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Chaldean Abp: a Mideast without Christians?

10 hours 18 min ago
(Vatican Radio) A Middle East without its Christians would be like a garden without flowers: that’s what Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Thomas Meram of Urmyā, Deputy President of the Iranian Bishops Conference, says about the persecution of Christians in the region.  Jihadi militants like Islamic State (also known as ISIS or Daesh) in recent months have violently purged cities in Iraq and Syria of their Christians and other minorities. Archbishop Meram accompanied Patriarch Louis Sako to Jordan last week. The Chaldean Patriarch was one of six Orthodox and Catholic eastern rite Church leaders from neighboring countries to attend a meeting with King Abdullah and Prince Ghazi, King Abdullah’s personal envoy and adviser for religious and cultural affairs. In an interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop Meram observes, “The king was very open and accepting of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.”  The Hashemite kingdom is hosting 1.5 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees – only half of whom are officially registered.  Jordanian King committed to protecting Christian identity and existence The King expressed his solidarity with the region’s Christians, saying that said that the hatred, terrorism and fanaticism spread by extremist groups have nothing to do with the values the three monotheistic religions promote. He stressed the role of Christians in building Arab-Islamic identity throughout history and underlined Jordan's commitment to protecting the identity and existence of Arab Christians. The Jordanian monarch has spearheaded numerous initiatives such as  the “Amman Message" and "Common Word," highlighting moderate and tolerant Islam. In September last year, he hosted another conference in Amman regarding the challenges facing Arab Christians. During last week’s visit, Patriarch Sako appealed to Prince Ghazi to encourage peaceful and tolerant speeches in mosques. Rethinking language and education It is not helpful that Christians have been described as “ kaafir” or infidels for the last fourteen hundred years, says Archbishop Meram. “That’s not good.”  Speaking of many in the Arab world, he adds “you have to change your teaching in the schools regarding the minorities, Christian or non-Christian – to respect the human being.”  He underscores that state must also be separate from religion. “And it’s very hard I think.  They cannot do it.” Many young men are leaving their countries to fight with organizations like Islamic State or Al Nusra or Al Qaeda-linked organizations.  Where does the role of education come into play in this phenomenon? “I think this is brain washing.  Or money.  Or as they say, for sexual relations in heaven: you will get 40 virgin women.  I can’t understand it.  How can they (do this)?  Or they are an instrument in the hands of others using them.” The misery of refugees Archbishop Meram says he visited Christian refugees in three camps in Jordan hosting some forty to fifty families in each camp.  Other families he says, have rented places to stay but their money won’t last forever. “It’s miserable.  There is no human dignity – it’s lost now.  It is very miserable.” He fans his arms out across the small conference room where we are speaking – it would be barely big enough to accommodate two double beds. In Jordan, parents and five or six children are sharing the same tiny space, with a sheet drawn across the room for some semblance of privacy, he says.  Still, Jordan is doing what it can, he notes.  “Since the Iraqi-Iranian war, Jordan (has been) like this: welcoming all the refugees.” Airstrikes are not enough against militants Archbishop Meram dismisses the international coalition’s airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as fruitless: “I think there is no use for that. Because (the militants such as) Daesh or Isis or Al Nusra - when there are strikes- they will dress like other people, like civilians.  You (won’t) recognize them.”  He admits he does not know what the solution to the region’s ills will be:  “I don’t know what’s going on; I’m not a politician but I pray for peace.  Like our Chaldean Church in Mosul for two thousand years – there were Christians (there).  We have a history there. But now it’s completely (wiped out) – no history.  Everything is destroyed.” A place for Christians in the Middle East of tomorrow? At their 2010 Synod, the Bishops of the Middle East reached out to Arab leaders, stressing that Christians want to be an integral part of their societies, contributing to their development and future.  To do so, they wish to be respected as full citizens with equal rights and with the freedom to practice their faith without prejudice or restrictions.  Since then, the region has erupted with the tumultuous uprisings of the Arab Spring and the rise of a new kind of ferocious Islamic extremism.  We asked Archbishop Meram if the bishops hold out hope for an equitable and just Middle East? “It’s hard to answer this question.  I don’t think the Arab Spring – I would say Arab Winter – there’s no Spring.  Everything is fire, killing, bombarding, from Libya to Syria to Iraq to Yemen, to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain… it’s not a spring.  It’s going back one thousand four hundred years ago (to the origins of Islam).” “We would like to be a part of these countries.  Because we (too) are the owners of the land over there,” says the Archbishop, recalling that the Christians were native to the land thousands of years even before Jesus Christ appeared. Christians want to stay in their homes and in their land, “but if by force or by fire they will kick us out, what can you do?  Just save your life and go out.  Save your life.  But we still have hope.  We are still in the country; we will never leave the country.  But if anybody would like to leave the country, we cannot oblige him to stay.  So he can choose to stay or leave.  But the Church will be over there I hope till the end of the world.” A Middle East without its Christians, reflects Archbishop Meram, would be like “a garden without flowers. “ (from Vatican Radio)...

Blessed Joseph Vaz will be proclaimed Saint Jan. 14‎

10 hours 29 min ago
(Vatican)  Pope Francis announced on Monday that Blessed Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of Sri Lanka, will be declared saint on Jan. 14, 2015.  It will take place during his visit to the island nation Jan. 13-15‎.   He fixed the canonization date at the start of the consistory of cardinals in the Vatican convoked to update the prelates on the situation  of the Christians of the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria, and the commitment of the  Church for peace in the region.   Another canonization date - that of Italian Sr. Maria Cristina ‎of the Immaculate Conception - has not been decided.  Known as the Apostle of Sri Lanka for his ingenious apostolic zeal in reviving ‎the Catholic faith in Sri ‎Lanka under the harsh persecution of Calvinist Dutch rule in the 17th century, Fr. ‎Vaz, an Oratorian ‎priest from what is today Goa, India, was declared Blessed by St. John Paul II in ‎January, 1995 in Sri ‎Lanka.  On Sept. 17, Pope Francis declared Blessed Vaz would be canonized, and the date was announced on Oct. 20.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Card. Parolin on ME: rights threatened, risk of genocide

10 hours 31 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of saints – including that of Goa native and evangelizer of Sri Lanka, Blessed Joseph Vaz, CO, for whose canonization the Cardinals voted this morning, establishing the date of his canonization Mass for January 14 th , 2015, during the Holy Father’s visit to Sri Lanka – the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. At a briefing following the morning session, the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, explained that the participants, among whom were counted the Patriarchs of the Oriental Catholic Churches present and based in the region, used the occasion to speak broadly of the challenges facing Christians throughout the entire Middle East, to express gratitude for the spiritual closeness of the Universal Church to their sorely tried communities, and to reiterate the need to foster dialogue, protect the rights of all people regardless of religious affiliation, and search for solutions that respect and further the common good. In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the opening of the session, Pope Francis decried the spirit of indifference that seems to dominate, making the sacrifice of the human person to other interests a matter of course. “This unfair situation,” he said, “requires an adequate response by the international community, as well as and in addition to our constant prayer.” He concluded his remarks, saying, “I am sure that, with the help of the Lord, genuinely worthwhile reflection and suggestions will emerge, in order to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and also to face the drama of the reduction of the Christian presence in the land where He was born and from which Christianity spread.” Click below to hear our report The centerpiece of the discussion that followed was an address by the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in which he presented a summary view of the meeting of Apostolic Nuncios to the countries of the region that took place at the beginning of October. Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable. “Fundamental principles, such as the value of [human] life, human dignity, religious liberty, and peaceful coexistence among peoples and individuals are at stake.” Cardinal Parolin’s address went on to describe the general political situation throughout the region as an extremely complex and multifaceted one, with specific references to the urgent need to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, to the ongoing crises in Iraq and Syria (and to the roles of other regional powers in those conflicts, specifically Iran). It was in this context that Cardinal Parolin turned to the question of the use of force to halt aggression and to protect Christians and other groups who are victims of persecution. “In this regard,” said Cardinal Parolin, “It was stressed repeatedly that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor – always, however, in a manner consistent with international law [It. nel rispetto del diritto internazionale ], as the Holy Father has also affirmed.” Cardinal Parolin went on to say, “In any case, we have seen clearly that the resolution of the problem cannot be entrusted only to a military response.” Speaking specifically of the threat posed by the self-styled Islamic State, Cardinal Parolin said, “Attention must be paid to the sources that sustain [the organization’s] terrorist activities through  more-or-less clear political support, as well as through illegal commerce in oil and the supply of weapons and technology.” Cardinal Parolin then repeated the Holy Father’s denunciation of the arms trade, saying, “In a moment of particular gravity, given the growing number of victims caused by the conflicts raging in the Middle East, the international community cannot close its eyes before this question, which has profound ethical relevance.” The flight of Christians from the region was another major focus of Cardinal Parolin’s remarks, recalling the fundamental role that Christians in the region play as, “artificers of peace, reconciliation, and development,” especially through their schools, orphanages, hospitals and other works of mercy, which serve anyone and everyone, regardless of race or creed. The role of the Church – of Christians and of Christianity – in the complex social and cultural milieu of the Middle East, and especially in majority-Muslim nations, was the next major focal point. Cardinal Parolin reported that the participants in the meeting of Nuncios observed a basic problem. “[There is a] lack of separation between religion and State,” he said, “between the religious sphere and the civil sphere – a tie that makes life difficult for non-Muslim minorities and in particular for the Christian minority. It would be important, therefore, to contribute to efforts to nurture the notion of the distinction of these two spheres in the Muslim world.” Cardinal Parolin went on to call on the international community not to remain inert or indifferent before the present situation. “In the specific case of violations and abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State, the international community, through the United Nations and the structures that exist for [addressing] similar emergencies, must act to prevent possible new genocides and to assist the numerous refugees.” Cardinal Parolin continued to explain, “The defense of Christians and of all the other religious or ethnic minorities is to be situated in the context of the defense of the person and of the respect for human rights, in particular for those of religious liberty and the freedom of conscience. In any case, the need to promote and develop the concept of citizenship, as a reference point for social life, guaranteeing the rights of minorities through adequate juridical instruments, has become evident.” Cardinal Parolin’s address concluded with a reminder and an appeal: the Church throughout the world, and all Christians everywhere, have the duty to sustain our brothers and sisters in Christ with prayer and with every possible means, and to encourage them to continue to be a meaningful presence for the good of the whole society in the Middle East. “We must not forget,” he concluded, “that everything depends upon God and His Grace – but we need to act as though everything depends on us, upon our prayer and upon our solidarity. We are all called, therefore, to work for peace in the world, for the continuity and development of the presence of the Christian communities in the Middle East and for the common good of humanity.” (from Vatican Radio)...

The Pope speaks to the Synod Fathers: we walk a path together

14 hours 32 min ago
Vatican City, 20 October 2014 (VIS) – At the end of the fifteenth and final general congregation, and after the votes had been cast, Pope Francis addressed the Synod Fathers, affirming that during these two weeks the participants in the Third Extraordinary General Assembly have truly experienced synodality, a path of solidarity, a “journey together”. However, Pope Francis observed, as in every journey there were moments of travelling smoothly and swiftly, as if wishing to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible, and moments of fatigue, of wanting to say “enough”, and at other times, moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and pains of the faithful; moments of consolation, grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and joy of married life. It is a journey during which the stronger are compelled to help those who are less strong, and the more experienced lend themselves to serve others, also through debate. He continued by remarking that since it is a journey taken by human beings, there have also been moments of disappointment, tension and temptation, of which he gave five examples. The first is the temptation to hostile inflexibility, closing oneself within the written word, the letter of the law, rather than the spirit, not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, and cleaving to the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. This, he said, is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and the so-called “traditionalists and intellectuals. Then there is the temptation of “do-goodism”, that in the name of deceptive mercy binds wounds without first treating and healing them; that addresses symptoms rather than causes and roots. It is the temptation of do-gooders, of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals”. The third temptation is to transform stones into bread to break the long, hard, and painful fast; and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick; to transform it into unbearable burdens. The fourth is the temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, rather than remaining there in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and turning it to the Spirit of God. Finally, there is the temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei”, thinking of ourselves not as guardians but as its owners or masters; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous and pompous language to say much yet at the same time to say nothing. However, the Holy Father commented these temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, as no disciple is greater than his master, so if Jesus Himself was tempted, and even called Beelzebul, then His disciples should not expect better treatment. He added that he would be worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions, this movement of the spirits, as it was called by St. Ignatius; if all were in a state of agreement or silent in false, quietist peace. Instead, he expressed his joy at having heard speeches and interventions full of faith, pastoral and doctrinal zeal, wisdom, frankness, courage, and parrhesia, since what was set before the eyes of the Synod Fathers was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law”, the “salus animarum”. This occurred without ever calling into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage, its indissolubility, unity, faithfulness, fruitfulness, and openness to life. Pope Francis went on to emphasise that the Church is the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on wounds; who does not regard humanity from a glass house, ready to judge or categorise people. The Church is one, holy, Catholic, apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God's mercy. The Church is the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine; she is not afraid to dine and drink with prostitutes and publicans. Her doors are wide open to receive the needy, the repentant, and not only those who consider themselves perfect. The Church is not ashamed of the brother who has fallen, pretending not to see him, but on the contrary is involved and obliged to lift him up and set him on the path again, accompanying him to the definitive encounter with her spouse, in heavenly Jerusalem. This, he continued, is the Church, our Mother. And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. This should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord. Many commentators have imagined that they see a quarrelsome Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners. The Pope emphasised the need to live through all this calmly and with inner peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro, with the presence of the Pope as a guarantee for all. The duty of the Pope, he remarked, is to guarantee the unity of the Church, to remind the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow Christ's Gospel and to remind the pastors that their first duty is to nurture the flock that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek the lost sheep with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears. His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, when he stated that the Church is called and commits herself to exercising this kind of authority which is service … not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ ... through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter … to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community. As the Council stated, the Church's role is to ensure that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free. It is through us, Pope Benedict continues, that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord; this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant, gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope. Therefore, said the Pontiff, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – “Il servus servorum Dei”, the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, setting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful and despite enjoying supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church. Finally, Francis reminded those present that there remains a year before the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in which to develop, with true spiritual discernment, the ideas that have been proposed, and to find concrete solutions to many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families. There is a year to work on the “Relatio Synodi”, the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. He concluded by asking the Lord to accompany and guide all the participants in the Synod in their journey....

Pope Francis: Middle East without Christians unthinkable

15 hours 20 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of candidates for beatification, the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the morning session of the gathering, the Holy Father focused on the need for constant prayer and effective advocacy in favor of peace, and for specific attention to the plight of Christians there.   Describing the notion of a Mideast region devoid of Christians as literally unthinkable, Pope Francis went on to mention Iraq and Syria as two countries in which Christians – who have made their homes there since Apostolic times – are facing unprecedented threats. “We cannot resign ourselves to thinking about the Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have confessed the name of Jesus [there].” “Recent events,” the Pope continued, “especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrying. We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism of previously unimaginable dimensions. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have [been constrained] leave their homes in a brutal way.”  Saying that the situation appears to be one in which people no longer appreciate the value of human life, Pope Francis decried the spirit of indifference that seems to dominate, making the sacrifice of the human person to other interests a matter of course. “This unfair situation,” he said, “requires an adequate response by the international community, as well as and in addition to our constant prayer.” Pope Francis concluded, saying, “I am sure that, with the help of the Lord, genuinely worthwhile reflection and suggestions will emerge, in order to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and also to face the drama of the reduction of the Christian presence in the land where He was born and from which Christianity spread.”...

Card. Nichols: bridging divide between doctrine and practise

15 hours 29 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Bishops from around the world wrapped up the work of their Synod on the Family on Sunday at the beatification Mass for Pope Paul VI who introduced the synodal process to the Church. On Saturday participants in the two week meeting voted on a concluding document and issued a message of encouragement to families, speaking of the miracle of married life, as well as the complexity of relationships where the Christian choice is not always an obvious one. As head of the bishops conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster was amongst the Synod Fathers taking part in this historic encounter. He sat down with Philippa Hitchen to discuss the focus for the two year Synod process, including the questions of care for homosexuals and for divorced and remarried Catholics…. Listen to the interview : Cardinal Nichols says all participants at the Synod were very taken by the consistent and persuasive emphasis that Pope Francis has been giving to the whoole theme of God's mercy. "I think that is something that has encouraged everyone in the Church: I think is a very first quality of God that we have to discover" he says. "For me" - Cardinal Nichols continues - "it's like saying we have to remember that the air that we are to breathe is the mercy of God, and without that oxygen in our lungs we can't really have the energy and the encouragement to continue in the journey of discipleship". And - he points out - it is also crucial to remember that mercy leads us to seek forgiveness and conversion in our lives. "The two" - Nichols says - "aren't the same thing: the pathway we are to walk is a pathway of constant conversion and of seeking forgiveness; so while mercy is the oxygen, the pathway - the action - is seeking reconciliation and forgiveness". He says taht it is the relationship between those two and the way the life of the Church can be reinvigorated with the oxygen of mercy that is very important. A second thing, Cardinal Nichols says, is how we face up to the challenge of trying to present and refresh our understanding of marriage. He says the very notion of marriage has been an area of great contestation in England over the last two years, "but what we in the Church have is a very deep sense that marriage is a Sacrament. By a Sacrament we mean a place in which God is at work; a place, a human reality, which is transformed through the power of grace". So - he says - "a full understanding of marriage as a Sacrament tells us that this is a relationship, an intimacy, a creative coming together of a man and a woman in which Jesus is active, to which Jesus gives his name. So the Lord is committed to a marriage in as much as the husband and wife are". "That sense of the true sacramentality of marriage is something we need to find and deepen and invite people to share".                  (from Vatican Radio)...

Holy See to UN: Too many children denied "fundamental" right to life

16 hours 42 min ago
(Vatican Radio) Eliminating violence against children demands that States, governments, civil society and religious communities support and enable the family to carry out its proper responsibility, according to the Holy See's Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York. Archbishop Bernardito Auza was speaking on Friday at a committee meeting on the Rights of the Child. He also reminded delegates of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which he called a “prominent standard” in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. “It contains such fundamental principles as the protection of the rights of the child before as well as after birth, the family as the natural environment for the growth and education of children, and the right of the child to health care and education,” said Archbishop Auza.   “Moreover, my delegation recalls that too many children are denied the most fundamental right to life; that prenatal selection eliminates babies suspected to have disabilities and female children simply because of their sex; that too many children still lack sufficient food and housing; that in many countries they have no access to medicines; that they are sold to traffickers, sexually exploited, recruited into irregular armies, uprooted by forced displacements, or compelled into debilitating work,” he said.   The full statement by Archbishop Auza is below   Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations at the 69th Session of the General Assembly Third Committee: Agenda Item 64 (a,b): Rights of Children New York, 17 October 2014   Madam Chair, Last month, while opening the second regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board, the Executive Director Ambassador Anthony Lake did not dwell on the improvement achieved last year of the living conditions of children in the areas in which UNICEF traditionally operates. Instead, he focused on the growing number of humanitarian crises afflicting our world today, to keep us on the alert about the enormous challenges the international community faces in providing children the protection they are entitled to. It is an unfortunate reality that every conflict, every outbreak of an epidemic, every natural disaster has the potential to roll back the steady progress the world has made in recent decades in reducing child mortality and improving access to nutrition, safe water and education. But more tragic still when such rollbacks are caused by tragedies perpetrated by humans, in which children are specifically targeted, victimized and instrumentalized. This is what the Special Representatives of the Secretary General on Children and armed conflicts and on Violence against children, and the Special Rapporteur on the Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography tell us in their Reports presented in this session. In recent years, almost three million children have been killed in armed conflicts; six million have been left disabled; tens of thousands mutilated by antipersonnel mines. In spite of the laudable efforts by many actors and governments, recruitment of child soldiers persists. Even more alarming are the facts that this has spread in some regions where this phenomenon was not rampant and that there have been recent cases of children forced to commit terrorist acts like suicide bombings. Moreover, my delegation recalls that too many children are denied the most fundamental right to life; that prenatal selection eliminates babies suspected to have disabilities and female children simply because of their sex; that too many children still lack sufficient food and housing; that in many countries they have no access to medicines; that they are sold to traffickers, sexually exploited, recruited into irregular armies, uprooted by forced displacements, or compelled into debilitating work. Eliminating violence against children demands that States, governments, civil society and religious communities support and enable the family to carry out its proper responsibility. Thus, my delegation attaches great importance to the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family. It offers an opportunity to refocus on the role of the family in development and to reflect on what this primordial institution can do to face the multiple challenges threatening the holistic development of children in both developing and industrialised countries. It is in the same vein that my delegation strongly concurs with the recommendation contained in the Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on violence against children that informed and engaged parents and caregivers who support and advise children in their access to the internet and the use of ICTs open avenues for a safer online experience. The caring mediation of parents minimises risks without limiting the child’s skills and learning opportunities. To become parents is not simply a question of bringing children into the world, but also of educating them to become creative members of society and responsible citizens. My delegation also welcomes the plan of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography to promote, facilitate and organise awareness-raising and advocacy activities, in order to enhance knowledge and visibility around these issues. Moreover, listening to the appeal of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on children and armed conflicts, the Catholic Church continues to commit itself to working for the release of child soldiers, in their education and reintegration into their families and societies. In November, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which remains a prominent standard in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. The Holy See regards it as a proper and laudable recognition of the fundamental rights and inherent dignity of every human person acknowledged by the United Nations in various other instruments. It contains such fundamental principles as the protection of the rights of the child before as well as after birth, the family as the natural environment for the growth and education of children, and the right of the child to health care and education. Moreover, my delegation calls on governments and civil society to encourage all initiatives and activities aimed at the promotion and protection of the rights of the child and, in this context, welcomes the selection of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners. For its part, the Catholic Church, mainly through its more than 300,000 social and educational institutions around the world, especially in depressed and war-torn regions, will continue working daily to ensure both education and food for children, as well as the reintegration of the victims of violence into their families and into society. Thank you, Madam Chair. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis recalls missions, Mary, at Angelus address

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 06:48
(Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of Sunday’s Mass for the Closing of the Synod and the Beatification of Paul VI, Pope Francis led the faithful in the noonday Angelus. Here is the complete text of Pope Francis’s remarks: At the end of this solemn celebration, I want to greet the pilgrims from Italy and various countries, with a respectful thought for the official Delegations. In particular I greet the faithful from the dioceses of Brescia, Milan and Rome, joined in a significant way to the life and ministry of Pope Montini. I thank you all for [your] presence and exhort [you] to follow faithfully the teaching and example of the new Blessed. He was a staunch supporter of the mission ad gentes; it is the witness above all of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi with which he intended to reawaken the enthusiasm and the commitment of the Church for the mission. And this Exhortation is still relevant, it has great relevance. It is significant to consider this aspect of the Pontificate of Paul VI, especially today, which is celebrated as World Missionary Day. Before invoking together the Madonna with the prayer of the Angelus, I am pleased to emphasize the profound Marian devotion of Blessed Paul VI. The Christian people will always be grateful to this Pontiff for the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus , and for having proclaimed Mary “Mother of the Church,” on the occasion of the close of the third session of the Second Vatican Council. Mary, Queen of Saints and Mother of the Church, help us to faithfully realize the will of the Lord in our life, just as the new Blessed did. Angleus Domini… I wish all of you a good Sunday. I ask you to pray for me. Buon pranzo , and arrivederci ! (from Vatican Radio)...

At closing Mass for the Synod Pope Francis beatifies Paul VI

Sun, 10/19/2014 - 05:34
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday celebrated the Closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family. During the Mass in Saint Peter’s Square, the Holy Father beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, whom he described as a “great Pope,” a “courageous Christian” and a “tireless apostle.” Below, please find the complete English text of Pope Francis’s homily for the Mass: Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis Closing Mass of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family and Beatification of the Servant of God Paul VI Sunday, 19 October 2014 We have just heard one of the most famous phrases in the entire Gospel: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt 22:21). Goaded by the Pharisees who wanted, as it were, to give him an exam in religion and catch him in error, Jesus gives this ironic and brilliant reply.  It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience, particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question.  This happens all the time; it always has. Certainly Jesus puts the stress on the second part of the phrase: “and [render] to God the things that are God’s”.  This calls for acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other.  This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear which we often feel at God’s surprises. God is not afraid of new things!  That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.  He renews us: he constantly makes us “new”.  A Christian who lives the Gospel is “God’s newness” in the Church and in the world.  How much God loves this “newness”! “Rendering to God the things that are God’s” means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace. Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavour to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us.  Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s.  That is why we Christians look to the future, God’s future.  It is so that we can live this life to the fullest – with our feet firmly planted on the ground – and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way. In these days, during the extraordinary Synod of Bishops, we have seen how true this is.  “Synod” means “journeying together”.  And indeed pastors and lay people from every part of the world have come to Rome, bringing the voice of their particular Churches in order to help today’s families walk the path the Gospel with their gaze fixed on Jesus.  It has been a great experience, in which we have lived synodality and collegiality, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church.  For the Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope. For the gift of this Synod and for the constructive spirit which everyone has shown, in union with the Apostle Paul “we give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers” (1 Th 1:2).  May the Holy Spirit, who during these busy days has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity, continue to guide the journey which, in the Churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015.  We have sown and we continued to sow, patiently and perseveringly, in the certainty that it is the Lord who gives growth to what we have sown (cf. 1 Cor 3:6). On this day of the Beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: “by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods… to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society” (Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo). When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks!  Thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI!  Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church! In his personal notes, the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour” (P. Macchi, Paolo VI nella sua parola, Brescia, 2001, pp. 120-121).  In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord. Paul VI truly “rendered to God what is God’s” by devoting his whole life to the “sacred, solemn and grave task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ” (Homily for the Rite of Coronation: Insegnamenti I, 1963, p. 26), loving the Church and leading her so that she might be “a loving mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation” (Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam, Prologue). (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis speech at the conclusion of the Synod

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 15:50
(Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Pope Francis addressed the assembled Fathers, thanking them for their efforts and encouraging them to continue to journey.  Below, please find Vatican Radio's provisional translation of Pope Francis' address to the Synod Fathers:  Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters, With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit. From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart. I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace! I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.” And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:  - One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.  - The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”  - The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).  - The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.  - The temptation to neglect the “ depositum fidei ” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things… Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment. Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia . And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes , 48). And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem. The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei , of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord. Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners. And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all. We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of  their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them. His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).” So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334). Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families. One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines]. May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you! [ The hymn Te Deum was sung, and Benediction given. ] Thank you, and rest well, eh? (from Vatican Radio)...

Synod Fathers offer message of consolation and encouragement

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 15:50
(Vatican Radio) Bishops attending the Synod on the Family on Saturday voted overwhelmingly in favour of a concluding message that was drawn up to reflect the substance of their two weeks of discussions here in the Vatican. The three page message of support for Christian families was read out at the penultimate session of the Synod and was presented to journalists at the Vatican press office by Cardinals Gianfranco Ravasi from the Pontifical Council for Culture, Raymundo Damasceno Assis from Aparecida in Brazil and Oswald Gracias from Mumbai in India. Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report: The miracle of married life and the complexity of relationships where the Christian choice is not always an obvious one. The concluding message from Church leaders around the world speaks of the lights and shadows to be found in every heart and in every home where families struggle to live out their Christian vocation. While not touching on all the many, difficult questions that Synod participants have been wrestling with, the bishops aim to offer both consolation and encouragement, as the main author of the message, Cardinal Ravasi explained… It’s a text, he said, which must give hope to those families in difficult situations, while at the same time promoting the riches and beauty that family life embodies. Amongst the challenges listed in the message are those of marital breakdown, of sickness or bereavement, of poverty and unemployment, conflict, persecution and exploitation of women and children. The bishops call on governments and international organisations to promote the rights of the family, but they also insist that the credibility of the Church lies in its ability to be a house with open doors to welcome all people in every situation…. Cardinal Gracias, who heads the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, said in his region where Christians are a tiny minority, traditionally strong family values are also under threat. This message, he said, admits the Church does not have answers to all the questions people are posing today. But the bishops do firmly reiterate a commitment to finding pastoral approaches for all people in their care, based on the teachings of Scripture and tradition. “There are the Catholic principles, Scripture, Magisterium, but also an openness, a pastoral approach for everyone……you ask if gays are welcome? The answer is an unequivocal ‘Yes’.” Despite the heated debate that has characterised the past two weeks’ work, most bishops are encouraged by the atmosphere of honesty that Pope Francis called for at the start of the Synod. But what about the handful who didn’t approve the prayerful message, one journalist asked? Well don’t forget the first disciples disagreed vehemently at one of the earliest Councils in Jerusalem, Cardinal Ravasi replied. And even the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer we find in the Gospels show that perhaps St Luke didn’t agree every word written down by St Matthew!   (from Vatican Radio)...

Synod on Family shows Church whose doors are always open

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 15:22
(Vatican Radio) Bishops attending the Synod on the Family on Saturday concluded their two week meeting by voting on a final document which will form the basis for discussion over the coming year. Pope Francis, who has followed closely the working of the Synod, also addressed the assembly, reflecting on the honest, courageous and, at times, tense debate about the Church’s understanding of marriage and family life. Philippa Hitchen was there with the bishops, listening to the Pope’s words…… Listen:   A lengthy standing ovation echoed around the Synod Hall as Pope Francis spoke of the journey that Synod participants have travelled since the opening Mass in St Peter’s Basilica nearly 2 weeks ago. He talked of the enthusiasm and grace he’d experienced listening to pastors and to couples sharing their experiences of married life. And he talked of the disappointments, tensions and temptations that have been part of the conversations too. The temptation to be closed into the “hostile inflexibility” of the traditionalist or the destructive temptation to be a liberal “do-gooder.” But none of these temptations should discourage us, the Pope said, because this is the Church which is not scared of rolling up its sleeves to tend peoples’ wounds, rather than standing aloof and passing judgements from an ivory tower. Following in Jesus’ footsteps, it’s a Church which is not afraid to eat with prostitutes and publicans, a Church whose doors are always open to help those in need. The great majority of the bishops gathered around the Pope clearly shared his vision of the Church as they voted on each carefully crafted paragraph of the final Synod document. Using their electronic voting system they gave their Latin ‘placet’ or ‘non placet’ to the 3 part text with all the 62 sections receiving a majority vote from the assembly. Only three particular points, unsurprisingly dealing with the pastoral care of gay people and those who’ve been divorced and remarried, did not receive the hoped-for two-thirds majority, which as the English language press spokesman Fr Tom Rosica pointed out, shows where the bishops have their work cut out for the coming year “ Keep in mind this is not a magisterial document….the Pope asked for it to be made available to show the degree of maturity that has taken place and that which still needs to take place in discussions over the coming year.” So that’s all from the Vatican press office for the Synod on the Family for 2014 – now the real work begins of taking this document back to the dioceses and parishes, in preparation for the bigger and even more significant Ordinary Synod on the Family in October 2015. (from Vatican Radio)...

Archbishop Van Doc: do not be ashamed of the Gospel

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 10:14
(Vatican Radio) The Archbishop of Hô Chí Minh City, Paul Bùi Van Ðoc, delivered the homily during Terce – the Church’s official praise of God at the “third hour” of the morning – on Saturday. The Archbishop focused his reflections on the short reading of the hour, taken from the 1 st chapter of the Letter of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” Click below to hear our report Archbishop Van Doc articulated the point as one of fundamental choice, saying that the Good News will be for our salvation if we put our faith in it. “Christ,” he said, “is our Hope, and Hope for all men. He is our One Savior, crucified, killed, and risen for our justification; He is present among us, walking with us towards the end of history. Christ is the only Hope for family life men of today and tomorrow.” The Archbishop went on to say, “If we believe, we accept what [Christ] tells us about love.” He asked, “Do we believe in the strength of God, or in the strength of the world?” He concluded, “The strength of the world destroys everything: life, love, the human family; the life of faith instead results in a life of love, which is a source of joy and happiness. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis meets with Prime Minister of Vietnam

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 10:14
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday received in audience the Prime Minister of Vietnam, Nguyễn Tân Dũng. It was the Prime Minister’s second visit to the Vatican. Following the meeting, the Holy See released the following statement: Today His Holiness Pope Francis received in audience the Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, His Excellency Mr Nguyễn Tân Dũng. Subsequently, the Prime Minister met with the Secretary of State, His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States. In the course of the cordial conversations, the Parties expressed their satisfaction at today’s meeting, which marks an important step in the process of strengthening bilateral relations between the Holy See and Vietnam, this being the second visit of Prime Minister Dũng to the Vatican, following that of 2007. The Church’s commitment to contributing to the development of the country, thanks to its presence in various areas which benefit society as a whole, was highlighted. In this context, sincere appreciation was expressed for the support given by the Authorities to the Catholic community in keeping with the developments sanctioned by the Constitution of 2013 with regard to religious policy, as well as for the assistance given to the non-resident Papal Representative of the Holy See to Vietnam in the discharge of his mission, which is aimed at promoting relations between Church and State with a view also to the common objective of diplomatic relations. The Parties then discussed some issues which, it is hoped, will be further examined and resolved through the existing channels of dialogue. Finally, there was an exchange of views on some current regional and international issues, with particular reference to initiatives aimed at promoting peace and stability in the Asian continent. (from Vatican Radio)...

Message of the Synod Assembly on the pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation

Sat, 10/18/2014 - 05:30
Vatican City, 18 October 2014 (VIS) – This morning a press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office to present the Message of the Third Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, dedicated to the “Pastoral challenges to the family in the context of evangelisation” (5-19 October). The speakers were Cardinals Raymundo Damasceno Assis, archbishop of Aparecida, Brazil, delegate president; Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and president of the Commission for the Message and Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay, India. The full text of the message is published below: “ We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love. Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties. The preparation for this synod assembly, beginning with the questionnaire sent to the Churches around the world, has given us the opportunity to listen to the experience of many families. Our dialogue during the Synod has been mutually enriching, helping us to look at the complex situations which face families today. We offer you the words of Christ: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me”. On his journeys along the roads of the Holy Land, Jesus would enter village houses. He continues to pass even today along the streets of our cities. In your homes there are light and shadow. Challenges often present themselves and at times even great trials. The darkness can grow deep to the point of becoming a dense shadow when evil and sin work into the heart of the family. We recognise the great challenge to remain faithful in conjugal love. Enfeebled faith and indifference to true values, individualism, impoverishment of relationships, and stress that excludes reflection leave their mark on family life. There are often crises in marriage, often confronted in haste and without the courage to have patience and reflect, to make sacrifices and to forgive one another. Failures give rise to new relationships, new couples, new civil unions, and new marriages, creating family situations which are complex and problematic, where the Christian choice is not obvious. We think also of the burden imposed by life in the suffering that can arise with a child with special needs, with grave illness, in deterioration of old age, or in the death of a loved one. We admire the fidelity of so many families who endure these trials with courage, faith, and love. They see them not as a burden inflicted on them, but as something in which they themselves give, seeing the suffering Christ in the weakness of the flesh. We recall the difficulties caused by economic systems, by the “the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” which weakens the dignity of people. We remember unemployed parents who are powerless to provide basic needs for their families, and youth who see before them days of empty expectation, who are prey to drugs and crime. We think of so many poor families, of those who cling to boats in order to reach a shore of survival, of refugees wandering without hope in the desert, of those persecuted because of their faith and the human and spiritual values which they hold. These are stricken by the brutality of war and oppression. We remember the women who suffer violence and exploitation, victims of human trafficking, children abused by those who ought to have protected them and fostered their development, and the members of so many families who have been degraded and burdened with difficulties. “The culture of prosperity deadens us…. all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us”. We call on governments and international organizations to promote the rights of the family for the common good. Christ wanted his Church to be a house with doors always open to welcome everyone. We warmly thank our pastors, lay faithful, and communities who accompany couples and families and care for their wounds. *** There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light—the light of a wedding story—shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis says, when the two are “face to face” as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine”. This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigour and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved. In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common. This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. It includes the capacity to offer life, affection, and values—an experience possible even for those who have not been able to bear children. Families who live this light-filled adventure become a sign for all, especially for young people. This journey is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God—a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well. Another expression of fraternal communion is charity, giving, nearness to those who are last, marginalized, poor, lonely, sick, strangers, and families in crisis, aware of the Lord’s word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive”. It is a gift of goods, of fellowship, of love and mercy, and also a witness to the truth, to light, and to the meaning of life. The high point which sums up all the threads of communion with God and neighbor is the Sunday Eucharist when the family and the whole Church sits at table with the Lord. He gives himself to all of us, pilgrims through history towards the goal of the final encounter when “Christ is all and in all”. In the first stage of our Synod itinerary, therefore, we have reflected on how to accompany those who have been divorced and remarried and on their participation in the sacraments. We Synod Fathers ask you walk with us towards the next Synod. The presence of the family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in their modest home hovers over you. United to the Family of Nazareth, we raise to the Father of all our petition for the families of the world: Father, grant to all families the presence of strong and wise spouses who may be the source of a free and united family. Father, grant that parents may have a home in which to live in peace with their families. Father, grant that children may be a sign of trust and hope and that young people may have the courage to forge life-long, faithful commitments. Father, grant to all that they may be able to earn bread with their hands, that they may enjoy serenity of spirit and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods of darkness. Father, grant that we may all see flourish a Church that is ever more faithful and credible, a just and humane city, a world that loves truth, justice and mercy”....

Card Marx: Pope is seeking input to take Church forward

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 13:50
(Vatican Radio) How to bring together Church doctrine with the pressing pastoral concerns of its leaders. That’s the dilemma that participants at the Synod of Bishops on the Family have been wrestling with over the past two weeks and it was also the focus of the daily press briefing for journalists on Friday.  To share some of the latest developments from behind the doors of the Synod Hall, Fr Lombardi was joined by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops conference, by Archbishop Georges Pontier, head of the French bishops conference and by Colombian lawyer, Dr Ilva Hoyos Castaneda, one of the lay experts at the Synod.... Philippa Hitchen reports :  How can Church leaders from different continents bridge their cultural differences, especially on the most sensitive issues of morality and sexuality? How can Catholics engage in constructive dialogue  between deeply held beliefs and secular government policies? And how can they uphold Church teaching on marriage and the family while sharing in the daily struggles of people in so-called “irregular situations”? Cardinal Marx from Munich noted that in Germany many committed Catholics are asking how the Church can be more inclusive of those who are divorced and remarried or living in homosexual relationships. Exclusion is not the language of the Church, he said, insisting that Catholics must move away from a “black and white…all or nothing” vocabulary. While there are significantly different perspectives at the Synod, according to a bishops’ cultural experiences or personal encounters, the cardinal said Pope Francis is seeking input that can take the Church forward, open new doors and discover new possibilities for bringing the Gospel to men and women today. The Pope did not invite us to two Synods, he remarked with a smile,  to hear us simply repeat what we’ve always been saying!   Archbishop Pontier from Marseille spoke of the difficult process of engaging in dialogue around these hotly debated issues of same-sex relationships, that have brought hundreds of thousands of French families out onto the streets in recent months. While he said he was happy to see so many young people publically defending their traditional Catholic values, he said the urgent question is how to accompany them and help them move beyond confrontation to a fruitful debate. None of us has all the answers, he said, and we must help people to recognise the truth in the other person’s perspective. Finally Colombian professor Ilva Hoyos Castaneda, who serves as her country’s Delegate Procurator for the defence of children and the family, said lay people must lead this crucial dialogue between Church and State, making sure that the voice of Catholic social teaching is being heard in the public arena. The welcome presence of women in this Synod, she said, is a sign of the new path that is opening up within the Church.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Card Napier: Synod document highlights all main concerns

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:07
(Vatican Radio)  Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, Archbishop of Durban in South Africa, is one of the bishops participating in the Extraordinary Assembly of the  Synod of Bishops on the Family that is coming to a close in the Vatican.  He  is also one of those appointed to the group drafting a final document for the Synod for submission to Pope Francis by Sunday. The document in question is the result of the revisions, done  by the small working groups, of the “relatio post disceptationem”  released at the end of the first week of the 14-day Synod. In a conversation with Vatican Radio's Linda Bordoni, Cardinal Napier spoke of how the Synod has been an occasion to listen to differing ideas and concerns from across the world, and of how a climate of frank and open discussion has given life to a working document that reflects the core issues that have been addressed… Listen to the interview:  Cardinal Napier says that “Unlike past synods, this one was more ‘orchestrated’ in the good sense of the word, in that people were asked to identify the area of the ‘instrumentum laboris’ they were going to speak on, and in what language group they wanted to be in” allowing for excellent organization and coordination. This – he said – made things much easier to follow. Another relevant detail – Napier pointed out - was the tone set right from the beginning by Pope Francis when he asked his brother bishops to speak out “openly, honestly and with humility”. That happened, he said, and “I had never been in a Synod where there was such a good atmosphere”. Then – he says – “came the publication of the ‘relatio’ and this was not to the liking of many Synod Fathers who were objecting that what was said by one or two people was largely presented (and was certainly being taken up by the media) as if it was the considered opinion of the whole synod. And that make people very angry”. He says “there were two issues that got people ‘hot around the collar’. One was presenting homosexual unions as if they were a very positive thing.”  The second one – he explains - regarded broken marriages “and the fact that people should be  facilitated to get access to the sacraments.”  Cardinal Napier says that because those two issues had not really been properly discussed and people hadn’t really had the chance to sound out their opinions on them, when they saw them published – and the media was immediately reacting to them – caused a lot of hurt. And as a result that beautiful spirit of openness suddenly got a little bit cloudy. And then – he says  - also the news that the group reports were not going to be published also caused much disappointment. However Cardinal Napier said, almost at the end of the Synod, “From working on the documents and amendments it is quite clear there is a common vision. And that is: we are here to describe the problem situations that marriage and family life are facing. We must be clear about what those problems are: if we are going to address them and find answers let’s define them clearly – we can’t be distracted by side-shows because it is the majority of people who are involved in  marriage that need us to be with them and to identify what are the issues” so we can support and help them.  “I think we have done a pretty good job in highlighting the main things that people wanted to see highlighted” he says. Cardinal Napier also speaks of a widespread appreciation for the contribution of the African bishops at the Synod and he says their concerns are being understood and taken into due consideration: “I have been impressed by the number of times I have heard someone say ‘we better include that because it is what our African brothers said we must consider.”          (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Paul VI : of miracle and relics

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:06
(Vatican Radio ) Pope Paul VI is to be beatified on Sunday October 19 by Pope Francis, thirty-six years after his death. In May this year Pope Francis had signed a decree to confirm that a miracle attributed to the intercession of this twentieth century pope had been recognised and that this beatification would take place during the concluding Mass of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops of  the family. The Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, who was created cardinal by Paul VI, will most likely be present at this event. Listen to Veronica Scarisbrick's report:     On Friday morning the path to sainthood of a twentieth century pope was on the agenda for the third time this year in the Vatican press office. After John XXIII and John Paul II, now saints, it was the turn of Paul VI, Giovanni Battista Montini, a pope in- between the two.  Gone down in history as the pope who steered and implemented the Second Vatican Council, the first pilgrim pope, the pope who gave away the triple crown symbol of temporal power, he was described by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re who worked closely with Paul VI, as a man who had been very much misunderstood during his lifetime. The  world he lived in  was a changing one both  at an ideological and political level, the cardinal explained, and  the decisions he made were often met with psychological resistance from those around him for moving with the times. But thirty-six years on from his death, Cardinal Re highlighted, he is much looked up to. Highly cultured and acute, spiritually rich, humble and respectful of others whoever they might be, open to dialogue, he loved and served the Church and humanity and is now viewed  as a role model. And as  the vice postulator for the Cause of  the beatification of Paul VI, Redemptorist  Father Antonio Marrazzo explained on Friday morning, all is in place for the beatification: miracle and relics.The miracle attributed to Paul VI goes back to the 1990’s and relates to an unborn child from California in the United States whose name has not been divulged in an effort to respect the privacy of the family. The relics are two blood stained vests worn by Paul VI during the attempt on his life in the capital of the Philippines, Manila in 1970. The one habitually kept in his hometown will be brought to Rome in a reliquary for the beatification. There’s even a hymn composed for the occasion Father Marrazzo  specified as he held up the photograph chosen to mark the beatification. A photograph in which Paul VI stands with his arms outstretched. He's taken standing on the ‘San Pietrini’ as Rome’s cobblestones are called. A detail meant to symbolise this  twentieth century  pope’s evangelising mission, that idea of his that all roads no longer led to Rome, that the time had come to bring the papacy to the people. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope's message to the Italian Catholic University Federation

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:34
Vatican City, 17 October 2014 (VIS) – Pope Francis has sent a message to the Italian Catholic University Federation (FUCI), which is preparing to hold an extraordinary national conference in Arezzo, Italy, devoted to Pope Paul VI, who was the Central Assistant of the institution from 1925 and 1933, and who will be proclaimed blessed next Sunday. The Holy Father assures the participants of his spiritual closeness and accompanies them in their work with three words, the first of which is “studium”. “The essence of university life is found in study, in the effort and patience of thought that reveals the importance to humanity of truth, goodness and beauty. ... Do not be satisfied with partial truths or reassuring illusions, but welcome an increasingly full comprehension of reality in your study. Doing this requires the humility to listen, and a far-sighted vision”. The second word is “research”, which along with dialogue is at the basis of the FUCI's study method. The Pope continues, “The FUCI must always experience the humility of research, that attitude of silently accepting the unknown, the other, and of showing openness and willingness to walk alongside all those who are inspired by a restless yearning for the Truth, believers and non-believers, outsiders and marginalised. Research challenges itself continually, becoming an encounter with mystery and opening up to faith: research makes the encounter between faith, reason and science possible, enabling a harmonious dialogue between them. … By this method of research it is possible to attain an ambitious objective: to repair the fracture between the Gospel and contemporary life through the style of cultural mediation, an itinerant mediation that, without denying cultural differences – instead, recognising their value – becomes the focus of positive planning”. The third and final word is “frontier”. “The university is a frontier that awaits you, a periphery where the existential poverty of humanity can be received and cured. Poverty in relations, in human growth, tend to fill minds without leading to the creation of a shared plan for society, a common aim, sincere fraternity. Always be sure to encounter the other, to be receptive to the 'scent' of the people of today, to be imbued with their joys and hopes, their sadness and their anguish. Do not set up barriers that, intended to defend the frontier, preclude an encounter with the Lord. … In today's culture, in particular, we need to stand alongside everyone. You will be able to overcome the clash between peoples only if you succeed in nurturing a culture of encounter and fraternity”....

Francis on World Food Day: to defeat hunger, it is necessary to change the aid and development policies

Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:03
Vatican City, 17 October 2014 (VIS) – World Food Day, held on 16 October, was instituted in 1979 by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in order to raise public awareness and strengthen solidarity in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father sent a message to the director general of the FAO, Jose Graziano da Silva, extensive extracts of which are published below. “Again this year, World Food Day echoes the cries of our many brothers and sisters who, in many parts of the world, do not have enough to eat each day. … Despite the progress that is being achieved in many countries, recent data continue to indicate a troubling situation, contributed to by the general reduction of public development aid”. “The theme proposed by the FAO for this year's World Food Day – 'Family farming: feeding the world, caring for the earth' – highlights the need to begin with people, as individuals or in groups, to propose new forms and methods of management for different aspects of nutrition. Specifically, it is necessary to give greater acknowledgement of the role of the rural family, and to develop its full potential. ... Indeed, the family promotes dialogue between generations and provides the foundation for a true social integration, aside from representing that hoped-for synergy between agricultural work and sustainability; who, more than the rural family, is concerned with preserving nature for generations to come? And who, more than the rural family, has at heart cohesion between people and social groups?” “Defending rural communities from the serious threats posed by human action or natural disasters must not merely be a strategy but rather a form of permanent action aimed at promoting their participation in decision-making, at making appropriate technologies available, and extending their use, always with respect for the natural environment. Acting in this way can alter the methods of international cooperation and aid for the hungry and malnourished. Never more than in this moment has the world needed unity between people and among nations to overcome the divisions that exist and the conflicts in progress, and above all to seek concrete ways out of a crisis that is global, but the burden of which falls mostly on the poor. … Think of the men and women, of every age and condition, who are victims of bloody conflicts and their consequent destruction and misery, the lack of housing, medical care and education, who lose every hope of a dignified life. We have an obligation towards these people, of solidarity and sharing”. “To defeat hunger, it is not enough to meet the needs of those who are unfortunate or to help through aid and donations those who live in situations of emergency. It is necessary, instead, to change the paradigm of aid and development policies … It is also necessary to change how we understand work, economic aims and activity, food production and the protection of the environment. This is perhaps the only possibility for constructing an authentic future of peace, threatened nowadays by insecurity in relation to food”. “The Catholic Church, on her part, while pursuing her charitable activities in the different continents, remains available to offer, enlighten and accompany both the elaboration of policies and their concrete implementation, aware that faith becomes visible by putting into practice God's plan for the human family and for the world through that profound and real fraternity that is not exclusive to Christians, but that includes all peoples”....

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