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Pope: not everything technically possible is morally acceptable

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 18:06

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2017 / 05:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis praised the achievements of scientific and technological advancements, but cautioned that developments in the field have limits, and should be founded above all on the good of the human person.

“It remains always valid the principle that not everything that is technically possible or feasible is therefore ethically acceptable,” the Pope said in his prepared remarks Nov. 18.

“Science, like any other human activity, knows that there are limits to be observed for the good of humanity itself, and requires a sense of ethical responsibility,” he said, adding that in the words of Bl. Pope Paul VI, the true measure of progress “is that which is aimed at the good of every man and the whole man.”

Pope Francis spoke on the last day of the Pontifical Council for Culture's Nov. 15-18 plenary titled “The Future of Humanity: New Challenges to Anthropology,” and which took place inside the Vatican's old synod hall. Some 54 members and consultors of the council, including prelates and laity, participated.

Discussion touched on anthropological changes in three key areas: medicine and genetics, neuroscience, and the progress of autonomous and thinking machines.

In his speech, the Pope noted how each of these scientific and technical developments have prompted some to think humanity is on the cusp of a new age and level of being superior to what came before.

The questions these advancements raise are “great and serious,” he said, and the Church is paying close attention, but with the desire to put the human person and the issues surrounding it at the center of her own reflections.

In the bible the course of man's anthropological progress can be seen from Genesis to Revelation, he said, developing around the “fundamental elements” of relation and freedom.”

Relation consists of three dimensions: relation to material things such as land and animals, relation to the divine and relation to other beings, where as freedom is expressed in autonomy and in moral choices.

This understanding of anthropology is still valid today, Francis said, but at the same time, today we also realize that “the great fundamental principles and concepts of anthropology are not rarely put into question on the basis of a greater knowledge of the complexity of the human condition and the need for further investigation.”

Anthropology is the source of our self-understanding, but in modern times, it has become a “fluid and changing horizon” in light of increasing socioeconomic changes, population shifts, increasing intercultural interactions, globalization and the “incredible” discoveries of science and technology.”

Francis said that in response to this situation, we must first give thanks to the scientists who work in favor of humanity and all of creation through their research and discoveries.

Science and technology have helped to deepen in our understanding of the human person, he said, but cautioned that “this alone is not enough to give a response.”

In this regard, he said it's necessary to draw on the “treasures of wisdom” conserved in the various religions traditions, in “popular wisdom”  and in literature and the arts, while at the same time rediscovering the perspectives offered by philosophy and theology.

He stressed the need to overcome the “tragic division” between the humanistic-theological culture and the scientific culture, saying there must be greater dialogue between the Church and the scientific community.

The Church, he said, offers key talking points for this dialogue, the first of which is the centrality of the human person, “which is considered an end and not a means.” Secondly, the Church reminds the world of the principle of the “universal destination of goods,” which includes knowledge and technology.

“Scientific and technical progress serve to benefit all of humanity and their benefits can't go to the advantage of the few,” Francis said, adding that new inequalities based on knowledge that increase the divide between the rich and the poor must be avoided in the future.

Pope Francis closed his speech saying the major decisions on the direction of scientific research and investment “are assumed by the whole of society and not dictated solely by the market or by the interest of a few,” and thanked participants for the “precious service” to the Church and to humanity.

What does the Church really teach about nuclear war?

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 08:00

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican conference discussing “A World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” held Nov. 10-11, is the latest step in a long-term commitment from the Holy See to work for nuclear disarmament, which itself is considered by the Vatican to be a step toward the goal of integral disarmament.
 
The conference was held after 120 nations voted this July to pass the UN’s Comprehensive Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  The treaty prohibits signatories from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and prevents them from using these weapons. To date, only three countries have ratified the treaty.
 
The Holy See actively took part in the treaty’s negotiations, and is among the three nations that have ratified the treaty
 
The Holy See has a “Permanent Observer” status at the United Nations, 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 accepted by the UN to participate in negotiations as a full member, and was permitted to vote on the matter before the adoption of the treaty. 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 treaties ratification ceremony Sep. 20.
 
This diplomatic initiative shows the strength of the Holy See’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.
 
In fact, the Holy See has understood for decades the perilous potential of nuclear weaponry.
 
During the Second World War, Pius XII understood that new scientific developments could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction.
 
Pope Pius XII’s concerns were expressed in three different speeches delivered at the Pontifical Academy for Sciences between 1941 and 1948.
 
Talking on Nov. 30, 1941, Pius XII said in the hands of men, science can be a double edged weapon, able to heal and kill at the same time. The Pope also said that he was following “the incredible adventure of the men committed to research on nuclear energy and nuclear transformation” thanks to Max Planck, Nobel Prize Laureate in 1918, who served as member of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences.
 
Pope Pius XII warned about nuclear danger again, in a meeting with members of the Pontifical Academy that took place Feb. 21, 1943. On that occasion, the Pope warned that because of the development of nuclear weapons, “there could be a dangerous catastrophe for our planet as a whole.”
 
Finally, in a speech delivered to the Pontifical Academy for Science on Feb. 8, 1948, the Pope talked about the atomic bomb as one of the “most horrible weapons the human mind has ever conceived,” and asked: “What disaster should the humanity expect from a future conflict, if stopping or slowing the use of always more and more surprising scientific inventions would be proven impossible? We should distrust any science whose main goal is not love.”
 
Like Pius XII, St. John XXIII urged the need for an “integral disarmament” in his encyclical Pacem In Terris, and the Second Vatican Council’s Apostolic Constitution Gaudium et Spes stressed that “power of weapons does not legitimate their military and political use.”
 
Speaking at the UNESCO June 2, 1980, Pope St. John Paul II explicitly mentioned the “nuclear threat” on the world that could lead to “the destruction of fruits of culture, products of the civilization built in centuries by generation of men who believed in the primacy of the spirit and did not spare efforts nor fatigues.”
 
John Paul II noted the “fragile balance” of the world, caused by geopolitical reasons, economic problems and political misunderstandings along with wounded national prides. But, he said, this balance can be destroyed at any moment, following “a mistake in judging, informing, interpreting.”
 
He then asked: “Can we still be certain that breaking the balance would not lead to war and to a war that would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons?”
 
Benedict XVI also confronted the issue many times. It is especially noteworthy to recall what Benedict said in his May 31, 2009 Pentecost homily.
 
Benedict XVI stressed that “man does not want to be in the image of God any longer, but only in his own image: he declares himself autonomous, free.”
 
A man in such an “unauthentic relation” with God can become dangerous, and “can revolt against life and humanity,” as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedies showed, the Pope said.
 
Pope Francis has warned many times about the risks of the nuclear proliferation. In a message sent to the UN Conference for the Negotiation of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Pope Francis stressed that “International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power.”
 
“We need – he added - to go beyond nuclear deterrence: the international community is called upon to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security”.
 
The Holy See has followed a clear path on nuclear disarmament, which it continued with this month’s conference. The words of Pope Francis at the conference carry the legacy and tradition of the Church’s teachings on nuclear weaponry and its danger.

We can not “fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices,” the Pope said.  

“If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.  For they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race.  International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms.  Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security.  They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family."

 

 

Hannah Brockhaus contributed to this report.

 

Commentary: Don’t buy fake agendas; defend the pope!

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 04:00

London, England, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For years now, I have bemoaned the growing number of so-called progressive Catholic figures, in academia, the media and the outer curial orbit, who fancy themselves to be the Pope’s ideological vanguard, amidst what they have taken to calling their “intra-ecclesial battle.”

The agenda they push is an obvious rehash of seventies liberalism: a “progressive” approach to sexual ethics, acceptance of divorce and remarriage, recognition of same-sex relationships, “creating a space” for those who disagree with the Church on life issues. This rather tired agenda has been dressed up in the language of woke university students and twitter social justice warriors, but its core premise remains the same as it ever was - to push the fallacy that Vatican II was part of the cultural revolution of the sixties, rather than the Church’s answer to it. Their efforts are easy to spot, just look for the people endlessly invoking the council but never actually quoting a document from it.

Their main objective is to fracture the continuity and authority of the Church’s essential teaching on the dignity and nature of the human person, relationships with God and other people, and society. In this fight, they have identified the key battleground, their greatest enemy, and their biggest opportunity: Pope Francis.

Pope Francis, from the moment of his election, has been a gigantic figure on the global stage. Through a combination of his personal charisma and the age of viral social media, his every soundbite gets attention and circulation that his predecessors couldn’t have imagined. Being seen to be “with” the pope is more powerful than ever before.

Conversely, being painted as “anti-Francis” is now the fastest way to find yourself beyond the pale of acceptable Church discourse - a far cry from the days when the progressive ‘cool kids’ seemed to take a juvenile kind of pride in forcing St. John Paul II or Benedict XVI to discipline them. Many of those who previously wore dissent as a badge of distinction have become the first and fiercest to label those they dislike, whether journalists, academics, or even cardinals, as “disloyal” to the pope, and opposed to his teaching authority.

Yet those who cry the loudest against the pope’s supposed opponents are themselves at the sharp end of a campaign of double deception. They insist that they are with the pope, or rather he is with them, and so to oppose them, on anything, is to oppose the pope. This is a falsehood.

The list of subjects on which Pope Francis is at odds with his self-appointed enforcers has grown to a comical length. In the last few months alone, Pope Francis has sided with the parents of Charlie Gard in defense of life, contrary to statements from the remade Pontifical Academy of Life, headed by Archbishop Paglia, and he has publicly echoed Cardinal Sarah’s call for a rediscovery of reverential silence in the liturgy, even as the Pope’s supposed-supporters demanded that Sarah be sacked.

Just days ago, the election of Archbishop Joseph Naumann as chairman of the US Bishops’ Conference pro-life committee was railed against by prominent liberal Catholics, who shouted themselves hoarse arguing that this election was an explicit rejection of the pope, and of his entire vision for the Church.

Pope Francis has, of course, called abortion a “horrendous crime,” a “very grave sin,” and, just last month, part of a “eugenic tendency” against the disabled. None of this made it into liberal coverage of the vote, nor was it held to be a factor in the election of an archbishop with sterling pro-life credentials over another who once discouraged his priests from participating in the 40 Days for Life campaign.

This is a group doing everything they can to take the pope’s public image and message hostage, and replace it with their own. The extent to which these voices are trying to define a “Francis agenda” contrary to the clear teaching of the Pope himself would be laughable, if their spurious arguments didn’t seem to gain so much traction.

Their biggest success thus far has been the confected row over communion for the divorced and remarried, an idea the pope has repeatedly refused to endorse, even categorically refuting the claim that his call for “full integration into parish life” meant receiving communion. The motivating force behind this campaign has nothing to do with pastoral concern for the tiny minority of catholics in this situation, in fact many of them have been hurt by the confusion and speculation of this effort. Rather, the goal is to force a crack, in practice if not yet in theory, in the Church’s absolute adherence to the indissolubility of marriage. It has also served to successfully suppress any discussion of the actual content of Amoris Latitiae, a document which not only reaffirms the permanence of marriage, but actually endorses the teaching of Humanae Vitae, the great liberal bête noire of the last sixty years.  It also rejects, in stark terms, the great progressive causes of the moment: a softened stance on abortion and euthanasia, same-sex unions, and gender theory.

Successfully convincing huge swathes of the Church that the pope is in favor of the very things he has condemned, while the evidence to the contrary is there for all to see, is the result of an incredibly brazen slight of hand, unwittingly abetted by the pope’s indifference to television and the internet. It has sown division and discord across the Church. There needs to be an urgent and unflinching response, one which takes true filial pride in the real papal magisterium and uses it to confront those who knowingly abuse the name and authority of Pope Francis and Vatican Council II for their own ends.

 

 Ed Condon is a canon lawyer working for tribunals in a number of dioceses. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.

Ahead of Myanmar visit, Pope says he's coming to promote peace

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 18:29

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday Pope Francis sent a video greeting to the people of Myanmar ahead of his Nov. 27-30 trip, saying he is coming to proclaim the Gospel and promote peace in a country gripped by a heated humanitarian and political crisis surrounding the Rohingya Muslim minority.

In the video, published Nov. 17, the said he wants to “confirm the Catholic community of Myanmar in its faith in God and in its testimony of the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and demands (us) to open our hearts to others, especially to the poor and the needy.”

Above all, Francis said he is coming “to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ (and) a message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.”

The visit to Myanmar is the first part of two stops in a  Nov. 27-Dec. 2 trip that will also take Pope Francis to Bangladesh.

It also takes place amid an uptick in state-supported violence against Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim community – an ethnic and religious minority – which in recent months has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in violent persecution in their home country, many of the Rohingya population has fled to neighboring Bangladesh, with millions camping along the border as refugees.

In his video message the Pope thanked everyone working in preparation of his visit and asked for their prayers, that it would be “a source of hope and encouragement for everyone.” He said he also hopes to visit the country in a “spirit of respect and encouragement,” so the nation may endeavor to “build harmony and cooperation in serving the common good.”

Many people at this time, both believers and people of goodwill, feel an increasing need to grow in mutual understanding and respect as “members of the only human family,” he said, “because we are all children of God.”

The Pope’s pastoral visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh was officially announced by the Vatican in August and a first-draft of his schedule was released Oct. 10.  He will be in Myanmar, also called Burma, Nov. 27-30 and in Bangladesh Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

Pope Francis will leave the Vatican in the evening on Nov. 26, landing the following day in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, where he will stay during the first portion of his trip. After the official welcoming, he will have time to rest before the full-schedule begins the next day.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, he will fly to Nay Pyi Taw, where there will be another official welcoming and arrival ceremony and an official visit with President Htin Kyaw.

He will then meet with the state advisor and minister of foreign affairs, before an encounter with other government authorities, leaders of civil society and the diplomatic corps, where he will give his first official speech of the visit.

The following morning Francis will celebrate Mass at the Kyaikkasan Grounds park. In the afternoon he will give speeches at separate meeting with the Supreme Council of “Sangha,” a term referring to Buddhist clergy in the country, and in a meeting with the bishops of Myanmar.

He will conclude his visit to Myanmar with a Mass for young people at the Cathedral of St. Mary’s in the morning of Nov. 30 before departing for Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Catholics in Myanmar are a small minority, only making up approximately 1.3 percent of a population of nearly 52 million. However, there are even fewer priests, both diocesan and religious, who number only one per every 742 Catholics.

Who was Albino Luciani, the 'smiling Pope'?

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 16:01

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Last week Albino Luciani, better known by his papal name, John Paul I, took the next step on the path to sainthood. Yet apart from the fame garnered by various theories that sprouted due to the enigmatic nature of his death, for many little is known of his saintly life and brief pontificate.

Born Oct. 17, 1912, in Italy’s northern Veneto region, Albino Luciani, known also as “the smiling Pope,” was elected Bishop of Rome Aug. 26, 1978. He made history when he became the first Pope to take a double name, after his two immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI.

He sent shock waves around the world when he died unexpectedly just 33 days later, making his one of the shortest pontificates in the history of the Church.

In addition to the novelty of his name and the surprise of his death, Luciani was also the first Pope born in the 20th century, and is also the most recent Italian-born Bishop of Rome.

Yet behind all the novelty of the month before his death and mystery of those that ensued, John Paul I has been hailed as a man of heroic humility and extraordinary simplicity, with a firm commitment to carrying forward the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and a knack for explaining complicated Church concepts in a way everyone can understand.

Life and background

Coming from a northern region in Italy that borders Austria, Luciani grew up with people from all cultures and backgrounds passing through. The area saw high levels of immigration and strong activity on the part of Catholic movements.

The priests around whom Luciani grew up had a keen social awareness and involvement with the faithful.

While all the basic needs of his family were met, Luciani grew up in relative poverty, with his father gone most of the time for work. However, according to Stefania Falasca, vice-postulator of his cause for canonization, this background gave the future Pope “a huge cultural suitcase” that he was able to bring with him in his various endevours.

Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Belluno e Feltre July 7, 1935, at the age of 22, Luciani was rector of the diocese's seminary for 10 years. He taught various courses throughout his tenure, including dogmatic and moral theology, canon law, and sacred art.

In 1941 he received a dispensation from Ven. Pius XII to continue teaching while pursuing his doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was named Bishop of Vittorio Veneto by St. John XXIII in 1958.

In 1969 he was named Patriarch of Venice by Bl. Paul VI. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1973, and was elected Bishop of Rome five years later.

Literature also played a key role in Luciani's formation. According to Falasca, he had a library full of books in different languages and a special fondness for Anglo-American literature.

Though he knew English, French, German and Russian, his favorite authors were from the Anglo world, and included authors such as G.K. Chesterton, Willa Cather, and Mark Twain.

As cardinal, he wrote his own book called “Illustrissimi,” which is a series of letters penned to a variety of historical and fictional persons, including Jesus, King David, Figaro the Barber, Austrian Empress Maria Theresa Habsburg, Pinocchio, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Christopher Marlowe.

Luciani, Falasca said, was considered by Paul VI to be “one of the most advanced theologians” of the time, and was held in high esteem because he not just knew theology, but also knew how to explain it.

The clarity he had was “highly considered right away among the Italian bishops,” she said. “He was considered the brightest pen because of this 'cultural suitcase,' which knew how to synthesize in a very delicate writing, but clear and full of references.”

Luciani, she said, had “an ease of language” in his writing, which was coupled with “a solid theological preparation,” making him both credible and accessible.

Pontificate – 'an Apostle of the Council'

John Paul I above all else was “a son of the Council,” Falasca said. Luciani “translated and communicated the directives in a natural and simple way … So he was an apostle of the Council in this sense.”

“He explained it, he put it into practice, he put the directives into action in a crystalline way.” It was this desire to carry the Council forward that formed the basis for his priorities during his 33 days in office.  

Among these priorities was a “renewed sense of mission” for the Church, Falasca said, explaining that for Luciani, to accomplish this mission it was important “to go back to the sources of the Gospel.”

“This, you can say, was the meaning of the Council for Luciani.” And for him, going to the sources also meant “communicating the Gospel in simplicity and conforming his ministry” to it.

In addition to mission, John Paul I also placed a special emphasis on spiritual poverty in the Church and the search for peace and ecumenism.

Ecumenism and dialogue in particular are topics Luciani felt were “a duty that is part of being a Christian.”

Collegiality also was another key topic for Luciani, and it was the subject of his only written intervention during the Council, which he contributed in 1963.

Luciani also placed a strong emphasis on mercy, Falasca said, explaining that in many ways he was “was the Pope of mercy 'par excellence,'” and was known for his warm and friendly demeanor.  

These priorities can be clearly seen in the four general audiences John Paul I gave during his pontificate, with the subjects being poverty, faith, hope, and charity.

And the way he spoke about these and other topics, with “the simplicity of his approach (and) of his language,” left “an indelible memory in the People of God,” Falasca said.

John Paul I, she said, moved people with his naturalness and his ordinary way of speaking to the faithful.

Luciani had put this quality into writing long before his pontificate when in 1949, he published his first book, titled “Catechesis in Crumbs,” which focused on how to teach the essential truths of the faith in a simple and direct way, understandable to everyone.

Death

When John Paul I died 33 days after his election, his sudden and unexpected death led to various conspiracy theories that Luciani had been murdered.

However, in a book titled “John Paul I: The Chronicle of a Death” and published Nov. 7 to coincide with the announcement that Luciani's sainthood cause was moving forward, Falasca dispels the theories by outlining the evidence gathered on John Paul I’s death while researching for his cause.

In the book, she recounts how the evening before his death Luciani suffered a severe pain in his chest for about five minutes, a symptom of a heart problem, which occurred while he was praying Vespers with his Irish secretary, Msgr. John Magee, before dinner.

The Pope rejected the suggestion to call for a doctor when the pain subsided, and his doctor, Renato Buzzonetti, was only informed of the episode after his death.

Heroic Virtue

Luciani's prime virtue was humility, which is “the base without which you can't go toward God.” Humility, Falasca said, “was so embedded in him, that he understood it as the only way to reach Christ.”

Luciani's connection with the Lord was also evident in the way that he spoke about God, she said, explaining that he was able to make the love of God close to people, and felt by them.

Falasca said she believes he is an ideal model of the priesthood. To this end, she recalled how during her time working on Luciani's cause, many young priests came to her saying they felt the call of their vocation when they saw his election on TV.  

Another sign of his sanctity was the “spontaneous reputation” that grew over time, and is a “distinctive sign” in determining the heroic virtue of a person.

“The reputation for holiness is the condition 'sine quo non' (without which it could not be) to open a cause of canonization; there must be a reputation,” she said, and “Luciani enjoys much of it, and he enjoys it not in an artificial way.”

Many people pray to him and have continued to travel to his birth town over the past 40 years, she said, because people are attracted “by his charm.”

“He won over many with his stand in the face of contemporaneity, his closeness to the people of his time with that simplicity and with that familiarity of communication.”

Luciani opened “a new season in being and in the exercise of the Petrine ministry...with his charm, which knew how to conjugate in perfect synthesis, in my view, what was old and what was new.”

He also lived an extraordinary sense of poverty of spirit as seen in the Beatitudes, and had an “extreme fidelity to the Gospel in the circumstance and the status that he embraced.”

In a testimony given for documentation in the Luciani's cause for canonization, Benedict XVI said that when Luciani appeared on the balcony in his white cassock after his election, “we were all deeply impressed by his humility and his goodness.”

“Even during the meals, then, he was took a place with us. So thanks to a direct contact we immediately understood that the right Pope had been elected.”

Benedict XVI's testimony regarding John Paul I is four pages long and is one of the documents included in Falasca's book. In her comments to CNA, she said they had originally planned to interview him in 2005 while he was still a cardinal, but he was elected Pope on the same day he was scheduled to speak, and since a Pope is technically the one judging a saints' cause, he is not allowed to give testimony for it.

However, there are currently no previsions for a retired Pope, so when Benedict XVI resigned in 2013, Falasca and her team advancing Luciani's cause reached out again, receiving the testimony that has now been published in her book.

In his testimony, Benedict recalled that he first met Luciani while the latter was Patriarch of Venice. He had decided to visit the seminary in Bressanone with his brother, Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, for vacation in August 1977, shortly after becoming a bishop.

Luciani came to visit the brothers after learning of their visit, and to go out of his way to do this in the oppressive heat of August “was a expression of a nobility of spirit that went well beyond usual,” Benedict wrote. “The cordiality, simplicity and goodness that he showed to me are indelibly impressed in my memory.”

Benedict said he was shocked when he received news of John Paul I's death in the middle of the night and didn't initially believe it, but slowly accepted the news in Mass the next day, during which the celebrant offered prayer for the “deceased Pope John Paul I.”

Speaking of John Paul I's pontificate, Benedict noted that in 1978 it was evident that “the post-conciliar Church was passing through a great crisis, and the good figure of John Paul I, who was a courageous man on the basis of faith, represented a sign of hope.” And this figure, he said, still represents “a message” for the Church today.

Benedict also noted that during the various public speeches Luciani gave, whether it was a general audience or a Sunday Angelus, the late Pope “spoke several times off-the-cuff and with the heart, touching the people in a much more direct way.”

Luciani often called children up to him during general audiences to ask them about their faith, Benedict said, explaining that “his simplicity and his love for simple people were convincing. And yet, behind that simplicity was a great and rich formation, especially of the literary type.”

So far hundreds of graces and favors have been recorded for those who pray to Luciani, and there are already two miracles being studied and considered for his beatification and eventual canonization. Falasca said they are currently trying to decide which to present first.

End of life care must acknowledge our mortality, Francis reminds physicians

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 04:05

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2017 / 03:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to medical professionals Thursday, Pope Francis said that when it comes to end-of-life care, treatments should always be based on human dignity and with the patient's best interests in mind.

He also stressed that the various medical options provided must avoid the temptation either to euthanize a patient or to pursue disproportionate treatments which do not serve the integral good of the person.

When it comes to caring for those at the end of their earthly life, “it could be said that the categorical imperative is to never abandon the sick,” the Pope said Nov. 16.

The anguish of being faced with our human mortality and the difficult decisions we have to make “may tempt us to step back from the patient,” he said, but cautioned that is the stage when we are most called to show love, closeness, and solidarity.

Each person – whether they are a parent, child, sibling, doctor or nurse – must give in their own way, he said, and even though there is not always a guarantee of healing or a cure, “we can and must always care for the living, without ourselves shortening their life, but also without futilely resisting their death.”

In this sense, he pointed to the importance of palliative care, “which is proving most important in our culture, as it opposes what makes death most terrifying and unwelcome – pain and loneliness.”

Pope Francis offered his words in a message sent to participants in the World Medical Association's Nov. 16-17 European Meeting on End-of-Life Questions, organized in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The Pope said “greater wisdom” is needed today when it comes to end-of-life care, “because of the temptation to insist on treatments that have powerful effects on the body, yet at times do not serve the integral good of the person.”

The increase in the “therapeutic capabilities of medical science” have made it possible to eliminate various diseases, improve health and prolong a person's life, he said, noting that while these are certainly positive developments, there is now also the danger “to extend life by means that were inconceivable in the past.”

“Surgery and other medical interventions have become ever more effective, but they are not always beneficial: they can sustain, or even replace, failing vital functions, but that is not the same as promoting health.”

Referencing a speech given by Venerable Pius XII to anaesthesiologists and intensive care specialists in 1957, Francis said that “there is no obligation to have recourse in all circumstances to every possible remedy” for an illness, and that in specific cases, “it is permissible to refrain from their use.”

“Consequently, it is morally licit to decide not to adopt therapeutic measures, or to discontinue them, when their use does not meet that ethical and humanistic standard that would later be called 'due proportion in the use of remedies,'” referencing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 1980 Declaration on Euthanasia.

The key element of this criterion, according to the CDF, is that it considers “the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources.”

This “makes possible a decision that is morally qualified as withdrawal of 'overzealous treatment',” the Pope said.

“Such a decision responsibly acknowledges the limitations of our mortality, once it becomes clear that opposition to it is futile.” He quoted the Catechism in saying that “here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted.”

“This difference of perspective restores humanity to the accompaniment of the dying, while not attempting to justify the suppression of the living,” he said.

“It is clear that not adopting, or else suspending, disproportionate measures, means avoiding overzealous treatment; from an ethical standpoint, it is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death.”

When it comes to concrete clinical situations, Pope Francis noted that various factors come into play that are not always easy to evaluate, and to determine whether a medical intervention is proportionate or not, “the mechanical application of a general rule is not sufficient.”

“There needs to be a careful discernment of the moral object, the attending circumstances, and the intentions of those involved.”

Francis emphasized that when caring for any given patient, decisions must be made in light of human dignity. “In this process, the patient has the primary role,” he added.

“The patient, first and foremost, has the right, obviously in dialogue with medical professionals, to evaluate a proposed treatment and to judge its actual proportionality in his or her concrete case, and necessarily refusing it if such proportionality is judged lacking. That evaluation is not easy to make in today's medical context, where the doctor-patient relationship has become increasingly fragmented and medical care involves any number of technological and organizational aspects.

Compounding this difficulty, the Pope said, is the “growing gap” in healthcare opportunities, which he said is due to “the combination of technical and scientific capability and economic interests.”

What this means, then, is that sophisticated and costly treatments are increasingly available to “ever more limited and privileged segments” of the population. This then raises questions regarding sustainable healthcare delivery and “a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care.”

This tendency, Francis said, “is clearly visible” on a global level, especially when comparing different continents. However, he noted this is also seen within wealthier countries, where access to healthcare “risks being more dependent on individuals’ economic resources than on their actual need for treatment.”

In this context, as it relates to both clinical practice and medical culture in general, “the supreme commandment of responsible closeness must be kept uppermost in mind,” he said.

Given the complexity of issues surrounding end-of-life care and the moral and ethical questions they raise, the Pope said democratic societies must address them “calmly, seriously and thoughtfully,” in a way open to finding agreeable solutions whenever possible, including on the legal level.

“On the one hand, there is a need to take into account differing world views, ethical convictions and religious affiliations, in a climate of openness and dialogue. On the other hand, the state cannot renounce its duty to protect all those involved, defending the fundamental equality whereby everyone is recognized under law as a human being living with others in society.”

Special attention must be paid to the vulnerable, who need help when it comes to defending their own interests, he said, noting that if this “core of values essential to coexistence” is weakened, then “the possibility of agreeing on that recognition of the other which is the condition for all dialogue and the very life of society will also be lost.”

Healthcare legislation must adopt this “broad vision and a comprehensive view” of what will most effectively promote the common good in each concrete case, he said, and closed by offering his prayer for the discussion.

“I also trust that you will find the most appropriate ways of addressing these delicate issues with a view to the good of all those whom you meet and those with whom you work in your demanding profession.”

Climate change a problem we can't ignore, Pope Francis says

Fri, 11/17/2017 - 01:08

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2017 / 12:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent a message Thursday to a conference on climate change, telling participants the problem is something that can't be ignored, but must be met with a proactive desire to develop effective solutions.

“I would like to reiterate my urgent invitation to renew dialogue about the way in which we are building the future of the planet,” the Pope said Nov. 16.

“We need a solution that unites everyone, because the environmental challenge that we are living, and its human roots, involves and touches us all,” he said, noting that unfortunately many of the efforts to seek concrete solutions “are often frustrated by various motives that range from negating the problem to indifference, comfortable resignation or blind trust in technical solutions.”

Francis said we have to avoid falling into the “perverse attitudes” of denial, indifference, resignation, and trust in inadequate solutions, which “certainly do not help honest research and sincere dialogue on building the future of our planet.”

Pope Francis offered his words in a message to Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, for the U.N. COP-23 Climate Change conference taking place Nov. 6-17 in Bonn, Germany, and which is being presided over by the government of Fiji.

He noted how the gathering is taking place two years after the Paris Climate Agreement was reached, which reached a consensus on the need to develop “a shared strategy to counteract one of the most concerning phenomenons that our humanity is living: climate change.”

The Paris Agreement was an international climate accord reached in 2015 after representatives of more than 150 countries met for COP 21, or the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Signatories pledged on various levels to help reduce global carbon emissions and aim to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius, as compared to average temperatures from the pre-industrial age, by the end of the 21st century.

When the agreement was initially reached, Pope Francis hailed it as “historic” and said it would require “a concerted and generous commitment” from members of the international community. Over 190 countries have signed on to the agreement.

However, United States President Donald Trump decided earlier this year to pull out of the accord, arguing that the requirements would harm the U.S. economy and jobs.

In his message to the COP-23 conference, Pope Francis said the challenge of climate change requires the commitment of every country, some of whom “must try to assume a guiding role,” with due consideration for vulnerable populations.

He noted how in this year's conference participants are trying to implement a new phase of the Paris agreement, which is “the process of defining and building guidelines, rules and institutional mechanisms so that it can truly be effective and capable of contributing to the achievement of the complex objectives it proposes.”

In coming up with solutions, the Pope cautioned against limiting them only to the economic or technical dimensions, because “technical solutions are necessary but insufficient.”

Rather, he said “it's essential and desirable to also keep in attentive consideration the ethical and social aspects and impacts of the new paradigm of development and progress in short, medium and long-term.”

To this end, Francis emphasized the need to focus on an education and lifestyle that are based on an integral ecology capable of assuming “a vision of honest research and open dialogue” where the various aspects of the Paris Agreement are intertwined.  

The agreement, he said, calls for “serious responsibility to act without delay as freely as possible from political and economic pressures, overcoming particular interests and behaviors,” and requires a “responsible awareness” of our common home.

Pope Francis closed his message voicing his hope that the work done in the conference would be animated by the same “collaboration and proactive” spirit of the COP-21 conference in 2015.

“This will accelerate awareness-raising and the consolidation of the will to make effective decisions to counteract the phenomenon of climate change while at the same time fighting poverty and promoting a true integral human development.”

Pope Francis got a Lamborghini, and he's raffling it for charity

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 18:09

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2017 / 05:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis became the proud new owner of a special papal-themed Lamborghini Huracán, which was given to him by company execs at the Vatican and will be auctioned off for charity.

The sleek white Huracán with gold lines running along the hood and angles of the car's body was presented to Francis in front of his residence at the Vatican's Saint Martha Guesthouse Nov. 15, which he blessed and autographed in the presence of top executives from the luxury Italian sports car brand.

It will be auctioned at Sotheby's and the Pope has decided to give the proceeds to three different charitable causes: the restoration of villages on the Nineveh Plain in Iraq, assisting victims of human trafficking, and missionary work in Africa.

At a base cost of roughly $250,000, the Huracán made its debut at the March 2014 Geneva Auto show, and was released in the second quarter of the year, quickly becoming Lamborghini's most popular and best-selling car.

The name, which is Spanish for “hurricane,” is reminiscent of the fighting bull “Huracán” that fought in the late 1800s and was known for its courage. The choice of the car's name follows suit with Lamborghini's style, as they typically use historic Spanish fighting bulls as a scheme for naming their vehicles.

It was designed based on the hexagonal form of the carbon atom, and has 610 metric horsepower and 4 wheel drive, as well as a naturally aspirated V10 engine and a full-LED lighting system. In 2014, the Huracán was named “Supercar of the Year” by car magazine Top Gear.

With six different models of the Huracán on the market, the papal-version marks a special 7th edition created specifically for Pope Francis.

In terms of proceeds, funds will go toward initiatives led by papal charity Aid to the Church in Need to rebuild properties that were destroyed by ISIS in Iraq.

One of their projects, titled “Iraq, return to the roots,” was presented at the Vatican in September. From 2014-2017, the project has financed various programs for Christians in Iraq, amounting to an approximate total of $35 million.

Among the structures destroyed or damaged since the ISIS invasion of the Nineveh Plains in 2014, it is estimated that some 13,000 homes, schools, hospitals and religious buildings were completely or partially destroyed. The project, with a total estimated cost of $250 million, aims to continue providing a concrete response to Christians from the Nineveh Plains who want to return to their homes.

Proceeds from the raffle will also directly benefit the Pope John XXIII Community, which assists women who have been victims of human trafficking and prostitution. Pope Francis has met members of the community at the Vatican on several occasions, and he visited them in August 2016 as one of his “Mercy Friday” outings during the Jubilee of Mercy.

Funds from the raffle will also support two Italian associations that carry out missionary work in Africa, one being the “GICAM” project of hand surgeon Professor Marco Lanzetta, and the other being the “Friends of Central Africa” organization, which for two years has led projects dedicated primarily to care for women and children.

Francis has done similar raffles for high-end gifts in the past, with each item going for well beyond its market sale price.

In 2013 he was given a Harley-Davidson Dyna Super Glide, which was sold to a private buyer for roughly $327,000, far exceeding the $16-22,000 presale estimate.

After his September 2015 visit to the United States, during which FIAT Chrysler made a pair of FIAT 500Ls available for the Pope to use during his time in Philadelphia, both of the cars were auctioned off to support local charity.

Similarly, in April 2016 a white skullcap – known as a “zucchetto” worn by prelates in the Catholic Church – was sold for around $18,000, after the owner had bought it and exchanged it with the Pope during a general audience. At least part of the funds went to support a children's charity.

Pope Francis: The Mass needs silence, not 'chit-chat'

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 16:49

Vatican City, Nov 15, 2017 / 03:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis called out the common habit of chatting with people around you before Mass, stressing that this is a time for silent prayer, when we prepare our hearts for an encounter with the Lord.

“When we go to Mass, maybe we arrive five minutes before, and we start to chit-chat with those in front of us,” the Pope said Nov. 15. However, “it is not a moment for chit-chat.”

“It is a moment of silence for preparing ourselves for dialogue, a time for the heart to collect itself in order to prepare for the encounter with Jesus,” he said, adding that “silence is so important.”

Continuing his new catechesis on the Eucharist, the Pope recalled his message the week prior, that the Mass is not a show, but a place where we encounter the Lord. In this encounter, he said, silence is what “prepares us and accompanies us.”

But to really understand this, first we have to answer a question, he said. And that is: What is prayer?

Prayer is, “first and foremost dialogue, personal relationship with God,” he said. And in prayer, just like in any dialogue, it needs moments of silence “together with Jesus.” This, he said, is because it is only in the “mysterious silence of God” that his Word can resound in our heart.

Francis explained that to pray is not difficult, and is something that Jesus himself taught us to do first of all by example, when in the Gospels he withdraws to a secluded place to pray. And second, he teaches us again when he tells his disciples that the first word in knowing how to pray is “Father.”

This is “so simple,” the Pope said. “So we have to learn, ‘Father.’” Then, we must take on the attitude of a small child before his or her parents. One full of trust and confidence, knowing that God “remembers you and takes care of you,” he said.

The second attitude we should take is one of childlike surprise and wonder. The child, he said, “always asks a thousand questions because he wants to discover the world; in our relationship with the Lord, in prayer, wonder,” he said, telling pilgrims to “open the heart to wonder.”

When it comes to prayer, he noted that often we are busy with many different activities or projects and say we don’t have time. “We lose sight of what is fundamental: our life of the heart, our spiritual life, our life of prayer with the Lord.”

However, Jesus surprises us in truth by loving us and calling us even in our weaknesses, he said, adding that just as Christ called his disciples, he also calls us to him at each Mass.

“This is therefore the greatest grace: to be able to experience the Mass, the Eucharist. It is the privileged moment to be with Jesus, and through Him with God and his brothers.”

Pope prays for victims of massive earthquake that struck Iran, Iraq

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 19:41

Vatican City, Nov 13, 2017 / 06:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After an earthquake along the border of Iraqi-Iranian border left some 340 people dead and another 4,000 injured, Pope Francis voiced his sorrow for the loss of life and offered prayer for the dead and for rescue efforts.

In identical telegrams signed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and sent to leaders in both Iran and Iraq, Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened” by news of the quake, and assured all those affected of his “prayerful solidarity.”

Voicing sorrow to the families of the victims, the Pope offered prayer for the deceased and entrusted them to God's mercy. He also prayed for the injured and the emergency personnel and civil authorities engaged in rescue efforts.

He closed the telegram asking God for the “divine blessings of consolation and strength.”

The Pope's telegram came just one day after a 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck the border region between Iran and Iraq, with aftershocks felt in Pakistan, Lebanon, Kuwait and Turkey.

According to CNN, most of the deaths are from Iran. The agency reports that so far 336 deaths have been confirmed in Iran, with another 3,950 injured, while in the northern Kurdish region of Iraq seven deaths have been reported along with 300 injuries.

Rescue operations are underway in both countries, and Iran has already declared a 3-day period of mourning.

The quake is the strongest to hit the region in recent years, though not the most deadly. Iran, which sits along a major fault line between the Arabian and Eurasian tectonic plates, has experienced a number of earthquakes, with the most deadly being a 6.6 quake in 2003 that struck the city of Bam and killed some 26,000 people.

A decade earlier, in June 1990, roughly 37,000 people were killed in a major quake that leveled the cities of Rudbar, Manjil and Lushan.

If you died today, are you ready? Pope Francis asks

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 18:36

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2017 / 05:36 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis encouraged people not to wait to reflect on their lives, but to ask themselves: If this was my last day on earth, am I prepared? Am I cooperating with God’s grace?

“It would be nice to think a little bit: one day will be the last. If it was today, am I prepared?” he asked Nov. 12. “Here, therefore, is the meaning of being wise and prudent: it is not to wait for the last moment of our life to cooperate with the grace of God, but to do it already, from now.”

The basis of the Pope's Angelus reflection on preparing for the Kingdom of Heaven was the day's Gospel passage of the parable of the ten virgins: five wise and five foolish.

In the parable, which he said, "tells us the condition to enter the Kingdom of Heaven," we hear the story of five virgins who are wise and prudent, bringing oil for their lamps while they wait for the bridegroom. The other five, however, are foolish and are not prepared with oil.

Therefore, when the arrival of the bridegroom is announced the five foolish virgins realize, too late, that they are not prepared. Thus, the wise virgins enter into the banquet hall with the bridegroom and the door is closed on the foolish.

"What does Jesus want to teach us with this parable?" Francis asked. He reminds us to be prepared to meet the Lord, which means not only having faith, but also living a Christian life, “full of love, charity, for our neighbor.”

In the parable, the oil is a symbol for charity, he explained, which acts as a light for our faith, making it shine and become fruitful. On the other hand, if we live a life based on self-centeredness and our own interests, then our lives are made sterile and our faith “extinguished.”

"If, however, we are vigilant and try to do good, with gestures of love, sharing, service to our neighbor in difficulty, we can remain calm while we wait for the bridegroom's coming,” he reassured.

Thought “the Lord may come at any time,” he continued, “even the sleep of death does not scare us because we have the oil reserve accumulated with the good works of every day.”

Look to the Virgin Mary, he said, who inspires us, through charity, to be active in our faith, “so that our lamp may shine here, on the earthly path, and then forever, at the wedding feast in paradise.”

Following the Angelus, Pope Francis spoke about Vicente Queralt Lloret and 20 companions and José María Fernández Sánchez and 38 companions, who were beatified in Madrid on Nov. 11.

Some were members of the Congregation of the Mission: priests, brothers and novices, he said. And others were laity who belonged to the Miraculous Medal Association. They were all martyred during the religious persecution of the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1937.

“We give thanks to God for the great gift of these exemplary witnesses of Christ and the Gospel,” he said.

Francis then concluded by greeting different pilgrim groups, including groups from Washington, Philadelphia, Brooklyn and New York. When he did, a group broke out in song for a moment, which the Pope paused to listen to. He then thanked them for the song before asking for prayers and wishing everyone a good lunch.

Pope Francis: The future of the world depends on the family

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 00:16

Vatican City, Nov 11, 2017 / 11:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The future of the Church and the world is dependent on the good of the family, said Pope Francis in a video message Saturday.

“The love between a man and woman is one of the most generative human experiences, it is the ferment of the culture of encounter and brings to the present world an injection of sociality,” the Pope said.

“The family born of marriage creates fruitful bonds, which reveal themselves to be the most effective antidote against the individualism that currently runs rampant.”

Quoting his 2016 apostolic exhortation, Amoris laetitia, he emphasized, “Indeed the good of the family is decisive for the future of the world and of the Church.”

The Pope sent a video message to participants in the third international symposium on Amoris laetitia, organized by the Italian bishops’ conference. Taking place in Rome Nov. 11, the theme of the meeting was: “The Gospel of love between conscience and norm.”

Speaking about the role of the properly formed conscience, Francis warned against the temptation to turn to a sort of egoism or “cult of self.”

“The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which is always to be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of the individual in relation to the relationships he lives,” he said.

This is why, he said, there is a need to form consciences – not substitute them – and to accompany spouses and parents in learning to “apply the Gospel to the concreteness of life.”

In the reality of the family and of marital love, there may come situations which require “arduous choices,” he continued, and these should be made “with righteousness.” Therefore, divine grace, “which illuminates and strengthens married love and parental mission,” is absolutely necessary for spouses and the family.

Pope Francis’ video message echoed his recent keynote address to a major conference on the future of the European Union, in which he spoke out against abortion and said the Christian understanding of the family can serve as a model on which the European continent can base its identity as it faces a changing and uncertain future.

In the family, “diversity is valued and at the same time brought into unity,” Francis said Oct. 28, explaining that the family “is the harmonious union of the differences between man and woman, which becomes stronger and more authentic to the extent that it is fruitful, capable of opening itself to life and to others.”

 

 

Vatican, secular leaders: Global action needed to prevent 'nuclear holocaust'

Sat, 11/11/2017 - 01:16

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2017 / 12:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, leading Vatican and secular diplomats urged world leaders to freeze investment into nuclear arms production, and to instead fund peace and development initiatives.

“Every day we are bombarded with bad news about the atrocities that we humans can do, harming each other and nature, about the increasing drumbeat of a possible nuclear conflagration and the fact that humanity stands on the precipice of a nuclear holocaust,” Cardinal Peter Turkson said Nov. 10.

Fears over a potential global catastrophe are rising to a level not seen since the days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, he said.

Ongoing discussion about nuclear weapons is “critical,” Turkson said, adding that the decisions made by global leaders about peace and war in the coming months and years “will have profound consequences for the very future of humanity and our planet.”

Head of the Vatican's dicastery for Integral Human Development, Turkson gave the opening keynote speech at a Nov. 10-11 conference on nuclear disarmament that his department is organizing.

He noted that the conference overlaps with U.S. President Donald Trump's visit to Asia – which includes stops in South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines – as the U.S. faces heightened tensions with North Korea.

The Vatican conference has been in the works for several years, and was not intentionally planned to overlap with Trump's Asia visit. The timing, the cardinal jested, is a coincidence that could be seen as an act of “divine providence.”

The two-day symposium on nuclear disarmament is the first global gathering to address the topic since the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was passed in New York on July 7. Prior to the treaty, nuclear arms were the only weapons of mass destruction not explicitly banned by any international document.

The treaty passed with 122 votes in favor, with Singapore being the only abstention. However, 69 countries – all the nuclear weapon states and NATO members apart from the Netherlands – did not take part in the vote.

In addition to Cardinal Turkson and Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who also spoke in the opening panel, other participants in the summit include Masako Wada, one of the last survivors of the Hiroshima nuclear attack, 11 Nobel Peace Laureates, representatives from the U. N. and NATO, diplomats from Russia, the United States, South Korea, and Iran, weapons experts and foundation leaders.

Representatives of bishops' conferences and other Christian organizations are also attending, including a delegation of professors and students from U.S. and Russian universities.

In comments to journalists on the opening day of the event, Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), said that despite elevated tensions, the signing of the July treaty is a sign of hope, showing that the majority of countries in the world reject nuclear weapons.

In 2017, Fihn’s organization was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its work drawing attention to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, and for its effort to achieve the treaty.

Fihn said she believes it is possible to have a world without nuclear weapons. “We built these weapons (and) we can take them apart,” she said, adding that the world has given up certain chemical and biological weapons in the past.

Izumi Nakamitsu, U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, said the U.N. is grateful to both Pope Francis and the Holy See for organizing the conference.

“Any gathering of world leaders and civil society actors and governments to discuss ways to pursue a nuclear weapons-free zone will be very helpful for the cause of U.N. disarmament activities,” she said, and voiced eagerness to discuss what can practically be done to eradicate nuclear weapons.

Nakamitsu said the U.N. believes the only solution to the North Korean nuclear crisis is a political one, and that talks on disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation create much-needed “breathing space” for trying to find these political solutions.

“So we're not giving up at all on disarmament, but quite the contrary, because the situation is very difficult, we think disarmament discussions are more important.”

Cardinals Turkson and Parolin both emphasized the need for an integral development aimed at promoting human dignity and the common good as the solution to current nuclear tensions.

Quoting former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower's 1953 speech after the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, Turkson said “every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

International peace and stability, Cardinal Turkson said, cannot be based on “a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power.”

Rather, he said, peace must be built on justice, development, respect for human rights, the care of creation, participation in public life, mutual trust, support of peaceful institutions, access to education and health, dialogue and solidarity.

Cardinal Parolin echoed these ideas, emphasizing the role of education and dialogue in creating “a culture of life and peace based on the dignity of the human being and the primacy of the law.”

He added that “only a concerted effort on the part of all nations will stop these senseless rivalries and promote fruitful, friendly dialogue between nations.”

In a Nov. 10 statement addressed to Pope Francis on the occasion of the conference, five of the 11 Nobel Prize Laureates participating in the conference said they hope the event will help launch “a new international legal regulation and further stigmatize those weapons and the states that so far refuse to give them up.”

They praised the joint role of civil society, religious communities and various international organizations and states in advancing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which aims to put an end to weapons “that are capable of obliterating life as we know it in the blink of an eye.”

An “inclusive and equitable” international security system which leaves no country feeling that they must depend on nuclear arms is needed, they said, and stressed the necessity to ask oneself “what ethical and moral human beings can possibly believe that it is fine to give machines the ability to kill humans.”

In order to avoid an “impending third revolution in warfare,” the weapons must be eliminated before they ever make it to battle, they said.

And this requites prioritizing the human person over the creation of wealth and realizing that “real security comes from placing the focus on meeting the needs of individuals and communities – human security and promoting the common good.”

Signatories included Professer Mohamed El Baradei; Mrs. Mairead Maguire; Professor Adolfo Perez Esquivel; Professor Jody Williams, and Professor Muhammad Yunus.

In comments to journalists Nov. 10, Yunus, who is from Bangladesh, said Pope Francis' message on peace and nuclear disarmament is critical. The Pope's voice, he said, “is respected all over the world, and when he says something, people listen.”

 

Pope Francis: Despite naysayers, there's hope for a nuke-free world

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 18:18

Vatican City, Nov 10, 2017 / 05:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a key speech on the global effort to eradicate nuclear arms, Pope Francis called the weapons immoral and said they should be made illegal in war, but he also voiced hope that despite pessimism, things are moving in the right direction.

In a Nov. 10 audience with participants in a Vatican symposium on nuclear disarmament, the Pope said “a healthy realism continues to shine a light of hope on our unruly world,” particularly on the nuclear front.

Pointing to the international treaty passed at the United Nations in July, Francis said this is a concrete sign that progress is being made in the effort to eliminate nuclear arms, and called the treaty “a historic vote,” in which the majority of the international community “determined that nuclear weapons are not only immoral, but must also be considered an illegal means of warfare.”

The employment of nuclear devices, whether intentionally or through accidental detonation, he said, would cause “catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects.”

Organized by the Pontifical Council for Integral Human Development, the Nov. 10-11 symposium is the first global gathering on this topic since the approval of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations July 7.

Until the treaty, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction not explicitly banned by any international document. As the Pope pointed out in his speech, chemical weapons, biological weapons, anti-human mines and cluster bombs had all been explicitly prohibited in previous international conventions.

He praised the treaty as also being largely the result of humanitarian initiatives sponsored by the collaboration of civil society, states, international organizations, churches, academies and experts.

Ultimately, to achieve a world without nuclear weapons requires a change of heart, not just laws, he said, saying we must renew our focus on the integral development of the human person as an “indissoluble unity of soul and body, of contemplation and action.”

This approach gives hope that it's possible, the Pope said, adding that the perspective goes contrary to our own pessimism and the criticisms of those who see the effort to totally eliminate weapons of mass destruction as “idealistic.”

Quoting St. John XXIII's 1963 encyclical “Pacem in Terris,” Francis said, “unless this process of disarmament be thoroughgoing and complete, and reach men’s very souls, it is impossible to stop the arms race, or to reduce armaments, or – and this is the main thing – ultimately to abolish them entirely.”

Reiterating the many statements he's made on the topic, Pope Francis said the escalation of the arms race and the expense it requires means money is taken away from what should be the real priorities: “the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace and the undertaking of educational, ecological and healthcare projects.”

As a permanent observer to the United Nations, the Holy See has played an integral role in the negotiations of the treaty banning nuclear weapons. This role has included casting a procedural vote on the treaty earlier this year, which is a right the Holy See doesn't have for every issue, further underlining the their concern regarding nuclear weapons.

During talks on nuclear weapons at the U.N. headquarters in New York, Pope Francis said the treaty, which was still being negotiated at the time, was inspired by “ethical and moral arguments,” and was an “exercise in hope.”

On that occasion, he voiced his hope that the treaty would be “a decisive step along the road towards a world without nuclear weapons.” And while this is “a significantly complex and long-term goal, it is not beyond our reach.”

Tanzanian appointed secretary of Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 05:29

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2017 / 04:29 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Protase Rugambwa was appointed secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples on Thursday. He had previously served as the congregation's adjunct secretary and president of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

The Nov. 9 appointment makes Archbishop Rugambwa, 57, second in the congregation, behind Cardinal Fernando Filoni, who is 71.

Archbishop Rugambwa was born in Bunena, Tanzania, in 1960. He studied at Kibosho Senior Seminary and St. Charles Lwanga Segerea Senior Seminary, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Rulenge in 1990.

He served as a parochial vicar, a teacher at a minor seminary, and a hospital chaplain. He obtained a doctorate in pastoral theology from the Pontifical Lateran University in 1998, and then served as vocations director and vicar general of his diocese.

In 2008 he was consecrated Bishop of Kigoma, where he served until he was transferred to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 2012.

Pope Francis on Thursday also appointed Father Giovanni Pietro Dal Toso to fill the vacancy left by Archbishop Rugambwa's appointment. He was also appointed Titular Archbishop of Foratiana.

A priest of the Bolzano-Bressanone diocese, Fr. Dal Toso had worked at the Pontifical Council Cor Unum from 1996 until it was suppressed Jan. 1.

Previously known as Propaganda Fidei, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples is responsible for the work of spreading the Gospel in mission territories.

Former child trafficking victim: Awareness needs to produce action

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 03:54

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2017 / 02:54 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Former trafficking victim Rani Hong, who was kidnapped and sold into slavery at seven years old, is speaking out, saying we’ve raised awareness, but now it’s time to put our knowledge into action to help victims.

“As we all learn together, we need to move forward, beyond just raising awareness,” she said. “Now it's time to act on behalf of children around the world.”

Kidnapped from her village in southern India, she said that when she first started telling her story as an adult, people didn’t always believe her, “because they couldn’t believe that the issue of slavery still exists today.”

But now, several years later, she said people have become much more educated on the issue, and after education should come action. “I want people all around the world to be able to take concrete action to make a difference in a child’s life.”

Hong’s story begins in India when she was a young child. A well-respected woman in the community approached her mother offering to clothe, feed, shelter, and educate her daughter during a difficult time. So she went down the street to live with the woman, her mother and family visiting every day.

But one day, Hong said, she was gone. The woman was in fact recruiting children in the streets of India and had sold her across the border into another state.

Held in a cage to teach her submission, she said in a Vatican press conference Nov. 6: “I did not know the language, I did not know anybody. I was disoriented and afraid and alone. I was crying for my mother and nobody came to rescue me.”

“We're talking about a human being, myself, being captive. This is what the industry of human trafficking does,” she told journalists. By the time she was eight years old she had become sick and near death from the beatings and starvation she had endured to get her to submit to her trafficker.

Since she was no longer considered valuable for forced labor and her trafficker wanted “one more profit,” Hong was sold into illegal international adoption.

Statistics tell us that today human slavery is a 150-billion-dollar industry, Hong said, with around 40 million people enslaved around the world. And “no country is exempt.”

“We're talking about buying and selling people,” she emphasized.

From there she was adopted by a woman in the United States and this is where she was able to start to heal and slowly start building her life again, she said. Amazingly, through what she terms “a miracle of God,” she was also able to find her birth mother and family in India in 1999.

It was finding her birth family, she noted, that inspired her to do something to help, with her faith in God giving her the strength to heal and to be able to share her story.

“My faith helped me to get stronger. And every day it’s a challenge. Every day I have to make a choice to do something and to have faith” that we can make a change, she said.

Now she and her husband, also a survivor of child slavery, have a non-profit organization called the Tronie Foundation, which works with business partners to help ensure supply chains do not use slavery and forced labor.

One practical initiative they’ve developed is the “Freedom Seal,” which helps consumers identify products from manufacturers independently audited to ensure fair labor practices.

Hong also speaks to lawmakers about creating and implementing laws to protect victims, help survivors, and prosecute traffickers. In 2011 she was appointed UN special advisor to the global initiative to fight human trafficking.

She was also invited to the Vatican to participate in a Nov. 5-6 workshop centered on helping former victims and run by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. She said being at the Vatican was a “huge step forward,” and hopefully inspired the academy and others to take on the issue with even more force.

“Because today, I speak for those without a voice,” she underlined. “The millions of children around the world who are not here and able to tell their story.”


Material from EWTN News Nightly and Vaticano was used in this article.

Pope encourages Ukrainian seminarians to peace, ecumenism

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 00:16

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2017 / 11:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Meeting with the community of a Ukrainian Greek Catholic seminary in Rome on Thursday, Pope Francis encouraged them build up justice and peace in their homeland.

“Today the world is wounded by wars and violence,” the Pope reflected Nov. 9 during his meeting at the Vatican's Clementine Hall with the community of the Ukrainian Pontifical College of Saint Josaphat.

"In particular, your beloved Ukrainian nation, whence you came and where you will return at the end of your Roman studies, is experiencing the drama of war, which generates great suffering."

He added that “strong is the aspiration to justice and to peace, which bars any form of prevarication, social or political corruption, realities for which the poor always pay the price. God sustains and encourages those who are committed to realizing a society characterized ever more by justice and solidarity.”

Pope Francis' meeting with the college, which serves seminarians and priests of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, comes 85 years after its present building as opened on Rome's Janiculum Hill, at the request of Pius XI.

Francis recalled his predecessor's particular concern for the faithful living in areas of suffering and persecution; at the time of the college's founding, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union.

“In the years of his pontificate, Pius XI always and firmly raised his voice in defending the faith, the freedom of the Church, and the transcendent dignity of every human person,” Francis said. “He clearly condemned, through speeches and letters, the atheistic and inhumane ideologies that bloodied the twentieth century. He brought to light their contradictions by indicating the Church as the high road of the Gospel, and also putting into practice the search for social justice, an indispensable dimension of the fully human redemption of peoples and nations.”

He invited the seminarians “to study the social doctrine of the Church, so as to mature in discernment and judgement of the social realities in which you are called to operate.”

While the call to peace may seem unreachable, Pope Francis said that “by loving and anouncing the Word, you will become true pastors of the communities entrusted to you, and it will be the lamp that illuminates your heart and your home, whether you prepare for the celibate or married priesthood, according to tradition of your Church.”

Considering the war, corruption, and strife among Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches which Ukraine is facing, Francis told the seminarians “to ensure your heart lies always in wide horizons, which have the measure of the whole world … love and care for your traditions, but avoid any form of sectarianism.”

He recalled the rainbow as a sign of God's covenant with humanity which calls man “to learn to love and respect each other, to abandon their weapons, to reject war and all kinds of abuse.”

“If you walk this way and teach others to do the same, especially in the fundamental ecumenical dialogue, I am certain that from the heavenly homeland all the bishops and priests – some formed at your college – who have given their lives or have suffered persecution because of their fidelity to Christ and to the Apostolic See will smile at you and support you.”

Pope Francis also recalled his relationship with Fr. Stefan Czmil, from whom he came to appreciate the Divine Liturgy of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Fr. Czmil was born in Sudova Vyshnia in what was then Austria-Hungary in 1914 and grew up in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.

Drawn to the example of St. John Bosco and his work, he decided to join the Salesians in order to educate poor young people in Ukriaine.

In 1930 Pope Pius XI granted permission for Eastern rite candidates to the Salesians to retain their rite and Church traditions and Fr. Czmil was sent to northern Italy for formation. He was professed as a member of the Salesians in 1935.

He studied for the priesthood in Italy during World War II and was ordained a priest of the order in 1945. While in Italy he helpd many Ukrainian refugees to find new homes.

In 1948 he was sent to Argentina to serve Ukrainian immigrants, where he met a young Jorge Bergoglio.

“This was good for me, because the man spoke of persecutions, of sufferings, of ideologies that were persecuting Christians,” Pope Francis told the seminarians. “And he taught me to open myself to a different liturgy, which I keep always in my heart for its beauty.”

Fr. Czmil was later sent back to Rome, where he was secretly consecrated a bishop in 1977. He died the following year.

Francis recalled that while he was in Buenos Aires, Major Archbishop Shevchuk had asked him for testimonies with which to open the cause for canonization of Fr. Czmil.

“I wanted to remember him today because it is just to give thanks before you for the good he did me,” the Pope told the seminarians.

“I accompany you with my blessing, invoking peace and ecumenical harmony for Ukraine.”

Pope bans sale of cigarettes in Vatican on health grounds

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 19:52

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2017 / 06:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a move likely to have some Vatican employees fuming, Pope Francis has decided to ban the sale of cigarettes inside the City State on the grounds that the Holy See cannot profit from a proven health hazard.

In a Nov. 9 statement, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the reason for the decision “is very simple: the Holy See cannot contribute to an activity that clearly damages the health of people.”

Available for sale exclusively at “Palazzo della Stazione,” the building that sits in front of the Vatican's small train station, the cigarettes have until now been sold at a lower price than in tobacco stores around Rome, making it an ideal place for smokers holding a Vatican employee card to pick up their next pack.

However, citing numbers from the World Health Organization, Burke noted how each year some seven million people throughout the world die due to smoking-related causes.

Despite the fact the cigarettes sold to Vatican employees and pensioners has been a source of revenue for the Holy See, “no profit can be legitimate if it puts lives at risk,” Burke said.

The sale of cigarettes inside the Vatican will officially cease as of 2018, but the sale of larger cigars, with which smoke is not inhaled, was not mentioned in the statement.

While Pope Francis himself doesn't smoke, the habit is practically considered a national vice in Italy, and many even within the Vatican can be found to have a pack or two on hand.

However, the Pope's decision to crack-down on cigarette sales in the Vatican brings him on par with other European countries who have enforced comprehensive smoke-free laws, the most strict being found in Ireland, the UK, Greece, Bulgaria, Malta, Spain and Hungary.

It's official: John Paul I moves forward on path to sainthood

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 15:22

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2017 / 02:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican on Thursday announced that Albino Luciani – better know as Pope John Paul I – has moved forward on the path to sainthood, and can now officially be called “Venerable” by faithful around the world.

Announced in a Nov. 9 communique from the Vatican, the Pope's decision to green light the cause was made the day before, during a Nov. 8 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

With Francis' approval of his heroic virtue, “Papa Luciani,” who until now has held the title “Servant of God,” can now be called “Venerable,” which is the step before beatification.

In addition to John Paul I, other causes to move forward are the martyrdom of Giovanni Brenner, a diocesan priest killed in Hungary in 1957 and the martyrdom of Sr. Leonella Sgorbati, killed in hatred of the faith in Somalia in 2006.

Other causes approved of heroic virtue are Bernard of Baden; Fr. Gregorio Fioravanti; Fr. Tommaso Morales Perez of Venezuela; Italian layman Marcellino da Capradosso and American Sr. Teresa Fardella, foundress of the Daughters of Mary of the Most Holy Crown.

Born Oct. 17, 1912, in Italy’s northern Veneto region, Albino Luciani made history when he was elected Pope Aug. 26, 1978, and took a double name after his two immediate predecessors, St. John XXIII and Bl. Paul VI.

He sent shock waves around the world when he died unexpectedly just 33 days later, making his one of the shortest pontificates in the history of the Church.

The first Pope to born in the 20th century, he is also the most recent Italian-born Pontiff and is often referred to as “the Smiling Pope” by those who knew him or remember his election.

Despite living in relative poverty, he entered the minor seminary in Feltre in 1923, when he was just 11 years old, and entered the Gregorian Seminary at Belluno five years later, in 1928.

He was ordained a priest July 7, 1935, and after serving in a parish for a few months, in December of that year he was named instructor of religion at the Technical Institute for Miners in Agordo. He became vice-rector of the Belluno seminary just two years later, in 1937 – a position he would hold for the next 10 years.

At the same time, he also became an instructor at the seminary and continued to pursue his own studies in theology. When his time as vice-rector was complete in 1947, he obtained a docorate degree in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

That same year, at just 36 years of age, he was named chancellor of the diocese of Belluno and given the title “Monsignor.” That year he was also nominated secretary for the diocesan synod of bishops.

A year later, in 1948, he was named Pro Vicar General of the Belluno diocese and director of their office for catechesis. He was named Vicar General of Belluno six years later, in 1954.

In 1958, Luciani was named Bishop of the Vittorio Veneto diocese by St. John XXIII, and was consecrated by the Pope himself in St. Peter's Basilica.

Luciani was among the bishops present from around the world for the opening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, and he attended each of the four sessions before the Council's close in 1965.

In 1969 he was named Patriarch of Venice by Bl. Pope Paul VI, one of the few patriarchates in the Latin Church. The Archbishop of Venice is typically made a cardinal, and Luciani received his red hat from Paul VI in 1973.

He participated in the 1971 Synod of Bishops on “The Ministerial Priesthood and Justice in the World” in 1971, and in 1972 was elected Vice President of the Italian Bishops' Conference, a position he held until 1975.

The last year of his life was a whirlwind in which he participated in the Sept. 30-Oct. 29 1977, Synod of Bishops on “Catechesis in Our Time” and voted in the August 1978 conclave that elected him as Pope after the death of Paul VI.

He had hardly given four general audiences when he died just 33 days into his pontificate – 34 including the day of his election, which counts canonically.

The sudden nature of his death gave rise to various theories of foul play at the time of his passing. However, a book published Nov. 7 by Italian journalist Stefania Falasca, the vice-postulator of his cause, has debunked the conspiracies and insinuations of murder.

In her book, released in Italian and titled “John Paul I: the Chronicle of a Death,” Falasca provides both documentation and testimony indicating that the late Pope suffered a brief, unknown cardiac episode the night before he died, which was likely linked to a previous heart problem he thought had been resolved, but was most likely the cause of his death.

Although the cause for canonization of a Pope is typically opened by Rome, in 2003 the Bishop of the Belluno diocese, Vincenzo Savio, requested to have the cause opened there, since Luciani had spent the majority of his ministry there, and was only in Rome for a month before his death.

The request was accepted, and Diocese of Belluno officially opened John Paul I's cause in November 2003. The lengthy document detailing the late Pope's life and virtues was submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on his birthday, Oct. 17, 2016.

With the approval of his heroic virtue, the path is now open for Pope John Paul I's beatification, which requires that there be miracles attributed to his intercession. One miracle is needed for him to be beatified and declared “Blessed,” and two are needed for his canonization as a Saint.

Like Mother Cabrini, treat migrants with charity and justice, Pope says

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 13:08

Vatican City, Nov 9, 2017 / 12:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis praised St. Frances Cabrini in the preface to a book about her life for her foresight in addressing the needs of migrants, saying she’s an example of how to treat people with both charity and justice.

The saint combined “great charity with a prophetic spirit,” the Pope noted. “Frances Cabrini, precisely for this reason, is very present today and teaches us the way to deal with the momentous phenomenon of migration by combining charity and justice.”

Not only did she realize that mass migration “was not a temporary phenomenon,” he continued, she also saw “the emergence of a new historical era” in which modern transport would allow easier movement of large populations.

“Frances understood that modernity would be marked by these immense migrations and uprooted human beings, in a crisis of identity, often desperate and lacking resources to face the society in which they would have to enter,” he said.

In the face of this crisis, she established hospitals, convents, and schools for poor Italian immigrants to the US, to help them learn the rules and laws of their new society while retaining their dignity and their religious roots.

“These were the goals that she wanted to achieve for all migrants,” Pope Francis said. “Goals that are still valid today, and which pass through the recognition and respect of one's own and others' religious roots.”

Now the sisters in her religious order have continued her work, even if the country of origin of immigrants to the U.S. has changed, he pointed out.

This December marks the 100th anniversary of the death of St. Frances Cabrini.

Pope Francis wrote the preface to a new edition of a Cabrini biography called Tra terra e cielo (“Between heaven and earth”), issued for the centennial of her death.

Pope Francis frequently invokes the 20th century saint in his speeches for her example of how to welcome and care for migrants while also helping them integrate with the culture of their new country.

He most recently spoke about her legacy and its relevance in a September letter to the order she founded, the Institute of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, saying the centennial of her death is “one of the main events marking the journey of the Church.”

“Both because of the greatness of the figure commemorated and because of the contemporary nature of her charism and message, not just for the ecclesial community but for society as a whole.”

With the “inevitable tensions” caused by the high levels of migration around the world today, Mother Cabrini becomes a contemporary figure, he continued.

An Italian missionary, St. Frances Cabrini died Dec. 22, 1917 after spending much of her life working with Italian immigrants in the United States.

She spent nearly 30 years traveling back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean as well as around the United States setting up orphanages, hospitals, convents, and schools for the often marginalized Italian immigrants. Her feast is celebrated Nov. 13.

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