(Vatican Radio) During his last General Audience before the close of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis drew inspiration from the spiritual work of mercy, to bear wrongs patiently, telling the faithful in St Peter’s Square during his catechesis that exercising patience was a virtue.
Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report:
He said that, “in showing patience to those who wrong us and, by extension, to those we find irritating, we imitate God’s own patience with us sinners.”
The Pope added, “it also happens at times that annoying people are the ones closest to us…” Among relatives there is “always someone”, he said. “There are also people who irritate us in the workplace and even in our spare time.”
Pope Francis went on to say that in the Bible there are many examples of God’s patience and recalled the patience Jesus had during the three years of his public life.
Exercising patience with others, the Pope said, “challenges us to reflect on our own conduct and failings. He also noted, the patience shown by the many parents, catechists and teachers who, he said, “quietly help young people to grow in faith and knowledge of the important things in life.”
At the end of his Audience Pope Francis remembered the victims of the recent earthquake in Central Italy, saying, “we pray for them and the families and continue to offer our solidarity to those who have sustained damage.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday during his General Audience highlighted that on November 20th Universal Children's Day will be observed.
The Pope appealed to the conscience of all, institutions and families, to ensure that children are always protected and their welfare is secure, so that they never fall into “forms of slavery, recruitment into armed groups and mistreatment.”
The Holy Father expressed the hope that the international community would be vigilant about their lives, to ensure that every child has the right to school education, so that their growth is serene and they can look confidently to the future.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sent a video message to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Tuesday during their annual fall General Assembly regarding the Fifth National Hispanic Pastoral Encuentro.
The Holy Father called on his brother bishops to ‘create a culture of encounter’ and to ‘break down walls and build bridges’.
Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:
In his video message, Pope Francis commended the upcoming ‘Fifth National Hispanic Pastoral Encuentro’ taking place in the dioceses of the United States from January 2017 to September of 2018.
He said the Encuentro, or encounter, is a programme designed to ‘acknowledge and value the specific gifts that Hispanic Catholics have offered and continue to offer, to the Church’ in the US.
Pope Francis reminded US bishops that the Church in America is called to ‘go out’ and ‘build bridges’.
“Our great challenge is to create a culture of encounter, which encourages individuals and groups to share the richness of their traditions and experiences, to break down walls and to build bridges. The Church in America, as elsewhere, is called to ‘go out’ from its comfort zone and to be a leaven of communion.”
He also said the Church must become “ever more fully a community of missionary disciples” and a “sign and prophecy of God’s plan for the entire human family”.
“We are called to be bearers of good news for a society gripped by disconcerting social, cultural and spiritual shifts, and increasing polarization. It is my hope that the Church in your country, at every level, will accompany the Encuentro with its own reflection and pastoral discernment.”
The Holy Father concluded by expressing his hope that ‘local Churches can best respond to the growing presence, gifts and potential of the Hispanic community’.
The full text of the video message can be found here .
Watch the Pope's video message:
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a video-message to the General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB):
The full text of the Pope’s message can be found below:
Video Message of His Holiness Pope Francis
To the General Assembly of the USCCB
14-17 November 2016
Dear Brother Bishops,
I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to you. Just a year ago, I was with you during my Pastoral Visit to the United States. There I was impressed by the vitality and diversity of the Catholic community. Throughout its history, the Church in your country has welcomed and integrated new waves of immigrants. In the rich variety of their languages and cultural traditions, they have shaped the changing face of the American Church.
In this context, I would commend the coming Fifth National Hispanic Pastoral Encuentro . The celebration of this Fifth Encuentro will begin in your Dioceses in this coming January and conclude with a national celebration in September 2018.
In continuity with its predecessors, the Encuentro seeks to acknowledge and value the specific gifts that Hispanic Catholics have offered, and continue to offer, to the Church in your country. But it is more than that. It is part of a greater process of renewal and missionary outreach, one to which all of your local Churches are called.
Our great challenge is to create a culture of encounter, which encourages individuals and groups to share the richness of their traditions and experiences, to break down walls and to build bridges. The Church in America, as elsewhere, is called to “go out” from its comfort zone and to be a leaven of communion. Communion among ourselves, with our fellow Christians, and with all who seek a future of hope.
We need to become ever more fully a community of missionary disciples, filled with love of the Lord Jesus and enthusiasm for the spread of the Gospel. The Christian community is meant to be a sign and prophecy of God’s plan for the entire human family. We are called to be bearers of good news for a society gripped by disconcerting social, cultural and spiritual shifts, and increasing polarization.
It is my hope that the Church in your country, at every level, will accompany the Encuentro with its own reflection and pastoral discernment. In a particular way, I ask you to consider how your local Churches can best respond to the growing presence, gifts and potential of the Hispanic community. Mindful of the contribution that the Hispanic community makes to the life of the nation, I pray that the Encuentro will bear fruit for the renewal of American society and for the Church’s apostolate in the United States.
With gratitude to all engaged in the preparation of the Fifth Encuentro , I assure you of my prayers for this important initiative of your Conference. Commending you, and the clergy, religious and lay faithful of your local Churches, to the prayers of Mary Immaculate, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in the Lord.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday sent a message to the ‘Reinventing Peace’ meeting organized by UNESCO, the UN’s cultural heritage arm, and the Focolari Movement.
The meeting celebrates the 20th anniversary of Chiara Lubich being awarded the UNESCO Peace Education Prize.
The Holy Father encouraged the meeting’s participants to “research and develop effective ways to ‘reinvent’ a peace which is the fruit of integral development for all and of an effective awareness of the universal community founded upon respect, listening, attention to the needs of each person, justice, dialogue, and sharing”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday urged the international community to act without delay in combating climate change. In a message to participants of the COP22 Climate Change meeting taking place in the Moroccan city of Marrakech, the Pope pointed out that all parties and stakeholders have a “serious ethical and moral responsibility to take action and implement last year’s Paris climate-change agreement. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :
“The current situation of environmental degradation – Pope Francis said – which is strongly connected to the human, ethical and social degradation that we unfortunately experience daily, challenges us all, each of us with our own roles and competencies, and brings us together here with a renewed sense of awareness and responsibility”. Participants at the so-called COP22 Conference are being called to take the next step in the implementation of the Paris Agreement which saw world leaders pledge to make good on their promises for climate action and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Pope said that agreement represents “a significant acknowledgement of the fact that, when confronted with issues so complex as climate change, the individual and/or national action is no longer sufficient, but there is a need to implement a responsible collective response truly aimed at achieving ‘cooperation to build our common home”. He said we can and must direct our intelligence to guide technology, as well as to develop and limit our power, placing them ‘at the service of another type of progress, one that is more healthy, more human, more social and more integral’, and capable of placing the economy at the service of the human person, of building peace and justice, and of safeguarding the environment”. Pope Francis said that the Paris Agreement has traced a clear path along which the whole international community is called to commit itself, and that the COP22 represents a central stage in this path, which has an impact on all of humanity, particularly the poorest and future generations who are the most vulnerable to the worrisome impact of climate change, and reminds us of the serious ethical and moral responsibility we have to act promptly, in a way as free as possible from political and economic pressures, going beyond personal interests and behaviours”. (from Vatican Radio)...
On 15th November, Pope Francis greeted a large group of Dutch Pilgrims in St Peters Basilica. The group was made up of representatives of the Dutch Association of Catholic Organisations, who had come to Rome to take part in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The group was accompanied by the Archbishop of Utrecht, Cardinal Wilem Eijk. The Cardinal had originally asked for Pope to be the celebrant of a Mass for the group. Although that wasn’t possible, the Pope joined the group at the end of the ceremony and greeted them. Cardinal Eijk also took the opportunity to present the Pope with a new book entitled “A Welcoming Netherlands.” The book describes the works undertaken by many Catholic projects in the Netherlands, in response to the Pope calling the Year of Mercy. The Dutch Bishops Conference will also be distributing copies of the book to all Dutch parishes, as a witness and encouragement to mercy.
In his address, Pope Francis described the Year of Mercy as an opportunity to “enter even further into relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the face of the merciful Father.”
Speaking of the need to experience the Father’s mercy in Confession, the Pope reminded the group that “We never get used to this great mystery of God’s love. It is the source of our salvation. We all need divine mercy; it saves us, gives us life, and recreates us as true sons and daughters of God. And we experience the saving goodness of God in a special way in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. Confession is where you receive the gift of forgiveness and mercy of God. Here begins the transformation of each of us and the reform of the Church’s life.”
After calling on the group to be channels of mercy, in order to help quench mankind’s thirst for God, the Pope asked them all to pray for him.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday warned Christians against the danger of becoming ‘lukewarm’ or losing sight of the Lord. His words came during morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.
Listen to Devin Watkins' report:
Taking his cue from the readings of the day, Pope Francis repeated the scathing admonition of the Book of Revelations against those Christians of the Church of Laodicea “who are neither hot nor cold: I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”
Beware of the calm which deceives: God is not there
The Lord, Francis said, warns against that calm “without substance” of the lukewarm, calling it “a calm which deceives”.
“But what does a lukewarm person think? The Lord says it here: He thinks he is rich. ‘I have grown rich and have need of nothing. I am calm.’ That calm which deceives. If, in the heart of the Church, of a family, of a community, of a person there is an ever-present calm, God is not there.”
To the lukewarm, the Pope said not to fall asleep in the false belief of needing nothing.
The Lord shows that the lukewarm are naked; their richness comes not from God
Jesus, the Holy Father warned, defines those who believe themselves rich as unhappy and miserable. However, “he did it out of love”, so that they might discover a different richness, that which only the Lord may bestow.
“Not that richness of the soul which you think you possess because you are good, because you do everything well, all is calm. There is another richness – that which comes from God, which always carries its cross, always carries some restlessness of the soul. And I urge you to buy white clothes in which to dress, so that your shameful nakedness is not seen. The lukewarm are not aware they are naked.”
The lukewarm, Pope Francis said, “lose the capacity to contemplate, the capacity to see the great and beautiful things of God”. For this the Lord seeks to awaken us, to help us convert. But, he continued, the Lord is “present in another way: He is there to invite us: ‘Behold, I knock at the door.’” Here the Pope underlines the importance of being able to “hear when the Lord knocks at our door… because He wants to gives us something good.”
Know how to discern when the Lord knocks at our door
Pope Francis went on to say there are Christians who “are not aware when the Lord knocks. For them every noise is the same.” We must “understand well” when the Lord knocks, when He wants to bring us His consolation. The Lord, Francis added, is before us also to invite us to invite Him, which is exactly what happens with Zacchaeus, as the day’s Gospel recounts: “That curiosity of Zacchaeus, who was small, was a seed from the Holy Spirit.”
“The initiative is from the Spirit towards the Lord. He raises His eyes and says: ‘But come; invite me into your house.” The Lord is there… He is always there with love: whether to correct us, to invite us to supper, or to be invited by us. He is there to tell us: ‘Awake’… ‘Open’… ‘Come down’. It is always He. Do I know how to distinguish in my heart when the Lord tells me to awake, to open, or to come down? May the Holy Spirit give us the grace to know how to discern these calls.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People has released a Message to mark World Fisheries Day, which is to be celebrated this coming 21 st day of November.
Please find the full text of the Message, below
Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care
of Migrants and Itinerant People
World Fisheries Day Message
(21 th November 2016)
World Fisheries Day since 1998 is celebrated each year on November 21 to highlight the importance of conserving the ocean and marine life that provides food for billions and employment opportunities for over 50 million people worldwide.
Pope Francis in his Encyclical Letter Laudato Sì mentions some of the threats which are affecting and destroying the natural marine resources: “Many of the world’s coral reefs are already barren or in a state of constant decline. “Who turned the wonder world of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of colour and life?  ” This phenomenon is due largely to pollution which reaches the sea as the result of deforestation, agricultural monocultures, industrial waste and destructive fishing methods, especially those using cyanide and dynamite (No. 41)” . Since these are a common patrimony of humanity, Pope Francis calls everyone to: ”…cooperate as instruments of God for the care of creation, each according to his or her own culture, experience, involvements and talents (No. 14)”.
For this reason, we appreciate and wait with expectation for the implementation of The Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (PSMA) , adopted as a FAO Agreement in 2009. After several years of diplomatic efforts finally it went into effect, last June 5, and is now legally binding for the 29 countries and one regional organization which signed it  . Through the adoption and implementation of effective port State measures, the PSMA is the first ever-binding international treaty seeking to prevent, deter and eliminate the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, a major environmental problem which causes great economic damages and threaten food security in many countries  .
However, our concern is not only for the marine resources. The fishing industry has been widely recognized as one of the most unsafe for the frequency of occupational accidents and high death rates. On this World Fisheries Day we would like to call our attention also on the many fishers which find themselves in situation of exploitation and abuses.
Unfortunately it is not well known the tragic reality that, within the fishing industry, there are hundreds of thousands of internal/transnational migrants who are smuggled/ trafficked for forced labor on board of fishing vessels.
This is favored by a network of criminal organizations and individuals who prey on people coming from situation of poverty, eagerly seeking an employment that could help them to break away from the circle of misery. Instead, they end up in a situation of trafficking, debt bondage and slavery often without a way out. In fact, the fishing vessels stay out at sea for long periods (from a few months to several years), and the victims of these crimes find it difficult, if not impossible, to report their predicaments.
Heeding the call of Pope Francis: ”Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free the victims and stop this increasingly aggressive crime which threatens not only individuals but the basic values of society and of international security and justice, to say nothing of the economy, and the fabric of the family and our coexistence.  ”, we as Catholic Church would like to renew our appeal to the Governments to ratify the Work in Fishing Convention , 2007 (No. 188), to create a safe working environment on board of fishing vessels and better welfare provisions for fishers. As of October 2016 the Convention has been ratified by nine coastal states  , and one more country is necessary for the entry into force of the Convention.
While we express our gratitude to the chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) for their dedication and commitment, we would like to call on them to be vigilant and intensify their presence in fishing harbors to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking. It is also necessary that AOS work more closely with leaders of fishing communities to educate and prevent human trafficking by providing viable alternative of employment and live hood.
May Mary Stella Maris continue to be the source of strength and protection to all the fishers and their families.
Antonio Maria Card. Vegliò
Fr. Gabriele Bentoglio, cs
 Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Pastoral Letter What is Happening to our Beautiful Land? (29 January 1988).
 Australia, Barbados, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, the European Union (as a member organization), Gabon, Guinea, Guyana, Iceland, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palau, Republic of Korea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Tonga, the United States of America, Uruguay, and Vanuatu.
 Illicit fishing may account for up to 26 million tonnes of fish a year, or more than 15 percent of the world’s total
annual capture fisheries output.
 Address of Pope Francis to the new Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See on the occasion of the presentation of the letters of credence. 12 th December 2013
 Angola , Argentina , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Congo , Estonia , France , Morocco , Norway , South Africa .
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Sunday 13 November saw the celebration of special Masses in churches and basilicas across the world – as well as in Rome’s Papal Basilicas – which included the solemn rite of the closing of the Holy Doors .
That’s with the exception of the Holy Door leading into St. Peter’s Basilica which will be shut by Pope Francis himself on the feast of Christ the King, on Sunday 20 November, as indicated by the Pope himself in the bull announcing the jubilee.
Representing the Pope in the Basilicas of St. John Lateran , St. Mary Major , and St. Paul Outside the Walls were the archpriests of the Basilicas, respectively: Cardinal Agostino Vallini , Cardinal Santos Abril y Castelló and Cardinal James Michael Harvey .
According to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, it is estimated that 20.4 million people attended Year of Mercy events at the Vatican over the course of this year, many of them crossing the thresholds of the Holy Doors.
The opening of the door symbolically illustrates the concept that pilgrims are offered an “extraordinary path” toward salvation during the time of Jubilee, and walking through the Holy Door they were able to receive a plenary indulgence.
During his homily for the Mass at St. John Lateran, Cardinal Agostino Vallini spoke about how the Holy Door, just closed, was a visible sign of the Jubilee of Mercy, a year in which we learned “once again” that the fate of the world is not in the hands of men, “but in the mercy of God.”
He said that meditating on God’s mercy this year we have learnt that mercy is not a sign of weakness or surrender, but the “strong, magnanimous,” radiation of the loving omnipotence of the Father, who “heals our weaknesses, raises us from our falls and urges us to do good.”
Cardinal Abril y Castelló pointed out that although the Holy Door is being closed, “God’s door of mercy is always open” and he urged the faithful to be strong in this certainty and become credible witnesses of mercy in the world.
And in his homily, Cardinal Harvey also referred to the solemn closing of the Basilica’s Holy Door saying that “at the same time, we open an inner door to the next stage of our journey of faith, hope and charity”.
During his Angelus address on Sunday Pope Francis also pointed out that Holy Doors were being closed across the world, signaling the end of the Jubilee of Mercy.
“On the one hand, he said, the Holy Year has urged us to keep our eyes fixed on the ultimate fulfillment of God's Kingdom, and on the other, to build a future on earth, working to evangelize the present, so as to make it a time of salvation for all.”
Ordinary jubilees occur every 25 or 50 years, and extraordinary jubilees are called for some particular occasions. Two extraordinary jubilees were called in the 20th century: in 1933, to mark the 1900th anniversary of Christ’s redemption in 33 A.D., and 1983, its 1950th anniversary.
St. Pope John Paul II also held a ‘Great Jubilee’ in the year 2000, marking the 2000th anniversary of Jesus’ birth and the start of the new millennium.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday morning greeted members of the German national football team in the Vatican. Germany beat San Marino 8-0 on Friday evening in the qualifying stages of their defense of the World Cup.
“I have often heard it said that your victories are team victories,” Pope Francis said, noting the official nickname of the German squad is Die Mannschaft (The Team).
“Truly, competitive sport not only requires a great deal of discipline and personal sacrifice, but also respect for others and team spirit,” – the Pope continued – “This carries you to success as ‘ Die Mannschaft ‘ and at the same time causes you to recognize your responsibility on the football pitch, especially to the young people who often see you as role models. It also causes you to make a mutual commitment to work together to support some important social causes.”
In particular, Pope Francis thanked the team for their support for the Sternsinger (‘Star Singer’) collection at Epiphany, where children from over 10,000 Catholic parishes all over Germany go door-to-door singing carols and collecting money, which is used to help children in poor countries around the world. The initiative was begun in 1959, and is now the world’s largest fundraiser by children, for children.
“This initiative shows how together we can overcome barriers that seem insurmountable, and which penalize needy and marginalized people,” – the Holy Father said – “In this way you contribute to building a more just and united society.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday reminded the faithful that even the most sacred human constructions are "transitory" and warned them not to place their faith in them or in “false messiahs” who speculate on people's needs.
Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus , the Pope said that our only certainty is that our life is in the hands of the Lord, and that God will never abandon us.
Nothing can be lost if we place our lives in the hands of the Lord – Pope Francis said – as he reflected on the Gospel reading of the day which tells of the destruction of the Temple and the signs of the end of times.
And commenting on the many “false messiahs” that exist in the world today – people who speculate on the human need for security – Francis invited the faithful not to be terrified or disorientated by wars, revolutions and calamities “because they too are part of the reality of the world”.
He pointed out that the history of the Church is full of examples of people who have endured terrible suffering and tribulations with serenity because they placed themselves fully in God’s hands.
“He is a faithful Father, a caring Father, who never abandons his children” he said.
“What really counts – he said – is to stand firm in the Lord, to walk in hope and to work to build a better world, despite the difficulties and the sad events that mark personal and collective existence.”
Pointing out that, on the day in which all the Holy Doors are closed signaling the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, the Pope said “on the one hand the Holy Year has urged us to keep our eyes fixed on the ultimate fulfillment of God's Kingdom, and on the other, to build a future on earth, working to evangelize the present, so as to make it a time of salvation for all.”
After the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the Pope recalled the observance of the Italian Day of Thanksgiving for the fruits of the earth and of human labor, and he expressed his hope for a sustainable cultivation of mother earth.
“The Church is close and grateful towards the world of agriculture and exhorts all not to forget those who, in various parts of the world, are deprived of essential goods such as food and water” he said.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has issued a warning against the “anaesthetized” consciences of those who see the poor and needy as a burden instead of as brothers and sisters to be helped.
Celebrating Holy Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for some 6000 poor and homeless people from countries in Europe and Africa, the Pope said "We should be worried when our consciences are anaesthetized and we no longer see a brother or sister suffering at our side, or notice the grave problems in our world, which become a mere refrain familiar from the headlines on the evening news."
Sunday’s celebration concluded the Holy Year’s Jubilee for the Socially Excluded which saw charity groups bringing poor and homeless people to the Vatican for the occasion. Pope Francis held a special audience on Friday with over 4000 poor people whom he said “are at the heart of the Gospel”.
And they – the poor- whom Pope Francis said should be seen as “concrete people, not useless objects but precious persons” were the ones seated in the front pews of the Basilica during Mass on Sunday morning when Francis pointed out that God and neighbor are the most valuable riches in life, while “all the rest, even this Basilica, pass away”.
With a stern warning against today’s culture of waste, he said “It is the symptom of a spiritual sclerosis when we are only interested in objects to be produced rather than in persons to be loved. This is the origin of the tragic contradiction of our age: as progress and new possibilities increase, which is a good thing, less and less people are able to benefit from them.”
“There is no peace in the homes of the prosperous as long as justice is lacking in the home of everyone” he said.
Noting that today, in the cathedrals and sanctuaries throughout the world, the closing of the Doors of Mercy signals the end of the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis concluded asking “for the grace not to close our eyes to God who sees us and to our neighbour who asks something of us”.
“May the Lord grant that we may look without fear to what truly matters, and turn our hearts to our true treasure” he said.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ homily:
“For you… the sun of justice shall rise, with healing in its wings” (Mal 4:2). The words of the Prophet Malachi, which we heard in the first reading, shed light on today’s Jubilee. They come to us from the last page of the last Old Testament prophet. They are words directed to those who trust in the Lord, who place their hope in him, who see in him life’s greatest good and refuse to live only for themselves and their own interests. For those who are materially poor but rich in God, the sun of justice will rise. These are the poor in spirit, to whom Jesus promised the kingdom of heaven (cf. Mt 5:3) and whom God, through the words of the Prophet Malachi, calls “my special possession” (Mal 3:17). The prophet contrasts them with the proud, those who seek a secure life in their self-sufficiency and their earthly possessions. This last page of the Old Testament raises challenging questions about the ultimate meaning of life: where do I look for security? In the Lord or in other forms of security not pleasing to God? Where is my life headed, what does my heart long for? The Lord of life or ephemeral things that cannot satisfy?
Similar questions appear in today’s Gospel. Jesus is in Jerusalem for the last and most important page of his earthly life: his death and resurrection. He is in the precincts of the Temple, “adorned with noble stones and offerings” (Lk 21:5). People were speaking of the beautiful exterior of the temple, when Jesus says: “The days will come when there shall not be left here one stone upon another” (v. 6). He adds that there will be no lack of conflicts, famine, convulsions on earth and in the heavens. Jesus does not want to frighten us, but to tell us that everything we now see will inevitably pass away. Even the strongest kingdoms, the most sacred buildings and the surest realities of this world do not last for ever; sooner or later they fall.
In response, people immediately put two questions to the Master: “When will this be, and what will be the sign?” (v. 7). When and what… We are constantly driven by curiosity: we want to know when and we want to see signs. Yet Jesus does not care for such curiosity. On the contrary, he exhorts us not to be taken in by apocalyptic preachers. Those who follow Jesus pay no heed to prophets of doom, the nonsense of horoscopes, or terrifying sermons and predictions that distract from the truly important things. Amid the din of so many voices, the Lord asks us to distinguish between what is from him and what is from the false spirit. This is important: to distinguish the word of wisdom that the God speaks to us each day from the shouting of those who seek in God’s name to frighten, to nourish division and fear.
Jesus firmly tells us not to be afraid of the upheavals in every period of history, not even in the face of the most serious trials and injustices that may befall his disciples. He asks us to persevere in the good and to place all our trust in God, who does not disappoint: “Not a hair of your head will perish” (v. 18). God does not forget his faithful ones, his precious possession. He does not forget us.
Today, however, he questions us about the meaning of our lives. Using an image, we could say that these readings serve as a “strainer” through which our life can be poured: they remind us that almost everything in this world is passing away, like running water. But there are treasured realities that remain, like a precious stone in a strainer. What endures, what has value in life, what riches do not disappear? Surely these two: the Lord and our neighbour. These two riches do no disappear! These are the greatest goods; these are to be loved. Everything else – the heavens, the earth, all that is most beautiful, even this Basilica – will pass away; but we must never exclude God or others from our lives.
Today, though, when we speak of exclusion, we immediately think of concrete people, not useless objects but precious persons. The human person, set by God at the pinnacle of creation, is often discarded, set aside in favour of ephemeral things. This is unacceptable, because in God’s eyes man is the most precious good. It is ominous that we are growing used to this rejection. We should be worried when our consciences are anaesthetized and we no longer see the brother or sister suffering at our side, or notice the grave problems in our world, which become a mere refrain familiar from the headlines on the evening news.
Dear brothers and sisters, today is your Jubilee. Your presence here helps us to be attuned to God’s wavelength, to see what he sees. He sees not only appearances (cf. 1 Sam 16:7), but turns his gaze to the “humble and contrite in spirit” (Is 66:2), to the many poor Lazaruses of our day. What harm we do to ourselves when we fail to notice Lazarus, excluded and cast out (cf. Lk 16:19-21)! It is turning away from God himself. It is the symptom of a spiritual sclerosis when we are only interested in objects to be produced rather than on persons to be loved. This is the origin of the tragic contradiction of our age: as progress and new possibilities increase, which is a good thing, less and less people are able to benefit from them. This is a great injustice that should concern us much more than knowing when or how the world will end. Because we cannot go about our business quietly at home while Lazarus lies at the door. There is no peace in the homes of the prosperous as long as justice is lacking in the home of everyone.
Today, in the cathedrals and sanctuaries throughout the world, the Doors of Mercy are being closed. Let us ask for the grace not to close our eyes to God who sees us and to our neighbour who asks something of us. Let us open our eyes to God, purifying the eye of our hearts of deceitful and fearful images, from the god of power and retribution, the projection of human pride and fear. Let us look with trust to the God of mercy, with the certainty that “love never ends” (1 Cor 13:8). Let us renew our hope in the true life to which we are called, the life that will not pass away and that awaits us in communion with the Lord and with others, in a joy that will last forever, without end.
And let us open our eyes to our neighbour, especially to our brothers and sisters who are forgotten and excluded, to the “Lazarus” at our door. That is where the Church’s magnifying glass is pointed. May the Lord free us from turning it towards ourselves. May he turn us away from the trappings that distract us, from interests and privileges, from attachment to power and glory, from being seduced by the spirit of the world. Our Mother the Church looks “in particular to that portion of humanity that is suffering and crying out, because she knows that these people belong to her by evangelical right” (PAUL VI, Address at the beginning of the Second Session of the Second Vatican Council, 29 September 1963). By right but also by evangelical duty, for it is our responsibility to care for the true riches which are the poor. In the light of these reflections, I would like today to be the “day of the poor”. We are reminded of this by an ancient tradition according to which the Roman martyr Lawrence, before suffering a cruel martyrdom for the love of the Lord, distributed the goods of the community to the poor, whom he described as the true treasure of the Church. May the Lord grant that we may look without fear to what truly matters, and turn our hearts to our true treasure.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Message to the participants in the thirty-first international conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers. The theme of this year’s iteration of the annual conference is: Towards a Culture of Health that is Welcoming and Supportive: at the Service of People with Rare and Neglected Pathologies .
In his Message to participants, Pope Francis highlights three “cornerstones” of good care in a Catholic context: the primacy of the human person along with an integrated, integral awareness of the place of human being within the economy of creation and the duty to stewardship of the created order; the missionary and “outward-moving” character of the Church’s commitment to caring for the sick; the question of justice involved in assuring the necessary care to people suffering disease – especially rare disease – and without means to care for themselves or get the care they need.
“On these three cornerstones, which I believe can be shared by anybody who holds dear the eminent value of the human being,” writes Pope Francis, “one can identify realistic, courageous, generous and supportive solutions to addressing even more effectively, and to solving, the health-care emergency of ‘rare’ and ‘neglected’ diseases.”
The Holy Father goes on to write, “In the name of this love for man, for every man, above all for suffering man, I express to all of you, participants in the thirty-first international conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, the wish that you will have a renewed impetus and generous dedication towards sick people, as well as a tireless drive towards the greatest common good in the health-care field.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis held the last special Saturday audience for the Jubilee Year of Mercy this week, during which he stressed the need for inclusion, especially towards the poor, the weary, and the burdened.
By showing mercy, love, and forgiveness, the Holy Father said, the Church bears “faithful witness to God’s inclusive love.”
Below is the official English language synthesis of the Pope’s address, which he delivered in Italian:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: In this, the last of our special Saturday Audiences for the Holy Year of Mercy, I would like to stress the importance of inclusion . God’s mercy, which excludes no one, challenges us to be merciful and open to the needs of others, especially the poor and all those who are weary and burdened. We, who have experienced that love and mercy, have a part to play in his saving plan, which embraces all of history. In his mercy, God calls all men and women to become members of the body of Christ, which is the Church, and to work together, as one family, in building a world of justice, solidarity and peace. God reconciled mankind to himself by the sacrifice of his Son on the cross. He now sends us, his Church, to extend that merciful embrace to our brothers and sisters throughout the world. The arms of the great colonnade surrounding this Square symbolize that embrace. They remind us not only of the Church’s mission to the human family, but also of our own call to bear faithful witness to God’s inclusive love through the mercy, love and forgiveness we show to others.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met a group of young men who have left the priesthood during the past years to show his closeness and affection towards them. His surprise visit to an apartment in the outskirts of Rome to meet with the group made up of five Italians, a Spaniard and a man from Latin America, came as part of his traditional gestures of Mercy on one Friday a month during this Jubilee Year.
A Vatican statement said the young men in question took the difficult decision to leave the priesthood despite opposition in many cases from their fellow priests or their families after serving for several years in parishes where loneliness, misunderstanding, fatigue arising from their many responsibilities prompted them to rethink their choice. It said the men spent months and years wrestling with uncertainty and doubts before coming to the decision they had made a mistake by becoming priests and therefore decided to leave and form a family.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday welcomed to Rome more than 6000 people, men and women from various European nations, who have lived, or are even now, living on the street.
The Jubilee for Socially Excluded Persons embraced not only the homeless, but also disadvantaged persons and people living in poverty.
The event was made possible with the help of “Fratello”, an association which organizes and hosts events with and for people in situations of exclusion, in partnership with associations assisting such people.
Following testimonies from two of the participants, Pope Francis addressed the crowd, thanking them for coming to Rome to meet with him and to pray for him. The Holy Father reflected on some of the ideas brought up by the two men who spoke before him.
The first was that human beings do not differ from the “great people” of the world. All men and women, the great and the small, have their own passions and dreams. “Don’t stop dreaming!” the Pope insisted. The poor, he continued, are at the heart of the Gospel; they came to Jesus precisely because they dreamed that the Lord would help and heal them.
Pope Francis then turned to another expression, “Life becomes beautiful.” This signifies dignity, he said. “The ability to encounter beauty, even in things that involve the most sadness and suffering, is something that only men and women who have dignity can have.” He emphasized the virtue of solidarity, when people – especially those whose lives are difficult – are able to have compassion for others who are suffering even more. And he thank those present for their example of solidarity, asking them to teach solidarity to the world.
Finally, Pope Francis spoke on the theme of peace, calling on everyone to continue to work in favour of peace in the world. “The greatest poverty is war!” he said. “It is the poverty that destroys… We need of peace in the world! We need peace in the Church!”
Following his address, a group of the poor and disadvantaged, who had joined Pope Francis on the stage, gathered round the Pope, placing their hands on him, and praying for him.
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The plenary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity concluded on Friday after four days of discussions around the question ‘What model for full communion?’ As well as exploring the theological progress of recent years, participants have been discussing the newer shared practical challenges of recovering from the sexual abuse scandals, or providing pastoral care for families that do not conform to traditional Church teaching.
Pope Francis met with participants on Thursday stressing that Christian unity is an essential requirement of faith for all the baptized and a personal priority for him.
New Zealand Cardinal John Dew is a member of the Pontifical Council and was one of the pairs of Catholic and Anglican bishops in Rome last month for the meeting of the International Anglican Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM).
He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the many way Christians of different denominations can and must work and worship more closely together.
Cardinal Dew says that although there doesn't always seem to be as much ecumenical progress as there was in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, “many things are happening at the practical level”.
He reflects on the Pope’s description of families in ‘Amoris Laetitia’, where he points out that “no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed” and questions how we can apply this concept to the Christian family too.
Following on from the IARCCUM meeting, when pairs of Anglican and Catholic bishops were sent out on mission together by the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Dew asks whether bishops in each diocese can be encouraged to adopt this model, followed by Catholic and Anglican priests with their local communities.
It’s everybody’s task, he stresses, to build up relationships that can help us towards the goal of full, visible communion. Anglican and catholic parishes in NZ are working together in many practical ways, the cardinal says, including support for refugees coming into the country.
Another area of discussion at the plenary has been what the cardinal calls the ‘ecumenism of humiliation’ for Churches dealing with the effects of clerical abuse scandals. By facing such difficulties together and being “united in the cross”, he says, we ask how it can enable us to journey more closely together.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday stressed that Christian love is a concrete reality and warned believers against ideologies and intellectual theories on this love, saying these strip away the Flesh of the Church and ruin it. He was speaking during his Mass celebrated on Friday morning at the Santa Marta residence.
Listen to this report by Susy Hodges (including clips of the Pope's voice):
Taking his cue from the day’s gospel reading coming from the second Letter of St. John, the Pope’s homily was a reflection on the nature of Christian love and how the word ‘love’ is used nowadays to describe many different things. He stressed that the true criterion of Christian love is the Incarnation of the Word, saying whoever denies or does not recognize this is “the antichrist.”
“A love that does not recognize that Jesus came in the Flesh is not the love that God is asking of us.This is a worldly love, a philosophical love, an abstract love, a love that has flagged, a ‘soft’ or weak love. No! The criterion of Christian love is the Incarnation of the Word. Whoever says that Christian love is something else is the antichrist! Who does not recognize that the Word became Flesh. This is our truth: God sent his Son, who became flesh and who lived like us. To love as Jesus loved (us), to love as Jesus taught us, to love by following the example of Jesus; to love, journeying along the path of Jesus. It is the path of Jesus that gives life.”
Pope Francis went on to explain how the only way to love in the way Jesus loved us is to cast aside our own selfishness and go out to help others because Christian love is a concrete love, one with acts of mercy.
“Going beyond is a mystery: coming out from the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, of the Mystery of the Church. Because the Church is the community around the presence of Christ and it goes beyond this. That is a really strong word, isn’t it? …. proagon , whoever walks beyond. And it’s from this that all the ideologies spring: the ideologies on love, the ideologies on the Church, the ideologies that strip the Flesh of Christ from the Church. These ideologies strip away the Flesh of the Church! ‘Yes, I’m a Catholic, yes I’m a Christian, I love the whole world with a universal love’… But this is so ethereal. Love is always interior, concrete and does not go beyond the doctrine of the Incarnation of the Word.”
The Pope wrapped up his homily by stressing that whoever does not love in the same selfless way as Christ did, loves in an ideological manner. He also warned against those who put forward theories on love or intellectualize it, saying they ruin the Church and lead to a situation where we have a God without Christ, a Christ without the Church and a Church without people.
“Let us pray to the Lord so that our walk in love never ever becomes for us an abstract love. May our love be concrete with works of mercy whereby we touch the Flesh of Christ, the Incarnate Christ. It is for this reason that the deacon Lawrence said ‘The poor are the treasure of the Church!’ Why? Because they are the suffering flesh of Christ! Let us ask for this grace to not go beyond and not enter into this process, that possibly seduces so many people, of intellectualizing and ideologizing this love, stripping away the Flesh of the Church, stripping away Christian love. And let’s not arrive at the sad spectacle of a God without Christ, of a Christ without the Church and a Church without its people.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says his main concern, at this moment of political upheaval in the United States, is for the suffering of refugees and immigrants. In an interview with the Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica , the Pope says he doesn’t judge individual politicians, but he wants to see how their policies may affect the poor and most marginalized people.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:
In the interview, Pope Francis notes that, alongside the refugees fleeing from poverty and conflicts, there are also many poor people suffering in rich countries too and they fear the arrival of these new immigrants. We must stop this vicious cycle, the Pope says, by breaking down the walls of inequality and building bridges to allow greater liberty and human rights for all. Inequality, he insists, is the greatest evil in the world today.
Speaking on Monday, ahead of Donald Trump’s surprise victory in the U.S. presidential elections, Pope Francis talks of his admiration for civil rights leader Martin Luther King, saying that love alone is capable of breaking the cycle of hatred and evil. Christians in the world today, he notes, number some two and a half billion people who must share their faith by following the example of Christ himself.
The Pope also mentions the many Christian martyrs who have died at the hands of so-called Islamic State terrorists, saying that wars of religion only occur when people put political power in the place of faith and mercy.
Finally, when questioned about opponents within the Catholic Church, the Pope replies that faith unites all, while individuals may see things from a variety of different perspectives.
(from Vatican Radio)...