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(Vatican Radio) The blessing of a newly commissioned icon of Christ the Saviour sets the stage for Pope Francis’ historic visit to the Anglican Church of All Saints on Sunday. It’s the first time a pope has ever visited an Anglican place of worship in his diocese of Rome and it comes as the centerpiece of celebrations marking the 200th anniversary of the community.
The icon, which will be blessed by the Pope, together with Anglican and Orthodox leaders attending the afternoon prayer service, is the work of English artist Ian Knowles, who heads a school for Palestinian art students in the Holy Land.
He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the aims of the Bethlehem Icon Centre and the way this type of liturgical art can help to heal our ecumenical divisions…
Knowles says he started the school four and half years ago as an attempt “to revive iconography as living art in the Holy Land” since research suggests that this art form began in the monasteries of Palestine during the 5th and 6th centuries.
So many Christians are leaving the region, he said, that the community is down to one or two percent of the population in Palestine, making it “very important that you nurture what roots are still left”. In this way he hopes the school can contribute to rebuilding the Christian community “giving a bit of hope and confidence to those Christians” who want to remain.
The school currently has over 30 students, many of them enrolled on a diploma programme which works in conjunction with the Prince of Wales school of traditional arts in London. It also runs courses twice a year to bring visitors to stay and pray in Bethlehem, not just to visit the Church of the Nativity but to give people the chance to “stay and live alongside local Christians”. Doing that through iconography, Knowles says, touches “the very heart of what Bethlehem is about”.
Asked about the icon at All Saints, the artist says he believes that iconography is “incarnational art so it has to relate to the community it’s being painted for”. Considering the English Christian cultural heritage of All Saints and the presence of Pope Francis, Knowles says he recalled a famous image of Christ the Saviour from around the 5th century kept in the chapel of Rome’s Lateran palace . When Rome was under threat in those early centuries, he notes, the pope “would take the image and walk around city barefoot”.
Pope Francis’s visit, he believes, will in a similar sense, help to foster healing of the ecumenical wounds of the past. As well as the image in the Lateran, Knowles says he drew inspiration from the medieval English illustrator Matthew Paris.
Describing icons as “a hymn in paint”. Knowles says the works are all done with natural pigments, including “rocks which I find on the way to Jericho and we grind up”. God has given us these natural colours, he says, and it’s our job to “weave them together into something which is joyful and beautiful”, or as Dostoyevsky describes it, an image of salvation.
The point of an icon, he concludes, is to be an encounter, just as the liturgy is the place where “heaven is wedded to earth” so this liturgical art is about the “opening up of earth to heaven”. It is like a door “through which the saint or Christ himself comes and is present to the worshipper, and graces and blesses them, and you find yourself caught up in heaven through these images”.(from Vatican Radio)
On Saturday morning in the Vatican, Pope Francis met with parish priests participating in a training course dealing with annulment procedures and other legal issues surrounding marriage.
The course was organized by the Roman Rota, the highest appellate tribunal of the Church.
Referring to the proposals of the Synod of Bishops on “Marriage and the Family”, and his subsequent Apostolic Exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia”, the Pope praised this study initiative saying it is the parish priest who is in daily contact with families and is called to concretely apply the appropriate juridical norms.
In most cases, said the Pope, the parish priest is the first to whom young people turn when they decide to marry and create a new family. And again, it is to the parish priest that couples come when their marriage is in crisis and they need to rediscover the Grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony.
No one knows better than you do, he told the priests, the complexity and variety of problems that exist in marriage: Christian unions, civil marriages, broken marriages, families and young people who are happy or unhappy.
“You are called to be a travel companion to every person in every situation, to support and to give witness”, said the Pope.
First and foremost you are called to witness to the Grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony and the good of the Family as the vital heart of the Church and society, by proclaiming that marriage between a man and a woman is a sign of the union between Christ and His Church. Pope Francis went on to say how God and His Love are reflected in the Sacrament of Marriage – which he described as “an icon of God”.
At the same time, the parish priest is called to support those who have come to realise that their union is not a true sacramental marriage and want to correct this situation. In this delicate and necessary moment make sure your faithful see you as a brother who listens and understands, rather than an expert in bureaucracy and juridical norms, he said.
Pope Francis invited parish priest to pay special attention to those young people who prefer to live together rather than get married. “Spiritually and morally-speaking,” he said, ”they are among the poor and little ones towards whom the Church wants to be a Mother who never abandons, but is close to them and takes care of them…So be tender and compassionate towards them”.
Finally, the Pope reminded those present of his speech to the Roman Rota on January 21st in which he called for a new teaching style in preparing couples for matrimony, one that follows each step of their sacramental journey, from the wedding itself to the first years of marriage.
“I encourage you to put this teaching into practice”, he said, “despite the difficulties you may encounter.”(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged the Comunità di Capodarco in its work to help the disabled and marginalized people of society.
The community was founded in 1966 in the Capodarco neighborhood of the eastern Italian city of Fermo.
Listen to the report by Charles Collins:
Its main activity is organizing services for the rehabilitation of disabled people, with a particular aim of social and occupational integration. Over the years, its sphere of action expanded to helping young people, children, drug addicts, immigrants, the mentally ill, and other populations on the peripheries of society.
“The Comunità di Capodarco, existing in numerous local chapters, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year,” – Pope Francis told them – “With you, I thank the Lord for the good accomplished during these years … You have chosen to be on the side of people who are less protected; to offer them hospitality, support and hope, in a dynamic of sharing. In this way, you have contributed and contribute to making a better society.”
The Holy Father said the quality of life within a society is measured from the ability to include its weakest members, “effectively respecting their dignity as men and women,” adding this inclusion should be seen “not as something extraordinary, but normal.”
“Even the person with disabilities and frailties – physical, mental or moral - must be able to participate in the life of society and be helped to implement his or her potential in different ways,” – the Pope continued – “A society that would give space only to people who are fully functional - completely autonomous and independent - would not be a society worthy of man. Discrimination based upon efficiency is no less deplorable than that based upon by race, religion, or ability to pay.”
Pope Francis praised the Comunità di Capodarco for not approaching those who are weaker with a “pietistic attitude” or as if they were welfare cases, but by promoting the “protagonism of the person.”
“In the face of economic problems and the negative consequences of globalization, your community is trying to help those who find themselves being tested not to feel excluded or marginalized; but, on the contrary, to walk at the forefront, carrying the witness of personal experience,” – the Pope said – “This promotes the dignity and respect of each individual, making the ‘losers of life’ feel the tenderness of God, loving Father of all of his creatures.”
The Holy Father also said those marked by physical or mental impediments have a special place in the Church, and their participation in the ecclesial community “opens the way to simple and fraternal relations, and their filial and spontaneous prayer invites all of us to pray to our Heavenly Father.”(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received in audience on Saturday the French voluntary service agency, “the Catholic Delegation for Cooperation”, which is marking the 50th anniversary of its foundation.
Listen to Lydia O’Kane's report:
The Catholic Delegation for Cooperation is the international voluntary service agency run by the Church in France and has volunteers on missions in over 50 countries who work in solidarity with local Churches and communities on development projects.
Culture of Mercy
To mark its 50th anniversary the delegation on Saturday was received by Pope Francis in the Vatican where he told them to promote a culture of mercy.
He said this culture needed to be one where “no one looks to the other with indifference or runs away when he sees the suffering of brothers “. Do not be afraid, the Pope told those gathered “to walk the streets of fraternity and to build bridges between peoples…”
Through your initiatives, your plans and your actions, he added, you render a poor Church visible, one that empathizes with those who are suffering, marginalized and excluded.
The Holy Father pointed out that the word “solidarity” is at times over used to such an extent that its meaning is lost, and is in fact more than just an act of generosity. He explained that what was required was a new mindset that thinks in terms of the community where everyone is respected. Thinking in this way, underlined Pope Francis also contributes to a genuine ecological conversion which recognizes the eminent dignity of every person, their value, their creativity and their ability to seek and promote the common good.
The Pope encouraged the delegation to be at the service of a Church which allows everyone to recognize the amazing closeness of God, his compassion, his love and to welcome the strength that he gives us in Jesus Christ.
(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Friday with participants in a conference on the human right to water, organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Listen to the report by Philippa Hitchen:
Pope Francis said the questions concerning the right to water are not marginal, but basic and pressing. Basic, because where there is water there is life, and pressing, because our common home needs to be protected.
Yet we must also realise, he said, that not all water is life-giving, but only water that is safe and of good quality. The right to safe drinking water, he insisted, is a basic human right which cries out for practical solutions and needs to be given the central place it deserves in the framework of public policy.
Our right to water, the Pope continued, gives rise to an inseparable duty. Every state, he said, is called to implement, also through juridical instruments, the Resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly since 2010 concerning the human right to a secure supply of drinking water. Similarly, non-state actors are required to assume their own responsibilities with respect to this right which is so decisive for the future of humanity.
Noting that every day a thousand children die from water-related illnesses and millions of people consume polluted water, the Pope said we must give high priority to educating future generations about the gravity of the situation.
We cannot be indifferent to these facts, he said, but rather we must work to develop a culture of care and encounter, in order to make our common home a more liveable and fraternal place, where none are excluded, but all are able to live and grow in dignity.
Please find below the official English translation of the Pope's address:
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Conference on the Human Right to Water
Pontifical Academy of Sciences
23 February 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Good afternoon! I greet all of you and I thank you for taking part in this meeting concerned with the human right to water and the need for suitable public policies in this regard. It is significant that you have gathered to pool your knowledge and resources in order to respond to this urgent need of today’s men and women.
The Book of Genesis tells us that water was there in the beginning (cf. Gen 1:2); in the words of Saint Francis of Assisi, it is “useful, chaste and humble” (cf. Canticle of the Creatures). The questions that you are discussing are not marginal, but basic and pressing. Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for societies to arise and advance. Pressing, because our common home needs to be protected. Yet it must also be realized that not all water is life-giving, but only water that is safe and of good quality.
All people have a right to safe drinking water. This is a basic human right and a central issue in today’s world (cf. Laudato Si’, 30; Caritas in Veritate, 27). This is a problem that affects everyone and is a source of great suffering in our common home. It also cries out for practical solutions capable of surmounting the selfish concerns that prevent everyone from exercising this fundamental right. Water needs to be given the central place it deserves in the framework of public policy. Our right to water is also a duty to water. Our right to water gives rise to an inseparable duty. We are obliged to proclaim this essential human right and to defend it – as we have done – but we also need to work concretely to bring about political and juridical commitments in this regard. Every state is called to implement, also through juridical instruments, the Resolutions approved by the United Nations General Assembly since 2010 concerning the human right to a secure supply of drinking water. Similarly, non-state actors are required to assume their own responsibilities with respect to this right.
The right to water is essential for the survival of persons (cf. Laudato Si’, 30) and decisive for the future of humanity. High priority needs to be given to educating future generations about the gravity of the situation. Forming consciences is a demanding task, one requiring conviction and dedication.
The statistics provided by the United Nations are troubling, nor can they leave us indifferent. Each day a thousand children die from water-related illnesses and millions of persons consume polluted water. These facts are serious; we have to halt and reverse this situation. It is not too late, but it is urgent to realize the need and essential value of water for the good of mankind.
Respect for water is a condition for the exercise of the other human rights (cf. ibid., 30). If we consider this right fundamental, we will be laying the foundations for the protection of other rights. But if we neglect this basic right, how will we be able to protect and defend other rights? Our commitment to give water its proper place calls for developing a culture of care (cf. ibid., 231) and encounter, joining in common cause all the necessary efforts made by scientists and business people, government leaders and politicians. We need to unite our voices in a single cause; then it will no longer be a case of hearing individual or isolated voices, but rather the plea of our brothers and sisters echoed in our own, and the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all. In this culture of encounter, it is essential that each state act as a guarantor of universal access to safe and clean water.
God the Creator does not abandon us in our efforts to provide access to clean drinking water to each and to all. It is my hope that this Conference will help strengthen your convictions and that you will leave in the certainty that your work is necessary and of paramount importance so that others can live. With the “little” we have, we will be helping to make our common home a more liveable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity.
Thank you.(from Vatican Radio)
(Vatican Radio) In the journey of the Christian, truth is not negotiable; rather, a Christian must be just in mercy, as Jesus teaches us. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. The Holy Father warned against hypocrisy and the deception of a faith reduced to a “casuistic logic.”
Listen to Christopher Wells' report:
“Is it lawful for a husband to put away his wife?” That is the question the doctors of the law put to Jesus in the day's Gospel.
Jesus does not give in to a casuistic logic, but always explains the truth
They asked the question to once more put Jesus to the test, the Pope observed. Looking to Jesus' answer, the Pope explained what matters most in the faith:
“Jesus does not answer whether it is lawful or not lawful; He doesn’t enter into their casuistic logic. Because they thought of the faith only in terms of ‘Yes, you can,” or “No, you can’t” – to the limits of what you can do, the limits of what you can’t do. That logic of casuistry. And He asks a question: “But what did Moses command you? What is in your Law?” And they explained the permission Moses had given to put away the wife, and they themselves fall into the trap. Because Jesus qualifies them as ‘hard of heart’: ‘Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment,’ and He speaks the truth. Without casuistry. Without permissions. The truth.”
The logic of casuistry is hypocritical, deceptive
But if this is the truth, and adultery is serious, how then, the Pope asks, does one explain that Jesus spoke “many times with an adulteress, a pagan?” That He “drank from the glass of her who was not purified?” And at the end He said to her: “I do not condemn you. Sin no more”? How does one explain that?
“And the path of Jesus – it’s quite clear – is the path from casuistry to truth and mercy. Jesus lays aside casuistry. Not here, but in other passages from the Gospel, He qualifies those who want to put Him to the test, those who think with this logic of ‘Yes, you can’ as hypocrites. Even with the fourth commandment these people refused to assist their parents with the excuse that they had given a good offering to the Church. Hypocrites. Casuistry is hypocritical. It is a hypocritical thought. ‘Yes, you can; no, you can’t’… which then becomes more subtle, more diabolical: But what is the limit for those who can? But from here to here I can’t. It is the deception of casuistry.
From casuistry to truth to mercy: this is the Christian path
The path of the Christian, then, does not give into the logic of casuistry, but responds with the truth, which is accompanied, following the example of Jesus, by mercy – “because He is the Incarnation of the Mercy of the Father, and He cannot deny Himself. He cannot deny Himself because He is the truth of the Father, and He cannot deny Himself because He is the Mercy of the Father.”
Justice and mercy: This is the path that makes us happy
“And this street that Jesus teaches us,” the Pope noted, is difficult to apply in the face of the temptations of life:
“When the temptation touches your heart, this path of going out from casuistry to truth and mercy is not easy: It takes the grace of God to help us to go forward in this way. And we should always ask for it. ‘Lord, grant that I might be just, but just with mercy.’ Not just, covered by casuistry. Just in mercy. As You are. Just in mercy. Then, someone with a casuistic mentality might ask, “But what is more important in God? Justice or mercy?’ This, too, is a sick thought, that seeks to go out… What is more important? They are not two things: it is only one, only one thing. In God, justice is mercy and mercy is justice. May the Lord help us to understand this street, which is not easy, but which will bring us happiness, and will make so many people happy.”(from Vatican Radio)