Vatican News

Vatican organ trafficking summit issues statement

Vatican News - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 06:07
(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Academy of Sciences has issued a statement following its summit on Organ Trafficking and Transplant Tourism which was held in Rome this week. In it the participants resolve "to combat these crimes against humanity through comprehensive efforts that involve all stakeholders around the world." Below find the English language statement In accordance with the Resolutions of the United Nations and the World Health Assembly, the 2015 Vatican Summit of mayors from the major cities of the world, the 2014 joint declaration of faith leaders against modern slavery, and the Magisterium of Pope Francis, who in June 2016, at the Judges’ Summit on Human Trafficking and Organized Crime, stated that organ trafficking and human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal are “true crimes against humanity [that] need to be recognized as such by all religious, political and social leaders, and by national and international legislation ,” we, the undersigned participants of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Summit on Organ Trafficking,  resolve to combat these  crimes against humanity through comprehensive efforts that involve all stakeholders around the world. Poverty, unemployment, and the lack of socioeconomic opportunities are factors that make persons vulnerable to organ trafficking and human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal.  Destitute individuals are victimized  in schemes of organ trafficking  when induced to sell their organs in a desperate search for a better life. Similarly, desperate are the patients who are willing to pay large amounts and travel to foreign destinations as transplant tourists to obtain an organ that may keep them alive--- oblivious of the short and long-term health  consequences  of  commercial  transplantation.  Unscrupulous  brokers  and  health  care  professionals  make  organ  trafficking possible,  disregarding the dignity  of human beings. The  operative procedures  are performed  in  unauthorized facilities that clandestinely serve transplant tourists. But organ trafficking  can also occur  at legitimate facilities,  in situations where individuals  who are willing to sell their organs  present themselves  to transplant centers  as a relative  or altruistic friend of the recipient.    The media have made an important  contribution  to  public  understanding  in  highlighting  the  plight  of  trafficked  individuals  by  publishing  their  independent investigations of transplant-related crimes and corrupt healthcare professionals and unregulated facilities. A number of international legal instruments  define,  condemn,  and criminalize these  practices, namely the  United  Nations Protocol against Trafficking in Persons (Palermo Protocol), the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Beings, and the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs. We support these documents,  which assert  that the transplant professionals who commit or abet these crimes should be held legally accountable whether the offenses take place domestically or abroad. The legal instruments  of the recent past are an important link to emerging  innovative policy to combat social inequality.  Trafficking in human beings for the purpose of organ removal and organ trafficking are contrary to the United Nations General Assembly 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an issue of human rights and social justice because the poor are exploited for  their organs and yet not able to receive a transplant if they suffer organ failure. Jeffrey Sachs has written that  “Sustainable development argues that economic policy  works  best  when  it  focuses  simultaneously  on  three  big  issues:  first,  promoting  economic  growth  and  decent  jobs;  second, promoting social fairness to women, the poor, and minority groups; and third, promoting environmental sustainability” . Countries in conflict and without domestic stability can become the locations of transplant-related crimes.   Progress has been made by healthcare professionals aligned with the Declaration of Istanbul to curtail organ trafficking.  Nevertheless, a number of  destinations for transplant tourism remain around the world  where appropriate legislation  to curtail these crimes  and protect the poor and vulnerable do not exist or are poorly enforced. These practices also persist because some states have failed in their responsibility to meet the need of their citizens to obtain an organ transplant.  Thus, aware of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the UN Palermo Protocol  on Human Trafficking, the Resolutions of the World Health  Assembly  (2004  and  2010),  the  Council  of  Europe  Convention  against  Trafficking  in  Human  Beings,  the  Council  of  Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs, the Madrid Resolution on Organ Donation and Transplantation, and the Declaration of Istanbul, and as a result of the data on organ trafficking presented at this PAS Summit on Organ Trafficking, we the undersigned pledge our commitment to combat these illicit and immoral practices as a community of stakeholders fulfilling the directive of Pope Francis to combat human trafficking and organ trafficking in all their condemnable forms. The  following  recommendations  from  the  PAS  Summit  on  Organ  Trafficking  are  proposed  to  national,  regional  and  municipal governments, ministries of health, to the judiciary, to the leaders of the major religions, to professional medical organizations, and to the general public for implementation around the world: 1.  That all nations and all cultures recognize human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal and organ trafficking, which include the use of organs from executed prisoners and payments to donors or the next of kin of deceased donors, as crimes that should be condemned worldwide and legally prosecuted at the national and international level. 2.   That  religious  leaders encourage ethical organ  donation and condemn human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal and organ trafficking. 3.  That nations provide the resources to achieve  self-sufficiency in organ donation at a national level—with regional cooperation as appropriate—by  reducing  the  need  for  transplants  through  preventive  measures  and  improving  access  to  national  transplant programs in an ethical and regulated manner. 4.  That  governments  establish  a  legal framework that  provides  an explicit basis for the  prevention and  prosecution of transplantrelated crimes, and protects  the victims,  regardless of the  location where the  crimes  may have been committed, for example  by becoming a Party to the Council of Europe Convention against Organ Trafficking. 5.   That healthcare professionals perform an ethical and medical review of donors and recipients that takes account of their short- and long-term outcomes. 6.  That  governments  establish registries of  all  organ  procurement and  transplants  performed within their jurisdiction as well as all transplants  involving  their citizens and residents  performed  in another jurisdiction, and share appropriate data with international databanks. 7.   That governments develop a legal framework for healthcare and other professionals to communicate information about suspected cases of transplant-related crimes, while respecting their professional obligations to patients. 8.  That responsible authorities, with the support of the justice system, investigate transplants that are suspected of involving a crime committed within their jurisdiction or committed by their citizens or residents in another jurisdiction. 9.  That  responsible  authorities,  insurance providers, and charities  not cover the costs of  transplant procedures that  involve human trafficking for the purpose of organ removal or organ trafficking. 10.   That  healthcare  professional  organizations  involved  in  transplantation  promote  among  their  members  awareness  of,  and compliance with, legal instruments and international  guidelines against organ trafficking and human trafficking for  the purpose of organ removal. 11.  That the World Health Organization, the Council of Europe, United Nations agencies, including the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and other international bodies cooperate in enabling  a comprehensive collection of information on transplant-related crimes, to yield a clearer understanding of their nature and scope and of the organization of the criminal networks involved.   (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope Francis: Christians must be living signs of hope

Vatican News - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 07:09
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday encouraged the faithful to strive to be living signs of hope for the entire human family. Speaking during the weekly General Audience in the Paul VI Hall, the Pope continued his catechesis on Christian hope, conceding that especially in times of darkness and difficulty, hope is no easy virtue. Quoting from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians he pointed out that Paul encourages the members of the early Church to sustain one another in hope through mutual prayer and practical concern for those in need. “We must help one another, he said, in the many needs of everyday life, but also when we are in need of hope.” And he referred in particular to those who have the responsibility of providing pastoral guidance, whom he said, on the one hand have the force and the strength of a divine ministry, but on the other are in need of the respect, the comprehension and the support of all. Underlining the fact that Christian hope is intensely personal yet also communitarian, the Pope said that help and support must be given especially to the poor, the weak in faith, the suffering and those tempted to despair.   He said that no one can learn to hope on their own, because Christian hope  needs to be “embodied” in a community of mutual support and loving concern. “He who hopes, the Pope said, hopes one day to hear these words: come to me my brother, come to me my sister, for the whole of eternity” he said.  Concluding that the body is the Church and its soul is the Holy Spirit, and conceding that especially in times of darkness and difficulty, hope is no easy virtue, Pope Francis said when the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, it is He who teaches us to trust in the Lord’s provident care and to strive constantly, in our communities, to be living signs of hope for the entire human family.   (from Vatican Radio)...
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Archbishop Gallagher discusses Japan visit

Vatican News - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 07:02
(Vatican Radio) The Secretary for Relations with States in the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, is recently returned from an official visit to Japan. During his trip, Archbishop Gallagher met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and celebrated Mass in the city of Hiroshima. In an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio on his return, the Secretary for Relations with States explained the visit was to return the favor of the visit of Japan’s Foreign Minister to the Vatican in 2016. “It was right to reciprocate [the visit],” he explained, “to build up this cooperation, which exists.” Click below to hear the extended conversation between Alessandro Gisotti and the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher… Archbishop Gallagher also reiterated the common commitment of the Holy See with Japan regarding the elimination of nuclear weapons. “They are – for very personal reasons – obviously working for a nuclear-free world,” he said, “but they do feel the nuclear powers have to be part of that debate,” he continued. “Unless we get the nuclear powers on board,” he continued, “nothing is going to change substantially.” Archbishop Gallagher also spoke of the visit in the broader context of the Holy See’s diplomacy. “I think the Holy Father wishes – in what he refers to as his ‘creative diplomacy’ – he wishes this to be an expression of the Church’s general service and mission,” Archbishop Gallagher said. (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope Francis prays for Myanmar's persecuted Rohingya

Vatican News - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 06:21
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has asked for prayers for the Rohingya people in Myanmar who are persecuted and forced to flee from their homes. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : He delivered his appeal during the weekly General Audience asking those present to join him in prayers “for our Rohingya brothers and sisters who are being chased from Myanmar and are fleeing from one place to another because no one wants them.” “They are good people, they are not Christians, they are peaceful people, they are our brothers and sisters and for years they have been suffering, they are being tortured and killed, simply because they uphold their Muslim faith” he said.  And together with the some 7,000 people present in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican, he prayed the ‘Our Father’ for all exploited and humiliated migrants, and in a special way for the Rohingyas.  Pope Francis was marking the Feast day of Saint Josephine Bakita, herself a Sudanese slave who was freed and went on to become a Canossian religious sister in Italy. She was canonized in the year 2000. Human rights groups have urged Myanmar’s government to back an independent international investigation into alleged abuses by security forces against members of the Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority, including killings, the razing of homes and the reported systematic use of sexual violence. The estimated 1 million Rohingya face official and social discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, also known as Burma. Most do not have citizenship and are regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even when their families have lived in the country for generations. Violence in 2012 forced many to flee their homes, and more than 100,000 still live in squalid refugee camps. (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope calls for action in the fight against human trafficking

Vatican News - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 05:44
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed to government leaders to be strong in the fight against the scourge of human trafficking . Marking Wednesday’s ‘ International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking ’ marked annually on 8 February, and focusing this year on the trafficking of children and adolescents,  the Pope had words of encouragement for all those who in different ways, help minors who have been enslaved and abused to be freed from this terrible oppression. “I urge all those in government positions to combat this scourge with firmness, giving voice to our younger brothers and sisters who have been wounded in their dignity. All efforts must be made to eradicate this shameful and intolerable crime” he said.       He explained that the 'International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking" falls on the feast day of Saint Josephine Bakita : "this enslaved, exploited and humiliated girl in Africa never lost hope" he said  but persevered in her faith and ended up as a migrant in Europe where she heard the call of the Lord and became a nun. Let's pray to Saint Josephine Bakita for all migrants and refugees who are exploited and suffer so much". The Pope also recalled the beatification on Tuesday in Japan of Justo Takayama Ukon , a Japanese lay person who died a martyr in Manila in 1615. “Rather than bowing to compromise, he renounced honor and wealth, and accepted humiliation and exile. He remained faithful to Christ and to the Gospel” he said. For this reason, the Pope said, “he represents an admirable example of strength in faith and dedication in charity.”  Pope Francis also mentioned the upcoming ‘ 25th World Day of the Sick ’ in memory of Our Lady of Lourdes. He said the main celebration will take place on Saturday in Lourdes and will be presided over by the Cardinal Secretary of State.  He concluded asking for prayers for all sick people, especially those are in grave condition and are alone, and also for those who care for them.     (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope at Mass: ‘God created us as children in His image’

Vatican News - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 07:47
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday said that God created man in His image, made him lord of the earth, and gave him a woman at his side to love. The Pope’s words on these three gifts of God in Creation came during his homily at daily Mass in the Casa Santa Marta. Listen to Devin Watkins’ report: The Holy Father’s homily at Mass focused on the verses of Psalm 8: "Lord, what is man that you are mindful of him? Yet you have made him little less than a god, crowned him with glory and honor,” and on the Book of Genesis’ account of the Creation of man and woman. God has given us the DNA of children, in His image The Pope spoke about the first of three great gifts, which God gave humanity in creation. "First of all, He gave us His 'DNA', that is, He made us children, created us in His image, in His image and likeness, like Him. And when one makes a child, he cannot take it back: the son is made, he exists. And whether or not he carries resembles the father, he is a son; he has received his identity. If the child is good, his father is proud of that son, right?, 'Look at how good he is!'. And even if he is a little ugly, the father in any case says: 'Isn’t he beautiful!', because a father is like this. Always. And if the son is bad, the father justifies him, waiting for him ... Jesus taught us how a father waits for his children. He gave us the identity of a child: to 'man and woman', we must add the identity of ‘child’. We 'are like gods', because we are children of God." The Earth is entrusted to humanity to preserve it through work God’s second gift in Creation, Pope Francis said, is a ‘task’: God ‘gave us all the earth’, to ‘dominate’ and ‘subdue’, as the account in Genesis narrates. God therefore has given humanity a certain ‘royalty’, he added, because God does not want a ‘slave’ but ‘a lord, a king’, entrusted with a task: "As [God] worked in Creation, He has given us work, the work of advancing Creation. Not to destroy it; but to make it grow, to care for it, to keep it and make it carry on. He gave everything. It’s funny, I sometimes think, ‘He did not give us money.’ We have everything. Who gave us money? I don’t know. Grandmothers have this saying that ‘the devil enters through the pocket’. This may be… God gave humanity all of Creation to preserve it and care for it: this is the gift. And finally, 'God created mankind in His image, male and female He created them.'" Love: God’s third gift in Creation Pope Francis went on to explore the third and final gift, love, beginning with the love shared between a man and a woman. “Male and female He created them. It is not good for the man to be alone. And He made his partner,” the Pope said. In love, God gives man love and a "dialogue of love", which, the Holy Father said, must have been the first between man and woman. The Pope concluded with a look at Creation, thanking God for these three gifts given in Creation. "Let us thank God for these three gifts He has given us: an identity, a gift/duty, and love. And let us ask for the grace to preserve this identity of a child, to work with the gift He has given us and to advance this gift with our work, and the grace to learn to love ever more each day." (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope's Lenten message: The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift

Vatican News - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 07:08
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ Lenten message was released on Tuesday entitled “The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift.” Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s report Below find the English language translation of Pope Francis’ Lenten message. The Word is a gift. Other persons are a gift. Dear Brothers and Sisters,             Lent is a new beginning, a path leading to the certain goal of Easter, Christ’s victory over death. This season urgently calls us to conversion. Christians are asked to return to God “with all their hearts” (Joel 2:12), to refuse to settle for mediocrity and to grow in friendship with the Lord. Jesus is the faithful friend who never abandons us.  Even when we sin, he patiently awaits our return; by that patient expectation, he shows us his readiness to forgive (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).             Lent is a favorable season for deepening our spiritual life through the means of sanctification offered us by the Church: fasting, prayer and almsgiving. At the basis of everything is the word of God, which during this season we are invited to hear and ponder more deeply. I would now like to consider the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lk 16:19-31). Let us find inspiration in this meaningful story, for it provides a key to understanding what we need to do in order to attain true happiness and eternal life.  It exhorts us to sincere conversion.   The other person is a gift             The parable begins by presenting its two main characters.  The poor man is described in greater detail: he is wretched and lacks the strength even to stand. Lying before the door of the rich man, he fed on the crumbs falling from his table. His body is full of sores and dogs come to lick his wounds (cf. vv. 20-21). The picture is one of great misery; it portrays a man disgraced and pitiful.             The scene is even more dramatic if we consider that the poor man is called Lazarus: a name full of promise, which literally means “God helps”. This character is not anonymous. His features are clearly delineated and he appears as an individual with his own story. While practically invisible to the rich man, we see and know him as someone familiar. He becomes a face, and as such, a gift, a priceless treasure, a human being whom God loves and cares for, despite his concrete condition as an outcast (cf. Homily, 8 January 2016).             Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbor or an anonymous pauper. Lent is a favorable season for opening the doors to all those in need and recognizing in them the face of Christ. Each of us meets people like this every day. Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love. The word of God helps us to open our eyes to welcome and love life, especially when it is weak and vulnerable. But in order to do this, we have to take seriously what the Gospel tells us about the rich man.   Sin blinds us             The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man (cf. v. 19). Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called “a rich man”. His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (cf. Jer 10:9) and kings (cf. Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: “He feasted sumptuously every day” (v. 19). In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride (cf. Homily, 20 September 2013).             The Apostle Paul tells us that “the love of money is the root of all evils” (1 Tim 6:10).  It is the main cause of corruption and a source of envy, strife and suspicion. Money can come to dominate us, even to the point of becoming a tyrannical idol (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 55). Instead of being an instrument at our service for doing good and showing solidarity towards others, money can chain us and the entire world to a selfish logic that leaves no room for love and hinders peace.             The parable then shows that the rich man’s greed makes him vain. His personality finds expression in appearances, in showing others what he can do. But his appearance masks an interior emptiness. His life is a prisoner to outward appearances, to the most superficial and fleeting aspects of existence (cf. ibid., 62).             The lowest rung of this moral degradation is pride. The rich man dresses like a king and acts like a god, forgetting that he is merely mortal. For those corrupted by love of riches, nothing exists beyond their own ego. Those around them do not come into their line of sight. The result of attachment to money is a sort of blindness.  The rich man does not see the poor man who is starving, hurting, lying at his door.             Looking at this character, we can understand why the Gospel so bluntly condemns the love of money: “No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money” (Mt 6:24).   The Word is a gift             The Gospel of the rich man and Lazarus helps us to make a good preparation for the approach of Easter. The liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to an experience quite similar to that of the rich man. When the priest imposes the ashes on our heads, he repeats the words: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. As it turned out, the rich man and the poor man both died, and the greater part of the parable takes place in the afterlife. The two characters suddenly discover that “we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it” (1 Tim 6:7).             We too see what happens in the afterlife. There the rich man speaks at length with Abraham, whom he calls “father” (Lk 16:24.27), as a sign that he belongs to God’s people. This detail makes his life appear all the more contradictory, for until this moment there had been no mention of his relation to God. In fact, there was no place for God in his life. His only god was himself.             The rich man recognizes Lazarus only amid the torments of the afterlife. He wants the poor man to alleviate his suffering with a drop of water. What he asks of Lazarus is similar to what he could have done but never did. Abraham tells him: “During your life you had your fill of good things, just as Lazarus had his fill of bad. Now he is being comforted here while you are in agony” (v. 25). In the afterlife, a kind of fairness is restored and life’s evils are balanced by good.             The parable goes on to offer a message for all Christians. The rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers, who are still alive.  But Abraham answers: “They have Moses and the prophets, let them listen to them” (v. 29). Countering the rich man’s objections, he adds: “If they will not listen either to Moses or to the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead” (v. 31).             The rich man’s real problem thus comes to the fore.  At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbor. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.             Dear friends, Lent is the favorable season for renewing our encounter with Christ, living in his word, in the sacraments and in our neighbor. The Lord, who overcame the deceptions of the Tempter during the forty days in the desert, shows us the path we must take. May the Holy Spirit lead us on a true journey of conversion, so that we can rediscover the gift of God’s word, be purified of the sin that blinds us, and serve Christ present in our brothers and sisters in need. I encourage all the faithful to express this spiritual renewal also by sharing in the Lenten Campaigns promoted by many Church organizations in different parts of the world, and thus to favor the culture of encounter in our one human family. Let us pray for one another so that, by sharing in the victory of Christ, we may open our doors to the weak and poor. Then we will be able to experience and share to the full the joy of Easter.               From the Vatican, 18 October 2016             Feast of Saint Luc the Evangelist (from Vatican Radio)...
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Holy See calls on UN to address economic, social, spiritual poverty

Vatican News - Tue, 02/07/2017 - 04:39
(Vatican Radio)  The Holy See’s representative to the United Nations has told a commission for social development that world leaders must address “not only economic poverty but also social and spiritual poverty with policies and investments that people can see and touch”. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer to the UN, addressed the 55th Session of the Commission for Social Development on Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all. He said, “Wars and conflicts are the main causes of forced migrations and massive displacements of populations. Thus, putting an end to violent conflicts must become our priority, if we are to eradicate poverty and build lasting peace.” Archbishop Auza also said working with young people on education, jobs, and opportunities encourages their “personal growth and provide them a place in society to make meaningful contributions” so as not to “fall prey to extremist ideologies”. “While recognizing that poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda also recognizes that poverty cannot be reduced to economics,” he said. Please find below the full text of Archbishop Auza’s address: Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, during the 55th Session of the Commission for Social Development Agenda Item 3 (a): Strategies for eradicating poverty to achieve sustainable development for all New York, 2 February 2017 Mr. Chair, At the outset, my delegation wishes to congratulate you and your bureau on your election to the Commission this year. It is the first year that the Commission has been tasked by the Economic and Social Council with providing substantive inputs to the high-level political forum in the area of social development, and so our discussions take on added importance. The focus of this year’s High-level Political Forum in July also fits perfectly within our priority theme for the 55th Session, providing the Commission with a particular opportunity to address poverty eradication by focusing on its social dimensions, a critical element that is often overlooked. Mr. Chair, While recognizing that poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, the 2030 Agenda also recognizes that poverty cannot be reduced to economics. Instead, it calls on the international community to “address poverty in all its forms and dimensions” in order to ensure that “all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment”. It goes even further in recognizing that poverty eradication is intimately linked with commitments to “combating inequality within and among countries”, “preserving the planet”, “fostering social inclusion” and ultimately “building peaceful societies.” During his annual address to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis similarly recognized that “civil progress” combined with concrete “economic development”, is the only road to peace. Peace, he continued, is an “active virtue, one that calls for the engagement and cooperation of each individual and society as a whole.” Mr. Chair, Unfortunately, for many people today, as was also recently emphasized by Pope Francis, “peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted, for all intents [it is considered] an acquired right to which not much thought is given. Yet, for all too many others, peace remains merely a distant dream.” As we know far too well, millions of people currently find themselves living amid conflicts, fueled by senseless violence, hatred and fear. Even in places that we once considered secure, lack of opportunity and the economic and social strains caused by global insecurity and forced migrations have left the world less stable and in desperate need of concrete signs of hope. Mr. Chair, Wars and conflicts are the main causes of forced migrations and massive displacements of populations. Thus, putting an end to violent conflicts must become our priority, if we are to eradicate poverty and build lasting peace. This means addressing not only economic poverty but also social and spiritual poverty with policies and investments that people can see and touch. First and foremost, we must work to provide young people with education, jobs and opportunities that encourage their personal growth and provide them a place in society to make meaningful contributions. Such investments ensure not only that our youth can provide for themselves and their families — but that they can contribute to building a culture of peace; for, when our youth know they are valued and belong, they will not fall prey to extremist ideologies. Additionally, we must also find ways to address the needs of the most marginalized in our societies, such as our elderly who have not only contributed to society's economic wealth but who continue to generate social wealth through experience and knowledge. Here again, the role of the family is crucial; it also happens to be the most cost effective social safety net that society can offer, especially when supported by tax credits or other targeted government policies that allow the family to provide supports that would otherwise become the responsibility of the State. Finally, sustainable development for all should embrace migrants, displaced persons and refugees. Not only must we respect the right of every person to migrate, but we must also cooperate to make investments that ensure they are integrated fully into the societies in which they are received without, as Pope Francis reminds us, “the latter sensing that their security, cultural identity and political-social stability are threatened.” Mr. Chair, Not unlike poverty eradication, “peace will never be achieved once and for all, but must be built up continually.” Thus let us take advantage of the work of this Commission to identify and support those best practices that will contribute most toward making progress on the challenging road that lies before us. (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope Francis at Mass: be open, receptive to God's gifts

Vatican News - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 09:13
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta on Monday morning. In remarks to the faithful following the readings of the day, the Holy Father focused on the theme of Christian freedom, saying that the follower of Christ is a “slave” – but of love, not of duty, and urging the faithful not to hide in the “rigidity” of the Commandments. Click below to hear our report   The Pope took the Responsorial Psalm, 103 (104) as his starting point: a “song of praise” to God for His wonders. “The Father,” said Pope Francis, “works to make this wonder of creation and with His Son to accomplish this wonder of re-creation.” Pope Francis also recalled an episode in which a child asked him what God was doing before He created the world: “He was loving,” was the response. Open your heart, do not take refuge in the rigidity of the Commandments Why then did God create the world? “Simply to share His fullness,” Francis said. “To have someone to whom [to give] and with whom to share His fullness.” In the re-creation, God sends His Son to “set things right” – to make “the ugly one handsome, of the mistake a true [cast], of the villain a good guy”: “When Jesus says: ‘The Father is always at work: I, too, am always at work,’ the teachers of the law were scandalized and wanted to kill him for this. Why? Because they could not receive the things of God as a gift! Only as Justice: ‘These are the Commandments: but they are few, let’s make more. And instead of opening their heart to the gift, they hid, have sought refuge in the rigidity of the Commandments, which they had multiplied up to 500 or more ... They did not know how to receive the gift – and the gift is only received with freedom – and these rigid characters were afraid of the freedom that God gives us: they were afraid of love.” The Christian is a slave of love, not of duty The Pope went on to note that it was after that, that the Gospels tell us, “They wanted to kill Jesus.” To this, he added, “Because he said that the Father made this wonder as a gift:  receive the gift of the Father!”: “And that is why today we have praised the Father: ‘You are great, O Lord! I love you so much, for you have given this gift. You saved me, you created me.’ And this is the prayer of praise, the prayer of joy, the prayer that gives us the joy of the Christian life. And not the closed, sad  prayer of the person who never knew how to receive a gift because he is afraid of freedom that always carries with it a gift. Such a one knows only how to do duty, but closed duty. Slaves of duty, but not love:  when you become a slave of love, you are free! It is a beautiful bondage that, but such men did not understand that.” Ask how we receive the gift of redemption and forgiveness of God Here, then, are the “two wonders of the Lord,” he went on to say: “the wonder of creation and the wonder of redemption, the re-creation.” The he asked, “How do I receive this gift that God has given me – creation? And if I receive it as a gift, do I love creation, do I care for the created order?” The reason, he stressed, is that it is a gift: “How do I receive the redemption, the forgiveness that God has given me, the making of me a son with His Son? Lovingly, tenderly, with freedom? Or do I hide in the rigidity of the closed Commandments, that are more and more “safe” – with emphasis on the scare-quotes – but that do not give joy, because they does not make you free. Each of us ought to ask himself wonder how he is experiencing these two wonders: the wonder of creation and even greater wonder of re-creation. May the Lord make us understand this great thing and make us understand what He was doing before creating the world: He was loving. Let us understand His love for us, and may we say – as we said today: ‘Lord, you are great! Thank you, thank you!’ Let us go forward like this. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

German Catholics and Lutherans take new steps towards unity

Vatican News - Mon, 02/06/2017 - 09:13
(Vatican Radio) The 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation offers Catholics and Lutherans an opportunity to take further steps towards reconciliation and full Christian unity. That was Pope Francis ’ message on Monday to an ecumenical delegation from Germany, led by Cardinal Reinhard Marx , president of the German bishops conference, and top Protestant Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm , chairman of the Evangelical Churches in Germany (EKD). Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:  Welcoming the delegation to the Vatican, Pope Francis praised the positive relationship between Catholics and Lutherans in Germany, urging them to be courageous and determined in their continuing journey together. “We share the same baptism”, he said, “we must walk together tirelessly!” Reflecting on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation , he said it’s an opportunity to put Christ back at the centre of their ecumenical relations. Just as the question of a merciful God was the driving force of Luther and the other Reformers, so it must be at the heart of our joint efforts to propose the radical truth of God’s limitless mercy to men and women today. Speaking of the tragedy of divisions and conflict, fomented by political interests, the Pope praised the initiative of the German delegation to hold an ecumenical service of penitence and reconciliation entitled “Healing memories – witnessing to Jesus Christ”.  Catholics and Lutherans will also be participating in other joint events this year, he said, including a shared pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a congress to present new translations of the Bible and an ecumenical day dedicated to shared social responsibility. Thanks to a shared spiritual communion that has been rediscovered over recent decades, the Pope said, Catholics and Lutherans can together deplore the failures of the Reformation on both sides, as well as appreciating the many gifts which we have received from it. The current challenges of faith and morals facing our Churches today, Pope Francis concluded, impel us to step up our efforts and increase our cooperation in the service of the poor and the protection of our planet. In a period of serious divisions and new forms of exclusion, he said, we are urgently called by God to follow the path of unity and reconciliation.German  (from Vatican Radio)...
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