(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sent his support to the March for Life, which took place in Washington, DC, on Friday.
The Message – sent by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin – said Pope Francis “trusts that this event, in which so many American citizens speak out on behalf of the most defenseless of our brothers and sisters, will contribute to a mobilization of conscience in defense of the right to life and effective measures to ensure its adequate legal protection.”
Each year, the March for Life draws hundreds of thousands of people to the United States capital to call for the protection of the unborn, and end to euthanasia, and to promote other pro-life issues.
The full text of the Message is below
His Holiness Pope Francis sends warm greetings and the assurance of his closeness in prayer to the many thousands of young people from throughout America gathered in the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington for the annual March for Life. His Holiness is profoundly grateful for this impressive testimony to the sacredness of every human life. As he has made clear, “so great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in the mother’s womb, that no alleged right… can justify a decision to terminate that life” (Amoris Laetitia, 83). He trusts that this event, in which so many American citizens speak out on behalf of the most defenseless of our brothers and sisters, will contribute to a mobilization of conscience in defense of the right to life and effective measures to ensure its adequate legal protection. To all present the Holy Father cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of strength and peace in the Lord.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The way a country responds to the needs of migrants and refugees is a “thermometer” of the wellbeing of that society. That’s the view of Canadian Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, recently appointed as undersecretary of the Vatican’s new department for Integral Human Development .
Alongside Italian Scalabrini Father Fabio Baggio, Fr Michael took up his new post on January 1st, in charge of the section dealing with refugees, migrants and survivors of human trafficking. Answering directly to Pope Francis, he sees his “modest but ambitious mission” as helping the Church to accompany forced migrants at all stages of their often perilous journey.
As the child of a refugee family himself, Fr Michael believes that “with a little bit of sharing of the enormous resources available throughout the world”, countries can “very comfortably and very securely and very profitably” provide for the needs of all people on the move.
Philippa Hitchen talked to Fr Michael to find out more about the work and the vision of this new Vatican office….
Fr Michael explains that the concept of ‘Integral Human Development’ goes back to vision of the Second Vatican Council and its key document ‘ Gaudium et Spes ’ on the Church in the modern world. Over the years since then, he says, different Vatican offices have been set up to meet specific needs regarding human development. But Pope Francis’ recent documents ‘ Evangeli Gaudium ’ and ‘ Laudato Sii ’ have pioneered a new approach of ‘Integral Human Development’ and within that context the plight of those forced to leave their homes is an “area of real concern”.
Top priority for Pope Francis
This topic, Fr Michael continues, is a “top priority” for the pope whose own family migrated from Italy and was “welcomed into Argentina about a century ago”. It’s also an urgent topic, he insists, because “it’s one of those thermometers, I think, of the health and wellbeing of a society”. If societies don't respond to the needs of migrants “up to the mark of human dignity, there’s something seriously wrong” with that society.
Mission to accompany migrants
The section for migrants and refugees, Fr Michael explains, is concerned with all people on the move whose “human rights and dignity and basic reasons for hope are under extreme duress”. “Our modest but ambitious mission” he adds, is for people “to feel and to experience the accompaniment of the Church”, in the places where migrants begin their journeys, in the transit countries and in the so-called ‘receiving’ nations. How can parishes or dioceses welcome migrants, he asks, just as “we would so much want to be warmly welcomed …. if we were forced to flee?”
Refugee family experience
Reflecting on the experience of his own parents, who fled from Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of World War II, Fr Michael says he has “some appreciation” of the anxieties and tensions facing families forced to leave their homelands. Such decisions, he says, are "never taken lightly”, but instead such people are “opting for the least worst solution for their very bad situation and... deserve all the help, support, sympathy and prayer that they can get”.
Sharing global resources
Through this new office, Fr Michael says, the pope is not seeking “to mount some huge programme to mobilise unheard-of resources” but rather “to help the hearts and minds, the hands and feet of people everywhere” to share what they can with those in need. With a little bit of sharing of “the enormous resources available throughout the world” he adds, “we can very comfortably and very securely and very profitably” accommodate all people on the move.
Focus on people, not fears
Asked about the challenges of the current climate of hostility towards migrants, Fr Michael says “maybe more of the truth is on the table” now and “maybe it’s worse if it were somehow repressed and unspoken”. He takes up his new job “at a moment when people are on a higher kind of alert”, he says, stressing the importance of focusing, not on fears or security concerns which “have nothing to do with refugees”, but on those who “need a place to settle down and restart their lives”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with a delegation from the European Jewish Congress Friday on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which occurs annually on 27 January.
The Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Fr. Norbert Hofmann, was present at the meeting.
In an interview with Vatican Radio (in Italian), he said the Pope “began the dialogue by mentioning the importance of this Day for the Jews, but also for us, because remembering the victims of the Holocaust is important so that this human tragedy never happens again”.
The delegation, he said, represents more than 2 million Jews in Europe.
Fr. Hofmann said the President of the Congress, Moshe Kantor, spoke about “the importance of ethics, that is, of the values which Christians and Jews have in common. He said that in our world we see much progress but also a decline in moral and ethical values. Therefore, we need to strengthen these values which we share. And then he spoke about the importance of education and the family.”
Pope Francis, Fr. Hofmann said, agreed completely with these themes and shared a story from his childhood.
“The Pope said that, in his family, his father often received Jews… and thus, already as a child, our Pope learned to have several Jewish friends.”
Also on Friday, the Vatican’s permanent representative to the OSCE said the Holocaust teaches us that "utmost vigilance is always needed to be able to take prompt action in defense of human dignity and peace".
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has extended his condolences to victims a tragic bus crash that occurred in Italy earlier this week.
The bus was carrying Hungarian students who were returning to Hungary from a skiing trip in France .
The Holy Father’s prayers for the victims and their families, and his expressions of closeness and support, were conveyed in a telegramme addressed to the Hungarian Bishops’ Conference, which was sent on the Pope’s behalf, and signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State.
The full text of the telegramme follows:
His Eminence Cardinal Péter Erdő
Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest
His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the bus accident in Verona, Italy, involving students of Szinyei Gimnázium, and he assures all those affected by this tragedy of his prayerful solidarity. Entrusting the deceased to the merciful love of Almighty God, he prays that their families and friends may be consoled in their grief and strengthened by God's grace. So too His Holiness prays for the injured and all involved in this incident that they may know healing and comfort at this time of sorrow. Upon the entire community of Szinyei Gimnázium and upon all who are mourning, the Holy Father invokes the divine blessings of peace and strength.
Card. Pietro Parolin
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) God frees us from the sin that paralyzes us as Christians: faintheartedness, being afraid of everything, which keep us from having memory, hope, courage, and patience. That was the message of Pope Francis during the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Friday.
Remembering the God’s work of salvation in my life
Pope Francis said the day’s Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us to live the Christian life with three points of reference: the past, the present, and the future. First, it invites us to remember, because “the Christian life does not begin today: it continues today.” Remembering is “to recall everything”: the good things, and those that are less good, and putting my own story “before the sight of God”: without covering up or hiding it:
“‘Brothers, call to mind those first days’: the days of enthusiasm, of going forward in the faith, when you began to live the faith, the anguished trials… You don’t understand the Christian life, even the spiritual life of each day, without memory. Not only do you not understand: You can’t live in a Christian way without memory. The memory of the salvation of God in my life, the memory of my troubles in my life; but how has the Lord saved me from these troubles? Memory is a grace: a grace to ask for. ‘Lord, may I not forget your step in my life, may I not forget the good moments, also the ugly; the joys and the crosses.’ The Christian is a man of memory.”
Living in the hope of encountering Jesus
The author of the Letter then makes us understand that “we are on the journey in expectation of something,” in expectation of “arriving at a point: an encounter; encountering the Lord.” “And he exhorts us to live by faith”:
“Hope: Looking to the future. Just as one cannot live a Christian life without memory of the steps taken, one cannot live a Christian life without looking to the future with hope… of the encounter with the Lord. And he uses a beautiful phrase: ‘just a brief moment…’ Eh, life is a breath, eh? It passes. When one is young, he thinks he has so much time before him, but then life teaches us that those words that we all say: ‘But how time passes! I knew this person as a child, now they’re getting married! How time passes!’ It comes soon. But the hope of encountering it is a life in tension, between memory and hope, the past and the future.”
Living in the present with courage and patience
Finally, the Letter invites us to live in the present, “often times painful and sad,” with “courage and patience”: that is, with frankness, without shame, and enduring the events of life. We are sinners, the Pope explained – all of us. “He who is first, and he who is later… if you want, we can make the list later, but we are all sinners. All of us. But we go forward with courage and patience. We don’t remain there, stopped, because this would not make us grow.”
The sin that paralyzes Christians: Faintheartedness
Finally, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews urges us not to commit the sin that takes away memory, hope, courage, and patience: faintheartedness (It.: pusillanimità, “pusillanimity”). “It is a sin that doesn’t allow us to go forward, through fear.” Jesus, though, says, “Don’t be afraid.” The fainthearted are those “who always go backward, who guard themselves too much, who are afraid of everything”:
“‘Not taking risks, please, no… prudence…’ All the commandments, all of them… Yes, it’s true, but this paralyzes you too, it makes you forget so many graces received, it takes away memory, it takes away hope, because it doesn’t allow you to go forward. And the present of a Christian, of such a Christian, is how when one goes along the street and an unexpected rain comes, and the garment is not so good and the fabric shrinks… Confined souls… This is faintheartedness: this is the sin against memory, courage, patience, and hope. May the Lord make us grow in memory, make us grow in hope, give us courage and patience each and free us from that which is faintheartedness, being afraid of everything… Confined souls in order to save ourselves. And Jesus says: ‘He who wills to save his life will lose it.’”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Wherever there is violence and conflict, Christians are called to work patiently to restore concord and hope. That was Pope Francis’ message on Friday to members of the Joint International Commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
The group, which is meeting in the Vatican this week, includes representatives of the six ancient Churches of the East which have been separated from the rest of the Christian world since the middle of the fifth century.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:
In his words to the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox leaders, Pope Francis noted that many of them belong to Churches that witness daily the spread of violence and “brutality perpetrated by fundamentalist extremism”. We are aware, he said, “that situations of such tragic suffering more easily take root in the context of great poverty, injustice and social exclusion”
This is due to instability, often created by foreign interests, he said, or by earlier conflicts that have made it easier to manipulate and incite people to hatred. The Pope said Christians are called to draw near to those who suffer, to sow concord and to work patiently together to restore hope by offering the consoling peace that comes from the Lord.
Pope Francis said he joined with the Church leaders in praying for an end to conflict and for God’s closeness to those who have suffered so much, especially children, the sick and the elderly. In a particular way, he said his “heart goes out to the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful who have been cruelly abducted, taken hostage or enslaved”.
The martyrs and saints of all traditions, the Pope said, can inspire us to hasten along the path to full unity. Wherever violence begets more violence, he said, there our response must be to shun strategies of power and bring the peace and reconciliation of the risen Christ.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’s address to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches
Dear Brothers in Christ,
In offering you a joyful welcome, I thank you for your presence and for the kind words that Metropolitan Bishoy addressed to me on your behalf. Through you, I send cordial greetings to the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, my venerable brothers.
I am grateful for the work of your Commission, which began in 2003 and is now holding its fourteenth meeting. Last year you began an examination of the nature of the sacraments, especially baptism. It is precisely in baptism that we rediscovered the basis of communion between Christians. As Catholics and Oriental Orthodox, we can repeat the words of the Apostle Paul: “For in the one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13). In the course of this week, you have further reflected on historical, theological and ecclesiological aspects of the Holy Eucharist, “the source and summit of the whole Christian life”, which admirably expresses and brings about the unity of God’s people (Lumen Gentium, 11). I encourage you to persevere in your efforts and I trust that your work may point out helpful ways to advance on our journey. It will thus facilitate the path towards that greatly desired day when we will have the grace of celebrating the Lord’s Sacrifice at the same altar, as a sign of fully restored ecclesial communion.
Many of you belong to Churches that witness daily the spread of violence and acts of brutality perpetrated by fundamentalist extremism. We are aware that situations of such tragic suffering more easily take root in the context of great poverty, injustice and social exclusion, due to instability created by partisan interests, often from elsewhere, and by earlier conflicts that have led to situations of dire need, cultural and spiritual deserts where it becomes easy to manipulate and incite people to hatred. Each day your Churches, in drawing near to those who suffer, are called to sow concord and to work patiently to restore hope by offering the consoling peace that comes from the Lord, a peace we are obliged together to bring to a world wounded and in pain.
Saint Paul also writes: “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26). Your sufferings are our sufferings. I join you in praying for an end to the conflict and for God’s closeness to those who have endured so much, especially children, the sick and the elderly. In a particular way, my heart goes out to the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful who have been cruelly abducted, taken hostage or enslaved.
May the Christian communities be sustained by the intercession and example of our many martyrs and saints who bore courageous witness to Christ. They show us the heart of our faith, which does not consist in a generic message of peace and reconciliation but in Jesus himself, crucified and risen. He is our peace and our reconciliation (cf. Eph 2:14; 2 Cor 5:18). As his disciples, we are called to testify everywhere, with Christian fortitude, to his humble love that reconciles men and women in every age. Wherever violence begets more violence and sows death, there our response must be the pure leaven of the Gospel, which, eschewing strategies of power, allows fruits of life to emerge from arid ground and hope to dawn after nights of terror.
The centre of the Christian life, the mystery of Jesus who died and rose out of love, is also the point of reference for our journey towards full unity. Once more the martyrs show us the way. How many times has the sacrifice of their lives led Christians, otherwise divided in so many things, to unity! The martyrs and saints of all ecclesial traditions are already one in Christ (cf. Jn 17:22); their names are written in the one common martyrology of God’s Church. Having sacrificed themselves on earth out of love, they dwell in the one heavenly Jerusalem, gathered around the Lamb who was slain (cf. Rev 7:13-17). Their lives, offered as a gift, call us to communion, to hasten along the path to full unity. Just as in the early Church the blood of the martyrs was the seed of new Christians, so in our own day may the blood of so many martyrs be a seed of unity between believers, a sign and instrument of a future of communion and peace.
Dear brothers, I am grateful for the efforts you make towards attaining this goal. In thanking you for your visit, I invoke upon you and your ministry the blessing of the Lord and the loving protection of the Holy Mother of God.
(from Vatican Radio)...
Vatican Radio) Authentic reconciliation between Christians will only be achieved when we can acknowledge each other’s gifts and learn from one another with humility. That was Pope Francis’ message to representatives of all the different Christian Churches gathered in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls on Wednesday afternoon. The Pope was leading Vespers for the solemnity of the Conversion of St Paul and the close of the annual week of prayer for Christian unity.
Philippa Hitchen reports:
In his homily Pope Francis reflected on the theme for this year’s week of prayer, which is ‘ Reconciliation: the love of Christ compels us ’. Reconciliation, he said, is a gift from Christ. Prior to any human effort by believers who strive to overcome their divisions, he said, reconciliation is God’s gift given freely to each one of us.
“How do we proclaim this Gospel of reconciliation today after centuries of division?”, the Pope asked. St Paul himself makes clear that reconciliation requires sacrifice and a revolution of our way of living, he said. Just as Jesus laid down his life for us, so we are called to lay down our lives, by living no longer for ourselves and our own interests, but living instead for Christ and in Christ.
Leave behind isolation and self-absorption
For Christians of every confession, the Pope said, this is an invitation not to be caught up with programmes and plans, not to be obsessed with contemporary fashions, but to be focused on the Cross where we can “discover our programme of life”. The Cross invites us to leave behind all isolation and self-absorption which prevents us from seeing how the Holy Spirit is at work outside our familiar surroundings.
Joint Reformation commemorations "a remarkable achievement"
While looking back can be helpful and necessary to purify our memory, the Pope said, being fixated on the past and the memory of wrongs done can paralyze us and prevent us from living in the present. Pope Francis recalled in particular the fact that Catholics and Lutherans are today joining in commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, something he described as “a remarkable achievement”.
Pray, proclaim and serve together
Greeting especially Metropolitan Gennadios, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Archbishop David Moxon, representing the Anglican Communion, Pope Francis urged all those present to take advantage of every occasion to pray together, to proclaim together and to love and serve together, especially those who are the poorest and most neglected in our midst.
Please find below the full English text of Pope Francis’ homily at Vespers for the Conversion of St Paul
Encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus radically transformed the life of Saint Paul. Henceforth, for him, the meaning of life would no longer consist in trusting in his own ability to observe the Law strictly, but rather in cleaving with his whole being to the gracious and unmerited love of God: to Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Paul experienced the inbreaking of a new life, life in the Spirit. By the power of the risen Lord, he came to know forgiveness, confidence and consolation. Nor could Paul keep this newness to himself. He was compelled by grace to proclaim the good news of the love and reconciliation that God offers fully in Christ to all humanity.
For the Apostle of the Gentiles, reconciliation with God, whose ambassador he became (cf. 2 Cor 5:20), is a gift from Christ. This is evident in the text of the Second Letter to the Corinthians which inspired the theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us” (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-20). “The love of Christ”: this is not our love for Christ, but rather Christ’s love for us. Nor is the reconciliation to which we are compelled simply our own initiative. Before all else it is the reconciliation that God offers us in Christ. Prior to any human effort on the part of believers who strive to overcome their divisions, it is God’s free gift. As a result of this gift, each person, forgiven and loved, is called in turn to proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation in word and deed, to live and bear witness to a reconciled life.
Today, in the light of this, we can ask: How do we proclaim this Gospel of reconciliation after centuries of division? Paul himself helps us to find the way. He makes clear that reconciliation in Christ requires sacrifice. Jesus gave his life by dying for all. Similarly, ambassadors of reconciliation are called, in his name, to lay down their lives, to live no more for themselves but for Christ who died and was raised for them (cf. 2 Cor 5:14-15). As Jesus teaches, it is only when we lose our lives for love of him that we truly save them (cf. Lk 9:24). This was the revolution experienced by Paul, but it is, and always has been, the Christian revolution. We live no longer for ourselves, for our own interests and “image”, but in the image of Christ, for him and following him, with his love and in his love.
For the Church, for every Christian confession, this is an invitation not to be caught up with programmes, plans and advantages, not to look to the prospects and fashions of the moment, but rather to find the way by constantly looking to the Lord’s cross. For there we discover our programme of life. It is an invitation to leave behind every form of isolation, to overcome all those temptations to self-absorption that prevent us from perceiving how the Holy Spirit is at work outside our familiar surroundings. Authentic reconciliation between Christians will only be achieved when we can acknowledge each other’s gifts and learn from one another, with humility and docility, without waiting for the others to learn first.
If we experience this dying to ourselves for Jesus’ sake, our old way of life will be a thing of the past and, like Saint Paul, we will pass over to a new form of life and fellowship. With Paul, we will be able to say: “the old has passed away” (2 Cor 5:17).
To look back is helpful, and indeed necessary, to purify our memory, but to be fixated on the past, lingering over the memory of wrongs done and endured, and judging in merely human terms, can paralyze us and prevent us from living in the present. The word of God encourages us to draw strength from memory and to recall the good things the Lord has given us. But it also asks us to leave the past behind in order to follow Jesus today and to live a new life in him. Let us allow him, who makes all things new (cf. Rev 21:5), to unveil before our eyes a new future, open to the hope that does not disappoint, a future in which divisions can be overcome and believers, renewed in love, will be fully and visibly one.
This year, in our journey on the road to unity, we recall in a special way the fifth centenary of the Protestant Reformation. The fact that Catholics and Lutherans can nowadays join in commemorating an event that divided Christians, and can do so with hope, placing the emphasis on Jesus and his work of atonement, is a remarkable achievement, thanks to God and prayer, and the result of fifty years of growing mutual knowledge and ecumenical dialogue.
As we implore from God the gift of reconciliation with him and with one another, I extend cordial and fraternal greetings to His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to His Grace David Moxon, the personal representative in Rome of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and to all the representatives of the various Churches and Ecclesial Communities gathered here. I am especially pleased to greet the members of the joint Commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and to offer my good wishes for the fruitfulness of the plenary session taking place in these days. I also greet the students of the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey, who are visiting Rome to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic Church, and the Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox young people studying in Rome thanks to the scholarships provided by the Committee for Cultural Collaboration with Orthodox Churches, based in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. To the superiors and staff of this Dicastery I express my esteem and gratitude.
Dear brothers and sisters, our prayer for Christian unity is a sharing in Jesus’ own prayer to the Father, on the eve of his passion, “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). May we never tire of asking God for this gift. With patient and trusting hope that the Father will grant all Christians the gift of full visible communion, let us press forward in our journey of reconciliation and dialogue, encouraged by the heroic witness of our many brothers and sisters, past and present, who were one in suffering for the name of Jesus. May we take advantage of every occasion that Providence offers us to pray together, to proclaim together, and together to love and serve, especially those who are the most poor and neglected in our midst.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has again expressed his closeness and concern for migrants and refugees by blessing a sculpture to be placed in the port of the Sicilian Island of Lampedusa , the gateway to Europe for hundreds of thousands fleeing poverty and violence.
Before stepping into the Paul VI Hall to lead the weekly General Audience on Wednesday, the Pope met Mauro Vaccai , the artist who has created the sculpture and blessed the work of art that celebrates the culture of welcome put into practice by the Lampedusa authorities and population.
Due to its geographical position, the tiny island is one of the main points of entry for African migrants. Tens of thousands of desperate men, women and children have landed on its shores in the past years. Tragically, hundreds have perished during the dangerous crossing.
Vaccai, who comes from the Tuscan town of Pistoia, explained that the large bas-relief in white marble from Carrara, weighs 800 kilograms. It will be positioned in Lampedusa Port with the help of the Italian Navy.
Many of Vaccai’s works are to be found in Churches and religious settings; he has frequently chosen Christian subjects as his inspiration. He has also donated many of his creations to charity.
He said that the sculpture for Lampedusa celebrates the example the Island is giving the rest of the world with its welcome for migrants.
After having been elected Pope on 13 March 2013, the very first apostolic visit Francis chose to undertake was to Lampedusa, where he celebrated Mass, prayed for those who have lost their lives during their journey of hope, and told the world to reject the “globalization of indifference”.
It was 8 July 2013, and during his brief stay on the island the Pope called for a "reawakening of consciences" to counter the "indifference" shown to migrants and denounced traffickers who exploit their desperation.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has invited believers to trust in God’s providential care while doing everything in their power to respond to the challenges that come their way.
He was addressing pilgrims gathered in the Paul VI Hall for the weekly General Audience .
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
Resuming his ongoing catechesis on Christian hope Pope Francis recalled the courageous figure of Judith, and of how, during the siege of the city of Bethulia by the Assyrian general Holofernes, she urged the despairing population to reinforce its wavering hope in the Lord and ended up proposing a plan that led to victory over the enemy.
The example of this woman of great wisdom and courage, the Pope said, teaches us to trust in the Lord’s providential care, but also, in prayer and obedience, to discern his will and to do everything in our power to respond to the challenges that come our way.
“How often have we felt our trust in God waver? How many times has each of us, perhaps in desperation, been tempted to lose faith and expect the worst?” he said.
Judith’s faith, Pope Francis continued, inspires us to commend ourselves to the Father with trust and obedience.
And remarking on Judith’s courage, the Pope mentioned that in his opinion, women are often more courageous than men…
“Dear brothers and sisters, never impose your conditions on God, but allow Christian hope to defeat your fear. To trust in God means to be unconditionally part of his plan accepting the fact that we are given salvation and His help in ways that are different from what we expect” he said.
God, the Pope continued, knows exactly what it is we are in need of and we must trust Him because his paths and his actions are different to ours.
Judith, a woman full of faith and courage gave strength to her people who were in mortal danger and conducted them on the path of trust. We too, the Pope said, must heed the wise and courageous words of humble women…
“The wise words of grandmothers who often know what to say and how to give encouragement because they have the experience of life; they have suffered, they have trusted in God, and the Lord gives them this gift of showing us how to keep on having faith” he said.
Let us commend ourselves to the Father, Pope Francis concluded, with the same obedience that led Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, to pray: “Not my will, but yours be done”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Holy Mass was celebrated on Tuesday in the Vatican Grottoes for the 16 Hungarian victims of a bus crash, which occurred last Friday near Verona, Italy.
The secondary school students were returning to Budapest from a skiing trip in France when their bus crashed into a highway overpass and burst into flames.
The suffrage Mass was presided over by Bishop Ferenc Cserháti in the Magna Domina Hungarorum Chapel in the Grottoes under St. Peter’s Basilica.
Among those present at the Mass for the victims and their families were the Hungary's Ambassadors to the Holy See and Italy, along with the Embassies’ staff.
In his homily, Bishop Cserháti said, “As we cry, we must not forget that these departed young people are written on the palm of God’s hand, because they are His creatures, and God desires not death but life.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent an official delegate from the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development to Aleppo in Syria.
Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, the Pope’s delegate, visited the war-ravaged city on the 18-23 January, accompanied by Cardinal Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, and Msgr. Thomas Habib, Counselor to the Nunciature.
A statement released on Tuesday by the Dicastery for Integral Human Development said this was the first official visit by representatives of the Holy See after the end of hostilities in Aleppo.
“The delegation was able to meet the Christian communities and their pastors, who expressed their gratitude to the Pope for his constant attention to beloved Syria. In addition, he visited Catholic charitable institutions and a number of refugee camps. In particular, a centre for humanitarian assistance managed by Caritas Aleppo in the Hanano neighbourhood was inaugurated.”
The Vatican delegation also participated in an ecumenical prayer service organized for the week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
Another moment of encounter occurred when the delegation met with representatives of Islam, during which “the responsibility of religions to educate for peace and reconciliation was underlined”.
Local civil and religious authorities “paid homage to the delegation, expressing particular gratitude for the Holy Father’s gesture in elevating to the dignity of cardinal the Papal Representative to the country [Cardinal Zenari], and acknowledging in this the Pope’s special closeness to the afflicted Syrian population”.
The statement goes on to detail the importance of the encounters with Catholic charities in the country.
"Finally, the meetings with Catholic charitable entities highlighted the importance of the assistance they provide for the benefit of all the Syrian population. With the support of the universal Church and thanks to the generous contribution of the international community, such aid can be intensified in the future to face the growing needs of the people."
In conclusion, the statement detailed the items currently most needed, which include “food, clothing, education, healthcare, and housing”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican has released Pope Francis’ Message for the 51st World Day of Social Communications. The theme of this year’s message is "Fear not, for I am with you": Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time. The World Day of Social Communications is celebrated in almost all countries on the Sunday before Pentecost. The message is being issued on 24 January, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of journalists.
Listen to the report by Charles Collins :
Please find the full text of the message below:
"Fear not, for I am with you» (Is 43:5):
Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time"
Access to the media – thanks to technological progress – makes it possible for countless people to share news instantly and spread it widely. That news may be good or bad, true or false. The early Christians compared the human mind to a constantly grinding millstone; it is up to the miller to determine what it will grind: good wheat or worthless weeds. Our minds are always “grinding”, but it is up to us to choose what to feed them (cf. SAINT JOHN CASSIAN, Epistle to Leontius).
I wish to address this message to all those who, whether in their professional work or personal relationships, are like that mill, daily “grinding out” information with the aim of providing rich fare for those with whom they communicate. I would like to encourage everyone to engage in constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice towards others and foster a culture of encounter, helping all of us to view the world around us with realism and trust.
I am convinced that we have to break the vicious circle of anxiety and stem the spiral of fear resulting from a constant focus on “bad news” (wars, terrorism, scandals and all sorts of human failure). This has nothing to do with spreading misinformation that would ignore the tragedy of human suffering, nor is it about a naive optimism blind to the scandal of evil. Rather, I propose that all of us work at overcoming that feeling of growing discontent and resignation that can at times generate apathy, fear or the idea that evil has no limits. Moreover, in a communications industry which thinks that good news does not sell, and where the tragedy of human suffering and the mystery of evil easily turn into entertainment, there is always the temptation that our consciences can be dulled or slip into pessimism.
I would like, then, to contribute to the search for an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamourize evil but instead to concentrate on solutions and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipients. I ask everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart “good news”.
Life is not simply a bare succession of events, but a history, a story waiting to be told through the choice of an interpretative lens that can select and gather the most relevant data. In and of itself, reality has no one clear meaning. Everything depends on the way we look at things, on the lens we use to view them. If we change that lens, reality itself appears different. So how can we begin to “read” reality through the right lens?
For us Christians, that lens can only be the good news, beginning with the Good News par excellence: “the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God” (Mk 1:1). With these words, Saint Mark opens his Gospel not by relating “good news” about Jesus, but rather the good news that is Jesus himself. Indeed, reading the pages of his Gospel, we learn that its title corresponds to its content and, above all else, this content is the very person of Jesus.
This good news – Jesus himself – is not good because it has nothing to do with suffering, but rather because suffering itself becomes part of a bigger picture. It is seen as an integral part of Jesus’ love for the Father and for all mankind. In Christ, God has shown his solidarity with every human situation. He has told us that we are not alone, for we have a Father who is constantly mindful of his children. “Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43:5): these are the comforting words of a God who is immersed in the history of his people. In his beloved Son, this divine promise – “I am with you” – embraces all our weakness, even to dying our death. In Christ, even darkness and death become a point of encounter with Light and Life. Hope is born, a hope accessible to everyone, at the very crossroads where life meets the bitterness of failure. That hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5) and makes new life blossom, like a shoot that springs up from the fallen seed. Seen in this light, every new tragedy that occurs in the world’s history can also become a setting for good news, inasmuch as love can find a way to draw near and to raise up sympathetic hearts, resolute faces and hands ready to build anew.
Confidence in the seed of the Kingdom
To introduce his disciples and the crowds to this Gospel mindset and to give them the right “lens” needed to see and embrace the love that dies and rises, Jesus uses parables. He frequently compares the Kingdom of God to a seed that releases its potential for life precisely when it falls to the earth and dies (cf. Mk 4:1-34). This use of images and metaphors to convey the quiet power of the Kingdom does not detract from its importance and urgency; rather, it is a merciful way of making space for the listener to freely accept and appropriate that power. It is also a most effective way to express the immense dignity of the Paschal mystery, leaving it to images, rather than concepts, to communicate the paradoxical beauty of new life in Christ. In that life, hardship and the cross do not obstruct, but bring about God’s salvation; weakness proves stronger than any human power; and failure can be the prelude to the fulfilment of all things in love. This is how hope in the Kingdom of God matures and deepens: it is “as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow” (Mk 4:26-27).
The Kingdom of God is already present in our midst, like a seed that is easily overlooked, yet silently takes root. Those to whom the Holy Spirit grants keen vision can see it blossoming. They do not let themselves be robbed of the joy of the Kingdom by the weeds that spring up all about.
The horizons of the Spirit
Our hope based on the good news which is Jesus himself makes us lift up our eyes to contemplate the Lord in the liturgical celebration of the Ascension. Even though the Lord may now appear more distant, the horizons of hope expand all the more. In Christ, who brings our human nature to heaven, every man and woman can now freely “enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Heb 10:19-20). By “the power of the Holy Spirit” we can be witnesses and “communicators” of a new and redeemed humanity “even to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7‑8).
Confidence in the seed of God’s Kingdom and in the mystery of Easter should also shape the way we communicate. This confidence enables us to carry out our work – in all the different ways that communication takes place nowadays – with the conviction that it is possible to recognize and highlight the good news present in every story and in the face of each person.
Those who, in faith, entrust themselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit come to realize how God is present and at work in every moment of our lives and history, patiently bringing to pass a history of salvation. Hope is the thread with which this sacred history is woven, and its weaver is none other than the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Hope is the humblest of virtues, for it remains hidden in the recesses of life; yet it is like the yeast that leavens all the dough. We nurture it by reading ever anew the Gospel, “reprinted” in so many editions in the lives of the saints who became icons of God’s love in this world. Today too, the Spirit continues to sow in us a desire for the Kingdom, thanks to all those who, drawing inspiration from the Good News amid the dramatic events of our time, shine like beacons in the darkness of this world, shedding light along the way and opening ever new paths of confidence and hope.
From the Vatican, 24 January 2017
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The great wonders of the priesthood of Christ, who offered Himself, once for all, for the forgiveness of sins; and who now intercedes for us before the Father; and who will return to bring us with Him: those are the three stages of the priesthood of Christ highlighted by Pope Francis during his homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. The Pope also warned of the “unforgivable blasphemy”: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Listen to our report:
The priesthood of Christ was at the centre of the Pope’s homily on Monday. His reflection was taken from the day’s first Reading, from the Letter of Hebrews, which speaks about Christ as the Mediator of the Covenant God has made with human beings. Jesus is the High Priest, and the priesthood of Christ is the great wonder, the greatest wonder, which makes us sing a new song to the Lord, as the Responsorial Psalm says.
The three stages of the priesthood of Christ: He offers Himself; He intercedes for us; He will return to bring us to the Father
The priesthood of Christ takes place in three stages, the Pope said. The first is the redemption: while the priests of the Old Covenant had to offer sacrifices every year, “Christ offered Himself, once for all, for the forgiveness of sins.” With this marvel, “He has brought us to the Father… He has re-created the harmony of creation,” the Pope noted. The second wonder is what the Lord is doing now – that is, praying for us. “While we pray here, He is praying for us” “for each one of us,” Pope Francis emphasized: “now, living, before the Father, He intercedes,” so that the faith might not falter. How often, in fact, are priests asked to pray, the Pope said, because “we know that the prayer of the priest has a certain force, especially in the sacrifice of the Mass.” The third wonder will be when Christ returns; but this third time will not be in relation to sin, but rather, it will be “to establish the definitive Kingdom,” when He will bring all of us to the Father:
“There is this great wonder, this priesthood of Jesus in three stages – that in which He pardons sins, once for all; that in which He intercedes now for us; and that which will occur when He returns. But there is also the contrary: the ‘unforgivable blasphemy.’ It’s hard to hear Jesus saying these things, but He says it, and if He says it, it is true. ‘Amen I say to you, all will be forgiven the children of men’ – and we know that the Lord forgives everything if we open our hearts a bit. Everything! The sins and even the blasphemies they speak – even blasphemies will be pardoned! – but the one who will have blasphemed the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in eternity.”
“The unforgivable blasphemy”: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, will not allow itself to be forgiven
To explain this, the Pope referred to the great priestly anointing of Jesus, which the Holy Spirit accomplished in the womb of Mary; as priests, in the ceremony of ordination, are anointed with oil:
“Even Jesus as the High Priest received this anointing. And what was the first anointing? The flesh of Mary with the work of the Holy Spirit. And he who blasphemes about this, blasphemes about the foundation of the love of God, which is the redemption, the re-creation; blasphemy about the priesthood of Christ. ‘But the Lord does not forgive that wickedness?’ [you might ask]. ‘No! The Lord forgives everything!’ But one who says these things is closed to forgiveness. He doesn’t want to be forgiven! He doesn’t allow himself to be forgiven! This is the ugliness of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit: It does not allow itself to be forgiven, because it denies the priestly anointing of Jesus, accomplished by the Spirit.”
Do not close your heart before the wonders of the priesthood of Christ
In conclusion, the Pope returned to the great wonders of the priesthood of Christ, and also to the “unforgivable blasphemy” – unforgivable “not because the Lord does not want to forgive everything, but because this [person] is so closed that he does not allow himself to be forgiven: the blasphemy against this wonder of Jesus”:
Today it would be good for us, during the Mass, to consider that here on the altar the living memorial is made – because He will be present here – of the first priesthood of Jesus, when He offers His life for us. There is also the living memorial of the second priesthood, because He will pray here. But also, in this Mass – we will say it after the Our Father – there is that third priesthood of Jesus, when He will return, and [that is] our hope of glory. In this Mass, let us think about these beautiful things. And let us ask for grace from the Lord that our hearts might never be closed – might never be closed! – to this wonder, to this great, freely-given wonder.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) In an interview published by Spanish language newspaper El País, Pope Francis said he is most concerned with those in the Church – Bishops, priests, nuns, laymen – who are ‘anesthetized,’ rather than those who are asleep. Those who are anesthetized, he said, “sell out to worldliness.” An anesthetized person, he said, “is not in touch with people, he protects himself against reality.” When such people are in the Church, he said, they “should pack [their] bags and retire.”
Once again, the Holy Father covered a wide range of topics in a newspaper interview, touching again on subjects that are near and dear to his heart – including the “world war” currently being waged “in pieces”; the problem of migration, which involves both welcoming and integrating migrants; the problems of embracing ideologies; and the problems of corruption, especially in the modern world, which worships the “god of money.”
Pope Francis was asked in particular about current world events, including the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. “I think we must wait and see,” he said with regard to the new US administration. “I don’t like to get ahead of myself nor judge people prematurely. We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion.” He warned against premature reactions: “Being afraid or rejoicing beforehand, because of something that might happen, is, in my view, unwise,” he said.
The Pope had words of praise for his successor, Paul VI, whom he called an unappreciated martyr. He also praised his collaborators in the Roman curia, saying some of them are true saints. The Pope also spoke at some length about what he called the “middle class of sanctity”: mothers, fathers, families, ordinary people, with their sins and their virtues, who strive to lead a Christian life.
The interview with Pope Francis also touched on the Vatican’s role as a mediator in diplomatic conflicts, with the Holy Father emphasizing the importance of dialogue. The Church’s relations with various countries, including Spain, Venezuela and Colombia, and China, also came up in the conversation.
At the close of the interview, asked about what he hopes for from the conclave that will elect his successor, Pope Francis said, “I want it to be Catholic.” He said he wasn’t sure if he would see that election – a reference to the possibility of resigning – or if God would “carry [him] away” before that.
Pope Francis concluded the interview saying “The Lord is good, and hasn’t taken away my good humour.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) A series of earthquakes and devastating winter weather have caused “new and harsh trials for our brothers and sisters of Central Italy,” especially in the provinces of Abruzzo, Le Marche, and Lazio, Pope Francis said on Sunday during his weekly Angelus address.
“I am close to them with prayer and with affection for families” whose loved ones are among the victims,” the Holy Father continued. He also encouraged all those taking part, “with great generosity,” in works of aid and assistance, as well as the local churches “who devote themselves to alleviating suffering and difficulties.”
Pope Francis concluded his remarks by leading the people gathered in St Peter’s Square in prayer for all those affected by the disasters.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Following the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis noted that we are currently in the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which has for its theme this year “Reconciliation – The Love of Christ Compels Us.”
He noted that the week will conclude in Rome next Wednesday with the ecumenical celebration of Vespers at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls. “I invite you to persevere in prayer,” the Pope said, “so that the desire of Christ, ‘That they all might be one,” may be accomplished.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis focused on the early days of Jesus ministry, in Galilee. This region, the Holy Father noted, was a kind of crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Mesopotamian hinterlands. Because of the presence of large numbers of pagans, for the Jews Galilee was seen as a geographical periphery. Little was expected from Galilee in terms of the story of salvation – but it was precisely here that the light of the Gospel began to be diffused throughout the world, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles.
Here, following St John the Baptist, Jesus preached the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. But unlike the Baptist, who waited for the people to come to him, Jesus chose the life of a wandering prophet, going out to meet the people.
Pope Francis noted that Jesus didn’t simply proclaim the Gospel, He sought out companions to associate with Himself in His mission of salvation. He chose simple fisherman, Peter and Andrew, James and John, calling them not in an extraordinary manner, but in the routine of their daily lives. The fishermen, called to be “fishers of men”, responded immediately to Jesus call.
“We, Christians of today,” the Pope said, “have the joy of proclaiming and bearing witness to our faith because of that first announcement, because there were those humble and courageous men who responded generously to the call of Jesus.”
Our awareness of the beginnings of the Christian mission, he continued, “raises up in us the desire to bring the word, the love, and the tenderness of Jesus into every context, even the most impervious and resistant. All the spaces of human life are ground in which to sow the seed of the Gospel, that it might bear the fruits of salvation.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday celebrated Mass at the Cathedral Archbasilica of St John Lateran for the conclusion of the Jubilee for the 800th anniversary of the papal confirmation of the Order of Preachers – the Dominicans.
In his homily, the Holy Father contrasted two opposed “human scenarios”: a “‘carnival’ of worldly curiosity, on the one hand; and on the other, the “glorification of the Father through good works.”
Saint Paul, in the Letter to Timothy, warns against the worldly curiosity that sees men and women, with “itching ears,” always seeking after new teachers, “fables,” strange doctrines, ideologies. The very human tendency to seek novelties, the Pope said, “finds the ideal environment in the society of appearances, of consumption… Even the truth is “made-up”, covered with cosmetics to appear novel and attractive.
Against this worldly “carnival” atmosphere stands the opposite scenario, found in the words of the Jesus in the Gospel: “that they may glorify your heavenly Father.” The passage from a pseudo-festive superficiality to glorification comes about “through the good works of those who, having become disciples of Christ, are become “salt” and “light.”
This, the Pope said, “is the response of Jesus and of the Church, this is the solid support in the midst of a ‘fluid’ environment: good works, which we are able to accomplish thanks to Christ and His Holy Spirit, and which cause to rise up in the heart thanksgiving to the Father, and praise.
Today, Pope Francis said, concluding his homily, “we give thanks to the Father for the work that Saint Dominic, full of the light and the salt of Christ, accomplished 800 years ago; a work at the service of the Gospel, preached with words and with his life; a work that, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, has helped so many men and women to not lose themselves in the midst of the ‘carnival’ of worldly curiosity, but rather sense the taste of sound doctrine, the taste of the Gospel; who, in their turn, have become light and salt, doers of good works… and true brothers and sisters who glorify God, and teach others to glorify God, by the good works of their lives.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday received members of the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota on the occasion of the inauguration of the judicial year.
Listen to Lydia O’Kane's report:
Addressing those gathered for the opening of the judiciary year of the Sacred Roman Rota, Pope Francis focused his attention on the relationship between faith and marriage.
Love and Truth
Quoting from his predecessors including Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, he noted the importance of Love and Truth.
"Love needs truth”, Pope Francis said. “Just as it is based on truth, love can last over time, overcome the ephemeral moment and stand firm to support a common path. If love has no relationship to the truth, the Holy Father explained, “it is subject to changing feelings and does not stand the test of time. True love, he added, “unifies all the elements of the person and becomes a new light towards a great and full life.
In his observations, the Pope underlined that, “the experiences of faith of those seeking Christian marriage are very different.” Faced with this situation, he said, “we need to find valid remedies.”
Prescribing the first of two remedies, the Holy Father pointed out that young people needed to be trained through an adequate process of preparation aimed at rediscovering marriage and the family according to God's plan.
He said, it was therefore necessary that operators and organizations in charge of the pastoral care of the family had the specific skills in order to make preparation more effective for the sacrament of marriage.
In this spirit, the Pope reiterated the need for a "new catechumenate" in preparation for marriage.
The Holy Father’s second remedy involved helping newlyweds to continue the journey in faith and in the Church even after the wedding celebration.
You need, Pope Francis stressed, to identify with courage and creativity, a training project for young married couples, with initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of the sacrament received.
Legal and sacramental view of marriage preparation
The Holy Father said, that these two remedies were aimed at encouraging an appropriate context of faith in which to celebrate and live marriage.
What was needed, explained the Pope, was to move from a purely legal and formal vision of the preparation of future spouses, to a sacramental foundation.
Pope Francis said that this would require, “the generous contribution of Christian men and women, who work with priests in the pastoral care of families, in order to build a loving family according to God’s plan.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with the President of Paraguay, Horacio Manuel Cartes Jara.
The President subsequently met with the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.
A statement from the Holy See Press Office said the discussions “took place in a cordial atmosphere”, and highlighted the good existing relations between the Holy See and Paraguay.”
“The parties focused on themes of common interest, such as the integral development of the human person, the struggle against poverty, and social peace,” – the statement read – “From this perspective, the collaboration of the Catholic Church was noted, along with her contribution in the social and educational fields, and in aid to those most in need. The conversation continued with an exchange of views on the regional political and social situation, with special reference to the development of democratic institutions.”
President Cartes gave Pope Francis an artistic representation of the altar at which the Holy Father celebrated Mass during his visit to the South American country in 2015, as well as book with a pictorial of the visit.
Pope Francis gave the Paraguayan leader a Jubilee Medal, as well as copies of many of his writings.
(from Vatican Radio)...