(Vatican Radio) Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Vatican representative to the United Nations in Geneva, on Friday addressed the Human Rights Council on the 'moral obligation' of universal access to medicines.
He said policy coherence is necessary to achieve this goal.
"In relation to pursuing of the double goals of access to medicines and necessary medical innovation, policy coherence is fundamental for effective, sustainable and equitable progress towards universal health coverage and improved health outcomes for all."
"In order to promote human dignity and to adopt policies rooted in a human rights approach," Archbishop Jurkovič said, "we need to confront and remove barriers, such as monopolies and oligopolies, lack of access and affordability and, in particular, both overwhelming and unacceptable human greed."
Please find below the full text of the address:
Statement by H.E. Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva 34th Session of the Human Rights Council – Item 3 General Debate “Access to Medicines” Geneva, 10 March 2017
Mr. President, With regard to the right of everyone to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, my Delegation wishes to raise additional concerns regarding the need for effective action in order to guarantee universal access to medicines, vaccines, diagnostics and medical devices. Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and of human labour is not mere philanthropy.
This is a moral obligation. In relation to pursuing of the double goals of access to medicines and necessary medical innovation, policy coherence is fundamental for effective, sustainable and equitable progress towards universal health coverage and improved health outcomes for all. The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) created an enabling framework for progress toward the achievement of both access and innovation. SDG 3, in particular, includes the targets to support “the research and development of vaccines and medicine for the communicable and non-communicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries” and to provide “access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines, in accordance with the Doha Declaration on TRIPs Agreement and Public Health”. In this sense, the Holy See appreciates the entry into force, last January, of the amendment to the TRIPs Agreement. The amendment provides a secure and legal pathway to access affordable medicines and helps the most vulnerable access treatments that meet their needs, including those related to HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, as well as other epidemics. Access to affordable medicines no longer represents a challenge only for the Least Developed and other developing countries; it has also become an increasingly urgent issue for higher-income countries as well. States find themselves unable to combat antimicrobial resistance. Moreover, developing countries are confronted with a serious lack of new medicines, especially as public health budgets have been constrained worldwide. Mr. President, As we all are aware, health is a fundamental human right, essential for the exercise of many other rights, and necessary for living a life in dignity. Therefore, the Catholic Church provides a major contribution to health care in all parts of the world – through local churches, religious institutions and private initiatives, which act on their own responsibility and with respect of the law of each country.
These include the sustenance of 5,158 hospitals, 1 6,523 dispensaries and clinics, 61 2 leprosaria, and 15,679 homes for the elderly, the chronically ill, or disabled people. With firsthand information coming from these facilities in some of the poorest, isolated, and marginalized communities, my Delegation is obliged to report that the rights detailed in the international instruments and in the SDGs already mentioned are far from being realized. Mr. President, Pope Francis decries the selfishness and short-term thinking that sabotage progress on saving the environment, on peace building, and on public health crises as well. He insists on dialogue “as the only way to confront the problems of our world and to seek solutions that are truly effective”.  Authentic dialogue is honest and transparent. It does not permit the interests of individual countries, or specific interest groups, to dominate discussions. “Science and technology are not neutral”.  It is our moral obligation to seek, fight and build a better future that we are expected to deliver for our future generations. “There is also the fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities. There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing sense that the way to a better future lies elsewhere”.  In order to promote human dignity and to adopt policies rooted in a human rights approach, we need to confront and remove barriers, such as monopolies and oligopolies, lack of access and affordability and, in particular, both overwhelming and unacceptable human greed. If we fully intend to build a better world and future for the generations that will come after us, we must remedy and correct the misalignments and policy incoherence between the intellectual property rights of inventors, innovators or manufacturers and the human rights of human persons. As such, trade could be considered in the context of public health and access to technologies and thus be closely linked to both the fundamental human rights to health and to life. All our efforts must be directed to ensure human dignity, quality of health and life and to the building of a better world for the generations to come. Thank you, Mr. President.
1. Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the Meeting Sponsored by the "Foundation for Sustainable Development" on “Environment Justice and Climate Change”, 11 September 2015.
2. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter, Laudato Sì, n. 114.
3. Ibid., n. 113.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican announced Friday that Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Journey to Colombia from 6 to 11 September 2017.
Listen to our report:
A communique from the Holy See Press Office confirmed that the Holy Father will visit the cities of Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellín, and Cartagena:
“Accepting the invitation of the President of the Republic and the Colombian bishops, His Holiness the Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Trip to Colombia from 6 to 11 September 2017, visiting the cities of Bogotá, Villavicencio, Medellín and Cartagena. The programme for the trip will be published shortly.”
Official Logo and Motto
The logo of the Journey contains the motto of the Pope’s Apostolic Journey: “Let’s take the first step” [Demos el primer paso].
A message accompanying the logo says the words refer to "the more than 50 years of violence" which divided Colombia.
“The visit of Pope Francis to Colombia is a moment of grace and happiness in order to dream about the possibility of transforming our country and taking the first step. The Holy Father is a missionary of reconciliation.”
The message goes on to say the logo represents the Pope’s visit “with the image of the Holy Father walking, as a symbol of action, taking a step to begin to build and to dream, because every change begins with the conversion of the heart (individual) and every change requires a moment to return to encountering one another (collective). It is the moment in our history to discover our identity as a country, which is reflected in the depiction of Colombia’s pre-Columbian figure.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) On Friday morning, in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, the Preacher to the Pontifical Household, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., delivered the first sermon for Lent 2017.
The theme of this year’s series of Lenten homilies is “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3) – the Holy Spirit introduces us to the ‘fullness of the truth’ about Jesus and about His Paschal mystery.”
Below, please find the full text of Fr Raniero Cantalamessa’s First Sermon for Lent 2017 (delivered in Italian; English translation courtesy of Marsha Daigle-Williamson):
THE HOLY SPIRIT LEADS US INTO THE MYSTERY
OF THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST
1. “He will bear witness to me”
One thing impressed me while reading the initial prayer of the Mass of the First Sunday of Lent this year. We don’t pray that God the Father give us the strength to accomplish one of the classic Lenten works: fasting, praying, doing charity; we ask rather to “grow in the knowledge of the mystery of Christ.” I believe that this is indeed the most important and most acceptable work in God’s eyes, and it is to this end that my Lenten meditations would like to contribute.
Following the reflection begun in the Advent on the Holy Spirit who should permeate the whole life and proclamation of the Church (“Theology of the Third Article”!), in these Lenten meditations I intend to move from the third article to the second article of the creed. In other words, we will try to highlight how the Holy Spirit “leads us into all the truth” about Christ and his paschal mystery, that is, about the Savior’s being and work. Concerning Christ’s work we will try, in keeping with the liturgical season of Lent, to delve into the role the Holy Spirit plays in the death and resurrection of Christ and in our personal death and resurrection.
The second article of the creed, in its complete formulation, is as follows:
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
This central article of the creed reflects two different stages of faith. The phrase, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,” reflects the earliest faith of the Church immediately after Easter. What comes next in the article of the creed, “born of the Father before all ages . . . ,” reflects a later, more evolved stage, subsequent to the Arian controversy and the Council of Nicea in 325. Let us dedicate the present meditation to the first part of the article, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,” and see what the New Testament tells us about the Spirit as the author of the true knowledge of Christ.
St. Paul affirms that Jesus Christ was manifested as the “Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness” (Rom 1:4), that is, according to the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul reaches the point of declaring that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3), thanks to his inner revelation. He attributes to the Holy Spirit the “insight into the mystery of Christ” that was given to him and was also “revealed to his holy apostles and prophets” (Eph 3: 4-5). He says that, “strengthened with might through his Spirit,” believers will be able to “to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph 3: 16, 19).
In the Gospel of John, Jesus himself proclaims this work of the Paraclete in his regard. The Holy Spirit will take what is his and will declare it to the disciples; the Spirit will remind them of all that Jesus said; he will lead them into all the truth about Jesus’ relationship with Father and will bear witness to him (see Jn 16:7-15). From this point on, the precise criterion for recognizing if something is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit will be if one is moved to acknowledge that Jesus has come in the flesh (see 1 Jn 4:2-3).
Some people believe that the current emphasis on the Holy Spirit could overshadow the work of Christ almost as though that work was incomplete or imperfect. This is a complete misunderstanding. The Spirit never says, “I”; he never speaks in the first person; he always points to Christ; he does not claim to establish a work of his own but always refers himself to Christ and leads believers to him. Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life; the Spirit is the one who helps us understand all this!
The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost results in a sudden illumination of the whole work and person of Christ. Peter concludes his discourse at Pentecost with a solemn declaration, which today could be called “ urbi et orbi ”: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord [ Kyrios ] and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). From that day on, the early community began to look at the life of Jesus, his death, and resurrection in a different way; everything seemed clear now, as if a veil had been removed from their eyes (see 2 Cor 3:16). Although they had lived side by side with him, without the Spirit they had not been able to penetrate the profundity of his mystery.
Today a rapprochement is occurring between Orthodox and Catholic theology on this topic of the relationship between Christ and the Spirit. At a conference in Bologna in 1980, the theologian John D. Zizioulas expressed reservations, on the one hand, about the ecclesiology of Vatican II because, according to him, “the Holy Spirit was brought into ecclesiology after the edifice of the Church was constructed entirely on a Christological basis”; on the other hand, he recognized that Orthodox theology also needed to rethink the relationship between Christology and pneumatology to avoid constructing an ecclesiology based only on pneumatology. In other words we Latins are urged to deepen our understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church (which is what happened after the Second Vatican Council) while our Orthodox brethren are urged to deepen their understanding of the role of Christ and, consequently, of the presence of the Church in history.
2. Objective and Subjective Knowledge of Christ
Let us turn, then, to the role of the Holy Spirit with respect to the knowledge of Christ. In the New Testament, two kinds of knowledge of Christ are already outlined, or two areas in which the Spirit is at work. There is an objective knowledge of Christ—of his being, his mystery, and his person—and there is a knowledge that is more subjective, practical, and interior that aims at knowing what Jesus “does for me” rather than at what he “is in himself.”
In Paul what predominates is an interest in understanding what Christ has done for us, in what was accomplished by Christ, and in particular his paschal mystery; in John what predominates instead is an interest in understanding who Christ is in himself: the eternal Logos who was with God and came in the flesh, the one who says, “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). But it is only from subsequent developments that these two tendencies become evident. I note them briefly because this will help us understand the gift the Holy Spirit is giving to the church today on this matter.
In the patristic age, the Holy Spirit appears above all as the guarantor of the apostolic tradition concerning Jesus to counter new doctrines introduced by the Gnostics. St. Irenaeus affirms that the Spirit is the gift God entrusted to the Church; those who separate themselves with their false doctrine from the truth proclaimed by the Church are not partakers of him. Tertullian argues the apostolic churches cannot have erred in their preaching of the truth. To think otherwise would signify that the Holy Spirit, “the Steward of God, the vicar of Christ,” who was sent by Christ and asked by the Father to be the teacher of truth, would have “neglected his office.”
During the time of the great dogmatic controversies, the Holy Spirit is seen as the custodian of Christological orthodoxy. In the councils, the Church has the firm certainty of being “inspired” by the Spirit in formulating the truth about the two natures of Christ, the unity of his person, and the completeness of his humanity. The emphasis is thus clearly on the objective, dogmatic, and ecclesial knowledge of Christ.
This tendency remains predominant in theology up until the Reformation. With one difference, however. The dogmas, at the time of their formulation, were vital questions and the result of lively participation by the whole Church, but once sanctioned and handed down, they tended to lose their incisiveness and become formal. “Two natures in one person” became a ready-made formula rather than the arrival point of a long and difficult process. During all this time there were certainly wonderful experiences of the intimate, personal knowledge of Christ that was full of fervent devotion to him like that of St. Bernard or Francis of Assisi. But these experiences did not have much influence on theology. Such experiences are still mentioned today in the history of spirituality but not in the history of theology.
The Protestant reformers reversed the situation and said, “To know Christ is to know his benefits and not . . . to reflect upon his natures and the modes of his Incarnation.” The Christ “for me” jumps to first place. A subjective, intimate knowledge is placed in contrast to objective, dogmatic knowledge; an “inner witness” from the Holy Spirit about Jesus in the heart of every believer is placed in contrast to the external testimony of the Church about Jesus. When this theological innovation also tended in official Protestantism to be transformed later into a “dead orthodoxy,” periodically movements, like Pietism in Lutheran circles and Methodism in Anglican circles, sprang up to bring it back to life. The apex of the knowledge of Christ coincides in these movements with the moment in which believers, moved by the Holy Spirit, become aware that Jesus has died “for them,” for each one of them in particular, and they recognize him as their personal Savior:
Then with my heart I first believed,
believed with faith divine,
power with the Holy Ghost received
to call the Savior mine.
I felt my Lord’s atoning blood
close to my soul applied.
Let us conclude this brief look at history by noting a third stage in the way of conceiving of the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the knowledge of Christ, one that has characterized the centuries of the Enlightenment of which we are the direct heirs. An objective, detached knowledge is now back in vogue, but it is no longer in the ontological category, as it was in the ancient era, but in the historical category. In other words, the interest is not in knowing who Jesus Christ is in himself (his pre-existence, his natures, his person) but who he was in history. It is the age of research surrounding the so-called “historical Jesus”!
In this stage the Holy Spirit no longer plays a role in the knowledge of Christ; he is entirely absent from it. The “inner witness” of the Holy Spirit now becomes identified with reason and the human spirit. The “external testimony” is the main thing, but this no longer means the apostolic testimony of the Church but only that of history, ascertained through various critical methods. The common presupposition of this effort was that to find the real Jesus, one needed to look outside the Church, releasing him “from the wrappings of ecclesiastical doctrine.”
We know what the result of all this search for the historical Jesus has been: a failure, even though this does not mean it did not have many positive fruits. However, in this regard, there still persists an equivocation at bottom. Jesus Christ—and after him other people like St. Francis of Assisi—did not simply live in history but created a history and now live in the history they created, like a sound living in the wave that it produced. The fierce effort of rationalistic historians seems to be to separate Christ from the history he created in order to restore him to a common universal history, as though one could better perceive a sound in its authenticity by separating it from the wave that carries it. The history that Jesus initiated, or the wave he emitted, is the faith of the Church animated by the Holy Spirit, and it is only through that faith that one can know its source.
The legitimacy of normal historical research on Christ is not excluded by all this, but this research must be more aware of its limits and recognize that it is does not exhaust all that can be known about him. Just as the noblest act of reason is to recognize that “there is an infinity of things that are beyond it,” so too the most honest act of the historian is to recognize that there exists something that cannot be reached by history alone.
3. The Sublime Knowledge of Christ
At the end of his classic work on the history of Christian exegesis, Henri de Lubac reached a rather pessimistic conclusion. He said that certain conditions were missing for us moderns to be able to revive a spiritual reading like that of the Fathers. What we lack is that enthusiastic faith, that sense of the fullness and unity of Scriptures they had. The desire to imitate their boldness in reading the Bible today would be almost risking profanation because we are lacking the spirit from which such readings arise. Nevertheless, he did not entirely close the door to hope; in another work he says that “If we aspire to find something of what was the spiritual interpretation of Scripture in the early centuries of the Church, . . . it is a spiritual movement that we must reproduce above all.”
What de Lubac noted with regard to the spiritual understanding of Scripture can be applied all the more to the spiritual understanding of Christ. It is not enough to write new and more updated treatises on pneumatology. If we lack the underpinnings of a lived experience of the Spirit, analogous to that which accompanied the first elaboration of the theology of the Spirit in the fourth century, whatever is said will always remain external to the real issue. We would lack the necessary conditions to raise us to the level at which the Paraclete operates: the enthusiasm, the boldness, and that “sober intoxication of the spirit” about which almost all the great authors of that century spoke. We cannot present a Christ in the anointing of the Spirit if we do not live, in some way, in that same anointing.
The great innovation hoped for by Father de Lubac is now coming to pass. In the last century there arose a “spiritual movement,” which is continually growing, that has created the basis for a renewal of pneumatology that begins from an experience of the Spirit and of his charisms. I am speaking about the Pentecostal and Charismatic phenomenon. In its first fifty years, this movement—born in reaction to the liberal and rationalistic tendency in theology, like Pietism and Methodism mentioned above—has deliberately ignored theology and has in turn been ignored (and even ridiculed!) by academic theology.
However, when around the middle of the last century that movement penetrated traditional churches in possession of a vast theological apparatus and received a basic welcome from those respective hierarchies, theology could no longer ignore it. In a book called Erfahrung und Theologie des Heiligen Geistes [The Experience and Theology of the Holy Spirit], the most noted theologians of the day, Catholic and Protestant, examined the significance of the Pentecostal and charismatic phenomenon for the renewal of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.
What interests us in all of this at this point only concerns the knowledge of Christ. What understanding of Christ is emerging in this new spiritual and theological atmosphere? The most significant fact is not the discovery of new perspectives and new methodologies following the latest trends in philosophy (structuralism, linguistic analysis, etc.) but the rediscovery of a basic biblical fact: Jesus Christ is Lord! The lordship of Christ is a new world that can be entered into only “by the action of the Holy Spirit.”
St. Paul speaks of a “superior” or even “sublime” knowledge of Christ that consists in knowing him and proclaiming him precisely as “Lord” (see Phil 3:8). This is the proclamation which, accompanied by faith in the resurrection of Christ, can make a person “saved”: “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9). This knowledge is made possible only by the Holy Spirit: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). Anyone can of course just mouth those words without the Holy Spirit, but it would not then lead to the wonderful event we just referred to; it would not save a person.
What is so special about this affirmation that makes it so decisive? That can be explained from different points of view that are objective and subjective. The objective power of the statement, “Jesus is Lord,” is that it makes history, and in particular the paschal mystery, present. It is the conclusion derived from two events: Christ died for our sins; he was raised for our justification; therefore, he is Lord. “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living” (Rom 14:9). The events that led to it are contained in this conclusion and become present and operative in it. In this case words are truly “the house of Being.” The proclamation “Jesus is Lord” is the seed from which the whole kerygma and subsequent Christian preaching developed.
From the subjective point of view, or what pertains to us, the power of this proclamation is the fact that it also entails a decision. Whoever proclaims it, is deciding the direction of his or her life. It is as if the person said, “You are my Lord; I submit myself to you, and I freely acknowledge you as my savior, my master, my teacher, the one who has all rights over me. I belong to you more than I do to myself because you have bought me at a price” (see 1 Cor 6:19-20).
The decision that is inherent in the proclamation of Jesus as “Lord” takes on a particular relevance today. Some people believe that it is possible, and even necessary, to lay aside the affirmation of the uniqueness of Christ in order to promote interfaith dialogue. However, to proclaim Jesus as “Lord” means precisely to proclaim his uniqueness. It is not without reason that the article has us proclaim, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ.” St. Paul writes,
Although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods and many “lords”—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. (1 Cor 8:5-6)
The apostle wrote these words at the time when the Christian faith, small and newly birthed, was facing a world dominated by powerful and prestigious cults and religions. The courage it takes today to believe that Jesus is “the only Lord” is nothing compared to the courage it took back then. But the “power of the Spirit” is not granted except to the one who proclaims Jesus as Lord in its powerful original meaning. It is a fact of experience. Only after a theologian or a preacher has decided to gamble everything on Jesus Christ, the “only Lord” —even at the cost of being “cast out of the synagogue”—only then does that person experience a new certainty and power in his or her life.
4. From the “Personage” of Jesus to the “Person” of Jesus
This luminous discovery of Jesus as Lord is, as I said, the innovation and the grace that God is granting in our time to his Church. I realized that when I questioned Tradition regarding all the other topics and words of Scripture, the testimony of the Fathers would come crowding into my mind. But when I tried to question it on this point, Tradition remained virtually silent. Already in the third century, the title “Lord” was no longer understood in its kerygmatic meaning. Outside of Jewish religious circles, the meaning of that word was not sufficient to express the uniqueness of Christ. Origen, for instance, considers “Lord” (Kyrios) to be a title used by someone who is still at the stage of fear; the relationship Lord–servant is inferior to the relationship Teacher– disciple.
People of course continued to speak of “the Lord” Jesus, but it became a name for Christ like other names, and most often it was one of the components of Christ’s complete name: “Our Lord Jesus Christ.” But it is one thing to say, “Our Lord Jesus Christ,” and another to say, “Jesus Christ is our Lord!” One indication of this change is the way the text of Philippians 2:11 came to be translated in the Vulgate: “Omnis lingua confiteatur quia Dominus noster Iesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris,” “every tongue must confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.” It is one thing to say, “Our Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father” and quite another thing to say, “Jesus Christ is our Lord to the glory of God the Father.” In this second rendering, which is what current translations say, it is not just a name that is being uttered but a profession of faith that is being proclaimed.
Where in all this is the qualitative leap that the Holy Spirit leads us to make in our understanding of Christ? It is in the fact that the proclamation of Jesus as Lord is the door that leads us into the knowledge of the risen and living Christ! Christ is no longer a personage but a person; he is no longer a set of theses, dogmas (and corresponding heresies); he is no longer merely a figure to worship and remember, but a living person who is always present in the Spirit.
This spiritual and existential knowledge of Jesus as Lord does not lead to the neglect of objective, dogmatic, and ecclesial knowledge of Christ but instead revitalizes it. “By the Spirit of God,” St. Irenaeus says, revealed truth, “renewing its youth, as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it to renew its youth also.” We will dedicate our next meditation, God willing, to one of these truths, the dogma that constitutes the second part of that article of the creed: “begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.”
I do not know a better practical resolution we can make at the end of these reflections than what we read at the beginning of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium by Pope Francis:
I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her. (no. 3)
Translated from Italian by Marsha Daigle-Williamson
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has thanked Fr. Giulio Michelini for directing the Spiritual Exercises from which the Holy Father returned on Friday.
Before returning to the Vatican, the Pope expressed his and the Roman Curia’s appreciation for Fr. Michelini’s preparation and direction.
“I would like to thank you for the good you wanted to do for us and the good you have done us. Above all, thank you for having shown yourself as you are and for being natural without ‘putting on a face from a holy card’.”
Pope Francis also thanked him for the work put into his preparation: “This implies responsibility, taking things seriously.”
“There was a mountain of things upon which to meditate, but St. Ignatius says that when one finds something in the Exercises something that gives consolation or desolation, one must stop there and not go forward. I’m sure all of us found one or two among all of this material. The rest is not wasted; it remains and will serve for another time.”
The Holy Father went on to tell the story of a famous Spanish preacher to show that “sometimes a little word, a tiny thing” can serve as a point of reflection.
“After giving a grand, well-prepared sermon, a man – a great public sinner – came up to him in tears, asking for confession. He confessed in an outburst of sin and tears, sin and tears. The confessor – shocked because he knew the life of this man – asked him: ‘But, tell me, in what moment did you feel that God had touched your heart? With what word…?’ [He responded,] ‘When you said, Let’s move to another topic’. Sometimes it is the simplest words that help us, or sometimes those more complicated: To each the Lord gives the [right] word.”
Finally, Pope Francis told Fr. Michelini: “Above all, I wish you [the grace] to be a good friar.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The preacher of the Pontifical Household, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa gave the first Lenten sermon on Friday for Pope Francis and other Vatican officials gathered in the town of Ariccia for their annual Lent retreat.
The Capuchin friar will be giving another four reflections for the Pope and members of the Pontifical Household on the Fridays leading up to Holy Week. This year the theme of these Lenten homilies is the work of the Holy Spirit, based on the biblical verse from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 3: ‘No-one can say “Jesus is Lord”, except by the Holy Spirit.’
In an interview with the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, Fr Cantalamessa explains the two reasons why he wanted to focus on the Holy Spirit for both Lent and for last year’s season of Advent.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report:
Firstly, Fr Cantalamessa says, he chose this subject because the real novelty of the post Vatican II period is a clearer understanding of the role of the Spirit in the life and theology of the Catholic Church. Secondly, he says 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, which has spread to include millions of people all over the globe. Pope Francis, he notes, will be celebrating the anniversary, with a particularly ecumenical focus, around the feast of Pentecost this year.
The first two sermons, Fr Cantalamessa continues, explore the question of who Christ is, not just as a historical figure, but who He is for me and for the world today. The mystery of Christ’s death and Resurrection, he says, is the most important question for Christians today and will be at the heart of these reflections in light of our rediscovery of the role of the Holy Spirit.
The Spirit, Fr Cantalamessa insists, is not merely an abstraction or idea, but a living reality, represented in Scripture by the symbols of wind, fire, water, fragrance or a dove. In our technologically driven era, we try and teach a computer to think, yet no-one has conceived of a computer which is able to love. The Holy Spirit, he concludes, is the purest source of all love and is the only thing which can bring humanity’s parched soul back to life again.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See Press Office has announced that Pope Francis has returned to the Vatican after having concluded the Spiritual Exercises.
On Friday morning, before leaving Arricia – where the retreat was taking place – the Holy Father celebrated Mass for Syria.
He also sent €100,000 to the poor of Aleppo, thanks to a contribution of the Roman Curia. The donation will be made by the Office of Papal Charities, the Elemosineria Apostolica (Apostolic Almoner).
On Friday evening, Pope Francis is set to travel to the Vicariate of Rome where he will meet with the prefects of the Diocese. The meeting, a normal part of the life of the local Church, will be strictly private.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) “I too know moments of emptiness.” In an interview for German newsweekly Die Zeit, Pope Francis spoke about the “spiritual dark moments” in his own life, times when he has said, “Lord, I don’t understand this.”
Asked about how the faithful can help when people experience crises of faith, the Holy Father said, “One cannot grow without crises: in human life, the same thing happens. Even biological growth is a crisis, no? The crisis of a child who becomes an adult. And faith is the same.”
Pope Francis’ admission of his own doubts was perhaps the most striking moment in the interview with Die Ziet’s editor-in-chief, Giovanni di Lorenzo. “Faith is a gift,” the Pope said when asked how one returns to the faith. One cannot recover one’s faith on one’s own, but must ask it from God: “I ask, and He responds. Sooner or later, eh? But at times, you have to wait, in a crisis.”
The conversation covered a wide range of topics, from the Pope’s devotion to Mary, Untier of Knots; to the vocations crisis (“optional celibacy is not the solution); to the question of whether men are intrinsically good or evil.
The Pontiff spoke once again about what he has called the “Third World War,” being waged piecemeal, drawing attention to ongoing conflicts in Africa, Ukraine, Asia, Iraq, and elsewhere. He spoke, too, about contemporary currents of populism, warning against “a messianism” that always lurks behind such phenomena.
Current events in the Church, including criticisms of Pope Francis, were also touched on in the interview. “I will make a confession about this, a sincere one,” he said. “From the moment I was elected Pope I have never lost my peace. I understand that someone might not like [my] way of acting, and I even justify it: there are so many ways of thinking; it is licit, it is human, and it is even a richness.” In particular, he complimented the “cultured” Roman dialect used in notorious posters that appeared in Rome, accusing the Pope of not being merciful.
“It’s good that you can laugh at these things,” his interviewer said, to which Pope Francis responded, “But of course! [It’s] one of the things I pray for each day, with the prayer of St Thomas More: I ask for a sense of humour.”
The conversation ended with a discussion of possible future travels, with the Holy Father confirming his plans to visit India, Bangladesh and Colombia, as well as Fatima in Portugal. He said, however, that a hoped-for trip to South Sudan might not be possible after all.
Pope Francis concluded the interview with an apology: “I’m sorry if I haven’t met your expectations… Pray for me!”
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and members of the Vatican Curia travelled on Sunday afternoon to the "Casa del Divin Maestro,” a retreat centre in Ariccia, located in the Alban hills just outside Rome. They are taking part in the week-long Curial Spiritual Exercises .
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:
The Pope himself reminded the faithful of his annual retreat after praying the Angelus in St Peter’s Square and asked them for prayers for himself and for his collaborators.
Each day will include moments of prayer, meditation, and Eucharistic adoration.
At the heart of this year’s meditations is the theme of the Passion, the Death and the Resurrection of Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew.
The spiritual exercises will be led by Franciscan Friar Giulio Michelini.
The exercises are traditionally conducted during the first week of Lent, and as always, all the Pope’s audiences, including Wednesday’s General Audience, are suspended.
The participants will return to the Vatican on Friday.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday called on Christians to consult the Bible with the same frequency as they might consult their cellphones for messages.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square following his weekly Angelus blessing, the Pope urged those present to give the Bible the same place in daily life as cellphones and asked: “What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the message of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?”
The Bible, he explained, contains the Word of God, the most effective tool in fighting evil and keeping us close to God.
Clearly, Francis said, the comparison between the Bible and the cellphone is paradoxical, but it induces us to reflect.
“If we always carried God’s Word in our hearts, no temptation would distance us from the Father, and no obstacle would take us off the path towards good” he said.
He pointed out that in this first Sunday of Lent, the Gospel of Matthew tells of Jesus’s forty days in the desert and of how he was tempted by the devil.
With his temptations, the Pope said, Satan wanted to divert Jesus from the path of obedience and humbleness – because he knew that this was the way to conquer evil – and he wanted him to take the false shortcut towards glory and success.
“But the devil’s poisonous darts are all ‘blocked’ by Jesus with the shield provided by God’s Word” he said, pointing out that Jesus never uses his own words but only God’s Word, and thus, filled with the force of the Holy Spirit, he victoriously crosses the desert.
Pope Francis invited all Christians to follow in Jesus’ footsteps during the forty days of Lent and to confront the spiritual battle against evil with the strength of God’s Word.
“That’s why, he said, it is necessary to become familiar with the Bible: read it often, reflect upon it, assimilate it. The Bible contains the Word of God which is always topical and effective” he said.
Inviting the faithful to carry a pocket-sized Gospel all the time, the Pope concluded with the words: “don’t forget what would happen if we treated the Bible as we treat our cellphone, always with us, always close to us!”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) A communiqué released on Saturday by the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy provides a synopsis of the Annual Accounts of the Holy See, Vatican City State and Related Entities for 2015.
Please find the full text of the communiqué below:
The Holy See recorded a deficit of Euros 12.4 million in 2015. The main sources of income for 2015, in addition to investments, include the contributions made pursuant to Canon 1271 of the Code of Canon Law (Euros 24 million) and the contribution from the Institute of Works of Religion (Euros 50 million). As in previous years, the most significant expense for the Holy See is the cost of personnel. The Governatorato of the Vatican City State indicates a surplus of Euros 59.9 million for 2015, largely due to continued revenue from the cultural activities, especially those linked to the Museums. The 2015 Annual Accounts represent the first set of financial information prepared following the Vatican Financial Management Policies (VFMP), approved by Pope Francis on 24 October 2014, which are based on International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS). The Secretariat for the Economy informed the Council for the Economy that the journey towards a full implementation of the VFMP is firmly underway and highlighted that, however, a few more years will be necessary for this process to be completed and a full audit to be performed. The 2015 Annual Accounts represent an important step for the economic reforms and along the journey towards new policies, which are progressing well. The Council for the Economy noted the unaudited 2015 Consolidated Annual Accounts during this transition period. The adoption of the VFMP greatly benefits the Holy See and the Vatican City State in enhancing quality and transparency of the financial information and increasing discipline in the financial reporting and control systems. Following the recommendation of the Council for the Economy in November of 2016, the Holy Father took note of the 2015 Consolidated Annual Accounts. Important progress has been made in the budgeting process. The 2017 Budget has been presented, for the first time prior to the start of the new calendar year, to the Council for the Economy, which recommended its approval. This will allow further control on reviewing expenses, through the monitoring of actual performances against approved financial plans. The Council for the Economy thanked the Secretariat for the Economy for the strong commitment in implementing the economic reforms approved by the Holy Father.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday received the participants in a major international conference on sacred music, a half-century after the promulgation of the Conciliar document, Musicam sacram on music in the sacred liturgy.
Over 400 people taking part in the gathering organized by the Congregation for Catholic Education and the Pontifical Council for Culture around the theme: Music and the Church: cult and culture fifty years after Musicam sacram, met in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace to hear the Holy Father.
Click below to hear our report
“Certainly,” said Pope Francis, “the encounter with modernity and the introduction of [vernacular] tongues into the Liturgy stirred up many problems: of musical languages, forms and genres.”
The Holy father went on to say, “Sometimes a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed, to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of liturgical celebrations.”
The Pope encouraged the various actors in the field of liturgical music – from composers, conductors, musicians and choristers, to liturgical animators – to do their best to contribute to the renewal of sacred music and liturgical chant, especially as far as the quality of sacred music is concerned.
“To facilitate this process,” Pope Francis said, “we need to promote proper musical education, especially for those who are preparing to become priests – in dialogue with the musical trends of our time, with the demands of the different cultural areas, and with an ecumenical attitude.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff on Friday published the calendar of liturgical celebrations at which Pope Francis will preside during March and April of 2017.
The list includes the Masses to be celebrated during the Holy Father's pastoral visits to Milan on March 25 and Carpi on April 2, as well as other events surrounding Holy Week and Easter.
Please find below the full list:
Friday 17: at 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, penitential celebration.
Saturday 25: Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. Pastoral visit to Milan.
Sunday 2: Fifth Sunday of Lent. Pastoral visit to Carpi.
Sunday 9: Palm Sunday and the Passion of the Lord: At 10 a.m. in St. Peter's Square, commemoration of the entry of the Lord in Jerusalem, and Holy Mass.
Thursday 13: Holy Thursday. At 9.30 a.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Chrism Mass.
Friday 14: Good Friday. At 5 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, celebration of the Passion of the Lord.
At 9.15 p.m. at the Colosseum, Rome: Via Crucis (Way of the Cross).
Saturday 15: Holy Saturday. At 8.30 p.m. in the Vatican Basilica, Easter vigil.
Sunday 16: Easter Sunday. At 10 a.m., in the Vatican Basilica, Holy Mass.
At midday, from the Central balcony of the Vatican Basilica, “Urbi et Orbi” blessing.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) True fasting is helping your neighbour; while false fasting mixes religiosity with dirty deals and the bribes of vanity. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Friday.
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
The readings of the day speak about fasting; that is, the Pope explained, “about the penance that we are called to do in this time of Lent,” in order to draw closer to the Lord. God delights in the “contrite heart,” the Psalm says, “the heart of one who feels himself a sinner, who knows he is a sinner.” In the first Reading, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, God rebukes the false religiosity of the hypocrites who fast, while at the same time carrying out their own pursuits, oppressing their workers, “striking with wicked claw”: on the one hand, doing penance, while on the other being unjust, making “dirty deals.” The Lord calls us, instead, to a true fast, where we are attentive to our neighbour:
“On the other hand there is a fasting that is ‘hypocritical’ – it’s the word that Jesus uses so often – a fast that makes you see yourself as just, or makes you feel just, but in the meantime I have practiced iniquities, I am not just, I exploit the people.
“‘But,’ [someone might say,] ‘ I am generous, I give a good offering to the Church.’
“‘But tell me,’ [one might answer,] ‘ do you pay a just wage to your help? Do you pay your employees under the table? Or, as the law demands, [enough] so that they are able to feed their children?’”
Pope Francis told the story of an event that happened immediately after the second World War to Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, when he was a missionary in Japan. A rich businessman gave him a donation for his evangelical activities, but brought with him a photographer and a journalist. The envelope contained just ten dollars:
“This is the same as what we do when we do not pay a just wage to our people. We take from our penances, from our acts of prayer, of fasting, of almsgiving… we take a bribe: the bribe of vanity, the bribe of being seen. And that is not authentic, that is hypocrisy. So when Jesus says, ‘When you pray, do it in secret; when you give alms, don’t sound a trumpet; when you fast do not be sad,” it is the same as if He had said: ‘Please, when you do a good work, don’t take the bribe of this good work, it is only for the Father.’”
He quoted the passage from Isaiah where the Lord tells the hypocrites about true fasting – words, the Pope said, that seem to be spoken to us today:
“‘This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.’
“Let us think on these words, let us think in our own hearts, how do we fast, pray, give alms? And it would help us to think about how we would feel about a man who, after a meal that cost 200 euros, for example, returns home and sees someone hungry, and doesn’t look at him and keeps walking. It would do us good to think about that.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday addressed the parish priests of the Diocese of Rome, reflecting with them on the ‘progress of faith’ in the life of a priest.
He was welcomed to Rome’s Cathedral by his Vicar, Cardinal Agostino Vallini, and heard the confessions of around a dozen priests before delivering his address.
Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:
Pope Francis spoke to Rome’s parish priests on Thursday about the progress of faith in the life of a priest in three main points: memory, hope, and discernment of the moment.
In remarks prepared for the event, the Holy Father said, “Memory, as the Catechism says, is rooted in the faith of the Church, in the faith of our fathers; hope is that which sustains our faith; and discernment of the moment I hold present at the moment of acting, of putting into practice that ‘faith which operates through charity’.”
Growth in faith
He said that “growing in faith” implies a “path of formation and of maturation in the faith”.
Turning to Evangelii Gaudium as a guide, he said, “Taking this seriously means that ‘it would not be right to see this call to growth exclusively or primarily in terms of doctrinal formation.’ (EG, n.161) Growth in faith happens through encounters with the Lord during the course of our lives. These encounters act as a treasure of memory and are our living faith, in a story of personal salvation.”
To illustrate, he gave the example of a basketball player who pivots on a stable foot while remaining flexible with the rest of his body to protect the ball from his opponent. “For us that foot pinned to the ground, around which we pivot, is the cross of Christ.”
Memory is remembering the promise of the Lord
Pope Francis said a faith nourished on memory of past graces “confers on our faith the solidity of the Incarnation”.
“Faith feeds on and is nourished by memory: The memory of the Covenant which the Lord has made with us. He is the God of our fathers and grandfathers. He is not a God of the last moment, a God without a family history, a God which – to respond to each new paradigm – should throw out precedents as if they were old and ridiculous.”
He said faith can even progress “backwards” in a “revolutionary return to the roots”.
“The more lucid the memory of the past, the more clear the future opens up, because it is possible to see the truly new path and distinguish it from the path already taken, which has never led anywhere meaningful.”
Hope is the guiding star which indicates the horizon
The Holy Father went on to speak of hope, which “opens faith to the surprises of God.”
“Faith is sustained and progresses thanks to hope. Hope is the anchor anchored in the Heavens, in the transcendent future, of which the temporal future –considered in a linear form – is only an expression. Hope is that which gives dynamism to the rearwards-looking glance of faith, which conduces one to find new things in the past – in the treasures of the memory – so that one can encounter the same God, which one hopes to see in the future.”
Discernment at every fork in the road to find next step in love
The Pope then examined discernment, which “is what makes faith concrete…, what permits us to give credible witness”.
He said, “The discernment of the opportune time (Kairos) is fundamentally rich in memory and in hope: remembering with love, I aim my gaze with clarity to that which best guides to the Promise.”
He also spoke of two moments in the act of discernment: first, a step back “to better see the panorama”; second, a step forward “when, in the present moment, we discern how to concretize love in the possible good, that is, for the good of the other. The highest good of the other is to grow in faith.”
Pope Francis then examined the figure of Saint Peter who was “sifted like grain” (Luke 22:31).
He said the paradox of Saint Peter is that “he who must confirm us in the faith is the same one whom the Lord often rebukes for his ‘lack of faith’”.
“We see that Saint Peter’s faith has a special character: it is a proven faith, and for this he has the mission to confirm and consolidate the faith of his brothers, our faith.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The compass of the Christian directs him to follow Christ crucified, not a disincarnate god, but God made flesh, Who bears in Himself the wounds of our brothers. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday.
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
The invitation to be converted resounds strongly at the beginning of Lent. And the liturgy of the day, Pope Francis said, places this exhortation in the context of three realities: man, God, and the journey. The reality of man is that of choosing between good and evil: God has made us free, the choice is ours,” the Pope said, but He does not leave it to us alone; rather, he points out the path of goodness with the Commandments. Then there is the reality of God: “for the disciples, it was difficult to understand” the path of the Cross of Jesus. “Because God has taken all of human reality, except sin. There is no God without Christ. A God without Christ, ‘disincarnate,’ is a god that is not real”:
“The reality of God is God made Christ, for us. To save us. And when we distance ourselves from this, from this reality, and we distance ourselves from the Cross of Christ, from the truth of the wounds of the Lord, we distance ourselves also from love, from the charity [carità] of God, from salvation and going along an ideological street from God, far away: [This] is not God who came to us and made Himself close to us to save us, and died for us. This [God made Christ for us, to save us] is the reality of God.”
The Pope cited the dialogue between an agnostic and a believer, recorded by a French writer of the last century:
“The agnostic of good will asked the believer, ‘But how can I… for me, the problem is how Christ is God: I can’t understand this. How is Christ God?’ And the believer responded, ‘Eh, for me this is not a problem. The problem would be if God would not have been made Christ.’ This is the reality of God: God made Christ, God made flesh; and this is the foundation of the works of mercy. The wounds of our brothers are the wounds of Christ, they are the wounds of God, because God is made Christ. The second reality. We cannot live Lent without this reality. We must convert, not to an abstract God, but to the concrete God who is made Christ.”
Finally, there is the third reality, that of the journey. Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”:
“The reality of the journey is that of Christ: following Christ, doing the will of the Father, as He did, taking up the daily crosses and denying oneself in order to follow Christ. Not doing what I want, but what Jesus wants; following Jesus. And He says that on this street we lose our life, in order to gain it back later; it is a continual loss of life, loss of doing what I want, loss of comforts, being always on the path of Jesus who was at the service of others, [who was] was in adoration of God. That is the right path.”
“The only sure path,” Pope Francis concluded, “is following Christ crucified, the scandal of the Cross. And these three realities – man, God, and the journey – “are the compass of the Christian, which will not allow us to take the wrong path.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass for Ash Wednesday at the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill in Rome.
In his homily, the Holy Father said Lent is a path that "leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God's children."
Click here to see a report on the Pope's Mass.
Please find below the official English translation of the Pope's homily:
“Return to me with all your heart… return to the Lord” (Jl 2:12, 13). The prophet Joel makes this plea to the people in the Lord’s name. No one should feel excluded: “Assemble the aged, gather the children, even infants at the breast, the bridegroom… and the bride” (v. 16). All the faithful people are summoned to come and worship their God, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (v. 13).
We too want to take up this appeal; we want to return to the merciful heart of the Father. In this season of grace that begins today, we once again turn our eyes to his mercy. Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children. Lent is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life. The mark of the ashes with which we set out reminds us of our origin: we were taken from the earth, we are made of dust. True, yet we are dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed his spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so. He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts. The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope. To experience Lent is to yearn for this breath of life that our Father unceasingly offers us amid the mire of our history.
The breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice, or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt. We think it is normal because we have grown so accustomed to breathing air in which hope has dissipated, the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility.
Lent is the time for saying no. No to the spiritual asphyxia born of the pollution caused by indifference, by thinking that other people’s lives are not my concern, and by every attempt to trivialize life, especially the lives of those whose flesh is burdened by so much superficiality. Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters: in a word, all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion.
Lent is a time for remembering. It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us. What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew? Lent is the time to ask ourselves where we would be without the help of so many people who in a thousand quiet ways have stretched out their hands and in very concrete ways given us hope and enabled us to make a new beginning.
Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity. It is not the time to rend our garments before the evil all around us, but instead to make room in our life for all the good we are able to do. It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us. Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: “Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit”, so that by our lives we may declare your praise (cf. Ps 51:12.15), and our dust – by the power of your breath of life - may become a “dust of love”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has joined his voice to those taking part in Brazil’s “Fraternity Campaign,” an annual Lenten Campaign organized by the Brazilian National Conference of Bishops.
This year’s campaign focusses on the theme "Brazilian biomes and the defense of life" with the motto from Genesis: “Cultivate and keep creation.”
Brazil has one of the most significant bio diversities in the world, and its territory is divided into 6 natural biomes, each with its own set of fauna, flora and soil, with specific social and cultural manifestations of its population. The 2017 Fraternity Campaign is dedicated to the appreciation and protection of these biomes.
In his message addressed to his “dear brothers and sisters in Brazil”, Pope Francis speaks of the generosity of the Creator towards Brazil in giving it “a diversity of ecosystems of extraordinary beauty.”
Unfortunately, the Pope said, the Brazilian land also carries “the signs of aggression towards creation and the deterioration of nature”.
He said the Church in Brazil not only provides a prophetic voice for the care and respect of the environment and attention towards the poor, but highlights the need to tackle the ecological challenges and problems as well as pinpointing their causes and possible solutions.
Pope Francis recalled that amongst the many initiatives promoted by the Church, as far back as 1979, the Lenten Fraternity Campaign shone the spotlight on environmental issues.
He also noted that we cannot not consider the effects environmental degradation, the current model for development and the culture of waste are having on the lives of people.
“This Campaign invites us to contemplate, admire, give thanks and respect the diversity of nature manifested in Brazil’s different ecosystems which are a true gift of God” he said.
Pointing out that environmental degradation is one of the greatest challenges we face because it is always accompanied by social injustice, the Pope pointed to indigenous peoples as an example of “how cohabitation with creation can be respectful, fruitful and merciful”.
It is necessary, he said, to learn from these peoples how to relate to nature in the quest for a sustainable model “that can be a valid alternative to the race for profit that exhausts natural resources and damages the dignity of peoples”.
“Every year, the Pope concluded, the Fraternity Campaign takes place during Lent: it is an invitation to live the spirituality of Easter with deepened awareness”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis marked Ash Wednesday inviting the faithful to renew their hope in Christ’s promises and their commitment to follow Him ever more closely.
He was addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience .
Pointing out that on Ash Wednesday we enter the liturgical time of Lent, Pope Francis said this time of penitence and mortification is actually a journey of hope as it is directs us on the path towards Resurrection, and help us renew our Baptismal identity.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
To better understand what this means, he said, we must refer to the fundamental experience of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, in which the Chosen People journeyed towards the Promised Land and, through spiritual discipline and the gift of the Law, learned the love of God and neighbor.
The Scriptures, the Pope said, tell of a tormented journey that symbolically lasted forty years, the time span of a generation, and that difficulties and obstacles represented continuous temptations to regret Egypt and to turn back. But, he said, the Lord stayed close to the people who finally arrived in the Promised Land guided by Moses.
Their journey, he explained, was undertaken ‘in hope’, and in this sense “it is an ‘exodus’ out of slavery and into freedom.
“Every step, every effort, every test, every fall and every recovery has a sense within God’s design for salvation, as He wants life – not death – and joy – not pain – for His people” he said.
The Pope said Easter is Jesus’ own exodus, his passover from death to life, in which we participate through our rebirth in Baptism.
He said that by following Christ along the way of the Cross, we share in his victory over sin and death; he explained that in order to open this passage for us, Jesus had to cast off his glory, he had to humble himself, he had to be obedient until death on the cross.
“This doesn’t mean that he did everything and we don’t have to do anything” he said.
The Pope went on to highlight that it doesn’t mean “he went through the cross and we will go to heaven in a carriage.” That is not how it works.
He explained that our salvation is Jesus’ gift, but it is part of a love story and requires our ‘yes’ and our participation.
With a heart open to this horizon, the Pope concluded, let us enter into Lent feeling that we belong to the holy people of God: “may we begin our journey of hope with joy.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has given a wide-ranging interview to an Italian magazine run by homeless persons. The interview was published on 28 February in the magazine called “Scarp de’ tenis” (“Sneakers”).
The magazine also functions as a social project, as most of the staff is homeless, suffers difficult personal situations or forms of social exclusion. For most contributors, the magazine is an important source of income. “Scarp de’ tenis” entered into partnership with the Italian arm of the Vatican’s charity organization, Caritas, in 2008.
In the interview, Pope Francis was asked to explain his recent initiatives for refugees, such as providing accommodation in the Vatican. In his reply, the Pope explained how the initiative to welcome the homeless had inspired parishes throughout Rome to join the effort.
“Here in the Vatican there are two parishes, and both are housing Syrian families. Many parishes in Rome have also opened their doors and others, which don’t have a house for priests, have offered to pay rent for families in need, for a full year” he said.
Throughout the interview the Pope often referred to the idea of walking in each others shoes. According to the Pope, to walk in the other’s shoes is a way to escape our own egoism: “In the shoes of the other, we learn to have a great capacity for understanding, for getting to know difficult situations.”
The Pope maintains that words alone are not enough, what is needed, he said, is the “Greatness” to walk in the shoes of the other: “How often I have met a person who, after having searched for Christian comfort, be they a layman, a priest, a sister or a bishop, they tell me ‘they listened to me, but didn’t understand me.’”
During the interview, the Pope also joked about people’s attitudes concerning giving money to those who live on the streets. “There are many arguments which justify why we should not give these alms: ‘I give money and he just spends it on a glass of wine!’ A glass of wine is his only happiness in life!” joked Pope Francis.
There was also a lesson in generosity within the interview. The Pope told a story from his time in Buenos Aires, of a mother with five children. While the father was at work and the rest of the family ate lunch, a homeless man called in to ask for food. Rather than letting the children give away their father’s dinner for that evening, the mother taught the children to give away some of their own food: “If we wish to give, we must give what is ours!” insisted the Pope.
Regarding the question of limiting numbers of refugee and migrants who arrive in a particular place, the Pope first reminded his readers that many of those arriving are fleeing from war or hunger. All of us in this world, says the Pope, are part of this situation and need to find ways to help and benefit those around us. According to him, this responsibility is especially true of governments and the Pope used the example of the work of the Saint Egidio community (that has established humanitarian corridors for groups of vulnerable migrants) in order to make his point. Regarding the 13 refugees who arrived from Lesbos, the Pope pointed out that the families have integrated well into society, with the children being enrolled in schools and their parents having found work. This, according to Pope Francis, is an example of immigrants wanting to fit into and contribute to a new country, and achieving that desire.
To further underline his point, the Pope highlighted the case of Sweden, where almost 10% of the population, including the Minister for Culture, are immigrants. During his own life, in the difficult years of the military dictatorship in Argentina, the Pope often looked to the Swedish as a positive example of integration.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) As we head into the Lenten season, Pope Francis has invited us to reflect on our relationship to God and to money, as we can't serve both masters at the same time. His words came on Tuesday during morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta .
Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:
Speaking about the message of the Gospel readings in these days leading up to the beginning of Lent, Pope Francis recalled the story of the rich young man who wanted to follow the Lord, but whose wealth led him to follow money instead.
Jesus’ words in this story worry the disciples, as he tells them it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In today’s reading from St Mark’s Gospel, the Pope said, we see Peter asking the Lord what will happen to them, as they have given up everything to follow him. “It’s almost as if Peter is passing Jesus the bill,” Pope Francis exclaimed.
Peter didn’t know what to say: the young man has gone his way, but what about us? Pope Francis said Jesus’ reply is clear: I tell you there is no-one who has given up everything and has not received everything. You will receive everything, in that overflowing measure with which God gives his gifts.
The Pope repeated the Gospel words: “there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel, who will not receive a hundred times more, now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come”.
The Lord is incapable of giving less than everything, the Pope said: when he gives us something, he gives all of himself.
Yet there is a word in this reading, he continued, which gives us cause for reflection: in this present age we receive a hundred times more houses and brothers, together with persecutions . The Pope said this means entering into a different way of thinking, a different way of behaving. Jesus gives everything of himself, because the fullness of God is a fullness emptied out on the Cross.
This is the gift of God, the Pope insisted, a fullness which is emptied out. This is also the Christian’s way of being, to seek and receive a fullness which is emptied out and to follow that path is not easy, he stressed. How do we recognize that we are following this path of giving everything in order to receive everything, he asked? The words of the first reading of the day tell us to “pay homage to the Lord, and do not spare your freewill gifts. With each contribution show a cheerful countenance, and pay your tithes in a spirit of joy. Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously, according to your means".
A cheerful face and eyes full of joy, the Pope said, these are the signs that we’re following this path of all and nothing, of fullness emptied out. The rich young man’s face fell and he became very sad, because he was not capable of receiving and welcoming this fullness emptied out, but the saints and Peter were able to receive it. Amid all their trials and difficulties, they had cheerful faces and hearts full of joy.
Pope Francis concluded by recalling the Chilean saint Alberto Hurtado who worked with the poor amidst such difficulty, persecution and suffering, yet his words were ’I’m happy, Lord, I’m happy’. May he teach us to follow this difficult path of all and nothing, of Christ’s fullness emptied out, and to be able to say at all times ’I’m happy, Lord, I’m happy’
(from Vatican Radio)...