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Pope's March prayer intention for researchers

12 hours 4 min ago
The general prayer intention of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, for the month of March is for researchers - that those involved in  scientific research may serve the wellbeing of the whole human person. Many people think that science and  religion are in conflict. There are many churchmen among outstanding scientists throughout history. 13th century English Franciscan friar Roger Bacon is regarded as one of the earliest European advocates of the modern scientific method.  Nicholas Copernicus is considered the founder of modern astronomy.  In 1933 Jesuit  Father Georges Lemaitre introduced the  “Big Bang” theory about the expanding  universe which he called the “hypothesis  of the primeval atom” or “Cosmic Egg.”  More than 40 lunar craters are named after  Jesuit astronomers.  Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel is regarded the founder of modern  genetics.  Science and the Church are not in conflict  because both seek the truth. However,  where science seeks the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of things, religion seeks the ‘why’. The ‘why’  is important because it ultimately guides  how we use the knowledge gained from  science. When science and technology are  not guided by the higher truths about the  dignity of the human person, they end up  causing more harm than good.  Pope Francis told the Pontifical Academy of  Sciences that when humanity acts without  wisdom, trying to take the place of God,  it ends up destroying creation. We are  co-creators, working with God to care for  creation according to the Creator’s plan.  Let’s therefore join Pope Francis in the month of March in praying for researchers that they may always  seek the entire truth and work for the  physical and spiritual well-being of all  people.   (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope urges co-ops to promote 'economy of honesty'

12 hours 51 min ago
(Vatican Radio) It was another lesson in the economic thought of Pope Francis. In an audience with members of the Confederazione Cooperative Italiane (confederation of Italian co-operatives) on Saturday, Pope Francis gave the 7,000 people present five practical suggestions for their mission in the context of the current “throwaway culture.” Listen: First, the Pope said, co-operatives must continue to be “the motor that uplifts and develops the weakest parts of our local communities and civil society.” The first priority is to establish new co-operatives, while developing existing ones, so as to create new employment opportunities, especially among youth, he said. Second, the Pope urged the co-op movement to be a “protagonist” in proposing new welfare solutions, particularly in the area of healthcare.  As a third point, he spoke of the economy and its relationship with social justice and human dignity.  Speaking of the need to “globalize solidarity,” he urged the confederation to bring co-operatives to the “existential peripheries” and to continue to be “prophetic” by “inventing new forms of co-operation.”  The Pope spoke of “a certain liberalism,” which “believes it is first necessary to produce wealth—and it does not matter how—to then promote some state redistribution policy.” Others think it is up to a company to “bestow the crumbs of accumulated wealth” to those in need to then, in turn, “absolve themselves” of “their so-called ‘social responsibility’,” the Pope said. “You run the risk of deluding yourself that you are doing good while, unfortunately, you continue only to do marketing,” without ever escaping the “fatal loop” of egoism, “which has the god of money at the centre,” he said. Instead, the co-operative creates a “new type of economy” that allows “people to grow in all their potential,” socially and professionally, as well as in responsibility, hope and co-operation, he said.  The Pope clarified that while he was not saying income growth is not important, it certainly “is not enough.” Fourth, he said, the co-operative movement can exercise an important role in sustaining, facilitating and encouraging family life, by insisting on work-life balance, which  would “help women to realize fully their own vocation and to put into practice their own talents.” In this way, he said, women are “free to be always greater protagonists, whether at work or in families.” Fifth, where few resources exist to start up  new projects, the Pope urged the co-op movement to “invest well,” in particular by putting together “good resources to realize good works.” He urged more collaboration among credit unions and co-op businesses and the establishment of resources “for families to live with dignity and serenity.” He also warned against money becoming an idol, citing St Francis of Assisi in calling it “the devil’s dung.” “When money becomes an idol, it controls man’s choices,” he said. “It makes him a slave.” He exhorted the co-operative movement to join the global economy to promote both "an economy of honesty" and "a healing economy." He urged them to exercise “the courage and the imagination to build a just path, so as to integrate development, justice and peace in the world.” He concluded by calling on the members of the Catholic confederation to maintain their Catholic identity and values in their current collaboration with other co-op groups in creating a large national association. “Live your alliance (with these other groups) as Christians, as a response to your faith and identity, without fear. Faith and identity at the base,” he said. “And this is also a Christian call to all,” he continued off-the-cuff. “Christian values not only for ourselves. They are to be shared. Share them with those, who do not think as we do but who want the same thing that we want.” Italy's church-based co-op movement began in the late 19th century, inspired by the encyclical Rerum Novarum , written by Pope Leo XIII.  The Confederazione Cooperative Italiane was first founded in 1919. It was suppressed by the Fascist Regime and re-established in 1945. (from Vatican Radio)...

Spotlight on the 2015 Lenten message of Pope Francis

16 hours 24 min ago
(Vatican Radio)  There was no weekly general audience this past week in the Vatican as Pope Francis was on his annual spiritual exercises with other members of the papal household. A  retreat which took place in the town of Ariccia, at the 'Casa Divin Maestro' centre, about 20 miles south of Rome.  Pope Francis stayed there along  with other members of the Roman Curia, from Sunday 22nd to Friday the 27th. But while there he knew he'd left us all a special Lenten message.  Monsignor Peter Fleetwood  comments on this document and its three phrases from Scripture. Listen to Monsig nor Peter Fleetwood in a programme presented and produced by Veronica Scarisbrick :  (from Vatican Radio)...

Fr Cantalamessa reflects on Evangelii Gaudium

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 08:22
(Vatican Radio) The preacher of the Pontifical Household, Father Raniero Cantalamessa, says the conversion that Jesus wants from us is not a step backwards but instead a leap forwards. Father Cantalamessa was speaking in his first meditation of Lent during which he reflected on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.  He said every baptized Christian is an active agent of evangelization and the ultimate purpose of that evangelization is a personal encounter with Jesus. Please find below a translation into English of Father Cantalamessa’s homily:   (Translated by Zenit news agency) First Lenten Homily 2015 “THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL FILLS THE HEART AND LIFE” Reflections on Pope Francis’ “Evangelii Gaudium” In this first meditation of Lent, I would like to take advantage of the Holy Father’s absence, to propose a reflection on his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which I would not have dared to do in his presence. Obviously, it will not be a systematic comment, but only a reflection together to make our own some of his qualifying points. 1.            The Personal Encounter with Jesus of Nazareth Written at the end of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, the Exhortation presents three poles of interest, which are intertwined: the subject, the object and the method of the evangelization: who must evangelize, what must be evangelized, how should one evangelize. In regard to the evangelizing subject, the Pope says that it is constituted by all the baptized: “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (Cf. Matthew 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals, while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized” (nr. 120). This affirmation is not new; it was expressed by Blessed Paul VI in Evangelii nuntiandi and by Saint John Paul II in Christifideles laici; Benedict XVI insisted on the special role reserved in it for the family.  Even before all this, the universal call to evangelization was proclaimed with the decree Apostolicam actuasitatem of Vatican Council II. I once heard an American layman begin his intervention on evangelization thus: “Two thousand five hundred Bishops, gathered in the Vatican, wrote to me to come to proclaim the Gospel.” All, of course, were curious to know who he was. And then he, who was also a man full of humor, explained that the two thousand five hundred Bishops were those gathered in the Vatican for the Second Vatican Council and who had written the document on the apostolate of the laity. He was absolutely right: that document was not addressed to all or to none; it was addressed to every baptized person and he took it, rightly so, as addressed personally to him. Therefore, it is not on this point that one must look for the novelty of Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium. He only confirms what his predecessors inculcated over and over. The novelty is to be sought elsewhere: in the appeal he addresses to the readers at the beginning of the letter and which, I believe, constitutes the heart of the whole document: “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not for him or her” (EG, nr. 3). This means that the ultimate purpose of evangelization is not the transmission of a doctrine, but an encounter with a person, Jesus Christ. The possibility of such a face to face encounter depends on the fact that Jesus, risen, is alive and desires to walk next to every believer, as he really walked with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; more than that, as he was in their very heart, when they returned to Jerusalem, after having received him in the broken bread. In Catholic language, “the personal encounter with Jesus” has never been a very familiar concept. Preferred instead of “personal” encounter was the idea of ecclesial encounter, which occurs, namely, through the sacraments of the Church. To our Catholic ears, the expression had vaguely Protestant resonances. Obviously the Pope is not thinking of a personal encounter that substitutes the ecclesial. He only wishes to say that the ecclesial encounter must also be free, willed, and spontaneous, not purely nominal, juridical or habitual. To understand what it means to have a personal encounter with Jesus, it is necessary to give a look, however rough, to the history of the Church. How did one become Christian in the first three centuries of the Church? With all the differences from individual to individual and from place to place, it happened after a long initiation, the catechumenate, and it was the fruit of a personal decision, moreover, a risky one because of the possibility of martyrdom. Things changed when Christianity became first a tolerated religion (Constantine’s Edict of 313) and then, in a brief time, a favored religion when not in fact imposed. At the beginning of the 5th century the Emperor Theodosius II issued a law according to which only the baptized could access public offices. Added to this is the fact of the Barbarian invasions that in a brief time changed completely the political and religious order of the empire. Western Europe became an ensemble of Barbarian kingdoms, in some cases with an Arian population, in the majority pagan. In the regions of the old empire (above all in the East and south central Italy) to become Christian was no longer the decision of the individual but of society, so much so that Baptism was now administered almost always to children. As regards the Barbarian kingdoms, the custom prevailed in them of following the decision of the head. When on Christmas Eve of 498 or 499 Clovis, King of the Franks, had himself baptized at Rheims by the Bishop, Saint Remy, all the people followed him. (It is the reason why France had the title “Eldest Daughter of the Church”).  Thus began the practice of mass baptisms. Well before the Protestant Reformation the norm : “Cuius regio eius et religio” was in progress: the religion of the king is also that of the kingdom. In this situation, the accent is no longer put on the moment or on the way in which one became Christian, namely on the coming to the faith, but on the moral exigencies of the faith itself, on the change of customs, in other words, on morality. Despite everything, the situation was less grave than might appear to us today because, with all the inconsistencies that we know, the family, the school, the culture and little by little also the society, still helped, almost spontaneously, to absorb the faith. Without counting that, since the beginning of the new situation, forms of life were born, such as monasticism and then various Religious Orders in which baptism was lived in all its radicalism and Christian life was the fruit of a personal, often heroic, decision. This situation so-called “of Christianity” changed radically and it is not the case here to pause to illustrate the times and ways of the change. Suffice it to know that it was no longer as it was in past centuries, in which the greater part of our traditions and our mentality itself were formed. The advent of modernity, initiated with humanism, accelerated by the French Revolution and the Enlightenment, the emancipation of the State from the Church, the exaltation of individual freedom and of self-determination and, finally, the radical secularization that has resulted, has changed profoundly the situation of the faith in society. Hence the urgency of a new evangelization, namely, of an evangelization that moves from bases that are different from the traditional ones and that takes into account the new situation. It is, in practice, about creating for the men of today occasions that enable them to take, in the new context, that free, personal and mature decision that Christians took at the beginning on receiving baptism, and that made them real, not nominal, Christians. 2.            How to respond to the new needs? We are not, of course, the first to pose the problem. Not to go too far back again, we recall the institution in 1972 of the Ritual of the Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), which proposes a kind of catechumenal path for the baptism of adults. In some countries with mixed religions, where many persons ask for the baptism as adults, this instrument has revealed itself of great efficacy. However, what should be done for the mass of Christians that are already baptized, who live as Christians purely in name and not in fact, completely estranged from the Church and from the sacramental life? The answer to this problem came more from God himself than from human initiative, and it is the innumerable ecclesial movements, lay aggregations and renewed parish communities, which appeared after the Council. The common contribution of all this reality, though in a great variety of styles and of numeric consistency, is that they are the context or the instrument, which allows so many adult persons to make a personal choice for Christ, to take their baptism seriously, to become active subjects of the Church. Saint John Paul II saw in these Movements and living parish communities “the signs of a new spring of the Church.” In Novo millennio ineunte he wrote: “Of great importance for communion is the duty to promote the various aggregative realities, whether in the more traditional forms, or in the newer ones of Ecclesial Movements, which continue to give to the Church a vivacity that is a gift of God and constitutes an authentic “spring of the Spirit.”   Benedict XVI expressed himself in the same way on different occasions. In the homily of the Chrism Mass of Holy Thursday of 2012, he said: “Whoever looks at the history of the post-Conciliar period can recognize the dynamic of true renewal, which has often assumed unexpected forms in Movements full of life, which render almost tangible the inexhaustible vivacity of the Holy Church, the presence and the effective action of the Holy Spirit.” 3.            The Gospel Fills with Joy the Heart and Life of the Believer However, we now turn to Pope Francis’ letter. It begins with the words from which the title of the document is taken: ‘the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. There is a connection between the personal encounter with Jesus and the experience of the joy of the Gospel. The joy of the Gospel is only experienced by establishing an intimate relationship, from person to person, with Jesus of Nazareth. If we do not want the words to remain only words, at this point we must ask ourselves a question: why is the Gospel a source of joy? Is the expression only a comfortable slogan or does it correspond to truth? In fact, still before: why is the Gospel called: euangelion, that is, happy news, beautiful, joyful news? The best way to discover it is to begin from the moment this word makes its first appearance in the New Testament, in fact, on Jesus’ lips. At the beginning of his Gospel, Mark summarizes in a few words the fundamental message that Jesus was preaching in the cities and villages where he went after his Baptism in the Jordan: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). At first sight this is not, in fact, “happy” news, joyful news. It sounds, rather, like a severe call, an austere appeal to change. It is proposed to us in this sense at the beginning of Lent, in the Gospel of the First Sunday, and by some it accompanies the rite of ashes on the head: “Repent and believe in the Gospel!” Therefore, it is vital to understand the true sense of this beginning of the Gospel.  The real meaning of the message of Jesus has been obscured because of an inexact translation of the original Greek word metanoeite. The Latin vulgate translated it with paenitemini  in Mark 1,15, and with paenitentiam agite in Acts 2, 38, that is, do penance. With this ascetic content the term has been received in the common language of the Church and its preaching, while the true meaning of the word is “repent”, “turn your mind around”, be aware of what is happening. Prior to Jesus, to convert meant always to “go back” (as the term itself indicates, used in Hebrew, for this action, namely the term shub); it meant to return to the violated covenant, through a renewed observance of the law. Through the mouth of the prophet Zechariah: “return to me […] Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds” (Zechariah 1:3-4; Cf. also Jeremiah: 8_4-5). Consequently to be converted had a primarily ascetic, moral and penitential meaning, and it was done by changing one’s conduct of life. Conversion was seen as a condition for salvation; the meaning was: be converted and you will be saved; be converted and salvation will come to you. This was, finally, the predominant meaning that the word conversion had on the lips of John the Baptist (Cf. Luke 3:4-6). However, on Jesus’ lips this meaning changed, not because Jesus enjoyed changing the meaning of the words, but because with him the reality changed. The moral meaning becomes secondary (at least at the beginning of his preaching), in regard to a new meaning, unknown until now. To be converted no longer meant to go back; it meant, rather, to take a leap forward and to enter, through faith, in the kingdom of God who came among men. To be converted is to take the so-called “decision of the hour,” in face of the realization of God’s promises. “Be converted and believe” does not mean two different and successive things, but the same action: be converted, that is, believe; be converted by believing!  Saint Thomas Aquinas also affirms this: “Prima conversio fit per fidem,” the first conversion consists in believing.  Conversion and salvation have exchanged places. No longer: sin – conversion – salvation (Convert and you will be saved; convert and salvation will come to you”), but, rather: sin – salvation – conversion (Convert because salvation has come to you”). Men have not changed; they are not better or worse than before; it is God who has changed and who, in the fullness of time, sent his Son, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Cf. Galatians 4:4). Many evangelical parables do no more than confirm this happy initial proclamation. One such is that of the banquet. A king gave a banquet for his son’s wedding. At the appointed time, he sent his servants to call the guests (Cf. Matthew 22:1 ff.). They had not paid the price before, as is done in social dinners. It is only a question of accepting or refusing the invitation. Another is the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus ends it with the words: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). However, in what did the conversion of the sheep consist? Perhaps it returned to the sheepfold on its own legs? No, the shepherd that went to bring it back brought it back to the sheepfold on his shoulders. All that it could do was to let itself be taken on his shoulders.   In the Letter to the Romans (3:21 ff.), Saint Paul is the indomitable herald of this extraordinary evangelical novelty, after Jesus made him experience the dramatic event of his life. He re-evokes the fact, which changed the course of his life, thus: “But whatever gain I had [to be circumcised, Jewish, irreproachable as to the observance of the law], I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness of God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:7-9). See why the Gospel is called Gospel and why it is source of joy. It tells us of a God that, out of pure grace, has come to meet us in his Son Jesus. A God who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Many remember from the Gospel almost solely Jesus’ phrase: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24) and they convince themselves that the Gospel is synonymous with suffering and self-denial, and not with joy. However, let us deepen the discourse: “follow me,” where? To Calvary, to death on the cross? No, this is the penultimate stage in the Gospel, not the last one. Follow me, through the cross, to the resurrection, to life, to joy without end! 4. Faith, Works and the Holy Spirit However, do we not in this way reduce the Gospel to a single dimension, to that of faith, neglecting works? And how can we reconcile the explanation just given with the other passages of the New Testament, where the word conversion is addressed to one who has already believed? To the Apostles who had been following him for so time, Jesus said one day: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). In Revelation, John repeats to each one of the seven Churches the imperative “be converted” (metanoeson), where the unequivocal meaning of the word is: return to the fervor you had at the beginning, be vigilant, do the works you did at first, stop indulging in the illusion of being all right with God, come out of your tepidness! (Cf. Revelation 2:3) The matter is explained with a simple analogy with what happens in physical life. The child can do nothing to be conceived in the mother’s womb; it is in need of the love of two parents who have given it life; however, once it has come to the light it must put its lungs to work, breathe, suck milk, otherwise the life it received is extinguished. Saint James’ phrase is understood in this sense: “faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26), in the sense, that is, that without works faith “dies.” This is also the sense that Catholic theology has always given to the Pauline definition of “faith that renders itself active through love” (Galatians 5:6). We are not saved by good works, but we are not saved without good works: thus we can summarize what the Council of Trent states on this point, and which the ecumenical dialogue renders ever more widely shared between Christians. Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation reflects this synthesis between faith and works. After having begun speaking of the joy of the Gospel that fills the heart, in the body of the letter he recalls all the great “no’s” that the Gospel pronounces against egoism, injustice, the idolatry of money, and all the great “yes’s” that it spurs us to say at the service of others, to the social commitment and to the poor. It demonstrates that the personal encounter with Jesus, of which he spoke to us at the beginning of the letter, is altogether different from an intimistic and individualistic experience; it becomes, on the contrary, the main spring for evangelization and personal sanctification.   However, the need for commitment, which the Gospel implies does not attenuate the promise of joy with which Jesus began his ministry and the Pope begins his Exhortation, rather, it reinforces it. That grace that God offered men sending his Son into the world, now that Jesus is dead and is risen and has sent the Holy Spirit, does not leave the believer alone prey to the exigencies of the law and of duty; but does in him and with him, through grace, what it commands him. It makes him “overjoyed also in tribulation” (2 Corinthians 7:4). It is the certainty with which Pope Francis concludes his Exhortation. The Holy Spirit, he reminds, “helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26) (EG, nr. 280.). He is our great resource. The joy promised by the Gospel is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:21), and it is not maintained except thanks to a continuous contact with him. At a recent meeting of leaders of the Charismatic Fraternity, Pope Francis used the example of what happens in human breathing.  It takes place in two phases: there is inspiration, with which one receives air and expiration, when air goes out. He said they are a good symbol of what should happen in the spiritual organism. Through prayer, meditation of the Word of God, the sacraments, mortification, and silence, we inhale the oxygen that is the Holy Spirit; we diffuse the Spirit when we go out towards others in the proclamation of the faith and in works of charity. The Lenten Season we have just begun is, par excellence, the time of inspiration. At this time, we take deep breaths; we fill the lungs of our soul with the Holy Spirit and thus, without our realizing it, our breath will have the scent of Christ. Good Lent to all!   (from Vatican Radio)...

​Pope Francis at the close of the Spiritual Exercises - With a piece of Elijah's mantle

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 06:39
The meditations this morning, Friday 27 February, in Ariccia were the last of the Spiritual Exercises in which the Pontiff and members of the Roman Curia participated. Meditations were led by Carmelite, Fr Bruno Secondin, in the chapel of the House of Divin Maesto belonging to the Pauline Fathers. At the end of his reflection Friday morning, Pope Francis wanted to thank the preacher. “On behalf of everyone, myself included,” the Pope said, “ I would like to thank the Father, for his work with us in the exercises. It isn't easy to lead priests in exercises! We are all a little complicated, but you managed to do some sowing. May the Lord make these seeds that you gave us grow. And I wish for myself and I wish for us all that we may leave here with a little piece of Elijah's mantle, in our hands and in our hearts. Thank you, Father”. The last stop of the itinerary of reflection and prayer proposed by Fr Secondin was centered on the biblical narrative in the Second Book of Kings (2:1-14) which describes Elijah's final farewell to his disciples and to Elisha, his ascent in the chariot of fire and the start of the mission of Elisha, who disrobes himself and puts on the mantle of his master and, on the River Jordan, he is recognized as the true heir of the prophet. It is an intense story, filled with tenderness, in which the characteristic hardness of Elijah melts a little. The Prophet learns in some way learns – and we too should learn, Fr Secondin suggested “to offer embraces of hope and tenderness” - from his disciple who is affectionate and patient....

Pope Francis returns to Vatican after Lenten retreat

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 05:41
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia have returned to the Vatican at the conclusion of their  5-day Lenten retreat held in the town of Ariccia near Rome. The spiritual exercises began last Sunday (February 22nd) and took place in the Casa Divin Maestro centre in Ariccia. In brief remarks at the conclusion of the retreat the Pope thanked Carmelite Father Bruno Secondin for leading the spiritual exercises with them.   Please find below a translation into English of the Pope’s remarks: “On behalf of all of us, I too would like to thank the father for his work among us during the spiritual exercises. It’s not easy to give exercises to priests, right?  We’re a bit complicated, all of us, but you succeeded in sowing seeds. May the Lord make these seeds that you have given us grow and I also hope that myself and all the others can leave here with a piece of Elijah’s cloak, in our hands and in our hearts. Thank you father!   (from Vatican Radio)...

Evangelical-Catholic relations Common witness and friendship

Fri, 02/27/2015 - 02:54
The consultation between the World Evangelical Alliance and the Catholic Church, which began in 2009, hopes to finalize an agreed statement when they meet later this year. The current round of consultation was planned by Cardinal Walter Kasper, then President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (pcpcu), Msgr Juan Usma, pcpcu staff member for relations with Evangelicals, and Dr Rolf Hille, Director for Ecumenical Affairs of the World Evangelical Alliance (wea). The wea draws together families of Evangelical Churches and Christians, and estimates that it has connections to approximately 600 million Christians. Given the number of Catholics and Evangelicals in the world today, this consultation is both urgently important and full of potential. It is the principal way in which Evangelicals and Catholics are in conversation on a global level. National and local dialogues or working relationships also exist in some parts of the world, while relations remain very poor in other places. At the international level, there have been two earlier phases of dialogue between Roman Catholics and Evangelicals. The first phase resulted in the 1984 report Evangelical-Roman Catholic Dialogue on Mission. The broad focus of the report was on the Christian mission, but it included initial treatment of a variety of theological points of tension, including the Scriptures, salvation, the Church, Mary and the saints, and the sacraments. A second phase of dialogue (1993- 2002) produced a report entitled Church, Evangelization and the Bonds of Koinonia. This document outlined an understanding of the church as communion or fellowship using the ecumenically rich theme of ‘koinonia’. On the basis of the degree of communion recognized, the dialogue moved to a consideration of the prospects for cooperation in witness and evangelization. The goal of the current round of consultation was to come to better understanding of each other, and to foster more efficient cooperation between Catholics and Evangelicals especially at the grassroots level. The 13 members of the consultation come from 10 different countries — Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Kenya, the Philippines, Spain, and usa. Canadian Catholic Bishop Donald Bolen, on the consultation, noted that “the dialogue has built on the experience of common witness and friendship which characterizes Evangelical-Catholic dialogue relations in some places, and has attended to places where those relations continue to be marked by tension and distrust. Many different voices have been given expression in our discussions”. Three principal themes have been taken up in the consultation: a mapping out of convergences on doctrinal foundations and moral questions which open the door to closer relations; the relationship between Scripture and Tradition and the authoritative roles of each in our respective communities; and the role of the Church in salvation. The consultation members noted that they were not in the business of compromise and negotiation; the way forward was to patiently map out convergences, and to engage in a respectful and frank conversation about remaining differences. Along the way, they developed a methodology which has proven helpful. Bolen noted, “our meetings involved presentations and discussions which we have tried to summarize by first articulating common ground; secondly, by naming aspects of the other tradition which give us encouragement, where we rejoice in seeing God at work, and where we may learn from the other; thirdly, we have asked each other questions, questions which linger at this point in our conversations. It is to be hoped that these questions will be our contribution to further rounds of consultation”. Rev. Dr Joel Elowsky, an Evangelical participant who is professor of historical theology in St Louis, usa, affirms that this process “has contributed to a level of trust and camaraderie that has allowed both sides to be frank and honest with one another. We continue to learn from each other and also gain further insight about each other that moves beyond stereotypes. Previous caricatures of the other dialogue partner have been shown to be too simplistic and often unfair. These discussions have enabled us to hear one another and to challenge some of our preconceived notions regarding issues that continue to divide us while seeking to chart a course forward”. It has been helpful for the consultation to meet in different places and to experience Evangelical-Catholic relations, which differ greatly from place to place, in various parts of the world. This round of consultations took place at São Paulo, Brazil (2009), Rome, Italy (2011), Wheaton/Chicago, usa (2012), Guatemala City, Guatemala (2013), Bad Blankenburg, Germany (2014), and the final meeting will take place at Saskatoon, Canada from 30 August to 4 September, 2015. The consultation also commissioned a survey to assess Evangelical-Catholic relations and attitudes towards each other in different parts of the world. Bolen summarized the situation of relations and the Evangelical-Catholic consultation as follows: “real differences remain between us. Yet the Lord prayed that his disciples would be one. It is in his name that we have been called into conversation, and called to live out the implications of that conversation. The unity that Jesus desires for his disciples is not a theoretical unity but a lived one. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we hope our consultation will help our communities to take some steps in that direction”....

Apostolic Nuncio in Syria says population feels abandoned

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 10:23
(Vatican Radio) Although he is in retreat in the hills of Rome, immersed in Lenten Spiritual Exercises, Pope Francis is following the situation in Syria with deep concern. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :  Speaking to Vatican Radio, Archbishop Mario Zenari, the Apostolic Nuncio in Damascus, says "the Pope is constantly adjourned of developments and his prayers are tuned to the suffering of the people". A three-day offensive this week has seen at least 220 people abducted by so-called Islamic State militants, most of them from Assyrian Christian villages in the north east. Not only the Christians are afraid - Archbishop Zenari says – and those who have the possibility to do so are fleeing the region. He says that the perception of the people is that they have been abandoned by the International Community because there have been no tangible changes to the situation as yet. Zenari expresses his belief that measures that have been undertaken to isolate the fundamentalists such as freezing bank accounts, cutting off provisions and fuel and tracking down potential Jihadists in Europe must continue.      The Archbishop describes the situation as one of the most serious humanitarian catastrophes after the Second World War, and he says: it is under the eyes of all! "The civil conflict must be halted but so must the advance of the so-called Caliphate" he says. Yes because, Zenari says, we are dealing with two different fronts: “the civil war front which has been going on for almost five years, a conflict which has killed over 200,000 people, has injured more than a million and displaced 11 million; and then there are all the terrible things that are happening in the areas under the control of the so-called Islamic State: two different fronts, the one worse than the other!” he says.   (from Vatican Radio)...

French finance expert wins “Centesimus Annus” Foundation Award

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 07:30
(Vatican Radio) French economist and author Pierre de Lauzun is the winner of this year’s “Economy and Society Award” of the Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontefice Foundation. He was selected in particular for his 2013 book dedicated to a Christian perspective of finance from medieval banking to contemporary financial models: "Finance. Un regard chrétien. De la banque médiéval à la mondalisation financière".   The prestigious international Award was announced today at a press conference in the Vatican. During the event presided over by jury members, the winners of the “youth” section of the Award were also announced along with their theses focusing on the importance and influence of the Social Doctrine of the Church on international relations, and on scientific debate. Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni :     Owing its name and birth to Saint John Paul II’s 1991 Encyclical “Centesimus Annus” – the Foundation’s main aim is to promote and raise awareness of Christian Social Doctrine among professionals whose work has an impact on society.       That’s why economist and banking expert Pierre de Lauzun’s three-part volume, with its reflection on the Holy Scriptures and economical issues; its spotlight on the contributions of Church Doctrine during the period of recent Popes in the area of finance; and its observations on the need for long-term vision, was the Jury’s prime choice for the 2015 Edition of the Prize. Luazun, who has worked for decades in the financial and banking sector, is described as a person who cannot be called a scholar who confines himself to the library, but rather a person who has enhanced his professional experience with deep political, cultural and religious expression. His award-winning book offers no easy answers, but underlines that rules imposed on the market with the ultimate task of ensuring the common good need to depend on the morality of the human agents, and that in the long term, morality allows for greater freedom. As explained on the Foundation's website: The Foundation “Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontifice" owes its name and birth to the Encyclical “Centesimus Annus” published by Pope John Paul II on May 1st, 1991.The connection reveals CAPP’s inspiring idea and purpose:heartfelt endorsement of papal social teachings and committed support to the Holy Father’s charitable initiatives.The Foundation chose to add the words “Pro Pontifice” out of admiration and gratitude for the Holy Father’s ministry as Teacher and Universal Shepherd.   The Foundation of religion and cult, established by His Holiness John Paul II on June 5th, 1993, is incorporated in the State of Vatican City and governed in accordance with the Church’s Canon Law, the Civil Law of Vatican City and its By-Laws. For more information on the Foundation click here .   (from Vatican Radio)...

Press Conference on the winners of the “Economy and Society” award

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 06:39
Vatican City, 26 February 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office the Foundation Centesimus Annus presented its activity during the past two years, its programmes and the names of the winners of the second edition of its the biennial international award, “Economy and Society”. The speakers in the conference were Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, president of the Foundation, Michael Konrad, secretary of the jury, Msgr. Giuseppe Antonio Scotti, a jury member and Alberto Quadrio Curzio, president of the scientific committee of the foundation and deputy president of the Italian Lincean Academy. The Foundation Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice, the president explained, was created by St. John Paul II in 1993, is managed by a council made up of nine laypeople and reports to the president of the APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See), currently Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, under the supervision of the Secretariat of State. Its main objective is to promote the Social Doctrine of the Church and it therefore invites the participation of businesspeople and professionals who acknowledge the principles of this Doctrine and of the papal Magisterium, and who wish to contribute to the creation of a new economic and social culture. Sugranyes Bickel emphasised that in these last two years the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice has worked in line with the themes of Pope Francis' 2013 address, in which he remarked that it was essential to “restore to this word 'solidarity', viewed askance by the world of economics – as if it were a bad word – the social dignity that it deserves”. Msgr. Scotti reiterated the importance of following Pope Francis' example in challenging the “deviant culture” that has reached the point of discarding people. “There are many who believe that the economy should assume the role of absolute producer of the aims and values to which every single aspect of the human dimension should be subject, justifying this with the fact that we live in a post-ideological, post-political age. Certainly, this would be an interesting aspect to analyse. … However, contemporary culture can also be analysed from the perspective of the Word of God. Considering that this award is assigned to authors who seek to contribute, through their studies, reflections and publications to learning anew how to take a scholarly view of the present and on the use of money, it seems appropriate to me to recall the words of the Qoheleth: 'Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless'”. The names of the recipients of the second edition of the award were then announced: Pierre de Lauzun, for his work “Finance: un regard chrétien. De la banque mediéval a la mondialisation financière”, a profound reflection on the morality that motivates financial markets, viewed in the light of the social doctrine of the Church, inviting consideration of an order other than that purely linked to profit, and emphasising that there is no form of financial operation that may be separated from social realities and moral needs. In the special section dedicated to young researchers of the social doctrine of the Church, the winner was Alexander Stummvoll, born in 1983, for his thesis “A Living Tradition. The Holy See, Catholic Social Doctrine and Global Politics 1965-2000”, presented in 2012 at the European University Institute, Florence, Italy. The study examines the Social Doctrine of the Church in international relations, referring to four major international issues that take a concrete event as a starting point. With reference to the war in Vietnam, he analyses the Holy See's commitment to peace; taking as a point of reference the Polish crisis before 1989 he studies the politics of the Holy See in relation to communism; from the conferences in Cairo and Beijing in 1994 and 1995 he examines the position of the Holy See regarding bioethical questions, and finally in relation to the campaign against Third World debt on the occasion of the 2000 Jubilee, he studies the Holy See's criticism of unfettered capitalism. The awards will be presented by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, archbishop of Munich und Freising and president of the Jury, during the next International Congress of the Foundation, scheduled to take place from 25 to 27 May in the Vatican's New Synod Hall and in the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome, on the theme “Rethinking Key Features of Economic and Social Life”....

Cardinal Stafford: conversion, forbearance keys to Lent

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 04:29
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is continuing his week-long retreat with the senior officers of the Roman Curia in the small town of Ariccia, a short trip south-east of Rome. In his Message for Lent this year, the Holy Father called the faithful everywhere to make this privileged time of prayer and penance one in which -  as we pray in the litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – we all ask the Lord to Make our hearts like His  “In this way,” writes Pope Francis, “we will receive a heart which is firm and merciful, attentive and generous, a heart which is not closed, indifferent or prey to the globalization of indifference.” These were all themes that the Major Penitentiary-emeritus of the Church, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, took up in a reflection on Lent, and the Holy Father’s Lenten Message. In this first part of Cardinal Stafford’s reflection, which we share with you now, he begins by placing the Message in the context of Pope Francis’ broader pastoral writings, specifically the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii gaudium , and the Christmas, 2014 examination of conscience , which the Holy Father offered to the Roman Curia. Click below to hear part 1 of Cardinal Stafford's reflection on Pope Francis' Message for Lent (from Vatican Radio)...

Willy, the homeless man buried in the heart of the Vatican

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 00:51
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See press office has confirmed the news of the burial of a homeless man in the Teutonic College cemetery within Vatican City State.  Willy was a homeless man of Flemish origin.  His exact age was unknown but he was believed to have been around 80 years of age. He died on  December 12 last year and was buried in the Teutonic Cemetery on January 9 this year.  Listen:  Willy was a familiar face to many in the area of the Vatican. He attended daily Mass in  Sant’Anna parish in the Vatican and spent his days and nights on the streets around St. Peter's Square, Borgo Pio and Via di Porta Angelica. The pastor of Sant’Anna in the Vatican, Father Bruno Silvestrini, had dedicated the Nativity Scene at Christmas to Willy, adding a homeless man among the shepherds.  He loved to pray, he had a good heart, attended the morning Mass at St. Anna every day and always sat in the same place. "For over 25 years he attended the 7:00 Mass”, Fr. Silvestrini told Vatican Radio, explaining why he wanted a homeless among the shepherds in the Nativity Scene. "He was very, very open and had made many friends. He spoke a lot with young people, he spoke to them of the Lord, he spoke of the Pope, he would invite them to the celebration of the Eucharist. He was a rich person, of great faith - said the pastor of St. Anne who added - there were prelates who brought him food on certain days. Then, we no longer saw him, and subsequently we heard about his death. I've never seen so many people knocking on my door to ask when the funeral was, how they could help to keep his memory alive ... He never asked for anything, rather he was the one who would strike up a conversation and through his questions of faith, suggest a spiritual path to those with whom he spoke". Willy died in Holy Spirit hospital, where he had been brought by ambulance on a cold December evening. The cold had caused him to collapse and some passers-called for the emergency services. He died on December 12, but his body remained at the hospital morgue because no one could identify him. When those used to seeing him on the streets noticed his absence and began to search for him he was finally traced to the hospital in Lungotevere in Sassia on the banks of the Tiber. The costs of his funeral were covered by a German-speaking family, the funeral was held in the chapel of the Teutonic Cemetery, and Willy was buried in the old Germanic cemetery, in Vatican City State. (from Vatican Radio)...

Scottish Catholics urged to support flood victims in Malawi

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 08:16
(Vatican Radio) Catholics in Scotland are being urged to give generously this Lent to support families in Malawi who’ve been made homeless by the worst flooding in half a century. Dozens of people died and up to 200.000 were displaced by last month’s torrential rains which swept away houses, crops and entire village communities in the south-east African nation. As part of its Lent appeal this year, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, or SCIAF, is raising money for those affected by the floods, as well as supporting small scale projects to help women farmers improve their maize crop and provide a stable income for their families. For every pound raised through the ‘Wee Box’ appeal, as it’s known, the British government will double that donation. The Archbishop of Edinburgh Leo Cushley has just returned from a week-long visit to Malawi to see first-hand where the money from SCIAF’s Lent appeal will go. He told Philippa Hitchen that there are important signs of hope, despite the devastation wreaked by the flooding…. Listen:  Archbishop Cushley said the first thing he saw during his February 15th to 21st visit was a field that had been planted three times and repeatedly washed away. Despite the tenacity and hard work of farmers in Malawi, he said, climate change is making an already precarious existence even harder. This is the eighth year of unpredictable weather in the region and this leads quickly to problems of hunger, he said. But in spite of the challenges, Archbishop Cushley said he saw other projects supported by SCIAF that are very successful. He gave the example of a farmer and mother of four he met called Mary Jackson in the village of Chipolomba. With some training in new farming methods and improved tools, she has been able to improve her maize crop, thus helping her feed her family and have some money left over to spend on education for her children. Archbishop Cushley spoke of the links between the Scottish town of Blantyre - where he was baptised and where the 19th century missionary David Livingstone was born - and Malawi’s most important commercial city of the same name. The explorer is still fondly remembered by the people of Malawi, he said, and there remains a warm and friendly connection between the two countries. While Malawi remains very poor, with most people living a hand-to-mouth existence, the Archbishop said he saw the dramatic improvements that SCIAF’s support has brought to peoples’ lives. He urged Catholics in Scotland to fill their ‘wee boxes’ during Lent so that they can help twice as many people in need. At the same time, Archbishop Cushley said he was moved by the depth of faith of the people he met in Malawi. While the White Fathers and Montfort missionaries may have taken the faith there over a century ago, today he said, the Church in that country is now teaching us how to live and how to celebrate our Christian faith.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope did not intend to hurt feelings of Mexican people

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 04:44
(Vatican Radio) On Wednesday, Father Federico Lombardi, SJ, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, made a statement clarifying an expression used by Pope Francis in an informal and private email. The Vatican Secretary of State, he said, has sent a note to the Mexican ambassador to the Holy See, explaining that Pope Francis had no intention of hurting the feelings of the Mexican people “whom he loves very much,” or of ignoring “the commitment of the Mexican in combatting drug trafficking.” Father Lombardi noted that the expression “to avoid mexicanisation” had been used by the Holy Father in a “strictly private and informal email” in response to an Argentinian friend who is very committed to the struggle against drugs, and who had used the that expression. “The note shows clearly that the Pope intended nothing else but to comment on the gravity of the phenomenon of drug trafficking afflicting Mexico and other Latin American countries,” Father Lombardi said. Precisely because of the seriousness of the situation, he continued, addressing the problem of drug trafficking “is a priority of the Government; to counter violence and to restore peace and serenity to Mexican families, by addressing the underlying causes of this plague.” Father Lombardi said that drug trafficking is “a phenomenon, like others in Latin America” that the Holy Father has called attention to, even in meeting with Bishops, emphasizing the need for cooperation and consultation at all levels.  (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope, Curia reflect on superficial religiosity

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 04:27
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis and the Roman Curia are in the middle of their weeklong Spiritual Exercises in Ariccia, outside Rome. According to L’Osservatore Romano, the retreat master, Carmelite Father Bruno Secondin, has shared reflections with the Curia on the prophet Elias. In his reflection, Fr Secondin compared the worship of the false idols in Elias’ time with a modern-day religiosity that is interested in the superficial and in measures of faith “according to statistics.” He called the participants to authentic and “audacious” worship. The Pope and the Curia will conclude their Spiritual Exercises on Friday. (from Vatican Radio)...

Catholics in Britain urged to engage with election issues

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 07:17
(Vatican Radio) Catholic Church leaders in Britain are urging people to reflect on the Gospel values at the heart of their vision of society, as they look ahead to the general election scheduled to take place on May 7th. At a press conference held in London on Tuesday, the head of the bishops conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols said a letter has been sent to Catholics encouraging them to think deeply about the different election issues and to challenge political candidates who prefer simplistic, ideological slogans. In the weeks leading up to the ballot, the Bishops’ Conference website will feature a series of short films and articles focused on specific areas such as family and life issues, poverty, education, immigration, religious freedom, overseas aid and climate change. Philippa Hitchen spoke to Cardinal Nichols to find out more about the bishops’ initiative: Listen  Cardinal Nichols said the bishops are appealing for a quality debate which springs from a vision of the human person and the way they flourish in society….. Regarding the issues of immigration, he said “I would love to see a political leadership that doesn’t play to peoples’ fears” but instead raises expectations of how Britain, as a prosperous country, can welcome those in need….. On the critical question of the economy, Cardinal Nichols said it’s important to see beyond a “pull up your socks and do it yourself” option on the one hand and an “endless pit of hand outs” on the other. He said we need to ask why there are levels of poverty in Britain today where people in employment are going to food banks because they can’t afford to support their families…. The Cardinal noted he has been encouraging discussions with the business community in Britain through an initiative called ‘Blueprint for Better Business’ but he said it’s difficult to get the politicians on board…. The Cardinal believes there’s no such thing as a purely 'Catholic vote’ in Britain but he stressed people are looking for leaders with a vision of building a better world, at home and abroad. (from Vatican Radio)...

Ukrainian Archbishop calls on Christians to help end conflict

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 11:18
(Vatican Radio) The head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, held a press conference on Monday to share details of the ad limina visits that all Ukrainian bishops have been making to the Vatican this past week. As well as denouncing the occupation of his country by Russian forces, the Ukrainian leader appealed to all Christians to help with the worsening humanitarian crisis which has been provoked by the conflict, as Philippa Hitchen reports… Listen:  Ukraine’s Catholic bishops came to tell Pope Francis and other Vatican officials that their country is the victim of Russian military aggression which has caused huge suffering to all sectors of society. While some parts of the media describe the conflict as 'a civil war' and even the Pope himself spoke recently of a 'fratricidal conflict', Archbishop Shevchuk said these words do not accurately represent the reality that is unfolding in his country today. “Ukraine is under the direct aggression and invasion of a neighbouring country, we’re a victim of that and we expect the whole Christian world to take our side…." Up to 6.000 civilians have been killed in the fighting between Russian troops and Ukrainian government forces in the east of the country, with thousands more injured and over a million people displaced  by the conflict and dependent on humanitarian aid. The archbishop said every day over 40,000 people receive assistance from churches or Caritas centres which have opened their doors to those most in need. The Ukrainian Church leader is calling on Vatican diplomats and others in positions of authority to support victims and help bring an end to the crisis. He said he’s invited the Pope to come to his country and do everything in his power to try and stop the fighting: “Our hope is that his voice, as a powerful moral authority, will help. What that means technically, I don’t know…maybe Holy See or European diplomats can bring some suggestions, but for us it's so important that the moral authority of the Holy Father will defend those under threat in Ukraine" Regarding religious relations in the country, Archbishop Shevchuk said the Russian Orthodox Church has become a “powerful weapon” in the Russian propaganda war, making any kind of dialogue with Moscow very difficult indeed: “Last year was a big effort to establish a dialogue, to be heard by the Moscow Patriarchate, but we got only silence….but we still hope that silence is not the final response, we still do our best to open the dialogue, to convey that we are their friends, we’re not against Russia itself or the Russian Orthodox Church, we just want to be good neighbours…” The Archbishop praised the efforts of the World Council of Churches which is offering to mediate between the two sides, an initiative which he says may bring a glimmer of hope on a very dark horizon. And he says, at the end of their ad limina visits, the bishops are returning home moved and encouraged by the support that Pope Francis offered to them and to all their suffering people: “ We were surprised and moved to hear the Pope say ‘I’m shoulder to shoulder with you, I’m at your service’ and we were moved by that paternal reception” (from Vatican Radio)...

JRS rejoices for the release of abducted priest in Afghanistan

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 09:05
(Vatican Radio) The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has announced the release of Fr Alexis Prem Kumar who was abducted in Afghanistan over eight months ago. In a statement published Monday, JRS states it is "immensely grateful to the Indian government for its role in achieving his release". Fr Prem Kumar was visiting a JRS-supported school near Herat, western Afghanistan, while serving as the service's Afghanistan director when he was kidnapped by several armed men in June. He was released on Sunday and has since returned to his home in India.  Jesuit Father Peter Balleis, Director of JRS International, spoke to Fr Prem by telephone immediately after his release. He told Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni that he is as well as can be hoped for after such a long time in captivity… Listen to the interview :  Father Balleis says that expressing his gratitude towards all who have worked hard for his release, Fr Prem revealed that he prayed every day and was confident of a positive outcome to his situation. Balleis says he himself is not aware whether any conditions were met by the Indian Government to secure the release of the Jesuit priest and says that details may be revealed in the future. Although the Indian Government is to thank for finalizing Fr Prem’s release, Balleis points out that “we all worked on various levels”. He says that both JRS International and its ground team in Afghanistan with its community contacts never stopped working. He says that although he and his staff were aware that things were moving, “the actual release came as a surprise”. Balleis says that after the kidnapping, JRS personnel received news of Fr. Prem only in “late October- early November”.  He says that a video was released proving the priest was still alive and allowing them to have some kind of timeframe: “one thing that we had throughout was the sense and the confidence that he was alive” Balleis says, also because no information was ever received from whatever source that Fr Prem had been killed, “so we worked all the time with the hope that he was alive and kept the momentum going”. Balleis says JRS held regular meetings with the Indian Embassy, with the Red Cross and with others as well as daily in-house briefings and that “Prem was always in our minds and kept alive by working every day on the latest information and preparing for his release”. Of course Balleis says the event had an immediate impact on JRS’s work in Afghanistan. He says at first they decided to close the school in Herat that Fr Prem had just visited on the day of his abduction. However after two months or so, he says it became clear they had to reopen the school as JRS is in the area first and foremost for the children. “We cannot punish the children for the wrongdoings of some groups who want to interrupt education and have taken our man” he says. Balleis also says JRS decided to reopen its schools as, for its mission, it also needs to  keep the support of the local community because the elders play a big role in the Afghan community, so “we kept all our work going in Afghanistan – in Bamiyan, in Kabul, in Herat, in Sohadat. He expresses his belief that it is fundamental to keep a positive approach. He says that JRS’s work must continue in difficult situations in a way that is well-structured and it must be conducted also according to professional advice and very importantly: “with a lot of prayer”. The overall support of people and keeping positive is very important says Balleis “goodness  is the only way to overcome negativity”. “One has to talk in order to find a solution, building trust and moving forward” he says. He agrees there are many other places in the world today where insecurity poses great problems for humanitarian organizations, but it is something one learns to deal with. Looking back – Balleis says – more notice should have been taken of a worsening security situation in Herat prior to the kidnapping of Fr Prem: “there are always lessons to be learnt on how to mitigate and reduce risks” he says. “With some senior advice regarding security we will certainly take steps to reduce risks” for our people on the ground, he says.                       (from Vatican Radio)...

​Spiritual Exercises for the Roman Curia begin in Ariccia The geography of Elijah

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 06:50
On Sunday, 22 February, Pope Francis went to to Ariccia to participate in spiritual exercises for Lent at the House of the Divin Maestro of the Pauline Fathers. During the week, the Preacher, Carmelite Fr Bruno Secondin, will present a pastoral reading of the Prophet Elijah's theme of “Servants and Prophets of the Living God”. Aboard one of the two buses which left the Vatican for Ariccia, the Pope arrived at the Residence at 4:40 pm. He was welcomed by Archbishop Angelo Becciu, Substitute of the Secretary of State; Fr Leonardo Sapienza, Regent of the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household; Fr Valdir José De Castro, Superior General of the Society of St Paul, along with the religious community of Ariccia. Then at 6 pm Francis participated in Eucharistic Adoration and the celebration of Vespers, listening to the preacher's introduction in which he reflected on the invitation “leave your own ‘village’”. The next day, 23 February, they focused on Elijah's “school of mercy” and following his example of leading a “life on the periphery”, after a Eucharistic celebration on the theme: “Go East, hide yourself and return to your roots”. ...

Pope Francis declares Armenian saint Doctor of the Church

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 05:06
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has declared Armenian poet and monk, Saint Gregory of Narek, a Doctor of the Universal Church.  M eeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Saints on Saturday ahead of his departure for Aricca on Lenten retreat, the Pope confirmed the proposal put forward by the Plenary Session of the Congregation to confer the title of Doctor of the Universal Church on the 10 th century saint. St. Gregory of Narek is widely revered as one of the greatest figures of medieval Armenian religious thought and literature. Born in the city of Narek in about 950 A.D., St. Gregory came from a line of scholars and churchmen. St. Gregory received his education under the guidance of his father, Bishop Khosrov, author of the earliest commentary on the Divine Liturgy, and from Anania Vartabed, abbess of Narek Monastery. He and his two brothers entered monastic life at an early age, and St. Gregory soon began to excel in music, astronomy, geometry, mathematics, literature, and theology. He became a priest at the age of 25 and dedicated himself to God. He lived most of his life in the monastery of Narek, where he taught at the monastic school. St. Gregory began his writings with a commentary on the “Song of Songs,” which was commissioned by an Armenian prince. Despite his reservations that he was too young for the task, the commentary became famous for its clarity of thought and language and its excellence of theological presentation. He also wrote a number of famous letters, sharagans , treasures, odes, melodies, and discourses. Many of his prayers are included in the Divine Liturgy celebrated each Sunday in Armenian Churches around the world. St. Gregory’s masterpiece is considered to be his Book of Lamentations . Also known as  Narek , it is comprised of 95 prayers, each of which is titled “Conversation with God from the depth of the heart.” A central theme is man’s separation from God, and his quest to reunite with Him. St. Gregory described the work this way: “Its letters like my body, its message like my soul.” He called his book an “encyclopedia of prayer for all nations.” It was his hope that it would serve as a guide to prayer for people all over the world. After the advent of movable type, the book was published in Marseille in 1673, and has been translated into at least 30 languages. St. Gregory of Narek is remembered by the Armenian Church in October of each year. (from Vatican Radio)...

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