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Pope encourages religious to be architects of a new society

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has expressed appreciation for the opening of the 20th Renovabis Congress taking place in Freising, Germany.

The event, from  31 August to  2 September focusses on the theme “Witnessing to the Gospel – Shaping the World. The Role of Religious Orders in Central and Eastern Europe”.

A message from the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, on behalf of Pope Francis highlights his profound belief that the Lord’s call to bring peace and mercy to mankind continues to be an urgent and significant one in today’s world.

This – the message continues – is especially true for missionaries who leave the safety of their homelands to bring the light of the Gospel and the solidarity of the Church to the ends of the earth.  

To respond to the Lord’s call in this way, the message says, is a constant witness of God’s love for each creature.

The message of good wishes to the participants of the congress concludes with the wish that this kind of testimony may contribute to the building of a society based on dignity  and social responsibility, and that they may become the ‘architects of a new society’.       As explained on the website of the congress itself:  “The role and the activities of orders within today’s Central and Eastern European societies will be focal points during the congress. In addition to a short introduction concerning the development of the life of religious orders during the 20th century, especially related to the awakening or restart after the political-societal upheavals 25 years ago, the congress will also deal with the commitment of individual religious orders in the fields of school, caritas, pastoral aid and refugee relief. In addition to that, several workshops and a ‘Market of Possibilities’ will illustrate the variety of the religious life in the 21st century. Another important subject will be the perspectives of religious orders within the following decades”.

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis to cardiologists: work for authentic human good

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed the participants in a major international gathering of the European Society of Cardiology on Wednesday. The 5-day World Congress of the European Society of Cardiology has been meeting in Rome at the city's New Fairgrounds since August 27th to explore the role of teamwork in researching, diagnosing and treating cardiovascular illness. Pope Francis spoke to the participants on the final day of their convention.

In his remarks, the Holy Father reaffirmed the Church’s constant support for and recognition of the importance of scientific research and care for the scientists who carry it out. “Nature, in all its complexity, and the human mind, are created by God; their richness must be studied by skilled men and women, in the knowledge that the advancement of the philosophical and empirical sciences, as well as professional care in favour of the weakest and most infirm, is a service that is part of God’s plan,” he said.

Click below to hear our report

The Pope went on to say, “The sciences alone, however, whether natural or physical, are not sufficient to understand the mystery contained within each person: when man is viewed in his totality,” he continued, “we are able to have a profound understanding of the poorest, those most in need, and the marginalized.”

Pope Francis stressed that such a vision needs to inform research and caregiving, if they are really to serve authentic human flourishing. “In this way,” he said, “the [poor, needy, and marginalized] will benefit from your care and the support and assistance offered by the public and private health sectors.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: dicourse to cardiology congress

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday addressed the World Congress of the European Society of Cardiology, which has been meeting in Rome since August 27th to explore the role of teamwork caring for patients with cardiovascular illness. Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning!  I was pleased to accept the invitation of the Executive Committee of the European Society of Cardiology to meet with you on the occasion of this World Congress which brings together cardiologists from various countries.  I am particularly grateful to Professor Fausto Pinto for his kind words and, through him, I thank each of you for the scientific work in these days of study and discussion, but above all for your dedication to so many who are sick.

You look after the heart.  How much symbolism is enshrined in this word!  How many hopes are contained in this human organ!  In your hands you hold the beating core of the human body, and as such your responsibility is very great!  I am sure that as you find yourselves before this book of life with its many pages yet to be discovered, you are filled with trepidation and awe.

The Magisterium of the Church has always affirmed the importance of scientific research for human life and health.  The Church not only accompanies you along this demanding path, but also promotes your cause and wishes to support you.  The Church understands that efforts directed to the authentic good of the person are actions always inspired by God.  Nature, in all its complexity, and the human mind, are created by God; their richness must be studied by skilled men and women, in the knowledge that the advancement of the philosophical and empirical sciences, as well as professional care in favour of the weakest and most infirm, is a service that is part of God’s plan.  Openness to the grace of God, an openness which comes through faith, does not weaken human reason, but rather leads it towards knowledge of a truth which is wider and of greater benefit to humanity.

At the same time, we know that the scientist, in his or her research, is never neutral, in as much as each one has their own history, their way of being and of thinking.  Every scientist requires, in a sense, a purification; through this process, the toxins which poison the mind’s pursuit of truth and certainty are removed, and this enables a more incisive understanding of the meaning of things.  We cannot deny that our knowledge, even our most precise and scientific knowledge, needs to progress by asking questions and finding answers concerning the origin, meaning and finality of reality; and this includes man.  The sciences alone, however, whether natural or physical, are not sufficient to understand the mystery contained within each person.  When man is viewed in his totality – allow me to emphasize this point – we are able to have a profound understanding of the poorest, those most in need, and the marginalized.  In this way, they will benefit from your care and the support and assistance offered by the public and private health sectors.

By means of your invaluable work, you contribute to the healing of physical illness and are able to perceive that there are laws engraved within human nature that no one can tamper with, but rather must be “discovered, respected and cooperated with” so that life may correspond ever more to the designs of the Creator (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 36).  For this reason, it is important that men and women of science, as they examine themselves in the light of that great mystery of human existence, do not give in to the temptation to suppress the truth (cf. Rom 1:18).

With these sentiments, I renew my appreciation for your work.  I ask the Lord to bless your research and medical care, so that everyone may receive relief from their suffering, a greater quality of life and an increasing sense of hope.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis pleased over finalization of peace talks in Colombia

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is “pleased” that negotiations between the government of Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been finalized after four years of peace talks.

A statement issued by the Secretariat of State said the Holy Father “reiterates his support for the goal of attaining the peace and reconciliation of the entire Colombian people, in light of human rights and Christian values, which are at the heart of Latin American culture.”

The conflict between the government and the Marxist rebels has lasted over 50 years, and killed over 200,000 people.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday called a plebiscite for 2 October to ratify the agreement.

 

The full statement is below

 

Statement of the Secretariat of State

 

The Holy Father was pleased to learn that negotiations have been finalized between the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP, concluding an intense process that took place over the last several years.  He reiterates his support for the goal of attaining the peace and reconciliation of the entire Colombian people, in light of human rights and Christian values, which are at the heart of Latin American culture.

                On 12 August last, His Holiness received the invitation to appoint a representative to participate in the committee that selects the judges who will comprise the Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz (Special Jurisdiction for Peace).  However, bearing in mind the universal vocation of the Church and the mission of the Successor of Peter as Pastor of the People of God, it would be more appropriate that the said task be entrusted to other parties. 

              Pope Francis commends the peace process in Colombia to the maternal protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, Queen of Peace, and he invokes the gift of the Holy Spirit to enlighten the hearts and minds of those who are called to promote the common good of the Colombian nation.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Audience: Christ offers salvation not rejection

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis during his Wednesday Audience in St Peter’s Square spoke about how faith in Christ brings salvation.

Listen to this report

At the heart of the Pope’s catechesis during his Wednesday General Audience was the salvation of Christ to those who are rejected by men.

The Holy Father was reflecting on the account in the Gospel of St Matthew in which Jesus cures the woman suffering from  hemorrhages.

The Pope said, that this woman is considered impure according to the law, “but she trusts in Jesus’ mercy and saving power to free her from her illness and isolation.” 

Pope Francis described the woman as a person of deep faith who reaches out and touches Jesus’ garment.  This gesture noted the Pope, was a form quiet prayer and a sign of hope and courage.

Jesus’ response said the Holy Father, was one of tenderness which also acknowledged her dignity.  He treats her with love and heals her of her affliction. 

The Pope emphasized that faith in Christ brings salvation; it offers healing, restores right relationships between people and affirms our inviolable dignity. 

Speaking off the cuff Pope Francis said, “how many times have we ourselves felt inwardly rejected because of our sins,” But he added, the Lord says “have courage, come. To me you are not rejected, discarded.”

This is a time of grace, of forgiveness and of Mercy, and Jesus , underlined the Pope, asks all of us to trust in his word and, having experienced his mercy, to be a leaven of that mercy in our world.

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Migrants and refugees at the heart of Pope's new 'Motu Proprio'

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has created a new Dicastery to better minister to the needs of the men and women the Church is called to serve.

The new “Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development” was instituted in a Motu Proprio published on Wednesday in the Osservatore Romano. 

 

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

The dicastery will come into effect as from 1 January 2017 and will be especially “competent in issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture”.

On that same date, four Pontifical Councils dedicated to charity and to the promotion of human development will cease to exist and effectively be incorporated into the new institution.

The Pope has appointed Cardinal Peter Turkson as Prefect of the new dicastery. Turkson is the current President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace – one of those destined to be disbanded.      

As Pope Francis highlights in the Motu Proprio: ‘the Church is called to promote the integral development of the human person in the light of the Gospel’, thus the Successor of Peter must ‘continuously adapt the institutions which collaborate with him.’ 

One of the sections of the new dicastery is an expression of the Pope’s particular concern for refugees and migrants and of his deep belief that in today’s world integral human development cannot be promoted without special attention for the phenomenon of migration. For this reason, this particular section is placed ad tempus beneath the direct jurisdiction of the Pope.

Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ Motu Proprio:  

Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio by the Supreme Pontiff Francis instituting the DICASTERY FOR PROMOTING INTEGRAL HUMAN DEVELOPMENT

In all her being and actions, the Church is called to promote the integral development of the human person in the light of the Gospel.  This development takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation.  The Successor of the Apostle Peter, in his work of affirming these values, is continuously adapting the institutions which collaborate with him, so that they may better meet the needs of the men and women whom they are called to serve. So that the Holy See may be solicitous in these areas, as well as in those regarding health and charitable works, I institute the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.  This Dicastery will be competent particularly in issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture. In the new Dicastery, governed by the Statutes that today I approve ad experimentum, the competences of the following Pontifical Councils will be merged, as of 1 January 2017: the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.  On that date these four Dicasteries will cease exercising their functions and will be suppressed, and articles 142-153 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus will be abrogated.   I decree that what has been set out in this Apostolic Letter issued Motu Proprio have the force of law, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, even if worthy of special mention, and that it be promulgated by publication in L’Osservatore Romano, therefore published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, entering into force on 1 January 2017. Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 17 August 2016, the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Fourth Year of my Pontificate.

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Cardinal Turkson: Address to the Christian Social Congress

(Vatican Radio) The President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter Turkson, on Wednesday said “human beings risk turning into robots, into mere cogs in a worldwide machine.” He was addressing the Christian Social Congress taking place in taking place in Doorn, in the Netherlands.

“Against this threat, Christians need to marshal and explain their reasons for their faith in humanity,” Cardinal Turkson said.

“On the one hand, grounded in our religious vision of the world, our conception of freedom allows us to think independently about the world rather than constantly join the crowd,” – he continued – “On the other hand, this religious vision also makes sense of the movement of history due to its confident expectation that, eventually and actually, we will all be gathered together, reconciled in God through Christ.”

Pope Francis also sent a message to the participants of the Congress.

 

The full text of Cardinal Turkson's address is below

 

Current challenges for the Christian Social Movement

in the light of the Encyclical Laudato Si' of Pope Francis[1]

 

Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson

Christian Social Congress, Doorn, 31 August 2016

 

Thank you for inviting me to speak to this important and inspiring conference. I say “inspiring” because I realize that your Christian Social Movement had its first conference 125 years ago, in Amsterdam. Our Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace will be a more modest 50 years old next January 6th, so you see why I am impressed.

Of course, 1891 was also the year that Rerum novarum appeared: a truly revolutionary teaching, in its time and still today. It resolutely inserted the Church into some of the most pressing social issues of the day, such as the impacts of industrialization on individuals and families.

By Divine Providence, we too are living such a kairos moment. For the astonishing encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si', has resonated strongly all over the world, and still resonates 15 months later, because of a similar revolutionary force. We can read it as the Rerum Novarum of the 21st century. It offers guidance and guidelines for a different way of relating to each other and to Creation.

During these opening moments of your Conference, let the key question of globalization be raised with the inspiration of earlier prophets and of the epochal Council Vatican II. We can then consider changes and new forces, initially as threats but surely as challenging opportunities. And so we look forward to your deliberations, invoking God’s blessing.

The question of globalization

With the interconnectedness of today’s world, and with the quick distribution of information and images, anyone with the slightest interest will instantly realize that the challenges for humanity – the challenges to be fully human – occur at every scale, from the global to the most intimate. The summary label for this highly powerful and ambiguous phenomenon is globalization. There are several forces nowadays that converge to make globalization an unprecedented threat to human progress. I am speaking here of the economic, financial, political and technological forces that raise the ominous spectre of the progressive robotization of men, women and children, in their outlooks and behaviour.

The haunting question is this: are we inescapably in the grip of these forces, powerless to control our destiny? Or can humanity shape and guide these forces? The Christian Social Movement affirms resoundingly that we can and must take charge. This is the perspective and spirit with which your conference raises its central concern: how to humanize globalization?

Prophets before us

Thank God we are not the first to face daunting questions. It is with deep satisfaction that I recall the history of Christian social engagement in the Netherlands. It reflects two sides of Christian participation in social life: it is both intellectual and practical.

Your compatriots of past decades have provided some very important, diverse expressions of the vision of Christ in the actual social order. I am speaking of Mr. Jos Serrarens, Monsignor Wiel Nolens and Cardinal Bernard Affrink.

As Secretary-General of the International Federation of Christian Trade Unions, Jos Serrarens brought together Catholic and Protestant workers at the conclusion of the First World War in order to engage Christians in consolidating peace through social justice. Monsignor Nolens as Head of the Catholic Party played a major role on both the national and international stage to insert your nation in the world-wide effort to construct peace; this was just one of his achievements. And in the years after the Second World War, Cardinal Bernard Affrink, then President of Pax Christi International, launched the first initiatives that made Christians aware of the changes, or even the upheavals, that the world had begun to experience in this epoch due to human mastery of the forces of nature.

These outstanding names, along with many others, helped to define the past century through their ability to respond to the challenges of their time.

Vocation

Christians today are called to continue the witness of the eminent prophets we honour. We recall them because of their resolute insertion into the major challenges of their time, and they did so as a necessary expression and application of their religious faith. This is the path of faith and action united, as the Second Vatican Council taught with all its authority. The pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world, Gaudium et spes, opens with a resounding embrace of the lived realities of humankind: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men and women of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” (GS §1). And to truly follow Christ, we must accept our “earthly responsibilities”. The followers of Christ understand that their faith is incarnated in the world: “by the faith itself they are more obliged than ever to measure up to these duties, each according to his proper vocation.” Conversely, it is entirely erroneous for people to “imagine they can plunge themselves into earthly affairs in such a way as to imply that these are altogether divorced from the religious life” (GS §43.1). The only true path is that which unites faith and action.

First, the natural history of the world derives its meaning and direction from the supernatural history that Christ initiated. Christ gives world history an end, a goal, a telos and an Omega. Christ is our peace; he it is who makes reconciliation possible.

Second, it is the vocation of Christians in every era to translate Christ’s global vision into the hic et nunc, into the here-and-now. This is why we find such diversity in how Christians have engaged in society through the ages: the here and now in each situation differ from others, earlier or later, here or elsewhere. Thus it is that there is one consistent vision which finds expression in many different forms of social engagement.

Threatening changes

Let me highlight two of the upheavals that face us as we put our faith into action. First, the unipolar world has disappeared. The world today is multipolar. This is a radical change. Too much social science and the derivative social policy make the mistake of reducing this change to an excessively quantitative matter, whereas in truth it is qualitative, cultural, spiritual. Until the 1980s and early 1990s, the world was dominated by the Cold War and the East-West confrontation. But following the policies of détente of President Reagan and Chairman Gorbachev – policies that were supported by Christian leaders such as Blessed Pope Paul VI, Cardinals Agostino Casaroli and Barnard Affrink – the international equilibrium of power began to shift. New forces were let loose, and their priorities diverged from those of the West where spiritual strength was drained away by hedonism.

Yet our present world is already so different from the heady days when the Berlin Wall came down and formerly repressed populations found a new freedom. Indeed, in some cases, that freedom allowed them to indulge in consumerism and hedonistic interests that had been unavailable or forbidden. But nowadays, with all-pervasive computer tools, worldwide communication and social media, people risk being lost amid noise and triviality. Pope Francis worries greatly about information overload and neglect of direct human relationship.

“True wisdom, as the fruit of self-examination, dialogue and gener­ous encounter between persons, is not acquired by a mere accumulation of data which eventu­ally leads to overload and confusion, a sort of mental pollution. Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim, thus giving rise to a new type of contrived emotion which has more to do with devices and displays than with other people and with nature” (LS §47).

New technologies of communication bring me to the second upheaval. As I said earlier, human beings risk turning into robots, into mere cogs in a worldwide machine. Against this threat, Christians need to marshal and explain their reasons for their faith in humanity. How do we regard the world today and its various trends? On the one hand, grounded in our religious vision of the world, our conception of freedom allows us to think independently about the world rather than constantly join the crowd. On the other hand, this religious vision also makes sense of the movement of history due to its confident expectation that, eventually and actually, we will all be gathered together, reconciled in God through Christ. “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all” (Col 3:11). Christ, and his authentic disciples, exercise authority as service for others. “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all” (1 Cor 15:28.

Opportunities of dialogue

As you pursue your studies and discussions here, I urge you to embrace dialogue: dialogue among yourselves here, and dialogue in the work you do in the world. Pope Francis puts his faith and hope in dialogue “as the only way to confront the problems of our world and to seek solutions that are truly effective”.[2] Authentic dialogue is “open and respectful”; it requires “patience, self-discipline and generosity” (LS §201). It insists on open negotiation based on the principles which the social teachings of the Church vigorously promote: solidarity, subsidiarity, working for the common good, universal destination of goods, and preferential option for the poor and for the earth.

Pope Francis applies these principles, after briefly interpreting the story of Cain and Abel, to our real relationships. “Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custo­dy I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth” (LS §70). On the contrary, “The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures” (LS §240). This is the rich, integrated vision of the encyclical that you are about to study.

Let me give an example of new technologies at the service of networking for politics and democracy in action. Avaaz is an online network founded almost ten years ago; today Avaaz counts about 44 million members.[3] Using online petitions, it organizes citizens of all nations to close the gap between what exists and the world most people everywhere want. Avaaz and the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace collaborated on activities around Laudato si', the Pope’s visit to USA last September, and the COP21 climate change meetings last December in Paris. Now just as Avaaz brings people of all backgrounds to discover shared concerns and undertake common action, so your Christian Social Movement has brought together people of good will of diverse backgrounds. The invitation, I suggest, is to open ourselves to the potential for good in the new tools that are available, even as we take a prudent or critical attitude towards excesses.

Your deliberations

As this Conference gets underway, it makes me happy to know that you intend to pose “slow questions in swampy ground”.[4] To do this patiently and properly “rooted and grounded”, you re-read the Imitatio Christi in a contemporary, social key. This lived spirituality of encounter, as Pope Francis would say, sustains dialogue or conversation with various partners about current social issues very much on our agenda. Allow me please to remind you of the five great questions which will surely serve to focus this Conference as well as subsequent policy and action:

How can we give priority to responsive forms of the economy that are an answer to the needs of society instead of the wants of the individual (Chapter 4)? How can we make room for vulnerability, imperfection, and improvisational skills, thus countering the push to perfection and uniformity and strengthening the vitality and quality of life in society (See chapter 5)? How can we give priority to forms of inclusive politics which are, instead of just recurrent polling, a conversation, thus enhancing engagement by citizens in arranging their own life (Chapter 6)? How can we cultivate forms of growth in quality, thus reducing the emphasis on quantitative growth, numbers and procedures (Chapter 7)? How can we establish a culture of gratitude, reverence, and involvement, thus countering indifference, the throw-away culture, and cynicism (Chapter 8)?[5]

Conclusion

In conclusion, I wish to share an overall observation about Laudato si’. Pope Francis has brought together a huge canvas, an immense landscape of topics, in his text. He wants to help people of goodwill of all backgrounds to clearly acknowledge the world’s most pressing issues, and to embark on effective responses to them. People can do this if they embrace a transcendent understanding of the world’s movement towards reconciliation, and if they accept the humble, generous, loving parameters of dialogue for working together. He commits the Church to accompany every level of decision-making, every form of governance, that is willing to pursue the common good. Thus, with this new Rerum novarum, the Church is manifestly willing to go out into the whole social order and accompany humankind as we urgently take stock and make decisions and re-tool. You can count on the Church as you work for justice and peace in your immediate neighbourhood, your country, across Europe and throughout the planet! In a complementary way, the Church counts on you to live out her vocation in the modern world.

May our Lord smile on your deliberations and guide you to continue the great work of Christian social movements: to redeem and build positive relationships among all peoples and with all of creation in a globalization of ever-increasing reconciliation and human fulfilment!

 

 

 

 

[1] In the preparation of this address, I would like gratefully to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Fr. Joseph Joblin S.J., Professor emeritus of Social Sciences, Pontifical Gregorian University, and of Mr. Robert Czerny, editor and translator, Ottawa.

[2] Pope Francis, Address on Environmental Justice and Climate Change, 11.09.15.

[3] https://www.avaaz.org/en/community.php

[4] Piet Hazenbosch, De kracht van verbondenheid: Perspectieven in een netwerksamenleving: Naar een visie voor het Christelijk-Sociaal Congres 2016, Stichting Christelijk-Sociaal Congres, 2016, p.185.

[5] De kracht van verbondenheid, pp. 186-187.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Social systems should serve the needs of all people

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday sent greetings to the Christian Social Congress taking place in Doorn, in the Netherlands.

In a message sent through the Secretary of State, the Pope encouraged the participants “to promote a greater awareness of the particular dignity of human relationships, which inculcates esteem for each person and respect for others.”

It continued by stating Pope Francis “prays that those gathered will give particular attention to the concerns of the poor and marginalized, so that every economic, political and social system may serve the needs and advancement of all peoples, and protect the created world which God has entrusted to humanity’s stewardship.”

The President of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, also addressed the Congress.

 

The full text of the message is below

 

His Holiness Pope Francis was pleased to learn of the conference sponsored by the Dutch Christian Social Congress, to begin on 31 August 2016, and he sends cordial greetings to all gathered for this important event. As participants reflect on the primacy of the human person in a globalized world, His Holiness encourages them to promote a greater awareness of the particular dignity of human relationships, which “inculcates esteem for each person and respect for others” (Laudato Si’, 119). In this way, their discussion of the pressing societal issues of our day will be guided by a “humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision” (no. 141). In this regard, Pope Francis prays that those gathered will give particular attention to the concerns of the poor and marginalized, so that every economic, political and social system may serve the needs and advancement of all peoples, and protect the created world which God has entrusted to humanity’s stewardship. With the assurance of his prayerful good wishes, His Holiness invokes upon those gathered the abundant divine blessings of peace and strength.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Secretary of State

(from Vatican Radio)

Francis welcomes peace deal in Colombia

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2016 / 03:39 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis expressed his pleasure that peace negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC rebels have been finalized, though he declined to send a representative to help select judges for a truth and justice commission. The Pope “reiterates his support for the goal of attaining the peace and reconciliation of the entire Colombian people, in light of human rights and Christian values, which are at the heart of Latin American culture,” stated an Aug. 31 communique from the Vatican Secretary of State. Pope Francis had declined an Aug. 12 invitation to appoint a representative to the committee in charge of selecting judges for the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, explaining that given “the universal vocation of the Church and the mission of the Successor of Peter as Pastor of the People of God” it would be more appropriate for another party to fulfill this task. A ceasefire came into effect in Colombia this week as a result of a peace accord reached Aug. 24  between the Colombian government and the country's largest rebel group, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), intended to end the country's 52-year conflict. Since 1964, as many as 260,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in Colombia's civil war. The Marxist FARC rebels and the Colombian government have been engaged in peace talks in Cuba since 2012. The conflict has engendered right wing paramilitaries aligned with the government, as well as secondary rebel groups such as the National Liberation Army. The agreement still needs to be approved by Colombians in a popular vote, scheduled to take place Oct. 2. Many have welcomed the peace accord, but some – including former president Alvaro Uribe – charge that it is too lenient on the FARC. The deal would incorporate some of FARC's leadership into the government in exchange for their disarmament and renunciation of kidnapping and drug trafficking. Pope Francis has voiced his support for an end to the violence in Colombia before, most recently during an in-flight Q&A with journalists during a return flight to Rome Sept. 27, 2015. In response to a question regarding his feelings about a peace accord to be signed in March 2016 – an agreement which ultimately fell through – Pope Francis responded that when he heard the news of the upcoming signing he said, “Lord, help us reach March.” “I was very happy and I felt like I was a part of it because I’ve always wanted this,” the Pope said. “I spoke to (Colombian) President Santos twice about this problem and not only me, but the Holy See. The Holy See was always willing to help and do what it could.” Regarding this week's finalization of the 297-page peace accord, Pope Francis entrusted the peace process in Columbia to the Blessed Virgin Mary. “Pope Francis commends the peace process in Colombia to the maternal protection of the Most Holy Mother of God, Queen of Peace,” the official communique reads, “and he invokes the gift of the Holy Spirit to enlighten the hearts and minds of those who are called to promote the common good of the Colombian nation.”

Have the courage to ask for forgiveness, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2016 / 07:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis stressed the importance of having the courage to recognize our sins and ask God for forgiveness, moving forward rather than getting stuck in feelings of shame and rejection. “How many times do we feel rejected internally because of our sins!” the Pope said Aug. 31, noting that what the Lord tells us in these moments is “have courage, come. For me you are not discarded, have courage.” In the face of our sins Jesus calls us sons and daughters, he said, adding that “this is the moment of grace, of forgiveness, a moment of inclusion in the life of Jesus, in the life of the Church. It's the moment of mercy.” To hear someone say “you are no longer discarded, I forgive you, I embrace you,” is truly “the mercy of God,” he said, adding that “we must have courage to go to him and ask forgiveness for our sins, and then move forward with courage.” Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in a rainy St. Peter’s Square during his Wednesday general audience, continuing his ongoing catechesis on mercy for the Jubilee. He picked up from where he left off last week, having postponed his catechesis due to the massive earthquake that left several towns in Central Italy in shambles, focusing on the Gospel passage in Matthew in which a woman with hemorrhages touches Jesus’ cloak with the hope of being healed. Speaking of how the woman, blending in with the crowd, believed that just touching Jesus’ cloak would be enough to heal her ailment, the Pope marveled at her faith, saying she is able to think like that “because she was animated by so much faith and so much hope and, with a touch of cunning, achieved what was in her heart.” #PopeFrancis greets pilgrims before the general audience this morning. Photo credit: @dani_ibanez18 pic.twitter.com/hdYhO6kzIs— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) August 31, 2016 The woman, he noted, had been sick for many years and had visited several doctors, spending all of her money on painful treatments only to get worse. As a result, she was “rendered impure” and “excluded from the liturgy, from married life, from normal relationships with others.” “She was a woman discarded from society,” Francis said, explaining that because of this, “she felt that Jesus could free her from sickness and from the state of marginalization and indignity in which she found herself. In a word, she felt that Jesus could save her.” When Jesus turned around to see who had touched him, he “admired her faith,” and transformed it “into salvation,” the Pope continued, adding that in the encounter with Christ, “the path of liberation and salvation opens for all; men and women of every time and place.” Pope Francis then noted how due to her state of exclusion, the woman “acted in secret, behind Jesus’ back” in order not to be seen. However, instead of looking at her state of rejection and reproaching her, Jesus instead treats her with mercy and tenderness. Jesus, the Pope said, “knows what happened and seeks a personal encounter with her, the one the woman deeply desired.” “This means that Jesus doesn’t just welcome her, but considered her worthy of the encounter to the point that he gave her the gift of his work and attention.” In telling the woman “courage, daughter, your faith has saved you,” Jesus has expressed “the entirety of God’s mercy” for the people he encounters, particularly for those who have been discarded, Francis said. Not only does Jesus restore her health, but he fulfills her hopes by abolishing her despair, he restores her to the community and “frees her from social and religious discrimination,” he said. What Jesus gives, then, “is total salvation, which reintegrates the woman’s life into the sphere of God’s love and, at the same time, restores her to her full dignity.” Francis closed his address by noting that Jesus is the only source “from which salvation springs forth for all men,” and stressing that “faith is the fundamental disposition to welcome it.” “Jesus, yet again, with his demeanor full of mercy, indicates to the Church the path to take in order to go to the encounter of every person, so that each one may be healed in body and spirit, and recover their dignity as a child of God.” A hot morning turned cool after a rain storm in St. Peter's Square, and @Pontifex enjoyed it! Photos: @dani_ibanez18 pic.twitter.com/MdVadCX6RI— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) August 31, 2016

Pope Francis creates new Vatican office for integral human development

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2016 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday the Vatican announced Pope Francis’ decision to form a new mega-dicastery merging the Vatican offices for Justice and Peace, Migrants, charity and healthcare. Dedicated to “Promoting Integral Human Development,” the new department – also called a dicastery – was announced in an Aug. 31 communique from the Vatican. The announcement was accompanied by the Motu Proprio “Humanam progressionem,” meaning “Human Development,” by which Pope Francis formally established the dicastery “Promoting Integral Human Development.” Set to take effect Jan. 1, 2017, the new congregation will take on the tasks of the Pontifical Councils for Justice and Peace, Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, Cor Unum, and Healthcare Workers. It will be headed by Cardinal Peter Turkson, who since March 2013 has served as president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Francis’ decision to establish the new dicastery is part of his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia, and is a fruit of meetings with his Council of Cardinals, who advise him on matters of Church governance and reform. During their Sept. 14-16, 2015, meeting at the Vatican, the Council of Cardinals submitted a proposal to the Pope to establish two new mega-dicasteries, one dedicated to Laity, Family and Life, and one dedicated to Justice, Peace and Charity. The new congregation for Laity, Family and Life was officially announced by Francis during the October 2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family, and is headed by Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas. It will officially go into effect tomorrow, Sept. 1. In addition to taking on the tasks of the pontifical councils for the laity and the family, the new department for Laity, Family and Life will also assume the competencies of the Pontifical Academy for Life. While the original name of the new congregation for Integral Human Development was initially expected to include the elements of the councils it will merge, the final choice is a reflection of Pope Francis’ own personal style and is reminiscent of themes he has spoken of frequently since his election. In his Motu Proprio “Humanam progressionem,” signed Aug. 17, Pope Francis stressed that the Church is called to promote the integral development of the human person in the light of the Gospel, which “takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation.” He approved the statutes for the new dicastery “ad experimentum,” explaining that it will be competent “particularly in issues regarding migrants, those in need, the sick, the excluded and marginalized, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of armed conflict, natural disasters, and all forms of slavery and torture.” As of Jan. 1, 2017, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers “will cease exercising their functions,” and the new mega-dicastery will take effect.

Vatican encourages works of mercy through new social media campaign

Vatican City, Aug 30, 2016 / 10:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In honor of all “workers and volunteers of mercy,” the Vatican is encouraging those who volunteer in different service opportunities to share their testimony on social media with the hashtag #BeMercy. Launched by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the #BeMercy initiative is meant to coincide with the special Sept. 2-4 Jubilee for Workers and Volunteers of Mercy, and is part of Pope Francis’ wider Holy Year of Mercy. “Charity, love and mercy are different words to express the same reality: God’s love,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for the New Evangelization, told CNA in an interview. “God is close to you and God is always helping you,” he said, noting that love, charity and mercy aren’t limited to just helping people, but “become a great witness for us in the moment we are able to forgive people.” “That will be really the challenge for us today: to be witnesses of pardon and forgiveness.” The idea to share testimonies of volunteer service is meant to show the fact that within the Church there are many who daily perform the concrete works of mercy Pope Francis has encouraged during the Holy Year. Since the new initiative is meant to be a special part of the special Jubilee for Workers and Volunteers of Mercy, the council is asking that faithful take to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., to share how they have volunteered their time serving others with the hashtag #BeMercy. For those who might not know if they qualify as a volunteer of mercy, Archbishop Fisichella said those who fall into the category include “everybody who takes care of a friend or sister. Everybody who is in the condition to help people daily, in silence, in a concrete way, visiting sick people, visiting prisoners, helping poor people, assisting people who are hungry.” “We have an infinite way of (living the) works of mercy and in this way we have infinite workers of mercy,” he said, adding that everyone in this category is invited to join the jubilee celebration in order “to receive the thank you of Pope Francis.” Official events for the Jubilee of Workers and Volunteers of Mercy start Friday, Sept. 2 with adoration and confessions in designated churches throughout Rome, followed by a welcoming ceremony at Castel Sant’Angelo, which sits at the end of Via Conciliazione, the large street leading up to St. Peter’s Basilica. The following morning, jubilee participants will have a special audience with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square during which he will give a catechesis on themes related to the Holy Year. After the audience, pilgrims will have the opportunity to pass through the basilica’s Holy Door, and attend adoration and confession in certain parishes. On Sunday, Sept. 4, the jubilee will conclude with the canonization Mass for Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, considered one of the greatest witnesses of mercy in our time, celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square. Speaking of Mother Teresa’s witness to mercy, Archbishop Fisichella said that in addition to honoring all those who give their time in service to others with a special jubilee, Pope Francis also wanted to provide “spiritual assistance” to all those who work in the field, and “who will be the icon of mercy in our sanctuary except Mother Teresa?” Mother Teresa, he said, “was close to the poorest among the poor and probably for this reason Pope Francis had this inspiration to canonize Mother Teresa and to give a concrete sign how we can be workers of mercy daily.” Even if Mother Teresa isn’t officially declared a patron for workers of mercy, “she is the icon and the spiritual assistance for everybody,” the archbishop said. On the topic of security, Archbishop Fisichella stressed that Italian and Vatican police are taking extra precautions to ensure everyone’s safety, so there is no need to fear. Though groups and pilgrims are still trickling into Rome, the city has already begun to fill up ahead of Mother Teresa’s canonization Sunday. Archbishop Fisichella said that while he doesn’t have a number as to how many pilgrims might show up, nearly 500,000 came when Padre Pio’s remains were brought to Rome for the launch of the Jubilee, and “so I think that more or less it will be the same number” for Mother Teresa. For those who aren’t able to make it to the Mass or who aren’t even Catholic, Mother Teresa serves as “a universal sign of goodness, of piety, of mercy, of love,” and will be appreciated as such throughout the world, the archbishop said. He pointed to Mother Teresa’s often repeated phrase that “I probably don’t speak your language, but I can smile,” noting that one doesn’t have to be Catholic to share in this act of mercy, because “smiling is a universal language.” “When you are a witness of mercy, a witness of charity, a witness of God’s love,” he said, “a smile, joy, is your universal language.” Though he never met Mother Teresa personally, Archbishop Fisichella said he has met and spent time with the Missionaries of Charity on several occasions, and “they continue to work with the witness of Mother Teresa, with the ideal of Mother Teresa and with the same charity.”  

Pope Francis meets Mark Zuckerberg and his wife at the Vatican

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2016 / 06:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Monday Pope Francis met with Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of social networking giant Facebook, at the Vatican, marking the latest in a string of visits from other major tech-heads this year. According to an Aug. 29 communique from the Vatican, Francis and Zuckerberg, who was accompanied by his wife Priscilla Chan, “spoke of how to use communication technologies to alleviate poverty, encourage the culture of encounter and bring a message of hope, especially to the most disadvantaged.” The theme of poverty and bringing a message of hope to the poor and marginalized is something Francis has spoken about ceaselessly since his election, barely stopping to take a breath in the past three years. Though he has publicly admitted in interviews to not owning a cell phone or using the computer, it seems that Pope Francis sees the value of the digital age, specifically in terms of the benefits new technologies can bring to evangelization and promoting human dignity. His meeting with Zuckerberg and Chan marks the fourth time he has met with a major tech head this year. On Jan. 15 he welcomed Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, for a private meeting at the Vatican. A week later, he granted another private audience to Apple CEO Tim Cook. The Pope has also made an effort to engage with big name celebrities who share topics of interest such as Leonardo DiCaprio, with whom he met Jan. 28 in an encounter that focused on issues related to climate change and the environment. He has also started to make waves on social media, opening a Twitter account in 2012 and launching his own Instagram March 19, just weeks after his Feb. 26 meeting with the CEO and co-founder of Instagram, Kevin Systrom at the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. The reason behind Francis’ meeting with Zuckerberg, who co-founded Facebook with college roommates and fellow students at Harvard in 2004, could be prompted by Zuckerberg and Chan’s decision in 2015 to give away virtually all of their $45 billion in Facebook Inc. shares. As of August 2016, Zuckerberg has an estimated net worth of $53.7 billion, making him one of the top 5 richest people in the world. When Pope Francis notes, then, as he has frequently done, that according to some studies “80% of the world’s riches are in the hands of 17% of the population,” he’s referring to Zuckerberg. However, after their daughter Maxina was born in late 2015, Zuckerberg and Chan announced Dec. 2, 2015, in an open letter to her that they would be donating 99 percent of their Facebook stock during their lives through the “Chan Zuckerberg Initiative,” aimed at advancing human potential and promoting equality “for all children in the next generation.” In their letter, the couple said they had a “moral responsibility” not just to their daughter, but “to all children in the next generation” to make the world a better place. “Our society has an obligation to invest now to improve the lives of all those coming into this world, not just those already here,” they wrote. “But right now, we don’t always collectively direct our resources at the biggest opportunities and problems your generation will face.” The couple said their goals in donating their funds would focus on “advancing human potential and promoting equality,” and would consist of several long-term investments made in areas such as health and education, while at the same time working to decrease inequality and use technology to bring about positive change. Previously, in 2012, Zuckerberg and Chan had agreed to put the majority of their wealth to similar use with The Giving Pledge, a campaign founded by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett in 2010 to encourage the world’s wealthiest people to use their money toward philanthropic causes. In May, a report from Gizmodo dropped the equivalent of a social media bomb when several former Facebook employees said the company routinely suppressed conservative news in the social media giant's “trending news” section. The former Facebook news curators said they were sometimes instructed to insert stories into the “trending” section that had not earned enough attention to be a trending topic, or that they had the freedom to “blacklist” topics that they didn’t want to appear in the section, meaning that the section was not organically curated by the interests of other Facebook users, contrary to popular thought. Although Facebook denied any allegations of bias and said they had launched an investigation into the issue, the episode has left many skeptical, and doubts remain.

Open your hearts to those 'defeated by life,' Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Aug 28, 2016 / 08:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the wake of the Norcia earthquake, Pope Francis again offered prayers and said he hopes to visit the victims. He also reflected on the gospel call to help the poor.   “Today, Jesus gives a voice to those without a voice and asks each of us an urgent appeal to open our hearts and make our own the sufferings and anxieties of the poor, the hungry, the marginalized, refugees, those defeated by life, those who are rejected by society and the arrogance of the strongest,” the Pope said during his Angelus message on Sunday.   He discussed the gospel parable of a wedding feast where a guest who takes the highest seat of honor must move to the lowest seat when someone of a higher rank arrives.   “Jesus makes us understand the necessity of choosing the last place, to search the smallness and obscurity,” Pope Francis said Aug. 28.   Pride and vanity are the cause of many evils in the world, the Pope explained. When we lower ourselves, then it is God who lifts us up. He highlighted the duty of Christians to be humble and he warned against seeking the reward of men instead of the reward of eternal life given by God, which is a place “close to his heart.”   The Pope led pilgrims in praying a Hail Mary for victims of last week’s central Italy earthquake, saying he hopes to visit them “as soon as possible.”   Pope Francis again expressed his “spiritual closeness” to the dead and survivors of the Aug. 24 quake and said that the Church “shares their suffering and their concerns.”   The death toll from the 6.2-magnitude earthquake has reached at least 281, with more than 200 people rescued from the rubble.   The Pope’s message for the Angelus repeated his frequent call to serve those on the peripheries.   Our hospitality must not be based off of an interest in recognition or receiving something in return, the pontiff said. He quoted Jesus’ words in the Gospel that when giving a banquet “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind; and you will be blessed because they cannot repay.”   The Pope said that in Sunday’s reading, “Jesus shows his preference for the poor and the excluded, who are the privileged of the kingdom of God, and launches the Gospel message that it is important to serve others for love of God.”

Did you know Mother Teresa experienced visions of Jesus?

Vatican City, Aug 27, 2016 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Even her friend of more than 30 years, Father Sebastian Vazhakala, did not know Mother Teresa had conversations with and visions of Jesus before forming the Missionaries of Charity. It wasn't until after her death, for the vast majority of people, that this part of Mother Teresa's spiritual life was uncovered. “It was a big discovery,” Missionary of Charity priest, Fr. Vazhakala told CNA.   When Mother Teresa's cause for canonization was opened, just two years after her death in 1997, documents were found in the archives of the Jesuits in Calcutta, with the spiritual director and another of Mother Teresa's close priest friends, and in the office of the bishop, containing her accounts of the communications. Fr. Vazhakala, who co-founded the contemplative branch of the Missionaries of Charity alongside Mother Teresa, said he has a document handwritten by Mother Teresa where she discusses what Jesus spoke to her directly during the time of the locutions and visions. During a period lasting from Sept. 10, 1946 to Dec. 3, 1947, Mother Teresa had ongoing communication with Jesus through words and visions, Fr. Vazhakala said. This all happened while she was a missionary sister in the Irish order of the Sisters of Loreto, teaching at St. Mary's school in Calcutta. Mother Teresa wrote that one day at Holy Communion, she heard Jesus say, “I want Indian nuns, victims of my love, who would be Mary and Martha, who would be so united to me as to radiate my love on souls.” It was through these communications of the Eucharistic Jesus that Mother Teresa received her directions for forming her congregation of the Missionaries of Charity. “She was so united with Jesus,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “that she was able to radiate not her love, but Jesus’ love through her, and with a human expression.” Jesus told her what sort of nuns he wanted her order to be filled with: “'I want free nuns covered with the poverty of the Cross. I want obedient nuns covered with the obedience of the Cross. I want full-of-love nuns covered with the charity of the Cross,'” Fr. Vazhakala related. According to the Missionary, Jesus asked her, “Would you refuse to do this for me?” “In fact, Jesus told her in 1947,” Fr. Vazhakala explained, “'I cannot go alone to the poor people, you carry me with you into them.'” After this period of joy and consolation, around 1949, Mother Teresa started to experience a “terrible darkness and dryness” in her spiritual life, said Fr. Vazhakala. “And in the beginning she thought it was because of her own sinfulness, unworthiness, her own weakness.” Mother Teresa's spiritual director at the time helped her to understand that this spiritual dryness was just another way that Jesus wanted her to share in the poverty of the poor of Calcutta. This period lasted nearly 50 years, until her death, and she found it very painful. But, Fr. Vazhakala shared that she said, “If my darkness and dryness can be a light to some soul let me be the first one to do that. If my life, if my suffering, is going to help souls to be saved, then I will prefer from the creation of the world to the end of time to suffer and die.” People around the world know about Mother Teresa's visible acts of charity toward the poor and sick in the slums of Calcutta, but “the interior life of Mother is not known to people,” said Fr. Vazhakala. Mother Teresa's motto, and the motto of her congregation, was the words of Jesus, “I thirst.” And that they could quench the thirst of Jesus by bringing souls to him. “And in every breathing, each sigh, each act of mind, shall be an act of love divine. That was her daily prayer. That was what was motivating her and all the sacrifices, even until that age of 87, and without resting,” he said. Mother Teresa never rested from her work during her life on earth, and she continues to “work” for souls from heaven. “When I die and go home to God, I can bring more souls to God,” she said at one point, Fr. Vazhakala noted. She said, “I'm not going to sleep in heaven, but I'm going to work harder in another form.” Mary Shovlain contributed to this report.

Pope Francis tells a fractured world: God's mercy gives hope for change

Bogotá, Colombia, Aug 27, 2016 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Just as God trusts us and expects us to change, we must treat others “never based on fear but on the hope God has in our ability to change,” Pope Francis said in Saturday remarks that rejected the despair of a fractured culture.   “Which will it be: hope for change, or fear?” the Pope asked a gathering of Catholic leaders Aug. 27. “The only thing acting out of fear accomplishes is to separate, to divide, to attempt to distinguish with surgical precision one side from the other, to create false security and thus to build walls.”   By contrast, acting on the basis of hope for change and conversion is something that “encourages and incites.”   He said hope “looks to the future, it makes room for opportunity, and it keeps us moving forward.” Fear-based action bespeaks guilt and punishment, while action based on the hope of transformation “bespeaks trusting, learning, getting up, constantly trying to generate new opportunities.”   The Pope’s words came via video message to Bogota, Columbia, where the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy drew participants from all the countries of South America. Over a dozen cardinals and more than 120 bishops registered for the event, as did rectors of national Marian shrines, religious superiors, and directors of associations and new ecclesial communities. The event aims to show the communion of the churches of the Americas. It was jointly organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and the Latin American Episcopal Council.   Pope Francis said he was pleased that all the countries of America were taking part. “Given the many attempts to fragment, divide and set our peoples at odds, such events help us to broaden our horizons and to continue our handshake; a great sign that encourages us in hope,” he said.   The Pope repeated his previous lamentations of a fragmented, throwaway culture, a culture that is “tainted by the exclusion of everything that might threaten the interest of a few.”   “A culture that is leaving by the roadside the faces of the elderly, children, ethnic minorities seen as a threat,” he said. “A culture that little by little promotes the comfort of a few and increases the suffering of many others.  A culture that is incapable of accompanying the young in their dreams but sedates them with promises of ethereal happiness and hides the living memory of their elders.  A culture that has squandered the wisdom of the indigenous peoples and has shown itself incapable of caring for the richness of their lands.”   “We live in a society that is bleeding, and the price of its wounds normally ends up being paid by the most vulnerable,” he added. “But it is precisely to this society, to this culture, that the Lord sends us. He sends us with one program alone: to treat one another with mercy. To become neighbors to those thousands of defenseless people who walk in our beloved American land by proposing a different way of treating them.”   The Pope’s remarks drew on St. Paul’s First Letter to Timothy.   “Paul minces no words: Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom Paul considers himself the worst,” the Pope explained. “He is clearly aware of who he is, he does not conceal his past or even his present.  But he describes himself in this way neither to excuse or justify himself, much less to boast of his condition.”   “For all our sins, our limitations, our failings, for all the many times we have fallen, Jesus has looked upon us and drawn near to us.  He has given us his hand and showed us mercy,” he continued. “All of us can think back and remember the many times the Lord looked upon us, drew near and showed us mercy.  All those times that the Lord kept trusting, kept betting on us. “   The Pope encouraged his audience to concentrate on remembering their sin, not their alleged merits, and to grow in “a humble and guilt-free awareness of all those times we turned away from God – we, not someone else, not the person next to us, much less that of our people – and to be once more amazed by God’s mercy.”   Mercy is not simply a beautiful word. It is a concrete act of drawing close to others and making them feel that “the last word has not yet been spoken” in their lives. These people must be treated in such a way “that those who feel crushed by the burden of their sins can feel relieved at being given another chance.”   “Paul’s God starts a movement from heart to hands, the movement of one who is unafraid to draw near, to touch, to caress, without being scandalized, without condemning, without dismissing anyone.  A way of acting that becomes incarnate in people’s lives,” the Pope added.   The way of mercy can seek what is best for the other person “in a way they can understand.”   He noted the action of the merciful father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He said that Christians are sometimes tempted to be scandalized, like the older son in the parable who begrudged his father’s mercy towards his wayward brother.   “We might be scandalized that he did not upbraid him but instead treated him for what he was: a son,” the pontiff continued. Pope Francis suggested this is due to “spiritual Alzheimer’s,” which is “when we forget how the Lord has treated us, when we begin to judge and divide people up.”   “We take on a separatist mindset that, without our realizing it, leads us to fragment our social and communal reality all the more,” he said. “We fragment the present by creating ‘groups’.  Groups of good and bad, saints and sinners.”   What made St. Paul a disciple was “the trust God showed in him despite his many sins.” If we have the best plans, projects and theories about what to do, but lack mercy, “our pastoral work will be cut off midway.”   He questioned whether the bishops teach the path of showing mercy in their pastoral plans, parish structures, seminaries, missionary activity, clergy meetings and theology.   “Today we are asked especially to show mercy to God’s holy and faithful people – they know a lot about being merciful because they have a good memory –, to the people who come to our communities with their sufferings, sorrows and hurts,” the Pope exhorted. “But also to the people who do not come to our communities, yet are wounded by the paths of history and hope to receive mercy.”   “Mercy is learned, because our Father continues to forgive us.  Our peoples already have enough suffering in their lives; they do not need us to add to it,” the Pope said. “To learn to show mercy is to learn from the Master how to become neighbors, unafraid of the outcast and those ‘tainted’ and marked by sin. To learn to hold out our hand to those who have fallen, without being afraid of what people will say. Any treatment lacking mercy, however just it may seem, ends up turning into mistreatment.”   Pope Francis encouraged the Catholic cardinals, bishops, and other leaders to be grateful that God “trusts us to repeat with his people the immense acts of mercy he has shown us.”

The happiest day of Mother Teresa's life

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2016 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It’s been said that saints often come in pairs. Sts. Peter and Paul, Mary and Joseph, Francis and Clare, and Louis and Zelie Martin are just a handful of such saints, coupled together through marriage or friendship. Perhaps the best-known modern saintly pair of friends would be Mother Teresa and John Paul II, whose lives intersected many times during her time as Mother Superior of the Missionaries of Charity, and his pontificate. When John Paul II came to visit Mother Teresa’s home in the heart of the slums in Kolkata in 1986, Mother Teresa called it “the happiest day of my life.” When he arrived, Mother Teresa climbed up into the white popemobile and kissed the ring of the Bishop of Rome, who then kissed the top of Mother’s head, a greeting they would exchange almost every time they met. After their warm hello, Mother took John Paul II to her Nirmal Hriday (Sacred Heart) home, a home for the sick and the dying she had founded in the 1950s. Footage of the visit shows Mother Teresa leading John Paul II by the hand to various parts of the home, while he stops to embrace, bless, and greet the patients. He also blessed four corpses, including that of a child. According to reports of the visit from the BBC, the Pope was “visibly moved” by what he saw during his visit, as he helped the nuns feed and care for the sick and the dying. At some points the Pope was so disturbed by what he saw that he found himself speechless in response to Mother Teresa. Afterwards, the Pope gave a short address outside the home, calling Nirmal Hriday “a place that bears witness to the primacy of love.” “When Jesus Christ was teaching his disciples how they could best show their love for him, he said: 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Through Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, and through the many others who have served here, Jesus has been deeply loved in people whom society often considers ‘the least of our brethren,’” the Pope remarked. “Nirmal Hriday proclaims the profound dignity of every human person. The loving care which is shown here bears witness to the truth that the worth of a human being is not measured by usefulness or talents, by health or sickness, by age or creed or race. Our human dignity comes from God our Creators in whose image we are all made. No amount of privation or suffering can ever remove this dignity, for we are always precious in the eyes of God,” he added. After his address, the Pope greeted the gathered crowds, making a special stop to greet the smiling and singing sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. Besides calling the visit the happiest day of her life, Mother Teresa also added: "It is a wonderful thing for the people, for his touch is the touch of Christ." The two remained close friends, visiting each other several times over the years. After her death in 1997, John Paul II waived the five-year waiting period usually observed before opening her cause for canonization. At her beatification in 2003, John Paul II praised Mother Teresa’s love for God, shown through her love for the poor. “Let us praise the Lord for this diminutive woman in love with God, a humble Gospel messenger and a tireless benefactor of humanity. In her we honour one of the most important figures of our time. Let us welcome her message and follow her example.”

Nonviolent politics to be the focus of next World Day of Peace

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2016 / 05:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Announced Friday, the theme Pope Francis selected for the 2017 World Day of Peace focuses on nonviolence as a political solution to what he has frequently termed a “piecemeal World War III” being waged throughout the globe. “Violence and Peace are at the origin of two opposite ways to building society,” an Aug. 26 communique from the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace announcing the theme read. “The proliferation of hotbeds of violence produces most serious negative social consequences…Peace, by contrast, promotes social positive consequences and it allows the achievement of real progress.” Therefore, “we should act within what is possible, and negotiate ways of peace even where they seem tortuous and impractical,” the message attached to the theme said. By doing so, non-violence can take on “a more comprehensive and new meaning” composed not only of mere desire or a moral rejection of violence, barriers and destructive impulses, but also “of a realistic political method that gives rise to hope.” Titled “Non-Violence: A Style of Politics for Peace,” the theme for 2017’s World Day of Peace marks the 50th anniversary of the celebration, and the fourth of Pope Francis’ pontificate. Instituted by Bl. Pope Paul VI in 1968, the World Day of Peace is celebrated each year on the first day of January. The Pope gives a special message for the occasion, which is sent to all foreign ministers around the world, and which also indicates the Holy See’s diplomatic tone during the coming year. So far Pope Francis’ messages have focused on themes close to his heart, such as fraternity, an end to slavery, including forced labor and human trafficking, as well as overcoming indifference on both an individual and a political level. His messages for the event have consistently included bold pastoral and political advice for both ecclesial and international leaders, including his push for the abolition of the death penalty and amnesty for prisoners convicted of political offenses. In the communique introducing the 2017 theme, it was stressed that nonviolence as a political strategy is “based on the primacy of law.” If the equal rights and dignity of each individual are respected without discrimination, “then non-violence, understood as a political method, can constitute a realistic way to overcome arm conflicts.” Pope Francis’ aim in choosing this theme, the statement read, is to show “a path of hope” that’s proportionate to the context of today’s global circumstances. “In this way, the settlement of disputes may be reached through negotiation without then degenerating into armed conflict.” With this perspective in mind, the cultural identity of different peoples will be respected, and the idea that some are “morally superior” to others will be overcome. The statement cautioned that nonviolence isn’t the same as remaining indifferent to tragedies, but rather implies a recognition “of the primacy of diplomacy over the noise of arms.” “Arms trade is so widespread that it is generally underestimated,” the statement read, adding that illegal arms trafficking supports “not a few world’s conflicts,” and nonviolence as a political style “can and must do much to stem this scourge.”