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Pope Francis urges new Bishops to cultivate discernment

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 22:18
 (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday urged Bishops to cultivate what he called an “attitude of listening” and to avoid being “imprisoned by nostalgia.” Addressing Catholic Bishops from across the globe who have been appointed during the past year, the Pope focused on the need for discernment.      The Bishops have just completed an annual training programme organized by the Congregation for Bishops. LIsten to the report by Linda Bordon i:    “Authentic discernment,” the Pope said, “although definitive at every step, is always an open and necessary process, and can be completed and enriched”. Insisting that discernment “can’t be reduced to repeating formulas” Francis  pointed out that it is, in fact, an “antidote against rigidity, because the same solutions aren’t valid everywhere.”  You must  have the courage  to ask yourself whether yesterday’s proposals are still evangelically valid, the Pope said to the new Bishops, highlighting the importance for all pastors to not be stuck in the margins but to have the capacity of “evaluating God’s times.”     Saying that the gift of discernment cannot be taken for granted, he described it as the primary condition upon which to draw as the Bishops strive to “discern the paths of God” for the salvation of those entrusted to them. The practice recommended by the Pope for achieving the right kind of balance in personal and ecclesiastical behavior is that of deep and regular prayer. He also pointed out that discernment is not a private exercise by an individual priest, but an activity that unfolds in a community. “The Bishop is not the ‘self-sufficient father-patron’ and still less the frightened and isolated ‘solitary pastor” he said. Those to be consulted in the attempt to reach the right decisions, he continued, are the bishops’ own brother Bishops, their priests and the lay faithful. Real people in concrete situations, he explained, wish to “draw from the treasure of the Church what’s most useful for the ‘today’ of their salvation”. And insisting on the need for all clergy to always keep contact with ordinary people he warned that without such an exchange “the faith of the most cultivated can degenerate into indifference, and that of the humblest into superstition.” Pope Francis also called on bishops to be attentive to the “the culture of religiosity of the people” noting that popular piety is often the “foundation of a people’s self-understanding,” and that discernment has to enter into dialogue with it. “Remember that God was already present in your diocese before you got there” he told the new Bishops, “and he’ll still be there when you leave”. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Mass: ‘Cross of Christ is mystery of love’

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 19:32
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis celebrated his first daily Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday following the summer break, reflecting on the Cross of Christ as the mystery of love. Listen to Devin Watkins’ report: On the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Pope Francis during his homily at daily Mass preached on the “mystery of love” that is the Cross of Christ and warned against two spiritual temptations related to it. The first temptation, he said, is to think of Christ without a cross or to reduce him a “spiritual teacher”. The second, he said, is to think of a cross without Christ or to remove all hope in a type of “spiritual masochism”. Pope Francis said the Liturgy speaks of the Cross as a noble and faithful tree, pointing out that it is not always easy to understand the Cross. “We advance in the mystery of love only through contemplation,” he said. Mystery of the Cross In the day’s Gospel, Jesus explains the Cross to Nicodemus with the verbs “to go up” and “to come down”. “Jesus comes down from Heaven to raise all of us up to Heaven. This is the mystery of the Cross,” he said. In the First Reading, St. Paul says that Jesus “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” “Jesus’ descent is to the lowest point, even unto humiliation. He emptied himself for love, and because of this God exalted him and made him go up. Only if we succeed in understanding this complete descent can we understand the salvation which this mystery of love offers us.” Two temptations Pope Francis pointed out that true understanding is not easy, because there is always the temptation to aim for one goal instead of the other. St. Paul rebukes the Galatians for “giving in to the temptation not to enter the mystery of love but to explain it”. As the serpent had bewitched Eve and had poisoned the Israelites in the desert, Pope Francis said the Galatians were bewitched “by the illusion of a Christ without a cross and a cross without Christ.” “A Christ without a cross is not the Lord: he is a teacher, nothing else. This is perhaps what Nicodemus, without realizing it, was seeking. It is one of the temptations. Yes, Jesus: ‘What a good teacher’, but… without the cross, [only] Jesus. Who bewitched you with this image? Paul is angry. Jesus Christ is presented but not as crucified. The other temptation is a cross without Christ, that is, the anguish of remaining down, depressed by the weight of sin and without hope. This is a type of spiritual masochism: only the cross, without hope and without Christ.” Mystery of love Pope Francis said the Cross without a Christ would be a “mystery of tragedy”, like a pagan tragedy. “The Cross is a mystery of love; the Cross is faithful; the Cross is noble. Today we should take a minute to ask ourselves these questions. Is Christ crucified a mystery of love? Do I follow Jesus without a cross: a spiritual teacher who fills me with consolation and good counsel? Do I follow a cross without Jesus, without complaining, with this masochism of the spirit? Do I let myself be carried by this mystery of lowering, that is, of total emptying and lifting up of the Lord?” Pope Francis concluded with the wish that the Lord grant His grace, not just to understand, but to enter into this mystery of love “with the heart, mind, and body. Totally.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope moved meeting rescued Indian priest

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 18:04
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday met privately in the Vatican Indian Catholic priest who was freed on Tuesday after his abduction abducted by gunmen in Yemen last year, the Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported.  The Holy Father met Salesian Father Tom Uzhunnalil at the papal residence of Santa Marta, after his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.  After being rescued, the 57-year old missionary was flown to the Omani capital, Muscat, from where he was flown to Rome, where he is recuperating in a Salesian community before heading home to India later. Visibly moved  On first meeting the Pope, Fr. Uzhunnalil went down on his knees kissing the feet of the Holy Father in profound reverence.  The Pope reciprocated lifting Father Tom to his feet and kissing his hands.  He embraced and encouraged the Indian missionary assuring him he would continue praying for him as he had been doing during his captivity.  L’Osservatore Roman said the Pope, “visibly moved, blessed him.”  Among several photos circulating on the social media, one showed Pope Francis kissing the hand of Fr. Uzhunnalil. Born in Ramapuram, in southern India’s Kerala state, Father Uzhunnalil belongs to the Bangalore Salesian province.  He ‎was abducted on March ‎‎4, 2016 when four unidentified gunmen attacked a care home in Yemen's ‎southern port city of Aden, ‎killing 16 people including 4 Missionaries of Charity sisters of Mother ‎Teresa. The 57-year old priest had been working for more than four years as a chaplain at the care home. ‎ Interior prayer Fr. Uzhunnallil thanked the Pontiff saying he “prayed for him every day, offering his suffering for his mission and for the good of the Church.”   The Pope was touched by his words, the L’Osservatore Romano reported.  The Salesian priest also said he was “unable to celebrate the Eucharist, ” but would recite “inside me and in my heart all the prayers of the Mass.”  The Indian priest assured he would continue praying for all who had been close to him spiritually.  He particularly recalled the four Missionaries of Charity sisters of Mother Teresa and twelve people killed during the attack last year.  Fr. Uzhunnallil was particularly grateful to the government of Oman for obtaining his release.  The Holy See, in a communique, has already expressed its gratitude to all those in obtaining his release, especially Oman’s ruler Sultan Qaboos and competent authorities of the sultanate.  Jesus is great and loves us Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias , Archbishop of Bombay, who is in the Vatican for the 'C9' Council of Cardinals meeting, accompanied the Salesian priest to the Pope. “After this terrible experience, the essential message that Fr. Tom gives is that Jesus is great and loves us,”  the cardinal told L’Osservatore Romano.  Fr. Uzhunnalil agreed with him saying, “Really, every day, I felt Jesus close to me .  I always knew and felt in my heart that I was not alone .”  L’Osservatore Romano said that Fr. Uzhunnalil will be in Rome in a Salesian community for some time and undergo some medical check-ups .  Cardinal Gracias said that the priest was keeping “good” health, adding that during his 18-month captivity he did not have any particular problem and was treated well.   Fr. Uzhunnalil was born and brought up in a devout Catholic family. His uncle Matthew, who died in 2015, was also a Salesian priest, and founded the mission in Yemen, where he served.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis at Audience: Reflections on Colombia

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 17:07
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis dedicated his General Audienc e on Wednesday to a reflection on his Aposotolic Visit to Colombia , which concluded on Sunday. He prayed, “through the prayers of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, Patroness of Columbia,” that the nation might “continue to progress in the way of peace in love, justice and truth.” Below, please find the official English-language summary of Pope Francis’ remarks at the General Audience for Wednesday, 13 September 2017: Dear Brothers and Sisters: My recent Pastoral Visit to Colombia, in the footsteps of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, sought to encourage the process of reconciliation in that country following a half century of conflict and division. Its motto – Let us Take the First Step – was also an appeal to the nation to discover in its deep Christian roots the spiritual resources needed to advance the work of healing and rebuilding. In Bogotá, I was warmly welcomed, especially by the young, who are the future of the country. The Beatification of two martyrs and the reconciliation service celebrated in Villavicencio were particularly moving. In Medellín, the emphasis was on Christian discipleship and mission, exemplified in the help given to youth through the Hogares group homes and in the faces of the many young men and women who are responding to Jesus’ call to the priesthood and the consecrated life. In Cartagena, the example of Saints Peter Claver and Maria Bernarda Bütler reaffirmed our evangelical commitment to human promotion and the defence of human rights. Through the prayers of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá, Patroness of Columbia, may the nation continue to progress in the way of peace in love, justice and truth.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis challenges Colombians to build peaceful future

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 23:02
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has concluded his visit to Colombia where he spent five days meeting victims of the country’s civil war and urging all people to work together for peace and national reconciliation . But as the spotlight fades and organisers dismantle the Mass venues, what effect will the pope’s words have on the politicians, religious leaders and Colombians from all walks of life who flocked to see and hear him speak in Cartagena, Medellin, Villavicencio and the capital, Bogotà? Our correspondent in Bogotà, Linda Bordoni , put that question to Beatrice Canal, a professional translator and mother of two grown up children, who shares her own reactions to the papal visit. Listen:  Beatrice says she was “pleasantly surprised” and deeply moved to see so many people welcoming the pope “with happiness in their eyes”. The visit, she says, “has brought us together” and “touched the hearts of every Colombian” who had the chance to see him at the main events or simply line the streets as he drove by. Colombians very touched by visit She says she was happy to see that the trip was “completely unpolitical”, but as an overwhelmingly Catholic nation (over 80 percent of the population) “we were very touched by the visit”. In particular, Beatrice says, Colombians are “all very happy that he is the first Latin American pope and “we see him as one of our own”. Desire to reach out to others Asked what impact the papal visit may have on the future of her country, Beatrice notes the pope spoke extensively “about peace and reaching out to others”. She adds: “I hope he leaves behind the desire in every Colombian to again feel and share that brotherly and fraternal love he’s been speaking so much about”. People want to live in peace While she acknowledges that the implementation of the peace agreements remains fraught with difficulties, Beatrice insists that “every Colombian is hopeful to live in a country in peace”. Learn to accept former insurgents She notes that her own children, aged 30 and 35, have never lived in a country in peace, and that she was “a little girl when the violence broke out”. She says: “I know that the signing of a paper does not translate immediately into peace, now comes the most difficult part where every Colombian has to chip into the process and to open our hearts and be accepting of the former insurgents”. Victims need to live without fear Also the victims, she concludes, need to “find a place in their heart to want to forgive” and to be able to live, free of the fear that has caused so much suffering for those living the countryside.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis returns to Vatican from Colombia visit

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 21:38
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has returned to the Vatican at the end of his five day apostolic visit to Colombia. After the papal plane touched down at Rome’s Ciampino airport on Monday afternoon, the pope went to the Rome Basilica of St Mary Major, as he habitually does, to give thanks for his successful journey. Inside the ancient basilica, he spent a few moment in prayer in front of the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani. During the eleven hour flight, Pope Francis answered questions from the journalists who had been covering his visit to the Colombia cities of Cartagena, Medellin, Villavicencio and the capital Bogotà. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis sends telegrams on return trip from visit to Colombia

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 20:29
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent telegrams to the countries over which he flew on his return flight to Rome at the conclusion of his Apostolic Visit to the Colombia. Those countries include: Colombia, the Netherlands, United States, Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy. Please find below the original telegrams: Colombia HIS EXCELLENCY JUAN MANUEL SANTOS PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF COLOMBIA BOGOTÁ RETURNING TO ROME AT THE CONCLUSION OF MY APOSTOLIC VISIT TO COLOMBIA I ONCE AGAIN WISH TO EXPRESS SINCERE THANKSGIVING TO ALMIGHTY GOD FOR THE MANY GRACES RECEIVED OVER THE PAST FEW DAYS.  WITH RENEWED GRATITUDE FOR THE HOSPITALITY I HAVE RECEIVED, I ASSURE YOUR EXCELLENCY AND ALL THE BELOVED PEOPLE OF COLOMBIA OF MY CONTINUED PRAYERS FOR THE PEACE AND PROSPERITY OF THE NATION.  AS A PLEDGE OF PEACE IN THE LORD I GLADLY INVOKE UPON ALL OF YOU GOD’S ABUNDANT BLESSINGS. FRANCISCUS PP. The Netherlands HIS MAJESTY WILLEM-ALEXANDER KING OF NETHERLANDS EN ROUTE TO ROME AT THE CONCLUSION OF MY APOSTOLIC VISIT TO COLOMBIA, I ONCE AGAIN GREET THE PEOPLE OF THE CARIBBEAN PARTS OF THE KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS, PRAYING FOR THE BLESSING OF PEACE, HEALTH AND PROSPERITY. FRANCISCUS PP. United States (Ocean & Puerto Rico)  THE HONORABLE DONALD TRUMP PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA WASHINGTON AS I FLY THROUGH UNITED STATES AIRSPACE FOLLOWING MY APOSTOLIC VISIT TO COLOMBIA, I ONCE AGAIN PRAY FOR YOUR EXCELLENCY AND YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS, THAT ALL OF YOU MAY CONTINUE TO ENJOY THE ABUNDANT BLESSINGS OF ALMIGHTY GOD. FRANCISCUS PP. Portugal HIS EXCELLENCY MARCELO REBELO DE SOUSA PRESIDENT OF THE PORTUGUESE REPUBLIC LISBON AS MY RETURN JOURNEY TO ROME TAKES ME ONCE MORE THROUGH YOUR AIRSPACE, I CORDIALLY RENEW MY PRAYERS THAT ALL THE PORTUGUESE PEOPLE MAY BE BLESSED WITH THE ABUNDANT BLESSINGS OF ALMIGHTY GOD. FRANCISCUS PP. Spain HIS MAJESTY KING FELIPE VI KING OF SPAIN MADRID RETURNING TO ROME FOLLOWING MY APOSTOLIC VISIT TO COLOMBIA, I ONCE AGAIN SEND WARM GREETINGS TO YOUR MAJESTY, THE MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL FAMILY, AND THE PEOPLE OF SPAIN, WITH RENEWED PRAYERS FOR THE SECURITY, WELLBEING AND PROSPERITY OF ALL. FRANCISCUS PP. France HIS EXCELLENCY EMMANUEL MACRON PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC PARIS RETURNING FROM MY APOSTOLIC VISIT TO COLOMBIA, I ONCE AGAIN GREET YOUR EXCELLENCY AND YOUR FELLOW CITIZENS, WILLINGLY INVOKING UPON YOU AND ALL THE FRENCH PEOPLE ABUNDANT BLESSINGS OF ALMIGHTY GOD. FRANCISCUS PP. Italy A SUA ECCELLENZA ON. SERGIO MATTARELLA PRESIDENTE  DELLA  REPUBBLICA ITALIANA PALAZZO  DEL  QUIRINALE - 00187   ROMA AL RIENTRO DAL VIAGGIO APOSTOLICO IN COLOMBIA, DOVE HO POTUTO INCONTRARE NUMEROSI FEDELI E RAPPRESENTANTI DI QUELLA CARA NAZIONE AMMIRANDONE LA FEDE E IL DESIDERIO DI CRESCITA SPIRITUALE E SOCIALE, ESPRIMO A LEI, SIGNOR PRESIDENTE, IL MIO CORDIALE SALUTO ED ASSICURO UNA SPECIALE PREGHIERA PER IL BENE, LA SERENITA’ E LA PROSPERITA’ DEL POPOLO ITALIANO, AL QUALE INVIO CON AFFETTO LA MIA BENEDIZIONE FRANCISCUS PP.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis and the C9: Interview with Council Secretary

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 15:37
(Vatican Radio) The Council of Cardinal Advisors – the so-called C-9 – is holding its 29th Reunion this week, with meetings set to take place in the Vatican from 11-13 September. The Council, established by Pope Francis on 28 September 2013, was created to assist the Holy Father in the governance of the universal Church, and to study the project of revision of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus , which regulates the Roman Curia . The group consists of nine Cardinals from the Vatican and around the world, as well as a Secretary, Bishop Marcello Semeraro . In an exclusive interview with Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti, Bishop Semeraro spoke about the work of the C-9, how Pope Francis participates in the group’s activities, and the next phase of the ongoing reform of the Curia. WORK OF THE COUNCIL Bishop Semeraro described the work of the Council of Cardinals with three key words: listening , reflecting , and verifying . The Council, he said, listens to the contributions of the Church; reflects on those contributions, and looks into the details of them, considering the best way of going forward. It then makes proposals to the Pope; as Bishop Semeraro explained, the Council has a consultative, rather than a deliberative role. The Council, he said, is a synodal structure, and in this sense the Cardinals are able to serve both the Pope and the local Churches. Pope Francis chose them precisely in order that they might be, “in some sense ‘sensitive antennae’ that are capable of capturing, somehow, the instances of the local Churches over a broad range.” As such, it is an organism that is situated within the context of episcopal collegiality . POPE FRANCIS' PARTICIPATION The Pope himself takes part in the Council’s work, habitually being present in the meetings of the Cardinals. Bishop Semeraro said the Pope is present above all through listening, although he does intervene, “with great discretion,” when there is need of clarifying some point, or presenting his own experiences or calling attention to certain realities within the Church. The Bishop emphasized that the reform of the Curia is only one aspect of the Council’s work; it’s principle duty is to collaborate with the Pope, and to give him advice or share their opinions “when [the Pope] considers it necessary to make this consultation.” He gave the example “the sorrowful reality which is the abuse of minors” which the Council has brought to the Pope’s attention. “This, of itself, is not part of the reform of the Roman Curia,” he said, “and yet the Pope decided to listen to the Council” even with regard to this issue. PROGRESS OF REFORM Asked about the progress of the reform, Bishop Semeraro said the reform is more than three quarters done, at least with regard to the work of the Cardinals. That is, he said, it is almost to the point where the Cardinals are able to present their proposals to the Holy Father. “I think that within a few months this revision will be more or less complete,” he said, and “then the Pope will have at his disposition the proposals that regard all the Dicasteries and I would expect him to decide how and when to actuate them.” He noted that Pope Francis has preferred, up to this point, a more gradual reform, with a kind of “breaking-in” period, which allows for corrections that are inevitably called for as the reform moves from theory to practical reality.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis offers final greetings to Colombia

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 08:50
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis offered a final greeting at the conclusion of his Apostolic Visit to Colombia following Mass in Cartagena, inviting Colombians to continue the journey anew each day. He thanked the many people who had prepared his visit for their hard work and sacrifice, especially offering his gratitude to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and civil authorities. “These have been intense and beautiful days; I have been able to meet many people and to experience many things that have touched me deeply,” he said. Pope Francis invited Colombians not to be content with “taking the first step”. “Instead, let us continue our journey anew each day, going forth to encounter others and to encourage concord and fraternity. We cannot just stand still.” Finally, the Holy Father had one final exhortation. “Colombia, your brothers and sisters need you. Go out to meet them.  Bring them the embrace of peace, free of all violence. Be “slaves of peace, forever”. SLAVES OF PEACE, FOREVER.” Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s prepared remarks: At the conclusion of this celebration, I would like to thank His Grace Jorge Enrique Jiménez Carvajal, Archbishop of Cartagena, for his kind words on behalf of his brother bishops and the entire people of God. I also greet President Juan Manuel Santos, the civil authorities, and all those who have taken part in this Eucharistic celebration, whether here or through the communications media. I am deeply grateful for the hard work and sacrifice that have made this visit possible.  Many people helped, giving freely and readily of their time and energy.  These have been intense and beautiful days; I have been able to meet many people and to experience many things that have touched me deeply.  You have done me much good. Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to leave you with one last word.  Let us not be content with “taking the first step”.  Instead, let us continue our journey anew each day, going forth to encounter others and to encourage concord and fraternity. We cannot just stand still. In this very place, on 8 September 1654, Saint Peter Claver died, after forty years of voluntary slavery, of tireless work on behalf of the poor.  He did not stand still: his first step was followed by many others.  His example draws us out of ourselves to encounter our neighbours.  Colombia, your brothers and sisters need you.  Go out to meet them.  Bring them the embrace of peace, free of all violence.  Be “slaves of peace, forever”.  SLAVES OF PEACE, FOREVER. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope leaves Colombia urging the people not to stop at the first step

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 08:44
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis came to Colombia to help its people “ Take the first step ” as the country tackles an uphill road to reconciliation and reconstruction. And it was overwhelming to witness the real joy of the people who welcomed Pope Francis as a friend and a brother, with open arms. But dire poverty, exclusion, degradation and need are everywhere here in Bogotá and elsewhere in the country. Even careful pre-papal visit efforts to clean and embellish city centres and the venues where Francis was scheduled to be, were unable to conceal the true face of a deeply divided society in which so many have been “discarded.” A reality that the Pope spoke of again and again during his five days in the country, a reality that could place the government’s plan for peace in serious jeopardy. Our correspondent Linda Bordoni is in Colombia and sent this report: It was clear from the start of the visit that the eyes of the world were viewing this apostolic journey through a political perspective in such a crucial moment of the nation’s history. It was only when I started speaking to the people – people from all walks of life - did I realise that their joy for his presence sprung from a deep spiritual vitality and that the overwhelmingly Catholic Colombians received his presence as a blessing, a gift, a moment of grace, happiness and hope. Of course they hope – and together with ‘Papa Francisco’ they are praying - for a conversion of hearts. And most of those whom I spoke to promise to heed his words of encouragement  and say they are committed “to build peace, speaking not with tongue but with the hands and works”. Pope Francis has asked them to forgive those who have harmed them as it is the only possibility in a dialogue aimed at  healing and reconciliation; he has asked them to place reason above revenge and to resist normalizing the logic of violence and exclusion that is so deeply entrenched in their nation’s tragic history. No easy feats for sure. The lush beauty of Colombia’s environment, the rich diversity of its people, the political effort to overcome a decades-long conflict and build a new country based on reconciliation and harmony have all provided a powerful backdrop and extra poignancy to the themes dearest to Pope Francis. And of course his devotion to Mary which resonates so intensely here in Colombia where the people venerate the Virgin of Chiquinquirá, an image of  Our Lady who for many years was treated like an old piece of cloth, shown no respect  and discarded. Then a humble woman had the courage and the faith to put the blurred and torn fabric upon which her figure is embroidered in a special place and restore its lost dignity. A powerful symbol indeed for many “discarded” Colombians. It is in her loving hands and in the power of her intercession that  Pope  Francis has urged the people of Colombia to place themselves as they strive to find the path to true reconciliation, overcome division and regain the peace of which they have been robbed. In Colombia,with Pope Francis I’m Linda Bordoni (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Mass in Cartagena urges Colombians to tackle roots of injustice

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 08:25
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has concluded his intense 5-day apostolic journey to Colombia with yet another call to uphold human dignity and to work for a just society in which inequality and oppression give way to hope and fraternity. Celebrating Mass on the final day of his visit in the port area of Cartagena , the Pope’s homily addressed many of the issues he has highlighted during his visit to the country which is struggling to put behind over five decades of bloody internal conflict and embark on a path to peace. And in the nation that is sadly renown for the production of cocaine and the power of drug cartels, the Pope also made an off-the-cuff denunciation of drug dealers and traffickers, condemning them as unscrupulous merchants of death who “cut short so many hopes and destroy so many families.” “You can't play with the lives of our brothers or manipulate their dignity” he said. His often poetic homily during which he called on Colombians to continue to dream and to work for a project that includes everyone echoed many of the themes touched upon in the past days such as the need to forgive those who have harmed us – a fundamental concept in a process for healing and reconciliation. Yet again he reminded the leaders of the nation who are drawing up a peace plan after having signed a deal with rebels, that real peace is only possible if the causes of social injustice, inequality and oppression are tackled. “If Colombia wants a stable and lasting peace, it must urgently take a step in this direction, which is  that of the common good, of equity, of justice, of respect for human nature and its demands” he said in a forceful voice. And he didn’t shy away from naming and decrying, one by one, the evils that undermine a culture of encounter including drug abuse, the devastation of natural resources, pollution, the exploitation of labour, illicit money trafficking and financial speculation which, he said, expose millions of men and women to poverty, prostitution, human trafficking, the tragedy of migrants who are exploited and manipulated. Notwithstanding their suffering and the wounds of conflict and of centuries of exploitation, the people of Cartagena, which is built on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, brought joy, colour and beauty to the ceremony with their rich tradition of music and dance. And Pope Francis concluded with a message of Christian hope, inviting all Colombians to lift their eyes to heaven together because, he said: “the Lord is able to untie that which seems impossible to us, and he has promised to accompany us to the end of time, and will bring to fruition all our efforts”. In Colombia with Pope Francis, I’m Linda Bordoni     (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope in Colombia at Mass: ‘Peace requires healing of sins’

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 06:44
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Cartagena’s port area on Sunday at the conclusion of his Apostolic Visit to Colombia . The Holy Father reflected on the peace that Jesus brings through the community and how necessary it is for Colombian society. “For decades Colombia has yearned for peace”, he said, “but, as Jesus teaches, two sides approaching each other to dialogue is not enough; it has also been necessary to involve many more actors in this dialogue aimed at healing sins.” He said people cannot be ignored when making peace, in placing reason above revenge, and in respecting “the delicate harmony between politics and law”. “Peace is not achieved by normative frameworks and institutional arrangements between well-intentioned political or economic groups. Jesus finds the solution to the harm inflicted through a personal encounter between the parties,” he said. Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s prepared homily: Homily: “The Dignity of the Person and Human Rights.” Cartagena de Indias Sunday, 10 September 2017 In this city, which has been called “heroic” for its tenacity in defending freedom two hundred years ago, I celebrate the concluding Mass of my Visit to Colombia.  For the past thirty-two years Cartagena de Indias is also the headquarters in Colombia for Human Rights.  For here the people cherish the fact that, “thanks to the missionary team formed by the Jesuit priests Peter Claver y Corberó, Alonso de Sandoval and Brother Nicolás González, accompanied by many citizens of the city of Cartagena de Indias in the seventeenth century, the desire was born to alleviate the situation of the oppressed of that time, especially of slaves, of those who implored fair treatment and freedom” (Congress of Colombia 1985, law 95, art. 1). Here, in the Sanctuary of Saint Peter Claver, where the progress and application of human rights in Colombia continue to be studied and monitored in a systematic way, the Word of God speaks to us of forgiveness, correction, community and prayer. In the fourth sermon of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus speaks to us, who have decided to support the community, to us, who value life together and dream of a project that includes everyone.  The preceding text is that of the good shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one that is lost.  This fact pervades the entire text: there is no one too lost to deserve our care, our closeness and our forgiveness.  From this perspective, we can see that a fault or a sin committed by one person challenges us all, but involves, primarily, the victim of someone’s sin.  He or she is called to take the initiative so that whoever has caused the harm is not lost. During these past few days I have heard many testimonies from those who have reached out to people who had harmed them; terrible wounds that I could see in their own bodies; irreparable losses that still bring tears.  Yet they have reached out, have taken a first step on a different path to the one already travelled.  For decades Colombia has yearned for peace but, as Jesus teaches, two sides approaching each other to dialogue is not enough; it has also been necessary to involve many more actors in this dialogue aimed at healing sins.  The Lord tells us in the Gospel: “If your brother does not listen to you, take one or two others along with you” (Mt 18:16). We have learned that these ways of making peace, of placing reason above revenge, of the delicate harmony between politics and law, cannot ignore the involvement of the people.  Peace is not achieved by normative frameworks and institutional arrangements between well-intentioned political or economic groups.  Jesus finds the solution to the harm inflicted through a personal encounter between the parties.  It is always helpful, moreover, to incorporate into our peace processes the experience of those sectors that have often been overlooked, so that communities themselves can influence the development of collective memory.  “The principal author, the historic subject of this process, is the people as a whole and their culture, and not a single class, minority, group or elite. We do not need plans drawn up by a few for the few, or an enlightened or outspoken minority which claims to speak for everyone. It is about agreeing to live together, a social and cultural pact” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 239). We can contribution greatly to this new step that Colombia wants to take.  Jesus tells us that this path of reintegration into the community begins with a dialogue of two persons.  Nothing can replace that healing encounter; no collective process excuses us from the challenge of meeting, clarifying, forgiving.  Deep historic wounds necessarily require moments where justice is done, where victims are given the opportunity to know the truth, where damage is adequately repaired and clear commitments are made to avoid repeating those crimes.  But that is only the beginning of the Christian response.  We are required to generate “from below” a change in culture: so that we respond to the culture of death and violence, with the culture of life and encounter.  We have already learned this from your own beloved author whom we all benefit from:  “This cultural disaster is not remedied with lead or silver, but with an education for peace, built lovingly on the rubble of an angry country where we rise early to continue killing each other... a legitimate revolution of peace which channels towards life an immense creative energy that for almost two centuries we have used to destroy us and that vindicates and exalts the predominance of the imagination” (Gabriel García Márquez, Message About Peace, 1998).   How much have we worked for an encounter, for peace? How much have we neglected, allowing barbarity to become enfleshed in the life of our people?  Jesus commands us to confront those types of behaviour, those ways of living that damage society and destroy the community.  How many times have we “normalized” the logic of violence and social exclusion, without prophetically raising our hands or voices!  Alongside Saint Peter Claver were thousands of Christians, many of them consecrated… but only a handful started a counter-cultural movement of encounter.  Saint Peter was able to restore the dignity and hope of hundreds of thousands of black people and slaves arriving in absolutely inhuman conditions, full of dread, with all their hopes lost.  He did not have prestigious academic qualifications, and he even said of himself that he was “mediocre” in terms of intelligence, but he had the genius to live the Gospel to the full, to meet those whom others considered merely as waste material.  Centuries later, the footsteps of this missionary and apostle of the Society of Jesus were followed by Saint María Bernarda Bütler, who dedicated her life to serving the poor and marginalized in this same city of Cartagena. [1] In the encounter between us we rediscover our rights, and we recreate our lives so that they re-emerge as authentically human.  “The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature” (Address to the United Nations, 25 September 2015). Jesus also shows us the possibility that the other may remain closed, refusing to change, persisting in evil.  We cannot deny that there are people who persist in sins that damage the fabric of our coexistence and community: “I also think of the heart-breaking drama of drug abuse, which reaps profits in contempt of the moral and civil laws.  I think of the devastation of natural resources and ongoing pollution, and the tragedy of the exploitation of labour. I think too of illicit money trafficking and financial speculation, which often prove both predatory and harmful for entire economic and social systems, exposing millions of men and women to poverty. I think of prostitution, which every day reaps innocent victims, especially the young, robbing them of their future. I think of the abomination of human trafficking, crimes and abuses against minors, the horror of slavery still present in many parts of the world; the frequently overlooked tragedy of migrants, who are often victims of disgraceful and illegal manipulation” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 2014, 8), and even with a pacifist “sterile legality” that ignores the flesh of our brothers and sisters, the flesh of Christ.  We must also be prepared for this, and solidly base ourselves upon principles of justice that in no way diminish charity.  It is only possible to live peacefully by avoiding actions that corrupt or harm life.  In this context, we remember all those who, bravely and tirelessly, have worked and even lost their lives in defending and protecting the rights and the dignity of the human person.   History asks us to embrace a definitive commitment to defending human rights, here in Cartagena de Indias, the place that you have chosen as the national seat of their defence. Finally, Jesus asks us to pray together, so that our prayer, even with its personal nuances and different emphases, becomes symphonic and arises as one single cry.  I am sure that today we pray together for the rescue of those who were wrong and not for their destruction, for justice and not revenge, for healing in truth and not for oblivion.  We pray to fulfil the theme of this visit: “Let us take the first step!” And may this first step be in a common direction. To “take the first step” is, above all, to go out and meet others with Christ the Lord.  And he always asks us to take a determined and sure step towards our brothers and sisters, and to renounce our claim to be forgiven without showing forgiveness, to be loved without showing love.  If Colombia wants a stable and lasting peace, it must urgently take a step in this direction, which is that of the common good, of equity, of justice, of respect for human nature and its demands.  Only if we help to untie the knots of violence, will we unravel the complex threads of disagreements.  We are asked to take the step of meeting with our brothers and sisters, and to risk a correction that does not want to expel but to integrate.  And we are asked to be charitably firm in that which is not negotiable.  In short, the demand is to build peace, “speaking not with the tongue but with hands and works” (Saint Peter Claver), and to lift up our eyes to heaven together.  The Lord is able to untie that which seems impossible to us, and he has promised to accompany us to the end of time, and will bring to fruition all our efforts. [1] She also had the wisdom of charity and knew how to find God in her neighbour; nor was she paralyzed by injustice and challenges, because “when conflict arises, some people simply look at it and go their way as if nothing happened; they wash their hands of it and get on with their lives. Others embrace it in such a way that they become its prisoners; they lose their bearings, project onto institutions their own confusion and dissatisfaction and thus make unity impossible. But there is also a third way, and it is the best way to deal with conflict. It is the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process” (Evangelii Gaudium, 227). (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope in Colombia appeals for ‘rejection of violence in political life’

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 01:08
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has appealed for “the rejection of all violence in political life” and for an end to the crisis in Venezuela, while on his Apostolic Visit to Colombia. The Holy Father made the appeal following the prayer of the Angelus on Sunday in Cartagena. Listen to Devin Watkins' report: In greetings following the Angelus, Pope Francis said, “I assure all of you of my prayers for each of the countries of Latin America, and in a special way for neighbouring Venezuela.” He expressed his closeness to the people of Venezuela, “as well as to all those who have found a place of welcome here in Colombia.” “I appeal for the rejection of all violence in political life and for a solution to the current grave crisis, which affects everyone, particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged of society,” he said. Finally, Pope Francis asked the Blessed Virgin Mary to intercede “for all the world’s needs and for every one of her children.” Please find the official English translation of the Pope’s remarks below: Dear Brothers and Sisters: I assure all of you of my prayers for each of the countries of Latin America, and in a special way for neighbouring Venezuela.  I express my closeness to all the sons and daughters of that beloved nation, as well as to all those who have found a place of welcome here in Colombia.  From this city, known as the seat of human rights, I appeal for the rejection of all violence in political life and for a solution to the current grave crisis, which affects everyone, particularly the poorest and most disadvantaged of society.  May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for all the world’s needs and for every one of her children.  I greet those who have come here from different places, as well as all those who are following my visit on the radio and television.  I wish you all a blessed Sunday.  And please, do not forget to pray for me. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis in Colombia prays Angelus in Cartagena

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 01:01
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis prayed the Angelus on Sunday with the faithful of Cartagena during his Apostolic Visit to Colombia, inviting them to pay attention to the example of the poor and humble of the Earth. The Pope recited the traditional prayer of Marian devotion outside the Church and Monastery of St. Peter Claver in Cartagena de Indias. Listen to Devin Watkins' report: Ahead of the Angelus, Pope Francis recalled how the image of Our Lady of Chinquinquirá was restored. The Pope prayed before her image at the Cathedral of Bogota on Thursday. He said that for a long time the image was “abandoned, discoloured, torn and full of holes. It was treated like an old piece of cloth, shown no respect, and finally discarded.” Tradition has it, he said, that “a humble woman, Maria Ramos, and the first devotee of the Blessed Virgin of Chiquinquirá, saw something different in that piece of cloth.” The Pope said Ms. Ramos had the courage and faith to restore the image and its lost dignity. “She encountered and honoured Mary who held her Son in her arms, doing precisely what was despicable and useless in the eyes of others.” In this way, he said, she became “a model for all those who, in different ways, seek to restore the dignity of our brothers and sisters lost through the pain of life’s wounds, to restore the dignity of those who are excluded.” Pope Francis said the Lord “teaches us through the example of the humble and those who are not valued” because, through their lowliness, they are able to recognize “the radiance of divine light which transforms and renews all things.” Finally, the Holy Father noted that the Virgin Mary of Chinquinquirá, as well as the example of St. Peter Claver, invites us to work to promote the dignity of all people, especially the poor, the outcast, the abandoned, immigrants, and those who suffer violence and human trafficking. “They all have human dignity,” he said, “because they are living images of God.” Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s prepared remarks: Cartagena de Indias Sunday, 10 September 2017 Dear Brothers and Sisters, Shortly before I entered this church where the relics of Saint Peter Claver are kept, I blessed the first stones of two institutions that will minister to the those most in need, and I visited the house of Mrs Lorenza, who daily welcomes many of our brothers and sisters, offering them food and affection.   These visits have done me much good because they demonstrate how the love of God is made visible each day. As we pray the Angelus, recalling the incarnation of the Word, we also reflect on Mary who conceived Jesus and brought him into the world.   We look to her this morning under the title of Our Lady of Chiquinquirá.  As you well know, over a long period of time this image was abandoned, discoloured, torn and full of holes.  It was treated like an old piece of cloth, shown no respect, and finally discarded. It was then that, according to tradition, a humble woman, Maria Ramos, and the first devotee of the Blessed Virgin of Chiquinquirá, saw something different in that piece of cloth.  She had the courage and faith to put this blurred and torn fabric in a special place, restoring its lost dignity.  She encountered and honoured Mary who held her Son in her arms, doing precisely what was despicable and useless in the eyes of others. And so, this woman became a model for all those who, in different ways, seek to restore the dignity of our brothers and sisters lost through the pain of life’s wounds, to restore the dignity of those who are excluded.  She is a model for all those who make efforts to provide dignified accommodation and care to those most in need.  She is, above all, a model for all those who pray perseveringly so that the men and women who are suffering may regain the splendour of the children of God which they have been robbed of. The Lord teaches us through the example of the humble and those who are not valued.  While he gave María Ramos, an ordinary woman, the grace to receive the image of the Blessed Virgin in its poor and torn state, he also granted to the indigenous Isabel and her son Miguel the grace of being the first to see the transformed and renewed fabric of the Blessed Virgin.  They were the first to look humbly upon this completely renewed piece of fabric and recognize there the radiance of divine light which transforms and renews all things. They are the poor, humble ones, who contemplate the presence of God, and to whom the mystery of God’s love is revealed most clearly.  They, the poor and simple of heart, were the first to see the Blessed Virgin of Chinquinquirá and they became missionaries and heralds of her beauty and holiness. In this church we will pray to Mary, who referred to herself as “the handmaid of the Lord”, and to Saint Peter Claver, the “slave of the blacks forever”, as he wanted others to know him from the day of his solemn profession.  He waited for the ships from Africa to arrive at the New World’s main centre of commerce in slavery.  Given the impossibility of verbal communication due to the language difference, he often ministered to these slaves simply through evangelizing gestures.  He knew that the language of charity and mercy was understood by all.  Indeed, charity helps us to know the truth and truth calls for acts of kindness.  Whenever he felt revulsion towards the slaves, he kissed their wounds. Saint Peter Claver was austere and charitable to the point of heroism.  After consoling hundreds of thousands of people in their loneliness, he spent the last four years of his life in sickness and confined to his cell which was in a terrible state of neglect. Saint Peter Claver witnessed in a formidable way to the responsibility and care that we should have for one another. Furthermore, this saint was unjustly accused of being indiscreet in his zealousness and he faced strong criticism and persistent opposition from those who feared that his ministry would undermine the lucrative slave trade. Here in Colombia and in the world millions of people are still being sold as slaves; they either beg for some expressions of humanity, moments of tenderness, or they flee by sea or land because they have lost everything, primarily their dignity and their rights. María de Chiquinquirá and Peter Claver invite us to work to promote the dignity of all our brothers and sisters, particularly the poor and the excluded of society, those who are abandoned, immigrants, and those who suffer violence and human trafficking.  They all have human dignity because they are living images of God.  We all are created in the image and likeness of God, and the Blessed Virgin holds each one of us in her arms as her beloved children. Let us now turn to Our Blessed Virgin Mother in prayer, so that she may help us recognize the face of God in every man and woman of our time. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope blesses cornerstones for 2 charity houses in Colombia

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 00:55
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Sunday blessed the cornerstones for two houses of charity at St. Francis of Assisi Square in Cartagena and visited the house of a local charity-worker , while on his Apostolic Visit to Colombia. One cornerstone is destined for the Talitha Kum house for trafficked persons, and the other will serve as the foundation of a Homeless Shelter . The Holy Father blessed the cornerstones with the following prayer: “Let us pray. Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of mercy, Who in your Son You have given us an admirable example of charity and through Him you have strongly recommended to us the commandment to love; fill with your blessings these servants of yours, who wish to devote themselves generously to the help of their brothers; so that, in urgent needs, they may serve you faithfully and fully in the person of their neighbor. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen” Listen to our correspondent in Colombia, Linda Bordoni, reporting live on the pope's activities there in Cartagena : Talitha Kum (Mark 5:41) is an International Network of Consecrated Life against human trafficking. Founded in 2009 by the International Unions of Superiors General, the network helps men and women religious working in 70 countries to fight human trafficking, human exploitation, and prostitution. Following the blessing of the cornerstones, Pope Francis made a short visit to the house of Ms. Lorenza, a 77-year old woman who has worked for more than 50 years as a volunteer at the local soup kitchen for the poor. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope in Colombia spells out priorities for the clergy

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 07:41
(Vatican Radio) Some 12,000 priests, men and women religious, consecrated laypeople and seminarians with their families crowded into Medellin’ s “La Macarena” event centre on Friday to listen to Pope Francis ’ thoughts, proposals and instructions regarding their ministry. On the podium, the relics of Saint Mother Laura Montoya, a nun who was the first female Colombian Saint. Canonized by Pope Francis himself in 2013, Mother Laura was a teacher and prolific author who hosted classes in her own home when the 1895 civil war in Colombia forced schools to close. And in the presence of the relics of this inspiring figure, the Pope put his long text of  prepared remarks  aside, and engaged with his audience who rose to the occasion reacting enthusiastically to his exhortations and comments. In a town – Medellin – which used to be the reign of the powerful drug trafficker, Pablo Escobar, Pope Francis pointed his finger against the drug traffickers of today who, he said, continue to destroy the lives of so many young people. He asked those present to pray for a conversion of the hearts of the traffickers, to ask forgiveness to the Lord for having ruined the lives of so many boys and girls, and to accompany the new generations on a path of rebirth and hope. He touched on a theme that is dear to him warning the clergy that the devil too often finds its way into their hearts “through their wallets.” “That’s how corruption spreads, he said, never be attached to material things.” He told them it is not possible to serve both God and wealth and urged them never to take advantage of their condition as religious and of the generosity of the faithful in order to be served or to obtain material riches. And in a powerful condemnation of clerical sex abuse, Pope Francis decried “the poison of lies and hidden things”,  the manipulation and abuse of God’s people, of the most fragile of God’s people, especially the elderly and children. This poison, he said, “must find no space in our communities,” every dead branch must be severed. Pope Francis concluded his animated address reminding all those who have received a spiritual vocation never to forget the joy with which they must live their mission. In Colombia with Pope Francis, I’m Linda Bordoni. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis speaks to Colombia's priests, religious, seminarians: Full Text

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 05:58
(Vatican Radio)   Pope Francis , who is currently on an Apostolic Visit to Colombia, spoke on Saturday to priests, religious, seminarians and their families in Medellin , some 200 kms northwest of the capital Bogota, where he was on a day-long trip. The Pope’s last event of the day at Medellin’s Macarena Entertainment Center, included listening to testimonies of a priest, a cloistered nun and a family, who contemplated on their vocation.   The Pope spoke of a “ contagious apostolic zeal ” that results from knowing and encountering Jesus, saying that “making him known by our word and deeds is our joy.” Comparing the Church of Colombia to “Jesus’ vine” , Pope Francis explained that the health of the vine is gauged by the harvest of genuine vocations despite today’s cultural crisis.   This vine, he said, needs to be pruned of its imperfections through an “intimate and fruitful union with Jesus.”  Pope Francis offered three ways in which their dwelling in Christ can be effective. Below, please find the official English translation of the Pope's prepared speech: Meeting with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and their families. Medellín Saturday, 9 September 2017 Dear Brother Bishops, Dear Priests, Men and Women Religious, and Seminarians, Dear Families, Dear “Paisas”! The parable of the true vine which we have just heard from the Gospel of John is given within the context of Jesus’ Last Supper.  In that intimate moment, marked by a certain tension but full of love, the Lord washed the feet of his disciples, and wished to perpetuate his memory in the bread and wine, as he spoke from the depths of his heart to those he loved the most.  In this first “Eucharistic” night, in this first sunset after his example of service, Jesus opens his heart; he entrusts to them his testament.  Just as the Apostles, some women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus (cf. Acts 1: 13-14) continued to meet in that Upper Room, so too we are gathered here together to listen to him, to listen to one another.  Sister Leidy of Saint Joseph, María Isabel and Father Juan Felipe have offered us their testimonies… So also each of us here could share our own vocation story.  All these would converge in our experience of Jesus who comes to meet us, who chooses us first, thus seizing our hearts.  As Aparecida says: “Knowing Jesus is the best gift that any person can receive; that we have encountered him is the best thing that has happened in our lives, and making him known by our word and deeds is our joy” (Aparecida Document, 29). Many of you, young people, have discovered the living Jesus in your communities; communities with a contagious apostolic zeal, which inspire and attract others.  Where there is life, zeal, the desire to take Christ to others, geniune vocations arise; the fraternal and fervent life of the community awakens the yearning to devote oneself entirely to God and to evangelization (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 107).  Young people are naturally restless and, although there is a crisis of commitment and of communitarian relationships, many of them stand together against the evils of the world and become involved in various forms of political action and voluntary work.  When they do so for Jesus, feeling that they are a part of the community, they become “street preachers (callejeros de la fe)”, to bring Jesus Christ to every street, every town square and every corner of the earth (cf. ibid. 106).  This is the vine which Jesus refers to in the text we have just proclaimed: that vine which is the “people of the covenant”.  The prophets, such as Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel, refer to the people as a vine, as does Psalm 80, which says: “You brought a vine out of Egypt… Your cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land” (vv. 9-10).  At times they express the joy of God contemplating the vine, at other times his anger, bewilderment, and disappointment; yet he never forgets his people, he never ceases to feel their distance and go out to them, who, when they turn away from him, dry up, burn away and are destroyed. How is the land, the sustenance, the support where this vine is growing in Colombia?  Under what conditions are the vocational fruits of special consecration born?  No doubt in situations full of contradictions, of light and darkness, of complex relational realities.  We all would like to count on a world with straightforward families and relationships, but we are a part of this cultural crisis and, in the midst of it, in response to it, God continues to call.  It would be almost unrealistic to think that all of you heard the call of God in the midst of families sustained by a strong love and full of values such as generosity, compromise, fidelity and patience (cf. Amoris Laetitia, 5); some are like this, and I pray to God that they are many.  But keeping our feet firmly planted on the ground means recognizing that our vocational experiences, the awakening of God’s call, brings us closer to what God’s word already reveals and to what Colombia knows so well: “This thread of suffering and bloodshed runs through numerous pages of the Bible, beginning with Cain’s murder of his brother Abel.  We read of the disputes between the sons and the wives of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the tragedies and violence marking the family of David, the family problems reflected in the story of Tobias and the bitter complaint of Job” (ibid., 20).  It has been this way since the beginning: God manifests his closeness and his election; he changes the course of events to call men and women in the frailty of their personal and shared history.  Let us not be afraid, in that complex land, for God always brings about the miracle of producing good clusters on the vine, like arepas at breakfast.  May there be vocations in every community and in every family in Medellín!   This vine – which is Jesus’ vine – has the characteristic of being true.  He has used this term before on other occasions in the Gospel of John: true light, true bread from heaven, and true testimony.  Now, truth is not something that we receive – as bread or light – but rather what springs up from within.  We are a people chosen for the truth, and our call has to be in truth.  There can be no place for deceit, hypocrisy or small-mindedness if we are branches of this vine, if our vocation is grafted onto Jesus.   We must all be careful that every branch fulfils its purpose: to bear fruit.  From the start, those who accompany the vocational process need to encourage a right intention, a genuine desire to be configured to Jesus, the shepherd, the friend, the spouse.  When these processes are not nourished by this true sap that is the Spirit of Jesus, then we experience dryness and God learns with sadness that these branches are already dead.  Vocations associated with special consecrations die when they love to be sustained with honours, when they are driven by a search for personal reassurance and social advancement, when the motivation is “to climb the ladder”, to cleave to material interests and to strive shamefully for financial gain.  As I have said before on other occasions, the devil enters through the wallet.  This not only applies to the early stages of vocation; all of us have to be careful because the corrupting of men and women in the Church begins in this way, little by little, and then – as Jesus himself says – it takes root in the heart and it ends up dislodging God from our lives.  “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:21, 24), we cannot take advantage of our religious state and the goodness of our people in order to be served and gain material benefits. There are some situations, customs and choices that evidence signs of dryness and death: they cannot keep hindering the flow of sap that nourishes and gives life!  The poison of lies, obfuscation, manipulation and the abuse of the People of God, the weak and especially the elderly and young, can have no place in our communities; they are branches that are determined to dry us out and that God tells us to cut off. And God does not only cut away; the allegory goes on to say that God purifies the vine of its imperfections.  The promise is that we will bear fruit, and abundantly, just like the grain of wheat, if we are able to give ourselves, to offer our lives freely.  In Colombia, there are examples that this is possible.  We remember Saint Laura Montoya, a remarkable religious whose relics are with us and who, going forth from this city, gave herself completely to a great missionary effort on behalf of indigenous people throughout the country.  How much we can learn from this consecrated woman of silent and selfless surrender, who had no greater desire than to transmit the maternal face of God.  So too we remember Blessed Mariano de Jesús Euse Hoyos, one of the first students of the Seminary of Medellín, and other Colombian priests and women religious, whose canonization processes have begun; as well as so many others, thousands of unknown Colombians who in the simplicity of their daily lives knew how to give of themselves for the Gospel, and whom you hold dear in your memory and who encourage you in your own commitment.  They all show us that it is possible to respond faithfully to the Lord’s call, that it is possible to bear much fruit. The good news is that the Lord is willing to cleanse us, that we will not be cut off, that as good disciples we are on the way.  How does Jesus eliminate those things which lead to death and which take hold of our lives and distort his call?  By inviting us to dwell in him.  Dwelling does not only signify being, but rather also indicates maintaining a relationship that is alive, existential and absolutely necessary; it means to live and grow in an intimate and fruitful union with Jesus, “the source of eternal life”.  Dwelling in Jesus cannot be a merely passive act or a simple abandonment without any consequences in our daily and concrete lives.  Allow me to propose three ways of making this “dwelling” effective:  Dwelling by touching Christ’s humanity: With the gaze and attitude of Jesus , who contemplates reality not as a judge, but rather as a good samaritan; who recognizes the value of the people who walk with him, as well as their wounds and sins; who discovers their silent suffering and who is moved by peoples’ needs, above all when they are overwhelmed by injustice, inhumane poverty, indifference or by the perverse actions of corruption and violence. With Jesus’ gestures and words , which express love for those nearby and search for those far away; tender and firm in denouncing sin and in announcing the Gospel, joyful and generous in surrendering and in service, especially for the smallest among us, steadfastly rejecting the temptation to believe that all is lost, to accomodate ourselves or to become mere administrators of misfortune. Dwelling by contemplating his divinity: Awakening and sustaining an admiration for the study which increases knowledge of Christ because, as Saint Augustine reminds us, we cannot love someone we do not know (cf. Saint Augustine, The Trinity, Book X, ch. I, 3). Giving priority, in this way of knowing, to the encounter with Sacred Scripture , especially the Gospel where Christ speaks to us, reveals his unconditional love for the Father, and instils the joy that comes from obedience to his will and from serving our brothers and sisters.  Whoever does not know the Scriptures, does not know Jesus.  Whoever does not love the Scriptures, does not love Jesus (cf. Saint Jerome, Preface to the Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah, PL 24, 17).  Let us spend time prayerfully reading the Word of God, listening to what God wishes for us and for our people. May all of our study help us to interpret reality with the eyes of God, that it may not be a way of avoiding what is happening to our people, nor be subject to the whim of fashions or ideologies.  May our study not be overcome by nostalgia or the tendency to confine the mystery, nor may it be unwilling to respond to questions that people no longer ask themselves, and may it not abandon those who find themselves in an existential void and who question us from their worlds and cultures.     Dwelling in and contemplating his divinity by making prayer a fundamental part of our lives and our apostolic service.  Prayer frees us from the burden of worldliness, and teaches us to live joyfully, to distance ourselves from what is superficial, in an exercise of true freedom.  Prayer draws us out of our self-centredness, from being reclusive in an empty religious experience; it leads us to place ourselves, with docility, in the hands of God in order to fulfil his will and to realize his plan of salvation.  And prayer teaches us to adore.  To learn to adore in silence.  Let us be men and women who have been reconciled in order to reconcile .  Being called does not give us a certificate of right conduct and sinlessness; we are not clothed in an aura of holiness.  We are all sinners and we need forgiveness and God’s mercy to rise each day.  He uproots whatever is not good in us, as well as the wrong we have done, casting it out of the vineyard to be burned up.  He cleanses us so that we may bear fruit.  This is the merciful fidelity that God shows his people, of which we are part.  He will never leave us at the side of the road.  God does everything to prevent sin from defeating us and clsoing the doors of our lives to a future of hope and joy.  Finally, dwelling in Christ in order to live joyfully : If we remain in him, his joy will be in us.  We will not be sad disciples and bitter apostles.  On the contrary, we will reflect and be heralds of true happiness, a complete joy that no one can take away.  We will spread the hope of a new life that Christ has given to us.  God’s call is not a heavy burden that robs us of joy.  He does not want us to be immersed in a sadness and weariness that comes from activities lived poorly, but rather wants a spirituality that brings joy to our lives and even to our weariness.  Our contagious joy must be our first testimony to the closeness and love of God.  We are true dispensers of God’s grace when we reflect the joy that comes from encountering him.  In the Book of Genesis, after the flood, Noah planted a vine as a sign of a new beginning; at the end of the Exodus, Moses sent scouts to inspect the promised land, who returned with a cluster of grapes, a sign that in the land flowed milk and honey.  God has looked upon us, our communities and families.  The Lord has cast his gaze on Colombia: you are a sign of this loving election.  It is now up to us to offer all our love and service while being united to Jesus, our vine.  To be the promise of a new beginning for Colombia, that leaves behind the floods of discord and violence, a Colombia that wants to bear abundant fruits of justice and peace, of encounter and solidarity.  May God bless you; may God bless the consecrated life in Colombia.  And, please, do not forget to pray for me. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis tells Colombia's youngest victims that Jesus loves them

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 05:41
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis ’ apostolic visits always feature at least one event in a place of suffering, of solidarity, of rebirth. He always makes sure he spends some precious time with the poorest and the weakest of the world, be they prisoners, disabled adolescents, elderly people, slum-dwellers… In Medellin on Friday he visited the community at Hogar San José : a Jesuit-run home for orphaned children victims of Colombia’s conflict . The over 300 children cared for by the nuns, lay people and volunteers of the Home come from across the ravaged nation. All of them carry the wounds of violence and abuse. One little girl, Claudia Yesenia, told the story of her own suffering when – aged two - she was wounded and lost all when a rebel attack in the San Carlos Antioquia area wiped out her entire community and most of her family. But she also told of her rebirth at the San José Home for children where she was cherished and cared for and is being given an education so that she too can, one day, offer care and love to children in need. Pope Francis listened with attention, smiled and embraced the children as he always does, and put everything else aside to be able to enjoy their songs, their joy, their presence. He told them that Jesus loves them more than anyone else and that He protects them to make sure that they – who are the future of Colombian society – may grow and be strengthened in wisdom and grace. In this nation where nature is so lush and generous, where the national flower is the sophisticated orchid, each child was holding a small bouquet of little white daisies: the simplest and most humble of blossoms. Just like those closest to Pope Francis’ own heart. In Colombia with Pope Francis, I’m Linda Bordoni         (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope in Colombia greets children in Hogar San Jose Home: Full text

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 04:36
(Vatican Radio) “Saint Joseph can never be without Jesus and Mary”, Pope Francis assured Claudia Yesenia, who shared her courageous testimony, and the children of “St. Joseph’s Children's Home” in Medellin on Saturday. Responding to the testimony of Claudia, Pope Francis reflected on how Baby Jesus was also a victim of hatred and persecution but God protected him and Mary by inspiring St. Joseph to leave his country and his home. Listening to her testimony, the Pope said he was reminded of the unjust suffering of so many boys and girls throughout the world, who have been and continue to be innocent victims of the evil that others commit. Pope Francis affirmed that, just as Saint Joseph protected and defended the Holy Family from danger, so too he is defending them, caring for them, and accompanying them. He also said that with Saint Joseph is Jesus and Mary, because Saint Joseph can never be without Jesus and Mary. Please find below the official English translation of the Pope's prepared Greeting: “Saint Joseph’s Children's Home” Medellín Saturday, 9 September 2017 Dear Brothers and Sisters, Dear Boys and Girls,           I am very happy to be with you here at “Saint Joseph’s Home”.  Thank you for the welcome you prepared for me.  I am grateful also to the director, Monsignor Armando Santamaría, for his words.           I wish to express my thanks to you, Claudia Yesenia, for your courageous testimony.  Hearing all of the difficulties you experienced, I thought of the unjust suffering of so many boys and girls throughout the world, who have been and continue to be innocent victims of the evil that others commit.           The Baby Jesus was also a victim of hatred and persecution; he too had to run away with his family, to leave his country and his home, in order to escape death.  To see children suffer, wounds our hearts because children are Jesus’ favourites.  We can never accept that they are mistreated, that they are denied the right to live out their childhood peacefully and joyfully, that they are denied a future of hope.            Jesus, however, never abandons those who suffer, much less you, boys and girls, who are his special ones.  Claudia Yesenia, in the midst of all the horrible things that happened, God gave you an aunt to watch out for you, a hospital to care for you, and finally a community to welcome you.  This “home” is a sign of Jesus’ love for you, and of his desire to be very close to you.  He does this through the loving care of all those good people who are with you, who love you and teach you.  I think of those who direct this house, the sisters, the staff and so many others who are already a part of your family.  For this is what you do here, you make this place a home: the warmth of a family where we feel loved, protected, accepted, cared for and accompanied.            I am happy that this place bears the name of Saint Joseph, and the other homes the names of “Jesus the Worker” and “Bethlehem”.   It means that you are in good hands.  Do you remember what Saint Matthew writes in his Gospel, when he tells us that Herod, in his foolishness, decided to kill the Infant Jesus?  How, in a dream, God spoke to Saint Joseph by means of an angel, and entrusted to his care and protection his most valuable treasures: Jesus and Mary?  Matthew tells us that, as soon as the angel spoke, Joseph immediately obeyed, and did all that God told him to do: “He rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt” ( Mt 2:14).  I am sure that, just as Saint Joseph protected and defended the Holy Family from danger, so too he is defending you, caring for you and accompanying you.  Alongside him are Jesus and Mary, because Saint Joseph can never be without Jesus and Mary.           To you, brothers and sisters, religious and lay people, and to those in the other homes who welcome and lovingly care for these children that from infancy have experienced suffering and sorrow: I would like to remind you of two realities that you must never forget because they are part of the Christian identity – the love that knows how to see Jesus present in the smallest and weakest, and the sacred duty of bringing children to Jesus.  In this task, with your joys and hardships, I commend you also to Saint Joseph’s protection.  Learn from him, that his example may inspire you and help you in your loving care for these little ones, who are the future of Colombian society, of the world and of the Church, so that like Jesus, they may grow and be strengthened in wisdom and grace, before God and others (cf. Lk 2:52).  May Jesus and Mary, together with Saint Joseph, accompany and protect you, and fill you with their tenderness, joy and strength.           I promise to pray for you, so that in this place of family love, you may grow in love, peace and happiness, and your wounds of body and heart may heal.  God will not abandon you, but protect you and help you.  And the Pope will keep you in his heart.  Please do not forget to pray for me.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope urges Colombian priests at Medellin Mass to 'get involved'

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 03:38
(Vatican Radio) The theme of day four of Pope Francis’ visit to Colombia is “Vocations” and he travelled to the country’s most Catholic city – Medellin – on Saturday to celebrate Mass and to encourage his brother priests to be like Jesus who looked beyond rigid doctrine, cared for sinners and welcomed them in. Reiterating a concept which is clearly a priority for Francis - in Colombia and across the globe - he  said to them: “the Church is not a customs post, it wants its doors to be open”. The overwhelming majority of the some 1 million faithful present at the Mass were wearing white – the colour of peace – and injecting his message with the overreaching leitmotiv of the journey, Francis urged all Colombians to “get involved” in helping each other and to embrace “acts of non-violence, reconciliation and peace.” “Get involved” was the call at the heart of his message to the clergy as he recalled the figure of Jesuit priest Saint Peter Claver and his motto – “Slave of the blacks forever” – because, the Pope said, “he understood as a disciple of Jesus, that he could not remain indifferent to the suffering of the most helpless and mistreated of his time, and that he had to do something to alleviate their suffering.” “Brothers and sisters, the Church in Colombia is called to commit itself with greater boldness, to forming missionary disciples” whom, the Pope said, look at reality with eyes and heart of Jesus: “Disciples who risk, act, and commit themselves”. His appeal is a poignant one in a country where so many hunger for food, dignity and justice, a country in which peace is only possible if the causes of social injustice, inequality and oppression are tackled. Francis’ ‘brother priests’ - as he calls them – have always been committed and continue to be in the forefront in Colombia. Not only as advocates for peace and human rights, but as key figures in making sure the voices of the victims were heard during the recent peace negotiations, in providing demobilization spaces for former guerrillas and developing programmes for their eventual integration in society, as well as offering education and assistance to the poor, to the displaced and the traumatized of the conflict. Colombian priests have an important and difficult responsibility and task as they guide their flocks on the rocky path to reconciliation. To them – Pope Francis said – “Remain steadfast in Christ, in such a way that you manifest him in everything you do.” In Colombia with Pope Francis, I’m Linda Bordoni   (from Vatican Radio)...

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