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Apostolic Voyage to Egypt confirmed

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 18:28
(Vatican Radio) A statement from Greg Burke, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Egypt at the end of April. Here is the full text of Greg Burke’s statement: “In response to the invitation from the President of the Republic, the Bishops of the Catholic Church, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of the Mosque of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic trip to the Arab Republic of Egypt from 28 to 29 April 2017, visiting the city of Cairo. The programme of the trip will be published shortly.” The Apostolic Voyage to Egypt will be Pope Francis’ eighteenth pastoral visit outside of Italy.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: three characteristics of a good confessor

Sat, 03/18/2017 - 00:18
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with participants at an annual course on the internal forum, organised by the Apostolic Penitentiary.In his words to the group, the Pope spoke about the formation of good confessors, focusing on three characteristics which should guide their work. Listen to our report: Firstly, Pope Francis said, a good confessor is a true friend of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and a person dedicated to prayer. A Ministry of Reconciliation "bound up in prayer", he said, is a credible reflection of God's mercy and will “avoid the harshness and misunderstandings” that are sometimes associated with the Sacrament. Prayer is the first guarantee for avoiding harsh attitudes, pointlessly judging the sinner and not the sin, he said. Pope Francis told participants that they cannot forgive through the Sacrament without the awareness of first having been forgiven themselves. He urged them to pray for humility and “the gift of a wounded heart” so that they are able to understand other people's wounds and heal them with the oil of mercy. Secondly, the Pope said the good confessor is a man of the Spirit, a man of discernment. How much harm is done to the Church through a lack of discernment, he added. Discernment, he insisted,  enables a confessor to distinguish and not "tar all with the same brush" despite the many different and delicate situations people bring to the confessional. Pope Francis said that if a confessor becomes aware of the presence of genuine spiritual disturbances, confirmed through a ”healthy collaboration” with specialists in human sciences, he must not hesitate to refer the issue to an exorcist, chosen with “great care and great prudence”. Finally, Pope Francis concluded, the confessional is also a true place of evangelization and thus of formation. In the brief dialogue that is woven with the penitent, he said the confessor is called to discern what may be most useful or even necessary to the spiritual journey of that brother or sister. He stressed that confession is a real pastoral priority and he urged them never to limit the availability of the Sacrament to anyone who comes asking for it. Please find below the English translation of Pope Francis’ address Dear brothers, I am pleased to meet you in this first audience with you after the Jubilee of Mercy, on the occasion of the annual Course on the Internal Forum. I address warm greetings to the Cardinal Major Penitentiary, and thank him for his kind remarks. I greet the Regent, the Prelates, the Officials and the staff of the Penitentiary, the Colleges of the ordinary and extraordinary penitentiaries of the Papal Basilicas in Rome, and all of you, participants in this course. In reality, I admit, this Penitentiary is the type of Tribunal I truly like! It is a “tribunal of mercy”, to which we turn to obtain that indispensable medicine that is divine mercy. Your course on the internal forum, which contributes to the formation of good confessors, is more useful than ever, and I would say even necessary in our times. Certainly, one does not become a good confessor thanks to a course, no: that of the confessional is a long education, that lasts a lifetime. But who is a “good confessor”? How does one become a good confessor? I would like to indicate, in this respect, three aspects. 1. The “good confessor” is, first of all, a true friend of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Without this friendship, it will be difficult to develop that fatherliness so necessary in the ministry of Reconciliation. Being friends of Jesus means first of all cultivating prayer: both personal prayer with the Lord, incessantly asking for the gift of pastoral charity, and the specific prayer for the exercise of the task of the confessor and for the faithful, brothers and sisters who come to us in search of God’s mercy. A ministry of Reconciliation “bound in prayer” will be a credible response to God’s mercy, and will avoid the harshness and misunderstandings that at times can be generated even in the Sacramental encounter. A confessor who prays is well aware of being the first sinner and the first to be forgiven. One cannot forgive in the Sacrament without the awareness of having been forgiven first. Therefore, prayer is the first guarantee for avoiding harsh attitudes, pointlessly judging the sinner and not the sin. In prayer it is necessary to implore the gift of a wounded heart, able to comprehend the wounds of others and to heal them with the oil of mercy, that which the good Samaritan poured on the wounds of the poor victim on whom no-one took pity (cf. Luke, 10:34). In prayer we must ask for the precious gift of humility, so that it may appear increasingly clear that forgiveness is a free and supernatural gift of God, of which we are simple, if necessary, administrators, by the very will of Jesus; and He will certainly be glad if we make extensive use of His mercy. In prayer, then, let us always invoke the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of discernment and compassion. The Spirit enables us to empathise with the sufferings of our sisters and brothers who enter the confessional, and to accompany them with prudent and mature discernment and with true compassion in their sufferings, caused by the poverty of sin. 2. The good confessor is, in second place, a man of the Spirit, a man of discernment. How much harm is done to the Church by a lack of discernment! How much harm is done to souls by a way of acting that is not rooted in humbly listening to Holy Spirit and to God’s will. The confessor does not act according to his own will and does not teach his own doctrine. He is called always to do the will of God alone, in full communion with the Church, of whom he is the minister, that is, a servant. Discernment allows us always to distinguish, rather than confuse, and to never “tar all with the same brush”. Discernment educates our outlook and our heart, enabling that delicacy of spirit that is so necessary before those who open up the shrine of their own conscience, to receive light, peace and mercy. Discernment is necessary also because those who approach the confessional may come from the most desperate situations; they could also have spiritual disturbances, whose nature should be submitted to careful discernment, taking into account all the existential, ecclesial, natural and supernatural circumstances. When the confessor becomes aware of the presence of genuine spiritual disturbances – that may be in large part psychic, and therefore must be confirmed by means of healthy collaboration with the human sciences – he must not hesitate to refer the issue to those who, in the diocese, are charged with this delicate and necessary ministry, namely, exorcists. But these must be chosen with great care and great prudence. 3. Finally, the confessional is also a true place of evangelisation. Indeed, there is no evangelisation more authentic than the encounter with the God of mercy, with the God Who is Mercy. Encountering mercy means encountering the true face of God, just as the Lord Jesus revealed Him to us. The confessional is therefore a place of evangelisation and thus of formation. In the dialogue that is woven with the penitent – although brief – the confessor is called to discern what may be most useful or even necessary to the spiritual journey of that brother or sister; at times it becomes necessary to re-proclaim the most elementary truths of faith, the incandescent nucleus, the kerygma, without which the same experience of God’s love and His mercy would remain as if mute; at times it means indicating the foundations of moral life, always in relation to the truth, good and the will of God. It is a work of prompt and intelligent discernment, that can be of great benefit to the faithful. The confessor, indeed, is called every day to venture to the “peripheries of evil and sin” – this is an ugly periphery! - and his work is a real pastoral priority. Confessing is a pastoral priority. Please, do not let there be those signs that say, “Confessions only on Monday and Wednesday at such-and-such a time”. One confesses whenever one is asked. And if you are there [in the confessional] praying, stay with the confessional open, which is the open heart of God. Dear brothers, I bless you and I hope that you will be good confessors, immersed in the relationship with Christ, capable of discernment in the Holy Spirit and ready to seize the opportunity to evangelise. Always pray for your brothers and sisters who seek the Sacrament of forgiveness. And please, pray for me too. And I would not like to finish without something that came to mind when the Cardinal Prefect spoke. He spoke about keys, and about Our Lady, and I liked this, so I will tell you something … two things. It was very good for me when I was young to read the book of Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori on Our Lady: “The Glories of Mary”. Always, at the end of each chapter, there was a miracle of the Madonna, who entered into life and sorted things out. And the second thing. On Our Lady there is a legend, a tradition that they told me exists in the South of Italy: Our Lady of the Mandarins. It is a land where there are many mandarins, isn’t it? And they say that she is the patroness of thieves [laughter]. They say that thieves go to pray there. And the legend – they say – is that the thieves who pray to Our Lady of the Mandarins, when they die, they form a line in front of Saint Peter who has the keys, and opens and lets one pass, then he lets another one pass; and the Madonna, when she sees one of these, makes a sign for them to hide. Then, once everyone has passed by, Peter closes up and comes during the night, and the Madonna calls him from the window, and lets him enter through the window. It is a folk tale but it is beautiful: forgiving with the Mother next to you, forgiving with the Mother. Because this woman, this man who comes to the confessional, has a Mother in Heaven who opens the door and will help them at that moment to enter Heaven. Always the Madonna, because the Madonna helps us too in showing mercy. I thank the Cardinal for these two signs: the keys, and Our Lady. Many thanks. I invite you – it is time – to pray the Angelus together. “Angelus Domini…” Blessing Don’t say that thieves go to Heaven! Don’t say this! [laughter] (from Vatican Radio)...

Second Lenten Sermon of Fr. Cantalamessa to papal household: Full text

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 22:35
(Vatican Radio)  The Preacher of the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., gave his second Lenten Sermon to Pope Francis on Friday morning in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel. The theme of the Lenten meditations is: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). This second iteration carried the title: Christ, 'true God from true God' . The next three Sermons of Lent will take place on Friday 24 and 31 March, and Friday 7 April. Below please find the official English version translated from the Italian original by Marsha Daigle Williamson: Christ, “true God from true God” 1. The Faith of Nicea In this meditation we continue our reflection on the role of the Holy Spirit in knowing Christ. In this regard one cannot fail to mention an unexpected confirmation of this happening in the world today. For some time there has been a movement called “the Messianic Judaism,” whose members are Hebrew Christians.  (“Christ” and “Christian” are the Greek translations for the Hebrew “Messiah” and “messianic”!) A low estimate points to about 150,000 members, divided into different groups and associations. They are based primarily in the United States, Israel, and in various European nations. They are Jews who believe that Jesus, Yeshua, is the promised Messiah, the Savior, and the Son of God, but they do not want to renounce their Jewish identity and tradition. They do not officially adhere to any of the traditional Christian Churches because their intention is to connect with and revive the early church of the Jewish Christians, whose experience was very early on interrupted by well-known traumatic events. The Catholic Church and other Churches have always abstained from promoting, or even mentioning, this movement for the obvious reason of their dialogue with official Judaism. I myself have never spoken of it. But the conviction is now growing that it is not fair, for either side, to continue to ignore them, or worse, to ostracize them. Recently a study by various theologians has been released in Germany on this phenomenon.[1] I am mentioning it in this setting for the specific reason that it is relevant to topic of this meditation. In response to a survey about the factors and circumstances that were at the origin of their faith in Jesus, more than 60 percent of those involved answered, “the interior action of the Holy Spirit”; the second factor was their reading of the Bible, and the third was personal contact with other people.[2] This is a confirmation from life experience that the Holy Spirit is the one who gives the true, intimate knowledge of Christ. Let us return now to our main topic.  Soon after Christianity appeared in the surrounding Greco-Roman world, the title “Lord,” Kyrios, was no longer enough. The pagan world knew many various “lords,” the Roman emperor specifically being the primary one among them. It was necessary to find another way to guarantee full faith in Christ and his worship as God. The Arian crisis provided that opportunity. This leads us to the second part of the article on Jesus that was added to the symbol of faith at the Council of Nicea in 325: Born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with [homoousios] with the Father. The bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, the undisputed champion of the Nicene faith, was very certain that neither he nor the Church of his time were the ones to discover the divinity of Christ. However, his whole work will consist in demonstrating that this had always been the faith of the Church. What was new was not the truth but its opposing heresy. His conviction in this regard finds an indisputable historical confirmation in a letter that Pliny the Younger, the governor of Bithynia, wrote to the emperor Trajan around 111 AD. The only certain information he says he knows about the Christians is that “they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses . . .  in honor of Christ as if to a god (“carmenque Christo quasi Deo dicere”).”[3] Faith in the divinity of Christ already existed, so it is therefore only by completely ignoring history that anyone could say that the divinity of Christ is a dogma deliberately imposed on the Council of Nicea by the emperor Constantine. The contribution of the Fathers at Nicea, and in particular Athanasius, was, more than anything, to remove the obstacles that had impeded a full recognition of the divinity of Christ without reservation up to that point in the theological debates. One such obstacle was the Greek habit of defining the divine essence with the word agennetos, “unoriginate” or “unbegotten.” How does one proclaim that the Word is true God from the moment that he is the Son, that is, from the moment that he is generated by the Father? It was easy for Arius to set up the equivalence between “generated” and “made” that is, to go from gennetos to genetos, and to conclude with his famous statement that exploded the issue: “There was a time when he was not!” (en ote ouk en). This was the equivalent of making Christ a creature even if he was “not like other creatures.” Athanasius resolved the controversy with a fundamental observation: “‘Unoriginated’ [agneneto] is a word of the Greeks, who know not the Son.”[4] He vigorously defended Nicea’s expression “begotten, not made” (genitus non factus). Another cultural obstacle to the full recognition of Christ’s divinity, on which Arius was able to base his thesis, was the doctrine of an intermediary divine being, the deuteros theos, put in charge of the creation of the world. From Plato onward, that “secondary god” had become a common assumption in many religious systems and philosophies in antiquity. The temptation to treat the Son “through whom all things were made” as this intermediate entity was creeping into Christian speculation (the apologists, Origen), even if it was extraneous to the internal life of the Church. It resulted in a tripartite order of being: at the top, the ungenerated Father; after him, the Son (and later also the Holy Spirit); and in third place, creatures.  The definition of “begotten, not made” and of the homoousios removed this obstacle and led to a Christian cathartic cleansing of the metaphysical universe of the Greeks. With that definition, only one line of demarcation was drawn through the vertical axis of being. There were only two modes of being now: that of Creator and that of creatures, and the Son was placed in the first category, not the second.  If we were to summarize the perennial significance of Nicea’s definition in one statement, we could formulate it this way: in every age and culture, Christ must be proclaimed as “God” not in some derivative or secondary sense but in the strongest sense that the word “God” has in that culture. It is important to understand what motivated Athanasius and other orthodox theologians in their battle, that is, why their conviction was so absolute. It did not come from speculation but from life, more specifically, from reflection on the experience that the Church, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, has of salvation in Christ Jesus. The soteriological question was not born out of the Arian controversy; it was present in all the great christological controversies of antiquity ranging from the Gnostic controversy to the Monothelite controversy. In its classical formulation, it says, “That which He has not assumed He has not saved” (Quod non est assumptum non est sanatum).”[5] In Athanasius’ use of the formula, it could be understood this way: “What is not assumed by God is not saved,” and all it force lies in that short addition of “by God.”’ Salvation requires that human beings are not assumed by some kind of intermediary but by God himself. “If the Son were a creature,” writes Athanasius, “man had remained mortal as before, not being joined to God”[6] and “man had not been deified if joined to a creature, or unless the Son were very God.”[7] We need, however, to make an important clarification here. The divinity of Christ is not a practical “postulate” as is true, according to Immanuel Kant, for the very existence of God.[8] It is not a postulate but the explanation of a true fact. It would be a postulate—and thus a human theological deduction—if it began from a certain idea of salvation, and the divinity of Christ was deduced from it as the only possible means for bringing about such a salvation. Instead, it is the explanation of a fact if it starts from an experience of salvation, as Athanasius does, and demonstrates how that experience could not exist if Christ were not God.  In other words, the divinity of Christ is not based on salvation; instead, salvation is based on the divinity of Christ. 2. “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15) But it is time to return to our theme and try to see what we can learn today from the epic battle that orthodoxy endured in its time. The divinity of Christ is the cornerstone that holds up the two principal mysteries of Christian faith: the Trinity and the Incarnation. They are like two doors that open and close together. There are buildings or metal structures that are constructed in such a way that if a certain point is touched, or if one removes a certain stone, they collapse. The edifice of Christian faith is like that, and its cornerstone is the divinity of Christ. If this is removed, everything comes crashing down, and first of all the Trinity. If the Son is not God, who forms the Trinity? St. Athanasius had already clearly denounced any theory against Christ’s divinity and in writing against the Arians and says, If the Word is not with the Father from everlasting, the Triad is not everlasting, but a Monad was first, and afterwards by addition it became a Triad.[9] Saint Augustine said, “It is no great thing to believe that Christ died: even pagan and Jews and all bad people believe that. All of them are sure that he died. The faith of Christians is in Christ’s resurrection.”[10] The same thing that is said about the death and resurrection should be said about the humanity and divinity of Christ, whose death and resurrection are their respective manifestations. Everyone believes that Jesus was a man; what distinguishes believers from non-believers is the belief that he is God. The faith of Christians is in the divinity of Christ! We need to ask ourselves a serious question. What place does Jesus Christ have in our society and in the faith of Christians? I believe we can speak in this regard about a presence-absence of Christ. On a certain level—that of entertainment and media in general—Jesus Christ is very present. In a never-ending series of stories, films, and books, writers manipulate the figure of Christ, at times under the pretext of supposedly new historical documents about him. This has become a trend, a literary genre. Some people take advantage of the broad appeal of Jesus’ name and of what he represents for a large part of humanity to guarantee wide-ranging publicity at a low cost. I call all this literary parasitism. From a certain point of view, we can say, then, that Jesus Christ is very present in our culture. But if we look at the sphere of faith, to which he belongs in the first place, we notice instead a disquieting absence, if not a direct rejection of his person. What do those who call themselves “believers” in Europe and elsewhere really believe?  Most of the time they believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, a Creator; they believe in a “hereafter.” However, this is deistic faith and not yet Christian faith. Various sociological studies highlight this fact even in countries and regions that have an ancient Christian tradition. Jesus Christ is absent in practical terms in this type of religiosity. The dialogue between science and faith also leads, unintentionally, to putting Christ in parentheses. It does have God, the Creator, as its object, but the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth has no place in it whatsoever. The same thing happens in the dialogue with philosophy that likes to concern itself with metaphysical concepts rather than historical reality, not to mention interfaith dialogue in which peace and ecology are discussed, but not Jesus. It takes just a simple glance at the New Testament to see how far we are here from the original meaning of the word “faith” in the New Testament. For Paul, the faith that justifies sinners and confers the Holy Spirit (see Gal 3:2)—in other words the faith that saves—is faith in Jesus Christ, in the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection. During the earthly life of Jesus, the word “faith” already meant faith in him. When Jesus says, “your faith has saved you,” and when he reproves the apostles and calls them “you of little faith,” he it is not referring to a generic faith in God that was a given for the Jews; he is speaking about faith in himself! This by itself refutes the thesis that says faith in Christ begins solely at Easter and before this there is only the “Jesus of history.” The Jesus of history already presupposes faith in himself, so if the disciples followed him it is precisely because they had a certain faith in him, even it was quite imperfect before the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We therefore need to allow ourselves to directly confront the question Jesus asked his disciples one day after they had told him the opinions of people around him: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15), and to confront the question that is even more personal, “Do you believe? Do you truly believe? Do you believe with your whole heart?” St. Paul says, “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” (Rom 10:10). St. Augustine exclaims that faith “springs from the root of the heart.”[11] In the past, the second moment of this process—that is, the profession of a correct faith, i.e., orthodoxy—was at times so emphasized that it overshadowed the first moment, which is the most important one and which takes place in the hidden recesses of the heart. Almost all the treatises “On Faith” (De fide) written in ancient times focus on what to believe and not on the act of believing. 3. Who Is It That Overcomes the World? We need to recreate the conditions for a faith in the divinity of Christ without reservation or hesitation. We need to reproduce the enthusiasm of faith from which the formula of faith was born. The Church body once produced a supreme effort through which it raised itself in faith above all human systems and all the opposition of reason. Afterward the fruit of this effort remained. The tide rose at one time to its greatest level and its trace was left behind on the rock. Its trace is the definition by Nicea that we proclaim in the creed. However, that rising tide needs to happen again; its trace is not enough. It is not enough to recite the Nicene Creed; we need to renew the enthusiastic surge of faith that existed at that time concerning the divinity of Christ and that has had no equal for centuries. We need to experience this again. We need it above all for the sake of the new evangelization. St. John writes his First Letter, “Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 Jn 5:5). We need to understand clearly what “overcoming the world” means. It does not mean having more success or dominating the political and cultural scene. That would instead lead to the opposite: not overcoming the world but becoming worldly. Unfortunately, there have been times in which people fell into this misunderstanding without realizing it. One can think of the theory of “the two swords” or of “the triple reign of the Supreme Pontiff,”[12] although we must always be careful not to judge the past with present-day criteria and assumptions. From the historical point of view, the opposite has happened instead, and Jesus declared it to his disciples ahead of time: “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice” (Jn 16:20). So this excludes any triumphalism. It involves a victory of quite another kind: a victory over what the world also hates and does not accept in itself, which includes transience, debility, evil, death.  This is in fact what the word “world” (kosmos) means in its negative sense in the Gospel. This is its meaning when Jesus says, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:20). How did Jesus overcome the world? Certainly not by defeating his enemies with “ten legions of angels” but instead, as Paul says, by “bringing the hostility to an end” (Eph 2:16), that is to say, bringing to an end everything that separates a human being from God, a person from another person, a nation from another nation. In order that there would not be any doubt about the nature of this victory over the world, it was inaugurated by an altogether special victory, the victory of the cross. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). These are the words most often reproduced in ancient mosaics on the pages of the book that the Pantocrator is holding open in his hands, like the mosaic in the famous cathedral of Cefalu.  The Evangelist John affirms about Jesus that “in him was life, and the life was the light of men” (Jn 1: 4). Light and life, Phos and Zoe: these two words have their central Greek letter (omega) in common, and they are often found written in a crisscross pattern—one horizontally and the other vertically—to form a powerful and very widespread monogram of Christ: What does a human being want most if not precisely these two things: light and life? We know that a great modern author, Goethe, murmured as he was dying, “More light.”[13] He was perhaps referring to wanting more natural light in his room, but the statement has always been  assigned a metaphysical and spiritual meaning, and rightly so. One of my friends, who returned to faith in Christ after having gone through all possible and imaginable religious experiences, recounted his life in a book called Mendicante di luce [Beggar of Light]. The crucial moment came when, right in the middle of a deep meditation, he felt a saying of Christ reverberating in his mind without being able to silence it: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”[14]  Along the lines of what the apostle Paul said to the Athenians at the Areopagus, we are called to say in all humility to the world today, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23). “Give me a place to stand on,” exclaimed Archimedes, the inventor of the principle of the lever, “and I will lift the Earth.” The one who believes in Christ is someone who has found a place to stand on. “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matt 7:25). 4. “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!” We cannot, however, end our reflection without also mentioning the call that it includes, not just in view of evangelization but also in view of our lives and personal testimonies. In Paul Claudel’s play, The Humiliated Father, set in Rome at the time of Blessed Pius IX, there is a very evocative scene. A young Jewish girl, who is very beautiful but blind, is walking in the garden of a Roman villa in the evening with the pope’s nephew, Orian, who is in love with her. Playing on the dual significance of light, that of nature and that of faith, she says to her Christian friend at a certain point, “fervently, in a low-pitched voice,” “But you who see, what use have you made of the light? . . . You who say you live, what have you done with your life?” [15] It is a question that we cannot allow to go unheeded: What are we Christians doing with our faith in Christ? Or even better, what am I doing with my faith in Christ? Jesus said to his disciples one day, “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!” (Lk 10:23; see Matt 13:16). It is one of the assertions with which Jesus tries to help his disciples on several occasions to discover his real identity for themselves, not being able to reveal it directly because of their lack of readiness to receive it. We know that the words of Jesus are words that “will not pass away” (Matt 24:35); they are living words addressed to whoever hears them with faith at all times and in all places throughout history. It is therefore to us that he says here and now, “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!” If we have never seriously reflected on how fortunate we who believe in Christ are, perhaps this is the time to do so. Why are Christians “blessed” if they have no more reason than others to rejoice in this world and in many regions of the earth are even continually exposed to death, precisely because of their faith in Christ?  He gives us the answer himself: “Because you see! Because you understand the meaning of life and of death, because ‘yours is the kingdom of heaven’—not in the sense that it is ‘yours and no one else’s.’” (We know that the kingdom of heaven, in its eschatological dimension, extends well beyond the confines of the Church.) “It is ‘yours’ in the sense that you are already part of it, you are tasting its first fruits. You have me!” The most wonderful thing that one spouse can say to another, and vice versa, is “You have made me happy!” Jesus deserves that his spouse, the Church, says that to him from the bottom of her heart. I say it to him and invite you, Venerable Fathers, brothers and sisters, to do the same. And to say it this very day so as not to forget it.  _______________________________________ Translated from Italian by Marsha Daigle Williamson [1] Ulrich Laepple, ed., Messianische Juden: Eine Provokation (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016). [2] Ibid., p. 34. [3] Pliny the Younger, “Letter to Trajan about the Christians,” The Letters of the Younger Pliny, 10, 96, trans. Betty Radice (New York: Penguin, 1963), p. 294. See also Enchiridion fontium historiae ecclesiasticae antiquae, ed. Conradus Kirch, 9th ed. (Barcelona: Herder, 1965), p. 23. [4] Athanasius, “Defense of the Nicene Definition” (De decretis Nicenae synodi), 7, 31, in St. Athanasius: Select Work and Letters, series 2, vol. 4, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York: The Christian Literature Co., 1882), p. 384. [5] See Gregory of Nazianzen, “Letter to Cledonius,” Select Letters of Saint Gregory Nanzianzen (London: Aeterna Press, 2016), p. 5; see also PG 37, 181. [6] Athanasius, Against the Arians, 2, 69, in St. Athanasius: Selected Works and Letters, p. 700. [7] Ibid., 2, 70, p. 701. [8] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason (New York: Classical Books International, 2010), chapters 3 and 6. [9] Athanasius, Against the Arians, 1, 18, p. 34; see also PG 26, 48. [10] Augustine, Expositions of the Psalms 99-120,  “Psalm 120,” 6, vol. 3/19,  trans. Mario Boulding, ed. Boniface Ramsey, The Works of Saint Augustine, ed. John Rotelle (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2003),  p. 514; see CCL 40, p. 1791. [11] St Augustine, Tractates on John, 26, 2, vol. 7, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philp Schaff (New York: Cosimo, 2007), p. 168; see also PL 35, p. 1607. [12] The “two swords” or “two powers” theory was a medieval approach by Pope Gelasius on the relationship between the Church and the empire and the pope’s spiritual authority over kings and other rulers. “The triple reign” or the “triple crown” theory means, in some interpretations, that the pope is a universal pastor, a universal judge, and a temporal power. [13] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Mehr licht!,” quoted in The Medico-chirurgical Review and Journal of Medical Science, 24 (1834): 501. [14] See Masterbee, Mendicante di luce: Dal Tibet al Gange e oltre (Cinisello Balsamo: San Paolo, 2006), pp. 223ff. [15] See Paul Claudel, The Humiliated Father, Act 1, sc. 3, in Three Plays (Boston: Luce, 1945). (from Vatican Radio)...

Msgr. Ruiz on 1 year of Papal presence on Instagram

Fri, 03/17/2017 - 18:54
(Vatican Radio) It was one year ago that Pope Francis launched his Instagram account. To mark the occasion, we spoke with the Secretary of the Secretariat for Communications, Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, who recalled the origins of the Holy Father’s vision for evangelizing the “digital continent”. “[T]he best thing of all was the meeting with the Holy Father, when Kevin [Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, ed.] came and presented the idea to the Holy Father, with the main objective being to communicate a message through the [use of] an image,” Msgr. Ruiz recounted to Alessandro Gisotti. “The Holy Father responded,” Msgr. Ruiz explained, “talking about the theology of the image, as the Church has always experienced pictures as a way to be close to the people and even to do catechesis: [Pope Francis] told of church paintings, and recounted an important experience.” Ruiz went on to say that, for Pope Francis, images are enormously important, and that the Pope in his conversation with Systrom said that, when he approaches children, and the children do not want to talk because they are shy, he shows them a picture and then asks them what it is, and then they loosen up a bit – and even need to be stopped and reined in because they become so enthusiastic in their talk about themselves. Msgr. Ruiz said Pope Francis sees images as “The access point to a dialogue.” Asked what lessons communicators – especially Catholic communicators – can learn from the communications style of Pope Francis, Msgr. Ruiz responded, “We are in the digital culture: in the words of Pope Benedict, there is a ‘digital continent’, a reality into which we must enter and live, because, if man is there, the Church cannot fail to be there, too – and must be there in the same dynamic with which the missionaries approached things when they discovered another continent, another reality.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope will lead '24 Hours for the Lord' Penitential Service

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 20:22
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will preside over a penitential service at the Vatican in anticipation of the  ’24 Hours for the Lord’ initiative. The service will take place on Friday 17th March, one week before all churches around the world are asked to offer the sacrament of Confession, a request made by the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of the New Evangelization. The theme of the initiative this year comes from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew: ‘ I desire Mercy ’ (Mt 9:13). On Friday 24th March, the churches of Santa Maria in Trastevere and  Le Stimmate di San Francesco will remain open from 8pm for Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. On Saturday 25th March, a service of thanksgiving will take place at 5pm in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Monsignor Rino Fisichella, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of the New Evangelization, will preside over First Vespers of the Fourth Sunday of Lent. People around the world can show their support for the initiative by using the #24hoursfortheLord hashtag. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: Damned are those who don't care for the poor and homeless

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 20:16
(Vatican Radio) The parable of the poor man, Lazarus, lying at the rich man’s door, was at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily at the Santa Marta Mass on Thursday morning.  The Pope warned of the risks we run if we have the same uncaring attitude towards the poor and homeless people we see around us today. Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:  Reflecting on the Gospel story of Lazarus, from St Luke’s Gospel, Pope Francis warned against those who place their trust in things of the flesh. Trusting in vanity, pride and riches, he said, will distance us from the Lord. He highlighted the fruitfulness of those who trust in the Lord and the sterility of those who rely only on themselves and the things they can control. Wealth can harden our hearts When people live in a closed environment, surrounded by wealth and vanity and trusting in their own devices, the Pope said, those people lose their sense of direction and have no idea of their limitations. Exactly as happens to the rich man in the Gospel, who spends his time at dinner parties and takes no notice of the poor man lying at his door. Crossing the line from sin to corruption He knew who that poor man was, he even knew his name, but he just didn’t care, the Pope said. Was he a sinner? Yes, he was, and though the Lord forgives those who repent, this man’s heart was leading him on a one-way road to death. There is a moment, Pope Francis stressed, a line that we cross when sin turns into corruption. This man was not simply a sinner but a corrupt person because he was aware of all the suffering but he couldn’t care less. Damned are those who place their hope in themselves, the Pope said, because there is nothing more treacherous than a hardened heart. Once we are on that road, he added, it’s very hard for our hearts to be healed. How do we feel about child beggars? What do we feel in our hearts when we see the homeless or the children begging in the streets, Pope Francis asked? Do we say, ‘No, those are the ones who steal? What do we feel for the poor or the homeless, even if they are well dressed but they don’t have a job and can’t pay the rent? Do we say this is normal? Do we see the homeless as part of the landscape of our cities, like statues or bus stops or post offices? Are we touched by the plight of the poor? We must be careful, the Pope warned, because if we eat, drink and assuage our consciences by simply giving a coin and walking past, this is not the right way to go. Instead, he said, we must realise when we are on that slippery slope from sin to corruption. We must ask ourselves, what do I feel when I see on the news that a bomb has fallen on a hospital and lots of poor children have been killed? Do I just say a prayer and go on my way like before? Is my heart touched, or am I like the rich man whose heart was not touched by Lazarus but only the dogs had pity on him? If that is the case, the Pope said, we are on the road from sin to corruption. May the Lord look into our hearts For this reason, he concluded we must ask the Lord to look into our hearts to see if we are on that slippery slope to corruption, from which there is no return. Sinners can repent and turn back, he said, but it is very hard for those with closed and corrupt hearts, so let us pray that the Lord will show us which road we are following. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis holds private audience with President of Lebanon

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 19:53
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis held a private audience on Thursday with Mr. Michel Aoun, President of the Republic of Lebanon, and his wife, Nadia. A communique from the Holy See Press Office said their discussions were "cordial". "The Parties focused on the good bilateral relations between the Holy See and Lebanon, underlining the historic and institutional role of the Church in the life of the country. Satisfaction was then expressed for the efforts on the part of all the various political parties in putting an end to the presidential vacancy, emphasising the hope for an increasingly fruitful future collaboration between the members of diverse ethnic and religious communities in favour of the common good and the development of the nation," the communique read. Turning to current events on the international stage, the Pope thanked President Aoun for his country's welcome of Syrian refugees. "The discussion then turned to Syria, with special attention to international efforts to find a political solution to the conflict. Furthermore, appreciation was expressed at the welcome that Lebanon has extended to many Syrian refugees. Finally, there was a broader exchange of views on the regional context, referring also to other ongoing conflicts and the situation of Christians in the Middle East." President Michel Aoun subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to meet with earthquake-struck communities in Carpi

Thu, 03/16/2017 - 19:53
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis ’s scheduled visit to the northern Italian town of Carpi on 2 April will include a meeting with communities struck by the 2012 earthquake and a visit to the badly damaged Cathedral of Mirandola . A communiqué released by the Holy See Press Office provides details of the Pope’s 1-day journey to Carpi, a town counting some 70,000 inhabitants in the Modena area of the Emilia Romagna region. Over 20 people were killed and dozens of farms, castles, churches and other buildings were destroyed or damaged in the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the region in May 2012.  The Holy Father is scheduled to celebrate Mass, pray the Angelus, give his blessing to three new diocesan buildings, talk to priests and religious, and visit sites of the earthquake such as the Duomo di Mirandola.  Pope Francis, who will be travelling by helicopter, will depart from the Vatican at 8.15 am and arrive in Carpi at 9.45am at the “Dorando Pietri” rugby field.  The Bishop of Carpi, Francesco Cavina, will welcome the Pope who is to start his day celebrating Mass in Carpi’s central Piazza Martiri.  At the end of Mass, Pope Francis will bless the first stones of three new buildings of the diocese: Saint Agatha Parish in Carpi, Saint Antonio retreat house in Novi, and the “citadel of charity” in Carpi. The Pope will have lunch at the Episcopal Seminary with bishops and elderly priests who reside there. Afterwards, he will meet with diocesan priests, religious men and women and seminarians in the seminary chapel.  After leaving the chapel Pope Francis will stop briefly at the cathedral before going to the ‘Duomo di Mirandola’ which remains closed since the earthquake in 2012. In front of the entrance of the ‘Duomo’, at about 4.30pm, he will meet and talk to people affected by the earthquake and visit a floral monument adjacent to the church in honor of the victims of the disaster.   At 5.30pm the Pope will leave Carpi from a sports field near the Church of San Giacomo Roncole, and he will arrive back at the Vatican at 7.00pm. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: ‘Laying off workers for unclear motives is grave sin’

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 19:47
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has told a group of employees of the Italian branch of the TV platform “Sky” that it is a “very grave sin” to fire employees “as a result of economic operations and unclear negotiations”. He made the remarks at the end of his weekly General Audience . “Work gives dignity,” the Pope said, “and managers are obliged to do all possible so that every man and woman can work and so carry their heads high and look others in the eye with dignity.” He added: “He who shuts factories and closes companies as a result of economic operations and unclear negotiations, depriving men and women from work, commits a very grave sin” he said. Sky Italy is currently undergoing downsizing and has announced plans to move 300 employees and their families from Rome to Milan. The Holy Father expressed his hope for a rapid solution that “takes into account the respect for the rights of all, especially for families”. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: 'a culture of mercy renews hearts and opens up to a new reality'

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 19:32
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message of encouragement and thanks to members of the International Association for Charity (AIC) as it celebrates the 400th anniversary of the foundation of the first Confraternity of Charity by Saint Vincent de Paul in Châtillon, France.  This very first group has grown into today’s AIC, an international network for fighting against poverty, which now has over 150,000 volunteers in 53 countries. In his message the Pope notes that true promotion of human dignity cannot take place without the proclamation of the Gospel. “It is with joy, he writes, that I am spiritually united to you to celebrate this anniversary and I hope that your beautiful work continues its mission of bringing an authentic testimony of God's mercy to the poorest”. Pope Francis points out that the Charities were born of the tenderness and compassion of Monsieur Vincent for the poorest and the marginalized.  “His work with them wanted to reflect the goodness of God towards his creatures. He saw the poor as the representatives of Jesus Christ, as the members of His suffering body. He understood that the poor too were called to build up the Church and to convert us”. The Pope says that in the wake of Vincent de Paul, who had entrusted the care of these poor people to lay people, and especially to women, AIC aims to promote the development of the most disadvantaged and to alleviate their material, physical, moral and spiritual pain. “It is in the Providence of God that the foundation of this commitment is to be found” he says. For “what is Providence but the love of God who acts in the world and asks for our cooperation?” the Pope continues, encouraging AIC members to continue to accompany the person in full and to pay particular attention to the precarious living conditions of many women and children.  He says it is faith that allows us to perceive the reality of the person, his or her incomparable dignity which is not limited to material goods, to social, economic and political problems, but as a person created in the image and likeness of God, a brother, a sister, a neighbor for whom we are responsible. This is why, Pope Francis continues, human promotion, the authentic liberation of man, does not exist without the proclamation of the Gospel “for the most sublime aspect of human dignity lies in this vocation of man to communicate with God”. Pope Francis recalls that in the Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy he expressed the hope that “the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God” and he invites all to pursue this path as the credibility of the Church goes through the path of merciful love and compassion that open to hope. “This credibility, he concludes, passes also through your personal testimony: it is not only a question of meeting Christ in the poor, but that the poor perceive Christ in you and in your action. By being rooted in Christ's personal experience you can contribute to a "culture of mercy" that deeply renews hearts and opens up to a new reality”. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: 'love is God's gift to us'

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 17:54
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday continued his catechesis on Christian hope , focusing on charity, which he said, “is a grace, the fruit of our saving encounter with God’s own love”. The Pope was addressing the faithful during his weekly General Audience . To the over 12.000 pilgrims gathered in a sunny St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said that he who loves has the joy of hope because one day he will be united with the source of all love: the Lord. Reflecting on readings from Matthew and from Saint Paul, the Pope focused on what he described as our vocation for love and charity. He warned against the risk of hypocrisy and of a “hypocritical love” which he said, can be tainted by self-interest and urged the faithful to not be tempted to carry out works of charity driven by the desire to put ourselves on show as we seek visibility and approval. It is important, he said, to remember that love – charity - is a grace; it is a gift that God is happy to give us if we ask for it; it is the fruit of our saving encounter with God’s own love. The Pope said that Saint Paul reminds us that the Lord’s grace forgives our sins, heals our hearts and enables us to become channels of his own unconditional love.  We can become instruments of God’s love, he explained, when we allow ourselves to be healed and renewed by the Resurrected Christ, but it is up to us as well: “The Resurrected Lord who lives with us heals our heart if we ask him to” he said. He allows us, the Pope continued, to experience the compassion of the Father and to celebrate the wonder of his love: “Thus it is clear that all we can do for our brothers and sisters is in response to what God has done and continues to do for us.” So, conscious of our human weakness, he urged the faithful to ask our Lord daily to renew the gift of his love within us and to enable us to be witnesses of that love to others, especially those in greatest need.   As always after the catechesis, Pope Francis had greetings for the many groups of people present in the Square.  As he blessed the crowds he had a special thought and prayer for those from Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East. The Pope also turned to a group of employees of the Italian branch of the TV platform “Sky” which is undergoing change and downsizing, and expressed his hope for a rapid solution that “takes into account the respect for the rights of all, especially for families”. “Work gives dignity. He who shuts factories and closes companies as a result of economic operations and unclear negotiations,  depriving  men and women from work, commits a very grave sin” he said.           (from Vatican Radio)...

General Audience: English Summary

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 16:13
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday continued his catechesis on Christian hope, focusing on charity, which he said, “is a grace, the fruit of our saving encounter with God’s own love”. The Pope was addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience . Please find below the English synopsis of his catechesis: Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In our continuing catechesis on Christian hope, today we consider the joy that hope brings to our daily exercise of charity.  We know how difficult it is to love as our Lord commands us, and how often our love can be tainted by self-interest.  It is important to remember that love – charity – is a grace, the fruit of our saving encounter with God’s own love.  Saint Paul reminds us that the Lord’s grace forgives our sins, heals our hearts and enables us to become channels of his own unconditional love.  Our efforts to love our brothers and sisters with a pure and disinterested love are really our response to the love we have been shown in Christ.  Conscious of our human weakness, let us ask our Lord daily to renew the gift of his love within us and to enable us to be witnesses of that love to others, especially those in greatest need.  In this way, we will fulfil the Apostle’s command to “rejoice in hope” (Rom 12:12), as we strive to grow in the life of charity and to draw others to the merciful love of the Father.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: Conversion - learning to do good with deeds, not words

Tue, 03/14/2017 - 18:39
(Vatican Radio) Avoiding evil, learning to do good, and allowing yourself to be carried forward by the Lord: this is the path of Lenten conversion pointed out by Pope Francis in his homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. It is a conversion, the Pope said, that is manifested not with words, but with “concrete things.” The Pope’s attempt to trace out the lines of Lenten conversion took its starting point from the words of the Prophet Isaiah from the day’s First Reading. Avoiding evil and learning to do good – the heart of Isaiah’s exhortation – are stages along this path. “Each one of us, every day, does something ugly.” The Bible, in fact, says that even “the most holy people sins seven times a day.” Avoiding evil and learning to do good is a journey The problem, the Pope said, lies in not getting into the habit of “living in ugly things” and avoiding those things that “poison the soul,” that make it small. And then we have to learn to do good: “It’s not easy to do good: we must learn it, always. And He teaches us. But: Learn. Like children. Along the path of life, of the Christian life one learns every day. You have to learn every day to do something, to be better than the day before. To learn. Avoiding evil and learning to do good: this is the rule of conversion. Because being converted doesn’t come from a fairy who converts us with a magic wand: No! It’s a journey. It’s a journey of avoiding and of learning.” You learn to do good with concrete actions, not with words And so one needs courage, to learn to avoid evil; and humility to learn to do good, which is expressed in concrete actions: “He, the Lord, names three concrete things, but there are many: seek justice, relieve the oppressed, give orphans justice, defend the cause of the widow… but concrete things. You learn to do good with concrete things, not with words. With deeds… For this reason Jesus, in the Gospel we have heard, rebukes this ruling class of the people of Israel, because ‘they talk and don’t act,’ they don’t know concreteness. And if there is no concreteness, there can be no conversion.” Lift yourself up with the help of the Lord with humility, and we will be forgiven The First Reading then continues with the invitation from the Lord: “Come [It: ‘su’ – arise], let us reason together.” “Arise” – a beautiful word, Pope Francis said, a word that Jesus addressed to the paralytics, to the daughter of Jairus, as well as to the son of the widow of Naim. And God gives us a hand to help us up. And He is humble, He lowers Himself so much to say, “Come, let us reason together.” Pope Francis emphasized how God helps us: “Walking together with us to help us, to explain things to us, to take us by the hand.” The Lord is able “to do this miracle” – that is, “to change us” – not overnight, but on a journey: “An invitation to conversion, avoid evil, learn to do good… ‘Come, arise, come to me, let us reason together, and let us go forward.’ But [you might say] I have so many sins…’ ‘But don’t worry’ [God responds]. ‘If your sins should be like scarlet, they will become white as snow.’ And this is the path of Lenten conversion. Simple. It is the Father who speaks, it is the Father who loves us, who really loves us. And who accompanies us on this path of conversion. Only He asks us to be humble. Jesus says to the rulers: ‘He who exalts himself will be humble; and he who humbles himself will be exalted’.” Francis concluded his homily by recalling the stages along the path of Lenten conversion: avoiding evil, learning to do good, getting up and going with Him. And then, he said, “our sins will all be forgiven.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Cardinal Parolin on anniversary of Francis' pontificate

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 20:20
(Vatican Radio). Jorge Bergoglio became the 266th Pope on March 13, 2013 . His humble and direct style was immediately clear as he uttered his first words as pontiff: “buona sera.”  Four years on, his reform of the Church and of the Curia ploughs ahead, he continues to enjoy the acclaim of cheering crowds every Wednesday at the weekly General Audience and at all public appearances, his call for mercy and his openness and pastoral outreach towards the peripheries and towards the most vulnerable stand out as constant traits of his ministry. The past year of France’s pontificate has given us unforgettable moments and important teachings such as the historic embrace with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in Cuba, his silent prayer in Auschwitz, the canonization of Mother Teresa, his ecumenical journey to Lund to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the publishing of his Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”, to name but a few. The Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, one of Pope Francis’ closest collaborators looked back on the year gone by with Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti starting with that unique “buona sera” with which the new Bishop of Rome greeted his flock asking it for prayers, thus entrusting himself not only to the Lord, but  to “the holy people of God”. It was immediately clear, Parolin said, that his vision of a Church going forth, of walking together – shepherd and flock – entrusted to prayer and to the grace and the mercy of God, would be important characteristics of the new Pontificate. A trait that Bergoglio reinforced with the choice of the name “Francis” and his attitude which exudes simplicity, peace and serenity. Cardinal Parolin highlighted the fact that although Pope Francis continues to call for a Church that goes forth and that is able to accompany men and women in the difficulties and challenges of everyday life, he does so always attentive to the voice and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He also pointed out that although the Jubilee Year of Mercy is concluded, mercy continues to be one of the pillars of Frances’ pontificate. He explained however that the Pope’s insistence on mercy does not derive from a personal sensitivity, but focuses attention on God’s love and on the mystery of salvation. “The Pope, Parolin said, is directing us to God’s love and making sure the Church acts as a channel for that love and a place of encounter between God’s mercy and man as he lives the concrete  joys and sorrows of life on earth.” Parolin also said that the fruits the Year of Mercy have yielded are many including the ‘re-discovery’ on the part of many Christians of the Sacrament of Confession and a heightened attention towards situations of poverty and need. Regarding the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”, Parolin described it as a gift that has given great impulse to the pastoral ministry of the family, and has produced fruits of renewal, hope and accompaniment for those in fragile family situations. Cardinal Parolin also mentioned the reality of some criticism towards the Church and expressions of dissent saying “there have always been critical voices in the Church!”   The important thing, he said, as the Pope himself says is that they be “sincere and constructive, and willing to find a way to make progress together and a better way of putting God’s will to work!” At the heart of Pope Francis’s pontificate, Parolin concluded, is the desire to continue to reform the Curia because he believes that – to use an evangelical word – “the Church must continuously seek conversion, it must strive to be evermore authentic, get rid of the crusts accumulated in centuries of history and shine forth with the transparency of the Gospel”.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to Roman parish: 'Transfiguration shows path towards Easter, Resurrection'

Mon, 03/13/2017 - 14:15
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis visited the Roman parish of St. Magdalene of Canossa on Sunday afternoon, meeting with young people and the sick and elderly before celebrating Mass with the parish community. Listen to Devin Watkins’ report: His visit began with a conversation with the children and young adolescents of the parish in the parish sports field. The Holy Father also met with parents and newborns baptized during the course of the year and with the elderly and sick of the parish in the parish hall. In off-the-cuff remarks, he told the infirm and elderly that “sickness is a Cross – as you well know – but the Cross is always a seed of life and by carrying it well you are able to give so much life to many people, even without knowing it. Then in Heaven, it will become known. Thank you, he said, for carrying your infirmity in this way.” Pope Francis then met with parishioners active in faith formation and pastoral outreach before celebrating the Sacrament of Penance with several people. The Pope’s visit concluded with the celebration of Mass in the parish church. In his homily, he reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, which recounts Jesus’ Transfiguration. He spoke of the “two faces of Jesus”, one “brilliant in the Transfiguration” and the other face of his Passion and Crucifixion, when “he was made sin for us” (cfr 2 Cor 5,21). Pope Francis said that, in this Lenten Season, the Church “is on the path towards Easter, towards the Resurrection. With the confidence of the Transfiguration we go forward, he said, seeing this brilliant, beautiful face, which is the same face as the Resurrection and the same we will find in Heaven.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis visits Rome's S.ta Maddalena di Canossa parish

Sun, 03/12/2017 - 22:16
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis visited the Roman parish of St. Magdalene of Canossa on Sunday afternoon. The schedule released by the Vatican ahead of the visit included time with the children and young adolescents of the parish in their sports field, a meeting in the parish theatre with parents and newborns baptized during the course of the past year, a visit with the elderly and sick of the parish in the parish hall, and an encounter with parishioners active in faith formation and pastoral outreach, time for the Sacrament of Penance, and Mass in the parish church. St. Magdalene of Canossa was born into a prominent Veronese family in the middle of the second half of the 18 th century. She used her family’s considerable wealth to serve and advocate on behalf of the poor of her city, eventually founding the Congregation of the Daughters of Charity, Servants of the Poor .  Click below to hear our report (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope prays for Guatemala fire victims, calls for action

Sun, 03/12/2017 - 19:12
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday called for prayerful solidarity with the victims of a deadly fire at a shelter for troubled youth in Guatemala. The blaze the Refugio Virgen home on the outskirts of Guatemala City claimed at least 35 lives. Authorities say the fire began in the girls’ dormitory, where someone ignited the mattresses in the wake of a mass detention following a foiled mass breakout attempt the day before. The shelter has long been the subject of complaints about abuse, as well as criticism for inadequate food and overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. Built to house 500 people, there were at least 800 guests registered at the time of the fire. “I express my closeness to the people of Guatemala, who are living in mourning over the grave and sad fire that broke out inside the Casa Refugio Virgen de la Asunción [this past week], causing deaths and injuries among the girls who lived there,” said Pope Francis. “May the Lord receive their souls, heal the wounded, console their grieving families and the whole nation,” he prayed, following the Angelus prayer on Sunday. “I also pray and ask you to pray with me for all the girls and boys who are victims of violence, abuse, exploitation and war,” he continued. “This is a plague,” he said, “this hidden scream that should be heard by all of us and that we cannot continue to pretend not to hear and to see.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: the Cross is the gate of salvation

Sun, 03/12/2017 - 18:47
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St. Peter’s Square on the Second Sunday of Lent. In remarks ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, the Holy Father reflected on the Gospel reading of the day, which was taken from the 17th chapter of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, and recounted the Transfiguration of Our Lord. “Transfigured on Mt. Tabor,” said Pope Francis, “Jesus desired to show His glory to His disciples not to keep them from going through the Cross, but to show them to where He was carrying the Cross.” Whoever dies with Christ, with Christ shall rise again,” said Pope Francis, “those who struggle with Him, with Him shall triumph.” “The Cross is the gate of the Resurrection,” he said. The Holy Father went on to say that the message of hope, which the Cross contains, is one that constantly calls us to be strong in our lives. “The Christian Cross is not something to hang in the house ‘to tie the room together’ [It. suppellettile di casa] or an ornament to wear, but a call to that love, with which Jesus sacrificed Himself to save humanity from sin and evil.” “In this Lenten season,” said Pope Francis, “let us contemplate devoutly the image of the Crucified Lord: it is the symbol of the Christian faith; it is the symbol of Jesus, who died and rose for us. Let us make sure that the Cross marks the stages of our Lenten journey, that we might understand more and more [perfectly] the gravity of sin and the value of the sacrifice with which the Redeemer has saved us – all of us.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis to volunteers: God models patient listening

Sat, 03/11/2017 - 19:27
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the staff and volunteers of the Telefono Amico Italia service on Saturday. Celebrating fifty years of activity this year, Telefono Amico is a volunteer service that makes itself available to anyone feeling lonely, depressed, anxious, or angry – or who simply wants to reach out and talk to a friendly person willing to listen. There are 700 volunteers staffing the organization’s telephones in 20 locations throughout Italy, from 10am to midnight every day. Click below to hear our report The Holy Father told his guests dialogue allows us to know and understand each other's needs. “First,” he said, “it shows a great deal of respect, because it places people in an attitude of openness to one another, in order for each to receive the best aspects of his interlocutor.” Dialogue is also an expression of charity, insofar as it can help people search out paths forward while respecting each other’s differences, all with a view to the common good. “Through dialogue,” said Pope Francis, “we can learn to see the other not as a threat, but as a gift of God[.]” The Pope went on to say, “Dialogue helps people to humanize their relationships and overcome misunderstandings.” “If there was more dialogue - real dialogue - in families, in the workplace, in politics,” he added, “so many questions would be resolved so much more easily.” The Pope went on to say that the ability to listen – which unfortunately is not very common – is a basic and necessary condition of dialogue. “Listening to the other requires patience and attention,” said Pope Francis. “Only those who can keep quiet, know how to listen: to God, to one’s brother or sister who needs help; to a friend, or a family member.” The Pope said God himself is the finest example of listening. “[E]ach time we pray,” he said, “He hears us, without asking for anything and he even precedes us and takes the initiative in meeting our requests for help.” “Aptitude for listening, of which God is the model,” said Pope Francis, “urges us to break down the walls of misunderstanding, [and] to create bridges of communication, overcoming isolation and closure in within one’s own little world.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Holy See: 'Universal access to medicines is moral obligation'

Sat, 03/11/2017 - 18:49
(Vatican Radio)  Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Vatican representative to the United Nations in Geneva, on Friday addressed the Human Rights Council on the 'moral obligation' of universal access to medicines. He said policy coherence is necessary to achieve this goal.  "In relation to pursuing of the double goals of access to medicines and necessary medical innovation, policy coherence is fundamental for effective, sustainable and equitable progress towards universal health coverage and improved health outcomes for all." "In order to promote human dignity and to adopt policies rooted in a human rights approach," Archbishop Jurkovič said, "we need to confront and remove barriers, such as monopolies and oligopolies, lack of access and affordability and, in particular, both overwhelming and unacceptable human greed." Please find below the full text of the address: Statement by H.E. Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva 34th Session of the Human Rights Council – Item 3 General Debate “Access to Medicines” Geneva, 10 March 2017 Mr. President, With regard to the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, my Delegation wishes to raise additional concerns regarding the need for effective action in order to guarantee universal access to medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and medical devices. Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and of human labour is not mere philanthropy. This is a moral obligation. In relation to pursuing of the double goals of access to medicines and necessary medical innovation, policy coherence is fundamental for effective, sustainable and equitable progress towards universal health coverage and improved health outcomes for all. The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) created an enabling framework for progress toward the achievement of both access and innovation. SDG 3, in particular, includes the targets to support “the research and development of vaccines and medicine for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries” and to provide “access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on TRIPs Agreement and Public Health”. In this sense, the Holy See appreciates the entry into force, last January, of the amendment to the TRIPs Agreement. The amendment provides a secure and legal pathway to access affordable medicines and helps the most vulnerable access treatments that meet their needs, including those related to HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, as well as other epidemics. Access to affordable medicines no longer represents a challenge only for the Least Developed and other developing countries; it has also become an increasingly urgent issue for higher-income countries as well. States find themselves unable to combat antimicrobial resistance. Moreover, developing countries are confronted with a serious lack of new medicines, especially as public health budgets have been constrained worldwide. Mr. President, As we all are aware, health is a fundamental human right, essential for the exercise of many other rights, and necessary for living a life in dignity. Therefore, the Catholic Church provides a major contribution to health care in all parts of the world – through local churches, religious institutions and private initiatives, which act on their own responsibility and with respect of the law of each country. These include the sustenance of 5,158 hospitals, 1 6,523 dispensaries and clinics, 61 2 leprosaria, and 15,679 homes for the elderly, the chronically ill, or disabled people. With firsthand information coming from these facilities in some of the poorest, isolated, and marginalized communities, my Delegation is obliged to report that the rights detailed in the international instruments and in the SDGs already mentioned are far from being realized. Mr. President, Pope Francis decries the selfishness and short-term thinking that sabotage progress on saving the environment, on peace building, and on public health crises as well. He insists on dialogue “as the only way to confront the problems of our world and to seek solutions that are truly effective”. [1] Authentic dialogue is honest and transparent. It does not permit the interests of individual countries, or specific interest groups, to dominate discussions. “Science and technology are not neutral”. [2] It is our moral obligation to seek, fight and build a better future that we are expected to deliver for our future generations. “There is also the fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities. There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing sense that the way to a better future lies elsewhere”. [3] In order to promote human dignity and to adopt policies rooted in a human rights approach, we need to confront and remove barriers, such as monopolies and oligopolies, lack of access and affordability and, in particular, both overwhelming and unacceptable human greed. If we fully intend to build a better world and future for the generations that will come after us, we must remedy and correct the misalignments and policy incoherence between the intellectual property rights of inventors, innovators or manufacturers and the human rights of human persons. As such, trade could be considered in the context of public health and access to technologies and thus be closely linked to both the fundamental human rights to health and to life. All our efforts must be directed to ensure human dignity, quality of health and life and to the building of a better world for the generations to come. Thank you, Mr. President. 1. Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the Meeting Sponsored by the "Foundation for Sustainable Development" on “Environment Justice and Climate Change”, 11 September 2015. 2. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Laudato Sì, n. 114. 3. Ibid., n. 113.   (from Vatican Radio)...

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