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Pope: Jesus brings true change, renewing the heart

16 hours 6 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Let us allow ourselves to be transformed by Christ; let us allow ourselves to be able to be re-created, freeing us from our sins. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, centred on the theme of the renewal that the Lord brings. The Pope put us on guard about painting over our sins without truly being ashamed in our hearts. Only by calling sins by their name, he said, will we be able to allow God to make us new women and men. The desert will bloom, the blind will see, the deaf will hear. The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, speaks to us about renewal, the Pope said. Everything will be changed, from ugly to beautiful, from wicked to good.” A change for the better: this, he said, is what the People of Israel were expecting from the Messiah. The change that Jesus brings is not simply make-up Turning then to the Gospel of the day, Pope Francis noted that Jesus went about healing people, helping them “to see a path of change” and this is why they followed Him. They didn’t follow Jesus because He was some sort of novelty; “they followed Him because the message of Jesus touched their hearts.” And “the people saw that Jesus healed, and they followed Him” for that reason as well: But what Jesus did was not only change things from ugly to beautiful, from wicked to good: Jesus made a transformation. It’s not a problem of making something beautiful, it’s not a problem of cosmetics, of make-up: He changed everything from the inside! He made a change that was a re-creation: God had created the world; man fell into sin; Jesus came to re-create the world. And this is the message, the message of the Gospel, that we can clearly see: before healing that man, He forgave his sins. Go that way, to a re-creation, He re-creates that man, [changing him] from a sinner to a just man: He re-creates him as a just man. He makes him new, totally new. And this gives scandal: this gives scandal! For this reason, the Pope said, the Doctors of the Law, “began to discuss, to murmur,” because they weren’t able to accept His authority. Jesus, he said, “is capable of making us – us sinners – new persons.” It is something, Pope Francis said, “that Mary Magdalen intuits.” She was healthy, “but she had a wound within: she was a sinner.” She had an intuition that Jesus was able to heal not only the body, “but the wounds of the soul. He could re-create it!” And for reason “great faith” is needed. Opening the heart before the Lord: calling sin by its name The Lord, the Pope said, “helps us to prepare ourselves for Christmas with great faith” because “for the healing of the soul, for the existential healing the re-creation that Jesus brings requires great faith in us.” Being transformed, he said “is the grace of salvation that Jesus brings.” We need to overcome the temptation to say “I can’t do it,” and to allow ourselves instead to be transformed, to be re-created by Jesus. “Courage” is the word of God: We are all sinners, but look to the root of your sin, and that the Lord goes there and re-creates it; and that bitter root will flourish, flourish with works of justice; and you will be a new man, a new woman. But if we [say]: ‘Yes, yes, I have some sins; I go, I confess myself… two little words, and then I go on as before,” I don’t allow myself to be re-created by the Lord. Only two coats of paint, and we believe that with this the story’s over. No! Naming my sins, with name and surname: I’ve done this, and this, and this, and I am ashamed at heart. And I open my heart: ‘Lord, the only thing I have. Re-create me! Re-create me! And so we have the courage of going with true faith – as we asked – towards Christmas.’ The Pope said we always “seek to hide the gravity of our sins.” For example when we diminish envy. This, on the other hand, said Pope Francis, “is a very ugly thing. It is like the venom of a serpent” that seeks “to destroy the other!” Let us allow the Lord to cancel our sins in order to make us truly new And so the Pope encourages us “to get to the bottom of our sins and then give them to the Lord, so that He will cancel them and help us go forward with faith.” And he emphasized this passage, telling the story of a Saint, a great Bible scholar, who had a very strong character, who was often moved to anger, and who sought forgiveness from the Lord, doing so many acts of renunciation and penance: The Saint, talking to the Lord said, ‘Are you content, O Lord’ – ‘No!’ – ‘But I have given you everything!’ – ‘No, there’s something missing…’ And this poor man did another penance, said another prayer, did another vigil: ‘I have done this for you, O Lord. Is everything ok? – ‘No! Something’s missing…’ – ‘But what is missing, Lord?’ – ‘Your sins are lacking! Give me your sins!’ This is what the Lord is asking of us today. ‘Courage! Give me your sins and I will make you a new man, a new woman.’ May the Lord give us faith, to believe this.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Angelus: The Kingdom of heaven is the love and humility of God

Sun, 12/04/2016 - 05:52
(Vatican Radio) “The Kingdom of God is at hand and is indeed in the middle of us, this is the central message of all Christian mission.” Those were the words of Pope Francis during his Angelus address in St Peter’s Square on the Second Sunday of Advent. Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report   He was referring to the Gospel reading of the day in which John the Baptist issues the invitation to "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". The Holy Father explained that with these same words Jesus will start his mission in Galilee and it is an announcement that will “bring the disciples on their first missionary experience.” The kingdom of heaven, said the Pope, is not just a place in the afterlife, but it is the good news that Jesus brings us. God, Pope Francis continued, “comes to establish his dominion in our history, in our everyday life;” and where it is accepted with faith and humility and love. But the “condition to become part of this kingdom”, the Holy Father stressed, “ is to make a change in our life, that is to repent.” The Pope said, “it is to leave the streets, convenient but misleading, the idols of this world: the success at all costs, the power at the expense of the weak, the thirst for wealth, pleasure at any price and instead to open the way for the Lord who comes”. He does not take away our freedom, Pope Francis underlined, “but gives us true happiness. With the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it is God himself who has come to dwell among us, to free us from selfishness, from sin and corruption.” During his address the Holy Father invited the faithful to prepare spiritually for Christmas by examining their consciences and confessing their sins in the sacrament of Penance. Following the recitation of the Marian Prayer, Pope Francis said, “see you Thursday for the feast of the Immaculate Conception. We pray together, asking her maternal intercession for the conversion of hearts and the gift of peace." (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis meets with Fortune-Time Global Forum

Sat, 12/03/2016 - 05:31
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday greeted participants of the Fortune-Time Global Forum . The Forum brings together Fortune 500 and Time 100 leaders, who were discussing technology and jobs, global health, food and water, commitment to communities, energy and the environment, and financial inclusion—each representing critical elements related to poverty alleviation. “Our world today is marked by great unrest,” – Pope Francis told them – “Inequality between peoples continues to rise, and many communities are impacted directly by war and poverty, or the migration and displacement which flow from them.  People want to make their voices heard and express their concerns and fears.” The Holy Father thanked them for their work promoting “the centrality and dignity of the human person within our institutions and economic models, and to draw attention to the plight of the poor and refugees, who are so often forgotten by society.” “When we ignore the cries of so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, we not only deny them their God-given rights and worth, but we also reject their wisdom and prevent them from offering their talents, traditions and cultures to the world,” – he continued – “In so doing, the poor and marginalized are made to suffer even more, and we ourselves grow impoverished, not only materially, but morally and spiritually.”   Pope Francis challenged the business leaders to respond to global levels of injustice by promoting a local – “and even personal” – sense of responsibility so that no one is excluded from participating in society.  “Thus, the question before us is how best to encourage one another and our respective communities to respond to the suffering and needs we see, both from afar and in our midst,” – the Holy Father said – “The renewal, purification and strengthening of solid economic models depends on our own personal conversion and generosity to those in need.”   The full text of Pope Francis’ speech is below   Greeting of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants of the Fortune-Time Global Forum Saturday, 3 December 2016   Dear Friends, I am very pleased to welcome all of you who are participating in the Fortune-Time Global Forum, and I express my appreciation for your work these past two days.  I thank Mrs Nancy Gibbs and Mr Alan Murray for their kind words.  The theme you have chosen, “The 21st-Century Challenge: Forging a New Social Compact”, is very opportune and points to the urgent need for more inclusive and equitable economic models.  Your time together has allowed for a substantive exchange of ideas and sharing of information.  Important as this is, what is required now is not a new social compact in the abstract, but concrete ideas and decisive action which will benefit all people and which will begin to respond to the pressing issues of our day. I would like to offer a particular word of thanks for all that you are doing to promote the centrality and dignity of the human person within our institutions and economic models, and to draw attention to the plight of the poor and refugees, who are so often forgotten by society.  When we ignore the cries of so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, we not only deny them their God-given rights and worth, but we also reject their wisdom and prevent them from offering their talents, traditions and cultures to the world.  In so doing, the poor and marginalized are made to suffer even more, and we ourselves grow impoverished, not only materially, but morally and spiritually.   Our world today is marked by great unrest.  Inequality between peoples continues to rise, and many communities are impacted directly by war and poverty, or the migration and displacement which flow from them.  People want to make their voices heard and express their concerns and fears.  They want to make their rightful contribution to their local communities and broader society, and to benefit from the resources and development too often reserved for the few.  While this may create conflict and lay bare the many sorrows of our world, it also makes us realize that we are living in a moment of hope.  For when we finally recognize the evil in our midst, we can seek healing by applying the remedy.  Your very presence here today is a sign of such hope, because it shows that you recognize the issues before us and the imperative to act decisively.  This strategy of renewal and hope calls for institutional and personal conversion; a change of heart that attaches primacy to the deepest expressions of our common humanity, our cultures, our religious beliefs and our traditions.  This fundamental renewal does not have to do simply with market economics, figures to be balanced, the development of raw materials and improvements made to infrastructures.  No, what we are speaking about is the common good of humanity, of the right of each person to share in the resources of this world and to have the same opportunities to realize his or her potential, a potential that is ultimately based on the dignity of the children of God, created in his image and likeness.              Our great challenge is to respond to global levels of injustice by promoting a local and even personal sense of responsibility so that no one is excluded from participating in society.  Thus, the question before us is how best to encourage one another and our respective communities to respond to the suffering and needs we see, both from afar and in our midst.  The renewal, purification and strengthening of solid economic models depends on our own personal conversion and generosity to those in need. I encourage you to continue the work you have begun at this Forum, and to seek ever more creative ways to transform our institutions and economic structures so that they may be able to respond to the needs of our day and be in service of the human person, especially those marginalized and discarded.  I pray too that you may involve in your efforts those whom you seek to help; give them a voice, listen to their stories, learn from their experiences and understand their needs.  See in them a brother and a sister, a son and a daughter, a mother and a father.  Amid the challenges of our day, see the human face of those you earnestly seek to help.  I assure you of my prayer that your efforts will bear fruit, and of the Catholic Church’s commitment to be a voice for those who otherwise are silenced.  Upon you, your families and all your colleagues, I invoke the divine blessings of wisdom, strength and peace. Thank you. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis receives President of Uruguay

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 08:37
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the President of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay, Tabaré Ramón Vázquez Rosas, in a private audience on Friday. A communiqué from the Holy See Press Office said the Pope and the President held cordial discussions, in which they evoked the historical ties between the Holy See and Uruguay, and their “common interests for the integral development of the human person, respect for human rights, and social peace”. In this context, the two men underlined the “role and positive contribution made by Catholic institutions to the society of Uruguay, especially in the areas of human promotion, formation, and aid to those most in need”. The press release goes on to say the Pope and the President spoke about the national and regional situation, with special emphasis on democratic institutions and the social and humanitarian situation on the continent. Vázquez subsequently met with the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin. (from Vatican Radio)...

Papal preacher gives first Advent Sermon to Pope and Curia

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 08:02
(Vatican Radio) Papal preacher Father Raniero Cantalamessa on Friday offered his first Advent Sermon  to  Pope Francis, focusing on the Holy Spirit’s action in the Church. As preacher to the Papal Household, Capucin Father Cantalamessa gives a meditation to the Pope, Cardinals and members of the Roman Curia every Friday morning in Lent and Advent in the Apostolic Palace’s “Redemptoris Mater” Chapel.  Father Cantalamessa was named papal preacher by St. John Paul II in 1980, and was confirmed by both by Benedict XVI and by Pope Francis. Please find below the full text of the Reflection translated by Marsha Daigle Williamson: I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT 1. The Innovation after the Council With the celebration of the 50th year of the end of the Second Vatican Council, the first “post-conciliar” period comes to a close and a new one begins. If the first period was categorized by problems relating to the “reception” of the Council, this new period will be characterized, I believe, by the completion and integration of the Council—in other words, by re-reading the Council in the light of the fruit it produced while also highlighting what was lacking in it or only present in a seminal phase. The major innovation in theology and in the life of the Church after the Council has a specific name: the Holy Spirit. The Council had certainly not ignored the Holy Spirit’s action in the Church, but it had spoken of it almost always “in passing,” often mentioning him but without emphasizing his central role, not even in The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. In one conversation during the time that we were together on the International Theological Commission, I remember that Father Yves Congar used a striking image in this regard: he spoke of a Holy Spirit who is sprinkled here and there throughout the texts like sugar sprinkled on top of pastries without, however, being part of the recipe itself.  Nevertheless, the thaw had begun. We can say that the intuition of St. John XXIII about the Council as “a new Pentecost for the Church” found its actualization only later after the conclusion of the Council, as has so often happened in the history of the Councils. In the coming year, the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church will occur. It is one of the many signs—the most noticeable because of the magnitude of the phenomenon—of an awakening to the Holy Spirit and charisms in the Church. The Council had paved the way for this reception, speaking in Lumen gentium of the charismatic dimension of the Church alongside the institutional and hierarchical dimension and insisting on the importance of charisms.  In his homily for the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday in 2012, Benedict XVI affirmed, Anyone who considers the history of the post-conciliar era can recognize the process of true renewal, which often took unexpected forms in living movements and made almost tangible the inexhaustible vitality of holy Church, the presence and effectiveness of the Holy Spirit. Contemporaneously the renewed experience of the Holy Spirit stimulated theological reflection.  Soon after the Council, treatises on the Holy Spirit multiplied: among Catholics, that of Yves Congar,  of Karl Rahner,  of Heribert Mühlen,  and of Hans Urs von Balthasar ; among Lutherans, that of Jürgen Moltmann,  of Michael Welker,  and many others. On the part of the magisterium there was the encyclical Dominum et vivificantem (On the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church and the World) by St. John Paul II. In 1982 on the occasion of Sixteenth Centenary of the First Council of Constantinople in 381, that same Supreme Pontiff sponsored the International Congress of Pneumatology at the Vatican, and its proceedings were published in two large volumes called Credo in Spiritum Sanctum.  In recent years we have witnessed a decisive step forward in this direction. Toward the end of his career Karl Barth made a provocative statement that was in part a self-criticism. He said that in the future a new theology would be developed, the “theology of the third article.”  By “third article” he of course meant the article in the creed about the Holy Spirit. His suggestion did not fall on deaf ears. It has given rise to the present theological current that is precisely named the “Theology of the Third Article.” I do not think that such a current aims to substitute itself for traditional theology (and it would be mistake if it did); rather it is meant to come alongside of it and reinvigorate it. It proposes to make the Holy Spirit not only the object of one treatise, pneumatology, but also the atmosphere, so to speak, in which the whole life of the Church and all theological research unfolds—for the Holy Spirit is the “light of dogmas,” as an ancient Church Father described him. The most complete treatment of this recent theological current is a volume by scholars that appeared in English this last September called Third Article Theology.  Beginning with the great tradition of the trinitarian doctrine, theologians from various Christian Churches offer their contributions to this book as an introduction to a systematic theology that is more open to the Spirit and more responsive to current needs. As a Catholic, I too was invited to contribute to the book with an essay on “Christology and Pneumatology in the Early Centuries of the Church.” 2. The Creed Read from Below The reasons that warrant this new theological orientation are not only dogmatic but also historical. In other words, we can understand what the theology of the third article is and what it aims for if we keep in mind how the actual Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol came about. That history clearly points to the usefulness of examining that symbol “in reverse” at some point, that is, starting from the end instead of from the beginning. Let me explain what I mean. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan symbol reflects the Christian faith in its ultimate phase after all the council clarifications and definitions were completed in the 5th century. It reflects the order reached at the end of the process of formulating the dogma, but it does not, however, reflect the process itself, faith in the making. In other words, it does not correspond to the process by which the faith of the Church was actually formed historically, nor does it correspond to the process by which someone arrives at faith today, understood as a living faith in a living God. In today’s creed one begins with God the Father and Creator and moves on from him to the Son and his redemptive work, and finally to the Holy Spirit operating in the Church. In reality, the faith followed a reverse path. It was the Pentecostal experience of the Spirit that brought the Church to discover who Jesus was and what his teaching was. With Paul and above all with John we reach the point of ascending from Jesus to the Father. It is the Paraclete who, according to Jesus’ promise (see Jn 16:13), leads the disciples into “all the truth” about himself and the Father. Basil of Caesarea summarizes the development of revelation and of salvation history this way:  The way of the knowledge of God lies from One Spirit through the One Son to the One Father, and conversely the natural Goodness and the inherent Holiness and the royal Dignity extend from the Father through the Only-begotten to the Spirit.  In other words, on the level of creation and being, everything comes from the Father, goes through the Son, and reaches us through the Spirit. However, in the order of redemption and conscious awareness, everything begins with the Holy Spirit, goes through the Son Jesus Christ, and returns to the Father. We could say that St. Basil is the real initiator of Third Article Theology! In the Western tradition this is expressed concisely in the final stanza of the hymn “Veni creator.” Addressing the Holy Spirit, the Church prays, Per te sciamus da Patrem  noscamus atque Filium, Te utriusque Spiritum credamus omni tempore. Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow the Father and the Son to know; and Thee, through endless times confessed, of both the eternal Spirit blest. This does not in the least mean that the Church’s creed is imperfect or that it needs to be reformulated.  It cannot be other than what it is. However, what is sometimes useful is to change our approach to reading it so as to retrace the path by which it was formulated. There is the same contrast between the two ways of approaching the creed—as a finished product or in its process of formulation—as there is, on the one hand, between leaving St. Catherine’s Monastery early in the morning and personally climbing Mount Sinai and, on the other hand, reading the account of someone who climbed it before we did. 3. A Commentary on the “Third Article” With this in view, I would like to offer reflections on some aspects of the Holy Spirit’s action in the three meditations for Advent, beginning precisely with the third article of the creed that pertains to him.  The article includes three great affirmations. Let us start with the first one that says, a)    “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life.” The creed does not say that the Holy Spirit is “the” Lord (just above in the creed we proclaim, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ”!). “Lord” (in the original text, to kyrion, neuter!) indicates here the nature, not the person; it says what the Holy Spirit is but not who he is.  “Lord” means that the Holy Spirit shares in the lordship of God, that he is in the category of Creator, and not the category of a creature. In other words, he has a divine nature. The Church reached this certainty based not only on Scripture, but also on her own experience of salvation. The Spirit, wrote St. Athanasius, cannot be a creature because when we are touched by him (in the sacraments, in the word, in prayer), we experience entering into contact with God in person and not with his intermediary. If the Spirit divinizes us, it means that he is God himself.   Could we not say the same thing in the symbol of faith in a more explicit way, defining the Holy Spirit purely and simply as “God and consubstantial with the Father” as was done for the Son? Certainly, and this was the criticism of the definition quickly leveled by some bishops, including Gregory Nazianzus. However, for reasons of expediency and peace, saying the same the thing  with equivalent expressions was preferred, attributing to the Spirit, in addition to the title of “Lord,” the isotimia, that is, equality with the Father and the Son in being adored and glorified by the Church. The description of the Spirit as “the giver of life” is drawn from various passages in the New Testament: “It is the Spirit that gives life” (Jn 6:63); “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2); “the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45); “the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life” (1 Cor 3:6). Let us ask three questions here. First, what kind of life does the Holy Spirit give? The answer: divine life, the life of Christ. A supernatural life, not a natural super-life. He creates the new man, not Nietzsche’s superman with his “pride of life.” Second, where does he give us this life? The answer: in baptism, which is in fact represented as a “rebirth in the Spirit” (see Jn 3:5), in the sacraments, in the word of God, in prayer, in faith, and in suffering that is accepted in union with Christ. Third, how does the Spirit give us life? The answer: by making the works of the flesh die! He gives us that life through a death. “If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live,” St. Paul says in Romans 8:13. b) . . . Who Proceeds from the Father (and the Son), Who with the Father and the Son Is Adored and Glorified” Let us now move on to the second great affirmation of the creed about the Holy Spirit. Up to this point the creed has told us about the nature of the Spirit but not yet about the person of the Spirit. It has spoken of what he is but not who he is. It has also spoken to us about what the Spirit and the Father and the Son have in common—the fact of being God and giving life. With this present affirmation, however, we move on to what distinguishes the Holy Spirit from the Father and Son. What distinguishes him from the Father is that he proceeds from him. (The one who proceeds is other than the one from whom he proceeds!) What distinguishes the Spirit from the Son is that he proceeds from the Father not by generation but by spiration, a breathing forth. To express this in symbolic terms, he is not like a concept (logos) that proceeds from the mind but like a breath that proceeds from the mouth. This is the pivotal part of the article in the creed because it is intended to define the position that the Paraclete occupies in the Trinity. This part of the creed is known primarily for the problem of the Filioque that for a millennium was the main point of disagreement between the East and the West. I will not spend time on this problem because it has been discussed more than enough and also because I spoke about it myself in this setting during Lent last year in treating the points of agreement on faith between the East and the West.   I will limit myself to highlighting what we can retain from this part of the symbol that enriches our common faith, setting aside theological disputes.  It tells us that the Holy Spirit is not simply a “poor relative,” so to speak, in the Trinity. He is not “a way that God acts,” an energy or a fluid that permeates the universe like the Stoics thought. He is a “subsistent relation” and therefore a person. He is not so much “a third person singular” as he is “a first person plural.” He is the “We” of the Father and Son.  To express this in a human way, when the Father and the Son speak of the Holy Spirit they do not say “he”; instead they say “we” because he is the unity between the Father and the Son. Here we can see the extraordinary fecundity of St. Augustine’s insight in which the Father is the one who loves, the Son is the one loved, and the Spirit is the love that unites them, the reciprocal gift.  The belief of the Western Church that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father and the Son” is based on this. The Holy Spirit, nevertheless, will always remain the hidden God, even if we can know him by his effects. He is like the wind: no one knows where it comes from and where it will blow, but we can see the effects of its passing. He is like the light that illuminates everything around it but remains invisible. This is why the Spirit is the least known and least beloved of the three Persons, despite the fact that he is Love in person. It is easier to think of the Father and Son as “persons,” but that is more difficult for us to do with the Spirit. There are no human categories that can help us understand this mystery. To speak of the Father, we have the assistance of philosophy that deals with the First Cause (the God of the philosophers); to speak about the Son, we have the human analogy of a father-son relationship, and we also have the history of the Word becoming flesh. However, to speak of the Holy Spirit we have nothing but revelation and experience. Scripture itself speaks of him almost always by using symbols from nature: light, fire, wind, water, perfume, the dove.  We will fully understand who the Holy Spirit is only in Paradise. There we will live a life that will have no end, in a deepened understanding of him that will give us immense joy. He will be like a very gentle fire that will inundate our souls and fill us with bliss, like when love fills a person’s heart and that person is happy. c) “. . . Who Has Spoken through the Prophets” We have now come to the third and last affirmation about the Holy Spirit. After we have professed our faith in the life-giving and sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit in the first part of the article (the Spirit is the Lord and the giver of life), now his charismatic action is also mentioned. Regarding this action, there is one charism that is mentioned, the one that Paul holds to be the most important, namely, prophecy (see 1 Cor 14). In regard to the prophetic charism, the article mentions only one of its manifestations by the Holy Spirit: he “has spoken through the prophets,” that is, in the Old Testament. This affirmation is based on various texts in Scripture but in particular 2 Peter 1:21: “no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”  4. An Article to Complete The Letter to the Hebrews says, “God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (Heb1:1). The Spirit has not, therefore, ceased speaking by means of the prophets; he did so through Jesus and still speaks today in the Church. This point and other gaps in the symbol were gradually filled in by the practice of the Church without the need to change the text of the creed because of it (as unfortunately happened in the Latin world with the addition of the Filioque). We have an example of this in the epiclesis of the Orthodox liturgy attributed to St. James that prays as follows: Send . . . your most Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life, who is seated with you, God and Father, and with your only-begotten Son; he rules with you consubstantially and coeternally. He spoke through the Law, the Prophets, and the New Testament; he descended in the form of a dove upon our Lord Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, resting upon him, and descended on his holy apostles . . . on the day of holy Pentecost.  Anyone who tries to find everything in the article about the Holy Spirit, is going to be disappointed. This fact demonstrates the nature and the limit of every dogmatic definition. Its purpose is not to say everything about a tenet of faith but to draw a perimeter within which every affirmation about that doctrine must be placed and that no affirmation can contradict. In this case, there are the additional factors that the article was formulated at a time when the reflection on the Paraclete was just beginning and, as I said above, contingent historical circumstances (the emperor’s desire for peace) led to a compromise between the parties.   We are not, however, left with only the words in the creed about the Paraclete. Theology, liturgy, and Christian piety, both in the East and the West, have clothed in “flesh and blood” the succinct affirmations of the symbol of faith. In the sequence of Pentecost of our Latin liturgy, the intimate personal relationship of the Holy Spirit with every individual soul, which is not mentioned in the symbol, is expressed by titles like “father of the poor,” “the light of the heart,” “sweet guest of the soul,” and “greatest comforter.” The same sequence addresses a series of prayers to the Holy Spirit that are particularly beautiful and responsive to our needs. Let us conclude by proclaiming them together, hopefully seeking to identify among them the one that we feel we need the most. Lava quod est sordidum, riga quod est aridum, sana quod est saucium. Flecte quod est rigidum, fove quod est frigidum, rege quod est devium. Wash that which is sordid water that which is dry, heal that which is wounded. Make flexible that which is rigid, warm that which is cold, rule that which is deviant.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to Piarists: evangelizing pedagogy

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 06:22
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Message to mark the Calasanctian Jubilee Year – a special Jubilee marking the 400 th anniversary of the founding of the Pious Schools, which provide free education to the sons of the poor, and the Religious Order that runs them, commonly known as the Piarists, by St. Joseph Calasanctius (Joseph of Calasanz), Sch.P. Click below to hear our report In his Message, Pope Francis says, “[The Piarist Fathers] have always exercised their ministry in school, but have been able to incarnate their charisma also in several other areas. And, at the same time, they have been able to respond to the requests of the Church, assuming pastoral services wherever necessary.” He goes on to say, “Today more than ever we need an evangelizing pedagogy capable of changing the heart and reality in harmony with the Kingdom of God, making people protagonists and participants in the process. Christian education, especially among the poorest and where the Good News has little place or touches life marginally, is a privileged means to achieve this goal.” The Calasanctian Jubilee Year opened on November 27 of 2016 in the church of San Pantaleo in Rome, with a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. The Jubilee Year will end on November 25 of 2017, with a Eucharistic celebration in San Pantaleo, presided by the Father General of the Congregation of Piarists, Fr. Pedro Aguado, Sch.P. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope approves decrees for causes for canonization

Fri, 12/02/2016 - 06:16
(Vatican Radio) On 1 December, the Holy Father Pope Francis received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. In the course of the audience, the Supreme Pontiff authorized the Congregation to promulgate decrees regarding several causes for canonization. The martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother, an American priest killed in Guatemala our of "hatred for the faith," was officially recognized; as was the heroic virtue of Mother Catherine Aurelia of the Precious Blood, the foundress of the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood, which was the first contemplative community founded in Canada.  Below, please find the full list of decrees whose promulgation was authorized by Pope Francis:  The miracle, attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God Giovanni, Schiavo, professed Priest of the Congregation of San Giuseppe; born 8 July 1903 and died 27 January 1967; The martyrdom of the Servant of God Vicente Queralt Lloret, professed Priest of the Congregation of the Missions, and 20 Companions, amongst them six professed priests of the same Congregation, five diocesan Priests, two religious Daughters of Charity, and seven Lay members of the Association Sons of Mary of the Miraculous Medal, killed in hatred of the Faith during the civil war in Spain between 1936 and 1937; The martyrdom of the Servant of God Teofilius Matulionis, Archbishop-Bishop of Kaišiadorys (Lithuania), born 22 June 1873 and died in hatred of the Faith on 20 August 1962; The martyrdom of the Servant of God Stanley Francis Rother, diocesan Priest; born on 27 March 1935 and died in hatred of the Faith 28 July 1981; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God Guglielmo Massaia, of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, born 8 June 1809, died 6 August 1889; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God Nunzio Russo, diocesan Priest, Founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Cross; born 30 October 1841, died 22 November 1906; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God José Bau Burguet, diocesan Priest, Pastor in Masarrochos (Spain); born 20 April 1867, died 22 November 1932; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God Mario Ciceri, diocesan Priest; born 8 September 1900, died 4 April 1945; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God Mary Joseph Aubert (née Suzanne Aubert), Foundress of the Daughters of Our Lady of Compassion; born 19 June 1835, died 1 October 1926; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God, Luce Rodríguez-Casanova y García San Miguel, Foundress of the Congregation of the Apostolic Ladies of the Sacred Heart; born 28 August 1873, died 8 January 1949; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God Catherine Aurelia of the Precious Blood (Aurelia Caouette), Foundress of the Sisters Adorers of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Union of Saint-Hyacinthe; born 11 July 1833, died 6 July 1905; The heroic virtue of the Servant of God, Leonia Maria Nastał, professed Sister of the Congregation of the Little Servant Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary Immaculate; born 8 November 1903, died 10 January 1940. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope's letter read at girl's funeral

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 09:33
(Vatican Radio) On November 23, in the small Italian village of Massafra, a funeral Mass was offered for a young Italian girl, 10-year-old Paolina, who had died of a terrible illness. The Requiem Mass took place in the church of Saint Leopold Mandic,, with many parishioners present, including the local mayor. During the homily at the Mass, the pastor, Father Michele Quaranta read a letter sent to Paolina by Pope Francis. Paolina’s mother had written to the Holy Father to ask his blessing and his prayers for her daughter. Pope Francis had hoped to welcome to the young girl to the Vatican to meet her in person, but Paolina was already too sick to make the voyage. The full text of the Pope’s letter to Paolina can be read here: Dearest Paolina, Your photos are on my desk, because in your truly special gaze I see the light of goodness and of innocence. Thanks for sending them to me! Read this letter together with your and the kiss that I will give you now will be the kiss of the Pope. I join my hands to yours and to those of all those who are praying for you. And so we will make a long chain that, I’m sure, will reach to heaven. But remember that the first link in this chain is you, because you have Jesus in your heart! Remember that! So speak to Him, tell Him about yourself, but also talk about your mom and dad who have so much need of help and comfort in the face of the very difficult steps they are facing. You will certainly be a very good girl by suggesting to Jesus what to do for them! Remember, too, to tell Him what He should do for me, too, while I remember the things He ought to do for you. I give you a very, very big hug, and I bless you, together with your parents and your loved ones, with all my heart. Francis (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis’ December prayer intention: End to Child-Soldiers

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 08:05
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ prayer intention for December is for the End to Child-Soldiers: That the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over.   The Apostleship of Prayer has produced the Pope’s Video on this prayer intention. The full text of the Pope’s Video is below: In this world, which has developed the most sophisticated technologies, weapons are sold that end up in the hands of child soldiers.  We must do everything possible so that the dignity of children may be respected, and end this form of slavery. Whoever you are, if you are moved as I am, I ask you to join in this prayer intention: That the scandal of child-soldiers may be eliminated the world over. ...

Pope: "do not resist the grace of conversion"

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 07:52
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday encouraged the faithful to ask the Lord for help whenever they feel they may be resisting his grace. The Pope was speaking during his homily at morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta . Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : Finding inspiration in the opening prayer of the day “May Your grace conquer the obstacles caused by our sins”, Pope Francis said each of us have obstacles in our hearts which resist God’s grace. He warned in particular against various types of obstacles [it. resistenze]: The ones  he called  ‘open obstacles’  that are born of good faith – like in Saul’s case when he resisted grace but was ‘convinced he was doing God’s will' before he was converted by Jesus. “Open obstacles are healthy” - the Pope said – “in the sense that they are open to the grace of conversion”.  The most ‘dangerous’ obstacles according to Francis are the hidden ones because they do not show themselves. Each of us, he said, have our own way of resisting grace but we must recognize it and allow the Lord to purify us. It’s the type of obstacle that Stephen accused the Doctors of Law of concealing whilst they wanted to appear as though they were in search of the glory of God. An accusation – the Pope said – that cost Stephen his life:          "We all have hidden obstacles; we must ask ourselves what is their nature. They always surface to stop a process of conversion. Always!” But, the Pope said,  in these cases we must passively and silently allow the process of change to take place.  “Think of when there is a process of change in an institution or in a family. I hear you say: 'But, there are obstacles… (…) Those kinds of obstacles are put there by the devil, to stop the Lord from going ahead.” Francis then spoke of three types of hidden obstacles:  The obstacle of ‘empty words’ which he illustrated with the example provided by the Gospel reading of the day which reads “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven;” and by the Parable of the two sons sent by their father to work in the vineyard: the first says ‘no’ and then goes ahead and does the work, while the other says ‘yes’ and then doesn’t go:  “Saying yes, yes, diplomatically; but then it is 'no, no, no'. So many words” he said. Saying yes – the Pope continued – so as not change anything is the ‘resistance of empty words.’ And then, he said, there is the “obstacle of words that justify": that’s when a person constantly justifies himself – he always finds a reason to oppose.  Too many excuses the Pope said do not exude the good “aroma of God”, but the “bad stink of the devil”. He said a Christian has no need to justify himself: “He is justified by the Word of God". This kind of resistance he explained is a resistance of words which I use “to attempt to justify my position when I do not follow what the Lord is indicating”. And then, he said, there's the obstacle of "accusatory words": when we accuse others so as not to look to ourselves. In this case too we are ‘resisting’ conversion and grace as illustrated by the Parable of the Pharisee and the publican. So, Pope Francis concluded, there are not only the great historical actions of resistance as for example the Maginot Line or other such events, but those that "are inside our hearts every day.” He said the resistance to grace is a good sign "because it shows that the Lord is working in us" and he invited us to make the obstacles fall in order to allow grace in. Wherever the Lord is there is a cross, the Pope said, be it a small one or a large one, and it is resistance to the Cross, to the Lord, that ultimately brings redemption. So, when there are obstacles we must not be afraid but ask for the Lord’s help and acknowledge that we are all sinners.     (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis meets delegation from Georgia

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 07:08
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday greeted a delegation of faithful from the Apostolic Administration of the Caucuses who were in Rome to thank the Holy Father for his recent Apostolic Visit to Georgia. Pope Francis told the delegation their visit brought him many memories of his trip. “I never thought I would find in Georgia what I saw: The culture, spirituality, a people that praises Jesus Christ as the Savior, because it is a Christian population,” – the Pope said – “It was for me a great joy.” He said he was also personally impressed by the person of Ilia II of Georgia, saying “I perceived there a man of God.” While acknowledging the problems faced by the small Catholic community, Pope Francis said he thought they would find a way “without forcing the issue, to slowly walk together.” The Pope concluded by remarking on the different faithful he met, calling the responsibility of the laypeople “a great thing,” and thanking the priests and religious for their work. “Go forward!” – Pope Francis said – “This work is like yeast, to make the thing grow. Thank you very much! And do not forget to pray for me.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to students: ‘Overcome globalization of indifference with freshness of Gospel’

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 06:34
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis invited international students on Thursday to overcome the “globalization of indifference” with “the freshness, actuality, and daring of the Gospel.” He was speaking to participants of the IV World Congress on the Pastoral Care of International Students, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. Listen to Devin Watkins’ report: The theme of the World Congress takes Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium as its focus, examining its contribution to moral challenges in the intellectual world. The Holy Father invited the students to approach their studies as a springboard to contributing to a healthier society. He reminded them of the words of St. Paul to Timothy: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” The Pope went on to contrast the search for intellectual self-realization with a model for the good of all. “To the modern concept of the intellectual,” he said, “working for the realization of self and in search of personal recognition, often without care for their neighbor, it is necessary to counter with a model built on solidarity, which works for the common good and for peace.” The Holy Father said the experience of studying abroad “increases self-confidence” by expanding a person’s ability to relate with others, allowing one to “open up without fear to the other”. Turning to teachers and pastoral workers, the Pope invited them to “instill in young people love for the Gospel, the desire to live it concretely and announce it to others”. He said, “In this way, young people are formed who thirst for truth and not power, ready to defend their values and live mercy and charity, which are the fundamental pillars for a healthier society.” The Holy Father went on to say the phenomenon of international students, though promoting an encounter between cultures, can bring to the fore some negative aspects, “like the emergence of certain closures, defense mechanisms before diversity, internal walls which do not allow a person to look their brother or sister in the eye and realize their real needs”. He said a sad reality is the rise of a “globalization of indifference” which makes a person “incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor” ( cf. Apos. Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium, 54 ). In conclusion, Pope Francis said the experience of being an international student has the potential to “produce positive outcomes” on globalization, “with the freshness of the actuality and daring of the Gospel, in order to form new evangelizers ready to infect the world with the joy of Christ, even unto the ends of the earth.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Film director Martin Scorsese speaks to Vatican about his latest movie

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 10:15
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday met the Oscar-winning movie director Martin Scorsese whose latest film “Silence” recounts the persecution of a group of Jesuit missionaries in 17th century Japan. In an interview with Vatican media, Scorsese spoke about his latest movie project, his past films, his life growing up in the noisy slums of New York and why he now values silence so much. Scorsese spoke to Vatican Radio’s Sean Patrick Lovett. Listen to the interview with the movie director Martin Scorsese: Scorsese said the making of his latest film “Silence” was a long-term project plagued by obstacles and interruptions due to ill health and other issues.  He described how the actual shooting of the film with many of the outdoor scenes filmed in remote mountainous terrain, often ankle-deep in mud, was physically very gruelling for him and all the others involved but he never wanted to abandon the project. Asked about the film’s title and what silence meant for him, Scorsese explained that it had taken him a long time over the course of his life to learn to seek out and appreciate the value of silence. He described how he grew up in the tenement slums of New York amidst a “cacophony” of sound from the streets and surrounding houses and the only silent place he could find then was in the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral of New York City, saying “I spent a lot of my time there.” Scorsese revealed that as part of his recent quest for more peace and quiet in his life, one of the rooms in his house has been specially sound-proofed.  The Oscar-winning director spoke about some of his earlier films which he said were full of noise and often very “frenetic” but pointed out that in this latest movie there is no music on the soundtrack and instead there are the background sounds of the landscape and the birds. He described it as a way of “finding out what silence sounds like.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: support for UNESCO initiative

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 07:59
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday gave his support to an international conference on the protection of the cultural heritage in conflict zones, which is taking place in Abu Dhabi on 2-3 December. The Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage Conference is being organized by France and the United Arab Emirates under the auspices of UNESCO, the United Nations cultural agency. The conference will involve representatives from more than 40 countries, as well as public and private institutions involved in heritage conversation. Pope Francis said the theme is “unfortunately starkly current.” “In the conviction that the protection of cultural treasures constitutes an essential dimension in the defense of what it is to be human, I hope that this event marks a new step in the process of the implementation of human rights,” the Holy Father said. (from Vatican Radio)...

The Pope invites all to continue to walk the path of mercy

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 07:58
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has encouraged all believers to pray for each other, and to pray the Lord when we are in need and when we have reason to thank Him. Concluding his cycle of catecheses dedicated to the corporal works of mercy , the Pope addressed the faithful gathered in the Paul VI Hall in the Vatican for the weekly General Audience and reminded them that although the cycle has reached conclusion, we must continue to practice mercy in our lives. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni : Speaking of the corporal work of mercy which invites us to bury the dead,  Pope Francis said it could appear a strange request. In fact it is sadly meaningful in the present day – he said - when we think of the many people who risk their lives in order to give decent burial to the victims of war who live in fear under constant fire and bombardment.   And for us Christians, he said, burial is an act of great faith because when we lower the bodies of our loved ones into the tomb, we do so in the hope of their resurrection. Turning to the very last of the spiritual works of mercy: praying for the living and the dead, the Pope said it is especially meaningful in this month of November, when we commemorate all the faithful departed and thank the Lord for having allowed us to partake of their love and their friendship. What’s more, the Pope said, praying for the living and the dead is an eloquent expression of the communion of saints and reminds us of how we are all united in God’s great family. “This is why we pray for each other” he said. And encouraging  us all to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit, who knows our deepest desires and hopes, and embrace in our prayer all those in any kind of need, the Pope reminded us not to forget also thank God for the good things in our lives.   Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis expressed his hope that the 14 corporal and spiritual works of mercy on which we have meditated throughout the Holy Year may continue to inspire and guide us on the path of God’s mercy.     (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: Message to Ecumenical Patriarch for feast of St Andrew

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 05:43
(Vatican Radio) At the end of his General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis greeted the church of Constantinople, and the “beloved Patriarch Bartholomew” on the occasion of the Feast of the Apostle St Andrew, traditionally held to be the founder of the See of Byzantium, which later became the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Pope Francis expressed his desire to be united to the Patriarch and to the church of Constantinople, offering them his “best wishes for all possible goods, for all the blessings of the Lord, and a warm embrace.” A delegation from the Holy See, bearing a message from Pope Francis, is in Istanbul for a visit to the Patriarchate on the Apostle’s feast day. The customary visit is reciprocated each year on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome. The Holy See delegation was led by Cardinal Kurt Koch, the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Cardinal Koch was accompanied by the Council’s Secretary, Bishop Brian Farrell, and the Under-secretary, Monsignor Andrea Palmieri. The delegation was joined in Constantinople by the Apostolic Nuncio in Turkey, Archbishop Paul Russell. The delegation took part in the solemn Divine Liturgy offered by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, in the patriarchal church of Saint George at the Phanar. They also met with the Patriarch, as well as with the synodal commission on relations with the Catholic Church. Following the Divine Liturgy, Cardinal Koch delivered an autograph message of Pope Francis to the Ecumenical Patriarch, accompanied by a gift. In the message, Pope Francis said the annual exchange of delegations is “a visible sign of the profound bonds that already unite us” as well as “an expression of our yearning for ever deeper communion.” In the journey toward full communion, he said, “we are sustained by the intercession not only of our patron saints, but by the array of martyrs from every age.” Pope Francis also noted “the strong commitment” to re-establishing Christian unity expressed by the Great and Holy Council held in Crete in June. The Pope noted that relations between the churches have, at times, been marked by conflicts; “only prayer, common good works, and dialogue,” he said, “can enable us to overcome division and grow closer to one another.” The Holy Father also wrote about the importance of theological dialogue, and especially the shared reflection on the relationship between synodality and primacy in the first millennium. This reflection, he said, “can offer a sure foundation for discerning ways in which primacy may be exercised in the Church when all Christians of East and West are finally reconciled.” Finally, Pope Francis fondly recalled his meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew and other Christian leaders and representatives of various world religions in Assisi. The Assisi gathering, he said, was a joyful opportunity to deepen our friendship, which finds expression in a shared vision regarding the great questions that affect the life of the Church and of all society. He concluded his message with an assurance of prayer and best wishes for the Ecumenical Patriarch, and all those entrusted to his spiritual care.  Here is the full text of Pope Francis’ message to Patriarch Bartholomew on the occasion of the Feast of Saint Andrew: To His Holiness Bartholomaios Archbishop of Constantinople Ecumenical Patriarch It gives me great joy, Your Holiness, to renew the tradition of sending a delegation to the solemn celebration of the feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle, patron of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in order to convey my best wishes to you, my beloved brother in Christ, as well as to the members of the Holy Synod, the clergy and all the faithful gathered in remembrance of Saint Andrew.  In this way, I am pleased to respond to your custom of sending a delegation of the Church of Constantinople for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, patron saints of the Church of Rome. The exchange of delegations between Rome and Constantinople on the occasion of the respective feast days honouring the brother apostles Peter and Andrew is a visible sign of the profound bonds that already unite us.  So too, it is an expression of our yearning for ever deeper communion, until that day when, God willing, we may witness to our love for one another by sharing the same eucharistic table.  In this journey towards the restoration of eucharistic communion between us, we are sustained by the intercession not only of our patron saints, but by the array of martyrs from every age, who “despite the tragedy of our divisions… have preserved an attachment to Christ and to the Father so radical and absolute as to lead even to the shedding of blood” (Saint Pope John Paul II, Ut unum sint, 83). It is for Catholics a source of real encouragement that at the Great and Holy Council held last June in Crete, the strong commitment to re–establishing the unity of Christians was confirmed.  Ever faithful to your own tradition, Your Holiness has always remained conscious of existing difficulties to unity and has never tired of supporting initiatives which foster encounter and dialogue.  The history of relations between Christians, however, has sadly been marked by conflicts that have left a deep impression on the memory of the faithful. For this reason, some cling to attitudes of the past.  We know that only prayer, common good works and dialogue can enable us to overcome division and grow closer to one another. Thanks to the process of dialogue, over the last decades Catholics and Orthodox have begun to recognize one another as brothers and sisters and to value each other’s gifts, and together have proclaimed the Gospel, served humanity and the cause of peace, promoted the dignity of the human being and the inestimable value of the family, and cared for those most in need, as well as creation, our common home.  The theological dialogue undertaken by the Joint International Commission has also made a significant contribution to mutual understanding.  The recent document Synodality and Primacy in the First Millennium.  Towards a Common Understanding in Service to the Unity of the Church is the fruit of a longstanding and intense study by members of the Joint International Commission, to whom I extend my heartfelt gratitude.  Though many questions remain, this shared reflection on the relationship between synodality and primacy in the first millennium can offer a sure foundation for discerning ways in which primacy may be exercised in the Church when all Christians of East and West are finally reconciled. I recall with great fondness our recent meeting in Assisi with other Christians and representatives of religious traditions gathered to offer a united appeal for peace throughout the world.  Our gathering was a joyful opportunity to deepen our friendship, which finds expression in a shared vision regarding the great questions that affect the life of the Church and of all society. Your Holiness, these are some of my deepest hopes that I have wanted to express in a spirit of genuine fraternity.  In assuring you of my daily remembrance in prayer, I renew my best wishes for peace, health and abundant blessings upon you and all those entrusted to your care.  With sentiments of brotherly affection and spiritual closeness, I exchange with Your Holiness an embrace of peace in the Lord.   (from Vatican Radio)...

2017 message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations released

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 05:06
(Vatican Radio) The 2017 message for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations was released Wednesday entitled, “Led by the Spirit for Mission”. Listen to Lydia O’Kane's report In the message for this 54th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the Pope reflects on the missionary dimension of our Christian calling.  The Holy Father says that “commitment to mission is not something added on to the Christian life as a kind of decoration, but is instead an essential element of faith itself.  A relationship with the Lord,” he adds, “entails being sent out into the world as prophets of his word and witnesses of his love.” Even if at times when “we are conscious of our weaknesses and tempted to discouragement”, Pope Francis underlines,  “we need to turn to God with confidence”, and he reiterates that, by "virtue of baptism, every Christian is a “Christopher”, a bearer of Christ, to his brothers and sisters." In the message divided into three subtitles, the first being “Jesus is anointed by the Spirit and sent”, the Holy Father explains that, “to be a missionary disciple means to share actively in the mission of Christ.” In the second heading, “Jesus is at our side every step of the way”, Pope Francis describes how “the questions lurking in human hearts and the real challenges of life can make us feel bewildered, inadequate and hopeless.”  But he goes on to say, “if we contemplate the risen Jesus walking alongside the disciples of Emmaus we can be filled with new confidence."  In the third subtitle, “Jesus makes the seed grow", the Pope says that, “it is important to let the Gospel teach us the way of proclamation.”  “The seed of the Kingdom”, he adds, “however tiny, unseen and at times insignificant, silently continues to grow, thanks to God’s tireless activity.”  Concluding his message the Holy Father underlines that, “there can be no promotion of vocations or Christian mission apart from constant contemplative prayer and he encourages this kind of profound friendship with the Lord, “above all for the sake of imploring from on high new vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.” The 2017 World Day of Prayer for Vocations will be celebrated on May 7th.   Below find the English translation of the Message of His Holiness Pope Francis 2017 World Day of Prayer for Vocations   Dear Brothers and Sisters,             In the last few years, we have considered two aspects of the Christian vocation: the summons to “go out from ourselves” to hear the Lord’s voice, and the importance of the ecclesial community as the privileged place where God’s call is born, nourished and expressed.             Now, on this 54th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, I would like to reflect on the missionary dimension of our Christian calling.  Those who drawn by God’s voice and determined to follow Jesus soon discover within themselves an irrepressible desire to bring the Good News to their brothers and sisters through proclamation and the service of charity.  All Christians are called to be missionaries of the Gospel!  As disciples, we do not receive the gift of God’s love for our personal consolation, nor are we called to promote ourselves, or a business concern.  We are simply men and women touched and transformed by the joy of God’s love, who cannot keep this experience just to ourselves.  For “the Gospel joy which enlivens the community of disciples is a missionary joy (Evangelii Gaudium, 21).             Commitment to mission is not something added on to the Christian life as a kind of decoration, but is instead an essential element of faith itself.  A relationship with the Lord entails being sent out into the world as prophets of his word and witnesses of his love.             Even if at times we are conscious of our weaknesses and tempted to discouragement, we need to turn with God with confidence.  We must overcome a sense of our own inadequacy and not yield to pessimism, which merely turns us into passive spectators of a dreary and monotonous life.  There is no room for fear!  God himself comes to cleanse our “unclean lips” and equip us for the mission: “Your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for us?’  And I said, ‘Here am I, send me’” (Is 6:6-8).             In the depths of their heart, all missionary disciples hear this divine voice bidding them to “go about”, as Jesus did, “doing good and healing all” (cf. Acts 10:38).  I have mentioned that, by virtue of baptism, every Christian is a “Christopher”, a bearer of Christ, to his brothers and sisters (cf. Catechesis, 30 January 2016).  This is particularly the case with those called to a life of special consecration and with priests, who have generously responded, “Here I am, Lord, send me!”  With renewed missionary enthusiasm, priests are called to go forth from the sacred precincts of the temple and to let God’s tender love overflow for the sake of humanity (cf. Homily at the Chrism Mass, 24 March 2016).  The Church needs such priests: serenely confident because they have discovered the true treasure, anxious to go out and joyfully to make it known to all (cf. Mt 13:44).             Certainly many questions arise when we speak of the Christian mission.  What does it mean to be a missionary of the Gospel?  Who gives us the strength and courage to preach?  What is the evangelical basis and inspiration of mission?  We can respond to these questions by meditating on three scenes from the Gospels: the inauguration of Jesus’ mission in the synagogue at Nazareth (cf. Lk 4:16-30); the journey that, after his resurrection, he makes in the company of the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-35) and, finally, the parable of the sower and the seed (cf. Mt 4:26-27).             Jesus is anointed by the Spirit and sent.  To be a missionary disciple means to share actively in the mission of Christ.  Jesus himself described that mission in the synagogue of Nazareth in these words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Lk 4:18-19).  This is also our mission: to be anointed by the Spirit, and to go out to our brothers and sisters in order to proclaim the word and to be for them a means of salvation.             Jesus is at our side every step of the way.  The questions lurking in human hearts and the real challenges of life can make us feel bewildered, inadequate and hopeless.  The Christian mission might appear to be mere utopian illusion or at least something beyond our reach.  Yet if we contemplate the risen Jesus walking alongside the disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-15), we can be filled with new confidence.  In that Gospel scene, we have a true “liturgy of the street”, preceding that of the word and the breaking of the bread.  We see that, at every step of the way, Jesus is at our side!  The two disciples, overwhelmed by the scandal of the cross, return home on the path of defeat.  Their hearts are broken, their hopes dashed and their dreams shattered.  The joy of the Gospel has yielded to sadness.  What does Jesus do? He does not judge them, but walks with them.  Instead of raising a wall, he opens a breach.  Gradually he transforms their discouragement.  He makes their hearts burn within them, and he opens their eyes by proclaiming the word and breaking the bread.  In the same way, a Christian does not bear the burden of mission alone, but realizes, even amid weariness and misunderstanding, that “Jesus walks with him, speaks to him, breathes with him, works with him.  He senses Jesus alive with him in the midst of the missionary enterprise” (Evangelii Gaudium, 266).             Jesus makes the seed grow.  Finally, it is important to let the Gospel teach us the way of proclamation.  At times, even with the best intentions, we can indulge in a certain hunger for power, proselytism or intolerant fanaticism.  Yet the Gospel tells us to reject the idolatry of power and success, undue concern for structures, and a kind of anxiety that has more to do with the spirit of conquest than that of service.  The seed of the Kingdom, however tiny, unseen and at times insignificant, silently continues to grow, thanks to God’s tireless activity.  “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep or rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how” (Mk 4:26-27).  This is our first reason for confidence: God surpasses all our expectations and constantly surprises us by his generosity.  He makes our efforts bear fruit beyond all human calculation.             With this confidence born of the Gospel, we become open to the silent working of the Spirit, which is the basis of mission.  There can be no promotion of vocations or Christian mission apart from constant contemplative prayer.  The Christian life needs to be nourished by attentive listening to God’s word and, above all, by the cultivation of a personal relationship with the Lord in Eucharistic adoration, the privileged “place” for our encounter with God.             I wish heartily to encourage this kind of profound friendship with the Lord, above all for the sake of imploring from on high new vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.  The People of God need to be guided by pastors whose lives are spent in service to the Gospel.  I ask parish communities, associations and the many prayer groups present in the Church, not to yield to discouragement but to continue praying that the Lord will send workers to his harvest.  May he give us priests enamoured of the Gospel, close to all their brothers and sisters, living signs of God’s merciful love.             Dear brothers and sisters, today too, we can regain fervour in preaching the Gospel and we can encourage young people in particular to take up the path of Christian discipleship.  Despite a widespread sense that the faith is listless or reduced to mere “duties to discharge”, our young people desire to discover the perennial attraction of Jesus, to be challenged by his words and actions, and to cherish the ideal that he holds out of a life that is fully human, happy to spend itself in love.             Mary Most Holy, the Mother of our Saviour, had the courage to embrace this ideal, placing her youth and her enthusiasm in God’s hands.  Through her intercession, may we be granted that same openness of heart, that same readiness to respond, “Here I am”, to the Lord’s call, and that same joy in setting out (cf. Lk 1:39), like her, to proclaim him to the whole world. From the Vatican, 27 November 2016 First Sunday of Advent  (from Vatican Radio)...

World Aids Day: Pope calls for solidarity and treatment for all

Wed, 11/30/2016 - 05:06
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed to all persons to act in a responsible manner to prevent the spread of HIV-Aids. Speaking during the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope recalled that on Thursday, 1st December, we mark World Aids Day which is promoted by the United Nations. “Millions of people live with this illness and only half of them have access to life-saving therapies” he said. The Pope invited all to pray for them and for their families and promote solidarity so that “also the poor can benefit from adequate diagnosis and treatment. “I appeal to all to act in a responsible way in order to prevent the further spread of this disease” he said.  HIV continues to be a major global public health issue. Recent statistics show that globally an estimated 36.7 million people are living with HIV (including 1.8 million children). The vast majority of this number live in low- and middle- income countries Since the start of the epidemic, an estimated 78 million people have become infected with HIV and 35 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses.  An estimated 25.5 million people living with HIV live in sub-Saharan Africa The vast majority of them (an estimated 19 million) live in east and southern Africa which saw 46% of new HIV infections globally in 2015. Around 40% of all people living with HIV do not know that they have the virus.       (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: Christian humility is the virtue of “the childlike”

Tue, 11/29/2016 - 06:09
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Tuesday that true Christian humility is the virtue of the childlike and is never a theatrical humility. His words came at his morning Mass celebrated in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence. Taking his inspiration from the day’s readings the Pope’s homily was a reflection on how God reveals himself to the humble and childlike rather than the wise and learned as recounted in the gospel of Luke. He noted that the day’s first reading from the book of Isaiah is also full of references to little things such as the small shoot that “shall sprout from the stump of Jesse” rather than an army that will bring about liberation. Pope Francis went on to explain how in the Christmas story too the leading figures are the small and the humble. “Then at Christmas, we see this smallness, this little thing: a baby, a stable, a mother, a father… little ones.  (They have) big hearts but the attitude of a child.  And the Spirit of the Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to rest on this shoot and this small shoot will have the virtue of the childlike and the fear of the Lord.  He will walk in the fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord is not terror: no, it is putting into practice God’s commandment that he gave to our father Abram: ‘Live in my presence, be perfect,’ Humble – this is humility, fear of the Lord is humility.” The Pope stressed that only the childlike are capable of fully understanding the sense of humility and the fear of the Lord because they walk in front of the Lord, watched over and protected, feeling that the Lord gives them the strength to journey forward and this is true humility. “Living our humility, Christian humility means having this fear of the Lord which, I repeat, is not terror but is:‘You are God, I am a person, I journey forward in this way with the little things of life but walking in Your presence and trying to be perfect.’ Humility is the virtue of the childlike and this is true humility and not a rather theatrical humility: no, not that: the humility of somebody who said: ‘I am humble but proud of being so.’ No, that is not true humility. The humility of the childlike is that of somebody who walks in the presence of the Lord, does not speak badly about others, looks only at serving and feels that he or she is the smallest …. That is where their strength lies. In the same way, the Pope continued, we see the great humility of that girl to whom God sent His Son and who immediately afterwards hastened to her cousin Elizabeth and who said nothing about what had happened. He said humility is like this, journeying in the presence of the Lord, happy, joyful because they are humble just as we see in today’s gospel reading. “Looking at Jesus who rejoiced because God reveals his mystery to the humble, we can ask for the grace of humility for all of us, the grace of fear of God, of walking in his presence trying to be perfect. And in this way with this humility, we can be vigilant in prayer, carrying out works of brotherly charity and rejoicing and giving praise.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Costa Rica's President Solís thanks Pope Francis for prayers

Mon, 11/28/2016 - 07:53
(Vatican Radio) The President of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, spoke with Vatican Radio in the wake of Pope Francis’ appeal for prayer and concrete solidarity with all those affected in his country and throughout the region by hurricane Otto, which passed through the southern parts of Central America late last week. Pope Francis made his appeal during remarks to the faithful gathered for the Angelus prayer on Sunday in St. Peter’s Square. “The people and the government of Costa Rica have received with great joy the message of His Holiness, Pope Francis, who remembered the difficult times we have endured just a few days ago, as we experienced the passing of hurricane Otto,” President Solís told Vatican Radio. Click below to hear the extended remarks of Costa Rica's President Luis Guillermo Solís to Vatican Radio “The words of the Pope have brought joy,” he explained, “and also a balm of understanding to our people, thousands of whom have been severely affected by this climactic phenomenon.” Solís went on to say, “We are now in the phase of recuperating: material goods, but most importantly the lives of these thousands of Costa Ricans, who were left without a home [in which] to live, or without any possessions – and in that context, the words of the Pope have become a ray, a beam of light, of hope, for my country [and] my fellow citizens. I would like to convey to His Holiness our word of adhesion, of adherence, of love – and [to] thank him very much for remembering us in his prayers.” At least nine people were killed by Otto in Costa Rica, as some areas recorded over a month’s worth of rain in just a few hours, forcing the evacuation of more than 5 thousand people. Several towns were completely inundated. Otto was the southernmost hurricane on record to hit Central America: it made landfall in southern Nicaragua as a category-two storm on Thursday of last week, before losing strength and becoming a tropical storm as it moved into the Pacific. At peak force, Otto had wind speeds of up to 175km/h. Since the keeping of records began in 1851, Costa Rica had never taken a direct hit from a hurricane. (from Vatican Radio)...

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