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Pope at Mass: ‘God weeps when we go astray from His love’

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 19:00
(Vatican Radio)  Beware of following fantasies and false idols, for only God loves us and waits for us like a father.  That was Pope Francis’ message at Mass on Thursday morning in the Casa Santa Marta. Commenting on the First Letter from the Book of Exodus, the Holy Father focused on God’s love for His people, despite their infidelity. Even today, he said, it is good for us to ask whether we distance ourselves from the Lord to follow after idols and worldliness. Listen to Devin Watkins’ report: Pope Francis took inspiration from the Book of Exodus to reflect on the “dreams and disappointments of God”. The people, he said, is “God’s dream. He dreamed of them because he loved them.” But the people betrayed the Father’s dreams and so God “began to be disappointed,” asking Moses to come down from the mountain where he had gone to receive the Law. The people “did not have the patience to wait for God” for even 40 days. They had made themselves a golden calf and “they forgot God who had saved them”. Temptation to infidelity towards God The prophet Baruc, Pope Francis said, “had a good expression for this people: ‘You have forgotten the One who reared you’”. “To forget God who made us, who raised us, and who accompanies us in our lives: this is the disappointment of God. And many times in the Gospel Jesus speaks in parables about that man who builds a vineyard, which then fails, because the workers want to take it for themselves. In the human heart there is always this restlessness! It is not satisfied with God, with faithful love. The human heart always tends towards infidelity. This is a temptation.” God is “disappointed” by the infidelity of His people who go after idols God, therefore, “through the prophet rebukes this people”, which “is inconstant and does not know how to wait”. They go astray from God to seek another god. “The disappointment of God is the infidelity of the people… And we are God’s people. We know well how [the dispositions] of our heart, and every day we must take up again the path so as not to slide slowly towards idols, fantasies, worldliness, and infidelity. I think it would do us good today to reflect on the disappointed Lord: ‘Tell me, Lord, are you disappointed in me?’ In something, yes, surely. But reflect, and ask yourself this question.” Reflect in Lent whether we have distanced ourselves from God God, Pope Francis affirmed, “has a tender heart, the heart of a father”. He recalled that Jesus wept “over Jerusalem”. Let us ask ourselves, he said, if “God weeps for me”, if “He is disappointed in me”, and if “I have distanced myself from the Lord”. He asked aloud, “How many idols do I have, which I am unable to remove, which make me a slave? The idolatry that we have within us… And God weeps for me.” “Let us reflect today on this disappointment of God, who created us for love, whilst we go in search of love, of wellbeing elsewhere and not in His love. We distance ourselves from this God who raised us. This is a thought for Lent. It will do us good. Do this small examination of conscience daily: ‘Lord, you who have so many dreams for me, I know that I have gone away from you, but tell me where and how to return…’ The surprise will be that He ever awaits us, like the father of the prodigal son who saw him from afar, because he was waiting for him.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope's letter for Dublin World Meeting of Families presented

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 18:46
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has written a letter to the organisers of next year’s World Meeting of Families , who presented the event at the Vatican press office on Thursday morning. The Meeting is scheduled to take place in Dublin, Ireland from August 21st to 26th 2018 on the theme ‘ The Gospel of the Family: joy to the world ”. Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report: In the letter addressed to Cardinal Kevin Farrell , head of the new Vatican office for Laity, Family and Life, the Pope says he hopes the Meeting will be a way for families to deepen their reflection on the document ‘ Amoris Laetitia ’ which he wrote at the conclusion of the two recent synods on the family. At the press conference, the cardinal stressed the importance of preparations that will take place in parishes and dioceses ahead of the event. This catechesis must involve lay people as well as clergy, he said, reaching out especially to individuals and families who have grown away from the Church. "As Pope Francis said we need to be a Church that goes out to the peripheries of society to those people who don't listen to us at the present moment, to those families who have lost their way or who do not go to church any more". Also present at the press conference was the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin who highlighted the complex combination of faith and secularization which characterizes his country today. He said the meeting will be a challenge for the archdiocese but also an opportunity to underline the importance of family life for Irish society as a whole. Archbishop Martin said the Church must learn to accompany families and address the real day-to-day difficulties which he hears about from those in his own archdiocese: " They’d be talking about work, leisure, homelessness, how to make ends meet, how government subsidies are being cut back, how they’d have sleepless nights worrying about their teenage children - these are the challenges they have to be supported in so that they can carry out this essential role in society and that people really give them the support and confidence to do that ". Both leaders hope the meeting will not be a one-off event, but rather a chance for the whole Church to deepen its reflection on the Pope’s words in ' Amoris Laetitia ', seeing the family as a vital resource for sharing the message of God’s love with the world. Neither of them would confirm the Pope’s presence at the Meeting next year, but they did share their hopes that he’ll be attending the event – a hope also expressed in the promotional video for the World Meeting of Families . Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ letter for the World Meeting of Families To the Venerable Brother Cardinal KEVIN FARRELL, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life             At the end of the Eighth World Meeting of Families, held in Philadelphia in September 2015, I announced that the subsequent meeting with Catholic families of the world would take place in Dublin. I now wish to initiate preparations, and am pleased to confirm that it will be held from 21 to 26 August 2018, on the theme “The Gospel of the Family: joy for the world”. Indeed, it is my wish for families to have a way of deepening their reflection and their sharing of the content of the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia.             One might ask: does the Gospel continue to be a joy for the world? And also: does the family continue to be good news for today’s world?             I am sure the answer is yes! And this “yes” is firmly based on God’s plan. The love of God is His “yes” to all creation and at the heart of this latter is man. It is God’s “yes” to the union between man and woman, in openness and service to life in all its phases; it is God’s “yes” and His commitment to a humanity that is often wounded, mistreated and dominated by a lack of love. The family, therefore, is the “yes” of God as Love. Only starting from love can the family manifest, spread and regenerate God’s love in the world. Without love, we cannot live as children of God, as couples, parents and brothers.             I wish to underline how important it is for families to ask themselves often if they live based on love, for love and in love. In practice, this means giving oneself, forgiving, not losing patience, anticipating the other, respecting. How much better family life would be if every day we lived according to the words, “please”, “thank you” and “I’m sorry”. Every day we have the experience of fragility and weakness, and therefore we all, families and pastors, are in need of renewed humility that forms the desire to form ourselves, to educate and be educated, to help and be helped, to accompany, discern and integrate all men of good will. I dream of an outbound Church, not a self-referential one, a Church that does not pass by far from man’s wounds, a merciful Church that proclaims the heart of the revelation of God as Love, which is Mercy. It is this very mercy that makes us new in love; and we know how much Christian families are a place of mercy and witnesses of mercy, and even more so after the extraordinary Jubilee. The Dublin meeting will be able to offer concrete signs of this.             I therefore invite all the Church to keep these indications in mind in the pastoral preparation for the next World Meeting.             You, dear Brother, along with your collaborators, have the task of translating in a special way the teaching of Amoris Laetitia, with which the Church wishes families always to be in step, in that inner pilgrimage that is the manifestation of authentic life.             My thoughts go in a special way to the archdiocese of Dublin and to all the dear Irish nation for the generous welcome and commitment involved in hosting such an important event. May the Lord recompense you as of now, granting you abundant heavenly favours.             May the Holy Family of Nazareth guide, accompany and bless your service, and all the families involved in the preparation of the great World Meeting in Dublin.             From the Vatican, 25 March 2017 FRANCIS (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to interreligious Iraqi group: ‘Abraham our common father’

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 20:53
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday greeted the members of a delegation from the Iraqi Supervisory Boards and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Listen to Devin Watkins' report: “Your visit is a true, fraternal richness, and is, therefore, a path towards peace among all, peace in the heart, in the family, in your country, and in the world,” the Pope told the group in a private audience ahead of his weekly General Audience. The Iraqi Supervisory Boards are made up of Shiites and Sunnis, as well as Christians, Yazidis, and Sabeans/Mandaeans, and are part of a Permanent Committee for interreligious dialogue. Pope Francis said this expression of dialogue and solidarity is most welcome. “We are all brothers, and where there is brotherhood, there is peace. We are all sons of God.” The Holy Father went on to repeat Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran’s words of greeting to the group. “We have a common father on Earth: Abraham,” the Pope said. “And out of that first ‘going forth’ of Abraham, we all come together, up until today.” “We are brothers, and as brothers, we are all different and all the same, like fingers on a hand: there are five fingers; all are fingers but all are different. I thank God, the Lord, who helped us all meet here.” In conclusion, the Holy Father invoked a blessing upon those present: “I ask Almighty God to bless you all, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Thank you.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope appeals for protection for Iraqi civilians trapped in war

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 18:07
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for a concerted effort to protect Iraqi civilians who are victims of the ongoing bloody war in their nation and he prayed in particular for those who are trapped in the embattled city of Mosul. The Pope’s appeal came at the end of his catechesis during the General Audience in St. Peter’s Square. Expressing deep pain for the victims of the bloody conflict in Iraq, Pope Francis appealed to all to  make every possible effort to protect civilians, which he said is an  “imperative and urgent” obbligation.  Encouraging the Iraqi people to pursue a path of unity within respect for diversity, the Pope also asked for prayers for reconciliation and harmony between the different ethnic groups that make up the population.       In his catechesis the Pope encouraged Christians to always put their trust in God’s word, even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible. Reflecting on St. Paul’s Letter to Romans in which he presents Abraham not only as our father in faith, but also as our father in hope, Francis said the reading helps us put the strong tie that exists between faith and hope into focus. He said that hoping against hope, Abraham trusted in God’s promise that, despite his old age and that of Sarah his wife, he would become the father of many nations.   “Great hope, he said, is rooted in faith”, that’s why it is able to go beyond all human expectations. “We must all pray to God, open our hearts and He will teach us what hope is” he said.  Reminding those present that  God promises to set us  free from sin and death by the power of Christ’s resurrection, Pope Francis urged the faithful to place their certainties not so much in their own capacities, but in the hope that derives from God’s promise of life.   Faith, he said, teaches us, to hope against hope by putting our own trust in God’s word even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.   The Pope concluded urging believers to be confirmed in faith and hope during this Lenten journey to Easter, and to accept the promise of new life given us in the Lord’s resurrection. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope sends message to young people at Barcelona symposium

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 17:55
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a message to participants in the European Symposium on Young People, encouraging them to reflect “on the challenges of evangelization”. The event, entitled “ He walked by their side (Lk 24:15) - Accompanying young people to freely respond to Christ's call ”, is taking place in Barcelona, Spain on 28-31 March. In the message signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis encouraged young people to “conduct a reflection on the challenges of evangelization and on the accompaniment of young people, so that – through dialogue and encounter and as living members of the family of Christ – young people may be enthusiastic bearers of the joy of the Gospel in all areas.” The Holy Father invoked the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary upon the Symposium’s participants and imparted his Apostolic Blessing. The Barcelona Symposium is promoted by the Council of European Catholic Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) in collaboration with the Spanish Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Archdiocese of Barcelona. Among Church leaders taking part are Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, and Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow. Young people will also have the opportunity to listen to the reflections and testimonies of several national directors along with those of other young people. (from Vatican Radio)...

General Audience: English Summary

Wed, 03/29/2017 - 16:13
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday encouraged Christians to always put their trust in God’s word, even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible. The Pope was addressing pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience . Please find below the English synopsis on the Pope’s catechesis : Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In the chapter from the Letter to Romans that opened today’s Audience, Saint Paul presents Abraham not only as our father in faith, but also as our father in hope.  Paul tells us that Abraham put his faith in the God who gives life to the dead, who calls all things into being.  Hoping against hope, he trusted in God’s promise that, despite his old age and that of Sarah his wife, he would become the father of many nations.  In Abraham, we see the close bond existing between faith and hope.  Abraham’s hope in God’s promises was fulfilled in the birth of his son Isaac, and, in the fullness of time, in the “many nations” gathered into a new humanity set free from sin and death by the power of Christ’s resurrection.  Faith teaches us, in fact, to hope against hope by putting our own trust in God’s word even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.  In our Lenten journey to Easter, may we be confirmed in faith and hope, and show ourselves children of Abraham by accepting the promise of new life given us in the Lord’s resurrection. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: 'to have faith is to live our lives with joy'

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 18:35
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday encouraged Christians to get on with things, living life with joy. Speaking during the homily during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta , he urged them to avoid complaining and not to let themselves be paralyzed by the ugly sin of sloth . Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : The Gospel story at the heart of Pope Francis’ reflection tells of a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years. He was lying at the side of a pool called Bethesda with a large number of ill, blind, lame and crippled who believed that when an angel came down and stirred up the waters the first to bathe in the pool would be healed. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him: “Do you want to be well?” “It’s what Jesus repeatedly says to us as well” the Pope said: “do you want to be well? Do you want to be happy? Do you want to improve your life? Do you want to be filled with the Holy Spirit?” When Jesus, the Pope pointed out, asked that strange man if he wanted to be well, instead of saying “yes” he complained there was on one to put him in the pool while the water is stirred up and that someone else always got there  before him. His answer, Francis said, was a complaint, he was  implying that life had been unjust with him.  “This man, the Pope noted,  was like the tree planted along the bank of the rivers, mentioned in the first Reading, but it had arid roots, roots that did not reach the water, could not take nourishment from the water”. The Pope said this is clear from his attitude of always complaining and trying to blame the other.  “This is an ugly sin: the sin of sloth” he said. Pope Francis said this man’s disease was not so much his paralysis but sloth, which is worse than having a lukewarm heart. It causes one to live without the desire to move forward, to do something in life, it causes one to lose the memory of joy, he explained, saying the man had lost all of this. Jesus, the Pope continued, did not rebuke him but said: “Take up your mat, and walk”. The man was healed but since it was a Sabbath, the doctors of the law said it was not lawful to carry a mat on that day and they asked him who was the man who told him to do so. The sick man, the Pope noted, had not even thanked Jesus or asked for his name: “he rose and walked with that slothful attitude “living his life because oxygen is free”, always looking to others “who are happier” and forgetting joy. "Sloth, he said, is a sin that paralyzes us, stops us from walking”. Even today, the Pope said, the Lord looks to each of us sinners - we are all sinners - and says “Rise”. The Lord tells each of us, Pope Francis concluded, to take hold of our life, be it beautiful or difficult and move on: “Do not be afraid, go ahead carrying your mat” and remember to come to the waters and quench your thirst with joy and ask the Lord to help you get up and know the joy of salvation.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope sends message to UN conference on nuclear weapons

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 18:01
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to the “United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination,” the first part of which is taking place in New York from 27-31 March. The message was read by Msgr Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for Relations with States, and Head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the meeting. Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ Message:   To Her Excellency Elayne Whyte Gómez President of the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination I extend cordial greetings to you, Madam President, and to all the representatives of the various nations and international organizations, and of civil society participating in this Conference.  I wish to encourage you to work with determination in order to promote the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons. On 25 September 2015, before the General Assembly of the United Nations, I emphasized what the Preamble and first Article of the United Nations Charter indicate as the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between nations.  An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are contradictory to the very spirit of the United Nations.  We must therefore commit ourselves to a world without nuclear weapons, by fully implementing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, both in letter and spirit (cf. Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations , 25 September 2015). But why give ourselves this demanding and forward-looking goal in the present international context characterized by an unstable climate of conflict, which is both cause and indication of the difficulties encountered in advancing and strengthening the process of nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation?  If we take into consideration the principal threats to peace and security with their many dimensions in this multipolar world of the twenty-first century as, for example, terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, cybersecurity, environmental problems, poverty, not a few doubts arise regarding the inadequacy of nuclear deterrence as an effective response to such challenges.  These concerns are even greater when we consider the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would follow from any use of nuclear weapons, with devastating, indiscriminate and uncontainable effects, over time and space.  Similar cause for concern arises when examining the waste of resources spent on nuclear issues for military purposes, which could instead be used for worthy priorities like the promotion of peace and integral human development, as well as the fight against poverty, and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We need also to ask ourselves how sustainable is a stability based on fear, when it actually increases fear and undermines relationships of trust between peoples.            International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power.  Peace must be built on justice, on integral human development, on respect for fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation, on the participation of all in public life, on trust between peoples, on the support of peaceful institutions, on access to education and health, on dialogue and solidarity.  From this perspective, we need to go beyond nuclear deterrence: the international community is called upon to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security. In this context, the ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons becomes both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative.  A concrete approach should promote a reflection on an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond the fear and isolationism that prevail in many debates today.  Achieving a world without nuclear weapons involves a long-term process, based on the awareness that “everything is connected” within the perspective of an integral ecology (cf. Laudato Si’ , 117, 138).  The common destiny of mankind demands the pragmatic strengthening of dialogue and the building and consolidating of mechanisms of trust and cooperation, capable of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. Growing interdependence and globalization mean that any response to the threat of nuclear weapons should be collective and concerted, based on mutual trust.  This trust can be built only through dialogue that is truly directed to the common good and not to the protection of veiled or particular interests; such dialogue, as far as possible, should include all: nuclear states, countries which do not possess nuclear weapons, the military and private sectors, religious communities, civil societies, and international organizations.  And in this endeavour we must avoid those forms of mutual recrimination and polarization which hinder dialogue rather than encourage it.  Humanity has the ability to work together in building up our common home; we have the freedom, intelligence and capacity to lead and direct technology, to place limits on our power, and to put all this at the service of another type of progress: one that is more human, social and integral (cf. ibid., 13, 78, 112; Message for the 22nd Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Agreement on Climate Change (COP22) , 10 November 2016). This Conference intends to negotiate a Treaty inspired by ethical and moral arguments.  It is an exercise in hope and it is my wish that it may also constitute a decisive step along the road towards a world without nuclear weapons.  Although this is a significantly complex and long-term goal, it is not beyond our reach. Madam President, I sincerely wish that the efforts of this Conference may be fruitful and provide an effective contribution to advancing an ethic of peace and of multilateral and cooperative security, which humanity very much needs today.  Upon all those gathered at this important meeting, and upon the citizens of the countries you represent, I invoke the blessings of the Almighty.                                                                                                             FRANCIS From the Vatican, 23 March 2017   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis' activities for Holy Week and Easter

Tue, 03/28/2017 - 17:55
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Tuesday released details of the celebrations that Pope Francis will preside over for Holy Week and Easter. A note from the liturgical office said that on Palm Sunday, April 9th, the Pope will lead a procession for the blessing of the olive and palm branches in St Peter’s Square, starting at 10am, and then celebrate the Mass of Our Lord’s Passion. Palm Sunday also marks the XXXII World Youth Day with the theme taken from St Luke’s Gospel ‘The Mighty One has done great things for me’  On Thursday April 13th Pope Francis will preside at the Chrism Mass with the blessing of the holy oils in St Peter’s Basilica, starting at 9.30am. On Good Friday, April 14th, the Pope will lead the celebration of Our Lord’s Passion in St Peter’s Basilica, beginning at 5pm. That will be followed at 9.15pm by the traditional Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, at the Colosseum, after which the Pope will greet the crowds and impart his Apostolic Blessing. On Saturday April 15th the Holy Father will celebrate the Easter Vigil in St Peter’s Basilica beginning at 8.30pm with the blessing of the new fire and a procession with the Pasqual candle. During the celebration he will administer the Sacrament of Baptism before concelebrating Mass with the other cardinals and bishops. Finally on Easter morning, Sunday April 16th, beginning at 10am, Pope Francis will preside at the Mass of Our Lord’s Resurrection in St Peter’s Square before giving his ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing (to the city of Rome and to the world) from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica. (from Vatican Radio)...

PCPM meets for Plenary Assembly

Mon, 03/27/2017 - 15:30
(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] met for its eighth Plenary Assembly from March 24-26, 2017. The resignation of founding member Marie Collins was a key topic on the agenda. The Commission expressed its gratitude to her and supported her continuing work to promote healing for victims of abuse and the prevention of all abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. During the Plenary the Commision also discussed  the importance of responding directly and compassionately to victims/survivors when they write to offices of the Holy See. The Plenary Assembly followed the Education Day on March 23, at the Gregorian University, co-sponsored in partnership with the Centre for Child Protection and the Congregation for Catholic Education.   Please find below the Concluding Statement  The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] met for its eighth Plenary Assembly from March 24-26, 2017.  A central topic in this Plenary Assembly was the resignation of founding member Marie Collins. The Commission members expressed strong support for her and her continuing work to promote healing for victims of abuse and the prevention of all abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.  They also expressed their particular gratitude that Marie Collins has agreed to continue working with the Commission’s educational programs for new bishops and the offices of the Roman Curia. Commission members have unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors. Several ideas that have been successfully implemented elsewhere are being carefully considered for recommendation to the Holy Father. The Commission discussed the importance of responding directly and compassionately to victims/survivors when they write to offices of the Holy See.  Members agreed that acknowledging correspondence and giving a timely and personal response is one part of furthering transparency and healing.  They acknowledged that this is a significant task due to the volume and nature of the correspondence and requires clear and specific resources and procedures. They have agreed to send further recommendations to Pope Francis for consideration. This Plenary Assembly followed the Education Day on March 23, at the Gregorian University, co-sponsored in partnership with the Centre for Child Protection and the Congregation for Catholic Education.  Titled “Safeguarding in schools and homes: learning from experience worldwide”, it had a particular focus on Latin American countries that have large Catholic school systems, and presentations concerning efforts in Australia and Italy.  The academic seminar was attended by more than 150 people.  These included prefects and representatives from Vatican dicasteries including the Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin, seminary rectors, educators, formators and authorities from Italian State Police and the Vatican gendarme who are all seen as key collaborators in the PCPM’s educational efforts.  The Commissioners reiterated their sincere gratitude to the invited guests and speakers:  Fr Friedrich Bechina, FSO, Undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Mónica Yerena Suárez - Provincia Marista de México Central; Fr Wilfredo Grajales Rosas, SDB – Director del Instituto Distrital para la Protección de Niños, Niñas, Adolescentes y Jóvenes, Bogotá, Colombia; Juan Ignacio Fuentes, CONSUDEC Argentina; Francis Sullivan, CEO, Truth Justice and Healing Commission, Australia and Dott. Giovanni Ippolito, Direttore Tecnico Capo Psicologo, Questura di Foggia.  The speakers were also invited to address the opening session of the PCPM Plenary Assembly.   The Commission members continue the work entrusted by Pope Francis to assist local Churches with their responsibility for the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults (Statutes, art. 1).  As our Holy Father wrote to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, “I now ask for your close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors. The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your Conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programmes of education, training, and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse” (2 February 2015).  The Commission is also receiving representatives of bishop’s conferences around the world who are in Rome for their Ad Limina visits. Commissioners continue to visit episcopal conferences and local churches throughout the world to assist in policy development and implementation of best practices to create a safer environment. So far this year, these include workshops with the Church leadership, formators, catechists and child protection officers in Zambia and Colombia. Members are currently preparing to present to the first European Conference on Formation and Prevention in Seminaries co-organized by the Archdiocese of Florence and the Centre for Child Protection of the Gregorian University, and the upcoming meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Bangkok, Thailand this Spring, and the May meeting of the Directors of CELAM and the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean Islands. An essential element of these presentations is the PCPM Guidelines template. The Holy Father wrote, “every effort must also be made to ensure that the provisions of the Circular Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dated 3 May 2011 are fully implemented” (2 February 2015).  Thus, at the plenary meeting, the members spoke again of their willingness to work together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith communicating a “Guidelines Template” to episcopal conferences and religious congregations, both directly and through the CommissionWebsite (www.protectionofminors.va). (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Angelus: look to the light of Christ

Sun, 03/26/2017 - 19:07
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday during the Angelus in a sunny St Peter’s Square took inspiration from the Gospel reading in which Jesus restores the sight of the blind man. Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report: With this miracle the Holy Father explained, “Jesus reveals himself as light of the world”. Each of us, the Pope said, is blind from birth, in that, “we were created to know God, but because of sin we are like the blind, we need a new light, that of faith, that Jesus has given us.” In fact, Pope Francis went on to say, “the blind man of the Gospel regaining his vision is opened up to the mystery of Christ.” This man represents us when we do not realize that Jesus is "the light of the world" and when we look elsewhere when we prefer to rely on small lights when fumbling in the dark,” the Pope said. We too, he continued, have been "enlightened" to Christ in baptism, and then we are called to behave as children of light.” Posing the question, “What does it mean to have true light and to walk in the light?, the Holy Father answered by saying, “it means first of all to abandon false lights.” Another false light, Pope Francis noted, is self-interest: “if we evaluate people and things based on the criterion of our profit, our pleasure, our prestige, we are not being truthful in relationships and situations.” Following the recitation of the Marian prayer the Pope remembered José Álvarez-Benavides y de la Torre, and one hundred and fourteen companion martyrs who were beatified on Saturday in Spain. He said, “these priests, religious and lay people have been heroic witnesses of Christ and his Gospel of peace and fraternal reconciliation. Their example and their intercession sustain the Church's involvement in building a civilization of love.” Pope Francis also recalled his one day pastoral visit to Milan on Saturday expressing his thanks to the organisers and those who took part, both believers and non-believers, adding, it felt home.       (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope wraps up day in Milan meeting newly confirmed youngsters

Sun, 03/26/2017 - 02:28
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis wrapped up his one-day pastoral journey to the northern Italian city of Milan with an encounter with newly confirmed youngsters. At the end of his busy day in the city, the Pope travelled to the football stadium of San Siro where he was welcomed by almost 80,000 people, including parents, god-parents, catechists, teachers and volunteers. The Pope took questions from some of those present and in his off-cuff answers he focused on the importance of education and formation. A good teacher he said knows how to enhance and promote the qualities of his pupils without neglecting the person as a whole. “Education is “head-hands-heart” he said. He reminded teachers and trainers that “children also need to play, to have fun, to rest.” The Pope concluded the encounter with a strong appeal to defeat ‘bullying’: “Please be careful, be on the look-out for the phenomenon of bullying” he said and invited the tens of thousands of boys and girls to reflect in silence and ask themselves whether there is someone in their school or in their community that teases them for whatever reason or whether they themselves are mean and even aggressive towards others. “This is bullying” he said and asked them to promise the Lord never to be bullies or to allow others to be victims of bullies.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope’s Mass in Milan: ‘A people at the peripheries’

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 22:27
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass for the people of Milan, Italy on Saturday during his pastoral visit to the city, reflecting on the annunciation of Jesus as a message of joy at the peripheries of society. The Holy Father invited the people of Milan to be joyful members of God’s people and to avoid “speculating” on the future of others. Listen to Devin Watkins’ report: Two were the questions Pope Francis put to the people of Milan gathered for Mass in the Meazza-San Siro di Milano Stadium: “How can we live the joy of the Gospel today within our cities? Is Christian hope possible in this situation, here and now?” The Holy Father said these two questions “touch our identities” and “require of us a new way of seeing our place in history”. He was reflecting on the difference between the two annunciation stories in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel: that of John the Baptist (Lc 1,26-38), which took place in the inner sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem, and that of Jesus (Lc 1,5-10). He said the annunciation of Jesus’ birth to Mary by the Angel Gabriel took place in Galilee: “a peripheral city with a less-than-excellent reputation (Jn 1,46)”. The Pope said the contrast indicates that “God’s new encounter with His people will take place in places we would not normally expect: on the margins and peripheries”. He said, “It is God Himself who takes the initiative and chooses to enter – as Mary did – in our houses and daily struggles, full of anxiety and desires.” Pope Francis said finding joy in our daily lives can be a challenge due to the speculation or taking advantage of others. “Some people speculate on life, on work, and on the family. They speculate on the poor and migrants, on young people and their future. Everything seems to be reduced to numbers, on the other hand leaving the daily life of families to be discolored by precariousness and insecurity.” The keys to finding joy in our mission, the Pope said, are “memory, belonging, and seeing the possible in the impossible”. “The first thing the Angel [Gabriel] does is evoke her memory, in this way opening Mary’s present to the whole of Salvation History. He evokes the promises made to David as a fruit of the Covenant with Jacob. Mary is a daughter of the Covenant.” This memory, the Holy Father said, allows Mary to recognize her belonging to the People of God. He said Milan is inhabited by “a people called to welcome differences and integrate them with respect and creativity, celebrating the newness offered by others. It is a people unafraid of embracing borders.” Third, Pope Francis reminded Milan’s pilgrims that “Nothing is impossible for God” (Lc 1,37). “When we open to allowing ourselves to be helped or counseled and when we open ourselves to grace, it seems that the impossible begins to become reality.” In conclusion, the Pope said, “As before, God continues to seek allies and men and women capable of believing and capable of remembering, recognizing themselves as belonging to His people in order to cooperate with the creativity of the Holy Spirit.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis spends time with prison inmates in Milan

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 19:57
(Vatican Radio) One of the highlights of Pope Francis ’ 1-day pastoral journey to the Italian city of Milan is his visit to the city’s main detention center, the San Vittore Prison . Shortly after midday and the recitation of the Angelus, the Pope travelled to the prison where he was welcomed by the director,Gloria Manzelli, and by the prison chaplain, don Marco Recalcati. San Vittore currently hosts over 900 inmates – both men and women – as well as a number of infants who live with their detained mothers in a special unit. The Pope met briefly with them before exchanging greetings with a large group of the San Vittore staff and volunteers. The building, designed by the engineer Francesco Lucca, takes inspiration from the 18th century Panopticon with 6 wings with three floors each. Moving through these wings, the Pope was given the opportunity to shake hands with some 80 people representing all the different categories of inmates, before going on to meet those who are detained in a “protected” environment. In the third wing, Pope Francis sat down for lunch with some 100 prisoners and treated to a typically Milanese cuisine, including rice with saffron and steaks “alla Milanese” prepared by some of  the inmates themselves. The visit concluded with an exchange of gifts and the blessing of cards with the prisoners’ names on them to be taken away by the Pope. Throughout his pontificate Pope Francis has highlighted the predicament of prisoners and urged political leaders across the world to respect the dignity of inmates and offer them amnesty whenever possible. In many occasions he has called for a criminal justice system that is not exclusively punitive, but is open to the hope and the possibility of re-inserting the offender into society. Pope Francis has also called for a world-wide abolition of the death penalty and said he opposes life in prison without parole. Underlining his deep concern for prisoners the Pope concluded the Holy Year of Mercy with a special Jubilee Mass for some 1,000 prisoners from 12 countries and their families, as well as prison chaplains and volunteers in St. Peter's Basilica.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope speaks to Milan's religious, prays Angelus at Duomo

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 18:37
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday is making a one day pastoral visit to Milan. This morning he paid a call on Milan’s Duomo and traveled to the peripheries of the city to meet with immigrant families. Listen to our report:   For the curious pilgrim or tourist a trip to Milan is not complete without a visit the “Duomo” or Cathedral Church. And it was here in front of this iconic building that Pope Francis recited the Angelus on Saturday greeted by thousands of well- wishers. A short time earlier inside this magnificent building, the Pope met with priests and consecrated persons, listening to their questions and offering words of advice. During the question and answer session the Holy Father said that in a world that is multicultural, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic,  the Church, over its entire history, has had much to teach us and to help us towards a culture of diversity. The Holy Spirit, Pope Francis noted “is the master of diversity.” The Pope also underlined the importance of prayer and of service in the church; service by priests, religious and consecrated to the poor and to the Word of God. Responding to a question from a religious mother who asked how it was possible to continue to be a significant presence today despite being fewer and older, the Pope said, that it was most important not to become resigned to one’s fate. He said that realities today were a challenge, but religious orders who were in the minority were being invited to rise again like yeast with the help of the Holy Spirit, who also inspired the hearts of their founders. This one day pastoral visit began on Saturday morning with the Holy Father’s going out to Milan’s peripheries to meet with Rom, Islamic, and immigrant families of the ‘White Houses’ in the Forlanini quarter of the city. Greeting the crowds of people that had gathered to see him, he told them that the Church “always needs to be restored” because he added, it is made by us, who are sinners.” Let us be restored, he said by God’s mercy. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis greets immigrant families in Milan

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 17:00
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Saturday greeted the Rom, Islamic, and immigrant families of the ‘White Houses’ in the Forlanini quarter of Milan at the beginning of his one-day pastoral visit to the city. Upon his arrival, residents gave the Holy Father two gifts: a priestly stole and a picture of a statuette of the Madonna. Pope Francis thanked them for their gifts and said it was important for him to be welcomed to Milan by a community of families. He said the stole was a reminder that he comes “as a priest: I come to Milan as a priest”. He also recognized that it had been handmade by several residents of the Forlanini quarter: “It’s a reminder that the Christian priest is chosen from among the people and at the service of the people. My priesthood…is a gift from Christ, but it is ‘woven’ by you, by our people with their faith, labours, prayers, and tears.” Pope Francis then said the statuette of Our Lady is a sign of his being welcomed to Milan by the Madonna. “It reminds me of Mary’s care, who ran to meet Elizabeth. This is the care and concern of the Church, which does not remain in the city centre waiting but comes to meet all at the peripheries; she goes also to meet non-Christians and non-believers…; and she brings Jesus to all, he who is the love of God made flesh and gives meaning to our lives and saves us from evil.” Afterwards, the Holy Father made his way to Milan’s Duomo Cathedral to meet with priests and consecrated men and women. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis arrives in Milan

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 14:50
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has arrived in Milan in Northern Italy for a one day pastoral visit. The Pope departed from Rome’s Fiumicino airport earlier this morning. Thousands of people turned out to meet the Holy Father as he travelled by "Pope Mobile" to meet with the Rom, Islamic, and immigrant families of the ‘White Houses’ in the Forlanini quarter of the city. Later this morning after speaking with priests and consecrated persons, he will visit the inmates of the San Vittore Prison for lunch and then celebrate Holy Mass in Monza Park. The final appointment of the day is a meeting with several recently confirmed young people in the Meazza-San Siro di Milano Stadium. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: address to EU Heads of State and Government

Sat, 03/25/2017 - 00:45
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed Heads of State and Heads of Government of European Union countries on Friday afternoon, the eve of the 60° anniversary of the signing of the treaties creating the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community – the first major structural steps toward creating the European Union. Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks, in their official English translation ********************************************** Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to European Heads of State and Government 24 March 2017 Distinguished Guests, I thank you for your presence here tonight, on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaties instituting the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community.  I convey to each of you the affection of the Holy See for your respective countries and for Europe itself, to whose future it is, in God’s providence, inseparably linked.  I am particularly grateful to the Honourable Paolo Gentiloni, President of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Italy, for his respectful words of greeting in your name and for the efforts that Italy has made in preparing for this meeting.  I also thank the Honourable Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, who has voiced the aspirations of the peoples of the Union on this anniversary. Returning to Rome, sixty years later, must not simply be a remembrance of things past, but the expression of a desire to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the present.  We need to immerse ourselves in the challenges of that time, so as to face those of today and tomorrow.  The Bible, with its rich historical narratives, can teach us a basic lesson.  We cannot understand our own times apart from the past, seen not as an assemblage of distant facts, but as the lymph that gives life to the present.  Without such an awareness, reality loses its unity, history loses its logical thread, and humanity loses a sense of the meaning of its activity and its progress towards the future. 25 March 1957 was a day full of hope and expectation, enthusiasm and apprehension.  Only an event of exceptional significance and historical consequences could make it unique in history.  The memory of that day is linked to today’s hopes and the expectations of the people of Europe, who call for discernment in the present, so that the journey that has begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence. This was very clear to the founding fathers and the leaders who, by signing the two Treaties, gave life to that political, economic, cultural and primarily human reality which today we call the European Union.  As P.H. Spaak, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, it was a matter “indeed, of the material prosperity of our peoples, the expansion of our economies, social progress and completely new industrial and commercial possibilities, but above all… a particular conception of life that is humane, fraternal and just”.[1] After the dark years and the bloodshed of the Second World War, the leaders of the time had faith in the possibility of a better future.  “They did not lack boldness, nor did they act too late.  The memory of recent tragedies and failures seems to have inspired them and given them the courage needed to leave behind their old disputes and to think and act in a truly new way, in order to bring about the greatest transformation… of Europe”.[2] The founding fathers remind us that Europe is not a conglomeration of rules to obey, or a manual of protocols and procedures to follow. It is a way of life, a way of understanding man based on his transcendent and inalienable dignity, as something more than simply a sum of rights to defend or claims to advance.  At the origin of the idea of Europe, we find “the nature and the responsibility of the human person, with his ferment of evangelical fraternity…, with his desire for truth and justice, honed by a thousand-year-old experience”.[3]  Rome, with its vocation to universality,[4] symbolizes that experience and was thus chosen as the place for the signing of the Treaties.  For here – as the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, J. Luns, observed – “were laid the political, juridical and social foundations of our civilization”.[5] It was clear, then, from the outset, that the heart of the European political project could only be man himself.  It was also clear that the Treaties could remain a dead letter; they needed to take on spirit and life.  The first element of European vitality must be solidarity.  As the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, J. Bech stated, “the European economic community will prove lasting and successful only if it remains constantly faithful to the spirit of European solidarity that created it, and if the common will of the Europe now being born proves more powerful than the will of individual nations”.[6]  That spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the Union to productive, economic and financial needs. Solidarity gives rise to openness towards others.  “Our plans are not inspired by self-interest”,[7] said the German Chancellor, K. Adenauer.  The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, C. Pineau, echoed this sentiment: “Surely the countries about to unite… do not have the intention of isolating themselves from the rest of the world and surrounding themselves with insurmountable barriers”.[8]  In a world that was all too familiar with the tragedy of walls and divisions, it was clearly important to work for a united and open Europe, and for the removal of the unnatural barrier that divided the continent from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic.  What efforts were made to tear down that wall!  Yet today the memory of those efforts has been lost.  Forgotten too is the tragedy of separated families, poverty and destitution born of that division.  Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the “dangers” of our time: beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones. In today’s lapse of memory, we often forget another great achievement of the solidarity ratified on 25 March 1957: the longest period of peace experienced in recent centuries.  “Peoples who over time often found themselves in opposed camps, fighting with one another… now find themselves united and enriched by their distinctive national identities”.[9]  Peace is always the fruit of a free and conscious contribution by all.  Nonetheless, “for many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted”,[10] one that can then easily come to be regarded as superfluous.  On the contrary, peace is a precious and essential good, for without it, we cannot build a future for anyone, and we end up “living from day to day”. United Europe was born of a clear, well-defined and carefully pondered project, however embryonic at first.  Every worthy project looks to the future, and the future are the young, who are called to realize its hopes and promises.[11]  The founding fathers had a clear sense of being part of a common effort that not only crossed national borders, but also the borders of time, so as to bind generations among themselves, all sharing equally in the building of the common home. Distinguished Guests, I have devoted this first part of my talk to the founding fathers of Europe, so that we can be challenged by their words, the timeliness of their thinking, their impassioned pursuit of the common good, their certainty of sharing in a work greater than themselves, and the breadth of the ideals that inspired them.  Their common denominator was the spirit of service, joined to passion for politics and the consciousness that “at the origin of European civilization there is Christianity”,[12] without which the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely incomprehensible.  As Saint John Paul II affirmed: “Today too, the soul of Europe remains united, because, in addition to its common origins, those same Christian and human values are still alive.  Respect for the dignity of the human person, a profound sense of justice, freedom, industriousness, the spirit of initiative, love of family, respect for life, tolerance, the desire for cooperation and peace: all these are its distinctive marks”.[13]  In our multicultural world, these values will continue to have their rightful place provided they maintain a vital connection to their deepest roots.  The fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically “lay” societies, free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and nonbelievers. The world has changed greatly in the last sixty years.  If the founding fathers, after surviving a devastating conflict, were inspired by the hope of a better future and were determined to pursue it by avoiding the rise of new conflicts, our time is dominated more by the concept of crisis.  There is the economic crisis that has marked the past decade; there is the crisis of the family and of established social models; there is a widespread “crisis of institutions” and the migration crisis.  So many crises that engender fear and profound confusion in our contemporaries, who look for a new way of envisioning the future. Yet the term “crisis” is not necessarily negative.  It does not simply indicate a painful moment to be endured.  The word “crisis” has its origin in the Greek verb kríno, which means to discern, to weigh, to assess.  Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it.  It is a time of challenge and opportunity. So what is the interpretative key for reading the difficulties of the present and finding answers for the future?  Returning to the thinking of the founding Fathers would be fruitless unless it could help to point out a path and provide an incentive for facing the future and a source of hope.  When a body loses its sense of direction and is no longer able to look ahead, it experiences a regression and, in the long run, risks dying.  What, then, is the legacy of the founding fathers?  What prospects do they indicate for surmounting the challenges that lie before us?  What hope do they offer for the Europe of today and of tomorrow? Their answers are to be found precisely in the pillars on which they determined to build the European economic community.  I have already mentioned these: the centrality of man, effective solidarity, openness to the world, the pursuit of peace and development, openness to the future.  Those who govern are charged with discerning the paths of hope, identifying specific ways forward to ensure that the significant steps taken thus far have not been wasted, but serve as the pledge of a long and fruitful journey. Europe finds new hope when man is the centre and the heart of her institutions.  I am convinced that this entails an attentive and trust-filled readiness to hear the expectations voiced by individuals, society and the peoples who make up the Union.  Sadly, one frequently has the sense that there is a growing “split” between the citizenry and the European institutions, which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the Union.  Affirming the centrality of man also means recovering the spirit of family, whereby each contributes freely to the common home in accordance with his or her own abilities and gifts.  It helps to keep in mind that Europe is a family of peoples[14] and that – as in every good family – there are different sensitivities, yet all can grow to the extent that all are united.  The European Union was born as a unity of differences and a unity in differences.  What is distinctive should not be a reason for fear, nor should it be thought that unity is preserved by uniformity.  Unity is instead harmony within a community.  The founding fathers chose that very term as the hallmark of the agencies born of the Treaties and they stressed that the resources and talents of each were now being pooled.  Today the European Union needs to recover the sense of being primarily a “community” of persons and peoples, to realize that “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts”,[15] and that therefore “we constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all”.[16]  The founding fathers sought that harmony in which the whole is present in every one of the parts, and the parts are – each in its own unique way – present in the whole. Europe finds new hope in solidarity, which is also the most effective antidote to modern forms of populism.  Solidarity entails the awareness of being part of a single body, while at the same time involving a capacity on the part of each member to “sympathize” with others and with the whole.  When one suffers, all suffer (cf. 1 Cor 12:26).  Today, with the United Kingdom, we mourn the victims of the attack that took place in London two days ago.  For solidarity is no mere ideal; it is expressed in concrete actions and steps that draw us closer to our neighbours, in whatever situation they find themselves.  Forms of populism are instead the fruit of an egotism that hems people in and prevents them from overcoming and “looking beyond” their own narrow vision.  There is a need to start thinking once again as Europeans, so as to avert the opposite dangers of a dreary uniformity or the triumph of particularisms.  Politics needs this kind of leadership, which avoids appealing to emotions to gain consent, but instead, in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity, devises policies that can make the Union as a whole develop harmoniously.  As a result, those who run faster can offer a hand to those who are slower, and those who find the going harder can aim at catching up to those at the head of the line. Europe finds new hope when she refuses to yield to fear or close herself off in false forms of security.  Quite the contrary, her history has been greatly determined by encounters with other peoples and cultures; hers “is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity”.[17]   The world looks to the European project with great interest.  This was the case from the first day, when crowds gathered in Rome’s Capitol Square and messages of congratulation poured in from other states.  It is even more the case today, if we think of those countries that have asked to become part of the Union and those states that receive the aid so generously offered them for battling the effects of poverty, disease and war.  Openness to the world implies the capacity for “dialogue as a form of encounter”[18] on all levels, beginning with dialogue between member states, between institutions and citizens, and with the numerous immigrants landing on the shores of the Union.  It is not enough to handle the grave crisis of immigration of recent years as if it were a mere numerical or economic problem, or a question of security. The immigration issue poses a deeper question, one that is primarily cultural.  What kind of culture does Europe propose today?  The fearfulness that is becoming more and more evident has its root cause in the loss of ideals.  Without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts, and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone.  Yet the richness of Europe has always been her spiritual openness and her capacity to raise basic questions about the meaning of life.  Openness to the sense of the eternal has also gone hand in hand, albeit not without tensions and errors, with a positive openness to this world.  Yet today’s prosperity seems to have clipped the continent’s wings and lowered its gaze.  Europe has a patrimony of ideals and spiritual values unique in the world, one that deserves to be proposed once more with passion and renewed vigour, for it is the best antidote against the vacuum of values of our time, which provides a fertile terrain for every form of extremism.  These are the ideals that shaped Europe, that “Peninsula of Asia” which stretches from the Urals to the Atlantic. Europe finds new hope when she invests in development and in peace.  Development is not the result of a combination of various systems of production.  It has to do with the whole human being: the dignity of labour, decent living conditions, access to education and necessary medical care.  “Development is the new name of peace”,[19]  said Pope Paul VI, for there is no true peace whenever people are cast aside or forced to live in dire poverty.  There is no peace without employment and the prospect of earning a dignified wage.  There is no peace in the peripheries of our cities, with their rampant drug abuse and violence. Europe finds new hope when she is open to the future.  When she is open to young people, offering them serious prospects for education and real possibilities for entering the work force.  When she invests in the family, which is the first and fundamental cell of society.  When she respects the consciences and the ideals of her citizens.  When she makes it possible to have children without the fear of being unable to support them.  When she defends life in all its sacredness. Distinguished Guests, Nowadays, with the general increase in people’s life span, sixty is considered the age of full maturity, a critical time when we are once again called to self-examination.  The European Union, too, is called today to examine itself, to care for the ailments that inevitably come with age, and to find new ways to steer its course.  Yet unlike human beings, the European Union does not face an inevitable old age, but the possibility of a new youthfulness.  Its success will depend on its readiness to work together once again, and by its willingness to wager on the future.  As leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a “new European humanism”[20] made up of ideals and concrete actions.  This will mean being unafraid to take practical decisions capable of meeting people’s real problems and of standing the test of time. For my part, I readily assure you of the closeness of the Holy See and the Church to Europe as a whole, to whose growth she has, and always will, continue to contribute.  Invoking upon Europe the Lord’s blessings, I ask him to protect her and grant her peace and progress.  I make my own the words that Joseph Bech proclaimed on Rome’s Capitoline Hill: Ceterum censeo Europam esse aedificandam – furthermore, I believe that Europe ought to be built. Thank you. [1] P.H. SPAAK, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [2] Ibid. [3] A. DE GASPERI. La nostra patria Europa.  Address to the European Parliamentary Conference, 21 April 1954, in Alcide De Gasperi e la politica internazionale, Cinque Lune, Rome, 1990, vol. III, 437-440. [4] Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit. [5] J. LUNS, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [6] J. BECH, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [7] K. ADENAUER, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [8] C. PINEAU, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [9] P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit. [10] Address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2017. [11] Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit. [12] A. DE GASPERI, loc. cit. [13] JOHN PAUL II, European Act, Santiago de Compostela, 9 November 1982: AAS 75/1 (1983), 329. [14] Cf. Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014: AAS 106 (2014), 1000. [15] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 235. [16] Ibid. [17] Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016: L’Osservatore Romano, 6-7 May 2016, p. 4. [18] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 239. [19] PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 26 March 1967, 87: AAS 59 (1967), 299. [20] Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, loc. cit., p. 5. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis receives the President of Fiji in audience

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 22:09
(Vatican Radio) The Press Office of the Holy See has released the following communiqué on Pope Francis' audience for the President of Fiji:  Today, Friday 24 March, the Holy Father Francis received in Audience, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the president of the Republic of Fiji, His Excellency Mr Jioji Konousi Konrote, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. During the cordial discussions, the existing good relations between the Holy See and Fiji and the contribution of the Catholic Church to the life of the country were evoked. Attention then turned to the issue of climate change and, above all, to its ethical dimension, which demands solidarity with the most vulnerable social groups and countries, and with the new generations. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope mourns death of "wise and gentle pastor"

Fri, 03/24/2017 - 21:57
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter of condolence to the Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, following the death of Cardinal William Keeler, who led the Archdiocese of Baltimore from 1989-2007.  The full text of the telegram can be found below:  To the Most Reverend William E. Lori Archbishop of Baltimore Deeply saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal William H. Keeler, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese.  With gratitude for Cardinal Keeler’s years of devoted episcopal ministry in the local Churches of Harrisburg and Baltimore, his years of leadership within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and his long-standing commitment to ecumenical and interreligious understanding, I join you in commending the soul of this wise and gentle pastor to the merciful love of God our heavenly Father.  To all who mourn the late Cardinal in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord. FRANCISCUS PP. (from Vatican Radio)...

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