(Vatican Radio) The Third Sunday of Advent is the traditional day when the children of Rome bring the Baby Jesus statues from their Nativity Scenes at home to St. Peter’s Square to be blessed by the Pope during the Sunday Angelus. The day is affectionately known as “Bambinelli Sunday.”
“Today, my first greeting goes to the children and young people of Rome who have come for the traditional blessing of the “Bambinelli ,”which has been organized by parish churches and Catholic schools,” – Pope Francis told them – “Dear children, when you pray in front of your crèche with your parents, ask the Baby Jesus to help us all to love God and neighbor. And remember to pray for me, as I remember you.”
Pope Francis returned to the children at the very end of his Angelus.
"And one thing I want to say to the children and young people: We want to hear one of your songs!" Pope Francis said, ending his appearance with the command: "Sing!"
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has prayed for the victims of several terrorist attacks which had taken place in the hours before his Sunday Angelus.
In Egypt, a bomb outside St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Cairo killed at least 25 people on Sunday morning; in Somalia, a suicide bomber killed over a dozen people in Mogadishu on Sunday morning; and in Turkey, at least 38 people were killed in twin bomb attacks outside a football stadium in Instanbul on Saturday evening.
“And we also pray for the victims of some horrible terrorist attacks which have hit various countries in the last few hours,” Pope Francis said after reciting the Angelus.
“There are several places, but unfortunately, unique is the violence that sows death and destruction. But the response is also unique: Faith in God and unity in human and civil values,” – Pope Francis said – “I would like to express a special closeness to my dear brother Pope Tawadros II [the head of the Coptic Church] and to his community, and I am praying for the dead and the wounded.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday appealed that the world not ignore the plight of the people in the Syrian city of Aleppo.
Russian-backed Syrian troops have been fighting to retake portions of the city which are still held by rebels. The conflict has killed hundreds of people in the past few weeks, many of them civilians.
“Every day I am close, especially in prayer, to the people of Aleppo,” Pope Francis said after his Angelus address.
“We must not forget that Aleppo is a city in which there are people: Families, children, the elderly, sick people ... Unfortunately, we have become accustomed to war, to destruction; but we must not forget Syria is a country full of history , culture and faith,” – the Pope continued – “We cannot accept that this is negated by war, which is a pile of abuses and falsehoods. I make an appeal for the commitment of everyone, because we face a choice of civilization: No to destruction, Yes to peace, Yes to the people of Aleppo and Syria.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Saturday with seminarians of the Pontifical Pius XI seminary of the Puglia region, along with a group of local bishops.
Listen to Ann Schneible‘s report of the Holy Father's prepared remarks:
Pope Francis centred his address to the seminarians on the theme of “belonging”.
“Only if we feel ourselves to be a part of Christ, the Church, and the Kingdom, will we journey well through the Seminary Years,” the Holy Father said.
In this context, he warned against “narcissism”, and reminded the seminarians that their “vocational journey” will only be possible by if they remain vigilant against this temptation.
The Pope also spoke about the seminary as being a place to learn how to build relationships with others, as this skill will be necessary when they become priests.
Finally, “belonging” is understood in the context of “its opposite, which is exclusion,” the Holy Father said.
He reminded the seminarians of their call to bring Christ to everyone they meet so that they feel part of the community, beginning with those in the seminary who might be excluded or marginalized.
Pope Francis concluded by telling the those present that belonging is a responsibility, and to be attentive to the quality of the formative journey of the seminary.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has told a Catholic association of farmers not to sacrifice the rhythms of agricultural life for monetary gains.
His address to the International Catholic Rural Association (ICRA) came on Saturday in the Vatican’s Consistory Hall.
Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:
The International Catholic Rural Association promotes the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of agriculture, as well as international food security.
In his remarks, Pope Francis praised the association’s “concern for rural life, grounded in the vision of the Church’s social doctrine”.
He said, “It is an eloquent expression of that imperative to ‘till and keep the garden of the world’ (Laudato Si’, 67) to which we have been called, if we wish to carry on God’s creative activity and to protect our common home.”
Despite the centrality of agriculture to human life, the Holy Father said it is paradoxical that “agriculture is no longer considered a primary sector of the economy, yet it clearly continues to be important for policies of development and for addressing disparities in food security and issues in the life of rural communities”.
He also warned against the dangers of an exclusively economic focus in agriculture.
The Pope said farmers cannot focus on “making money above all else, even at the expense of sacrificing the rhythms of agricultural life, with its times of work and leisure, its weekly rest and its concern for the family”.
Pope Francis said ICRA shows that: "It is possible to combine being Christians with acting as Christians in the concrete circumstances of agricultural life, where the importance of the human person, the family and community, and a sense of solidarity represent essential values, even in situations of significant underdevelopment and poverty.”
He said, “May we never find ourselves “silent witnesses to terrible injustices”, as can happen when “we think that we can obtain significant benefits by making the rest of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely high costs of environmental deterioration” (Laudato Si’, 36).”
In conclusion, Pope Francis said the members of ICRA “are called to propose a sober lifestyle and a culture of agricultural work that has its foundations as well as its goals in the centrality of the person, in openness to others and in gratuitousness.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Papal preacher, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, delivered his second Advent Sermon on Friday to Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia.
As preacher to the Papal Household, Capucin Father Cantalamessa gives a meditation to the Pope, Cardinals and members of the Roman Curia every Friday morning in Lent and Advent in the Apostolic Palace’s “Redemptoris Mater” Chapel.
In the second Advent sermon, Fr. Cantalamessa continued his theme of the Holy Spirit’s action in the Church, focusing on the charism of discernment.
Please find below the full text English translation of the Sermon:
Second Advent Sermon
The Holy Spirit and the Charism of Discernment
Let us continue our reflections on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian. Saint Paul mentions a specific charism called “discernment of spirits” (see 1 Cor 12:10). This phrase originally had a very specific meaning: it indicated the gift that made it possible to distinguish from among the inspired or prophetic messages given during an assembly those that came from the Spirit of Christ and those that came from other spirits, such as the spirit of man, or a demonic spirit, or the spirit of the world.
For Saint John this is its fundamental meaning as well. Discernment consists in testing “the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 Jn 4:1). For Paul the fundamental criterion for discernment is confessing Christ as “Lord” (1 Cor 12:3); for John, it is confessing that Jesus “has come in the flesh” (1 Jn 4:2), meaning, the Incarnation. In John, discernment already begins to take on a theological function as the criterion by which to discern true doctrines from false ones, orthodoxy from heresy, which would become pivotal later.
1. Discernment in ecclesial life
There are two areas in which this gift of discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit needs to be exercised: the ecclesial and the personal. In the ecclesial area, discernment of spirits is carried out by the authority of the magisterium, which, however, must take into account, along with other criteria, the “sense of the faithful.”
But I would like to dwell on one point in particular which may be helpful in the discussionche taking place today on certain moral problems: the discernment of the signs of the time. The Second Vatican Council declared,
“In every age the church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. In language intelligible to every generation, it should be able to answer the ever-recurring questions which people ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other.” 
It is clear that if Church has to discern the signs of the times in the light of the gospel, it does not do so by applying long-standing measures and rules to the “times,” that is, the problems and situations that emerge in society, but rather by giving new responses, “intelligible to every generation” starting each time from the gospel. The difficulty that is encountered on this path—and which must be taken seriously—is the fear of compromising the authority of the magisterium by admitting changes in its pronouncements.
There is a consideration, I believe, that can help overcome this difficulty in the spirit of communion. The infallibility that the Church and the pope claim is certainly not of a higher level than that which is attributed to revealed Scripture. Biblical inerrancy ensures that the Scripture writer expresses truth in the way and to the degree in which it could be expressed and understood at the time he wrote it. We see that many truths are articulated slowly and gradually, like the truth about the after-life and eternal life. In the moral sphere as well, many prior customs and laws are abandoned later to make way for laws and criteria that are more in accordance with the spirit of the Covenant. One example from among many: Exodus affirms that God will punish the children for the iniquities of the fathers (see Ex 34:7), but Jeremiah and Ezekiel say the opposite, that God will not punish the children for the sins of the fathers but that each person will be held responsible for his or her own actions (see Jer 31:29-30; Ez 18:1ff).
In the Old Testament the criterion by which people move beyond earlier proscriptions is a better understanding of the spirit of the Covenant and of the Torah. In the Church the criterion is a continuous re-reading of the Gospels in the light of new questions that are put to it. “Scriptura cum legentibus crescit,” said St. Gregory the Great: “Scripture grows with those who read it.” 
We know that the constant rule for Jesus’ actions in the Gospels, in moral questions, can be summarized in seven words: “No to sin, yes to the sinner.” No one is more severe than he is in condemning unjustly acquired wealth, but he invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house, and simply by going there to meet him he brings a change. He condemns adultery, even that of the heart, but he forgives the adulteress and gives hope back to her; he reaffirms the indissolubility of marriage, but he engages in conversation with the Samaritan woman who has already had five husbands, and he reveals to her the secret he had told no one else in such an explicit way: “I who speak to you am he [the Messiah]” (Jn 4:26).
If we ask ourselves how to justify theologically such a clear-cut distinction between the sinner and sin, the answer is very simple: sinners are God’s creatures, created by him and made in his image, and they maintain their dignity despite all their aberrations; sin is not the work of God: it does not come from him but from the enemy. It is the same reason why the Son of God became everything human beings are, “except sin” (see Heb. 4:15).
One important factor in accomplishing this task is the collegiality of the bishops, which the Council itself emphasized. Collegiality allows the bishops “to reach agreement on questions of major importance, a balanced decision being made possible thanks to the number of those giving counsel.”  The effective exercise of collegiality brings to bear on discernment and the solution to problems the diversity of local situations, points of view, insights and different gifts, which are present in every church and with every bishop.
We have a moving example of this in the first “council” of the Church, the Council of Jerusalem. That meeting allowed ample opportunity to both of the opposing points of view, those of the Judaizers and those who favored an openness to the pagans. There was “much debate,” but in the end they all agreed to announce their decision with this extraordinary formula: “It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us . . .” (Acts 15: 28; see Acts 15:6ff).
We can see from this how the Spirit guides the Church in two different ways: sometimes in a direct, charismatic way through revelations and prophetic inspirations, and at other times in a collegial way, through the painstaking and difficult confrontation, and even compromise, between the different parties and points of view. Peter’s discourse on the day of Pentecost and at Cornelius’s house is very different from the one he later gave to justify his decision in front of the elders (see Acts 11:4-18; 15:14).
We need, therefore, to have confidence in the ability of the Spirit to achieve that accord in the end, even if at times it can seem as if the whole process is getting out of hand. Whenever pastors of the Christian churches gather together at the local or international level to discern or to make important decisions, each one should have a heartfelt, confident certainty of what the Veni Creator sums up in two verses: Ductore sic te praevio / vitemus omne noxium , “So shall we not, with Thee for guide, / turn from the path of life aside.”
2. Discernment in our own lives
Let us move on to discernment in our own lives. As a charism applied to individuals, the discernment of spirits underwent a significant evolution over the centuries. Originally, as we have seen, the gift functioned to discern the inspirations of others, of those who had spoken or prophesied in an assembly. Later, it functioned mainly to discern one’s own inspirations.
This was not an arbitrary evolution of the gift: it was in fact the same gift even though it was used for different purposes. A large part of what spiritual authors have written concerning the “gift of counsel” also applies to the charism of discernment. Through the gift, or charism, of counsel, the Holy Spirit helps us to evaluate situations and to orient our choices based not only on human wisdom and prudence but also in the light of the supernatural principles of faith.
The primary and fundamental discernment of spirits is the one that allows us to distinguish the “the Spirit of God” from “the spirit of the world” (1 Cor 2:12). St. Paul offers an objective criterion for discernment that is the same Jesus gave: the fruit. The “works of the flesh” demonstrate that a given desire has come from the old sinful nature, while “the fruits of the Spirit” reveal that a desire has come from the Spirit (see Gal 5:19-22). “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh.” (Gal 5:17)
At times, however, this objective criterion is inadequate because the choice is not between good and bad but between one good and another good, and the question is to discern what God wants in a specific circumstance. It was precisely in response to this need that Saint Ignatius of Loyola developed his teaching on discernment. He invites us to consider one thing above all: our own interior dispositions, the intentions (the “spirits”) that lie behind a choice. In so doing, he was aligning himself with an already established tradition. One medieval author had written,
“No one can test the spirits to see if they are from God unless God has given him discernment of spirits to enable him to investigate spiritual thoughts, inclinations and intentions with honest and true judgment. Discernment is the mother of all virtues; everyone needs it either to guide the lives of others or to direct and reform his own life. . . . This then is true discernment, a combination of right thinking and good intention.” 
St. Ignatius proposed practical ways to apply these criteria.  For example, when you have two possible choices before you, it is good to select one of them as though you were about to follow it, and to remain in that stance for a day or more. You then evaluate your inner reaction to that choice to see if it brings peace, if it is in harmony with other choices you have made, if there is something within you that encourages you in that direction, or, on the contrary, if it leaves you with a cloud of uneasiness. Then you repeat that process with your other potential choice.
At the root of Saint Ignatius’s teaching on discernment is his doctrine of “holy indifference.”  It consists in placing oneself in a state of total willingness to accept the will of God, giving up all personal preference, like a scale ready to tip to the side where the greatest weight is. The experience of interior peace thus becomes the main criterion in all discernment. After long consideration and prayer, the choice that is accompanied by the greatest peace of heart must be the one retained.
It is essentially a question of putting into practice the ancient advice that Moses’ father-in-law gave him: “present the questions to God” and wait in prayer for his response (Ex 18:19). A deep-seated habitual disposition to do God’s will in every situation puts a person in the most favorable position for good discernment. Jesus said, “My judgment is just because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (Jn 5:30).
The danger in some modern approaches to understanding and practising discernment is an emphasis on its psychological aspects to the point of forgetting the primary agent in each discernment, the Holy Spirit. Saint John sees the decisive factor in discernment in being “anointed by the Holy One” (1 Jn 2:20). Saint Ignatius also mentions that in certain cases only the anointing of the Holy Spirit allows us to discern what we should do.  There is a profound theological reason for this. The Holy Spirit is himself “the substantial will of God,” so when he enters into a soul, this “Will of God . . . makes himself known to the person into whom he pours himself.” 
Discernment, in its essence, is not an art or a technique but a charism, a gift of the Spirit! Its psychological aspects are of great importance, but they always come second. One of the ancient Fathers wrote,
“Only the Holy Spirit can purify the mind. . . . So by every means, but especially by peace of soul, we must try to provide the Holy Spirit with a resting place. Then we shall have the light of knowledge shining within us at all times, and it will show up for what they are all the dark and hateful temptations that come from demons, and not only will it show them up: exposure to this holy and glorious light will also greatly diminish their power. That is why the Apostle says: Do not stifle the Spirit. [1 Thess 5:19]”. 
The Holy Spirit does not normally shed his light in our soul in an extraordinary or miraculous way but very simply through the words of Scripture. The most important exemples discernment in the history of the Church have come about this way. It was in hearing the saying from the Gospel, “If you want to be perfect . . . ,” that the Desert Father Anthony understood what he needed to do, and he founded monasticism.
This was also the way that Saint Francis of Assisi received the inspiration to initiate his movement of a return to the Gospel. He writes in his Testament, “After the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I had to do, but the Most High himself revealed to me that I should live according to the pattern of the Holy Gospel.”  It was revealed to him during Mass after listening to the passage from the Gospel in which Jesus tells the disciples to go into the world and “take nothing for your journey: no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics” (Lk 9:3). 
I myself remember a small example of this same sort of thing. A man came to me during a mission and shared his problem with me. He had an eleven-year-old son who had not been baptized. He said, “If I baptize him, there will be trouble at home because my wife has become a Jehovah’s Witness. If I do not baptize him, my conscience will be uneasy because when we were married, we were both Catholic and promised to raise our children in the Church.” I told him to come back the next day because I needed time to pray and reflect. The next day he came to me radiant and told me, “I found the solution, Father. I was reading in the Bible about Abraham, and I saw that when he took his son Isaac to be offered in sacrifice, he didn’t mention anything to his wife!” The Word of God enlightened him better than any human advice could have. I baptized the boy myself, and it was a great joy for everyone.
Alongside listening to the Word, the most common practice for exercising discernment on a personal level is the examination of conscience. This practice should not be limited, however, only to preparation for confession but should become a continuous excercise of placing ourselves under God’s light to let him “search” our innermost being. If an examination of conscience is not done or not done well, even the grace of confession becomes problematic: either we do not know what to confess or we are too full of psychological or voluntaristic efforts, that is, we are aiming only at self-improvement. An examination of conscience limited to preparing for confession identifies some sins, but it does not lead to an authentic one-on-one relationship with Christ. It easily becomes just a list of imperfections that we confess so that we can feel better without the attitude of real repentance that makes us experience the joy of having “so great a Redeemer” in Jesus.
3. “Led by the Spirit”
The concrete fruit of this meditation should be a renewed decision to entrust ourselves completely and for everything to the inner guidance of the Holy Spirit as a kind of “spiritual direction.” It is written that “whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the sons of Israel would go onward; but if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not go onward” (Ex 40:36-37). Neither should we undertake anything unless the Holy Spirit moves us (according to the Fathers, the cloud was a figure for him ) and unless we have consulted him before every action.
We have the most vivid example of this in Jesus’ life itself. He never undertook anything without the Holy Spirit. He went into the desert with the Holy Spirit; he returned in the power of the Spirit and began his preaching; he chose his apostles “through the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:2); he prayed and offered himself to the Father “through the eternal Spirit” (Heb 9:14).
We need to guard against a certain temptation, the temptation of wanting to give advice to the Holy Spirit instead of receiving it. “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, / or as his counsellor has instructed him?” (Is 40:13). The Holy Spirit directs everyone and is himself directed by no one; he guides and is not guided. There is a subtle way of suggesting to the Holy Spirit what he should to do with us and how he should guide us. We even make our own decisions at times and then attribute them flippantly to the Holy Spirit.
Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks about this inner leading of the Holy Spirit as a kind of “instinct of the righteous”: “As in bodily life the body is not moved save by the soul, by which it has life, so in the spiritual life all of our movements should be through the Holy Spirit.”  This is how the “law of the Spirit” works; this is what the Apostle calls being “led by the Spirit” (Gal 5:18).
We need to abandon ourselves totally to the Holy Spirit, like the strings of a harp to the fingers that pluck them. Like good actors, we need to listen attentively to the voice of the hidden prompter, so that we may recite our part faithfully on the stage of life. This is easier than some might think because our prompter speaks within us, teaches us everything, and instructs us about everything. At times we need only a simple glance inward, a movement of the heart, a prayer. We read this beautiful eulogy about a saintly bishop who lived in the second century, Melito of Sardis, that we would hope could be said of each of us after we die: he “lived entirely in the Holy Spirit.” 
Let us ask the Paraclete to direct our minds and our whole lives with the words from a prayer recited in the Office for Pentecost in the Syrian Rite:
“Spirit, dispenser of charisms to everyone;
Spirit of wisdom and knowledge, who so loves us all,
you fill the prophets, perfect the apostles,
strengthen the martyrs, inspire the teachers with teaching!
To you, our Paraclete God,
we send up our supplication along with this fragrant incense.
We ask you to renew us with your holy gifts,
to come down upon us as you came down on the Apostles in the upper room.
Pour out your charisms upon us,
fill us with knowledge of your teaching;
make us temples of your glory,
let us be overcome by the wine of your grace.
Grant that we may live for you, be of one mind with you, and adore you,
you the pure, you the holy, God Spirit Paraclete.” 
 Gaudium et spes [Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World], n. 4, in The Documents of Vatican Council II, ed. Austin Flannery (Northport, NY: Costello, 1995), p. 165.
 Gregory the Great, Homilies on Ezekiel 1.7, 8 (CCC 94).
 Lumen Gentium [Dogmatic Constitution on the Church], n. 22, p. 29.
 Baldwin of Canterbury, “Treatise 6,” Second Reading for Friday of the Ninth Week of Ordinary Time in The Office of Readings, pp. 334-335; see also PL 204, p. 466.
 See The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, Fourth Week, trans. Anthony Mottola (New York: Doubleday, 1989), 101-128.
 Cf. G. Bottereau, “Indifference, ” in Dictionnaire de Spiritualité, vol. 7, coll. 1688 ff.
 Saint Ignatius Loyloa, The Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, 141, 414, trans. and comm. George E. Ganss (St. Louis, MO: The Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1969), p. 126, 204.
 See William of St. Thierry, The Mirror of Faith, 61, trans. Thomas X. Davis (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1979), p. 49; see also SCh 301, p. 128.
 Diadochus of Photice, On Spiritual Perfection, 28, Second Reading for Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, in The Office of Readings, p. 227, italics original; see also SCh 5, p. 87 ff.
 Francis of Assisi, “Testament of Saint Francis,” in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1: The Saint, eds. Regis J. Armstrong et al. (New York: New City Press, 1999), p. 124. See also Fontes Franciscanas, p. 356.
 See Thomas of Celano, First Life, 22, trans. Christopher Stace (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2000), p. 24; see also ED, I, p. 201.
 See St. Ambrose On the Holy Spirit, III, 4, 21 (N.p.: Veritatis Splendor Publications, 2014), p. 177; and On the Sacraments, I, 6, 22, in “On the Sacraments” and “On the mysteries,” trans. Tom Thompson (London: S.P.C.K., 1950), p. 56.
 Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Letter to the Galatians, V, 5, n. 318, in Commentary on the Letters of Saint Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians, eds. John Mortensen and Enrique Alarcón, trans. Fabian R. Larcher and Matthew Lamb (Lander, WY: Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, 2011), p. 150; see also V, 7, n. 340, and Commentary on the Gospel of John, VI, 5, 3.
 Eusebius of Caesarea, The History of the Church, V, 24, 5, ed. Andrew Louth, trans. G. A. Williamson (New York: Penguin Books, 19650, p. 172.
 Pontificale Syrorum, in Emmanuel-Pataq Siman, L’expérience de l’Esprit par l’Église d’après la tradition syrienne d’Antioche (Paris: Beauchesne, 1971), p. 309.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta on Friday morning, focusing his remarks following the readings of the day on the need for priests to serve as authentic mediators of God’s love, rather than as intermediaries – “go-betweens” or “middle-men” – concerned only with advancing their own interests.
No to “go-between” priests, yest to priests who are mediators of God’s love
The role of the mediator is not that of the intermediary – and priests are called to be the former for their flock:
“The mediator gives himself (lit. perde se stesso ) to unite the parties, he gives his life. That is the price: his life – he pays with his life, his fatigue, his work, so many things, but – in this case the pastor - to unite the flock, to unite people, to bring them to Jesus. The logic of Jesus as mediator is the logic of annihilating oneself. St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians is clear on this: ‘He annihilated himself, emptied himself, and to achieve this union, [he did so] even unto death, death on a cross. That is the logic: to empty oneself, to annihilate oneself.”
The priest who abandons the task of being a mediator and instead prefers to be an intermediary si unhappy, and soon becomes sad – and he will seek happiness in vaunting himself and making his “authority” felt.
Rigidity brings us to push away people who seek consolation
Jesus had a powerful message for the “go-betweens” of his day, who enjoyed to stroll the squares to be seen:
“But to make themselves important, intermediary priests must take the path of rigidity: often disconnected from the people, they do not know what human suffering is; they forget what they had learned at home, with dad’s work, with mom’s, grandfather’s, grandmother’s, his brothers’ ... They lose these things. They are rigid, [they are] those rigid ones that load upon the faithful so many things that they do not carry [themselves], as Jesus said to the intermediaries of his time: rigidity. [They face] the people of God with a switch in their hand: ‘This cannot be, this cannot be ...’. And so many people approaching, looking for a bit of consolation, a little understanding, are chased away with this rigidity.”
When a rigid, worldly priest becomes a functionary, he ends up making himself ridiculous
Rigidity – which wrecks one’s interior life and even psychic balance – goes hand-in-glove with worldliness:
“About rigidity and worldliness, it was some time ago that an elderly monsignor of the curia came to me, who works, a normal man, a good man, in love with Jesus – and he told me that he had gone to buy a couple of shirts at Euroclero [the clerical clothing store] and saw a young fellow - he thinks he had not more than 25 years, or a young priest or about to become a priest - before the mirror, with a cape, large, wide, velvet, with a silver chain. He then took the Saturno [wide-brimmed clerical headgear], he put it on and looked himself over. A rigid and worldly one. And that priest – he is wise, that monsignor, very wise - was able to overcome the pain, with a line of healthy humor and added: ‘And it is said that the Church does not allow women priests!’. Thus, does the work that the priest does when he becomes a functionary ends in the ridiculous, always.”
You can recognize a good priest by whether he knows how to play with children
“In the examination of conscience,” Pope Francis said, “consider this: today was I a functionary or a mediator? Did I look after myself, did I look to my own comfort, my own comfort, or did I spend the day in the service of others?” The Pope went on to say, “Once, a person told me how he knew what kind of priest a man was by the attitude they had with children: if they knew how to caress a child, to smile at a child, to play with a child ... It is interesting, that, because it means that they know this means lowering oneself, getting close to the little things.” Rather, said Pope Francis, “the go-between is sad, always with that sad face or the too serious, dark face. The intermediary has the dark eyes, very dark! The mediator is open: the smile, the warmth, the understanding, the caresses.”
St. Polycarp, St. Francis Xavier, St. Paul: three icons of the mediator-priest
In the final part of the homily the Pope then brought three “icons” of “mediator-priests and not intermediaries.” The first is the great Polycarp, who “does not negotiate his vocation and is brave all the way to the pyre, and when the fire is around him, the faithful who were there, they smelled the aroma of bread.”
“This,” he said, is how a mediator makes his end: as a piece of bread for his faithful.” Another icon is St. Francis Xavier, who died young on the beach of Shangchuan, “looking toward China” where he wanted to go but could not because the Lord took him to Himself. And then, the last icon: the elderly St. Paul at the Three Fountains. “Early that morning,” Pope Francis reminded those gathered for Mass, “the soldiers went to him, they got him, and he walked bent over.” He knew that that was because of the treachery of some in the Christian community but he had struggled so much, so much in his life, that he offered himself to the Lord as a sacrifice.”
“Three icons,” he concluded, “that can help us. Look there: how I want to end my life as a priest? As a functionary, as an intermediary, or as a mediator, that is, on the cross?”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) This year’s Christmas tree and crib were inaugurated and lit up on Friday afternoon in St Peter’s Square. Earlier in the day in the Paul VI hall, Pope Francis met with the donors of the tree and the nativity scene, telling them that these gifts “form a message of hope and love.”
Listen to Lydia O’Kane's report:
Welcoming the donors of this year’s Christmas Tree and crib, Pope Francis thanked them for their gifts which he said, would be admired in Saint Peter’s Square “by pilgrims from around the world during Advent and the Christmas holidays.”
The 25 metre high spruce tree was donated by the Lagorai Forests Association which is located the Trentino region of Northern Italy and the Pope remarked that, “the beauty of those views is an invitation to contemplate the Creator and to respect nature, the work of his hands.”
The Pope also had a special word of thanks to the children who decorated the tree, with the support of the "Lene Thun Foundation" that organises the ceramic therapy workshops in various Italian hospitals for children undergoing treatment for cancer and other illnesses.
He told them that, “the multicoloured ornaments you have created represent the values of life, love and peace that Christ's Christmas proposes to us anew each year.”
This year’s crib in the Square, was donated by the Bishops and the Government of Malta and is the work of artist Manwel Grech from Gozo.
The Nativity scene features 17 figures dressed in traditional Maltese costume as well as a replica of a traditional “Luzzu” Maltese boat.
The Holy Father said that this typical Maltese vessel, recalled “the sad and tragic reality of migrants on boats making their way toward Italy”, and he expressed the hope that “those who visit this nativity scene would be invited to rediscover its symbolic value", which, he said, was “a message of fraternity, of sharing, of welcome and solidarity.”
Pope Francis concluded by telling those gathered that, “the crib and the tree form a message of hope and love, and help create a Christmas spirit that can draw us closer to living with faith the mystery of the birth of the Redeemer who came to this earth in simplicity and meekness.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis visited the Piazza di Spagna in Rome on Thursday for the celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, where he laid a bouquet of white roses near the Column of the Immaculate Conception and prayed especially for families and for workers.
Listen to Devin Watkins' report:
The Holy Father made his way to Rome’s Spanish Square to pay homage to the Immaculate Virgin, just as the Bishop of Rome has done annually for the past 50 years.
Flanked by Rome’s mayor, Pope Francis placed a bouquet of white roses at the base of the Column of the Immaculate Conception and led those present in a prayer for her feast day.
He prayed especially for abandoned children, for families struggling to make ends meet, and for men and women in search of work.
He said, “We have need of your immaculate heart, to love freely, without secondary aims but seeking the good of the other, with simplicity and sincerity, renouncing masks and tricks.”
Above all, the Holy Father prayed Our Lady to “Let us not give in to discouragement, but that, trusting in your constant help, we may engage ourselves fully in renewal of self, of this city and of the entire world.”
After the prayer, the Pope greeted many of those gathered in the square and blessed the sick and elderly.
He then made a short stop at the Basilica of St. Mary Major’s, before returning to the Vatican, to pray silently before the Maria Salus Populi Romani image, the protectress of the people of Rome.
A Vatican Radio English translation of the Pope's prayer is below:
O Mary, our Immaculate Mother,
On your feast day I come to You,
And I come not alone:
I bring with me all those with whom your Son entrusted me,
In this city of Rome and in the entire world,
That You may bless them and preserve them from harm.
I bring to you, Mother, children,
Especially those who are alone, abandoned,
And for this reason are tricked and exploited.
I bring to you, Mother, families,
Who carry forward life and society
With their daily and hidden efforts;
In a special way the families who struggle the most
For their many internal and external problems.
I bring you, Mother, all workers, men and women,
And I entrust to you especially those who, out of need,
Are forced to work in an unworthy profession
And those who have lost work or are unable to find it.
We have need of your immaculate gaze,
To rediscover the ability to look upon persons and things
With respect and awareness,
Without egotistical or hypocritical interests.
We have need of your immaculate heart,
To love freely,
Without secondary aims but seeking the good of the other,
With simplicity and sincerity, renouncing masks and tricks.
We have need of your immaculate hands,
To caress with tenderness,
To touch the flesh of Jesus
In our poor, sick, or despised brethren,
To raise up those who have fallen and support those who waver.
We have need of your immaculate feet,
To go toward those who know not how to make the first step,
To walk on the paths of those who are lost,
To find those who feel alone.
We thank you, O Mother, because in showing yourself to us
You free us of all stain of sin,
You remind us that what comes first is the grace of God,
The love of Jesus Christ who gave his life for us,
The strength of the Holy Spirit which renews all things.
Let us not give in to discouragement,
But that, trusting in your constant help,
We engage ourselves fully in renewal of self,
Of this city and of the entire world.
Pray for us, Holy Mother of God!
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy has issued an updated instrument for the formation of priests.
The document, entitled Ratio Fundamentalis Institutionis Sacerdotalis or ‘The Gift of Priestly Vocation’, was promulgated on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 8 Dec and published in the Osservatore Romano.
“The gift of the priestly vocation, placed by God in the hearts of some men, obliges the Church to propose to them a serious journey of formation,” the opening line of the document reads.
In an interview with the Osservatore Romano, Cardinal Beniamino Stella, Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, says the updated Ratio Fundamentalis is meant to provide guidelines for the formation of priests, which “needed to be revamped, renewed, and restored to the centre”.
Click here to read the full interview.
The last Ratio was published in 1970 and updated in 1985. Cardinal Stella said the new norms seek to take into account the rapid evolution in “historical, socio-cultural, and ecclesiastical contexts”.
He said inspiration was drawn from Pope Francis’ teachings and spirituality, especially regarding “temptations tied to money, to the authoritarian exercise of power, to rigid legalism, and to vainglory”.
Innovation and continuity
Cardinal Stella said the guidelines take up “the content, methods and orientation produced up to this day in the field of formation”, while at the same time building on the “existing patrimony” of the Church.
He said that “in the life of the Church innovations are never separate from Tradition, but, on the contrary, integrate it, and enhance it”.
The document, he said, draws on Pastores dabo vobis from 1992 to promote an “integral formation”, that is, “the ability to unite, in a balanced way, the human, as well as the spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions, through a gradual instructional personalised course”.
One important innovation is the introduction of a “propaedeutic period upon entrance to the Seminary”.
The Ratio Fundamentalis proposes the propaedeutic stage of formation be “not less than one year or more than two” and is meant to validate the vocation of candidates.
The document also emphasizes the need for dioceses and religious orders to guard against admitting potential sex abusers to the priesthood.
“The greatest attention must be given to the theme of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults,” it says, “being vigilant lest those who seek admission to a seminary or a house of formation, or who are already petitioning to receive Holy Orders, have not been involved in any way with any crime or problematic behavior in this area.”
Ratio Fundamentalis restates the language of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the ordination of persons with homosexual tendencies.
“The Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture’. Such persons, in fact, find themselves in a situation that gravely hinders them from relating correctly to men and women. One must in no way overlook the negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies.” ( cf. Ratio Fundamentalis 199; CCC nn. 2357-2358 ).
Cardinal Stella said the guidelines have added three stages to priestly formation: “the “stage of discipleship,” “configuration stage,” and “pastoral stage,” to each of which corresponds an itinerary and a formative content, orientated toward an assimilation with the image of the Good Shepherd.”
In brief, he said, “to be a good priest, in addition to having passed all the exams, a demonstrated human, spiritual and pastoral maturation is necessary”.
Humanity, spirituality, discernment
Cardinal Stella told the Osservatore Romano the three keywords he would choose to describe the document are: ‘humanity, spirituality, and discernment.’
He recalled Pope Francis’ recent address to the Society of Jesus: “I am noticing,” he said “the lack of discernment in the formation of priests. We are risking, in fact, becoming accustomed to ‘black and white’ and to that which is legal. We are quite closed, by and large, to discernment. One thing is clear, today in a certain quantity of Seminaries, a rigidity has been re- established which is not related to situational discernment.”
Word for priests
The Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy concluded with a word for priests.
He said, “To each one of them I would like to say above all: do not become discouraged! The Lord never offers less than his promises, and if you have called upon him, he will make his light shine upon you, whether you live in darkness, aridity, fatigue or a moment of pastoral failure. I would like to recommend to priests that they not let the healthy disquiet, which maintains their progress on the right path, be extinguished!”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday gave a special greeting to the members of Catholic Action, who on the feast of the Immaculate Conception renew their membership in the organization.
Catholic Action was founded in Italy in 1905, and is one of the main lay apostolates in the country.
“I give a special thought to all the [Catholic Action] diocesan and parish associations,” – Pope Francis said during his Angelus – “May the Virgin bless Catholic Action and make it more and more a school of holiness and generous service to the Church and to the world.”
Catholic Action has over 400,000 members in Italy, and every year over 1 million people participate in their activities.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday offered his prayers for the victims and families of the earthquake which hit Indonesia on Wednesday.
The 6.5 magnitude quake mostly affected the Aceh Province on the island of Sumatra, and over 100 people were killed in the disaster.
“I wish to assure you of my prayers for the victims and their families, for the injured and for those who have lost their homes,” – Pope Francis said during his Angelus address – “May the Lord give strength to the population and support the rescue efforts.”
The same region of Indonesia was hit by the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami , which killed over 100,000 people in the province.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday encouraged Christians to give their “Yes” to God, which allows the Lord to create for us a “new story,” as opposed to sin, which makes us “old inside.”
The Holy Father was speaking to a crowd of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square before the Angelus on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
Listen to our report:
Pope Francis reflected on two of the readings from the feast’s liturgy: The Fall of Adam and Eve [Gn 3:9-15, 20], and the Annunciation [Lk 1:26-38].
“The readings of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary are two crucial passages in the history of the relationship between man and God: We might say they lead us to the origins of good and evil,” Pope Francis said.
The Holy Father said the Book of Genesis shows us the origins of sin, the first 'no' to God, when “man preferred to look at himself, not his Creator…and in doing so comes out of communion with God.”
“This makes sin,” – Pope Francis said – “But the Lord does not leave man at the mercy of his evil; He immediately seeks him out and asks a question full of apprehension: 'Where are you?' It is the question of a father or a mother searching for a lost child…and this God does with much patience, in order to bridge the distance which arose at the beginning.”
The Holy Father then turned his attention to the Gospel reading, when “God comes to dwell among us, [and] he becomes man like us.”
“And this was made possible by ‘a great yes,’ that of Mary at the Annunciation,” – the Pope continued – “Through this ‘yes’ Jesus began his way along the road of humanity; it began in Mary, spending the first months of his life within mother’s womb; not appearing already an adult and strong, but by following the entirety of the path of what it means to be human.”
Pope Francis drew attention to the fact Mary is described as “full of grace,” meaning there is “no room for sin…without a shadow of evil.”
He explained Mary’s ‘yes’ is complete and unconditional, without any reservations.
“Also for each of us, there is a story of salvation made of yes and no to God,” – Pope Francis said – “Sometimes, though, we are experts on the half-yes: We are good at pretending not to understand what God wants, and what our conscience prompts us to do. We are also smart, and never give a true no to God, and say: ‘I am not able’, ‘not today, but tomorrow’, ‘Tomorrow I will be better, tomorrow I will pray, tomorrow I will do good.’ Thus we close the door to the good, and evil takes advantage of this ‘yes’ which is lacking.”
“Whereas every full yes to God gives rise to a new story: Saying yes to God is truly ‘original,’ not sin, which makes you old inside,” – the Pope said – “Every yes to God creates stories of salvation for us and for others.”
Pope Francis concluded by saying that in this time of Advent, “God desires to see us and awaits our 'yes'.'"
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) At his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis began a new series of catecheses on “Christian Hope”.
In our times, which seem so dark, the Pope said we often feel “lost in the face of the wickedness and the violence that surround us.” We may even feel “discouraged, because we feel powerless, and it seems the darkness might never end.”
Click below to hear our report
But we should never give up hope, he continued, “because God, with His love, journeys with us, He does not leave us alone, and the Lord Jesus has overcome evil, and opened up the path of life.”
It is important to reflect on hope during this season of Advent, when we prepare for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Pope Francis based his reflection primarily on a passage from Isaiah, in which God tells the prophet, first, to console his people, and then to “make straight the path of the Lord.”
This prophetic message was addressed to the people of Israel when they were living the tragedy of the exile in Babylon, when they had been taken out of their own land and deprived of their freedom and dignity, and even their trust in God. But the call of the prophet, the Pope said, “opens their hearts anew to faith.” It is precisely in the desert that they hear his call, it is precisely there that a new journey “can be made in order to return not only to their homeland, but to God.”
This passage, Pope Francis continued, was the starting point for the preaching of John the Baptist, “a voice crying out in the desert, prepare the way of the Lord.” In Jesus time, the Israelites were once again living a kind of exile, living as strangers in their own land because of the oppression of the Romans. But it was not the powerful who made history, the Pope continued; rather, history is the story of what God has done together with his little ones, people like Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary, and the shepherds, the simple, humble people who gathered around Jesus at his birth. “These are the little ones,” Pope Francis said, made great by their faith,” the little ones who know that they must keep hope alive.
“Let us allow ourselves, then,” the Pope concluded, “to teach hope, to faithfully await the coming of the Lord, and whatever desert we might have in our life will become a flowering garden.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Some 80 Mayors from across the globe will gather in the Vatican this week to discuss solutions that aim to respond to the needs of the some 125 million displaced people in the world today and to propose sustainable measures host countries can adopt in welcoming them.
The Summit entitled “Europe: Refugees Are Our Brothers and Sisters” will take place on 9 and 10 December in the Casina Pio IV.
Please find the informative note on the event below:
“Europe: Refugees Are Our Brothers and Sisters”
Pope Francis, in his encyclical letter Laudato Si’, pleaded for a greater conversion of heart towards “the least of our brothers and sisters”, arguing that we need to do more to prevent humanitarian crises before they occur; and when they do occur, to ensure that our response is both adequate to the enormity of the challenge and timely according to the urgency of the need. Supplying tents and drinking water that arrive after everyone is dead of cold and dehydration is totally unacceptable.
The Pope asks us in his encyclical specifically to prioritise whichever approaches result in discernable changes to those excluded and marginalised needing our help the most.
This Summit has been called to bring immediate attention to the threat posed to global stability by the growing presence on our planet of over 125 million refugees.
These are persons — in need of urgent humanitarian assistance — who have been displaced from their own homelands through war, famine, the great number of natural disasters – many caused by human activities based on fossil fuels – that have increased in both number and magnitude in recent years, as well as other causes.
Three quarters of all humanitarian emergencies today result directly from war. Ending all war — and successfully preventing future ones — would do more to diminish the above mentioned humanitarian crises than any other single action we could possibly take, and at a single strike we would eliminate the major cause of all mass refugee exoduses.
The causes of war are legion and not always just: national pride, greed for gain, anger, lust for power, laziness to do good, envy of neighbours. In summary, the root causes of war trace themselves to a human nature inclined to selfishness and egotism.
It therefore stands to reason that the solutions to these causes of war find themselves in nourishing the corresponding virtues: a visible love towards one’s enemies, greater manifestations of humility and temperance. Justice specifically, leaning upon international law, can help defuse tension by focussing awareness on the duties owed to humankind.
The remaining quarter of humanitarian emergencies stem from natural disasters, a large proportion of which derive from environmental crises such as famine, flooding, severe meteorological anomalies etc. Of these environmental crises, many have at their roots anthropic causes, such as the well-¬noted effects arising from mankind’s careless use of fossil fuels or the environmental consequences resulting from aggressive farming techniques or deforestation.
Environmental disasters always strike hardest at the poor. This is because the poor are inevitably the least-¬equipped to deal with such blows. Clearly, the greatest duty of moral care for assisting such victims lies with those responsible for having originally generated the causes of environmental catastrophes in the first place.
It is worth underlining therefore that while many people do find themselves displaced due to ‘natural causes’ the vast majority are merely the innocent victims of the actions and decisions taken by others, and therefore of circumstances entirely avoidable.
With both the natural and the bellicose causes of humanitarian crises, one factor is sadly common to each: prevention is better than cure. It is for this reason that the COP21 Paris Agreement on climate change can rightly be heralded as a humanitarian triumph.
Jesus Christ made a revolutionary promise: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” This is an injunction that has universal appeal. This Summit will seek new ways to make peace, ways appropriate to our own times with all the opportunities that are available to us to bring people together, ways that underline the human dignity of all refugees — in pitiable situations already exacerbated through social exclusion — and that assert them in their own identities.
Modern man has created wealth like in no other period of time. We therefore have an extra moral responsibility placed on our shoulders to use this potential to stop war and avoid its human consequences. No effort should be spared from encouraging all people of goodwill to participate in this endeavour.
This is not an optional priority that can be breezily delegated to our political leaders, NGOs or international philanthropists: each one of us must find a way to make his or her institutional and personal contribution, each according to his or her capabilities and abilities.
As a Mexican MP, Ana María Jiménez, once said at the Casina Pio IV, no one is so poor that they have nothing to give or nothing to share; no one is totally deprived of the ability to exercise charity…everyone can be a protagonist in contributing towards the common good. It is with this insight in mind that we call on everyone to contribute what he or she can to totally eliminate the scourge of war, climate change and exploitation from the face of the earth, for all time, starting from today.
There is nothing we could do that would do more to help those most in need of our help. It is what we would want others to do for us were we in that situation. Dwelling on this observation, no one can escape the Golden Rule to do unto others as would have them do unto us.
So what exactly should be done, in concrete terms? The forthcoming Summit will suggest and evaluate a number of proposals, both to reduce the risks of catastrophic feedback loops in the short term — and to maximise and entrench the benefits of reform in the long term:
First — stop the refugee surge at its source by ending the Syrian war immediately.
Second — don’t punish Britain for Brexit, with its dynamic of concern over unmanageable influxes of refugees and joblessness. It means thinking instead in terms of a higher, more creative and fruitful union, and also of a “healthy dis-¬‐union”. It implies granting greater independence and freedom to the countries of the European Union in general and, more in particular, regarding the refugee issue, policing national and EU borders to provide shelter to needy economic migrants “as they come”. Priority must be given to saving lives. It is crucial to establish robust refugee care systems, allowing them to seek asylum, addressing their requests fairly, resettling the most vulnerable and meeting basic needs such as education and health care.
Third, internationally recognised safe humanitarian corridors should also be established not only in the European Union member states, where present claims are already straining welfare state infrastructure beyond sustainability, but also in the less populous countries such as Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, USA and the Middle East. The principle of non refoulement of refugees must be respected and, in any case, the possibilities of accessing the job market in the host country must be examined.
Four — offer an amnesty or other solution to the victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, in terms of forced labour, prostitution and the organ trade. Many undocumented persons, including minors, are tricked into being trafficked into the sex trade (especially women) or enslaved through false promises of a regularisation of legal status. Tragically, professional crime syndicates then either use the threat of expulsion to keep victims of prostitution and forced labour under control; or keep physical possession of the passport and/or other papers once it has been granted, trapping the victim in perpetual bondage. All countries should investigate and prosecute trafficking gangs who exploit refugees and migrants in any form, and consider above all the dignity and safety of those people.
Five — restore a sense of fairness and opportunity for the disaffected working class, unemployed youth and those whose livelihoods have been undermined by financial crises and the outsourcing of jobs. This might involve projects pursuing ample social spending on health, education, training, apprenticeships, and family support, financed by closing tax havens (which are gutting public revenues and exacerbating economic injustice). It might also mean granting Greece debt relief, in the hope of ending the long-¬‐running Eurozone crisis.
Six, last but not least, focus resources, including additional aid, on economic development rather than war, in low-¬‐income countries. Uncontrolled migration from today’s poor and conflict-¬‐ridden regions will eventually become overwhelming, regardless of migration policies, if climate change, extreme poverty, and lack of skills and education undermine the development potential of Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Central Asia.
All of this underscores the need to shift from a strategy of defence and war to one of sustainable and integral development, especially led by the developed countries. Walls and fences won’t stop millions of migrants fleeing violence, extreme poverty, hunger, disease, droughts, floods, and other ills. Only global cooperation towards social justice can do that.
Finally, as the authorities closest to the general public, Mayors must be provided with the ability to meet the needs, accommodate and regularize all types of migrants or refugees. Mayors must raise their voices to promote bridges and not walls and their authority must be placed at the service of sustainable and integral development, justice and peace.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has granted an interview to Tertio , a Catholic weekly newspaper in Belgium, on themes ranging from the fruits of the Jubilee of Mercy to his hopes for a synodal Church.
In the wide-ranging interview, Pope Francis reflected on the openness to transcendence inherent in the human person, the scourge of religious fundamentalism, the price of war, the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and his desire for a synodal Church.
Healthy laicité vs. laicisme
The desire to separate religion from public life, he said, “is an antiquated stance”, recalling the distinction between laicité and laicisme .
The Pope said: “There is a healthy laicité , for example, the laicité of the state. In general, a state organized on the principle of laicité [ el estado laico ] is a good thing. It’s better than a confessional state, because confessional states end poorly.” However, he said, laicisme “closes the doors to transcendence, both transcendence towards others and, above all, transcendence towards God”.
Openness to transcendence, he said, “is a fundamental part of a human being”. Thus, when a political system does not respect this, it “prunes, cuts off the human person”.
War and religious fundamentalism
Moving to the theme of war and religious fundamentalism, Pope Francis said “no religion as such can foment war”.
He said terrorism and war are not related to religion; rather, they “use religious deformations to justify their acts”.
He said “all religions have fundamentalist groups; all; even our own… But those small religious groups deform, sicken their religion, and from there they quarrel, make war, or cause division within the community, which is form of war.”
Third World War fought piecemeal
Turning to Europe, the Holy Father said that 100 years after the First World War we are still in a state of world conflict, a “Third World War… fought piecemeal”.
“We say ‘Never again war’ but at the same time we produce weapons and sell them to those who are at war with one another.”
He said had read an economic theory which advances the idea that, when a state’s finances aren’t going well, it wages a war to balance the budget. “This is an easy way to grow rich, but the price is very steep: blood.”
Jubilee of Mercy inspired by the Lord
An important part of the interview was dedicated to the Jubilee Year of Mercy. Pope Francis said the idea of a Year of Mercy did not come to him “in a flash”.
He said it had been prepared by his predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, as well as by St. Faustina and the Feast of Divine Mercy Sunday.
The Pope recalled that the idea for an Extraordinary Jubilee came out in a conversation with Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.
“I felt that the Lord was asking this of me”, he said. “I don’t know how the idea formed in my heart… I believe the Lord inspired it. And evidentially it did much good.”
Unity in diversity: a synodal Church
The interview then turned to the issue of Vatican II in the world today and the synodality of the Church.
“The Church,” he said, “is born from the base, from the community.” Thus, “there is either a pyramidal Church, in which what Peter says is done, or a synodal Church, in which Peter is Peter but he accompanies the Church and helps it grow – he listens. Further on, he learns from her and seeks to harmonize, discerning that which comes from the churches and returns it.”
The Pope said the last two Synods on the family were the “best experience of this” because they express the “unity in diversity” of the Church.
“Everyone [at the Synod] said what they thought without fear of being judged. And all actively listened, without condemning. Afterwards, we discussed like brothers in groups.”
“A synodal Church means this movement from above to below, from below to above”, affirming that the Church “needs to advance in this synodality”.
A word for priests
Pope Francis' final reflection was for priests, whom he invited to always love the Virgin Mary, to allow themselves to be gazed upon by Jesus, and to “seek the suffering flesh of Jesus in their brothers; there you will find Jesus”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday drew attention during his General Audience to two commemorations being promoted by the United Nations in the coming days. The International Anti-Corruption Day is on 9 December and Human Rights Day is observed on 10 December.
“These two realities are closely linked: Corruption is the negative aspect against which we must fight, starting with individual consciences and keeping a watchful eye on areas of civil life, especially on those most exposed to risk; Human rights are the positive aspect to staunchly and tirelessly promote, in order that no one be excluded from effective recognition of the fundamental rights of the human person,” – Pope Francis said – “May the Lord sustain us in this twofold commitment.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis began a new series of catechesis at his General Audience on Wednesday, focusing on the theme of “Christian hope.” It is especially important to reflect on this theme, he said, during the season of Advent, “a time of expectation, in which we prepare to welcome once more the consoling mystery of the Incarnation and the light of Christmas.”
Here is the full text of the English summary of Pope Francis’ catechesis for the General Audience of 7 December 2016:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today we begin a new series of catecheses dealing with Christian hope. In these times, when evil often seems to have the upper hand, hope comforts us with the assurance of Christ’s lordship, his victory over sin, and his constant presence in our midst. In this Advent season, we hear once more the great message of consolation spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “Comfort, comfort my people”. The prophet tells us that God promises to bring his people home from their exile in a foreign land and that he desires that a way be prepared for him through the desert. This summons to renewed faith and trust in God’s saving power is also addressed to us. Saint John the Baptist, preaching in the desert of Judea, echoed these words as he prepared the way for the coming of Jesus. The Scriptures show us how Christ’s birth was prepared for by men and women – like Mary, Joseph, Zechariah and Elizabeth – who never lost their trust in God’s promises. May we imitate their hope, and await the coming of the Saviour, who turns the desert of our lives into a garden of delight.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Message to the participants in the XXI Joint Meeting of the Pontifical Academies.
The Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, read the Message to participants gathered in the Apostolic Chancery on Tuesday afternoon to explore theme: sparks of beauty to give a more human visage to our cities , chosen and directed by the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi.
“Taking care of people, starting with the smallest and weakest, and of their daily bonds," writes Pope Francis, “necessarily also means taking care of the environment in which they live. Small gestures, simple actions, small sparks of beauty and love can heal, 'mending' the often lacerated and divided human fabric [of society], as well as that of a city and of the environment, representing a concrete alternative to indifference and cynicism.”
The Holy Father’s Message was addressed to Cardinal Ravasi, who also serves as President of the Coordinating Committee for the Pontifical Academies.
Eleven in all, the Pontifical Academies exist to further research and to encourage dialogue within and among scientific, artistic, professional and cultural disciplines.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) He who does not know the tenderness of God does not know the Christian doctrine. This was the concept at the core of Pope Francis’ homily at morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, a homily focused largely on the figure of Judas.
Judas, an evangelical image of the lost sheep
Taking his cue from the Gospel reading of the day which recounts the Parable of the lost sheep, Pope Francis spoke of how the Lord never stops looking for us.
Describing the Lord as a kind of a judge, a judge who caresses and is full of tenderness, he said God does everything to save us.
“He does not come to condemn, but to save” the Pope said, and he loves each and every one of us personally. He knows us by name and loves us for what we are.
And speaking of the lost sheep Francis explained that it did not get lost because it didn’t have a compass but because it "had a sick heart" and was running away “to be distant from the Lord and was satiating an inner darkness”.
And pointing out that the Lord knows these things and never neglects to go out and look for the lost sheep, the Pope said the Lord’s attitude towards Judas is so symbolic:
“Judas is the most perfect lost sheep in the Gospel: a man with a bitter heart, someone who always had something to criticize in others, he was always ‘detached’. He did not know the sweetness that comes of living without second ends with others. He was an unsatisfied man!” he said.
The Pope said that because of the darkness in his heart Judas was separated from the herd. He said – more in general - that darkness can lead to living a double life: “a double life that, perhaps painfully, many Christians, even priests and bishops lead...”
Pointing out that Judas himself was one of the first bishops, the Pope recalled a beautiful sermon given by Father Mazzolari in which he described Judas as a lost sheep: “Brother Judas, he said, what was happening in your heart?” Francis said we need to understand lost sheep: each and every one of us has something in us of the lost sheep.
The Repentance of Judas
The Pope went on to explain that is not so much a mistake but a disease of the heart that makes a sheep wander and he said it is something the devil exploits.
Just as it was with Judas whose heart was ‘divided’. And finally when Judas saw what harm his double life had wreaked in the community, when he saw the evil he had sown because of the darkness in his heart that caused him to run away, looking for a light that was not the light of the Lord, but artificial lights like Christmas decorations, he was thrown into despair:
The Pope said that the Bible tells us that “the Lord is good, he never stops looking for the lost sheep” and it tells us that when Judas hanged himself he had repented.
“I believe that the Lord will take that word [repentance] and bring it with Him” he said. And it tells us that right until the end God’s love was working in that soul.
He said that this is the message, the good news that Christmas brings asking us to rejoice with a sincerity that brings with it a change of heart that leads us to take comfort in the Lord, and not in other ‘escapist’ consolations.
God's power is in His tenderness
When Jesus finds the lost sheep he does not insults it although it caused so much harm, the Pope said, and in the Garden of Olives He calls Judas with the appellative ‘friend’. These, he said, are God's caresses:
"He who does not know the caresses of the Lord does not know Christian doctrine! He who does not allow himself to be caressed by the Lord is lost!” he said.
Pope Francis concluded saying that the consolation that we seek is in God’s tenderness that saves us and brings us back to the fold of his Church.
“May the Lord give us the grace to sincerely recognize our sins as we await Christmas, as we wait for the power of God who comes to console us with the tenderness” he said.
(from Vatican Radio)...