Vatican News

Pope Francis greets immigrant families in Milan

Vatican News - Sat, 03/25/2017 - 06:00
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Saturday greeted the Rom, Islamic, and immigrant families of the ‘White Houses’ in the Forlanini quarter of Milan at the beginning of his one-day pastoral visit to the city. Upon his arrival, residents gave the Holy Father two gifts: a priestly stole and a picture of a statuette of the Madonna. Pope Francis thanked them for their gifts and said it was important for him to be welcomed to Milan by a community of families. He said the stole was a reminder that he comes “as a priest: I come to Milan as a priest”. He also recognized that it had been handmade by several residents of the Forlanini quarter: “It’s a reminder that the Christian priest is chosen from among the people and at the service of the people. My priesthood…is a gift from Christ, but it is ‘woven’ by you, by our people with their faith, labours, prayers, and tears.” Pope Francis then said the statuette of Our Lady is a sign of his being welcomed to Milan by the Madonna. “It reminds me of Mary’s care, who ran to meet Elizabeth. This is the care and concern of the Church, which does not remain in the city centre waiting but comes to meet all at the peripheries; she goes also to meet non-Christians and non-believers…; and she brings Jesus to all, he who is the love of God made flesh and gives meaning to our lives and saves us from evil.” Afterwards, the Holy Father made his way to Milan’s Duomo Cathedral to meet with priests and consecrated men and women. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope Francis: address to EU Heads of State and Government

Vatican News - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 13:45
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed Heads of State and Heads of Government of European Union countries on Friday afternoon, the eve of the 60° anniversary of the signing of the treaties creating the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community – the first major structural steps toward creating the European Union. Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks, in their official English translation ********************************************** Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to European Heads of State and Government 24 March 2017 Distinguished Guests, I thank you for your presence here tonight, on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaties instituting the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community.  I convey to each of you the affection of the Holy See for your respective countries and for Europe itself, to whose future it is, in God’s providence, inseparably linked.  I am particularly grateful to the Honourable Paolo Gentiloni, President of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Italy, for his respectful words of greeting in your name and for the efforts that Italy has made in preparing for this meeting.  I also thank the Honourable Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, who has voiced the aspirations of the peoples of the Union on this anniversary. Returning to Rome, sixty years later, must not simply be a remembrance of things past, but the expression of a desire to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the present.  We need to immerse ourselves in the challenges of that time, so as to face those of today and tomorrow.  The Bible, with its rich historical narratives, can teach us a basic lesson.  We cannot understand our own times apart from the past, seen not as an assemblage of distant facts, but as the lymph that gives life to the present.  Without such an awareness, reality loses its unity, history loses its logical thread, and humanity loses a sense of the meaning of its activity and its progress towards the future. 25 March 1957 was a day full of hope and expectation, enthusiasm and apprehension.  Only an event of exceptional significance and historical consequences could make it unique in history.  The memory of that day is linked to today’s hopes and the expectations of the people of Europe, who call for discernment in the present, so that the journey that has begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence. This was very clear to the founding fathers and the leaders who, by signing the two Treaties, gave life to that political, economic, cultural and primarily human reality which today we call the European Union.  As P.H. Spaak, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, it was a matter “indeed, of the material prosperity of our peoples, the expansion of our economies, social progress and completely new industrial and commercial possibilities, but above all… a particular conception of life that is humane, fraternal and just”.[1] After the dark years and the bloodshed of the Second World War, the leaders of the time had faith in the possibility of a better future.  “They did not lack boldness, nor did they act too late.  The memory of recent tragedies and failures seems to have inspired them and given them the courage needed to leave behind their old disputes and to think and act in a truly new way, in order to bring about the greatest transformation… of Europe”.[2] The founding fathers remind us that Europe is not a conglomeration of rules to obey, or a manual of protocols and procedures to follow. It is a way of life, a way of understanding man based on his transcendent and inalienable dignity, as something more than simply a sum of rights to defend or claims to advance.  At the origin of the idea of Europe, we find “the nature and the responsibility of the human person, with his ferment of evangelical fraternity…, with his desire for truth and justice, honed by a thousand-year-old experience”.[3]  Rome, with its vocation to universality,[4] symbolizes that experience and was thus chosen as the place for the signing of the Treaties.  For here – as the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, J. Luns, observed – “were laid the political, juridical and social foundations of our civilization”.[5] It was clear, then, from the outset, that the heart of the European political project could only be man himself.  It was also clear that the Treaties could remain a dead letter; they needed to take on spirit and life.  The first element of European vitality must be solidarity.  As the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, J. Bech stated, “the European economic community will prove lasting and successful only if it remains constantly faithful to the spirit of European solidarity that created it, and if the common will of the Europe now being born proves more powerful than the will of individual nations”.[6]  That spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the Union to productive, economic and financial needs. Solidarity gives rise to openness towards others.  “Our plans are not inspired by self-interest”,[7] said the German Chancellor, K. Adenauer.  The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, C. Pineau, echoed this sentiment: “Surely the countries about to unite… do not have the intention of isolating themselves from the rest of the world and surrounding themselves with insurmountable barriers”.[8]  In a world that was all too familiar with the tragedy of walls and divisions, it was clearly important to work for a united and open Europe, and for the removal of the unnatural barrier that divided the continent from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic.  What efforts were made to tear down that wall!  Yet today the memory of those efforts has been lost.  Forgotten too is the tragedy of separated families, poverty and destitution born of that division.  Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the “dangers” of our time: beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones. In today’s lapse of memory, we often forget another great achievement of the solidarity ratified on 25 March 1957: the longest period of peace experienced in recent centuries.  “Peoples who over time often found themselves in opposed camps, fighting with one another… now find themselves united and enriched by their distinctive national identities”.[9]  Peace is always the fruit of a free and conscious contribution by all.  Nonetheless, “for many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted”,[10] one that can then easily come to be regarded as superfluous.  On the contrary, peace is a precious and essential good, for without it, we cannot build a future for anyone, and we end up “living from day to day”. United Europe was born of a clear, well-defined and carefully pondered project, however embryonic at first.  Every worthy project looks to the future, and the future are the young, who are called to realize its hopes and promises.[11]  The founding fathers had a clear sense of being part of a common effort that not only crossed national borders, but also the borders of time, so as to bind generations among themselves, all sharing equally in the building of the common home. Distinguished Guests, I have devoted this first part of my talk to the founding fathers of Europe, so that we can be challenged by their words, the timeliness of their thinking, their impassioned pursuit of the common good, their certainty of sharing in a work greater than themselves, and the breadth of the ideals that inspired them.  Their common denominator was the spirit of service, joined to passion for politics and the consciousness that “at the origin of European civilization there is Christianity”,[12] without which the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely incomprehensible.  As Saint John Paul II affirmed: “Today too, the soul of Europe remains united, because, in addition to its common origins, those same Christian and human values are still alive.  Respect for the dignity of the human person, a profound sense of justice, freedom, industriousness, the spirit of initiative, love of family, respect for life, tolerance, the desire for cooperation and peace: all these are its distinctive marks”.[13]  In our multicultural world, these values will continue to have their rightful place provided they maintain a vital connection to their deepest roots.  The fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically “lay” societies, free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and nonbelievers. The world has changed greatly in the last sixty years.  If the founding fathers, after surviving a devastating conflict, were inspired by the hope of a better future and were determined to pursue it by avoiding the rise of new conflicts, our time is dominated more by the concept of crisis.  There is the economic crisis that has marked the past decade; there is the crisis of the family and of established social models; there is a widespread “crisis of institutions” and the migration crisis.  So many crises that engender fear and profound confusion in our contemporaries, who look for a new way of envisioning the future. Yet the term “crisis” is not necessarily negative.  It does not simply indicate a painful moment to be endured.  The word “crisis” has its origin in the Greek verb kríno, which means to discern, to weigh, to assess.  Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it.  It is a time of challenge and opportunity. So what is the interpretative key for reading the difficulties of the present and finding answers for the future?  Returning to the thinking of the founding Fathers would be fruitless unless it could help to point out a path and provide an incentive for facing the future and a source of hope.  When a body loses its sense of direction and is no longer able to look ahead, it experiences a regression and, in the long run, risks dying.  What, then, is the legacy of the founding fathers?  What prospects do they indicate for surmounting the challenges that lie before us?  What hope do they offer for the Europe of today and of tomorrow? Their answers are to be found precisely in the pillars on which they determined to build the European economic community.  I have already mentioned these: the centrality of man, effective solidarity, openness to the world, the pursuit of peace and development, openness to the future.  Those who govern are charged with discerning the paths of hope, identifying specific ways forward to ensure that the significant steps taken thus far have not been wasted, but serve as the pledge of a long and fruitful journey. Europe finds new hope when man is the centre and the heart of her institutions.  I am convinced that this entails an attentive and trust-filled readiness to hear the expectations voiced by individuals, society and the peoples who make up the Union.  Sadly, one frequently has the sense that there is a growing “split” between the citizenry and the European institutions, which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the Union.  Affirming the centrality of man also means recovering the spirit of family, whereby each contributes freely to the common home in accordance with his or her own abilities and gifts.  It helps to keep in mind that Europe is a family of peoples[14] and that – as in every good family – there are different sensitivities, yet all can grow to the extent that all are united.  The European Union was born as a unity of differences and a unity in differences.  What is distinctive should not be a reason for fear, nor should it be thought that unity is preserved by uniformity.  Unity is instead harmony within a community.  The founding fathers chose that very term as the hallmark of the agencies born of the Treaties and they stressed that the resources and talents of each were now being pooled.  Today the European Union needs to recover the sense of being primarily a “community” of persons and peoples, to realize that “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts”,[15] and that therefore “we constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all”.[16]  The founding fathers sought that harmony in which the whole is present in every one of the parts, and the parts are – each in its own unique way – present in the whole. Europe finds new hope in solidarity, which is also the most effective antidote to modern forms of populism.  Solidarity entails the awareness of being part of a single body, while at the same time involving a capacity on the part of each member to “sympathize” with others and with the whole.  When one suffers, all suffer (cf. 1 Cor 12:26).  Today, with the United Kingdom, we mourn the victims of the attack that took place in London two days ago.  For solidarity is no mere ideal; it is expressed in concrete actions and steps that draw us closer to our neighbours, in whatever situation they find themselves.  Forms of populism are instead the fruit of an egotism that hems people in and prevents them from overcoming and “looking beyond” their own narrow vision.  There is a need to start thinking once again as Europeans, so as to avert the opposite dangers of a dreary uniformity or the triumph of particularisms.  Politics needs this kind of leadership, which avoids appealing to emotions to gain consent, but instead, in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity, devises policies that can make the Union as a whole develop harmoniously.  As a result, those who run faster can offer a hand to those who are slower, and those who find the going harder can aim at catching up to those at the head of the line. Europe finds new hope when she refuses to yield to fear or close herself off in false forms of security.  Quite the contrary, her history has been greatly determined by encounters with other peoples and cultures; hers “is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity”.[17]   The world looks to the European project with great interest.  This was the case from the first day, when crowds gathered in Rome’s Capitol Square and messages of congratulation poured in from other states.  It is even more the case today, if we think of those countries that have asked to become part of the Union and those states that receive the aid so generously offered them for battling the effects of poverty, disease and war.  Openness to the world implies the capacity for “dialogue as a form of encounter”[18] on all levels, beginning with dialogue between member states, between institutions and citizens, and with the numerous immigrants landing on the shores of the Union.  It is not enough to handle the grave crisis of immigration of recent years as if it were a mere numerical or economic problem, or a question of security. The immigration issue poses a deeper question, one that is primarily cultural.  What kind of culture does Europe propose today?  The fearfulness that is becoming more and more evident has its root cause in the loss of ideals.  Without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts, and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone.  Yet the richness of Europe has always been her spiritual openness and her capacity to raise basic questions about the meaning of life.  Openness to the sense of the eternal has also gone hand in hand, albeit not without tensions and errors, with a positive openness to this world.  Yet today’s prosperity seems to have clipped the continent’s wings and lowered its gaze.  Europe has a patrimony of ideals and spiritual values unique in the world, one that deserves to be proposed once more with passion and renewed vigour, for it is the best antidote against the vacuum of values of our time, which provides a fertile terrain for every form of extremism.  These are the ideals that shaped Europe, that “Peninsula of Asia” which stretches from the Urals to the Atlantic. Europe finds new hope when she invests in development and in peace.  Development is not the result of a combination of various systems of production.  It has to do with the whole human being: the dignity of labour, decent living conditions, access to education and necessary medical care.  “Development is the new name of peace”,[19]  said Pope Paul VI, for there is no true peace whenever people are cast aside or forced to live in dire poverty.  There is no peace without employment and the prospect of earning a dignified wage.  There is no peace in the peripheries of our cities, with their rampant drug abuse and violence. Europe finds new hope when she is open to the future.  When she is open to young people, offering them serious prospects for education and real possibilities for entering the work force.  When she invests in the family, which is the first and fundamental cell of society.  When she respects the consciences and the ideals of her citizens.  When she makes it possible to have children without the fear of being unable to support them.  When she defends life in all its sacredness. Distinguished Guests, Nowadays, with the general increase in people’s life span, sixty is considered the age of full maturity, a critical time when we are once again called to self-examination.  The European Union, too, is called today to examine itself, to care for the ailments that inevitably come with age, and to find new ways to steer its course.  Yet unlike human beings, the European Union does not face an inevitable old age, but the possibility of a new youthfulness.  Its success will depend on its readiness to work together once again, and by its willingness to wager on the future.  As leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a “new European humanism”[20] made up of ideals and concrete actions.  This will mean being unafraid to take practical decisions capable of meeting people’s real problems and of standing the test of time. For my part, I readily assure you of the closeness of the Holy See and the Church to Europe as a whole, to whose growth she has, and always will, continue to contribute.  Invoking upon Europe the Lord’s blessings, I ask him to protect her and grant her peace and progress.  I make my own the words that Joseph Bech proclaimed on Rome’s Capitoline Hill: Ceterum censeo Europam esse aedificandam – furthermore, I believe that Europe ought to be built. Thank you. [1] P.H. SPAAK, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [2] Ibid. [3] A. DE GASPERI. La nostra patria Europa.  Address to the European Parliamentary Conference, 21 April 1954, in Alcide De Gasperi e la politica internazionale, Cinque Lune, Rome, 1990, vol. III, 437-440. [4] Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit. [5] J. LUNS, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [6] J. BECH, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [7] K. ADENAUER, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [8] C. PINEAU, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [9] P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit. [10] Address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2017. [11] Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit. [12] A. DE GASPERI, loc. cit. [13] JOHN PAUL II, European Act, Santiago de Compostela, 9 November 1982: AAS 75/1 (1983), 329. [14] Cf. Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014: AAS 106 (2014), 1000. [15] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 235. [16] Ibid. [17] Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016: L’Osservatore Romano, 6-7 May 2016, p. 4. [18] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 239. [19] PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 26 March 1967, 87: AAS 59 (1967), 299. [20] Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, loc. cit., p. 5. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope Francis receives the President of Fiji in audience

Vatican News - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 11:09
(Vatican Radio) The Press Office of the Holy See has released the following communiqué on Pope Francis' audience for the President of Fiji:  Today, Friday 24 March, the Holy Father Francis received in Audience, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the president of the Republic of Fiji, His Excellency Mr Jioji Konousi Konrote, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. During the cordial discussions, the existing good relations between the Holy See and Fiji and the contribution of the Catholic Church to the life of the country were evoked. Attention then turned to the issue of climate change and, above all, to its ethical dimension, which demands solidarity with the most vulnerable social groups and countries, and with the new generations. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope mourns death of "wise and gentle pastor"

Vatican News - Fri, 03/24/2017 - 10:57
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter of condolence to the Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, following the death of Cardinal William Keeler, who led the Archdiocese of Baltimore from 1989-2007.  The full text of the telegram can be found below:  To the Most Reverend William E. Lori Archbishop of Baltimore Deeply saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal William H. Keeler, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese.  With gratitude for Cardinal Keeler’s years of devoted episcopal ministry in the local Churches of Harrisburg and Baltimore, his years of leadership within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and his long-standing commitment to ecumenical and interreligious understanding, I join you in commending the soul of this wise and gentle pastor to the merciful love of God our heavenly Father.  To all who mourn the late Cardinal in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord. FRANCISCUS PP. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope Francis to meet EU leaders in Vatican

Vatican News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 10:34
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis is set to receive 27 European Union heads of State and government at a private audience in the Vatican’s Sala Regia on Friday evening. The encounter takes place on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome. Leaders will be joined at the audience by representatives of EU institutions. These include Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission. Pope Francis will address the group after speeches made by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and Antonio Tajani. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope recognizes Fatima children miracle ahead of May visit

Vatican News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 09:55
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has officially recognized the miracle attributed to the intercession of two Fatima children - Blesseds Francisco and Jacinta Marto. He also approved the canonizations of 30 Brazilian and 3 Mexican martyrs. The Pope will visit Fatima in Portugal on 12-13 May. Click here to see the schedule of his visit. During an audience on Thursday with Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the following decrees : - the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Angelo da Acri (né Luca Antonio Falcone), professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, born 19 October 1669 and died 30 October 1739); - the miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Francisco Marto, born on 11 June 1908 and died on 4 April 1919, and Blessed Jacinta Marto, born 11 March 1910 and died 20 February 1920, children of Fátima; - the martyrdom of Servants of God José Fernández Sánchez and 32 companions, priests and coadjutor brothers of the Congregation of the Mission, alongside six laypeople of the Association of the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady, killed in hatred of the faith during the Spanish civil war; - the martyrdom of Servant of God Regina Mariam Vattalil (née Rani Maria), professed sister of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, killed in hatred of the faith on 25 February 1995; - the heroic virtues of Servant of God Daniele da Samarate (né Felice Rossini), professed priest of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, born 15 June 1876 and died 19 May 1924; - the heroic virtues of Servant of God Macrina Raparelli (né Elena), founder of the Congregation of the Basilian Sisters, daughters of Saint Macrina, born 2 April 1893 and died 26 February 1970; - the heroic virtues of Servant of God Daniela Zanetta, layperson, born 15 December 1962 and died 14 April 1986. The Holy Father also approved the favourable votes of the Ordinary Session of Cardinals and Bishops, member of the Congregation, regarding the canonization of the following Blesseds : - André de Soveral, and Ambrósio Francisco Ferro, diocesan priests, and Mateus Moreira, layperson, alongside 27 companions, martyrs, killed in hatred of the faith in Brazil on 16 July 1645 and 3 October 1645; - Cristóbal, Antonio and Juan, adolescent martyrs, killed in hatred of the faith in Mexico in 1529. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope: We are "Catholic Atheists" if we have hardened hearts

Vatican News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 09:35
(Vatican Radio) Listen to the Word of God to avoid the risk of a hardened heart. That was Pope Francis’ message in his homily at morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Thursday. The Pope pointed out that when we turn away from God and are deaf to His Word, we become unfaithful or even “Catholic atheists.” Pope Francis drew inspiration from the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah to meditate on the importance of listening to the Word of God. “When we do not stop to listen to the voice of the Lord we end up moving away, we turn away from Him, we turn our backs. And if we do not listen to the voice of the Lord, we listen to other voices.” The Holy Father suggested that if we do not listen to God’s voice, then in the end we listen to the voices of idols. He noted bitterly that eventually, “we become deaf: deaf to the Word of God.” “And all of us, if we stop a little today and look at our hearts, we will see how many times – how many times! – we close our ears and how many times we have become deaf. And when a people, a community, but we can also say a Christian community, a parish, a diocese, when they close their ears and become deaf to the Word of the Lord, they search for other voices, other lords, and it ends with idols, the idols of the world, the worldliness that society offers. That community distances itself from the living God.” If the heart hardens, we become “Catholic pagans”, even “Catholic atheists.” As we move away from the Lord, the Pope added, our hearts harden. When someone “does not listen, the heart becomes harder, more closed in on itself, hard and unable to receive anything; not only is it closed: there is a hardness of heart.” That person lives “in that world, that atmosphere that doesn’t do him good. He moves further away from God every day.” “And these two things – not listening to the Word of God and a hardened heart, closed in on itself – cause infidelity. You lose your sense of fidelity. The Lord says in the First Reading: ‘faithfulness is gone’, and we become unfaithful Catholics, Catholic pagans or, uglier still, Catholic atheists, because we have no reference to the love of the living God. To not listen and to turn our backs – that makes our hearts harden – takes us on the road to infidelity. The Pope then asked, “This infidelity, how does it end?” He answered by referring to the Gospel passage from St Luke, in which Jesus is accused of healing people through the power of Beelzebul. “It ends in confusion; you do not know where God is or where He is not, you confuse God with the devil.” His Holiness said we should ask ourselves whether we really listen to the Word of God or whether we harden our hearts. “This is blasphemy. Blasphemy is the final word on this path that begins with not listening, with the hardening of the heart.” This failure to listen and this hardening of the heart “leads to confusion, making you forget fidelity and, ultimately, blaspheming.” To those who forget the wonder of the first meeting with Jesus, he said: “Each of us can ask ourselves today: ‘Have I stopped listening to the Word of God, taking the Bible in my hands and talking only to myself? Has my heart been hardened? Am I far from the Lord? Have I lost my fidelity to the Lord and do I live with the idols that offer me worldliness every day? Have I lost the joy of the wonder of my first meeting with Jesus?’. Today is a day to listen. ‘O that today you would listen to His voice! Harden not your hearts!’’. We ask for this grace: the grace to listen so that our hearts will not be hardened.”   (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope Francis receives President of Cameroon

Vatican News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 08:28
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis received Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon, in a private audience at the Vatican on Thursday. A communique from the Holy See Press Office said their discussions were "cordial". "During the cordial discussions, the existing good relations between the Holy See and Cameroon were evoked, as was the important contribution the Church offers to the development of the country, especially in the fields of education and healthcare. Taking into consideration the peaceful co-existence and mutual respect between the various religious groups, attention was focused on the importance of promoting national cohesion, enhancing the richness of the various historic and cultural traditions of the country, with respect for human and minority rights." The Pope and the president also exchanged "views on some themes of international interest, with particular reference to the current challenges affecting the region". President Biya subsequently met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, who was accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope Francis: telegram of condolence for London attack

Vatican News - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 08:14
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing his condolences to the victims of the terror attack at the Houses of Parliament in London on Wednesday, in which an attacker killed four people before armed police shot him dead. Addressed to the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols , and signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, the telegram conveys the Holy Father's promises of prayers and spiritual closeness to the grieving families, as well as his spiritual solidarity with the whole people. Below, please find the full text of the Telegram, in English ****************************************** His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols Archbishop of Westminster President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack in central London, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy.  Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, His Holiness invokes divine strength and peace upon their grieving families, and he assures the nation of his prayers at this time. Cardinal Pietro Parolin Secretary of State (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope greets participants in Vatican water conference

Vatican News - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 08:09
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has greeted participants in a Vatican conference on the value and values of water promoted by the Pontifical Council for Culture. Wednesday, March 22, marks the 25th iteration of World Water Day, instituted by the United Nations in 1992. The conference is entitled “ Watershed: replenishing water values for a thirsty world ”. During his greetings to English speakers at the General Audience, Pope Francis gave a special welcome and encouraged participants in their work. “I am happy that this meeting is taking place, for it represents yet another stage in the joint commitment of various institutions to raising consciousness about the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone, mindful too of its cultural and religious significance. I especially encourage your efforts in the area of education, through programmes directed to children and young people. Thank you for all that you do and may God bless you!” Speakers at the one-day event include Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and of the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, and Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Pope: 'current migration crisis greatest tragedy after WW2'

Vatican News - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 07:50
(Vatican Radio)   Pope Francis has called for an ongoing commitment to welcome and integrate forced migrants and refugees and described the current migration phenomenon as the world’s greatest tragedy after the Second World War.    Speaking on Wednesday to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience, the Pope also continued his catechesis on Christian hope and appealed to the faithful to ‘re-discover’ the Sacrament of Reconciliation . Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : In his appeal , launched after the catechesis, Pope Francis reminded all Catholic communities to participate in the upcoming “ 24 hours for the Lord ” initiative on 23rd and 24th of March with Churches across the globe offering the Sacrament of Confession as a “privileged moment of grace” during our Lenten journey. And speaking to an Italian association that offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2. His words come just days before EU Heads of State or Government convene in the city to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.  In his catechesis meanwhile, Pope Francis reflected on a reading from Saint Paul which focusses on the attitudes of steadfastness and encouragement. They are intimately connected to the reality of Christian hope because ours, he said, is a God of steadfastness as he loves us perseveringly and never tires of consoling us. He is also a God of encouragement, he continued, who calls us to be close to the weak and the needy with whom he asks us to be strong and to be sowers of hope. What’s more, the Pope continued, Christians are called to spread hope by supporting and encouraging one another, especially those in danger of faltering.  But we do so, he concluded, with the strength provided by the Lord, who is our unfailing source of hope.       (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope sends video message for World Youth Day 2017

Vatican News - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 05:41
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis sent a video message to young people on Tuesday to help them prepare for the XXXII World Youth Day, which is being celebrated at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday, 9 April 2017. The theme of this year's WYD is “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49). In the video, Pope Francis highlights several themes of his full message for WYD , inviting young people to embark on a path of spiritual preparation for the international celebration of World Youth Day in Panama on 22-27 January 2019. Watch the full video: Below please find the official English translation of the Pope's video message: Dear young people, With the memory vividly in our minds of our meeting together at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, we have set out towards the next goal that will be, God willing, Panama in 2019. These moments of encounter and conversation with you are very important to me. I want this journey to proceed in line with preparations for the next Synod of Bishops because it is dedicated to you, young people. We are accompanied on this journey by Our Mother, the Virgin Mary. She encourages us with her faith, the same faith that she expressed in her song of praise. Mary said, “The Mighty One has done great things for me” (Lk 1:49). She knew how to give thanks to God who looked upon her littleness, and she recognised the great things that God was accomplishing in her life. So she set off to visit her cousin Elizabeth who was old and needed her to be close by. Mary did not stay at home because she was not a young couch potato who looks for comfort and safety where nobody can bother them. She was moved by faith because faith is at the heart of Our Mother’s entire life story. Dear young people, God is also watching over you and calling you, and when God does so, he is looking at all the love you are able to offer. Like the young woman of Nazareth, you can improve the world and leave an imprint that makes a mark on history ‒ your history and that of many others. The Church and society need you. With your plans and with your courage, with your dreams and ideals, walls of stagnation fall and roads open up that lead us to a better, fairer, less cruel and more humane world. As you follow this path, I encourage you to cultivate a relationship of familiarity and friendship with Our Lady. She is our Mother. Speak to her as you would to a Mother. Together with her, give thanks for the precious gift of faith that you have received from your elders, and entrust your whole life to her. She is a good Mother who listens to you and embraces you, who loves you and walks together with you. I assure you that if you do that, you will not regret it. Have a good pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2019. May God bless you all. (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope: May Joseph give us the ability to dream great things

Vatican News - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 07:23
(Vatican Radio) Saint Joseph gives young people “the ability to dream, to risk, and to undertake the difficult tasks that they have seen in dreams.” That was the message of Pope Francis during the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. The day’s liturgy commemorated the Solemnity of St Joseph, which is normally celebrated on 19 March, but which is transferred when that date falls on a Sunday in Lent.   In his homily, Pope Francis focused on the figure of St Joseph, the guardian of weaknesses, and of the “dream of God.” Listen:  The Gospel of the day tells how Joseph, in obedience to the angel who appeared to him in a dream, took Mary, who had conceived by the Holy Spirit, as his wife. Joseph, silent and obedient, is a man who carries with him the promises of “ancestry, heritage, paternity, sonship, stability”: “And this man, this dreamer, is able to accept this duty, this grave duty. He has so much to say to us in this time of a strong sense of being orphaned. And so this man takes the promise of God and carries it onward in silence, with strength, he carries it onward so that God’s Will might be done.” Saint Joseph, the Pope said, is a man “who can tell us many things, but who does not speak,” “the hidden man,” the man of silence, “who has the greatest authority in that moment without letting it be seen.” And the Pope emphasized that the things God confides to the heart of Joseph are “weak things”: promises – and a promise is weak. And then there is the birth of the child, the flight into Egypt, situations of weakness. Joseph takes to heart and carries forward “all these weaknesses” as weaknesses are carried forward: “with so much tenderness,” “with the tenderness with which one takes a child in one’s arms”: “He is the man who doesn’t speak but obeys, the man of tenderness, the man capable of carrying forward the promises so that they might become solid, certain; the man who guarantees the stability of the Kingdom of God, the paternity of God, our sonship as children of God. I like to think of Joseph as the guardian of weaknesses, of our weaknesses too: he is able to give birth to so many beautiful things from our weaknesses, even from our sins.” Joseph is the guardian of weaknesses so that they might become firm in faith. But he received this duty in a dream: he is a man “able to dream,” Pope Francis said. And so he is also “the guardian of the dream of God”: God’s dream “of saving all of us,” of redemption, was entrusted to him. “How great was this carpenter!” the Pope exclaimed. He was silent, but he worked, he guarded, he carried forward the weaknesses, and he was capable of dreaming. And so he is a figure who has a message for all: “Today I want to ask, grant to all of us the ability to dream, that when we dream great things, beautiful things, we might draw near to the dream of God, the things God dreams about us. [I ask] that he might give to young people – because he was young – the capacity to dream, to risk, to undertake the difficult tasks they have seen in dreams. And [I ask] him to give to all of us the faithfulness that tends to grow when we have a just attitude – Joseph was just – [the faithfulness that] grows in silence, with few words; that grows in tenderness that guards our own weaknesses and those of others.”  (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope Angelus: Lent is an opportunity to draw near to Christ

Vatican News - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 08:42
(Vatican Radio) “Perhaps we have not yet encountered Jesus personally,” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address on Sunday. “Perhaps we have not recognized Him as our Saviour.” The Holy Father was commenting on the day’s Gospel, which relates the “dialogue” between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. Because of the great respect Jesus shows her — despite her being a Samaritan, and despite her disordered life — she is open to the words of Christ, when He speaks to her about the true faith. She recognizes Him as a prophet, and intuits that He could be the Messiah, and Jesus tells her plainly that He is, in fact, the Messiah — something that happens very rarely in the Gospels, the Pope said. “Dear brothers,” Pope Francis continued, “the water that gives eternal life was poured out in our hearts on the day of our Baptism;” on that day, “God transformed us and filled us with His grace.” However, the Pope said, we sometimes forget about the grace of our Baptism, or treat it merely as a piece of biographical data. When that happens we go looking for “wells” filled with water that cannot quench our thirst. “And so this Gospel is for us!” the Pope said, “not just for the Samaritan woman.” Lent, he said, is a good opportunity for us “to draw near” to Jesus, “to encounter Him in prayer in a heart-to-heart dialogue… to see His face in the face of a brother or a sister who is suffering.” In this way, the Pope said, “we can renew within ourselves the grace of Baptism, quenching our thirst at the font of the Word of God and of the Holy Spirit; and thereby discovering, too, the joy of becoming artisans of reconciliation and instruments of peace in our daily lives. “   (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope Francis: Bd Joseph Mayr-Nusser a model for fathers

Vatican News - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 07:57
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday recalled the Beatification of Joseph Mayr-Nusser, which took place the day before in the Italian city of Bolsano. Blessed Joseph, as the Holy Father noted, was a layman, the father of a family and a promoter of Catholic Action. In 1944, Mayr-Nusser refused to take the so-called “Hitler oath” after he was drafted into the German army. He was subsequently sentenced to death, and died on the way to Dachau concentration camp; he is honoured as a martyr by the Church. “On account of his great moral and spiritual stature,” Pope Francis said following the Angelus on Sunday, Blessed Joseph “is a model for the lay faithful, especially for fathers, who we remember with great affection today.” Fathers are honoured in Italy on 19 March, the Solemnity of St Joseph, although this year, since the 19th falls on a Sunday in Lent, the feast of the patron saint of father is transferred to the following day.  (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope prays for victims of flooding in Peru

Vatican News - Sun, 03/19/2017 - 07:27
(Vatican Radio) At the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis assured the people of Peru of his closeness to them, at a time when their country has been struck by “devastating floods.” Since the beginning of the year more than seventy people have died as a result of intense rains, overflowing rivers, mudslides, and flooding, the worst the nation has seen in more than two decades. More than half of Peru has been affected by the severe weather. “I pray for the victims” of the flooding, the Holy Father said, “and for those who are committed to providing relief.” (from Vatican Radio)...
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Apostolic Voyage to Egypt confirmed

Vatican News - Sat, 03/18/2017 - 07:28
(Vatican Radio) A statement from Greg Burke, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Egypt at the end of April. Here is the full text of Greg Burke’s statement: “In response to the invitation from the President of the Republic, the Bishops of the Catholic Church, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and the Grand Imam of the Mosque of Al Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayyib, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic trip to the Arab Republic of Egypt from 28 to 29 April 2017, visiting the city of Cairo. The programme of the trip will be published shortly.” The Apostolic Voyage to Egypt will be Pope Francis’ eighteenth pastoral visit outside of Italy.  (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope Francis: three characteristics of a good confessor

Vatican News - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 13:18
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with participants at an annual course on the internal forum, organised by the Apostolic Penitentiary.In his words to the group, the Pope spoke about the formation of good confessors, focusing on three characteristics which should guide their work. Listen to our report: Firstly, Pope Francis said, a good confessor is a true friend of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and a person dedicated to prayer. A Ministry of Reconciliation "bound up in prayer", he said, is a credible reflection of God's mercy and will “avoid the harshness and misunderstandings” that are sometimes associated with the Sacrament. Prayer is the first guarantee for avoiding harsh attitudes, pointlessly judging the sinner and not the sin, he said. Pope Francis told participants that they cannot forgive through the Sacrament without the awareness of first having been forgiven themselves. He urged them to pray for humility and “the gift of a wounded heart” so that they are able to understand other people's wounds and heal them with the oil of mercy. Secondly, the Pope said the good confessor is a man of the Spirit, a man of discernment. How much harm is done to the Church through a lack of discernment, he added. Discernment, he insisted,  enables a confessor to distinguish and not "tar all with the same brush" despite the many different and delicate situations people bring to the confessional. Pope Francis said that if a confessor becomes aware of the presence of genuine spiritual disturbances, confirmed through a ”healthy collaboration” with specialists in human sciences, he must not hesitate to refer the issue to an exorcist, chosen with “great care and great prudence”. Finally, Pope Francis concluded, the confessional is also a true place of evangelization and thus of formation. In the brief dialogue that is woven with the penitent, he said the confessor is called to discern what may be most useful or even necessary to the spiritual journey of that brother or sister. He stressed that confession is a real pastoral priority and he urged them never to limit the availability of the Sacrament to anyone who comes asking for it. Please find below the English translation of Pope Francis’ address Dear brothers, I am pleased to meet you in this first audience with you after the Jubilee of Mercy, on the occasion of the annual Course on the Internal Forum. I address warm greetings to the Cardinal Major Penitentiary, and thank him for his kind remarks. I greet the Regent, the Prelates, the Officials and the staff of the Penitentiary, the Colleges of the ordinary and extraordinary penitentiaries of the Papal Basilicas in Rome, and all of you, participants in this course. In reality, I admit, this Penitentiary is the type of Tribunal I truly like! It is a “tribunal of mercy”, to which we turn to obtain that indispensable medicine that is divine mercy. Your course on the internal forum, which contributes to the formation of good confessors, is more useful than ever, and I would say even necessary in our times. Certainly, one does not become a good confessor thanks to a course, no: that of the confessional is a long education, that lasts a lifetime. But who is a “good confessor”? How does one become a good confessor? I would like to indicate, in this respect, three aspects. 1. The “good confessor” is, first of all, a true friend of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Without this friendship, it will be difficult to develop that fatherliness so necessary in the ministry of Reconciliation. Being friends of Jesus means first of all cultivating prayer: both personal prayer with the Lord, incessantly asking for the gift of pastoral charity, and the specific prayer for the exercise of the task of the confessor and for the faithful, brothers and sisters who come to us in search of God’s mercy. A ministry of Reconciliation “bound in prayer” will be a credible response to God’s mercy, and will avoid the harshness and misunderstandings that at times can be generated even in the Sacramental encounter. A confessor who prays is well aware of being the first sinner and the first to be forgiven. One cannot forgive in the Sacrament without the awareness of having been forgiven first. Therefore, prayer is the first guarantee for avoiding harsh attitudes, pointlessly judging the sinner and not the sin. In prayer it is necessary to implore the gift of a wounded heart, able to comprehend the wounds of others and to heal them with the oil of mercy, that which the good Samaritan poured on the wounds of the poor victim on whom no-one took pity (cf. Luke, 10:34). In prayer we must ask for the precious gift of humility, so that it may appear increasingly clear that forgiveness is a free and supernatural gift of God, of which we are simple, if necessary, administrators, by the very will of Jesus; and He will certainly be glad if we make extensive use of His mercy. In prayer, then, let us always invoke the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of discernment and compassion. The Spirit enables us to empathise with the sufferings of our sisters and brothers who enter the confessional, and to accompany them with prudent and mature discernment and with true compassion in their sufferings, caused by the poverty of sin. 2. The good confessor is, in second place, a man of the Spirit, a man of discernment. How much harm is done to the Church by a lack of discernment! How much harm is done to souls by a way of acting that is not rooted in humbly listening to Holy Spirit and to God’s will. The confessor does not act according to his own will and does not teach his own doctrine. He is called always to do the will of God alone, in full communion with the Church, of whom he is the minister, that is, a servant. Discernment allows us always to distinguish, rather than confuse, and to never “tar all with the same brush”. Discernment educates our outlook and our heart, enabling that delicacy of spirit that is so necessary before those who open up the shrine of their own conscience, to receive light, peace and mercy. Discernment is necessary also because those who approach the confessional may come from the most desperate situations; they could also have spiritual disturbances, whose nature should be submitted to careful discernment, taking into account all the existential, ecclesial, natural and supernatural circumstances. When the confessor becomes aware of the presence of genuine spiritual disturbances – that may be in large part psychic, and therefore must be confirmed by means of healthy collaboration with the human sciences – he must not hesitate to refer the issue to those who, in the diocese, are charged with this delicate and necessary ministry, namely, exorcists. But these must be chosen with great care and great prudence. 3. Finally, the confessional is also a true place of evangelisation. Indeed, there is no evangelisation more authentic than the encounter with the God of mercy, with the God Who is Mercy. Encountering mercy means encountering the true face of God, just as the Lord Jesus revealed Him to us. The confessional is therefore a place of evangelisation and thus of formation. In the dialogue that is woven with the penitent – although brief – the confessor is called to discern what may be most useful or even necessary to the spiritual journey of that brother or sister; at times it becomes necessary to re-proclaim the most elementary truths of faith, the incandescent nucleus, the kerygma, without which the same experience of God’s love and His mercy would remain as if mute; at times it means indicating the foundations of moral life, always in relation to the truth, good and the will of God. It is a work of prompt and intelligent discernment, that can be of great benefit to the faithful. The confessor, indeed, is called every day to venture to the “peripheries of evil and sin” – this is an ugly periphery! - and his work is a real pastoral priority. Confessing is a pastoral priority. Please, do not let there be those signs that say, “Confessions only on Monday and Wednesday at such-and-such a time”. One confesses whenever one is asked. And if you are there [in the confessional] praying, stay with the confessional open, which is the open heart of God. Dear brothers, I bless you and I hope that you will be good confessors, immersed in the relationship with Christ, capable of discernment in the Holy Spirit and ready to seize the opportunity to evangelise. Always pray for your brothers and sisters who seek the Sacrament of forgiveness. And please, pray for me too. And I would not like to finish without something that came to mind when the Cardinal Prefect spoke. He spoke about keys, and about Our Lady, and I liked this, so I will tell you something … two things. It was very good for me when I was young to read the book of Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori on Our Lady: “The Glories of Mary”. Always, at the end of each chapter, there was a miracle of the Madonna, who entered into life and sorted things out. And the second thing. On Our Lady there is a legend, a tradition that they told me exists in the South of Italy: Our Lady of the Mandarins. It is a land where there are many mandarins, isn’t it? And they say that she is the patroness of thieves [laughter]. They say that thieves go to pray there. And the legend – they say – is that the thieves who pray to Our Lady of the Mandarins, when they die, they form a line in front of Saint Peter who has the keys, and opens and lets one pass, then he lets another one pass; and the Madonna, when she sees one of these, makes a sign for them to hide. Then, once everyone has passed by, Peter closes up and comes during the night, and the Madonna calls him from the window, and lets him enter through the window. It is a folk tale but it is beautiful: forgiving with the Mother next to you, forgiving with the Mother. Because this woman, this man who comes to the confessional, has a Mother in Heaven who opens the door and will help them at that moment to enter Heaven. Always the Madonna, because the Madonna helps us too in showing mercy. I thank the Cardinal for these two signs: the keys, and Our Lady. Many thanks. I invite you – it is time – to pray the Angelus together. “Angelus Domini…” Blessing Don’t say that thieves go to Heaven! Don’t say this! [laughter] (from Vatican Radio)...
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Second Lenten Sermon of Fr. Cantalamessa to papal household: Full text

Vatican News - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 11:35
(Vatican Radio)  The Preacher of the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., gave his second Lenten Sermon to Pope Francis on Friday morning in the Redemptoris Mater Chapel. The theme of the Lenten meditations is: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3). This second iteration carried the title: Christ, 'true God from true God' . The next three Sermons of Lent will take place on Friday 24 and 31 March, and Friday 7 April. Below please find the official English version translated from the Italian original by Marsha Daigle Williamson: Christ, “true God from true God” 1. The Faith of Nicea In this meditation we continue our reflection on the role of the Holy Spirit in knowing Christ. In this regard one cannot fail to mention an unexpected confirmation of this happening in the world today. For some time there has been a movement called “the Messianic Judaism,” whose members are Hebrew Christians.  (“Christ” and “Christian” are the Greek translations for the Hebrew “Messiah” and “messianic”!) A low estimate points to about 150,000 members, divided into different groups and associations. They are based primarily in the United States, Israel, and in various European nations. They are Jews who believe that Jesus, Yeshua, is the promised Messiah, the Savior, and the Son of God, but they do not want to renounce their Jewish identity and tradition. They do not officially adhere to any of the traditional Christian Churches because their intention is to connect with and revive the early church of the Jewish Christians, whose experience was very early on interrupted by well-known traumatic events. The Catholic Church and other Churches have always abstained from promoting, or even mentioning, this movement for the obvious reason of their dialogue with official Judaism. I myself have never spoken of it. But the conviction is now growing that it is not fair, for either side, to continue to ignore them, or worse, to ostracize them. Recently a study by various theologians has been released in Germany on this phenomenon.[1] I am mentioning it in this setting for the specific reason that it is relevant to topic of this meditation. In response to a survey about the factors and circumstances that were at the origin of their faith in Jesus, more than 60 percent of those involved answered, “the interior action of the Holy Spirit”; the second factor was their reading of the Bible, and the third was personal contact with other people.[2] This is a confirmation from life experience that the Holy Spirit is the one who gives the true, intimate knowledge of Christ. Let us return now to our main topic.  Soon after Christianity appeared in the surrounding Greco-Roman world, the title “Lord,” Kyrios, was no longer enough. The pagan world knew many various “lords,” the Roman emperor specifically being the primary one among them. It was necessary to find another way to guarantee full faith in Christ and his worship as God. The Arian crisis provided that opportunity. This leads us to the second part of the article on Jesus that was added to the symbol of faith at the Council of Nicea in 325: Born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with [homoousios] with the Father. The bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius, the undisputed champion of the Nicene faith, was very certain that neither he nor the Church of his time were the ones to discover the divinity of Christ. However, his whole work will consist in demonstrating that this had always been the faith of the Church. What was new was not the truth but its opposing heresy. His conviction in this regard finds an indisputable historical confirmation in a letter that Pliny the Younger, the governor of Bithynia, wrote to the emperor Trajan around 111 AD. The only certain information he says he knows about the Christians is that “they had met regularly before dawn on a fixed day to chant verses . . .  in honor of Christ as if to a god (“carmenque Christo quasi Deo dicere”).”[3] Faith in the divinity of Christ already existed, so it is therefore only by completely ignoring history that anyone could say that the divinity of Christ is a dogma deliberately imposed on the Council of Nicea by the emperor Constantine. The contribution of the Fathers at Nicea, and in particular Athanasius, was, more than anything, to remove the obstacles that had impeded a full recognition of the divinity of Christ without reservation up to that point in the theological debates. One such obstacle was the Greek habit of defining the divine essence with the word agennetos, “unoriginate” or “unbegotten.” How does one proclaim that the Word is true God from the moment that he is the Son, that is, from the moment that he is generated by the Father? It was easy for Arius to set up the equivalence between “generated” and “made” that is, to go from gennetos to genetos, and to conclude with his famous statement that exploded the issue: “There was a time when he was not!” (en ote ouk en). This was the equivalent of making Christ a creature even if he was “not like other creatures.” Athanasius resolved the controversy with a fundamental observation: “‘Unoriginated’ [agneneto] is a word of the Greeks, who know not the Son.”[4] He vigorously defended Nicea’s expression “begotten, not made” (genitus non factus). Another cultural obstacle to the full recognition of Christ’s divinity, on which Arius was able to base his thesis, was the doctrine of an intermediary divine being, the deuteros theos, put in charge of the creation of the world. From Plato onward, that “secondary god” had become a common assumption in many religious systems and philosophies in antiquity. The temptation to treat the Son “through whom all things were made” as this intermediate entity was creeping into Christian speculation (the apologists, Origen), even if it was extraneous to the internal life of the Church. It resulted in a tripartite order of being: at the top, the ungenerated Father; after him, the Son (and later also the Holy Spirit); and in third place, creatures.  The definition of “begotten, not made” and of the homoousios removed this obstacle and led to a Christian cathartic cleansing of the metaphysical universe of the Greeks. With that definition, only one line of demarcation was drawn through the vertical axis of being. There were only two modes of being now: that of Creator and that of creatures, and the Son was placed in the first category, not the second.  If we were to summarize the perennial significance of Nicea’s definition in one statement, we could formulate it this way: in every age and culture, Christ must be proclaimed as “God” not in some derivative or secondary sense but in the strongest sense that the word “God” has in that culture. It is important to understand what motivated Athanasius and other orthodox theologians in their battle, that is, why their conviction was so absolute. It did not come from speculation but from life, more specifically, from reflection on the experience that the Church, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, has of salvation in Christ Jesus. The soteriological question was not born out of the Arian controversy; it was present in all the great christological controversies of antiquity ranging from the Gnostic controversy to the Monothelite controversy. In its classical formulation, it says, “That which He has not assumed He has not saved” (Quod non est assumptum non est sanatum).”[5] In Athanasius’ use of the formula, it could be understood this way: “What is not assumed by God is not saved,” and all it force lies in that short addition of “by God.”’ Salvation requires that human beings are not assumed by some kind of intermediary but by God himself. “If the Son were a creature,” writes Athanasius, “man had remained mortal as before, not being joined to God”[6] and “man had not been deified if joined to a creature, or unless the Son were very God.”[7] We need, however, to make an important clarification here. The divinity of Christ is not a practical “postulate” as is true, according to Immanuel Kant, for the very existence of God.[8] It is not a postulate but the explanation of a true fact. It would be a postulate—and thus a human theological deduction—if it began from a certain idea of salvation, and the divinity of Christ was deduced from it as the only possible means for bringing about such a salvation. Instead, it is the explanation of a fact if it starts from an experience of salvation, as Athanasius does, and demonstrates how that experience could not exist if Christ were not God.  In other words, the divinity of Christ is not based on salvation; instead, salvation is based on the divinity of Christ. 2. “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15) But it is time to return to our theme and try to see what we can learn today from the epic battle that orthodoxy endured in its time. The divinity of Christ is the cornerstone that holds up the two principal mysteries of Christian faith: the Trinity and the Incarnation. They are like two doors that open and close together. There are buildings or metal structures that are constructed in such a way that if a certain point is touched, or if one removes a certain stone, they collapse. The edifice of Christian faith is like that, and its cornerstone is the divinity of Christ. If this is removed, everything comes crashing down, and first of all the Trinity. If the Son is not God, who forms the Trinity? St. Athanasius had already clearly denounced any theory against Christ’s divinity and in writing against the Arians and says, If the Word is not with the Father from everlasting, the Triad is not everlasting, but a Monad was first, and afterwards by addition it became a Triad.[9] Saint Augustine said, “It is no great thing to believe that Christ died: even pagan and Jews and all bad people believe that. All of them are sure that he died. The faith of Christians is in Christ’s resurrection.”[10] The same thing that is said about the death and resurrection should be said about the humanity and divinity of Christ, whose death and resurrection are their respective manifestations. Everyone believes that Jesus was a man; what distinguishes believers from non-believers is the belief that he is God. The faith of Christians is in the divinity of Christ! We need to ask ourselves a serious question. What place does Jesus Christ have in our society and in the faith of Christians? I believe we can speak in this regard about a presence-absence of Christ. On a certain level—that of entertainment and media in general—Jesus Christ is very present. In a never-ending series of stories, films, and books, writers manipulate the figure of Christ, at times under the pretext of supposedly new historical documents about him. This has become a trend, a literary genre. Some people take advantage of the broad appeal of Jesus’ name and of what he represents for a large part of humanity to guarantee wide-ranging publicity at a low cost. I call all this literary parasitism. From a certain point of view, we can say, then, that Jesus Christ is very present in our culture. But if we look at the sphere of faith, to which he belongs in the first place, we notice instead a disquieting absence, if not a direct rejection of his person. What do those who call themselves “believers” in Europe and elsewhere really believe?  Most of the time they believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, a Creator; they believe in a “hereafter.” However, this is deistic faith and not yet Christian faith. Various sociological studies highlight this fact even in countries and regions that have an ancient Christian tradition. Jesus Christ is absent in practical terms in this type of religiosity. The dialogue between science and faith also leads, unintentionally, to putting Christ in parentheses. It does have God, the Creator, as its object, but the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth has no place in it whatsoever. The same thing happens in the dialogue with philosophy that likes to concern itself with metaphysical concepts rather than historical reality, not to mention interfaith dialogue in which peace and ecology are discussed, but not Jesus. It takes just a simple glance at the New Testament to see how far we are here from the original meaning of the word “faith” in the New Testament. For Paul, the faith that justifies sinners and confers the Holy Spirit (see Gal 3:2)—in other words the faith that saves—is faith in Jesus Christ, in the paschal mystery of his death and resurrection. During the earthly life of Jesus, the word “faith” already meant faith in him. When Jesus says, “your faith has saved you,” and when he reproves the apostles and calls them “you of little faith,” he it is not referring to a generic faith in God that was a given for the Jews; he is speaking about faith in himself! This by itself refutes the thesis that says faith in Christ begins solely at Easter and before this there is only the “Jesus of history.” The Jesus of history already presupposes faith in himself, so if the disciples followed him it is precisely because they had a certain faith in him, even it was quite imperfect before the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We therefore need to allow ourselves to directly confront the question Jesus asked his disciples one day after they had told him the opinions of people around him: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15), and to confront the question that is even more personal, “Do you believe? Do you truly believe? Do you believe with your whole heart?” St. Paul says, “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” (Rom 10:10). St. Augustine exclaims that faith “springs from the root of the heart.”[11] In the past, the second moment of this process—that is, the profession of a correct faith, i.e., orthodoxy—was at times so emphasized that it overshadowed the first moment, which is the most important one and which takes place in the hidden recesses of the heart. Almost all the treatises “On Faith” (De fide) written in ancient times focus on what to believe and not on the act of believing. 3. Who Is It That Overcomes the World? We need to recreate the conditions for a faith in the divinity of Christ without reservation or hesitation. We need to reproduce the enthusiasm of faith from which the formula of faith was born. The Church body once produced a supreme effort through which it raised itself in faith above all human systems and all the opposition of reason. Afterward the fruit of this effort remained. The tide rose at one time to its greatest level and its trace was left behind on the rock. Its trace is the definition by Nicea that we proclaim in the creed. However, that rising tide needs to happen again; its trace is not enough. It is not enough to recite the Nicene Creed; we need to renew the enthusiastic surge of faith that existed at that time concerning the divinity of Christ and that has had no equal for centuries. We need to experience this again. We need it above all for the sake of the new evangelization. St. John writes his First Letter, “Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 Jn 5:5). We need to understand clearly what “overcoming the world” means. It does not mean having more success or dominating the political and cultural scene. That would instead lead to the opposite: not overcoming the world but becoming worldly. Unfortunately, there have been times in which people fell into this misunderstanding without realizing it. One can think of the theory of “the two swords” or of “the triple reign of the Supreme Pontiff,”[12] although we must always be careful not to judge the past with present-day criteria and assumptions. From the historical point of view, the opposite has happened instead, and Jesus declared it to his disciples ahead of time: “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice” (Jn 16:20). So this excludes any triumphalism. It involves a victory of quite another kind: a victory over what the world also hates and does not accept in itself, which includes transience, debility, evil, death.  This is in fact what the word “world” (kosmos) means in its negative sense in the Gospel. This is its meaning when Jesus says, “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:20). How did Jesus overcome the world? Certainly not by defeating his enemies with “ten legions of angels” but instead, as Paul says, by “bringing the hostility to an end” (Eph 2:16), that is to say, bringing to an end everything that separates a human being from God, a person from another person, a nation from another nation. In order that there would not be any doubt about the nature of this victory over the world, it was inaugurated by an altogether special victory, the victory of the cross. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). These are the words most often reproduced in ancient mosaics on the pages of the book that the Pantocrator is holding open in his hands, like the mosaic in the famous cathedral of Cefalu.  The Evangelist John affirms about Jesus that “in him was life, and the life was the light of men” (Jn 1: 4). Light and life, Phos and Zoe: these two words have their central Greek letter (omega) in common, and they are often found written in a crisscross pattern—one horizontally and the other vertically—to form a powerful and very widespread monogram of Christ: What does a human being want most if not precisely these two things: light and life? We know that a great modern author, Goethe, murmured as he was dying, “More light.”[13] He was perhaps referring to wanting more natural light in his room, but the statement has always been  assigned a metaphysical and spiritual meaning, and rightly so. One of my friends, who returned to faith in Christ after having gone through all possible and imaginable religious experiences, recounted his life in a book called Mendicante di luce [Beggar of Light]. The crucial moment came when, right in the middle of a deep meditation, he felt a saying of Christ reverberating in his mind without being able to silence it: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”[14]  Along the lines of what the apostle Paul said to the Athenians at the Areopagus, we are called to say in all humility to the world today, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23). “Give me a place to stand on,” exclaimed Archimedes, the inventor of the principle of the lever, “and I will lift the Earth.” The one who believes in Christ is someone who has found a place to stand on. “The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matt 7:25). 4. “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!” We cannot, however, end our reflection without also mentioning the call that it includes, not just in view of evangelization but also in view of our lives and personal testimonies. In Paul Claudel’s play, The Humiliated Father, set in Rome at the time of Blessed Pius IX, there is a very evocative scene. A young Jewish girl, who is very beautiful but blind, is walking in the garden of a Roman villa in the evening with the pope’s nephew, Orian, who is in love with her. Playing on the dual significance of light, that of nature and that of faith, she says to her Christian friend at a certain point, “fervently, in a low-pitched voice,” “But you who see, what use have you made of the light? . . . You who say you live, what have you done with your life?” [15] It is a question that we cannot allow to go unheeded: What are we Christians doing with our faith in Christ? Or even better, what am I doing with my faith in Christ? Jesus said to his disciples one day, “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!” (Lk 10:23; see Matt 13:16). It is one of the assertions with which Jesus tries to help his disciples on several occasions to discover his real identity for themselves, not being able to reveal it directly because of their lack of readiness to receive it. We know that the words of Jesus are words that “will not pass away” (Matt 24:35); they are living words addressed to whoever hears them with faith at all times and in all places throughout history. It is therefore to us that he says here and now, “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see!” If we have never seriously reflected on how fortunate we who believe in Christ are, perhaps this is the time to do so. Why are Christians “blessed” if they have no more reason than others to rejoice in this world and in many regions of the earth are even continually exposed to death, precisely because of their faith in Christ?  He gives us the answer himself: “Because you see! Because you understand the meaning of life and of death, because ‘yours is the kingdom of heaven’—not in the sense that it is ‘yours and no one else’s.’” (We know that the kingdom of heaven, in its eschatological dimension, extends well beyond the confines of the Church.) “It is ‘yours’ in the sense that you are already part of it, you are tasting its first fruits. You have me!” The most wonderful thing that one spouse can say to another, and vice versa, is “You have made me happy!” Jesus deserves that his spouse, the Church, says that to him from the bottom of her heart. I say it to him and invite you, Venerable Fathers, brothers and sisters, to do the same. And to say it this very day so as not to forget it.  _______________________________________ Translated from Italian by Marsha Daigle Williamson [1] Ulrich Laepple, ed., Messianische Juden: Eine Provokation (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016). [2] Ibid., p. 34. [3] Pliny the Younger, “Letter to Trajan about the Christians,” The Letters of the Younger Pliny, 10, 96, trans. Betty Radice (New York: Penguin, 1963), p. 294. See also Enchiridion fontium historiae ecclesiasticae antiquae, ed. Conradus Kirch, 9th ed. (Barcelona: Herder, 1965), p. 23. [4] Athanasius, “Defense of the Nicene Definition” (De decretis Nicenae synodi), 7, 31, in St. Athanasius: Select Work and Letters, series 2, vol. 4, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, eds. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York: The Christian Literature Co., 1882), p. 384. [5] See Gregory of Nazianzen, “Letter to Cledonius,” Select Letters of Saint Gregory Nanzianzen (London: Aeterna Press, 2016), p. 5; see also PG 37, 181. [6] Athanasius, Against the Arians, 2, 69, in St. Athanasius: Selected Works and Letters, p. 700. [7] Ibid., 2, 70, p. 701. [8] Immanuel Kant, Critique of Practical Reason (New York: Classical Books International, 2010), chapters 3 and 6. [9] Athanasius, Against the Arians, 1, 18, p. 34; see also PG 26, 48. [10] Augustine, Expositions of the Psalms 99-120,  “Psalm 120,” 6, vol. 3/19,  trans. Mario Boulding, ed. Boniface Ramsey, The Works of Saint Augustine, ed. John Rotelle (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2003),  p. 514; see CCL 40, p. 1791. [11] St Augustine, Tractates on John, 26, 2, vol. 7, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philp Schaff (New York: Cosimo, 2007), p. 168; see also PL 35, p. 1607. [12] The “two swords” or “two powers” theory was a medieval approach by Pope Gelasius on the relationship between the Church and the empire and the pope’s spiritual authority over kings and other rulers. “The triple reign” or the “triple crown” theory means, in some interpretations, that the pope is a universal pastor, a universal judge, and a temporal power. [13] Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Mehr licht!,” quoted in The Medico-chirurgical Review and Journal of Medical Science, 24 (1834): 501. [14] See Masterbee, Mendicante di luce: Dal Tibet al Gange e oltre (Cinisello Balsamo: San Paolo, 2006), pp. 223ff. [15] See Paul Claudel, The Humiliated Father, Act 1, sc. 3, in Three Plays (Boston: Luce, 1945). (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

Msgr. Ruiz on 1 year of Papal presence on Instagram

Vatican News - Fri, 03/17/2017 - 07:54
(Vatican Radio) It was one year ago that Pope Francis launched his Instagram account. To mark the occasion, we spoke with the Secretary of the Secretariat for Communications, Msgr. Lucio Adrian Ruiz, who recalled the origins of the Holy Father’s vision for evangelizing the “digital continent”. “[T]he best thing of all was the meeting with the Holy Father, when Kevin [Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, ed.] came and presented the idea to the Holy Father, with the main objective being to communicate a message through the [use of] an image,” Msgr. Ruiz recounted to Alessandro Gisotti. “The Holy Father responded,” Msgr. Ruiz explained, “talking about the theology of the image, as the Church has always experienced pictures as a way to be close to the people and even to do catechesis: [Pope Francis] told of church paintings, and recounted an important experience.” Ruiz went on to say that, for Pope Francis, images are enormously important, and that the Pope in his conversation with Systrom said that, when he approaches children, and the children do not want to talk because they are shy, he shows them a picture and then asks them what it is, and then they loosen up a bit – and even need to be stopped and reined in because they become so enthusiastic in their talk about themselves. Msgr. Ruiz said Pope Francis sees images as “The access point to a dialogue.” Asked what lessons communicators – especially Catholic communicators – can learn from the communications style of Pope Francis, Msgr. Ruiz responded, “We are in the digital culture: in the words of Pope Benedict, there is a ‘digital continent’, a reality into which we must enter and live, because, if man is there, the Church cannot fail to be there, too – and must be there in the same dynamic with which the missionaries approached things when they discovered another continent, another reality.” (from Vatican Radio)...
Categories: Vatican News

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