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Pope to US: I want to draw close to your path and history

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis told the people of the United States he wanted to "draw close to their path and history" during his upcoming visit to the United States.

Pope Francis was speaking to three-groups around the country via satellite during a Virtual Audience which aired Friday evening on the television programme 20/20.

Listen to Charles Collin's report

The encounter was filmed on Monday, was moderated by ABC News.  For one hour, Pope Francis spoke from the Vatican via satellite to people in an inner-city high school in Chicago, with homeless people in Los Angeles, and a border-community in McAllen, Texas.

He was not making doctrinal statements, but acting as a pastor.

In one example during the meeting, Ricardo Ortiz told the Holy Father he lost a scholarship to university, since he was not a US citizen. Due to an injury his father suffered, he became the breadwinner for his family.

"We are all created for friendship in society. All of us bear responsibility for everyone else," Pope Francis said. "And each one has to make a choice in his or her heart. And we have to help that choice to be made in the heart. Escaping it through addiction, through violence, does not help. Only closeness and giving of myself, all that I have to give, the way you gave everything you could as a boy, when you supported your family. Don't forget that."

Afterwards, Ricardo said Pope Francis is "really doing something to make a difference," .

Pope Francis also spoke to Sister Norma Pimentel, the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. 

“I want to thank you, and through you to thank all the sisters of religious orders in the U.S. for the work that you have done and that you do in the United States," Pope Francis said. "It's great. I congratulate you. Be courageous. Move forward."

But Pope Francis did not stop there.

 “I'll tell you one other thing," he added. "Is it inappropriate for the Pope to say this? I love you all very much.“

Pope Francis told the people of the United States what is important to him is "closeness," saying it is "difficult" for him not to be close people.

"When I approach people, as I'm going to do with you, it's easier for me to understand them and help them along life's path," Pope Francis said. "That's why this trip is so important, for me to draw close to your path and your history.”




(from Vatican Radio)

Fr. Ayuso: dialogue to defeat violence in name of religion

(Vatican Radio) The Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Fr. Miguel Ayuso, addressed members of the diplomatic corps present at a reception given for them in connection with a major international conference, "United Against Violence in the Name of Religion" organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the KAICIID international dialogue center (KAICIID) under the auspices of the Greek foreign ministry. Please find the full text of Fr. Ayuso's prepared remarks in English below




Rev. Fr. Miguel Ángel AYUSO GUIXOT

Secretary Pontifical Council

for Interreligious Dialogue

Vatican City



Distinguished Participants,

It is a honour for me to speak to you today on behalf of the Holy See, as Founding Observer of the International Dialogue Center (KAICIID), at this reception in the International Conference for dialogue between Christians and Muslims with the theme "United Against Violence in the Name of Religion", as organized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the International Dialogue Center (KAICIID) and under the auspices of the Hellenic Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Based on the experience and knowledge we have regarding the reality of today’s world, we now know how wounded humanity is in the Middle East as well as other parts of the world.

I hope, therefore, that this International Conference brings forth both effective and positive content and answers in light of this very reality.

I am hopeful as well, that the international community, as so often expressed by Pope Francis, is able to find effective means and appropriate political solutions to end the suffering of so many people from different religions and cultures. Pope Francis has made this plea:  “I renew the hope that the international community not remain silent and inert in front of these intolerable crimes, which constitute an alarming decline of the most essential human rights and impede the richness of cohabitation among peoples, cultures and faiths.” (Pope Francis, Letter addressed to H.E. Bishop Lahham, Auxiliary Bishop of Jerusalem for the Latins, Vicar Patriarchate for Jordan, 6 August 2015).

The times in which we are living render interreligious dialogue more than ever necessary. We know that many of the conflicts which exist today, though purported to be based in religious differences, cannot be justified as religious. Thus there can be only one answer for us: to join as believers who are united to counter violence unjustly done in the name of religion.

Let us together respond to the latest appeal by Pope Francis when he invites all, "legislators and government leaders to insure religious freedom everywhere; and to the international community to put an end to violence and oppression "(Angelus, 30 August 2015).

It is my hope and prayer that our International Conference be a contribution to this much-needed building of peaceful coexistence among peoples.

Excellencies, Distinguished Participants,

Let me convey my gratitude for the invitation, and wish you success in the noble aim of promoting intercultural and interreligious and intercultural dialogue for the good of humanity.


Thank you very much.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Doctrine must never be apart from pastoral context

(Vatican Radio) Church doctrine must never be isolated from a practical pastoral context. That theme was at the heart of a video message that Pope Francis sent to participants at an International Theological Congress taking place at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina (UCA) in the capital Buenos Aires this week.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report: 

Speaking in his native Spanish, the Pope said a theologian is above all a child of his or her people, who knows the tradition of the Church and encounters the personal stories of individuals. A theologian, he continued, is a believer, who has discovered he or she cannot live without Christ in their lives. And the theologian is a prophet, he said, who reflects the tradition of the past, while creating a bridge to the present and future.

In the message marking the centenary of the University’s theology faculty and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis stressed the importance of recapturing the memory of God’s presence in the life of the Church. We cannot have isolated individual Churches, he stressed, which claim to possess a unique interpretation of our reality and of the action of the Holy Spirit. In the same way, he went on, we cannot have a universal Church which ignores or denies the reality of the local Churches. Our tradition, he said, is like a living river which springs from our origins of faith and flows towards the future, irrigating and giving life to the various parts of our world.

The role of the theologian, Pope Francis said, is to discern and reflect on what it means to be a Christian today. A Christian in Argentina now, he explained, is not the same as a hundred years ago, and it’s not the same as a Christian in India, Canada or Rome. Theological research must provide answers to the great challenges of our day, he said, avoiding the two great temptations of being either too conservative and rejecting anything new, or embracing every novelty without the wisdom of the past.

In this context, the Pope concluded, doctrine can never be separated from the pastoral context. He pointed to the great fathers of the Church, like Irenaeus, Augustine, Basil or Ambrose, who were great theologians because they were great pastors too. Encountering families, the poor and those who live on the margins of society, he said, is the path to a better understanding of our faith.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Sowing divisions is a sickness in the Church

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis says sowing divisions and discord is a sickness within the Church and described a person who indulges in gossip as like a terrorist who throws bombs. His comments came during his homily at his Friday (4th September) Mass in the Santa Marta residence. 

Taking his inspiration from St Paul’s letter to the Colossians where the Apostle spoke of how Christ was sent by God to sow reconciliation and peace among humanity, Pope Francis’s homily was a reflection on the need to sow peace rather than discord in our daily lives.

Do I sow peace or do I sow discord?

He said without Jesus no peace or reconciliation is possible and our task is to be men and women of peace and reconciliation in the midst of news about war and hatred, even within families.

“We’d do well to ask ourselves: Do I sow peace?  For example, when I speak, do I sow peace or do I sow discord?  How many times have we heard this said about a person: He or she has a serpent’s tongue! This is because that person is always doing what the serpent did with Adam and Eve, namely destroying peace. And this is an evil, this is a sickness within our Church: sowing divisions, sowing hatred, not sowing peace. So this is a question that we should ask ourselves every day:  ‘Did I sow peace or did I sow discord today?” ‘But sometimes, we have to say things because he or she….’: But with an attitude like this, what are you sowing?”

Who brings peace is a saint, who gossips is like a terrorist

Christians, the Pope continued, are called therefore to be like Jesus who came among us to bring peace and reconciliation.

“If a person during his or her life does nothing else but reconcile and bring peace that person can be canonized: that person is a saint. But we need to grow that way, we need to have a conversion: never a word that divides, never, never a word that brings war, small wars, never gossip.  I’m thinking: what is gossip?  Oh it’s nothing- just saying words against another person or telling tales: ‘This person did…’  No!  Gossiping is like terrorism because the person who gossips is like a terrorist who throws a bomb and runs away, destroying: with their tongue they are destroying and not making peace. But this person is cunning, right? He is not a suicide bomber, no, no, he takes good care of himself.”

Biting our tongue

Pope Francis concluded his homily by repeating a suggestion for Christians to bite their tongues rather than indulge in malicious gossip.

“Every day that I get the urge to say something that sows discord and division, to say bad things about another person… Bite your tongue!  I can assure you. If you do this and bite your tongue instead of sowing discord, the first few times the wound will cause your tongue to swell because the devil helps us do this because that’s his work, his job: to divide.”

Therefore, my final prayer: “Lord, you gave your life, give me the grace to bring peace and reconciliation. You shed your blood, but what does it matter to me if my tongue gets swollen if I bite it before speaking badly about other people.” 

Listen to this report by Susy Hodges (including clips of the Pope's voice): 

(from Vatican Radio)

The Pope to Schoenstatt priests: “keep your ear to God's heart and your hand on the pulse of the time”

Vatican City, 3 September 2015 (VIS) – Contemplation, service, fraternity – three facets of priestly life that Pope Francis proposed to the participants in the general chapter of the Schoenstatt Fathers. The Apostolic Schoenstatt Movement was founded on 18 October 1914 by Fr. Jose Kentenich as a path of spiritual renewal within the Catholic Church, and his name is drawn from the Marian shrine near Koblenz, Germany, which houses the image of Our Lady, and where there are the head offices of the movement's communities, now present in 42 countries. The Secular Institute of Schoenstatt Fathers was instituted by Fr. Jose Kentenich on 18 July 1965, in the service of the Apostolic Movement.

The Pope remarked that, after these years of progress, their concern is to “keep alive your foundational charism and the ability to communicate it to the young, so as to continue to inspire and support your lives and your mission. You are aware that a charism is not a museum piece, that remains intact in a display cabinet, to be contemplated alone. Fidelity, keeping the charism pure, does not in any way mean closing it in a sealed bottle, like distilled water, so that it is not contaminated by the outside world. … Fr. Kentenich expressed this very well when he said that it was necessary to keep an ear to God's heart and a hand on the pulse of the time. … These are the two pillars of an authentic spiritual life”.

The Pope went on to speak about contact with God: “it is not a good approach to neglect prayer or, worse still, to abandon it with the excuse of a demanding ministry. … It would be a grave error to think that the charism stays alive focusing on external structures … or forms. God frees us from the spirit of functionalism. The vitality of the charism is rooted in the 'first love', renewed daily, in our willingness to listen and to respond with loving generosity. … May this healthy and necessary 'decentralisation' work in us, so that we set ourselves aside to allow Christ to occupy the centre of our life”.

The second pillar is formed by the expression “taking the pulse of the time”, that is, reality and people. “We must not be afraid of reality”, emphasised Francis. “Dialogue with God in prayer also leads us to listen to his voice in the people and the situations that surround us. We do not have two separate ears, one for God and one for reality. … When we meet with our brothers, especially those who in our eyes or in the eyes of the world are less agreeable, what do we see? Do we realise that God loves them, that they are of the same flesh that Christ assumed, or are we indifferent to their problems? … In prayer we learn not to pass by Christ Who suffers in His brothers. Let us learn to serve”.

“You are practically the last reality of the Movement founded by Fr. Kentenich, and this carries an important lesson, and is very good”, observed the Pope. “This fact of being the 'last' clearly reflects the role held by priests in relation to their brothers. The priest must never be above or in front of others, but instead must walk alongside them, loving them with the same love of Christ, Who came not to be served but rather to serve and to give His life in return for so many others. … Let us ask the Lord to give us shoulders as strong as His, to carry those who are without hope, those who seem lost, those to whom no-one offers a glance … and free us from 'careerism' in our priestly life”.

Finally, the Pope commented on priestly fraternity. “Please, never be alone”, he warned. “The presbyteral ministry cannot be conceived of in an individual or, worse still, individualist way. Fraternity is the great school of discipleship. … It is not we who choose our brothers, but we have the conscious and fruitful option to love them as they are, with their flaws and their virtues. … Please, may there not be any indifference in your communities. Behave as men: if disagreements or differences of opinion arise, do not worry: better the heat of the argument than the coldness of indifference, which is the real tomb of fraternal charity”.

At the end of the meeting the Pope gave three recommendations to the Schoenstatt priests. “Firstly, accompany and care for families, so that they are able to live the holy alliance of love and life, especially those who experience moments of crisis or difficulty. Secondly, and thinking of the upcoming jubilee of mercy, dedicate plenty of time to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Be great forgivers. … May you be witnesses of God's mercy and tenderness in your communities. And thirdly, pray for me, as I need your prayers”, he concluded.

Pope Francis: The astonishment at the encounter with Jesus

(Vatican Radio) The capacity to recognize ourselves as sinners opens us to the astonishment at the encounter with Jesus: that was the message of Pope Francis Thursday morning during Mass for the feast of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church.

Listen to Christopher Wells' report: 

Pope Francis’ homily focused on the day’s Gospel reading which tells the story of the miraculous catch of fish. After working throughout the night without catching anything, Peter, trusting in Jesus, cast his nets into the sea. The Holy Father used this story to speak about faith as an encounter with the Lord. First of all, he said, it pleases me to consider the fact that Jesus spent the greater part of His time in the street, with the people; then, later in evening, He went away by Himself to pray – but He encountered the people, He sought the people.” For our part, we have two ways of encountering the Lord. The first is that of Peter, of the Apostles, of the people:

“The Gospel uses the same word for these people, for the people, for the Apostles, for Peter: they were ‘astonished.’ ‘Astonishment, in fact, seized him, and all those with him.’ When this feeling of astonishment comes… And the people heard Jesus and what He said and felt this astonishment: ‘But this one speaks with authority. A man has never spoken with this [authority].’ Another group that encounters Jesus did not allow this astonishment to enter into their hearts. The doctors of the law heard Jesus, they made their calculations: “Well, he is intelligent, he is a man who says true things, but we do not agree with these things, no!’ They made their calculations, they kept their distance.”

The demons themselves, the Pope said, confessed – that is, they proclaimed – that Jesus was the “Son of God,” but like the doctors of the law and the wicked Pharisees, “they did not have the capacity for astonishment, they were closed up in their sufficiency, in their pride.” Peter recognized that Jesus is the Messiah, but confesses that he himself is a sinner:

“The demons arrive to tell the truth about Him, but say nothing about themselves. They cannot: their pride is so great it prevents them from saying it. The doctors of the law say: ‘But this is an intelligent man, a capable rabbi, he does miracles, eh!’ But they do not say: ‘We are proud, we are not sufficient, we are sinners. The inability to recognize ourselves as sinners keeps us far away from the true confession of Jesus Christ. And this is the difference.”

It is the difference between the humility of the publican who recognizes that he is a sinner and the pride of the Pharisee who speaks well of himself:

This ability to say that we are sinners opens us to the astonishment of the encounter with Jesus Christ, the true encounter. Even in our parishes, in our societies, even among consecrated persons: How many people are capable of saying that Jesus is the Lord? So many! But how difficult it is to say sincerely: ‘I am a sinner.’ It’s easier to say it of others, eh? When one is gossiping, eh? ‘This, that, the other thing…’ We’re all doctors in that, aren’t we? To come to a true encounter with Christ the two-fold confession is necessary: ‘You are the Son of God, and I am a sinner’ – but not theoretically: ‘[I am a sinner] because of this, because of this, because of this, and because of this.’”

Peter, the Pope emphasized, then forgot the astonishment at the encounter and denied the Lord. But since “he was humble, he was permitted to encounter the Lord, and when their eyes met, he wept, he returned to the confession, ‘I am a sinner.’” Pope Francis concluded, “May the Lord grant us the grace to encounter Him, but also to allow ourselves to encounter Him. May He grant us the grace, which is so beautiful, of this astonishment at the encounter. And may He give us the grace of having in our life the two-fold confession: ‘You are the Son of living God; I believe it. And I am a sinner; I believe it.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Doctrine and pastoral care go hand-in-hand, Pope Francis reminds theologians

Vatican City, Sep 4, 2015 / 12:14 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church's teaching and her pastoral ministry are not opposed, Pope Francis said in a video message on Thursday, even though this false dichotomy is frequently made.

“Not infrequently an opposition between theology and pastoral ministry emerges, as if they were two opposite, separate realities that had nothing to do with each other,” he said Sept. 3 to the International Theological Congress. “False opposition is generated between theology and pastoral ministry, between Christian reflection and Christian life.”

“We not infrequently identify doctrine with conservatism and antiquity; and on the contrary, we tend to think of pastoral ministry in terms of adaptation, reduction, accommodation, as if they had nothing to do with each other,” he lamented.

The Pope added that the Second Vatican Council was an effort “to overcome this divorce between theology and pastoral ministry, between faith and life.”

His words were sent to the theological congress, being held at the Buenos Aires' Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina this week, which is commemorating the centenary of its theology faculty. The focus of the gathering is the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of Vatican II.

Pope Francis noted the importance of the university's theology faculty for the local Church, saying that its centenary “celebrates life, history, the faith of the People of God journeying on earth and in search of 'understanding' and 'truth' from their own positions.”

“There exists no isolated particular Church that can be said to be the owner and sole interpreter of the reality and the work of the Spirit,” he added. “No community has a monopoly over interpretation or inculturation just as, on the other hand, there is no universal Church that turns away from, ignores or neglects the local situation.”

Francis noted that because the particular means of living out the Christian life vary from person to person and place to place, “one of the main tasks of the theologian is to discern and to reflect on what it means to be a Christian today, in the 'here and now'.”

The Pope identified two temptations that arise in trying to make that discernment.

One he identified as “condemning everything: … assuming 'everything was better in the past', seeking refuge in conservatism or fundamentalism.

He also warned against “consecrating everything, disavowing everything that does not have a 'new flavour', relativising all the wisdom accumulated in our rich ecclesial heritage.”

“The path to overcoming these temptations lies in reflection, discernment, and taking both the ecclesiastical tradition and current reality very seriously, placing them in dialogue with one another.”

Pope Francis referred to St. John XXIII’s opening speech for the Second Vatican Council, and said the Church’s task is to distinguish “the Church’s living message” from “the form of its transmission” and “the cultural elements in which it is codified at a given time.”

Theologians' discernment cannot, he cautioned, “lead to a betrayal of the content of the message. The lack of this theological exercise is detrimental to the mission we are invited to perform.”

“Doctrine is not a closed, private system deprived of dynamics able to raise questions and doubts. On the contrary, Christian doctrine has a face, a body, flesh: He is called Jesus Christ and it is his life that is offered from generation to generation to all men and in all places.”

Taking the Incarnation seriously, theologians cannot ignore “The questions our people pose, their anguish, their quarrels, their dreams, their struggles, their concerns,” he reflected.

The Bishop of Rome stated, “Our formulations of faith were born of dialogue, encounter, comparison and contact with different cultures, communities, and nations in situations calling for greater reflection on matters not previously clarified.”

He then added that it is suspicious when Christians “no longer admit the need” to be criticized by others. “People and their specific conflicts, their peripheries, are not optional, but rather necessary for a better understanding of faith. Therefore it is important to ask whom we are thinking of when we engage in theology.”

“Let us not forget that the Holy Spirit in a praying people is the subject of theology. A theology that is not born of this would offer something beautiful, but not real.”

Francis then outlined three characteristics of a theologian’s identity, noting that a theologian is first of all “a son of his people.”

As a person who knows their people’s language, history and tradition, a theologian is someone who learns to appreciate what they have received as a sign of God’s presence, and recognizes that the people into which they were born have “a theological sense that he cannot ignore.”

Secondly, the Pope said, “the theologian is a believer. The theologian is someone who has experience of Jesus Christ and has discovered he cannot live without him.”

Finally, theologians are prophets, he said, explaining that one of the greatest modern challenges “is not merely the ease with which it is possible to dispense with God – socially it has taken a step further. The current crisis pivots on the inability of people to believe in anything beyond themselves.”

This situation, he reflected, “creates a rift in personal and social identities” and “gives rise to a process of alienation, owing to a lack of past, and therefore of future. The theologian is thus a prophet, as he keeps alive an awareness of the past and the invitation that comes from the future. He is a able to denounce any alienating form as he intuits, reflecting on the river of Tradition he has received from the Church, the hope to which we are called.”

Francis concluded by saying the only true way of practicing theology is “on one's knees,” in prayer.

“It is not merely the pious act of prayer before, and then thinking of theology. It is a dynamic reality of thought and prayer. Practising theology on one's knees means encouraging thought when praying, and prayer when thinking.”

Blessed Junipero Serra's cross gets a kiss from Pope Francis

Vatican City, Sep 4, 2015 / 06:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Wednesday kissed and blessed a cross that was buried with Father Junipero Serra, the early California missionary whom he will canonize during his U.S. visit later this month.

When Father Junipero Serra’s tomb was opened in 1943 to exhume the Franciscan priest’s body, a cross was found on his chest. Members of the Catholic Church Extension Society brought the relic to the Vatican for the Pope’s Sept. 2 general audience, and presented it to the Pope.

“The Pope blessed it, but he also venerated it, it was very touching,” Father Jack Wall, president of the Catholic Church Extension Society, recounted to CNA. “He reached down and kissed the cross … that was buried with Junipero Serra.”

Now that the cross has received the Pope’s blessing, it will return to California’s Diocese of Monterey, where it will be displayed in the museum at the Carmel Mission.

Bl. Junipero Serra played a leading role in California history. He helped to convert thousands of native Californians to Christianity and taught them new technologies. The 18th century Franciscan priest founded many of the missions that would go on to become the centers of major California cities. He was beatified in 1988 by Saint John Paul II.

Pope Francis will canonize Father Serra Sept. 23 during his visit to Washington, D.C.

In a May 2 homily, the Pope described the missionary as “one of the founding fathers of the United States, a saintly example of the Church’s universality and special patron of the Hispanic people of the country.”

Fr. Wall said the Catholic Extension Society is particularly excited about the canonization. He added: “it was part of Catholic Extensions’ hope to help us celebrate this moment in our country, the first Hispanic saint.”

He and other members of the society were in Rome to celebrate two occasions: the 110th anniversary of their founding and the 105th anniversary of their establishment as a papal society.

The Catholic Extension Society, headquartered in Chicago, aims to build up and strengthen the Catholic faith in the poorest places of the United States. Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago is chancellor of the society’s board of governors, and presented the cross to Pope Francis.

The society seeks to share in Pope Francis’ commitment to the poor through its assistance to the poorest dioceses in the United States.

Fr. Wall said the group wanted to tell Pope Francis, “there’s a movement in the United States, and we are really, absolutely embracing his mission to go to the peripheries, those marginalized in the United States, and to really bring that message of hope and joy and peace.”

The society raises roughly $25 million each year to support more than 1,000 projects, including church construction and assistance for seminaries and vowed religious. It also offers support to migrant workers and poor communities.

The society supports the Brownsville, Texas school whose students participated in a virtual audience with Pope Francis hosted by ABC News on Monday.
Fr. Wall said he hopes that Pope Francis will inspire Americans to make a greater effort to reach out to the poor.

“I think that’s his constant message, that we’re in solidarity with everybody in our human family – as he preached today, it’s about family and that we are connected and one with each other in so many ways, and especially as a Catholic community,” he said.

The Catholic Church is an institution which is constantly present to the poor across the United States, the priest observed. He said that a person can’t go to country’s poorest places and not see the presence of the Catholic Church.

“So we’re really a very important instrument of helping lift up people to their deepest aspirations of what they want to be as people,” he said.

For his part, Fr. Wall said that he will do his best to continue building up Pope Francis’ message “for us as Catholics to reach and meet the risen Christ in the poorest communities of our country.”

Pope Francis to Israeli president: 'the challenge is to unite'

Vatican City, Sep 4, 2015 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis held an audience with Israeli president Reuven Rivlin on Thursday, where they exchanged gifts and discussed efforts to secure peace and to address the plight of Middle East Christians.

Pope Francis gave the Israeli president a new bronze medal at the Sept. 3 audience. On the medal was a depiction of a rock split into two parts, but joined by an olive tree. The medal bore the words: “Search for what unites. Overcome what divides.”

When the Pope gave the gift to Rivlin, he winked at the president. “There is some division, but the challenge is to unite,” Pope Francis said.

The audience focused on the political and social situation in the Middle East, giving “special attention” to the condition of Christians and other minorities, the Holy See press office reported.

“In this respect the importance of interreligious dialogue was recognized, along with the responsibility of religious leaders in promoting reconciliation and peace,” said the press office, which described the discussions as cordial.

The meeting also highlighted the need to promote a climate of trust between Israelis and Palestinians. It focused on the resumption of direct negotiations that aimed at “an agreement respecting the legitimate aspirations of the two populations, as a fundamental contribution to peace and stability in the region,” the press office said.

The Holy See and Israel have disagreed over the status of Palestine; Israel has objected to the Holy See’s recognition of the State of Palestine in its negotiations with Palestinian leaders.

When Pope Francis greeted the president, he spoke in English: “Pray for me.”

The president responded: "I will see you in Israel.”

Rivlin gave the Pope a replica of the earliest mention of King David’s dynasty outside of the Bible. The words were carved on a basalt stone dating back to the eighth or ninth century B.C. The original is in the Museum of Israel.

“I think it is right that His Holiness has this gift to remember the common roots between Judaism and Christianity,” the Israeli president said when he presented the gift.

He also gave a plate with the inscription: “Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.”

The Pope also gave the Israeli president a copy of his encyclical on the care of creation, Laudato Si'. He also presented him with his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, explaining: “This is for all Christians, but there is a chapter dedicated to dialogue with the Jews.”

The official Israeli delegation included the president’s wife. The Pope gave everyone in the delegation a medal for the third year of his pontificate, marking the 500th anniversary of St. Theresa of Avila’s birth.

Rivlin also met with the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by Archbishop Paul Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States.

Other topics at the meeting included the relations between the Holy See and Israel, and between Israeli authorities and local Catholic communities. Both parties at the audience voiced hope for a prompt conclusion to the drafting of a bilateral agreement. They also hoped for an adequate solution for other matters of common interest, such as the situation of Christian schools in Israel.

Strong words from the Vatican as migrant crisis spikes worldwide

Vatican City, Sep 3, 2015 / 03:06 pm (CNA).- Warning: graphic and disturbing photo shown below. Reader discretion is advised.

A Vatican official in charge of assisting migrants spoke about the increasing number of refugees around the globe and stressed that they should be welcomed as brothers and sisters – not seen as a burden.

From a Catholic perspective, migrants should above all be recognized as persons created “in the image and likeness of God, which is the basis of human dignity,” Fr. Matthew Gardzinski told CNA Aug. 26.

Christ left us the example that migrants “are brothers and sisters,” he said, and noted that too many migrants frequently find themselves “in very tragic situations, for example here in the Mediterranean, in Far East Asia.”

The process of welcoming migrants and helping them to integrate into their new society is “always a mutual enrichment, both for the society who accepts them and for the migrant who becomes a living part of that society.”

A member of the Society of Christ Fathers, Fr. Gardzinski is in charge of the migrants section for the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples.

The council serves as a point of reference and coordination for the various initiatives the Vatican oversees and organizes in terms of helping migrants and all people on the move throughout the world.

Their mission also entails encouraging the pastoral care and spiritual and physical accompaniment of migrants.

In addition to working with various charitable organizations such as Caritas Internationalis and the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Vatican’s migrant council shares a particularly strong collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, since their mission tends to focus on political influence on society and governments.

The plight of migrants fleeing war-torn Syria was thrown into sharp perspective this week when photos from British newspaper the Independent began to circulate showing the dead body of a small Syrian boy that washed up on the shore of Bodrum, Turkey.

Just pause 4 moment & imagine this was your child, drowned trying 2 flee #Syria war 4 safety of #EU. #solidarity

— Peter Bouckaert (@bouckap) September 2, 2015 Aylan Al-Kurdi, three years-old, drown along with his mother and older brother in a failed attempt to reach the nearby Greek island of Kos from Bodrum, their most direct passage into the European Union.

The striking images of Al-Kurdi’s tiny body lying face down in the sand serves as a drastic illustration of the crisis currently unfolding in Greece, which has become one of the primary destinations of mainly Syrian and Afghani refugees seeking entrance into Europe.

After the photos of Al-Kurdi began to make rounds on social media and the worldwide web, many have begun to criticize European leaders for not doing enough to help incoming migrants.

Close to the situation in Greece is Fr. Luke Gregory, OFM, who lives on the Greek island of Rhodes, but travels to Kos every 15 days to celebrate Mass for Kos’ 30 Catholics in the city’s only Catholic Church – more of a chapel – named Agnus Dei, and which sits in the city’s Catholic cemetery.

He spoke to CNA Aug. 17 about the plight of the thousands of migrants who arrive to Kos and other Greek islands from Turkey by the boatload every day, uttering immediately: “the poor things, they are suffering so much.”

With a financially stressed economy, Greece has been completely unprepared for the 124,000 refugees that have reached their shore in the first seven months of 2015, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

No welcoming facilities or refugee centers have been established, and the island’s 26 police officers have been responsible for managing the 2-300 migrants that arrive each day.

Most of the new arrivals are left to fend for themselves, and those already on the island have taken over public spaces such as the beaches and parks.

Their tents can be seen everywhere, as well as their clothes which have been washed in the sea and left on trees to dry. Some are even sleeping on the property of Orthodox churches, who have opened their land to the migrants.

The government is doing “what’s possible” given the situation, Fr. Gregory, said, explaining that it has been the locals who, in their own financial duress, have welcomed the refugees and brought them food.

“Greeks have done well in welcoming them, as well as the hotels,” he said, explaining that the hotels have been providing food, while Kos locals have brought clothing and tents.

However, now that the tourist season is over most of the hotels are closing, it is Caritas who will provide the food.

But with a nationwide financial crisis and the number of refugees increasing daily, funds for provisions are limited, and Caritas’ Greece branch has turned to others for help.

The Italy branch has been the first to respond, and the first shipment of food arrived Aug. 25. Fr. Gregory said he is “very happy” with Italy, who despite having their own migration crisis were the first to give. “Bravo Italy!”

Others, including groups of youth around 19-20, have also provided help after hearing his homilies, the priest said, recalling how in the summer one group after Mass went directly to the market and bought food to hand out to the refugees.

The generosity on the part of locals “is touching,” he said, adding that despite current difficulties, “we must have faith.”

Fr. Gardzinski explained that there are both positive and negative consequences of migration. While one country loses the persons who migrate, the receiving country gains their ideas and creativity.

“For example here in Europe we’re seeing an aging population where these migrants are a vigorous force,” he said, noting how most of those who immigrate are among the younger generation.

“These are people that move not only physically, but they bring with them their ideas, their strengths, weaknesses, so at a certain point societies who were very ‘one-kinded’ all of a sudden become a society that is standing in front of someone who is a little different.”

Although there are some who fear that migration on the large scales that we’re seeing might water-down the culture of the countries they move to, Fr. Gardzinski said that it depends, and that the presence of migrants serves as a type of identity crisis.

“Maybe the word is a negative, but a ‘crisis’ in a sense that it puts to the challenge who you are on one hand to build your own identity, your own cultural traits, and on the other hand also to see the positive thing of the other person,” he said.

However, the priest also noted how xenophobic, restrictive or fearful attitudes can arise when the number of incoming people is larger than the receiving country.

While having fear in the face of such situations is a natural, human reaction, he said it’s important to look at what the fear is grounded on.

In terms of migration and the presence of new ideas and approaches, “it’s worthwhile to ask that question: what stands behind that fear, what stands behind that approach? Is it really something objective, or is it something more subjective, because I feel threatened, or challenged?”

Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, spoke to CNA Aug. 27 about the topic, saying that in her social doctrine, the Church safeguards both the right of peoples to migrate, as well as to preserve one’s culture and the common good.

“Regarding migration, the social teaching of the Church concentrates on three rights: the right to migrate, the right of every country to regulate the waves of migration, and the right not to migrate,” he said.

“What does the Church do with regard to these rights? With reference to those who immigrate, we have the duty to safeguard their dignity, welcoming them, providing them a spiritual and material accompaniment, sensitizing public opinion, speaking out about their situation.”

On the other hand, he said that countries also maintain the right to regulate the waves of migration, creating policies based on the general needs of the common good.

But this must be done “warranting the respect of the dignity of every human person, included the migrants,” the cardinal said.

Fr. Gardzinski said that the challenge on this point always comes in finding a balance between the two, and that situations of crisis can often tend to push toward the black or the white.

However, this perspective doesn’t help to have an objective outlook when the situations “are already inflamed, or in a crisis beforehand,” he said, such as in situations like Greece.

On a personal level, the priest emphasized the need to work together in order to solve the current migration crisis, whether in Europe or the entire international community.

“I do not think one nation can actually handle migration by itself, it has to work together in collaboration because otherwise we are not able,” he said.

“The size of migration is just too big to be resolved from one perspective.”

Are dialogue and reconciliation with the SSPX part of the Jubilee for Mercy?

Vatican City, Sep 3, 2015 / 02:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis' decision that during the Jubilee Year of Mercy the faithful can receive absolution from priests of the Society of St. Pius X is the most recent attempt at reconciliation with the priestly society, according to a Vatican official.

The decision must be understood as Pope Francis extending his arm to the SSPX, a Vatican official who has taken part in talks between the Vatican and the society told CNA Sept. 2.

The official added that for the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has solved the issue of the validity of absolutions granted by priests of the society.

In his Sept. 1 letter detailing the Holy Year of Mercy, which runs from Dec. 8, 2015 to Nov. 20, 2016, Pope Francis wrote that among his considerations were “those faithful who for various reasons choose to attend churches officiated by priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X.”

“This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one,” he reflected. “From various quarters, several Brother Bishops have told me of their good faith and sacramental practice, combined however with an uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint. I trust that in the near future solutions may be found to recover full communion with the priests and superiors of the Fraternity.”

“In the meantime, motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition, I establish that those who during the Holy Year of Mercy approach these priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.”

Later that day, the SSPX released a statement “express(ing) its gratitude to the Sovereign Pontiff for this fatherly gesture … on the occasion of this Holy Year, Pope Francis wants all the faithful who wish to confess to the priests of the Society of St. Pius X to be able to do so without being worried.”

The society's statement added that “in the ministry of the sacrament of penance, we have always relied, with all certainty, on the extraordinary jurisdiction conferred by the Normae generales of the Code of Canon Law.”

The statement reflects the SSPX's belief that even though their priests have not been given the faculty of hearing confessions by local ordinaries (because of their irregular situation in the Church) – which is necessary for the valid absolution of sins – their absolutions are nevertheless valid, because they believe Church to be in a state of “emergency” which overrides the need for faculties given by the local bishop.

The Society of St. Pius X was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to form priests, as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church following the Second Vatican Council. Its relations with the Holy See became strained in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops without the permission of Pope John Paul II.

The illicit consecration resulted in the excommunication of the five bishops; the excommunications were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI, and since then, negotiations between the Society and the Vatican have continued, “to rediscover full communion with the Church.”

In remitting the excommunications, Benedict also noted that “doctrinal questions obviously remain and until they are clarified the Society has no canonical status in the Church and its ministers cannot legitimately exercise any ministry.”

The biggest obstacle for the society's reconciliation has been the statements on religious liberty in Vatican II's declaration Dignitatis humanae, which it claims contradicts previous Catholic teaching.

Doctrinal discussions between the SSPX and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith broke down in the summer of 2012, when the society's superior general, Bishop Bernard Fellay, would not sign a doctrinal preamble presented by Rome.

In December 2012 the vice-president of the Ponticial Commission Ecclesia Dei, Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, wrote to the society's priests, seeking “reconciliation and healing” and urging them that “some new considerations of a more spiritual and theological nature are needed … considerations that focus rather on our duty to preserve and cherish the divinely willed unity and peace of the Church.”

Talks between the CDF and the society resumed in 2014. In September of that year, representatives of both bodies held a two-hour meeting to discuss matters of Church teaching. The Holy See press office stated that “various problems of a doctrinal and canonical nature were examined, and it was decided to proceed gradually and over a reasonable period of time in order to overcome difficulties and with a view to the envisioned full reconciliation.”

And within the past year, the Holy See delegated both Cardinal Walter Brandmuller and Bishop Athanasius Schneider to visit the seminaries of the SSPX.

The prelates were sent to become better acquainted with the society, and to discuss doctrinal and theological topics in a less formal context in accord with the September 2014 meeting between Bishop Fellay and Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the CDF.

Both Cardinal Brandmuller and Bishop Schneider may well be among the brother bishops whom Pope Francis said “have told me of [the SSPX's] good faith and sacramental practice,” coupled with an uneasy pastoral situation – in August, Bishop Schneider told Adelante la Fe that “I could observe a sound theological, spiritual and human reality” in the society's seminaries.

Another recent sign of reconciliation toward the SSPX came earlier this year when the CDF appointed Bishop Fellay the first-instance judge in a delicta graviora case involving a priest of the society. Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, told Vatican Insider the decision was “a sign of benevolence and magnanimity” and “a step toward reconciliation.”

In the end, Pope Francis' gesture of an open arm toward the SSPX for the mercy jubilee can be seen in the context of a hope for full reconciliation, amid a history of positive signs punctuated by halts in discussions between Rome and the priestly society.

On WWII anniversary, Pope says 'never again' to war, condemns arms trafficking

Vatican City, Sep 2, 2015 / 05:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis remembered the official end of the Second World War on Wednesday with the plea: “never again,” and he decried similar horrors from today’s bloody conflicts, denouncing weapons trafficking.

The Pope recounted Sept. 2 today’s victims of war: “The persecuted minorities, the persecuted Christians, the insanity of destruction and the manufacturing and trafficking of weapons, bloodstained weapons, weapons soaked in the blood of many innocent (people).”

He cited the words of his predecessor, Blessed Paul VI: “War never again!”

These words, he said, are “the anguished cry which, from our hearts and from the hearts of men and women of good will, rise up to the Prince of Peace.”

The Pope's remarks addressed pilgrims in St. Peter's Square at the conclusion of his weekly General Audience.

“I renew my fervent prayer to the Lord of All that, through the Virgin Mary’s intercession, today’s world may not experience the horrors and the appalling suffering from similar tragedies,” he continued.

“This is also the permanent longing of peoples, especially those who are victims of several current bloody conflicts.”

The Second World War formally ended Sept. 2, 1945 on the U.S.S. Missouri, when Japan signed the documents of its surrender. Millions of soldiers and civilians were killed over the six year conflict that engulfed large parts of Europe, Asia, and the Pacific.

Pope Francis has spoken on several occasions about World War II over the course of his pontificate. He sent a message to the French bishops paying homage to those who fought in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, a he has also commemorated the 1943 bombing of Rome’s St. Lawrence Basilica.

Vatican says 'no' to transsexual godparents amid Spain controversy

Vatican City, Sep 2, 2015 / 12:22 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A media firestorm arose in Spain after a transsexual woman, who considers herself a man, asked to be the godfather of her nephew – leading a diocese's bishop to turn to the Vatican for an answer.

After writing to the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about the issue earlier this month, Bishop Rafael Zornoza Boy of Cdiz and Ceuta was told that since transsexual persons are not consistently living Church teaching, its “impossible” for them to fulfill their duties as a godparent.

The bishop wrote the letter after Alex Salinas, 21 years-old and born a woman, had requested to be the godfather of her nephew.

In their response, the congregation – charged with safeguarding Catholic teaching – said that it is “impossible to allow” a person with transsexual behavior to be a baptismal godmother or godfather.

In a Sept. 1 statement, the bishop said he turned to the Vatican due to “confusion among some of the faithful” and “the complexity and media attention garnered by this issue,” as well as the pastoral implications the decision has.

In the Vatican’s full response – which the bishop provided in his statement – the congregation explained that transsexual behavior “reveals in a public way an attitude opposite to the moral imperative of solving the problem of sexual identity according to the truth of one's own sexuality.”

“Therefore it is evident that this person does not possess the requirement of leading a life according to the faith and in the position of godfather and is therefore unable to be admitted to the position of godfather or godmother,” they said, referring to canon 874 3 in the Code of Canon Law.

However, the congregation stressed that there is “no discrimination toward (Alex), but only the recognition of an objective lack of the requirements, which by their nature are necessary to assume the ecclesial responsibility of being a godfather.”

In his statement, Bishop Zornoza points out that the role of godparents in the sacrament of baptism is assumed “before God and his Church and, in relation to the baptized, the duty of cooperating with the parents in (the child's) Christian formation, seeking to lead a life consistent with baptismal faith and faithfully fulfilling the inherent obligations.”

Godparents must be “firm believers, able and ready to help the newly baptized – child or adult – on the road of Christian life,” the statement continues, referring to paragraph 1255 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The bishop also suggested that if candidates meeting the requirements to be a godparent are not found, the baptism can still be celebrated in the same form, since the figure of godparents is not necessary in this sacrament.

Bishop Zorzona recalled Pope Francis' words in his environment encyclical Laudato Si, in which the Pope said that “valuing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different.”

“In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment,” the Pope said, adding that “it is not a healthy attitude which would seek to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it.”

At the close of his statement, Bishop Zorzona emphasized that “the Church welcomes all persons with charity, desiring to help each one in their situation with tender mercy, but without denying the truth she preaches, which is offered to everyone as a path of faith to be freely accepted.”

Alliance between families and God can change the world, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 2, 2015 / 11:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Encouraging families to hear God's word and to put it into practice, Pope Francis said Wednesday that the family, by being allied with God, is called to counteract the “desertification” found in today's cities.

“Our cities are becoming desertified for lack of love, for lack of smiles,” the Roman Pontiff said, addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square Sept. 2 for the General Audience.

Cities have “many diversions, many ways of wasting time, of laughing, but love is missing,” the Pope said. However, the family has the ability to overcome this.

“The smile of a family is able to defeat this desertification of our cities. This is the victory of the love of the family.”

Since last autumn, Pope Francis has centered his Wednesday catecheses on the family, as part of the lead-up to the World Day of Families in September, as well as October’s Synod on the Family; today's address was the last in the year-long series.

Throughout his catechesis, Pope Francis stressed the significance of “familial affections” and “the importance of families for spreading the faith” and for “helping to build a more human society.”

Although the Gospel says to love Christ more than our parents and children, it is not Jesus' intent to “delete the fourth commandment” – honor your father and your mother – the Pope said.

“Neither can we think that the Lord, after having performed his first miracle for the spouses at Cana, after having consecrated the conjugal union between man and woman, after having returned sons and daughters to family life, asks us to be insensitive to these ties!”

“On the contrary, when Jesus affirms the primacy of faith in God, he does not find a more significant comparison than family affections,” he said.

Pope Francis said the “knowledge of affection” is the “best gift of familial genius.” If we do not learn this “grammar” in the family, it becomes difficult to learn it well.

“And it is properly through this language that God makes himself understood to all.”

“The invitation to put family ties within the scope of obedience to the faith and the covenant with God does not demean them,” the Roman Pontiff explained. Rather, “it protects them, frees them from egotism, guards them from neglect, leads them safely to endless life.”

Such family affections are a source of blessing, and “bring hope on the earth,” the Pope said, adding that when transformed by the Gospel, “they become capable of unimaginable things.”

Pope Francis gave the example of men and women who put themselves at risk and even sacrifice themselves for someone else's child. He said this is the sort of love “which many scientists no longer understand.”

“And where there are these familial affections, these gestures from the heart are more eloquent than words.”

Pope Francis concluded his catechesis by praying that the Spirit may bring “happy disarray” to Christian families, and that “the city of man finds a way out of its depression.”

Pope listens to what Francis of Assisi can teach us about creation

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2015 / 02:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On the first World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, the preacher to the papal household said that St. Francis of Assisi is a key model in showing the link between faith in God and care for our common home.

Saint Francis “is living proof of the contribution that faith in God can give to the common effort for the protection of creation,” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., said Sept. 1 during his homily for a Liturgy of the Word presided over by Pope Francis, which was celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica.

“His love for creatures is a direct consequence of his faith in the universal paternity of God.”

The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation was instituted by Pope Francis last month to coincide with the Eastern Orthodox Church’s day of celebration for creation, which has taken place this day since since 1989.

Although Pope Francis presided over the celebration, Fr. Cantalamessa (who has been preacher to the Papal Household since he was appointed by St. John Paul II in 1980) gave the homily.

The liturgy began with the Canticle of the Three Young Men from the book of Daniel, and the Christian prayer in union with creation found at the conclusion of Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical Laudato Si'.

There was then a first reading, from Genesis 1; a responsorial, Psalm 148; a second reading, from Laudato Si'; an Alleluia; and a Gospel reading, from Matthew 6.

Fr. Cantalamessa delivered his homily following the proclamation of the Gospel.

One of the greatest sins against creation, the Capuchin Franciscan priest said, is not listening to God’s voice, but “condemning it irretrievably, Saint Paul would say, to vanity, to insignificance.”

The priest turned to God’s first commandment to man and woman, do “fill the earth and subdue it,” as well as his charge that man would have dominion over the earth.

Often these passages are interpreted with a secular mindset in which the word “dominate” is taken out of the biblical context, he said, portraying a “political sovereign exploiting his subjects” rather than a father who guards and preserves his creatures.

“There is an evident parallel: as God is dominant over man, so man should be dominant over the rest of creation, that is, responsible for it and guarding it,” the priest said.

“Faith in God the creator and in man made in God's image is therefore not a threat, but rather a guarantee for creation, and the strongest of all. He says that man is not absolute master of other creatures: he must account for what he received.”

A demonstratation that man's abuse of creation does not follow the biblical vision is that today’s pollution map doesn't coincide with the spread of the biblical region, but rather that “of a wild industrialization, turned only to profit, and with that the corruption that closes the mouth of all protests and resists all powers.”

Instead, the Bible brings to light a natural hierarchy which can be seen throughout nature, the priest observed.

This is a hierarchy, he said, is “for life, not against it,” and can be violated in various ways, such as when some spend ostentatious amounts on their pets and allow millions of children to “die of hunger and disease underneath their eyes.”

What St. Francis of Assisi shows us is a way to radically change our relationship with creation, in which we replace possession with contemplation, the preacher said.

Saint Francis, Fr. Cantalamessa noted, “found a different way to praise things, which is to contemplate, rather than owning them. He can rejoice in all things, because he has given up on owning any.”

“Possession excludes, contemplation includes; possession divides, contemplation multiplies,” he said, explaining that while only one person can own a lake or park, thus excluding others, when these things are left for contemplation, thousands can enjoy them without taking away from anyone else.

He also spoke pointed to the Gospel passage which was read, in which Christ says not to worry about what we will eat or drink, or what tomorrow will bring.

This passage, the priest observed, might seem contradictory to Laudato Si', in which Pope Francis encouraged others to be concerned about the future of the planet.

Rather than being in contradiction, the Gospel passage “puts the axe to the root - the same axe to the very same root at which Pope Francis puts his encyclical,” when it states at the beginning that “you cannot serve both man and wealth,” Fr. Cantalamessa said.

The preacher added that no-one can truly serve the cause of protecting creation without having the courage “of pointing the finger against the exaggerated accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few and against the money that measures them.”

Although Christ never condemned wealth in itself, what he did condemn was dishonest wealth, gained at the expense of others as a result of corruption and which is deaf to the needs of the poor.

What the Gospel passage says and what Pope Francis says in Laudato Si' have the same undertone, namely, not to be concerned with our own tomorrow, but with the tomorrow “of those who will come after” us.

The example of St. Francis of Assisi, he said, shows that a religious attitude toward creation is not something far-fetched, but is based on something concrete.

He noted how the saint at one point said, “I don't want to be a thief of alms,” meaning he was receiving more than he needed, and was thus taking away from others.

“Today this rule could have a very useful application for the future of the earth,” Fr. Cantalamessa said, explaining that while St. Francis didn’t have the global, planetary vision of the world’s ecological problem, he had a local, immediate vision.

St. Francis of Assisi “thought about what he could do and possibly his brother friars. Also in this he teaches us something,” the priest said, pointing to the popular slogan, “Think globally, act locally.”

“What sense does it have, for example, to pick on those who pollute the atmosphere, oceans, and forests, if I don't hesitate to throw a plastic bag in the bank of a riverbed that will remain there for centuries unless someone retrieves it?” he asked.

Like peace, protecting creation is something “handcrafted” that begins with ourselves, he said, quoting a phrase of Pope Francis.

He concluded by saying that if St. Francis of Assisi were alive today, he might add another verse to his famous prayer, this time praising God “for all those who work to protect our sister mother Earth, scientists, politicians, heads of all religious and men of good will.”

“Praise be, my Lord, for him who, together in my name, has also taken my message and today is bringing it to the whole world!”

All priests will be able to forgive sin of abortion during Jubilee for Mercy

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2015 / 06:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new set of pastoral guidelines for the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has made some significant moves, allowing all priests to forgive the sin of abortion and granting SSPX priests the faculty to forgive sins.

“One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life,” the Pope said in a Sept. 1 letter addressed to Archbishop Rino Fisichela, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, charged with organizing the jubilee.

In today’s society, “a widespread and insensitive mentality” has become an obstacle to welcoming new life, with many who don’t fully understand the deep harm done by the “tragedy of abortion,” he said.

However, Francis also noted that there are many women who, despite thinking abortion is wrong, feel that they have no other choice.

“I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision,” he said.

A woman who obtains an abortion automatically incurs a "latae sententiae" excommunication, along with those who assisted her in the process. Because of this excommunication, the sin of abortion can normally only be absolved by a bishop, or certain priests appointed by him.

For specific occasions such as Advent or Lent, some bishops extend this faculty to all priests within their diocese. In the U.S., the faculty to absolve abortion has already been delegated to all priests.

However, Pope Francis is taking it to a universal level. He said that the forgiveness of God can’t be denied to a person who has sincerely repented, especially when the person comes to the Sacrament of Confession in order to be genuinely reconciled with the Father.

Because of this, Francis said, he has allowed all priests for the Jubilee of Mercy “to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.”

In another significant move, Francis has also allowed priests from the Society of St Pius X to “validly and licitly” hear confessions during the Holy Year.

“This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one,” the Pope said in his letter, explaining several bishops have informed him of the society’s “good faith and sacramental practice,” albeit combined with an “uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint.”

The Society of St. Pius X was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to form priests, as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church following the Second Vatican Council. Its relations with the Holy See became strained in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops without the permission of Pope John Paul II.

The illicit consecration resulted in the excommunication of the five bishops; the excommunications were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI, and since then, negotiations between the Society and the Vatican to re-establish full communion have continued.

In his letter, Francis expressed his confidence that solutions to recovering full communion with the priests and superiors of the Society could be found in the near future.

In the meantime, “motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition,” he declared that those who approach priests of the Society for confession during the jubilee “shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.”

Pope Francis also turned to those who, due to reasons of age, illness or incarceration, will not be able to walk through the Holy Door in order to obtain the plenary indulgence connected with the jubilee.

Each of the four major basilicas in Rome has a holy door, which are normally sealed shut from the inside so that they cannot be opened. The doors are only opened during jubilee years so that pilgrims can enter through them in order to gain the indulgence.

In May, it was announced that as part of the Holy Year for Mercy, holy doors will for the first time be designated in dioceses, and will be located either in the cathedral or in a church of special significance or a shrine of particular importance for pilgrimages.

For the elderly and sick, often confined to their homes, the Pope said that living their illness and suffering with “joyful hope” and attending Mass, receiving communion and participating in community prayer, “even through the various means of communication,” is a way that they can receive the jubilee indulgence.

In regards to prisoners, Francis said that they will be able to obtain the indulgence in the chapels of the prisons.

He said that directing their thoughts and prayers to God each time they cross the door of their cell would signify their passage through the Holy Door, “because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.”

The Pope also pointed to how a jubilee indulgence can be obtained for the deceased, and encouraged faithful to pray to the Saints for them during Mass, that “the merciful Face of the Father” free them of the remainder of every fault.

Francis then turned to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, explaining that the experience of mercy “becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us.”

Therefore, each time that someone personally performs one or more of the 13 works of mercy, such as feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, burying the dead, willingly forgiving offenses, comforting the afflicted or praying for the living and dead, that person will “surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence.”

For all those who will celebrate and experience the grace of the jubilee either as pilgrims in Rome or in their individual dioceses, Francis prayed that the indulgence would be “a genuine experience of God’s mercy” for each one.

He affirmed that in order to receive the indulgence one must make a pilgrimage to the Holy Door, either in Rome or in their diocese, “as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion.”

In addition to the cathedrals and shrines where the Holy Door of Mercy will be opened, the Pope also designated that the indulgence could be attained in the churches traditionally identified as Jubilee Churches.

He stressed the importance of remembering that the reception of the indulgence must be linked “first and foremost to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy.”

It will be necessary, he said, “to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world.”