News Vatican

Subscribe to News Vatican feed
Updated: 1 hour 2 min ago

Pope at Jubilee Audience: ‘Be reconciled to God’

11 hours 32 min ago
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Saturday held an extraordinary Jubilee Audience in St. Peter’s Square for thousands of eager pilgrims. The Audience also celebrated the Jubilee for members of the police and armed forces. The Holy Father focused in his catechesis on a very important point of mercy: reconciliation, taking the apostle St. Paul’s words in the second letter to the Corinthians 5:20-21 as his guide: “So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” ‘Be reconciled to God’ Pope Francis said St. Paul’s words ‘be reconciled to God’ are an invitation for all Christians, especially in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. He said God constantly offers us his forgiveness, and our sins can never keep us from God’s mercy. “Often we believe our sins push God away from us: in reality, by sinning we push ourselves away from Him, but He, seeing us in danger, keeps searching for us. God never accepts the possibility that someone could remain estranged from His love, as long as He finds in that person some sign of contrition for the evil committed.” The Holy Father went on to say that, in our sinfulness, we can only return to God by freely accepting his grace.  For this, he has given us his Son Jesus, whose cross is a bridge leading us back to the Father. “The sinner sees only himself and thus pretends to be self-sufficient; for this reason, sin distances us ever more from God, and this can become a barrier. However, Jesus comes to look for us like a good shepherd who is not content until he has not found the lost sheep (cf. Luke 15:4-6). He rebuilds the bridge which connects us to the Father and allows us to rediscover our dignity as sons and daughters. With the offer of his life, he has reconciled us to the Father and given us the gift of eternal life (cf. John 10:15). ‘Be reconciled to God!” Reconciliation brings peace and contributes to society He said this Holy Year of Mercy is a time for each of us to accept this offer of reconciliation and, in our communities, to bring it to the world around us.  Being reconciled with God not only brings inner healing and peace, but also impels us to work for reconciliation within society at every level, and thus contribute to the building of a global culture of peace, justice and solidarity. “Let us accept, therefore, the invitation to be reconciled to God to become new creatures and to be able to radiate His mercy among our brothers and sisters.” After the audience Pope Francis offered a special welcome to the members of the armed forces and police from throughout the world, especially those present at the audience from Canada, Kenya, Korea, the Philippines, and the United States of America. (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican Regenerative Medicine conference Day 2

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 12:49
(Vatican Radio)   The body can work as its own “pharmacy” with its own tool kit to heal itself – that’s one of the revolutionary concepts to come out of a Vatican conference on regenerative medicine and its cultural impact on society.  On day two of the three day conference organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Stem For Life Foundation , researchers from some of the world’s leading cancer institutes presented their ground-breaking technologies in immunotherapy and expressed high hopes that a cure for the all-too-often deadly disease may be just around the corner. Need for prevention, access and affordability U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who lost his son to cancer, addressed participants saying his son’s doctors told him that just in the last 4-5 years, cancer research has reached a turning point and that for the first time in history, many disciplines are working together to bring a cure. Echoing the call of Pope Francis , he said the tens of thousands of cases of cancer need to be prevented, and patients need access to affordable treatment.  Fewer than 5% of patients end up in clinical trials. His voice rising with emotion, he challenged the scientists and doctors to share their research and data with each other:  “Why do you wait?  Do it now!” Many of the researchers have begun to do just that thanks to a new approach among donors and philanthropists who are encouraging them to work in teams and share the data they gather.  Many, as we heard Friday, are already seeing success with immunotherapy - using the body’s own immune system to attack malignant cells -  as well as with stem cells and combined therapies to treat cancer.  Work is also underway to create and test personalized, patient-specific vaccines that hold the promise of preventing tumors from ever developing. Dr. Robin Smith, President of the Stem For Life Foundation, spoke to Vatican Radio’s Tracey McClure about the interest in the Vatican meeting… Listen:   “Really it’s important for us to search for the cures and help bring solutions to people who are suffering around the world and we’re starting to see everyone really focusing on that,” says Smith. Over the last five years, results in cancer trials have been “amazing” “Immunotherapy, the way that you can take your immune system and educate it to kill cancer cells or to stop being over-active and killing good tissue” are just some of the exciting advances to come to the fore, Smith explains.  “We are learning more about how our body acts and we are learning more how we are able to really use what we have, what God has given us, to influence our health and cells that are damaged along the way.” A cure for cancer is on the way, need for speedy regulatory approval “A cure is on the way,” says Smith.  “More effective therapies – not just  treating symptoms but actually treating the underlying cause of their disease - is underway.  It’s just a matter of time and we have to band together to get the regulatory bodies focused on getting these therapies approved and into the clinic and to the patients who need them. Some countries, like Japan, have been able to speed up the regulatory process . “They’ve changed some legislation – if they know [the therapy] is safe and it shows a sign of efficacy – to allow patients to get the therapy while it continues along the development program for final approval.”  “So we all need to take a look at that and figure out how to make [the process] quicker.  Maybe [the answer is] it’s not as many patients because these trials are so costly.”  Development can take up to 10-15 years and costs can be upwards of US$ 500 million.  “And for people who are sick and suffering through their lifetime, that’s too long.” Pope Francis’ words to participants , Smith says, offered a very “consistent” message. “It’s the Year of Mercy, he’s focused on helping people, people’s needs, the focus on children, and you know, the fact that you have rare diseases that affect very few people – people aren’t focused on this.  It’s not economically feasible to come up with the therapies to treat those diseases as they take so long and cost so much. So from a corporation point of view, it’s very difficult.  And [the Pope’s] point is that we need to focus: someone needs to get out there and realize that there are many millions of people with rare diseases and we have to look for solutions and people aren’t doing that right now and he wants the world to come together and focus on those people who need advocates and who need people to really push on their behalf.” To find out more about the conference: #unitetocure and go to the website http://www.stemforlifefoundation.com/ Newsletter:  https://www.stemforlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/SFL_Newsletter_FALL12.pdf   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: No to Double lives: Christians are people of light

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 06:55
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis warned Christians against having double lives, displaying an outer facade of light but having darkness in their hearts. He urged them to walk in the light and not tread dark paths, saying God’s truth cannot be found there. The Pope’s remarks came during his homily at Mass celebrated on Friday morning in the Santa Marta residence. Taking his cue from the reading of St John’s First Letter, Pope Francis reflected on the eternal struggle against sin, saying we must be pure like the Father but even if we sin we can count on his pardon and his tenderness. He stressed the Apostle’s warning to believers to tell the truth and not have double lives, saying one thing but doing another.     Walk in the light “If you say you are in communion with the Lord, then walk in the light.  But no to double lives!  Not that! That lie that we are so used to seeing and where we too sometimes fall (into temptation), don’t we?  To say one thing and do another, right?  It’s the never ending temptation.  And we know where that lie comes from: in the Bible, Jesus calls the devil ‘the father of lies’, the liar. It’s for this reason that this grandfather says with infinite tenderness and meekness to the ‘adolescent’ Church: ‘Don’t be a liar! You are in communion with God, walk in the light. Do works of light, don’t say one thing and do another. No to double lives and all that.” Bigger than our sins Noting how John began his Letter with the greeting, ‘children’, Pope Francis said this affectionate beginning is just like the tone of a grandfather towards his ‘young grandchildren’ and reveals the tenderness and light contained in this reading. It also recalls Jesus’ words when he promised “rest” to all those “who labour and are overburdened.” In the same way, the Pope continued, John urges his readers not to sin but if somebody does, to not be discouraged by this. “We have a Paraclete, a word, an advocate, a defender at the Father’s side, it’s Jesus Christ, the Upright One. He makes us righteous. It is He who pardons us. A person may feel like saying to this grandfather who gives us this advice: ‘But is it such a bad thing to have sins?’ ‘No, a sin is a bad thing! But if you have sinned, look at who is waiting to pardon you.’ Always! That’s because He, our Lord, is greater than our sins.” The Pope concluding by saying this is God’s Mercy and his greatness and it’s from Him alone that we can get our strength.    “We must walk in the light because God is Light.  Don’t walk with one foot in the light and the other in darkness.  Do not be liars.  And one other thing: we have all sinned. Nobody can say: ‘This man is a sinner, this woman is a sinner.’  I, thanks to God, am upright.’ No, only one is Upright, He who paid for us. And if somebody sins, He is waiting for us and pardons us because He is merciful and knows very well what we are shaped from and remembers that we are but dust. May the joy that this Letter gives us, carry us forward in the simplicity and the transparency of the Christian life, above all when we turn to the Lord… with truth.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope addresses conference on regenerative medicine

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 06:32
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday addressed participants of an International Conference on the Progress of Regenerative Medicine and its Cultural Impact. The Conference is being sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Stem for Life Foundation, and the STOQ Foundation. The 2016 conference focused on pediatric cancers and rare diseases, as well as diseases that occur with aging. It featured talks and discussions with leading cell therapy scientists, physicians, patient advocates, ethicists, philanthropists, leaders of faith and government officials. In his address, Pope Francis focused on three aspects of the commitment of the Pontifical Council for Culture, and the institutions working with it. “It is fundamentally important that we promote greater empathy in society,” the Pope said, “and not remain indifferent to our neighbour’s cry for help, including when he or she is suffering from a rare disease.” Pope Francis described this aspect of their work as “increasing sensitivity.” The Holy Father also emphasized the importance of research, in terms of “education and genuine scientific study.” Education, he said, is necessary not only to develop students’ intellectual abilities, but also to ensure “human formation and a professionalism of the highest degree.” Research, meanwhile, “requires unwavering attention to moral issues if it is to be an instrument which safeguards human life and the dignity of the person.” The third aspect highlighted by Pope Francis was “ensuring access to care.” A desire for profit should never prevail over the value of human life. This, the Pope said, “is why the globalization of indifference must be countered by the globalization of empathy.” By drawing attention to and educating people about rare diseases, by increasing funds for research, and by promoting “necessary legislation as well as an economic paradigm shift,” he continued, “the centrality of the human person will be rediscovered.” Pope Francis concluded his address with a word of encouragement for those participating in the Conference. “During this Jubilee Year, may you be capable and generous co-operators with the Father’s mercy.” Below, please find the full prepared text of Pope Francis’ remarks: Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants of the International Conference on the Progress of Regenerative Medicine and its Cultural Impact Paul VI Audience Hall, Vatican City   Friday 29 April 2016   Dear Friends,             I am pleased to welcome all of you. I thank Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi for his words and, above all, for having organized this meeting on the challenging problem of rare diseases within today’s social and cultural context. During your discussions, you have offered your professionalism and high-level expertise in the area of researching new treatments. At the same time, you have not ignored ethical, anthropological, social and cultural questions, as well as the complex problem of access to care for those afflicted by rare conditions. These patients are often not given sufficient attention, because investing in them is not expected to produce substantial economic returns. In my ministry I frequently meet people affected by so called “rare” diseases. These illnesses affect millions of people throughout the world, and cause suffering and anxiety for all those who care for them, starting with family members.             Your meeting takes on greater significance in the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy; mercy is “the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life” ( Misericordiae Vultus , 2). Your work is a sign of hope, as it brings together people and institutions from diverse cultures, societies and religions, all united in their deep concern for the sick.             I wish to reflect, albeit briefly, on three aspects of the commitment of the Pontifical Council for Culture and institutions working with it: the Vatican Science and Faith Foundation–STOQ, the Stem for Life Foundation, and many others who are cooperating in this cultural initiative. The first is “increasing sensitivity”. It is fundamentally important that we promote greater empathy in society, and not remain indifferent to our neighbour’s cry for help, including when he or she is suffering from a rare disease. We know that we cannot always find fast cures to complex illnesses, but we can be prompt in caring for these persons, who often feel abandoned and ignored. We should be sensitive towards all, regardless of religious belief, social standing or culture.             The second aspect that guides your efforts is “research”, seen in two inseparable actions: education and genuine scientific study. Today more than ever we see the urgent need for an education that not only develops students’ intellectual abilities, but also ensures integral human formation and a professionalism of the highest degree. From this pedagogical perspective, it is necessary in medical and life sciences to offer interdisciplinary courses which provide ample room for a human formation supported by ethical criteria. Research, whether in academia or industry, requires unwavering attention to moral issues if it is to be an instrument which safeguards human life and the dignity of the person. Formation and research, therefore, aspire to serve higher values, such as solidarity, generosity, magnanimity, sharing of knowledge, respect for human life, and fraternal and selfless love. The third aspect I wish to mention is “ensuring access to care”. In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium I highlighted the value of human progress today, citing “areas such as health care, education and communications” (52). I also strongly emphasized, however, the need to oppose “an economy of exclusion and inequality” (53) that victimizes people when the mechanism of profit prevails over the value of human life. This is why the globalization of indifference must be countered by the globalization of empathy. We are called to make known throughout the world the issue of rare diseases, to invest in appropriate education, to increase funds for research, and to promote necessary legislation as well as an economic paradigm shift. In this way, the centrality of the human person will be rediscovered. Thanks to coordinated efforts at various levels and in different sectors, it is becoming possible not only to find solutions to the sufferings which afflict our sick brothers and sisters, but also to secure access to care for them.             I encourage you to nurture these values which are already a part of your academic and cultural programme, begun some years ago. So too I urge you to continue to integrate more people and institutions throughout the world into your work. During this Jubilee Year, may you be capable and generous co-operators with the Father’s mercy. I accompany you and bless you on this journey; and I ask you, please, pray for me. Thank you. (from Vatican Radio)...

​‘Annuario 2016’ and ‘Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2014’ are in bookstores-The living Church in a changing world

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 03:20
The Annuario 2016 and the Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae 2014 , edited by the Central Statistics Office, is has become available in book stores. Both volumes are printed by the Vatican Printing Press. The data reveal several new aspects that emerged between 15 February and 31 December 2015 in the life of the Catholic Church in the world. During that period one eparchy was elevated to metropolitan status, three new dioceses, three eparchies and two apostolic exarchates were created, and one apostolic exarchate was elevated to eparchy. The statistics presented in the Annuarium Statisticum , relevant to the year 2014, provide a brief analysis of the chief dynamics regarding the Catholic Church in the 2,998 ecclesiastic circumscriptions throughout the world. Over the past nine years the number of baptized Catholics worldwide grew by 14.1%, exceeding the growth rate of the world’s population for the same period (10.8%). The presence of Catholics in the world, therefore, increased to 17.8% in 2014, from 17.3% in 2005. In absolute terms this amounts to approximately 1.272 billion Catholics in 2014 as compared to 1.115 billion in 2005. Since the statistics varied considerably in the various geographical areas, this explains the heterogeneous overall figure. While Europe hosted nearly 23% of the world’s Catholic community in 2014, it now appears to be the least dynamic area overall, with an increase in the number of Catholics for the entire period of only slightly over 2%. The Catholic presence in the territory remained fixed at roughly 40%, with a minor correction with respect to 2005. This takes into account the fact that the demographic dynamic in the same period is several decimal points below that of the number of Catholics. With reference to the entire 2005-2014 period, the number of baptized Catholics in Oceania increased at a slower rate than the population (15.9% and 18.2%, respectively), while the contrary was seen in the Americas (11.7% versus 9.6%) and in Asia (20% versus 9.6%). The African continent undoubtedly showed the most growth: the number of baptized (about 215 million in 2014), increased at a pace more than double that of Asian countries (nearly 41%) and is far higher than the population growth rate for the same period (23.8%). Thus, apart from different demographic dynamics there was obvious confirmation of the increased percentage in Africa (where the number of baptized faithful rose from 13.8% to almost 17% of the worldwide population) and of the net drop of that in Europe, falling from 25.2% in 2005 to 22.6% in 2014. Although 2014 marked a minimal fall, the American continents continue to be home to almost half of baptized Catholics. Asia, with over 60% of the global population, showed moderate growth in the incidence of Catholics, with approximately 11% of Catholics in the world. In Oceania the incidence of baptized faithful remained stable at less than 0.8% of the worldwide Catholic population. Between 2005 and 2014 the number of bishops rose from 4,841 to 5,237, an increase of 8.2%. This increase was marked in Asia (over 14.3%) and Africa (over 12.9%), while in the Americas (over 6.9%), in Europe (over 5.4%) and in Oceania (over 4%) the figures were below the worldwide average. Regarding these varied trends, however, the distribution of bishops by continent remained substantially stable throughout the period studied, with a higher concentration of the total in the Americas and Europe. Also in Asia, where the number of bishops grew considerably, the overall demographic statistics showed limited growth, from 14.3% in 2005 to 15.1% in 2014. There was a more homogenous and balanced distribution by continent in the number of baptized faithful per bishop, passing from 230,300 to 242,900 between 2005 and 2014; except for the singular case of Oceania (where the low population density in the fragmented territory of numerous islands and archipelagos creates completely unique situations), the trend in Africa and Asia, continents where the spread of Catholicism is more dynamic, is converging toward the global average. From the statistics regarding diocesan and religious priests, the first striking figure is that the overall consistency in the number of priests increased by 9,381 between 2005 and 2014, from 406,411 to 415,792, and seems to have been consistent in recent years. This applies globally, since the figures vary widely among individual continents. In contrast with the notable increases in Africa (more than 32.6%) and Asia (more than 27.1%), Europe showed a fall of over 8%, and Oceania less than 1.7%. Different growth rates were recorded worldwide over time in the number of priests: the increase was stronger in the first six years of the period under study, but practically null in the last three years. In particular, the growth in the figures shows that, following the steady rise up to 2011 in the number of ordinations to the priesthood, there has been a steady, gradual decrease to date. The negative aspects of the trend show that defections have progressively decreased in number, while the death of priests, after a period of annual fluctuation, has risen in recent years. In particular, the trends of diocesan priests show overall growth in comparison to priests of the religious orders; moreover, while the initial data showed a growing trend in Africa, in the South and Central America, in Asia and Oceania, they reveal, by contrast, a declining trend in the remaining areas, Europe in particular. Religious priests, on the contrary, registered a downward trend in the Americas as well as in Europe and in Oceania. The data regarding diocesan and religious priests demonstrate favourable trends overall in the areas previously studied, while the remaining areas show a downward trend. Thus, when viewed in relative terms, trends in the overall number of priests showed changes in the following geographical areas: from 2005 to 2014, an increase was seen in Africa, Southeast Asia, Central and South America; numbers in the Middle East and Oceania remained virtually unchanged; lastly, downward trends were recorded in North America and Europe — the latter, in particular, showed a drop from 48.8% in 2005 to 43.7% in 2014. The pastoral work of bishops and priests is supported by other pastoral figures: permanent deacons, professed men and women religious. The composition of these three groups of pastoral workers is quite diverse. At the end of 2014, there were, worldwide, 44,566 permanent deacons, 54,559 professed men religious who are not priests, and roughly 683,000 professed women religious. The evolutionary trends also presented different characteristics. Permanent deacons constitute the most rapidly changing group over the course of the period: they grew from approximately 33,000 in 2005 to almost 45,000 in 2014, with a relative variation of over 33.5%. Although the increase is manifest everywhere, its pace varied among the continents: in Europe the number of permanent deacons increased significantly over nine years, rising from less than 11,000 to 15,000. The American continents also showed an increase: in 2014 the number rose to nearly 29,000 from approximately 22,000 in 2005. There are no significant changes to report in the territorial distribution of permanent deacons during the period examined: only a slight decrease was shown in the relative number of deacons in America and a growth in Asia. It is of interest to note that permanent deacons are well represented in the Americas (North America in particular) with 64.9% of all deacons in the world, and also in Europe (32.6%). This category, however, is scarce in Africa and Asia: these continents hold barely 1.7% of the worldwide figure. The practical ability of permanent deacons to assist priests in performing pastoral work effectively in the territory, however, is still limited. In the world, the distribution of deacons per 100 resident priests, in fact, was just 10.7 in 2014, with a minimum of 0.48 in Asia and a maximum of 23.5 in America. In Europe the quotient is about 8%, while in Africa, 1.1 deacons serve alongside 100 priests. Therefore, the dimension of the phenomenon is still rather modest for their work to have a significant effect on the balance between the demand and offer of ministry to the baptized faithful residing in the area. In terms of development, however, it should be noted that there tend to be a greater number in the territory precisely where the ratio between baptized faithful and priests is reduced. Instead, a slight decrease was reported in the number of professed men religious who are not priests. In 2005 there were 54,708 worldwide, decreasing thereafter to 54,559 in 2014. It is also noteworthy that the drop was concentrated in the Americas (less than 5%), in Europe (less than 14.2%) and in Oceania (less than 6.8%). On the contrary there was an increase in Africa (over 10.2%) and in Asia (more than 30.1%). Overall, in 2014, Africa and Asia represented almost 38% of the total (up from 31% in 2005). Conversely, the group comprised of Europe, the Americas and Oceania decreased to almost 10% over the period under examination. Professed women religious in 2014 represented a population of 682,729, with almost 38% in Europe, followed by the American continents with over 177,000 consecrated women and Asia with 170,000. In comparison to 2005, this group showed a decrease of 10.2% which likewise involved the Americas, Europe and Oceania, with significant negative variations (around 18-20%). On the contrary, there was a decidedly steady increase of approximately 20% in Africa and of approximately 11% in Asia. In light of these greatly varied trends, the portion of the worldwide total of women religious grew in Africa and Asia from 27.8% to 35.3%, as compared to Europe and America, where the combined figure dropped from 70.8% to 63.5%. The temporal development observed in the world between 2005 and 2014 for the number of major seminarians (diocesan and religious) showed an initial growth that continued until 2011, when the total recorded was equal to 105.4% of the 2005 total. This was followed by a slow but steady decline, which brought the 2014 figure down to 102.2%. With regard to consistency, the number of candidates to the priesthood worldwide rose from 114,429 in 2005 to 120,616 in 2011, and then dropped to 116,939 in 2014. The decrease observed in the overall number of major seminarians between 2001 and 2014 involved all the continents except Africa, where the number of seminarians increased by 3.8% (from 27,483 to 28,528). However, when the entire period from 2005 to 2014 is considered, the differences between the territorial areas appear more evident. While Africa, Asia and Oceania show dynamic upward trends (with growth rates of 21%, 14.6% and 7.2%, respectively), Europe registered a 17.5% reduction over the same period, and the Americas (particularly due to the negative trend in the southern hemisphere) showed a drop of 7.9% compared to the start of the period. As a result, a general re-evaluation of the role of the European and American continents in the potential growth and renewal of priestly figures is observed, with Europe’s share falling from 20.2% to 16.2%, and the Americas’ from 32.2% to 29.1%, in contrast with the expansion in Africa and Asia which represents an overall percentage of 53.9 of the worldwide total for 2014 (24.4% and 29.5%, respectively). Also in relative terms with respect to the number of Catholics, the greatest movement was shown in Africa and Asia, with 133 candidates to the priesthood per one million Catholics in Africa in 2014, and about 247 in Asia. European and American figures (66 and 55, respectively, which are far less significant and in decline in comparison with 2005, would suggest a reduced offering of pastoral services. Lastly, from the number of major seminarians per 100 priests, one can form an idea of the generational replacement in the effective exercise of pastoral ministry. Thus, also in this context, Africa and Asia retain their primacy with 66 and 54 candidates per 100 priests respectively, while in Europe the figure is 10, confirming an ongoing stagnation in priestly vocations. The Americas and Oceania maintain an intermediate position with 28 and 22 candidates to the priesthood per 100 priests in 2014. Overall, however, thanks to the upturn in Africa and Asia, the total has gone from 28.16 to 28.12 major seminarians per 100 priests. At the end of the quantitative survey conducted overall and for large geographical areas both in terms of consistency and of variations, one can draw approximate conclusions regarding the most obvious phenomena regarding current trends. Firstly one can note from most of the phenomena analyzed, a certain dichotomy between the dynamics of the emerging continents, Africa and Asia, and those of Europe, which is progressively losing its centrality as the model of reference. This is not surprising. Indeed, it seems rather obvious that the development of the Church in the world cannot ignore the major trends underlying worldwide development, especially for demographics. Thus, Europe has become the most static continent, hindered by the net aging of its population and by its low birth rate. The Americas as a whole are in an intermediate position, but were the analysis to distinguish between North and Latin America, divergences would likely arise, enabling at least a partial comparison, first to Europe and second to Africa and Asia. Oceania constitutes a reality unto itself, also due to its far more limited demographics. In the 2005-2014 period, the number of priests increased overall, even if the significant increase of diocesan priests and the marked decrease of religious priests should be noted. Europe registered a heavy loss, which was largely compensated by the lively trend shown by Africa and Asia regarding diocesan priests. The Americas presented, for the same period, a 1.6% growth: they have addressed the loss of 4,000 religious with just over 6,000 diocesan priests. The average pastoral figure worldwide, expressed by the number of Catholics per priest, grew noticeably and is higher in Africa and the Americas, while in Europe it has been far more limited. The situation may plausibly be modified in the coming years, since the European clergy is older and weakened by lower renewal rates, while in Africa and Asia the number of candidates to the priesthood is clearly growing. The relatively recent phenomenon of the considerable increase in the number of permanent deacons is of great importance. The dynamic trend shown by these workers is certainly not attributable to temporary or contingent motivations, but seems to express new and different choices in performing the work of spreading the faith. Indeed, the increase of deacons is seen generally in Europe and the Americas, less positive continents in terms of development in other categories of pastoral workers. Candidates to the priesthood present a positive trend overall, however in this case as well, there are several reasons for concern in Europe and the Americas, where a decline has been clearly shown in recent years. Conversely, Africa and Asia show great vitality....

Vatican cell conference opens with focus on kids, rare disease

Fri, 04/29/2016 - 00:59
(Vatican Radio)  For a child to be born sick is a “scandalous” problem for humanity.  That was one of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi’s reflections Thursday as he opened in the Vatican day one of the Third International Conference on the Progress of Regenerative Medicine and its Cultural Impact.  The President of the Pontifical Council for Culture partnered with the Stem For Life Foundation to organize what has been described as a “historic” three day event 28-30 April to look at the complex cultural and social framework of illnesses and at cutting edge research into cellular therapies. In her opening remarks, the President of Stem For Life, Dr. Robin Smith, pointed to the growing range of therapies currently under study for the treatment of cancer, autoimmune disorders and rare diseases.  The first in the series of conferences was launched five years ago, she noted, to foster a dialogue about the importance of stem cell therapy.  Since then, the sector has progressed exponentially as scientists became increasingly aware of their ability to be “taught” to transform into a wide variety of tissue, cells and even organs. Saving lives or playing God? “Cellular cures are the light in front of us,” she said, but they need to be made more rapidly available to patients.  Super computers and ever-more powerful diagnostic tools are making it easier to identify the right treatment for the right patient at the right time.  The advances in cellular therapy are happening so quickly, she suggested, it will not be long before people begin to ask: can we design our own child?  Choose its hair and eye colour, its height and intelligence?  Can we turn back time and reverse aging?  Are we playing God?  The philosophical and ethical questions abound. Smith invited us to have tissues at the ready for the heart-wrenching stories we were about to hear.  Stories like Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts’ exhausting battle with breast cancer which evolved into any doctor’s worst nightmare: Mylodisplastic  Syndrome (MDS) or pre-Leukemia. She was told she had less than two years to live. But thanks to her sister, Sally, Robin received a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant that saved her life. Transplants and “Reengineering” can transform lives We heard that more than 70 disorders can be treated with bone marrow transplants.  Nearly half of the 50,000 such transplants performed around the world each year require a donor. Though national registries have made matching up donors to patients easier in recent years, finding the right fit can take months. That, even though there are more than 20 million voluntary bone marrow donors worldwide.  Scientists are finding ways to train bone marrow cells to adapt to new hosts so they won’t be rejected by the body’s immune system.  They’re also finding promising new techniques by taking a patient’s own cells and re-programming them to fight off “bad” cells.  One such technique is called “chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy,” a revolutionary but experimental treatment which reengineers the patient’s cells to kill off all cancerous cells. 17 year old Nicholas Wilkins was diagnosed with the most common childhood cancer, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, at age 4.  After repeated relapses, he received a bone marrow transplant from his sister. But even that didn’t work. In 2013, his desperate parents enrolled Nicholas in a trial at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where doctors reinfused reengineered T-cells back into his body to attack the cancer.  Three years later, he is cancer free and doctors are hopeful he will stay that way because the “good” T-cells are continuing to fight the cancer. Researchers are hopeful this technique can be just as promising in the treatment of other diseases, such as rare and autoimmune disorders. 90% of kids with cancer die in developing nations Georgetown University Health Care Ethics Professor Fr. Kevin Fitzgerald, sj told us that some 80-90% of children with cancer in industrialized countries are cured while 90% die in poor countries.  The moral imperative, then, is to ensure adequate medical care in developing countries: an invitation to policy makers, businesses, the pharmaceutical sector and medical and research communities to collaborate to make this a reality.  And, he reminded us that as the largest health care provider in the world, the Catholic Church is ready to partner with them. Eugene Gasana Jr was 13 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2011 and after intensive chemotherapy and radiation therapy in New York, he has been in remission. But Eugene wasn’t satisfied with just getting better himself.  He wanted kids in his home country of Rwanda to have access to similar, high quality medical care.  Thanks to a Foundation set up in his name and donors, his paediatric oncologist, Dr. Tanya Trippett of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, is heading up a program to provide a hospital and cancer care for children in Kigali for the east African region. According to Trippett, serving cancer patients in Rwanda and other parts of Africa is a challenge because of the lack of quality diagnostic equipment and in some cases, the absence of chemotherapy and cancer drugs.  The infrastructure is poor and oncologists are few.  Patients go hungry in hospitals which also struggle to provide follow-up care for families who live far away.  She wants to see more cooperation between Western hospitals and clinical professionals to provide training to Rwandan and other African doctors, nurses and hospital staff and greater access to funding. Dr. Raphael Rousseau, Medical director of Genentech, a member of the Roche pharmaceutical group, would like to see more clinical trials in developing countries, using the same rigorous standards as Western trials.  He says he’s frustrated that drugs are not getting soon enough to children with cancer and appealed to drug companies to develop new therapies for cancer, especially in developing countries “where cancer is lethal.” This not an area of competition, he said, “we’re all in it for a good cause.” Cord blood’s life-saving stem cells Dr. Joanne Kurtzberg of Duke University Medical Center works with cord blood stem cells to find cures for brain diseases like cerebral palsy, or autism, and in some cases, with remarkable results.  Not long ago, after a woman gave birth, the placenta used to be thrown out in the trash, she said.  But now, the stem cell-rich material can be frozen and stored, perhaps for decades, in the some 700,000 public cord blood banks around the world until it is needed for therapy. Some four million banks preserve cord blood for private use. Cord blood can be an alternative source, she said, for patients who can’t find a matching donor. Dr. Yong Zhao of Hackensack University Medical Center is finding encouraging results using cord blood cells for multiple autoimmune and inflammation-related diseases. The rare disease challenge The new treatments evolving are many: “nano technology,” “nano chips,” “gene therapy” and “gene editing” were some of the terms thrown out by the U.S. National Institute of Health’s Dr. Stephen Groft who said 4-8% of the population suffers from a rare disorder. Some 8,000 rare diseases have been identified, and most have a genetic origin, but more diseases are occurring and mutating. Multiply that by family and friends, he said, “and you have a big population affected by rare diseases.”  A lack of information on such disorders, misdiagnosis and lack of treatments are the real challenges facing patients with rare diseases. But Dr. Groft is among a number of health experts worldwide who are compiling data bases of patients, doctors, symptoms, and treatment protocols so that the global health community can study these rare diseases and communicate with each other about them.  Social media plays a big part here, he said, as patients exchange their stories and search for clinical trials in which to participate and doctors looking for colleagues who have come across similar patient cases. We heard about 14 year old Johnathan who suffers from a disorder known as “Butterfly disease,” a frightfully painful condition that makes his skin as fragile as powdery butterfly wings but has nothing to do with the beauty of the delicate creature.  Johnathan and his mom spend hours each day dressing him, bathing and changing the bandages covering the sores on much of his frail body. Here was one of the many times  I reached for a tissue on Thursday.   Johnathan knows he probably won’t survive past his mid- 20’s. Then, there were the children with Batten disease, which one father described as a “thief” which comes in the night to steal away your small child’s vision, his brain, his ability to walk and talk.  And, the kids suffering childhood blindness who are receiving encouraging help with gene therapy. Dr. Neil Warma of Opexa Therapeutics, is working with personalized T-cell vaccines to fit each individual’s patient’s profile to treat an array of autoimmune disorders including Multiple Schlerosis and NMO so the body can repair itself. New therapies are also evolving in the treatment of Type 1 Diabetes or juvenile diabetes giving fresh hope to patients suffering from this debilitating disorder too. Tracey McClure (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: There is always resistance in the Church to surprises of the Spirit

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 08:12
(Vatican Radio) There is always resistance to the surprises of the Spirit, but it’s the Spirit who continues to lead the Church forward. That was Pope Francis’ message at Mass on Thursday at the Santa Marta chapel as he reflected on the reading about division and resistance within the early Church in Jerusalem. Commenting on today’s reading from Acts about the Council of Jerusalem, Pope Francis said the protagonist in the Church is always the Holy Spirit. It’s the Spirit who, from the very beginning, gives strength to the apostles to proclaim the Gospel and it’s the Spirit who carries the Church forward despite its problems. Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:  Even when there is an outbreak of persecution, the Pope said, it’s the Spirit who gives believers the strength to stand firm in the faith, even if they face resistance and anger from the doctors of the law. In the passage from Acts, the Pope noted, there was a double resistance to the Spirit, from those who believed that Jesus came only for the chosen people and from those who wanted to impose the law of Moses, including the practice of circumcision, on those who had converted. There was great confusion over all this, the Pope said, but the Spirit led their hearts in a new direction. The apostles were surprised by the Spirit, he said, as they found themselves in new and unthinkable situations. But how were they to manage these circumstances? Pope Francis said the passage begins by noting that ‘much debate had taken place’: no doubt heated debate, because on the one hand they were pushed on and on by the Spirit, but on the other, they were facing new situations that they had never seen or even imagined, such as pagans receiving the Holy Spirit. The disciples were holding a ‘hot potato’ in their hands and didn’t know what to do, the Pope said. Thus they called a meeting in Jerusalem where each one could recount their experiences of how the Holy Spirit had been received by the Gentiles. And in the end they came to an agreement. But first , the Pope noted, “The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them.” Never be afraid to listen with humility, the Pope said. When you are afraid to listen, you don’t have the Spirit in your heart. When the apostles had listened, they decided to send several of the disciples to the Greeks, the pagan communities, that had become Christians to reassure them. Those who converted, the Pope continued, were not obliged to be circumcised. The decision was communicated to them in a letter in which the disciples say that “The Holy Spirit and we have decided….” This is the way of the Church when faced with novelties, the Pope said. Not the worldly novelties of fashion, but the novelties of the Spirit who always surprises us. How does the Church resolve these problems? Through meetings and discussions, listening and praying, before making a final decision. This is the way of the Church when the Spirit surprises us, Pope Francis said, recalling the resistance that emerged in recent times during the Second Vatican Council. That resistance continues today in one way or another, he said, yet the Spirit moves ahead. And the way the Church expresses its communion is through synodality, by meeting, listening, debating, praying and deciding. The Spirit is always the protagonist and the Lord asks us not to be afraid when the Spirit calls us. Just as the Spirit stopped St Paul and set him on the right road, so the Spirit will give us the courage and the patience to win over adversity and stand firm in the face of martyrdom. Let us ask the Lord for grace, the Pope concluded, to understand how the Church can face the surprises of the Spirit, to be docile and to follow the path which Christ wants for us and for the whole Church. (from Vatican Radio)...

Conference on Regenerative Medicine opens in Vatican

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 07:25
(Vatica n Radio)  Advances in regenerative medicine will top the agenda of an international conference opening in the Vatican Thursday.  “ Cellular Horizons: How Science, Technology, Information and Communication will Impact Society” 28-30 April is the third in a series of conferences (2011 and 2013) organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture’s office for Science and Faith and The Stem For Life Foundation on the Progress of Regenerative Medicine and its Cultural Impact . Researchers, doctors, patients, policy makers, business leaders and philanthropists will look at successful new therapies and attempt to identify ways to make them more available. Listen to the report by Tracey McClure: Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture , says: “In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we would like to challenge all of society to search for the cures to human illness.  The advancement of regenerative medicine holds great promise for the future, and together, we must bring these vital cellular therapies to the hundreds of millions of people suffering from disease around the world, especially those from under-served and developing nations.  With this event, we sound a clarion call to humanity that tomorrow’s cures can be found today in the human body, and that we have an obligation to bring these cellular therapies out of the clinic and into the real world.” “Whether immunotherapies for cancer or stem cell treatments for rare diseases, there are now over 30,000 cell therapy trials in development noted on the clincaltrials.gov website,” says Dr. Robin Smith, President of The Stem For Life Foundation.   “This event will rally the world around a powerful idea – that the cells of our bodies hold the potential to vanquish disease, reduce global suffering and inspire hope for people around the world living with illness.” 3 Days focusing on the “cellular revolution” The focus on Thursday,  the opening day of the conference, will be on ground-breaking therapies offering new hope in the treatment of pediatric cancer, rare diseases and diabetes.  On Friday, speakers will present cellular and technological breakthroughs in cancer and autoimmune disorders, and discuss the delivery of health care using technology and big data.  Pope Francis is expected to greet participants in an audience Friday. Also Friday: talks on “The Dawn of Next Generation Health Care” and “Humans 2.0” exploring societal, ethical psychological and spiritual implications of how technological advances in life sciences are poised to challenge even what it means to be human. On Saturday, the final day of the conference, speakers will concentrate on “Cellular Frontiers” with emphasis on research, regulation and funding. Talks will focus on stem cell research, and include “Rebuilding and Restoring the Human Body,” “Aligning Stakeholders to Build a Regenerative Care Model,” “Facilitating Cellular Innovation and Distribution,” “Healthy Aging,” “Feeding Cells, Starving Cancer and Aging Well,” and “Cell Therapy Philanthropy.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Financial Information Authority presents Annual Report

Thu, 04/28/2016 - 06:37
(Vatican Radio) A press briefing was held on Thursday morning, in the John Paul II Hall of the Press Office of the Holy See, for the presentation of the Annual Report of the Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria (the Financial Information Authority, AIF), on the activities of financial reporting and supervision, both with regard to prudential decisions and for the prevention and combatting of money laundering and the financing of terrorism during Year IV, 2015. Present at the briefing, in addition to the Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, were the President of the AIF, Dr René Brülhart, and the Director of the AIF, Dr Tommaso Di Ruzza. Below, please find the official Press Release regarding the 2015 Annual Report of the Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria: AIF press release | Annual Report 2015 | Effective regulatory framework The Autorità di Informazione Finanziaria(AIF) of the Holy See and the Vatican City State has presented its Annual Report for 2015. The report reviews the activities and statistics of AIF for the year  2015. 2015 has seen an effective implementation and application of the regulatory framework of the  Holy See and the Vatican City State. Furthermore, international cooperation of the Vatican competent authority with its foreign counterparts to fight illicit financial activities has been intensified. “The full implementation and application of Regulation No. 1 has shown the effectiveness of the regulatory framework of the Holy See and Vatican City State,” said René Brülhart, President of AIF. “International cooperation remains a key commitment of AIF. Additional Memoranda of Understandings with competent authorities of other jurisdictions were signed and the exchange of information on a bilateral level has increased significantly.” The reporting system has been consolidated and in the last three years, 893 Suspicious Transaction Reports (STR) (202 in 2013, 147 in 2014 and 544 in 2015) have been filed with AIF. “The  increase of STRs was not due to higher potential illicit financial activities, but to a number of different  factors, namely the finalization of the closure of client relationships no longer compliant with Vatican legislation and policies adopted by supervised entities, the monitoring of clients’ activities under foreign countries’ voluntary tax compliance programs as well as the general strengthening of the reporting system and the increased awareness of the supervised entities,” said Tommaso Di Ruzza, Director of AIF. In 2015, 17 reports were submitted to the Vatican Promoter of Justice for further investigation by judicial authorities. The number of cases of bilateral cooperation between AIF and foreign competent authorities increased from 4 in 2012 to 81 in 2013 to113 in 2014 and 380 in 2015. Since 2012, the number of declarations of outgoing cash above the amount of EUR 10,000 decreased steadily from 1,782 (2012) to 1,557 (2013) and 1,111 in2014 and remained stable in 2015 (1,196). Declarations for incoming cash also decreased from 598 (2012) to 550 (2013) to 429 in 2014 and 367 in 2015. This is due to an increased monitoring by the competent authorities and the introduction of reinforced procedures at the supervised entities. About AIF The Financial Information Authority is the competent authority of the Holy See and Vatican City State for supervision and financial intelligence for the prevention and countering of money laundering and financing of terrorism as well as prudential supervision. Established by Pope Benedict XVI with the Apostolic Letter in form of Motu Proprio of 30 December 2010, AIF carries out its institutional activities in accordance with its new Statute introduced by Pope Francis with Motu Proprio of 15 November 2013 and Law No. XVIII of 8 October 2013. In 2015, AIF signed MOUs with the financial intelligence units (FIUs) of Albania, Cuba, Luxemburg, Norway, Paraguay and Hungary. In previous years, AIF had already signed MOUs with the Authorities of Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom, United States of America, South Africa and Switzerland. AIF became a member of the Egmont Group in 2013.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Vatican media reform must 'open windows'

Wed, 04/27/2016 - 11:56
(Vatican Radio) The head of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, Mgr Dario Viganò spoke about the ongoing reform of the Holy See’s media operations on Wednesday at a seminar for Catholic communicators which is taking place this week at the ‘Holy Cross’ Pontifical University. Beyond simply reforming structures, Mgr Viganò stressed the need to renew the process of bringing the Good News of the Gospel to all people. Every euro spent in this field, he said, must be used to ensure that the Gospel and the teaching of the Pope reaches the hearts of all people. The goal, he said, is not to substitute for local churches but to support those communities that have the greatest needs. Mgr. Viganò spoke of the reform ‘timeline’, which focuses this year on a closer integration of Vatican Radio and the Vatican Television Centre, of which he is the former director. The reform process, he stressed, must go beyond a mere makeover and a change of names.  Instead it must lead to a greater efficiency and interactivity through the use of new technologies, yet without forgetting those facing serious communications challenges. Above all, he said, it is essential to “open the windows” and make sure we are responding to the questions of our users, rather than engaging in a navel-gazing exercise. In this effort, he said the keys are to be found in formation, reorganization, team building, participation and sharing. Finally he stressed that instead of a hierarchical leadership, the new Secretariat is placing the emphasis on a wide network which makes best use of the resource of all its members.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope confirms decrees for causes of Saints

Wed, 04/27/2016 - 06:08
(Vatican Radio) A number of causes for canonization were advanced on Tuesday, including an Italian diocesan priest. A miracle attributed to Blessed Alfonso Maria Fusco clears the way for his canonization.  Another miracle, attributed to the intercession of the Venerable John Sullivan, an Irish Jesuit, was also recognized.  The decrees also recognize the martyrdom of several victims of Communism, including the Servants of God Fr José Antón Gómez, OSB, along with three other Benedictine priests, who were killed during the Spanish civil war; and Archbishop Nikollë Vinçenc Prennushi of Durrës (Durazzo), and 37 companions, killed under the Communist regime in Albania between 1945 and 1974. Pope Francis honoured the martyrs of Albania during his visit to that country in 2014.  Another country recently visited by the the Holy Father also saw one of its sons advanced along the path toward canonization, as the Congregation recognized the heroic virtues of Father Thomas Choe Yang-Eop, a Korean priest. Below, please find Vatican Radio's translation of the announcement of the promulgation of decrees concerning the Causes of Saints:  Pope Francis on Tuesday received in private audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B., the Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience, the Holy Father authorized the Congregation to promulgate the following decrees regarding: the miracle, attributed to the intercession of Blessed Alfonso Maria Fusco, diocesan Priest, Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of St John the Baptist; born 23 March 1839, died 6 February 1910; the miracle, attributed to the intercession of the Venerable Servant of God John Sullivan, professed Priest of the Society of Jesus; born 8 May 1861, died 19 February 1933; the martyrdom of the Servant of God Nikollë Vinçenc Prennushi, of the Order of Friars Minor, Archbishop of Durrës (Durazzo), and 37 companions, killed between 1945 and 1974; the martyrdom of the Servant of God José Antón Gómez, and three companions, priests of the Order of St Benedict, killed in 1936; the heroic virtue of the Servant of God Thomas Choe Yang-Eop, diocesan Priest; born 1 March 1821, died 15 June 1861; the heroic virtue of the Servant of God Sosio Del Prete (né Vincenzo), professed Priest of the Order of Friars Minor, Founder of the Congregation of Little Handmaids of Christ the King; born 28 December 1885, died 27 January 1952; the heroic virtue of the Servant of God Venantius Katarzyniec (né Joseph), professed Priest of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual; born 7 October 1889, died 31 March 1921; the heroic virtue of the Servant of God Maria Consiglio dello Spirito Santo (née Emilia Pasqualina Addatis), Foundress of the Congregation of Sister Servants of the Sorrowful Mother; born 5 January 1845, died 11 January 1900; the heroic virtue of the Servant of God María de la Encarnación (née Caterina Carrasco Tenorio), Foundress of the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis of the Rebaño de María ; born 24 March 1840, died 24 November 1917; the heroic virtue of the Servant of God Maria Laura Baraggia, Foundress of the Sisters of the Family of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; born 1 May 1851, died 18 December 1923; the heroic virtue of the Servant of God Ilia Corsaro, Foundress of the Little Missionaries of the Eucharist; born 4 October 1897, died 23 March 1977; the heroic virtue of the Servant of God María Montserrat Grases García, Laywoman, of the Personal Prelature of the Holy Cross and of Opus Dei ; born 10 July 1941, died 26 March 1959. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: Love thy neighbour like the Good Samaritan

Wed, 04/27/2016 - 05:32
(Vatican Radio)  The story of the Good Samaritan and its lesson of “love thy neighbour” were at the heart of Pope Francis’ catechesis during the General Audience on Wednesday 27 April. Below, we publish the Holy Father’s message to the English speaking pilgrims present in Saint Peter’s Square: Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In our catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we now turn to the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Jesus had taught the great commandment of love for God and neighbour.  In reply to the question: “Who is my neighbour?”, he recounts the story of the priest and the levite who pass by a man in need at the side of the road.  Their religiosity is ultimately inauthentic, for it does not find expression in service to others.  Love, the Lord tells us, is never abstract or distant; it “sees” and it responds.  The compassion shown by the Samaritan is an image of the infinite mercy of God, who always sees our needs and draws near to us in love.  The command to love God and neighbour, then, is supremely practical; it entails caring for others even to the point of personal sacrifice.  By the end of the parable, we see that the “neighbour” is not so much the man in need, but rather the one who responded to that need with compassion.  Jesus tells all of us to be neighbours in this sense: “Go and do likewise”.  He himself is the model of the Good Samaritan; by imitating his love and compassion, we show ourselves truly to be his followers. I greet the English-speaking visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the pilgrims from England, Sweden, Slovakia, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, the Philippines, Canada and the United States of America.  In the joy of the Risen Lord, I invoke upon you and your families the loving mercy of God our Father.  May the Lord bless you all! (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis: Clericalism distorts the Church

Tue, 04/26/2016 - 09:26
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Tuesday that the clergy should serve lay people and not make use of them and spoke out against clericalism, calling it one of the greatest distortions affecting the Church in Latin America. His comments came in a wide-ranging letter reflecting on the role of the laity that was addressed to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.  The Pope’s letter was a follow-up to the commission’s recent Plenary Assembly whose theme was “the indispensable role of the lay faithful in the public life of Latin American countries.” In his letter, Pope Francis explained that he wished to follow-up the discussions and reflections that emerged during the Plenary Assembly in order to prevent them "from not bearing fruit."  He urged the clergy to look closely at the people and lives of the lay faithful and avoid falling into the trap of adopting certain slogans on their behalf that seem well-meaning but in practice don't succeed in supporting the lives of our communities. Pointing to the example of a famous phrase “it’s time for the laity,” he noted that in this particular case, that clock has ground to a halt. We must remember, he said, that as clergy we all began our lives as lay people and that “we’d do well to recall that the Church is not an elite of priests, of consecrated people, of bishops but all of us make up the faithful and Holy People of God.” Turning to the issue of clericalism, the Pope said he considered it the outcome of “a mistaken way of living out the ecclesiology proposed by the Second Vatican Council” and described clericalism as “one of the greatest distortions affecting the Church in Latin America.”  He said clericalism has many negative impacts such as wiping out the personality of Christians and causing a belittling of the grace of our baptism that the Holy Spirit has placed in the hearts of lay people. Clericalism, he reminded, “forgets that the visibility and the sacramentality of the Church belong to all the people of God and not just to an illuminated and elected few.” On the positive side, Pope Francis noted that Latin America is characterized by many examples of popular ministry and piety, saying it is one of the few spaces where the laity (including their pastors) and the Holy Spirit have been able to come together without clericalism which he said “seeks to control and put a brake on this anointment by God of the faithful.” He warned that this popular ministry “has its limits” and can sometimes lead to distortions of religion but said if it is "steered properly" it can generate many excellent human values such as generosity, devotion, sacrifice and openness to others.  Pope Francis spoke of the importance of giving encouragement and support to the efforts of the lay faithful who work in the public sphere but at the same time stressed “it is not the job of the pastor to tell the lay people what they must do and say” in those situations, adding “they know more and better than us.” “It’s illogical and even impossible,” he continued, “for us as pastors to believe that we have the monopoly on solutions for the numerous challenges thrown up by contemporary life.” In conclusion, the Pope reiterated that the lay faithful are the protagonists of the Church and the world and stressed that “we are called to serve them, not to make use of them.” Listen to this report by Susy Hodges:  (from Vatican Radio)...

The Pope celebrates the Jubilee for Boys and Girls and asks them not to be content with a mediocre life- Happiness is not an app

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 07:28
“Your happiness has no price. It cannot be bought: it is not an ‘app’ that you can download on your phones”. This was Pope Francis’ admonition to the thousands of young people gathered in St Peter’s Square on Sunday morning, 24 April, to celebrate their Jubilee Mass, which was the culmination of the three Jubilee days attended in Rome by adolescents from around the world. With a simple and direct homily, with a wealth of ideas and references to the everyday experiences of the young, Francis spoke again on the consignment of Christian love: not that “pie in the sky” love or that found in soap operas, he explained, but the “genuine love” that Jesus teaches about. This love, the Pontiff underscored, “is not an easy path. It is demanding and it requires effort”, but in the end “it makes us happy”. Above all, from the Pope’s standpoint, love means giving: “not only something material, but also something of one’s self: one’s own time, one’s friendship, one’s own abilities”. It is a matter of being able to “love without being possessive”, letting others be free and witnessing first hand the freedom of “being able to choose the good”. It is a commitment to make “courageous and noble choices”, not accepting “mediocrity” and to foster “responsibility” After the Mass, at the Regina Caeli the Pope renewed the appeal for the bishops, priests and religious, both Christian and Orthodox, who are sequestered in Syria. Later in the afternoon, the Pope went to Villa Borghese to meet with leaders of the Mariapolis in Rome organized by the Focolare Movement, where he spoke about the need to have mercy in relationships with others. He spoke of forgiveness in a video message sent on Saturday evening to the young people gathered in Rome’s Olympic Stadium for an evening of celebration and testimony. To sixteen of them in that morning, the Pope had administered the Sacrament of Confession in St Peter’s Square....

Pope writes back to prisoners in Velletri

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 07:15
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to prisoners detained in a prison in the Italian city of Velletri, a short distance from Rome. Prisoners at the facility had written to the Holy Father earlier this year, entrusting their letter to Bishop Marcello Semeraro, the Bishop of Albano, during a pastoral visit to the facility. In his response, Pope Francis thanked the detainees for thinking of him, and assured them that they, and others in similar situations, were often in his thoughts as well. He noted that during his Apostolic Voyages, he always tries to make a visit to local prisons. The Pope noted that during the Holy Year of Mercy, there will also be a jubilee for prisoners, and he assured them that on that day he would be “in communion” with all prisoners “spiritually and in reciprocal prayer.” Pope Francis also expressed his sympathy, noting that prisoners “are living an experience in which time seems both to be stopped, and to never end.” But, he said, “the true measure of time is not that of the clock”; rather, “the true measure of time is called hope.” He expressed his desire that all those incarcerated might “always keep lit the light of the hope of faith to illuminate” their lives. “Always be certain that God loves you personally,” the Pope wrote to the prisoners. He encouraged them to never allow themselves to be closed in by their past, but rather to transform the past “into a journey of growth, of faith and charity.” He called on them to “give God the possibility” of making them “to shine” through their experience, recalling that many saints throughout history “have achieved sanctity” in harsh and difficult situations. “With Christ,” he said, “all this is possible.” (from Vatican Radio)...

In Burgos the Beatification of Fr Valentín Palencia Marquina- Martyred for being a priest

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 06:41
“Killed because he was a priest”. This was the real reason for the martyrdom of Fr. Valentín Palencia Marquina (1871-1937), who was assassinated along with four young lay people: Donato Rodríguez García, Germán García García, Zacarías Cuesta Campo, and Emilio Huidobro Corrales.  Their only fault was wanting to defend the faith and share the fate of their father, teacher and friend. Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, recalled the event of the five martyrs on the occasion of their beatification. The Cardinal, as Pope Francis’ representative, presided at the Rite on Saturday morning, 23 April, in the Cathedral of Burgos, Spain. “Cognizant of the imminent danger, the martyrs, before the massacre”, the Cardinal said, “prayed much, in order to prepare themselves for death with a meek and forgiving attitude”. They made “no act of rebellion”. He then shared details of the final moments of Fr Valentín’s life: he managed to preserve a consecrated host in his pocket, as the viaticum for his meeting with the Lord....

Cardinal Turkson: "Pope Francis is not anti-business"

Mon, 04/25/2016 - 06:16
(Vatican Radio) The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson, on Monday addressed a conference on “Care for our Common Home in the context of Large Scale Investments in Mining and Agriculture” in Lusaka, Zambia. His speech was entitled “An Overview of Laudato si’ – What are the main issues and key concerns?” During his remarks, Cardinal Turkson said Pope Francis “is not anti-business.” “But what he decries is an obsession with profit and the deification of the market,” –  the Cardinal explained – “Profit has its role in sustaining an enterprise and allowing it to improve and innovate. Pope Francis calls upon business to lead by harnessing its creativity to solve pressing human needs.”   The full text of Cardinal Turkson’s speech is below "Care for our Common Home in the context of Large Scale Investments in Mining and Agriculture” Popularisation of Laudato si’ Conference The New Government Complex, Lusaka, 25-26 April 2016   An Overview of Laudato si’ – What are the main issues and key concerns? Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson      President Introduction   Warm greetings to you from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. With gratitude to the Zambian Bishops’ Conference for sponsoring this conference popularising Laudato si’. This very important encyclical touches on timely issues of the natural and social environment, as well as fundamental issues of faith, economy, natural resources, development, progress and lifestyle. Thank you for inviting us to reflect deeply on Care for our Common Home in the context of large scale investments in agriculture and mining. This Conference draws participants from the Church, relevant government institutions, the private sector in mining and agriculture, concerned organizations of civil society, and many key stakeholders. Pope Francis himself offers us a quick review of the encyclical. Let us watch his short video now – it takes just a minute and a half! [1] Let me please suggest the take-aways,to keep in mind throughout today’s discussions: Our nature is created by God and surrounded by the gifts of creation Our failures are that we over-consume and that we do not share the gifts of creation This has dire consequences for the poor and the planet And so it is urgent that we change our sense of human progress, our management of the economy, and our style of life. Such change is going to require major shifts in our thinking and commitments – indeed, a conversion of groups and institutions at every level, from local communities to global humanity. These take-aways represent the major strokes of Laudato si’ in which Pope Francis does three essential things: He links the vulnerability of the poor and the fragility of the environment. In response to these immense inter-twined challenges, he proposes the social teaching of the Church in the form of a new integral ecology to reduce our footprint and reverse the deterioration of the natural and social environment . He makes an urgent appeal for a new dialogue about how to shape the future of our planet. Such dialogue must include ecological conversion, an education in ecological citizenship and an ethical and spiritual itinerary . He shows profound trust in humanity’s ability to respond and expresses real hope that we can work together to rebuild our common home.   I. Catholics and Creation The Catholic doctrine of creation does not regard the world as an accident. Our planet, indeed the universe, is an intentional act of God that is provided to human beings as a gift. Creation is not just passing from nothing to many things, a lot of “stuff” getting made. Rather, creation is the first step in the great human vocation of creation, incarnation, redemption. Humanity is not an afterthought. God did not have two agendas: first the world and then humanity. Man and woman are made in the image and likeness of God, they are an intrinsic part of the universe, and their vocation is “to till and to keep” it all. But tilling and keeping cannot include domination and devastation -- lest we till too much and keep too little! These make a mockery of dignity and respect of God’s gifts . We are called to participate in ongoing creation and in its ongoing redemption . In this light, we should find it easy to understand the concerns of Pope Francis for the poor and for nature. He is not offering worldly advice on how to be prudent and practical, although his message has immense practical consequences. Rather, he is reminding us of: the basic consequence of creation, which establishes a three-fold level of relationship for the human person: with God the Creator, with other human persons in a bond of fraternity. and with the world as the garden-home for our existence, and  the basic demands of our vocation to participate in God’s work as co-creators, and so our responsibility for the work of God who does not hide his face from any aspect of creation, poor or rich, natural or human. Here is how Laudato si’ presents these ideas. The second Chapter of Laudato si’ recounts the creation story and asserts its moral implications. Pope Francis articulates the “tremendous responsibility” (§90) of humankind for creation, the intimate connection among all creatures and the fact that “the natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone” (§95).The collective good and the responsibility of all: these are the essential elements of his insistent message about the moral dimension of how we treat nature and the rest of creation. But the relationship with nature does not stand alone; it is intertwined with other dimensions. In the Bible, “the God who liberates and saves is the same God who created the universe, and these two divine ways of acting are intimately and inseparably connected” (§73). The story of creation is central for reflecting on the relationship between human beings and other creatures. “These accounts suggest that human life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin” (§66). Sin breaks the equilibrium: harmony and communion of all creation. Thus, Pope Francis writes: “The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; 'she groans in travail' (Rom 8:22)” (§2). These are strong words. The Holy Father wishes to end our sometimes sinful relationships with nature Thus, even if “we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures” (§67). Human beings have the responsibility to “‘till and keep’ the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15)” (§67), knowing that “the ultimate purpose of other creatures is not to be found in us. Rather, all creatures are moving forward, with us and through us, towards a common point of arrival, which is God” (§83). Where does this leave us? Dominion must not be absolute domination. Other creatures have their own dignity and purpose. As we search for the right balance, we must avoid two pitfalls. One would be to regard everything as fundamentally the same and “deprive human beings of their unique worth and the tremendous responsibility it entails”. The other would be to fall prey to “a divinization of the earth which would prevent us from working on it and protecting it in its fragility” (§90). This brings Pope Francis to certain virtues and attitudes that are most appropriate to our relationship with creation. Being so connected to all living things, we must accept that “every act of cruelty towards any creature is ‘contrary to human dignity’” (§92). Moreover, “a sense of deep communion with the rest of nature cannot be real if our hearts lack tenderness, compassion and concern for our fellow human beings” (§91; also §2 and §217). What is needed is the awareness of a universal communion: all are “called into being by the one Father. All of us are linked by unseen bonds and together form a kind of universal family, a sublime communion which fills us with a sacred, affectionate and humble respect” (§89). II. Catholics and Care: Capitalism in Laudato si' Let us turn now from creation to care for creation , and care for our common home . A great innovation of Pope Francis is that he advocates something more than stewardship. In Laudato si’ he uses the word “steward” only twice, and instead speaks about care. It is in the title, “Care for our Common Home,” and is repeated dozens of times.   Care goes further than “stewardship”. Good stewards take responsibility and fulfil their obligations to manage and to render an account. But one can be a good steward without feeling connected. If one cares , however, one is connected. To care is to allow oneself to be affected by another, so much so that one’s path and priorities change. Good parents know this. They care about their children; they care for their children, so much so that parents will sacrifice enormously—even their lives—to ensure the safety and flourishing of their children. With caring, the hard line between self and other softens, blurs, even disappears.   Pope Francis proposes that we think of our relationship with the world and with all people in terms of caring . Jesus teaches this when he calls himself the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11-15). Caring for our common home requires, as Pope Francis says, not just an economic and technological revolution, but also a cultural and spiritual revolution—a profoundly different way of living the relationship between people and the environment, a new way of ordering the global economy.   To speak in this way locates Laudato si’ in the great tradition of Catholic Social Teaching. 125 years ago, Pope Leo XIII responded to the res novae or “new things” of his time, when the industrial economy was only a century old and posed many dilemmas, especially for workers and families. Similarly, 50 years ago, in the era of newly independent nations emerging in the 1960s, Pope Paul VI took up the issue of the development of the human person and nations, whole and entire, in his encyclical letter, Populorum Progressio. Development, for Blessed Paul VI, was the new name of peace! So too, Pope Francis is responding to the “new things” of our day, when a post-industrial, globalized economy is posing many challenges for humanity and for the planet.   The key principles of our Catholic Social Teaching ground the messages of Laudato si’.   The world’s economy must meet the true needs of people for their survival and integral human flourishing. This is a matter of respect for human dignity and a recognition of the common good . We must make objective moral judgments in this regard. This is especially important in today’s globalized economy, which seems to demand free rein for capitalism to achieve monstrous wealth-accumulation while ignoring human dignity and the common good.   How does capitalism relate to the common good ? In fact, neither Evangelii Gaudium nor Laudato si’ mentions capitalism . Instead, Pope Francis joins Blessed Paul VI, St John Paul II and Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in asking deeply, “What is development? What is progress?” He also examines many market issues, and these point to common good versus narrow interests. If participants in the market were truly moral actors, motivated by the pursuit of virtue, and if trade was fair and free, markets would promote healthy competition, creativity and innovation. They would have the happiness and flourishing of people as their goal. [2] Now, however, “Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products,” Pope Francis says, “people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending… When people become self-centred and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume.” (§203-4) And so, for Pope Francis, "The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast" (§217).   How do technologies contribute to the common good ? The Encyclical gratefully acknowledges the tremendous contribution of technologies to the improvement of living conditions. Yet it also warns about the misuse of technology, especially when it gives “those with the knowledge, and especially the economic resources to use them, an impressive dominance over the whole of humanity and the entire world” (§104). Moreover, markets alone “cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion” (§109).   Solidarity with all, especially the marginalized and the poor, is a hallmark of our Holy Father’s papacy, and it marks the Encyclical as well. The text speaks with great compassion of dispossession and devastation suffered disproportionately by the poor, vulnerable and those who are unable to protect themselves or escape. Pope Francis embraces all people. “Let us not only keep the poor of the future in mind, but also today’s poor, whose life on this earth is brief and who cannot keep on waiting” (§162).   Solidarity must also apply between generations: “we can no longer speak of sustainable development apart from intergenerational solidarity” (§159). The Pope’s key question for humanity is put in intergenerational terms: “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to children who are now growing up?” (§160).   Human dignity underpins the Encyclical’s extensive treatment of “The need to protect employment” (§124-29). Work is a noble and necessary vocation: “Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfilment” (§128). Work is how human dignity unfolds while earning one’s daily bread, feeding one’s family, and accessing the basic material conditions needed for flourishing every day. Further, it should be the setting for rich personal growth, where many aspects of life enter into play: creativity, planning for the future, developing our talents, living out our values, relating to others, giving glory to God.   Universal destination of the goods of the earth . In the reality of today’s global society, it is essential that “we continue to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone,” [3] no matter the limited interests of business and economic reasoning that excludes the human and social costs (§127). It is wrong when some businesses simply replace workers with machines on the basis of efficiency and utility, viewing human beings as interchangeable with machines as mere factors of production . Clearly, the drive is to gain still more profit, but at the cost of less and less decent work. Do individuals thrive from being unemployed or precariously hired? Of course not. Does society benefit from unemployment? Of course not. In fact, we witness far too many people everywhere who cannot find reliable, worthwhile and fulfilling work. We should not be surprised when unscrupulous people with demented fantasies recruit such idle individuals into criminality and violence.   God has exercised subsidiarity by entrusting the earth to humans to keep, till and care for it; this makes human beings co-creators with God. Work should be inspired by the same attitude. If work is organized properly, and if workers are given proper resources and training, their activity can contribute to their fulfilment as human beings, not just meet their material needs. It can uphold the full human dignity, the integral human development, of workers. The principle of subsidiarity is a mirror of God’s relationship to humanity. [4]   Proper exercise of care (practices of stewardship) keeps the natural environment and human systems sustainable . The problem, Pope Francis notes clearly, is that the logic of competition can promote short-termism, which can lead to financial failure and devastation of the environment. “We need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals” (§190).   The Holy Father is not anti-business. But what he decries is an obsession with profit and the deification of the market. Profit has its role in sustaining an enterprise and allowing it to improve and innovate. Pope Francis calls upon business to lead by harnessing its creativity to solve pressing human needs. “More diversified and innovative forms of production which impact less on the environment can prove very profitable (§191) as well as sustainable.   God is the Creator of all—the entirety of creation, all people, all goods. Justice requires that the goods of creation be distributed fairly. This constitutes a moral obligation, even a commandment, for Pope Francis. “Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labour is not mere philanthropy,” he said last July in Bolivia. “It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: it is a commandment. It is about giving to the poor and to peoples what is theirs by right. The universal destination of goods is not a figure of speech found in the Church’s social teaching. It is a reality prior to private property. Property, especially when it affects natural resources, must always serve the needs of peoples.” [5]   Justice must also reign when the burden of environmental rehabilitation is taken up. Those who have contributed most to greenhouse gas emissions and have benefitted most from the industrial period, should now take the lead and contribute more to the solution than those whose standard of living is just beginning to rise. An important step is to be ever more honest about so-called externalities or spill-over effects, since finally nothing falls outside of the accounts of our one shared common household.   To sum up, care integrates these principles and applies them to our global economic, environmental and social situation. Last week at the United Nations, I presented the Holy See’s views on the Sustainable Development Goals to be achieved by 2030. The Holy See believes that the 2030 Agenda needs more than public financing; it also requires financing and investment in accordance with value-based criteria by private investors, as a necessary complement to public finance. All stakeholders need to engage in ethical financial activity to eliminate social inequality and to develop an ambitious new agenda to better “ care for our common home ” . Indeed, we are called “ to care ” even when dealing with finance. Ethically irresponsible financial activity produces social inequalities. When we cast aside anything precious in the world, we destroy part of ourselves too, because we are completely connected. By caring, we are inspired to practice responsible finance and promote value-based investing in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. [6]   III. Caring for Creation in Agriculture and Mining   Agriculture   There are few human activities more fundamental than agriculture. Cultivation and domestication are ancient in origin, and now we rely on sustainable agriculture to feed and nourish the world’s people. This is more important than ever in a world of over 7 billion people. The Sustainable Development Goal # 2, for example, calls explicitly for the world community to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.” Goal 12 calls for “sustainable consumption and production patterns.” And Goal 15 calls for the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems.   Sustainable agriculture represents the deepest level of integral ecology. We are asked to nourish and sustain the earth, so that it can in turn nourish and sustain us. If we despoil the earth, we end up hurting our fellow human beings, especially the poor. The challenges are enormous. In today’s world, about a billion people go hungry and another billion lack vital micronutrients – while 30-40 percent of all food is wasted. To feed the more than 7 billion people alive today – which will rise to 9 billion by mid-century—we need to make sure that agriculture is productive and sustainable.   If we fail to make investments in sustainable agriculture, we are not performing our sacred duty to the poor and to future generations. As Pope Francis put it, “Let us not only keep the poor of the future in mind, but also today’s poor, whose life on this earth is brief and who cannot keep on waiting” (§162).   But we face a double-edged sword. Thanks to the green revolution and the use of fertilizers, crop yields have risen from the range of one half to one ton per hectare to about 3 to 5 tons per hectare. And one reason why sub-Saharan Africa lags behind is deficient soil nutrients – crops yield only between one and one and a half tons per hectare. But excessive use of fertilizers also leads to grave ecological damage. These chemicals can poison the soil and hurt biodiversity. Agriculture is a major emitter of greenhouse gases. Agriculture often adds to the depletion of freshwater resources. And agriculture is often the main rationale for deforestation.   This can become a vicious cycle. Just as agriculture can harm the environment, environmental change can in turn hurt agriculture. For example, as the earth warms due to climate change, the first casualty will be crop productivity, especially in arid regions like the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. [7] And as Pope Francis notes, “greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food” (§31).   Sustainable agriculture is therefore one of humanity’s most important problems, and also one of the toughest. Solving it means improving the ability to grow food by being more productive in poorer regions, while at the same time respecting the rhythms of nature and not despoiling creation. But the solution cannot be purely technocratic. It cannot embody the “technocratic paradigm” that Pope Francis warns us about. It also requires solidarity between the richer and poorer countries, and it requires more sober lifestyles, and far less food waste among the affluent—and more attentiveness to the impact of their actions on the planet and the poor. As Pope Francis noted, “whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor” (§50).   For Pope Francis, the solution includes respecting, and investing in, small-scale agriculture—in systems that can end hunger, support dignity, and protect the environment. I will quote him on this: “There is a great variety of small-scale food production systems which feed the greater part of the world’s peoples, using a modest amount of land and producing less waste, be it in small agricultural parcels, in orchards and gardens, hunting and wild harvesting or local fishing. Economies of scale, especially in the agricultural sector, end up forcing smallholders to sell their land or to abandon their traditional crops. Their attempts to move to other, more diversified, means of production prove fruitless because of the difficulty of linkage with regional and global markets, or because the infrastructure for sales and transport is geared to larger businesses. Civil authorities have the right and duty to adopt clear and firm measures in support of small producers and differentiated production” (§129). That means that public authorities with the common good in mind must direct the legitimate tools of business, such as capital investment and responsible governance, to create the conditions for sustainable agriculture. The purpose: not so that a few can make colossal profits, but that all may live in dignity. “Agriculture in poorer regions can be improved through investment in rural infrastructures, a better organization of local or national markets, systems of irrigation, and the development of techniques of sustainable agriculture” (§180).   Mining   The case of mining is quite different from agriculture. If agriculture is about cultivating and caring for the land, mining is about extracting resources—typically in pursuit of profit, often short-term profit divorced from the common good. Pope Francis is clear about this: “The earth’s resources are also being plundered because of short-sighted approaches to the economy, commerce and production.” (§32)   In Laudato si’ , Pope Francis discusses the important idea of an ecological debt: “A true ‘ecological debt’ exists, particularly between the global north and south, connected to commercial imbalances with effects on the environment, and the disproportionate use of natural resources by certain countries over long periods of time.” (§51) It is too often the case that multinational corporations outsource not only economic activity, but they ‘outsource morality’ too—by treating the host countries in ways they would not treat their home countries, with often devastating impacts on the environment. Unfortunately, many of the culprits are in the mining sector: “The export of raw materials to satisfy markets in the industrialized north has caused harm locally, as for example in mercury pollution in gold mining or sulphur dioxide pollution in copper mining.” (§51)   Given this stark indictment, can we say that mining is an ethical industry? The answer is yes—it can be and it must be! The key is to intervene in nature with an ethic of care rather than a mentality of disrespect, or even violence. These interventions cannot be based on short-term profit maximization. Rather, Pope Francis says, “only when ‘the economic and social costs of using up shared environmental resources are recognized with transparency and fully borne by those who incur them, not by other peoples or future generations’, can those actions be considered ethical.” (§195)   Along similar lines, he says the following: “In the face of possible risks to the environment which may affect the common good now and in the future, decisions must be made ‘based on a comparison of the risks and benefits foreseen for the various possible alternatives’. This is especially the case when a project may lead to a greater use of natural resources, higher levels of emission or discharge, an increase of refuse, or significant changes to the landscape, the habitats of protected species or public spaces” (§184).   All businesses, including in the mining sector, are called upon to support the common good by investing in sustainability. This is not just good for the planet, but it is a good investment for the business itself. As Pope Francis says, “efforts to promote a sustainable use of natural resources are not a waste of money, but rather an investment capable of providing other economic benefits in the medium term” (§191).   I should say a special word here about coal mining. Coal is the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, and it needs to be phased out. Laudato si’ is clear about this: “We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay.”(§165) Yet the transition to renewable energy needs to be based on justice—the miners, especially those who have no hope of finding alternative employment, must be cared for.   Both agriculture and mining   When it comes to both agriculture and mining, Pope Francis is acutely aware of the particular struggles faced by indigenous peoples. Too often “pressure is being put on them to abandon their homelands to make room for agricultural or mining projects which are undertaken without regard for the degradation of nature and culture” (§146). And what is true for indigenous peoples also applies to many, if not all, peasant producers and marginalized peoples.   At the end of the day, we need a global consensus that “could lead, for example, to planning a sustainable and diversified agriculture, developing renewable and less polluting forms of energy, encouraging a more efficient use of energy, promoting a better management of marine and forest resources, and ensuring universal access to drinking water” (§164).     IV. Conclusion   The core social message of Pope Francis is that humanity is a single family, and we all must care for the common home that we share. In that home entrusted to us by the Creator, we must not repudiate our Father’s love by telling our brothers and sisters to scavenge for food and clothing in garbage dumps. We must not repudiate our Father’s love by letting people lead unfulfilling lives while machines replace them in the work place.   Laudato si’ welcomes the environmental awareness growing world-wide, along with concern for the damage that is being done. And in spite of the enormous offenses committed by the privileged, the Pope keeps a hopeful outlook on the possibility of reversing the trend: “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home… Men and women are still capable of intervening positively… All is not lost. Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start”. These many expressions of hope are found throughout Laudato si’. [8] We have received the world as a garden-home; let us not bequeath a wilderness to our children and generations to come!   + + +     [1] http://thepopevideo.org/en/video/care-creation.html [2] Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759). See also Thomas Jefferson. [3] Caritas in Veritate, §32. [4] See Respect in Action: Applying Subsidiarity in Business, UNIAPAC & University of St Thomas, 2015. http://www.stthomas.edu/media/catholicstudies/center/ryan/publications/publicationpdfs/subsidiarity/RespectInActionFINALWithAcknowlCX.pdf [5] Pope Francis, Address to the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, 9 July 2015, §3.1 [6] P. Turkson, Statement of the Holy See in the High-Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, New York, 21.04.2016. [7] Jeffrey Sachs (2015). The Age of Sustainable Development . Columbia University Press. [8] Laudato si’, §§ 13, 58, 205. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope makes surprise visit to Rome's Villa Borghese

Sun, 04/24/2016 - 11:02
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis attended an event at Rome’s Villa Borghese this Sunday evening to mark Earth Day. The initiative entitled “Earth Village. Living the City Together. Rome in Mariapolis,” is sponsored by  Earth Day Italia, Connect 4 Climate and the Focolare Movement of Rome. According to the Focolare Movement, “the idea is to create a temporary village within the city, with the involvement of numerous initiatives which daily work to make the capital a better place in which to live, where each citizen or tourist, no matter their age, social class or culture, can experience their own irreplaceable contribution to the life of the city.” Pope Francis last year released his encyclical Laudato Si in which called on people to “care for our common home”. The Rome event comes just days after world leaders officially signed the Paris Agreement on climate, COP21. (from Vatican Radio)...

Regina Coeli: Pope prays for the release of priests and religious kidnapped in Syria

Sun, 04/24/2016 - 07:39
(Vatican Radio) During his Regina Coeli address on Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for the release of those priests and religious held hostage in Syria saying, "may the merciful God touch the hearts of the kidnappers". He also remembered young martyrs killed during the Spanish Civil War who were beatified in Burgos, Spain on Saturday. Below is an English translation of the Pope's words before and after the Regina Coeli At the end of this Jubilee celebration, my thoughts turn in a particular to you, dear boys and girls.  You have come from Italy and from all over the world to experience moments of faith and fraternal conviviality.  Thank you for your joyful and boisterous testimony.  Go forward with courage! Yesterday, in Burgos (Spain), saw the beatification of priest Valentín Palencia Marquina and four of his fellow young martyrs, killed for their faith during the Spanish Civil War.  We praise the Lord for these courageous witnesses and to beseech their intercession to free the world from all violence. I am always concerned about the brother bishops, priests and religious, Catholic and Orthodox, seized a long time ago in Syria.  May the merciful God touch the hearts of the kidnappers and grant that our brothers and sisters will be freed as soon as possible and allowed to return to their communities. This is why I call you all to pray, not to mention other people abducted in the world. Let us entrust all our aspirations and our hopes to the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy. Following the Regina Coeli Dear young people, you celebrated the Jubilee: Now return home with the joy of your Christian identity.  Standing, head held high, and with your ID card in your hands and in your heart!  May the Lord accompany you.  And, please pray for me. Thank you. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope to teens: Love is the Christian identity card

Sun, 04/24/2016 - 07:21
(Vatican Radio) At the heart of Pope Francis’ message during the Jubilee Mass for Teens celebrated on Sunday was quite simply one word Love. The Pope told the thousands of 13 to 16 year olds gathered in St Peter’s Square that “love, was the Christian’s identity card, the only valid “document” identifying us as Christians.  If this card expires and is not constantly renewed,” he said, “we stop being witnesses of the Master.” Then he asked the teenagers gathered “Do you want to experience the love of Jesus? Let us learn from him, for his words are a school of life, a school where we learn to love.” The Holy Father noted, however, that although love is beautiful and it the path to happiness it is not necessarily and easy path.  It is, he said, demanding and it requires effort.  Listen:  The Lord, Pope Francis stressed, is generous, “he offers us his faithful friendship, which he will never take back.  Even if you disappoint him and walk away from him, Jesus continues to want the best for you and to remain close to you; he believes in you even more than you believe in yourself.” This is very important, the Pope noted because, “the biggest threat to growing up well comes from thinking that no one cares about us, from feeling that we are all alone.” During his homily the Pope also warned the teens present to be on their guard against what he called “an instinctive desire to “have to have” what we find pleasing”, adding,  “our consumerist culture reinforces this tendency.” “Don’t be content with mediocrity, with “simply going with the flow”, with being comfortable and laid back,” the Holy Father said. He also told the teenagers to be sceptical about “people who want to make you believe that you are only important if you act tough like the heroes in films or if you wear the latest fashions.”  Your happiness, the Pope continued, has no price.  “It cannot be bought: it is not an app that you can download on your phones nor will the latest update bring you freedom and grandeur in love.” Pope Francis invited those present in St Peter’s Square to be courageous and firm in their decisions because, he said, it is only by doing this you will realize your greatest dreams, adding,  “if a person of your age can’t dream they are already in retirement, this serves nothing.” Love does not happen because we talk about it, the Pope underlined, “but when we live it”. He also said : "In the art of climbing, the important thing is not to remain on the ground when you fall.” The Holy Father concluded his homily by saying to the teenagers “you will do amazing things if you prepare well, starting now, by living your youth and all its gifts to the fullest and without fear of hard work.  Be like sporting champions, he said who attain high goals by quiet daily effort and practice.”   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pages