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Pope denounces rigid Christians, calls for meekness in the Church

Fri, 05/05/2017 - 18:10
(Vatican Radio) Even now there are people in the Church who use rigidity to cover-up their own sins. That was the warning of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. Commenting on the first Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, the Pope focused on the figure of Saint Paul who, from being a rigid persecutor, became a meek and patient proclaimer of the Gospel. “The first time the name ‘Saul’ appears,” he said, “is at the stoning of Stephen.” Saul, he observed, was a “young man, rigid, idealistic,” and he was “convinced” of the rigidity of the law. No to rigid people living a double life in the Church He was rigid, the Pope insisted, but he was “sincere.” Jesus, on the other hand, condemned those who were rigid but “insincere”: “They are rigid people living a double life: They make themselves look good, sincere, but when no one sees them, they do ugly things. On the other hand, this young man was honest. He believed that. I think, when I say this, of the many young people in the Church today who have fallen into the temptation of rigidity. Some are sincere, they are good. We have to pray that the Lord might help them to grow along the path of meekness.” Others, he said, “use rigidity in order to cover over weakness, sin, personality problems; and they use rigidity” to build themselves up at the expense of others. Pope Francis said that in this way, Saul grew even more rigid, to the point where he couldn’t tolerate what he saw as a heresy; and so he began to persecute the Christians. But, the Pope said, parenthetically, at least Saul allowed children to live – nowadays, those who persecute Christians don’t even spare children. Saul then went to Damascus to arrest the Christians in order to take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. And on the road to Damascus, he encountered “another Man, who spoke with a language of meekness: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’” Saint Paul: From persecutor to evangelizer “This rigid young man, who had become a rigid man – but sincere! – was made a little child, and allowed himself to be led where the Lord called him.” This is “the power of the meekness of the Lord.” Saul, then, having become Paul, proclaimed the Lord to the very end, and suffered for Him: “And so this man preached to others out of his own experience, from one part to another: persecuted, with so many problems, even in the Church, even having to suffer from Christians quarreling among themselves. But he, who had persecuted the Lord with the zeal of the law, said to the Christians, ‘With those same things by which you have drawn away from God, with which you have sinned – with the mind, with the body, with everything – with those same members now you are perfect, you give glory to God.’” Let us pray for those who are rigid, that they may follow the way of meekness of Jesus “There is a dialogue between what is sufficient, rigidity, and meekness,” the Pope said, and this is “the dialogue between a sincere man and Jesus, who speaks to him with sweetness.” And so, he said, “begins the story of this man whom we have known from his youth, in the stoning of Stephen, who would end up betrayed by an internal conflict among Christians.” For some, the life of Saint Paul “is a failure,” like that of Christ: “This is the path of the Christian: to go forward along the path marked out by Jesus: the path of preaching, the path of suffering, the path of the Cross, the path of the resurrection. Today, in a special way, let us pray to Saul for those in the Church who are rigid: for the rigid who are sincere, as he was, who have zeal, but are mistaken. And for the rigid who are hypocrites, those who live a double life, those of whom Jesus said, ‘Do what they say, but not what they do.’ Let us pray today for the rigid.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Myanmar Church welcomes diplomatic relations with the Holy See

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 22:10
Bishop John Hsane Hgyi, the bishop of Pathein diocese of Myanmar has expressed joy over the joint agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar of establishing diplomatic relations, a decision he says is for the positive evolution and for the steps towards change.  The decision came after the meeting in the Vatican held on May 4, between Pope Francis and leader Aung San Suu Kyi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of Burma. The Bishop notes that the  main challenge is to resolve conflicts with ethnic minorities. He hopes all the different ethnic groups can join the May 24 national meeting  in Yangon for the signing of a ceasefire and make it  a real step towards national reconciliation. All peoples in Myanmar and all religions want peace  he says but today the nation needs an effort on behalf of everyone to reach peace. The Catholic Church  expresses the utmost solidarity even with the Rohingya Muslims and  desires solutions that respect human dignity and human rights, according to criteria of peace and justice the Bishop notes. The Catholic Church in Myanmar is observing 2017 as the Year of Peace and the faithful are encouraged to fast, make sacrifices and to raise awareness for peace in the nation.  Currently seminars and conferences are being promoted on the subject of reconciliation in different dioceses and the  collaboration of other religious leaders is sought the Bishop said. The Government spokesperson Zaw Htay commenting on the diplomatic relations said that his country wanted to be part of the international family and that establishing diplomatic relations with the Vatican was key to that, given its role as a reference point for all Christians. A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Myanmar, Fr. Soe Naing, said the new relationship would do more than merely facilitate direct contacts between the Holy See and Yangon. The need for peace is expressed at all levels.  Cardinal Bo at an interreligious peace conference in Yangon on April 26 reminded his counterparts from other faiths about their moral obligation to build peace and harmony at the grassroots levels in the strife-torn nation.  He said that the wish for peace needs to shine through every word and deed, and solutions must be found through "dialogue and mutual understanding." About one percent of Myanmar’s 51 million people are Catholics where the church has been active for five centuries. The ‎celebrations for ‎the ‎‎500 years ‎of the Church in Myanmar should have taken place in 2011, but the political situation and ‎the lack of ‎true religious freedom then, did not allow for such a nation-wide ‎celebration.‎  Hence the ‎jubilee year ‎was marked from Nov. 24, 2013 to Nov. 23, 2014‎.(Fides)  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope's prayer intention for May: Christians in Africa

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 22:10
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ prayer intention for May is dedicated to  Christians in Africa:  That Christians in Africa, in imitation of the Merciful Jesus, may give prophetic witness to reconciliation, justice, and peace. The Apostleship of Prayer  has produced the Pope’s Video on this prayer intention. The full text of the Pope’s Video is below: When we look at Africa, we see much more than its great natural richness. We see its joie de vivre, and above all, we see grounds for hope in Africa’s rich intellectual, cultural and religious heritage. But we cannot fail to see the fratricidal wars decimating peoples and destroying these natural and cultural resources. Let us join with our brothers and sisters of this great continent, and pray together that Christians in Africa, in imitation of the Merciful Jesus, may give prophetic witness to reconciliation, justice, and peace. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at daily Mass: To evangelize, go out, listen, rejoice

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 20:06
(Vatican Radio) The Church should be on its feet and on the journey, listening to the restlessness of the people, and always with joy. That was the message of Pope Francis this morning in the homily for the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. In the first eight chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, the Pope said, “there is a summary of the whole history of the Church”: preaching, baptism, conversion, miracles, persecution, joy, but also the ugly sin of those who join themselves to the Church for their own ends, “those benefactors of the Church who in the end cheat the Church,” like Ananias and Sapphira. The Holy Father began his homily with this reflection, then moved on to a consideration of the day’s readings. He first emphasized that the Lord from the beginning accompanied His disciples, confirming the Word with miraculous signs. He never left them alone, not even in the worst moments. Pope Francis the focused on three “words” taken from the day’s first Reading, inviting those present to re-read the passage at home. The first saying was the words of an angel to Philip: “ Get up and go. ” “This,” the Pope said, “is a sign of evangelization”: the vocation, and the great consolation of the Church, is to evangelize. “But in order to evangelize: ‘Get up and go!’ One doesn’t say: ‘Stay seated, calm, in your house’: No! In order to be faithful to the Lord, the Church should always be on its feet and on the journey: ‘Get up and go.’ A Church that does not rise up, that is not on the journey, is sick.” And, the Pope continued, this can cause the Church to be closed in on itself, with many psychological and spiritual traumas – “closed into a little world of gossiping, of things… closed, without horizons.” And so, he said, the Church must “get up and go,” it must be “on its feet and on the journey.” This is how the Church must go about evangelizing. “ Go up and join with that chariot ” – the second message Philip received from the Spirit – was the next expression Pope Francis emphasized. In the chariot was an Ethiopian, a proselyte of the Jewish religion, a eunuch who had come to Jerusalem to worship God. As he travelled, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The passage concerns the conversion of a “finance minister,” which, the Pope said, means it was a “great miracle.” The Spirit called Philip to join himself to that man, Pope Francis continued, emphasizing how important it was for the Church to know she must listen to the restlessness in the heart of every man: “All men, all women have a restlessness in their hearts – [they may be] good or bad, but there is a restlessness. Listen to that restlessness. It’s not saying: ‘Go out and proselytise.’ No, no! ‘Go and listen.’ Listening is the second step. The first: ‘Get up and go’; the second: ‘Listen.’ That ability to listen: What do people feel? What does the heart of the people feel? What does it think? But do they think mistaken things? But I want to hear these mistaken things, in order to understand where the restlessness is. We all have this restlessness within. The second step for the Church is to find the restlessness of the people.” It is, then, the Ethiopian himself who, seeing Philip approach, asks who the prophet is speaking about, and asks him to join him in the chariot. And so, the Pope said, Philip began to preach “with meekness.” The restlessness in the heart of that man found an explanation that responded to the hope in his heart. This was possible, Pope Francis continued, “because Philip joined him and listened to him.” While the Ethiopian listened, the Lord was working within him. In this way, the man understood that the Prophet Isaiah was speaking of Jesus. His faith in Jesus then grew to such a point that when they arrived at a place where there was water, he asked to be baptized. “He asked for Baptism because the Lord had worked in his heart,” the Pope said. Then, after he had been baptized, when the Spirit took Philip and bore him away, the eunuch continued on his way, filled with joy. This “ joy of the Christian ,” Pope Francis said, is the third “word” from the Reading. Pope Francis concluded his homily with the hope that the Church would be “on its feet,” “a mother who listens,” and “with the grace of the Holy Spirit … finds the Word to say”: “Mother Church, which gives so many children to the light with this method, we would say – let us use the word – this method which is not proselytistic: it is the method of the witness to obedience. The Church, which tells us today: ‘Rejoice.’ To rejoice; joy.  The joy of being Christian, even in ugly moments. Because after the stoning of Stephen a great persecution arose, and the Christians scattered everywhere, like seed carried on the wind. And it fell to them to preach the Word of Jesus. May the Lord give to all of us the grace to live the Church in this way: on our feet and going out, listening to the restlessness of the people, and always in joy.”  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: 'Vatican media reform must embrace the challenge of change'

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 19:59
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged members of Vatican media platforms not to be afraid of reform, and to embrace the challenge of change that will enable them to bring the message of the Gospel to all.  Addressing representatives of the Secretariat for Communications (SPC) gathered for its first Plenary Assembly, the Pope said that to “reform is not just to whitewash things; it’s to give them a different form and organization”.  “It’s something, he said to those charged with overhauling the Vatican’s different news and media outlets, to be done with intelligence and what he called a good kind of  ‘violence’.” Headed by the Prefect, msgr. Dario Viganò, the new Dicastery was created by Pope Francis exactly two years ago with the mandate to unify all Vatican communications platforms: the Vatican Television Center, the Vatican Publishing House, The Osservatore Romano  newspaper, Vatican Radio, the Holy See Press Office, the Vatican Photographic Service, the Vatican Internet Service, the Vatican Printing Press and the former Pontifical Council for Social Communications. Describing the issues addressed during the Plenary are “very dear to his heart,” Pope Francis said the work  taken on by the SPC aims to “find new criteria and new ways of communicating the Gospel of mercy to all peoples and cultures making use of the new digital culture at our disposal”. He highlighted the fact that – as specified in his ‘Motu proprio’ which established the new Dicastery - the reform is not about coordinating or merging the various platforms, but sets up something completely new with a single and unified management which will be able to better respond to the needs of the Church’s mission. Reflecting on the fact that in the past each platform had its own channels and mediums of communication (the written word, images, audio) the Pope said that “all these forms of communication today are transmitted with a single code that uses the binary system.”  Thus, he said, the Vatican newspaper is called to find a new and different way  to reach a much higher number of readers that it does through its printed format. He said that through the years Vatican Radio has become an ensemble of portals and “must be reshaped according to new models so it can conform to modern technologies and to the needs of  our contemporaries”. And regarding the Vatican’s radiophonic service, the Pope had special words of appreciation for the efforts being made in consideration of countries that are not technologically developed – “I think of Africa” he said – praising  the “rationalization of Short Wave frequencies that have never been dismantled. “History undoubtedly represents a precious patrimony of experience to be safeguarded and used as a push towards the future” he said, pointing out that otherwise it would be a mere museum: “interesting and nice to visit, but unable to provide the strength and courage for the continuation of the journey.” Pope Francis concluded his address encouraging the SPC to courageously  bring the reform to completion with an apostolic and missionary spirit, and asked there be a special regard and attention for situations of need, poverty and difficulty within the knowledge that they must be faced with adequate solutions: “Let us resist the temptation of being attached to a glorious past; let’s all be team players in order to better respond to the new communication challenges posed by culture today without fear and without foreseeing apocalyptic scenarios.”   (from Vatican Radio)...

Holy See and Myanmar to establish diplomatic relations

Thu, 05/04/2017 - 19:12
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See and Myanmar announced on Thursday their intention to establish diplomatic relations. The announcement came in the context of an audience Pope Francis granted the State Counsellor and Union Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi. Below, please find the full text of the statement from the Press Office of the Holy See ************************************* The Holy See and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, keen to promote bonds of mutual friendship, have jointly agreed to establish diplomatic relations at the level of Apostolic Nunciature, on behalf of the Holy See, and Embassy, on the part of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. (from Vatican Radio)...

General Audience: Pope reflects on Apostolic Voyage to Egypt

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 20:47
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis reflected on last weekend’s Apostolic Voyage to Egypt during his weekly General Audience, recalling the various stages of his trip. The Holy Father thanked the people of Egypt for their warm welcome, and noted the “extraordinary commitment” of the Egyptian authorities to ensure his visit went off without a hitch. He spoke of his visit to the Al-Azhar University, which was focused on both “ dialogue between Christians and Muslims” and “the promotion of peace ” in the world. Pope Francis summarized his address at the International Conference for peace, emphasizing Egypt’s history as a “ land of civility ” and a “ land of covenant. ” Egypt, he said, echoing the speech of the Grand Imam, “reminds us that peace is built through education, formation in wisdom, a humanism that includes the religious dimension, the relationship with God, as an integral part.” He continued, saying peace is built on the relationship between God and men, and on the alliance between all men. This, the pope said, is the foundation for a civil and social order in which all are called to participate. Pope Francis also spoke about the role of Christians, who are called to be a “leaven of fraternity, in Egypt and elsewhere. He said his meeting with his “dear brother” Pope Tawadros II – the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch – and their “Common Statement” were signs of the commitment of Christians to that fraternity. The Pope recalled the prayers for the martyrs of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the victims of very recent violence, whose sacrifice and common witness lent a particular fruitfulness to the work of ecumenism. The second day of the Pope’s voyage was dedicated to the Catholic faithful. The Mass celebrated by Pope Francis was, he said, a feast of faith and fraternity. He recalled his homily, in which he encouraged Egyptian Catholics to relive the experience of the disciples at Emmaus, when they “encountered the Lord.” The Holy Father also reflected on the final event of his Voyage, the meeting with priests, religious, and seminarians. He noted in particular the many seminarians in Egypt, which he called a “consolation.” Concluding his remarks, Pope Francis said Christians in the region, guided by their pastors, should be “salt and light” for the Middle East. He called his voyage to Egypt a sign of hope, refuge, and help.” His voyage, he said, “signifies walking together along the path of hope,” and called Egypt a “sign of hope” for fraternity, not just in the past, but also in the present day.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: English summary of General Audience

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 17:00
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis held his weekly General Audience on Wednesday, during which he spoke of his recently concluded visit to Egypt. Below, please find the official English-language summary of the Holy Father's prepared remarks ... ****************** Dear Brothers and Sisters:  My recent Apostolic Journey to Egypt took place at the invitation of the President of the Republic, the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the Catholic Coptic Patriarch.  I thank all those who helped in its planning and organization.  My meeting with the Gran Imam, and my message to the International Conference for Peace, recalled that peace is the fruit of an education to wisdom and a humanism that respects the religious dimension of our existence.  Our covenant with God, grounded in the commandment of love of God and neighbour, inspires our efforts to build a just and peaceful civil order in which all have a part to play.  Egypt’s great cultural and religious heritage gives the nation a special role in this work of peacemaking.  In my meeting with the Coptic Orthodox Patriarch, Pope Tawadros II, we reaffirmed our mutual commitment to unity and prayed together for the victims of the recent attacks.  At Mass with the Catholic community, and in my meeting with priests, religious and seminarians, I saw the beauty of the Church in Egypt and I encouraged everyone to persevere in the hope of the Gospel.  May the Holy Family, who once found refuge in Egypt, bless and protect its people with prosperity, fraternity and peace. (from Vatican Radio)...