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Pope: Open hearts with the Gospel message

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday  received the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception who are in Rome for their General Chapter, telling them to open hearts with the Gospel message.

Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s report

The Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception was founded, in 1673, in Poland and works in 26 countries around the world.

In prepared remarks to the participants of the Congregation’s General Chapter on Saturday, Pope Francis told them that the example of their founder, St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, who was canonized last year, was both the light and guide of their walk and fully understood the meaning of being a disciple of Christ.

In this perspective, the Pope said, “your service of the Word is the witness of the Risen Christ, that you have encountered on your path…” adding, that they were called to spread the Gospel message wherever they are sent.

The Pope also underlined that Christian witness requires engagement with and for the poor, noting it was a commitment that has characterized the Congregation.

The Holy Father encouraged the Marian Fathers to  keep alive this tradition of service to the poor and the humble, through the proclamation of the Gospel, along with the works of mercy and prayers for the souls of the faithfully departed.

He continued by saying that “the great challenge of inculturation asks you today to announce the Good News in languages ​​and ways understandable to the men and women of our time, involved in rapid social and cultural transformation processes.

The horizons of evangelization and the urgent need to bear witness to the Gospel message, without distinction, the Pope said “constitute the vast field of your apostolate.” Many people, the Holy Father observed, “are still waiting to know Jesus, the one Redeemer of man.”

Such an urgent mission, Pope Francis underlined, “requires personal and community conversion. Only fully open hearts to the action of Grace”, he said, “are able to interpret the signs of the times and to seize the appeals of humanity in need of hope and peace.”

 

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis to university students: keep hope alive

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday visited one of Rome’s major institutions of higher education: the  Università degli studi “Roma 3”, which has an enrollment of roughly 40 thousand students.

The Holy Father fielded four questions, each one from a student at a different level of study and in a different department, from post-graduates to married professionals in continuing formation to young undergrads from the business school and the arts and sciences.

Click below to hear our report

One of the students was Nour Essa, a 31 year-old married mother and a refugee from Syria. She came to Rome with her family via Lesbos, making the last leg of her journey with Pope Francis, himself, aboard the Papal plane in 2016.

“I remember a question posed by a reporter on your plane, returning from Lesbos,” she said. “This question was on Europeans’ fear [It. la paura europea] of those coming from Syria or Iraq: do these people not threaten the Christian culture of Europe?”

In his largely off-the-cuff response, Pope Francis said, “Migrations are not a danger, but a challenge to grow.”

Pope Francis also responded to questions of European identity, of the special identity, character, and mission of the city of Rome – and of the duty of the students to the city – as well as of the need for a creative response to overcome a culture of violence, and the need to transform the global culture and become workers of intellectual charity in order to contribute to a constructive renewal of society.

The Pope said that “unity without differences” is one of the great threats in our day. “There is a risk of globalization,” he said, “that fosters uniformity,” and our culture of instant communication and constant connectedness does not allow for thoughtful consideration and could strangle profound dialogue if we are not careful to cultivate a more considerate pace and sensitivity.

Pope Francis also spoke of  the need for young people to cultivate the virtue of hope, the threats against which are many, including joblessness, the blandishments of a culture of hedonism, and the warped sense of religion that can fill the void left when concrete reasons for to hope in a better future appear to be wanting.

“The bitterness of [some young persons’] hearts,” Pope Francis said, “leads to addictions,” or even to suicide. “This lack of work leads to [some of them] to go elsewhere and enlist in a terrorist army,” he said, speculating that perhaps young people who make such a decision think, “at least that way I have something to do and [thus] I give meaning to my life.”

“Terrible,” Pope Francis said, “terrible.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope sends message to popular movements meeting in California

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to hundreds of faith and community leaders taking part in a regional meeting of popular movements in Modesto, California, in the United States.

The encounter, taking place from February 16th to 18th, has been organised with the support of the Vatican’s new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, the U.S. Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the National Network of People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO).

Philippa Hitchen reports: 

We must become good neighbours to any person in need. That was Pope Francis’ message to the leaders of popular movements that are working for structural changes in society to promote greater social, economic and racial justice.

Reflecting on the current global crisis, driven by what he called the “invisible tyranny of money”, the Pope said we must find opportunities to respond with compassion to those suffering most from the violence, corruption and injustice in our societies.

The god of money leaves people by the wayside

Speaking of the parable of the Good Samaritan, Pope Francis said  an economic system that has the god of money at its center can act with the same brutality as the robbers in that story. While we try to ignore the injuries it causes, he said, the suffering is televised live yet “nothing is done systematically to heal the wounds or to confront the structures that leave so many brothers and sisters by the wayside”

Shifting blame for society's ills

But Pope Francis told the leaders of grassroots organizations that “the system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong”. When it can no longer be denied, he said, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating peoples’ fear, insecurity and indignation in order to shift the responsibility onto a “non-neighbour” who can be blamed for society’s ills.

Follow the example of the Good Samaritan

We must follow the examples of the Samaritan and the innkeeper, the Pope said, by providing practical support for those suffering in body and spirit. He urged the popular movements to persevere in combatting the ecological crisis and in standing alongside migrants or those who are branded as criminals or terrorists.

No people is criminal, no religion is terrorist

No people is criminal and no religion is terrorist, he insisted, adding that there are fundamentalists and violent individuals in all peoples and religions. With intolerant generalisations, he said, they become stronger, feeding on hate and xenophobia, but by confronting terror with love, we work for peace. 

Please find below the full English language text of Pope Francis’ message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

            First of all, I would like to congratulate you for your effort in replicating on a national level the work being developed in the World Meetings of Popular Movements. By way of this letter, I want to encourage and strengthen each one of you, your organizations, and all who strive with you for “Land, Work and Housing,” the three T’s in Spanish: Tierra, Trabajo y Techo. I congratulate you for all that you are doing.

            I would like to thank the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, its chairman Bishop David Talley, and the host Bishops Stephen Blaire, Armando Ochoa and Jaime Soto, for the wholehearted support they have offered to this meeting. Thank you, Cardinal Peter Turkson, for your continued support of popular movements from the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. It makes me very happy to see you working together towards social justice! How I wish that such constructive energy would spread to all dioceses, because it builds bridges between peoples and individuals. These are bridges that can overcome the walls of exclusion, indifference, racism, and intolerance. 

            I would also like to highlight the work done by the PICO National Network and the organizations promoting this meeting. I learned that PICO stands for “People Improving Communities through Organizing”. What a great synthesis of the mission of popular movements: to work locally, side by side with your neighbors, organizing among yourselves, to make your communities thrive. 

            A few months ago in Rome, we talked at the third World Meeting of Popular Movements about walls and fear, about bridges and love.  Without wanting to repeat myself, these issues do challenge our deepest values.

            We know that none of these ills began yesterday. For some time, the crisis of the prevailing paradigm has confronted us. I am speaking of a system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few. “In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history.”  

            As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act at this moment. It is “a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.”  These are signs of the times that we need to recognize in order to act. We have lost valuable time: time when we did not pay enough attention to these processes, time when we did not resolve these destructive realities. Thus the processes of dehumanization accelerate. The direction taken beyond this historic turning-point—the ways in which this worsening crisis gets resolved—will depend on people’s involvement and participation and, largely, on yourselves, the popular movements. 

            We should be neither paralyzed by fear nor shackled within the conflict. We have to acknowledge the danger but also the opportunity that every crisis brings in order to advance to a successful synthesis. In the Chinese language, which expresses the ancestral wisdom of that great people, the word “crisis” is comprised of two ideograms: Wēi, which represents “danger”, and Jī, which represents “opportunity”.

            The grave danger is to disown our neighbors. When we do so, we deny their humanity and our own humanity without realizing it; we deny ourselves, and we deny the most important Commandments of Jesus. Herein lies the danger, the dehumanization. But here we also find an opportunity: that the light of the love of neighbor may illuminate the Earth with its stunning brightness like a lightning bolt in the dark; that it may wake us up and let true humanity burst through with authentic resistance, resilience and persistence.

            The question that the lawyer asked Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37) echoes in our ears today: “Who is my neighbor?” Who is that other whom we are to love as we love ourselves? Maybe the questioner expects a comfortable response in order to carry on with his life: “My relatives? My compatriots? My co-religionists? ...” Maybe he wants Jesus to excuse us from the obligation of loving pagans or foreigners who at that time were considered unclean. This man wants a clear rule that allows him to classify others as “neighbor” and “non-neighbor”, as those who can become neighbors and those who cannot become neighbors.

           Jesus responds with a parable which features two figures belonging to the elite of the day and a third figure, considered a foreigner, a pagan and unclean: the Samaritan. On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the priest and the Levite come upon a dying man, whom robbers have attacked, stripped and abandoned. In such situations the Law of the Lord imposes the duty to offer assistance, but both pass by without stopping. They were in a hurry. However, unlike these elite figures, the Samaritan stopped. Why him? As a Samaritan he was looked down upon, no one would have counted on him, and in any case he would have had his own commitments and things to do—yet when he saw the injured man, he did not pass by like the other two who were linked to the Temple, but “he saw him and had compassion on him” (v. 33). The Samaritan acts with true mercy: he binds up the man's wounds, transports him to an inn, personally takes care of him, and provides for his upkeep. All this teaches us that compassion, love, is not a vague sentiment, but rather means taking care of the other to the point of personally paying for him. It means committing oneself to take all the necessary steps so as to “draw near to” the other to the point of identifying with him: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the Lord’s Commandment.    

            The economic system that has the god of money at its center, and that sometimes acts with the brutality of the robbers in the parable, inflicts injuries that to a criminal degree have remained neglected. Globalized society frequently looks the other way with the pretence of innocence. Under the guise of what is politically correct or ideologically fashionable, one looks at those who suffer without touching them. But they are televised live; they are talked about in euphemisms and with apparent tolerance, but nothing is done systematically to heal the social wounds or to confront the structures that leave so many brothers and sisters by the wayside. This hypocritical attitude, so different from that of the Samaritan, manifests an absence of true commitment to humanity.

            Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates. The wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real. The system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong; and when it can no longer be denied, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills onto a “non-neighbor”. I am not speaking of anyone in particular, I am speaking of a social and political process that flourishes in many parts of the world and poses a grave danger for humanity.

            Jesus teaches us a different path. Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart. That is to say, if you have that capacity to suffer with someone else. You must become a Samaritan. And then also become like the innkeeper at the end of the parable to whom the Samaritan entrusts the person who is suffering. Who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community, people of compassion and solidarity, social organizations. It is us, it is you, to whom the Lord Jesus daily entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we can continue pouring out all of his immeasurable mercy and salvation upon them. Here are the roots of the authentic humanity that resists the dehumanization that wears the livery of indifference, hypocrisy, or intolerance.

            I know that you have committed yourselves to fight for social justice, to defend our Sister Mother Earth and to stand alongside migrants. I want to reaffirm your choice and share two reflections in this regard.

            First, the ecological crisis is real. “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.”  Science is not the only form of knowledge, it is true. It is also true that science is not necessarily “neutral”—many times it conceals ideological views or economic interests. However, we also know what happens when we deny science and disregard the voice of Nature. I make my own everything that concerns us as Catholics. Let us not fall into denial. Time is running out. Let us act. I ask you again—all of you, people of all backgrounds including native people, pastors, political leaders—to defend Creation.

            The other is a reflection that I shared at our most recent World Meeting of Popular Movements, and I feel is important to say it again: no people is criminal and no religion is terrorist. Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist. No people is criminal or drug-trafficking or violent. “The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence yet, without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and will eventually explode.”  There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia. By confronting terror with love, we work for peace. 

            I ask you for meekness and resolve to defend these principles. I ask you not to barter them lightly or apply them superficially. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, let us give everything of ourselves: where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, let us sow pardon; where there is discord, let us sow unity; where there is error, let us sow truth.  

            Please know that I pray for you, that I pray with you, and I ask God our Father to accompany and bless you. May He shower you with his love and protect you. I ask you to please pray for me too, and to carry on.

Vatican City, 10 February 2017   

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope at Mass: ‘May God give us the grace to proclaim an end to wars in world’

(Vatican Radio)  War begins in a person’s heart, for this reason we are all responsible for caring for peace. This was Pope Francis’ message during his morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Listen to Devin Watkins' report:

Pope Francis at Mass spoke about the sufferings of so many people whose lives are upset by wars waged by the powerful and arms traffickers.

The dove, the rainbow, and the Covenant. The Holy Father spoke about these three images, present in the day’s First Reading from the Book of Genesis, in which Noah releases a dove after the flood. This dove, which returns with an olive branch, is “a sign of what God desired after the flood: peace, that is, that all would live in peace.” He said, “The dove and the rainbow are fragile. The rainbow is beautiful after a storm, but then a cloud comes and it disappears.” Even the dove, he added, is fragile. The Pope said he was reminded of when at a Sunday Angelus two years ago a seagull swooped in and killed the two doves he and two children had just released from a window of the Apostolic Palace.

People die in wars promoted by the powerful and arms traffickers

Pope Francis said, “The Covenant which God makes is strong, but we accept it in weakness. God makes peace with us but it is not easy to care for peace. It is a daily task, because within each of us is that seed of original sin, that is, the spirit of Cain which – for envy, jealousy, greed, and the desire to dominate – leads to war.” In this way, the Holy Father observed that, when speaking of the Covenant between God and humanity, reference is made to “blood”. As the First Reading states, “For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from one man in regard to his fellow man.” We, the Pope said, “are our brothers’ keeper, and when there is blood spilt, there is sin, and God will demand an accounting.”

“In today’s world there is blood being spilt. Today the world is at war. Many brothers and sisters are dying, even innocent people, because the great and powerful want a larger slice of the earth; they want a little more power, or they want to make a little more money on arms trafficking. And the Word of the Lord is clear: ‘For your own lifeblood, that is for your life, I will demand an accounting: from every animal I will demand it, and from one man in regard to his fellow man.’ Even of us –it seems peaceful here – the Lord will demand an accounting of the blood of our brothers and sisters who are suffering war.”

Both caring for peace and a declaration of war begins within each of us

“How do I care for the dove?”, Pope Francis asked himself, “What do I do so that the rainbow is always a guide? What do I do so that more blood is not spilt in the world?” All of us, he said, “we are involved in this.” Prayer for peace “is not a formality; work towards peace is not a formality.” He noted with bitterness that “war begins in the heart of a person; it begins at home, in the family, among friends and then goes out into the whole world.” What do I do, he asked, “when I feel that something enters my heart that wants to destroy peace?”

“War begins in here and finishes out there. The news we see in the papers or on television… Today so many people die, and that seed of war, which breeds envy, jealousy, and greed in my heart, is the same – grown up, become a tree – as the bomb which falls on a hospital, on a school, and kills children. It is the same. The declaration of war begins in here, in each of us. For this reason the question arises: ‘How do I care for peace in my heart, in my interior, and in my family?’. Care for peace; not only care for it but make it with your hands every day. Just so will we succeed in spreading it throughout the whole world.”

The Pope’s childhood memory of the end of the war

Pope Francis said, “The blood of Christ is that which makes peace, but not that blood which I make with my brother or which arms traffickers make, or that of the earth’s powerful in the great wars.”

The Pope then recalled an anecdote from his childhood about peace.

“As I recall, the alarm at the Fire Brigade began to sound, and then those on the television and the city… This usually happened to draw attention to a tragedy or something else. And immediately I heard our neighbor call my mother: ‘Mrs. Regina, come here, come here, come here!’ My mother went out a little afraid: ‘What’s happened?” And the lady from the other side of the garden told her: ‘The war is over!’ and she cried.”

Francis then recalled the hug the two women shared, their crying and joy because the war had ended. “May the Lord,” he concluded, “give us the grace to say: ‘War is finished, crying. War is finished in my heart; war is finished in my family; war is finished in my neighborhood; war is finished in my workplace; war is finished in the world.’ In this way shall the dove, rainbow, and Covenant be strengthened.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Special Olympics: be a heartbeat for the world

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday meeting with a delegation from the Special Olympics International in the Vatican, said they were “a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society.”

Listen to Lydia O’Kane's report

This March the Special Olympics World Winter Games, takes place in Styria, Austria and on Thursday Pope Francis met a delegation from the Special Olympics International telling them “you will be, as the theme of this year’s event says, a “heartbeat for the world”.

In a way, the Pope told those gathered, “at the heart of all sporting activity is joy: the joy of exercising, of being together, of being alive and rejoicing in the gifts the Creator gives us each day. He continued, “the sweetest victory is when we surpass ourselves – we realize what true and well-deserved joy feels like.”

Sport, the Holy Fathered noted, “helps us to spread a culture of encounter and solidarity.” 

Together, he added, athletes and helpers show us that there are no obstacles or barriers which cannot be overcome. 

Pope Francis told the delegation, made up of athletes, organizers and representatives, that they were, “a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society.  Every life is precious, he said, every person is a gift and inclusion enriches every community and society.”

This is your message for the world, the Pope underlined, “for a world without borders, which excludes no one.”

The Special Olympics World Winter Games 2017 will take place between March 14th and 25th.

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Audience: God's hope does not exclude

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis, continuing his catechesis on Christian hope at his Wednesday General Audience, told pilgrims that God’s hope calls us to be "channels of humility and simplicity for all."

Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report

"The hope that we have been given does not separate us from others, nor does it lead us to discredit or marginalize them.”

Those were Pope Francis’ words at his weekly General Audience in the Paul VI Hall on Wednesday as he continued his catechesis on Christian hope, dedicating his audience to the theme “Hope does not disappoint”.

The Pope underlined that God does not have favourites and does not exclude anyone, but opens his home to all human beings beginning with the least.

Hope, the Holy Father remarked, “is a gift of which we are called to become 'channels', with humility 'and simplicity', for all.”

During his catechesis and drawing inspiration from St Paul, Pope Francis said that “as children we were always taught that it is not good to boast. Yet, Saint Paul surprises us by twice telling us to boast.” This Saint, continued the Holy Father, tells us “to boast of the abundant grace we receive in Jesus Christ” through the gifts of faith and love. 

When we do this, the Pope observed, “we know God’s peace, which flows into our lives and relationships.”

According to St Paul, Pope Francis said, afflictions too can be something to boost about. For God’s peace is not the absence of fears, disappointments, or suffering, he explained,  “ but rather, it reminds us that God loves us and is always with us.” 

In remarks to Polish pilgrims on Wednesday, the Pope also recalled, Patrons of Europe, Saints Cyril and Methodius.

Even today, he said, “ they remind Europe, and all of us, of the need to maintain the unity of faith, tradition, Christian culture and to live the Gospel each day.”

 

(from Vatican Radio)