(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has once again appealed for peace in Syria. At his General Audience on Wednesday, the Pope said, “dramatic news continues to reach me concerning the fate of the people of Aleppo, with whom, through prayer and spiritual closeness, I feel united in suffering.”
The Holy Father continued, “In expressing my deep sorrow and lively concern for what is happening in that already battered city – where children, the elderly, the sick, young and old, all are dying – I renew my appeal to everyone to commit themselves with all their strength to the protection of civilians as an imperative and urgent obligation.”
Departing from his prepared text, Pope Francis appealed directly to those responsible for the bombing, warning them that they will be “accountable to God” for their actions.
Since a ceasefire collapsed last week, rebel-held areas of Aleppo have been heavily bombarded, raising international concern over the plight of their 250,000 residents. On Wednesday morning, the Syrian military announced it was launching "concentrated air strikes" in Aleppo and nearby areas, targeting insurgent-held areas in the surrounding countryside.
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis spoke about “Forgiveness on the Cross.”
Below, please find the English language summary of the Pope’s catechesis for the weekly General Audience:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: Jesus’ words during His Passion culminate in forgiveness: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). For the good thief, these are not mere words, for Jesus truly forgives him. For the bad thief, however, it is inconceivable that the Messiah would remain on the Cross and not save Himself. But it is precisely by remaining on the Cross that Jesus offers salvation to every person regardless of their situation. This Jubilee Year is a time of grace and mercy for all, the good and the bad, those in health and those who suffer. It is a time to remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God (cf. Rm 8:39). To all those sick in hospital, who live within the walls of a prison, or who are trapped by war, we are called to look to Christ Crucified on the Cross, who is God with us, who remains with us on the Cross and who offers Himself as our Saviour. The good thief helps us to understand how we should approach God: with awe and not fear, with respect for God’s power and infinite goodness. When we approach Him in this way, we entrust ourselves to His mercy, even in the darkest of moments. For God is always with us sinners, and He loves us even to death on the Cross. Let us see in the good thief a model of confidence in the Lord and, like him, let us call upon Jesus’ name and ask Him to remember us in Paradise.
Greetings to pilgrims:
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, South Africa, Australia, Canada and the United States of America. I extend a special welcome to the seminarians of the Pontifical North American College and their families gathered here for the Ordination to the Diaconate to be celebrated tomorrow. May God bless you all!
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with members of the World Jewish Congress on Monday evening.
An article published on Tuesday by the Vatican newspaper, the 'Osservatore Romano', highlighted how the Holy Father spoke about a series of issues pertaining to inter faith relations and the current migration crisis on the European continent.
“Europe often forgets that it has been enriched by migrants,” – Pope Francis said – “Europe is closing itself up. Europe is lacking creativity. Europe has a falling birth rate, and problems of high unemployment.”
Pope Francis also spoke about migrants integrating into their new surroundings, which he called “important.”
“The people who committed the terrorist attacks in Belgium were not properly integrated,” he said.
Pope Francis also reiterated a good Christian could not be an anti-Semite, and said Christians and Jews must speak out against brutality in the world.
“We need more friendliness and kindness, and we should not be afraid to speak out against brutality,” – the Holy Father said – “We should go on a joint journey together to make the world more secure. We need to speak out for peace.”
The World Jewish Congress includes the heads of Jewish communities in Europe and the Americas, and in light of the upcoming Rosh Hashana holiday, Pope Francis wished the Jewish world a happy new year.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said silence and prayer is the way to overcome our darkest moments, rather than resorting to pills or alcoholic drinks to escape from our woes. His comments came during his homily at the morning Mass celebrated on Tuesday at the Santa Marta residence.
Listen to this report by Susy Hodges:
Taking his cue from the day’s first reading where Job was living through a spiritual desolation and was giving vent to his sorrows before God, the Pope’s homily focused on these dark moments of spiritual desolation that all of us experience at some point and explained how we can overcome them. He said although Job was in deep trouble and had lost everything he did not curse God and his outburst was that of “a son in front of his father.”
All of us sooner or later experience a spiritual darkness
“Spiritual desolation is something that happens to all of us: it can be stronger or weaker … but that feeling of spiritual darkness, of hopelessness, mistrust, lacking the desire to live, without seeing the end of the tunnel, with so much agitation in one’s heart and in one’s ideas… Spiritual desolation makes us feel as though our souls are crushed, we can’t succeed, we can’t succeed and we also don’t want to live: ‘Death is better!’ This was Job’s outburst. It was better to die than live like this. We need to understand that when our soul is in this state of generalized sadness we can barely breathe: This happens to all of us… whether strong or not ….. to all of us. (We need to) understand what goes on in our hearts.”
Pope Francis went on to pose the question: “What should we do when we experience these dark moments, be it for a family tragedy, an illness, something that weighs us down?.” Noting that some people would think of taking a pill to sleep and remove them from their problems or drinking one, two, three or four glasses” he warned that these methods “do not help.” Instead, today’s liturgy shows us how to cope with this spiritual desolation, “when we are lukewarm, depressed and without hope.”
The Pope said the way out from this situation is to pray, to pray loudly, just as Job did, day and night until God listens.
“It is a prayer to knock at the door but with strength! ‘Lord, my soul is surfeited with troubles. My life draws near to Hell. I am numbered among those who go down into the pit; I am a man without strength.’ How many times have we felt like this, without strength? And here is the prayer. Our Lord himself taught us how to pray in these dreadful moments. ‘Lord, you have plunged me into the bottom of the pit. Upon me, your wrath lies heavy. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ This is the prayer and this is how we should pray in our darkest, most dreadful, bleakest and most crushed moments that are really crushing us. This is genuine prayer. And it’s also giving vent just like Job did with his sons. Like a son.”
Silence, closeness and prayer is how to help those who are suffering
The importance of silence, being close and using prayer was stressed by Pope Francis who said that was the correct way for friends to behave when faced with those who are undergoing dark moments, warning words and speeches in these situations can do harm.
“First of all, we must recognize in ourselves these moments of spiritual desolation, when we are in the dark, without hope and asking ourselves why. Secondly, we must pray to the Lord like today’s reading from Psalm 87 teaches us to pray during our dark moments. ‘Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ Thirdly, when I draw close to a person who is suffering, whether from illness, or whatever other type of suffering and who is experiencing a sense of desolation, we must be silent: but a silence with much love, closeness and caresses. And we must not make speeches that don’t help in the end and even can do harm.”
The Pope concluded his homily by asking the Lord to grant us these three graces: the grace to recognize spiritual desolation, the grace to pray when we are afflicted by this feeling of spiritual desolation and also the grace to know how to be close to people who are suffering terrible moments of sadness and spiritual desolation.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican told the United Nations on Monday “nuclear arms offer a false sense of security, and that the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion.”
“Nuclear weapons cannot create for us a stable and secure world,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.
He was speaking at an event marking the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.
“Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of total annihilation,” the Vatican diplomat said.
The full statement of Archbishop Auza can be found below
Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
at the High-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote
The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
New York, 26 September 2016
The Holy See fervently hopes that this annual commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will contribute to breaking the deadlock that has beset the United Nations’ disarmament machinery for far too long now.
In February 1943, two years and a half before the Trinity test, Pope Piu XII had already voiced deep concern regarding the violent use of atomic energy. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki and given the totally uncontrollable and indiscriminate consequences of nuclear weapons, Pope Pius XII demanded the effective proscription and banishment of atomic warfare, calling the arms race a costly relationship of mutual terror. The Holy See has maintained this position ever since the advent of nuclear weapons.
My delegation believes that nuclear arms offer a false sense of security, and that the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion. Nuclear weapons cannot create for us a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of total annihilation. The Holy See believes that peace cannot be solely the maintaining of a balance of power. On the contrary, as Pope Francis affirmed, “Peace must be built on justice, socio-economic development, freedom, respect for human rights, the participation of all in public affairs and the building of trust between peoples.”
Lasting peace thus requires that all must strive for progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament.
The Holy See has been a Party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since the very beginning, in order to encourage nuclear possessing States to abolish their nuclear weapons, to dissuade non-nuclear possessing States from acquiring or developing nuclear capabilities, and to encourage international cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear material. While firmly believing that the NPT remains vital to international peace and security and regretting deeply our collective failure to move forward with a positive disarmament agenda, the Holy See will continue to argue against both the possession and the use of nuclear weapons, until the total elimination of nuclear weapons is achieved.
Indeed, the Holy See considers it a moral and humanitarian imperative to advance the efforts towards the final objective of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Disarmament treaties are not just legal obligations; they are also moral commitments based on trust between States, rooted in the trust that citizens place in their governments. If commitments to nuclear disarmament are not made in good faith and consequently result in breaches of trust, the proliferation of such weapons would be the logical corollary.
For our own good and that of future generations, we have no reasonable or moral option other than the abolition of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are a global problem and they impact all countries and all peoples, including future generations. Increasing interdependence and globalization demand that whatever response we make to the threat of nuclear weapons be collective and concerted, based on reciprocal trust, and within a framework of general and complete disarmament, as Art. VI of the NPT demands. Moreover, there is the real and present danger that nuclear weapons and other arms of mass destruction would fall into the hands of extremist terrorist groups and other violent non-state actors.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls upon all of us to embark on the implementation of the daunting ambition to better every life, especially those who have been and are left behind. It would be naïve and myopic if we sought to assure world peace and security through nuclear weapons rather than through the eradication of extreme poverty, increased accessibility to healthcare and education, and the promotion of peaceful institutions and societies through dialogue and solidarity.
No one could ever say that a world without nuclear weapons is easily achievable. It is not; it is extremely arduous; to some, it may even appear utopian. But there is no alternative than to work unceasingly towards its achievement.
Let me conclude by reaffirming the conviction that Pope Francis expressed in his December 2014 message to the President of the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons: “I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, on Monday celebrated a Liturgy of the Word in Cartagena to mark the signing of the Final Agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Marxist FARC rebels which aims to end decades of conflict which have left nearly 250,000 people dead, and displaced millions of others.
In his homily, the Cardinal said Pope Francis has followed “with great attention” and encouraged “the efforts of recent years in search of harmony and reconciliation.”
“The Pope has always encouraged respect for human rights and Christian values, which are at the center of the Colombian culture,” Cardinal Parolin continued.
The Cardinal said he hoped the signing of the Agreement would “ease the pain of those many people who have been humiliated and oppressed by the violence [of the conflict], stop hatred, and change the course of history to build a better future with strong and just institutions.”
“The safest way to begin a better future is to reconstruct the dignity of those who suffer, and to do this you need to approach them without delay, to the point where you can identify with them,” – Cardinal Parolin continued – “In fact, the root causes of this conflict which in recent decades has torn apart this country can be found in the wounds of the heart.”
He concluded his remarks by speaking of the importance of religious institutions for the peace of the nation.
“Religions lead to listening, to understanding and to recognizing the reasons for and the value of the other,” – Cardinal Parolin said – “Faith is opposed to harming the dignity of the person which causes the tearing of the civil fabric, and is not contrary to secularism, understood as respect for the various fields of competence belonging to the civil and spiritual realities.”
The Cardinal continued by saying “secularism has need of faith as a necessary reference point for coexistence and for respect.”
“The Catholic Church, in particular, promotes peaceful social coexistence, in accordance with the spiritual tradition of the people of Colombia, without claiming that all belong to the same religious confession,” – he said – “It offers points of reference so that individuals and communities are able to find and illuminate the common good.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) At a briefing for journalists at the Holy See press office on Monday, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke gave details of Pope Francis’ forthcoming three day visit to the republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. It’ll be his 16th pastoral visit outside Italy and it’ll be focused on the themes of peace and brotherhood, following on from the message of peace that he took with him to the neighbouring republic of Armenia last June.
The Pope is scheduled to leave the Vatican on Friday morning, headed for the Georgian capital Tbilisi. His first encounter there will be with the president, with government authorities and representatives of civil society gathered at the imposing presidential palace. From there he goes on to meet the country’s Orthodox leader Patriarch Elia, who was also on hand for Pope John Paul II’s visit to the newly independent nation back in 1999.
The final event on Friday will be a visit to the Syro-Chaldean church of St Simon the Tanner, one of three different rites making up the small Catholic community in the former Soviet nation. The pope will join Syro-Chaldean bishops from around the world there to pray for peace in Syria and Iraq.
Pope Francis begins the following day with Mass at a stadium in Tbilisi named after one of Georgia’s most famous footballers. Significantly, a delegation from the Orthodox Patriarchate will also be present at the Mass, a sign of growing friendship despite the many doctrinal difficulties that continue to divide leaders of the two Churches.
In the afternoon, the Pope will meet with priests, religious and seminarians at one of the two Catholic parishes in the capital, before greeting several hundred disabled and vulnerable people being cared for by members of the Camilian order. The Pope’s final event in Georgia will be a visit to the patriarchal cathedral in the nearby ancient city of Mtshketa, listed as one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites.
On the final day of the trip, Pope Francis flies from Tbilisi to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan where he’ll celebrate Mass for the tiny Catholic community at the only parish church run by the Salesian order. In the afternoon he’ll make a courtesy visit to the president and meet the region’s Muslim leader, Sheik Allashukur Pashazade, before taking part in an interfaith encounter with representatives of all the other religious communities in the country.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received Monday in audience in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, His Excellency Joseph Kabila, who subsequently met with His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.
In a statement, the Holy See's Press Office said during the "cordial discussions," the good relations between the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were evoked, "with particular reference to the important contribution of the Catholic Church in the life of the nation, with its institutions in the educational, social and healthcare spheres, as well as in development and the reduction of poverty. In this context, mutual satisfaction was expressed for the signing of the framework Agreement between the Holy See and the State, which took place on 20 May this year."
Particular attention was paid, the comunique continues, "to the serious challenges placed by the current political challenge and the recent clashes that have occurred in the capital. Emphasis was placed on the importance of collaboration between political actors and representatives of civil society and religious communities, in favour of the common good, through a respectful and inclusive dialogue for the stability of peace in the country."
Finally, the Parties focused on the persistent violence suffered by the population in the east of the country, and on the urgency of cooperation at national and international levels, in order to provide the necessary assistance and to re-establish civil co-existence.
Watch a video report of the Pope's meeting with President Kabila:
(from Vatican Radio)...