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Pope urges Oriental Churches to continue courageous witness

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 18:08
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday celebrated Mass in the Basilica of St Mary Major to mark the centenary of the foundation of the Pontifical Oriental Institute  and the Congregation for Eastern Churches. In his homily the pope encouraged all Christians of the Oriental Churches to continue with their courageous witness, despite the dramatic persecutions that they suffer. Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report Recalling the establishment of the Institute by Benedict XV in 1917, during the First World War, Pope Francis said that today we are living though another “piecemeal” world war. When we see the persecution and worrying exodus of Christians, he said, just like the people of the Old Testament, we cry out “Why?” Persecution of Christians In today’s reading from the prophet Malachi, the pope continued, we read about those who turn away from God and do evil, yet they go unpunished. In the same way today, he said, we see unscrupulous people who destroy others in order to pursue their own ends and we ask God, “Why?” We find the answer in the verses of Malachi, Pope Francis said, as we read about the way God listens to his people and records their suffering in a ‘book of memories’. Pray and trust in the Lord Pointing to the words from St Luke’s Gospel, the pope said if we pray and trust in the Lord, we know that “everyone who asks, receives; those who seek, find; and to those who knock, the door will be opened”. But do we really know how to pray, to knock on the door of God’s heart, the pope asked? The Gospel reminds us that if we, sinners, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” God's gift of the Holy Spirit The Spirit is God’s great gift to us, Pope Francis concluded, so let us learn how to knock courageously on the door of God’s heart. May courageous prayer inspire and sustain your service to the Church, he told the Oriental Church leaders, so that it may bear fruit which does not wither and die. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: The dynamic word of God cannot be moth-balled

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 00:57
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday evening addressed participants attending a meeting celebrating the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Promulgation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. In his prepared remarks to those gathered  the Pope said that, it is in the very nature of the Church to “guard” the deposit of faith and to “pursue” the Church’s path, so that the truth present in Jesus’ preaching of the Gospel may grow in fullness until the end of time.   Medicine of Mercy He went on to say that, “with the joy born of Christian hope, and armed with the “medicine of mercy”, we approach the men and women of our time to help them discover the inexhaustible richness contained in the person of Jesus Christ. The Pope described the Catechism as an important instrument adding that, it  “presents the faithful with the perennial teaching of the Church so that they can grow in their understanding of the faith.” Death Penalty During his discourse, the Holy Father brought up the subject of the death penalty saying that  it is a “subject that ought to find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church a more adequate and coherent treatment”… Pope Francis went on to say that, “it must be clearly stated that the death penalty is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity.” Concluding his remarks the Holy Father said that, “ the word of God cannot be moth-balled like some old blanket in an attempt to keep insects at bay! No.  The word of God is a dynamic and living reality that develops and grows because it is aimed at a fulfilment that none can halt”, he said.   Before imparting his Apostolic Blessing on those present, the Pope underlined that,  “doctrine cannot be preserved without allowing it to develop, nor can it be tied to an interpretation that is rigid and immutable without demeaning the working of the Holy Spirit.”       Please find the English language  translation of Pope Francis' prepared remarks below:            I offer a warm greeting to all of you and I thank Archbishop Fisichella for his kind words of introduction.          The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, by which Saint John Paul II, thirty years after the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church, offers a significant opportunity for taking stock of the progress made in the meantime.  It was the desire and will of Saint John XXIII to call the Council, not primarily to condemn error, but so that the Church could have an opportunity at last to present the beauty of her faith in Jesus Christ in language attuned to the times.  “It is necessary,” the Pope stated in his opening address, “that the Church should never depart from the sacred patrimony of truth received from the Fathers.  But at the same time she must ever look to the present, to the new conditions and new forms of life introduced into the modern world which have opened new avenues to the Catholic apostolate” (11 October 1962).  “It is our duty,” he continued, “not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves, with an earnest will and without fear, to that work which our era demands of us, thus pursuing the path which the Church has followed for twenty centuries” (ibid.).          It is in the very nature of the Church to “guard” the deposit of faith and to “pursue” the Church’s path, so that the truth present in Jesus’ preaching of the Gospel may grow in fullness until the end of time.  This is a grace granted to the People of God, but it is also a task and a mission for which we are responsible, that of proclaiming to our contemporaries in a new and fuller way the perennial Good News.  With the joy born of Christian hope, and armed with the “medicine of mercy” (ibid.), we approach the men and women of our time to help them discover the inexhaustible richness contained in the person of Jesus Christ.          In presenting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Saint John Paul II stated that it should “take into account the doctrinal statements which down the centuries the Holy Spirit has made known to his Church.  It should also help illumine with the light of faith the new situations and problems which had not yet emerged in the past” (Fidei Depositum, 3).  The Catechism is thus an important instrument.  It presents the faithful with the perennial teaching of the Church so that they can grow in their understanding of the faith.  But it especially seeks to draw our contemporaries – with their new and varied problems – to the Church, as she seeks to present the faith as the meaningful answer to human existence at this moment of history.  It is not enough to find a new language in which to articulate our perennial faith; it is also urgent, in the light of the new challenges and prospects facing humanity, that the Church be able to express the “new things” of Christ’s Gospel, that, albeit present in the word of God, have not yet come to light.  This is the treasury of “things old and new” of which Jesus spoke when he invited his disciples to teach the newness that he had brought, without forsaking the old (cf. Mt 13:52).          One of the most beautiful pages in the Gospel of John is his account of the so-called “priestly prayer” of Jesus.  Just before his passion and death, Jesus speaks to the Father of his obedience in having brought to fulfilment the mission entrusted to him.  His words, a kind of hymn to love, also contain the request that the disciples be gathered and preserved in unity (cf. Jn 17:12-15).  The words, “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn 17:3), represent the culmination of Jesus’s mission. To know God, as we are well aware, is not in the first place an abstract exercise of human reason, but an irrepressible desire present in the heart of every person.  This knowledge comes from love, for we have encountered the Son of God on our journey (cf. Lumen Fidei, 28).  Jesus of Nazareth walks at our side and introduces us, by his words and the signs he performs, to the great mystery of the Father’s love.  This knowledge is strengthened daily by faith’s certainty that we are loved and, for this reason, part of a meaningful plan.  Those who love long to know better the beloved, and therein to discover the hidden richness that appears each day as something completely new.          For this reason, our Catechism unfolds in the light of love, as an experience of knowledge, trust, and abandonment to the mystery. In explaining its structure, the Catechism of the Catholic Church borrows a phrase from the Roman Catechism and proposes it as the key to its reading and application: “The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends.  Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 25).          Along these same lines, I would like now to bring up a subject that ought to find in the Catechism of the Catholic Church a more adequate and coherent treatment in the light of these expressed aims.  I am speaking of the death penalty.  This issue cannot be reduced to a mere résumé of traditional teaching without taking into account not only the doctrine as it has developed in the teaching of recent Popes, but also the change in the awareness of the Christian people which rejects an attitude of complacency before a punishment deeply injurious of human dignity.  It must be clearly stated that the death penalty is an inhumane measure that, regardless of how it is carried out, abases human dignity.  It is per se contrary to the Gospel, because it entails the willful suppression of a human life that never ceases to be sacred in the eyes of its Creator and of which – ultimately – only God is the true judge and guarantor.  No man, “not even a murderer, loses his personal dignity” (Letter to the President of the International Commission against the Death Penalty, 20 March 2015), because God is a Father who always awaits the return of his children who, knowing that they have made mistakes, ask for forgiveness and begin a new life.  No one ought to be deprived not only of life, but also of the chance for a moral and existential redemption that in turn can benefit the community.          In past centuries, when means of defence were scarce and society had yet to develop and mature as it has, recourse to the death penalty appeared to be the logical consequence of the correct application of justice.  Sadly, even in the Papal States recourse was had to this extreme and inhumane remedy that ignored the primacy of mercy over justice. Let us take responsibility for the past and recognize that the imposition of the death penalty was dictated by a mentality more legalistic than Christian.  Concern for preserving power and material wealth led to an over-estimation of the value of the law and prevented a deeper understanding of the Gospel.  Nowadays, however, were we to remain neutral before the new demands of upholding personal dignity, we would be even more guilty.          Here we are not in any way contradicting past teaching, for the defence of the dignity of human life from the first moment of conception to natural death has been taught by the Church consistently and authoritatively.  Yet the harmonious development of doctrine demands that we cease to defend arguments that now appear clearly contrary to the new understanding of Christian truth.  Indeed, as Saint Vincent of Lérins pointed out, “Some may say: Shall there be no progress of religion in Christ’s Church?  Certainly; all possible progress.  For who is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it?” (Commonitorium, 23.1; PL 50). It is necessary, therefore, to reaffirm that no matter how serious the crime that has been committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and the dignity of the person.          “The Church, in her teaching, life and worship, perpetuates and hands on to all generations all that she herself is, all that she believes” (Dei Verbum, 8).  The Council Fathers could not have found a finer and more synthetic way of expressing the nature and mission of the Church.  Not only in “teaching”, but also in “life” and “worship”, are the faithful able to be God’s People.  Through a series of verbs the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation expresses the dynamic nature of this process: “This Tradition develops […] grows […] and constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth, until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her” (ibid.)          Tradition is a living reality and only a partial vision regards the “deposit of faith” as something static.  The word of God cannot be moth-balled like some old blanket in an attempt to keep insects at bay!  No.  The word of God is a dynamic and living reality that develops and grows because it is aimed at a fulfilment that none can halt.  This law of progress, in the happy formulation of Saint Vincent of Lérins, “consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age” (Commonitorium, 23.9: PL 50), is a distinguishing mark of revealed truth as it is handed down by the Church, and in no way represents a change in doctrine.          Doctrine cannot be preserved without allowing it to develop, nor can it be tied to an interpretation that is rigid and immutable without demeaning the working of the Holy Spirit.  “God, who in many and various ways spoke of old to our fathers” (Heb 1:1), “uninterruptedly converses with the bride of his beloved Son” (Dei Verbum, 8).  We are called to make this voice our own by “reverently hearing the word of God” (ibid., 1), so that our life as a Church may progress with the same enthusiasm as in the beginning, towards those new horizons to which the Lord wishes to guide us.          I thank you for this meeting and for your work, and to all of you I cordially impart my blessing.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis meets with young cricketers from Buenos Aires

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 00:49
(Vatican Radio) Cricket is not a sport normally associated with Argentina, but among the groups greeting Pope Francis at his general audience on Wednesday was a team of young cricketers from his native Buenos Aires . Cricket Sin Fronteras (Cricket Without Borders) is a project that was begun almost a decade ago in the poorest parts of the capital,  the ‘ villas miserias ’ where the Church is engaged in offering alternatives to the widespread violence and crime. Though few Argentinians were familiar with the sport, its popularity has grown and now hundreds of kids, both boys and girls, take part in the project. This week a team of young players was invited to play against St Peter’s Cricket Club , set up under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Culture and comprised mainly of seminarians studying for the priesthood here in Rome. The cricketers attending the audience in St Peter’s Square had brought with them bats to be blessed, made by inmates from a local jail. The organisers insist that through the sport, youngsters learn values of respect, inclusion and teamwork that will enable them to build a brighter future. Among them is the team’s head coach, Hernan Fennell , who talked to Philippa Hitchen about how the project began: Listen:  Fennell explains that the idea was proposed in 2009 to Fr Pepe [Di Paola], one of the best known Catholic priests working in the poorest areas of Buenos Aires. Among the founders of the project was Daniel Juarez, a longtime friend of Jorge Bergoglio, who was on hand in St Peter’s Square to tell him more about the initiative. Example of inclusion Pope Francis blessed the team and encouraged them to “keep it going, really, it’s an example [of inclusion] for all of us”. Fennell explains that the project began with just four or five kids from the poorest part of town. As it became more popular, the team needed to find more coaches and it has recently been rolled out in state schools as well. Almost 800 boys and girls, aged between six and twenty, are now learning to play the sport Teaching spirit of cricket Among the major challenges, Fennell, goes on, it the difficulties of teaching ‘the spirit of cricket’ to those living in a football culture. If we can make that spirit better known, he says “it’ll be a huge win for us”. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at audience calls for attitude of attentive waiting

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 00:29
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday continued his reflections on Christian hope, talking this week about the attitude of 'attentive waiting'. His words came during his weekly General Audience in St Peter’s Square. Listen to our report:  Pope Francis said just as Jesus tells his disciples to be like those who await the return of their master, with lamps alight, Christians must always be attentive, awaiting the Lord’s return. Attentiveness requires patience Every day is a new opportunity to be attentive to God, the pope continued, to welcome the day as his gift, and to live that day by offering our good works to him.  Such attentiveness requires patience, he said, yet no night is so long, as to make us forget the joy that comes with dawn. Future guided by God's providence As Christians, the pope concluded, we know that that no matter what we may suffer, life has its purpose and the merciful Lord will greet us at its end.  Thus we can look upon history and our own lives with confidence and hope, he added, knowing that the future is not guided solely by the work of our hands, but by God’s providence.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis General Audience: English summary

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 17:45
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday continued his catechesis on hope at his General Audience in St Peter’s Square. Please find below the full English summary of his words Dear Brothers and Sisters: Today I wish to speak about that dimension of hope which we can call attentive waiting.  Jesus tells his disciples to be like those who await the return of their master, with lamps alight (cf. Lk 12:35-36).  As Christians, therefore, we are always attentive, awaiting the Lord’s return, when God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28).  Every day is a new opportunity to be attentive to God, to welcome the day as his gift, and to live that day by offering our good works to him.  Such attentiveness requires patience, however, if we are not to lose sight of God’s grace when our days are monotonous, or our difficulties many.  For no night is so long, as to make us forget the joy that comes with dawn.  As Christians, we know that Christ will return; that no matter what we may suffer, life has its purpose and deeper meaning, and that the merciful Lord will greet us at its end.  Thus we can look upon history and our own lives with confidence and hope, knowing that the future is not guided solely by the work of our hands but by God’s providence.  May we repeat everyday the words of the first disciples: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).  And in our most difficult moments, may we hear the consoling response of Jesus: “Behold, I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:7). I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from England, Scotland, Demark, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America.  In particular I greet those who will be celebrating World Sight Day tomorrow, and I assure all who are blind and visually impaired of my closeness and prayers.  Upon you and your families, I invoke the grace of the Lord Jesus, that you may be steadfast in hope and trust in God’s providence in your lives.  May God bless you all! (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope urges harmony among India’s Latin and Eastern rite bishops

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 20:39
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday urged for a " fruitful and harmonious cooperation ” among the bishops of the three ritual Churches of India, as they reach out to provide pastoral care to their respective faithful, spread out in various parts of the country.  “In India itself, overlapping jurisdictions should no longer be problematic, for the Church has experienced them for some time, such as in Kerala,” the Pope wrote in a letter the Indian Bishops.  The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) is the apex body of the Catholic Church of India, ‎that is composed of three ‘sui iuris’  Churches:  the Latin rite and the two ‎eastern rites – the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara ‎Churches, which claim their origin from St. Thomas the Apostle.  Of the 172 dioceses in India, 132 belong to the Latin rite.  “In a world where large numbers of Christians are forced to migrate, overlapping jurisdictions have become customary and are increasingly effective tools for ensuring the pastoral care of the faithful while also ensuring full respect for their ecclesial traditions,” the Pope wrote.  He thus authorized the Vatican Congregation for the Oriental Churches to erect two eparchies (dioceses)  for the the Syro-Malabar Church and to extend the boundaries of two others.  Please find below the full text of Pope Francis letter to the bishops of India: Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis to the Bishops of India Dear Brother Bishops,          1.  The remarkable varietas Ecclesiarum, the result of a long historical, cultural, spiritual and disciplinary development, constitutes a treasure of the Church, regina in vestitu deaurato circumdata variegate (cf. Ps 44 and Leo XIII, Orientalium Dignitas), who awaits her groom with the fidelity and patience of the wise virgin, equipped with an abundant supply of oil, so that the light of her lamp may enlighten all peoples in the long night of awaiting the Lord’s coming.          This variety of ecclesial life, which shines with great splendour throughout lands and nations, is also found in India.  The Catholic Church in India has its origins in the preaching of the Apostle Thomas.  It developed through contact with the Churches of Chaldean and Antiochian traditions and, from the sixteenth century onward, through the efforts of Latin missionaries.  The history of Christianity in this great country thus led to three distinct sui iuris Churches, corresponding to ecclesial expressions of the same faith celebrated in different rites according to the three liturgical, spiritual, theological and disciplinary traditions.  Although this situation has sometimes led to tensions in the course of history, today we can admire a Christian presence that is both rich and beautiful, complex and unique.          2.  It is essential for the Catholic Church to reveal her face in all its beauty to the world, in the richness of her various traditions.  For this reason the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, which celebrates its centenary year, having been established through the farsightedness of Pope Benedict XV in 1917, has encouraged, where necessary, the restoration of Eastern Catholic traditions, and ensured their protection, as well as respect for the dignity and rights of these ancient Churches.          3.  The Second Vatican Council embraced this vision of the Church and reminded the faithful of the need to protect and preserve the treasure of the particular traditions of each Church.  “Moreover, within the Church particular Churches hold a rightful place; these Churches retain their own traditions, without in any way opposing the primacy of the Chair of Peter, which presides over the whole assembly of charity (cf. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Rom., Praef.), and protects legitimate differences, while at the same time assuring that such differences do not hinder unity but rather contribute toward it” (Lumen Gentium, 13).          4.  As Lumen Gentium teaches, it is for the Bishop of Rome to promote unity in the diversity of the Body of Christ.  In this task, the Roman Pontiffs faithfully interpret and apply the voice of the Second Vatican Council, which expressed the ardent desire that the Oriental Churches, venerated for their antiquity, should “flourish and with new apostolic vigour execute the task entrusted to them” (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 1).  Their responsibility is not only to become ever more effective instruments of that “special duty of promoting the unity of all Christians, especially Eastern Christians” (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 24), but also to promote their “equal dignity […] for they enjoy the same rights and are under the same obligations, also in respect of preaching the Gospel to the whole world” (Orientalium Ecclesiarum, 3).          Thirty years ago, my beloved predecessor Saint John Paul II wrote a Letter to the Bishops of India.  Drawing on the Second Vatican Council, he sought to apply the conciliar teaching to the Indian context.  In India, even after many centuries, Christians are only a small proportion of the population and, consequently, there is a particular need to demonstrate unity and to avoid any semblance of division.  Saint John Paul II also stated that the need for unity and the preservation of diversity are not opposed to one another: “This need to be faithful to the traditions and patrimony of one’s own rite must not be interpreted as an interference with the Church’s task of ‘gathering into one the children of God who are scattered abroad’ (Jn 11:52) or with the mission of the Church to promote the communion of all people with the Redeemer” (Epistula ad Indiae Episcopos, 28 May 1987).          5.  Five decades ago, when the Syro-Malabar Church expanded to some central and northern parts of India with “missionary eparchies”, it was generally thought by the Latin Bishops that there should be just one jurisdiction, that is, one bishop in a particular territory.  These eparchies, created from Latin dioceses, today have exclusive jurisdiction over those territories, both of the Latin and Syro-Malabar faithful.  However, both in the traditional territories of the Eastern Churches, as well as in the vast area of the so-called diaspora (where these faithful have long been established), a fruitful and harmonious cooperation between Catholic bishops of the different sui iuris Churches within the same territory has taken place.  This cooperation not only offers an ecclesiological justification for such a solution, but also demonstrates its pastoral benefits.  In a world where large numbers of Christians are forced to migrate, overlapping jurisdictions have become customary and are increasingly effective tools for ensuring the pastoral care of the faithful while also ensuring full respect for their ecclesial traditions.          6.  In India itself, overlapping jurisdictions should no longer be problematic, for the Church has experienced them for some time, such as in Kerala.  Saint John Paul II’s Letter authorized the erection of a Syro-Malabar eparchy in the Bombay-Pune region, which became the Eparchy of Kalyan.  In 2012 the Syro-Malabar Eparchy of Faridabad was erected in the region of Delhi and its neighbouring states, while the boundaries of the Eparchy of Mandya were extended in 2015 to include the metropolitan area of Bangalore.  In the same year, an Eparchy and an Apostolic Exarchate were erected for the Syro-Malankar faithful, so that by these ecclesiastical circumscriptions the Syro-Malankar Church could provide pastoral care for its faithful throughout the territory of India.  All these developments show that, albeit not without problems, the presence of a number of bishops in the same area does not compromise the mission of the Church.  On the contrary, these steps have given greater impetus to the local Churches for their pastoral and missionary efforts.          7.  In 2011 my predecessor Benedict XVI wished to provide for the pastoral needs of the Syro-Malabar faithful throughout India, and I confirmed his intention following the plenary session of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in 2013.  Archbishop Raphael Thattil is currently the Apostolic Visitor for those Syro-Malabar faithful in India who live outside their own territory, and he has provided detailed reports to the Apostolic See.  This issue has been examined in meetings at the highest levels of the Church.  Following these steps, I believe the time is now right to complete this process.          I have therefore authorized the Congregation for the Oriental Churches to provide for the pastoral care of the Syro-Malabar faithful throughout India by the erection of two Eparchies and by the extension of the boundaries of the two already in existence.          I decree also that the new circumscriptions, as with those already in existence, be entrusted to the pastoral care of the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly and to the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church, according to the norms of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches.          8.  I hope that my decision will be welcomed with a generous and peaceful spirit, although it may be a source of apprehension for some, since many Syro-Malabars, deprived of pastoral care in their own rite, are at present fully involved in the life of the Latin Church.  I am convinced, however, that all those involved will understand that there is no need for concern: the Church’s life should not be disrupted by such a provision.  Indeed it must not be negatively interpreted as imposing upon the faithful a requirement to leave the communities which have welcomed them, sometimes for many generations, and to which they have contributed in various ways.  It should rather be seen as an invitation as well as an opportunity for growth in faith and communion with their sui iuris Church, in order to preserve the precious heritage of their rite and to pass it on to future generations.  There is already an instruction by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches to the Eparchy of Faridabad, which indicates that a member of the Syro-Malabar faithful, by virtue of the same law, is also a member of the Syro-Malabar parish where he or she is domiciled (Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, Can, 280 §1); yet at the same time, he or she can remain fully involved in the life and activities of the parish of the Latin Church.  No dispensation is required from the law currently in force for the faithful to practice their faith serenely, and they may do this with the pastoral care of either Latin or Syro-Malabar pastors (cf. Prot. No. 197/2014, 28 January 2016).               9. The path of the Catholic Church in India cannot be that of isolation and separation, but rather of respect and cooperation.  The presence of several bishops of the various sui iuris Churches in the same territory will surely offer an eloquent witness to a vibrant and marvellous communion.  This is the vision of the Second Vatican Council, which I quote once again: “Between all the parts of the Church there remains a bond of close communion whereby they share spiritual riches, apostolic workers and temporal resources.  For the members of the people of God are called to share these goods in common, and of each of the Churches the words of the Apostle hold good: ‘According to the gift that each has received, administer it to one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God’ (1 Pet 4:10)” (Lumen Gentium, 13).  It is in this spirit that I urge all the beloved Churches in India to be generous and courageous as they witness to the Gospel in the spirit of fraternity and mutual love.  For the Syro-Malabar Church, this continues the valued work of their priests and religious in the Latin context, and sustains their availability for those Syro-Malabar faithful who, although choosing to attend Latin parishes, may request some assistance from their Church of origin.  The Latin rite Church can continue to generously offer hospitality to members of the Syro-Malabar communities who do not have church buildings of their own.  The cooperation among all the sui iuris Churches should continue, for example in the area of retreats and seminars for clergy, Bible conferences, celebrations of common feast days and ecumenical endeavours.  With the growth of spiritual friendship and mutual assistance, any tension or apprehension should be swiftly overcome.  May this extension of the pastoral area of the Syro-Malabar Church in no way be perceived as a growth in power and domination, but as a call to deeper communion, which should never be perceived as uniformity.  In the words of Saint Augustine, who sang the praises of the Trinity and of the wonderful communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I also ask you: dilatentur spatia caritatis (Sermon 69, PL 5, 440.441).  May there be a growth in love, communion and service.          Dear brother Bishops, I commend all of you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and I assure you of my closeness in prayer.  To all of you, the Church and the faithful in India, I impart my Apostolic Blessing, and I ask that you pray for me. From the Vatican, 9 October 2017   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Mass: 'God's omnipotence is manifested in His mercy'

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 20:22
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday reminded the faithful that God’s infinite mercy prevails over all, but he warned against rigidity and invited Christians to always open their hearts. The Pope was speaking during morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta . Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni Reflecting, for the second consecutive day, on a reading from the Book of Jonah, Pope Francis concluded that it is God’s mercy that opens our hearts and wins over everything.  Recalling the story of the prophet Jonah whom – he said – “was a stubborn man who wanted to teach God how to do things” he described him as “sick with rigidity”, “a starved soul”. In the Bible story, the Pope said, the Lord asks Jonah to convert the city of Nineveh. First the prophet refuses to do so and runs away; then he carries out God’s orders “and he does it well”. But still, Francis observed, Jonah is “angry” and indignant because the Lord shows forgiveness towards the people who, with open hearts, showed repentance. Rigidity is an obstacle “Those who have stubborn souls do not understand what God's mercy is” he said.  They are like Jonah, he continued, they do not know how to open their hearts to the Lord. He described them as “faint-hearted” - with little hearts that are closed to mercy - and attached to issues of naked righteousness: “they forget that the justice of God became flesh in his Son, it became mercy and forgiveness; they forget that God’s heart is always open to forgiveness”. Something else they forget, the Pope added, is that “the omnipotence of God is manifested primarily in His mercy and forgiveness”. God's omnipotence is primarily manifested in in His mercy “It is not easy to understand God's mercy, it is not easy. Much prayer is needed because it is a grace” he said. And, Francis noted, we are so accustomed to the tit-for-tat attitude - that kind of attitude that implies that justice means paying for what you did, but – he said: “Jesus paid for us and continues to pay.” Referring again to the story of the Jonah, he said that God could have abandoned the prophet to his stubbornness and to his rigidity. Instead, he went to talk to him and convinced him; he saved him just as he saved the people of Nineveh. The God of patience who know how to open hearts “He is the God of patience, He is the God who knows how to give a caress, who knows how to open hearts”. Pope Francis pointed out that the message at the heart the prophetic Book is to be found in the dialogue between prophecy, penance, mercy and faint-heartedness or stubbornness. And, he said, it is in the fact that God’s mercy always prevails because His omnipotence is manifested in His mercy. I advise you, Francis concluded, to read the Book of Jonah today: “it is very small, only three pages, and see how the Lord acts, how His mercy transforms our hearts, and thank the Lord for being so merciful”. (from Vatican Radio)...

Schedule of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Myanmar, Bangladesh

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 17:56
The Vatican on Tuesday released the schedule of Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh.   The two-nation papal visit was announced earlier by the Vatican on August 28.  ‎After visiting Myanmar, Nov 27 to 30 , he will proceed to neighbouring Bangladesh,  Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 . He is scheduled to land in Yangon , Myanmar in the afternoon on Nov. 27, where he will be given an official welcome.  The following afternoon (Nov. 28) he will fly to the capital Nay Pyi Taw , where after meeting the president, government officials and the diplomatic corps, he will fly back to Yangon  at night.   On Nov. 29 the Holy Father will celebrate his first public Mass, meet the Buddhist supreme council and Myanmar’s bishops.  Pope Francis will wrap up his Myanmar with a Mass for young people on Nov. 30 and fly to neighbouring Bangladesh in the afternoon.  After a welcome ceremony at Dhaka airport, the Pope will pay homage to Bangadesh’s martyrs and father of the nation.  He will then pay courtesy visit to the president and address the diplomatic corps.  On Dec. 1, the Pope will celebrate a public Mass with priestly ordination, meet the prime minister, the country’s bishops and representatives of various religions and Christian Churches.  On the last day, Dec. 2,  the Pope will visit a home run by the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa, address priests, religious seminarians and novices.  Before flying back to Rome in the evening, he will meet the young people.    (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope receives German president in private audience ‎

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 20:44
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received President Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany in a private audience in the Vatican on Monday.  The Holy See’s Press office issued a statement saying Steinmeier later met Vatican Secretary ‎of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin along with Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher . During the “cordial talks”, the Press Office said, the two sides expressed satisfaction over the good relations and fruitful relations between the Holy See and Germany, and between Church and the institutions in the country.  They also expressed appreciation for the positive inter-religious and ecumenical dialogue, especially between Catholics and Protestants during the 5th centenary of the Lutheran Reformation.  Monday’s talks also touched upon some issues of common interest, such as the economic and religious situation in Europe and in the world, with special reference to the phenomenon of migration and the promotion of the culture of welcome and solidarity.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: The Good Samaritan manifests the mystery of Christ ‎

Mon, 10/09/2017 - 20:12
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday urged Christians to emulate the figure of the Good Samaritan and help those in need to get up, like Christ who “continues to pay” for us.   Delivering a homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican, he reflected on the attitude of the various actors in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel, which, he said, was an answer to the doctor of the Law on who his neighbour was. Actors in the parable  Commenting on the robbers , the priest who is “a man of God”, and the Levite who is “close to the law”, all of whom passed by the wounded and half-dead man, the Pope said this is a very common habit among us.  We see an ugly calamity and pass by and later read about it, painted with a bit of “scandal and sensation’, in the newspapers.  Instead the Samaritan, a pagan and sinner “saw and did not pass by”, the Pope said, drawing attention to the words of Luke - “he had compassion.”  Making the wounded man his neighbour, the Samaritan approached him, bandaged his wounds pouring in oil and wine.  Neither did he leave him there and go his way.  He carried him on his animal to the innkeeper, whom he paid to look after him and promised to pay the extra expenses on his return.  Mystery of Christ “This,” the Pope said “is the mystery of Christ who became a servant, humbled and annihilated himself and died for us .”  Jesus, the Pope said, is the Good Samaritan who invited the doctor of the law to do the same.  The mystery of Jesus Christ is not a children’s tale, the Pope pointed out adding, the parable reveals the depth and breadth of the mystery of Jesus Christ.  The doctor of the law did not understand the mystery of Christ but he surely understood the human principle behind it - that every man who looks from above at another man down below , does so only to help him get up .  One who does this, the Pope stressed, is on the right path to Jesus. Self examination Pope Francis said the innkeeper understood nothing of this, bewildered at meeting someone who did things he never heard before.  This, the Pope said is what happens when one meets Jesus.  The Holy Father urged Christians to re-read this parable and examine themselves on their attitude – a robber, a cheater, a corrupt man, a priest, a Catholic manager, or a sinner.  "Do I approach and make myself a neighbour and servant to those in need like Jesus," the Pope asked, concluding his homily. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Angelus: The novelty of Christianity is God's mercy

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 19:19
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis during his Angelus address on Sunday told pilgrims in St Peter’s Square that the great novelty of Christianity is a God who, though disappointed by our sins, is merciful. Listen to our report: “God continues to put in place the "new wine" of his vineyard, that is, mercy. There is only one impediment to the tenacious and tender will of God: our arrogance and our presumption, which sometimes can becomes violence.” Those were Pope Francis’ words to pilgrims in St Peter’s Square during his Angelus address , as he reflected on this Sunday’s liturgy, the parable of the vine-growers. The Pope recounted the story of the vine growers who are put in charge of the vineyard by their Master, but abuse their position to the point of killing the owner’s son. The Holy Father described this Gospel passage as a love story which had both positive and negative moments. A God who does not avenge Pope Francis said that in order to understand how God the Father responds to those opposed to his love, the Gospel passage proposes the question, "when will the master of the vineyard arrive and what will he do to those growers?" This question,  the Pope noted, “stresses that the disappointment of God for the wicked behaviour of men is not the last word. Here is the great novelty of Christianity : a God who, though disappointed by our mistakes and our sins, does not fail in his word, does not stop and above all it does not avenge”. The Holy Father went on to say that, faced with these attitudes and where no fruit is produced, the Word of God warns that, "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will bear fruit". The urgency of responding with good fruits to the call of the Lord, who calls us to become his vineyard, explained Pope Francis, “helps us to understand what is new and original in Christianity. It is an invitation to enter this love story, becoming a lively and open vine, rich in fruit and hope for everyone.” At the end of the Angelus, the Pope recalled the Beatification on Saturday in Milan of Father Arsenio da Trigolo, a priest of the Capuchin Friars Minor saying, “we praise the Lord for this humble disciple, who even in adversity and trials never lost hope.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis receives PM of Lithuania

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 21:12
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania , Saulius Skvernelis , on Friday. A communiqué from the Press Office of the Holy See issued following the meeting says the Pope and the Prime Minister had cordial discussions, during which appreciation was expressed for the good state of bilateral relations and the positive contribution of the Catholic Church in Lithuanian society throughout the centuries. The communiqué goes on to say that it was in this context, that mention was made of the recent beatification of the martyr to Soviet imperial Communism, Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis , which took place this past June. The Press Office of the Holy See also reports that themes of common interest, such as the prospects for the future development of European integration, the emigration of the young and the reception of migrants, and peace and security at regional and international level, were also part of the conversation. Skvernelis subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin , accompanied by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for Relations with States. (from Vatican Radio)...

Shame for one's sins is God’s grace – Pope ‎

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 19:31
Vatican Radio)  "No one can say, 'I'm right' or 'I'm not like him or her.' I'm a sinner, I'd say it's almost the first name we all have – sinners.”  Pope Francis focused on man’s sinfulness and the need for remorse in his homily at Mass, Friday morning at the Casa Santa Marta residence in the Vatican.  He was commenting on the first reading from Prophet Baruch who said, ‎"Justice is with the Lord, our God; and we today are flushed with shame.”     All are sinners "Priests, king, leaders and fathers,” all of us are sinners, the Pope said citing Baruch. “ We are sinners because God has asked to do one thing and we have done the contrary.  He has talked to parents, the family, the catechist, in the church, in the sermons, and he has spoken to us in our hearts. The Pope explained that sin is a rebellion, an obstinacy that consists in giving into the " perverse inclinations of our heart" in "small idolatries of every day" such as cupidity, envy, hate, and especially slander , which he described as a "war of the heart destroying the other." According to Baruch, it is because of sin that there are so many evils.  Sin, the Pope said, ruins the heart, life and the soul by weakening and making it ill.  Sin is always in relationship to God.  Shame opens the door to healing Sin, the Pope further explained, is not like a stain that one gets rid of at the dry cleaner’s. It is an ugly  rebellion against God who is all good.  If one regards sin this way, then instead of getting into a depression if one has the great sentiment of shame , it is the grace of God , according to Baruch the Pope said.   It is shame that "opens the door to healing", the Holy Father said, and invited all to feel ashamed before the Lord for our sins and ask for healing.  And when the almighty Lord sees us ashamed of what we have done, and we humbly ask pardon, He embraces and forgives us. The Pope urged all to be grateful to the Lord for manifesting His might in His mercy and forgiveness .   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: protecting children in the digital world top priority

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 19:02
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the participants in the first-ever World Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital World on Friday. The Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University hosted the four-day event, which brought experts in child care, internet security, law enforcement, education, and a host of other fields together to share experiences and best practices, with a view to addressing the problem of the effective protection of the dignity of minors in the digital world. Click below to hear our report Child dignity – a crisis and a response in context In remarks prepared for the participants and delivered to them in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace shortly after noon on Friday, Pope Francis placed the challenges facing individuals and whole societies the world, over, in the context of the struggle not only to articulate, but effectively to guarantee, the rights and dignity of every person – especially the weakest and most vulnerable, and chief among these, children and young people – on which the human family has embarked and in which the Church has been engaged especially since the drafting of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1959 Declaration on the Rights of the Child . “As representatives of various scientific disciplines and the fields of digital communications, law and political life,” Pope Francis said, “you [participants in the World Congress] have come together precisely because you realize the gravity of these challenges linked to scientific and technical progress.” He went on to say, “With great foresight, you have concentrated on what is probably the most crucial challenge for the future of the human family: the protection of young people’s dignity, their healthy development, their joy and their hope.” Speaking specifically of the danger the proliferation of pornographic material poses in the digital age, Pope Francis said, “The spread of printed pornography in the past was a relatively small phenomenon compared to the proliferation of pornography on the net.” He went on to say, “[W]e must not let ourselves be overcome by fear, which is always a poor counsellor, nor let ourselves be paralyzed by the sense of powerlessness that overwhelms us before the difficulty of the task,” at hand. “Rather,” he said, “we are called to join forces, realizing that we need one another in order to seek and find the right means and approaches needed for effective responses.” Painful lessons - profound commitment Pope Francis also spoke of the painful lessons the Church has learned through her recent experience with clerical sex abuse , saying that the Church has come to acknowledge her own failures in providing for the protection of children. “[E]xtremely grave facts have come to light,” he said, “for which we have to accept our responsibility before God, before the victims and before public opinion.” The Pope went on to say, “For this very reason, as a result of these painful experiences and the skills gained in the process of conversion and purification, the Church today feels especially bound to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity, not only within her own ranks, but in society as a whole and throughout the world.” The pernicious effects of mainstreaming pornography The Holy Father also discussed the pernicious effects that the so-called “mainstreaming” of pornography – not only its broad and ready availability, but also the acceptance of it by society – on adults. “We rightly insist on the gravity of these problems for minors,” he said, “but we can also underestimate or overlook the extent that they are also problems for adults.” The Pope noted that the spread of ever more extreme pornography and other improper uses of the internet not only causes disorders, dependencies and grave harm among adults, but also has a real impact on the way we view love and relations between the sexes. “We would be seriously deluding ourselves,” he said, “were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors.” Warning against a “technocratic” approach to the problem “The second mistaken approach would be to think that automatic technical solutions, filters devised by ever more refined algorithms in order to identify and block the spread of abusive and harmful images, are sufficient to deal with these problems,” he said. “But there is also an urgent need, as part of the process of technological growth itself, for all those involved to acknowledge and address the ethical concerns that this growth raises, in all its breadth and its various consequences.” What the internet is, and is not A third risk of which we must be aware in our approach to the digital world is the deluded notion that “the net” is or should be a realm of unlimited freedom. While the internet and other technologies that are part of the contours, content, and structures of this new digital world have opened vast new fora for free expression and free exchange of ideas and information, it has also offered new means for engaging in heinous illicit activities , including the abuse of minors and offences against their dignity, the corruption of their minds and violence against their bodies. “This,” said Pope Francis , “has nothing to do with the exercise of freedom: it has to do with crimes that need to be fought with intelligence and determination, through a broader cooperation among governments and law enforcement agencies on the global level, even as the net itself is now global.” Final Declaration Toward this end, the participants produced a final document , The Declaration of Rome , which includes its own  urgent call to action .  Pope Francis  received the Declaration from a young girl participating in the Congress, who gave it to him “on behalf of millions of young people around the world who need information and far more protection from the risks of sexual and other forms of abuse on the internet." (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: speech to World Congress on Child Dignity in Digital World

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 18:52
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed the participants in the World Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital World . Hosted by the  Pontifical Gregorian University  and its  Centre for Child Protection , the four-day event brought together different government and police representatives, software companies, religious leaders and medical experts specialized in the impact of on-line abuse. Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis' prepared remarks, in their official English translation.  *********************************************** Your Eminences, President of the Senate, Madame Minister, Your Excellencies, Father Rector, Distinguished Ambassadors and Civil Authorities, Dear Professors, Ladies and Gentlemen,          I thank the Rector of the Gregorian University, Father Nuno da Silva Gonçalves, and the young lady representative of the youth for their kind and informative words of introduction to our meeting.  I am grateful to all of you for being here this morning and informing me of the results of your work.  Above all, I thank you for sharing your concerns and your commitment to confront together, for the sake of young people worldwide, a grave new problem felt in our time.  A problem that had not yet been studied and discussed by a broad spectrum of experts from various fields and areas of responsibility as you have done in these days: the problem of the effective protection of the dignity of minors in the digital world.          The acknowledgment and defense of the dignity of the human person is the origin and basis of every right social and political order, and the Church has recognized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) as “a true milestone on the path of moral progress of humanity” (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Addresses to the United Nations Organization, 1979 and 1995).  So too, in the knowledge that children are among those most in need of care and protection, the Holy See received the Declaration on the Rights of the Child (1959) and adhered to the relative Convention (1990) and its two optional protocols (2001).  The dignity and rights of children must be protected by legal systems as priceless goods for the entire human family (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church , Nos. 244-245).          While completely and firmly agreed on these principles, we must work together on their basis.  We need to do this decisively and with genuine passion, considering with tender affection all those children who come into this world every day and in every place.  They need our respect, but also our care and affection, so that they can grow and achieve all their rich potential.          Scripture tells us that man and woman are created by God in his own image.  Could any more forceful statement be made about our human dignity?  The Gospel speaks to us of the affection with which Jesus welcomes children; he takes them in his arms and blesses them (cf. Mk 10:16), because “it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” ( Mt 19:14).  Jesus’ harshest words are reserved for those who give scandal to the little ones: “It were better for them to have a great millstone fastened around their neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” ( Mt 18:6).  It follows that we must work to protect the dignity of minors, gently yet firmly, opposing with all our might the throwaway culture nowadays that is everywhere apparent, to the detriment especially of the weak and the most vulnerable, such as minors.          We are living in a new world that, when we were young, we could hardly have imagined.  We define it by two simple words as a “digital world”, but it is the fruit of extraordinary achievements of science and technology.  In a few decades, it has changed the way we live and communicate.  Even now, it is in some sense changing our very way of thinking and of being, and profoundly influencing the perception of our possibilities and our identity.          If, on the one hand, we are filled with real wonder and admiration at the new and impressive horizons opening up before us, on the other, we can sense a certain concern and even apprehension when we consider how quickly this development has taken place, the new and unforeseen problems it sets before us, and the negative consequences it entails.  Those consequences are seldom willed, and yet are quite real.  We rightly wonder if we are capable of guiding the processes we ourselves have set in motion, whether they might be escaping our grasp, and whether we are doing enough to keep them in check.          This is the great existential question facing humanity today, in light of a global crisis at once environmental, social, economic, political, moral and spiritual.          As representatives of various scientific disciplines and the fields of digital communications, law and political life, you have come together precisely because you realize the gravity of these challenges linked to scientific and technical progress.  With great foresight, you have concentrated on what is probably the most crucial challenge for the future of the human family: the protection of young people’s dignity, their healthy development, their joy and their hope.          We know that minors are presently more than a quarter of the over 3 billion users of the internet; this means that over 800 million minors are navigating the internet. We know that within two years, in India alone, over 500 million persons will have access to the internet, and that half of these will be minors.  What do they find on the net?  And how are they regarded by those who exercise various kinds of influence over the net?          We have to keep our eyes open and not hide from an unpleasant truth that we would rather not see.  For that matter, surely we have realized sufficiently in recent years that concealing the reality of sexual abuse is a grave error and the source of many other evils?  So let us face reality, as you have done in these days.  We encounter extremely troubling things on the net, including the spread of ever more extreme pornography, since habitual use raises the threshold of stimulation; the increasing phenomenon of sexting between young men and women who use the social media; and the growth of online bullying, a true form of moral and physical attack on the dignity of other young people.  To this can be added sextortion ; the solicitation of minors for sexual purposes, now widely reported in the news; to say nothing of the grave and appalling crimes of online trafficking in persons, prostitution, and even the commissioning and live viewing of acts of rape and violence against minors in other parts of the world.  The net has its dark side (the “dark net”), where evil finds ever new, effective and pervasive ways to act and to expand.  The spread of printed pornography in the past was a relatively small phenomenon compared to the proliferation of pornography on the net.  You have addressed this clearly, based on solid research and documentation, and for this we are grateful.          Faced with these facts, we are naturally alarmed.  But, regrettably, we also remain bewildered.  As you know well, and are teaching us, what is distinctive about the net is precisely that it is worldwide; it covers the planet, breaking down every barrier, becoming ever more pervasive, reaching everywhere and to every kind of user, including children, due to mobile devices that are becoming smaller and easier to use.  As a result, today no one in the world, or any single national authority, feels capable of monitoring and adequately controlling the extent and the growth of these phenomena, themselves interconnected and linked to other grave problems associated with the net, such as illicit trafficking, economic and financial crimes, and international terrorism.  From an educational standpoint too, we feel bewildered, because the speed of its growth has left the older generation on the sidelines, rendering extremely difficult, if not impossible, intergenerational dialogue and a serene transmission of rules and wisdom acquired by years of life and experience.          But we must not let ourselves be overcome by fear, which is always a poor counsellor.  Nor let ourselves be paralyzed by the sense of powerlessness that overwhelms us before the difficulty of the task before us.  Rather, we are called to join forces, realizing that we need one another in order to seek and find the right means and approaches needed for effective responses.  We must be confident that “we can broaden our vision.  We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral” ( Laudato Si’ , 112).          For such a mobilization to be effective, I encourage you to oppose firmly certain potentially mistaken approaches.  I will limit myself to indicating three of these.          The first is to underestimate the harm done to minors by these phenomena.  The difficulty of countering them can lead us to be tempted to say: “Really, the situation is not so bad as all that…”   But the progress of neurobiology, psychology and psychiatry have brought to light the profound impact of violent and sexual images on the impressionable minds of children, the psychological problems that emerge as they grow older, the dependent behaviours and situations, and genuine enslavement that result from a steady diet of provocative or violent images.  These problems will surely have a serious and life-long effect on today’s children.          Here I would add an observation.  We rightly insist on the gravity of these problems for minors.  But we can also underestimate or overlook the extent that they are also problems for adults.  Determining the age of minority and majority is important for legal systems, but it is insufficient for dealing with other issues.  The spread of ever more extreme pornography and other improper uses of the net not only causes disorders, dependencies and grave harm among adults, but also has a real impact on the way we view love and relations between the sexes.  We would be seriously deluding ourselves were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors.          The second mistaken approach would be to think that automatic technical solutions, filters devised by ever more refined algorithms in order to identify and block the spread of abusive and harmful images, are sufficient to deal with these problems.  Certainly, such measures are necessary. Certainly, businesses that provide millions of people with social media and increasingly powerful, speedy and pervasive software should invest in this area a fair portion of their great profits.  But there is also an urgent need, as part of the process of technological growth itself, for all those involved to acknowledge and address the ethical concerns that this growth raises, in all its breadth and its various consequences.          Here we find ourselves having to reckon with a third potentially mistaken approach, which consists in an ideological and mythical vision of the net as a realm of unlimited freedom. Quite rightly, your meeting includes representatives of lawmakers and law enforcement agencies whose task is to provide for and to protect the common good and the good of individual persons.  The net has opened a vast new forum for free expression and the exchange of ideas and information.  This is certainly beneficial, but, as we have seen, it has also offered new means for engaging in heinous illicit activities, and, in the area with which we are concerned, for the abuse of minors and offences against their dignity, for the corruption of their minds and violence against their bodies.  This has nothing to do with the exercise of freedom; it has to do with crimes that need to be fought with intelligence and determination, through a broader cooperation among governments and law enforcement agencies on the global level, even as the net itself is now global.          You have been discussing all these matters and, in the “Declaration” you presented me, you have pointed out a variety of different ways to promote concrete cooperation among all concerned parties working to combat the great challenge of defending the dignity of minors in the digital world.  I firmly and enthusiastically support the commitments that you have undertaken.          These include raising awareness of the gravity of the problems, enacting suitable legislation, overseeing developments in technology, identifying victims and prosecuting those guilty of crimes.  They include assisting minors who have been affected and providing for their rehabilitation, assisting educators and families, and finding creative ways of training young people in the proper use of the internet in ways healthy for themselves and for other minors.  They also include fostering greater sensitivity and providing moral formation, as well as continuing scientific research in all the fields associated with this challenge.          Very appropriately, you have expressed the hope that religious leaders and communities of believers can also share in this common effort, drawing on their experience, their authority and their resources for education and for moral and spiritual formation.  In effect, only the light and the strength that come from God can enable us to face these new challenges.  As for the Catholic Church, I would assure you of her commitment and her readiness to help.  As all of us know, in recent years the Church has come to acknowledge her own failures in providing for the protection of children: extremely grave facts have come to light, for which we have to accept our responsibility before God, before the victims and before public opinion.  For this very reason, as a result of these painful experiences and the skills gained in the process of conversion and purification, the Church today feels especially bound to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity, not only within her own ranks, but in society as a whole and throughout the world.  She does not attempt to do this alone – for that is clearly not enough – but by offering her own effective and ready cooperation to all those individuals and groups in society that are committed to the same end.  In this sense, the Church adheres to the goal of putting an end to “the abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children” set by the United Nations in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (Target 16.2).          On many occasions, and in many different countries, I gaze into the eyes of children, poor and rich, healthy and ill, joyful and suffering.  To see children looking us in the eye is an experience we have all had.  It touches our hearts and requires us to examine our consciences.  What are we doing to ensure that those children can continue smiling at us, with clear eyes and faces filled with trust and hope?  What are we doing to make sure that they are not robbed of this light, to ensure that those eyes will not be not darkened and corrupted by what they will find on the internet, which will soon be so integral and important a part of their daily lives?          Let us work together, then, so that we will always have the right, the courage and the joy to be able to look into the eyes of the children of our world. (from Vatican Radio)...

Church congress on child protection in digital world issues call to action

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 18:34
(Vatican Radio) ‘ The Declaration of Rome ’, the final document produced by participants at the World Congress hosted by the Pontifical Gregorian University on ‘ Child Dignity in the Digital World ’, issues an urgent call to action.  140 participants from all continents gathered in Rome from 3 to 6 October for the first world congress focused on addressing the dangers children and adolescents face on the internet. Put  together by a UK-based global alliance called ‘WePROTECT’ and by ‘Telefono Azzurro’, the first Italian helpline for children at risk, the congress drew delegates from countries across the world, including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates. Receiving participants at the event on Friday morning in the Vatican, Pope Francis was handed ‘The Declaration of Rome’ by a young girl “on behalf of millions of young people around the world who need information and far more protection from the risks of sexual and other forms of abuse on the internet”. “Using your own words, she said to the Pope, we believe that ‘A society can be judged by the way it treats its children’.” While technology, she continued, has changed our lives in so many positive ways, it is also being used in the growing exploitation of children, millions of whom are being abused and exploited all over the world.  Explaining that increasingly extreme and dehumanizing content is available at children’s fingertips, she said that some of the effects include cyberbullying, harassment and sextortion, while “online pornography is impacting the malleable minds of young children”. Highlighting the right of all children to be protected, she called for unity and collaboration in seeking in seeking “positive, empowering solutions for all”. One of the main points of the document is the need for technology companies and governments to innovate to better protect children. “This is a problem, she said, that cannot be solved by one nation or one company or one faith acting alone, it is a global problem that requires global solutions. It requires that we build awareness and that we mobilize action from every government, every faith, every company and every institution”. “In this era of the internet the world faces unprecedented challenges if it is to preserve the rights and dignity of children and protect them from abuse and exploitation.  These challenges require new thinking and approaches, heightened global awareness and inspired leadership.  For this reason this Declaration of Rome appeals to everyone to stand up for the protection of the dignity of children” she concluded. One of the participants at the Congress was Antoine Normand from Canada. Normand is the founder of BlueBear , a company that combats child pornography on the Internet thanks to the development of software which analyzes and categorizes image and video evidence files seized during child pornography investigations and that is used in collaboration with the Police. Normand was at the audience with the Pope and sums up the content of “The Rome Declaration.” Listen :  Please find below the full text of “The Rome Declaration”: The Declaration of Rome  World Congress:  Child Dignity in the Digital World 6 October 2017 Pope Francis -- “A society can be judged by the way it treats its children.” Every child’s life is unique, meaningful and precious and every child has a right to dignity and safety.  Yet today, global society is failing its children.  Millions of children are being abused and exploited in tragic and unspeakable ways, and on an unprecedented scale all over the world. Technology’s exponential advancement and integration into our everyday lives is not only changing what we do and how we do it, but who we are.  Much of the impact of these changes has been very positive.  However, we face the dark side of this new-found world, a world which is enabling a host of social ills that are harming the most vulnerable members of society.  While undoubtedly the Internet creates numerous benefits and opportunities in terms of social inclusion and educational attainment, today, content that is increasingly extreme and dehumanizing is available literally at children’s fingertips.  The proliferation of social media means insidious acts, such as cyberbullying, harassment and sextortion, are becoming commonplace.  Specifically, the range and scope of child sexual abuse and exploitation online is shocking.  Vast numbers of sexual abuse images of children and youth are available online and continue to grow unabated.  The detrimental impact of pornography on the malleable minds of young children is another significant online harm.  We embrace the vision of an internet accessible by all people.  However, we believe the constitution of this vision must recognize the unwavering value of protecting all children. The challenges are enormous, but our response must not be gloom and dismay.  We must work together to seek positive, empowering solutions for all.  We must ensure that all children have safe access to the internet to enhance their education, communications and connections.  Technology companies and government have shown leadership in this fight and must continue to innovate to better protect children.  We must also awaken families, neighbours, communities around the world and children themselves to the reality of the internet’s impact upon children. We already have potent global platforms in place and important global leaders making significant progress in fulfilling these aims.  The Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University conducts international safe-guarding work in 30 countries on four continents.  The WePROTECT Global Alliance, launched by the United Kingdom, in partnership with the European Union and the United States, unites 70 nations, 23 technology companies and many international organizations in this fight.   The United Nations is leading a global effort to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 to eradicate violence against children by 2030, particularly through the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. This is a problem that cannot be solved by one nation or one company or one faith acting alone, it is a global problem that requires global solutions. It requires that we build awareness, and that we mobilize action from every government, every faith, every company and every institution.  This Declaration of Rome issues a call to action:     1 – To world leaders to undertake a global awareness campaign to educate and inform the people of the world about the severity and extent of the abuse and exploitation of the world’s children, and to urge them to demand action from national leaders.  2 – To leaders of the world’s great religions to inform and mobilize members of every faith to join in a global movement to protect the world’s children. 3 – To the parliaments of the world to improve their laws to better protect children and hold those accountable who abuse and exploit children. 4 – To leaders of technology companies to commit to the development and implementation of new tools and technologies to attack the proliferation of sex abuse images on the Internet, and to interdict the redistribution of the images of identified child victims.  5 – To world’s ministries of public health and the leaders of non-governmental organizations to expand the rescue of child victims and improve treatment programs for victims of abuse and sexual exploitation. 6 – To government agencies, civil society and law enforcement to work to improve the recognition and identification of child victims, and ensure help for the massive numbers of hidden victims of child abuse and sexual exploitation. 7 – To the world’s law enforcement organizations to expand regional and global cooperation in order to improve information sharing in investigations and increase collaborative efforts in addressing these crimes against children which cross national boundaries. 8 – To the world’s medical institutions to enhance training for medical professionals in recognizing the indicators of abuse and sexual exploitation, and improve the reporting and treatment of such abuse and sexual exploitation.  9 – To governments and private institutions to enhance resources available to psychiatric and other treatment professionals for expanded treatment and rehabilitation services for children who have been abused or exploited. 10 – To the leading authorities in public health to expand research into the health impacts resulting from the exposure of young children and adolescents to graphic, extreme internet pornography. 11 – To leaders of the world’s governments, legislative bodies, private industry and religious institutions to advocate for and implement techniques to deny access by children and youth to internet content suitable only for adults. 12 – To governments, private industry and religious institutions to undertake a global awareness campaign directed at children and youth to educate them and provide them with the tools necessary to use the internet safely and responsibly, and to avoid the harm being done to many of their peers. 13 – To governments, private industry and religious institutions to undertake a global awareness initiative to make citizens in every country more alert and aware regarding the abuse and sexual exploitation of children, and to encourage them to report such abuse or exploitation to appropriate authorities if they see it, know about it or suspect it.  In this era of the internet the world faces unprecedented challenges if it is to preserve the rights and dignity of children and protect them from abuse and exploitation.  These challenges require new thinking and approaches, heightened global awareness and inspired leadership.  For this reason this Declaration of Rome appeals to everyone to stand up for the protection of the dignity of children. Presented this 6 th day of October 2017         (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope defends human dignity under attack from “technocratic materialism‎"

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 21:50
(Vatican Radio) One cannot be silent in the face of an “unscrupulous materialism” that marks the alliance between economy and technology, and that treats life as a resource to be exploited or discarded by power and profit.  “Unfortunately men, women and children the world over are experiencing the bitterness and pain of the “illusory promises” of this “technocratic materialism” , said Pope Francis on Thursday.  He was speaking to the members of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) at the start of their 2-day general assembly in Rome.  The Oct. 5-6 meeting is holding a workshop on the theme “Accompanying Life: New Responsibilities in the Technological Era.” Technology against person and life In the face of the effects of recent technological developments in life sciences and the power of biotechnologies that permit extensive manipulation of life, unthinkable until recently, Pope Francis urged for a behavior that is consistent with the dignity of the human person and of life and its meaning and value.  The Pope observed that contrary to the welfare promised by this “technocratic materialism” with the expansion of the market, what we are witnessing is widening territories of poverty, conflict, waste and abandonment , resentment and despair. ‎Instead, he said, authentic scientific and technological progress should inspire more humane policies. In this regard, the Holy Father said, Christian faith and the Church’s rich tradition of enlightened minds can inspire today’s believers repair the “fracture between generations”  that interrupts the transmission of life .  The life of ‎fathers and mothers in advanced age wants to be honoured for what they have generously given, and not be discarded for what they don’t have any more, he said. Neutralizing sexual differences is not a right In this initiative, the Word of God sheds light on the origin of life and it destiny, the Pope said.  The narrative of creation should be read as God’s act of love that entrusts creation and history to the alliance between man and woman .  But neither of them can alone assume this responsibility, because they were created together in their blessed difference.  In this regard, the Pope said, recent effort to assert the dignity of a person by radically neutralizing sexual differences and the understanding of man and woman is not right. He said, the utopia of the “neuter”, ‎removes both the human dignity of the sexually different ‎constitution as well as the personal quality of the ‎”generative transmission of life”. Generating and caring for life The generative alliance of man and woman is a defence for the worldwide humanism of men and ‎women, ‎not a handicap, the Pope said warning, “if we reject this, our history will not be renewed.”  The passion for accompanying and caring for life, along the entire arch of its individual and social ‎history, calls for a revival of an ethos of compassion or tenderness for the generation and ‎regeneration of the human being in its distinction.‎  The Pope thus called for reviving sensitivity for the various stages of life, especially for children and the elderly in all their fragility, vulnerability and corruptibility.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis at Mass in Santa Marta: rediscover your roots

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 20:16
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday morning. In remarks to the faithful following the Readings of the Day, the Holy Father reflected on the importance of keeping tethered to our roots – especially our spiritual roots – and avoiding what he called “psychological self-exile”. Click below to hear our report Taking as his starting point the reading from the Book of Nehemiah , in which the prophet recounts Ezra ’s reading of the law to the whole assembly of the people before their re-entrance into the holy city, Jerusalem, after some seventy years of Babylonian captivity, Pope Francis recalled the nostalgic tears of Nehemiah – who was cup-bearer to the Persian king, Ataxerxes, at Babylon. Then Pope Francis recalled the verse of Psalm 137, which says, “Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept: when we remembered Sion[.]” The Pope also reflected on the “nostalgia of migrants,” those who are, “far from home and want to return.” On the shores of Babylon - real and spiritual After so many years of exile, the roots “had weakened” but were not lost. Recovering the roots “means recovering the [sense of] belonging of a people,” Pope Francis said. “Without roots,” he continued, “we cannot live: a people without roots or at risk of losing roots, is a sick people”: “A person without roots, who has forgotten his roots, is sick. Finding, rediscovering their roots and taking the strength to go forward, the strength to flourish and, as the poet says, ‘the power to flourish because – he says – what the tree has borne in fruit comes from what he has buried.’ Just that relationship between the root and the good we can do.” Along this journey of recovery, however, the Pope noted, there has been “so much resistance”: “Resistance comes from those who prefer exile, and when there is no physical exile, psychological exile: self-exile from the community, from society, from those who prefer to be uprooted people, without roots. We must think of this psychological self-exile as a disease: it does so much harm. It takes away the roots. It takes away our belonging.” Recovering the roots The people, however, go forward, and achieve the day on which they are finally to rebuild their city. The people rally to “restore the roots,” that is to say, to hear the Word of God, which the scribe Ezra read – and the people were weeping once more, but this time their tears were not those shed on Babylonian shores: “It was the weeping of joy, the encounter with their roots, the encounter with their belonging [to God and to one another].” After reading, Nehemiah invites them to feast. This is the joy of those who have found their roots: “The man and woman who find their roots, who are faithful to their membership, are a man and a woman in joy – joy – and this joy is their strength. From the weeping of sadness to tears of joy: from the weeping of weakness at being far from their roots, far from their people, to the cry of belonging; ‘I’m home’. I am at home.” The courage to weep The Pope went on to invite all those at Mass to read the whole of the eighth chapter of Nehemiah, from which the First Reading of the Day was drawn, and to ask whether they have not themselves “let fail the memory of the Lord,” and if they have, whether they are ready start a journey to recover their roots,  or whether they prefer to be closed in on themselves in the soul’s self-imposed exile. Finally, Pope Francis said that if you are “afraid of crying,” you will have, “fear of laughing,” because, after one weeps with sadness, there come tears of joy. We must therefore ask for the grace of the “repentant cry,” the weeping of those who are “sad for their sins,” but also for the weeping of joy, because the Lord “forgave us and has done in our lives what He did with his people.”  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis urges Iraqi Chaldean bishops to be builders of unity

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 20:04
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has urged leaders of the Chaldean Church  to be builders of unity, favouring dialogue and collaboration between all actors of Iraqi society. The Pope was addressing bishops in Rome for the Synod of the Chaldeans , taking place from 4 to 8 October . The Chaldean Church is headed by Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, Archbishop of Baghdad. Amongst the main topics of discussion are the Kurdish referendum and the return of Christian refugees in the Nineveh Plain. A time of hope for the region Noting that this meeting comes at a time of need and of hope for the region, Pope Francis said together with all Iraqis, religious leaders are called to face issues such as the forced migration of Christians, the reconstruction of villages, the return of many displaced people as well as liturgical and pastoral issues. “This is an occasion for me, the Pope said, to send my greetings to the sorely tested faithful of the beloved Iraqi nation” and to share the hope that stems from the resumption of life and activity “in regions and cities that were subjected to painful and violent oppression”. While a tragic page of history has been concluded, he said, there remains much to do. Builders of unity “I exhort you to work tirelessly as builders of unity” he said. He spoke of the need for unity within the Chaldean Church and with pastors of other Churches, and of the need to favour dialogue and collaboration in a concerted effort to facilitate the return of the displaced and heal divisions and contrasts between brothers. Commenting on a situation of uncertainty for the future, Francis talked of the need for a national reconciliation process and for a joint effort on the part of all components of society to work out solutions for the good of the entire nation. Reflecting on the historical significance of the region as a land of ancient evangelization, of civilization, encounter and dialogue, he exhorted the bishops never to be discouraged in the face of inevitable difficulties, and he highlighted the importance of unity between Christians in the promotion of respectful relationships and interreligious dialogue. Ecclesial and liturgical concerns On a different note, the Pope gave directions to the bishops regarding the need for accompaniment and formation of priests and seminarians, whom, he said, must be well grounded in four different dimensions: the human one, the spiritual one, the pastoral one and the intellectual one. He spoke of his concern for the theme of the Diaspora which, he said, must be ‘rethought’ taking into consideration the situations in which ecclesial communities find themselves, both from a numerical and a religious freedom point of view. “Everything possible must be done in order to bring the aims of the Second Vatican Council into effect, facilitating pastoral care in those regions where Oriental communities are well established, and promoting communion and fraternity with Latin Rite communities  in order to provide the faithful with good witness and avoid protracting divisions and contrasts” he said. Need for ecumenical and interreligious dialogue Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, he noted, must be rooted in Catholic unity and communion: “the Congregation for Oriental Churches will support you in this.” Pope Francis concluded his speech expressing his hope that this Synod may provide a time of fruitful debate and fraternal reflection for the beloved Chaldean Church. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: Proclaim the Gospel to all without fear

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 17:49
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday received a delegation from the Church Relations Committee  of the United Bible Societies telling them that "the word of God enlightens, protects, defends, heals and frees.” Listen to our report:  Speaking to the delegation Pope Francis began by highlighting the role they play in making “the Bible more easily accessible in diverse languages and in today’s wide variety of communication media.” He told them that, “we are servants of the word of salvation, which, he added, never returns to the Lord empty.” The Holy Father also underlined the importance of, as he called it,  nourishing ourselves “at the table of the word by reading, listening, studying and bearing witness with our lives.”  Proclaiming the Gospel  The Pope stressed to those gathered how vital it is that the Church today goes out to proclaim the Gospel to all, “in all places, on all occasions, without delay, reluctance or fear. We do so, he continued, in  obedience to the Lord’s missionary mandate, certain of his presence among us until the end of the world.” Testimonies of faith Recalling the many people who are in prison on account of the word, and the many more who have shed their blood as a testimony to their faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Father said as Christians, “we are servants of the powerful word of God that enlightens, protects, defends, heals and frees.” In conclusion, and quoting from Bible passages, the Pope said, “Let us walk together to spread the word. Let us pray together, that the Father’s will be done. Let us work together, that what the Lord has said may be accomplished in us.” (from Vatican Radio)...

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