Vatican News

Pope urges sisters to be 'missionaries without frontiers'

Vatican News - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 09:59
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity who are holding their 12th General Chapter in Rome this month. The theme of their assembly is focused on the need “to give oneself completely to God, to be completely given to one’s neighbour: missionary disciples and joyful witnesses to charity in the suburbs of the world”. Listen to our report: In his words to the sisters, Pope Francis noted that their institute, founded by Don Luigi Orione, is dedicated to caring especially for the poor and most marginalized members of society. Thanking them for the work they do, the Pope urged them to be "missionaries without frontiers", bringing God’s love and mercy to all they meet. Be bold and creative Missionaries, he said, are called to be bold and creative people, capable of rethinking “the goals, structure, style and method” of their mission. We are living, he stressed, in a time when “it is necessary to rethink everything in light of what the Spirit is asking us”. Be free from all ties Pope Francis said missionaries are also called to be free and able to live with nothing but the word of the Lord to sustain them. He urged the sisters to free themselves from all material or emotional ties which hinder them from setting out on their missionary journey. Be led by the Spirit As missionaries, he continued, you are called to be filled with the Spirit, letting yourselves be guided as you bring the Gospel to the most unlikely places. Be prophets of mercy Finally, Pope Francis told the sisters they are called to be prophets of mercy, letting themselves be provoked by the call for help from so many situations of pain and suffering. Together with the other institutes founded by Don Orione, he urged them to work together in a spirit of encounter and cooperation as they share God’s love and forgiveness with all who are searching for Him in today’s world. (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope: The Christian's gaze is on heaven, his feet on earth

Vatican News - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 09:12
(Vatican Radio) The Christian’s place is in the world, in order to proclaim Jesus; but his gaze is turned to heaven in order to be united to Him: that was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Friday. Galilee, the place of the first encounter with Jesus The Scriptures, Pope Francis said in his homily, give us three words, three points of reference for the Christian journey. The first word is “ memory .” The risen Jesus tells the disciples to go before Him to Galilee, and this was the first encounter with the Lord. Each one of us “has his own ‘Galilee,’” where Jesus shows Himself for the first time, where we have known Him and have had “this joy, this enthusiasm for following Him.” In order “to be a good Christian it is necessary to always have this memory of the first encounter with Jesus, or of subsequent encounters.” It is “the grace of memory” which in “the moment of trial gives me certainty.” A gaze fixed in heaven, our feet in the world The second point of reference is “ prayer .” When Jesus ascended into heaven, the Pope explained, He did not break off His relationship with us: “Physically, yes, but He is always joined to us by interceding for us. He shows the Father His wounds, the price He has paid for us, for our salvation.” And so “we must ask for the grace to contemplate heaven, the grace of prayer, the relationship with Jesus in prayer, that in the moment He hears us, He is with us”: “Then there is a third [point of reference]: “ the world .” Jesus, before He left them—as we heard yesterday in the Gospel of the Ascension—says to the disciples: ‘Go into the world and make disciples.’ Go: the Christian’s place is in the world in order to proclaim the Word of Jesus, in order to say that we are saved, that He is come to give us grace, to bring us all with Him before the Father.” Memory, prayer, and mission This, the Pope said, is “the topography of the Christian spirit,” the three points of reference of our life: memory, prayer, mission; and the three words for our journey: Galilee, heaven, the world: “A Christian must move in these three dimensions, and request the grace of memory: saying to the Lord, ‘Don’t let me forget the moment when You chose me, don’t let me forget the moment we met.’ Then, praying, looking to heaven because He is there, interceding. He intercedes for us. And then, going on mission: that is, not saying that everyone has to go to the foreign missions; [rather] going on mission is living and bearing witness to the Gospel, it is making Jesus known to all people. And doing so through witness and through the Word: because if I tell people about Jesus, and about the Christian life, and then live like a pagan, that won’t do. The mission will not go forward.” The Christian life is joyful If, instead, we live in memory, in prayer, and on mission, Pope Francis concluded, the Christian life will be beautiful, and also joyful: “And this is the final word Jesus speaks to us today in the Gospel: ‘On that day, the day in which you live the Christian life in this way, you will know all things and no one will be able to take your joy away from you.” No one, because I have the memory of my encounter with Jesus; I have the certainty that Jesus is in heaven in this moment and He is interceding for me, He is with me; and I prayer and I have the courage to speak, to go out of myself, and to speak to others and bear witness with my life that the Lord is risen, He is alive. Memory, prayer, mission. May the Lord give us the grace to understand this topography of the Christian life and to go forward with joy, with that joy that no one can take from us.” (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope makes surprise telephone call to sick children in Genoa

Vatican News - Thu, 05/25/2017 - 09:54
(Vatican Radio) On Saturday, May 27th, Pope Francis will travel to the northern Italian city of Genoa for a one-day apostolic visit . One of the highlights of the day will undoubtedly be represented by his meeting with sick children and their families in the “Giannina Gaslini” Paediatric Hospital. Awaiting Francis’ visit, many of the little patients have been busy preparing small gifts and messages, but meanwhile,  the Pope himself decided to surprise them ahead of time with a personal greeting. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : Linking-up live via telephone to a parish radio in Genoa that broadcasts a Wednesday weekly programme especially dedicated to the children’s hospital, Pope Francis told the little patients that it is with joy that he is preparing to be with them. “Dear children of the Gaslini Hospital in Genoa, I greet you all with affection” he said. The Pope said he is coming to be close to them, to listen to them, and to bring the caress of Jesus. “He is always close to us especially when we are in difficulty and in need. He always gives us trust and hope” he said. Pope Francis concluded his call with assurances that he is praying for the sick children and their families, and as he always does, he asked them to pray for him!         Established in 1931, the Istituto Giannina Gaslini is a tertiary level paediatric hospital affiliated with the University of Genoa. It is considered one of the foremost children’s hospital in Europe and it is formally recognized as a Scientific Institute for Research, Hospitalization and Healthcare. (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope Francis: Jesus journeys with us even in bad times

Vatican News - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 12:28
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has told pilgrims that God walks with us always, “even in the most painful moments” of our lives as he did with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Pope Francis continued his series of reflections on Christian hope at his Wednesday General Audience shortly after his meeting with US president Donald Trump. The Pope spoke about the disciples’ meeting with Jesus on the Road to Emmaus, in Luke’s Gospel, as “a journey of hope”.  He told pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square that Christians today are a bit like those two disciples: so often we find ourselves “a step away from happiness” but then experience sadness and disappointment. The Pope said Jesus’ accompaniment of the two disciples shows a “therapy of hope” which “gradually opens us to trust in God’s promises”. Hope, the Pope said, is “never a small price” to pay and always involves defeats and sufferings. However, walking with the disciples in a discreet way, he said, Jesus is able to rekindle their hope. Pope Francis explained that it was only when the disciples witnessed Jesus breaking the bread that he is revealed to them as the Risen Lord, who is present in their midst. This, the Pope said, “shows us the importance of the Eucharist in which, like the bread, Jesus ‘breaks our lives’ and offers them to others”. Noting how the disciples return to Jerusalem after their encounter with the Risen Lord to proclaim the good news, the Pope said that “we too are sent forth to encounter others, to hear their joys and sorrows, and to offer them words of life and hope, based on God’s unfailing love.” “All of us,” the pope said, have had difficult and dark times, when there is “just a wall in front” of us. But “Jesus is always beside us to give us hope, warm our hearts and say, "Go forward, I'm with you. Go forward.” Listen to Richard Marsden’s report here:   (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope and Trump discuss peace, dialogue, support for immigrants

Vatican News - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 07:25
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and U.S. President Donald Trump met in the Vatican on Wednesday, discussing issues of peace, interfaith dialogue and religious freedom, as well as the role of the American Church in education, healthcare and support for immigrants. Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report: The American leader spent half an hour in conversation with the Pope behind closed doors in the Apostolic Palace, before meeting with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States or foreign minister. Press office statement A statement from the Vatican press office said during the course of the cordial encounter, the two men discussed the good bilateral relations that exist between the U.S. and the Holy See. They also spoke of their “joint  commitment in favour of life, religious liberty and freedom of conscience ”. The statement expressed the hope for a “serene cooperation between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States", which is engaged in service to people "in the fields of health care, education and assistance to immigrants" . Dialogue and negotiations It said the Pope and the President also exchanged views on international affairs and on the promotion of peace through political negotiations and interfaith dialogue , mentioning especially the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities . Trump, who was accompanied by his wife Melania, as well as his daughter and son-in-law, is on the third leg of a nine day presidential tour that has already taken him to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Palestine. Sistine chapel visit After the papal audience, Trump was taken on a tour of St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, before meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and with Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. Melania Trump, meanwhile, visited Rome’s 'Bambin Gesù' Children’s Hospital, while the president's daughter, Ivanka, was scheduled to meet with victims of trafficking together with members of Rome's Sant’Egidio lay Catholic community. Please find below the full statement from the Holy See press office: This morning, Wednesday 24 May 2017, the Honorable Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, was received in Audience by the Holy Father Francis and subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States. During the cordial discussions, satisfaction was expressed for the good existing bilateral relations between the Holy See and the United States of America, as well as the joint commitment in favour of life, and freedom of worship and conscience. It is hoped that there may be serene collaboration between the State and the Catholic Church in the United States, engaged in service to the people in the fields of healthcare, education and assistance to immigrants.  The discussions then enabled an exchange of views on various themes relating to international affairs and the promotion of peace in the world through political negotiation and interreligious dialogue, with particular reference to the situation in the Middle East and the protection of Christian communities. (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope: ‘a Church without martyrs breeds distrust’

Vatican News - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 10:24
(Vatican Radio) On the second anniversary of the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed in 1980 by military squadrons linked to the Regime in San Salvador as he defended the poor, Pope Francis recalled Romero’s religious fervor and passion for justice while warning the faithful against a ‘lukewarm’ Church.  The Pope was speaking during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta . Listen to Linda Bordoni's report:  Pope Francis exhorted believers to leave comfort to the side and embrace an energetic lifestyle proclaiming Jesus with joy.  He reflected on the liturgical reading of the day which tells the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi where they were followed by a slave girl with an oracular spirit who was shouting “These people are slaves of the Most High God”. This seemed like praise, the Pope said, but Paul became annoyed and cast out the spirit.  Paul understood, the Pope explained, that that was not the path to conversion of that city; it was not the Church of Christ. Everyone there accepted the doctrine, there were no conversions. Similar situations, the Pope continued, have been repeated in the history of salvation: when the people of God are quiet, they do not take risks, but are servants of ‘worldliness’. Then the Lord, he said, sent the prophets who – like Paul - were persecuted "because they made people uncomfortable."  “In the Church when someone cries out against the many ways of worldliness, they are given ‘the crooked eye’ as if something were wrong with them, and then they are distanced” he said. Francis spoke of personal memories from his own homeland recalling many men and women, whom he said, were not supporters of an ideology but  “were good consecrated people” who spoke out saying “No, the Church of Jesus is like this....: they were branded as communists and persecuted” he said. “Think of the Blessed Romero.What happened to him for having told the truth? And so many others in the history of the Church, even here in Europe. Why? Because the evil spirit prefers a tranquil, risk-free Church, a business-like Church, a comfortable and lukewarm Church” he said. In chapter 16 of the Acts it is also said that the slaves of the slave were angry: they had lost their hope of earning money because the slave could no longer divine.  "The evil one, the Pope warned, always starts from the pocket. When the Church is lukewarm, quiet, organized, when there are no problems, look to where business is to be made" he said. Pope Francis also focused his homily, on joy. In fact, he told of how Paul and Silas were dragged by the slaves to the magistrates who ordered them to be beaten and then thrown into jail. The jailer threw them into the innermost part of the jail where the two men broke into song. Towards midnight a tremendous earthquake flung all the gates of the prison open.  The jailer was about to take his life because he would have been killed if the prisoners had escaped but Paul urged him not to do so because, he said, “we are all here”. Then the jailer asked for explanations and converted. He washed their sores, was baptized, and “was filled with joy”.  This, the Pope said, is the path of our daily conversion: “to move from a worldly, tranquil, safe, Catholic” lukewarm yes, to the true proclamation of Jesus Christ; to the joy of ' Christ's announcement. We must move, he said, from a religion that looks too much to earnings, to faith and to the proclamation that ‘Jesus is the Lord'. This, Francis continued, is the miracle performed by the Holy Spirit, and he invited the faithful to read Chapter 16 of the Acts in order to see how the Lord “together with his martyrs” makes the Church move forward. The Pope concluded his homily saying that a Church without martyrs breeds distrust; a Church that doesn’t take risks breeds distrust; a Church that is afraid of proclaiming Jesus Christ and of chasing out demons, idols and the lord of money is not Christ’s Church. “Let us ask the Lord for the grace for renewed vigor in faith and conversion from a lukewarm way of life so we are able to make the joyful proclamation that Jesus is the Lord” he said.   (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope Francis: condolences to Manchester victims

Vatican News - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 08:42
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing condolences to the victims of Monday night's bombing of a concert venue in Manchester, England, and condemning the attack, in which at least 22 people were killed and 59 thers injured. Please find the full text of the telegram, below...   ******************************* His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the barbaric attack in Manchester, and he expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence. He commends the generous efforts of the emergency and security personnel, and offers the assurance of his prayers for the injured, and for all who have died. Mindful in a particular way of those children and young people who have lost their lives, and of their grieving families, Pope Francis invokes God’s blessings of peace, healing and strength upon the nation. (from Vatican Radio)...
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AB Gallagher on Holy See's action to protect Christians and other minorities

Vatican News - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 15:17
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See’s ‘foreign minister’, Archbishop Paul Gallagher has highlighted the need to protect Christians and other religious minorities facing persecution in different parts of the globe. The words of the Secretary for Relations with States came on Saturday during an international meeting organised by the ‘Centesimus Annus pro Pontifice’ Foundation.   Participants at the meeting also met with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Saturday morning. Please find below the full address of Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, entitled “The Holy See’s Action to protect Christians and other religious minorities in different parts of the world” Distinguished guests, Dear Friends, Following our meeting last year, it is a pleasure to be with you again this morning and to have the opportunity to present the Holy See’s action to protect Christian and other religious minorities in different parts of the world. As you know, in the global turmoil, the fate of the Christians, particularly in their ancestral territories in the Middle East, where Christianity was born, is a priority for the Holy See. In presenting you the situation, I hope not only to update you with a vision of the Holy See’s line of action, but above all, to encourage you to consider ways in which you might intervene, within your own spheres of activity and influence, to support and protect Christians and other religious minorities. I would like to begin by recounting the recent meeting that I had here in the Vatican with Nadia Murad Basee Taha, the Yazidi survivor and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the victims of human trafficking. During our meeting, she recounted the barbarous evil that had been visited upon her family and the Yazidi people by the so-called Islamic State. After witnessing the murder of her six brothers and mother, she was, along with thousands of other Yazidi women and young girls, imprisoned and used as a sex-slave by ISIS terrorists. She came to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis, not only to seek his spiritual support for the suffering of her people, but also to thank him and the Holy See for having spoken out about the atrocities, not just against Christians but also against the other ethnic and religious minorities, including the Yazidi, who were subjected to unspeakable and horrendous crimes after the invasion of the Nineveh plain, the heartland of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities, by the so-called Islamic State in early August 2014.  As you recall, within days of that invasion, the Holy Father wrote to the Secretary General of the United Nations appealing to the International Community to take urgent action to end the humanitarian tragedy and the Permanent Observer of the Holy See in Geneva raised those concerns with the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. In this, as in many other cases, the Holy See sought to be the voice of the voiceless. Last Sunday, at the Regina Coeli prayer, upon his return from Fatima, Pope Francis entrusted to Mary, the Queen of Peace, all those who have been afflicted by wars and conflicts, particularly in the Middle East, specifically mentioning Muslims, Christians and minorities, such as the Yazidi, who have suffered tragically from violence and discrimination. In expressing his solidarity and prayers for them, he gave thanks for all those who have helped those in need of humanitarian aid. Over the past few years, there has been a growing concern from the International Community and from many Christians in the West about the fate of Christianity in the Middle East. Unfortunately, such concern has arisen because of the atrocities that had forced hundreds of thousands of Christians and other minorities to abandon their homes and flee for their lives, seeking refuge in precarious conditions and with much suffering, both physical and moral. Many have been killed and kidnapped because of their religious faith. What is at stake are fundamental principles such as the right to life, human dignity, religious freedom, and the peaceful and harmonious coexistence between persons and peoples. We are well aware that Christians are not the only ones who suffer persecution in the world. There are many religious communities, including minority groups who experience persecution or repression, that may be state sponsored or societal in nature. There is a case, however, to focus on the persecution of Christians because, unfortunately, it seems to be on the rise. A number of studies have suggested that Christians are the victims of 80% of all acts of religious discrimination in the world.  However, given the existential threat to their continued survival, in dealing with our topic this morning, I would like to focus on the situation of Christians and other ethnic religious minorities in the Middle East. The very fact that several countries and international bodies have passed resolutions describing the threats against Christians and other ethnic religious minorities by the so-called Islamic State as genocide prioritises our attention and concern for the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, but not only. In Egypt, the recent terrorist attacks against Christians that were carried out by returning ISIS fighters underline the global reach and phenomenon of ISIS. Such events are a worrying indicator that the retaking of the principal cities under ISIS control, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, will not defeat terrorism but merely displace it as Islamic State ‘foreign fighters’ return to their countries of origin in Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere. Indeed, this is one of the challenges already facing the international community, particularly in light of the terrorism in Europe and elsewhere in the past few years. In focussing on the Middle East region, I begin by stressing that the Holy See’s efforts in that region are guided by the principle of defending the human rights of all people, regardless of race, religion or ethnic identity. While a particular concern and affinity for our Christian co-religionists is perfectly understandable and, indeed, is necessary for spiritual solidarity, it should not blind us to concern for the suffering and persecution of other groups. Threats to one or another group are a threat to all ethnic and religious minorities. Thus, I want to speak firstly about Christians in the Middle East; secondly, about the actions of the Holy See, both diplomatic and humanitarian, and thirdly, on the challenges for the future of ethnic and religious minorities of the Middle East. I.  Christians in the Middle East For centuries, Christians have lived side-by-side with various diverse ethnic and religious groups in the Middle East. This diversity has constituted a distinctive feature of the social fabric of the region – a mosaic of different peoples and religions – even if at times there were sporadic episodes of conflict and tensions between them. What we have seen in recent years, however, threatens the survival of a Middle East that is a place of peaceful coexistence of peoples with diverse religious and ethnic identities. The ideology unleashed by the so-called Islamic State seeks not only to change the borders of the Middle East but its very nature by eradicating Christians and other minorities who are an intrinsic part of its identity. Indeed, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, “a Middle East without Christians, or with only a few Christians, would no longer be the Middle East, since Christians, together with other believers, are part of the distinctive identity of the region.”  Indeed, Pope Benedict acknowledged that the distinctive identity of the region is formed by Christians together with other believers, thus acknowledging that religious pluralism is not something to be imported into or imposed on the Middle East from outside, but a reality that already has a millennial existence there and which is intrinsic to its identity. This is the truth, the reality of the Middle East. The atrocities of the past few years, however, underline the heroism and courage required to give witness to this truth. When I met with Nadia Murad Basee Taha recently I saw at first hand such heroism and courage but I have seen it also in countless others who, despite their suffering, remain steadfast in their desire to defend the ethnic and religious pluralism of the Middle East. The situation of Christians in the Middle East has been particularly desperate since the proclamation of the Caliphate of the Islamic State in Mosul in June 2014. In his letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, in August 2014, the Holy Father called upon the international community to help Christians and others who had fled the barbarism of ISIS to return safely “to their cities and their homes”. Since last autumn, most of the territory in Northern Iraq occupied by ISIS has been retaken, including the Christian villages of the Nineveh plain. Unfortunately, despite their desire to return, very few Christians or other groups have been able to do so.  Homes, schools and churches that would receive them continue to lie in ruins. Although liberated from the enemy, much still needs to be done to help Christians and other minorities to return safely “to their cities and their homes”. Constructing new buildings is perhaps the easier part; rebuilding Iraqi society and laying once again the foundations for harmonious and peaceful coexistence is the more difficult task. An important and significant intervention of Pope Francis, motivated in part by the events of the summer of 2014, was his letter to the Christians in the Middle East shortly before Christmas 2014.  I think that it is worth reflecting a little on this letter. On the one hand, the Holy Father writes as a religious leader to the Christian communities of the Middle East, while on the other, he also uses the letter to make an appeal to the international community to address the needs of Christians and “those of other suffering minorities, above all by promoting peace through negotiation and diplomacy”. Even though only one paragraph of the letter is explicitly addressed to the international community, the remaining paragraphs of the letter reflect the principles at the heart of the Holy See’s diplomacy in defending Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East by affirming that they are integral members of those societies who have the right, and the duty, to contribute to the common good.  Thus, he reminds Christians of their unique and specific vocation to be the leaven in the dough of the societies and communities to which they belong: “Your very presence is precious for the Middle East. You are a small flock, but one with a great responsibility in the land where Christianity was born and first spread. You are like leaven in the dough. Even more than the many contributions which the Church makes in the areas of education, healthcare and social services, which are esteemed by all, the greatest source of enrichment in the region is the presence of Christians themselves, your presence.”  In his letter, the Holy Father described the unique role and vocation of Christians in the Middle East: “Dear brothers and sisters, almost all of you are native citizens of your respective countries, and as such you have the duty and the right to take full part in the life and progress of your nations. Within the region you are called to be artisans of peace, reconciliation and development, to promote dialogue, to build bridges in the spirit of the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3:12), and to proclaim the Gospel of peace, in a spirit of ready cooperation with all national and international authorities.” Although the letter was addressed to Christians, the Holy Father was not silent about the suffering of other religious and ethnic groups: “Nor, in writing to you, can I remain silent about the members of other religions and ethnic groups who are also experiencing persecution and effects of these conflicts”. This illustrates perfectly the unique character and voice of the Holy Father in the international forum as the Church’s Supreme Pastor and Diplomat par excellence. II.  The actions of the Holy See: diplomatic and humanitarian The primary diplomatic actor of the Holy See is the Holy Father. It is to the Holy Father that the world turns to, and it is his words and actions that inspire and animate the diplomatic activity of the Holy See. The Holy Father has various means at his disposal to exercise his unique and diplomatic role in the world. It is unique, primarily because the Holy Father speaks not simply as a world leader, but primarily as a religious leader. Indeed, his principal interventions come in the context of his Urbi et Orbi Messages at Christmas and Easter, the Sunday Angelus and his weekly Wednesday audiences with pilgrims who come to Rome, where he regularly appeals to the international community on the most pressing issues of the day. The Message for the World Day of Peace, on 1st January, and the annual New Year’s address of the Holy Father to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, are privileged occasions for the Holy Father to speak to the international community and set forth the Holy See’s principal concerns and priorities. The Holy Father’s international trips abroad are also privileged moments of the diplomatic activity of the Holy See because they allow the Holy Father to speak to the world of politics and the leaders of civil society, which was particularly evident during his recent visit to Egypt. These are some of the primary means through which the Holy Father exercises his unique mission to the world. All other diplomatic activity of the Holy See flows from the ministry of the Holy Father and is exercised primarily by the Secretariat of State and the network of Papal Representatives throughout the world, some of whom are in countries at war and in conflict, literally on the frontlines, giving witness to the Holy Father’s concern for the suffering of peoples afflicted by wars. In recognition of such dedicated service, the Holy Father raised Archbishop Mario Zenari, the Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, to the rank of Cardinal. Priorities and actions of the Holy See’s diplomacy The priorities of the Holy See, which are grounded in the dignity of the human person, include the common good of society, promoting peace and justice, so that the followers of different faiths may live together in peace and harmony. With regard to the protection of Christians and minorities in the Middle East, the Holy See’s primary response has been to raise awareness about the humanitarian emergencies and crises that inevitably arise from wars and conflicts, including direct appeals to the parties of such conflicts to respect international humanitarian law by ensuring all necessary humanitarian relief is given to those who need it. Similarly, the immediate appeals of the Holy See, in the summer of 2014, for example in the abovementioned letter of the Holy Father to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and constantly renewed since then, included calls to the international community to guarantee the right of refugees and internally displaced persons to return in safety to their homes. As I have already mentioned, the persons displaced by ISIS in the summer of 2014 are still waiting to return to their homes. In these last few years, the gravest threat to Christians and to the survival of Christianity in the Middle East has been terrorism, particularly, terrorism motivated by religious extremism. Thus, the Holy See, in the various spheres of its diplomatic activity has not tired in highlighting this particular heinous evil and the specific responsibility of religious leaders to confront it and to affirm constantly that there can be no religious justification for any form of violence. Being both religious leader and diplomatic actor par excellence, the Holy Father has a unique voice on the world’s stage and thus he is singularly placed to bridge the gap between religious leaders and civil authorities on that stage. During his meeting, on 9 January last, with the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis devoted his speech to the theme of security and peace, underlining and renewing his personal firm conviction “that every expression of religion is called to promote peace.”  Unfortunately, in the times in which we live, there has been no shortage of religiously motivated acts of violence that have caused countless innocent victims in various parts of the world. When we consider the great number of religiously inspired works that contribute to the common good through education and social assistance, especially in areas of poverty and conflict, it is particularly repugnant and offensive to all sincere religious believers that religion can be used to foster hatred, violence and death. For this reason, Pope Francis renewed his appeal “to all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.”  A message reaffirmed during his recent Apostolic Visit to Egypt and in his meeting with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmed Al Tayyeb. On that occasion, he invited religious leaders: “Let us say once more a firm and clear ‘No!’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God.” Understanding the motivations that lie at the root of terrorism and religiously motivated acts of violence is complex and requires careful reflection and analysis, all the more so when there is a religious dimension to it. Religious leaders are uniquely placed to offer such reflection. Pope Francis has helped to open up spaces for this reflection to occur so that religious leaders are able to contribute to the sensitive debate about religiously motivated terrorism. In this context, it is important to acknowledge the many initiatives and declarations of Muslim religious leaders to condemn those who use the teachings of Islam to justify violence and terrorism. For example, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious centre of learning, the University of Al-Azhar, has on many occasions, organised seminars and conferences in which it has condemned the use of religion to justify violence. Some recent examples include the seminar in Cairo last February, at which the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, participated and, more recently, the International Conference for Peace organised on the occasion of Pope Francis’s visit to the University of Al-Azhar last month. Acknowledging explicitly the religious dimension of violent extremism is fraught with danger, and we can understand the reluctance of governments and international bodies to do so. Thus, the most important contribution of religious leaders to this debate is to help people understand that acknowledging the religious dimension of violent extremism, or rather the manipulation of religion for violent ends, does not mean equating religion, or a particular religion, or an entire religious community, with violence. An essential element of eradicating terrorism is addressing the root causes, whether they be social, political or economic. Indeed, social poverty has been identified as a driver of terrorism. However, there are many forms of poverty. Indeed, Pope Francis has noted that religiously motivated fundamentalist terrorism “is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and often is linked to significant social poverty. It can only be fully defeated with the joint contribution of religious and political leaders. The former are charged with transmitting those religious values which do not separate fear of God from love of neighbour. The latter are charged with guaranteeing in the public forum the right to religious freedom, while acknowledging religion’s positive and constructive contribution to the building of a civil society that sees no opposition between social belonging, sanctioned by the principle of citizenship, and the spiritual dimension of life. Government leaders are also responsible for ensuring that conditions do not exist that can serve as fertile terrain for the spread of forms of fundamentalism. This calls for suitable social policies aimed at combating poverty; such policies cannot prescind from a clear appreciation of the importance of the family as the privileged place for growth in human maturity, and from a major investment in the areas of education and culture.” In citing the aforementioned remarks of Pope Francis, I wish to underscore the importance that the Catholic Church gives to the role of religion and education in preventing radicalization that leads to terrorism and extremist violence in contributing to the debate about terrorism and how to confront it. A better understanding of the role of religion and education can bring about the authentic social harmony needed for coexistence in a multicultural society. As I mentioned above, the diplomatic activity of the Holy See flows from the person of the Holy Father and it is exercised on a daily basis by the Secretariat of State through the network of papal representatives throughout the world. The Missions of the Holy See at the United Nations, particularly in New York and Geneva, are particularly engaged in the diplomatic efforts to support Christians and other persecuted minorities. The Holy See also participates in many international conferences. I mention just a few as a way of illustration. Paris, 8 September 2015: International Conference on the Victims of ethnic and religious violence in the Middle East. United Nations – Geneva, 7 March 2017: the Holy See Mission to the United Nations in Geneva organised a high level parallel event on the occasion of the 34th Session of the Council for Human Rights. The event, entitled “Mutual Respect and Peaceful Coexistence as a Condition of Interreligious Peace and Stability: Supporting Christians and other Communities” was organised by the Holy See Mission, together with the Missions of the Russian Federation, Lebanon and Armenia and was co-sponsored by Brazil, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary and Serbia. Moreover, numerous other delegations attended the event, including Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria as well as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Brussels, 5 April 2017: The “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” Conference took place with its twofold aim to reconfirm the humanitarian commitments that the international community made in London in 2016 and to look at the best ways to support a lasting political solution to the Syrian crisis. Madrid, 24 May 2017: Follow-up Conference to Paris Conference on the Victims on ethnic and religious violence in the Middle East: “Protecting and promoting pluralism and diversity.” Humanitarian activity of the Holy See             From the very beginning of the humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria, the Church, through its various structures and entities, has been playing its role in responding to the humanitarian needs of all the people affected.  Dioceses, religious congregations and the various Catholic charitable agencies on the ground have distributed this humanitarian aid without regard to religious or ethnic background. This humanitarian assistance depends not just on the generosity of donors but also on the many volunteers who so generously give of their time. In support of this activity of the local church, I would like to mention the annual meetings on the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, organised since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, and coordinated, up to last year, by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. In September 2014, the “Catholic Aid Agencies Information Focal Point for the Iraqi-Syrian Humanitarian Crisis” was established as a means to facilitate greater cooperation and exchange of information among the various Catholic agencies involved in delivering humanitarian assistance in Iraq and Syria. This focal point has also enabled us to have a clearer and more comprehensive picture of the humanitarian response of the Holy See and the Catholic Church. In 2016, according to the most recent data compiled by Cor Unum, the Holy See and the Catholic Church, through its network of charitable agencies, contributed to providing USD 200 million of humanitarian assistance of direct benefit to more than 4.6 million people in Syria and the region. In distributing aid, Catholic agencies and entities make no distinction regarding the religious or ethnic identity of those requiring assistance, and seek always to give priority to the most vulnerable and to those most in need. This approach was demonstrated also through the opening in January of a Caritas point in the Muslim area of East Aleppo and the “Open hospitals” project that seeks to open the Catholic hospitals in Aleppo and Damascus and render them fully operative for the needs of the local populations, especially the poor and disadvantaged. Such an approach is essential to Catholic charitable giving but it also bears remembering that, for many people in need of assistance, their first contact with the Church and Christianity is through the humanitarian assistance that they receive. III. Challenges for the future of ethnic and religious minorities of the Middle East. At the diplomatic level, the Holy See has always insisted upon the fundamental right of Christians and other religious minorities to be in the Middle East. The conflicts, wars and extremist terrorism, however, have contributed to the mass displacement and immigration of such minorities to other parts of the world for many decades. Indeed, it has been a constant preoccupation for the Holy See during all that time. The barbarity and cruelty of ISIS sponsored terrorism has only brought that worry into sharper relief. Can Christianity survive in the Middle East without Christians? We are facing a profound existential crisis and no effort must be spared in addressing this crisis. This crisis is not new; it existed long before a self-proclaimed Caliphate of the Islamic State installed itself in June 2014. Even though much of the ISIS-controlled territories in Iraq and Syria have been retaken, Christians and other minorities have yet to return, not least because their homes still lie in ruins or it is not yet safe to go back. And yet, even if those homes and towns were miraculously rebuilt overnight, given the traumatic experiences of these past three years, would Christians and other minorities, who genuinely fear that what has happened to them may happen again, return to those homes?   Christians do desire to return to their homes and villages because their identity is deeply rooted in their ancestral lands. The greatest challenge, therefore, is creating the conditions – social, political, economic – that will bring about a new social cohesion that favours reconciliation and peace and give Christians and other minorities the confidence to overcome such fears. As I mentioned earlier, constructing new buildings is perhaps the easiest part; the more difficult task is rebuilding society and laying once again the foundations for harmonious and peaceful coexistence. So what are the foundations necessary for guaranteeing the future of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East? In the west, we take such concepts of the ‘rule of law’, ‘law and order’, ‘peace and security’ for granted, but the experience of what has happened in Iraq and Syria, where a terrorist organisation succeeded in taking control of large swathes of territory and declaring itself to be State.  In the coming weeks, it is expected that the so-called Islamic State will be finally vanquished. But what will replace it?  Will the root causes for its rise be addressed? The international community and diplomacy needs to help broken countries of the Middle East to answer these questions by insisting on some fundamental principles. Hand in hand with the ‘rule of law’ is the unequivocal respect of human rights, in particular freedom of religion and of conscience. In this regard, it is important to insist on religious freedom, including the right to follow one’s conscience regarding religious matters. In many countries of the Middle East, there are limits on the right of religious freedom. In expanding religious freedom, members of the various religious communities, regardless of their relative size in the overall population, will be able to recognise themselves as equal partners with their fellow citizens contributing to the common good. Christians and other minorities do not want to be ‘protected minorities’ who are benevolently tolerated. They want to be equal citizens whose rights, including the right to religious freedom, are defended and guaranteed through guaranteeing and defending the rights of all citizens. Some concerted State-building is required in the Middle East in cooperation with the populations of those countries concerned. A proper functioning State that works for the common good is the ultimate prerequisite for protecting Christians and minorities in the Middle East and guaranteeing them a future there. However, more than that is required. Given the theme of your meeting “Constructive alternatives in an era of global turmoil: Job creation and human integrity in the digital space – Incentives for solidarity and civic virtue”, I would like to recall that one of the final conclusions of the last meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq, held under the auspices of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum last September, concerned the urgent need to promote initiatives for job creation in the Christian communities throughout the Middle East. In conclusion, I renew my opening invitation to you to consider ways in which you might intervene, within your own spheres of activity and influence, to support and protect Christians and other religious minorities who are in need of protection. Thank you for your kind attention. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope kicks off Italian Bishops' Assembly with frank and open dialogue

Vatican News - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 13:56
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday afternoon met with Italian Church leaders who are holding the 70th General Assembly of their bishops’ conference. The meeting began with a brief introduction from the outgoing President of the conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco . After that, the Pope greeted the bishops during a session, open to journalists, in the Vatican Synod Hall, before continuing the meeting behind closed doors. On Tuesday the bishops will elect three names which will be forwarded to the Pope to select a new president for the conference. They will then proceed with discussions on the main theme for this assembly, which is focused on an effective evangelization of young people.  On Wednesday the bishops will celebrate Mass in St Peter’s Basilica and on Thursday they will hold a concluding press conference in the Paul VI audience hall. After a brief speech of greeting during which Pope Francis thanked Cardinal Bagnasco for his ten years of service and for  his patience as, he said “it is not easy to work with this pope,” the bishops were handed prepared remarks by the Pope who, as he often does in such occasions, made it immediately clear he wanted a frank and open exchange with them behind closed doors. Apologizing to all the others present Pope Francis said his face-to-face with his brother bishops represented an important and private moment of encounter, and he pointed out that “when dialogue is stifled, gossip is sown” so, he said, it is important to enter into true dialogue even when it means listening to opinions that one may not agree with, but, he stressed “it’s important to be able to speak in freedom”.  Cardinal Bagnasco reflected briefly on one of the fundamental themes of the Assembly: young people’s formation. “Their conditions of life, Bagnasco said, their capacity for sharing and building a future are an urgent reminder to us of our educational responsibility and witness; meeting them helps us to rediscover, every day, the primacy of God in our lives to be able to think and take action in freedom that is born from truth.” And regarding the choice of his successor, Cardinal Bagnasco made assurances regarding the firm will of every one present to support and sustain whoever is chosen for the benefit of our Churches. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope to Sister Disciples of the Divine Master: 'be prophets of hope'

Vatican News - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 10:09
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday greeted the  Sister Disciples of the Divine Master (PDDM)  and encouraged them to go forward in their mission to bring the Gospel to the men and women of today with joy in unity, giving voice to plurality and respecting each other’s differences. The Pope words came as he addressed the Sisters who are holding their 9th General Chapter in Rome (10 April-28 May) on the theme “ New wine in new wineskins .” Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : First of all, Pope Francis said to the Sisters, always be open the Holy Spirit, Master of diversity, Master of unity within differences. “Walk together in communion, he said, respecting plurality and tirelessly weaving your legitimate differences into unity, taking into account you are present in different Countries and cultures”. Basing his discourse on the many fruits yielded by communion , the Pope encouraged the Sisters to allow each other to express themselves freely, to be accepted with their own special gifts, and to become fully co-responsible. He urged them to cultivate mutual attention and practice sisterly correction and respect the weakest members. “Grow in the spirit of living together, banish divisions, envy, and gossip from your communities, speak frankly and with charity” he said. The Pope noted that the Disciples of the Divine Master share Fr. Giacomo Alberione as father and founder with the Pauline family, as well as the mission to bring the Gospel to the men and women of our time. He spoke of the fruits of communion born from collaboration with other charisms saying it is the time for synergy between all consecrated persons who are called to welcome the riches of other charisms and put them all in the service of evangelization, remaining faithful to their identity. “No one, he said, builds the future by isolating themselves or on their own strength alone” and he invited them to cultivate dialogue and communion with other charisms, and to combat self-referentialism in every way. The Pope also mentioned the importance of the fruits produced by communion with the men and women of our time: “Our God is the God of history and our faith is a faith that works in history. In the questions and expectations of today's men and women, there are important indications for our pursuit of Christ”. Pope Francis said the Chapter is a time to listen to the Lord who speaks to us through the signs of the times . He said it is also a time for peaceful and unbiased confrontation which requires the opening of mind and heart, and he urged those present never to tire of the practice of listening and sharing with the men and women of today. “In this time of great challenges, which require devoted creative fidelity and passionate research, listening and sharing are more than ever necessary if we want our lives to be fully meaningful to ourselves and to the people we meet” he said. Pope Francis then told the Sisters that to this end it is necessary to maintain a climate of discernment , to recognize what belongs to the Spirit and what is contrary to it.  He said that a world of possibilities is open before us and that “the culture in which we are immersed presents them all as valid and good, but if we do not want to fall victim to the culture of zapping and sometimes to a culture of death”, we must always be discerning and never tire of asking the Lord “What do you want me to do?” The Chapter, the Pope said, is also a time in which to renew our docility towards the Spirit that animates prophecy . This, he said, is an indispensable value for consecrated life which itself is a special form of participation in the prophetic mission of Christ.  “As consecrated women, you live the prophecy of joy, that joy that comes from your encounter with Christ through a life of personal and communal prayer” he said, as well as in a joyful life of fraternity within the community and in your embrace of Christ’s flesh when you minister to the poor. Joy , the Pope said, is a beautiful reality in the lives of many consecrated persons, but it is also a great challenge for all of us because joy must be of the authentic kind, never self-referential or self-satisfied. “This joy, Francis continued, which fills your hearts and shows on your faces will lead you to go out to the peripheries and participate in the joy of the Church that is evangelization, convinced that Jesus is the Good News and is joy for all. This joy distances you from the cancer of resignation, the fruit of sloth that withers the soul”. Pope Francis concluded his address encouraging the Sisters to be prophets of hope with eyes turned to the future, and to let themselves be guided by the Spirit in order to continue to do great things. Trusting in Christian hope and in the strength it gives you, he said: “fortify your vocation of morning sentinels in order to announce the coming of the dawn: Wake up the world, light up the future ”. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope Francis: Open your heart to the Holy Spirit

Vatican News - Mon, 05/22/2017 - 07:00
It is only the Holy Spirit Who can teach us to say: “Jesus is the Lord.” That was the focus of Pope Francis’ reflections during the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Monday. The Holy Father emphasized that we must open our hearts in order to hear the Holy Spirit, and thus be able to bear witness to Christ. Listen: “Be calm, I will not leave you orphans; I will send you an advocate, the Holy Spirit, to defend you before the Father.” Pope Francis based his homily on the long discourse of Jesus to His disciples at the Last Supper. The Pope dwelt especially on the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who accompanies us and “gives us the assurance of being saved by Jesus.” The Holy Spirit, the gift of Jesus, is the travelling companion of the Church It is only the Holy Spirit, the Pope said, Who teaches us to say, “Jesus is the Lord”: “Without the Holy Spirit, none of us is able to say it, to perceive it, to live it. Jesus, in other places in this long discourse, said of Him [the Holy Spirit]: ‘He will lead you into all truth,’ He will accompany you towards the full truth. ‘He will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you; He will teach you all things.’ That is, the Holy Spirit is the travelling companion of every Christian, and also the travelling companion of the Church. And this is the gift that Jesus gives us.” We must open our hearts to the Holy Spirit; otherwise, He cannot enter in The Holy Spirit, he continued, is “a gift, the great gift of Jesus,” Who does not lead us astray. But where does the Spirit dwell? the Pope asked. He looked to the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, where we see the figure of Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, someone who “knew how to do things.” The Lord opened her heart, so that she might follow the Word of God: “The Lord opened her heart so that the Holy Spirit could enter, and she became a disciple. It is precisely within our hearts that we carry the Holy Spirit. The Church calls the Spirit ‘the sweet guest of the heart’: He is there. But He cannot enter a closed heart. ‘Ah, but where can one buy the keys to open the heart?’ No! That too is a gift. It is a gift of God: ‘Lord, open my heart so that the Spirit can enter it, and I can understand that Jesus is the Lord.’” This, the Pope said, is a prayer that we should say every day: “Lord, open my heart so that I can understand what You have taught us; so that I can remember Your words; so that I can follow Your words; so that I can come to the fullness of the truth.” Let us ask ourselves if our hearts are truly open to the Spirit Our hearts must be open, then, so that the Holy Spirit can enter, and so that we can hear the Spirit. Pope Francis said the readings of the Mass suggest two questions we can ask ourselves: “The first: Do I ask the Lord for the grace that my heart might be opened? The second question: Do I seek to hear the Holy Spirit, His inspirations, the things He tells my heart that I might advance in the Christian life, and that I too might bear witness that Jesus is the Lord? Think about these two things today: Is my heart open? Do I make an effort to listen to the Holy Spirit, to what He tells me? And so we advance in the Christian life, and we too bear witness to Jesus Christ.” (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope highlights effects of unemployment on families

Vatican News - Sat, 05/20/2017 - 08:08
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday highlighted the serious problem of unemployment. His words came during a meeting with participants attending an International Conference of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation which has been taking place in Rome this week. Listen to our report: The Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation is a lay-led non-profit-organisation whose purpose it is to promote Catholic Social Doctrine. And is was on Saturday that Pope Francis met with those attending an international conference in the Vatican where he highlighted the fight against poverty and what he called the “grave problem” of unemployment. Addressing those gathered, the Holy Father commended the foundation for their 2017 statement which notes “that the fight against poverty demands a better understanding of the reality of poverty as a human and not merely an economic phenomenon.  He also highlighted that “promoting integral human development demands dialogue and engagement with people’s needs and aspirations, listening to the poor and their daily experience of “multidimensional, overlapping deprivations”, and devising specific responses to concrete situations.  The Pope said that what was needed was community and business enterprises where the poor “are the principal actors and beneficiaries.”  Another issue which was highlighted by Pope Francis was that of unemployment noting that the conference had paid particular attention to the critical issue of job creation in the context of the ongoing new technological revolution.  How can we not be concerned, the Pope said, “about the grave problem of unemployment among the young and among adults that have not the means to “upgrade” themselves?  It is a problem, he added, “that has reached truly dramatic proportions in both developed and developing countries, and needs to be addressed, not least out of a sense of intergenerational justice and responsibility for the future.” The Holy Father also recalled that the effects of unemployment on families was a concern expressed by the recent Synod assemblies on the family, which noted, “that uncertainty about work situations often contributes to family pressures and problems, and has an effect on the family’s ability to participate fruitfully in the life of society.” Concluding his discourse the Pope encouraged the Foundation to bring the light of the Gospel and “the richness of the Church’s social teaching to these pressing issues by contributing to informed discussion, dialogue and research, but also by committing themselves for that change of attitudes, opinions and lifestyles which is essential for building a world of greater justice, freedom and harmony.”   Please find the English language translation of the Pope's discourse   Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the “Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice” Foundation 20 May 2017   Dear Friends,             I offer you a warm welcome on the occasion of the International Conference of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation.  I thank your President, Mr Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, for his kind greeting in your name.  I express my appreciation for your efforts to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, and business, to meet the ethical challenges posed by the imposition of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the throwaway culture and lifestyles that ignore the poor and despise the weak (cf. Enc. Laudato Si’, 16).              Many people are struggling to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change (cf. ibid, 13).  Your Foundation is also making a valuable contribution precisely by approaching business and finances both in the light of the rich heritage of the Church’s social doctrine and the intelligent search for “constructive alternatives”.  Drawing on your own expertise and experience, and in cooperation with other people of good will, you are committed to developing models of economic growth centred on the dignity, freedom and creativity that are the hallmark of the human person.              Your Foundation’s 2017 Statement rightly notes that the fight against poverty demands a better understanding of the reality of poverty as a human and not merely economic phenomenon.  Promoting integral human development demands dialogue and engagement with people’s needs and aspirations, listening to the poor and their daily experience of “multidimensional, overlapping deprivations”, and devising specific responses to concrete situations.  This calls for the creation, within communities and between communities and business, of mediating structures capable of bringing people and resources together, initiating processes in which the poor are the principal actors and beneficiaries.  Such a person-based approach to economic activity will encourage initiative and creativity, the entrepreneurial spirit and communities of labour and enterprise, and thus favour social inclusion and the growth of a culture of effective solidarity.              In these days, you have paid particular attention to the critical issue of job creation in the context of the ongoing new technological revolution.  How can we not be concerned about the grave problem of unemployment among the young and among adults that have not the means to “upgrade” themselves?  It is a problem that has reached truly dramatic proportions in both developed and developing countries, and needs to be addressed, not least out of a sense of intergenerational justice and responsibility for the future.  In a similar way, efforts to address the complex of issues associated with the growth of new technologies, the transformation of markets and the legitimate aspirations of the workforce must take into account not only individuals but families as well.  This, as you know, was a concern expressed by the recent Synod assemblies on the family, which noted that uncertainty about work situations often contributes to family pressures and problems, and has an effect on the family’s ability to participate fruitfully in the life of society (cf. Ap. Exhort. postsin. Amoris Laetitia, 44).             Dear friends, I encourage your efforts to bring the light of the Gospel and the richness of the Church’s social teaching to these pressing issues by contributing to informed discussion, dialogue and research, but also by committing yourselves for that change of attitudes, opinions and lifestyles which is essential for building a world of greater justice, freedom and harmony.              In offering my prayerful good wishes for the fruitfulness of your work, I cordially invoke upon you, your families and your associates God’s blessings of joy and peace.         (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope Francis: "Mercy Friday" visit to Ostia housing project

Vatican News - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 12:39
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is continuing his “Mercy Friday” activities. Begun during the 2015-1016 Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Mercy Fridays see the Holy Father engaged in specific corporal and spiritual works of mercy. A communiqué from the Press Office of the Holy See explains that the Pope on this Friday made a visit to public housing projects in the parish of Stella Maris – Star of the Sea parish – in the coastal town of Ostia on the outskirts of Rome. The communiqué goes on to explain that the Holy Father was to bless the abodes of the parishioners in the complex located at Piazza Francesco Conteduca, 11, just as the parish priest does traditionally each year during Eastertide. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope Francis: doctrine unites, ideology divides

Vatican News - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 10:50
(Vatican Radio) True doctrine unites; ideology divides. That was the message of Pope Francis in the homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Friday. The Pope based his reflections on the so-called Council of Jerusalem which, around the year 49 A.D., decided that gentile converts to Christianity would not have to be circumcised. The Holy Father was commenting on the First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles. He noted that even in the first Christian community “there were jealousies, power struggles, a certain deviousness that wanted to profit from and to buy power.” There are always problems, he said: “We are human, we are sinners” and there are difficulties, even in the Church. But being sinners leads to humility and to drawing close to the Lord, as Saviour who saves us from our sins. With regard to the gentiles who the Spirit called to become Christians, the Holy Father recalled that, in the reading, the apostles and the elders chose several people to go to Antioch together with Paul and Barnabas. The reading describes two different kinds of people: those who had “forceful discussions” but with “a good spirit,” on the one hand; and those who “sowed confusion”: “The group of the apostles who want to discuss the problem, and the others who go and create problems. They divide, they divide the Church, they say that what the Apostles preached is not what Jesus said, that it is not the truth.” The apostles discussed the situation among themselves, and in the end came to an agreement: “But it is not a political agreement; it is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that leads them to say: no things, no necessities. Only those who say: don’t eat meat at the time, meat sacrificed to idols, because that was communion with the idols; abstain from blood, from animals that were strangled, and from illegitimate unions.” The Pope pointed to the “liberty of the Spirit” that leads to agreement: so, he said, the gentiles were allowed to enter the Church without having to undergo circumcision. It was at the heart of the “first Council” of the Church: the Holy Spirit and they, the Pope with the Bishops, all together,” gathered together in order “to clarify the doctrine;” and later, through the centuries – as at Ephesus or at Vatican II – because “it is a duty of the Church to clarify the doctrine,” so that “what Jesus said in the Gospels, what is the Spirit of the Gospels, would be understood well”: “But there were always people who without any commission go out to disturb the Christian community with speeches that upset souls: ‘Eh, no, someone who says that is a heretic, you can’t say this, or that; this is the doctrine of the Church.’ And they are fanatics of things that are not clear, like those fanatics who go there sowing weeds in order to divide the Christian community. And this is the problem: when the doctrine of the Church, that which comes from the Gospel, that which the Holy Spirit inspires – because Jesus said, “He will teach us and remind you of all that I have taught’ – [when] that doctrine becomes an ideology. And this is the great error of those people.” These individuals, the Pope explained, “were not believers, they were ideologized,” they had an ideology that closed the heart to the work of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles, on the other hand, certainly discussed things forcefully, but they were not ideologized: “They had hearts open to what the Holy Spirit said. And after the discussion ‘it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.’” Pope Francis’ final exhortation was to not be afraid in the face “of the opinions of the ideologues of doctrine.” The Church, he concluded, has “its proper Magisterium, the Magisterium of the Pope, of the Bishops, of the Councils,” and we must go along the path “that comes from the preaching of Jesus, and from the teaching and assistance of the Holy Spirit,” which is “always open, always free,” because “doctrine unites, the Councils unite the Christian community, while, on the other hand, “ideology divides.” (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Peter's Pence on Facebook

Vatican News - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 10:09
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See Press Office has announced that “Peter’s Pence” will now have a Facebook page. Peter’s Pence is the name given to the financial support offered by the faithful to the Holy Father as a sign of their sharing in the concern of the Successor of Peter for the many different needs of the Universal Church and for the relief of those most in need. The move to Facebook follows the opening of Twitter and Instagram accounts for Peter’s Pence, which took place earlier this year. According to a press release from the Vatican, the decision to utilize the largest social network in the world has a double objective: “on the one hand, to create a community open to everyone wherever the use of Facebook is widespread; and, on the other hand, to share and relate the activities of this longstanding Office of Solidarity.” Peter’s Pence on Facebook “is intended to promote dialogue with all those who have a common intent, helping the most needy and concretely supporting the works of charity.” The press release gives examples of a number of projects supported by Peter’s Pence: the expansion of the “Filippo Smaldone” Institute for poor and hearing-impaired children in Kigali, Rwanda; the awarding of scholarships to help displaced university students of Iraqi Kurdistan; the opening of a new primary school for Dalit children in India. The new “Peter’s Pence” Facebook page will be able to draw attention to these and other charitable works supported by the organization. Traditionally the collection for Peter’s Pence takes place throughout the Catholic world on the Solemnity of St Peter, 29 June, or on the Sunday closest to that feast, depending on the diocese. As with other social media platforms, this initiative was born of the desire of the Holy See, the fruit of a close collaboration between the Secretariat of State, the Secretariat for Communications, and the Governorate of the Vatican City State. For more information on the work of Peter’s Pence, one can visit the Peter's Pence website . (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope Francis to Huntington's sufferers: you are precious to God

Vatican News - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 10:53
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis welcomed hundreds of people who suffer from a rare degenerative neurological condition known as Huntington’s Disease on Thursday in the Paul VI Hall, along with their families and caregivers, as well as research leaders and patient-advocates. Click below to hear our report Huntington’s Disease is a genetic disorder that affects between 5 and 10 people per 100 thousand on average, worldwide – though the prevalence of the disease varies greatly from place to place, with the prevalence in much of Asia at 1 per 1 million, while in the Lake Maracaibo region of Venezuela the prevalence is as high as 700 per 100 thousand people. The onset of the disease typically comes between 30 and 45 years-of-age, and often manifests through Parkinson’s-like symptoms, though end-stage Huntington’s usually involves full-blown dementia as well as severe physical disability. Huntington’s Disease has no cure. In his remarks to Huntington’s sufferers, their family-members, caregivers, researchers, and advocates on Thursday in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis said, “For far too long, the fears and difficulties that characterize the life of people affected by Huntington’s Disease have surrounded them with misunderstandings and barriers, veritably excluding them.” The Holy Father went on to say, “In many cases the sick and their families have experienced the tragedy of shame, isolation and abandonment. Today, however, we are here because we want to say to ourselves and all the world: ‘HIDDEN NO MORE!’” Pope Francis promised the support of the Church to sufferers, saying, “May none of you ever feel you are alone; may none of you feel you are a burden; may no one feel the need to run away. You are precious in the eyes of God; you are precious in the eyes of the Church!” The Holy Father encouraged researchers to continue their work, and called for concrete solidarity in this regard, in a manner consistent with the inherent and unalienable dignity of the human person. “May the Lord bless your task,” Pope Francis prayed, adding, “I encourage you to always pursue it with means that do not contribute to fuelling that ‘throw-away culture’ that at times infiltrates even the world of scientific research. Some branches of research, in fact, utilize human embryos, inevitably causing their destruction. But we know that no ends, even noble in themselves, such as a predicted utility for science, for other human beings or for society, can justify the destruction of human embryos.” Finally, the Holy Father expressed the hope that the lives of every person who suffers from Huntington’s, and of those who work every day to support the sick in their pain and difficulty, be a living witness to the hope that Christ has given to all humanity. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope welcomes Nepal’s new ambassador to the Holy See

Vatican News - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 09:52
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Thursday welcomed to the Vatican Nepal’s new ambassador to the Holy See, Ramesh Prasad Khanal, and 5 others.  At a formal ceremony in the Vatican, all 6 ambassadors presented their credentials to the Pope at the start of their diplomatic mission with the Holy See.  The other ambassadors are from Mauritania, Trinidad e Tobago, Sudan, Kazakhstan and Niger.  The Nepalese Ambassador to Germany, residing in Berlin, is the accredited non-residential Ambassador to the Holy See.   Pope Francis delivered a common address to the 6 ambassadors The Holy See and the Kingdom of Nepal established diplomatic relations on 10 September, 1983 and on 7 October 1983, the Holy See erected the Mission sui Iuris of Nepal, meaning ‘in its own right‎’ or an independent mission.  Prior to that, Nepal’s Catholics were under the jurisdiction of the Indian Diocese of Patna. Fr. Anthony Francis Sharma, the first native Jesuit, was appointed the first Ecclesiastical Superior of Nepal and he was installed on 8th ‎December 1984. ‎ The following year, Archbishop Agostino Cacciavillan presented his credentials to the Nepalese King as the Holy See’s first Pro-nuncio to the kingdom.  Currently, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro is the non-residential Apostolic Nuncio or Holy See’s ambassador to India and Nepal, residing at the Apostolic Nunciature in New Delhi. The Holy See raised the Mission Sui Iuris to the rank of Prefecture Apostolic on 8 November, 1996, with Msgr. Sharma as the first Prefect Apostolic of Nepal.  As the Church grew in the Himalayan nation, it was raised to the rank of Vicariate Apostolic with Msgr. Sharma becoming its first Vicar Apostolic.  He was consecrated bishop at Kathmandu’s Assumption Cathedral on 5 May, 2007, thus becoming Nepal’s first bishop.   After Bishop Sharma retired on 25th April, 2014, Pope Francis appointed Fr. Paul Simick, a priest of the Indian Diocese of Darjeeling, the Vicar Apostolic of Nepal.  Bishop Sharma passed away on 8 Dec 2015, at the age of 77.   Pope Francis on 25 April, 2014.  However, Nepal is a fully-fledged diocese as yet. Once the world's only Hindu state, Nepal ceased to be so following a declaration by the Parliament in 2006.  Over 81% of its some 26.5 million population is Hindu, followed by Buddhists (9%), while Christians are a tiny minority of 1.4%.  According to estimates by the Catholic charity ‘Aid to the Church in Need” (ACN), Catholics number around 8,000 faithful.  Protestant communities, notably the Evangelical and Pentecostal groups have a strong presence. Khanal, Nepal’s new ambassador to the Holy See is a 55-year old diplomat.  The father of two children has diplomas in journalism and Japanese language, and has also has done specialized studies in security.  He is law graduate and has also a Master’s degree in political science. Khanal has held the following posts: *  Under-secretary of the Department for  Europe-America, and South, South-East and North Asia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1988-1994) *  Second and later First Secretary at the Nepali Embassy in China (1994-1998) *  Under-secretary of the Departmant of Protocol and of international organizations and the United Nations at  the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1998-2001) *  First Secretary at Nepal’s Embassy in Saudi Arabia (2001-2004) *  Counsellor and later Minister Counsellor at the Nepal’s embassy in Bangladesh (2005-2009) *  Under Secretary of the Multilateral Economic Affairs Division‎ and of Passports  at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2009-2010) *  Minister Counsellor at Nepal’s Embassy in Israel (2010-2013) *  Director General of the Department of Passports at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2013-2014) *  Chief of Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2015-2016) (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope Francis postpones Corpus Christi celebrations

Vatican News - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 09:14
(Vatican Radio) The director of the Holy See Press Office has made an announcement that Pope Francis has decided to postpone Corpus Christi celebrations. Greg Burke announced on Thursday 18th May 2017: “The Holy Father has decided to postpone the liturgical celebration of Corpus Christi, from Thursday 15th June to Sunday 18th June.” Burke explained that the decision was “in favour of a better participation of the People of God, of priests and of the faithful of the Church in Rome.” He added, “There is a second reason: Thursday is a weekday and so there will be less inconvenience in Rome.” On the Feast of Corpus Christi, the faithful celebrate the belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ's Real Presence in the Eucharist.  (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope: ‘we must ask the Lord for the gifts of love and joy'

Vatican News - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 07:38
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reminded believers that Jesus' love is infinite and true, unlike worldly passions that seek power and vanity. The Pope was speaking during Mass at the  Casa Santa Marta during which he pointed out that the Christian mission is to give joy and that God’s love is at the core of a true Christian’s life. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :  "As the Father loves me, so I also love you" said Pope Francis quoting from the Gospel reading of the day to highlight the fact that the Lord’s love is infinite. He said the Lord asks us to stay close to Him and to observe His Commandments: “the Ten Commandments of course are the foundation, but we are also called to follow all the things that Jesus has taught us, the commandments of daily life that represent a Christian lifestyle. There are “passions” that distance us from the true love of Jesus Jesus’s commandments, the Pope said, cover a very wide spectrum, but the core is one: “the love of the Father for Him, and His love for us”. “There are other loves. The world itself offers many other loves: love of money for example, vanity, boastfulness, pride, love of power which can even lead to unjust actions to achieve more power…” he said. These loves, he continued, have nothing to do with the love of Jesus or of the Father. In fact these loves distance us from Jesus’s love. God’s love is infinite And emphasizing the fact that the Lord’s love cannot be measured, Pope Francis said that unlike some worldly loves it is neither lukewarm nor tainted by “interest.”      The Pope said that if we follow the “commandments that Jesus has given us” we will remain in Jesus’ love and in the infinite love of the Father “which is the same thing”. Perhaps the Pope said “we may ask: why do you remind us of this? Because the Lord’s joy is in you and your joy must be complete.” So, he said, “Jesus teaches us the way of love, of having an open heart, of loving without measure, putting other kinds of love aside”. A Christian’s mission is to obey God and to give joy to others “Love and joy are gifts we must ask the Lord for” he said and he told the story of a priest who was recently appointed a bishop. “He went to see his father, he said, to give him the news. His old father was a simple man, a humble worker who had never been to college, but he had the wisdom of life. He had two recommendations for his son: 'Obey and give joy to the people.'” We Christians, the Pope concluded - lay people, priests, consecrated, bishops - must give joy to the people; on the path to infinite love our Christian mission is to give people joy”.  (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope Francis greets newly accredited Ambassadors to the Holy See

Vatican News - Thu, 05/18/2017 - 06:00
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis greeted newly accredited Ambassadors to the Holy See on Thursday morning, telling them that dialogue and not the use force, was the pathway to peace. Listen to our report: Addressing the newly accredited Ambassadors to the Holy See from Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago, Pope Francis said the international scene, as he called it, was "at present marked by great complexity", adding nor was it free “of dark clouds.”  The Holy Father said that this situation required “a greater awareness of the approaches and actions needed to pursue the path of peace and to lessen tensions.”  He noted that among the factors aggravating problems is “an economic and financial system that, rather than being at the service of people, is set up principally to serve itself and to evade oversight by public authorities.” He went on to say that, “those authorities are responsible for the common good, yet they lack the means necessary to moderate the disproportionate appetites of the few.” Men and women, not money, the Pope stressed “must once more become the goal of the economy”. Speaking about conflicts around the world, the Holy Father noted how they were being exacerbated by  fundamentalism, “the abuse of religion to justify a thirst for power, the manipulation of God’s holy name to advance by any means possible one’s own plans to gain power, he said.” Pope Francis underlined that differences must be confronted “with the courageous patience of dialogue and diplomacy, with initiatives of encounter and peace, and not with shows of force and its hasty and ill-advised use.” If we move decisively in this direction the Pope concluded, “the cause of peace and justice – the conditions of a balanced development for all – will make tangible progress.” Below please find the Pope's discourse to the news accedited Ambassadors.   Address of His Holiness Pope Francis for the Presentation of Credential Letters by the Ambassadors of Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago accredited to the Holy See           I am pleased to receive you on the occasion of the presentation of the Letters by which you are accredited as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of your countries to the Holy See: Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Sudan and Trinidad and Tobago.  I offer a particular welcome to Mrs M’Haiham, the first Ambassador of Mauritania to the Holy See.  I would ask all of you kindly to convey my sentiments of gratitude and respect to your respective Heads of State, with the assurance of my prayers for them and for the peoples whom they represent.             The international scene is at present marked by great complexity, nor is it free of dark clouds.  This requires a greater awareness of the approaches and actions needed to pursue the path of peace and to lessen tensions.  Among the factors aggravating problems is an economic and financial system that, rather than being at the service of people, is set up principally to serve itself and to evade oversight by public authorities.  Those authorities are responsible for the common good, yet they lack the means necessary to moderate the disproportionate appetites of the few.             We also see a greater readiness to have recourse to force, not as a last resort but practically as one means among many, ready to be used without a full consideration of its consequences.             Yet another factor exacerbating conflicts is fundamentalism, the abuse of religion to justify a thirst for power, the manipulation of God’s holy name to advance by any means possible one’s own plans to gain power.             The response to these distortions and the risks they pose to world peace must be the creation of a responsible economic and financial system responsive to the needs of individuals and the communities in which they live.  Men and women, not money, must once more become the goal of the economy!  We must also confront differences with the courageous patience of dialogue and diplomacy, with initiatives of encounter and peace, and not with shows of force and its hasty and ill-advised use.  It is likewise essential to isolate those who seek to turn a religious affiliation or identity into a motive of hate for all others.  Those who befoul the image of God in this way need to be confronted by a concerted commitment to demonstrating that those who honour God’s name save lives, not take them; they bring reconciliation and peace, not division and war; they show mercy and compassion, not indifference and brutality.  If we move decisively in this direction, the cause of peace and justice – the conditions of a balanced development for all – will make tangible progress.             Dear Ambassadors, I would like to express, through you, my greetings to the pastors and faithful of the Catholic communities present in your countries.  I encourage them to continue their witness of faith and to offer their generous contribution to the common good.             As you officially begin your new mission, I extend to you my best wishes and I assure you of the constant support of the various offices of the Roman Curia in the fulfilment of your responsibilities.  To this end, I willingly invoke upon you and your families, as well as all your fellow citizens, an abundance of divine blessings.   (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

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