Updated: 2 hours 32 min ago
(Vatican Radio) The word “solidarity” maintains it “prophetic force” today, even though some people may have thought the term had seen its day, said Pope Francis on Saturday, during his message to members of the John Paul II Foundation.
Listen to the report by Laura Ieraci:
The foundation was established by papal decree in 1981 and carries out charitable work in the fields of education, science, culture and religion. It is based in the Vatican.
In his message, Pope Francis said the canonization of the late pontiff gave the foundation’s mission “a new impulse,” making it even “more universal.”
The foundation offers “a precious contribution” to the promotion of the “spiritual legacy” of Saint John Paul II, he added.
He thanked foundation members for their educational initiatives among youth – noting Saint John Paul II’s “great love for young people and special pastoral care for them” – allowing the late pontiff’s “charism and paternity (to) continue to bear fruit.”
The foundation’s formation opportunities also help to prepare priests and laity to “accompany communities faced with the cultural and pastoral challenges today,” the pope said.
“To this, you can also add the rich magisterium of social doctrine that Saint John Paul II left us, which is always actual,” he said.
One of the “key words” of social doctrine is “solidarity,” which is a word that perhaps some people thought had seen its day, said the pope. “But in reality, it retains today its prophetic force,” he said.
He urged the foundation’s members to “live this solidarity” among themselves and to nurture it with Christian fellowship, animated continually by prayer and the obedience to the Word of God.”
Learn more about the foundation at: http://www.fjp2.com/
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is praying for the victims of a major earthquake in Nepal. The major earthquake, which measured 7.9 on the Richter Scale, shook Nepal just before noon on Saturday, causing major damage to the densely-populated Kathmandu Valley. Officials fear hundreds of people have died. The quake’s epicenter was 80 km northwest of the country’s capital, Kathmandu. The quake toppled a 100-year -old temple, split roads, and razed houses and buildings. Among the damages is the Dharahara Tower, a national monument, built by Nepal’s royal rulers in the 1800’s. Officials estimate that at least 50 people are trapped inside the collapsed structure. The quake is reported to have caused avalanches in the Mount Everest region of the Himalayas and Tremors could be felt as far away in New Delhi in neighbouring India . Vatican Radio spoke with Fr Pius Perumana, an aid worker from Caritas Nepal in Kathmandu, who said many of the houses in the tightly packed city have collapsed and survivors need emergency medical care and shelter. “I managed to reach Kathmandu, though the roads were blocked…they are still searching for survivors. The reports are still coming in…The picture is not very clear,” he said. This is Nepal’s second-worst earthquake since 1934, when an 8.0-magnitude quake destroyed three cities: Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan. Listen to the report by Andrew Summerson:
(from Vatican Radio)...
In Padua, Cardinal Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Holy See, gave an insight into the current thougts of the Holy Father. Speaking at the inauguration of the academic year for the Theological Faculty of Triveneto in Padua, the Cardinal commented on recent issues and the Holy Father's thoughts and plans, particularly on terrorism, Africa, the Middle East, Cuba, the Armenian genocide, as well as on the dangers of fundamentalism.
Terrorism and the Vatican
On the recent revelation that the Vatican was an intended target of terrorists recently arrested in Italy, Cardinal Parolin commented that the “Pope is calm”, but for authorities “there is fear and it is proper, but there is not an exaggerated preoccupation with the issue and that certainly we need to be alert.” As a precaution all Vatican buildings are being guarded.
On Africa Cardinal Parolin said “after visiting Korea, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, late last year and early this year, the Pope would like to dedicate more attention to Africa,” and continued “plans are already underway to visit the continent, especially the countries that are currently faced with conflict and difficulty.”
“The Pope has asked that the forces of the so-called Islamic State be stopped,” Cardinal Parolin went on to continue, saying that the Pope “suffers to see the walls that have arisen between the communities in the Middle East,” and that the “ongoing conflicts run the risk of fragmenting the whole region.” The Cardinal also mentioned that “for this reason, the Holy See is working to guarantee constant communication and collaboration between the different communities and also to denounce the violence that is now a daily occurrence in the region.”
On the topic of Cuba the Cardinal said that “The Pope will go to Cuba during his planned visit to South America, especially because of the warming of relations after a long period of coldness and misunderstanding and conflict. However this process has just started and things are still fragile. It is not easy that after many years of non-communication and imcomprehension, to build a climate of mutual confidence.” Cardinal Parolin said that the Pope’s visit to the country will be an “encouragement of the process.”
With regards to the current issue of fundamentalism, the Cardinal commented that "Pope Francis speaks constantly on the dangers of fundamentalism, whether it is cultural, relgious or theological. With fundamentalism there is a grave threat to the political order because of the indefinite violence that it produces." The Cardinal concluded that "It is up to religious people to question themselves and to participate in the construction of peace."
The Armenia Genocide
Concerning the anniversary of the genocide in Armenia and the Pope’s comments, Cardinal Parolin said “the Pope spoke clearly and always in terms f reconciliation. When the Pope recalled the incident, it was not to elicit any animosity, but rather to approach the issues fairly, and attempt to find new ways of understanding and cooperation.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with the President of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman, who subsequently met with His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States.
A statement released by the Holy See Press Office called the meeting “cordial”, and noted the meeting took place on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the then-Czech and Slovak Federative Republic, which took place on 19 April 1990.
The statement said the two men spoke of their mutual willingness to strengthen the good bilateral relations, along with their hope of concluding negotiations with a view to stipulating a bilateral Agreement.
The Parties expressed their wish to further develop cooperation between Church and State in sectors of mutual interest, especially in culture, education and social welfare, for the benefit of the entire nation.
Attention then turned to the current international context, with special attention to the situation of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with the bishops of Namibia and Lesotho, who are in Rome on their ad limina visit.
“I give thanks, with you, to Almighty God for the continued witness and service of so many communities of religious brothers and sisters who are vital to the praying heart of the Church, along with the many committed sodalities and other lay associations in the Church in Lesotho and Namibia,” Pope Francis said. “For just as we have relied on them in building up the Church, both materially and spiritually, so now their role becomes ever more indispensable.”
The full text of Pope Francis’ speech to the Bishops of Namibia and Lesotho
Dear Brother Bishops,
I greet you, the pastors of Lesotho and Namibia, in the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, on your visit to pray at the threshold of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul. By this visit you express your desire to deepen the bonds of communion with the Successor of Peter and the See of Rome. I thank Archbishop Lerotholi and Archbishop Nashenda for their kind words offered on your behalf and in the name of all entrusted to your care.
You have come to Rome from the cities, towns and villages of Lesotho and Namibia, lands known for their flourishing Christian faith. The Holy Spirit planted the seeds of faith through the labours and sacrifices of many missionaries, who were sustained equally by generations of indigenous coworkers in the vineyards of the Lord. Your lands often presented great challenges, both environmental and social, but your Christian forebears persevered so that green shoots should spring up “like grass amid waters, like willows by flowing streams” (Is 44:4). From the deserts of Namibia to the high peaks of Lesotho, the tall tree of faith grew, giving God’s protection and shelter to many souls, nourished as it is by the waters of grace.
Your countries are rightly known for their churches and chapels, parishes, mission stations and outstations, which draw many to a community life centered on prayer and work. Renowned too are your numerous schools at every level, your clinics and hospitals, built with love and faithfulness from the materials of Namibia’s soil and Lesotho’s mountains. I encourage you to continue supporting and nurturing these great blessings, even when resources are sparse, for the Lord promises that he will not fail to bless us: “I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring” (Is 44:3).
I know that your communities face many challenges daily, and I am sure that this weighs heavily on your hearts. Strengthen them in love to overcome selfishness in private or public life; be generous in bringing them the tenderness of Christ where threats to human life occur, from the womb to old age – and I think particularly of those suffering with HIV and AIDS. In all of this, “for their formation in Christian virtues and their growth in holiness” (Africae Munus, 109) the faithful entrusted to your care will look to you and your priest coworkers. By your devotion to them, in turn, you will “not only win them to the cause of Christ but also make them protagonists of a renewed African society” (ibid.).
I think too of Christian families fragmented due to employment far away from home, or because of separation or divorce. I urge you to continue offering them help and guidance. Be of fresh resolve in preparing couples for Christian matrimony, and in constantly sustaining families by offering generously the Church’s Sacraments – ensuring in a particular way that the Sacrament of mercy is widely available. I thank you for your efforts in promoting healthy family life in the face of distorted views that emerge in contemporary society. May we all help to form families who can be purveyors of peace in the world; for “the family is the best setting for learning and applying the culture of forgiveness, peace and reconciliation” (ibid., 43).
From healthy families will come numerous priestly vocations, families where men have learned “to love inasmuch as they [have been] unconditionally loved... [having learned] respect... justice... the role of authority expressed by parents [and] loving concern for the members who are weaker” (ibid., 42-43). The children of such families will more readily be open to a life of unconditional service to the family of the Church.
In a time of an apparent decrease in vocations to the priesthood and to religious life, it is important to speak openly about the fulfilling and joyful experience of offering one’s life to Christ. For when your Christian communities are built up by your own continued example of “living in truth and joy your priestly commitments, celibacy in chastity and detachment from material possessions” (ibid., 111), then vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life will most certainly abound. Continue, too, the demanding work of guiding, with personal and paternal care, every vocation properly discerned as well as all your priests already ordained, so that with the nourishment of ongoing formation these coworkers in the Lord’s fields may be nurtured and sustained throughout their priestly lives. I ask you to convey to them my spiritual closeness and prayerful support.
Careful spiritual attention in developing pastoral plans needs to be offered to the poorest in your societies (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 33); I have found that “whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, then there will be no more place for the poor” (ibid., 2). I ask you to be particularly mindful of those most in need in your Churches, entrusting all your initiatives to God’s care, for he is “able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” (2 Cor 9:7). In living this way, you will help all the faithful discover the greatest richness: the love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
I give thanks, with you, to Almighty God for the continued witness and service of so many communities of religious brothers and sisters who are vital to the praying heart of the Church, along with the many committed sodalities and other lay associations in the Church in Lesotho and Namibia. For just as we have relied on them in building up the Church, both materially and spiritually, so now their role becomes ever more indispensable.
I urge you, finally, to persevere as men of deep and constant prayer, in the way of Blessed Joseph Gerard, who listened to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in all matters. Prayer precedes and leads to authentic evangelization. As you know from experience, when the Church summons all Christians to constantly take up anew the task of evangelizing the world, “she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment” (Evangelii Gaudium, 10); that is, she is showing us the path to our deepest happiness.
Dear Brothers, on returning home may you be like the tree planted by streams of water, yielding fruit in due season, whose leaves do not wither; may you prosper in all that you do (cf. Ps 1). May your visit here lead you to bring Christ’s healing mercy ever more abundantly to all for whom you have care.
Commending you and the faithful whom you serve in Lesotho and Namibia to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, who rekindles our hearts in service of her Son, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and joy in the Risen Lord. To him be glory for ever and ever.
From the Vatican, 24 April 2015
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Jesus never forgets the day we encountered Him for the first time; we should ask God for the “grace of memory” so that we can always remember it. That was the Pope’s hope for us in the homily at Mass on Friday morning at the Casa Santa Marta.
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
An encounter is the means chosen by Jesus to change lives. A good example of this is Paul of Tarsus, the anti-Christian persecutor who, by the time he reached Damascus, had already become an Apostle. Pope Francis spoke about the celebrated episode in the first reading of the day’s liturgy, and related it to the many encounters that appear in the Gospel narratives.
The first encounter
More precisely, Francis considered the “first encounter” with Jesus – the encounter that “changes the life” of those who meet Him: John and Andrew, who stayed with the Master throughout the night; Simon who immediately became “the rock” of the new community; and then the Samaritan, the leper who returned to thank Jesus for healing him, the sick woman who was healed when she touched Christ’s tunic: these, the Pope said, are decisive encounters that should prompt a Christian to never forget his own first encounter with Christ.
“He never forgers, but we forget the encounter with Christ. And this would be a good assignment to do at home, to consider: ‘When have I really felt that the Lord was close to me? When have I felt the need to change my life, or to become better, or to forgive someone? When have I felt the Lord asking something of me? When have I encountered the Lord?’ Because our faith is an encounter with Jesus. This is the foundation of our faith: I have encountered Jesus, as Saul did.”
Pope Francis said we should look inside ourselves sincerely and ask: “When did you say something to me that changed my life, or invited me to take a step forward in my life?”:
“This is a beautiful prayer, and I recommend saying it every day. And when you remember, rejoice in it, in that memory, which is a memory of love. One more beautiful assignment would be to take the Gospels and look at the stories there and see how Jesus encountered the people, how He chose the Apostles… So many encounters with Jesus are there. Maybe one of them is similar to mine. Each one of us has his own.”
Let us remember the first love
And we should not forget, the Pope said, that Christ intends the “relationship with us” in the sense of a predilection, a relationship of love “of you and for you”:
“Pray and ask for the grace of memory. ‘When, Lord, was that first encounter, that first love?’ – so that we might not hear the complaint the Lord makes in Revelation: ‘I have this against you, that you have forgotten your first love’.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the Holy See, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, has participated in a United Nations Security Council Open Debate on “The role of youth in countering violent extremism and promoting peace,” looking at the role of social media plays in the life of young people.
“Young people around the world can use the internet and social media to enter into contact, make friends and learn about the great cultures and traditions of other people in every corner of the world,” said Archbishop Auza. “Unfortunately, these great technological advances can also be manipulated to spread messages of hate and violence.”
He said the phenomenon of young people’s responding to the recruitment of those inciting them to engage in violent extremism develops within a context of disillusionment and missed opportunities, of socio-cultural identity crisis and failed integration, of alienation and dissatisfaction, of intergenerational break-up and broken families.
“A fundamental step in addressing the radicalization of young people is to work with and support the family in its efforts to educate children and young people in the values of dialogue and respect for others, to make them better equipped to resist what appear at first as attractive calls to a ‘higher cause’ and to ‘adventure’ with extremist groups,” he said.
The full text of the intervention by Archbishop Auza is below
Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations
Security Council Open Debate on “The role of youth in countering violent extremism and promoting peace”
New York, 23 April 2015
Your Royal Highness,
At the outset, let me congratulate Jordan for its Presidency during this month and, in particular, for scheduling this debate on the role of young people in countering violent extremism and promoting peace.
The ever-increasing globalization and technological interconnectedness have brought many benefits to our world today, but they have also created new and emerging challenges. Young people around the world can use the internet and social media to enter into contact, make friends and learn about the great cultures and traditions of other people in every corner of the world. Unfortunately, these great technological advances can also be manipulated to spread messages of hate and violence. Today’s debate allows us to examine more in depth how these harmful messages are finding new audiences and how States can work together to face the challenge.
The phenomenon of young people’s responding to the recruitment of those inciting them to engage in violent extremism develops within a context of disillusionment and missed opportunities, of socio-cultural identity crisis and failed integration, of alienation and dissatisfaction, of intergenerational break-up and broken families.
A fundamental step in addressing the radicalization of young people is to work with and support the family in its efforts to educate children and young people in the values of dialogue and respect for others, to make them better equipped to resist what appear at first as attractive calls to a “higher cause” and to “adventure” with extremist groups. The family is the first educator of children. If States really want to reach young people before they are exposed to extremist ideologies, they should “render appropriate assistance to parents…in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities.”1
1 Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 18.2.
Studies and events show that some governments tend to avoid frank and constructive conversations on the question of radicalization. Hiding the problem, however, is counterproductive. Fostering public debate, on the other hand, can encourage young people to ventilate their frustrations before they succumb to extremist ideologies, and can assist the State to articulate policies accordingly. Failure to bring the problem into public discussion may imply disinterest, fear or both, while encouraging debate will ordinarily promote collective confidence and deeper mutual knowledge among the various ethnic or racial, and religious components of society. This dialogue can lead to the formulation of government policies of which all members of the society can claim collective ownership, and offer young people convincing counter-narratives to extremist propaganda.
Indeed, balanced public policy plays a key role in facilitating a solid integration of immigrants in society as citizens. Policies that discourage xenophobic or racist perceptions are much needed, and contribute to the observance of healthy religious and socio-cultural values.
Religion constitutes a potent part of these value systems. Policies and education that seek to minimize or eliminate the faith component of individual and collective identities could leave the young disoriented, alienated, marginalized or excluded, and prone to the message of extremist groups. There is no doubt that the catchwords and slogans used by extremist groups to recruit young people often involve distorted religious and socio-cultural values.
Unemployment and despair also lie behind the vulnerability of many young people towards the propaganda and manipulations of extremist recruiters. Idle minds and hands are highly vulnerable to extreme ideologies. Thus, global economic inequalities and the marginalization and exclusion from development to which they lead are not only a grave social and economic concern, but can become a threat to international peace and security. Thus, achieving social justice is key to counter the phenomenon of young people’s joining extremist organizations.
Your Royal Highness,
In our fight against extremist ideologies and in our efforts to promote a culture of peace, young people themselves are a most precious resource. We can counter extremist recruiters by promoting voices that are trusted and respected among their peers, in the very platforms they use to recruit new members, like the social media.
Faith leaders and organizations must condemn messages of hate in the name of religion and provide young people with the religious formation that fosters understanding and respect between peoples of different faiths. People of faith have a grave responsibility to condemn those who seek to detach faith from reason and to instrumentalize faith as a justification for violence. As Pope Francis emphasized during his visit to Albania on 21 September 2014, no one should consider oneself “to be the 'armour' of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!”
Thank you, Your Royal Highness
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Monsignor Guillermo Karcher is an Argentinian priest and pontifical usher and has known the Pope for over 20 years. It was he who held Pope Francis’ microphone when he addressed his first words to the world from the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica following his election.
In an interview with Vatican Radio marking the Pope's name-day of Jorge or George, Monsignor Karcher described the Pope as a modern- day St. George because "he is a great fighter against the forces of evil and does this with a truly Christian spirit." Monsignor Karcher said Pope Francis showed the same strength and same characteristics when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires where he sowed good in order to fight evil and was much loved by his flock.
Despite the Pope’s huge popularity, Monsignor Karcher was asked if Francis gets upset when criticisms are levelled against him, including from those within the Catholic Church. He replied saying that the Pope responds to such criticisms by laughing and saying “OK, it’s better that we know what people are like.” He says this reaction is due to Pope Francis’ freedom of spirit and his interior strength. The Pope, he continued, is carrying forward a ministry entrusted to him for the good of the Church and the world and he does it with a tranquil heart and a feeling of certainty. He also has a strong spirituality and every morning dedicates two hours to prayer and reflection.
Asked what greeting or wish he would like to give the Pope on his name-day, Monsignor Karcher said he hopes the Holy Father will continue to be himself, with his consistency and his transparency because "he is doing so much good." I hope, he concluded, that St. George protects him and that he continues "this battle for good, by sowing the good that he is already doing."
Listen to the report by Susy Hodges:
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Here in the Vatican we are marking Saint George’s Day in a special way. Yes, Cardinal Bergoglio may have taken the name Francis as Pope but his Christian name is Jorge, George to you and me. That’s why we've chosen to bring you a timely reflection for his Feast day on the 23rd of April. Especially as in England our patron Saint is Saint George. One who's most often depicted as a soldier fighting a dragon to save someone else's life.
Monsignor Peter Fleetwood reflects for us on the meaning of this symbolism explaining how dragons may be mythical animals, but myths contains symbols and symbols sum up some aspect of life that is very important or powerful: " I suspect the dragon represents evil in any form. Some people may not like to hear this , but the dragon may represent evil people".
Listen to Monsignor Peter Fleetwood in a programme presented and produced by Veronica Scarisbrick for the series "Why Bother? Staying Catholic despite it all.." :
We would have to apologise to the Chinese in this respect, Father Peter Fleetwood specifies, for according to an ancient tradition they believe dragons are symbols of good, so exactly the opposite. But this is no Chinese story for as he tells us here in the West : "The dragon is a symbol of the power evil people can wield in this world. They can force good people into submission and either damage them or humiliate them or lead them astray. This is a frightening reality, and it is a reminder that sometimes goodnes and holiness mean bravery in the face of wickedness. At a baptism, the new Christian is exorcised, not because she or he is possessed , but because the Christian Church recognises where human power runs out and we simply have to rely on God. Saint George is a reminder that we need help to survive when evil is about. It may be a naive symbolism, but the pictures and statues of Saint George are all about the battle between good and evil. They also heark back to what Jesus said about his sheep. He was there to protect them , because they needed protection. Saint George is a reminder that sometimes good people are called upon to bother to be brave and offer that protection in place of Jesus".
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Cuba ahead of his visit to the United States in September 2015.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Father Lombardi said, "I am able to confirm that the Holy Father Francis, having received and accepted the invitation from the civil authorities and bishops of Cuba, has decided to pay a visit to the island before his arrival in the United States for the trip announced some time ago."
The visit to Cuba is especially significant in light of the role played by Pope Francis in diplomatic negotiations between the United States and Cuba. Leaders from both nations have publicly thanked Pope Francis for his aid in negotiations.
Pope Francis will be the third Pope to visit Cuba. In 1998, Saint John Paul II made the first papal visit to the island nation, meeting Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Later, in 2012, Benedict XVI also visited Cuba.
Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba will precede his journey to Philadelphia in the United States for the World Meeting of Families. During his Apostolic Voyage, the Holy Father will also visit Washington, D.C. and New York City.
No other details of the Holy Father's planned visit to Cuba have been released.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed to mankind not manipulate or exploit the planet.
Speaking at the end of the weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square the Pope noted that on April 22 we celebrate Earth Day.
“I exhort everyone to see the world through the eyes of God the Creator: the earth is an environment to be safeguarded, a garden to be cultivated” he said.
Francis continued: “The relationship of mankind with nature must not be conducted with greed, manipulation and exploitation, but it must conserve the divine harmony that exists between creatures and Creation within the logic of respect and care, so it can be put to the service of our brothers, also of future generations”.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family, focussing again on the complementarity of men and women.
Pope Francis commented on the second account of the creation of man in Genesis (following his commentary at the previous audience on the first account of man’s creation. The first man, Adam, is created “alone” – and God determines to make for him “a helper suited to him.” When the first woman is presented to the man, he recognizes in her “bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.” Finally there is a mirroring, a reciprocity,” the Pope said. “The woman is not a ‘replica’ of the man; she comes directly from the creative act of God. The image of the ‘rib’ does not in any way express inferiority or subordination, but on the contrary, that man and woman are of the same substance and are complementary.”
God is generous to the man and the woman, confiding the care of the earth to them. But, the Pope said, the “evil one” introduced “suspicion, disbelief, and mistrust” in their minds – and ultimately led them into the first sin.
“The sin generates distrust and division between the man and the woman,” Pope Francis said. “Their relationship will be undermined by a thousand kinds of abuse and subjugation, of deceitful seduction and demeaning humiliations, up to the most dramatic and violent.” He spoke about “the negative excesses of patriarchal cultures… the multiple forms of ‘machismo’… the instrumentalization and commodification of the female body in the current media culture.” But he also warned about “the recent epidemic of distrust, of scepticism, and even of hostility that is spreading throughout our culture – in particular stemming from an understandable diffidence on the part of women – regarding a covenant between man and woman at once of achieving the intimacy of communion and of safeguarding the dignity of difference.”
If we cannot generate sympathy for the covenant between men and women, Pope Francis said, children will be increasingly uprooted. “The social devaluation of the stable and generative covenant of the man and of the woman is certainly a loss for everyone,” he said. “We must recover the honour of marriage and the family.” Pope Francis continued, “the safekeeping of this covenant between man and woman, is therefore for us believers a challenging and exciting vocation” in today’s world.
The Pope concluded his catechesis with the image, from Genesis, of God clothing Adam and Eve after their sin. “It is an image of tenderness towards the sinful couple that leaves us open-mouthed with wonder. It is an image of paternal safeguarding of the human couple. God Himself cures and protects His masterpiece.”
Below please find the English language summary of the Pope’s catechesis during Wednesday’s General Audience:
Dear Brothers and Sisters: Continuing our catechesis on the family, we recall God’s creation of man from the ground. He is placed in the garden, where he is to care for creation. Yet God sees that man is alone, and so he creates woman, someone complementary with whom man can share his life. Man and woman are created to live a life of reciprocity, to enter into a covenant together. Yet sin introduces discord into their relationship, lack of trust and suspicion. We see throughout history the fruit of this sin, especially towards women – oppression, violence and exploitation. Most recently, this mistrust and scepticism has led our culture to disregard the marriage covenant between a man and a woman, that covenant which deepens communion and safeguards the dignity of their uniqueness. When the stable and fruitful covenant between a man and a woman is devalued by society, it is a loss for everyone, especially the young. For all our sins and weaknesses, our vocation is to care for the covenant of marriage. It is a vital and energizing vocation, through which we cooperate with our heavenly Father, who himself always cares for and protects this great gift.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio)The Holy See on Tuesday expressed its deep concern at the “total lack of progress” of the negotiations between Palestine and Israel.
“As was recognized on that occasion, Israel has genuine and legitimate concerns for its security; however, such security will come not in isolation from its neighbors, but in being a part of them through a negotiated peace with the Palestinians through the implementation of the ‘Two-State Solution’, which has the support of the Holy See and of the international community in general,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.
“The Holy See joins its voice once more with all people of peace to call for serious and concrete negotiations that will reinvigorate the peace process,” he said.
Archbishop Auza was speaking during a United Nations Security Council Open Debate on the Middle East.
The Archbishop also condemned - “in the strongest terms” - all attacks and abuses in the region based on ethnic, religious, racial or other grounds.
The full text of Archbishop Auza’s intervention is below
Intervention of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio and Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN
United Nations Security Council Open Debate on
“Middle East, including the Palestinian Question”
New York, 21 April 2015
My delegation wishes to express its profound appreciation for the decision of Jordan’s Presidency this month to hold this Open Debate on the “Middle East, including the Palestinian Question.”
The Holy See is deeply concerned at the total lack of progress of the negotiations between Palestine and Israel. It is difficult not to share the frustration expressed by the then UN Special Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process, Mr. Robert Serry, during his last Security Council briefing on March 27 last.
As was recognized on that occasion, Israel has genuine and legitimate concerns for its security; however, such security will come not in isolation from its neighbors, but in being a part of them through a negotiated peace with the Palestinians through the implementation of the “Two-State Solution”, which has the support of the Holy See and of the international community in general. The Holy See joins its voice once more with all people of peace to call for serious and concrete negotiations that will reinvigorate the peace process.
The Holy See does not cease to encourage the leaders of Lebanon to resolve the impasse that has prevented the election of the President since May 2014, by putting aside narrow political interests for the sake of the greater good of a unified Lebanon. This institutional void makes the nation more vulnerable and fragile in the face of the overall situation in the Middle East. The international community must support Lebanon in every way to reacquire institutional normalcy and stability. It must also help it care for the huge number of refugees in its territory, which has created a situation that carries the danger of extremist infiltrations among the hapless refugees.
The conflict in Syria, as Baroness Valerie Amos defined it in her Security Council briefing last March 26, has reached “breathtaking levels of savagery.” The indiscriminate destruction of basic infrastructure, such as water and electricity facilities, hospitals and schools worsens the plight of civilians each passing day. The fall of Idlib, just 37 miles southwest of Aleppo, has sown panic among Aleppo’s population of more than a million people. The ethnic and religious minority groups are particularly anguished. The Holy See calls on the international community to prevent the enormous humanitarian disaster that a siege on and battle over Aleppo will surely provoke. We must do all we can to prevent yet another gross violation of international humanitarian law and of fundamental human rights.
The Holy See reiterates its condemnation in the strongest terms of all attacks and abuses based on ethnic, religious, racial or other grounds. It wishes to remind once again that the disappearance of ethnic and religious minority groups from the Middle East would not only be a religious tragedy, but a loss of a rich patrimony that has contributed so much to the societies to which they belong. That these groups are threatened with extinction causes unfathomable anguish and pain.
Last month in Geneva, before the UN Human Rights Council, 65 countries signed a Statement supporting the human rights of Christians and other communities, particularly in the Middle East. That Statement calls attention to the fact that the instability and conflict in the Middle East seriously threatens the very existence of many religious communities, especially the Christians. It calls on all States to join together and address this alarming situation.
When we call to mind those who have already lost their lives or those who have already been driven out of their homes and even out of their own countries, any action would already be coming too late. But from now on every action to spare even just one person from persecution and from all forms of atrocities is not only timely but urgent.
Pope Francis calls on the international community “not [to] remain mute and inert before such an unacceptable crime” and “not turn a blind eye to this.”1 To watch in complicit silence the horrors of our fellow human beings persecuted, exiled, killed, burned, and beheaded, solely because they hold a different religious creed or they happen to belong to a minority group, can never be an option.
Thank you, Madam President
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Reinhard Marx has said the European Union “cannot remain unmoved” by the tragedy of over 800 migrants drowning on Saturday, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean seeking a better life in Europe.
Listen to our report:
Cardinal Marx serves as the President of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE).
In a statement released ahead of Thursday’s EU emergency summit on the migration crisis, Cardinal Marx said leaders “can no longer postpone indefinitely” tackling the problem.
“Politics in Europe has often deplored the deaths of refugees without drawing conclusions,” Cardinal Marx said. “This tragedy now pushes European countries to take drastic measures against this dramatic situation. Europe’s response will be a litmus test for European values.”
Full statement of the President of the Commission of the Bishops' Conferences of the European Union (COMECE), Cardinal Reinhard Marx, on the tragedy in the Mediterranean.
“We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a vast cemetery!” This was the call of Pope Francis to the European States, in his address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 25 November 2014, in which he encouraged “mutual support” and warned for the risk of “particularistic solutions”. The tragic drowning of an estimated seven hundred migrants in the waters of the Mediterranean on Saturday night not only recalls the Pope’s appeal but raises questions as to how seriously the European Union considers the values, so often referred to, on which it is founded. The recent disaster in the Mediterranean represents a defeat for everything that makes the European Union a community of values.
Now that the figures were revised upward, it appears that much more than 1,000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in the last 10 days. The EU cannot remain unmoved by this human catastrophe. It is clear that the EU attracts refugees, it is also clear that traffickers exploit the willingness of EU border control to rescue their victims, and it is regrettable that sufficient action is not being taken in their countries of origin to counter the reasons which make them feel they must leave. But all this does not justify us in ignoring the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean and which the European Union is facing. Politics in Europe has often deplored the deaths of refugees without drawing conclusions. This tragedy now pushes European countries to take drastic measures against this dramatic situation. Europe’s response will be a litmus test for European values. If the EU gives serious credit to its convictions, it will choose to reinstate the instruments of "Mare Nostrum" and expand the mission "Triton" on the protection of the EU's external borders. The rescue of lives in the Mediterranean cannot remain a mere political issue. This is a real human duty and a requirement of the moral aspiration of Europe.
It is absolutely true that, on Monday at an extraordinary joint meeting, the EU Foreign and Home Affairs Ministers reacted to the tragic events in the Mediterranean and that President Tusk has convened a special meeting of the European Council. I welcome the commitment by the Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs Ministers to reinforce measures in response to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean and to increase the budget for missions in this area. However, this announcement will need practical follow-up at the meeting of the Heads of State and Government on Thursday: Europe must now work to find concrete proposals for the establishment of human asylum and migration policies supported and implemented in solidarity by all member states of the European Union. Every reasonable step must be taken to avoid a tragedy such as Saturday’s ever occurring again! The Heads of State and Government can no longer postpone indefinitely the problematic of migrants as soon as the current tragedy disappears from the headlines.
Our prayers are for the victims of this disaster and their families. We do not pray with our eyes closed, rather but with eyes opened to those in need.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican and the United Nations Children’s Fund on Tuesday signed an agreement aimed at working more closely together to reach out to some of the most disadvantaged young people in the world.
The executive director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, met with Pope Francis at the Casa Santa Marta to sign the agreement of cooperation with Scholas Occurrentes, an organization launched by the Pope during his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires. The initiative uses sports, technology and art to promote social integration and a culture of encounter amongst disadvantaged young people.
A second agreement was also signed between Scholas Occurrentes and the South American Football Confederation [CONMEBOL] By working closely together, these organizations aim to “provide adolescents with the tools, information and comprehension they need to become citizens who can participate fully in their societies and in the world.” Young people between the ages of 10 and 19 years old represent about 20% of the world’s population. The majority of them live in developing countries.
Speaking with Vatican Radio after the signing ceremony, UNICEF’s Anthony Lake stressed the importance of connecting innovative youth with their likeminded peers to create a culture of “Youth for youth” encounter…
Listen to the interview by Mercedes De La Torre of Vatican Radio’s Latin American section:
Adolescence is a crucial moment, the age of risk but also a time of opportunity, he says. Young people who learn to work together and solve common problems are developing skills that will more than help build a better future for themselves.
Lake explaines that the two organizations will explore new ways in which they can mobilize social networks and social movements in favor of the most disadvantaged children. They will also explore other opportunities for collaboration, centering around world events for youth, such as the Social Impact of Youth Summit at the 2015 Summer Special Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
This is not the first time that Pope Francis has highlighted the role which sport can play in the lives of young people from difficult backgrounds. During a meeting with the Italian and Argentine national football teams in the Vatican in August 2013, the Pope reminded them that “Football players are often looked up to by young people” and he urged them to be good role models for their fans.
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS) says it’s outrageous that there is no shared EU responsibility for the refugees trying to reach Italy. The Academy also said there is an urgent need to set up a world anti-trafficking agency. The comments came at a press conference held in the Vatican by leading members of PASS at the end of their 5-day plenary meeting whose theme was “Human Trafficking: Issues Beyond Criminalization.
Human trafficking is a huge global phenomenon that is worth a staggering 150 billion dollars and experts say the age of the trafficked victims is getting younger and younger. The President of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences is Margaret Archer who told journalists that the PASS members discussed how to prevent the crime of human trafficking, by tackling the twin issues of supply and demand for sex workers and forced labour. She spoke to Susy Hodges.
Listen to the interview with Professor Margaret Archer, President of PASS:
Asked about what steps need to be taken to reduce demand for prostitutes and forced labourers, Archer said there’s a need to embark on a process in which the clients of brothels and the companies using forced labour become socially stigmatized by harnessing the power of the social media such as Facebook to spread messages against these practices, especially among the young and students in schools. She compared it to the successful actions which have been taken against smokers and especially the ban on smoking in public places over the past decades which have led to a sweeping change in behaviour.
“We can send out messages that using prostitutes isn’t cool and…. that “it messes up your cool image.”
(from Vatican Radio)...
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis today said that “ours is a Church of martyrs”.
Speaking during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta the Pope recalled the many Christians who are currently being persecuted and killed for their faith.
Drawing inspiration from the First Reading of the Act of the Apostles which tells of the stoning and martyrdom of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, the Pope remembered “our brothers whose throats have been slit on the beaches of Libya”, he spoke of “the young boy who was burnt alive by his companions because he was Christian”, he recalled “the migrants who were thrown from their boat into open sea” because, they too, were Christians.
Martyrs – Pope Francis said – do not need “other bread”, their only bread is Jesus, and Stephen – he explained – did not have the need to negotiate or find a compromise with those who put him to death.
And reflecting on the reading the Pope pointed out that Stephen’s witness was such that his persecutors ‘covered their ears and rushed upon him together.’
Just like Jesus – he explained – Stephen had to deal with false witnesses and the anger of the people. Stephen – he said – reminded the elders and the scribes that their ancestors had persecuted other prophets for having been true to God’s Word, and when he described his vision of the heavens opening “and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” they did not want to listen but threw him out of the city and began to stone him:
“God’s Word is always rejected by some. God’s Word is inconvenient when you have a stone heart, when you have a pagan heart, because God’s Word asks you to go ahead trying to satisfy your hunger with the bread which Jesus spoke of. In the history of the Revelation many martyrs have been killed for their faith and loyalty towards God’s Word, God’s Truth”.
Pope Francis continued comparing the martyrdom of Stephen to that of Jesus: he too “died with that Christian magnanimity of forgiveness, praying for his enemies’.
And those who persecuted the prophets - the Pope pointed out – believed they were giving glory to God; they thought they were being true to God’s doctrine.
“Today – the Pope said – I would like to remember that the true history of the Church is that of the Saints and the martyrs,” of so many who were persecuted and killed by those who thought they possessed the ‘truth’- whose heart was corrupted by ‘truth’:
“In these days how many Stephens there are in the world! Let us think of our brothers whose throats were slit on the beach in Libya; let’s think of the young boy who was burnt alive by his companions because he was a Christian; let us think of those migrants thrown from their boat into the open sea by other migrants because they were Christians; let us think – just the day before yesterday – of those Ethiopians assassinated because they were Christians… and of many others. Many others of whom we do not even know and who are suffering in jails because they are Christians… The Church today is a Church of martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives and we receive the blessing of God for their witness”.
The Pope also pointed out that there are also many “hidden martyrs: those men and women who are faithful to the voice of the Spirit and who are searching for new ways and paths to help their brothers better love God”.
He said they are often viewed with suspicion, vilified and persecuted by so many modern ‘Sanhedrins’ who think they are the possessors of truth.
(from Vatican Radio)...
In a message sent to H.H.
Mathias, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo
Church, Pope Francis expressed “consternation and sorrow” for the countless
events of “shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya”,
following the dissemination of a video which showed the barbaric killing of 28
Ethiopian Coptic Christians. “I know that your
Holiness is suffering deeply in heart and mind, in view of your faithful,
killed for the sole reason of being followers of our Lord and Saviour Jesus
Christ. I address my heartfelt spiritual solidarity to you, to assure you of my
closeness in prayer amid the ongoing martyrdom being inflicted in so cruel a
manner upon Christians in Africa, in the Middle East and in some regions of
Asia”, Francis wrote. “It makes no
difference”, he continued, “whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or
Protestant. Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ! The
blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to
make itself heard by all those who still know how to distinguish between good
and evil”. And this cry, he added, “must be heard above all by those who hold
the fate of the peoples in their hands” Recalling that “in this period we are filled with the
Easter joy of the disciples to whom the women hastened to proclaim that “Christ
has risen from the dead”, the Pontiff acknowledged that “this year, our joy,
which never fails, is eclipsed by profound sadness”. Yet, he affirmed “we know
that the life we live in the merciful love of God is stronger than the sorrow
that all Christians are feeling, a sorrow shared by men and women of good will
in all religious traditions. During the Mass celebrated at Santa Marta on Tuesday morning, 21 April, Pope
Francisrepeated that “today the Church
is the Church of martyrs”, addressing a thought to “the Ethiopians assassinated
for being Christians” and to all believers who in various parts of the world
are victims of violence and persecution. Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of
the Congregation for the Eastern Churches also spoke of “martyrs”, condemning
themost recent event of chilling
Church is the Church of martyrs”. And among these martyrs are “our brothers
whose throats were cut on the beach of Libya; that young man burned alive by
companions for being a Christian; those immigrants on the high seas thrown
overboard for being Christians; those Ethiopians assassinated for being
Christians”. In the chapel of Casa Santa Marta on Friday morning, 21 April,
recounting the story of the first martyr, St Stephen, Pope Francis recalled the
many present-day martyrs: including those whose names we do not know, who are
suffering in prisons or who are defamed and persecuted “by so many modern
Sanhedrins”, or for living “the faith within their own family”. The Pontiff began his homily by
pointing out what all martyrs have in common: they are those “who in the
history of the Church bore testimony of Jesus” without having “need of other
bread: for them Jesus alone was enough, because they had faith in Jesus”. And,
Francis said, “today, the Church makes us reflect and offers us, in the Liturgy
of the Word, the first Christian martyr”, in the Acts of the Apostles, which
speak of St Stephen (7:51-8:1a). “This man did not hunger, he did not
need to turn to negotiations, to compromises with other types of bread, to
survive”, the Pope stated. With this manner “he testified of Jesus” until his
martyrdom. Referring to the previous day’s Liturgy of the Word, Pope Francis
recalled that “yesterday the Church began speaking about him: several‘Freedmen’ of the Synagogue, arose and began
to dispute with Stephen but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit
with which he spoke”. In fact, the Pope explained, “Stephen was full of the
Holy Spirit and spoke with the wisdom of the Spirit: he was powerful”. And thus
these people “instigated a few men to say that they heard him speak blasphemous
words against Moses and against God, and gave false testimony”. With these
accusations “they stirred up the people, the elders, the scribes: they came
upon him, they seized him and brought him before the Sanhedrin”. The Pope pointed out that “the story
of Stephen” is “curious” in that it follows “the same steps as that of Jesus”,
meaning the tactics of “false witnesses” were used in order to “stir up the
people and bring him to judgement. Today we heard how this story ends, because
in the Sanhedrin, Stephen explains the Gospel of Jesus, he gives a long
explanation”. However, his accusers “didn’t want to listen, their hearts were
closed”. Thus, “in the end, Stephen, with the power of the Spirit, tells them
the truth: ‘You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears’ — pagans,
in other words — ‘you always resist the Holy Spirit’”. “One of the characteristics of
stiff-necked people before the word of God” is “resistance to the Holy Spirit”,
the Pope explained, repeating the words of St Stephen: “As your fathers did, so
do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?”. Thus, Stephen
“recalled many prophets who had been persecuted and killed for being faithful
to the word of God”. Then, “when he confessed his vision of Jesus, which God
showed him at that moment”, and as Stephen was “full of the Holy Spirit, they
were scandalized and cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears”. This,
the Pope said, was a “real sign” that “they didn’t want to listen”. And thus,
“they rushed together upon him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned
him”. This has always been “the story of
martyrs”, even “those of the Old Testament, about whom St Stephen was speaking
in the Sanhedrin”. The problem is that “certain hearts never like the word of
God; the word of God is bothersome when you have a hardened heart, when you
have a pagan heart, because the word of God challenges you to go forth,
searching and being fed with that bread that Jesus spoke of”. “In the history of the revelation”,
Francis affirmed, there are “so many martyrs who were killed on account of
faithfulness to the word of God, to the truth of God”. Thus “Stephen’s
martyrdom really resembles Jesus’ sacrifice”. And as they stoned him, Stephen
prayed, saying: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”. How can one forget Jesus’
words on the Cross: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit”? Then, the Acts
of the Apostles tell us that Stephen “knelt down and cried with a loud voice,
‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’”. Again, Jesus said: “Father, forgive
them; for they know not what they do’”. Here is “that Christian magnanimity of
forgiveness, of praying for the enemy”. However, of “those who persecuted
the prophets, those who persecuted and killed Stephen and so many martyrs”,
Jesus said that “they believed they were giving glory to God, they believed”
that in doing so they were being “faithful to God’s teaching”. And, the Pope
said, “today I would like to recall that the history of the Church, the true
history of the Church, is the history of saints and martyrs: the persecuted
martyrs” and also the many who are “killed by those who believe they are
glorifying God, by those who believe they have the truth: corrupt hearts, but
the truth”. Even today, “how many ‘Stephens’
there are in the world!’”, the Pope exclaimed. He referred to recent accounts
of persecution: “Let us think of our brothers whose throats were cut on the
beach in Libya; let us think of that young man burned alive by companions for
being a Christian; let us think of those immigrants on the high seas who were
thrown overboard by the others for being Christians; let us think — the day
before yesterday — of those Ethiopians, assassinated for being Christians”. And
still, he added, “so many others that we don’t know, who suffer in prisons
because they are Christians”. Today, Francis continued, “the
Church is the Church of martyrs: they suffer, they give their lives, and we
receive God’s blessing through their testimony”. And then, “there are also
hidden martyrs, those men and women, faithful to the power of the Holy Spirit,
to the voice of the Spirit, who make way, who seek new ways to help their
brothers and sisters and to better love God”. And for this reason they “come
under suspicion”, they are “defamed, persecuted by so many modern Sanhedrins
who believe themselves masters of the the truth”. Today, the Pontiff stated,
there are “so many hidden martyrs”, and among them are many “who, for being faithful,
suffer greatly within their families,for their faithfulness”. “Our Church is the Church of
martyrs” Francis reiterated, before returning to the celebration of Mass during
which he said “the ‘first martyr’ will come to us, the first who bore witness
and, even more, salvation to all of us”. Thus, the Pope exhorted, “let us unite
with Jesus in the Eucharist, and let us unite with so many brothers and sisters
who are suffering the martyrdom of being persecuted, defamed and killed for
being faithful to the one bread that satiates, namely to Jesus”....
(Vatican Radio) The chairman of the Department of International Affairs in the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales has called for solidarity with Christians in the Middle East and North Africa region.
“Once more, it is with a sense of deep sadness and grief that we mourn the deaths of innocent Ethiopian Christian workers who were killed with such impunity by Daesh (ISIS) in Libya,” said Bishop Declan Lang, after hearing the news of the murder of innocent Ethiopian Christian workers in Libya.
“Our sorrow can easily spill into anger when thinking of the mounting number of victims of such men who clothe their actions with religion while murdering civilians across the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA),” he said.
“Daesh (ISIS) strategy is two-fold – on the one hand, they and their followers are executing their own warped version of Islam, on the other, they are trying - desperately in some cases - to enrage world opinion so that our reactions of anger and retribution would justify in their own minds their heinous crimes and lead to further deaths and executions,” continued Bishop Lang.
“Today, we pray for the repose of the souls of those innocent victims just as we prayed for the Coptic Christians who were killed in Libya too. We also pray for the families of those men who now have to cope not only with the loss of their loved ones, but also the loss of any economic support,” he added.
“Our Christian faith encourages us to stand in solidarity with all those vulnerable peoples and communities across the MENA that spurn merciless and ungodly ideologies,” concluded Bishop Lang. “We therefore also join our prayers to those of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and beseech the Almighty that He will show the killers the way of peace and reconciliation.”
(from Vatican Radio)...