Catholic News Agency
Vatican City, Feb 10, 2017 / 01:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- When it comes to healthcare and using our resources wisely, we have a responsibility to protect and take care of the most vulnerable in society, especially the elderly, Pope Francis told members of the Italian bishops’ conference Friday.
“To optimize resources means to use them in an ethical and responsible manner and not to penalize the most fragile,” he said Feb. 10.
“It is necessary to be vigilant, especially when patients are elderly with a heavily compromised health, if they are suffering from serious and costly diseases for their care or are particularly difficult, such as psychiatric patients,” he continued.
Pope Francis spoke to the Charity and Health Commission of the Italian Bishops’ Conference on the eve of the 25th World Day of the Sick and the 20th anniversary of the National Office for Pastoral Healthcare. The audience took place as a bill is currently being considered in Italy that would effectively legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide, requiring doctors to act on the advanced statements of their patients in this regard, and prohibiting them from conscientious objection.
There have been years marked by strong “social and cultural changes,” the Pope noted, “and today we can see a situation with light and shadow.”
“Together with lights, though, there are some shadows that threaten to exacerbate the experience of our sick brothers and sisters,” he said. The most important thing is that the dignity of the sick person is always at the center of all healthcare, because when it is not, he said, the attitudes caused can lead people “to take advantage of the misfortunes of others. And this is very serious!”
Francis condemned, for example, business models of healthcare which, “instead of optimizing the available resources,” instead consider most people to be a type of “human waste.” When money is the guiding principle of policies in healthcare and administrative decisions, there can be a temptation to lose the protections to the right to healthcare, such as that “enshrined in the Italian Constitution,” he said.
Rather, “the growing health poverty among the poorest segments of the population, due precisely to the difficulty of access to care,” he said, should “not leave anyone indifferent and multiply the efforts of all because the rights of the most vulnerable are protected.”
Pope Francis praised the many health institutions in Italy founded on Christian principles, expressing his appreciation for the good that they have accomplished and encouraging them to continue to do even more to help the poor and vulnerable.
“In the present context, where the answer to the question of the most fragile health is becoming more difficult, do not even hesitate to rethink your works of charity to offer a sign of God's mercy to the poor that, with confidence and hope, knock on the doors of your structures,” he said. One of St. John Paul II's goals for the World Day of the Sick, “in addition to promoting the culture of life,” Francis said, was also to involve dioceses, Christian communities, religious, and families in understanding the importance of pastoral healthcare.
There are many patients in hospitals, of course, but there are many more people in their homes and frequently alone, he pointed out.
“I hope that are visited frequently, so they do not feel excluded from the community and they can experience, because of the proximity of one who meets them, the presence of Christ which passes now in the midst of the sick in body and spirit.”
He praised the advancements in scientific research which have found cures for some diseases, or eradicated them altogether, while noting that we can’t forget also the more rare and neglected diseases, which are not always “given due attention, with the risk of giving rise to further suffering,” he said. Quoting from his message for this year’s World Day of the Sick, the Pope said, “in the first place is the inviolable dignity of every human person from the moment of conception until its last breath.”
“We praise the Lord for the many health professionals with the knowledge and belief that they live their work as a mission, ministers of life and participate in the effusive love of God the Creator,” he said. “Their hands touch every day the suffering flesh of Christ, and this is a great honor and a serious responsibility.”
“Likewise, we welcome the presence of many volunteers who, with generosity and competence, are working to alleviate and humanize the long and difficult days of so many sick and lonely elderly people, especially the poor and needy.”
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2017 / 03:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a conference on organ trafficking at the Vatican Feb. 7-8, participants signed a statement agreeing to unite in fighting the crime of organ trafficking – submitting 11 proposals for implementation by healthcare and law enforcement professionals around the world.
The creation of the statement was one of the main objectives of the Summit on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Participants in the summit included nearly 80 doctors, law enforcement officials and representatives of health and non-government organizations from around the world, who gave reports on the issue and how it is currently being combated in their respective countries.
“...we the undersigned pledge our commitment to combat these illicit and immoral practices as a community of stakeholders fulfilling the directive of Pope Francis to combat human trafficking and organ trafficking in all their condemnable forms,” the statement, published Feb. 9, reads.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only about 10 percent – or 120,000 – of the estimated 1 million organ transplants needed are performed each year. This data was presented to Pope Francis in 2014, and is an example of the demand for organs creating, in large part, the drive for illegal trafficking.
In general, migrants, refugees and the poor are among the most vulnerable populations for organ trafficking, because they may be forced to sell organs if they do not have the cash to pay when soliciting help for transportation by people-smugglers to more stable countries.
Mons. Robert J. Vitillo, Secretary General of the International Catholic Migration Commission, was a participant in the summit. He told CNA/EWTN News in email comments that he “was impressed by the determination” of those present at the summit “to work together to eliminate this terrible crime.”
“It was noted very clearly during the meeting that, a contributing factor of this situation is the throw-away culture about which Pope Francis speaks so frequently,” he said.
When influential societal forces see people or human organs as “dispensable,” and not “economically productive,” he said, then it is easier to fall down “the slippery slope of using other people as with all forms of modern human slavery.”
He was particularly concerned, he explained, by the reports of the large number of migrants and refugees who are coerced into donating kidneys in order to pay for their journeys to freedom or to a more dignified life.
Based on reports and discussion from the conference, the signed statement puts forward 11 different recommendations “to national, regional and municipal governments, ministries of health, to the judiciary, to the leaders of the major religions, to professional medical organizations, and to the general public for implementation around the world.”
These recommendations deal with governmental approaches to laws surrounding organ and human trafficking and their enforcement, emphasizing that all nations and cultures should recognize these issues as crimes that should be condemned and that religious leaders encourage ethical organ donation.
One recommendation calls for the establishment of legal frameworks, where they do not already exist, “that provide an explicit basis for the prevention and prosecution of transplant-related crimes” that also protect victims.
Another suggestion is that registries of all organ procurement and transplants are established and “appropriate data shared with international databanks” and that a legal framework be developed for healthcare professionals “to report information about suspected cases of transplant-related crimes, while respecting their professional obligations to patients.”
It is also recommended that healthcare professionals be educated by organizations involved in transplantation in legal and international guidelines on trafficking, and in consistent ethical and medical reviews of both donors and recipients to assess both short and long-term outcomes.
“That nations provide the resources to achieve self-sufficiency in organ donation at a national level…by reducing the need for transplants through preventive measures and improving access to national transplant programs in an ethical and regulated manner,” is also suggested.
Prior to the conference, there was some controversy regarding China's participation in the Summit, as the advocacy group Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) said in a statement that there was “no evidence that past practices of forced organ harvesting have ended” in China.
During the conference, Dr. Huang Jiefu, Beijing's top official on transplants, said that Beijing was, in fact, working on reforming its use of organs being taken from detained or executed prisoners.
“China is mending its ways and constantly improving its national organ donation and transplantation systems,” he said.
DAFOH criticized the Vatican for inviting Huang, saying that it would compromise the conference's image and objectives, when there isn’t sufficient evidence that reform on this issue is actually happening in China.
However, the Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Mons. Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, defended China's participation, saying that the country's participation may help encourage reform, according to Reuters.
Mons. Vitillo said that during the meeting it was “clearly recognized that we do face a challenge in the waiting lists for transplants of vital organs, especially kidneys, livers, and lungs.”
“For this we need to raise more awareness and motivate people to voluntarily serve as living donors so that the lives of seriously ill people needing transplants will have the opportunity for longer, fuller, and higher quality lives,” he said.
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2017 / 08:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a lengthy, unscripted dialogue with 140 male religious superiors, Pope Francis admitted that there is “corruption” inside the Vatican, but said that despite this, his secret to maintaining peace comes from St. Joseph and a strong prayer life.
He also spoke at length on religious life, offering advice to the superiors on how to deal with different scandals in their communities, and explained why he chose youth and discernment as the topic for the next synod of bishops.
When asked how he keeps peace amid tension and opposition, the Pope jested, saying “I don’t take tranquilizers!” and said he’s learned to take the advice given to him by Italians, to maintain “a healthy couldn’t-care-less attitude.”
On a more serious note, however, the Pope recalled that during the general congregations before the conclave that elected him in 2013, “there was talk of reforms. Everyone wanted them.”
“There is corruption in the Vatican,” he said, but added that “I’m at peace.” If a problem comes up, Francis says he writes it down on a piece of paper and puts it underneath a statue of a sleeping St. Joseph he has in his room.
“Now he sleeps on a mattress of notes!” the Pope said, explaining that this is why “I sleep well: it is the grace of God.”
Other than entrusting his problems to the care of St. Joseph, Francis said he has his own daily regimen of personal prayer, including Mass, the rosary, the Liturgy of the Hours and scripture.
After praying, “the peace within me grows...my peace is a gift from the Lord,” Pope Francis said, telling the superiors that each person must try to discover “what the Lord has chosen for them” and must never avoid problems, but carry them with humility.
Pope Francis spoke to 140 Superiors General of male religious organizations and congregations (USG) Nov. 25, 2016, at the end of their 88th general assembly.
The text of the conversation was published Feb. 9 as part of the 4,000th issue of Jesuit-run newspaper La Civilta Cattolica, marking not only the milestone number, but also the paper’s expansion into four languages other than Italian: English, Spanish, French and Korean.
No speeches had been prepared for the meeting in advance, so the unscripted Q&A session, which lasted about three hours, was completely free and off-the-cuff.
When asked by the superiors what advice he had for them in terms of dealing with financial and sexual scandals in their congregations, the Pope said that on the financial point, “the Lord strongly wants consecrated people to be poor.”
“When they are not, the Lord sends a bursar who leads the Institute to bankruptcy!” he said, noting that at times religious congregations are led by an administrator whom they consider to be a friend, but who in reality leads them to “financial ruin.”
The basic quality of someone serving as a bursar “is not to be personally attached to the money,” he said, explaining that it’s also important to check into how banks invest money, because, as an example, “it must never happen that we are investing in weapons.”
On the point of sexual abuse, the Pope noted that frequently abusers have themselves been victims of abuse before committing their own acts, and “abuse is thus sowed into the future and this is devastating.”
“If priests or religious are involved, it is clear that the devil is at work, who ruins the work of Jesus through those who should proclaim him,” he said, but stressed the importance of recognizing that this type of behavior “is a disease.”
“If we are not convinced that this is a disease, we cannot solve the problem,” he said, and urged them to use scrutiny when vetting candidates for religious life, paying careful attention to whether they are “sufficiently emotionally mature” or not.
He told the superiors to “never accept in a religious community or diocese a candidate that has been rejected by another seminar or another institute” without first asking “for very clear and detailed information on the reasons for their rejection.”
When asked what he expected from religious and consecrated persons ahead of the 2018 Synod of Bishops on “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation,” particularly given the fall of the number of vocations in the West, Pope Francis acknowledged the issue as a problem.
“The decline of religious life in the West worries me,” he said, noting that it’s in part a problem of demographics, but on the other hand vocational pastoral outreach doesn’t seem to meet the expectations of youth.
However, aside from the fall in the quantity of vocations, Pope Francis said there is another thing that worries him: “the rise of some new religious institutes” that bring with them a load of new scandals and problems.
Francis clarified that he doesn’t mean to imply that “there should be no new religious institutes. Absolutely not,” but said he often wonders what is happening when he sees new communities pop up that seem to have a fresh approach, exhibit strength and attract a lot of youth, but in the end “go bankrupt” or are found to be coving scandals.
While some communities are good and work hard, others are not born from “the charism of the Holy Spirit,” but rather from “a human charisma, a charismatic person who attracts by means of their human charms.”
Some of these people, he said, are “restorationist” in the sense that they seem to offer a form of security, but instead “give only rigidity.”
Others, he said, are “Pelagians” in that they want to return to asceticism and penance, and seem “like soldiers ready to do anything for the defense of faith and morals,” but then “some scandal emerges” surrounding the founder.
“We know all about this, right?” he said, but noted that “Jesus has a different style. The Holy Spirit made noise on the day of Pentecost: it was the beginning. But usually the Spirit does not make much noise, it carries the cross.”
The Holy Spirit “is not triumphalist,” he said, saying the attitude doesn’t mesh well with a life of prayer, and that instead, God’s style is to carry the cross “until the Lord says ‘enough.’”
So rather than placing hope in the “sudden, mass blooming of these institutes,” Francis told the superiors to seek “the humble path of Jesus, that of evangelical testimony.”
Pope Francis also reflected on how consecrated people can contribute to the renewal of both the structures and mindset of the Church, voicing his conviction that consecrated persons “are at the forefront” in this area.
On the upcoming 2018 Synod of Bishops, the Pope, when asked how he came up with the theme, said that each participant in the 2015 synod offered three suggestions for possible topics to be discussed in the future.
Youth and the need for better priestly formation were both big topics, he said, but explained that for him personally, discernment was also a big issue to address. So when the title “Young people, faith and vocational discernment” was announced, he accepted it as it was.
“The Church must accompany the young in their journey towards maturity, and it is only with discernment and not abstractions that young people can discover their path in life and live a life open to God and the world,” he said, explaining that the theme is meant to “introduce discernment more forcefully into the life of the Church.”
When asked about the theme of the next three World Youth Days, which will culminate with the 2019 international gathering in Panama, the Pope said he didn’t choose the themes, but that they were suggested by organizers in Latin America.
However, he cautioned that while the Marian themes are important, they must focus on “the real Madonna! Not the Madonna at the head of a post office that every day sends a different letter, saying: ‘My children, do this and then the next day do that.’”
“No, not that Madonna,” he said, noting that “the real Madonna is the one who generates Jesus in our hearts, a Mother. This fashion for a superstar Madonna, who seeks the limelight, is not Catholic.”
Vatican City, Feb 9, 2017 / 05:56 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As the historic Jesuit-run paper La Civilta Cattolica for the first time rolled out four new language editions other than Italian, Pope Francis praised their work, urging the writers to have a healthy dose of restlessness, openness and imagination.
Even with its 167 year history, the paper “continues with courage it’s navigation in the open sea,” the Pope told the publication’s writing staff Feb. 9, urging them to “stay in open water!”
“The Catholic must never be afraid of the open sea, must never try to seek shelter in safe havens,” he said, explaining that its especially important for them as Jesuits “to avoid clinging to certainties and securities.”
“The Lord calls us to go out on mission, and to go offshore and not to retire in order to safeguard certainties,” he said, adding that while going offshore means they could face “storms and headwind,” they must be strong and continue “to row in service of the Church.”
Pope Francis Feb. 9 had a private meeting with Jesuit Father General Fr. Arturo Sosa S.J. and close friend Fr. Antonio Spadaro S.J., who is also the director of the historic Jesuit-run paper “La Civilta Cattolica,” before holding an audience with the paper’s team of writers.
Other than Spadaro, additional members of the paper’s “College of Writers” present for the encounter included their vice-director Giancarlo Pani S.J.; chief director Domenico Ronchitelli S.J.and writers Giovanni Cucci S.J.; Diego Fares S.J.; Francesco Occhetta S.J. and Giovanni Sale S.J.
The Pope granted the audience on the occasion of the publication of 4,000th issue of the paper, which was established April 5, 1850, and is known for the special sintony it shares with the Pope and his specific mission.
In addition to reaching the landmark number of editions, the paper will from this issue on publish a monthly edition in four additional languages other than Italian: English, Spanish, French and Korean. They will also be receiving written submissions from Jesuits around the world.
In an uncharacteristically long speech, Pope Francis said 4,000 issues is not just “a collection of paper,” but contains the reflection, passion and struggles and tireless work of so many.
Noting how past writers for the paper referred to themselves simply as “workers” rather than “intellectuals,” Francis said he likes the humble definition, and follows their work closely, often keeping a copy of the paper on his desk.
“The deep and specific sense of your paper is well described and must remain unchanged,” he said, adding this points to the fact that the paper is an expression of a community of all-Jesuit writers who not only share an intellectual experience, but also a shared inspiration and daily community life.
The fact that the paper is for the first time expanding into languages other than Italian signals “an evolution” that has been thought of since the Second Vatican Council, but was never put into action.
“Now that the world is increasingly connected, overcoming language barriers will help to better spread the message on a larger scale,” he said, adding that the contributions received from other Jesuits around the world will also enrich what the paper offers.
Reflecting on what it means to be a Catholic paper, the Pope then offered them three “patrons,” three Jesuits “to whom to look in order to go forward.”
The first figure Pope Francis pointed to was St. Peter Favre, a co-founder of the Jesuits who lived from 1506-1546 and was “a man of great desires, a relentless spirit, never satisfied and a pioneer of ecumenism.”
St. Peter Favre and his deep desire to change the world, he said, can teach the paper’s writers the value of “restlessness,” since without a healthy dose of it “we are sterile.” Only restlessness “gives peace to the heart of a Jesuit,” he said, adding that in order to cross bridges and borders they need to have this type of healthy anxiety in their minds and hearts.
He cautioned that at times the “security of doctrine” can be confused with the “suspicion for research,” but noted that with the writers, this isn’t the case.
“Christian values and traditions of are not rare pieces to close in cases inside a museum,” Francis said, adding that instead, it’s “the certainty of of the faith” that serves as the “motor” driving their work.
“Your paper becomes aware of the wounds of this world and of individual therapies,” he said, and prayed they would each be a writer “who tends to understand evil, but also to pour oil onto open wounds, to heal.”
A second figure Pope Francis pointed to was Matteo Ricci, an Italian Jesuit who lived from 1522-1610 and played a key role in founding the Jesuit missions in China. In 1602 he drew up a map of the world in Chinese characters that included the findings of European exploration in East Asia.
Just as Ricci’s map of the world helped to better introduce the Chinese people to the rest of the world, writers for La Civilta Cattolica, he said, “are also called to compose a world map.”
This map, he said, involves making recent discoveries known, giving names to places and knowing what a Catholic civilization really means. It also means helping Catholics to know that God “is at work even outside the confines of the Church, in every true civilization, with the breath of the Holy Spirit.”
Pointing to the virtue of “incompleteness,” Francis said Ricci is an example of this from which the writers can learn to be journalists who have an “incomplete thought” in the sense that they are open-minded, and not “closed and rigid” in front of modern global challenges.
Turning to the figure of Jesuit brother Andrea Pozzo, who lived from 1642-1709 and was an accomplished Baroque painter and architect, the Pope said he can serve as an example for the writers to learn the value of imagination and creativity.
Through his work, Pozzo was able to “open with his imagination open spaces, domes and corridors, where there were only roofs and walls.”
Francis also pointed to the value of poetry, expressing his own appreciation for it and saying he still reads it often. He told the writers, then, to be sure to make space for art, literature, cinema, theatre and music in the paper.
He also spoke of the importance of discernment, which “is always realized in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen and the feeling of the people who know the humble path of daily obstinacy, especially the poor.”
“The wisdom of discernment rescues the necessary ambiguity of life,” he said, but cautioned that this ambiguity must be penetrated and entered into, just as Christ entered into humanity by taking on our flesh.
“Rigid thought is not divine because Jesus assumed our flesh, which is not rigid if not for the moment of death,” he cautioned.
Pope Francis closed his speech expressing his hope that the paper would be able to obtain a lot of readers in all five editions, and prayed that the Society of Jesus would support this “ancient and precious work,” which is unique due to its bond with the Holy See.
Vatican City, Feb 8, 2017 / 05:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis made an urgent appeal for prayer on behalf for all suffering due to slavery and exploitation, pointing specifically to the minority Rohingya population of Myanmar, who have undergone violent persecution for years.
“I would like pray with you today in a special way for our brother and sister Rohingya. They were driven out of Myanmar, they go from one place to another and no one wants them,” the Pope said Feb. 8.
“They are good people, peaceful people, they aren’t Christians, but they are good. They are our brothers and sisters. And they have suffered for years,” he said, noting that often times members of the ethnic minority have been “tortured and killed” simply for carrying forward their traditions and Muslim faith.
He spoke to pilgrims gathered for his general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, leading them in praying an “Our Father” for the Rohingya people, and asking St. Josephine Bakhita, herself a former salve, to intercede.
Rohingya people are an Indo-Aryan ethnic group largely from the Rakhine state of Burma, in west Myanmar. Since clashes began in 2012 between the state's Buddhist community and the long-oppressed Rohingya Muslim minority, some 125,000 Rohingya have been displaced, while more than 100,000 have fled Myanmar by sea.
In order to escape forced segregation from the rest of the population inside rural ghettos, many of the Rohingya – who are not recognized by the government as a legitimate ethnic group or as citizens of Myanmar – have made the perilous journey at sea in hopes of evading persecution.
In 2015 a number of Rohingya people – estimated to be in the thousands – were stranded at sea in boats with dwindling supplies while Southeastern nations such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia refuse to take them in.
However, in recent months tens of thousands have fled to Bangladesh amid a military crackdown on insurgents in Myanmar's western Rakhine state. The horrifying stories recounted by the Rohingya include harrowing tales of rapes, killings and the burning of their houses.
According to BBC News, despite claims of a genocide, a special government-appointed committee in Myanmar formed in January has investigated the situation, but found no evidence to support the allegations.
In Bangladesh, however, the Rohingya have had little relief, since they are not recognized as refugees in the country. Since October, many who fled to Bangladesh have been detained and forced to return to the neighboring Rakhine state.
In his audience appeal, Pope Francis also pointed out that Feb. 8 marks both the feast of St. Josephine Bakhita, as well as the third International day of prayer and reflection against human trafficking. This year the day focuses on the plight of children, with the theme: “We are children! Not slaves!”
Kidnapped and sold into slavery at the age of 7, St. Josephine is the event’s patron. After being bought and sold several times during her adolescence, often undergoing immense suffering, she eventually discovered the faith in her early 20s. She was then baptized, and after being freed entered the Canossian Sisters in Italy.
Pope Francis noted that like modern trafficking victims, St. Josephine was “enslaved in Africa, exploited, humiliated,” but she never lost hope.
“She carried hope forward, and ended up as a migrant in Europe,” he said, noting that it was there that she felt God’s call and became a religious sister.
“Let us pray to St. Josephine Bakhita for all, for all migrants, refugees and exploited, who suffer so much,” he said, and led pilgrims in a round of applause in honor of the Saint.
In his audience speech, Francis continued his ongoing catechesis on the virtue of hope, focusing particularly on its communitarian and ecclesial dimension.
He noted how in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle’s gaze was “widened” to all the different realities that formed part of the Christian community at the time. In seeing them, Paul asked them “to pray for one another and to support one another.”
This doesn’t just mean helping people in the practical things of everyday life, he said, but also means “helping each other in hope, sustaining each other in hope.”
“It’s not a coincidence that he begins by referencing those who have been entrusted with pastoral responsibility and guidance,” because they are “the first to be called to nourish hope,” the Pope said, noting that this isn’t because they better than others, but because of the divine ministry entrusted to them which “goes well beyond their own strength.”
Francis then pointed to those risk losing hope and falling into desperation, noting that the news always seems to be full of the bad things people do when they become desperate.
“Desperation leads to many bad things,” he said, explaining that when it comes to those who are discouraged, weak and feel downcast due to life’s heaviness, the Church in these cases must make her “closeness and warmth” even closer and more loving, showing even greater compassion.
Compassion, he cautioned, doesn’t mean “to have pity” on someone, but rather to “to suffer with the other, to draw near to the one who suffers. A word, a caress, but which comes from the heart. This is compassion.”
This witness, the Pope said, doesn’t stay closed in the confines of the Christian community, but rather “resounds in all its vigor” even to social and civil context outside as an appeal “not to create walls, but bridges, to not exchange evil with evil, (but) to overcome evil with good, offense with forgiveness.”
A Christian, Francis said, can never tell someone “’you will pay!’ Never. This is not a Christian act.”
Instead, offenses must be overcome with forgiveness so as to live in peace with everyone, he said, adding that “this is the Church! And this is operates Christian hope, when it takes the strong features but at the same time the tenderness of love.”
In learning to have this kind of hope, “it’s not possible” to do it alone, he said, adding that in ourder to be nourished, hope “needs a body in when the various members sustain and revitalize each other.
“This means that, if we hope, it’s because many of our brothers and sisters have taught us to hope and have kept our hope alive,” he said, noting that among these people are “the small, the poor, the simple and the marginalized.”
This is the case, he said, because “those who close in their own wellbeing, in their own contentment, who always feel in place, don’t know hope.
Vatican City, Feb 7, 2017 / 12:55 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis could meet with President Donald Trump at the end of May.
The British newspaper The Tablet, citing diplomatic sources, said the two will meet during President Trump’s visit to Italy.
Trump will go to the G7 summit of world leaders meeting held May 26-27 in Taorima, Sicily.
The president and the Pope have sometimes been put at odds.
During a Feb. 18, 2016 in-flight press conference, Reuters reporter Philip Pullella asked the Pope to respond to Donald Trump’s immigration stand.
Pope Francis answered: “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the Gospel.”
The pontiff added he would “give the benefit of the doubt” to the political candidate.
One week prior, Trump had bashed Pope Francis as a “pawn” for the Mexican government and “a very political person” who does not understand the problems of the United States.
Holy See spokesman Father Federico Lombardi on Feb. 19 told Vatican Radio that the Pope’s comment “was never intended to be, in any way, a personal attack or an indication of how to vote” and had repeated a longstanding theme of his papacy, bridge-building.
The U.S. bishops have responded critically to the Trump administration’s recent executive orders. One bars refugee admissions for 120 days and places an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. It bars visa permissions for seven predominantly Muslim countries on the terror watch list and restrictions on refugees for 90 days.
The executive orders, which are facing legal challenges, also cap refugees at 50,000, compared to the 2016 cap of 117,000 and actual admitted refugees, who numbered 85,000 last year.
The Pope has made refugee assistance a key focus of his papacy and has temporarily named himself head of the refugee and migration section of the new Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.
Father Michael Czerny, secretary of the dicastery, told CNA that the Holy See plans for the U.S. bishops to be its first line of communication and engagement with the U.S. government on immigration and refugee issues.
“They’re responding very well,” Fr. Czerny said of the bishops. “And for the moment, they’re the people to listen to on this issue.”
Other positions of the new president could have a bearing on U.S. relations with the Holy See.
While President Trump previously favored legal abortion, as a candidate he campaigned on promises he would support pro-life policy goals and he re-instated a policy barring federal funds for overseas organizations that promote or perform abortion.
Although President Trump was a deeply controversial presidential candidate, his surprise victory in November took place with significant Catholic support.
According to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of exit polls by NBCnews.com and CNN.com, Trump secured 52 percent of Catholic voters, including 60 percent of non-Hispanic white Catholics. He lost Hispanic Catholic voters to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by a margin of 67-26, though this was an improvement over 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s performance among the same demographic.
Vatican City, Feb 7, 2017 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ pastoral heart came out in his Lenten message this year, focusing in what could be a lengthy homily on the importance of recognizing others as a gift, with an in-depth reflection on the Word of God.
“A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but summons to conversion and to change,” the Pope said in this year’s Lenten message.
“Each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbor or an anonymous pauper,” he said, adding that Lent “is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ.”
Released Feb. 7, the Pope’s message is titled “The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift,” and centers on the passage in the Gospel of Luke recounting the relation between the poor man Lazarus and the rich man who rejects him, a favorite episode to which he often returns.
In the message, Francis said Lent is a key time to vamp up our spiritual life through the Church’s traditional practices of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. However, “at the basis of everything is the Word of God,” he said, and offered an in-depth reflection on the parable.
Francis noted how the parable begins by presenting the two main characters, with the poor man described in more detail than the rich man. Lazarus is depicted as lying in front of the rich man’s door eating the crumbs that fall from his table, and with dogs coming to lick the sores that cover his body.
“The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful,” the Pope said, noting the contrast between the image of the poor man provided and his name, Lazarus, which means “God helps,” indicating a promise.
Although Lazarus is invisible to the rich man, “we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast,” Francis said.
Lazarus therefore teaches us that “other persons are a gift,” he said, adding that good relationships among people consist of recognizing each other’s value.
By setting the scene as it does, the parable first invites us to open our hearts to others and to recognize them as a gift, “whether it be our neighbor or an anonymous pauper,” he said, adding that each life we encounter “is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love.”
The word of God helps us “to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable,” he said, but stressed that in order to do this, “we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.”
Francis then turned to the image of the rich man himself, who, unlike Lazarus, doesn’t have a name, and is described as wearing extravagant and expensive robes, flaunting his wealth in a “clearly ostentatious” way.
Turning to St. Paul’s declaration in his First Letter to Timothy that “the love of money is the root of all evil,” the Pope noted that money is the primary source of envy, conflict and suspicion.
Money, he said, “can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol. Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity toward others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.”
However, while the rich man in the parable becomes vain out of greed, his appearances only mask “an internal emptiness,” making him a prisoner of his sin.
For those corrupted by love of money, “nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight,” the Pope said, explaining that the result of this attachment “is a sort of blindness. The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.”
Reflecting on this passage is “a good preparation” for Easter, Pope Francis said, explaining that Ash Wednesday’s liturgy is similar to what is described in the passage, particularly with the administration of the ashes, which serves as a symbol of the end of our earthly lives.
In the passage, both the rich man and Lazarus died, realizing that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
The parable also offers a message for all Christians, he said, noting how the rich man wants to warn his brothers about what he is suffering. However, Abraham rejects the request, telling him that if his brothers didn’t listen to Moses or the prophets, then they won’t listen “even if someone should rise from the dead.”
He said the rich man’s real problem, then, is that he failed to heed God’s word, and because of this lost his love for God and began to despise his neighbor.
“The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God,” he said, adding that “when we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.”
Lent, he said, “is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor.”
“May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need,” he said.
Pope Francis closed his message encouraging the faithful to pray for one another “so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.”
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2017 / 06:45 pm (CNA).- In the wake of President Donald Trump’s recent policy on refugees, U.S. Catholics should stay close to their bishops, who are providing a clear, correct and unified response to the issue, a Vatican official said.
Jesuit Fr. Michael Czerny is secretary of the new Vatican Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, which includes an office for refugees and migrants, currently headed by the Pope himself.
Fr. Czerny told CNA that right now, the U.S. bishops are doing a good job responding to the policy. “I think the key is for Catholics to stay close to their bishops. Dialogue and unity are the two keys to a moment like this,” he said.
“And the bishops are speaking clearly, they’re speaking loudly, they’re speaking with a great deal of unity. Those who are concerned should listen to them, and also should reach out to help them.”
Earlier this week, Cardinal Joseph Tobin told CNA that according to Fr. Czerny, Pope Francis has confidence that the U.S. bishops are giving the issue “a Gospel response.”
“The bishops in the United States are responding as their vocation calls them to, as their mission calls them to,” Fr. Czerny said. “They are acting as real shepherds of the people…not just of the people in their own flock, but they are really shepherds to all people.”
Asked what the Holy See’s plan is for engaging with the U.S. government on immigration policies, he said that they plan to use the U.S. bishops as their first line of communication and engagement, watching them and supporting them in whatever way they need.
“They’re responding very well,” he said. “And for the moment, they’re the people to listen to on this issue.” For the average Catholic, if they have something to offer, suggest or contribute to their bishops, they should do so, he said. “I think a Church united around its bishops will respond really well.”
United with the bishops, U.S. Catholics can help influence political leaders to enact policies that support and uphold the dignity of all human persons.
“As citizens and as Christians,” Fr. Czerny said, “we need to help our leaders to reflect and enact our real values.” If, for whatever reason, they start to push policies that “are violating our basic principles and our own fundamental history, then it’s up to us to se them straight.”
“There’s no justification for whipping up fear and hysteria when a calm approach can certainly find good solutions and can promote the common good.”
In response to the argument that accepting refugees into a country will endanger its citizens by increasing the likelihood of acts of terrorism, he said that this is something it is easy to be “tricked into” believing through imagery or misleading reporting.
But, he pointed out, if governments are honest, and they look at how they may have actually contributed, or are contributing, to the current situation, they’ll “find more useful things to do with their energy than scapegoat refugees.”
“There are other ways in which governments in their foreign policy, in their trade policy, in their security policies, have done a lot to promote and provoke the very terrorism that they are now regretting,” he said.
The solution is not victimizing refugees, the solution is solving problems at their roots, he said. “That’s the job of governments, that’s why they are instituted and that’s what they should be spending their time and energy doing.”
In the end, immigration is an issue that is affecting the entire world right now, not just one or two countries. And the challenges and difficulties are real, he acknowledged. “But I can’t imagine a situation where one would say afterwards that it was too bad that we let them in, we wish we hadn’t.”
“So I think we need to have some faith and hope, and use our considerable resources and our ingenuity to find solutions. And the solutions are waiting to be found, and everyone of good will is ready to give a hand, and that will make us all a better people.”
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2017 / 12:06 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation is an opportunity for both Protestants and Catholics to place Christ at the center of their relations, Pope Francis told an ecumenical delegation from Germany on Monday.
“This year of commemoration offers us the opportunity to take a further step ahead, looking at the past without rancor, but in accordance with Christ and in communion with Him, to re-propose to the men and women of our time the radical newness of Jesus, the limitless mercy of God: precisely what the Reformers in their time wanted to stimulate,” the Pope said Feb. 6.
“The fact that their call to renewal gave rise to developments that led to divisions among Christians was certainly tragic,” he added. “Believers no longer felt they were brothers and sisters in faith, but rather adversaries and competitors; for too long they bore hostility and engaged in struggles, fomented by interests of politics and power, at times even without scruple about using violence against each other, brothers against brothers.”
The ecumenical delegation included Catholic leaders and leaders of the Evangelical Church in Germany, a federation of Lutheran, Reformed, and United ecclesial communities in the country. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, chairman of the Evangelical Churches in Germany, headed the delegation with Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, president of the German Episcopal Conference.
The Roman Pontiff voiced gratitude to the delegation, saying they intend to approach the painful aspects of the past with humility and freshness. He noted their plans for an ecumenical function of penance and reconciliation, which would provide an opportunity for purification and spiritual renewal to help bring Christ to mankind.
For Pope Francis, decades of ecumenical progress have resulted in the ability for both Protestants and Catholics to deplore the failures of unity in the Reformation and subsequent developments.
“At the same time, in the reality of the single baptism that makes us brothers and sisters, and in our joint attention to the Spirit, we know, in a now reconciled diversity, how to appreciate the spiritual and theological gifts that we have received from the Reformation,” he said.
He cited the words of Benedict XVI, who in 2011 had met with representatives of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Benedict had said that for Martin Luther, “‘the deep passion and driving force of his whole life’s journey” was the question of “how to receive the grace of God.”
The Roman Pontiff also cited his Oct. 31, 2016 visit to Lund, Sweden on the 499th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. He reaffirmed his call “to bear witness together to the Gospel and to follow the path towards full unity.”
Continued differences in faith and morality are challenges towards unity and are sources of suffering, especially for husbands and wives from different religious confessions, the Pope noted.
“In an astute way we need to apply ourselves, with fervent prayer and with all our strength, to overcoming the obstacles that still exist, intensifying theological dialogue and reinforcing collaboration between us, especially in the service of those who suffer the most and in the protection of creation, which is under threat,” he said.
“Jesus’ urgent call to unity challenges us, and the entire human family, in a period in which we experience serious lacerations and new forms of exclusion and marginalization,” the Pope continued. “For this reason too, our responsibility is great!”
Pope Francis closed his remarks with a prayer that the Holy Spirit may fortify Christians on their path to unity. He asked the members of the delegation to pray for him and invited them to say the Lord’s Prayer together.
Vatican City, Feb 6, 2017 / 10:18 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While the Pope has in the past been depicted as a superhero or peace advocate, this weekend set a much different tone as Rome woke up Saturday to see the walls of the city center plastered with some 200 anti-Pope Francis posters.
However, after hearing about the posters, the Pope himself was reportedly unfazed, and didn’t make a big deal out of the incident.
According to Italian news agency ANSA, Pope Francis received the news of the posters with “serenity and detachment.”
Depicting a dour Pope Francis, the posters read: “Ah Francis, you’ve taken over congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored Cardinals…but where’s your mercy?”
After a short time, many of the posters were covered with signs reading “abusive posting.” The majority of the posters had been taken down by Sunday morning, and as of Monday nary a one was to be seen.
The brief phrase included on the posters was written in “Romanaccio,” or the Roman dialect, and indicates the culprit is someone who comes from more conservative sectors of the Church, many of whom have been in sharp disagreement with the Pope regarding his decisions and ongoing reform of the Curia.
By saying the Pope had “decapitated the Order of Malta,” the author was making a clear reference to the Pope’s recent request for the Order’s former Grand Master, Matthew Festing, to resign while ousted Grand Chancellor Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager be reinstated.
The reference to taking over congregations and removing priests is likely a reference to recent allegations that Francis had fired three priests from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith with no notice or reason.
On ignoring cardinals, the point was a clear reference to a letter written to Pope Francis in September, asking for clarification on five points – called “dubia” – in Amoris Laetitia. The letter was subsequently published in November, after the Pope did not respond.
The signatories of the letter were American Cardinal Raymond Burke, Patron of the Order of Malta, as well as German Cardinals Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner and Italian Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, all of whom are widely considered to sit on the right of the Church.
The reference to the Franciscans of the Immaculate referred to the fact that Francis made some changes to the order early on in his pontificate, restricting their use of the Latin Mass used prior to the Second Vatican Council.
However, while the Pope’s lack of concern over the posters might seem surprising to some, he said in an interview with Italian paper Avvenire in November that he doesn’t “lose sleep” over his critics, and has said on several previous occasions that resistance is a normal part of any reform.
In a lengthy speech to members of the Roman Curia Dec. 22, the Pope outlined three different types of resistance, saying the phenomenon is “normal (and) even healthy.”
He spoke of “open resistance,” which often arises “from good will and sincere dialogue,” but noted that there is also a type of “hidden resistance” that comes from “fearful or petrified hearts content with the empty rhetoric of a complacent spiritual reform.”
These are the people “who verbally say they are ready for change, but want everything to stay as it was before,” he said.
However, the Pope also highlighted a third type of resistance, which he said is a “malicious resistance, which often sprouts in misguided minds and appears when the devil inspires bad intentions.”
This type of resistance, he said, frequently “hides behind words of self-justification and often accusation; it takes refuge in traditions, appearances, formalities, in the familiar, or else in a desire to make everything personal, failing to distinguish between the act, the actor and the action.”
An absence of a reaction “is the sign of death,” he said, and because of this “good resistances – and even those not as good – are necessary and merit being listened to, welcomed and encouraged to express themselves.”
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, Feb 5, 2017 / 07:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Holy See and the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Friday signed a framework agreement to govern relations between the Catholic Church and the state.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, signed the agreement with the Congolese Prime Minister Clement Mouamba.
The framework agreement guarantees the Catholic Church’s right to carry out her mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It recognizes the legal personality of the Church and of Catholic institutions.
It affirms that both the Church and the State aim to work for the moral, spiritual and material wellbeing of individuals and to promote the common good.
In attendance at the signing ceremony were many bishops including Archbishop Francisco Escalante Molina, the apostolic nuncio to the Congo; Archbishop Anatole Milandou of Brazzaville; and Bishop Daniel Mizonzo of Nkai, president of the Congolese bishops’ conference.
Various leading officials of the Congolese government also attended.
The Church runs a large network of schools, hospitals and private businesses in the country. About half of the country’s people identify as Catholic.
In September 2016, Pope Francis met with the country’s president Joseph Kabilia. The Pope reportedly voiced concern about ongoing unrest in the country connected with delayed elections.
Vatican City, Feb 5, 2017 / 11:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis stressed the sanctity of life and encouraged Christians to fulfill Jesus Christ’s command to be salt of the earth and light of the world.
“May no one be left alone and may love defend the sense of life,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus remarks Feb. 5 to thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
He cited the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “Life is beauty, admire it. Life is life, fight for it.”
“Each life is sacred,” Pope Francis continued. “Let’s pray together for those children who are in danger of interruption of pregnancy and for those who are nearing the end of life.”
The Pope linked his comments to the Italian observance of the Day for Life, which fell on Sunday.
He also reflected on the Sunday gospel readings, in which Jesus tells his disciples to be salt and light in the world.
“We Christians are recognizable as true disciples of Christ in our actions,” he said. “Thanks to the light of faith, the gift that we have received, we have the duty and the responsibility not to keep it to ourselves as if it were our property, but to allow it to shine in the world and give it to others through works of charity.”
“The world is much in need of the light of the Gospel that transforms, heals and gives salvation to him who embraces it,” he continued. “Jesus invites us to be a reflection of his light, through the witness of good works.”
“We are the salt of the earth,” the Pope said.
“The mission of Christians in society is that of giving ‘flavor’ to life with the faith and the love that Christ has given us,” he said, encouraging Christians to reject “the polluting germs of selfishness, envy and gossip.”
“These germs ruin the texture of our communities that must be places of welcome, solidarity and reconciliation,” Pope Francis warned. “To fulfill this mission, it is necessary to be free from the corrupting degeneration of worldly influences that are contrary to Christ and to the Gospel.”
He asked the faithful not to let their guard down. Rather, they should seek to purify themselves continuously and regenerate the spirit of the gospel each day.
Vatican City, Feb 4, 2017 / 02:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis warned of the “hidden victims” of capitalism, the idolatry of money and false philanthropy, telling a Saturday gathering of entrepreneurs they must act to change a system that creates victims, not simply help people after the fact.
“An entrepreneur who is only a Good Samaritan does half of his duty: he takes care of today’s victims, but does not curtail those of tomorrow,” he told a meeting of the Focolare Movement’s Economy of Communion project Feb. 4.
“The first gift of the entrepreneur is of his or her own person: your money, although important, is too little,” he said. “Money does not save if it is not accompanied by the gift of the person. Today’s economy, the poor, the young, need first of all your spirit, your respectful and humble fraternity, your will to live and, only then, your money.”
About 1,100 collaborators of the Economy and Communion project from 49 countries attended the audience with the Pope. The project was launched by Focolare founder Chiara Lubitch in 1991 in Brazil as a response to the poverty of Sao Paolo’s favelas. She invited entrepreneurs to set up companies that could help lift up the poor and create a culture of giving.
Pope Francis reflected on the positive nature of this work, which he suggested provided a path to remember the poor.
“When capitalism makes the seeking of profit its only purpose, it runs the risk of becoming an idolatrous framework, a form of worship,” he said.
“The principal ethical dilemma of this capitalism is the creation of discarded people, then trying to hide them or make sure they are no longer seen,” the Pope continued. “A serious form of poverty in a civilization is when it is no longer able to see its poor, who are first discarded and then hidden.”
He pointed to airlines that plant trees to compensate for the environmental damage of aircraft and gambling companies that pay to care for gambling addicts.
“And the day that the weapons industry finances hospitals to care for the children mutilated by their bombs, the system will have reached its pinnacle,” the Pope said.
“Capitalism knows philanthropy, not communion,” Pope Francis charged. “It is simple to give a part of the profits, without embracing and touching the people who receive those ‘crumbs’. Instead, even just five loaves and two fishes can feed the multitude if they are the sharing of all our life. In the logic of the Gospel, if one does not give all of himself, he never gives enough of himself.”
The Pope recommended the practice of the “economy of communion” that cares for the victims of the economic system and builds a system where there are fewer victims.
“Therefore, we must work toward changing the rules of the game of the socio-economic system,” he said. “Imitating the Good Samaritan of the Gospel is not enough.”
When anyone who encounters a victim must take care of him or her, it is important to act before the crime or tragedy “by battling the frameworks of sin that produce robbers and victims.”
Pope Francis also had hard words for the idolatry of money.
“The ‘goddess of fortune’ is increasingly the new divinity of a certain finance and of the whole system of gambling which is destroying millions of the world’s families, and which you rightly oppose,” he said. “This idolatrous worship is a surrogate for eternal life. Individual products get old and wear out, but if I have money or credit I can immediately buy others, deluding myself of conquering death.”
“We cannot understand the new Kingdom offered by Jesus if we do not free ourselves of idols, of which money is one of the most powerful,” the Pope continued.
He praised the Economy and Communion project for its decision to pool profits.
“The best and most practical way to avoid making an idol of money is to share it with others, above all with the poor, or to enable young people to study and work, overcoming the idolatrous temptation with communion,” Pope Francis said.
This is a way to tell money “you are not God.”
While there are new efforts to combat poverty and aid the poor, the Pope warned that it can never be said enough that capitalism “continues to produce discarded people whom it would then like to care for.”
The pontiff cited the parable of the Prodigal Son. One must imitate the father of the parable and wait for those who have done wrong to return to show them mercy. One must not be impeded by the “meritocracy” Pope Francis said is invoked by the parable’s older son and by “many who deny mercy in the name of merit.”
“An entrepreneur of communion is called to do everything possible so that even those who do wrong and leave home can hope for work and for dignified earnings, and not wind up eating with the swine,” he said. “No son, no man, not even the most rebellious, deserves acorns.”
He said the 25 years of the Focolare project’s existence show that a spirit of communion and business can grow together. Though the project is relatively small on a global scale, it is the quality of the salt not its quantity, that matters for taste.
“Every time people, peoples and even the Church have thought of saving the world in numbers, they have produced power structures, forgetting the poor,” the Pope said. “We save our economy by being simply salt and leaven: a difficult job, because everything deteriorates with the passing of time.”
He stressed the role of reciprocity in life. Communion is both the sharing and the multiplying of goods.
“By introducing into the economy the good seed of communion, you have begun a profound change in the way of seeing and living business,” Pope Francis told the gathering.
Vatican City, Feb 4, 2017 / 08:16 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his newest prayer video Pope Francis focused on the poor and refugees, saying we shouldn’t be like immobile mannequin’s when faced with their needs, but must instead reach out and help.
“We live in cities that throw up skyscrapers and shopping centers and strike big real estate deals, but they abandon part of themselves to marginal settlements on the periphery,” the Pope said in his prayer video, released Feb. 4.
Francis speaks as the video opens to a scene of people doing a “Mannequin Challenge” -- a viral internet trend where people freeze in their positions as music plays in the background -- on a crowded city street.
“The result of this situation is that great sections of the population are excluded and marginalized: without a job, without options, without a way out.”
“Don't abandon them,” he said, as the frozen figures jump into action and help a homeless man hunched by the side of a building.
He asked viewers to join him in praying for his February prayer intention, which is “that all those who are afflicted, especially the poor, refugees, and marginalized may find welcome and comfort in our communities.”
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The Pope’s prayer is timely, as it falls on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposed immigration ban, which would halt the influx of refugees into the U.S., except in the cases of religious minorities fleeing persecution. Part of the ban could also mean suspending visas issued to persons from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Libya.
The temporary ban could last four months, and presidential approval could be required to renew refugee resettlement from Syria.
Pope Francis has not made any comment on the issue, however, American Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said during a recent trip to Rome that the Pope thinks the country’s bishops are giving the issue “a Gospel response,” and doesn’t feel the need to intervene.
Francis’ prayer intention this month also draws on his “urgent intention” for January, which was dedicated to homeless persons forced to stay out on the streets during the winter.
An initiative of the Jesuit-run Apostleship of Prayer project, the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions typically focus on things close to his heart, such as the poor and needy, refugees, child soldiers, migrants, families, women, workers, youth, elderly and the unemployed.
Founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884, the Apostleship of Prayer was established as a means of encouraging Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church. Since its foundation, the organization has received a monthly universal prayer intention from the Pope, but in 1929 an additional “evangelization intention” was added, aimed at the faithful in particular.
However, after nearly 100 years, Francis has decided to return to the old system and will alternate between universal and evangelistic themes each month, with a specific “urgent” intention being announced during his first Angelus address of the month.
According to the Apostleship of Prayer’s website, the Pope’s additional urgent intention will focus on “current events or urgent needs,” such as disaster relief, and will “help mobilize prayer and action related to the urgent situation.”
The videos on the prayer intentions were launched as part of a project specifically for the Jubilee of Mercy, and marked the first time his prayer intentions had been featured on video as part of an initiative called “The Pope Video.”
Although the Jubilee has ended, the videos will continue throughout 2017. The intentions for the rest of the year have already been listed on the Apostleship of Prayer’s website.
Vatican City, Feb 4, 2017 / 04:38 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has named Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, substitute of the Secretariat of State, as his personal delegate to oversee the “spiritual and moral” reform of the Order of Malta, with particular attention to the professed members.
In a letter to Becciu dated Feb. 2, the Pope named him “as my special delegate to the distinguished Order” of Malta, and emphasized that he will work in “strict collaboration” with the Order’s interim leader, Fra' Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein.
The two of them, he said, must work for “greater good of the Order and for the reconciliation among all its components, religious and lay.” Additionally, they will be responsible for developing together “a study in view of the appropriate spiritual renovation” of the Order’s Constitution.
Pointing to Becciu’s role in particular, Francis said he will be charged with caring for “everything related to the spiritual and moral renewal of the Order, especially the professed members,” who number about 55 worldwide.
Becciu’s mandate will end with the conclusion of the extraordinary Council to elect a new Grand Master, after the former, Matthew Festing, resigned last month upon the request of Pope Francis.
In his letter, published Feb. 4, Pope Francis said Becciu will be “my exclusive spokesman” in in everthing relating to relations between the Order and the Vatican.
“I delegate to you, then, all the necessary powers to determine any issues that may arise concerning the implementation of the mandate entrusted to you.”
The appointment of Becciu falls shorly after Festing’s Jan. 24 resignation from his position as Grand Master at the request of Pope Francis, and the reinstatement of ousted leader Albrecht von Boeselager as Grand Chancellor.
Festing’s resignation marked the end of a month-long power struggle between the Order of Malta and the Holy See, which began with Boeselager’s forced dismissal from both his position, and his membership in the Order, in early December.
The Holy See then intervened, establishing a committee to investigate the decision. When the Order refused to cooperate with the argument that the decision to dismiss Boeselager was an “internal act of governance” and therefore the Holy See’s investigative group was “legally irrelevant” given the Order’s sovereignty, the Holy See responded Jan. 17 by reiterating its confidence in the group and its work.
Shortly after that Festing was called in for a private meeting with the Pope and was asked to resign. Three days later the Order’s Sovereign council voted to accept Festing’s resignation and named Grand Commander Fra' Ludwig Hoffmann von Rumerstein as “lieutenant ad interim” until a new Grand Master is elected.
Boeselager, whose brother Georg von Boeselager was appointed a member of the Board of Superintendents of the IOR Dec. 15, was also reinstated as Grand Chancellor.
In a letter to Rumerstein and members of the Sovereign Council, the Pope said he would eventually be appointing a special delegate to oversee “spiritual renewal of the Order, specifically of its professed members.”
The “Council Complete of State” to elect a new Grand Master must be held within three months of the former’s resignation or death.
Though no dates have yet been set, at a Feb. 2 news conference highlighting the Order’s priorities in the aftermath of the crisis, Boeselager told journalists the council is expected to take place in late April.
The Order of Malta is a chivalric order which was founded in 1099, originally to provide protection and medical care to Holy Land pilgrims. It now performs humanitarian work throughout the world, and its two principle missions are defense of the faith and care for the poor.
It maintains sovereignty, holding diplomatic relations with more than 100 states and United Nations permanent observer status.
Vatican City, Feb 3, 2017 / 03:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On behalf of Pope Francis, the Vatican's Secretary of State sent a message encouraging the participants of XVI World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates to peaceful and effective communication.
“As the participants reflect on the many challenges to peace in the modern world, His Holiness encourages them in their efforts to promote understanding and dialogue among peoples,” said Cardinal Pietro Parolin, with greetings from the Pope.
The XVI World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates is being hosted Feb. 2-5 by Bogotá Columbia's Chamber of Commerce.
The Summit gathers noble peace laureates, political leaders, organizations, as well as students and professors to share experiences and ideas for building a better platform of peace. About 20 laureates and several world leaders will be attending. After the conference, Bogotá will be designated as the City of Peace, and humanitarian and peace projects will be initiated by the organization and the participants.
Cardinal Parolin said that the Pope trusts “the efforts in Colombia to build bridges of peace and reconciliation can inspire all communities to rise above animosity and division,” addressing the recent resolution to Columbia's conflict.
Bogotá had been in an over 50 year conflict, which ended in 2016. President Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Noble Peace Prize for helping resolve the violence between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia or FARC. Cease fire began in June 2016, and a revised peace deal was signed by both parties and approved by congress in November.
Pope Francis specifically mentioned the power of non-violence during oppression and maltreatment. He said, “When victims of violence are able to resist the temptation to retaliate, they become the most credible promoters of nonviolent peacemaking.”
The letter ended with the Holy Father's promise to pray for divine wisdom and strength for all participants.
Vatican City, Feb 3, 2017 / 07:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- While divisions between the Vatican and the break-off Society of St. Pius X still exist, representatives from both sides have said the proposal appears to be the best option for unity, and steps are already being taken to study it.
The SSPX believes “that the Roman authorities consider the personal prelature to be the canonical structure which best reflects our real situation,” Bishop Bernard Fellay said in an interview with Spanish magazine Vida Nueva, published Feb. 3.
And when it comes to the Society themselves, he said “we also think that the personal prelature is the most appropriate regimen for the Fraternity in the current circumstances.”
A personal prelature, which is a Church jurisdiction without geographical boundaries designed to carry out particular pastoral initiatives, has been on the table for the SSPX for years. At present, the only personal prelature in the Church is Opus Dei, so should they take the offer, they would become the second entity to embrace such a structure.
Despite past hesitancy to accept the prelature in the past, Fellay, who is the current superior general of the SSPX, seems to imply that the Society’s opinion on the matter is changing.
In an interview with Vida Nueva released simultaneously with that of Fellay, Archbishop Guido Pozzo, head of Ecclesia Dei – the Vatican office of the responsible for doctrinal discussions with the SSPX – said a “profound examination” is being made of the legal text.
Once this is done, a draft of the constitutions will then be presented to the Holy Father, he said, but stressed that on the Vatican side, “the necessary condition for the canonical recognition is adherence to the contents of the Doctrinal Statement that the Holy See presented to the SSPX.”
The SSPX was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to form priests, as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church following the Second Vatican Council. Its relations with the Holy See became particularly strained in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre and Bishop Antonio de Castro Mayer consecrated four bishops without the permission of Pope John Paul II.
The illicit consecration resulted in the excommunication of the six bishops; the excommunications of the surviving bishops were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI, and since then, negotiations “to rediscover full communion with the Church” have continued between the Society and the Vatican.
In remitting the excommunications, Benedict also noted that “doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.”
The biggest obstacles for the Society's reconciliation have been the statements on religious liberty in Vatican II's declaration Dignitatis humanae as well as the declaration Nostra aetate, which it claims contradict previous Catholic teaching.
However, in a sign of goodwill, Pope Francis during the Jubilee of Mercy extended to the priests of the SSPX the faculty to validly hear confessions and absolve penitents. He has since extended this faculty until further notice.
In his interview, Bishop Fellay said there are still hurdles that need to be jumped before full unity is reached, and that “both today and yesterday, the main obstacle is the degree of obligation of adherence to the Second Vatican Council.”
An “important step” was taken when Pozzo made a previous declaration that “certain texts of the Council did not constitute criteria for Catholicity.” Among these, he said, are texts related to religious freedom, relations with non-Christian religions, ecumenism and liturgical reform.
“If we were able to determine that this is the line of the whole Church and not of one person or another, that would be decisive,” he said, but cautioned that there are still several “red lines” the Society isn’t yet willing to cross.
These lines, he said, are drawn when it comes to documents outlining “the way in which ecumenism is practiced, including statements very dangerous for the faith, that make you think all have the same faith; the liturgical question or the relationship between the Church and the State.”
“All these are issues on which we will not yield. This is not a matter of a position or personal point of view, or only peculiar to our congregation,” he said, adding that the Society upholds “what the Church has already taught and defined on those issues.”
“We could summarize by saying that the conditio sine quae non (condition without which it is not) is that Rome accept us the way we are.”
Fellay noted that another point that makes unity difficult the fact that there is currently “a deep division in the Church between conservatives and progressives, which reaches to the highest levels.”
“In a certain measure, we are the victims of this dispute, since the official declaration for our communion with the See of Peter will hardly be satisfactory for both positions,” he said, but noted that while it’s hard to place a date when reconciliation will take place, Rome seems to be more open to a public recognition of “our status as Catholics.”
Responding to labels frequently associated with the Society such as “ultraconservative” and “sectarian,” Fellay said that if a person wants to “disqualify” the SSPX with these labels, “then you have to condemn the entire Catholic Church, throughout its entire history.”
“We simply follow and apply what was practiced by the Church in the entire world for centuries,” he said, but noted that while “they wanted to change the Church” in both the pre and post Council era, “we did not abandon the rich heritage of our Holy Mother the Church.”
“This simple fact is enough to give us a conservative look,” he said, adding that the Society’s attempts to “defend and protect” themselves from these type of attacks since the 1970s have been “misunderstood.”
Fellay also said that despite ongoing points of division, the process of unification has sped up under Pope Francis. While things began with St. John Paul II and continued with Benedict XVI, who played “a very important role,” it seems that “the most important steps were taken in Francis' pontificate.”
Noting the uptick in priestly vocations within the SSPX, Fellay said what makes their understanding of the priesthood unique is “the spirit of the sacrifice of the Cross, of the sacrifice of the altar, which the priests renews in intimate union with Our Lord, and with which he must identify himself.”
In his interview, Archbishop Pozzo said that when it comes to the question of Vatican II, “it’s a false problem to ask if a Catholic can accept the Council or not.”
“A good Catholic cannot reject it,” he said, “because it is a universal assembly of bishops gathered around the Pope.”
The real problem, then, is with the interpretation of conciliar documents. Pointing to an idea that came from Benedict XVI, Pozzo said the correct interpretation is that the documents be read “one in the line of renewal in continuity with tradition.”
“Vatican II must be understood and read in the context of the tradition of the Church and of her constant magisterium,” he said, but stressed that “the magisterial authority of the Church cannot stop in 1962.”
“Neither is the magisterium above the Word, written or transmitted, nor progress, in the best understanding of the mysteries of faith,” he said, adding that teachings of the Vatican II “have a different degree of authority, which corresponds to a different degree of adherence.”
Once full reconciliation between the Vatican and the SSPX is reached, further discussion could take place on certain issues “that are not proper to the matter of the faith, but of themes that refer to the pastoral application of conciliar orientations and teachings,” he said, pointing to the relation between Church and State, ecumenism, interreligious dialogue and liturgical reform as examples.
“A deeper discussion of these themes could be useful for greater precision and clarification, in order to avoid misunderstandings or ambiguities which, unfortunately, are widespread,” he said, explaining that it’s important to “avoid being rigid” or stuck on “maximum positions” while claiming to be open to discussion.
However, he said that ongoing dialogue with the SSPX “can increasingly help to specify the correct interpretation, to avoid misunderstandings, errors or ambiguities that are present in a certain way of understanding and interpreting some conciliar teachings.”
Pozzo said he is “confident” in the path the Vatican is taking with the SSPX, explaining that “I am not an optimist nor a pessimist, but a realist (and) I have confidence we are going in the right direction.”
Vatican City, Feb 2, 2017 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Everyone, but especially consecrated men and women, Pope Francis said Thursday, are called to be leaven in the world, bringing Christ to the people – even when it seems like the work goes unnoticed, or there is another who would do a better job.
“The Lord has called us to be leaven here and now, with the challenges we face. Not on the defensive or motivated by fear, but with our hands on the plough, helping the wheat to grow, even though it has frequently been sown among weeds,” he taught during his homily at a Feb. 2 Mass in St. Peter's Basilica.
The Mass celebrated the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and marked the 21st World Day of Consecrated Life.
Pope Francis said the calling of consecrated women and men is to put Christ “in the midst of people,” not acting as some sort of religious activist, but as “men and women who are constantly forgiven, men and women anointed in baptism and sent to share that anointing and the consolation of God with everyone.”
Addressing the potential doubts and fears people may have, Francis said “all of are aware of the multicultural transformation we are experiencing; no one doubts this.”
But “it is all the more important for consecrated men and women to be one with Jesus, in their lives and in the midst of these great changes. Our mission – in accordance with each particular charism – reminds us that we are called to be a leaven in this dough,” he said.
“Putting Jesus in the midst of his people means having a contemplative heart, one capable of discerning how God is walking through the streets of our cities, our towns and our neighborhoods.”
“Putting Jesus in the midst of his people,” he continued, “means taking up and carrying the crosses of our brothers and sisters. It means wanting to touch the wounds of Jesus in the wounds of a world in pain, which longs and cries out for healing.”
Referring to the day’s Gospel reading about Mary and Joseph’s presentation of Christ in the temple, he said that the words of Simeon and Anna were not full of self-absorption or an analysis of their personal situations.
Instead, their “song” was “born of hope, the hope that sustained them in their old age. That hope was rewarded when they encountered Jesus.”
Just as Mary placed Christ before Simeon and Anna to hold and to see, consecrated women and men are called to bring Christ to the people and areas they serve.
Sometimes, Pope Francis said, we can fall prey to a temptation of “survival,” a mentality that can take root within people and within communities which turns them into “reactionaries, fearful, slowly and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own preconceived notions.”
It makes us look back, “to the glory days – days that are past,” instead of working to rekindle the dreams and creativity present in our founders. A “survival mentality robs our charisms of power” by trying to make them more safe and more palatable to the modern world, he explained.
Moreover, the Pope said “the temptation of survival makes us forget grace” by turning us “into professionals of the sacred but not fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of that hope to which we are called to bear prophetic witness.”
This attitude is not limited to the consecrated life, he said, but “we in particular are urged not to fall into it.”
Referring to the Introduction to the Entrance Procession in the Roman Missal, the Pope said that today’s liturgy tells us that when Christ was presented in the temple, that rite, forty days after his birth, “outwardly was fulfilling the Law, but in reality he was coming to meet his believing people.”
“This encounter of God with his people brings joy and renews hope,” he said. “Whenever Mary puts Jesus in the midst of his people, they encounter joy.”
“For this alone will bring back our joy and hope, this alone will save us from living in a survival mentality. Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive: putting Jesus where he belongs, in the midst of his people.”
This “hymn of hope” sung by Simeon and Anna is something we have inherited, we are “part of this process,” Francis said. In the founders of the different orders, “In their faces, in their lives, in their daily sacrifice we were able to see how this praise was embodied,” he explained.
“We are heirs to those who have gone before us and had the courage to dream. Like them, we too want to sing, ‘God does not deceive; hope in him does not disappoint.’ God comes to meet his people.”
Vatican City, Feb 1, 2017 / 06:47 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said the Christian belief in the Resurrection of Christ and in our own resurrection at the end of time is more than just wishful thinking, but rather implies confidence in something certain.
“This is the Christian hope. Christian hope is the expectation of something that has already been accomplished and that certainly will be realized for each of us,” the Pope said Feb. 1.
Speaking to pilgrims in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall, he said that we need “to return to the root and foundation of our faith, so as to become aware of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus and what our death means.”
Continuing his catechesis on the theme of hope, Francis’ lesson for the audience centered on the Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians. The community of Thessalonica had only been around for a few years when Paul wrote, which was shortly after Christ’s Resurrection, he said.
At this time, the community did not have difficulty believing in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but rather, the difficulty they faced was believing that on the last day, all of the dead would be raised.
“We all have a little fear of the uncertainty of death,” the Pope said. “Each time we face our death, or that of a loved one, we feel that our faith is tested. All our doubts emerge, all our weaknesses and we ask ourselves: ‘But really there is life after death ...? I can still see and embrace the people I loved...?’”
However, despite the fears and concerns of the community, St. Paul invites the people to hold firm to “the hope of salvation,” especially “in trials and in the most difficult moments of our lives.”
Christian hope is not like the everyday hopes we have, like when we hope or wish for good weather, even though we know that the weather may actually be bad, he said.
Rather, Christian hope means “to be sure that I’m on the way to something that is, not that I want to be.” We should strive to live in this kind of hopeful expectation, he said, using the image of a pregnant woman who waits in expectation to see her child.
Although this isn’t always easy, we are able to learn to live with this kind of expectation, he said, but added that to do this requires a “humble heart, a poor heart.” Someone who is full of himself and of his possessions, on the other hand, cannot place his trust in anyone but himself.
Pope Francis said that something that touches his heart and fills him with hope, is the line from St. Paul that says: “And we shall always be with the Lord.”
“One nice thing: everything passes but, after death, we shall be forever with the Lord. It is the total certainty of hope,” he said.
“Do you believe this?” he asked, inviting those present to repeat with him: “And we shall always be with the Lord.”
He noted how St. Paul writes that Jesus “died for us ‘so that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.’” These words, he said, “are always a source of great consolation and peace.”
Vatican City, Jan 31, 2017 / 04:28 pm (CNA).- In the first days of U.S. president Donald Trump’s administration, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark said he has seen encouragement on pro-life matters, but cause for concern when it comes to refugees.
“I think the fact that the vice president and other White House officials addressed the March for Life last week was very encouraging, and I think it’s a good boost,” the cardinal told CNA in a sit-down interview Jan. 31.
Noting that the massive pro-life march is often ignored by the media, he said “this was I think a great gift to the people, the attention that the administration gave.”
However, he also voiced concern over U.S. president Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees, and how it will affect those suffering in various parts of the world. He said that in opposing the policy, the U.S. bishops have the support of Pope Francis.
Currently in Rome to take possession of his titular church Santa Maria delle Grazie, which he did Sunday, Tobin said that so far his schedule has been packed with curial meetings, and a visit to the new mega-dicastery for Integral Human Development was one of them.
While stopping by an office in the same building to talk about “a completely different issue,” Tobin said he got a visit from the secretary of the congregation, Fr. Michael Czerny, who popped in and conveyed the Pope’s confidence that the U.S. bishops are giving the issue “a Gospel response.”
Tobin, who currently serves as the Archbishop of Newark, was named a Cardinal by Pope Francis in his latest consistory, and got his red hat in Rome Nov. 19.
In the interview, the cardinal offered an update on Auxiliary Bishop Manuel Cruz, who was assaulted while saying Mass in Newark over the weekend.
He also spoke about his transition from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis to the Archdiocese of Newark, the strengths and challenges of consecrated life, and the 2018 Synod of Bishops, which will discuss youth and vocational discernment.
Please read below for CNA’s full interview with Cardinal Tobin:
Q: You have just changed dioceses. How has your transition to the Archdiocese of Newark been, and do you have any updates on how your Auxiliary Bishop, Manuel Cruz is doing after the assault this weekend?
The transition to Newark has been lovely. I’ve received a wonderful welcome from the clergy and from the people. Trying to orientate myself to the new reality is a bit like drinking form a firehose, as they say, so it’s a challenge each day to get to know this new church and its incredible vitality. While I’ve been here we’ve had a very disturbing incident in the cathedral of Newark Saturday. One of our auxiliary bishops and the rector of the cathedral, Manuel Cruz, was just beginning a memorial Mass for Roberto Clemente, the famous Puerto Rican baseball player and philanthropist, and a person got up out of the pew and went into the sanctuary and began to beat him. I talked to Bishop Cruz the following day and he said he had actually extended his hand to greet the man when he was hit full in the face and it damaged him. He’s received about 25 stitches in his face and at first they thought that his jaw had been broken, but he will probably need some reconstructive surgery, so it was a very traumatic experience for him and really for the cathedral community and for the archdiocese.
Q: We’ll definitely keep him in our prayers. Another thing that’s made headlines and has been on everyone’s mind is Donald Trump and everything that he’s been doing in the days since his inauguration. One of the biggest concerns has been on his immigration policy. What is your reaction to the plan that he is currently trying to implement?
Well, I made my reaction known in a statement that the Archdiocese posted. My concern for the provisions of this, first the ban on refugees from some of the most suffering parts of the world, and secondly, his total ban on any people who are coming from seven different countries, but also to people who belong to the Islamic faith. Those were all sources of concern not simply for me but also for my brother bishops.
Q: I know you’ve had differences with Vice President Michael Pence on this in the past, and in the end the local government took the same position as the Church. Do you expect the bishops will have any sway on this issue now, particularly the specific attention Trump has shown to Catholics?
I would just add that in that former disagreement with the-then governor of Indiana, it wasn’t simply the government but it was also the courts later on, because the State tried to justify its ban in federal court and in two different courts it was discarded as not being constitutional. So I think the whole constitutionality of this ban is going to be questioned not simply by Catholic bishops, but by other interested groups and perhaps the courts will have a say in it. I think what bishops need to do and what we do is to tell the truth, and to tell the truth in light of the Gospel.
Q: Have you received any sort of advice from the Vatican on how to engage the Trump administration on this issue?
Actually yesterday I was meeting with, on a completely different issue, but I was in the same building as the Migration (section), and the (secretary) of the council, Fr. Michael Czerny, came to see me, and he said the Holy Father doesn’t feel the need to intervene because he believes the bishops, not just one bishop, but the bishops of the United States are making an adequate response, a Gospel response.
Q: For Catholics in particular the Trump administration can be kind of puzzling. He’s been very strong on prolife issues but radically opposite when it comes to immigration. What advice would you give to Catholics who perhaps feel caught in the middle?
All of us have the challenge of seeing this respect for life as being, in the famous words of Cardinal Bernardin, Chicago’s “seamless garment,” which is just that the garment of Christ wasn’t torn apart at the foot of the cross and neither is our moral reflection on life. Now, it is encouraging if the present administration – I think the fact the vice president and other White House officials addressed the March for Life last week was very encouraging and I think it’s a good boost. I’ve walked in that march a number of times and have been amazed at the sort of dedication of people who come out in the middle of January, usually in freezing weather, to witness and often times it’s just ignored by the media. So this was I think a great gift to the people, the attention that the administration gave. I hope that they’ll make good on that intention. However I think that there’s probably part of public policy that was announced last week that needs to be challenged and needs a respectful debate, and I think that that’s what the bishops of the country intend to do.
Q: Shifting to another announcement that was made this week, the Vatican confirmed your post in the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The Pope met with the members this weekend. Do you have a reaction to his speech?
The theme of the meeting of the congregation – those are the cardinals and bishops that advise the department in the Vatican on policies affecting consecrated life across the world. The theme of it had to do with fidelity and perseverance, so I think that he, obviously as a religious, is interested in the witness that consecrated people give. So he talked about what are elements that can enhance fidelity among religious, things like spiritual direction, regular use of the sacraments, the importance of having a spiritual advisor. I think that he helped us see that the work we were doing was pretty crucial.
Q: You’ve worked with the congregation before and you have a lot of experience working with different religious communities. Given your experience, what would you say are some of the biggest areas of opportunity of consecrated life today, but also the great strengths it has?
Consecrated life, like any committed life, faces particular challenges today, particularly in the West, where a famous sociologist here in Italy used to talk about the “liquid society,” a society that is so fluid in its identity that you can say you’re something one day, and then change it the next, even the most profound characteristics of what it means to be human. I think as vowed people, people who have given ourselves to the Lord, to maintain that commitment within such fluidity is going to be a challenge. I think also that this sort of freedom that religious life should model isn’t always evident if we’re not truly free – free from striving for power, wealth or unlimited satisfaction. In a consumerist society, that’s going to be a challenge, to say no, living simply and living gratefully is the real secret to a happy life. So I think religious can model that for the rest of the Church. But if we’re not faithful to that, then we become like the salt that’s lost its flavor, and we don’t want to do that.
Q: One final question. The topic of faith and vocational discernment is also the topic of the next Synod of Bishops. Will your congregation be contributing any specific materials? To what extent will you be involved in the planning?
I think that all the Roman dicasteries are asked to contribute to the synod, to the preliminary and preparatory documents, so I imagine this congregation, but also the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States. I suppose I’ll be involved a little bit because I’m the Chair on the Committee for Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations. So I know an important part of the preparatory process for a synod, is a sort of consultation and then trying to refine those consultations into a workable document to guide the synod. So yeah, I think that we’ll be involved.
Q: What are some of the big themes you think should be part of the discussion?
I think there are a number of things. How the Church is present among young people today, I think some sensitivity of what young people are looking for in themselves, what will be obstacles to young people embracing a vocation to which God is calling her or him, what is the particular witness that young people can give in the Church and the world and how does the Church need to support young people.