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Holy See: World needs a revitalized United Nations capable of action in Syria, Iraq

2 hours 49 min ago
(Vatican Radio) The conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine demand a revitalized United Nations where member states put their responsibility to protect persecuted peoples above personal interests and thoroughly apply international law.  This is according to the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was speaking on Monday at the 69th session of the UN General Assembly. Emer McCarthy reports  Listen :  Cardinal Parolin, said the blood of the many Christians and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria, demands the international community assume its responsibility to protect populations under threat. He said the world is in need of a UN capable of deploying the appropriate action and force. “It is both licit and urgent to stop aggression through multilateral and a proportionate use of force. The Holy See hopes that the international community will assume a responsibility in considering the best means to stop all aggression and avoid the perpetration of new and even greater injustice.”   The Cardinal added it is disappointing, that up to now, “the international community has been characterized by contradictory voices and even by silence with regard to the  conflicts in Syria, the Middle East and Ukraine.  It is paramount that there be a unity of action for the common good, avoiding the cross-fire of vetoes". He reminded all those present of the "responsibility to protect" principle adopted almost 10 years ago at a UN World Summit, which calls to protect civilians when a country is unable or unwilling to do so: “It asserts… the responsibility of the entire international community, in a spirit of solidarity, to confront heinous crimes such as genocide, ethnic cleansing and religiously motivated persecution”.  What is needed, concluded the Cardinal, is “a far-sighted political approach” and “a genuine willingness to apply” the law which if “expressed in new juridical formulations, will certainly bring fresh vitality to the United Nations”. Below the full text of the a ddress of His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Francis 69th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations New York, Monday 29 September 2014 Mr President,             In extending to you the Holy See’s congratulations on your election to the presidency of the sixty-ninth Session of the General Assembly, I wish to convey the cordial greetings of His Holiness Pope Francis to you and to all the participating delegations.  He assures you of his closeness and prayers for the work of this session of the General Assembly, with the hope that it will be carried out in an atmosphere of productive collaboration, working for a more fraternal and united world by identifying ways to resolve the serious problems which beset the whole human  family today.             In continuity with his predecessors, Pope Francis recently reiterated the Holy See’s esteem and appreciation for the United Nations as an indispensable means of building an authentic family of peoples.  The Holy See values the efforts of this distinguished institution “to ensure world peace, respect for human dignity, the protection of persons, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and harmonious economic and social development” ( Address to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination , 9 May 2014).  Along these lines and on numerous occasions, His Holiness has encouraged men and women of good will to place their talents effectively at the service of all by working together, in tandem with the political community and each sector of civil society (cf. Letter to the World Economic Forum , 17 January 2014).             Though mindful of the human person’s gifts and abilities, Pope Francis observes that today there is the danger of widespread indifference.  As much as this indifference concerns the field of politics, it also affects economic and social sectors, “since an important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is in fact relegated to the status of second-class citizens” ( Address of Pope Francis to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination , 9 May 2014).  At times, such apathy is synonymous with irresponsibility.  This is the case today, when a union of States, which was created with the fundamental goal of saving generations from the horror of war that brings untold sorrow to humanity (cf. Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations , 1), remains passive in the face of hostilities suffered by defenceless populations.             I recall the words of His Holiness addressed to the Secretary General at the beginning of August: “It is with a heavy and anguished heart that I have been following the dramatic events in northern Iraq”, thinking of “the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of [that] beloved land”.  In that same letter the Pope renewed his urgent appeal to the international community to “take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway”.  He further encouraged “all the competent organs of the United Nations, in particular those responsible for security, peace, humanitarian law and assistance to refugees, to continue their efforts in accordance with the Preamble and relevant Articles of the United Nations Charter” ( Letter of the Holy Father to the Secretary General of the United Nations Organization concerning the situation in Northern Iraq , 9 August 2014).             Today I am compelled to repeat the heartfelt appeal of His Holiness and to propose to the General Assembly, as well as to the other competent organs of the United Nations, that this body deepen its understanding of the difficult and complex moment that we are now living.            With the dramatic situation in northern Iraq and some parts of Syria, we are seeing a totally new phenomenon: the existence of a terrorist organization which threatens all States, vowing to dissolve them and to replace them with a pseudo-religious world government.  Unfortunately, as the Holy Father recently said, even today there are those who would presume to wield power by coercing consciences and taking lives, persecuting and murdering in the name of God (cf. L’Osservatore Romano , 3 May 2014).  These actions bring injury to entire ethnic groups, populations and ancient cultures.  It must be remembered that such violence is born out of a disregard for God and falsifies “religion itself, since religion aims instead at reconciling men and women with God, at illuminating and purifying consciences, and at making it clear that each human being is the image of the Creator” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See , 7 January 2013).             In a world of global communications, this new phenomenon has found followers in numerous places, and has succeeded in attracting from around the world young people who are often disillusioned by a widespread indifference and a dearth of values in wealthier societies.   This challenge, in all its tragic aspects, should compel the international community to promote a unified response, based on solid juridical criteria and a collective willingness to cooperate for the common good.  To this end, the Holy See considers it useful to focus attention on two major areas.  The first is to address the cultural and political origins of contemporary challenges, acknowledging the need for innovative strategies to confront these international problems in which cultural factors play a fundamental role.  The second area for consideration is a further study of the effectiveness of international law today, namely its successful implementation by those mechanisms used by the United Nations to prevent war, stop aggressors, protect populations and help victims.             Following the attacks of 11 September 2001, when the world woke up to the reality of a new form of terrorism, some media and “think tanks” oversimplified that tragic moment by interpreting all subsequent and problematic situations in terms of a clash of civilizations.  This view ignored longstanding and profound experiences of good relations between cultures, ethnic groups and religions, and interpreted through this lens other complex situations such as the Middle Eastern question and those civil conflicts presently occurring elsewhere.  Likewise, there have been attempts to find so-called legal remedies to counter and prevent the surge of this new form of terrorism.  At times, unilateral solutions have been favoured over those grounded in international law.  The methods adopted, likewise, have not always respected the established order or particular cultural circumstances of peoples who often found themselves unwillingly at the centre of this new form of global conflict.  These mistakes, and the fact that they were at least tacitly approved, should lead us to a serious and profound examination of conscience.  The challenges that these new forms of terrorism pose should not make us succumb to exaggerated views and cultural extrapolations.  The reductionism of interpreting situations in terms of a clash of civilizations, playing on existing fears and prejudices, only leads to reactions of a xenophobic nature that, paradoxically, then serve to reinforce the very sentiments at the heart of terrorism itself.  The challenges we face ought to spur a renewed call for religious and intercultural dialogue and for new developments in international law, to promote just and courageous peace initiatives.              What, then, are the paths open to us?  First and foremost, there is the path of promoting dialogue and understanding among cultures which is already implicitly contained in the Preamble and First Article of the Charter of the United Nations.  This path must become an ever more explicit objective of the international community and of governments if we are truly committed to peace in the world.  At the same time we must recall that it is not the role of international organizations or states to invent culture, nor is it possible to do so.  Similarly, it is not the place of governments to establish themselves as spokespersons of cultures, nor are they the primary actors responsible for cultural and interreligious dialogue.  The natural growth and enrichment of culture is, instead, the fruit of all components of civil society working together.  International organizations and states do have the task of promoting and supporting, in a decisive way, and with the necessary financial means, those initiatives and movements which promote dialogue and understanding among cultures, religions and peoples.  Peace, after all, is not the fruit of a balance of powers, but rather the result of justice at every level, and most importantly, the shared responsibility of individuals, civil institutions and governments.  In effect, this means understanding one other and valuing the other’s culture and circumstances.  It also entails having concern for each other by sharing spiritual and cultural patrimonies and offering opportunities for human enrichment.             And yet, we do not face the challenges of terrorism and violence with cultural openness alone.  The important path of international law is also available to us.  The situation today requires a more incisive understanding of this law, giving particular attention to the “responsibility to protect”.  In fact, one of the characteristics of the recent terrorist phenomenon is that it disregards the existence of the state and, in fact, the entire international order.  Terrorism aims not only to bring change to governments, to damage economic structures or simply to commit common crimes.  It seeks to directly control areas within one or various states, to impose its own laws, which are distinct and opposed to those of the sovereign State.  It also undermines and rejects all existing juridical systems, attempting to impose dominion over consciences and complete control over persons.             The global nature of this phenomenon, which knows no borders, is precisely why the framework of international law offers the only viable way of dealing with this urgent challenge.  This reality requires a renewed United Nations that undertakes to foster and preserve peace.  At present, the active and passive participants of such a system are all the states, which place themselves under the authority of the Security Council and who are committed not to engage in acts of war without the approval of the same Council.  Within this framework, military action carried out by one state in response to another state is possible only in the event of self-defence when under direct armed attack and only up until such time as the Security Council successfully takes the necessary steps to restore international peace and security (cf. Charter of the United Nations , Art. 51).   New forms of terrorism engage in military actions on a vast scale.  They are not able to be contained by any one state and explicitly intend to wage war against the international Community.  In this sense we are dealing with criminal behaviour that is not envisaged by the juridical configuration of the United Nations Charter.  This notwithstanding, it must be recognized that the norms in place for the prevention of war and the intervention of the Security Council are equally applicable, on varying grounds, in the case of a war provoked by a “non-State actor”.             In the first place, this is because the fundamental objective of the Charter is to avoid the scourge of war for future generations.  The juridical structure of the Security Council, for all its limits and defects, was established for this very reason.   Moreover, Article 39 of the Charter of the United Nations assigns the Security Council the task of determining threats or aggressions to international peace, without specifying the type of actors carrying out the threats or aggressions.  Finally, the states themselves, by virtue of membership to the UN, have renounced any use of force which is inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations (cf. Charter of the United Nations , Art.2, 4).             Given that the new forms of terrorism are “transnational”, they no longer fall under the competence of the security forces of any one state: the territories of several states are involved.  Thus the combined forces of a number of nations will be required to guarantee the defence of unarmed citizens.  Since there is no juridical norm which justifies unilateral policing actions beyond one’s own borders, there is no doubt that the area of competence lies with the Security Council.  This is because, without the consent and supervision of the state in which the use of force is exercised, such force would result in regional or international instability, and therefore enter within the scenarios foreseen by the Charter of the United Nations.             My Delegation wishes to recall that it is both licit and urgent to stop aggression through multilateral action and a proportionate use of force.  As a representative body of a worldwide religious community embracing different nations, cultures and ethnicities, the Holy See earnestly hopes that the international community will assume responsibility in considering the best means to stop all aggression and avoid the perpetration of new and even graver injustices.  The present situation, therefore, though indeed quite serious, is an occasion for the member states of the United Nations Organization to honour the very spirit of the Charter of the United Nations by speaking out on the tragic conflicts which are tearing apart entire peoples and nations.  It is disappointing, that up to now, the international community has been characterized by contradictory voices and even by silence with regard to the  conflicts in Syria, the Middle East and Ukraine.  It is paramount that there be a unity of action for the common good, avoiding the cross-fire of vetoes.  As His Holiness wrote to the Secretary General on 9 August last, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities”.             While the concept of “the responsibility to protect” is implicit in the constitutional principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of Humanitarian Law, it does not specifically favour a recourse to arms.  It asserts, rather, the responsibility of the entire international community, in a spirit of solidarity, to confront heinous crimes such as genocide, ethnic cleansing and religiously motivated persecution.  Here with you today, I cannot fail to mention the many Christians and ethnic minorities who in recent months have endured atrocious persecution and suffering in Iraq and Syria.  Their blood demands of us all an unwavering commitment to respect and promote the dignity of every single person as willed and created by God.  This means also respect for religious freedom, which the Holy See considers a fundamental right, since no one can be forced “to act against his or her conscience”, and everyone “has the duty and consequently the right to seek the truth in religious matters” (Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae , 3).             In summary, the promotion of a culture of peace calls for renewed efforts in favour of dialogue, cultural appreciation and cooperation, while respecting the variety of sensibilities.  What is needed is a far-sighted political approach that does not rigidly impose a priori political models which undervalue the sensibilities of individual peoples.  Ultimately, there must be a genuine willingness to apply thoroughly the current mechanisms of law, while at the same time remaining open to the implications of this crucial moment.  This will ensure a multilateral approach that will better serve human dignity, and protect and advance integral human development throughout the world.  Such a willingness, when   concretely expressed in new juridical formulations, will certainly bring fresh vitality to the United Nations.  It will also help resolve serious conflicts, be they active or dormant, which still affect some parts of Europe, Africa and Asia, and whose ultimate resolution requires the commitment of all.   Mr President,             With Resolution A/68/6 of the 68 th Session of the General Assembly, it was decided that this present Session would discuss the Post-2015 Development Agenda, to be then formally adopted in the 70 th Session in September 2015.  You yourself, Mr President, aptly chose the main theme of this present Session: Delivering and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda .             During your recent meeting with all the Chief Executives of Agencies, Funds and Programs of the United Nations (cf. Address to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination , 9 May 2014), His Holiness requested that future objectives for sustainable development be formulated “with generosity and courage, so that they can have a real impact on the structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labour for all, and provide an appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development.  Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the ‘economy of exclusion’, the ‘throwaway culture’ and the ‘culture of death’”.  Pope Francis encouraged the Chief Executives to promote “a true, worldwide ethical mobilization which, beyond all differences of religious or political convictions, will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded” ( ibid ).             In this regard, the Holy See welcomes the 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” proposed by the Working Group ( Open Working Group for Sustainable Goals ), which seek to address the structural causes of poverty by promoting dignified labour for everyone.  Equally, the Holy See appreciates that the goals and targets , for most part, do not echo wealthy populations’ fears regarding population growth in poorer countries.   It also welcomes the fact that the goals and targets do not impose on poorer states lifestyles which are typically associated with advanced economies and which tend to show a disregard for human dignity.  Furthermore, with regard to the Post-2015 Development Agenda , the incorporation of the results of the OWG [ Open Working Group for Sustainable Goals ], alongside the indications given in the Report of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing and those arising out of the interagency consultation, would seem indispensable for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda .        Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the efforts of the United Nations and of many people of good will, the number of the poor and excluded is increasing not only in developing nations but also in developed ones. The “Responsibility to protect”, as stated earlier, refers to extreme aggressions against human rights,  cases of serious contempt of humanitarian law or grave natural catastrophes. In a similar way there is a need to make legal provision for protecting people against other forms of aggression, which are less evident but just as serious and  real. For example, a financial system governed only by speculation and the maximization of profits, or one in which individual persons are regarded as  disposable items in a culture of waste, could be tantamount, in certain circumstances, to an offence against human dignity. It follows, therefore, that the UN and its member states have an urgent and grave responsibility for the poor and excluded, mindful always that social and economic justice is an essential condition for peace.   Mr President,             Each day of the 69 th Session of the General Assembly, and indeed of the next four Sessions, up until November 2018, will bear the sad and painful memory of the futile and inhumane tragedy of the First World War ( a senseless slaughter , as Pope Benedict XV referred to it), with its millions of victims and untold destruction.  Marking the centenary of the start of the conflict, His Holiness Pope Francis expressed his desire that “the mistakes of the past are not repeated, that the lessons of history are acknowledged, and that the causes for peace may always prevail through patient and courageous dialogue” ( Angelus , 27 July 2014).  On that occasion, the thoughts of His Holiness focused particularly on three areas of crisis: the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine.  He urged all Christians and people of faith to pray to the Lord to “grant to these peoples and to the Leaders of those regions the wisdom and strength needed to move forward with determination on the path toward peace, to address every dispute with the tenacity of dialogue and negotiation and with the power of reconciliation.  May the common good and respect for every person, rather than specific interests, be at the centre of every decision.  Let us remember that in war all is lost and in peace nothing” ( ibid ).   Mr President, In making my own the sentiments of the Holy Father, I fervently hope that they may be shared by all present here.  I offer to each of you my best wishes for your work, while trusting that this Session will spare no effort to put to an end the clamour of weapons that marks existing conflicts and that it will continue to foster the development of the entire huma n race, and in particular, the poorest among us. Thank you, Mr President.         (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope thanks United Bible Societies for their work

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:05
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday thanked members of the United Bible Societies for their “patient, attentive, fraternal, competent and faithful” work. The Pope was receiving them in audience in the Vatican after having been presented with the new Italian version of the Bible, an inter-confessional translation in current Italian, fruit of the collaboration between the United Bible Societies Italian branch, and the ELLEDICI Publishing House. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :   In his discourse, the Pope expressed his desire that “all Christians be able to get to know ‘Jesus Christ’s sublime science’ through the reading of the Word of God, because the sacred text is the nutrient of the soul and the pure and eternal source of our spiritual life”.    The United Bible Societies is made up of 146 Bible Societies operating in over 200 countries and territories. Together, they are the biggest translator, publisher and distributor of the Bible in the world. They are also active in areas such as literacy training, HIV and AIDS prevention and disaster relief. Bible Societies work with all Christian Churches and many international non-governmental organisations.   Please find below Vatican Radio’s translation of the Pope’s discourse : Dear Brothers in Christ, I thank you for having come here to present me with the new Italian version of the Bible Word of God, an inter-confessional translation in current Italian, fruit of the collaboration between the United Bible Societies and the ELLEDICI Publishing House. The preparation of an inter-confessional version is a particularly significant effort, if one thinks of how many debates on the Scriptures have influenced division, especially in the West. This inter-confessional project, that has given you the opportunity to walk together over a couple of decades, has allowed you to entrust your hearts to your companions on this journey, overcoming suspicion and diffidence, with the trust that is born from common love for the Word of God. Your work is the fruit of patience, attentiveness, fraternity, competency and, above all, faith. If you do not believe you do not understand; “unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm” (Is 7, 9). I hope that this text, that we receive with the blessing of the Conference of Italian Bishops and the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, may incite all Christians of Italian language to meditate, to live, to bear witness and to celebrate God’s message. It is my wish that all Christians be able to get to know ‘Jesus Christ’s sublime science’ (Phil 3, 8) through the reading of the Word of God, because the sacred text is the nutrient of the soul and the pure and eternal source of our spiritual life. So we must make every effort so that each believer may read God’s Word, because as Saint Jerome says “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. I offer all of you my heartfelt thanks, because what you have done together is precious in realizing this objective and I encourage you to continue in the journey you have undertaken, so as to allow for the better and deeper comprehension of the Word of the living God. May my blessing accompany you, a blessing I impart also on your collaborators.        (from Vatican Radio)...

Audience with the president of Malta: commitment of Church and state in the phenomenon of migration

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 07:12
Vatican City, 29 September 2014 (VIS) – Today, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the Holy Father Francis received in audience the president of Malta, Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, who subsequently met with Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States. The cordial discussions focused on the good relations between the Holy See and Malta and highlighted the significant contribution made by the Catholic Church in the fields of education and welfare, especially in favour of the poor. The conversation then turned to various themes of mutual interest, with special reference to the role of Christian values in the edification of Maltese society and the strengthening of the institution of the family. Finally, the Parties discussed Malta’s contribution within the European Union, along with a number of questions of an international nature, such as the situations of conflict in the Mediterranean region, expressing hope for a prompt solution via dialogue, as well as the phenomenon of migration towards Europe, which involves commitment on the part of the Church and the Government....

To the members of the United Bible Societies: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 07:12
Vatican City, 29 September 2014 (VIS) – “Yours is the fruit of a patient, careful, fraternal, competent and, above all, faithful work. If you do not believe, you do not understand; if you do not believe, you cannot stand firm”, said the Holy Father to the members of the United Bible Societies, whom he received this morning in the Consistory Hall for the presentation of the Italian language Bible, “Parola del Signore – La Bibbia Interconfessionale in lingua corrente” (“The Word of the Lord – The Interconfessional Bible in current language”). “I hope that this text, which is presented with the blessing of the Italian Episcopal Conference and the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, will encourage all Italian-speaking Christians to meditate on, life, bear witness to and celebrate God's message”. “I would very much like all Christians to be able to learn 'the sublime science of Jesus Christ' through frequent reading of the Word of God, as the sacred text offers nourishment for the soul and is the pure and perennial source of the spiritual life of us all”, he added. “We must make every effort so that each believer may read God’s Word, because as Saint Jerome says, 'ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ'”. The Pope offered his heartfelt thanks to those present for their valuable work, encouraging them to “continue on the journey you have undertaken, so as to allow for the better and deeper comprehension of the Word of the living God”....

Communicating the family: a privileged place of encounter with the gift of love

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 07:08
Vatican City, 29 September 2014 (VIS) – The Pontifical Council for Social Communications published a note today explaining the theme of World Communications Day 2015: “Communicating the family: a privileged place of encounter with the gift of love”. The theme follows in continuity with the previous year’s message, and dovetails with the central theme of the next two Synods on the family. It is important to recall that World Communications Day, the only World Day established by Vatican Council II, is celebrated in many countries, upon the recommendation of bishops throughout the world, on the Sunday preceding Pentecost, and that the Holy Father's Message for the event is traditionally published on the feast day of St. Francis of Sales, patron saint of journalists (24 January). “The daily news show us the difficulties facing the family today”, according to the note. “Often cultural changes do not help us appreciate how much the family is a good for society. “The relationships between the members of the family community are inspired and guided by the law of 'free giving'. By respecting and fostering personal dignity in each and every one as the only basis for value, this free giving takes the form of heartfelt acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity. “Today, how can we tell people who are perhaps wounded and disillusioned that love between a man and a woman is a good thing? How can we help children know that they are a most precious gift? How can we warm the hearts of people, especially those who are wounded and disappointed, and help them rediscover the beauty of love? How can we show that the family is the privileged place where we experience the beauty of life, the joy and the gift of love, the consolation of forgiveness offered and received, and the encounter with the other? “Today the Church must learn again how to show that the family is a great gift, something good and beautiful. The Church is called to show more vividly that the gift of love, which the bride and groom offer each other, draws all people to God. It is an exciting task because it moves people to look at the true reality of the human person, and it opens the doors to the future, to life”....

Family is theme for 2015 Social Communications Day

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 06:39
(Vatican Radio) The theme for the 2015 World Day for Social Communications is Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love. Click below to hear our report Please find the full text of the announcement of the theme, below. ************************************* World Communications Day 2015 Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love The theme World Communications Day 2015 follows in continuity with the previous year’s message. At the same time, the topic fits into the context of the central theme of the next two synods on the family. The daily news show us the difficulties facing the family today. Often times cultural changes do not help us appreciate how much the family is a good for society. “ The relationships between the members of the family community are inspired and guided by the law of "free giving." By respecting and fostering personal dignity in each and every one as the only basis for value, this free giving takes the form of heartfelt acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity.” (John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, N. 43) Today, how can we tell people who are perhaps wounded and disillusioned that love between a man and a woman is a good thing? How can we help children know that they are a most precious gift? How can we warm the hearts of people, especially those who are wounded and disappointed, and help them rediscover the beauty of love? How can we show that the family is the privileged place where we experience the beauty of life, the joy and the gift of love, the consolation of forgiveness offered and received, and the encounter with the other? Today the Church must learn again how to show that the family is a great gift, something good and beautiful. The Church is called to show more vividly that the gift of love, which the bride and groom offer each other, draws all people to God. It is an exciting task because it moves people to look at the true reality of the human person, and it opens the doors to the future, that is, to life. World Communications Day, the only worldwide celebration called for by the Second Vatican Council (“ Inter Mirifica” , 1963), is marked in most countries, on the recommendation of the bishops of the world, on the Sunday before Pentecost (in 2015, May 17). The Holy Father's message for World Communications Day is traditionally published in conjunction with the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers (January 24). For more on the World Day for Social Communications, click here . (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Santa Marta: The angels defend us

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 05:53
(Vatican Radio) The angels battle Satan for the destiny of mankind and win.  They defend and custody  the greatest mystery of the Church, God-made-Man.  Even though in Satan often presents “humanistic explanations” for his attacks on mankind.  This was the focus of Pope Francis homily at Mass Monday morning at Casa Santa Marta, marking the Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Today’s readings present us with very strong images: the vision of the glory of God described by the prophet Daniel with the Son of Man, Jesus Christ, before the Father: the archangel Michael and his angels fighting against "the great dragon, the ancient serpent, he who is called the devil" and "seduces all of inhabited earth," but who is defeated, as affirmed by the Book of Revelation; and the Gospel in which Jesus says to Nathanael: "You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man". Pope Francis speaks of "the struggle between God and the devil": "This struggle takes place after Satan seeks to destroy the woman about to give birth to a child. Satan always tries to destroy man: the man that Daniel saw there, in glory, and whom Jesus told Nathanael would come in glory. From the very beginning, the Bible speaks to us of this: Satan’s [use of ] seduction to destroy. Maybe out of envy. We read in Psalm 8: 'Thou hast made ​​man superior to the angels,' and that angel of great intelligence could not bear this humiliation, that a lower creature was made superior to him; thus he tried to destroy it". Satan, therefore, seeks to destroy humanity, all of us: "So many projects, except for one's own sins, but many, many projects for mankind’s dehumanization are his work, simply because he hates mankind. He is astute: the first page of Genesis tells us so, he is astute.  He presents things as if they were a good thing.  But his intention is destruction. And the angels defend us. They defend mankind and they defend the God-Man, the superior Man, Jesus Christ who is the perfection of humanity, the most perfect. This is why the Church honors the Angels, because they are the ones who will be in the glory of God – they are in the glory of God - because they defend the great hidden mystery of God, namely, that the Word was made flesh ". "The task of the people of God - the Pope said - is to safeguard man: the man Jesus” because "He is the man who gives life to all men". Instead, in his plans for destruction, Satan has invented "humanistic explanations that go against man, against humanity and against God": "This struggle is a daily reality in Christian life, in our hearts, in our lives, in our families, in our people, in our churches ... If we do not struggle, we will be defeated. But the Lord has given this task mainly to the angels: to do battle and win. And the final song of Revelation , after this battle, is so beautiful: Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night”. Pope Francis concluded urging those present to pray to the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and "recite the ancient but beautiful prayer to the archangel Michael, so he may continue to do battle and defend the greatest mystery of mankind: that the Word was made Man, died and rose again. This is our treasure. That he may battle on to safeguard it". (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: meeting with elderly in St Peter's Square

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 07:49
(Vatican Radio) A brilliantly sunlit St. Peter’s Square was the scene Sunday morning for a great gathering of senior citizens – and especially grandparents – who had come to Rome to be with Pope Francis, to exchange life stories and hear the Holy Father’s reflections on the importance, the struggles, and the beauty of life in the old age. People of every state in life were present: elderly clergy and religious, including Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI; single people; married couples, including a couple of elderly refugees from Iraq, Mubarak and Aneesa Hano, Christians from the country’s north who have been forced to flee their home by Islamic State militants; and widows and widowers. “Old age, in particular, is a time of grace,” said Pope Francis, “in which the Lord will renew His call: He calls us to preserve and transmit the faith, calls us to pray, especially to intercede; calls us to be close to those who maybe in need.” The Holy Father went on to warn against losing sight of and appreciation for the inestimable worth of those, who are in the twilight of life. “A people that does not have care for [the elderly], that does not treat them well, has no future: such a people loses its memory and  its roots.” The key role of grandparents in passing down the faith to a new generation was another major theme of Pope Francis' address, and the central the theme of remarks made by the founder of the Catholic Grandparents Association, Catherine Wiley. Click here for our exclusive interview with Mrs. Wiley . Please find Vatican Radio’s English translation of the Holy Father’s remarks, below. ******************************** Dear brothers and sisters, good morning! I thank you for coming in such large numbers! And thank you for your festive welcome. Today this is your celebration. It is our celebration! I thank His Excellency Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, President Pontifical Council For the Family and all those who have prepared this ceremony. I listened to the testimonies of some of you  and was struck by the common experiences of many seniors and grandparents. But one was different: that of the brethren from Erbil (i.e. is the largest city and capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq). They  escaped violent persecution in Iraq. To all of them we say together, "thank you" It is really special that you have come to be with us here. This is a gift to the Church. In turn, we offer you our sympathy, our prayers and practical help. It is inhuman to abuse Elders just as it is inhuman to abuse children. But God will not abandon you. He  is with you! With God’s help, you are and will continue to be the memory for your people; and also for us, the great family of the Church. Thank you! These brethren here testify that even in the most difficult tests, the elderly who have faith are like trees that continue to bear fruit. And this is true even in the most ordinary of situations where, there may be other forms of temptations and other forms of discrimination. We have heard some such witnesses today. Old age, in particular, is a time of grace, in which the Lord will renew his call: calls us to preserve and transmit the faith, calls us to pray, especially to intercede; calls us to be close to those who maybe in need. The elderly – grandparents [especially] – have a capacity to understand the most difficult situations: a great ability – and when they pray for these situations, their prayer is strong. It is powerful.   To Grandparents, who have been blessed to see their children's children (cf. Ps 128.6), to them are entrusted an even greater task: to convey the experience of life, the story of a family, the story of a community or even of a people; to share with simplicity their wisdom and the same faith which is the most precious legacy! Blessed are those families who have grandparents nearby! The grandfather is in a way twice a father and the grandmother is twice a mother. But it is not always  the case that the elderly, the grandfather, grandmother has a family that can accommodate them or upon which they can count. So we welcome the houses for the elderly ... so that they can truly be homes, not prisons! We hope that these homes will truly serve the interests of older persons and not the interests of someone else! There must never be institutions where the elderly are forgotten, hidden or neglected. I feel close to the many elderly people who live in these institutions, and I think with gratitude of those who go to visit them and take care of them. Homes for the elderly should be the "lungs" of humanity in a country, in a neighborhood, in a parish; "sanctuaries" of humanity where those who are old and weak are cared for and taken care of like a brother or a sister. It's good for you to go and visit senior citizens! Look at young people: sometimes seem miserable and sad: Go visit an elderly person and you will become joyful! But there is also the reality of the abandonment of the elderly: how many times we discard older people with attitudes that are akin to a hidden form of euthanasia! The culture of discarding human beings hurts our world. We discard children, young people and older people under the pretense of maintaining a "balanced",  economic system the center of which is no longer the human person, but money. We are all called to counter this culture of poisonous waste! We Christians, together with all people of good will, are called to patiently build a more diverse, more welcoming, more humane, more inclusive society, that does not need to discard the weak in body and mind. On the contrary we need a society which measures its success on how the weak are cared for. As Christians and as citizens, we are called to envision, with imagination and wisdom, ways of dealing with this challenge. A people who do not take care for grandparents, does not treat them well has no future: such a people loses its memory and  its roots. But beware: you too have the responsibility to keep alive these roots in yourself with prayer, the reading of the Gospel and  the works of mercy. It is only is such a manner that we will remain as living trees, that even in old age will not stop bearing fruit. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: elderly are key to health of free society

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 05:30
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday morning in St Peter's Square, following a special encounter with elderly persons. In his homily, the Holy Father spoke of the enormous - indeed indispensable - contribution that seniors make to society, most importantly in their conservation of hard-earned wisdom and experience. "There are times," said Pope Francis, "when generations of young people, for complex historical and cultural reasons, feel a deeper need to be independent from their parents, “breaking free”, as it were, from the legacy of the older generation." Nevertheless, if the meeting of generations is lost and not re-established, and a "new and fruitful intergenerational equilibrium is restored," the inevitable result will be, "serious impoverishment for everyone, and the freedom which prevails in society is actually a false freedom, which almost always becomes a form of authoritarianism." Please find the full text of the official translation of the Holy Father's prepared remarks, below. ********************************* Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis Mass for the Elderly 28 September 2014               Today we accept the Gospel we have just heard as a Gospel of encounter: the encounter between young and old, an encounter full of joy, full of faith, and full of hope.             Mary is young, very young.  Elizabeth is elderly, yet God’s mercy was manifested in her and for six months now, with her husband Zechariah, she has been expecting a child.             Here too, Mary shows us the way: she set out to visit her elderly kinswoman, to stay with her, to help her, of course, but also and above all to learn from her – an elderly person – a wisdom of life.             Today’s first reading echoes in various ways the Fourth Commandment: “Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” ( Ex 20:12).  A people has no future without such an encounter between generations, without children being able to accept with gratitude the witness of life from the hands of their parents.  And part of this gratitude for those who gave you life is also gratitude for our heavenly Father.             There are times when generations of young people, for complex historical and cultural reasons, feel a deeper need to be independent from their parents, “breaking free”, as it were, from the legacy of the older generation.  It is a kind of adolescent rebellion.  But unless the encounter, the meeting of generations, is reestablished, unless a new and fruitful intergenerational equilibrium is restored, what results is a serious impoverishment for everyone, and the freedom which prevails in society is actually a false freedom, which almost always becomes a form of authoritarianism.             We hear the same message in the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy and, through him, to the Christian community.  Jesus did not abolish the law of the family and the passing of generations, but brought it to fulfillment.  The Lord formed a new family, in which bonds of kinship are less important than our relationship with him and our doing the will of God the Father.  Yet the love of Jesus and the Father completes and fulfils our love of parents, brothers and sisters, and grandparents; it renews family relationships with the lymph of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit.  For this reason, Saint Paul urges Timothy, who was a pastor and hence a father to the community, to show respect for the elderly and members of families.  He tells him to do so like a son: treating “older men as fathers”, “older women as mothers” and “younger women as sisters” (cf. 1 Tim 5:1).  The head of the community is not exempt from following the will of God in this way; indeed, the love of Christ impels him to do so with an even greater love.  Like the Virgin Mary, who, though she became the mother of the Messiah, felt herself driven by the love of God taking flesh within her to hasten to her elderly relative.             And so we return to this “icon” full of joy and hope, full of faith and charity.  We can imagine that the Virgin Mary, visiting the home of Elizabeth, would have heard her and her husband Zechariah praying in the words of today’s responsorial psalm: “You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth…  Do not cast me off in the time of old age, do not forsake me when my strength is spent...  Even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come”  ( Ps 71:5,9,18).  The young Mary listened, and she kept all these things in her heart.  The wisdom of Elizabeth and Zechariah enriched her young spirit.  They were no experts in parenthood; for them too it was the first pregnancy.  But they were experts in faith, experts in God, experts in the hope that comes from him: and this is what the world needs in every age.  Mary was able to listen to those elderly and amazed parents; she treasured their wisdom, and it proved precious for her in her journey as a woman, as a wife and as a mother.             The Virgin Mary likewise shows us the way: the way of encounter between the young and the elderly.  The future of a people necessarily supposes this encounter: the young give the strength which enable a people to move forward, while the elderly consolidate this strength by their memory and their traditional wisdom.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: Bl. Alvaro of Opus Dei a model of holiness

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 05:30
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis sent a letter to the leader of Opus Dei, Bishop Javier Echevarría Rodríguez, to mark the beatification of the first successor to Opus Dei’s holy founder, St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer.  Tens of thousands of people gathered in Madrid on Saturday to participate in the beatification Mass for the Servant of God,  Álvaro del Portillo , which was celebrated by the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Amato. In his letter, Pope Francis praises Blessed Álvaro as a model of holiness, “[who] sends us a very clear message: he tells us to trust in the Lord, that the Lord is our brother, our friend, who never defrauds and who is always at our side.”  The Pope goes on to say, “[Bl. Alvaro] encourages us not to be afraid to go against the tide and to suffer for the proclamation of the Gospel,” and, “teaches us that in simplicity and in our daily life we can find a safe path to sanctity.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: Jesuits "brave and expert rowers” in barque of Peter

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 12:41
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated a special liturgy of thanksgiving in the Church of the Gesù in Rome on Saturday, to mark the 200th anniversary of the restoration of the Society of Jesus. Please find, below, Vatican Radio's English translation of the prepared text of the Holy Father's homily for the occasion. ******************************************** Dear brothers and friends in the Lord, The Society under the name of Jesus has lived difficult times of persecution. During the leadership of Fr Lorenzo Ricci, “enemies of the Church succeeded in obtaining the suppression of the Society” (John Paul II, Message to Fr Kolvenbach, July 31, 1990) by my predecessor Clement XIV. Today, remembering its restoration, we are called to recover our memory, calling to mind the benefits received and the particular gifts (cf. Spiritual Exercises, 234). Today, I want to do that here with you. In times of trial and tribulation, dust clouds of doubt and suffering are always raised and it is not easy to move forward, to continue the journey. Many temptations come, especially in difficult times and in crises: to stop to discuss ideas, to allow oneself to be carried away by the desolation, to focus on the fact of being persecuted, and not to see the other. Reading the letters of Fr Ricci, one thing struck me: his ability to avoid being harnessed by these temptations and to propose to the Jesuits, in a time of trouble, a vision of the things that rooted them even more in the spirituality of the Society. Father General Ricci, who wrote to the Jesuits at the time, watching the clouds thickening on the horizon, strengthened them in their membership in the body of the Society and its mission. Here it is: in a time of confusion and turmoil he discerned. He did not waste time discussing ideas and complaining, but he took on the charge of the vocation of the Society. And this attitude led the Jesuits to experience the death and resurrection of the Lord. Faced with the loss of everything, even of their public identity, they did not resist the will of God, they did not resist the conflict, trying to save themselves. The Society – and this is beautiful – lived the conflict to the end, without minimizing it. It lived humiliation along with the  humiliated Christ; it obeyed. You never save yourself from conflict with cunning and with strategies of resistance. In the confusion and humiliation, the Society preferred to live the discernment of God's will, without seeking a way out of the conflict in a seemingly quiet manner. It is never apparent tranquility that satisfies our hearts, but true peace that is a gift from God. One should never seek the easy "compromise" nor practice facile “irenicism.” Only discernment saves us from real uprooting, from true "suppression" of the heart, which is selfishness, worldliness, the loss of our horizon. Our hope, is Jesus; it is only Jesus. Thus Fr Ricci and the Society during the suppression privileged history rather than a gray “little tale”, knowing that love judges history and that hope - even in darkness - is greater than our expectations. Discernment must be done with right intention, with a simple eye. For this reason, Fr Ricci comes, precisely in this time of confusion and bewilderment, to speak about the sins of the Jesuits. He does not defend himself, feeling like a victim of history, but he recognizes himself as a sinner. Looking at oneself and recognizing oneself as a sinner avoids being in a position of considering oneself a victim before an executioner. Recognizing oneself as a sinner, really recognizing oneself as a sinner, means putting oneself in the correct attitude to receive consolation. We can review briefly this process of discernment and service that this Father General indicated to the Society. When in 1759, the decrees of Pombal destroyed the Portuguese provinces of the Society, Fr Ricci lived the conflict, not complaining and letting himself fall into desolation, but inviting prayers to ask for the good spirit, the true supernatural spirit of vocation, the perfect docility to God's grace. When in 1761, the storm advanced in France, the Father General asked that all trust be placed in God. He wanted that they take advantage of the hardships toward a greater inner purification; they lead us to God and can serve for his greater glory. Then, he recommended prayer, holiness of life, humility and the spirit of obedience. In 1760, after the expulsion of the Spanish Jesuits, he continued to call for prayer. And finally, on February 21, 1773, just six months before the signing of the Brief Dominus ac Redemptor , with the utter lack of human help, he sees the hand of God's mercy, which invites those, who submit to the test, not to confide in anyone but God. Trust must grow precisely when circumstances throw us to the ground. Of importance for Fr Ricci is that the Society, until the last, is true to the spirit of its vocation, which is for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. The Society, even faced with its own demise, remained true to the purpose for which it was founded. To this, Ricci concludes with an exhortation to keep alive the spirit of charity, unity, obedience, patience, evangelical simplicity, true friendship with God. Everything else is worldliness. The flame of the greater glory of God even today flows through us, burning every complacency and enveloping us in a flame, which we have within, which focuses us and expands us, makes us grow and makes us shrink. In this way, the Society experienced the supreme test of the sacrifice unjustly asked of it, taking up the prayer of Tobit, who with a soul struck by grief, sighs, cries and then prays:  “You are righteous, O Lord, and all your deeds are just; all your ways are mercy and truth; you judge the world.  And now, O Lord, remember me and look favorably upon me. Do not punish me for my sins and for my unwitting offenses and those that my ancestors committed before you. They sinned against you,  and disobeyed your commandments. So you gave us over to plunder, exile, and death, to become the talk, the byword, and an object of reproach among all the nations among whom you have dispersed us.” It concludes with the most important request: “Do not, O Lord, turn your face away from me. (Tb 3,1-4.6d). And the Lord answered by sending Raphael to remove the white spots from Tobit’s eyes, so that he could once again see the light of God. God is merciful, God crowns with mercy. God loves us and saves us. Sometimes the path that leads to life is narrow and cramped, but the tribulation, if lived in the light of mercy, purifies us like fire, it gives us much consolation and inflames our hearts, endearing prayer to it. Our brother Jesuits in the suppression were fervent in the spirit and in the service of the Lord, rejoicing in hope, constant in tribulation, perseverant in prayer (cf. Rom 12:13). And that gave honour to the Society, but certainly not the praise of its merits. It will always be this way. Let us remember our history: the Society “was given the grace not only to believe in the Lord, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29). We do well to remember this. The ship of the Society has been tossed around by the waves and there is nothing surprising in this. Even the boat of Peter can be tossed about today. The night and the powers of darkness are always near. It is tiring to row. The Jesuits must be “brave and expert rowers”(Pius VII, Sollecitudo omnium ecclesiarum ): row then! Row, be strong, even with the headwind! We row in the service of the Church. We row together! But while we row - we all row, even the Pope rows in the boat of Peter - we must pray a lot, "Lord, save us! Lord save your people." The Lord, even if we are men of little faith, will save us. Let us hope in the Lord! Let us hope always in the Lord! The Society, restored by my predecessor Pius VII, was made up of  men, who were brave and humble in their witness of hope, love and apostolic creativity, that of the Spirit. Pius VII wrote of wanting to restore the Society to "support himself in an adequate way for the spiritual needs of the Christian world, without the difference of peoples and nations" ( ibid ). For this, he gave permission to the Jesuits, which still existed here and there, thanks to a Lutheran monarch and an Orthodox monarch, "to remain united in one body." That the Society may remain united in one body! And the Society was immediately missionary and made itself ​​available to the Apostolic See, committing generously "under the banner of the cross for the Lord and His Vicar on earth" (Formula of the Institute, 1). The Society resumed its apostolic activity of preaching and teaching, spiritual ministries, scientific research and social action, the missions and care for the poor, the suffering and the marginalized. Today, the company also deals with the tragic problem of refugees and displaced persons with intelligence and industriousness; and it strives with discernment to integrate service to faith and the promotion of justice in conformity with the Gospel. I confirm today what Paul VI told us at our 32nd General Congregation and which I heard with my own ears: "Wherever in the Church, even in the most difficult and extreme situations, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the social trenches, where there has been and there is confrontation between the deepest desires of man and the perennial message of the Gospel, there you have been and there are Jesuits. " In 1814, at the time of the restoration, the Jesuits had a small flock, a "small Society," but which knew how to invest, after the test of the cross, in the great mission of bringing the light of the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This is how we must feel today therefore: outbound, in mission. The Jesuit identity is that of a man who loves God and loves and serves his brothers, showing by example not only that in which he believes, but also that in which he hopes, and who is the One in whom he has put his trust (cf. 2 Tim 1:12). The Jesuit wants to be a companion of Jesus, one who has the same feelings of Jesus. The bull of Pius VII that restored the Society was signed on August 7, 1814, at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, where our holy father Ignatius celebrated his first Mass on Christmas Eve of 1538. Mary, Our Lady, Mother of the Society, will be touched by our efforts to be at the service of her Son. May she watch over us and protects us always. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: Synod prayer to Holy Family

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 10:34
(Vatican Radio) Sunday, 28 September is to be set aside as a Day of Prayer for the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled to take place from 5 to 219 October to treat the topic:  The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization . The Holy See on Saturday released a prayer guide, inviting p articular Churches, parishes, religious houses, associations and movements to pray for the success of the Synod assembly in the days leading to the Synod and during the Synod itself.  The guide includes a prayer  composed by Pope Francis for the occasion, as well as a series of intentions that may be offered the Prayers of the Faithful. Please find the full text of the guide, including the prayer composed by the Holy Father, below. ******************************************** Day of Prayer for the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the  Synod of Bishops Sunday, 28 September 2014             Sunday, 28 September is to be set aside as a Day of Prayer for the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, scheduled to take place from 5 to 219 October to treat the topic: The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization .             Particular churches, parish communities, institutes of consecrated life, associations and movements are invited to pray for this intention during Mass and at other liturgical celebrations, in the days leading to the synod and during the synod itself. In Rome, in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, prayers will be recited each day in the chapel of the icon, Salus Populi Romani . The faithful, individually  but above all in families, are invited to join in these prayers.             The suggested prayers include the Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod , composed by Pope Francis, and the following proposed intentions during the Prayers of the Faithful which can be adapted at Sunday Mass on 28 September and during the synod. These intentions can also be included in the petitions at Lauds and Vespers. The recitation of the Holy Rosary is also recommended for the duration of the synodal assembly.   I - Prayer to the Holy Family for the Synod   Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendour of true love, to you we turn with trust.   Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic Churches.   Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division: may all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing. Holy Family of Nazareth, may the approaching Synod of Bishops make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family, and its beauty in God’s plan.   Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer.   Amen.   II - Prayer of the Faithful   Brothers and Sisters, gathered together as God’s family and inspired by our faith, we raise our minds and hearts to the Father, that our families, sustained by the grace of Christ, might become true domestic churches where all live and bear witness to God’s love.   Together we pray: Lord, bless and sanctify our families.   For Pope Francis: the Lord has called him to preside over the Church in charity; sustain him in his ministry of service to the communion of the episcopal college and the entire People of God, we pray: For the synod fathers and the other participants at the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops: may the Spirit of the Lord enlighten their minds so that the Church might respond, in faithfulness to God’s plan, to the challenges facing the family, we pray: For those who have the responsibility of governing nations: that the Holy Spirit might inspire programmes which acknowledge the value of the family as the basic unit of society in God’s plan and which offer support to families in difficulty,  we pray: For Christian families: may the Lord who has sealed the union of husband and wife with his presence, make our families cenacles of prayer and ardent communities of life and love, after the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth, we pray: For couples undergoing difficulties: may the Lord, rich in mercy, be present to them through the Church’s motherly care and concern in showing understanding and patience in their journey towards pardon and reconciliation, we pray: For families who, for the sake of the Gospel, are forced leave their fatherland: may the Lord who endured exile with Mary and Joseph, comfort them with his grace and open for them paths of fraternal charity and human solidarity, we pray: For grandparents: may the Lord who was received in the Temple by the elders Simeon and Anna, make them wise collaborators with parents in transmitting the faith and the raising their children, we pray: For children: may the Lord of life, who in his ministry welcomed them and made them a model for entering the Kingdom of heaven, inspire a respect for life in the womb and programmes in raising children which conform to the Christian outlook towards life, we pray: For young people: may the Lord, who made holy the Wedding at Cana, lead them to discover the beauty of the sacredness and inviolability of the family in God’s plan and sustain engaged couples as they prepare for marriage, we pray: O God, you never forsake the work of your hands, hear our prayer; send the Spirit of your Son to enlighten the Church as the synodal journey begins, so that contemplating the splendour of true love which shines forth in the Holy Family of Nazareth, she might learn the freedom and obedience to respond with boldness and mercy to the challenges of today’s world. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen. (from Vatican Radio)...

Grandparent to give her testimony to the Pope

Sat, 09/27/2014 - 10:34
(Vatican Radio) What is the role grandparents play in keeping prayer at the heart of the family in the 21 st century and how important are they in passing down the faith to a new generation? That is what grandparent and founder of the Catholic Grandparents Association, Catherine Wiley will be highlighting when she gives her testimony on the vocation of grandparents to Pope Francis on Sunday. Listen to Lydia O'Kane's interview with Catherine Wiley Catherine will be among forty thousand grandparents and elderly people who will meet the Pope in an event entitled “The blessing of a long life” which will take place in St Peter’s Square. The event organised by the Pontifical Council for the Family, will also see Pope Francis celebrate Holy Mass which will be concelebrated by more than fifty elderly priests from around the world. Speaking to Vatican Radio about her testimony on Sunday, Catherine Wiley says she wants the focus of her words to the Holy Father to be about the unique role grandparents have in guiding grandchildren in their faith. “They (grandparents) really have a unique opportunity to pass on the faith to their grandchildren when they’re small”. Pope Francis has spoken often during his pontificate about the importance of grandparents and Catherine says “that everybody thinks of the Pope as a grandfather figure and in fact my grandson will be asking the Pope a question and he will be telling him that the children of the world love him like a grandfather”  The Catholic Grandparents Association, which has offices in both England and Ireland was started by Catherine in 2009 after she successfully organised the first National Grandparents’ Pilgrimage to the National Shrine of Our Lady in Walsingham in England and the first Irish National Grandparents’ Pilgrimage to the Knock Shrine in September 2007. The pilgrimages are now held annually. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis to celebrate Restoration of the Society of Jesus two centuries on

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 10:34
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is expected to go to the Roman Church of the Gesù for vespers on Saturday evening to give thanks to the Lord for  the Restoration of the Society of Jesus  which took place in 1814 , so two centuries ago. The exact date being August 7. In an effort to find out  more about this historical milestone and its significance today Veronica Scarisbrick spoke to the Assistant to the Postulator General of the Jesuits, Father Marc Lindeijer SJ.  Listen to  Father Marc Lindeijer SJ interviewed by Veronica Scarisbrick:     In this interview Father Lindeijer SJ explains why this anniversary is a celebration: " I't's a celebration because the restoration means there  was suppression in 1773 which caused great damage to the society of Jesus. From 23.000 Jesuits we went down to 600 in 1814." The Society of Jesus suffered terribly during those forty years or so although the order continued to survive in parts of Russia within its boundaries, Father Marc goes on to say, explaining how things changed during the papacy of Pius VII: "Pius was raised in the best of anti- Jesuit traditions when he was still a Benedictine but when he saw what had happened during the French Revolution, during the reign of Napoleon he realised that having the Jesuits as an instrument wasn't a bad idea"... .     (from Vatican Radio)...

Benedict XVI will attend encounter with elderly on Sunday

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 08:28
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See Press Office announced on Friday Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI will attend the encounter with Pope Francis and the elderly on Sunday morning in St. Peter’s Square.   The encounter is preceding the Mass  with Grandparents and the Elderly scheduled to begin at 10:30 am.   More than 40 thousand seniors and grandparents from more than 20 countries – many from Italy, Spain, Argentina and the United States  - will participate in the morning’s liturgy.  The Pontifical Council for the Family says more than fifty elderly priests from parishes around the world will concelebrate the liturgy with the Holy Father.  The main concelebrants will include the oldest priest of the Rome diocese, and one elderly priest each from the Democratic Republic of Congo, India and Argentina. Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI will not be at the Mass. (from Vatican Radio)...

Holy See publishes reply to UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 07:17
(Vatican Radio)  The Holy See Press Office has published the official text of the comments made in February by the Holy See delegation to the Concluding Observations of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child from earlier this year.  In the remarks, the Holy See reminded the committee the Holy See only exercises full territorial sovereignty in the territory of the Vatican City State, and that the Holy See “does not have the capacity or legal obligation to impose the abovementioned principles upon the local Catholic churches and institutions present on the territory of other States and whose activities abide with national laws.” The document also highlighted “that the Committee makes certain recommendations that disregard principles of international law that underpin every treaty,” and expressed particular concern over “the advancement of controversial new expressions not contained in the Convention, and related principles, which contradict the ordinary meaning of the words in the text, and fail to respect the spirit of the CRC”   The full text of the Comments of the Holy See is below   Comments of the Holy See on the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child 1. The Holy See is well aware of its position within the international juridical system, as a sovereign subject of international law, as well as of its obligations as a State Party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and its Optional Protocols, which has been clearly articulated in its Reports, Written Replies and statements made during the inter-active dialogue. At this point, and pursuant to art. 45 (d) of the CRC, the Holy See intends to comment on certain passages contained in the Concluding Observations (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2; CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1; CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/CO/1) presented by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter “Committee”), on 5 February 2014.[1] 2. In specific regard to the Concluding Observations CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, the Holy See underlines that in executing the obligations under the CRC, its conduct has always been inspired by general principles of international law, which include respecting in good faith the obligations deriving from treaties.[2] The specific details are set out in the Second Periodic Report (CRC/C/VAT/2) and in the Written Replies to the List of Issues of the Committee (CRC/C/VAT/Q/2/Add.1). The Holy See has acted in a similar way in relation to the application of the Optional Protocols as specified in its Initial Reports (CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/1 and CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/1) and in the Written Replies of the Holy See to the List of Issues of the Committee (CRC/C/OPSC/ VAT/Q/2/Add.1). 3. The Holy See, in affirming its proper nature as a subject of international law, reiterates that the international obligations contracted upon adherence to the CRC, with reservations[3] and interpretative declaration[4], and its Optional Protocols are fulfilled first and foremost through the implementation of the aforementioned duties within the territory of the Vatican City State (VCS), over which the Holy See exercises full territorial sovereignty. Beyond this geographic territory, which it administers, the Holy See disseminates principles recognized in the CRC to all people of goodwill and to various local Catholic churches and institutions, which operate in different States in compliance with national laws. Therefore, the obligations of the Convention and its Optional Protocols refer to Vatican citizens, as well as, where appropriate, the diplomatic personnel of the Holy See or its Officials residing outside the territory of Vatican City State.[5] The Holy See does not have the capacity or legal obligation to impose the abovementioned principles upon the local Catholic churches and institutions present on the territory of other States and whose activities abide with national laws. The Holy See, in accordance with the rules of international law, is aware that attempting to implement the CRC in the territory of other States could constitute a violation of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of States. 4. In light of the above, the Holy See takes note with satisfaction that the Committee has considered this position, indicating that it is “aware” of “the Holy See’s ratification of the Convention as the Government of the Vatican City State, and also as a sovereign subject of international law having an original, non-derived legal personality independent of any territorial authority or jurisdiction”, and that the Committee is “fully conscious that bishops and major superiors of religious institutes do not act as representatives or delegates of the Roman Pontiff ” (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, para. 8). 5. Indeed, as regards implementation of its obligations under the Convention and its Optional Protocols, the Holy See, for example, has made significant amendments to the criminal laws of Vatican City State. As was emphasized in the Second Periodic Report on the CRC and in the Initial Reports on the Optional Protocols, in the Written Replies to the List of Issues of the Committee as well as in the interactive dialogue with the Committee, the Holy See has executed its commitments within the territory of VCS, where it has the obligation to implement the Convention and its Protocols. 6. On the other hand, by rejecting the consistent position expressed in international law and practice, and despite repeated explanations of the Holy See in its Reports,[6] Written Replies[7] and interactive dialogue,[8] the Committee has overlooked important distinctions between the Holy See, Vatican City State and the universal Catholic Church. This, inter alia, has led to a grave misunderstanding of the Holy See’s international legal obligations under the Convention.[9] 7. The profundity of confusion regarding the nature of the Holy See, its internal legal order as well as its international legal personality, is fully revealed, for example, in Concluding Observation para. 8 (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2),[10] when “religious obedience”, [11] in canons 331 and 590 of the Codex Iuris Canonici (CIC), is interpreted to construct a new form of “ecclesial governance,”[12] where the Holy See is required to control the daily activities of clerics, religious and laypersons, living in the territories of sovereign States. [13] 8. In reference to the abovementioned canonical norms, the Holy See, as a sovereign subject of international law, reserves to itself the exclusive competence to interpret its internal fundamental norms, in conformity with pertinent international law, including the freedom of religion, with specific reference to the exclusive power of faith communities to organize and govern their internal affairs.[14] 9. In addition, the Holy See wishes to underline that the treaty body has plunged into canon law, which is a juridical system, however, not equivalent to that of States. In other words, only the laws of the territory of Vatican City State are comparable to those of other States Parties to the Convention. Unsurprisingly, the position in para. 8 (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2) based on an erroneous interpretation of Canons 331 and 590, is fundamentally flawed, and in response, the Holy See reaffirms the following points found in either its Reports, Written Replies or statements during the interactive dialogue: a. That canon law is a “complex unity of divine positive law, divine natural law and human law which reflect the Catholic Church: its origin, means, spiritual and moral mission, organizational structure, supernatural end, spiritual and temporal goods,” signifies that it differs from the laws of other States, in fundamental respects;[15] b. That the Church is a “communion” of mutual relationships means that interaction between the particular and the universal Church must “respect the principles of collegiality and primacy and the duties and rights in canon law of all members of Christ’s faithful;”[16] c. That the “religious obedience” of Bishops and religious Superiors concerns the unity of the doctrine of the Catholic faith and of the Catholic Church, founded and constituted as a society by Jesus Christ based on the communion of faith, sacraments and discipline, which are freely adhered to by members of the faithful[17]; d. That penal canon law provides certain sanctions for breaches concerning the public order of the ecclesial society (e.g. dismissal from the clerical state, penances) means it “differs greatly from State criminal law and [is] not intended to usurp or otherwise interfere with them or with State civil actions.”[18] In specific regard to the distinctions between penal canon law and State criminal laws, the Holy See refers State Parties to its Second Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.[19] 10. Of general concern, for all States Parties, should be the fact that para. 8 (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2) offers a controversial new approach to “jurisdiction”, which clearly contradicts the general understanding of this concept in international law. a) In particular, para. 8 contends that “by ratifying the Convention”[20] a State Party has “committed itself to implementing the Convention” through “individuals and institutions” living and operating in the territories of other States.[21] In the case of the Holy See, this amounts to a sort of “universal legal jurisdiction” over most States Parties. b) This interpretation is contrary to obligations under the CRC, which are prima facie territorial, taking into consideration the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, and a facial reading of the treaty together with the general understanding of jurisdiction as previously discussed in the Holy See’s Written Replies.[22] c) Due to the grave implications of this erroneous approach for relations between States, the Holy See emphasizes, once again, that in accordance with international law and State practice, the Holy See does not ratify a treaty on behalf of every Catholic in the world, and therefore, does not have obligations to “implement” the Convention within the territories of other States Parties on behalf of Catholics, no matter how they are organized.[23] d) Moreover, the Holy See’s religious and moral mission, which transcends geographical boundaries, cannot be transformed into a sort of “universal legal jurisdiction”, which somehow becomes a matter under the mandate of a treaty body. 11. Before moving on to other issues, the Holy See, while maintaining its position on jurisdiction set out in Written Reply no. 32, wishes to correct the statement made in Written Reply no. 34 (CRC/C/VAT/Q/2/Add.1), wherein it refers to the “openness of the religious sisters to engage in discussions about issues of compensation, and their willingness to pay part of a compensation package developed by State authorities”. Rather, religious sisters had agreed with the Government of Ireland to pay a specific sum of money in relation to a “redress scheme” in 2002 concerning other entities, which did not include the institution under discussion. 12. As for the recommendations concerning the situations described in paragraphs 37-39 of the Concluding Observations (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2), such matters fall within the jurisdiction of the States in which the Catholic institutions operate. The functioning of these entities must be carried out in accordance with national laws and with respect for the competent State authorities tasked with investigating, prosecuting and punishing crimes or other illicit acts committed against children by members of these institutions. 13. As for para. 40 (b) (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2), the Holy See emphasizes that the criminal laws of Vatican City State punish acts of violence against children residing within this territory in accordance with due process and appropriate penalties upon findings of guilt: Law n. VIII, Complementary Norms in Criminal Matter, of 11 July 2013, Title II, and Law n. IX: Law Modifying the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure, of 11 July 2013. 14. In regard to recommendations concerning the accession to international instruments contained in Concluding Observations (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2), paragraphs 44 (j) and 62, the Holy See reaffirms that it operates within the international community like other subjects of international law, while maintaining its specific mission and end. For this reason, the Holy See has always sought to become a part of international multilateral conventions regulating various areas, also on behalf of Vatican City State, with the necessary evaluation of these conventional norms in respect to its nature and to the particular function of its internal juridical system. Pursuant to the principles and rules of international law, the Holy See accedes to conventions that do not contradict the character of its mission and the nature of its own internal juridical system or that directly support specific norms within its juridical system. Moreover, it is noteworthy to recall the well-known position of the Holy See that it becomes a State Party to certain conventions in order to contribute with its moral support in the construction of an opinio juris to encourage a rapid entry into force of the conventions and their effective observance. 15. Moreover, the Holy See highlights that the Committee makes certain recommendations that disregard principles of international law that underpin every treaty (e.g. the sovereign equality and independence of all States, the non-interference in the domestic affairs of States as well as the principles of free consent, good faith and pacta sunt servanda rule).[24] For example, certain Concluding Observations (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2) : a) disregard a State Party’s own account of what it consented to when it ratified a treaty;[25] b) adopt an erroneous view of the State Party based on an unusual interpretation of what was perceived to be the internal law of a State Party;[26]c) recommend investigations, the enactment of laws, and the development of policies within the territorial jurisdiction of other States[27] (with indifference to the territorial sovereignty of other States and the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other States); and d) ignore the reservations and interpretative declaration of a State Party. [28] 16. The Holy See is concerned about the lack of respect for the text of a treaty, which has been carefully drafted by States Parties, including the Holy See itself (the fourth State Party to ratify the CRC). In this regard, the Holy See in its Second Periodic Report and Written Replies has duly noted the introduction of new terms or principles by the Committee, which in its view marks a departure from the ordinary meaning of the words in the text.[29] The Holy See ratified the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties and is bound to follow the rules of interpretation therein. In addition, the Holy See reaffirms its own reservations, interpretative declaration as well as long standing principles recognized in international law as well as the Convention.[30] 17. Of particular concern in the Concluding Observations is the advancement of controversial new expressions not contained in the Convention, and related principles, which contradict the ordinary meaning of the words in the text, and fail to respect the spirit of the CRC. In addition, these particular expressions are the subject matter of much debate on the international level, and certainly, have not been agreed to or otherwise accepted by the Holy See.[31] a) In a clear and open violation of the “ordinary meaning” of the terms of the CRC “in their context and in the light of its object and purpose”,[32] the Concluding Observations advocate for “abortion.”[33] This is completely unacceptable and such a recommendation is incompatible with the fundamental purpose and function of the international legal order.[34] According to the CRC, children, defined as under 18 (art. 1), require “legal protection, before as well as after birth,” (preamble para. 9). By doing do, the Concluding Observations derogates from the child’s “right to life” (art. 6) as well as his or her right to “pre-natal and post-natal health care” (art. 24.2.d). In addition, it deviates from the principle that children should not be discriminated against on the basis of “birth” (art. 2). b) The Holy See recognizes the variety of situations in which people live, and many due to tragic circumstances, however, the Concluding Observations promote “diverse forms of family”[35] as a matter of principle. This expression is not found in the Convention, nor is it defined. It is worth noting that according to the International Bill of Human Rights both States and society have an obligation to protect the family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, the “natural and fundamental group unit of society”.[36] The Convention recognizes this principle when it incorporates the International Bill of Human Rights in preamble paragraphs. 3-4 and acknowledges the family as “the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of …children,” which “should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community” (preamble para. 5, CRC). c) In further regard to the natural family, the term “family planning” is used in the Convention. The Holy See pursuant to its reservation interprets the expression to mean only morally acceptable methods, that is, the natural methods.[37] The expression “contraception”[38] is not contained in the text of the CRC. d) With respect to the rights of parents, “both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child” (art. 18 CRC), they have prior rights “to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” (preamble para. 3, CRC incorporates UDHR art. 26.3 by reference) and education should include “development of respect for the child’s parents” (art. 29 (1) (c) CRC). However, a State Party is urged to ensure “sexual and reproductive health education” and “sexual and reproductive health and information.”[39] These expressions are not found in the text of the Convention nor are they defined in international law. On this matter, the Holy See takes the opportunity to reaffirm that the education of children (defined in art.1 CRC), boys and girls, including education about authentic human love, human sexuality, married love and related matters are primarily and fundamentally the right, duty, and responsibility of parents.[40] The international principle regarding religious freedom recognizes that parents have the right to ensure that their child receives a religious and moral education in conformity with their own convictions, which also guarantees the freedom to teach a religion or belief. [41] e) In the Concluding Observations, the principle of equality between men and women (boys and girls) (art. 2 CRC; cf. preamble para. 5, UDHR) and the principle of non-discrimination on the grounds of sex (preamble para. 3, art. 2, CRC) are discussed within the context of “gender”, which is a word not contained in the text, and apparently employed to incorporate a larger ideological platform. In this latter regard, references to inherent dignity (preamble paras. 1-2, CRC) and inherent equality between the two sexes are dismissed as examples of “gender-based discrimination”[42], while subjective lifestyle choices and attractions are promoted as a matter of “rights”: “same sex couples”;[43]“sexual orientation”.[44] With reference to the term “gender”, the Holy See reiterates its position set out in para. 36 of its Second Periodic Report.[45] 18. The fundamental premises contained in Concluding Observation para. 8 distort the entire Concluding Observations and launch the Committee into matters protected by the right to freedom of religion.[46] For example, suggestions are made relating to: a) the interpretation of scripture;[47] b) changes to faith and morals;[48] d) amendments to canon law;[49] and e) revision of ecclesial governance.[50] 19. Moreover, many of the recommendations noted in paras. 16-17 supra, may also be viewed through the prism of religious freedom, in particular regard to the autonomy of religious communities to express their doctrine, manifest their faith and worship. From this perspective, the Holy See offered a more profound understanding of inherent human dignity, as founded on the image and likeness of God, and equality between men and women, as being in harmony with the fundamental complementarity of men and women and their call to communion. In response, however, the Concluding Observations state: “complementarity and equality in dignity [are] two concepts which differ from equality in law and practice” and “justify discriminatory legislation and policies.”[51] In addition, the Holy See emphasizes that the “concept of human rights” cannot be juxtaposed with the freedom of religion, as if the latter did not constitute a fundamental human right. 20. Other comments, for example, made in the Concluding Observations promote negative stereotyping and manifestations of intolerance against members of the Catholic religion. For example, the Concluding Observations allege that the “complementarity” between the two sexes and the “equality in dignity” of males and females “justify discriminatory legislation and practices”.[52] In addition, promotion of the protection of the family, based on marriage between one man and one woman means that “Church run institutions” discriminate against “children on the basis of their family situation.”[53] A reasonable observer might argue that the principle of non-discrimination has been applied in an unprincipled way, namely as a sword against freedom of religion. 21. Moreover, many of the recommendations noted in paras. 17-20 supra, deal with matters to which the Holy See has entered reservations and interpretative declaration, and therefore do not respect arts. 2 (d); 19-21 of Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.[54] Indeed, they completely disregard the Declaration of the State Party at the moment of its accession to the CRC, according to which “…the Holy See, in acceding to this Convention, does not intend to prescind in any way from its specific mission which is of a religious and moral character.”[55] 22. The Concluding Observations include inaccurate statements that have no evidentiary foundation.[56] Moreover, many materials presented by the Holy See, especially regarding child protection were dismissed or ignored.[57] Lastly, it is noteworthy, that answers given by a State Party not considered in line with certain suggestions does not mean that a reply to a question has not been given. For example, the Holy See was repeatedly asked the same query on various matters (e.g. discrimination based on sex, views of the child, the meaning of family, reservations, new expressions not accepted by the State Party, and matters falling within the territorial jurisdiction of other States). Indeed, the interactive dialogue largely involved the repetition of questions in the Committee’s List of Issues to which the Holy See had previously responded in its Written Replies, which, in turn, left the impression that the interactive dialogue was predetermined by Concluding Observations that had already been prepared. 23. In conclusion, as was clearly explained during the interactive dialogue with the Committee on 16 January 2014, and keeping in mind the concerns raised in paras. 6-10; 15-22 supra, the Holy See: a) Reiterates its commitment to make protection of the child a priority, in all situations, and continue to take appropriate measures pursuant to the Convention and its Optional Protocols, as unequivocally set out in its Reports, Written Replies and statements during the interactive dialogue; b) Confirms its willingness to implement the Convention and its Optional Protocols, in accordance with its own nature and mission, and to consider, in a similar way, the pertinent suggestions proposed by the Committee, in line with its moral and religious mission, for a better implementation of its treaty obligations and for a systematic preparation and presentation of its Periodic Reports; c) Reaffirms also as a sovereign of the Vatican City State, that implementation of the norms of the Convention and its Optional Protocols, as well as the relevant recommendations by the Committee, will be exclusively considered in light of its specific nature and mission (see paras. 3 and 6 supra), as recognized by the international juridical system.[58] ________________________________________ [1] The Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on the Second Periodic Report of the Holy See on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, 31 January 2014; The Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of the Holy See on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1, 31 January 2014; The Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on the Initial Report of the Holy See on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/CO/1, 31 January 2014. [2] See e.g.,preamble and art. 26, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 1155, p. 331 (23 May 1969). [3] Reservations of the Holy See: "a) [The Holy See] interprets the phrase `Family planning education and services' in article 24.2, to mean only those methods of family planning which it considers morally acceptable, that is, the natural methods of family planning. "b) [The Holy See] interprets the articles of the Convention in a way which safeguards the primary and inalienable rights of parents, in particular insofar as these rights concern education (articles 13 and 28), religion (article 14), association with others (article 15) and privacy (article 16). "c) [The Holy See declares] that the application of the Convention be compatible in practice with the particular nature of the Vatican City State and of the sources of its objective law (art. 1, Law of 7 June 1929, n. 11) and, in consideration of its limited extent, with its legislation in the matters of citizenship, access and residence." [4] Declaration of the Holy See on the CRC: “The Holy See regards the present Convention as a proper and laudable instrument aimed at protecting the rights and interests of children, who are 'that precious treasure given to each generation as a challenge to its wisdom and humanity' (Pope John Paul II, 26 April 1984). "The Holy See recognizes that the Convention represents an enactment of principles previously adopted by the United Nations, and once effective as a ratified instrument, will safeguard the rights of the child before as well as after birth, as expressly affirmed in the `Declaration of the Rights of the Child' [Res. 136 (XIV)] and restated in the ninth preambular paragraph of the Convention. The Holy See remains confident that the ninth preambular paragraph will serve as the perspective through which the rest of the Convention will be interpreted, in conformity with article 31 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 23 May 1969. “By acceding to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Holy See intends to give renewed expression to its constant concern for the well-being of children and families. In consideration of its singular nature and position, the Holy See, in acceding to this Convention, does not intend to prescind in any way from its specific mission which is of a religious and moral character”. [5] Apostolic Letter, issued MOTU PROPRIO, Roman Pontiff Francis, On the Jurisdiction of Judicial Authorities of Vatican City State in Criminal Matters, 11 July 2013, entered into force 1 September 2013. [6] The Holy See, Initial Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/3/Add.27, March 28, 1994, at paras. 1-2; The Holy See, Second Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/VAT/2, October 22, 2012, at paras. 1-5; The Holy See, Initial Report on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Prostitution, CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/1, November 8 2012, at paras. 4-5; The Holy See, Initial Periodic Report to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/1, October 22, 2012, at paras. 4-5. [7] The Holy See, Written Replies to the List of Issues in relation to its Second Periodic Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, CRC/C/VAT/Q/2 Add.1, January 9, 2014, at paras. 6-8; The Holy See, Written Replies to the List of Issues in relation to its Initial Report on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Prostitution, CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/Q/1 Add.1 January 9, 2014, at paras. 6-8. [8] The Holy See, Presentation of Reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child at the Interactive Dialogue, 65th Session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (13-31 January 2014), 16 January 2014. [9] The “moral authority” or “moral leadership” of the Holy See, referred to several times by the Committee (see e.g., CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at paras. 16, 21), does not constitute legally binding authority over anyone. Such leadership cannot be transformed into a treaty obligation. That the central organ of the Church has openly “shared” best practices, especially about child protection going well beyond its strict obligations under the CRC, should not be misinterpreted as suggesting that intra-Church matters fall within the mandate of a treaty body. [10] CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at para. 8; see also CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at para. 3; see the same line of reasoning in CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at para. 7, 13-14. [11] Id. [12] Id. [13] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at para. 41 (“The Committee is also concerned that in spite of its considerable influence on Catholic families the Holy See has still not adopted a comprehensive strategy to prevent abuse and neglect in the home”). See also paras. 22; 32 (c); 41-43; 51. [14]See e.g., Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 22 (48) (art.18), Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4. [15] CRC/C/VAT/2, supra note 6, at para. 97. [16] CRC/C/VAT/Q/2/Add.1, supra note 7, at para. 8. [17] CRC/C/VAT/2, supra note 6, at para. 97; see also e.g., Comité des droits de l’enfant, Soixante-cinquième session Compte rendu analytique de la 1852ͤ séance, CRC/C/SR.1852, 21 janvier, 2014, at paras. 36, 41- 42. [18] CRC/C/VAT/2, supra note 6, at para. 98. [19]Id. at paras. 98 a-h. [20] See e.g.,Convention on the Rights of the Child, G.A. Res. 44/25, at art. 49 (2), U.N. Doc. A/Res/44/25 (20 November 1989). In addition, the argument is framed in a manner that contradicts the plain meaning of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which, according to art. 49 (2) of the CRC, provides that States Parties are bound by their treaty obligations when the treaty enters “into force on the thirtieth day after deposit by such [twentieth] State of its instrument of ratification or accession”, and not upon ratification, as suggested by the Concluding Observations. [21] CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at para. 8; see also CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at para. 3; see e.g., the same line of reasoning in CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at para. 7, 13-14. [22]CRC/C/VAT/Q/2 Add.1, supra note 7, at para. 10; Cf. Convention on the Rights of the Child, supra note 20, at arts. 2; 10.2; 7.2, 20.2; 22.1, 44.2; 44.6. [23] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at paras.16; 18; 20; 22; 24; 30; 32; 34; 40; 42; 49; 51; 53; 57; 59; 61; 63; CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at paras. 16, 18, 24, 26; CRC/C/OPAC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at paras. 7, 13-14, 18. [24] See. e.g., the recognition of these principles in the preamble of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, supra note 2. [25] CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at para. 8; See also CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at para. 3. [26] Id. [27] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at paras. 16; 18; 20; 22; 24; 30; 32; 34; 40; 42; 49; 51; 53; 57; 59; 61; 63. [28] CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, para.12 (reservations, generally); para. 31 (reservation on the rights and duties of parents); paras. 36, 56 (reservation on family planning); para.55 (interpretative declaration on the right to life). [29] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/2, supra note 6, at paras. 18; 36 and both sets of Written Replies, generally: CRC/C/VAT/Q/2 Add.1 and CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/Q/1 Add.1, supra note 7. [30] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/2, supra note 6, at paras. 23 a-n: (e.g. equality between women and men; special protection due to the family, the natural and fundamental unit of society; the right to life of the child, before as well as after birth; and the prior right of parents before the State to educate their child). [31] In particular regard to these disputed terms, the Holy See takes the opportunity once again to reaffirm its position: “The three Reservations and the Interpretative Declaration are even more important given the attempted redefinition or creation of new terms and/or rights and/or principles, which do not correspond to an authentic and holistic vision of the human person and his or her rights and duties, nor present a good faith interpretation of the Convention’s text. The Holy See has never agreed to such terms, rights or principles often contained in the Committee’s General Comments and its Concluding Observations, and they certainly do not enjoy international consensus.” (CRC/C/VAT/2, para. 18). [32] Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, supra note 2, at art. 31. 1. [33] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at para. 55. [34] See e.g., Rome Statute of International Criminal Court, U.N. Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, 17 July 1998, U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 183/9 (1998), art. 7.2. f (situations that are relevant to pregnancy “shall not in any way be interpreted as affecting national laws relating to pregnancy”). [35] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at para. 48. [36] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, G.A. Res. 217 (III) A, at art. 16, U.N. Doc. A/RES/217 (III) (10 December 1948); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A., Res. 2200A (XXI ), at art. 23, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (16 December 1966); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, G.A. Res. 2200 (XXI) A, at 10., U.N. Doc. A/6316 (16 December 1966). [37] In its first reservation the Holy See stated the following: (“ [The Holy See] interprets the phrase `Family planning education and services' in article 24.2, to mean only those methods of family planning which it considers morally acceptable, that is, the natural methods of family planning” ).. See also the Holy See’s response to the Committee on this topic CRC/C/VAT/2, supra note 6, at para. 51. [38] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at para. 56-57. [39] Id., at para. 57 (c). [40] Id., at para. 30-31; See also the Holy See’s Position on the Conference Outcome Document at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995); See also the Holy See’s Position on the Outcome Document at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (1994 ). [41] International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights supra note 36, at art. 13.3; See also HRC, General Comment No. 22 (48) (art.18), Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, at paras. 6 and 8. [42] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/CO/2 , supra note 1, at para. 27-28. [43] Id., at para. 25. [44] Id., at para. 26. [45] CRC/C/VAT/2, supra note 6, at para. 36 (“The Holy See understands gender “according to ordinary usage in the United Nations context, associates itself with the common meaning of that word, in languages where it exists…[as] grounded in biological sexual identity, male or female….”). [46] See, e.g. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, supra note 36, at art. 18; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, supra note 36, at art. 18. [47] CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at para. 40.d. [48] See e.g., the Concluding Observations take issue with: “statements and declarations on homosexuality” (CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at para. 25); the principle of “complementarity and equality in dignity” between the two sexes (Id., at para. 22); promotion of the family, based on marriage between one man and one woman (Id., at para. 48); the Holy See’s “position on abortion” and “contraception” (See e.g. Id., at paras. 55, 56, respectively). [49] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at paras. 14; 40.b; 40; See also e.g. CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at paras. 11-12, 30. [50] CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at paras. 16; 18; 20; 22; 24; 30; 32; 34; 40; 42; 49; 51; 53; 57; 59; 61; 63. [51] Id., at para. 27 (The Holy See argued that each “human being is created in the image and likeness of God”. Moreover, it contended that the principle of complementarity between the two sexes better reflected an objective reality and avoided two extreme views of equality: one that would promote indistinct uniformity, on the one hand, or perpetuate irreconcilable and conflicting differences, on the other hand). [52] Id., at paras. 27-28. [53] Id., at paras. 48-49. [54] Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, supra note 2, at art. 2, (d): (“‘Reservation’ means a unilateral statement, however phrased or named, made by a State, when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to a treaty, whereby it purports to exclude or to modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty in their application to that State”). [55] See e.g., Declaration of the Holy See to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, supra note 5. [56] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/CO/2, supra note 1, at paras. 29; 43; 60; 60.c; See also e.g. CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/CO/1, supra note 1, at paras. 9, 29.b. [57] See e.g., CRC/C/VAT/2 supra note 6, at paras. 96-99; CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/1 supra note 6, at paras. 26-31; CRC/C/VAT/Q/2 Add.1, supra note 7, at paras. 43-51; CRC/C/OPSC/VAT/Q/1 Add.1, supra note 7, at paras. 10.4-10.4.b; CRC/C/SR.1852, supra 17, at paras. 36, 38, 40-43, 46; and Committee on the Rights of the Child, Sixty-fifth Session, Summary Records of the 1853rd meeting, CRC/C/SR.1853, at paras. 9,15, 29, 31, 33, 36, 38, 41, 46, 50, 51, 53, 55, 56, 65, 67. [58] It is worth emphasizing, that the specific nature of the Holy See was known during the drafting phases of the Convention and its Optional Protocols, accepted by the States Parties to the Convention and recognized at the time of the ratification, including its reservations and interpretative declaration made in accordance with the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, supra note 2. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope meets leaders of the international Focolari movement

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 07:12
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with leaders of the Focolari movement who are holding their General Assembly at Castel Gandolfo from September 1st to 28th. Half a century on from the Second Vatican Council, he said, they are called, with the whole Church, to follow a new path of evangelisation, witnessing God’s love to all and in particular to the poor and most marginalised. Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:  Greeting especially the Focolari president, Maria Voce, who has been elected to a second term of office, the Pope said the movement was born from a tiny seed in the Church and has grown into a tree whose branches spread through all kinds of Christian families and through all different religions as well. Pope Francis said the movement, which is also known as the Work of Mary, flowed from a particular gift of the Holy Spirit which is the charism of unity. The Focolari founder, Chiara Lubich, he said, was an extraordinary witness to that gift which she spread to so many different parts of the world. The Pope also offered three words upon which all members of the movement can base their efforts as they seek to contribute to the work of challenging task of evangelisation today. Firstly, he said, contemplation is an indispensable condition for effective action. Secondly, he said, they must go out in a spirit of dialogue, giving freely of themselves just as Jesus gave his life for us on the Cross. Finally, the Pope stressed the importance of forming young people, so that they too can serve the needs, concerns and hopes of men and women in the world today. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: To understand Christ we must bear the Cross

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 07:12
(Vatican Radio) A Christian cannot understand Christ the Redeemer without the Cross, without being ready to bear the Cross with Jesus. That was Pope Francis’ message at Friday’s morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. To be a Christian means to be a “Cyrene” [like Simon of Cyrene - ed.]. Having the faith consists in this: You belong to Jesus if you bear the weight of the Cross with Him. Otherwise you are going along a path that seems “good” – but is not “true.” The basis for the Pope’s reflections was the day’s Gospel, in which Christ asks His disciples what the people are saying about Him, and receives the most disparate answers. This episode, the Pope noted, takes place in the context of the Gospel that sees Jesus guarding “in a special manner His true identity.” On several occasions, when someone came close to divulging His identity, “He stopped them,” just as many times He prevented the demons from revealing His nature as the “Son of God,” Who had come for the salvation of the world. This, the Poe explained, was because the people misunderstood and thought of the Messiah as a military leader who would expel the Romans. It was only privately, to the Twelve, that Jesus “began to do the catechesis on His true identity”: “‘The Son of Man, that is, the Messiah, the Anointed must suffer greatly, must be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.’ This is the path of your liberation. This is the path of the Messiah, of the Just One: the Passion, the Cross. And He explains His identity to them. They don’t want to understand; and in the passage from Matthew, one sees how Peter refuses this: ‘No! No, Lord…’ But He begins to open up the mystery of His true identity: ‘Yes, I am the Son of God. But this is my path: I must go along this path of suffering.’” This, Pope Francis said, is the “pedagogy” that Jesus uses “to prepare the hearts of the disciples, the hearts of the people, to understand this mystery of God”: “Sin is so ugly, but God’s love is so great that He saves us in this way: with this identity in the Cross. You can’t understand Jesus Christ the Redeemer without the Cross: you can’t understand! We can come to believe that he is a great prophet, he does good things, he’s a saint. But without the Cross you can’t understand Christ the Redeemer. The hearts of the disciples, the hearts of the people were not prepared to understand it. They didn’t understand the Prophecies, they didn’t understand that He Himself was the Lamb for the sacrifice. They were not prepared.” It is only on Palm Sunday, the Pope noted, that Christ allowed the crowds to proclaim, “more or less,” His identity, when they cried out “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” And this, Pope Francis said, was because “if the people did not cry out, the stones would have cried out.” On the other hand, it is only after His death that the identity of Jesus appears in its fullness; the “first confession” came from the Roman centurion, the Pope noted. He concluded: “Step by step [Jesus] prepares us so that we can understand better. He prepares us to accompany Him with our crosses, along His path to Redemption”: “He prepares us to be ‘Cyrenes’ to help Him bear the Cross. And our Christian life without this is not Christian. It is a spiritual life, good… ‘Jesus is the great prophet, and He has saved us. But He and I, no… No, you with Him! Taking the same path. Still our identity as Christians must be guarded, not believing that being Christian is a merit; it is a spiritual path of perfection. It is not a merit, it is pure grace.”   (from Vatican Radio)...

Papal liturgies for October

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 07:12
(Vatican Radio) The Office for Papal Liturgical Celebrations has published the calendar of celebrations to be presided by the Holy Father in October. They include: Saturday, October 4, a Vigil of Prayer in preparation of the Synod on the Family, in St. Peter’s Square beginning at 6pm Rome time. October 5, XXVII Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mass for the opening of the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family in St Peter’s basilica, at 10 am Rome time. October 12, XXVIII Sunday of Ordinary Time, a Mass of Thanksgiving in St Peter’s basilica for the equivalent canonization of two Canadian saints, at 10 am Rome time. October 19, XXIX Sunday of Ordinary Time, Mass for the conclusion of the Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family and the beatification of the Servant of God Pope Paul VI,  in St Peter’s basilica in St. Peter’s basilica at 10.30am Rome time. Monday October 20, a Consistory for some causes for canonization in the Consistory Hall of the Apostolic Palace.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: Vain Christians are like soap bubbles

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 09:05
(Vatican Radio) During his morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis warned us to beware of vanity, which takes us far from the truth and makes us seem like "soap bubbles." T aking the first reading as his starting point, he emphasised that when they do good, Christians must avoid the temptation to “make themselves seen.” If you “do not have something substantial, you too will pass like all things.” Pope Francis took his cue from the Book of Ecclesiastes to dwell on vanity. Vanity is a temptation not only for the pagans but also for Christians, for “people of faith.” Jesus, he noted, often rebuked those who boasted. He told the teachers of the law that they should not “walk down the streets” with “luxurious outfits,” like “princes.” When you pray, the Lord warned, do not do it to be seen, do not pray so that people will see you; “pray in secret, go to your room.” You should do the same, the Pope said, when you help the poor: “Don’t sound the trumpet, do it secretly. The Father sees it, and that is enough”: “But the vain man [says]: ‘Look, I’m giving this cheque [check] for the work of the Church’ and he shows the check; then he scams the Church from the other direction. But this is what makes the vain man: he lives for appearances. ‘When you fast,’ the Lord says to this, ‘please do not be melancholy, sad, so that everyone will notice that you’re fasting. No, fast with joy; do penance with joy, so that no one will notice.’ This is vanity: it is living for appearances, living to be seen.” “Christians who live that way,” he continued, “for appearances, for vanity, seem like peacocks, they strut about like peacocks.” They are the people who say, “I am a Christian, I am related to that priest, to that sister, to that bishop; my family is a Christian family.” They boast. But, the Pope asked, “what about your life with the Lord? How do you pray? Your life in the works of mercy, how’s that going? Do you visit the sick? Reality.” This, he added, is why “Jesus tells us we must build our house – that is, our Christian life – on the rock, on the truth.” On the other hand, Jesus warned that “the vain build their house on sand, and that house falls, that Christian life falls, slips, because it is not able to resist temptations”: “How many Christians live for appearances? Their life seems like a soap bubble. The soap bubble is beautiful, with all its colours! But it lasts only a second, and then what? Even when we look at some funeral monuments, we feel it’s vanity, because the truth is returning to the bare earth, as the Servant of God Paul VI said. The bare earth awaits us, this is our final truth. In the meantime, do I boast or do I do something? Do I do good? Do I seek God? Do I pray? Substantial things. And vanity is a liar, a fantasist, it deceives itself, it deceives the vain, because in the beginning he pretends to be [something], but in the end he really believes himself to be that, he believes. He believes it. Poor thing!” And this, he emphasised, is what happened to the Tetrarch Herod who, as the day’s Gospel relates, asked anxiously about the identity of Jesus. “Vanity,” the Pope said, “sows wicked anxiety, takes away peace. It’s like those who put on too much make-up, and then are afraid the rain” will come “and all that make-up will come streaming down.” Vanity does not give us peace, he repeated. “Only the truth gives us peace.” Pope Francis said Jesus is the unique rock on which we can build our life. “And we consider that this proposal of the devil, of the demon, also tempted Jesus to vanity in the desert,” saying to Him: “Come with me, let us go up to the temple, let us make a spectacle. Throw yourself down and everyone will believe in you.” The demon presented to Jesus “vanity on a platter.” Vanity, the Pope said, “is a particularly grave spiritual illness”: “The Egyptian Fathers of the desert said that vanity is a temptation against which we must battle our whole life, because it always comes back to take the truth away from us. And in order to understand this they said: It’s like an onion. You take it, and begin to peel it – the onion – and you peel away vanity today, a little bit tomorrow, and your whole life your peeling away vanity in order to overcome it. And at the end you are pleased: I removed the vanity, I peeled the onion, but the odour remains with you on your hand. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to not be vain, to be true, with the truth of reality and of the Gospel.” (from Vatican Radio)...

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