Updated: 1 hour 43 min ago
(Vatican) Without job there is no dignity - the dignity to bring bread home, which enables one to plan the future and decide to form a family. Pope Francis made the observation in a message to Italy’s national convention on the theme, “Hope amidst Precariousness,” organized by the Italian bishops’ conference in Salerno, Oct. 24-26. The Holy Father noted that in his meeting with person during his Italian visits he has come to touch with his hands the situation of many jobless youth, those on layoff scheme or casual workers. “This is not just an economic problem, but also the problem of dignity,” the Pope said, describing Italy’s economic crisis as ‘the passion of youth”. The culture of waste discards all that is unprofitable, and young people, he said, are discarded because they are without a job. However, the Pope said in this ‘quicksand of precariousness’, the Gospel prevents us from being robbed of hope, because this hope comes from God who became one of us in solidarity with all our precariousness. Pope Francis thus urged Italy’s youth to empower the Gospel in the social and cultural situation in order to foster a culture of encounter and solidarity.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said the institution of Christian marriage has never been attacked so much as nowadays where a temporary or throw-away culture has become widespread. He said marriage should not be seen just a social rite and urged priests to stay close to couples and especially children experiencing the trauma of a family break-up. The Pope was replying to questions put to him on a range of topics during an audience with more than 7000 pilgrims belonging to the Schoenstatt movement, an international Marian and apostolic organization that is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding in Germany. The movement now embraces members, both lay and clerics, from dozens of nations around the world.
Listen to this report by Susy Hodges:
Mistaken views about marriage and its true meaning, our temporary or throw-away culture, the need to be courageous and daring, Mary’s missionary role, the disunity of the Devil and why the concept of solidarity is under attack. These were just some of the wide-ranging issues which Pope Francis spoke about in his off-the-cuff remarks during the question and answer session with the Schoenstatt pilgrims held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Audience Hall on Saturday.
Asked about marriage and what advice he can offer to those who don’t feel welcome in the Church, Pope Francis stressed the need for priests to stay close to each one of their flock without becoming scandalized over what takes place within the family. He said a bishop during the recent Synod on the family asked whether priests are aware of what children feel and the psychological damage caused when their parents separate? The Pope noted how sometimes in these cases the parent who is separating ends up living at home only part-time with the children which he described as a “new and totally destructive” form of co-habitation.
He said the Christian family and marriage have never been so attacked as they are nowadays because of growing relativism over the concept of the sacrament of marriage. When it comes to preparing for marriage, Pope Francis said all too often there is a misunderstanding over the difference between the sacrament of marriage and the social rite. Marriage is for ever, he said, but in our present society there is a temporary or throw-away culture that has become widespread.
Turning to the missionary role of Mary, the Pope reminded people that nobody can search for faith without the help of Mary, the Mother of God, saying a Church without Mary is like an orphanage. When questioned as to how he maintains a sense of joy and hope despite the many problems and wars in our world, Pope Francis replied that he uses prayer, trust, courage and daring. To dare is a grace, he said, and a prayer without courage or daring is a prayer that doesn’t work.
Asked about reform of the Church, the Pope said people describe him as a revolutionary but went on to point out that the Church has always been that way and is constantly reforming itself. He stressed that the first revolution or way of renewing the Church is through inner holiness and that counts far more than more external ways such as reforming the Curia and the Vatican bank. Pope Francis also spoke about the importance of having a freedom of spirit and warned against closing ourselves up in a mass of rules and regulations, thus becoming a caricature of the doctors of law.
The theme of our throw-away society was also touched on again by the Pope in another reply when he said our present-day culture is one that destroys the human bonds that bind us together. And in this context, he continued, one word that is at risk of dying in our society is 'solidarity' and this is also a symptom of our inability to forge alliances. Pope Francis also warned about the Devil, stressing that he exists and that his first weapon is disunity.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican Secretary of State has addressed a Conference on Human Dignity and Human Development that took place this week at the University of Notre Dame Global Gateway in Rome, telling participants that under current economic and development models the very understanding of man and our nature as social beings is at stake.
The Cardinal noted: “Our present way of thinking, on the other hand, tends to see economics as a science whose method is phenomenological, charged with the task of finding the best means of directing human activity towards the goal of a maximum exploitation of resources”.
Instead, “the Church’s social teaching has constantly emphasized that the greatest obstacles to universal and integral human development are found in a distorted vision of man and economic activity, one which threatens the dignity of the human person”.
Below the full text of Card. Parolin’s intervention
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank the Kellogg Institute for International Studies for its invitation to take part in this Conference on Human Dignity and Human Development, which marks the inauguration of the University of Notre Dame Global Gateway. In these closing remarks, I would like to present some considerations drawn from the Church’s social teaching and from the more recent magisterium of Pope Francis. I trust they will prove helpful for summarizing the discussion, stimulating deeper reflection and opening new avenues for the social action of Catholics and all those who seek a more humane and fraternal world.
The topics which have been discussed show that, in speaking of the relationship between development and human dignity, the terms “economy”, “economic systems” and the like, can all be employed as synonyms for the term “development”. This in itself helps us to appreciate better the challenges we face in promoting human dignity. Development is in fact closely linked to the proper management of resources in poorer countries, and the economic decisions made by wealthy countries, which have positive or negative repercussions on the economy of developing countries. But the more fundamental reason for beginning with economics is that the Church’s social teaching has constantly emphasized that the greatest obstacles to universal and integral human development are found in a distorted vision of man and economic activity, one which threatens the dignity of the human person.
“What exactly is at stake?” This is one of the questions raised by your working document. What is at stake is the very understanding of man and our nature as social beings. Pope Francis, in pointing out the deficiencies of the present world economic situation, does not mince words. He states: “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘Thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality... As a consequence [of this], masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape” (Evangelii Gaudium, 53). “To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, … a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of poor, weeping for other people's pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own” (ibid., 54).
The teaching found in the Holy Father’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium is not meant to condemn or promote any one economic system. The Pope himself says that such is not his intention (cf. ibid., 184 and 209). His is a much more profound and farsighted aim: to stir consciences and to call for renewed attention to man, to human beings, who cannot be reduced to mere pawns of the market, means of production or consumers or both. Such renewed attention would necessarily lead to a rethinking of the foundations of economic theory. It would also be the key to appreciating the proper relationship between “human development and human dignity”.
Human beings are created in the image and likeness of God, and, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, are called to be God’s children. As such, they are also called to live in peace with their brothers and sisters, in a spirit of self-giving and love which is a reflection of God himself, who is love (cf. Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 54). Gratuity is thus indispensable for building and sustaining life in society (cf. Id., Deus Caritas Est, 2, 6-7 and 38; Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 205). Reducing human beings to agents of the economy leads first to discarding one’s own true identity and ultimately to “discarding” others when they no longer prove materially useful. Charity, as the most authentic manifestation of our human dignity, is the first thing to go. As Pope Francis sees it, “the great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish borne of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience” (Evangelii Gaudium, 2). Hence, “if we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good” (ibid., 9). We are all aware, and there is no need to dwell on the point, of how a materialistic vision of man and society has resulted from a certain current of thought closed to the transcendent, one which has developed over the past three centuries and significantly influenced economic thinking.
Taking up a classical notion dating back to Aristotle (Politics, I, 9), the Holy Father states that “economics, as the very word indicates, should be the art of achieving a fitting management of our common home, which is the world as a whole” (Evangelii Gaudium, 206). Economic theory and policy are thus primarily “practical”, subordinated to the life of the pólis and morality, and meant to be directed by the virtues of justice and prudence. Our present way of thinking, on the other hand, tends to see economics as a science whose method is phenomenological, charged with the task of finding the best means of directing human activity towards the goal of a maximum exploitation of resources.
Aristotle, on the other hand, whose thought, as taken up by the medieval scholastics, has served as an inspiration for Christian social theory, had already warned against what he called a second form of “chrematistics”, which would turn all human gifts and activities into means of making money (Politics, I, 9). This age-old temptation has returned to the fore in our own day, as Pope Francis observed when he pointedly called into question “our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies” (Evangelii Gaudium, 55).
Certainly, a correct approach to economics, understood as the science and “art of achieving a fitting management of our common home” (Evangelii Gaudium, 206), would involve formulating theories and general models based on reality and supported by empirical sciences and technical instruments. However if economics is to be efficacious in its service of humanity, it cannot afford to forsake an integral vision of the human person and of society, and constant interaction with the realities with which it deals. Only thus can economics remain faithful to its nature as a practical and moral science. Otherwise it risks becoming a tool of the dictatorship of relativism and aprioristic thinking. What the Holy Father has said of all intellectual activity applies particularly to economic thought and theory: “There has to be continuous dialogue between the two, lest ideas become detached from realities” (Evangelii Gaudium, 231). And again: “Ideas – conceptual elaborations – are at the service of communication, understanding, and praxis” (ibid., 232).
Here I would like to stress the profound harmony between the teaching of Pope Francis and that of his predecessors, particularly Benedict XVI, whose Encyclical Caritas in Veritate contains a lucid analysis of the relativistic attempt to make political science, of which economics is a part, into a “technocracy” detached from a transcendent vision of man. In Benedict’s own words: “The development of peoples goes awry if humanity thinks it can re-create itself through the ‘wonders’ of technology; [in the same way] economic development is exposed as a destructive sham if it relies on the ‘wonders’ of finance in order to sustain unnatural and consumerist growth. In the face of such Promethean presumption, we must fortify our love for a freedom that is not merely arbitrary, but is rendered truly human by acknowledgment of the good that underlies it. To this end, man needs to look inside himself in order to recognize the fundamental norms of the natural moral law which God has written on our hearts” (Caritas in Veritate, 68).
Both Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, using very similar words, warn that the problems of development and the just regulation of the economy remain insoluble without a holistic vision of the human person and a commitment to constant and coherent moral standards firmly grounded in the natural law and the pursuit of the common good. “Development will never be fully guaranteed through automatic or impersonal forces, whether they derive from the market or from international politics. Development is impossible without upright men and women, without financiers and politicians whose consciences are finely attuned to the requirements of the common good” (Benedict XVI, Caritas in Veritate, 71).
Conversion of mind and heart is thus required if economic activity as a whole is to be genuinely directed to integral human development. A “Promethean faith” in the market, or in other ideologies and forms of aprioristic thinking, will need to be replaced by faith in God and a transcendent vision of men and women as God’s children. This in turn will lead to intellectual conversion in the sense of developing an economic science and praxis which begins with an integral understanding of the human person, that is placed at the service of human development, and is capable of orienting production and consumption to authentic human fulfillment, in our relationship with God and with our neighbour.
I would like to conclude these “remarks” in the words of the Holy Father, in the conviction that “openness to the transcendent can bring about a new political and economic mindset which would help to break down the wall of separation between the economy and the common good of society” (Evangelii Gaudium, 205). Why should we not turn to God and ask him to inspire the thinking of scholars, experts and leaders in the fields of finance and development (cf. ibid.)?
Thank you, once again, Professor Carozza, for the opportunity to address this meeting and I thank all of you for your kind welcome and your attention.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The World Catholic Association for Communications, known as SIGNIS, on Friday received official recognition as an international public association of the Church and an important part of its evangelising mission. Founded in 2001 from the merger of the International Catholic Organization for Cinema (OCIC) and the International Catholic Association for Radio and Television (Unda), SIGNIS continues the pioneering work of Catholic media and communications professionals which dates back to the advent of commercial cinema in the late 19th century.
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During a brief presentation and prayer liturgy, the head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko said that alongside the confirmation of its Catholic identity, this recognition carries a responsibility to continue promoting the highest ideals of truth, justice and the dignity of each individual…
"The service of promoting the dignity of the human person, of promoting truth, justice and reconciliation - all these things are included in SIGNIS' mission....In many places the Mass Media is used to manipulate men and women of today....whereas the Church teaches that our contemporaries have a right to information on the important questions of our time that is 'true and complete', inspired by justice and charity."
The current president of SIGNIS, Cuban film reviewer Gustavo Andujar, noted the importance of committed lay people working in media and communications, bringing their views and values into dialogue with the contemporary world of cinema, radio and television….
"Although SIGNIS and its mother organisations have always counted on the enthusiastic participation and support of numerous priests, it has remained mainly an endeavour of lay people with an increasingly clear consciousness of the need for an active participation in and vibrant dialogue with the professional world of the media."
SIGNIS, the Brussels based World Catholic Association for Communications, has a presence in some 140 countries around the world.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said on Friday there is no authentic ecumenical dialogue without being ready “for an interior renewal” and the quest for a greater fidelity to Christ and his wishes. His remarks came in an address at the Vatican to delegates taking part in an ecumenical pilgrimage, promoted by the Orientale Lumen Foundation and led by the Orthodox Metropolitan, Kallistos of Diokleia. The Pope said this journey towards an interior renewal is “absolutely essential” in order to make progress along the road leading to reconciliation and full communion between all believers in Christ. He expressed joy that the Foundation’s ecumenical pilgrimage had chosen to commemorate the figures of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II and said this underlines the two Popes’ great contribution towards developing closer relations between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. “The example of these two saints,” he continued, “always bore witness to a strong passion for Christian unity.” Referring to his upcoming meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew I, during his visit to Turkey at the end of November, Pope Francis described this meeting as “a sign of the profound ties uniting the Sees of Rome and Constantinople” and the desire “to overcome, through love and truth, the obstacles that still divide us.” (from Vatican Radio)...
Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – A press conference was held this morning in the Holy See Press Office to present the World Meeting of Popular Movements, to be held in Rome from 27 to 29 October. The event was organised by the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences and the leaders of various movements. The speakers at the conference were Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of “Justice and Peace”, Archbishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, and Juan Grabois, head of the Confederation of Workers of the Popular Economy, dedicated principally to organisations and movements for the excluded and marginalised. Grabois knew Pope Francis when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and emphasised that the then-Cardinal Bergoglio sympathised with the struggle of excluded workers in very difficult moments, and accompanied them in the work of assisting the cartoneros, peasants, those forced to live on the streets and, in general, the heirs of a crisis brought on by neoliberal capitalism. “Francis summons us again today, from a universal perspective; he calls to the poor, organised in thousands of popular movements, to fight, without arrogance but with courage, without violence but with tenacity, for this dignity that has been taken from us, and for social justice”. “Our encounter responds mainly to concrete and simple objectives we share and want to pass on to our children and grandchildren, but that are increasingly harder for the popular majority to reach: land, housing and work”, he continued, also expressing the need to promote the organisation of the poor “to construct from grass-roots level a human alternative to this exclusionary globalisation that has robbed us of our sacred rights to housing, work, land, the environment and peace”. The World Meeting of Popular Movements will be attended by the social leaders of the five continents, representing organisations of increasingly excluded social sectors: workers in precarious employment conditions; migrants; temporary workers; the unemployed and those those who are self-employed, without legal protection, labour rights or union recognition; peasants; the landless; indigenous peoples and those at risk of expulsion from the fields as a result of agricultural speculation and violence; and those who live in the peripheries and in temporary settlements, often migrants and displaced peoples, who are marginalised, forgotten, and without adequate urban infrastructure. Alongside them there are trades unions and social, charitable and human rights organisations, who have demonstrated their closeness to these movements and who, it has been suggested, might accompany them, respecting the role of grass-roots movements. “The aims of the meeting include sharing Pope Francis' thought on social matters, debating the causes of growing social inequality and the increase in exclusion throughout the world, reflecting on the organisational experiences of popular movements and the resolution of problems regarding land, housing and work, evaluating the role of movements in the processes of peace-building and care for the environment, especially in regions affected by conflicts and disputes over natural resources, discussing the relationship between popular movements and the Church, and how to go ahead in the creation of joint and permanent collaboration”. Grabois emphasised the importance of the two acts with which the meeting will conclude: the publication of a final declaration with the widest consensus possible, and the constitution of a Council of Popular Movements which will work to establish possible cases of global level collaboration. Cardinal Turkson stated that it was essential for both the Church and the world to “listen to the cry for justice” from the excluded; “not only to the sufferings, but also to the expectations, hopes and proposals which the marginalised themselves have. They must be protagonists of their own lives, and not simply passive recipients of the charity or plans of others. They must be protagonists of the needed economic and social, political and cultural changes. ... The Church wants to make its own the needs and aspirations of the popular movements, and to join with those who, by means of different initiatives, are making every effort to stimulate social change towards a more just world”....
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See has released the calendar of celebrations at which the Holy Father will preside in November.
On Saturday 1 November, Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Mass for the Solemnity of All Saint’s at the Campo Verano cemetery in Rome. The following day, Sunday 2 November, he will lead a prayer service in the Vatican Grottoes for all deceased Popes.
Pope Francis will offer Holy Mass on Monday, 3 November, for the souls of the Cardinals and Bishops who have died in the course of the past year. The Mass will take place at the Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
The Pope will celebrate the canonization of six saints on Sunday, 23 November, the Solemnity of Christ the King, in St Peter’s Square.
Finally, at the end of the month, from Friday, 28 November to Sunday, 30 November, Pope Francis will make his first Apostolic Voyage to Turkey.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Every Christian is called to work for the unity of the Church, allowing ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit who creates unity in diversity, said Pope Francis at Mass Friday morning at Casa Santa Marta.
Pope Francis based his homily on the First Reading from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, in which the Apostle – a prisoner for the Lord - urges the community to live in a manner worthy of the call they have received, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit. “Building the unity of the Church - said the Pope - is the work of the Church and of every Christian throughout history".
Pope Francis noted that when the Apostle Peter "speaks of the Church, he speaks of a temple made of living stones , that is us”. The Pope warned that the opposite to this is "that other temple of pride, which was the Tower of Babel". The first temple "brings unity”, the second "is the symbol of disunity, lack of understanding, the diversity of languages".
"Building the unity of the Church, building the Church, this temple, this unity of the Church: this is the task of every Christian, every one of us. When constructing a temple or a building, the first thing ones does is find suitable land. Then one lays the cornerstone, the Bible says. And the cornerstone of the unity of the Church, or rather the cornerstone of the Church, is Jesus and the cornerstone of the unity of the Church is Jesus' prayer at the Last Supper: 'Father, that they may be one!'. And this is its strength!”.
Pope Francis continued that Jesus is "the rock on which we build unity in the Church", "without this stone, all else is impossible. There is no unity without Jesus Christ at the basis: He is our certainty". The Pope then asked, who "builds this unity?": "It is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the only one capable of building the unity of the Church. And that is why Jesus sent him: to make the Church grow, to make it strong, to make it one". The Spirit builds "the unity of the Church" in the "diversity of nations, cultures, and people."
Again Pope Francis posed a question: How is "this temple built?". Speaking on this topic, the Apostle Peter said "that we were living stones in this building". Saint Paul on the other hand "advises us not to be stones, to be weak bricks”. The advice of the Apostle to the Gentiles in building this unity is “weak advice, according to human thought".
"Humility , gentleness, magnanimity: These are weak things, because the humble person appears good for nothing; gentleness, meekness appear useless; generosity, being open to all, having a big heart ... And then he says more: Bearing with one another through love . Bearing with one another through love , having what at heart? Preserving unity. The weaker we are with these virtues of humility, generosity, gentleness, meekness, the stronger we become as stones in this Temple ".
Pope Francis continued this is "the same path as Jesus" who "became weak" to death on the Cross "and then became strong!". We too, should do as much: "Pride, self-sufficiency are useless". When you construct a building, "the architect has to draw up plans. And what is the ground plan for the unity of the Church?".
" The hope to which we have been called: the hope of journeying towards the Lord, the hope of living in a living Church, made of living stones, with the power of the Holy Spirit. Only in the ground plan of hope can we move forward in the unity of the Church. We have been called to a great hope. Let's go there! But with the strength that Jesus prayer’ for unity gives us; with docility to the Holy Spirit, who is capable of making living stones from bricks; and with the hope of finding the Lord who has called us, to encounter Him in the fullness of time”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) If the international community is serious about eradicating extreme poverty then it cannot rely on “one-size-fits-all solutions”. Moreover, it’s not just a question of “increasing the amount of money a day a person lives on”. In the long term it's a question of eradicating inequality.
This was the message at the heart of the Holy See’s address to the United Nations in New York on the issues of eradicating extreme poverty.
Delivering the intervention, the Vatican’s Permanent Observer to the UN, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, said “countries should develop evidence-based policies and strategies to combat extreme poverty, rather than relying on pre-conceived one-size-fits-all solutions”
He noted that “the ever-increasing economic inequality excludes and leaves behind large segments of populations, because the affluent become more affluent by gaining most of the development benefits”.
Abp. Auza said “reports show that, in many parts of the world, women and children form the majority of the poor and are affected by the burden of poverty in very specific ways”.
He continued that this “often compounds an already unacceptable gap between men and women, between boys and girls in terms of access to basic services and education and in terms of the exercise of basic human rights”.
The Archbishop concluded that the global fight to eradicate extreme poverty “should be inspired and guided by ground-based policies rather than ideology, by inclusion rather than exclusion, by solidarity rather than survival of the fittest”.
Below please find the full text of Abp.Auza’s address
As we come closer to the completion of the Second United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (2008-2017), my delegation believes that bold commitments like the Millennium Development Goals, the new Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda are important tools to shape development strategies, marshal resources, coordinate efforts, monitor implementation and measure results.
My delegation believes that countries should develop evidence-based policies and strategies to combat extreme poverty, rather than relying on pre-conceived one-size-fits-all solutions. Analyses and suggested solutions need to be based on on-the-ground expertise and lived experience, rather than on imposed ready-made solutions from the outside, which are not always devoid of ideological colorings.
In other words, my delegation believes that our fight to eradicate extreme poverty should be inspired and guided by ground-based policies rather than ideology, by inclusion rather than exclusion, by solidarity rather than survival of the fittest. We have to question economic models that heighten exclusion and inequality, in particular those that cause an exponentially growing gap between the haves and the have-nots, those that exclude and marginalize masses of people without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape from poverty (cf. Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium n.53).
My delegation believes that sustainable development requires the participation of all in the life of families, communities, organizations and societies. Participation is the antidote to exclusion, be it economic, social, political or cultural. Structures and practices that exclude and leave behind members of the human family will always be barriers to full human development. The ever-increasing economic inequality excludes and leaves behind large segments of populations, because the affluent become more affluent by gaining most of the development benefits. Concrete cases of poverty, especially extreme poverty, tell us that the rising tide does not always lift all boats; often it only lifts the yachts, keeps a few boats afloat, sweeps away many and sinks the rest. This cannot be the path to a life of dignity for all. This is not the future we want.
Another barrier to sustainable development is the exclusion of women from equal and active participation in the development of their communities. Excluding women and girls from education and subjecting them to violence and discrimination violate their inherent dignity and fundamental human rights. Reports show that, in many parts of the world, women and children form the majority of the poor and are affected by the burden of poverty in very specific ways. Poverty often compounds an already unacceptable gap between men and women, between boys and girls in terms of access to basic services and education and in terms of the exercise of basic human rights. The Holy See commends those countries where significant progress has been achieved in these areas, and respectfully invites those where this problem is not yet effectively addressed to do so as a matter of urgency.
My delegation wishes to highlight that poverty is not mere exclusion from economic development; it is as multifaceted and multidimensional as the human person himself or herself. Other than its more obvious economic expression, poverty also manifests itself in the educational, social, political, cultural and spiritual dimensions of life. Individuals and communities experience these dimensions of poverty when they are excluded from or deprived of the social, cultural, political and spiritual benefits that should be accessible to all. While economic exclusion underpins in a large measure these other forms of exclusion and poverty, we cannot equate poverty with economic poverty alone, lest we fail to grasp the complexity of the realities of poverty and human development. We must thus resist the temptation to reduce poverty eradication to merely increasing the amount of money a day a person lives on. Development is more than the sum total of resources invested into development projects and their measurable material results; it includes as well those elements that, though at times intangible and imperceptible, also truly contribute to life-transforming and greater human flourishing.
In our efforts to eradicate poverty, we must always return to the foundational principle of our efforts, namely to promote the authentic development of the whole person and of all peoples. Each of us needs to contribute. Each of us can benefit. This is solidarity.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday called on all men and women of good will to fight for the abolishment of the death penalty in “all of its forms” and for the improvement of prison conditions.
The Pope was addressing a group of members of the International Association of Criminal Law whom he received in the Vatican.
In his discourse the Pope also addressed the need to combat the phenomena of human trafficking and of corruption.
And he stressed that the fact that the enforcement of legal penalties must always respect human dignity.
In a dense and impassioned discourse to the Jurists assembled in the Vatican for a private audience, Pope Francis said that the “life sentence” is really a “concealed death sentence”, and that is why – he explained – he had it annulled in the Vatican Penal Code.
Many of the off-the-cuff comments during the Pope’s speech shone the light on how politics and media all too often act as triggers enflaming “violence and private and public acts of vengeance” that are always in search of a scape-goat.
Recalling the words of Saint John Paul II who condemned the death penalty as does the Catechism, Francis decried the practice and denounced “so-called extrajudicial or extralegal executions” calling them “deliberate homicides” committed by public officials behind the screen of the Law:
“All Christians and people of goodwill are called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty be it legal or illegal, in all of its forms, but also for the improvement of prison conditions in the respect of the human dignity of those who have been deprived of freedom. I link this to the death sentence. In the Penal Code of the Vatican, the sanction of life sentence is no more. A life sentence is a death sentence which is concealed”.
And Pope Francis had words of harsh criticism for all forms of criminality which undermine human dignity, there are forms of his – he said - even within the criminal law system which too often does not respect that dignity when criminal law is applied.
“In the last decades” – the Pope said – “there has been a growing conviction that through public punishment it is possible to solve different and disparate social problems, as if for different diseases one could prescribe the same medicine.”
He said this conviction has pushed the criminal law system beyond its sanctioning boundaries, and into the “realm of freedom and the rights of persons” without real effectiveness.
“There is the risk of losing sight of the proportionality of penalties that historically reflect the scale of values upheld by the State. The very conception of criminal law and the enforcement of sanctions as an ‘ultima ratio’ in the cases of serious offenses against individual and collective interests have weakened. As has the debate regarding the use of alternative penal sanctions to be used instead of imprisonment”.
Pope Francis speaks of remand or detention of a suspect as a “contemporary form of illicit hidden punishment” concealed by a “patina of legality”, as it enforces “an anticipation of punishment” upon a suspect who has not been convicted. From this – the Pope points out – derives the risk of multiplying the number of detainees still awaiting trial, who are thus convicted without benefiting from the protective rules of a trial. In some countries – he says – this happens in some 50% of all cases with the trickledown effect of terribly overcrowded detention centers:
“The deplorable conditions of detention that take place in different parts of the world are an authentic inhuman and degrading trait, often caused by deficiencies of criminal law, or by a lack of infrastructures and good planning. In many cases they are the result of an arbitrary and merciless exercise of power over persons who have been deprived of freedom.”
Pope Francis also speaks of what he calls “cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments and sanctions,” and compares detention in maximum-security prisons to a “form of torture”. The isolation imposed in these places – he says – causes “mental and physical” suffering that result in an “increased tendency towards suicide”. Torture – the Pope points out – is used not only as a means to obtain “confession or information”:
“It is an authentic ‘surplus’ of pain that is added to the woes of detention. In this way torture is used not only in illegal centers of detention or in modern concentration camps, but also in prisons, in rehabilitation centers for minors, in psychiatric hospitals, in police stations and in other institutions for detention or punishment”.
And Pope Francis said children must be spared the harshness of imprisonment – as must, at least in a limited way – older people, sick people, pregnant women, disabled people as well as parents if they are the sole guardians of minors or persons with disabilities.
The Pope also highlighted one of the criminal phenomena he has always spoken out against vehemently: human trafficking which - he says – is the result of that “cycle of dire poverty” that traps “a billion people” and forces at least 45 million to flee from conflict:
“Based on the fact that it is impossible to commit such a complex crime as is the trafficking of persons without the complicity, be it active or of omission of action of the State, it is evident that, when the efforts to prevent and combat this phenomenon are not sufficient, we find ourselves before a crime against humanity. This is even truer if those who are responsible for the protection of persons and the safeguard of their freedom become an accomplice of those who trade in human beings; in those cases the State is responsible before its citizens and before the international community”.
Pope Francis dedicates an ample part of his discourse to corruption. The corrupt person – according to the Pope – is a person who takes the “short-cuts of opportunism” that lead him to think of himself as a “winner” who insults and persecutes whoever contradicts him. “Corruption” – the Pope says “is a greater evil than sin”, and more than “be forgiven, must be cured”.
“The criminal sanction is selective. It is like a net that captures only the small fish leaving the big fish to swim free in the ocean. The forms of corruption that must be persecuted with greatest severity are those that cause grave social damage, both in economic and social questions – for example grave fraud against public administration or the dishonest use of administration”.
Concluding, Pope Francis exhorted the jurists to use the criteria of “cautiousness” in the enforcement of criminal sanctions. This – he affirmed – must be the principle that upholds criminal law:
“The respect for human dignity must operate not only to limit the arbitrariness and the excesses of State officials, but as a criteria of orientation for the persecution and the repression of those behaviors that represent grave attacks against the dignity and the integrity of the human person”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell, Thursday morning in the Vatican. Mr. Mitchell subsequently met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States.
A communiqué issued by the Holy See Press Office stated that “In the course of the cordial conversations, the parties focused on the good relations existing between the Holy See and Grenada, as well as the important contribution made by the Catholic Church in the educational, social, and charitable spheres, to meet the challenges of the country, especially with regard to youth. In this regard, the need for cooperation between all of the social services, in order to promote the common good and the development of the country, was affirmed”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
City, 23 October 2014 (VIS) - Today, the Holy Father received delegates
from the International Association of Penal Law (AIDP), addressing them
with a speech focusing on the issues in their subject area that have
recourse to the Church in her mission of evangelization and the
promotion of the human person. The
Pope began by recalling the need for legal and political methods that
are not characterized by the mythological “scapegoat” logic, that is, of
an individual unjustly accused of the misfortunes that befall a
community and then chosen to be sacrificed. It is also necessary to
refute the belief that legal sanctions carry benefit, which requires the
implementation of inclusive economic and social policies. He reiterated
the primacy of the life and dignity of the human person, reaffirming
the absolute condemnation of the death penalty, the use of which is
rejected by Christians. In this context he also talked about the
so-called extrajudicial executions, that is, the deliberated killing of
individuals by some states or their agents that are presented as the
unintended consequence of the reasonable, necessary, and proportionate
use of force to implement the law. He emphasized that the death penalty
is used in totalitarian regimes as “an instrument of suppression of
political dissent or of persecution of religious or cultural
then spoke of the conditions of prisoners, including prisoners who have
not been convicted and those convicted without a trial, stating that
pretrial detention, when used improperly, is another modern form of
unlawful punishment that is hidden behind legality. He also referred to
the deplorable prison condition in much of the world, sometimes due to
lack of infrastructure while other instances are the result of “the
arbitrary exercise of ruthless power over detainees”. Pope Francis also
spoke about torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment, stating
that, in the world today, torture is used not only as a means to achieve
a particular purpose, such as a confession or an accusation—practices
that are characteristic of a doctrine of national security—but also adds
to the evil of detention. Criminal code itself bears responsibility for
having allowed, in certain cases, the legitimacy of torture under
certain conditions, opening the way for further abuse. The
Pope did not forget the application of criminal sanctions against
children and the elderly, condemning its use in both cases. He also
recalled some forms of crime that seriously damage the dignity of the
human person as well as the common good, including human trafficking,
slavery—recognized as a crime against humanity as well as a war crime in
both international law and under many nations’ laws—the abject poverty
in which more than a billion people live, and corruption. “The
scandalous accumulation of global wealth is possible because of the
connivance of those with strong powers who are responsible for public
affairs. Corruption is a process of death … more evil than sin. An evil
that, instead of being forgiven, must be cured.” “Caution
in the application of penal codes,” he concluded, “must be the
overarching principle of legal systems … and respect for human dignity
must not only act to limit the arbitrariness and excesses of government
agents but as the guiding criterion for prosecuting and punishing
behaviors that represent the most serious attacks on the dignity and
integrity of the human person.”...
(Vatican Radio) "We cannot be Christians without the grace of the Holy Spirit" who gives us the strength to love, said Pope Francis at Mass Thursday morning at Santa Marta.
Emer McCarthy reports:
Pope Francis centered his homily on St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians in which the Apostle describes his experience of Jesus, an experience "that led him to leave everything behind" because "he was in love with Christ." His is an "act of adoration": firstly, he bends his knees before the Father, who "has the power to do much more than we can ever think or ask ". He uses a “limitless language”: He adores this God, "who is like a sea without beaches, without limitations, an immense ocean". Paul asks the Father for all of us, "to be powerfully strengthened in our inner selves, through his Spirit".
"He asks the Father to send the Spirit to strengthen us, to give us strength. We cannot go forward without the power of the Spirit. Our own forces are weak. We cannot be Christians without the grace of the Spirit. It’s the Spirit that changes hearts, that keeps us moving forward in virtue, to fulfill the commandments ".
"He then, asks another grace from the Father", "the presence of Christ, to help us grow in charity”. Christ’s love “which surpasses all knowledge”, can only be understood through “an act of adoration of such great immenseness”.
"This is a mystical experience of Paul and it teaches us the prayer of praise and the prayer of adoration. Before our pettiness, our many, selfish interests, Paul bursts out in praise, in this act of worship and asks the Father to send us the Holy Spirit to give us strength and to be able to move forward; he helps us understand the love of Christ and that Christ consolidates us in love. And he says to the Father: 'Thank you, because You are able to do what we do not dare to think'. It is a beautiful prayer ... It is a beautiful prayer".
Pope Francis concluded his homily: "And with this inner life we can understand how Paul gave up everything and considered it all rubbish, in order to gain Christ and be found in Christ. It does us good to think of this, it does us good to worship God. It does us good to praise God, to enter this world of amplitude, of grandeur, generosity and love. It does us good, because then we can move forward in the great commandment - the only commandment, which is the basis of all others - love; love God and love your neighbor ".
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) In a long interview with Vatican Radio, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., spoke about the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which took place at the Vatican from 1-19 October.
“I thought it was a truly special experience, and very different from that of preceding Synods,” Fr Lombardi said. “This time it was a step along a journey that does not constitute a Synod closed in on itself, a closed chapter, but one moment of a long and profound discernment of the Church as a community on a journey.” The Pope, he said, chose this method precisely because the Synod is dealing with very complex issues at the heart of the experience of the whole Church, the People of God. This Synod was also special because it dealt not just with doctrinal issues, but with the relationship between doctrine and pastoral practice.
In this, he said, there are certainly some parallels to Vatican II, as others have pointed out. During the Council, Fr Lombardi explained, John XXIII set the universal Church on a journey with regard to life in all its dimensions. At the Synod, Pope Francis invited the universal Church to journey together with regard to a more particular theme, that of the family. It is a very complicated journey that involves everyone in the Church, and that requires a profound, systematic reflection on the pastoral and dogmatic issues.
Fr Lombardi also reflected on the role of the Pope at the Synod. The Holy Father, he said, took a very precise approach, speaking to the assembled Bishops at the opening of the Synod, and then listening to the Synod Fathers. This, said Fr Lombardi, was to allow the Synod Fathers to speak with complete freedom, without being concerned with what the Pope might think. The Pope “wanted to ensure full freedom, and this was very much appreciated, and was effectively reflected in the dynamic of the Synod.” It was only at the end of the gathering that the Holy Father again intervened, with his speech closing the Synod, in which he “pulled together the strings of the spiritual experience of the Synod as an ecclesial and spiritual event.” Without the Pope’s final speech – and to a lesser extent, his homily at the closing Mass – “the Synod would have remained incomplete, and not been read with the key of faith that truly inspired and motivated it, according to the mind of the Pope,” Fr Lombardi said.
Asked about how the Synod was communicated to the world, Fr Lombardi began by emphasizing the unique character of this Synod. For this reason, he said, it cannot be compared to earlier Synod, nor must we expect it to follow the same patterns. For example, he said, the sheer number of interventions, and the freedom and frankness that characterized them, made it impossible to publish everything that was said in the Synod Hall. Nonetheless, the Press Office was able to offer a balanced synthesis that highlighted the various topics treated each day during the Synod.
Speaking to one of the most discussed issues during the Synod, the publication of the mid-term Relatio post disceptationem, Fr Lombardi noted that although this had always been done at previous Synod, there was some confusion when it was released. Nonetheless, he said, the publication of the Relatio itself contributed to the “very intense dynamic of reflection and communication. The subsequent release of the reports of the small working groups then became “logically necessary and natural” that reflected the transparency of communications in the Synod. Fr Lombardi said that, although press coverage of Synod was occasionally unbalanced, focusing on controversial issues such as Communion for the divorced and remarried or on homosexuality, nonetheless the communications effort on the part of the Church allowed those who so desired to understand what was happening in the Synod and to participate in the Synod “with notable intensity.
Asked further about how the outside world followed the Synod, Fr Lombardi said the problem is always a question of conveying the depth of what is happening in an ecclesial event. That understanding, he said, is often lacking or insufficient, sometimes on the level of an understanding of the faith, which for the Church is essential. “The final speech of the Pope,” he said, “has helped and should help everyone to enter into this level of profundity.” The Synod, Fr Lombardi explained, should not be evaluated in terms of different sides, or as a question of human strategies in governing the Church. Rather, it should be understood that the Pope wanted the Church to begin a journey, to effectively set out on a journey “to seek the will of God in the light of the Gospel and the light of faith, in order to find answers to the most vital questions of the family and, in a certain sense, of anthropology, of the condition of men and women in the world of today.”
The full text of Father Lombardi’s remarks, in Italian, can be found here .
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) A moment of deep discernment for the Church. That was how Fr Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See press office, described the atmosphere during the Synod of Bishops on the Family which ended here in the Vatican on Sunday. Noting how the two week meeting was part of a longer process that will conclude in October 2015, Fr Lombardi said the atmosphere of honesty and transparency was a key element which distinguished it from any other previous Synod of the Universal Church.
Among the 253 participants were also representatives of other Christian Churches, invited to share their experience of family ministry in the context of evangelisation. They included Valérie Duval Poujol, the ‘fraternal delegate’ from the Baptist World Alliance. As the daughter of a mixed Baptist-Catholic family who now works as a theologian and professor at the Catholic Institute in Paris, she has a long experience of ecumenism in action. She sat down with Philippa Hitchen to share her thoughts on a common sense of mission and the need for a new language to touch the hearts of young people today….
“I was very impressed by the good quality of exchange between the Synodal Fathers – sometimes people have a vision of the Church which is distant or cold, but I really felt the compassion of the heart of the shepherds….
A Synod is about (knowing) we have some difficulties and we try to think together about what would be the best way to speak the Gospel to our generation…
What we share most in common between Baptists and Catholics is our common concern for mission, we Baptists are really a mission Church and we felt strongly it was also the desire of the Synodal Fathers, so we encourage each other in our common mission….
Our common basis is Scripture and I was very touched by all Synodal Fathers who quoted the Scriptures in their discourses and it’s our common heritage. The more we dig together into Scripture and the more we try to connect to Jesus Christ, the more we look like him and the more we can get closer and be missionaries or witnesses to this world….”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis expressed his hope on Wednesday that administrators of an Italian airline company that risks bankruptcy may find a fair solution that safeguards its workers with jobs at risk.
The Pope was speaking in St. Peter’s Square at the General Audience where, amongst the crowd, was a large group of “Meridiana” airline workers carrying banners denouncing their predicament.
Pope Francis turned his attention to them expressing “deep closeness and solidarity in these hours of apprehension regarding the future of their work”.
“I hope” – the Pope said – “that a fair solution may be worked out, that considers above all the dignity of the human person and the essential needs of the families concerned”.
And his reiterated and heartfelt plea: “Please, I appeal to all those with responsibility: no family without work!” rang out across the Square.
Pope Francis has repeatedly called for the promotion of the dignity of the human person and the nobility of labour. In June 2014, on the occasion of a Conference of the International Labour Organization he released a message that said:
“It is (…) time to reinforce existing forms of cooperation and to establish new avenues for expanding solidarity. This calls for: a renewed insistence on the dignity of every person; a more determined implementation of international labour standards; planning for a focused development on the human person as its central actor and primary beneficiary; a re-evaluation of the responsibilities of international corporations in the countries where they operate, including the areas of profit and investment management”.
And in the message he also called – as he has done in many occasions - for substantial efforts to protect the environment, ensure decent work for all, and provide appropriate protection for the family, which – he says - is an essential element in sustainable human and social development.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Divisions, jealousies, misunderstandings and marginalization do not help the Church to grow as the Body of Christ, they shatter it into many pieces, they dismember it. Instead we should remember that we – as the Body of Christ – are called to appreciate the gifts and the quality of others in our communities.
Emer McCarthy reports:
The Church as the Body of Christ was the focus of Pope Francis general audience this Wednesday morning, attended by tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists in an autumnal St. Peter’s Square.
Referring to the Apostle Paul’s advice to the quarreling community in Corinth the Pope noted that many of our Christian communities, our parishes are divided by envy, gossip, misunderstanding and marginalization.
He said this “dismembers us” and moreover is the beginning of war. “War does not begin on the battlefield: war, wars begin in the heart, with this misunderstanding, division, envy, with this fighting among each other”.
No one is superior in the community of the Church, and when we feel tempted to think of ourselves as superior “especially to those who perform the most humble and hidden services” the Pope said we should “remember our sins” in shame before God.
The only way to counter such division is to appreciate the individual qualities and gifts of others and give thanks to God for them.
The Church understood as the Body of Christ – he concluded - is a profound communion of love, its deepest and most beautiful distinguishing feature.
Below please find a Vatican Radio translation of the general audience
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning.
When you want to highlight how the elements that form a reality are closely united with one another and together form one single body, the image of the body is often used. Starting with the Apostle Paul, this expression has been applied to the Church and was recognized as its deepest and most beautiful distinguishing feature. Thus today, we want to ask ourselves: in what sense does the Church form a body? And why is called the "body of Christ"?
The Book of Ezekiel describes a vision that is somewhat particular and shocking, but one which instills confidence and hope in our hearts. God shows the prophet a field of bones, broken and parched. A bleak scenario ... Imagine: an entire plain full of bones. God asks him, then, to invoke the Spirit upon them. At that point, the bones move, they begin to draw closer to each other and join together, nerves begin to grow and then flesh and thus the body is formed, whole and full of life (cf. Ez 37.1 to 14). Well, this is the Church! When you go home toady pick up a Bible, Ezekiel Chapter 37, do not forget, and read this passage, it's beautiful. This is the Church, it is a masterpiece, the masterpiece of the Spirit, which instills in each of us new life of the Risen Christ and places us next to each other, to help and support each other, thus making all us one body, built in the communion and love.
The Church, however, is not only a body built in the Spirit: The Church is the Body of Christ! It may seem a little strange, but this is how it is. It is not just a saying, we really are! It is the great gift that we receive on the day of our Baptism! In the sacrament of Baptism, in fact, Christ makes us His, welcoming us into the heart of the mystery of the Cross, the supreme mystery of His love for us, to make us rise again with Him as new creatures. Behold, thus the Church was born, and so the Church recognizes herself as the body of Christ! Baptism is truly a rebirth, which regenerates us in Christ, making us a part of Him, and unites us intimately among each other, as members of the same body, of which He is the head (cf. Rom 12.5, 1 Cor 12, 12-13).
What emerges from this, then, is a profound communion of love. In this sense, it is illuminating how Paul, in exhorting husbands to "love their wives as their own bodies," states: "Even as Christ does the Church, because we are members of His body" (Eph 5.28 to 30). How nice it would be if we remembered what we are more often, what the Lord Jesus has made us, we are His body, that body that nothing and no one can snatch from Him and which he covers with all His passion and all His love, just like a bridegroom with his bride. This thought, however, must give rise in us to the desire to respond to the Lord Jesus and share His love among ourselves, as living members of His own body. In Paul's time, the community of Corinth experienced a lot of difficulties in this sense, experiencing, as we too often do, divisions, jealousies, misunderstandings and marginalization. All of these things are not good, because rather than building and helping the Church to grow as the Body of Christ, they shatter it into many pieces, they dismember it. And this also happens in our day. Just think of our Christian communities, our parishes, think of how many divisions there are in our neighborhoods, how much envy, gossip, how much misunderstanding and marginalization. And what does it do? It dismembers us. It is the beginning of war. War does not begin on the battlefield: war, wars begin in the heart, with this misunderstanding, division, envy, with this fighting among each other. And the community of Corinth was just like this, they were champions in this! And the Apostle, then, gave some practical advice to the Corinthians that can apply to us: Do not be jealous, but appreciate the gifts and the quality of our brothers and sisters in our communities. Jealousy: "But ... he bought a car," and I am jealous; "This one won the lotto", and I am jealous; "And he’s good at this," and another jealousy. And that dismembers, it hurts, it should not be done! Because jealousy grows, grows and fills the heart. And a jealous heart is a bitter heart, a heart that instead of blood seems to have vinegar, eh! It is a heart that is never happy, it is a heart that disrupts the community. But what should I do? Appreciate the gifts and the quality of others in our communities, of our brothers. But, when I am jealous - because it happens to us all no? All of us, we are all sinners eh! - When I am jealous, I must say to the Lord: "Thank you, Lord, for you have given this to that person".
Appreciating the qualities and countering division; drawing close and participating in the suffering of the poorest and the most needy; expressing gratitude for everything - saying thank you, the heart that knows how to say thank you, is a good heart, a noble heart, a heart that is happy because it knows how to say thank you. I ask you: do we all know to say thank you? No? Not always? Because envy, jealousy holds us back a bit? Everyone, and especially those who perform the most humble and hidden services; and, finally, this is the advice that the apostle Paul gives the Corinthians and we to should give one another: never consider yourself superior to others - how many people feel superior to others! We too, often sound like the Pharisee in the parable: "Thank you Lord that I am not like that person, that I am superior". But this is bad, do not do that! When you are tempted to this, remember your sins, those no one knows, shame yourself before God and say, "You, Lord, you know who is superior, I close my mouth". And this is good. And always, in charity consider yourself as members who belong to one another and who live and give yourselves for the benefit of all (cf. 1 Cor 12-14).
Dear brothers and sisters, like the prophet Ezekiel, and like the Apostle Paul, we also implore the Holy Spirit, so that His grace and the abundance of His gifts help us to really live as the Body of Christ, united as a family, but a family that is the body of Christ, and as a beautiful and visible sign of the love of Christ. Thank you.
(from Vatican Radio)...
Following the shocking and tragic death of a priest in Ghana, who committed suicide not too long ago, Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu of Konongo-Mampong in Ghana has issued a statement explaining the teaching of the Catholic Church on suicide, including the question of whether one who commits suicide is destined to go to hell or whether such a person can be given a church burial or not. Below is the statement:
This article seeks to present the teaching of the Catholic Church on suicide. What is suicide?
Suicide is uncoerced, intentional self-killing. It should not be confused with the willing surrender of one’s life in self-sacrifice, such as in defending another unjustly attacked, in delivering health care to the highly infectious sick, or in witnessing to one’s faith in persecution. In these instances, one does not will one’s death but accepts it as an inevitable result of doing what one feels called to do to serve justice, mercy, or faith.
In health care, refusing “ordinary” means of treatment is considered suicide. Refusing “extraordinary” means is not suicide but more accurately understood to be humbly accepting the inherent limitations of the human condition and letting a fatal pathology run its course. “Assisted suicide” is a related concept which emphasizes helping someone to take one’s own life by providing the means and knowledge of how to do it.
A number of theories have been developed to explain the causes of suicide. Psychological theories emphasize personality and emotional factors, while sociological theories stress the influence of social and cultural pressures on the individual. Social factors such as widowhood, childlessness, residence in big cities, a high standard of living, mental disorders, and physical illness have been found to be positively linked with suicide rates. We cannot here engage in a discussion of these theories, as our main focus in this article is on the teaching of the Catholic Church with regard to suicide.
The Catholic Church opposes suicide by appealing to the principle of the sanctity of life and its related principles of the sovereignty of God, human stewardship, and the prohibition against killing. The religious argument claims that life has been given to us to use and to make fruitful, but that it ultimately belongs to God and so is not for us to end when we so choose. Consequently, we must be mindful that the preservation of our life is not something discretionary but obligatory. We must preserve and nourish both our physical and spiritual life. In this connection, the 1997 Catechism of the Catholic Church asserts, “Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honour and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of” (CCC #2280).
To take one’s own life violates God’s sovereignty over life, attacks human dignity, and is an offence against the proper love of self. Suicide violates a genuine love for oneself and one’s neighbour – family, friends, neighbours, and even acquaintances. Other people need us and depend upon us in ways we may not even know. As the Catechism says, “Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbour because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God” (CCC #2281).
Suicide has traditionally been considered a gravely wrong moral action, i.e. a mortal sin. Therefore, objectively, suicide is a mortal sin. However, we must remember that for a sin to be mortal and cost someone salvation, the objective action (in this case the taking of one’s own life) must be grave or serious matter; the person must have an informed intellect (know that this is wrong); and the person must give full consent of the will (intend to commit this action). In the case of suicide, a person may not have given full consent of the will. Recent studies which have paid attention to the social and personal circumstances surrounding suicides show that they are not often voluntary acts and so, while they may be mistaken and morally wrong, they are not always blameworthy. Fear, force, ignorance, habit, passion, and psychological problems can impede the exercise of the will so that a person may not be fully responsible or even responsible at all for an action. Thus, while acts of suicide are objectively immoral, the degree of culpability for suicide depends upon the state of mind in which the act is done. In this connection, the Catechism states, “Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide” (CCC #2282). This qualification does not make suicide a right action in any circumstance; however, it does make us realize that the person may not be totally culpable for the action because of various circumstances or personal conditions.
Like the Church, our traditional societies consider suicide to be morally wrong and unacceptable. Among the Akans, for example, it is regarded as an abomination. It is regarded so seriously that in the past the dead person was subjected to a judicial trial before his burial and was invariably found guilty. The presumption was that by committing suicide the person was trying to run away from some serious crime that he had committed. Such a person was hurriedly buried after “the trial” without the usual honours given to a person who did not die through suicide.
We may contrast this traditional Akan treatment of those who commit suicide with how they are treated by the Catholic Church today. While the Church holds that death by suicide is a grave or serious sin (mortal sin), the Church nonetheless prays for those who have committed suicide, knowing that Christ will judge the deceased fairly and justly. It is the belief of the Church that only God can read the depths of our soul. Only He knows how much we love Him and how responsible we are for our actions. The Church’s view is that we should leave the judgment of those who commit suicide to God. The Church still teaches that there is a hell, understood as a definitive separation from the love of God, but leaves it to God to decide who should go there. The Catechism, however, offers words of great hope: “We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to Him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives” (CCC#2283). Therefore, we offer Mass for the repose of the soul of a suicide victim, invoking God’s tender love and mercy, and His healing grace for the grieving loved ones. The Church also prays for the close relations of the deceased, that the loving and healing touch of God will comfort those torn apart by the impact of the suicide.
The Church teaches through her acts of public worship known as the liturgy, and the liturgy on occasions like these stresses God’s mercy. There are many passages that stress God’s abundant mercy. We cite just a couple. According to Psalm 103:10-12, God “does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love towards those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us”. According to Isaiah 1:18, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are like crimson, they shall become like wool”.
In earlier times, people would often be denied funeral rites and even burial in a Church cemetery. However, some consideration has always been taken into account of the person’s mental state at the time. Canon Law no longer specifically mentions suicide as an impediment to funeral rites or church burial. Canon 1184 of the Code of Canon Law mentions only three cases of those who can be denied funeral rites or a church burial: (i) a notorious apostate (someone who has renounced the Christian faith), a heretic (someone who holds or teaches doctrines contrary to those of the Church) or a schismatic (someone who has broken away from the church); (ii) those who requested cremation for motives contrary to the Christian faith; and (iii) manifest sinners to whom a Church funeral cannot be granted without causing public scandal to the faithful. These restrictions apply only if there has been no sign of repentance before death.
The local bishop weighs any doubtful cases and in practice a prudent priest should always consult with the bishop before denying a deceased person a funeral Mass. A particular case of suicide might enter into the third case – that of a manifest and unrepentant sinner – especially if the suicide follows another grave crime such as murder. In most cases, however, the progress made in the study of the underlying causes of suicide shows that the vast majority are consequences of an accumulation of psychological factors that impede making a free and deliberative act of the will. Thus the general tendency is to see this extreme gesture as almost always resulting from the effects of an imbalanced mental state and, as a consequence, it is no longer forbidden to hold a funeral rite for a person who has committed suicide, although each case must still be studied on its merits.
Right Rev.Joseph Osei-Bonsu, Bishop of Konongo-Mampong, Ghana.
(Source: The Catholic Standard, Ghana)
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) “We are seeing an increase in the use of religion to advance political ambitions and often as a legitimizer: an excuse for violence:” that’s according to the new Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See who arrived in Rome this past August. And Victoria Alvarado is no lightweight in the field of faith and strategic studies. As former director of the Office for International Religious Freedom and strategic planning advisor for the Bureau of Conflict Stabilization Operations, Alvarado brings to her new post years of research into the effectiveness of partnerships between governments and faith leaders in countering violent extremism.
Alvarado is also a former director for Central America and Caribbean Affairs at the National Security Council and has served in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Indonesia.
Alvarado sat down for this exclusive interview with Tracey McClure:
Interfaith childhood and career
She says her gradual orientation towards strategic security studies and religion stemmed from her interfaith family and its openness towards others. One year, she remembers, her Jewish father and Catholic-Protestant mother shared their home with an Iranian Muslim student, his wife and three children. “I was exposed to the concept of not only interreligious dialogue, but actually coexistence at a very early age,” she affirms.
Alvarado recalls some of the period when she was stationed in Indonesia where “there was a horrible conflict between the Muslim and Christian populations and a lot of what was driving the conflict was not religious at all.” Rather, she says, the violence was fueled by “struggles for land, for businesses – there were a number of political dynamics that were encouraging the conflict.”
She says she increasingly saw the importance of religion and cites a recent study carried out by the Pew Institute which found that 80% of the world is religious to some degree.
“I saw up front that religion is an important aspect of foreign policy and national security.” Having served in a number of Muslim majority nations, she says she is especially interested in Islam which she sees as a very important world religion.
Religion in conflict prevention, mitigation
Alvarado underlines her increasing interest in the role religion can play in preventing and mitigating conflict. Unfortunately, some people associate it with conflict, especially in recent days.” Governments and religious leaders and communities “can work together to counter violent extremism and the narratives – especially when religion is used as a tool to foment the violence,” she affirms.
In an address not long after the 2001 terror attacks by Muslim extremists on the U.S., Pope John Paul II said “A clash ensues only if Islam or Christianity is misconstrued or manipulated for political or ideological ends.” When asked if this is exactly what is happening with Islamic extremist militants like ISIS and Al Qaeda-linked groups in Syria and Iraq, Alvarado responds:
“It is unfortunate; we are seeing an increase in the use of religion to advance political ambitions and often as a legitimizer, an excuse for violence. This is not really a new phenomenon. We’ve seen this hundreds of years ago among different religions. It’s not unique to one particular religion but often, we see this dynamic when you have a dominant religion in a country and a fairly sizeable but much smaller, minority or minorities – religious minorities.”
Clash of civilizations?
Asked if this has led to a clash of civilizations today, Alvarado responds, “I think that there are some people that are probably seeking that clash. They’re looking for ‘religious conflict,’ but I also see that most world leaders these days are not falling into that trap.” They realize, she says, that “most of this is a distortion of religion for political and other ambitions.”
Involving religious leaders in the prevention of radicalization or de-radicalization, Alvarado states, can be helpful - but by itself is not a solution. “Religious leaders can play a constructive role if part of the narrative is based on religion, even if it’s a distortion of religion.”
Governments and religious leaders – a need for mutual respect, cooperation
“One of the challenges is finding ways to bring together governments and religious leaders without questioning the legitimacy of each part. The government has its role and the religious leaders have their own role. There needs to be mutual respect...for each other’s strengths and integrity.”
Alvarado admits that when religious leaders cooperate with governments, their credibility among their faithful can be jeopardized. “That’s one reason why it’s important these lines of communication are respected.”
One of the biggest challenges Alvarado stresses, is how we define “violent extremist.” “If somebody is a fundamentalist, does that mean he’s an extremist? Not necessarily at all. And if you’re an extremist, does that mean that you’re going to become violent? Not necessarily at all. Some theories say there’s a conveyor belt: if you’re fundamentalist, you’re going to be radicalized; you’re going to be an extremist and therefore you must become violent. Many people are fundamentalist who condemn all sorts of violence. Just the terminology is a challenge. What terms are we using when discussing these sensitive issues? And, can we agree on common uses of these terms?”
Educating for peace
Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and most recently, Francis have all upheld the need to educate today’s children to peace and to respect of the other. There are many places today where children are taught at an early age to distrust or even hate those who are different. Asked where is there room for improvement in the area of education for peace, Alvarado answers:
“Everywhere. I don’t think it’s ever enough and it starts from birth on. It’s the core of the family as the starting point. Public education as well is important. I think, finding ways where communities actually build together instead of …fighting, or there are tensions over land or water or whatever issue. There are ways to find, to encourage mixed communities to build together. That’s a way that can potentially help these mixed communities mitigate or prevent violence. If they can see the value in building community and that’s more important than destroying one another - because by destroying one another they’re destroying themselves. I think what would be a very helpful move in addition to the education, is providing some kind of development assistance to these communities. To encourage them to actually operationalize their commitment to live together.”
U.S. relations with Holy See
Speaking of her country’s relations with the Holy See, Alvarado says “We have common concerns. We might take different approaches and that’s fine. When I see two allied states or friendly states, they’re always going to have different views on certain issues,” but on religion and security, “we do have common ground.” I think the integrity and legitimacy of the Holy See is very helpful in putting forth these messages: of the importance of not only tolerating one another, but actually coexisting and embracing diversity as something that builds societies. Not something just to accept, but something that makes the world a better place.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Universal Church is marking the first liturgical feast day of Saint John Paul II, Tuesday October 22. Poland’s greatest son led the Church from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005. He was canonized along with Pope John 23rd earlier this year by Pope Francis. Prayer was the pillar that supported him throughout his life and pontificate. Veronica Scarisbrick takes a look back at the prayer life of this new Saint.
(from Vatican Radio)...