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Walk in another's shoes, Pope encourages in interview

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 22:29

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2017 / 09:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In an interview published Tuesday, Pope Francis spoke about what it means to care for and be present to the people in our communities – whether they are widows, orphans, migrants, or the homeless – and why this is important.

“It is very tiring to wear the shoes of others,” he said, “because often we are slaves of our selfishness. On one level we can say that people prefer to mind their own problems without wanting to see the suffering or the difficulty of another.”

“There is another level, however. To wear the shoes of others means to have a great capacity to comprehend, to understand the circumstance and difficult situations.”

The Pope’s latest interview was published Feb. 28 in “Scarp de tenis,” a monthly periodical supported by Caritas Ambrosiana and Caritas Italiana. Based out of Milan, Italy, Caritas Ambrosiana interviewed Francis ahead of his planned trip to the diocese on March 25.

We all need understanding, companionship, and advice, the Pope noted. This is why even though it is difficult, we should try to put ourselves in another’s place and to understand what they are going through. To do so means to perform acts of service with humility and magnanimity.

In the case of migrants and refugees, Francis said that they are fleeing wars or famines that are often in part our fault, because we have exploited their land but not invested in it in a helpful way.

“They have the right to emigrate and are entitled to be welcomed and helped,” he said.

Regarding how many migrants a country should accept, he said that governmental leaders should practice the virtue of prudence: accommodating, in regards to numbers, however many they reasonably can.

It can be even more important, however, to not just reflect on how many we can accept, but how we will help them integrate into their new country, the Pope said, continuing his recent emphasis on the importance of integration for migrants.

“To integrate means to enter the life of the country, respect the law of the country, respect the culture of the country but also to enforce their own culture and their own cultural riches,” he said. “Integration is a very difficult job.”

“Each country then has to see what number it can accommodate. It cannot be upheld if there is no possibility of integration.”

Like migrants, “integration” is something we should also try to achieve for the poor and homeless, he said. This is why we must do more than simply “toss the poor only some change.”

“Certainly it is not easy to integrate a homeless person, because each of them has a special story. For this we have to get close to each other, find ways to help them and give them a hand.”

It is always right to help, even more so to look into the person’s eyes and touch their hands while we do so, he said.

“There are many arguments to justify yourself when you do not give alms,” he acknowledged, such as the question of whether the person will spend the money on alcohol.  

Rather than worrying about this, the Pope advised, “ask yourself what you do in secret? What ‘happiness’ do you search for in secret?”  

“Unlike him, you are more fortunate, with a house, a wife, children, that tells you ‘Take care of him.’”

Pope Francis told a story about how while he was an archbishop in Buenos Aires, there was a family and a couple who lived on the streets outside of his office. “Someone said to me: ‘They soil the Curia,’ but the dirt is inside.”

“I think you have to talk to people with great humanity, not as if they had to repay a debt and not treating them as if they were poor dogs,” he said.

Francis said that among the poor, he has seen much greater solidarity than in other areas of cities. Even though there are more problems, “often the poor are more loyal to each other, because they feel that they need each other.”

“I found more selfishness in other neighborhoods,” he continued.

Asked what he expects to see in Milan when he goes to visit, Francis said he wasn’t sure, since he’s only been to the city once, and only for a few hours, back in the 1970s. “I expect to meet so many people. This is my greatest expectation,” he said, “Yes, I expect to find so many people.”

He said that is the only thing that he misses greatly from being in Buenos Aires: “the ability to go out and go through the street. I like to go on a visit to the parishes and meet people.”  

 

Priest: We need to praise what is good, true in the Muslim faith

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 19:02

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA).- Not only is there a good deal in common between Muslims and Christians, but Catholics are called to respect and work together with those who practice the Muslim faith in recognition of truth and goodness they do possess, said Islam scholar Fr. Thomas Michel.

Fr. Michel, who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Theology and worked under Pope John Paul II as head of the Vatican Office for Relations with Muslims, told CNA that Benedict XVI, like both St. John Paul II and Pope Francis, have all repeated the same message regarding Muslims – that of the Second Vatican Council.

“The document Nostrae aetate says that the Church has ‘esteem’ for Muslims,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we should just tolerate Muslims or put up with Muslims. ‘Esteem’ means to try to see what people have that’s good and appreciate them for that.”

The major “common point” between Christianity and Islam, Fr. Michel said, is that both faiths believe in the existence of only one God, and that both are trying to do what this one God wants.

Therefore, “how can we be enemies with people who are also, like us, trying to worship the one God?” he said. “Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, we've seen that part of our work as Christians is to be in dialogue with people of other faiths.”

“And this means not only talking to them and listening to them, but it also means cooperating with them, working together with them for good.”

This dialogue, Fr. Michel emphasized, isn’t just about making peace with each other, although that is important, but is about “the kind of world we live in” and how that makes it important that we all come to know each other better.

Fr. Michel noted that when the Fathers of the Council taught us, they didn’t deny the past conflict and tension between Catholics and Muslims, but they did say that it is in the past, and “what we have to do now is work together for the common good.”

The document Nostrae aetate is the declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions from the Second Vatican Council, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965.

Fr. Michel referenced a part of the document that says that the Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”

“The Church, therefore,” it continues, “exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.”

Four ways we can collaborate with Muslims or those of other faiths, Fr. Michel said, is by together working to build peace, and to promote social justice, “true human values,” and “true human freedom.”

A Jesuit, Fr. Thomas Michel has lived and worked among Muslims himself for many years, particularly in Turkey. He first went to Indonesia, joining the order’s Indonesia Province, in 1969.

Fr. Michel worked in the Vatican under Pope John Paul II from 1981-1994 as head of the Office for Relations with Muslims. From 2013-2016 he taught religious studies at the School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University in Doha, Qatar.

For 2016-2017, Fr. Michel joined the teaching staff at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome, where he gave a lecture Feb. 23.

His lecture on Contemporary Islam, titled “A Christian Encounter with Said Nursi’s Risale-i Nur,” gave a Christian analysis of the Risale-i Nur Collection, an interpretation on the Qur’an written by Bediuzzaman Said Nursi between the 1910s and 1950s in Turkey.

Summing up the teachings in what is a 6,000 page collection, Fr. Michel told CNA that Nursi “was trying to help Muslims live their faith in a lively way in modern terms.”

“He said you don't have to live in the past, you don't have to have nostalgia for earlier times.” The idea Nursi tried to convey, Fr. Michel explained, is that modernity is not the enemy of faith, “but a patient in need of the spiritual medicine faith provides.”

Nursi said, according to Fr. Michel, that “our enemies aren’t this group of people or that group of people.” Instead, he said our enemies are ignorance, poverty and disunity. And these are not only the enemies of Muslims, but of everyone.

Fr. Michel said that Nursi taught that to fight these common enemies everyone must work together, using both faith and reason.

According to Fr. Michel, there are somewhere around 5-12 million people who try to live the Qur’an according to the teachings of Nursi, depending on how you measure the level of commitment.

The majority of these Muslims are in Turkey, but some can be found in central Asia, places in Europe and even in the U.S. It isn’t a formal movement per se, but some people devote their lives to studying Nursi’s teachings and others try to study it in the midst of living their normal lives, he said.

If worried about Islamic extremists or that the Muslim religion will overwhelm Christian values in Western society, Fr. Michel said to try to remember that in the case of refugees, they “want the same things that normal Americans want.”

They want “to raise their children to be good God-fearing people, and to have a life, to have a job, to enjoy simple enjoyments. They're no different than we are,” he said.

He said that in his experience, those who have negative attitudes about Muslims have only experienced the religion through TV or the newspaper, but that those “who know Muslims…have a very different attitude.”

“I've lived among thousands of Muslims…The people that I've lived with in many different countries, they go from birth to death, and from children to grandchildren, and there's no violence in their lives,” he said.

“The average Muslim sees Islam as a religion of peace.”

Surgeon and father among sainthood causes moving forward

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 00:03

Vatican City, Feb 27, 2017 / 11:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis recognized on Monday the heroic virtue of eight persons on the path to canonization, including an Italian surgeon and father of eight who suffered from several painful diseases throughout his life.

The Pope met Feb. 27 with the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato, giving his approval for the causes to move forward.

Among them is Italian Victor Trancanelli. Born in 1944, he studied and became a talented surgeon before marrying his wife Lia. Together they had one natural son and adopted seven more children over the course of their marriage.

One month before the birth of their son, Diego, Victor developed ulcerative colitis and widespread peritonitis, which created the need for a permanent ileostomy. Only his wife and a few medical colleagues were aware of the ileostomy, which he bore with patience and without complaining.

Always thinking of the sick, after a year he was healthy enough to return to his work as a surgeon.

In the 1980s, he fell in love with Holy Scripture and with the Jewish roots of the Faith, working at the St. Martin Ecumenical Center. During that time, Victor, his wife, and a few friends started the association which is still running, “Alle Querce di Mamre,” to help women and children in difficult situations.

After another serious illness, he died June 24, 1998, at the age of 54. It is said that shortly before his death he gathered his wife and children around him, and said: “For this it is worth living.”

“Even if I had become, who knows who, if I had money in the bank, owned many houses, what would I bring with me now? What have I brought before God? Now I bring the love that we have given.”

Another cause moving forward is that of Fr. Titus Zeman, a priest of the Salesian order who was born in 1915 in Bratislava, Slovakia. He moved to Rome to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University for a period before being ordained in 1940.

He returned to his home country, but in 1950 the Communist regime in then-Czechoslovakia prohibited religious orders, deporting religious men and women to concentration camps. Fr. Zeman organized for young men in the Salesians to travel secretly to Turin, Italy to complete their studies for the priesthood.

He was eventually captured and endured a severe trial, where they called him a traitor and a spy of the Vatican. Narrowly missing the death penalty, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was released in 1964 after 12 years, enduring torture and other deprivation.

Severely weakened by the treatment during his imprisonment, he died only five years later on Jan. 8, 1969. He is considered to have died a martyr for the faith.

Fr. Zeman is known to have said: “Even if I lost my life, I would not consider it wasted, knowing that at least one of those that I helped has become a priest in my place.”

Following an increasing number of canonizations of laypeople in the last few years, another lay person whose cause has moved forward is Pietro Herrero Rubio, who lived 1904-1978.

The other causes are of the Bishop Ottavio Ortiz Arrieta of Chachapoyas (1878-1958); Jesuit priest Antonio Repiso Martínez de Orbe, founder of the Congregation of Sisters of the Divine Pastor (1856-1929); Antonio Provolo, a diocesan priest and founder of both the Society and the Congregation of Mary for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb (1801-1842); Maria of Mercy Cabezas Terrero, foundress of the Religious Institute of the Missionary Workers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1911-1993); and Sr. Lucia of the Immaculate (Maria Ripamonti), a member of the Congregation of the Handmaids of Charity (1909-1954).  

Humility is the first step to unity, Pope tells Catholics, Anglicans

Mon, 02/27/2017 - 00:31

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2017 / 11:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his Sunday visit to Rome’s Anglican parish of All Saints, Pope Francis voiced gratitude for the good relations Catholics and Anglicans now enjoy, and said that on the path toward full communion, humility has to be the point of departure.

“(Humility) is not only a beautiful virtue, but a question of identity,” the Pope said in his Feb. 26 visit to the Anglican parish of All Saints.

He noted that in evangelizing the Christians in Corinth, St. Paul had to “grapple” with the fact that relations with the community weren’t always good. But when faced the question of how to carry out the task despite ongoing tensions, “where does he begin? With humility.”

“Paul sees himself as a servant, proclaiming not himself but Christ Jesus the Lord. And he carries out this service, this ministry according to the mercy shown him,” he said, adding that this ministry is done “not on the basis of his ability, nor by relying on his own strength, but by trusting that God is watching over him and sustaining his weakness with mercy.”

To become humble, he said, “means drawing attention away from oneself, recognizing one’s dependence on God as a beggar of mercy: this is the starting point so that God may work in us.”

Francis then quoted a former president of the World Council of Churches, who described Christian evangelization as “a beggar telling another beggar where he can find bread.”

“I believe Saint Paul would approve,” he said, because “he grasped the fact that he was fed by mercy and that his priority was to share his bread with others: the joy of being loved by the Lord, and of loving him.”

Pope Francis spoke to a crowd of both Catholic and Anglican faithful during his Feb. 26 visit to the Anglican church of All Saints, which marked the first time a Roman Pontiff has set foot in an Anglican parish inside his own diocese of Rome.

This visit coincided with the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Anglican parish community in the heart of the Eternal City, and consisted of a short choral Evensong service, during which the Pope blessed and dedicated an icon of “St. Savior” commissioned for the occasion.

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During the ceremony, the symbolic “twinning” of All Saints Anglican Church with the Catholic parish of “Ognissanti” – the only Catholic parish in Rome dedicated to All Saints – also took place, forming strong ecumenical ties between the two.

Ognissanti is the parish where Bl. Paul VI, on March 7, 1965, celebrated the first Mass in Italian following the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

After his arrival, Pope Francis was greeted by the church's pastor, Rev. Johnathan Boardman, and Rev. Robert Innes, Bishop of the Church of England Diocese in Europe.

In his greeting, Innes thanked Pope Francis for his “global leadership, and for the particular inspiration you have been to those of us in the Anglican Communion,” particularly when it comes to the issues of the poor, migrants, refugees, and human trafficking.

“Within Europe and our diocese, you have challenged members of the European Union to rediscover their Christian heritage and values. Your published work speaks far beyond Rome in addressing difficult ethical issues that face us all,” he said.

Innes voiced his hope and prayer that the Pope’s visit would be “one more small step in further strengthening the unity between our churches and in celebrating the deep bonds of Anglican Roman Catholic friendship that we already enjoy.”

After singing Evensong, Pope Francis gave a homily, during which he noted that “a great deal has changed” both in Rome and in the world since the parish’s founding 200 years ago.

“In the course of these two centuries, much has also changed between Anglicans and Catholics,” he said, noting that while in the past the Churches viewed each other “with suspicion and hostility,” today we recognize one another as we truly are: brothers and sisters in Christ, through our common baptism.”

Francis pointed to the icon he blessed, noting that when looking at it, Jesus “to call out to us, to make an appeal to us: ‘Are you ready to leave everything from your past for me? Do you want to make my love known, my mercy?’”

“His gaze of divine mercy is the source of the whole Christian ministry,” the Pope said, and turned to the ministry of St. Paul, particularly in the community of Corinth.

As the Apostle’s letters show, he “did not always have an easy relationship” with the community in Corinth, the Pope said, noting that at one point there was even “a painful visit” during which “heated words” were exchanged in writing.

But by living his ministry in light of the mercy that he’s received, St. Paul “does not give up in the face of divisions, but devotes himself to reconciliation,” Francis observed, explaining that Christians of different confessions must have the same attitude.

“When we, the community of baptized Christians, find ourselves confronted with disagreements and turn towards the merciful face of Christ to overcome it, it is reassuring to know that we are doing as Saint Paul did in one of the very first Christian communities,” he said.

The Pope then noted how at perhaps the most difficult moment St. Paul had with the community in Corinth, the Apostle cancelled a trip he was planning to make, and renounced the gifts he would have received.

However, while there were certainly tensions in their relationship, “these did not have the final word,” Francis said, explaining that the two communities eventually reconciled and the Christians in Corinth eventually helped St. Paul in his ministry to the poor and needy.

“Solid communion grows and is built up when people work together for those in need,” he said, adding that “through a united witness to charity, the merciful face of Jesus is made visible in our city.”

Pope Francis then voiced his gratitude that after “centuries of mutual mistrust,” Catholics and Anglicans can now “recognize that the fruitful grace of Christ is at work also in others.”

“We thank the Lord that among Christians the desire has grown for greater closeness, which is manifested in our praying together and in our common witness to the Gospel, above all in our various forms of service,” he said.

Although the path to full communion can at times seem “slow and uncertain,” the Pope said the two communities ought to be encouraged by his visit to the Anglican parish and the joint prayer.

The visit, he said, “is a grace and also a responsibility: the responsibility of strengthening our ties, to the praise of Christ, in service of the Gospel and of this city.”

Francis closed his homily encouraging both Catholics and Anglicans to work together “to become ever more faithful disciples of Jesus, always more liberated from our respective prejudices from the past and ever more desirous to pray for and with others.”

After his homily, Pope Francis took three questions from the congregation on the state of Catholic-Anglican relations today, his approach to relations versus that of his direct predecessor Benedict XVI and what Catholics and Anglicans can learn from the “creativity” of Churches in the global south, specifically Africa and Asia.

In his answer to the first question, the Pope noted that despite a turbulent past, relations between Catholics and Anglicans today “are good. We see each other as brothers.” He added that monasteries and the communion of Saints are two particular “strengths” the Churches have in common.

He also stressed the importance of not taking certain moments of history out of context and using them as ammo to damage current relations, saying “a historic fact must be read in the hermeneutic of that moment, not in another hermeneutic.”

In the second question it was asked if Pope Francis, by emphasizing a strategy of “walking and working” together toward unity was perhaps the opposite of Benedict XVI, who at one point warned that collaboration in social action shouldn’t take priority over theological matters.

Francis responded to the question with a joke told to him by Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, that while the different Churches work together on other things, the theologians “can go to an island” and have their discussions there.

Theological questions are important, he said, noting that there are “many things in which we still don’t agree.”

But having this discussion “can’t be done in a laboratory, it has to be done walking,” he said, explaining that “we are on a journey.”

It’s important to have these theological discussions, “but in the meantime we help each other” though acts of charity such as serving the poor, migrants and refugees, he said, adding that “you can’t have ecumenical dialogue that is stopped...you have to do it walking.”

When responding to the third question, Pope Francis noted that “young Churches” in Africa and Asia do have “a different vitality because they are different and they look for ways to express themselves differently.”

However, the “older Churches” in European countries, also have their own benefits, he said, noting that they have had time to “mature” and deepen in many things, including theological and ecumenical questions.

The Pope acknowledged that young Churches “have more creativity,” just as the European Church did when it began, and said there is “a strong need” for the two – old and young – to collaborate together.

As an example, he revealed that he is considering a trip to South Sudan sometime this year, and explained that the idea came from a recent visit the heads of three major Christian churches in the country to Rome.

In October Archbishop Paulino Luduku Loro of the Catholic Archdiocese of Juba traveled to Rome alongside ev. Daniel Deng Bul Yak, Archbishop of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan, and Rev. Peter Gai Lual Marrow, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of South Sudan, to explain the dire situation of their country, and their joint collaboration in working to quell the effects of the crisis.

Pope Francis noted that during his Oct. 27, 2016,  meeting with the three, they invited him to come, but told him “don’t do it alone,” and requested that he make the trip alongside the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, Primate of the Anglican Communion.

He said the trip hasn’t been confirmed since situation on the ground is so risky, but assured that it’s “being studied,” because each of the Churches there “have the will to work for peace” together.

The Pope ended his answer to the question with the suggestion that, given the benefits of both the “old” and “young” Churches throughout the world, there be an exchange set up where priests from Europe travel to the “younger Churches” for a pastoral experience, rather than it always being the other way around.

“It would do us well,” he said, “You learn a lot.”

God is faithful – trust him and don’t worry, Pope Francis says

Sun, 02/26/2017 - 18:37

Vatican City, Feb 26, 2017 / 05:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While earthly pleasures such as power and money bring temporary satisfaction, they are ultimately fleeting and deceptive, Pope Francis said Sunday, explaining that God alone is faithful and in trusting him, we have nothing to worry about.

“God is not a distant an anonymous being: he is our refuge, the source of our serenity and our peace,” the Pope said Feb. 26. “He is the rock of our salvation, to whom we can cling with the certainty of not falling; he is our defense against the evil that is always lurking.”

For each of us God is a “great friend, allay and father,” he said, but noted that sadly, “we don’t always realize it.”

“We don’t realize that we have a friend, a father, who loves us. We prefer to cling to immediate and contingent goods, forgetting, and at times refuting, the supreme good, which is the paternal love of God,” he said.

To know and feel that God is our Father is especially important “in this age of orphan-hood,” he said, noting that often times we distance ourselves from God’s love “when we go in obsessive pursuit of earthly goods and riches, thus showing an exaggerated love of these realities.”

Many friends or those whom “we think are friends” delude us with false illusions, he said, but stressed that “God never deludes.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Sunday Angelus address, focusing his speech on the day’s Gospel passage from Matthew in which God tells his disciples that “no one can serve two masters,” and that they don’t need to worry about necessities in life such as food, shelter or clothing, because “your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

The passage serves as “a strong call to trust in God,” Francis said, explaining that God’s “benevolent and responsive gaze” watches over each of us on a daily basis.

This gaze often “flows beneath the worry of many concerns, which risk taking away serenity and balance,” he said, but noted that “this anxiety is often useless, because it isn’t able to change the course of events.”

Rather, Jesus tells us “not to worry about tomorrow” because “there is a loving Father who never forgets his children,” the Pope said. While trusting in him “doesn’t magically resolve our problems,” it allows us “to confront them with the right spirit.”

He said the “frantic search” for earthly goods and riches is ultimately “illusory and a reason for unhappiness,” but that Jesus gives both his disciples and us “a fundamental gift of life” when he tells them to seek the Kingdom of God before all else.

Part of this search means “trusting in God who does not delude,” he said, and told pilgrims to “get busy as faithful administrators of the goods that he has given us, even the earthly ones, but without ‘overdoing it’ as if everything, even our salvation, depended only on us.”

Turning to the Gospel verse where Jesus says “you cannot serve both God and mammon,” the Pope said it has to be “either the Lord, or fascinating but illusory idols.”

This is a choice that we are called to make not just once, but “in all of our actions, programs and commitments,” he said. “It’s a choice to make in a clear way and to be continuously renewed, because the temptations of reducing everything to money, power and pleasure are relentless.”

While pursuing and honoring these “false idols” brings “fleeting” yet tangible results, choosing the Kingdom of God doesn’t always bear immediate fruits, Pope Francis said, adding that “it’s a decision taken in hope and which leaves the full realization to God.”

“Christian hope is stretched to the future fulfillment of God’s promise and it does not cease before difficulties, because it is founded on fidelity to God, which never fails,” he said.

Francis closed his address praying that Mary would help each person to entrust themselves to the “love and goodness of the heavenly Father,” and to live both with and in him.

“This is the prerequisite for overcoming the torments and adversities of life, and even persecutions, as the witness of many of our brothers and sisters shows us,” he said, and led faithful in praying the traditional Marian prayer.

Marriage prep should be more than just a few courses, Pope tells priests

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 18:18

Vatican City, Feb 25, 2017 / 05:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis told a group of parish priests training on the new marriage annulment process to place strong emphasis on good preparation that isn’t limited to just a few courses, but extends even to the first few years after marriage.

“I ask myself how many of these youth who come to marriage preparation courses understand what ‘marriage,’ the sign of the union of Christ and the Church, means,” the Pope said Feb. 25.

“They say yes, but do they understand this? Do they have faith in this?” he asked, and voiced his conviction that “a true catechumenate is needed for the sacrament of marriage.”

Part of this formation process he said, means being thorough, not “to make preparation with two or three meetings and then go forward.”

During marriage prep, couples must be helped to understand “the profound meaning of the step that they are about to take.” This support must also continue through the celebration of marriage itself and even through the first years after, he said.

Marriage, he said, “is the icon of God, created for us by him, who is the perfect communion of the three persons of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” The love of the Trinity and Christ’s love for his bride, the Church, must therefore be “the center of marriage catechesis and evangelization.”

Whether it’s through personal or communitarian encounters, and whether they are planned or spontaneous, “never tire of showing to all, especially to spouses, (the) great mystery” of God’s love, he said.

The Pope spoke to priests participating a formation course for the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Holy’s See’s main court, dedicated to the new marriage annulment process, which went into effect Dec. 10, 2016. Held in Rome, the course ran from Feb. 22-25, and was closed by an audience with the Pope.

The course follows a similar one held in March 2016, but which was directed specifically toward bishops.

In his speech, Francis said priests have a twofold responsibility when it comes to marital ministry: to always bear witness to the beauty of marriage, and to be a consistent support to couples, regardless of their marital status.

He noted that priests are often “the first interlocutors” of young couples who want to get married, and are also the first ones these couples go to when problems or crisis come up, including the request for an annulment of their marriage.

Faced with so many “complex situations” affecting families today, “no one knows better than you and is in contact with the reality of the social fabric in the area,” experiencing firsthand the complexity of various situations they encounter, including valid sacramental marriages; domestic partnerships; civil unions; failed marriages and families and youth, both happy and unhappy.

“For each person and each situation,” he said, “you are called to be travel companions in order to bear witness and to support.”

The Pope stressed that a priest’s first concern is that of “bearing witness to the grace of the sacrament of marriage and the primordial good of the family” by proclaiming that “marriage between a man and a woman is a sign of the spousal union between Christ and the Church.”

This witness is also shown when accompanying young couples on their journey “with care,” showing them how to live in times of “light and darkness, in moments of joy and those in fatigue,” always showing the beauty of marriage.

Francis told the priests that while bearing witness to the beauty of marriage, they must also care for and support “those who realize the fact that their marriage is not a true sacramental marriage and want to leave this situation.”

Because of the “delicate” nature of this type work, the Pope said priests must do it “in such a way that your faithful recognize you not so much as experts in bureaucratic actions or judicial norms, but as brothers who place themselves in an attitude of listening and understanding.”

He told them to imitate “the style” of the Gospel by meeting with and listening not only to engaged or married couples, but also youth who prefer to cohabitate rather than getting married.

People in these situations “are among the poor and little ones toward whom the Church, in the footsteps of her master and Lord, wants to be a mother who never abandons but who draws near and cares for them,” Francis said.

“Even these people are loved by the heart of Christ,” he said, telling priests to “have a gaze of tenderness and compassion toward them.”

This type of care and attention “is an essential part of your work in promoting and defending the sacrament of marriage,” the Pope said, adding that the parish is the place “par excellence” for the “salus animarum (salvation of souls).”

Pope Francis then pointed to a recent speech he gave to the Rota in which he told them to implement “a true catechumenate” of future spouses which covers all stages of the sacramental path, from the time of marriage preparation, the celebration of the sacrament and the first years immediately after.

“To you pastors, indispensable collaborators of the bishops, is primarily entrusted this catechumenate,” he said, and encouraged them to implement it “regardless of the difficulties you could encounter.”

Francis closed his speech by thanking the priests for their commitment to announcing “the Gospel of the family.”

He prayed that the Holy Spirit would help them “to be ministers of peace and consolation in the midst of the holy faithful people of God, especially the most fragile and those in need of your pastoral support.”

Access to water is a basic human right, concerns 'the common good'

Sat, 02/25/2017 - 00:03

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2017 / 11:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican seminar on water held this week highlighted the complex challenges faced around the world in making the basic human right to water a reality for all people.

Reliable access to safe and clean water for everyone is an issue close to the heart of the Church, Cardinal Peter Turkson told CNA Feb. 23, because it has to do with the fundamental dignity possessed by every human person.

Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Turkson wasn’t a formal participant himself, but sat in on a few of the sessions. He said that “on the level of the Church” the point of departure for the issue of water access is “certainly dignity.”

“Because we affirm the dignity of people, we also affirm anything that is needed to make this dignity realized,” he said.

Hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Argentine organization Catedra del dialogo y la cultura encuentro, the workshop brought together scientists, scholars, business and non-profit leaders, clergy, and educators for an “interdisciplinary discussion.”

During the seminar, participants agreed that there is a fundamental human right to water, but differed on the exact approach to take to combat the issue. Overall, the major problem isn’t the resource, several noted, but its distribution.

Participants highlighted the issue's interconnectedness to other worldwide problems, such as poverty and gender equality. Difficult or limited access to water, especially clean water, contributes strongly to poverty and increased susceptibility to disease.

It also becomes an issue of gender equality in some countries, when women are forced to give up education because of the many hours a day they spend retrieving clean water for their families. In older cities, the problem is often a lack of infrastructure, which old roads and buildings make difficult to rectify.

Because each country and even each community has its own challenges regarding the distribution of safe water, many proposals at the seminar focused on working with people and organizations in the communities themselves to solve problems on as local a level as possible.

Fr. Peter Hughes, a priest of the missionary society of St. Columban, who has worked in inner-city slums in South America, said the seminar “has to do with the crisis of the world today, and the increasing possibility of conflict.”

“We're talking about something that is very much an issue, and a deep concern for the world, for the future, and particularly for the poor.”

This is why, Fr. Hughes said, he was quite pleased by the exchange in the morning session the first day, because it focused on the “relationship between theology and religion” as the basis for a discussion on the crisis of water.

“The right to water that's now in crisis, the basic human right, has to do with the common good. So therefore, the ethical question is absolutely central,” he emphasized.

“The ethical common good approach precludes any attempt to privatize water,” which would be, he said, “to the detriment of people” and their need for water to stay alive.

In his opinion, water is not just a social and ecological problem, but also an economic one.

“And now, as Pope Francis says, we have to understand that the economic crisis and the victims, which are the poor, is also very much linked to the ecological crisis. We can no longer speak of two separate crises,” he said.

“That is where we can better understand how water has become a mercantile object, subject to market forces, to the detriment of people and to the detriment of the environment.”

The seminar consisted of different panels as well as discussion time. The panels covered the issue from the perspectives of science, education, ecology, sustainable development, and policy, as well as the ethical and theological views of water.

A resource often taken for granted, Fr. Hughes pointed out that in many religious traditions, but especially the Jewish and Christian traditions, water as a symbol is synonymous with life itself.

From a theological perspective, “when we're talking about water, we're talking about life,” he said.

This is why the ethical responsibility humanity has toward water comes “from the heart of the Christian message.”

“We have been entrusted by the God of life,” he explained, “to care for water, which means to care for life, to care for people, to care for all of creation, not just for human beings, but human beings as part of creation.”

“The Church has a moral responsibility to care for water and to ensure that people have water,” he said, and “this particularly has to do with the Church’s responsibility to the poor.”

Pope Francis addressed participants in the seminar Feb. 24, reaffirming that water is indeed a basic human right.

“Our right to water is also a duty to water,” he said. “Our right to water gives rise to an inseparable duty. We are obliged to proclaim this essential human right and to defend it – as we have done – but we also need to work concretely to bring about political and juridical commitments in this regard.”

“The questions that you are discussing are not marginal, but basic and pressing,” he told participants. “Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for societies to arise and advance. Pressing, because our common home needs to be protected.”

“God the Creator does not abandon us in our efforts to provide access to clean drinking water to each and to all,” he continued.

“With the ‘little’ we have, we will be helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity.”

Gratitude is central, Pope Francis tells Spanish footballers

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 19:04

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2017 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Meeting with the members of the Spanish football team Villarreal CF on Thursday, Pope Francis stressed the importance of gratitude in the life of an athlete.

“One of the characteristics of the good sportsman is gratitude. If we think of our own life, we can call to memory the many people who have helped us, and without whom we would not be here,” the Pope said Feb. 23 in the Vatican's Clementine Hall. He spoke to the club's players, managers, and coaches

Villarreal is in Rome for a Europa League match against A.S. Roma. After their meeting with the Pope Villarreal won the match 1-0, but bowed out of the tournament nevertheless.

“Football, like other sports, is an image of life and society,” Francis reflected. “In the field, you need each other. Each player brings his professionalism and skill for the benefit of a common ideal, which is to play well in order to win. To achieve this affinity, much training is needed; but it is also important to invest time and effort in strengthening team spirit, to create that connection of movements: a simple look, a small gesture, or an expression communicate so many things on the field.”

This can be done “if you play in the spirit of fellowship, setting aside individualism or personal aspirations. If you play for the good of the group, then it is easier to win. Instead, when one thinks of himself and forgets others, in Argentina we say that he likes to ‘eat the ball’ by himself.”

Francis added that “On the other hand, when you play football you are at the same time educating and transmitting values. Many people, especially the young, admire and observe you. They want to be like you.”

“Through your professionalism, you are communicating a way of being to those who follow you, especially the new generations,” he said. “This is a responsibility, and should motivate you to give the best of yourselves, so as to exercise those values that in football must be palpable: companionship, personal commitment, the beauty of the game, team spirit.”

“We can recall those we played with as children, our first teammates, coaches, helpers, and even the supporters whose presence encouraged us in every game,” Pope Francis said. “This memory is good for us, so that we do not feel superior but instead become aware of being part of a large team that has been forming for some time.”

He said this “helps us grow as people, because our ‘game’ is not merely our own, but also that of others, who in some way form part of our lives. And this also strengthens the spirit of amateur sport, and must never be lost; it must be recovered every day, so that you can maintain this freshness, with this greatness of soul.”

The Pope encouraged the Villarreal members “to continue to play, giving the best of yourselves so that others can benefit from these pleasant moments, which make the day different. I join with you, I pray with you, and I raise my prayers to God, imploring the protection of Our Lady of Grace and the intercession of St. Pascual Baylón, patron of the city of Villarreal, so that you may be sustained in your lives and be instruments to bear God’s joy and peace to those who follow and support you.”

Being himself a football fan, Pope Francis said that “It helps me a lot to think about football because I like it, and it helps me. But when I do so, I usually think of the goalkeeper. Why? Because he has to catch the ball from wherever they kick it, and he does not know where it will come from. And life is like that. You have to take things from where they come, and how they come.”

“When I find myself facing situations I did not expect, which need to be resolved, that come from one place when I expected them from another, I think of the goalkeeper, and keep him in mind. Thank you.”

Vatican 'goes shopping' in Italy earthquake zones to help local economy

Fri, 02/24/2017 - 17:39

Vatican City, Feb 24, 2017 / 04:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a bid to help local economies in the zones ravaged by several major earthquakes in 2016 recover, the Vatican this week purchased produce from several small farmers in the area, using it to feed the poor and homeless in Rome.

A Feb. 24 communique from the Papal Almoner’s office said that “at the express wish” of the Pope, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the man in charge of managing the papal charities, visited the earthquake zones in Central Italy this week “to purchase from small farmers, in great difficulty due to the earthquake, food typical of the affected areas.”

The produce was then “immediately distributed” in different soup kitchens around Rome to be used in preparing the daily meals offered to homeless and persons in need.

According to the communique, Annona, the supermarket inside Vatican City, has already for some time been selling products “typical of the earthquake zones” as a way of “supporting and helping to restart the economy in that part of Central Italy still in difficulty.”

Krajewski traveled to several of the small towns in the area, filling large trucks with products from farmers whose stores or markets struggling to continue after the damages they endured after the earthquakes.

The first 6.2 magnitude quake hit in the early hours of Aug. 24, 2016, killing some 250 people throughout Central Italy and leveling buildings and houses in several small towns, leaving many without homes or livelihoods.

A few months later a second 6.6 quake hit near the same area in central Italy Oct. 30, causing extensive damage.

In the communique, the papal almoner said the decision to shop from small farmers is an act consistent “with the magisterium of Pope Francis, who in his meetings has often recalled that ‘when one doesn’t earn their bread, dignity is lost.’”

During his “shopping trips” Archbishop Krajewski was accompanied by the bishops of each of the cities he visited, including Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti; Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole F.D.P. of Ascoli Piceno; Bishop Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro of Camerino-San Severino Marche and Bishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia.

In each city the bishops identified groups of farmers or producers “whose stores were at risk of closing due to damages caused by the earthquake,” the communique read, explaining that the purchases were intended by the Pope to be a sign of help and encouragement “to continue in their activities.”

Pope Francis: the Torah is a manifestation of God’s love for man

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 20:33

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2017 / 07:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis welcomed longtime friend and Rabbi Abraham Skorka to the Vatican for the presentation of a new version of the Torah, which he said is a sign of the love God shows to man in both words and gestures.

The Torah “manifests the paternal and visceral love of God, a love shown in words and concrete gestures, a love that becomes covenant,” the Pope said during the Feb. 23 audience, adding that the word covenant in itself “is resonant with associations that bring us together.”

He noted how St. John Paul II in his speech for the 25th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council document “Nostra Aetate,” which marked a milestone in improving Catholic-Jewish relations, called the Torah “the living teaching of the living God.”

“God is the greatest and most faithful covenantal partner,” he said, noting that not only did God call Abraham to form a people that would become “a blessing for all peoples of the earth,” but he still desires world in which men and women “are bound to him and as a result live in harmony among themselves and with creation.”

At a time when things people say often “lead to tragic division and rivalry, these divine words of covenant open before all of us paths of goodness to walk together,” he said.

The publication of the new edition of the Torah, he said, “is itself the fruit of a ‘covenant’ between persons of different nationalities, ages and religious confessions, who joined in this common effort.”

Pope Francis spoke to Skorka – a longtime friend from his time in Buenos Aires – and the delegation of Jewish leaders that came with him to present a new, annotated edition of the Torah complete with colorful illustrations.

The Torah refers to Jewish Written Law and traditionally consists of the first five books of the Old Testament.

Calling Skorka both a “brother and friend,” Francis voiced his gratitude to the delegation for the “thoughtful gesture” of coming to the Vatican to present the Torah, which is “the Lord’s gift, his revelation, his word.”

He noted that the “fraternal and institutional dialogue” between Christians and Jews is now “well-established and effective,” and continues to be strengthened and carried forward through various encounters and collaborations.

Turning to the text of the new Torah itself, he said the editor’s note inside emphasizes the “dialogical approach” that Catholics and Jews have regarding their relations, and communicates “a cultural vision of openness, mutual respect and peace that accords with the spiritual message of the Torah.”

Those who designed the new edition, he said, paid special attention to both the important literary aspects of the text, as well as the colorful illustrations that now accompany it, adding “further value” to what was already there.

“Every edition of sacred Scripture, however, possesses a spiritual value that infinitely surpasses its material value,” he said, and prayed that God would bless all those who contributed to the new edition, as well as those present for the encounter.

The presentation of the Torah was the latest sign of collaboration between Jews and Catholics, falling just days after a new joint-exhibit of the Menorah was presented by the Vatican Museums and the Jewish Museum of Rome.

The exhibit, titled “Menorah: Worship, History, Legend,” will be shown simultaneously at both the Jewish Museum as well as the Braccio di Carlo Magno Museum in the Vatican, located under the left colonnade in St. Peter’s Square.

It will run May 15-July 23 and marks the first time such a joint-exhibit has been done. Pieces featured will include roughly 130 artifacts, including Menorah from different periods and depictions of them in paintings, sarcophagi, sculptures and medieval and Renaissance drawings and manuscripts.

Banker under scrutiny after alleged misuse of Vatican financial system

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 05:34

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2017 / 04:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A banker who allegedly used the Vatican Bank and other aspects of Holy See finances to manipulate the market for his bank stock price continues to be under investigation, as Italian authorities froze millions of euros in his personal assets on Tuesday.

Giampietro Nattino, the head of Banca Finnat Euramerica SpA, allegedly used Vatican financial institutions as cover for “a complex stock operation which resulted in criminal behavior regarding market manipulation.” Police said he used “misleading and false” methods to “substantially alter” the price of shares in his bank, Reuters reports.

The alleged manipulation used the Institute for Religious Works, known informally as the Vatican Bank, and APSA, which oversees Vatican real estate and investments. Vatican investigators suspect that during a stock placement handled by Nattino’s bank, shares were bought through the accounts at APSA before the shares were allocated to other investors.

Nattino is also accused of providing false information to Italy’s stock regulator, Consob.    

Italian magistrates are investigating two people who were managers at APSA in 2011, suspecting they were collaborators with Nattino’s bank.

In a statement, Nattino said that his work had “always been characterized by maximum transparency and correctness.” He said the frozen assets belong to him, not his bank, and he pledged cooperation with investigators.

Efforts to reform Vatican finances have been ongoing. Vatican officials have closed many outside accounts in an effort to block corruption.

In June 2013, a longtime accountant at APSA, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, was arrested and faced charges of conspiracy to smuggle 20 million euros from Switzerland to help friends avoid taxes.

Though he was acquitted on those charges, and denies all charges of wrongdoing, he will face a separate trial for alleged money laundering.

Pope meets families of victims from deadly Bangladesh attack

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 00:24

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2017 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met Wednesday morning with the families of nine of the victims of a terrorist attack which took place in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, last summer.

The attack was carried out July 1, 2016 during a hostage scenario in the Hotel Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka. Twenty-eight people died in the attack – including six gunmen and two police officers. 

Most of the 20 hostages killed in the attack were foreigners from Italy and Japan, with one from India and one from the U.S. Although the attack was staged by radical Islamist militants, authorities said the gunmen had no ties to the Islamic State, the BBC reports.  

Pope Francis met Feb. 22 with 36 family members of the nine Italian victims of the attack. During the visit he embraced and comforted the families, Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reports.

“It's easy to take the road from love that leads to hatred, while it is difficult to do the opposite: from bitterness and hatred to go towards love,” he said.

“You are left in anger, bitterness and desire for revenge, but you have embarked, with the pain inside, on the path of love to build and help the people of Bangladesh, especially young people so that they can study: this is to sow peace and I thank you, for me it is an example.”

The bishop of Alife-Caiazzo, Valentino Di Cerbo, was also present at the meeting and presented profiles on the lives of the nine victims to the Pope. During the visit, Francis was also presented with nine olive tree seedlings with the names of the victims written on pictures of doves attached.

Those present also shared about special projects they are working on following the tragedy as a way to honor their loved ones: one brother of a victim is leaving soon to volunteer in Dhaka with Aid to the Church in Need and another family has helped to build a church in a small town in the south of Bangladesh.

Another project provides study grants for young people in Bangladesh.

One day after the attack, the Pope sent a letter expressing his heartfelt condolence and condemning the “barbarous” act as an offence “against God and humanity.”

Signed on behalf of the Pope by the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the letter said that in commending the dead to God’s mercy, “His Holiness gives the assurance of his prayers for the grieving families and the wounded.”

As he often does following violent attacks or deadly natural disasters, Pope Francis also remembered the victims during his Sunday Angelus July 3, praying for the conversion of persons “blinded by hate” who commit such acts of violence.

“I express my closeness to the families of the victims and the wounded in yesterday's attack in Dhaka,” he said after the Angelus, also leading the crowds in praying the Hail Mary.

It is believed that Pope Francis may make a trip to Bangladesh sometime in 2017, although no dates have been announced.

Newly installed Cardinal and Archbishop of Dhaka, Patrick D’Rozario, the first prelate from Bangladesh to receive a red hat, told journalists in November that if the Pope comes, it will likely be near the end of 2017, after the country’s monsoon season.

Pope Francis’ visit to Bangladesh will be “a great event for the whole Church in the country, especially for interreligious harmony, the rights of government workers and for climate change,” Cardinal D'Rozario said. 

“He’s a kind of ‘spiritual guru,’ the Holy Father,” the cardinal said, predicting the visit will “boost-up the spirituality, the communion of all the people.”

It is possible the Pope’s visit with the families of victims Feb. 22 means he will not be visiting the country after all. However, if he does go, it is a strong sign of Francis’ connection to the reality the country faces.

Islam is the major religion in Bangladesh by far. As of 2013, some 89 percent of the population was Muslim, with only around 10 percent Hindu, and Christians and Buddhists making up less than 1 percent of the population. 

Vatican to crack down on illegal sale of papal symbols, coat of arms

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 20:19

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2017 / 07:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday the Vatican announced plans to monitor with a more careful eye those who print official images of the Pope or the Holy See and sell them for profit, intervening with “appropriate action” when necessary.

A Feb. 22 communique issued by the Secretariat of State said pointed out that among its various tasks, it also has “that of protecting the image of the Holy Father, so that his message can reach the faithful intact and that his person not be exploited.”

Because of this, part of the department is dedicated to protecting “the symbols and coats of arms of the Holy See” through appropriate channels on an international level.

In order to make this “protective action” more effective and to “halt situations of illegality that arise,” the department said they will begin carrying out “systematic surveillance activities apt to monitor the ways in which the image of the Holy Father and the coats of arms of the Holy See are used,” intervening with “appropriate action” if and when needed.

The announcement came just weeks after posters critical of Pope Francis appeared on the walls and buildings of the city center of Rome, depicting a sour-faced pontiff with a list of grievances regarding his recent reform efforts.

A few days after the posters appeared and quickly went down, a spoof version of the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano was sent to members of the Curia claiming the Pope had answered the five “dubia” on Amoris Laetitia sent to him by four cardinals in the Fall, which were subsequently published.

However, the Vatican was quick to clarify that there was no link between the anti-Francis propaganda and the Secretariat of State’s decision.

In a Feb. 22 communique, the Holy See Press Office clarified that Secretariat of State’s decision to crack down on the illegal sale of papal symbols and images “does not originate from any recent news report,” but is rather aimed at protecting the image of the Holy Father and his official coat of arms “against cases of illicit use and exploitation for unauthorized profit.”

Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice-spokesman for the Holy See, told journalists that the decision “deals with all things of value which are sold or used to earn money.”

“We’re talking about the product and the use of the image of the Pope or the Holy Father’s coat of arms or that of the Holy See which are exploited” for economic purposes, she said.

“So no posters, no Osservatore...It has nothing to do with the posters or the fake Osservatore Romano,” she said, “because they weren’t sold.”

The Secretariat of State’s crackdown is a follow-up of their 2009 decision to issue a strict copyright of the Pope’s name, image and symbols.

In the Dec. 19, 2009, statement announcing the copyright deal, the Vatican stressed that “it alone has the right to ensure the respect due to the Successors of Peter, and therefore, to protect the figure and personal identity of the Pope from the unauthorized use of his name and/or the papal coat of arms for ends and activities which have little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church.”

“Consequently, the use of anything referring directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff... and/or the use of the title 'Pontifical,' must receive previous and express authorization from the Holy See,” the statement read.

Pope Francis: creation is a sign of hope – we have to take care of it

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 17:32

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2017 / 04:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said creation has often suffered because of humanity’s sins and failings, stressing that we must take care of it because as Christians, we see signs of hope in Christ’s Resurrection in nature every day.

“We are still struggling with the consequences of our sin and everything around us still bears the mark of our efforts, of our shortcomings, our closures,” he said Feb. 22.

“At the same time, however, we know that they are saved by the Lord and already we are given to contemplate and anticipate in ourselves and in the world around us signs of the Resurrection, Easter, which operates a new creation.”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims during his general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since winter, continuing his catechesis on the theme of hope.

He reminded pilgrims that God has entrusted creation to us as a gift that can draw us closer to him, even if our selfishness and sin has contributed to its destruction.

“Creation is a wonderful gift that God has placed in our hands that we may enter into a relationship with him and we can recognize the imprint of his loving plan, the achievement of which we are all called to work toward together, day after day,” he said.

But when we get caught up in our selfishness, we ruin even the most beautiful things entrusted to us, he continued, “and so it happened for creation.”

“With the tragic experience of sin, broken fellowship with God, we have broken the original communion with everything around us and we ended up corrupting creation, thus making it a slave, submissive to our frailty.”

We see the consequence of this before us every day, he said, pointing to water as an example.

“Water is beautiful, water is important, water is life,” yet we have helped to destroy creation by contaminating water, the Pope observed. His reference comes a day ahead of the start of a two-day seminar on water and sustainable development hosted by the Pontifical Academy for the Sciences.

“But the Lord does not leave us alone,” he said, and turned to a passage from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans which says that “all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.”

If we pay attention to creation and to ourselves, Francis said, we will see that we are all groaning, just like a woman experiencing labor pains, and this is because the Holy Spirit is working within us.

These groans are the cries of those who suffer, who are waiting for the recreation of the world, the Pope said, adding that “this is the content of our hope: (that we are living in) the time of waiting, the time of longing that goes beyond the present, the time of fulfillment.”

Because we live in the world, we see “signs of evil, selfishness and sin” both in ourselves and in what surrounds us, he said. But at the same time, as Christians we also have learned to see the world “through the eyes of Easter, with the eyes of the Risen Christ.”

That’s why this is a time of waiting, a time of longing: we have hope in our knowledge that the Lord wants to permanently heal our wounded hearts with his mercy, and in this way, regenerate “a new world and a new humanity, finally reconciled in his love.”

We can often be tempted by pessimism, by disappointment, Pope Francis said. However, “we find solace the Holy Spirit, breath of our hope, which keeps alive the groaning and the expectation of our hearts.”

At the end of the audience, the Pope and those gathered in the square received a surprise performance by an Italian circus group, Rony Roller Circus. Francis said afterwards that “they make beauty, and beauty is the road that leads to God. Continue to make beauty!”

He also made an appeal for “the martyred South Sudan,” where millions of people are dying of hunger due to a food crisis brought on by the country’s drawn-out internal conflict.

Right now “a fratricidal conflict joins a severe food crisis that condemns to death by hunger millions of people, including many children,” the Pope observed, and called for action.

Just within the past few days a famine was declared in some areas of South Sudan as some 100,000 people face starvation and another 1 million are described as being on the brink of famine, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).

According to both WFP and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) sources, the number of people facing hunger is expected to raise to 5.5 million by July if nothing is done to curb the food crisis.

However, the agencies report that if adequate food assistance is urgently delivered to the suffering areas, the situation can be improved and further crisis averted.

In his appeal, Pope Francis said that right now “it is more needed than ever” for everyone to commit to not stopping with declarations, “but to give real food aid and to allow that it reach the suffering populations.”

“May the Lord sustain these brothers of ours and those who work to help them,” he said, and gave his blessing before closing the audience.

Vatican, Jewish museum launch first joint-exhibit on the Menorah

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 04:24

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2017 / 03:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican and the Jewish community in Rome are marking a new step in relations between the two religions by rolling out the first-ever joint exhibition focused entirely on the Menorah – an ancient symbol representing their shared roots.

“The relation between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community is not extrinsic, but is intrinsic,” Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told CNA at the Feb. 20 presentation of the exhibit, quoting St. John Paul II.

“That means we must know the Jewish roots of Christianity and we cannot be Christian without knowledge of the religion of the Jews because the Jews are the mother of Christianity,” he said, adding that in this sense, “it’s very important to know the roots, the family roots, of Christianity.”

Since the Menorah such an important symbol for the Jewish people, to have a joint-exhibit on it “is a very important thing and I think it will be a beautiful opportunity to deepen knowledge about the other religion; about the Jewish tradition, but also the Jewish roots in the Christian world.”

A Menorah is a seven-lamp candelabra made from pure gold and was used by Moses in the desert. According to the Book of Exodus, God asked Moses to create the candelabra and put into the temple in Jerusalem to mark it as a sacred space. The Menorah is still depicted in modern Jewish temples, and a nine-lamp version is lit during the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

The Menorah is often used in Christian artwork, particularly paintings depicting scenes from the life of Jesus, such as his preaching in the temple Jerusalem.

Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome, told CNA Feb. 20 that the exhibit is “a small but important example” of how Catholics and Jews can “work together for a better world.”

Calling the exhibit “a cultural enterprise, a link between two worlds,” Di Segni said the fact that it’s a joint-exhibition between Catholics and Jews is “a way of teaching the world about common roots and different interpretations” between the two religions.

“The Menorah is a Jewish symbol. It’s not a Christian symbol, but the Christians use this symbol and work with it in many ways,” he said, calling it “a symbol of the connection between the new religion of Christianity and (it’s) Jewish roots.”

Part of what is represented in the exhibit “is the connection between what they call ‘old’ and what they call ‘new.’ So the problem is how to relate to this old symbol,” he said, adding that “to discover this story and to put it in an exhibition is very interesting because by itself it is a history of the relation between Christianity and the Jews.”

Alongside Di Segni and Koch at the presentation of joint-exhibition were Barbara Jatta, the new Director of the Vatican Museums, and Alessandra Di Castro, head of Rome’s Jewish Museum.

The exhibit, titled “Menorah: Worship, History, Legend,” will be shown simultaneously at both the Jewish Museum as well as the Braccio di Carlo Magno Museum in the Vatican, located under the left colonnade in St. Peter’s Square.

It will run May 15-July 23 and will include roughly 130 pieces, including Menorah from different periods and depictions of them in paintings, sarcophagi, sculptures and medieval and Renaissance drawings and manuscripts.

The works displayed will include pieces from the first century up to the modern times century, including the use of the Menorah as part of the crest of the State of Israel.

Divided into three key stages, the exhibit walks visitors through different ages and genres, with the first stage divided into three different sections: Visualizing the Menorah; The Menorah in the temple and in Jewish art: iconography and symbology; and The Menorah in ancient art from Jerusalem to Rome.

The second stage is divided into four sections, and focuses on the Menorah From late antiquity to the 14th century; The Renaissance; The pictorial fortune from the 600s to the 19th century; and Jewish Menorah in applied arts from the late Middle Ages to the beginnings of the 20th century.

While the first stage focuses on the story of the Menorah, its presence in the temple of Jerusalem and its dispersal throughout Rome in both ancient and modern times, the second stage provides an analysis on the Menorah in Christianity, particularly liturgical candelabras, as well as the Menorah’s consistent presence as a strong unifying symbol for Jewish identity throughout history.

In the third stage, the exhibit focuses on the theme “From the First World War to the 21st century,” and offers a panorama of the various representations of the Menorah throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.

More than 20 museums throughout the world have lent pieces to the exhibit, including the Louvre in Paris, the National Gallery of London and the Albertina Museum of Vienna.

During the presentation attention also turned to speculation as to the current whereabouts of the solid gold Menorah taken from the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans during their siege in 70AD, but which has gone missing for the past 1,500 years.

The Menorah was originally taken from Jerusalem when its temple was destroyed by the Roman general Titus, who became emperor nine years after that victory. Rumors throughout history have said the Menorah was lost during the Vandal’s Sack of Rome in 455, while others say it was buried in a cave, hidden in the Vatican or thrown into the Tiber, where it still rests.

However, despite the various theories, Di Segni said “nobody knows what had happened” since it disappeared from Jerusalem.

Present at the exhibit instead will be the ancient the Magdala Stone, which was found in 2009 during an archaeological excavation that uncovered an ancient synagogue on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

But regardless of the legends, Di Segni said “it will be very interesting to see how people will visit, what they would say and how they will be impressed.”

“The reaction of the public” is also important, he said, “so we are waiting for this moment.”

Pope Francis: protecting migrants is a 'moral imperative'

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 21:30

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2017 / 08:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis said that it is our duty to defend the dignity of migrants, particularly by enacting just laws that offer protection to those forced to flee from dangerous or inhumane situations.

“Defending (migrants’) inalienable rights, ensuring their fundamental freedoms and respecting their dignity are duties from which no one can be exempted,” the Pope said Feb. 21.

“Protecting these brothers and sisters,” he said, “is a moral imperative which translates into adopting juridical instruments, both international and national, that must be clear and relevant; implementing just and far reaching political choices.”

Although sometimes it takes longer, we must also implement timely and humane programs that fight against human trafficking, since migrants are an especially vulnerable population, the Pope observed.  
 
Pope Francis’ speech was addressed to participants of the sixth international forum on Migration and Peace at the Vatican. The meeting, which runs Feb. 21-22, is titled “Integration and Development: From Reaction to Action.”

It was organized by the Vatican’s Congregation for Integral Human Development, the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMIN) and the Kondrad Adenauer Foundation.

In his speech, Francis noted that our current millennium is characterized by migration involving nearly “every part of the world.” The forced nature of this phenomenon, he added, “amplifies the urgency for a coordinated and effective response” to challenges.

“Unfortunately, in the majority of cases this movement is forced, caused by conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence, extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions,” he said.

This is why it is more necessary than ever to affirm the dignity of the migrant as a human person, “without allowing immediate and ancillary circumstances, or even the necessary fulfilment of bureaucratic and administrative requirements, to obscure this essential dignity.”

During the meeting, Pope Francis heard the testimony of three people and their families, all of whom have emigrated from their homelands to a new country.

One woman, her husband and their young son were migrants from Eritrea. They fled across the Red Sea to Yemen, but because of the war, they later fled to Jordan, where they were again confronted by “dangerous conditions” on their journey to Italy, including a perilous journey from Libya across the Mediterranean before landing on the island of Lampedusa.

After sharing their story, the woman raised “a heartfelt appeal” to Pope Francis for better legal channels of entrance so that others seeking asylum will not have to “risk their lives in the hands of traffickers” or by crossing the desert and the sea.

Another woman then told her story of migrating to Chile in 1997. Although she had been a professor in her home country of Peru, when she arrived in Chile she was forced work in domestic servitude to support herself, sleeping in the metro station on the weekends when she had nowhere to stay.

She said that one day after seeing fellow migrants arriving at the metro station, she was inspired to help people in her situation.

“I am sure that this inspiration was God’s providence,” she said, because soon after she went to a parish in Santiago and a priest there invited her to be the director of the center for integration of migrants that they were launching.

She has now worked there since 2000, helping to provide various services to migrants including healthcare, food, professional formation and psychological and religious support. In the past 17 years, the woman said more than 70,000 women have come to Chile as migrants to rebuild their lives, with more than half passing through the center she directs.

The third family was Italian, but has lived in Canada for more than 50 years. The brother immigrated to Canada when just 14-years-old, joining his father to work in construction in order to save money for the rest of the family to eventually join them.

“We are truly blessed as immigrants that we went to Canada,” the sister of the family said. “With God's help, with a lot of faith, determination and perseverance…we today have realized a universal dream of all migrants to fulfill the dreams of providing a better home, a better life for our family and our loved ones.”

For the past 40 years they have volunteered with the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles, also called Scalabrinians, to assist fellow migrants.

After hearing their testimonies, the Pope in his speech used four words to explain what our shared response to the contemporary challenges of the migration issue should be: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.

To welcome the migrant, he said, we must change our attitude of rejection, “rooted ultimately in self-centeredness,” in order “to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors.”

A responsible and dignified welcome begins with offering decent and appropriate shelter, he said.

Large gatherings of refugees and asylum-seekers, such as in camps, has created more issues, not fewer, he said, noting that more widespread programs which emphasize personal encounter have appeared to have better results.

We protect the migrant when we enact just laws, especially in recognition of the fact that migrants are more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and violence, he said, referring to a point previously made by Benedict XVI.

Development, according to the social doctrine of the Church, is “an undeniable right of every human being,” the Pope said.

As such, development “must be guaranteed by ensuring the necessary conditions for its exercise, both in the individual and social context, providing fair access to fundamental goods for all people and offering the possibility of choice and growth.”

This takes a coordinated effort from everyone, he said, placing specific emphasis on the political community, civil society, international organizations and religious institutions.

On the point of integration, Francis emphasized that it is not the same as “assimilation” or “incorporation,” but is rather a “two-way process.” This, he said, means it requires joint recognition on the part of both the migrant and the person in the receiving country.

We must beware of a sort-of cultural “superimposing” of one culture over another, he said, and also cautioned against a “mutual isolation” which has the “dangerous risk of creating ghettoes.”

Above all, policies should favor the reunion of families, the Pope said, but stressed that those who arrive in a new country are “duty bound not to close themselves off from the culture and traditions of the receiving country, respecting above all its laws.”

Through welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating, we discover the “sacred value of hospitality,” he said. “For us Christians, hospitality offered to the weary traveler is offered to Jesus Christ himself, through the newcomer.”

And in the duty of solidarity we find a counter to the “throwaway culture,” he said, adding that “solidarity is born precisely from the capacity to understand the needs of our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and to take responsibility for these needs.”

Vatican, Al-Azhar team up to counter religious justification for violence

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 18:58

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2017 / 05:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican and one of Islam’s most renowned schools of Sunni thought are joining forces to discuss how they can work together in combating religious extremism that uses God’s name to justify violence.

On Feb. 21 the Vatican announced that Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, will travel to Cairo to participate in a special seminar at the Al-Azhar University.

He will be joined by the council’s secretary, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, and the head of their Office for Islam, Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, to discuss the theme “The role of al-Azhar al-Sharif and of the Vatican in countering the phenomena of fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion.”

The meeting will take place “on the vigil” of Feb. 24 in honor of Pope Saint John Paul II’s visit to the university on that day in 2000. It will also be attended by the Holy See’s ambassador to Egypt, Archbishop Bruno Musarò, as well as various representatives from Al-Azhar.

Currently Ahmed al Tayyeb, the Imam of al Azhar is considered by some Muslims to be the highest authority the 1.5-billion strong Sunni Muslim world and oversees Egypt’s al-Azhar Mosque and the prestigious al-Azhar University attached to it.

Founded in the Fatimid dynasty in the late 10th century together with the adjoining mosque, the university is one of the most renowned study centers for the legal principals of Sunni Islam.

Al Tayyeb paid a visit to the Vatican May 23 for a meeting with Pope Francis, which marked a major step in thawing relations between the al-Azhar institution and the Holy See, which were strained in 2011 with claims that Pope Benedict XVI had “interfered” in Egypt’s internal affairs by condemning a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria during the time of Coptic Christmas.

Since then relations have continued to move forward at a surprisingly fast pace, leading to the Oct. 21 announcement from the Vatican that sometime this spring the Holy See and the Al-Azhar Mosque and adjunct University will officially resume dialogue.

After the announcement, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, traveled to Cairo for an Oct. 23 meeting with a delegation from Al-Azhar to discuss the details.

Bishop Ayuso made a similar visit to Al-Azhar in July 2016, where he met with Sunni academic and politician Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk that to discuss the formal resumption of dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Al-Azhar University, which culminated in the Oct. 23 encounter.

The current seminar, which is the work of several “preliminary meetings,” can been seen as the next step in officially restoring ties.

In an interview with Vatican Radio published May 24, the day after his historic visit to the Vatican, Al Tayyeb spoke out harshly against terrorism carried out by extremist Islamic groups such as ISIS, saying that “those who kill Muslims, and who also kill Christians, have misunderstood the texts of Islam either intentionally or by negligence.”

“We must not blame religions because of the deviations of some of their followers,” he said, and issued a global appeal asking that the entire world to “close ranks to confront and put an end to terrorism.”

If the growing problem of terrorism is neglected, it’s not just the east that will pay the price, but “both east and west could suffer together, as we have seen.”

In their Feb. 21 communique, the Vatican also announced that from Feb. 21-25 the annual meeting of the Board of Directors of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel will take place in Dakar, Senegal.

Founded by St. John Paul II in 1984, the foundation was establish by the late pontiff after his first visit to Africa, during which he came face to face with the daily suffering the people endured due to years of draught and desertification.

While the foundation was previously under the care of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the dicastery has since merged with several others to form a new, mega-dicastery for Integral Human Development, which is now responsible for the Sahel foundation.

The 5-day meeting will be attended by various representatives from the Holy See, including the new dicastery’s secretary, Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, who will participate as an observer, and the Vatican ambassador to Senegal, Archbishop Michael Wallace Banach.

According to the communique, discussion will focus largely on projects awaiting funding. In 2016 alone 43 projects in 6 countries were financed for a grand total of $550,000. Since the foundation’s beginning until 2015, they have financed roughly 3,200 projects in the Sahel region, for a total of more than $37,000,000.

With particular help received from both the Italian and German bishops conferences, specific projects focus on eliminating desertification and managing and developing agricultural units, as well as other projects aimed at providing water pumping systems and improving drinking water and renewable energies. The foundation also seeks to form skilled technical personnel.

Recent data from the Human Development Index, which measures the level of development in each country worldwide, shows that 19 of the 20 least developed countries on the list come from Africa, the communique said. Of these 19 countries, 7 are from the Sahel region.  

In addition to desertification, the index lists several other factors that compound the situation, including frequent food crisis, the exhaustion of natural resources, particularly water, and violence carried out by extremist groups.

Members of the Board of Directors attending the meeting are: Bishop Sanou Lucas Kalfa of Banfora, Burkina Faso, who is the president; Bishop Mamba Paul Abel of Ziguinchor, Senegal, who is the vice-president; Bishop Happe Martin Albert of Nouakchott, Mauritania, who is the treasurer; Bishop Ouédraogo Ambroise of Maradi, Niger; Bishop Ildo Fortes of Mindelo, Cape Verde; Archbishop Djitangar Edmond of N’Djamena, Chad; Bishop Ellison Robert Patrick of Banjul, Gambia; Bishop Pedro Carlos Zilli of Bafatá, Guinea-Bissau and Bishop Traoré Augustin of Segou, Mali.

Pope Francis: to love your enemies, prayer is a game-changer

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 02:21

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2017 / 01:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The path to holiness and sainthood, Pope Francis said, requires imitating Christ by loving our enemies and praying for those who wrong us even when it is difficult.

“It’s true, God the Father is merciful,” he said Feb. 19. “And you? Are you merciful, are you merciful with the people who have hurt you? Or who do not love you?”

“If He is merciful, if He is holy, if He is perfect, we must be merciful, holy and perfect like Him,” he continued. “This is holiness. A man and a woman who do this deserve to be canonized: they become saints. So simple is the Christian life.”

Pope Francis gave his homily during Mass at the parish of Santa Maria Josefa of the Heart of Jesus, where he visited Sunday. Before Mass he visited with young people, the sick, families and those in charge of the parish’s Caritas organization. He also heard the confessions of four parishioners.

This was the Pope’s 13th visit to a parish in the diocese of Rome during his pontificate, and the second in just a little over a month.

In his homily, the pontiff reflected on the way of holiness. This path cannot be followed if we harbor resentment or wish to exact revenge against someone. Quoting the words of Jesus in the Gospel, the Pope said: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

“Pray for the one who hurts me?” the Pope asked. “Yes,” he answered, “because it changes lives.”

If we think it is impossible, then pray, the Pope said. Pray every day for the grace to forgive and the grace to love.

The Gospel is simple, he said.

“This advice: ‘Be holy, for I the Lord your God, am holy.’ And then: ‘You shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’,” the Pope remarked.

Forgiveness and prayer are the way to do this.

“This is the way of holiness,” he said. “If all men and women of the world learned this, there would be no wars, there would not be.”

Wars begin “in bitterness, rancor, the desire for revenge, to make someone pay. But that destroys families, destroys friendships, destroys neighborhoods, destroys so much,” he said.

For Pope Francis, this is why we must pray always for the grace not to hold grudges and for “the grace to pray for our enemies, to pray for the people that do not love us, the grace of peace.”

If we make this our daily prayer, the Pope continued, even just praying one prayer a day for our enemies, this is how we will “win” and make progress “on the path of holiness and perfection.”

In the end, “evil is overcome by good,” he said, and “sin is won with generosity.”

“Prayer is an antidote against hatred, against wars, these wars that start at home, which start in the neighborhood, which begin in families,” he said.

The Pope said if he knows that someone wants to hurt him and does not love him, “I pray especially for him.”

“Pray for there to be peace,” he said.

Pope prays for victims of terrorist attacks in Iraq and Pakistan

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 18:09

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2017 / 05:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After leading the Angelus Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for all those affected by violence and war around the world, particularly the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Iraq, asking pilgrims to offer a moment of silence before leading them in praying the ‘Hail Mary.’

“I think, in particular, of the dear people of Pakistan and Iraq, hit by cruel terrorist acts in recent days,” the Pope said Feb. 19. “We pray for the victims, the wounded and the families. Let us pray fervently that every heart hardened by hatred is converted to peace, according to the will of God.”

A suicide bomber reportedly loyal to the Islamic State attacked devotees at a Sufi shrine in Sehwan, Pakistan, more than 90 miles northwest of Hyderabad, Feb. 16. In addition to the more than 80 killed in the attack, some 250 were wounded.

The same day, a car bomb exploded in Baghdad's southwestern al-Bayaa neighborhood shortly before sunset, killing at least 55 people and wounding more than 60 others, according to Iraq's Interior Ministry.

In his message after the Angelus, Pope Francis also highlighted the ongoing violence in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying that he feels a strong sorrow for the victims, especially child soldiers, which he called “a tragedy.”

“I strongly feel sorrow for the victims,” he said, “especially for the many children torn from their families and school to be used as soldiers.”

“I assure you of my closeness and my prayer, for religious and humanitarian personnel working in that difficult region; and renew an urgent appeal to the conscience and responsibility of national authorities and the international community, so that you take appropriate and timely decisions in order to help these brothers and sisters.”

Before leading the Angelus, the Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, which comes from Matthew. In it, Jesus tells his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.”

In this way, “Jesus shows the way of true justice through the law of love that surpasses that of retaliation.” This is how we can “break the chain of evil, and really change things,” Francis said.

“Evil is in fact a ‘vacuum’ of good,” he said, which can only be filled with good, not with another evil, “another void.”

However, this doesn’t mean we are ignoring or contradicting justice, the Pope emphasized. “On the contrary, Christian love, which is manifested in a special way in mercy, is a greater realization of justice.”

“What Jesus wants to teach us is the distinction we have to make between justice and revenge,” he said. “Distinguish between justice and revenge. Revenge is never right.”

We are allowed to seek justice – and it is our duty to do so – he explained, but to take revenge is to incite hatred and violence, which is always wrong.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also tells his disciples to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This does not mean that Jesus in any way endorses the wrongdoing or evil, Francis said. It should be understood as “an invitation to a higher perspective.”

This is the same higher perspective that God the Father has, he noted, who “causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

No matter what, the Pope continued, our enemies, are in fact still human people, “created in God’s image,” although at the present time they may be tarnished by sin or error.

Francis said that it’s important to remember that our “enemies” may not just be people who are different from us or who live far away, but that in many cases we can speak about even ourselves as enemies, especially to those we come into conflict with on a regular basis, such as our neighbors and family members.

An enemy is anyone who commits a wrong against us, but “to all of them we are called to respond with good…inspired by love,” he said.

“May the Virgin Mary help us to follow Jesus on this difficult path,” he concluded, “which really enhances human dignity and makes us live as children of our Father who is in heaven.”

“Help us to practice patience, dialogue, forgiveness, and so to be artisans of communion and artisans of brotherhood in our daily lives.”

Want to reach humanity? Be open to God's grace, Pope says

Sun, 02/19/2017 - 00:52

Vatican City, Feb 18, 2017 / 11:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Christian mission today means facing new challenges with simplicity, holiness, and openness to God, Pope Francis told an audience with the Marian Fathers on Saturday.

“Many still await knowledge of Jesus, the sole Redeemer of man, and many situations of injustice and moral and material hardship challenge believers,” the Pope said Feb. 18. “Such an urgent mission requires conversion at personal and community levels. Only hearts that are fully open to the action of grace are able to interpret the signs of the times and to hear the calls of humanity in need of hope and peace.”

The Pope told the Marian Fathers that their apostolate is a “vast field” constituted by “the urgent need” to bear witness to the gospel before everyone without distinctions.

 The Pope received members of the Congregation of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception on Saturday morning in the Vatican’s Consistory Hall. The congregation, present in 20 countries, is holding its general chapter in Rome from Feb. 5-25.

The Pope encouraged their reflections to be done in fidelity with their founder’s charism and their spiritual heritage while also having “a heart and mind open to the new needs of the people.”

“It is true, we must go ahead towards the new needs, the new challenges, but remember: we cannot go ahead without memory,” Pope Francis said. “It is a continual tension. If I want to go ahead without memory of the past, of the history of the founders, the great figures and also the sins of the congregation, I cannot do so.”

The Marian Fathers was founded by St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary in Poland in 1673. He was canonized in 2016.

Pope Francis told the congregation’s members that their service to God’s word is “witness to the Risen Christ, whom you have met on your journey and whom, with your style of life, you are called to take wherever the Church sends you.”

“Christian witness also requires commitment to and with the poor, a commitment that has characterized your Institute since the beginning,” the Pope continued. “I encourage you to keep alive this tradition of service to the poor and humble, through the proclamation of the Gospel with language understandable to them, with works of mercy and prayer for the souls of the departed.”

The Pope stressed the importance of simplicity as a spiritual foundation.

“We are not princes, sons of princes or counts or barons: we are simple people, of the people. And for this reason we draw close with this simplicity to the simple people and those who suffer the most: the sick, children, the abandoned elderly, the poor … all of them,” he said. “And this poverty is at the heart of the Gospel: it is the poverty of Jesus, not sociological poverty, but that of Jesus.”

Pope Francis invoked the example of Blessed George Matulaitis, a member of the congregation who became Bishop of Vilnius in Lithuania. He was beatified in 1987.

The Pope praised his writings for showing “the total dedication to the Church and to man.” He praised the congregation’s initiatives to spread its charism to poor countries, especially those in Africa and Asia.

“The great challenge of enculturation requires that today you proclaim the Good News using languages and methods comprehensible to the men of our time, involved in processes of rapid social and cultural change,” the Pope said.

The pontiff asked the Marian Fathers to show courage in their service to Jesus Christ and the Church. He said that God can draw great things out of smallness and unworthiness.

“Our smallness is in fact the seed, that then germinates, grows; the Lord waters it, and in this way it goes ahead,” the Pope said. “But the sense of smallness is that first impulse towards trust in the power of God. Go, go ahead on this road.”

Pope Francis prayed for the congregation’s journey of faith and growth.

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