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Pope sends video message to CEI conference on Amoris laetitia

Sat, 11/11/2017 - 18:07
Pope Francis sent a video message on Saturday morning, to the participants in a conference organized by the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI) on the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Amoris laetitia . Below, you will find the full text of the Holy Father 's remarks, in our English translation.   ******************************************* Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! I cordially greet all of you who attend the third International Symposium on the Apostolic Exhortation,  Amoris Laetitia , convened by the Office for Pastoral Care of the Family of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. The theme you have proposed:  The Gospel of Love between Conscience and Norm , is of great importance, and can illuminate the path that the Churches in Italy are taking, in order to respond to the  desire for family  that emerges in the soul of the young generations. Love between a man and a woman is obviously among the most generative human experiences; it is the leaven of a culture of  encounter, and introduces to the present world an injection of sociality. Indeed “the good of the family is decisive for the future of the world and of the Church.  (Amoris laetitia , 31)” The family born of marriage creates fruitful bonds, which reveal themselves to be the most effective antidote against the individualism that currently runs rampant; however, along the journey of marital love and family life there are situations that require arduous choices, which must be made with rectitude. In the domestic reality, sometimes there are concrete knots to be addressed with prudent conscience on the part of each. It is important that spouses, parents, be not left alone, but accompanied in their commitment to applying the Gospel to the concreteness of life. On the other hand, we know well that “we are called to form consciences, not to pretend to substitute them. ( Ibid ., 37)” The contemporary world risks confusing the primacy of conscience, which is always to be respected, with the exclusive autonomy of the individual with respect to the relations that he entertains in life. As I said recently to the Pontifical Academy for Life, “There are those who even speak of ego-latry, that is, of a true worship of the ego, on whose altar is sacrificed everything, including the dearest affections. This perspective is not harmless: it molds a subject that looks constantly in the mirror, until it becomes incapable of turning its eyes to others and the world. The spread of this attitude has most serious consequences for all the affections and ties of life. (5 Oct., 2017)” This is a “pollution” that corrodes souls and confounds minds and hearts, producing false illusions. Romano Guardini, in a text on the subject of conscience, indicates the way to the search for the true good. He writes: “From this imprisonment in myself I am free only if I find a point, which is not my ego: a height higher than myself; something solid and working in my interior – and behold! Here we are come to the core [...] that is, to religious reality. That good [...] is something alive. [...] It is the fullness of worth, which belongs to the selfsame living God. ( La coscienza , Brescia 1933, 32-33)” In the very depths of each one of us there is a place wherein the Mystery reveals itself, and illuminates the person, making the person the protagonist of his story. Conscience, as the II Vatican Council recalls, is this, “most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. ( GS  16)” To the Christian falls the task of being vigilant, so that in this sort of tabernacle is no want of divine grace, which illuminates and strengthens married love and parental mission. Grace fills the  amphorae  of human hearts with an extraordinary capacity for gift, renewing for the families of today the miracle of the wedding feast at Cana. Commenting on that Gospel episode, I have been able to say that, “By transforming into wine the water of the jars used ‘for the Jewish rites of purification’ (Jn 2:6), Jesus preforms an eloquent sign: he transforms the Law of Moses into the Gospel, bearer of joy. (Gen. Audience, June 8, 2016)” Jesus points in particular to the medicine of mercy, which cures the hardness of the heart, restoring the relationship between husband and wife, and between parents and children. Dear Brothers and Sisters, I wish all the best for your work in this Symposium. Let the Church in Italy help to assimilate and develop  Amoris laetitia ’s content and style; may she contribute to the formation of family group animators in parishes, associations, and movements; may she support the journey of so many families, helping them to live the joy of the Gospel, and to be active cells in the community. I bless you, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope addresses disarmament conference

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 21:22
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed the participants in an international symposium on disarmament and development on Friday. The two-day event has been organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, in order to address issues that are critical both in themselves and in the light of the complex political challenges of the current international scene. In remarks prepared for the participants and delivered shortly after noon on Friday in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, Pope Francis said nuclear weapons,  “exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race.” He went on to say, “Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security.” Click below to hear our report “International relations,” he continued, “cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms.  They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity (cf. Message to the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons , 27 March 2017).”  Pope Francis also addressed the need to recover a sense of the proper end of scientific enterprise, saying, “[T]rue science is always at the service of humanity,” even though, “in our time we are increasingly troubled by the misuse of certain projects originally conceived for a good cause.”  Noting that this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio , in which Bl. Paul VI articulated the idea of integral human development and proposed it as “the new name of peace”, Pope Francis said, “We need, then, to reject the culture of waste and to care for individuals and peoples labouring under painful disparities through patient efforts to favour processes of solidarity over selfish and contingent interests.” Solidarity also goes hand-in-hand with integrating the individual and the social dimensions through the application of the principle of subsidiarity, in view of the need to promote human beings in the indissoluble unity of soul and body, of contemplation and action. “In this way,” continued Pope Francis, “progress that is both effective and inclusive can achieve the utopia of a world free of deadly instruments of aggression, contrary to the criticism of those who consider idealistic any process of dismantling arsenals.”   The Holy Father concluded, saying, “The Church does not tire of offering the world this wisdom and the actions it inspires, conscious that integral development is the beneficial path that the human family is called to travel,” encouraging participants to carry forward this activity with patience and constancy, in the trust that the Lord is ever at our side, and asking God to bless each of the participants and their efforts in the service of justice and peace. (from Vatican Radio)...

The Pope urges Ukrainian seminarians to sow culture of peace

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 22:37
(Vatican Radio) Celebrating 85 years since the foundation of Saint Josaphat's Ukrainian Pontifical College in Rome, Pope Francis encouraged Ukrainian seminarians to become shepherds of communities in which love and respect for others will flourish. The Saint Josaphat College was founded upon the wish of Pope Pius XI and is currently run by the Basilian monastic order. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : In his message to future Ukrainian priests, Pope Francis recalled that the institution was built with the intent of conveying a message of love and closeness to those faithful “who live in areas of suffering and persecution”. He invited them to prepare for their apostolic mission as deacons and priests studying the Church's Social Doctrine and recalling the example of Pope Pius XI whom, he said, “always and firmly raised his voice in defending the faith, the freedom of the Church and the transcendent dignity of every human person” while condemning the atheistic and inhumane ideologies that bloodied the 20th century. “Also today the world is world is wounded by wars and violence” the Pope said with a particular reference to the beloved Ukrainian nation “from which you came and to where you will return” after having completed your studies in Rome. Backing his encouragement to spread a culture of peace and acceptance with words from the Gospel, the Pope said “to you, seminarians and priests of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, these challenges may seem out of your reach; but let us remember the words of the Apostle John: I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.” The Pope said that by loving and proclaiming the Word they will become true shepherds of the communities that will be entrusted to them. “It [the Word] will be the lamp that illuminates your heart and your home, whether you prepare for celibacy or for married priesthood, according to tradition of your Church” he said. Francis invited them to love and to guard their traditions avoiding all forms of sectarianism and he urged them to ask their flocks “to learn to love and respect each other, to abandon their weapons, to reject war and all kinds of abuse”. “Never forget the Covenant between God and mankind” he said. The Pope invoked the intercession of the Holy Mother of God who is venerated in the Ukrainian National Shrine of Zarvanytsya. “She wants the priests of her Son to be like the torches lit at night in front of her Shrine reminding everyone, especially the poor and the suffering, and even those who perpetrate evil and sow violence and destruction, that the people who walked in the darkness saw a great light; that a light shone upon those who lived in a land of shadows” he said. Pope Francis concluded revealing a personal devotion to the Ukrainian icon of Our Lady of Tenderness, a gift of the Major Archbishop from when they were together in Buenos Aires, and sharing his memory of a Ukrainian priest, Father Stepan Chmil, whom he knew when he was a young boy back in 1949 and from whom he learnt how to be an altar boy for the Ukrainian Mass: “He spoke of the persecutions, of the suffering, of the ideologies that persecuted Christians. And he taught me to be open to a different liturgy, something I always keep in my heart”. The Pope also said that last time he was in Buenos Aires, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church had asked him for testimonies with which to open the canonization process of Father Chmil who was ordained bishop in secrecy: “I wanted to remember him today because it is an act of justice to thank him before you for the good that he did to me”. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis sends message to conference on Paul VI

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 20:50
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to participants at a conference taking place in Rome on the theme ‘Pope Paul VI, the pope of modernity”. In the message Pope Francis notes that the conference is taking place 50 years after the publication of his predecessor’s encyclical ‘ Popolorum Progressio ’, often described as one of the key Catholic Social Teaching documents. Listen to our report: That encyclical, he said, sought to be a “solemn appeal for concerted action in favour of integral human development”. The appeal remains just as urgent today, Pope Francis said, as poverty increases and peace is threatened on a daily basis in different parts of the world. In order to build peace, he continued,Pope we must eliminate the causes of discord, starting with injustice, since peace is the work of justice. Thus, he said, the conference reflections focused on ‘justice among peoples’ is particularly topical,  inspired by a sense of ‘The Gospel in motion’, bringing Christian faith, hope and charity to the men and women of today. Finally, Pope Francis noted that the conference is also exploring the theme of Paul VI’s love for Italy. He emphasized the fact that the soul of the Italian people bears witness to a genuine solidarity which is at the basis of all our human communities. We must never tire of promoting this witness of authentic humanism, he said, without which our dignity is at risk. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Mass: building and purification of Church begins from us

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 20:33
Pope Francis on Thursday spoke about the duty of every Christian  of  "building the Church, safeguarding the Church and Purifying the Church".  Delivering a homily at his morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, he spoke about the three tasks on the liturgical feast the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of Rome Diocese, known as the "mother of all the Churches".  The Pope said this title is not a “cause of pride but of service and of love.”   Listen to our report: Building Regarding building the Church, the Pope said one must first of all know that Jesus Christ is its foundation.  The Pope said, “He is the corner stone of this building,” and  “without Jesus Christ there is no Church.”  A Church without foundation will just collapse, he warned.  A Church without a living Jesus will come down.  He further explained that "we are the living stones" of this Church. All are not same but each one is different, and this, the Pope stressed, is the wealth of the Church.  Each one of us builds according to the gift God has given us, he said, adding, a uniform Church is not a Church. Safeguarding Speaking about safeguarding the Church, the Pope said it means being aware of the Holy Spirit who is in us.  The Pope lamented that many Christians know Jesus Christ and the Father because they pray the “Our Father”.  But speak to them about the Holy Spirit, and He is associated with a dove and nothing more.  But the Pope insisted that the Holy Spirit is the life of the Church and He is your and my life. We, the temple of the Holy Spirit, he said, must safeguard Him as St. Paul urges Christians not to “sadden the Holy Spirit”, i.e. not to go against the harmony that the Holy Spirit creates in us and in the Church.  He is harmony, and He creates harmony in the building. Purifying Finally, regarding the task of  "purifying the Church," the Holy Father said, it begins with us. For this, he said, all need to recognized our sinfulness.  Anyone claiming not be a sinner would be a good curiosity, he said.  Since we all are sinners, we need to purify ourselves continuously.  This in turn purifies the community, the diocesan community, the Christian community and the universal community of the Church.  This is what makes the Church grow, the Pope said.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis bans the sale of cigarettes inside the Vatican

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 19:31
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is putting a stop to the sale of cigarettes and tobacco inside Vatican City State. A statement released on Thursday by Greg Burke ,  Director of the Holy See Press Office, explained that the Holy See “cannot be cooperating with a practice that is clearly harming the health of people.”   Citing the World World Health Organization statistics that smoking causes more than seven million deaths worldwide every year, he said cigarettes will not be sold at the Vatican as from the beginning of next year. Burke acknowledged that the sale of cigarettes has been a source of revenue for the Holy See, but he said “no profit can be legitimate if it is costing people their lives.” “Although the cigarettes sold to employees and pensioners in the Vatican at a reduced price are a source of revenue for the Holy See, no profit can be legitimate if it puts lives at risk” the statement said. He added that the sale of large cigars would continue for the time being because the smoke is not inhaled. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope approves the heroic virtues of Pope John Paul I

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 16:53
Pope John Paul I has moved a step closer to sainthood with the recognition of his heroic virtues.  Pope Francis on Wednesday authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decree approving his predecessor’s heroic virtues which confers on him the title ‘ Venerable’.  Pope Francis also authorized 7 other decrees along with that of John Paul I – two of them on martyrdom and 5 on heroic virtues. Venerable Servant of God Pope John Paul I Pope John Paul I whose heroic virtues Pope Francis has approved and declared him ‘ Venerable Servant of God’  had a brief papacy of just 33 days, yet has left an indelible mark on the Catholic Church.    A ‘ Smiling Pope’ as he is called in that short duration of his pontificate gave nine speeches, three messages, wrote three Apostolic letters and four other official letters, gave two homilies and had five Sunday ‘Angelus’ prayers and four Wednesday general audiences. This short encounter if not his vast experience as a priest, bishop, Patriarch of Venice and then the  Cardinal has proved him to be a person of faith, humble and meek person yet tough when it comes to Church teachings.   Love of God and love of neighbor was his special hallmark. Born on 17th Oct 1912 at "Forno di Canale (Belluno, Italy), Albino Luciani    was son of Giovanni Luciani and Bortola Tancon. He  was baptized the same day at home, by the midwife, as he was in danger of death but formalized two days later in the Church by the curate. On 2nd Feb 1935 he was ordained deacon and on 7 th July 1935 Ordained to the priesthood at St. Peter's Church of Belluno diocese of Belluno e Feltre.  In February  1947 he Graduated from the Gregorian University in Rome with a doctorate in Sacred Theology, his thesis being, "The origin of the human soul according to Antonio Rosmini". 27 th December 1958 he was Consecrated Bishop by John XXIII at St. Peter's Basilica together with the newly consecrated bishops, Gioacchino Muccin and Girolamo Bortignon. In 1977 he participated in the IV Ordinary General Assembly in Rome of the Synod of Bishops regarding "Catechetics in Our Time". August 10 the following year brought  him again to the Vatican after the death of Pope Paul the VI. On  26 th August during the second day of the conclave, he was elected Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church and he chose his name John Paul I, wishing to serve the Church as his  predecessors did. During his first Sunday Angelus he  humbly acknowledged that he chose that name knowing that he neither had the wisdom of the heart of Pope John nor the preparation and culture of Pope Paul. With this name he became the first Pope to take up a dual name in papal history.  Luciani vowed to serve as a teacher and a servant and had taken up Humilitas (Humility) as his episcopal motto which was evident even after he was appointed a pope.  He wished to do away with Papal Coronation mass and chose to have just papal inauguration. He also preferred not to use the ‘sedia gestatoria’ or the ceremonial throne like an armchair on which the Pope travels from St Peter’s Square. Luciani  a warm, gentle and kind man with a friendly disposition  was loved by the people who were in awe of his persona. He had impressed people with his excellent oratory skills.   His ideologies reflected the spirit of humanity and showcased the immense love and warmth that he had for God and his people.  His swift six point plan defined what the journey of his pontificate would be. He planned to renew the Church through the policies implemented by Vatican II, to revise canon law, to remind the Church of its duty to preach the Gospel, to promote Church unity without watering down doctrine, to promote dialogue and to encourage world peace and social justice. His successors looked upon him as a gentle soul with a heart filled with love. If his immediate successor Cardinal Karol Wojtyła spoke of his values of faith, hope and love, Benedict XVI commented that it was due to his virtues that despite holding papacy for just 33 days, he was able to win the people’s hearts. For Pope Francis, John Paul I was an icon of mercy and humility and he has quoted him in his homilies and in an interview. His qualities of heart and mind made him affable. Already two miracles are attributed to his intercession and are under examination. If any of them is recognized, he would be cleared for Beatification.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at General Audience: through the Eucharist we receive God

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 21:34
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reminded the faithful that the Eucharist is a wonderful event during which Jesus Christ, our life, becomes present. Speaking to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Wednesday General Audience , Pope Francis began a new series of reflections focusing on the Eucharist and highlighting the importance of how we attend and of how we participate in Mass in order to really experience our relationship with God. To the some 13,000 pilgrims present for the weekly audience, Pope Francis said that while at Mass “the Lord is present with us but many times we talk among ourselves and we are not close to Him” during the celebration. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : Importance of rediscovering the meaning of the Sacraments He explained that for us Christians it is essential to understand the meaning and the value of Holy Mass in order to be able to fully live our relationship with God.  Remembering Christians who have died to defend the Eucharist “We cannot forget the great number of Christians who, in the entire world, in two thousand years of history, have resisted until death in order to defend the Eucharist” he said.  And he remembered those whom, he said , “still today, risk their lives to participate at Sunday Mass”. The Pope  recalled the history of Christians in North Africa who were caught celebrating Mass in 304, during the persecutions by the Roman Emperor Diocletian: “When asked why they had faced such danger, the Christians said that their Christian life would end if they did not go to Mass.”  Those Christians, he said, were killed and became witnesses of the Eucharist, which they chose over their mortal lives. Noting that it is important to go back to the roots and rediscover what is the true meaning of the actions we carry out during the celebration of the Sacraments, the Pope said the Eucharist allows us “to take part in the sacrifice of Mass and approach the table of the Lord.” The word Eucharist means thanksgiving He explained that the word Eucharist means thanksgiving, because we thank God for allowing us to receive him. Francis also referred to the Second Vatican Council which, he said, pushed forward a series of liturgical renewals in order to encourage the encounter between the faithful and Christ. 'Boring' priests must convert Describing the Sacrament of the Eucharist as “an amazing event during which the Lord is present”, the Pope noted that too often the faithful describe the Mass as boring: “Is the Lord boring? He asked those present: No, no, it’s the priest. It’s the priests? Then the priests must convert!” Children must learn how to make the sign of the cross properly  And explaining why we do certain things during Mass he posed the question: “Have you seen the way children make the sign of the Cross?” “We must teach them, he said, how to do it well, because that is how Mass begins, that is how life begins, that is how the day begins!” Lift up your hearts not your cellphones And furthering his comments on how, too often, the Mass is lived in a superficial way, Pope Francis remarked on the fact that the priest who celebrates says “Lift up your hearts” not “Lift up your cellphones  to take a photo!” “This is a bad thing” he said, “It makes me very sad when I celebrate Mass here in the Square or in the Basilica and I see many cellphones raised. And it’s not only the faithful, but also many priests and bishops. Please! Mass is not a show!”  It is very important, Pope Francis concluded, to rediscover the meaning of the Eucharist and of the other Sacraments which are the signs of God’s love, the privileged ways to meet with Him. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis at General Audience: English Summary

Wed, 11/08/2017 - 16:55
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has begun a new series of catecheses focussing on the Eucharist. He was addressing the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience . Please find below the English Summary of the Pope’s cathechesis : Dear Brothers and Sisters:  Today begins a new series of catecheses devoted to the Eucharist.  The Mass is the very “heart” of the Church and the source of her life.  How many martyrs have died to defend the Eucharist!  Their witness confirms our Lord’s promise that by partaking of his body and blood we pass with him from death to life (cf. Jn 6:54).  At every celebration of Mass, our lives, offered in union with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, become, in him, an offering of praise and thanksgiving pleasing to the Father, for the salvation of the world.  The liturgical renewal called for by Second Vatican Council sought to help the faithful understand more fully and share more fruitfully in the Eucharist.  At Mass, Jesus becomes truly present and allows us in some way, like the Apostle Thomas, to touch his flesh and renew our faith in him.   In coming weeks, we will seek to grow in our appreciation of this great gift, so as to share more fully in its spiritual riches and beauty, which give ultimate meaning and direction to our lives. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope meets Egypt's Muslim leader Ahmed al-Tayeb

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 23:03
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Tuesday with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar , Sheikh Ahmed Muhammad al-Tayeb who is in Rome to attend a conference organised by the St Egidio community. No details of the private encounter were released, but the meeting marked the second trip to the Vatican in two years by Egypt’s top Muslim leader. His first meeting with the pope in May 2016 marked an important step forward after five years of suspended dialogue between the Holy See and the prestigious Al-Azhar university. Pope's visit to Cairo In April this year, Pope Francis travelled to Cairo to visit the headquarters of Sunni Muslim scholarship and attend an international peace conference there. During his two day visit to Egypt, the pope urged religious leaders to denounce violations of human rights and expose attempts to justify violence and hatred in the name of God. Respecful interreligious dialogue He appealed for respectful interreligious dialogue, saying the only alternative to a culture of civilized encounter is “the incivility of conflict”. Recalling the visit of St Francis to the Sultan in Egypt eight centuries ago, he called for dialogue based on sincerity and the courage to accept differences. (from Vatican Radio)...

Papal condolences for victims of Texas shooting

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 22:45
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has expressed his condolences to the families of the victims of a deadly shooting Texas . Twenty-six people were killed in the attack, including the unborn child of a young mother, who was also killed. The dead ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years. Twenty others were wounded, with 10 still in critical condition late on Monday. In a telegram addressed to Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin noted Pope Francis was “deeply grieved by news of the loss of life and grave injuries caused by the act of senseless violence perpetrated at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs .” The Holy Father, the Cardinal said, “asks you kindly to convey his heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and the wounded, to the members of the congregation, and to the entire local community.” Cardinal Parolin said Pope Francis was praying to “our Lord Jesus Christ to console all who mourn and to grant them the spiritual strength that triumphs over violence and hatred by the power of forgiveness, hope and reconciling love.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: 'Salvation is not for sale'

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 21:20
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged Christians not to lose the capacity to feel loved. Speaking during the homily on Tuesday morning at the Casa Santa Marta , the Pope said that while it is possible to recuperate a lost capacity to love, if one no longer has the capacity feel loved, all is lost.  Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : Pope Francis reflected on the reading from the Gospel of Luke in which Jesus says “Blessed are those who will take food in the Kingdom of God” and explained that the Lord asks us to open our doors to those who cannot reciprocate. The parable of the man who gave a dinner to which he invited many   The parable tells of a man who gave a great dinner to which he invited many. But when the time for the dinner came, those who had been invited declined the invitation because they were taken by their own interests which seemed to them more important than the invitation itself. They were asking themselves – the Pope noted – what benefit they could get out of the dinner, just like that man who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God. They were so concerned with their own interests the Pope said they were “incapable of understanding the gratuity of the invitation”.  Salvation is not for sale And warning the faithful against this kind of attitude the Pope said: “if you do not understand the gratuity of God's invitation, you do not understand anything”. He explained that the only price God asks one to pay is that of being needy, in body and in soul: one must be in need of love.   He remarked on the two different attitudes: on the one hand the Lord who asks for nothing in return and tells the servant to invite the poor, the crippled, the good and the bad: “this gratuitousness has no limits, God receives all”. On the other hand, he said, the attitude of those who had been invited but who did not understand, like the elder brother of Prodigal son who does not want to attend the banquet arranged by his father because “he does not understand”. “He spent all his money, he wasted his inheritance in vices and sins, and you celebrate his homecoming? I am a practicing Catholic, I go to Mass every Sunday and carry out my duties and you do nothing for me? He does not understand the gratuity of salvation” he said. Salvation, the Pope reiterated, is free: “It is God’s gift to which one responds with another gift, the gift of one’s heart.” God asks only for love and fidelity The Lord, he said does not ask for anything in return, only love and fidelity. Salvation is not for sale, one simply has to accept the invitation to His banquet, thus: “Blessed are those who will take food in the Kingdom of God” – This is Salvation. Those, he continued, who do not want to take part in the banquet have lost the capacity to feel that they are loved. “When one loses – not the capacity to love because that is something that can be recuperated – but the capacity to feel loved there is no hope and all is lost” he said. It reminds us, Pope Francis concluded, of the writing on the gate to Dante’s inferno ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’ - we must think of this and of the Lord who wants His home to be filled: “Let us ask the Lord to save us from losing the ability to feel loved”. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis meets 'The Elders' to discuss global concerns

Tue, 11/07/2017 - 02:14
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis had a private meeting at Santa Marta on Monday afternoon with members of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace and human rights around the world. The Elders was established 10 years ago by former South African President Nelson Mandela and is currently marking the group’s 10th anniversary with a campaign called “Walk Together”  - continuing Mandela’s long walk to freedom. Just after the audience, Philippa Hitchen spoke to two of the founding members of The Elders, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson, former Irish President , former UN high commissioner for human rights and, more recently, UN envoy on climate change. Philippa began by asking Kofi Annan about the issues they were able to discuss during their papal audience… Listen: The former UN leader says it was important for four representatives of the group to come to the Vatican because they share many common interests and values. He says they wanted to engage with Pope Francis and “discuss how we can work together, how we can pool our efforts on some of these issues”. Peace, migration, climate change, gender equality Among the areas of discussion, he continues, were the questions of migration, nuclear weapons peace, mediation and conflicts, as well as climate change and gender equality, that is “the importance of giving women a voice and respecting their role”. He adds “I hope this will be the first of many meetings”. Shared efforts to be a voice for marginalised Former Irish President Mary Robinson says the group came to express “an appreciation for the role he is playing and the fact that he, like The Elders, is trying to be a voice for the voiceless and the marginalized, trying to deal with the most difficult areas of conflict. She says they also spoke about countries including Venezuela and Congo, as well as focusing on climate change, all issues, she notes, where “the pope has given leadership”. Common values, common sense of purpose Robinson says she was also struck by the “warmth and affection and humour” in their meeting. “I was very struck by how relaxed the pope was with us, how much he joked”, she says, adding that Pope Francis seemed to “feel at home” as they discussed “common values, a common moral purpose, common problems” I think he could be a future ‘Elder’, Annan says and Robinson quips, “I think he’s a Super Elder”. Over the coming days we will be featuring further excerpts from this interview, as Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson discuss the COP23 climate conference, gender equality in politics, the role of diplomacy and peacemaking, migration and refugees, as well as the situation in Myanmar as Pope Francis prepares to travel there at the end of November. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Mass: God's gifts are irrevocable

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 19:04
(Vatican Radio) When God gives a gift, it is irrevocable: He does not give something one day, and take it away the next. When God calls us, that call remains our whole life. Pope Francis began his homily with this reflection, inspired by the theme of our “election by God,” God’s choice of each of us, which is taken from the day’s reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Romans. In the history of salvation, the Pope said, there are three “gifts and calls of God to His people”: “the gift of election, of the promise, and of the covenant.” All are irrevocable, because God is faithful. This was the case for Abraham, and it is true for all of us as well: “Each one of us is elect, chosen by God. Each one of us bears a promise that the Lord has made: ‘Walk in my presence, be irreproachable, and I will do this for you.’ And each one of us makes some covenant with the Lord. You can do it, you can’t will it – it is free. But this is a fact. And also, there must be a question: How do I experience ‘election’? Or do I consider myself a Christian ‘by accident’ [It.: ‘per caso’]? How do I live the promise, a promise of salvation of my path, and how am I faithful to the covenant? Like He is faithful?” Then, in the face of the constant “faithfulness” of God, it remains for us to ask ourselves: Do we feel His “caress,” His care for us, and His “seeking after” us when we have distanced ourselves from Him? And yet, Pope Francis continued, St Paul, when speaking about the “election of God” returns again and again to two words: “disobedience” and “mercy.” Where there is one, there is the other, and this is our path of salvation: “That is to say that on the path of election, to the promise, and the covenant, there will be sins, there will be disobedience, but in the face of this disobedience there is always mercy. It is like the dynamic of our walking journeying toward maturity: there is always mercy, because He is faithful, He never revokes His gifts. It is linked; this is linked, that the gifts are irrevocable; [but] why? Because in the face of our weaknesses, our sins, there is always mercy. And when Paul comes to this reflection, he goes one step further: but not in explanation for us, but of adoration.” In the face of “this mystery of disobedience and mercy that sets us free,” there is adoration and silent praise. And in the face of “this beauty of irrevocable gifts such as election, the promise, and the covenant,” there is this final invitation from the Pope: “I think it would do us good, all of us, to think today about our election; about the promises that the Lord has made to us; and about how I live out the covenant with the Lord. And how I allow myself – permit me the word – to receive mercy from the Lord [It. ‘misericordiare’ dal Signore] in the face of my sins, of my disobedience. And finally, whether I am capable – like Paul – of praising the Lord for what He has given to me, to each one of us: to offer praise, and to make that act of adoration. But never forgetting: the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” Listen to our report:    (from Vatican Radio)...

AFRICA/EGYPT - Al Azhar on the massacre in the US church: all religions forbid to shed innocent blood

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 18:35
Cairo - Violence acts "which desecrate the holiness of places of worship and destroy innocent lives threaten the people's stability and security". And the shedding of innocent blood, irrespective of race and the religion of the victims, "is forbidden by all religions". With these words, the University of Al Azhar, the main academic and theological center of Sunni Islam, expressed in a formal statement the condolences to the victims of the massacre carried out on Sunday November 5 by a former military in a Baptist church in SutherlandSprings, Texas, causing the deaths of at least 26 people and dozens of injured. Al Azhar condemned the criminal act, expressing condolences to the government and the people of the United States of America, starting with the families of the victims. ...

AFRICA/CONGO RD - Presidential elections on 23 December 2018; the opposition protests: "so Kabila remains in power until January 2019"

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 18:23
Kinshasa - Presidential, legislative, provincial and local elections will be held on December 23, 2018 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "At 6pm, yesterday, Sunday, November 5, 2017, the election calendar was finally published in the don Apollinaire Malumalu room, at the headquarters of the Independent National Election Commission in Kinshasa", says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Mbumba Prosper, Congolese missionary of the Immaculate Heart of the Congregation of Mary. "Presidential, national and provincial elections will take place on Sunday, December 23, 2018, according to what Corneille Nangaa, President of CENI, announced in front of a crowd of politicians, diplomats, deputies, senators and journalists". The opposition complained that, according to the new electoral calendar, outgoing President Joseph Kabila, whose term expired on 20 December 2016, will be able to remain in office until early January 2019. The new president will hold office on January 12. "The new electoral calendar was presented due to the pressure from the United States, the European Union and the African Union", Prosper writes. In particular, the United States, through UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, threatened that if elections had not taken place in 2018, they would cut financial support to the DRC . "The fact remains that the San Silvestro Agreement, which guarantees the legitimacy of the government in office, provided for the elections to be held by December 2017", recalls Fr. Prosper, The San Silvestro agreement was concluded through the mediation of the local Episcopal Conference. It provided for Kabila to remain in power and the formation of a national unity government with the participation of all political forces in order to hold elections by 2017. The government was formed but did not include the representatives of the Grouping of Opposition Armed Forces. CENI also announced on October 10 that elections could only take place in the spring of 2019 . Meanwhile, as Peace Network for Congo denounces to Fides, there are strong violations of the right to expression and demonstration in the DRC. "For several months - says a note - mayors and governors have not allowed, especially the opposition, the organization of any kind of political demonstration, including committees and meetings. Security forces immediately intervene to disperse any group with more than 5 to 10 people, often resorting to disproportionate use of force, using tear gas or even firing directly on demonstrators". "On the other hand, some demonstrators do not hesitate to place stones or burn tires in the streets, in order to prevent the circulation of vehicles" continues the note which stresses that by doing so protesters offer the pretext for the repressive intervention of police forces. "What was thought to be a tool of protest against power risks becoming a boomerang against the demonstrators themselves", he concludes. ...

ASIA/LEBANON - Maronite Patriarch on Hariri's resignation: vigilance over "any sabotage scheme aimed at undermining Lebanon's stability"

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 18:00
Beirut - Following the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, "there must be vigilance and full awareness against any sabotage plot or scheme aimed at undermining stability in the country". This is how Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai voiced regret over Prime Minister Saad Hariri's shock resignation while on a visit to Saudi Arabia, warning of the destabilizing effects that this choice might have on the fragile national balance. In his homily during Mass celebrated on Sunday November 5, the Primate of the Maronite Church invoked everyone to support the appeal launched by Lebanese President Michel Aoun to protect and strengthen national unity, showing patience and discernment in the choices to prevent that the Country of Cedars sinks in the spiral of conflict which continues to torment the Middle Eastern scenarios. Lebanon - added Patriarch Rai during the homily - should not be dragged into "regional or international axes that do not befit its nature, values and role as an element of cooperation, stability and coexistence in its Middle Eastern region". Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri announced his surprising resignation on Saturday November 4, while on a visit - for the second time in five days - to Saudi Arabia. The resignation announcement was given by the same Lebanese Sunni leader with a speech broadcast from al-Arabiya satellite TV. In his speech, Hariri harshly attacked the Lebanese Hezbollah Shiite movement -linked to Iran - accusing him of "targeting his weapons" against the inhabitants of Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, and highlighted the fear of threats to his life. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah responded to allegations claiming that the resignation of Sunni Hariri was an "imposed" decision by Saudi Arabia, and that the resigning Premier's speech "was written by the Saudis". A few days before the new Lebanese crisis, the official invitation to visit Saudi Arabia was delivered to Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai by Walid Bukhari, Saudi Chargé d'affaires. The visit to Saudi Arabia – said Bukhari himself - should have taken place in the coming weeks, and Patriarch Rai would have also met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. But now – said to Agenzia Fides Maronite priest Rouphael Zgheib, National President of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, new developments make it very unlikely that the visit will take place. "A Patriarch's trip to Saudi Arabia, at the moment", explained Father Zgheib, "risks looking like a field choice, and this was certainly not the intention of the Patriarch who had already stated that he was willing to visit Arabia Saudi Arabia to open new bridges to all". ...

ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Philippines's Youth Day begins: the young - "agents of change"

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 16:53
Zamboanga - "National Youth Day" in the Philippines begins today, November 6. The so-called "national WYD", which will last from 6 to 10 November, will see the presence of over 2,300 young people from all over the country. The chosen theme is based on the words of the Magnificat: "The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name" ". The participants are young people between the ages of 13 and 39 who, during the various meetings and celebrations, will reflect on issues relevant to young people's lives, such as social challenges, social media, human trafficking, promotion of social education, art and culture... The national gathering returns to Mindanao Island after 11 years: the last time it was held in Davao City in 2006. The event sees the fruitful collaboration of the Catholic community with civilian civil authorities, in a phase where the Martial Law, proclaimed by President Duterte after the Marawi crisis, is still in force on the island of Mindanao. "It is an opportunity to express the desire of young people to embrace Christ's mission among their peers", said the Mayor of Zamboanga, Catholic Mary Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, offering full organizational support to the event. The Archdiocese of Zamboanga, organizer of the event, together with the Commission for Youth pastoral within the Episcopal Conference, has set up a detailed program of activities: on the opening day the young people will walk together, in a colorful and peaceful prayer procession, in the streets of the city. Other processions and public processions on November 7 and November 9th. The days are marked by prayer encounters, liturgical celebrations, artistic and musical representations, sharing. "The local Church is very happy to host the event", says Anthony Saavedra, co-ordinator of the Youth Pastoral Committee in the Archdiocese of Zamboanga. "My hope is that Youth Day will allow young people from different places to meet in order to announce to the world how beautiful, precious and vital youth is. Young people participate with the desire to get to know God better and become pilgrims and apostles, to share with others the relationship with him", said Archbishop De La Cruz to Agenzia Fides. "This event - continues the Archbishop - contributes to strengthening youth pastoral care. Everyone gradually becomes more aware and appreciates the role of young people in the Church. Youth Day offers opportunities to express the desire of young people to embrace Christ's mission. The Day celebrates a gift, the gift of being young and followers of Christ. It calls our youth pastoral leaders to be attentive to the signs of our times, to be involved and engaged in the works promoted by the Church". "The Day is a way to accompany young people in their way of life, so that they can be loved by Christ", explains Fr. William Garcia, a priest who is participating in the event. The city of Zamboanga has a lot to offer young pilgrims: diverse cultural, ethnic and religious traditions that come from three communities, the Christian, Islamic and Indigenous communities. The Peninsula of Zamboanga is a historic mission area for the Philippine Church: in this city, Christian missionaries played a key role in promoting faith and justice. "At the end of this five-day celebration of faith, our dream is that young people recognize themselves as 'agents of change' for our Church and our country. Therefore, it is our hope that this encounter will help form our young people as future leaders and as missionaries of the Gospel in the world", says to Fides Fr. Wilfred Samson, local priest. From 1987 to 1990, the event was always held in Manila. Since 1991, however, it has been celebrated in several dioceses of the country. ...

AFRICA/NIGERIA - Nomadic herdsmen in Taraba force settled farmers to flee

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 16:00
Jalingo - Many ethnic groups live in the state of Taraba, one of Nigeria’s 36 States situated in the eastern part of the Country, bordering Cameroon. Tribes are divided into settled farmers, mostly Catholics, who cultivate cereals, tea, coffee, and nomadic populations of Muslim origin. What happens more and more often is that when farmers need new grazing land to feed their herds, they forcefully confiscate farmland. Tribes of nomadic herdsmen confiscate, with violence, the fields of settled farmers, forcing them to flee. Clashes begin, entire villages are destroyed, houses are severely damaged, and residents, including newborns, women and the elderly, are forced to flee. Thousands of people from rural areas are thus pouring into the outskirts of the city of Jalingo seeking help. Tired of everything, they find themselves living in refugee camps where hygiene conditions are bad: many children are bitten by snakes and insects, they get malaria and infections related to dirt and malnutrition. The situation worsens, and the Augustinian Fathers , present in the Country for more than 50 years, are working to help refugees with a support project in co-operation with the local diocese. "Our plan involves two phases", explains Father Michael Walsh, OSA, in a note sent to Fides, "the first regarding emergency support, in particular aimed at children, to provide food and basic necessities; the second regarding development, aimed at making households economically autonomous, allowing them to start a productive, agricultural or commercial activity on the outskirts of the city", concludes Father Michael, who has been in Nigeria for over 20 years. The Augustinian Irish brothers arrived in the country in 1938 and founded the first community in 1966. Although in Nigeria there is an important mining sector, it is also the most populous Country on the continent, with about 177 millions of inhabitants, and life expectancy is about 52 years and 70% of the population lives below the poverty line . In addition, the presence of the Boko Haram terrorist group and ongoing inter-ethnic clashes make the Country one of the most dangerous on the African continent. Despite this, the Augustinian Friars continue their work in fields such as education, health care, work formation for women and the youth, and peace building. ...

ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN - Dialogue is a form of life, control of religions, a necessity of the state

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 14:11
Astana - "Kazakhstan comes from a tradition of peaceful coexistence. If active politics of control of religion are being carried out today, it is because of the fears of instigators who often come from abroad, who finance the construction of large Islamic mosques. We recall, for example, that part of the capital Astana was built by the Bin Laden family. For a question of apparent fairness, therefore, the Kazakh government also controls all other religions". This is what Don Edoardo Canetta reports to Agenzia Fides, who for many years was a missionary in Kazakhstan, and also Apostolic Vicar for Central Asia and a professor at the Islamic University of Almaty, the National Eurasian University of Astana and Kazakh's Diplomatic Academy. Don Canetta, now a priest of the diocese of Milan and a professor at Ambrosiana University, explains to Fides how in the largest state of the Central Asian region "a law where no religious function can be celebrated with the exception of some places agreed with the state was approved already in 2011: for example, one cannot organize processions or liturgies outside the church territory. In addition, cameras have been installed at various places of worship because, in the event of an attack or violence, it is possible to identify the perpetrators". This tendency, according to Don Canetta, is a step backwards: after the achievement of independence in 1991, in fact, professing a faith had "become fashionable" in reaction to the persecutions of the communist regime which imposed atheism. Now as then, however, religious belonging is a minor aspect compared to the ethnic element: "the results of the first census of the Kazakh Republic, carried out in 1995, four years after independence were explicative, in this sense. With regards to religion, 70% of the population claimed they did not believe in God; at the same time, 50% professed the Muslim faith. In Kazakhstan, an atheist but of Russian origin, feels he formally belongs to the Orthodox Church; if he is Kazakh he defines himself as a Muslim, if he is German or Polish he is also Catholic and so on". In this interweaving of ethnicities and religions, he says, "coexistence has always been absolutely peaceful. I was Vicar General of all Central Asia for five years and when I went to open a new parish, it was often the country's mullah who hosted me. "On the other hand, Kazakh Islam comes from a moderate tradition: originally rejected by the nomads in the area, it was accepted only at the end of 1300, thanks to the mediation of Ahmed Hadgi Jassavy, great Sufi master of Turkestan. This led to the spread of a Muslim religion based, for example, on prayers in Kazakh language or on a cult of non-Islamic deaths. Even the civil and criminal code moves away from the sharia because it provides, among other things, the possibility of baptism or substitution of jail and death penalty with a series of mediations". "When the Soviet Union fell", the priest said, "the preachers from Saudi Arabia arrived and claimed that this was not true Islam. That is why there is today a debate between those who support the Kazakh tradition and the so-called 'fundamentalists'. Of course, however, when it comes to Islamic fundamentalism, one must absolutely distinguish it from terrorism: it is the latter phenomenon that worries the state. In fact, just like in European countries, there are several foreign fighters in Central Asia as well". This is confirmed by the birth date of the authors of recent attacks: the last in order of time is Sayfullo Saipov, the Uzbek who hit New York last October 31. The attackers of Stockholm and Istanbul also came from Central Asia, as well as one of the child killers in the video released by ISIS in August 2016. ...

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