tree, “reaching upward,” remind us to reach for “the highest gifts,” he explained. And in “the simplicity of the crib we meet and contemplate the tenderness of God” as manifested in the Child Jesus.
This year’s Vatican nativity scene was created by artisans in a local workshop and donated by an ancient Benedictine Abbey, the Sanctuary of Montevergine, which lies near Naples.
A special detail of this year’s scene: in one corner hangs a replica of the icon of Our Lady of Montevergine, a nod to the abbey which donated it. The original image, which is 12 feet tall, hangs in the chapel of the Sanctuary of Montevergine.
Outside of the traditional nativity figures of Mary, Joseph, the child Jesus, the Wise Men, shepherds, an angel, and animals, the other figures are represented in the act of performing the 7 Corporal Works of Mercy, such as burying the dead, visiting the imprisoned, and clothing the naked.
The approximately 6 1/5-foot-tall figures are made of colored terracotta and dressed in traditional eighteenth-century Neapolitan costumes. The whole scene is built on a platform about 861-square-feet in size.
In a change from past years, this one includes a technological element; visitors can connect to a special Wi-Fi access point in St. Peter’s Square and scan a QR code to watch a video to learn more about the nativity.
The Christmas tree is a northern European tradition which has only recently become more common in Italy. The tradition to have a tree in St. Peter’s Square was begun by St. John Paul II in 1982.
This year’s tree, which comes from Poland, is 69-feet tall and about 60 years old. Its tip was lost when it was struck by lightning several years ago.
It was donated by the Archdiocese of Elk and cut down by a local forestry service, which transported it by truck over more than 1200 miles in 12 days to reach Rome, traveling mostly by night, when traffic is less dense.
The ornaments which decorate the spruce were created by children with cancer and their parents from several hospitals in Italy, as well as by children from Italian zones affected by earthquakes the past two years.
The ornaments were created in clay by the children and then reproduced using synthetic materials which can stand up to the weather in St. Peter’s Square.
The nativity and tree will remain in St. Peter’s Square until Jan. 7, 2018, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Vatican City, Dec 8, 2017 / 04:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday’s Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis offered his own ‘beauty secret’ – with Mary as model – saying beauty does not come from age or appearance, but from living a virtuous life rooted in scripture.
The Blessed Virgin Mary, though a simple and humble person, “lived a beautiful life,” the Pope said Dec. 8, asking “what was her secret?”
The answer can be found in the story of the Annunciation, he said. “In many paintings, Mary is depicted sitting in front of the angel with a small book. The book is scripture.”
“The Word of God was her secret: close to her heart, it then took flesh within her womb. Remaining with God, dialoguing with Him in every circumstance, Mary made her life beautiful.”
In his special Angelus address for the feast day, Pope Francis emphasized that what makes someone’s life beautiful is “not appearance, not what passes, but the heart focused on God.”
Francis noted how Mary came from a simple family and lived in a humble fashion in Nazareth, which was an almost unknown village. She was not famous. “Our Lady did not even have a comfortable life,” he said. Yet the angel greets her with the words, “hail, full of grace!”
The Church extols the Mother of God as “all beautiful,” or “tota pulchra,” in Latin, the Pope continued. This is because her beauty is not found in her outward appearance, but in her total freedom from sin.
“There is only one thing that really does grow old: not age, but sin,” he emphasized. “Sin makes (us) old, because it fossilizes the heart. It closes it, makes it inert, it makes it fade. But the (woman) full of grace is empty of sin.”
Let us ask for her help to remain free of sin, he concluded, so that we too can live a beautiful life, saying “yes,” to God.
After reciting the Angelus, Pope Francis noted how later in the afternoon he will visit Rome’s Piazza di Spagna to venerate the statue of the Immaculate Conception overlooking the Spanish Steps.
He asked those gathered to join him spiritually in this act, “which expresses filial devotion to our heavenly Mother.”
The statue of Our Lady, which sits atop a nearly 40-foot-high column, was dedicated Dec. 8, 1857, just a few years after the Catholic Church adopted the doctrine of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. Since the 1950s, it has been a custom for popes to venerate the statue for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The statue is usually adorned with homages of flowers hung in the form of wreaths around Mary’s outstretched arms and laid at the base of the statue. Early in the morning Dec. 8, firemen placed a large wreath of white and yellow flowers upon Mary’s arm, reaching the statue with the ladder from a firetruck.
During his visit Pope Francis will place flowers at the base of the statue and recite a short prayer to Our Lady, made on behalf of the people who live in Rome.
After the visit to Piazza di Spagna, the Pope is scheduled to stop at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where he will venerate the image of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani.
Vatican City, Dec 7, 2017 / 10:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Thursday named the next archbishops of two major metropolitan sees – Archbishop Michel Aupetit to Paris and Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes to Mexico City, the world’s largest diocese.
The appointments were announced in a press release from the Vatican Dec. 7. Both prelates are replacing bishops who have retired upon reaching the age of 75, the normal retirement age for clergy.
Cardinal Aguiar, 67, has held top roles in both the Mexican bishops’ conference and the Latin American bishops’ conference and is a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
Cardinal Aguiar has been archbishop of Tlalnepantla, Mexico since 2009. He replaces Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, whose retirement was accepted by Pope Francis after reaching the age of 75.
Aguiar was born on Jan. 9, 1950 in Tepic, Mexico. He studied at the Seminary of Tepic, followed by the seminaries of Montezuma in the United States and of Tula. On April 22, 1973 he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Tepic.
He received a licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1977.
As a priest he served as a parochial vicar, as well as rector of the Seminary of Tepic. At the same time, he was President of the Organization of Mexican Seminaries (OSMEX) and a member of the board of directors of Latin American Seminaries.
He was later rector of the John XXIII Residence for priests of the Pontifical University of Mexico in Mexico City, where he was also a professor of Sacred Scripture. In 1997 he received a doctorate in Biblical Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
In June 1997 he was consecrated bishop for the Diocese of Texcoco and in February 2009 he was made Metropolitan Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Tlalnepantla.
From 2004-2006 he was secretary general of the Mexican bishops’ conference, and then from 2006-2012, president of the conference. He also held various positions in the Latin American Bishops’ Council (CELAM) from 2000-2015, including secretary general, vice-president and president.
He participated in both assemblies of the Synod of Bishops on the family in 2014 and 2015 and was made a cardinal by Pope Francis in the November 2016 consistory. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.
The Archdiocese of Mexico City covers 551 square miles and, as of 2013, contained more than 7 million Catholics. There are nearly 600 diocesan priests and over 1,000 religious priests. There are also more than 7,000 consecrated men and women.
Archbishop Aupetit, 66, a former doctor, is an expert in bioethics. He has been archbishop of Nanterre, France since May 2014.
He replaces Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, archbishop of Paris, whose retirement was accepted by Pope Francis after reaching the age of 75.
Archbishop Aupetit was born in Versailles on March 23, 1951. He graduated with a medical degree in 1978, and worked as a medical professional in the northern suburbs of Paris for 12 years.
His specialty was in medical bioethics, which he taught at the Henri Mondor Hospital in Creteil. In 1990 he entered the seminary and in June 1995 he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Paris.
He served as a parish priest and a high school chaplain for a number of years, as well as vicar general of the archdiocese and a member of the presbyteral council from 2006-2013.
On February 2, 2013 he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Paris. He was consecrated on April 19, 2013. Aupetit was appointed bishop of Nanterre on April 4, 2014.
He is president of the “Family and Society” council of the French bishops’ conference and is also a member of the conference’s bioethics working group.
The Archdiocese of Paris is 40 square miles and has approximately 1.3 million Catholics, as of 2013. There are over 800 diocesan priests and over 500 religious priests and approximately 2,700 consecrated men and women.
Vatican City, Dec 6, 2017 / 10:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to the Pontifical Academies on Tuesday, Pope Francis praised the study of Latin, especially for young people, and encouraged scholars and teachers to promote its study as a positive guide for students as they navigate life.
Addressing academics and Latin teachers, the Pope said Dec. 5 that they should “know how to speak to the hearts of the young, know how to treasure the very rich heritage of the Latin tradition to educate them in the path of life, and accompany them along paths rich in hope and confidence…”
Pope Francis’ message was read at the 22nd Solemn Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, which had as its theme, “In interiore homine. Research paths in the Latin tradition.”
The Pope praised “the theme of interiority, of the heart, of consciousness and self-awareness” which he said is found “in every culture as well as in the different religious traditions.”
“Significantly,” he continued, this theme is “presented with great urgency and strength even in our time, often characterized by concern with appearance, superficiality, the division between heart and mind, interiority and exteriority, consciousness and behavior.”
Moments of change, crisis, or transformation, whether in relationships or in a person’s identity, require reflection “on the inner and intimate essence of the human being.”
Francis also noted the many important figures, both in the classical Greek-Roman tradition and the Christian tradition, who have reflected on the dynamism of man, pointing especially to the Fathers of the Church and the Latin writers of the first Christian millennium.
Highlighting St. Augustine in particular, the Pope quoted from his Tractates on the Gospel of St. John, which say, “Return to your heart; see there what, it may be, you can perceive of God, for in it is the image of God. In the inner man dwells Christ, in the inner man are you renewed after the image of God, in His own image recognize its Author.”
This is relevant also for our time, he stressed, and worthy of our reflection and of sharing with others, especially young people, who are just starting on the journey of life.
A journey where they may be caught up, he explained, in the “labyrinths of superficiality and banality, of the external success that conceals an inner emptiness, of the hypocrisy that masks the split between appearances and the heart, between the beautiful and cared-for body and the soul, empty and arid.”
At the meeting, the winners of the 2017 Prize of the Pontifical Academies were also awarded. This year's prize winners are Dr. Pierre Chambert-Protat for his doctoral thesis on Florus of Lyon and Dr. Francesco Lubian for her critical publication of the Disticha attributed to St. Ambrose.
The winners of the Medal of the Pontificate were Dr. Shari Broodts for a critical edition of the Sermones of St. Augustine and the Latin Teaching Group of the University of Toulouse, for the publication of a Latin manual for university students.
The 2017 Prize of the Pontifical Academies was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Academy for Latin, or Pontificia Acadamia Latinitatis, which was founded by Benedict XVI in 2012 through the motu proprio Latina Lingua.
Organized every year by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the 2017 Prize of the Pontifical Academies was on two themes: Methodological proposals for teaching Latin today, and the reception of ancient Christian Latin between the medieval and modern eras.
The first topic was “reserved to institutions (academies, schools, associations, foundations, research groups etc.) that are engaged in formative activity among the youth,” the Prize’s press release stated.
The second was for scholars between the ages of 25 and 40 who have produced doctoral theses or publications on the theme in the last five years.
Vatican City, Dec 6, 2017 / 03:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With debate on the status of Jerusalem heating up in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognize the city as the capital of Israel, Pope Francis has urged international leaders to proceed with prudence and respect for current U.N. resolutions.
“My thought now goes to Jerusalem. In this regard, I cannot ignore my deep concern for the situation that has been created in recent days,” the Pope said Dec. 6.
He issued a “heartfelt appeal” to the international community to ensure that “everyone is committed to respecting the status quo of the city, in accordance with the relevant Resolutions of the United Nations.”
The position of the U.N. on the Jerusalem issue is that East Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory, and that the city should eventually become the capital of the two states of Israel and Palestine.
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall during his weekly general audience, during which he recounted the phases of his recent Nov. 27-Dec. 2 trip to Burma, also called Myanmar, and Bangladesh.
His appeal for Jerusalem comes shortly after news came out that U.S. President Donald Trump would be recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – a widely controversial decision that has provoked a mixed reaction from the international community.
As part of the plan, the Trump administration is expected to eventually move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and while Israel welcomes the changes, both Palestinians and Arab leaders have voiced concern that the move could jeopardize the peace process in the Middle East, according to BBC.
Israel has traditionally always recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, however, Palestinians claim that the eastern portion of the city is the capital of the future Palestinian state. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the U.S. is the first country to do so since the state was established in 1948.
Debate on the issue is in many ways the crux of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, which is backed by Arab leaders, including Saudi Arabia, and the wider Islamic world.
According to the 1993 Israel-Palestinian peace accords, the final status of Jerusalem will be discussed in the late stages of the talks. Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem has never been recognized by the international community, and all countries have embassies in Tel Aviv.
Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, then, is likely to increase tension on the issue, particularly in regards to the 200,000-some settlements Israel has built in East Jerusalem, which are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this stance.
In his general audience, Pope Francis noted how Jerusalem is a “unique city” that is considered holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims. Because of this, he said the city has “a special vocation for peace.”
“I ask the Lord that this identity be preserved and reinforced for the benefit of the Holy Land, the Middle East and the entire world, and that wisdom and prudence prevail to avoid adding new elements of tension in a global panorama already convulsed and marked by so many cruel conflicts,” he said.
Prior to his general audience, the Pope met with a Palestinian delegation of religious and intellectual leaders for a scheduled audience, urging dialogue that is respectful of everyone's rights in the Holy Land. He also voiced his hope that “peace and prosperity” would prevail for the Palestinian people.
On his trip to Burma and Bangladesh, Francis said it was “a great gift from God,” and thanked the civil authorities and bishops of each country for their welcome and for everything they did to prepare for the trip.
He noted how his Nov. 27-30 visit to Burma marked the first time a Pope has ever traveled to the country, which took place just months after the Holy See established full diplomatic relations with the nation in May.
“I wanted, also in this case, to express the closeness of Christ and of the Church to a people that has suffered due to conflict and repression, and which now is slowly walking toward a new condition of freedom and peace,” he said.
Burma, a majority Buddhist country where minorities, including Christians, often face stigma and discrimination, is still working to transition to a democratic government after more than 50 years of military rule, while also facing harsh criticism from the international community over what the United Nations has called a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims from the country's Rakhine State.
In this context, Christians there are the “leaven of God,” he said, and called the Church in Burma a “living and fervent” community that he had the joy of meeting and affirming in faith and communion.
Similarly, he said his Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit to Bangladesh was equally important, and focused largely on the need for “respect and dialogue” between Christianity and Islam, as the country is a majority Muslim nation with a small Catholic community.
Religious freedom was a major theme, and was reflected in each of his meetings, he said, and underlined the importance of “openness of the heart as the basis for the culture of encounter, harmony and peace.”
Vatican City, Dec 5, 2017 / 05:19 pm (CNA).- Despite the recent inclusion of Pope Francis' 2016 letter to the Buenos Aires bishops on Amoris laetitia in the Holy See's official text of record, neither the Church's discipline nor its doctrine have changed.
The move is the latest in the debate over the admission of the divorced-and-remarried to Communion. The Second Vatican Council, St. John Paul II, and Benedict XVI – as well as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts under them – all firmly opposed proposals to admit to eucharistic communion the divorced-and-remarried who do not observe continence.
The debate has received renewed impetus under Pope Francis. His 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family, Amoris laetitia, has been met with varied reception and interpretation within the Church. Its eighth chapter, entitled “Accompanying, Discerning, and Integrating Weakness,” deals with, among other things, the pastoral care of the divorced-and-remarried, those who may not be admitted to Communion unless they have committed to living in continence, eschewing the acts proper to married couples.
Yet, for many Church leaders and theologians, ambiguous language in that chapter has led to uncertainties about this practice, and about the nature and status of the apostolic exhortation itself. Some have maintained that it is incompatible with Church teaching, and others that it has not changed the Church's discipline. Still others read Amoris laetitia as opening the way to a new pastoral practice, or even as a development in continuity with St. John Paul II.
Some Church leaders have noted that Amoris laetitia has led to the disorientation and great confusion of many of the faithful, and at least one respected theologian has argued that Francis' pontificate has fostered confusion, diminished the importance of doctrine in the Church's life, and cause faithful Catholics to lose confidence in the papacy.
Pope Francis has been understood to encourage those who interpret Amoris laetitia as opening the way to a new pastoral practice – as he seemed to do in a letter to the bishops of the Buenos Aires region, which is the subject of the latest furor.
His letter approves those bishops' pastoral response to the divorced-and-remarried, based on Amoris laetitia. The response had said that ministry to the divorced-and-remarried must never create confusion about Church teaching and the indissolubility of marriage, but may also allow access to the sacraments under specific limits. These might include specific situations when a penitent in an irregular union is under attenuated culpability, as when leaving such a union could cause harm to his children, although the circumstances envisioned are not precisely delineated, which, some theologians say, has contributed to the confusion.
The Pope's Sept. 5, 2016 letter addressed to Bishop Sergio Alfredo Fenoy of San Miguel said, “The text is very good and makes fully explicit the meaning of the eighth chapter of ‘Amoris Laetitia’. There are no other interpretations. And I am sure it will do a lot of good. May the Lord reward you for this effort of pastoral charity.”
It was reported this weekend that Pope Francis' letter, as well as the pastoral response of the Buenos Aires bishops, were promulgated in the October 2016 issue of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, a Vatican publication in which official documents of the Pope and the Roman Curia are published, and through which universal ecclesiastical laws are promulgated.
Dr. Edward Peters, a professor of canon law at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, wrote Dec. 4 that the Buenos Aires document contains assertions “running the gamut from obviously true, through true-but-oddly-or-incompletely phrased, to a few that, while capable of being understood in an orthodox sense, are formulated in ways that lend themselves to heterodox understandings.”
He noted that what prevents the admission of the divorced-and-remarried to eucharistic communion is canon 915 “and the universal, unanimous interpretation which that legislative text, rooted as it is in divine law, has always received.” The canon states that those “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
In an August 2017 post anticipating the possible publication in AAS of the Buenos Aires letter or the Pope's commendation of it, Peters had written that “many, nay most, papal documents appearing in the Acta carry no canonical or disciplinary force.”
He wrote that “Unless canon 915 itself is directly revoked, gutted, or neutered, it binds ministers of holy Communion to withhold that most august sacrament from, among others, divorced-and-remarried Catholics except where such couples live as brother-sister and without scandal to the community.”
“Nothing I have seen to date, including the appearance of the pope’s and Argentine bishops’ letters in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, makes me think that Canon 915 has suffered such a fate.”
He added: “Neither the pope’s letter to the Argentines, nor the Argentine bishops’ document, nor even Amoris laetitia so much as mentions Canon 915, let alone do these documents abrogate, obrogate, or authentically interpret this norm out of the Code of Canon Law.”
While the Pope's letter and the Buenos Aires bishops' pastoral response do contain ambiguous “disciplinary assertions”, they are insufficient “to revoke, modify, or otherwise obviate” canon 915, Peters wrote.
Aside from the canonical problems with the admission of the divorced-and-remarried to eucharistic communion is the question of what it means that the Buenos Aires document and the Pope's letter in support of it are intended to be a part of the Church’s Magisterium.
A rescript from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, in the AAS notes that their promulgation was intended “as authentic Magisterium.”
The Magisterium is a part of teaching office of bishops, by which they are charged with interpreting and preserving the deposit of faith. In its 1990 declaration Donum veritatis, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted that the Magisterium “has the task of discerning, by means of judgments normative for the consciences of believers, those acts which in themselves conform to the demands of faith and foster their expression in life and those which, on the contrary, because intrinsically evil, are incompatible with such demands.”
Catholics are bound to assent to divinely revealed teachings with faith; to firmly embrace and retain those things which are required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the deposit of faith; and to give religious submission of intellect and will to doctrines on faith or morals given through the authentic Magisterium.
The critical question regarding Amoris laetitia is what, precisely, it teaches with regard to faith and morals, and what it doesn’t, or even, can’t, teach. On the latter question, especially, the Church’s existent doctrine is helpful.
Even while some bishops, such as those of the Buenos Aires region and those of Malta, have interpreted the apostolic exhortation as allowing a new pastoral practice, many others have maintained that it changes nothing of doctrine or discipline.
For example, while prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Müller said that Amoris laetitia has not eliminated Church discipline on marriage, nor has it has permitted in some cases the divorced-and-remarried “to receive the Eucharist without the need to change their way of life.”
“This is a matter of a consolidated magisterial teaching, supported by scripture and founded on a doctrinal reason: the salvific harmony of the sacrament, the heart of the 'culture of the bond' that the Church lives.”
The prefect of the CDF said that if Pope Francis' exhortation “had wanted to eliminate such a deeply rooted and significant discipline, it would have said so clearly and presented supporting reasons.”
“There is however no affirmation in this sense; nor does the Pope bring into question, at any time, the arguments presented by his predecessors, which are not based on the subjective culpability of our brothers, but rather on their visible, objective way of life, contrary to the words of Christ,” Cardinal Müller stated.
It has been the constant teaching of the Church that marriage is indissoluble, that people not married to each other may not legitimately engage in acts of sexual intimacy, that the Eucharist may not be received by those conscious of grave sin, and that absolution requires the purpose of amending one's life, even with a diminished or limited capacity to exercise the will.
And the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists … Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence.”
St. John Paul II promulgated the Catechism in 1992 by the apostolic constitution Fidei depositum, in which he wrote that it “is a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion and a sure norm for teaching the faith.”
“The approval and publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church represents a service which the Successor of Peter wishes to offer to the Holy Catholic Church … of supporting and confirming the faith of all the Lord Jesus' disciples, as well as of strengthening the bonds of unity in the same apostolic faith. Therefore, I ask the Church's Pastors and the Christian faithful to receive this catechism in a spirit of communion and to use it assiduously in fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the faith and calling people to the Gospel life. This catechism is given to them that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine.”
Critical to understanding the character of the Church’s teaching on these issues is a declaration the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts wrote in 2000 that canon 915's prohibition on admitting to Holy Communion those who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin is applicable to the divorced-and-remarried.
“Any interpretation of can. 915 that would set itself against the canon's substantial content, as declared uninterruptedly by the Magisterium and by the discipline of the Church throughout the centuries, is clearly misleading,” it said.
This prohibition, the pontifical council continued, is “by its nature derived from divine law and transcends the domain of positive ecclesiastical laws: the latter cannot introduce legislative changes which would oppose the doctrine of the Church.”
This declaration defines a kind of a limit on how the Magisterium can develop; by invoking divine law, the council says that no pastoral approach can transgress the norms of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. While considering questions of subjective culpability do not exceed those norms, the council’s directive explains that the Church can not, and will not, redefine the deposit of faith.
The deposit of faith has not been changed, and nor has canon law. Despite a great deal of anxiety and media attention, truth remains unchanged, and unchanging.
While some find the Pope’s writing to be ambiguous, truth is not. Amoris laetitia must be interpreted in a way that does not contravene truth.
Even when such an interpretation is not readily apparent.
Vatican City, Dec 5, 2017 / 04:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ appointment of Bishop Barry C. Knestout, until now one of three auxiliary bishops for the Archdiocese of Washington, as the next bishop of the Diocese of Richmond.
He fills the vacancy left by Bishop Francis Xavier DiLorenzo, who died Aug. 17.
In a statement made at the time of the announcement, the Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, said that the appointment “is good news and reason for us to rejoice with the Diocese of Richmond.”
During Knestout’s time serving the Archdiocese of Washington, “he has demonstrated his pastoral skills, his commitment to the Church and her teaching, and his devoted service to those entrusted to his care,” Wuerl said.
He has served the Archdiocese of Washington in a number of capacities, most notably as a pastor, auxiliary bishop, vicar general and moderator of the curia, Wuerl continued, voicing his gratitude to have worked in ministry alongside Knestout.
He also pointed out his influence in helping to organize the archdiocese’s first synod, his hand in working to revitalize the local Catholic educational system, and his help in opening the new Saint John Paul II Seminary.
“With great appreciation we thank Bishop Knestout as he takes on his new responsibilities and we ask God’s blessings on him.”
Knestout, 55, was born June 11, 1962, in Maryland. He studied architecture at the University of Maryland before entering Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg in 1985. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington in June 1989.
He served at two parishes as parochial vicar before serving as priest-secretary to Cardinal James A. Hickey from 1994 until the cardinal's death in 2004. He also served as priest-secretary to Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick in 2001 and from 2003-2004.
In 1999 he was given the title of monsignor by Pope John Paul II.
He was executive director of the archdiocese’s Office of Youth Ministry from 2001-2003 and served as pastor of St. John Evangelist Parish in Silver Spring in 2004.
Cardinal Wuerl appointed him secretary for pastoral ministry and social concerns in Oct. 2006, then in April 2007, he was made moderator of the curia and vicar for administration, a role in which he helps Wuerl to manage and oversee administrative affairs.
He is also a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Colombus, a member of the Order of Malta and of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
In 2008, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Washington and titular bishop of Leavenworth by Benedict XVI. His ordination as bishop took place on Dec. 29, 2008.
Quito, Ecuador, Dec 4, 2017 / 01:00 pm (CNA).- A Catholic wedding planner has encouraged married women in Ecuador to “put a smile on the face of a poor bride” by donating their wedding dresses this Christmas.
“The goal is to have women give up their wedding dresses, since they don't have a real use for them anymore. What's better than keeping them is to give them to someone who needs one,” Maria Alejandra Guerra told ACI Prensa.
Guerra explained that the idea came to her Nov. 26, when she went with a group of missionaries from the Bonds of Marian Love Movement to St. Arnoldo Janssen Parish, located in a poor section of Guayaquil, to coordinate a Christmas campaign for the children there.
She said that the pastor, Fr. John Codjoe, told them that one of the parish's ministries was marriage preparation, and that because “most of these women don't have wedding gowns,” that he was looking for dresses to be donated.
“So that little light went on, because that was something I wanted to do for some time, and so I said to him 'Father, I'm a wedding planner, I'm going to help you and I'm going to promote this for your parish,” Guerra related.
Fr. Codjoe “was thrilled” with the proposal and told her about 19 couples who would soon be getting married in the parish.
“That's why I decided to launch this campaign on my social media. I didn't think I was going to get a good reception because some time ago I did a poll and most women told me they preferred to sell their wedding dresses. But it turned out just the opposite and now seven women have offered to give me their dresses,” she said.
“I'm going to go pick up the dresses and I'll bring them over to St. Arnoldo Janssen parish. I even told Fr. Codjoe that I wanted to attend the couples' weddings,” she commented.
On her Instagram account where she launched the campaign, Maria Alejandra Guerra said that Christmas is a “joy, it's giving something to someone you don't know but who needs it more...'giving without remembering and receiving without forgetting,' because that bride you give the dress to will be immensely grateful.”
She hopes that “we can put smiles on the faces of the brides most in need.”
Guerra said that “if I succeed in coming up with the dresses that Fr. Codjoe needs for next year and I continue to get more dresses, then I'll be looking for other parishes that will want to receive them as donations.”
She also invited married women from other Latin American countries to look for churches where they could give their wedding dresses to low-income couples who are preparing for marriage.
For women who live in Mexico, Guerra suggested they give their gowns to the charitable initiative called “Brides with a Cause” which collects dresses throughout the country to give them to needy young women.
This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.
Vatican City, Dec 4, 2017 / 11:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Do not wait to begin living out your vocation, Pope Francis said on Monday, encouraging people to stop making excuses for not answering God’s call to share in his mission in a particular way.
“The joy of the Gospel, which makes us open to encountering God and our brothers and sisters, does not abide our slowness and our sloth,” the Pope said in a message released Dec. 4.
“It will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision. Vocation is today! The Christian mission is now!”
Pope Francis’ message was sent ahead of the 55th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, which will take place on April 22, 2018, the fourth Sunday of Easter, with the theme of: “Listening, discerning, and living the call of the Lord.”
“Each one of us is called – whether to the lay life in marriage, to the priestly life in the ordained ministry, or to a life of special consecration – in order to become a witness of the Lord, here and now,” Francis said.
The Lord continues to call us to follow him, and we shouldn’t wait to be perfect in order to answer with our “generous ‘yes,’” he continued. We don’t have to be fearful of our limitations and sins, but instead, should open our hearts to the voice of the Lord.
We are each called “to listen to that voice, to discern our personal mission in the Church and the world, and at last to live it in the today that God gives us.”
Quoting from a pre-Synod meeting of bishops, the Pope explained that spiritual discernment is the process “by which a person makes fundamental choices, in dialogue with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit, starting with the choice of one’s state in life.”
But today it is becoming more and more difficult to listen to the voice of the Spirit in our lives, he noted, especially as “immersed as we are in a society full of noise, overstimulated and bombarded by information.”
Often, this outer noise is accompanied by an interior confusion as well. “This prevents us from pausing and enjoying the taste of contemplation, reflecting serenely on the events of our lives, going about our work with confidence in God’s loving plan, and making a fruitful discernment,” he said.
The Pope also warned about being closed off, or too concerned with ourselves to be open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives.
“We will never discover the special, personal calling that God has in mind for us if we remain enclosed in ourselves, in our usual way of doing things, in the apathy of those who fritter away their lives in their own little world,” he said.
“We would lose the chance to dream big and to play our part in the unique and original story that God wants to write with us.”
Every Christian should grow in the ability to “read within” his or her life, he stressed, in order to understand how and in what way they are being called to share in the Lord’s mission.
The Pope offered reassurance, saying if God “lets us realize that he is calling us to consecrate ourselves totally to his kingdom, then we should have no fear! It is beautiful – and a grace – to be completely and forever consecrated to God and the service of our brothers and sisters.”
Vatican City, Dec 4, 2017 / 10:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his prayer video for the month of December, Pope Francis prays for grandparents and the elderly, urging people to respect and support them, that their wisdom may continue to be passed down to new generations.
“A people that does not take care of grandparents, that does not treat them well, has no future!” the Pope said in the video. “The elderly have wisdom.”
He also noted that the elderly have a great responsibility to pass on to others their life experiences, and the histories of their family, community and culture.
“Let us keep in mind our elders, so that sustained by families and institutions, (they) may with their wisdom and experience collaborate in the education of new generations,” he concluded.
Released Dec. 4, the video takes a more light-hearted approach than past prayer intention videos, first depicting a young man who ignores several elderly people he passes on the street.
Soon after the young man hears lively jazz music coming from a building, and upon entering, discovers the three he passed earlier all playing music together. They then invite him to join them.
The importance of the relationship between the elderly and the younger generation, particularly between grandparents and their grandkids, is one of Pope Francis’ favorite topics.
Last year in Rome he held an audience with around 7,000 grandparents, urging them to talk with their grandkids about the faith.
“And talk to your grandchildren, talk. Let them ask you questions,” he said. They may be different from you, they may have other hobbies, “they like other music... but they need the elderly, this ongoing dialogue.”
“You are an important presence, because your experience is a precious treasure, essential to looking to the future with hope and responsibility,” the Pope said at that encounter, Oct. 15, 2016.
At a special Mass in June he said that the older generation is called to be spiritual “grandparents” to young people, sharing their experiences, especially of the faith.
“And this is what the Lord today asks us: to be grandparents. To have the vitality to give to young people, because young people expect it from us; to not close ourselves, to give our best: they look for our experience, for our positive dreams to carry on the prophecy and the work,” he said.
“I ask the Lord for all of us that he give us this grace.”
Vatican City, Dec 4, 2017 / 05:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday the Vatican announced Pope Francis' appointment of Oratorian Fr. Mario Alberto Aviles as auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville.
He joins Bishop Daniel E. Flores, who has served as the sixth bishop of Brownsville since February 2010.
Aviles, who has served as Procurator General of the Confederation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri since 2012, has also been appointed the titular bishop of the See of Cataquas in modern-day Algeria.
The Oratory of St. Philip Neri is a pontifical society of apostolic life made up of Catholic priests and lay-brothers. There are 86 congregations around the world, including several in the United States.
The Procurator General acts as the representative of the congregations to the Holy See, usually residing in Rome.
Aviles, 48, was born in Mexico City on Sept. 16, 1969. In 1986 he entered the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Mexico City, two years later moving to the Pharr Oratory in the Diocese of Brownsville.
He first attended the Catholic Panamerican University in Mexico City, then transferred to Rome to study philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum University.
He received a master's of divinity at the Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn. in 2000. He also has a master's degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Phoenix.
On July 21, 1998 he was ordained a priest for the Confederation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri.
From his ordination he was Parochial Vicar of the parish of St. Jude Thaddeus in Pharr, Texas until 2002, he then served as parish priest of Sacred Heart parish in Hidalgo.
He was Dean of the Oratory Academy and Oratory Athenaeum in Pharr from 2005-2012 and a member of the Diocesan Pastoral Council at Brownsville since 2011.
He has been Procurator General of the Confederation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri since 2012 and speaks Spanish, English and Italian.
The Diocese of Brownsville, formed in 1965, encompasses the counties of Willacy, Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr at the southern border of Texas. Cameron, Hidalgo and Starr also border the Rio Grande River, which divides the Diocese of Brownsville from the dioceses of Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo in Mexico.
The diocese is 4,226 square miles in area with a population of approximately 978,369 inhabitants, of which 831,613 are Catholic.
Vatican City, Dec 3, 2017 / 04:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis kicked off the Church's Advent season saying it is a time to let go of the worldly distractions that take us away from God, and focus on growing closer to him through prayer and concern for others.
Referring to the day's readings, which stress the importance of being vigilant, the Pope said “the watchful person is one who, in the noise of the world, does not let themselves be overwhelmed by distraction or superficiality, but lives in a full and conscious way, with a concern above all for others.”
With this attitude, we quickly become aware “of the tears and necessity of our neighbor and we can also welcome the human and spiritual qualities and capacities,” he said, adding that an attentive person, “also turns to the world, trying to counteract indifference and the cruelty of it, rejoicing in the treasures of beauty that also exist and must be preserved.”
Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square for his Angelus address, which took place on the first Sunday of Advent.
He focused his address on the day's Gospel reading from Mark, in which Jesus tells his disciples to “Be watchful! Be alert!,” because “you do not know when the time will come.”
Advent, he said, is a time given to us “to welcome the Lord who comes to meet us, to verify our desire for God, to look ahead and prepare ourselves for the return of Christ.”
Christ will return again at Christmas, when we remember how he came to us “in the humility of the human condition.” However, Christ also comes to each of us “every time we are disposed to receive him,” Francis said, and “he will come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead.”
“Because of this, we must always be watchful and attentive to the Lord with the hope of meeting him.”
Turning to the Gospel, when Jesus urges his disciples, and each of us, to “be watchful and alert,” Francis said the person who is vigilant and alert is the one “who welcomes the invitation to watch, that is, not to let themselves be overwhelmed by the sleep of discouragement, the lack of hope, or by delusions.”
At the same time, this person also rejects “the solicitation of the vanities of which the world overflows and behind which, at times, personal and familiar serenity are sacrificed.”
Pope Francis then turned to the day's first reading from the Book of Isaiah, in which the prophet described how for the people of Israel, it seemed that God had left them alone to wander on paths that were far from his own.
However, “this was an effect of the infidelity of the people themselves,” he said, explaining that we often find ourselves in the same state of infidelity to God's call: “he shows us the good path, the path of faith and love, but we look for our happiness somewhere else.”
So to be watchful and alert, then, “are the presuppositions” to stop wandering on paths that are far from God, “lost in our sins and in our infidelity.”
“They are the conditions that allow God to interrupt our existence, to restore meaning to it and to value his presence, full of goodness and tenderness,” he said, and closed his address praying that Mary, the model and icon of vigilant expectation, would guide us to an encounter with her son Jesus, “reviving our love for him.”
After reciting the traditional Angelus prayer, Francis noted how just yesterday he returned from a six-day visit to Burma – also called Myanmar – and Bangladesh, and voiced his gratitude for being able to meet the people in both countries, especially the small Catholic populations of each.
The Pope said he was “edified” by their witness, and the many faces “tried by life,” but who were still “noble and smiling,” made a big impression.
He also voiced concern and prayer for Honduras, praying that the country would be able to “peacefully overcome” a recent escalation of political unrest and violent protests surrounding the country's elections after a key candidate was accused of voter fraud.
Vatican City, Dec 2, 2017 / 06:15 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a 58-minute conversation with journalists on his return flight from Bangladesh to Rome on Saturday, Pope Francis discussed the Rohingya people of Burma, evangelization, nuclear warfare, and plans for future travel, among other topics.
Here is CNA's full transcript of the Pope's in-flight press conference:
Greg Burke: Thank you, Holy Father. First of all, thanks. You have chosen two interesting countries to visit. Two very different countries but with something in common, that is, in each of these countries is a small but very active Church, full of joy, full of young people and full of the spirit of service for all of society. We certainly have seen a lot, we have learned a lot, but we’re interested also in what you have seen and what you have learned.
Pope Francis: Good evening, if we think of here, or good afternoon if we think of Rome, and thank you so much for your work… as Greg said, two very interesting countries, with very traditional, deep, rich cultures. For this, I think that your work has been very intense. Thank you so much.
Greg Burke: The first question is from Sagrario Ruiz de Apodarca, from Spanish National Radio.
Sagrario Ruiz (Radio Nacional Espanola): Good evening, Holy Father. Thank you. I’m asking the question in Spanish with the permission of my Italian colleagues because I don’t yet trust my Italian, but if you would answer in Italian, that would be perfect. The crisis of the Rohingya has tempered a large part of this trip. Yesterday, they were called by name finally in Bangladesh. Do you wish you would have done the same in Burma, named them with this word, Rohingya? And, what did you feel yesterday when you asked forgiveness?
Pope Francis: It’s not the first time. I had said it publicly already in St. Peter’s Square, in an Angelus, in an Audience… and it was already known what I thought about this thing and what I had said. Your question is interesting because it brings me to reflect on how I seek to communicate. For me, the most important thing is that the message arrives and for this I seek to say the things, step by step, and listen to the answers so that the message may arrive. An example in daily life: a boy, a girl in the crisis of adolescence can say what they think but throwing the door in the face of the other… and the message doesn’t arrive. It closes. I was interested that this message would arrive, for this I saw that if in the official speech I would have said that word, I would have thrown the door in a face. But I described it, the situations, the rights, no one excluded, the citizenship, to allow myself in the private conversations to go beyond. I was very, very satisfied with the talks that I was able to have, because it is true that I haven’t, let’s say it this way, had the pleasure throwing the door in a face, publicly, a denouncement, but I did have the satisfaction of dialoguing and letting the other speak and to say my part and in that way the message arrived and to such a point did it arrive that it continued and continued and finished yesterday with that, no? And this is very important in communicating, the concern is that the message arrives. Often, denouncements, also in the media, but I don’t want to offend, with some aggressive (tactics) close the dialogue, close the door and the message doesn’t arrive. And you who are specialists in making messages arrive, also to me, understand this well.
Then, something I heard yesterday… This wasn’t planned like this. I knew that I would meet the Rohingya. I didn’t know where or how, but this was the condition of the trip and they were preparing the ways, and after so much management also from the government, with Caritas… the government allowed this trip, of these who came yesterday. Because the problem for the government who protects them and gives them hospitality - and this is big. What Bangladesh does for them is big, an example of welcoming. A small, poor country that has received 700,000. I think of the countries that close the doors. We must be grateful for the example that they’ve given us - The government must move through the international relations with Burma, with permits, dialogue, because they are in a refugee camp with a special status. But in the end they come scared, they didn’t know. Someone there had told them, “You greet the Pope, don’t say anything,” someone who wasn’t from the government of Bangladesh, people who were working on it. At a certain point after the inter-religious dialogue, the inter-religious prayer, this prepared the hearts of us all. We were very open religiously. I at least felt that way. The moment arrived that they were coming to greet me, in a straight line, and I didn’t like that. One, the other... but then they immediately wanted to send them away from the scene and there I got mad and a chewed them out a bit. I’m a sinner. I told them so many times the word “respect, respect. Stay here.” And they stayed there. Then, having heard them one by one with an interpreter who spoke their language, I began to feel things inside, but (I said to myself) “I cannot let them go without saying a word.” I asked for the microphone. And I began to speak. I don’t remember what I said. I know that at a certain point I asked forgiveness, twice. I don’t remember. Your question is what did I feel. In that moment I cried. I tried not to let it be seen. They cried, too. And then I thought the we were in an inter-religious meeting and the leaders of the other religious traditions were there. “Why don’t you come too?” These were all of our Rohingya. They greeted the Rohingya and I didn’t know what more to say. I watched them. I greeted them. And I thought, all of us have spoken, the religious leaders, but one of you must make a prayer and one who I believe was an Imam or let’s say a “cleric” of their religion, made that prayer. They also prayed there with us, and seeing all that happened and the whole path, I felt that the message had arrived. I don’t know if I satisfied your question but part was planned, but the majority came out spontaneously. Then, I was told that today a program was made by one of you, I don’t know if they’re here or… from the TG1, a really long program, who did it…
Greg Burke: TG1 is still there in Bangladesh.
Pope Francis: Because it was replayed by TG4 and - I don’t know. I haven’t seen it, but some who are here have seen it - it’s a reflection that the message had arrived not only here. You have seen the front pages of the newspapers today. All have received the message and I haven’t heard any criticism. Maybe they are there but I haven’t heard them.
Ruiz: Thank you.
Greg Burke: The next question is from George Kallivayalil, an Indian who has made the trip for the Deepika Daily.
George Kallivayalil (Deepika Daily): Holy Father, your trip to South Asia was huge success, we know that you wish to go to India, too, in this trip. What exactly was the reason not to visit India in this trip? Indians in India, millions of the faithful still hope that Holy Father visit India next year. Can we expect you to be in India in 2018?
Pope Francis: The first plan was to go to India and Bangladesh, but then the process to go to India was delayed and the time was pushing so I chose these two countries: Bangladesh and next door Myanmar. And it was providential because to visit India, you need one single trip, because you’ve got to go to the south, the center, the east, the northeast, to the north for the different cultures of India. I hope to do it in 2018 if I’m alive! But the idea was India and Bangladesh, then the time forced us to make this choice. Thanks.
Greg Burke: And now from the French group, Etienne Loraillere of KTO, the French Catholic Television.
Etienne Loraillere (KTO): Holiness, there is a question from the group of journalists from France. Some are opposed to inter-religious dialogue and evangelization. During this trip you have spoken of dialogue for building peace. But, what is the priority? Evangelizing or dialoguing for peace? Because to evangelize means bringing about conversions that provoke tension and sometimes provoke conflicts between believers. So, what is the priority, evangelizing or dialoguing? Thanks.
Pope Francis: First distinction: evangelizing is not making proselytism. The Church grows not for proselytism but for attraction, that is for testimony, this was said by Pope Benedict XVI. What is evangelization like? Living the Gospel and bearing witness to how one lives the Gospel, witnessing to the Beatitudes, giving testimony to Matthew 25, the Good Samaritan, forgiving 70 times 7 and in this witness the Holy Spirit works and there are conversions, but we are not very enthusiastic to make conversions immediately. If they come, they wait, you speak, your tradition… seeking that a conversion be the answer to something that the Holy Spirit has moved in my heart before the witness of the Christians.
During the lunch I had with the young people at World Youth Day in Krakow, 15 or so young people from the entire world, one of them asked me this question: what do I Have to say to a classmate at the university, a friend, good, but he is atheist… what do I have to say to change him, to convert him? The answer was this: the last thing you have to do is say something. You live your Gospel and if he asks you why you do this, you can explain why you do it. And let the Holy Spirit activate him. This is the strength and the meekness of the Holy Spirit in the conversion. It is not a mental convincing, with apologetics, with reasons, it is the Spirit that makes the vocation. We are witnesses, witnesses of the Gospel. 'Testimony' is a Greek word that means martyr. Every day martyrdom, martyrdom also of blood, when it arrives. And your question: what is the priority, peace or conversion? But when you live with testimony and respect, you make peace. Peace starts to break down in this field when proselytism begins and there are so many ways of proselytism and this is not the Gospel. I don’t know if I answered.
Greg Burke: Thank you, Holiness. And now the Anglophone group. Joshua McElwee of the National Catholic Reporter.
Joshua McElwee (National Catholic Reporter) : Thanks so much, Holiness. A change of theme. During the Cold War, Pope Saint John Paul II said that the world policy of nuclear deterrence was judged as morally acceptable. Last month, you said to a conference on disarmament that the very possession of nuclear arms was to be condemned. What has changed in the world that led you to make this change? What role have the episodes and the threats between President Trump and Kim Jong Un had on your decision? What would you say to politicians that do not want to renounce their nuclear arsenals nor decrease them?
Pope Francis: I would prefer if the questions on the trip were done first, I say this to everyone, but I'll make an exception because you asked a question. Now we'll do the questions on the trip, then I'll say something about the trip, and then the other questions will come. What has changed? Irrationality has changed (has increased). The encyclical Laudato Si comes to mind, the care of the created, of creation, from the time of John Paul II to all this many years have passed. How many? Do you have the date? (82) 82, 92, 2002, 2012...34 years. In the nuclear field, in 34 years it has gone beyond, beyond, beyond, beyond, and today we are at the limit. This can be a matter for discussion, it's my opinion, but I am convinced of my opinion: we are at the limit of liceity to have and use nuclear arms. Because today, with the nuclear arsenal so sophisticated, we risk the destruction of humanity or at least a great part (of it). This with Laudato Si.
What has changed? This: the growth in nuclear armament, it has also changed in that they are sophisticated and even cruel, they are also capable of destroying people, leaving...without touching structures, but we are at the limit, and because we are at the limit I ask myself this question: and this not as a pontifical magisterium, but it is the question a Pope makes. Today is it licit to maintain the arsenal of nuclear weapons as they are, or today, to save creation, to save humanity, is it not necessary to go backward? I go back to something I had said from Guarini, it's not mine, (but) there are two forms of culture:
First, the inculturation that God has given us, to create the culture through work, through investigation. We think of medical science, so much progress, so much culture, so many mechanical things. And man has the mission to create the culture received by the inculturation, but we arrive at a point where man has in hand with this culture the capacity to make another "inculturation," we think of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This 60/70 years ago, the destruction and also this happened when also atomic energy can not have all the control. Think of the incidents in Ukraine. For this returning to arms, that are to conquer and destroy, I say we are at the limit of liceity.
Greg Burke: Thanks, Holiness. Now they have given me the signal that the questions that we have about the trip are others. So, if you’d like to say something about the trip…
Pope Francis: I would like some more about the trip, because (otherwise) it would seem that the trip wasn’t that interesting.
Greg Burke: (Come, come) We’ve found another about the trip. Come now, Delia Gallagher of CNN.
Delia Gallagher (CNN): Holiness, I don’t know how much you’d like to respond, but I’m very curious about your meeting with General Haling because I’ve learned a lot about this situation being here and I’ve understood that, well, apart from Aung San Suu Kyi, there is also this military man that is very important in the crisis and you have met him in person. What type of meeting was it? How are you able to speak with him? Thanks.
Pope Francis: Clever the question… eh.. good, good. But I would distinguish between the two meetings, two types of meetings. Those meetings during which I went to meet people and those in which I received people. This general asked me to speak. And I received him. I never close the door. You ask to speak and enter. Speaking you never lose anything, you always win. It was a beautiful conversation. I couldn’t say because it was private, but I didn’t negotiate the truth. But I did it in a way that he understood a bit that the path as it was during the nasty times renewed again today isn’t viable. It was a good meeting, civilized and also there the message arrived.
Greg Burke: Thanks, Holiness. I think that Gerard O’Connell.
Gerard O’Connell (America Magazine): Mine is a bit of a development of the questions from Delia. You met Aung San Suu Kyi, the president, the military, the monk who makes a bit of difficulty and then in Bangladesh you met the prime minister, the president, the Islamic leaders there and the Buddhist leaders in Myanmar. My question: what do you take away from all of these meetings? What prospects are there for the future of a better development in these two countries, in the situation also of the Rohingya?
Pope Francis: It won’t be easy to move ahead in a constructive development and it will not be easy for someone who wishes to go back. We are at a point where they have to study things. Someone - I don’t know if this is true - has said that the Rakhine state is one of the richest in precious stones and that possibly there are interests, being a land a little without people to work… but I don’t know if it’s true. These are just hypotheses that are said, also about Africa they say so many… but I believe that we are at a point where it won’t be easy to go ahead in the positive sense and it won’t be easy to go back, because of the awareness of humanity today… the fact of the return of the Rohingya, which the United Nations have said that the Rohingya are the most persecuted religious and ethnic minority in the world today. Well, this is a point that whomever has to go back must do so quickly. We are at a point there… that that dialogue… beginning with a step, another step, maybe a half step back and two ahead, but as human things are done, with benevolence, dialogue, never with violation, never with war. It isn’t easy. But is a turning-point. Is this turning-point being done for the good? Or is this a turning-point to go back? But yes, I don’t lose hope! But why? Sincerely, if the Lord has allowed this that we’ve seen yesterday, that we’ve experienced in a very reserved way, except for two speeches… the Lord promises something to promise another. I have Christian hope. And it’s known….
Greg Burke: Something yet about the trip? Valentina.
Valentina Alazraki (Televisa): On the trip, a question that we wished to asked before and then it didn’t go. We would like to know: a Pope that speaks about asylum seekers, refugees, immigrants every day… did you want to go to a Rohingya refugee camp? And why didn’t you go?
Pope Francis: I would have liked to go. I would have liked to go, but it wasn’t possible. The things are studied and it wasn’t possible for various factors, also the timing and the distance… but other factors as well. The refugee camp came with a representation, but I would have liked to, that is true. But it wasn’t possible.
Greg Burke: Enzo?
Enzo Romeo (TG2) : Holiness, thank you. I would like to ask you two things quickly. One is on globalization: we’ve seen especially in Bangladesh, and it is a reason for the question tied to the trip, that the nation is trying to get out of poverty but with systems that seem for us quite tough. We saw the Rana Square, the place where the building that was used for industrial textiles fell. 1100 people dead. 5,000 wounded. For 60 Euros per day they worked and in our restaurant to eat a plat of pasta and a pizza cost 50 Euro. No this seems incredible, right? In your opinion, from what you have seen and what you have heard, is it possible to get out of this mechanism? And then another thing is this that we’ve all thought: on the issue of the Rohingya, it seemed that there was also the will to intervene by jihadist groups (Al Qaida, ISIS) who right away, it appears, tried to make themselves the tutors of this people, of the freedom of this people. It’s interesting that the head of Christendom has shown himself more a friend in some way than these extremist groups. Is this sensation right?
Pope Francis: I’ll go from the second. There were groups of terrorists there who sought to take advantage of the situation of the Rohingya, who are a people of peace. This is like all the ethnicities, in all the religions there is always a fundamentalist group. We Catholics also have them. The military justify their intervention because of these groups. I try not to speak with these people. I try to speak with the victims, because the victims were the Rohingya people who on the one hand suffered that discrimination and on the other were defended by terrorists - and the government of Bangladesh has a very strong campaign, this is what I was told by ministers, of zero tolerance for terrorism not only for this, but to avoid other points - But these who are enrolled in ISIS are not Rohingya, but a fundamentalist, extremist, little group. But these make the ministers justify the intervention that has destroyed the good and the bad.
Greg Burke: Globalization, the first question…
Enzo Romeo: Bangladesh is seeking to go out from globalization, but at a very high price with the people exploited for little money.
Pope Francis: It’s one of the most serious problems. I’ve spoken about this in the private meetings. They are conscious of this. They are also conscious that liberty up until a certain point is conditioned, not only by the military, but also by the big international trusts and they have put focus on education and I believe that it has been a wise choice. And there are plans for education. They’ve shown me the percentages for the last years of how illiteracy has decreased. Quite a bit. And this is their choice, and I hope it goes well. The believe that with education the nation will go ahead.
Greg Burke: Thank you, Holiness. Jean Marie Guenois from Le Figaro.
Jean Marie Guenois (Le Figaro): So, today Burma is the nation from which you come… before this you went to Korea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka. It gives the impression that you are going around China. So, two questions on China: is a trip to China being prepared? And, second question, what have you learned from this trip of the Asian mentality and also in light of this project from China? What is the Asian lesson for you?
Pope Francis: Today, the lady chancellor of the State of Burma has gone to Beijing. It can be seen that they are in dialogue there. Beijing has a great influence on the region, it is natural. I don’t know how many kilometers of border Burma has with (China)... also at the Masses there were Chinese who had come and I believe that these countries that surround it, China, also Laos, Cambodia, have a need for good relations. They are close and I see as wise, politically constructive, it can move ahead. It is true that China today is a world power. If we see it from this side it can change the picture, but it will be the political experts to explain it. I can’t and I don’t know. It seems natural that they would have good relations.
The trip to China is not being prepared. Be calm. For the moment, it is not being prepared. But, returning from Korea, when they told me that we were flying over Chinese territory, I wanted to say something: I would so much like to visit China. I would like to. It is not a hidden thing. The negotiations with China are at a high level, cultural. Today, for example, in these days there’s an exhibition of the Vatican Museums there. Then, there will be one or there has been one, I don’t know, of the Chinese museums in the Vatican. There are cultural, scientific relations, professors, priests who teach in Chinese state universities. Then, it’s mostly political dialogue for the Chinese Church, with that issue of the Patriotic Church, the underground church, which must go step by step delicately, as it is doing, slowly… I believe that in these days, today, tomorrow a sitting will start in Beijing of the mixed commission. Patience is needed. But the doors of the heart are open. And I believe that a trip to China will do well. I would like to do it.
Greg Burke: Thanks, Holiness. Now a question more or less about the trip, if we remain on the trip. ABC News.
James Longman (ABC): My apologies, I don’t speak any Italian. Thank you very much for having me on your-- I just want to ask if you have seen how much criticism Aung San Suu Kyi, and if you think that she received not having spoken enough about the Rohingya is fair.
Pope Francis: I heard all that, I heard the critics, also I heard the criticism of not being brought to the province of Rakhine, then you went a half day, more or less. But in Myanmar it is difficult to evaluate a criticism without asking, was it possible to do this? Or how will be possible to do this? In this I don’t want to say that it was a mistake to go or not to go. But in Myanmar the political situation… is a growing nation, politically in growth, and a nation in transition, (made up) of so many cultural values, in history, but politically it is in transition and because of this the possibilities should be evaluated also from this view. In this moment of transition would it have been possible or not to do this or that other (thing)? And to see if it was a mistake or it was not possible? Not only for the State’s Chancellor, but also for the president, for the deputies, the parliament. In Myanmar, you always have to have the construction of the country in front (of you), and from there you take, as I said at the beginning, two steps forward, one back, two forward, two back…History teaches us this. I do not know how to respond in another way, (this is) the little knowledge that I have on this place and I would not want to fall into what that Argentinian philosopher did who was invited to give conferences to countries in Asia one week and when he returned he wrote a book on the reality of that country. This is presumptuous.
Greg Burke: Thank you, Holiness! On the trip, Pullella.
Phil Pullella (Reuters): Yes, I would like to return to the trip if it’s possible. The meeting with the general was originally scheduled for Thursday morning. Instead you had to first meet Aung San Suu Kyi. When the general asked to see you first, the day of your arrival, it was a way of saying: I am in charge here, you have to see me first...in that moment did you feel that he or they wanted to manipulate you?
Pope Francis: The request was because he had to travel to China. If these things happen in every case, if I can move an appointment I do it...I don’t know the intentions, but I was interested in dialogue. A dialogue asked for by them and which they came to, it wasn’t scheduled in my visit. And I think that the most important thing...it’s clear that the suspicion is exactly what you said: we are in charge here, we are the first.
Pullella: Can I ask if -- you said that you cannot tell what is said in private encounters, but can I ask you if during that encounter you used the word Rohingya, with the general?
Pope Francis: I used the words to get to the message and when I saw that the message was accepted, I dared to say everything I wanted to say. ‘Intelligenti pauca’ (Editors note: this refers to a Latin phrase meaning “few words are enough for the one who understands”).
Greg Burke: Thank you, Your Holiness.
Pope Francis: The lady asked me first. It’s the last.
Alicia Romay (Gestiona Radio): Good evening Holiness! For my part I have a question because yesterday when we were with the priests who were ordained, I thought about whether they are afraid to be Catholic priests at this time because of the Catholic life in the country, and whether they had asked you, Your Holiness, what can they do when fear arrives and they don’t know what to do?
Pope Francis: It’s your first trip, eh, you are the friend of Valentina. I always have the habit that five minutes before the ordination, I speak with them in private. And to me they seemed calm, serene, aware. They were aware of their mission. Normal, normal. A question that I asked them: do you play soccer? Yes, all of them. It’s important. A theological question. But I didn’t perceive that fear. They know that they must be close, close to their people, that yes, they feel attached to the people and I liked this. Then I spoke with the formators. Some bishops told me, before entering the seminary, that they make the presbytery so that they learn many things, and they also learn perfect English, to say something practical. They know English and they start seminary. I learned that ordination doesn’t happen at 23-24, but at 28-29...they seem like children, because they all seem so young, all of them, even the older ones...but I saw them secure. What they had...close to their people. And they care a lot. Because each one of them comes from an ethnicity and this...
I thank you, because they tell me that it’s past time. I thank you for the questions and for all that you have done. And what does the Pope think about the trip: to me the trip does me well when I am able to meet the people of the country, the People of God, when I am able to speak, to meet with them and greet them, the encounters with the people. We have spoken about the encounters with the politicians. Yes, it’s true, it must be done, with the priests, with the bishops...but with the people, this...the people, the people who are truly the depth of a country. When I find this, when I am able to find it I am happy. I thank you for your help. And thanks also for the questions and the things that I learned from your questions.
Thanks, and have a good dinner.
Vatican City, Dec 2, 2017 / 04:30 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Aboard his flight from Bangladesh to Rome on Saturday, Pope Francis said that the destructive potential of nuclear weapons is so great that humanity has reached the limit of morally possessing them or using them as deterrents.
“In the nuclear field…today we are at the limit,” the Pope said Dec. 2. “This can be a matter for discussion, it's my opinion, but I am convinced of my opinion: we are at the limit of liceity to have and use nuclear arms.”
The Pope’s comments were made during an in-flight press conference during his return flight from an apostolic trip to Burma, also known as Myanmar, and Bangladesh from Nov. 27-Dec. 2.
Asked if something has changed since the time of the Cold War, when many world leaders considered nuclear weapons a useful and ethically acceptable deterrent to war, Francis stated that he thinks the rationality of the claim has changed.
He also noted that the number of nuclear arms continues to grow, becoming more sophisticated and more powerful, and those factors change the consideration.
“I ask myself this question,” he said, “Today, is it licit to maintain the arsenal of nuclear weapons as they are? Or today, to save creation, to save humanity, is it not necessary to go backward?”
The Pope’s words aboard the papal flight echoed a statement made in a message to United Nations members last March, when he said that while eliminating nuclear weapons may be a challenge, there is still a “moral and humanitarian imperative” to do so.
He also expressed skepticism that nuclear deterrence is “an effective response” to the world's security challenges, echoing decades of previous statements by the Holy See on the perilous potential of nuclear weaponry.
Francis most recently spoke on the topic during an address to participants in a Vatican symposium on nuclear disarmament Nov. 10, stating his hope for the elimination of nuclear arms, and pointing to an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons, which was passed by the UN in July, as a positive step.
The Holy See actively took part in the treaty negotiations, and is among the three nations that have ratified the treaty.
The Holy See has a “Permanent Observer” status at the UN, although with “enhanced powers.” That means that the Holy See can take part in the negotiations of treaties, but does not usually have the right to vote.
For the July 7 vote on the nuclear treaty, the Holy See was allowed to participate in negotiations as a full member, and was permitted to vote on the matter before the adoption of the treaty, showing the strength of the Holy See’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.
This was the first time the Holy See has been afforded such a status at the UN, which Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s “foreign minister,” described as a milestone during the treaty ratification ceremony Sep. 20.
Vatican City, Dec 2, 2017 / 04:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On his return flight from Bangladesh to Rome, Pope Francis offered journalists an insight into his communication strategy, saying that when it comes to a sensitive topic, at times he prefers to hold his tongue publicly so that his message gets across, but is more open in private conversations.
“For me, the most important thing is that the message arrives and in order to do this I try to say things, step by step, and listen to the answers, so that the message may arrive,” the Pope said on his Dec. 2 flight from Dhaka to Rome.
He was returning from a Nov. 27-Dec. 2 visit to south Asia, which took him to both Burma and Bangladesh.
A major underlying theme of the trip was crisis surrounding the Rohingya, a largely Muslim ethnic group who reside in Burma’s Rakhine State, who have faced levels of state-sanctioned violence so drastic that the United Nations has called their plight “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Of particular concern was whether or not Pope Francis would use the term “Rohingya” in his public speeches, because despite widespread use of the word in the international community, the term is controversial within Burma. The Burmese government refuses to use the term, and considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They have been denied citizenship since Burma gained independence in 1948.
Given the delicate political situation, Pope Francis had been advised by local Church leaders in Burma to avoid using the word during official speeches, which he did. However, after meeting with a group of 18 Rohingya Muslims at an interreligious encounter in Bangladesh, he decided to drop the phrase publicly, breaking with his previous protocol.
During an hour-long press conference with journalists on board the flight, which consisted of 12 questions focused primarily on the visit, Francis was asked if he regretted not using the word “Rohingya” publicly while in Burma.
In his answer, the Pope noted that he has used the term publicly several times in different audiences and speeches, so “it was already known what I thought about this thing and what I had said.”
However, he said the question made him reflect on “how I try to communicate,” and the most important goal is always to ensure that his message gets across.
Using the image of a teenager as an everyday example, he said that if they are in a crisis, they “say what they think by throwing the door in the face of the other...and the message doesn’t arrive. It closes.”
When it came to using the word “Rohingya,” Francis said he realized that if he used it in the official speeches, “I would have thrown the door in a face,” implying that the term would have prevented Burmese officials from hearing his message.
Instead, he said he chose to describe the situation and the lack of human rights, and to advocate for inclusion and citizenship in public. In private conversations, however, the Pope said he allowed himself to “go beyond.”
While in Burma, also called Myanmar, the Pope met privately with officials, including General Min Aung Hlaing, the military’s commander-in-chief and a powerful political figure in the nation.
“I was very, very satisfied with the talks that I was able to have,” he said, explaining that while he didn't have “the pleasure of throwing the door in the face, publicly, a denouncement,” he was able to have “the satisfaction of dialoguing and letting the other speak and to say my part.”
In the end, Pope Francis said his message got across, and that “this is very important in communications, the concern that the message will arrive.”
The Pope told journalists that he didn’t know whether he would have the opportunity to meet with Rohingya representatives while in Bangladesh. He thanked the Bangladeshi government for allowing the Rohingya to join him for the Dec. 1 interreligious encounter, saying the country is a good example of what it means to welcome and to have open doors.
Many of the 18 Rohingya present at the meeting didn't know they would meet him either, Francis said, explaining that they were taken from the crowd and told to get in line to greet him, but not to say anything.
“I didn’t like that,” he said. And when the organizers tried to usher them off stage right away, “I got mad and a chewed them out a bit,” he said, confessing that “I'm a sinner.”
After hearing each of them share their stories, Francis said he was moved and wanted to say something to them spontaneously, so he offered a brief prayer in which he asked for forgiveness on behalf of all who harmed them.
“In that moment I cried. I tried not to let it be seen. They cried too,” he said, noting that the other religious leaders who came up to greet them were also moved.
By doing things in this way, Pope Francis said he felt that “the message had arrived. Part was planned, but the majority came out spontaneously.”
Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dec 2, 2017 / 03:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to youth in Bangladesh, Pope Francis said he is always rejuvenated by young people, and encouraged them to never lose their sense of enthusiasm and adventure for life, even when things are hard.
He also stressed the importance of clinging to God and his wisdom, using it as a guide to help them avoid the world's false promises, and to go out of themselves in order to grow in faith and solidarity.
“There is something unique about young people: you are always full of enthusiasm, and I feel rejuvenated whenever I meet with you,” the Pope said Dec. 2.
In his prepared remarks, Francis said this youthful enthusiasm “is linked to a spirit of adventure,”and pointed to Bangladeshi poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, who called the nation's youth “fearless.”
Young people, he said, “are always ready to move forward, to make things happen and to take risks. I encourage you to keep moving with this enthusiasm in the good times and the bad times.”
No matter what, he told them to “keep moving, especially in those moments when you feel weighed down by problems and sadness, and when you look out and God seems to be nowhere on the horizon.”
However, he also stressed the importance of making sure they are moving forward on the right path, which means “journeying” through life, rather than “wandering aimlessly.”
“Our life is not without direction, it has a purpose given to us by God. He guides and directs us with his grace,” the Pope said, explaining that this direction is like “a computer software” God has placed within us that “helps us to discern his divine program and, in freedom, to respond.”
But like all software, this too “needs constantly to be updated,” he said, and told the youths to “keep updating your program, by listening to God and accepting the challenge of doing his will.”
Pop Francis spoke to youth in Dhaka on the last day of his Nov. 27-30 visit to south Asia, which included stops in both Burma and Bangladesh.
His visit to both countries concluded with meetings with youth, which is a decision Vatican spokesman Greg Burke previously said the Pope made intentionally in order to show that they are an essential part of the Church, and that in each country, it is “a young Church with hope.”
Before arriving to Notre Dame College for his encounter with the youth of Bangladesh, the Pope visited the Missionaries of Charity's “Mother Teresa House” for orphans and disabled people, and had an audience with the country's priests and religious.
Dhaka's Notre Dame college was founded in 1949 by the Congregation of the Holy Cross, and in 1954 it was opened to students from all religious confessions.
When he arrived Pope Francis was greeted by Bishop Gervas Rozario, Vice President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Bangladesh. He then listened to two testimonies from young people, the first being student Upasana Ruth Gomez, who spoke about the struggle to stay hopeful in the face of oppression and injustice. The second testimony was from Anthony Toranga Nokrek, who spoke about the need to stay focused in order to be open to and welcome God's message to them.
In his speech, Pope Francis pointed to how Anthony had said that youth are now “growing up in a fragile world that cries out for wisdom.”
This word, he said, is key, because “once you move from 'journeying' to 'wandering aimlessly,' all wisdom is lost! The one thing that directs and guides us on to the right path is wisdom, the wisdom born of faith.”
Francis stressed that this “is not the false wisdom of this world,” and to attain it, “we have to look at the world, our situations, our problems, everything, with the eyes of God.”
When we look at the world with the eyes and wisdom of God, we are also able to recognize and reject the false forms of happiness the world offers, he said, adding that “a culture that makes these false promises cannot deliver.”
“It only leads to a self-centredness that fills the heart with darkness and bitterness,” whereas the wisdom of God “helps us to know how to welcome and accept those who act and think differently than ourselves.”
Pope Francis said it's sad when we start to “shut ourselves up in our little world and become inward-looking,” living by the “my way or the highway” principle.
By doing this, “we become trapped, self-enclosed,” he said, explaining that when an entire people, religion or society does this, turning into “a little world,” they lose the best part of themselves and “plunge into a self-righteous mentality of 'I am good and you are bad.'”
God's wisdom, however, “opens us up to others. It helps us to look beyond our personal comforts and the false securities which blind us to those grand ideals which make life more beautiful and worthwhile.”
The Pope then noted how the crowd wasn't just made up of Catholics, but that many Muslims and youth from other religions were also present. This fact, he said, is a visible sign of their determination “to foster an environment of harmony, of reaching out to others, regardless of your religious differences.”
He recalled an experience working with students in Buenos Aires who were building rooms for a new parish in a poor neighborhood. They all came from different backgrounds and held different beliefs, but, “they were all working for the common good.”
Despite their different backgrounds, these students “were open to social friendship and were determined to say no to anything that would detract from their ability to come together and to help one another.”
As he often does, the Pope then emphasized the importance of interacting with the elderly, who he said help us “to appreciate the continuity of generations.”
Elderly, he said, have the wisdom to help us avoid repeating past mistakes, and have the “charism of bridging the gap,” meaning they are sure to pass on the most important values to their children and grandchildren.
Francis said the elderly also help us to realize that history didn't begin with us, and that we are part of something much bigger than we are, so “keep talking to your parents and grandparents. Do not spend the whole day playing with your phone and ignoring the world around you!”
He closed his speech noting how both Anthony and Upasana had ended their testimonies with an expression of hope for the future.
The wisdom of God “reinforces the hope in us and helps us to face the future with courage,” he said, noting that Christians find this wisdom in a personal encounter with Jesus in prayer, in the sacraments, and in service to the poor, sick, suffering and abandoned.
“In Jesus we discover the solidarity of God, who constantly walks by our side,” he said, and told the youth that he is “filled with joy and hope” when he looks at their faces.
He prayed that God’s wisdom would “continue to inspire your efforts to grow in love, fraternity and goodness,” and voiced his hope that they would continue to grow in love of God and neighbor, telling them “please, do not forget to pray for me!”
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.