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Pope: Break down isolation, stigma of Autism

15 hours 30 min ago
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis says we need to “break down the isolation and stigma that burden” people living with autism spectrum disorders.  The Pope was speaking to participants at a three-day conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Health Care titled The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope. 650 experts from 57 countries were joined in the Paul VI hall Saturday by hundreds of parents and children affected by autism.  Warmly thanking them for their ‘moving and meaningful testimonies’ on what it means to live with the condition, Pope Francis spoke of the fragility of children and families suffering from autism spectrum disorders, describing the stigma and isolation they feel as a Cross. To meet their needs and break through their loneliness, the Pope spoke of creating a network of support and services on the ground that are comprehensive and accessible.   This is the responsibility of governments and intuitions he said but also of Christian communities, parishes and friends.  This continued the Pope would help families overcome the feelings, that can sometimes arise, of inadequacy, uselessness and frustration when faced with the daily realities of autism.  Pope Francis concluded with words of encouragement for academics and researchers in the field that they may discover therapies and support tools, to help and heal and, above all, prevent the onset of these conditions as soon as possible. While always safeguarding the inalienable dignity of every person.   Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s address: Dear Brothers and Sisters, Thank you for your welcome!   I am happy to welcome you at the end of your XXIX International Conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Health Care, which I thank for wanting to realize such a commendable and relevant initiative, dedicated to the complex issue of autism spectrum disorders. I warmly greet all of you who have come to take part in this meeting, which focused on prayer and testimony, together with people who are affected by autism spectrum disorders, their families and specialized associations. These conditions constitute a fragility that affects numerous children and, consequently, their families. They represent an area that appeal to the direct responsibility of governments and institutions, without of course forgetting the responsibility of Christian communities. Everyone should be committed to promoting acceptance, encounter and solidarity through concrete support and by encouraging renewed hope.  In this way we can contribute to breaking down the isolation and, in many cases, the stigma burdening people with autism spectrum disorders, and just as often their families. This must not be an anonymous or impersonal accompaniment, but one of listening to the profound needs that arise from the depths of a pathology which, all too often, struggles to be properly  diagnosed and accepted without shame or withdrawing into solitude, especially for families. It is a Cross. Assistance to people affected by autism spectrum disorders would benefit greatly from the creation of a network of support and services on the ground that are comprehensive and accessible.  These should involve, in addition to parents, grandparents, friends, therapists, educators and pastoral workers. These figures can help families overcome the feelings, that can sometimes arise, of inadequacy, uselessness and frustration. For this very reason, I thank the families, parish groups and various associations present here today and from whom we heard these moving and meaningful testimonies, for the work they carry out every day. I extend to all of them my personal gratitude and that of the whole Church. Moreover, I want to encourage the hard work of academics and researchers, so that they may discover therapies and support tools, to help and heal and, above all, prevent the onset of these conditions as soon as possible. All of this while paying due attention to the rights of the patients, their needs and their potential, always safeguarding the dignity of every person. Dear brothers and sisters, I entrust you all to the protection of the Virgin Mary, and I thank you for your prayers. Now, all together, let us pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary for all health care workers, for the sick, and then receive the blessing. Hail Mary ... (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: all Christians called to be missionaries, 'not just the few'

15 hours 56 min ago
(Vatican Radio) All Christians and “not just the few” are called to intensify their missionary spirit and go out to proclaim the joy of the Gospel, said Pope Francis. He issued the call on Saturday in speaking at the Vatican to a group of more than 700 participants in Italy’s National Missionary Congress, which was organized by the Italian Episcopal Conference and the Missio Foundation. Listen to the report by Laura Ieraci: “Every generation is called to be missionary,” he said. Reflecting on the theme of the congress, based on God’s call of the prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh and to call the people to conversion, the Pope said the Church is called to be outbound and to bring the Gospel to all nations, “without distinction.” He urged Christians “to go out and not to remain indifferent to extreme poverty, war, violence in our cities, the abandonment of the elderly, the anonymity of so many people in need and the distance we keep from the least among us.” Christians, he said, must “be workers for peace, that peace which the Lord gives us each day and of which the world is very much in need.” Calling Christians to live in hope, he said: “Missionaries never renounce the dream of peace, even when they live difficulties and persecution, which today has returned to make itself felt strongly.” Pope Francis said being an outbound Church it “means to overcome the temptation to speak among ourselves, forgetting the many who wait for a word of mercy from us, a word of comfort, of hope.” He called Christians to go out to the periphery, like Jesus, who lived  “far from the centres of power of the Roman Empire…. He met the poor, the sick, the possessed, sinners, prostitutes, gathering around him a small number of disciples and some women who listened to him and served him.” Jesus’ “word was the beginning of a turning point in history, the beginning of a spiritual and human revolution, the Good News of a Lord, who died and rose for us,” he said. The mission of bringing the joy of the Gospel to the world “is accomplished by all Christians, not just the few,” the Pope affirmed. “Our Christian vocation asks us to be carriers of this missionary spirit so as to bring about a true ‘missionary conversion’ of the whole Church.”   Below are excerpts from the Pope’s message, translated by Vatican Radio: Dear brothers and sisters,  … The program for your conference takes inspiration from when the Lord said to the prophet Jonah: “Go to the great city of Nineveh.” Jonah, however, initially runs away. … But then he goes, and in Nineveh, everything changes: God shows his mercy and the city is converted. Mercy changes the story of individuals and even of peoples. … The invitation extended to Jonah is today extended to you. And this is important. Every generation is called to be missionary. In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I spoke of an outbound Church. A missionary Church cannot but be outbound, unafraid of encountering, of discovering newness, of speaking of the joy of the Gospel. To all, without distinction. The diverse realities that you represent in the Church in Italy indicate that the spirit missio ad gentes must become the mission of the Church in the world: going out, listening to the cry of the poor and of those further afield, encountering all and proclaiming the joy of the Gospel. I thank you for what you do in your various roles: as part of the offices of the Italian Episcopal Conference, as directors of diocesan offices, consecrated and lay people together. I ask you to commit yourselves with passion to keep this spirit alive. I see with joy many lay people together with bishops and priests. The mission is accomplished by all Christians, not just the few. Our Christian vocation asks us to be carriers of this missionary spirit so as to bring about a true “missionary conversion” of the whole Church, as I hoped for in Evangelii Gaudium. The Church in Italy has given numerous priests and lay people fidei donum, who chose to spend their lives building the Church in the peripheries of the world, among the poor and the distant. This is a gift for the universal Church and for all peoples. I exhort you not to let yourselves be robbed of the hope and the dream of changing the world with the Gospel, starting with the human and existential peripheries. To go out means to overcome the temptation to speak among ourselves, forgetting the many who wait for a word of mercy from us, a word of comfort, of hope. The Gospel of Jesus is realized in history. Jesus himself was a man in the periphery, from Galilee, far from the centres of power of the Roman Empire and from Jerusalem. He met the poor, the sick, the possessed, sinners, prostitutes, gathering around him a small number of disciples and some women who listened to him and served him. And yet, his word was the beginning of a turning point in history, the beginning of a spiritual and human revolution, the Good News of a Lord, who died and rose for us. Dear brothers and sisters, I encourage you to intensify the missionary spirit and enthusiasm for the mission and to hold high your commitment—in the dioceses, missionary institutes, communities, movements and associations—the spirit of Evangelii gaudium, without being discouraged by the difficulties, which are never lacking. Sometimes, even in the Church, we get caught by pessimism, which risks depriving many men and women of the proclamation of the Gospel. Let us go forward with hope! The many missionary martyrs of the faith and of charity show us that victory is only in love and in a life spent for the Lord and for neighbour, starting with the poor. The poor are the travel companions of an outbound Church because they are the first that we encounter. The poor are also your evangelizers because they indicate to you the peripheries where the Gospel is yet to be proclaimed and lived. To go out and not to remain indifferent to extreme poverty, war, violence in our cities, the abandonment of the elderly, the anonymity of so many people in need and the distance we keep from the least among us. To go out and to be workers for peace, that “peace” which the Lord gives us each day and of which the world is very much in need. Missionaries never renounce the dream of peace, even when they live difficulties and persecution, which today has returned to make itself felt strongly. May the Lord make the passion for the mission grow within you and render you wherever witnesses of his love and mercy. And may the Holy Virgin, the Star of the New Evangelization, protect you and render you strong in the task that has been entrusted to you. I ask you to pray for me and I bless you from the heart.      (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: speech to New Movements conference participants

16 hours 36 min ago
(Radio Vaticana) Pope Francis received the participants in the III World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities on Saturday morning in the Vatican. With the guidance of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, over three hundred people from all around the world, representing the groups and communities founded in the wake of the II Vatican Council, have been gathered in Rome to reflect on the joy of the Gospel as a specifically missionary joy. Below, please find the official translation of Pope Francis' prepared remarks, in English. ************************************** Address of the Holy Father  to Participants of the  Third World Congress of  Ecclesial Movements and New Communities 22 November 2014 Dear brothers and sisters,             I offer cordial greetings to all of you taking part in this Congress sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.  I thank Cardinal Ryłko for his words, as well as Archbishop Clemens.  At the heart of your deliberations in these days are two elements which are essential for Christian life: conversion and mission .  These are intimately connected.  In fact, without an authentic conversion of heart and mind, the Gospel cannot be proclaimed; at the same time, if we are not open to mission, conversion is not possible and faith becomes sterile.  The Movements and New Communities that you represent are moving towards a deeper sense of belonging to the Church, a maturity that requires vigilance in the path of daily conversion.  This will enable an ever more dynamic and fruitful evangelization.  I would like, therefore, to offer you a few suggestions for your journey of faith and ecclesial life. 1.  First, it is necessary to preserve the freshness of your charism , always renewing the “first love” (cf. Rev 2:4).  As time goes by, there is a greater temptation to become comfortable, to become hardened in set ways of doing things, which, while reassuring, are nonetheless sterile.  However, “realities are more important than ideas” (cf. Evangelii Gaudium , 231-233); even if a certain institutionalization of the charism is necessary for its survival, we ought not delude ourselves into thinking that external structures can guarantee the working of the Holy Spirit.  The newness of your experiences does not consist in methods or forms, which are important, but rather in your willingness to respond with renewed enthusiasm to the Lord’s call.  Such evangelical courage has allowed for the growth of your Movements and New Communities.  If forms and methods become ends in themselves, they become ideological, removed from reality which is constantly developing; closed to the newness of the Spirit, such rigid forms and methods will eventually stifle the very charism which gave them life.  We need always to return to the sources of our charism, and thus to rediscover the driving force needed to respond to today’s challenges. 2.  A further issue concerns the way of welcoming and accompanying men and women of today, in particular, the youth (cf. Evangelii Gaudium , 105-106).  We are part of a wounded humanity in which all of the educational institutions, especially the most important one – the family – are experiencing grave difficulties almost everywhere in the world.  Men and women today experience serious identity problems and have difficulty making proper choices; as a result, they tend to be conditioned and to delegate important decisions about their own lives to others.  We need to resist the temptation of usurping individual freedom, of directing them without allowing for their growth in genuine maturity.  Moral or spiritual progress which manipulates a person’s immaturity is only an apparent success, and one destined to fail.  Christian education instead requires a patient accompaniment which is capable of waiting for the right moment for each person, as the Lord does with each one of us.  Patience is the only way to love truly and to lead others into a sincere relationship with the Lord. 3.  One other consideration we must never forget is that the most precious good, the seal of the Holy Spirit, is communion .  This is the supreme blessing that Jesus won for us on the Cross, the grace which the Risen Christ continually implores for us as he reveals to the Father his glorious wounds, “As you, Father, are in me, and I in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me ( Jn 17:21).  For the world to believe that Jesus is Lord, it needs to see communion among Christians.  If, on the other hand, the world sees divisions, rivalries and backbiting, regardless of the cause, how can we evangelize?  Remember this further principle: “Unity prevails over conflict” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 226-230), because our brothers and sisters are always of greater value than our personal attitudes; indeed, it is for our brothers and sisters that Christ has shed his blood ( 1 Pet 1:18-19).  In addition, real communion cannot exist in Movements or in New Communities unless these are integrated within the greater communion of our Holy Mother, the hierarchical Church.  “The whole is greater than the part” (cf Evangelii Gaudium , 234-237), and the part only has meaning in relation to the whole.  Communion also consists in confronting together and in a united fashion the most pressing questions of our day, such as life, the family, peace, the fight against poverty in all its forms, religious freedom and education.  In particular, New Movements and Communities are called to coordinate their efforts in caring for those wounded by a globalized mentality which places consumption at the centre, neglecting God and those values which are essential for life.             In order to attain ecclesial maturity, therefore, maintain the freshness of your charism , respect the freedom of each person , and always strive for communion .  Do not forget, however, that to reach this goal, conversion must be missionary: the strength to overcome temptations and insufficiencies comes from the profound joy of proclaiming the Gospel, which is the foundation of your charisms.  In fact, “when the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment” ( Evangelii Gaudium , 10), the true motivation for renewal of one’s own life, since all mission is a sharing in the mission of Christ who precedes and accompanies us in the work of evangelization.             Dear brothers and sisters, you have already borne much fruit for the Church and the world.  You will bear even greater fruit with the help of the Holy Spirit, who raises up and renews his gifts and charisms, and through the intercession of Mary, who never ceases to assist and accompany her children.  I assure you of my prayers and I ask you to pray for me.  I cordially impart to each of you my blessing. (from Vatican Radio)...

Migration congress calls for just policies, better conditions for migrants

19 hours 10 min ago
(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People issued a message on Friday at the end of their Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, held at the Vatican, from 17 to 21 November. The final message says congress participants “encourage all actors, including civil society and governments, to work towards more comprehensive and just immigration policies, fully implementing international conventions to guarantee job opportunities and better living conditions, to prevent exploitation and/or trafficking of migrant workers.” Read the complete message below: The 7th World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, was held at the Pontifical Urbaniana University, Vatican City, from Monday, November 17th to Friday, November 21st, 2014. The proceedings focused on the phenomenon of migration and migrants, in the light of the theme: “Cooperation and Development in the Pastoral Care of Migrations”. Gathering together nearly 300 participants, which include delegates from Bishops' Conferences, commissions and Church structures and partners from over 90 countries, the objective of the Congress was to reflect upon the current migration situation that so strongly marks modern-day society, and to seek and propose a renewed Catholic pastoral approach to the phenomenon within the Church at international, regional and local levels. The pastoral care of the Catholic Church, expressed in specific programs and plans of action, takes into consideration the particular situation of economic migrants, who live between the realities of uprooting and that of integration. Pastoral programs concern the spiritual search of the sense of life, experiences of welcome, sharing and reconciliation, the proclamation of the Gospel, the Liturgy, the celebration of the Sacraments. At the same time, the pastoral solicitude also cares towards basic needs of migrant workers such as legal assistance in the regularization process of their status, the defense and the promotion of their dignity, decent jobs and housing. Christian communities continue to be spaces of hope and action, advocating on behalf of migrants (particularly children, unaccompanied minors, women and persons with disabilities), that raise awareness, protect and extend the necessary assistance, whatever their status. Presentations, discussions and sharing of experiences helped to address the issue of the migrants’ family with all positive aspects that contribute to strengthen and promote fruitful human relationships, which are the basis and the core of all societies. Emphasis has been given on family separation, caused by the lack of adequate migration policies, which is especially challenging in countries with a large diaspora. Furthermore, the feminization of migration is a new characteristic. Migrant women are no longer moving within processes of family reunification mainly, but also as bread-winners. Migration, therefore, can be an instrument of empowerment for women but also a threat when criminal nets take advantage of their vulnerability and force them into smuggling, trafficking, and even prostitution and labor exploitation. Similarly, young migrants carry a great potential in building bridges of cooperation between societies towards development. The pastoral care of young migrants concentrates on their religious and integral formation, assisting them to be active bridges between cultures, both for the benefit of society and Christian communities. Migration continues to be a sign of modern times, deeply marked by growing fear and lack of hospitality. In this regard, the centrality of the human person and the respect for his/her dignity are of even greater importance, preceding any religious, ethnic, social or cultural differences. The participants of the Meeting encourage all actors, including civil society and governments, to work towards more comprehensive and just immigration policies, fully implementing international conventions to guarantee job opportunities and better living conditions, to prevent exploitation and/or trafficking of migrant workers. The participants appeal to the responsibility of the whole international Community to contribute to the common good and to the universality of human rights, underlining the need for a positive change in attitude towards migrants. Finally, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People and the participants recommend collaborative action amongst all Church structures in the countries of origin, transit and destination to implement the considerations and conclusions of the Congress, which will be published.   (from Vatican Radio)...

The Virgin Mary, protagonist of the 19th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 07:12
Vatican City, 21 November 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father has sent a message to Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Council for Coordination between the Pontifical Academies, on the occasion of the 19th Public Session of the Pontifical Academies, devoted to the theme “Mary, icon of the infinite beauty of Dios Marialis cultus and the Marian teaching of Blessed Paul VI”, organised by the Pontifical International Marian Academy. In his message, the Pope spoke about Blessed Paul VI's great love for the Virgin Mary, which he expressed on many occasions during his papacy, as well as in several documents, including his two encyclicals, Mense Maio and Christi Matri, dedicated to the Mother of God and the worship of her as Mater Ecclesiae. He also devoted three apostolic exhortations to Mary: Signum Magnum, Recurrens Mensis October and, finally, Marialis Cultus, published forty years ago this year. “On the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the closure of Vatican Council II, established by Paul VI – not by chance – on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December 1965, it is beautiful that you wish to make his voice through the recording of the homily in which he entrusts the fate of the Church, radically renewed through the Council assize, to Mary. On that solemn and historical occasion, Paul VI wished to commend the entire Church to Mary as the Mother of God and our spiritual Mother”. Similarly, Francis recalled that in crucial and difficult moments for the Church and for humanity, Paul VI always turned to Mary, exhorting the people of God to pray for her intercession and protection, and invoking the gift of peace. “In the wake of the Synod of Bishops on new evangelisation, in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I too entrusted the way of the Church to Mary's maternal and caring intercession, reminding all believers that there is a Marian style to the evangelising activity of the Church, as every time we look to Mary we believe again in the revolutionary power of tenderness and affection. In her we see that humility and tenderness are not virtues of the weak but rather of the strong, who do not need to mistreat others to feel important”. The Holy Father continued, “Let us not tire of learning from Mary, of admiring and contemplating her beauty, of letting ourselves be guided by her, she who leads us always to the original source and fullness of authenticity: infinite beauty, that of God, revealed to us in Christ, Son of the Father and Son of Mary”. The Pontiff concluded by awarding the Pontifical Academies Prize to the Italian Interdisciplinary Mariological Association, above all for more than twenty years of publishing the journal Theotokos, and the Pontifical Medal to the “Centro mariano de difusion cultural” of the Order of the Servants of Mary, in Mexico....

Pope Francis: Migration an aspiration to hope

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 06:51
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday addressed participants at the Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants. In his remarks, the Holy Father said, “Today, notwithstanding new developments and the emergence of situations which are at times painful and even tragic, migration is still an aspiration to hope.” Listen to Christopher Wells' report:  After remarking on the causes of migration – including inequality, poverty, disasters caused by climate change, and wars and persecution – the Pope noted that migration offers benefits both to the receiving nations and to the nations from which migrants come. But, he said, “we know that some problems also accompany these benefits.” Some of those problems include “brain drain” in developing countries and the breakup of families in countries of origin; and difficulties of integration in receiving countries. “In this regard,” he said, “pastoral workers play an important role through initiating dialogue, welcoming and assisting with legal issues, mediating with the local population.  In the countries of origin, on the other hand, the closeness of pastoral workers to the families and children of migrant parents can lessen the negative repercussions of the parents’ absence.” However, he continued, the Congress for the Pastoral Care of workers attempts to go further, “to grasp the implications of the Church’s pastoral concern in the overall context of cooperation, development, and migration.” He went on to say that the Christian community “is continuously engaged in welcoming migrants and sharing with them God’s gifts, in particular the gift of faith.” More than this, the Church is a “source of hope” for migrants, who often experience “disappointment, distress, and loneliness.” The question of migration must always be approached from “an integrated perspective capable of valuing their potential rather than seeing them only as a problem to be confronted and resolved.” This is especially true of “the Christian community, where no one is a stranger, and therefore, everyone is worthy of being welcomed and supported.” Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ address: Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants of the Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants (21 November 2014)   Your Eminences, Brother Bishops and Priests, Dear Brothers and Sisters, 1. I am pleased to be with you at the conclusion of the Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants. I greet the President of the Pontifical Council, Cardinal Vegliò, thanking him for his kind words of introduction, and I also extend a fraternal welcome to the delegates from other Churches and Communities. To all of you I express my sincere appreciation for your commitment to and solicitude for the men and women who even today are undertaking the “journey of hope” on the path of migration. I thank you for all that you are doing. I assure you, and all those whom you seek to help, of my spiritual closeness. 2. The final Document from your last meeting five years ago affirmed that “migration is… an invitation to imagine a different future, which seeks the development of the whole human race; this includes then every human being with his or her spiritual and cultural potential and contribution to a more equitable world marked by global solidarity and by full respect for human dignity and life” (n. 3). Today, notwithstanding new developments and the emergence of situations which are at times painful and even tragic, migration is still an aspiration to hope. Above all in areas of the world in difficulty, where the lack of work prevents individuals and their families from achieving a dignified life, there is a strong drive to seek a better future wherever that may be, even at the risk of disappointment and failure. This is caused in great part by the economic crisis which, to different degrees, is affecting every country in the world. 3. Your meeting has highlighted the dynamics of cooperation and development in the pastoral care of migrants. First and foremost you have analyzed the factors which cause migration, in particular: inequality, poverty, overpopulation, the growing need for employment in some sectors of the global job market, disasters caused by climate change, wars and persecution, and the desire of younger people to relocate as they seek new opportunities. Moreover, the link between cooperation and development shows, on the one hand, the difference of interests between states and migrants, and, on the other hand, the opportunities which derive for both. In effect, receiving nations draw advantages from employing immigrants for production needs and national prosperity, not infrequently filling gaps created by the demographic crisis. In turn, the nations which migrants leave show a certain reduction in unemployment and, above all, benefit from earnings which are then sent back to meet the needs of families which remain in the country. Emigrants, in the end, are able to fulfil the desire for a better future for themselves and their families. Yet we know that some problems also accompany these benefits. We find in the countries of origin, among other things, an impoverishment due to the so-called “brain drain”, the effects on infants and young people who grow up without one or both parents, and the risk of marriages failing due to prolonged absences. In the receiving nations, we also see difficulties associated with migrants settling in urban neighbourhoods which are already problematic, as well as their difficulties in integrating and learning to respect the social and cultural conventions which they find. In this regard, pastoral workers play an important role through initiating dialogue, welcoming and assisting with legal issues, mediating with the local population. In the countries of origin, on the other hand, the closeness of pastoral workers to the families and children of migrant parents can lessen the negative repercussions of the parents’ absence.   4. Your reflections, however, have wanted to go even further, to grasp the implications of the Church’s pastoral concern in the overall context of cooperation, development and migration. It is here that the Church has much to say. The Christian community, in fact, is continuously engaged in welcoming migrants and sharing with them God’s gifts, in particular the gift of faith. The Church promotes pastoral plans for the evangelization and support of migrants throughout their journey from their country of origin, through countries of transit, to the receiving countries. She gives particular attention to meeting the spiritual needs of migrants through catechesis, liturgy and the celebration of the Sacraments. 5. Sadly, migrants often experience disappointment, distress and loneliness. In effect, the migrant worker has to deal with the problem both of being uprooted and needing to integrate. Here the Church also seeks to be a source of hope: she develops programs of education and orientation; she raises her voice in defence of migrants’ rights; she offers assistance, including material assistance to everyone, without exception, so that all may be treated as children of God. When encountering migrants, it is important to adopt an integrated perspective, capable of valuing their potential rather than seeing them only as a problem to be confronted and resolved. The authentic right to development regards every person and all people, viewed integrally. This demands that all people be guaranteed a minimal level of participation in the life of the human community. How much more necessary must this be in the case of the Christian community, where no one is a stranger and, therefore, everyone is worthy of being welcomed and supported. 6. The Church, beyond being a community of the faithful that sees the face of Jesus Christ in its neighbour, is a Mother without limits and without frontiers. She is the Mother of all and so she strives to foster the culture of welcome and solidarity, where no one is considered useless, out of place or disposable. I wrote of this in my Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees this year: “It is less the criteria of efficiency, productivity, social class, or ethnic or religious belonging which ground that personal dignity, so much as the fact of being created in God’s own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27) and, even more so, being children of God. Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ!” Migrants, therefore, by virtue of their very humanity, even prior to their cultural values, widen the sense of human fraternity. At the same time, their presence is a reminder of the need to eradicate inequality, injustice and abuses. In that way, migrants will be able to become partners in constructing a richer identity for the communities which provide them hospitality, as well as the people who welcome them, prompting the development of a society which is inclusive, creative and respectful of the dignity of all. Dear brothers and sisters, I wish to renew my gratitude for the service which you give to the Church and to the communities and societies to which you belong. I invoke upon you the protection of Mary, the Mother of God, and Saint Joseph, who themselves experienced the difficulty of exile in Egypt. I assure you of my prayers and I ask you to pray for me. To all of you I willingly impart my blessing. (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican urges states to ensure greater protection for fishermen

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 06:12
(Vatican Radio)  The Vatican’s office responsible for outreach to the world’s maritime community is calling on nations to ratify an international labor convention that would guarantee greater protections to workers in one of the industry’s most dangerous occupations:  fishing.  Listen to Tracey McClure's report:   In a statement issued for World Fisheries Day 21 November 2014, the Pontifical Council for Migrants cites t he Apostleship of the Sea International, the Church’s mission to seafarers, which says more than 58 million people worldwide work in the fishing sector.  “Fishing is recognized as one of the most dangerous professions in the world with hundreds of lives lost at sea every year and many more affected by occupational hazards," the Council observes. "Fishers can be easily exploited, abused and become victims of trafficking and forced labor.” The statement by the Council’s President Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò says the convention would be “a useful tool, if not to totally eradicate these circumstances at least to improve them by bringing additional protection and benefits”  and to enhance working conditions. The 2007 Work in Fishing Convention must be ratified by 10 countries, including 8 coastal states before it can enter into force.  As of April  17th 2014, the Convention has been ratified by: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Congo, Morocco, and South Africa. The Council warns that overexploitation of the world’s fishing stocks has reached a critical point.  In the short term, coastal communities that rely on fishing risk losing their source of livelihood.  It is necessary therefore, to practice responsible fishing and to respect nature. Below please find the complete statement from the Pontifical Council for Migrants: World Fisheries Day Message (21th November 2014) “Fishing is in fact one of the oldest and arduous human activity and it is generally poorly paid or rewarded. The forms of fishing are as many and varied almost as the kind of fish that they catch. Like all seafarers, fishers most of the time are sailing and spend very little time with their family and, on account of their way of life, they are often marginalized and deprived of the ordinary pastoral ministry” . On the annual celebration of World Fisheries Day, the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) International would like to draw attention to the fishing sector that provides employment and livelihood for circa 58.3 million people, of which 37 percent are engaged full time. In this day, I would like to call on all the national and local AOS to renew their commitment to establish a significant presence in fishing ports and develop specific programmes to make fishers and their families an integral part of the local Christian community, giving them the opportunity to express themselves and their needs without being isolated. Ratification of the Work in Fishing Convention (2007) C 188 Fishing is recognized as one of the most dangerous profession in the world with hundreds of lives lost at sea every year and many more affected by occupational hazards. Fishers can be easily exploited, abused and become victims of trafficking and forced labor,as it has been reported and documented in the mass media. Once ratified, the Work in Fishing Convention (2007) C 188, adopted at the 96thInternational Labour Conference of the International Labour Organization (ILO), will be a useful tool, if not to totally eradicate these circumstances at least to improve them by bringing additional protection and benefits. As a matter of fact, the objectives of the Convention are to ensure that all fishers engaged in commercial fishing operations have decent working conditions on board of the fishing vessels with regard to accommodation and food; occupational safety and health protection; medical care and social security. The Convention will enter into force 12 months after the date on which ten Members, eight of which are coastal States, will ratify it. As of April  17th 2014, the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188) has been ratified by: Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Congo, Morocco, and South Africa. It is necessary that AOS around the world continue to lobby at regional and national level for its ratification. Meetings, seminars or workshops should be organized to present, explain and inform government people, fishers and fishers’ organizations on the structure and contents of the Convention and have it ratified. Until this goal is achieved, fishers will continue to be abused, exploited and die at sea. A new approach to fishing Our oceans and their resources are under an enormous pressure. A report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicates that 30 percent of the world’s fisheries stocks are currently being overexploited, depleted or are recovering from depletion. This is caused by a number of factors such as: by-catch of species (marine mammals, seabirds, turtles, etc.) unintentionally caught in fishing gears; discards as part of the catch to be returned to the sea as their marketing is prohibited or not commercially viable. Fishing, especially trawling, also has a direct impact on the habitat in which it takes place. To all this we have to add the climate changes, the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, pollution and the use of dynamite and cyanide. Since time immemorial, fishing has been a source of food for humankind and made major contributions to fishing nations’ economies, employing millions of people worldwide and feeding millions more. However, as we have reached a critical point, it is necessary to practice responsible fishing and respecting nature; the risk is that within a limited period of time many coastal communities that are relying on fishing for their subsistence and economy, will lose their source of livelihood. As Pope Francis reminds us: “This is one of the greatest challenges of our time: changing to a form of development which seeks to respect creation.[…]This is our sin: exploiting the land and not allowing it to give us what it has within it.” May the Blessed Virgin, often prayed and invoked with different appellatives by fishers and their families, continue to extend her maternal protection to all the fishing communities and support the AOS Chaplains and volunteers involved in this apostolate. Antonio Maria Cardinal Vegliò President Bishop Joseph Kalathiparambil Secretary (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Santa Marta: Keeping God’s Temple clean

Fri, 11/21/2014 - 06:12
(Vatican Radio) People will forgive a weak priest or pastoral minister, but they will not forgive a greedy one or one who mistreats people, said Pope Francis at Mass Friday morning as he marked the feast of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a prayer that she help us keep the Lord's Temple clean. Basing his homily on the Gospel of the Day in which Jesus drives the merchants from the Temple because they had turned the house of prayer into a den of thieves, Pope Francis said in doing so Jesus was purifying the Temple of God because it had been profaned and with it the People of God.  The Temple had been defiled with the gravest of sins: scandal. "People are good – continued Pope Francis- people went to the Temple and did not look at these things, they sought God and prayed ... but they had to change their money into coins to make offers". The people of God did not go to the Temple for these people, for those who were selling things, they went because it was the Temple of God" and "there was corruption that scandalized the people".  Pope Francis recalled the biblical story of Anna, a humble woman, mother of Samuel, who goes to the temple to ask for the grace of a child: "she whispered her prayers silently" while the priest and his two sons were corrupt, they exploited the pilgrims, they scandalized the people. “I think of how our attitude can scandalize people - said Pope Francis – with unpriestly habits in the Temple: the scandal of doing business, the scandal of worldliness ... How often when we enter a church do we see  – even today – do we see a price list hanging there "for baptism, blessings, Mass intentions". And people are scandalized". "Once , as a newly ordained priest, I was with a group of college students and one couple wanted to get married. They went to a parish, but they wanted a wedding ceremony with the Mass. And, the parish secretary there said: 'No, no, you cannot' - 'Why can’t we have a Mass? If the Council always recommends people to have a ceremony with the Mass ... '-' No, you cannot, because it can’t last more than 20 minutes'-' But why? '-'Because there are other slots [in the timetable for ceremonies]'-'But, we want the Mass! '-' So you will have to pay for two slots! '. So in order to have a wedding ceremony with the Mass had to pay two slots. This is the sin of scandal". The Pope added: "We know what Jesus says to those who are the cause of scandal: 'Better to be thrown into the sea'". " When those who are in the Temple – be they priests, lay people, secretaries, but who manage the Temple, who ministry of the Temple - become businessmen, people are scandalized. And we are responsible for this. The laity too! Everyone. Because if I see this in my parish, I have to have the courage to say these things to the parish priest. And the people are scandalized. It is interesting: the people of God can forgive their priests, when they are weak; when they slip on a sin ... the people know how to forgive them. But there are two things that the people of God cannot forgive: a priest attached to money and a priest who mistreats people. This they cannot forgive! It is scandalous when the Temple, the House of God, becomes a place of business, as in the case of that wedding: the church was being rented out”. Jesus "is not angry" - said the Pope - "it is the Wrath of God, zeal for the House of God" because you cannot serve two masters, "either you worship the living God, or your worship money". " Why does Jesus have an issue with money? Because redemption is free; it is God’s free gift, He comes to brings us the all-encompassing gratuity of God’s love. So when the Church or churches start doing business, then it is said that ….salvation is not so free…This is why Jesus takes the whip to hand to carry out this act of the purification of the Temple. Today the Liturgy celebrates the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin in the Temple: as a young girl ... A simple woman, like Anna,   and in that moment the Blessed Virgin Mary enters. May she teach all of us, pastors and those who have pastoral responsibility, to keep the Temple clean, to receive with love those who come, as if each one were the Blessed Virgin”. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: Christian unity remains a priority for Catholics

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:12
(Vatican Radio) The search for full Christian unity remains a priority for the Catholic Church and it is one of the Pope’s principle daily concerns. That was the message that Pope Francis shared on Thursday with members of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity who are taking part in a plenary session in the Vatican this week. The meeting includes a public commemoration at the Gregorian University on Friday of the 50th anniversary of the Vatican II decree ‘Unitatis Redintegratio’. That document marked the start of a new era in the Catholic Church’s relations with Christians of all different denominations. Philippa Hitchen reports: Listen:  In a letter given to participants during a meeting at Santa Marta, the Pope notes that the Vatican II teaching, contained in ‘Unitatis Redintegratio’, as well as the other two ecclesiological texts ‘Lumen Gentium’ and ‘Orientalium Ecclesiarum’ has been fully embraced. Earlier hostility and indifference that caused such deep wounds between Christians, the Pope says, have given way to a process of healing that allows us to welcome others as brothers and sisters, united in our common baptism. This changed mentality, he says, must penetrate ever more deeply into the theological teachings and pastoral practise of dioceses, institutes of consecrated life, associations and ecclesial movements. At the same time, he adds, this anniversary offers an opportunity to give thanks to God that we can now appreciate all that is good and true within the life of the different Christian communities. Pope Francis thanks all those who, over the past half century, have pioneered this process of reconciliation and he mentions the important role that ecumenical translations of the Bible have played in developing closer cooperation among Christians. But as we give thanks, the Pope says, we must also recognise continuing divisions and new ethical issues which are complicating our journey towards unity in Christ. Rather than being resigned to the difficulties, he says, we must continue to trust in God who plants seeds of love in the hearts of all Christians. Finally the Pope calls for a renewed commitment to spiritual ecumenism and to the rediscovery of shared Christian martyrdom. Spiritual ecumenism, he says, is that global network of communal moments of prayer, united gestures of charity and shared reflections on the web which circulate like oxygen, contributing to the growth of understanding, respect and mutual esteem. Ecumenism of the martyrs, he notes, continues today wherever our brothers and sisters sacrifice their lives for their faith, since those who persecute Christ’s followers make no distinction between the different Christian confessions. In my many encounters or correspondence with other Christians, Pope Francis concludes, I see a strong desire to walk and pray together, to know and love the Lord and to work together in the service of the weak and suffering. On this common journey, he says, I am convinced that, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can learn from each other and grow into the communion which already unites us. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis pays tribute to Blessed Paul VI's devotion to Mary

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:12
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis paid tribute on Thursday to Blessed Pope Paul the 6th and his great love for the Mother of God, saying he always turned to Mary at crucial and difficult moments for the Church and humanity. The Pope’s words came during a message which was read on his behalf by the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin at a public meeting of the Pontifical Academies whose theme was “Mary, Icon of God’s infinite beauty. During the meeting Cardinal Parolin awarded a prize in the name of the Pope to the Italian Mariological Association for its long-standing publication of the Theotokos Review. Quoting from his encyclical Evangelii gaudium , the Pope reminded his audience that he has entrusted the way of the Church to the maternal and caring intercession of Mary and that there is a Marian style in the evangelizing activity of the church.  This, he went on, is because every time we look at Mary we return to believe in the revolutionary strength of tenderness and affection.  In her, we see the humility and the tenderness that are not virtues of the weak but of the strong and who don’t need to mistreat others in order to feel self-important.      (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: People and not money create development

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 12:12
(Vatican Radio)  Saying people and not money create development, Pope Francis called on Thursday for courageous initiatives to rethink our economic system and not become slaves of money. His remarks came in a video message delivered to participants attending a Festival of Social Doctrine in the Italian city of Verona promoted by the local Church.   The Pope urged people not to become discouraged by the economic crisis but instead turn their energies towards ways of “rethinking our economic model and the world of work.”  He warned that “the great temptation” when faced with these difficulties is to concentrate “on tending our own wounds and use that as an excuse to not heed the cry of the poor” and all those who are suffering because they have lost their jobs and the dignity that goes with that. The risk, he went on, is that “this indifference makes us blind, deaf and dumb”, closed in to the outside world and only concerned with ourselves. Pope Francis spoke instead of the need to move beyond and “abandon the stereotypes which are considered safe and guaranteed” in order to respond to the real needs of people. In the field of economics, he went on, we urgently need to take the initiative because “the system tends to homogenize everything and money becomes its master.”  Taking the initiative in this field, he added, means having the courage not to allow ourselves to be imprisoned and subsequently enslaved by money. The true problem explained the Pope “is not money as such but people.”  This is because “money by itself does not create development” but instead we need people who have the courage to take the initiative. Pope Francis stressed that taking the initiative in this way means overcoming a tendency to always ask the state or other bodies for assistance but instead use our creative talents to find new ways of earning a living. He concluded his address by expressing his concern over the high number of unemployed young people, saying we need to invest more in them and give them a great deal of confidence.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Intense work by the Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 07:03
Vatican City, 20 November 2014 (VIS) – The Ordinary Council of the Synod of Bishops will meet on 18 and 19 November to reflect on the results of the Third Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, held during October, and to prepare for the 14 th General Ordinary Assembly on the theme “The vocation and the mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world”, to be held from 4 to 25 October 2015. The Holy Father will chair the Council on Tuesday 18 and his presence will underline the importance he accords to the Synod as an expression of episcopal collegiality and to the family, the theme of the two Assemblies: the extraordinary Assembly held this year and the Ordinary one, in the preparatory stages. Alongside the secretary general, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, and the under-secretary, Archbishop Fabio Fabene, the meeting was attended by Cardinals Christoph Schonborn, Wilfried F. Napier, Peter K.A. Turkson, George Pell, Donald W. Wuerl, and Luis A. Tagle, and by Archbishops Bruno Forte and Salvatore Fisichella. Bishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, also participated by invitation. In his introduction to the work of the Synod, the secretary general emphasised the climate of freedom and sincerity and the spirit of fraternal communion that characterised the Assembly, in which everyone was encouraged to contribute. Also, the final document, the Relatio Synodi, faithfully reflects the multi-faceted results of the Synod and offers a good summary of the process that took place during the Assembly. In the meeting, it was agreed that the current period between the two Assemblies, which is unprecedented in the history of the Synod as an institution, is of great importance. It is necessary to take the path followed so far as a starting point and to make the most of this special opportunity to deepen knowledge of the themes and to promote discussion at the level of the episcopal conferences, finding the means and the tools necessary to further involve various ecclesial bodies in the synodal reflection on the family. Various ideas on communication were also considered, which may be useful in view of the preparation for the upcoming Ordinary Assembly. The majority of the work was devoted to the preparation of the Lineamenta for the next Ordinary Assembly. The guidelines will be made up, as previously indicated, of the Relatio Synodi, accompanied by a series of points to help in its reception and elaboration. The Lineamenta are expected to be sent to the Episcopal Conferences at the beginning of December, so that the answers can be received in good time to allow them to be developed in the Instrumentum Laboris before the summer of 2015....

Pope Francis addresses FAO nutrition conference

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 06:23
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis travelled to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Headquarters in Rome on Thursday to give a speech to the  Second International Conference on Nutrition which is taking place this week. In his address to participants the Holy Father spoke of waste and excessive consumption of food as well as the rights of those who go hungry. Below is the English language translation of Pope Francis' speech to the Second International Conference on Nutrition at FAO Headquarters in Rome. Mr President Ladies and Gentlemen I am pleased and honoured to speak here today, at this Second International Conference on Nutrition. I wish to thank you, Mr. President, for your warm greeting and the words of welcome.  I cordially greet the Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan, and the Director General of the FAO, Professor José Graziano da Silva, and I rejoice in their decision to convene this conference of representatives of States, international institutions, and organisations of civil society, the world of agriculture and the private sector, with the aim of studying together the forms of intervention necessary in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, as well as the changes that must be made to existing strategies. The overall unity of purpose and of action, and above all the spirit of brotherhood, can be decisive in finding appropriate solutions. The Church, as you know, seeks always to be attentive and watchful regarding the spiritual and material welfare of the people, especially those who are marginalised or excluded, to ensure their safety and dignity. 1. The fates of nations are intertwined, more than ever before; they are like the members of one family who depend upon each other. However, we live in a time in which the relations between nations are too often damaged by mutual suspicion, that at times turns into forms of military and economic aggression, undermining friendship between brothers and rejecting or discarding what is already excluded. He who lacks his daily bread or a decent job is well aware of this. This is a picture of today’s world, in which it is necessary to recognise the limits of approaches based on the sovereignty of each State, intended as absolute, and national interest, frequently conditioned by small power groups. Your working agenda for developing new standards and greater commitments to feed the world shows this well. From this perspective, I hope that, in the formulation of these commitments, the States are inspired by the conviction that the right to food can only be ensured if we care about the actual subject, that is, the person who suffers the effects of hunger and malnutrition. Nowadays there is much talk of rights, frequently neglecting duties; perhaps we have paid too little heed to those who are hungry. It is also painful to see that the struggle against hunger and malnutrition is hindered by “market priorities”, the “primacy of profit”, which have reduced foodstuffs to a commodity like any other, subject to speculation, also of a financial nature. And while we speak of new rights, the hungry remain, at the street corner, and ask to be recognised as citizens, to receive a healthy diet. We ask for dignity, not for charity. 2. These criteria cannot remain in the limbo of theory. Persons and peoples ask for justice to be put into practice: not only in a legal sense, but also in terms of contribution and distribution. Therefore, development plans and the work of international organisations must take into consideration the wish, so frequent among ordinary people, for respect for fundamental human rights and, in this case, the rights of the hungry. When this is achieved, then humanitarian intervention, emergency relief and development operations – in their truest, fullest sense – will attain greater momentum and bring the desired results. 3. Interest in the production, availability and accessibility of foodstuffs, climate change and agricultural trade should certainly inspire rules and technical measures, but the first concern must be the individual as a whole, who lacks daily nourishment and has given up thinking about life, family and social relationships, instead fighting for survival. St. John Paul II, in the inauguration in this hall of the First Conference on Nutrition in 1992, warned the international community against the risk of the “paradox of plenty”, in which there is food for everyone, but not everyone can eat, while waste, excessive consumption and the use of food for other purposes is visible before our very eyes. Unfortunately, this “paradox” remains relevant. There are few subjects about which we find as many fallacies as those related to hunger; few topics as likely to be manipulated by data, statistics, the demands of national security, corruption, or futile lamentation about the economic crisis. This is the first challenge to be overcome. The second challenge to be faced is the lack of solidarity; we suspect that subconsciously we would like to remove this word from the dictionary. Our societies are characterised by growing individualism and division: this ends up depriving the weakest of a decent life, and provokes revolts against institutions. When there is a lack of solidarity in a country, the effects are felt throughout the world. Indeed, solidarity is the attitude that makes people capable of reaching our to others and basing their mutual relations on this sense of brotherhood that overcomes differences and limits, and inspires us to seek the common good together. Human beings, as they become aware of being partly responsible for the plan of creation, become capable of mutual respect, instead of fighting between themselves, damaging and impoverishing the planet. States, too, understood as a community of persons and peoples, are required to act concertedly, to be willing to help each other through the principles and norms offered by international law. A source of inspiration is natural law, inscribed in the human heart, that speaks a language that everyone can understand: love, justice, peace, elements that are inseparable from each other. Like people, States and international institutions are called to welcome and nurture these values – love, justice, peace – and this must be done with a spirit of dialogue and mutual listening. In this way, the aim of feeding the human family becomes feasible. 4. Every woman, man, child and elderly person everywhere should be able to count on these guarantees. It is the duty of every State that cares for the wellbeing of its citizens to subscribe to them unreservedly, and to take the necessary steps to ensure their implementation. This requires perseverance and support. The Catholic Church also offers her contribution in this field through constant attention to the life of the poor in all parts of the world; along the same lines, the Holy See is actively involved in international organisations and through numerous documents and statements. In this way, it contributes to identifying and assuming the criteria to be met in order to develop an equitable international system. These are criteria that, on the ethical plane, are based on the pillars of truth, freedom, justice and solidarity; at the same time, in the legal field, these same criteria include the relationship between rights and food, and the right to life and a dignified existence, the right to be protected by law, not always close to the reality of those who suffer from hunger, and the moral obligation to share the economic wealth of the world. If we believe in the principle of the unity of the human family, based on the common paternity of God the Creator, and in the fraternity of human beings, no form of political or economic pressure that exploits the availability of foodstuffs can be considered acceptable. Political and economic pressure: here I think of our sister and mother, Earth, our planet, and of whether we are free of political and economic pressure and able to care for her, to avoid her destruction. We have two conferences ahead of us, in Perù and France, which pose the challenge to us of caring for our planet. I remember a phrase that I heard from an elderly man many years ago: God always forgives … our misdemeanours, our abuse, God always forgives; men forgive at times; but the Earth never forgives. We must care for our sister the Earth, our Mother Earth, so that she does not respond with destruction. But, above all, no system of discrimination, de facto or de jure, linked to the capacity of access to the market of foodstuffs, must be taken as a model for international efforts that aim to eliminate hunger. By sharing these reflections with you, I ask that the Almighty, God rich in mercy, bless all those who, with different responsibilities, place themselves at the service of those who experience hunger and who assist them with concrete gestures of closeness. I also pray that the international community might hear the call of this Conference and consider it an expression of the common conscience of humanity: feed the hungry, save life on the planet. Thank you. (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican-sponsored conference on autism opens

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 06:17
(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council for Pastoral Health Care is sponsoring a three-day conference this week on autism. The theme of the event is: The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope . The conference is to bring together 650 experts from 57 countries to discuss a broad array of topics connected with the disease and its treatment, including diagnosis, treatment, research, and social solidarity with sufferers and their families. Among the participants are the co-founders of the New York-based Autism Speaks foundation, Bob and Suzanne Wright, who established their organization in 2005, in order to promote awareness, develop and deliver resources, foster research into the causes of the condition, contribute to the development of treatment strategies, and help support sufferers and their families. Click below to hear Bob and Suzanne Wright’s extended conversation with Vatican Radio’s Chris Altieri Bob Wright told Vatican Radio that the Vatican-organized gathering is an example of the kind of contribution that religion can make to the common good. “I am so proud to be here at the Vatican, where the [Pastoral Health Care dicastery] is taking three days away from its other activities to have all kinds of scientists come in and talk about autism, about family, about getting together and making things happen – when we have other people using religion for money, for corruption, for terrorism, for horrible things, this example of the Vatican [shows] the right way to be spiritual and [religious].” he said. His wife and co-founder, Suzanne Wright, expanded on the point. “The religion aspect and the spiritual aspect to me is very helpful,” she said, adding, “we need to show compassion and understanding in taking care of [those with autism].” Genuine care and compassion were the central themes of Pope Francis’ recent remarks to Catholic doctors in Italy. “The dominant thinking,” he said, “sometimes suggests a ‘false compassion’, that which believes that it is: helpful to women to promote abortion; an act of dignity to obtain euthanasia; a scientific breakthrough to ‘produce’ a child and to consider it to be a right rather than a gift to welcome; or to use human lives as guinea pigs presumably to save others.” He went on to say, “Attention to human life, especially that in greatest difficulty.” The Holy Father also said, “There is no human life that is more sacred than another – every human life is sacred.” An estimated 70 million people worldwide are living with autism and autism-spectrum disorders.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Santa Marta: Jesus weeps

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 05:46
(Vatican Radio) Jesus weeps today when the doors of our hearts, those of the pastors of the Church, are closed to His surprises not recognizing the One who brings peace said Pope Francis at Mass Thursday morning in Casa Santa Marta. Commenting on the Gospel of the Day, Pope Francis said Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because its people did not recognize the One who brings peace. He said the Lord weeps because of the “closure of heart" of His "chosen city, His chosen people. They had no time to open the door.  They were too busy, too self-satisfied. And He continues to knock on doors as he knocked on the door of the heart of Jerusalem, at the gates of His brothers, His sisters; on our doors, the doors of our hearts, the doors of the Church. The people of Jerusalem were content with their way of life and did not need the Lord: they failed to realize that they needed salvation. This is why they had closed their heart before the Lord". "Jesus weeps” over Jerusalem - said the Pope – the same as He “weeps over His Church, over us today”   "Why did Jerusalem not welcome the Lord? Because [the people] were content with what they had, and did not want any problems. But - as the Lord says in the Gospel - 'if you only knew, on this day, what brings you peace. You did not recognize the time of your visitation '. The city was afraid to be visited by the Lord; afraid of the gratuity of the Lord’s visit. The city felt safe in the knowledge of what it could handle. We all feel safe in the things that we can handle ... But the visit of the Lord, its surprises, those we cannot handle ". And Pope Francis added: "Jerusalem was afraid of this: of being saved by the surprises of the Lord. The [people] were afraid of the Lord, their Bridegroom, their Beloved. And so Jesus wept. When God visits His people, He brings joy, He leads us to conversion. We all fear happiness – that joy that the Lord brings, because we cannot control it. We are afraid of conversion because conversion means allowing the Lord to lead us ". "Jerusalem was content, happy - the Pope said - its temple worked. The priests made sacrifices, people came on pilgrimage, the teachers of the law had arranged everything, everything! Everything was clear! All the commandments were clear ... And with all of this Jerusalem had closed the door". The Cross, which was the "price of that refusal" - the Pope noted -, shows us the love of Jesus and what leads Him to "weep today - often - for His Church”. "I ask myself: today we Christians who know the faith, the catechism, who go to Mass every Sunday, we Christians, we pastors are we content with ourselves? Because we have organized everything and do not need new visits from the Lord ... And the Lord continues to knock on the door of each one of us and of His Church, the pastors of the Church. Yes, the door of our hearts, of the heart of the Church, of her pastors will not open: and the Lord weeps, even today". The Pope also urged people to examine their conscience, "Let us reflect on ourselves, as we are right now before God". (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican Conference on complementarity of Man and Woman ends

Thu, 11/20/2014 - 01:55
(Vatican Radio) The Humanum Conference ended on Wednesday with the publication of “A New Affirmation on Marriage.” The Conference, co-sponsored by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, took place in the Vatican, and explored the complementarity nature of the male and female in marriage. Pope Francis opened the conference on Monday. “It is hard now to speak of such obvious and beautiful things, but they are there,” the statement reads.  “All the witnesses know it. It is the music of man and of woman. Man with woman brings out the finest in him, directing his blood and his mind toward what makes life possible; and woman with man brings out the finest in her, directing her love and her care toward what makes life sweet.” The statement went on to discuss the problems facing marriage today. “Today, however, the homes that marriage makes are exposed to an army of distractions, and to the thief and the enemy who comes to steal and destroy,” continues the statement. “Weddings are rarer and children fewer. Where poverty erodes, marriage feels out of reach. Where war afflicts, families are crushed. Anywhere marriage recedes, we lose the transcendent and material goods that all human beings should enjoy. And we too are at fault, for when marriages are exposed to the wind and the rain, we have paid little attention. When the needs of children succumb to the wishes of adults, we have often remained silent. Love is reduced to a consumer item, an airbrushed image, or a slogan to export. It will not work. We will not flourish.” The full statement is at the Humanum website . (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope appoints new president of the finance agency

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 09:29
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday appointed René Brülhart as the new President of the Financial Information Authority. He is the first layperson to hold the job. Brülhart has served as the Director of the FIA since 2012. The FIA was established by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, and is the competent authority of the Holy See and the Vatican City State for dealing financial intelligence and supervision. It oversees efforts to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism, and supervises all entities carrying out professionally financial activities at the Vatican. Under Brülhart’s directorship, the FIA has signed agreements with the financial intelligence units of several countries, including the U.S.A, Germany, and Italy. Cardinal Attilio Nicora served as the first President of the Authority until January of this year, when Bishop Giorgio Corbellini took over as interim-president. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to visit FAO on occasion of nutrition conference

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 09:29
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will on Thursday pay a visit to the Headquarters of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation here in Rome on the occasion of the Second International Conference on Nutrition. The three day gathering which began on Wednesday brings together senior national policymakers on agriculture and health along with leaders of United Nations agencies and other intergovernmental organizations and civil society. Listen to Lydia O'Kane's interview with Boitshepo Giyose a senior food and nutrition security adviser for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Secretariat. The aim of the meeting is to review progress made towards improving nutrition since 1992, reflect on nutrition problems that remain, and identify policy options for improving nutrition. Although the conference will have a global perspective, it will focus particularly on nutrition challenges in developing countries. Attending the event is Boitshepo Giyose a senior food and nutrition security adviser for the New Partnership for Africa’s Development Secretariat, (NEPAD) South Africa. She to Vatican Radio of her hopes for the conference. “It is not just another conference really it is a call to action for all actors, for all governments , for the global economy, for the global players to pull together, work in tandem, work in harmony to ensure a common goal of reducing hunger and malnutrition, assuring that the post 2015 Agenda are acted on.” In the past Pope Francis has spoken out against a culture of waste when their are people are starving in the world, saying, “This culture of waste has made us insensitive even to the waste and disposal of food, which is even more despicable when all over the world, unfortunately, many individuals and families are suffering from hunger and malnutrition.”  Stressing the importance of the Pope’s voice on the issue of food and nutrition justice Ms Giyose added that, “Pope Francis… in his stature, he is a champion in his own right for food justice, for nutrition justice. We cannot continue to live in a world whereby there’s so much food waste, there is so much wastage…” Other participants at the conference the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the King of Lesotho. The meeting runs until the 21 st of November. (from Vatican Radio)...

Exhibition on Saint Francis opens at the United Nations in New York

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 05:19
(Vatican Radio) The Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, on Monday opened the Exhibition on “Friar Francis: Traces, words, images” taking place at the UN offices in New York. It is the first time the manuscripts on Saint Francis, some dating back to the year 1224, have left Italy. “Bringing to New York these priceless documents has been extremely difficult and costly,” Archbishop Auza said. “So, why are we doing this? We think it’s worth all the effort, because we believe that the values practiced and preached by Saint Francis are also the fundamental values of the United Nations, namely peace, the harmonious development of peoples in brotherhood and the love for nature. Without these values, we have wars and conflicts, injustices and all forms of slavery, environmental crises and disasters,” he explained. “Wouldn’t this evening’s event be such a happy occasion, were these precious manuscripts on Saint Francis a harbinger of the visit to the United Nations of him who carries the Saint’s name,” continued Archbishop Auza. “The Pope chose the name Francis precisely for these Franciscan core values of peace, fraternity of peoples and love for nature,” he said.   Speaking about the announcement that Pope Francis would visit Philadelphia in September 2015 for the World Meeting of Families, he said it was “sending ripples” from the Delaware River to the East River and the Potomac, and the Archbishop acknowledged officials of the United Nations would like the Pope to visit. “I therefore hope that, with and through the ‘Friar Francis Exhibition: Traces, words, images’, this Francis of Assisi precedes the one who bears his name and spreads his values,” concluded Archbishop Auza. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope at Audience: The universal call to holiness

Wed, 11/19/2014 - 05:09
(Vatican Radio) “Every state of life leads to holiness, always”, but only if we are open to the grace of God’s gift, said Pope Francis Wednesday speaking of the universal call to holiness of all baptized at his general audience. Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s catechesis: Dear brothers and sisters, good morning. A great gift of the Second Vatican Council was to have retrieved a vision of the Church founded on communion, and to have also embodied the principle of authority and hierarchy in this context. This has helped us to better understand that all Christians, as baptized, are equal in dignity before God and are united by vocation, which is to holiness (cf. Const. Lumen Gentium, 39-42). Now we ask: what does this universal call to holiness consist of? And how can we achieve it? 1. First, we must bear in mind that holiness is not something that we can procure for ourselves or obtain with our quality and our skills. Holiness is gifted to us by the Lord Jesus, when He takes us up with Him and clothes us in Himself, making us like Him. In the Letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul says that "Christ loved the Church, and gave Himself up for her, to make her holy"(Eph 5.25 to 26). There, holiness truly is the most beautiful face of the Church, the most beautiful face: it is rediscovering ourselves in communion with God, in the fullness of His life and His love. It is understandable, then, that holiness is not the prerogative of only a few: holiness is a gift that is offered to all, without exception, so that it constitutes the distinctive character of every Christian. 2. All of this helps us to realize that the call to holiness is not just for bishops, priests or religious ... No. We are all called to become saints! So often, we are tempted to think that holiness is granted only to those who have the opportunity to break away from the ordinary tasks, to devote themselves to prayer. But it is not so! Some people think that holiness is closing your eyes and putting on a pious face... No! That is not holiness! Holiness is something greater, more profound that God gifts us. Indeed, it is by living with love and offering Christian witness in our daily tasks that we are called to become saints. And everyone in the particular condition and state of life in which they find themselves. Are you consecrated? Be holy living your gift and your ministry with joy. Are you married? Be holy loving and taking care of your husband or your wife, as Christ did with the Church. Are you a baptized person who is not married? Be holy performing your work with honesty and competence and giving time to the service of others. "But, father, I work in a factory ... I work as an accountant, always with the numbers, I cannot be a saint there..." - "Yes, you can! There, where you work you can become a saint. God gives you the grace to become a saint. God communicates with you." Always and everywhere you can become a saint, that is, by being receptive to the grace that is working in us and leads us to holiness. Are you a parent or grandparent? Be holy by passionately teaching your children or grandchildren to know and follow Jesus. And this takes a lot of patience, to be a good parent, a good grandfather, a good mother, a good grandmother, it takes a lot of patience and this patience is the holiness exercising patience. Are you a catechist, educator or volunteer? Be holy by becoming a visible sign of God's love and His presence beside us. This is it: every state of life leads to holiness, always! At home, on the streets, at work, at church, in the moment and with the state of life that you have, a door is opened on the road to sainthood. Do not be discouraged to travel this road. God gives you the grace to do so. And this is all that the Lord asks, is that we are in communion with Him and serve others. If lived in communion with the Lord and in the service of others. 3. At this point, each of us can examine our conscience, we can do it now, everyone answering for himself, inside, in silence: So far how have we responded to God's call to holiness? But do I want to improve, to be a better Christian? This is the path to holiness. When the Lord calls us to be saints, he does not call us to something hard or sad... Not at all! It is an invitation to share His joy, to live and offer every moment of our lives with joy, at the same time making it a gift of love for the people around us. If we understand this, everything changes and takes on a new meaning, a beautiful meaning, to begin with the little everyday things. An example. A lady goes to the market to shop and meets another neighbor and starts talking and then comes the gossip and this lady says, "No, no, no I will not gossip about anyone." That's one step towards holiness, this helps you to become more holy. Then, at home, your son asks you to talk to him about his fantasies: "Oh, I'm so tired, I worked so hard today..." - "But sit down and listen to your son, he needs this." And you sit, you listen with patience... This is a step towards holiness. Then at end the day, we are all tired, but prayer... We must pray! That's one way to holiness. Then Sunday comes and you go to Mass and to take Communion, at times, a good confession that cleans us up a little. This is a step towards holiness. Then, Our Lady, so good, so beautiful, I take up the Rosary and pray. This is a step towards holiness. And so many steps towards holiness, little ones... Then I go down the street, I see a poor person, someone in need, I ask him, give him something, another step towards holiness. Small things are small steps toward holiness. And every step towards holiness will make us better people, free from selfishness and being closed in on ourselves, and open us up to our brothers and sisters and their needs. Dear friends, in the First Letter of Saint Peter we hear this exhortation: "As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, (4.10 to 11). Here is the call to holiness! Accept it with joy, and let us support one another, because we do not travel the path to holiness by ourselves, no, each on their own, but together, that one body which is the Church, loved and made holy by the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us go forward with courage, on this path towards holiness. Thank you. After the catechesis Pope Francis made the following appeal: Friday, November 21, on the liturgical memorial of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple, we celebrate the Pro Orantibus, dedicated to cloistered religious communities. It is a good opportunity to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves to God in prayer and silent work, recognizing the primacy that only He deserves. We thank the Lord for the testimony of cloistered life. May they never lack our spiritual and material support to carry out this important mission. (from Vatican Radio)...

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