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Love is the heart of doctrine on family, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2018 / 11:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to Antillean youth, Pope Francis said love is the core of the Church's doctrine on the family, which is something every young person is responsible for carrying forward. To understand what this love means, the pope urged young people to both read and study chapter four of his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, which is dedicated to “Love in Marriage.” “I tell you that the core of Amoris Laetitia was chapter four. How to live love. How to live love in the family,” he said, and told youth to read and talk about the chapter with each other, because “there is a lot of strength here to continue going forward” and to transform family life. Love “has its own strength. And love never ends,” he said, explaining that if they learn how to truly love as God taught, “you will be transforming something that is for all of eternity.” Pope Francis sent a video message to participants in the youth assembly of the Antilles Bishops Conference, which is taking place in the Archdiocese of Saint-Pierre and Fort-de-France, in Martinique, from July 10-23. In his message, the pope asked youth whether they were really living as young people, or if they had become “aged youth,” because “if you are aged young people you are not going to do anything. You have to be youth who are young, with all the strength that youth has to transform.” He said young people should not be “settled” in life, because being “settled” means one is at a standstill and “things don't go forward.” “You have to un-stall what has been stalled and start to fight,” the pope said. “You want to transform, you want to carry forward and you have made your own the directives of the post-synodal exhortation on the family in order to carry the family forward and transform the family of the Caribbean,” he said. In order to promote and carry the family forward, one must understand both the present and the past, Pope Francis said. “You are preparing to transform something that has been given to you by your elders. You have received the history of yesterday, the traditions of yesterday,” he said, adding that people “cannot do anything in the present nor the future if you are not rooted in the past, in your history, in your culture, in your family; if you do not have roots that are well grounded.” To this end, he told youth to spend time with their grandparents and other elderly people, and to take what they learn and “carry it forward.”

Francis appoints four presidents delegate for youth synod

Vatican City, Jul 16, 2018 / 10:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis appointed Saturday four cardinals as presidents delegate to the synod on youth, which will meet at the Vatican in October. His July 14 appointments were Cardinal Louis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon; Cardinal Désiré Tsarahazana of Toamasina; Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon; and Cardinal John Ribat of Port Moresby. Each were appointed cardinal by Pope Francis. The presidents delegate will take turns presiding over the synod on the pope's behalf. They are to guide the synod's work, delgate special tasks, and sign the synod's documents. The Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation will address questions of sexuality and gender, the role of women, and the desire for a Church which knows how to listen. The synod's instrumentum laboris was issued last month, and key issues highlighted in it include increasing cultural instability and conflict, and that many young people, both inside and outside of the Church, are divided when it comes to topics related to sexuality, the role of women, and the need to be more welcoming to members of the LGBT community.

A good Catholic proclaims the Gospel, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Jul 15, 2018 / 05:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- By virtue of their Baptism, every Catholic is called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ – a mission which cannot be separated from the Catholic Church, Pope Francis said Sunday. “It is truly [our] Baptism that makes us missionaries,” the pope said in off-the-cuff comments July 15. “A baptized person who does not feel the need to proclaim the Gospel, to announce Jesus, is not a good Christian.” The first necessary element of all authentic missionary discipleship is the “changeless center, which is Jesus,” he said. This is because proclaiming the Gospel cannot be separated from Christ or from the Church. Announcing the Gospel “is not an initiative of individual believers, groups or even large groups, but it is the Church’s mission inseparably united with her Lord,” Pope Francis said. “No Christian proclaims the Gospel ‘on his own,’ but only sent by the Church who received the mandate from Christ himself.” Speaking during his weekly Angelus address, the pope reflected on the Christian’s mission as seen when Jesus sends out his disciples “two by two” to preach repentance. Jesus’ message to his disciples in this episode of the Gospel concerns not just priests, but every baptized person, who is “called to witness, in the various environments of life, the Gospel of Christ,” he said. Like the disciples were warned, the message may not be welcomed, but this aligns with what Jesus himself experienced, the pope said, noting that he was “was rejected and crucified.” “Only if we are united with him, dead and risen, can we find the courage of evangelization,” Francis said. Noting that the center of the mission must always be Christ, he pointed to examples of saints from Rome who are examples of being “humble workers of the Kingdom,” such as St. Philip Neri, St. Benedict Joseph Labre, St. Frances of Rome, and Bl. Ludovica Albertoni.   They did not work to advance themselves or their own ideas or interests, but acted always as messengers sent by Jesus, he said. Pointing to the Blessed Virgin Mary as “the first disciple and missionary of the Word of God,” the pope concluded by asking her help to bring “the message of the Gospel to the world in a humble and radiant exultation, beyond any rejection, misunderstanding or tribulation.”

Beatification cause opens for Jesuit Pedro Arrupe, early mentor to Pope Francis

Vatican City, Jul 13, 2018 / 12:43 pm (CNA).- A cause has begun in the Diocese of Rome for the beatification of Fr. Pedro Arrupe SJ, former superior general of the Society of Jesus. The priest, who served as a mentor to the future Pope Francis, was a controversial figure within the Society of Jesus. Jesuit Father General Fr. Arturo Sosa announced Arrupe’s cause at a meeting in Bilbao, Spain with some 300 Jesuits and lay associates involved with the International Association of Jesuit Universities. The news was confirmed to CNA by the communications director for the Jesuit Curia in Rome, Fr. Patrick Mulemi, who said the cause is “has been opened,” but has just begun. “We are right at the beginning of the process,” he said, explaining that the Jesuits will follow the same procedure as any other cause. Born in Spain in 1907, Arrupe served as superior general for the Society of Jesus from 1965-1983, leading the order through the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. During that time, he also served three consecutive terms as president of the Union of Religious Superiors General, from 1967-1982. According to papal biographer Austen Ivereigh, who wrote the widely read biography of Pope Francis, “The Great Reformer,” Arrupe and then-Fr. Bergoglio “had a very good and close relationship, and Bergoglio saw him as a spiritual father, he enormously admired him and was inspired by him.” It was Arrupe who appointed Bergoglio the Jesuit provincial of Argentina in 1973, and the two remained close. The  made a joint-visit to the Diocese of La Rioja to support Bishop Enrique Ángel Angelelli Carletti, who was assassinated in 1976 during Argentina's Dirty War. Arrupe entered the Society of Jesus in 1927 after studying medicine. After the order was expelled from Spain in 1932, he went to study in Belgium, the Netherlands and the United States as part of his formation before being ordained a priest. He was ordained in 1936 and obtained a degree in medical ethics before being sent to Japan in 1938 to work as a missionary. While abroad, he became the master of novices for the Jesuit novitiate in Japan, and was living in Hiroshima when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Aug. 6, 1945. With his history in medicine, the young priest converted the novitiate into a makeshift hospital for the wounded. A decade later, in 1958, he was named the first provincial for Japan, overseeing all Jesuits who lived in the country. Arrupe held the position until May 1965, when he was elected Father General of the Jesuits during the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, just six months before the closing of the Second Vatican Council. After the council, the Jesuits, who were the largest religious order in the world at the time, shifted focus and embraced a more social-justice oriented approach to their apostolic work, under Arrupe’s direction. During the order's 1974-75 32nd general congregation, Arrupe passed a number of new decrees, including one titled: “Our Mission Today: The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice,” which focused heavily on social justice issues and became a blueprint for the Society’s direction. Arrupe's changes were met with opposition by many Jesuits, and under his leadership, the order clashed with Pope Paul VI and other Vatican and ecclesial figures. In 1973, Pope Paul VI issued a warning to Arrupe about experimentation in the Society of Jesus. Six years later, Pope John Paul II accused the Jesuit leadership of “causing confusion among the Christian people and anxieties to the church and also personally to the Pope,” criticizing in particular “secularizing tendencies” and “doctrinal unorthodoxy” within the order. Arrupe acknowledged issues within the Society of Jesus, and made efforts to reprimand some priests accused of public doctrinal deviances. Some in the order questioned whether he should have made systemic changes in responses to papal criticism, rather than issuing individual corrections. Within the Society of Jesus, one of the groups who opposed Arrupe's changes called themselves “la vera sociedad,” or “the true society,” and were on the verge of splitting from the order, intending to intervene in the 1974 general congregation meeting until Bergoglio stepped in, at Arrupe’s request, to calm the fury. Arrupe, Ivereigh said, “held [Bergoglio] in high esteem, he trusted him.” As for the future pope, Ivereigh said Bergoglio was “unquestionably” influenced by Arrupe's leadership, and often cited his former superior general in speeches. “Arrupe was something of a model for Francis,” the biographer said, explaining that the main threads of similarity between the two were not only a shared concern for the poor, but also their approach to modernity, believing that what was needed was “an engagement” between faith and the modern world. “Not to reject modernity, but to discern what was good, what was threatening to the Gospel, and what wasn't. I think that was Arrupe's big thing, rather than being in this constant confrontation with the modern world, to have a dialogue with it,” Ivereigh said. After suffering a stroke in 1981, Arrupe resigned as superior general of the order and recommended American Jesuit Vincent O’Keefe take his place. However in a move some perceived as a rebuke, Pope John Paul II appointed Jesuits Paola Dezza and Giuseppe Pittau to oversee the society until a new leader was elected. During the September 1983 general congregation, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., was elected as the new minister general, a position he held until 2008, when he resigned and was succeeded by Fr. Adolfo Nicolas. Arrupe died Feb. 5, 1991.

After new appointments, will Pope Francis' stalled curial reform start moving?

Vatican City, Jul 11, 2018 / 01:15 pm (CNA).- A long-time priority of Pope Francis, curial reform – specifically the overhaul of Vatican finances and communications – has been hanging by a thread for the past few years, and some wonder about the pope’s ability to make any meaningful or lasting changes in the Vatican’s way of doing business. Observers seem to be underwhelmed at the progress Francis has made on major governance issues, among them financial oversight and sexual abuse policy. Some insiders have noted a palpable sense of confusion about what the pope's reforms are meant to be, and where exactly they are going. Since June 2017, the man tasked with leading the Vatican's financial reform, Australian Cardinal George Pell, has been on leave, and is now preparing to face a historic trial for accusations of sexual abuse in his homeland. Some observers have argued that even when Pell was working at full-strength, the financial oversight structures Francis put into place were so tangled by internal power grabs that pursuing meaningful progress had become a delayed goal. The pope's communications overhaul seemed to be in shambles after the man charged with overseeing the process, Msgr. Dario Edoardo Vigano, stepped down amid the fallout of March’s “Lettergate” fiasco. In recent months Francis has also come under fire for inaction on the topic of clerical sexual abuse, specifically in Chile. Accused of insulting victims and ignoring their complaints, the pope had a major turnaround on the situation in Chile after receiving fresh evidence against a leading abuser priest in the country and launching an investigation which yielded findings frightening enough to make the pope stop dead in his tracks and speed into reverse. But one of Pope Francis' closest aides over the past five years, newly-minted Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, who is leaving the Secretariat of State for a new position as head of the Vatican's office for canonizations, said recently that the pope's reform still lacks an overall vision. In comments to the press ahead of the June 28 ceremony in which he was given his red biretta, Becciu said that while many steps had been taken, it is still “too early” to give a comprehensive judgment on the Curial reform, since it is not yet finished. An overall unifying vision is still missing, he said, explaining that “so far we've had elements, but not a unified idea.” This vision, he said, will likely be provided in the new apostolic constitution drafted by the pope's nine cardinal advisors, called “Predicate Evangelium,” or “Preach the Gospel,” which has reportedly been completed and is now awaiting approval from Pope Francis. A gloomy-seeming outlook for curial reform is often pinned on poor personnel decision-making at the Vatican. But two recent appointments to major posts could mark a turning point for Francis, and provide a much-needed morale boost for Catholics looking for the pope to clean house in Vatican offices. The first of these is the appointment of a close Francis ally, Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, to take the reigns at the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA), which oversees the Vatican's real estate holdings and investments. During pre-conclave meetings in 2013, APSA was a key point in discussions on curial reform, as many cardinals recognized it had been being plagued by corruption and was in serious need of greater oversight. Until Galantino's June 26 appointment, APSA was led by Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, who has been accused of corruption and was, at one point, under investigation for charges of embezzlement in a previous diocese. It took Francis more than five years to take action on APSA, which has been a sore spot for many who were hoping to see the pope crack down on financial issues. In a recent interview with Reuters the pope admitted that “there is no transparency” at APSA. “We have to move ahead on transparency, and that depends on APSA,” he said in the interview. Many Vatican watchers are hopeful that Galantino will be able to bring in the accountability and oversight the office has typically resisted. The second important personnel change is the appointment of Italian layman Paolo Ruffini as head of the Vatican's communications office, making him the first layperson to lead a Vatican department, also called a dicastery. Though Ruffini's nomination was highly celebrated among Italians, who are pleased to have one of their own moving to such an important post, the new prefect is also seen as highly competent, bringing with him professional experience in journalism dating back to 1979. Until his appointment Ruffini worked as the director of TV2000, the network of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, and he brings with him extensive experience in television, radio, and print, making him a choice perceived as a competent, well-rounded pick for the job. Ruffini is considered to be in line with key priorities of the current pontificate, and his appointment can be read as follow-through on Pope Francis' commitment to eradicate a clericalist mentality in the curia and to add more laypeople to the mix. Despite the fact that Msgr. Dario Vigano, who headed the office until the “Lettergate” scandal, is expected to stay in the dicastery in the advisory role the pope gave him, observers are hopeful that at least some of the pope's stubbornness in decision-making is gone, and that the days of poor personnel choices will be a thing of the past. And with several decisions made that seem to indicate reform is moving in the right – or at least a better – direction when it seemed to be on the brink of failure, a natural question comes to mind: what changed? Some believe the turning point was the pope's reaction to the Chilean abuse crisis. After initially defending the bishop at the center of the debate, calling accusations of cover-up on the part of the bishop “calumny” and claiming that no evidence of the prelate's guilt had been brought forward, Francis had a major turnaround when news came out that evidence had been presented years prior which he either never got, or potentially ignored. It was a serious blow to Francis' credibility in the fight against sex-abuse in the Church, and to his public image. Soon after he sent his top investigator on abuse to Chile to look into the situation, and after receiving a 2,300 page report, the pope issued a letter to Chilean bishops saying he had made “serious errors” in judging the situation due to a lack of “truthful and balanced information.” Many observers pinned the blame on 84-year-old Chilean Cardinal Javier Francisco Errazuriz, who is a member of the pope's nine-member Council of Cardinals and who has come under heavy fire from victims for covering up abuse while archbishop of Santiago, and for trying to discredit victims' testimonies. In his recent interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said his council of cardinal advisors, called the “C9” and whose mandate will be up in October, would be refreshed with new members. Though such a decision is natural after term limits end, some observers have pondered whether the Chilean crisis and the accusations against Errazuriz, the absence of Cardinal Pell and separate accusations of financial misdealing on the part of Honduran Cardinal Oscar Maradiaga, also a member of the advisory team, have, to a certain degree, awakened Francis to the need to be more selective with his inner circle. The answers to these questions, of course, are pure speculation, but if one thing can be said about the pope's latest round of appointments, it's that while his track record on reform efforts has not been the best, and while there are still loose ends to tie up, he is at least aware of the problems and he seems intent on making good on his promises, even if that does not happen immediately. And if the first five years of Pope Francis' curial reform have largely been seen as ineffective, the appointment of Ruffini and Galantino just might give the flicker of hope needed for Catholics to decide that the jury is still out on the long-term process. However, as with any reform, really only time will tell.  

New Mexico bishop made coadjutor of San Jose

Vatican City, Jul 11, 2018 / 05:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced Wednesday Pope Francis' appointment of Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, New Mexico to be coadjutor bishop of San Jose, California. As coadjutor, Cantú will assist Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, 73, in the administration of the Diocese of San Jose, and succeed McGrath upon his retirement or death. Cantú, 51, has served as bishop of Las Cruces, New Mexico since February 2013. He is fluent in English, Spanish, Italian, and French. In 2016, the bishop was one of two delegates chosen to represent the U.S. bishops’ conference during Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico. After the pope’s visit, the bishop told CNA it showed Mexico “that the Holy Father cares about you, and that God is with us even in difficult moments, even in the darkness of life.” Cantú has served as chairman of the United States bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace and is a member of the subcommittees on the Church in Latin America and Hispanic Affairs. Born in Houston Dec. 5, 1966, he is the fifth of eight children. His parents, Ramiro and Maria de Jesus Cantú, are from small towns near Monterey, Mexico. “There’s no dichotomy in being a Mexican-American. We love both countries because we have part of ourselves in both countries,” Bishop Cantú told CNA in a February 2016 interview Houston Catholic schools were vital to the bishop’s formation and the formation of six of his siblings. Although Bishop Cantú’s father only received schooling up to 6th grade, he taught the value of education to his children, four of whom graduated college and three of whom have earned master’s degrees. As a seminarian, Cantú worked on a committee with then-Bishop James Tamayo of Laredo to promote Hispanic ministry. Ordained to the priesthood May 21, 1994, Cantú was made a bishop in 2008, at the age of 41, when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him auxiliary bishop of San Antonio. During his 14 years as a priest of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston, he was involved in the Christian Family movement leading youth retreats; Engaged Encounter ministry; and the Metropolitan Organization (TMO), which addresses social issues in the community. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Dallas, and a master’s in divinity and a master’s in theological studies from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He also earned his Doctorate of Sacred Theology in dogmatic theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Before being ordained a bishop, he was pastor of his childhood parish, Holy Name, in Houston. He also served as parochial vicar of St. Christopher Parish and taught at the University of St. Thomas and St. Mary’s Seminary. The Diocese of San Jose was canonically established in 1981 and belongs to the ecclesiastical province of San Francisco.

What happens when a church is no longer a church?

Vatican City, Jul 10, 2018 / 02:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- St. Catherine of Siena Church was built by immigrants in a Catholic Boston neighborhood, in the late nineteenth century. For more than a century, it welcomed the poor, the lost, and the searching. Then in 2008, the church was closed. A decade later the building opened its doors again, welcoming a new generation of seekers. But while the sanctuary is empty, the basement of the building has become a Dollar Tree, and those who enter are searching mostly for a bargain. Around the world, with demographic shifts and a decline of worshippers in some countries, a growing number of church buildings are being closed. Safeguarding the sanctity of the once-hallowed ground where believers prayed and worshiped is becoming a perplexing problem for Church leaders. To answer the tough question about what to do with shuttered churches, the Vatican has decided to host a conference from Nov. 29-30, addressing the issue from a multi-disciplinary perspective, in light of a growing interest in protecting the historic and cultural significance many churches still hold, even if they are unused. The“God No Longer Lives Here?” conference is being organized by the cultural goods department of the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Italian bishops conference, and the Pontifical Gregorian University's Faculty of History and Cultural Heritage of the Church. At a July 10 press conference announcing the November event, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Vatican's culture office, said the problem of what to do with churches or sacred places that are no longer used is a “transversal” problem, with historic, spatial, socio-cultural and even academic and legal dimensions. When the idea to host a conference about the topic was initially pitched, Ravsi said he was skeptical, thinking the issue would only be of interest to a small pool of experts, however, instead there was an “extraordinary reaction” not only from bishops conferences, but also academics and even UNESCO, who in the past has sent representatives to episcopal conference meetings to hear their thoughts on the closing of ancient religious structures believed to hold special cultural and historic significance. In comments to the press, Ravasi said that while the issue of what to do with churches that have been closed has always been an issue, the current increase in interest is “one of the mirrors of the decline of religious practice, of secularization,” and of “a lack of priests.” The prime reasons churches are shut down is due to the small size of the congregation that attends services, to a lack of priests, or when parishes merge for pastoral reasons, Ravisi said. The conference, then, will help to highlight the crisis in the decline of belief, but it will also ensure that churches and other sacred places are not sold off to buyers who will but them to profane use given the history of the structure. Part of the goal of the November conference will be to draft guidelines for what to do with churches that are de-consecrated and potentially sold. The first day of the conference will be dedicated to several talks pitching ideas for solutions, followed by discussion. The second and final day will be dedicated to further discussion and the drafting of the guidelines, which will either be published as a directive from the Vatican's Council for Culture, or they will be adopted and published at a more universal level as a document from the Holy See, though modifications will likely be made if the latter is the case. Representatives of bishops’ conferences, the Vatican's culture office and university professors will add their voice to the discussion, offering their own contribution for what the guidelines should include. Conference organizers also announced a photo contest that will take place primarily on Instagram, with the hashtag “#nolongerchurches,” and will encourage photographers to document what happens to de-consecrated churches. The photos selected will also be displayed in an exhibit, and they will be published in the Italian Magazine “Arte cristiana, Casabella e Chiesa: architettura e communicazione.” In comments to the press, Archbishop Nunzio Galantino, president of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) and until now secretary general of the Italian bishops conference, said the topic of what to do with de-consecrated churches is a “salient issue,” and one that is important for the Italian bishops. Though the question of what to do with an increase in churches being closed is primarily a problem in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Switzerland, according to a press release on the conference, Italy, the United States and Canada have also faced similar dilemmas. And opposition to the sale of sacred spaces has increased even among non-believers, many of whom believe churches, even if unused, add historic, cultural and artistic value to their communities. “What is the situation today? We have a change of context,” he said, pointing to the problem of decreasing Mass attendance, priest shortages and the closing of rural churches which have gone unused for years. The issue is a social, cultural and economic problem, he said, explaining that when these churches belong to dioceses and parishes, it is easier to keep them in use and take care of them, but when these churches are no longer associated with a diocese or parish, often and unfortunately “there is a private interest” involved in what happens to it. Professor Ottavio Bucarelli, who works at the Faculty of History and Cultural Heritage of the Church at the Gregorian University in Rome, was also present at the press conference, and told journalists the “sacred nature” of places of worship must always be respected. “A church remains a church even when it is no longer a church, even when it has been transformed into something else,” he said, “so at a certain point we have to respect the faith of so many believers who have prayed and worshiped there for centuries.”      

Pope Francis prays for Japan amid deadly flooding

Vatican City, Jul 9, 2018 / 09:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent his prayers and condolences to Japan Monday following the death of at least 119 people in some of the worst flooding and landslides the country has seen in decades. Heavy rains and flooding began July 5, and have primarily affected the Hiroshima prefecture. A July 9 telegram expressed Pope Francis’ solidarity with those affected by the tragedy and noted his prayers, “especially for the repose of the deceased, the healing of those injured and the consolation of all those who grieve.” Sent on behalf of the pope by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the letter said Francis is “deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injury” caused by the floods. The pope also invoked “abundant blessings,” and offered his encouragement to everyone assisting victims of the disaster and the civil authorities and those involved in efforts to uncover the nearly 80 people estimated to still be missing. In the midst of their rainy season, record-breaking rainfalls in western Japan have resulted in massive flooding and landslides, killing hundreds and displacing thousands from their homes. According to the BBC, as of Sunday around 3 million people had been advised to leave their homes and about 1.5 million ordered to do so. The Hiroshima area was the hardest hit, though 11 prefectures have been badly affected. It is considered the worst flooding disaster the country has seen since 1983.

Pope: God doesn't meet our expectations – he surprises us instead

Vatican City, Jul 8, 2018 / 04:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Sunday that God always surprises people with the way he works, and because of this, believers should be open to the Lord's way of thinking and acting, rather than expecting him to conform to their aspirations. “Today the Lord invites us to assume an attitude of humble listening and docile waiting, because the grace of God often presents itself to us in surprising ways, which don't line up with our expectations,” the pope said July 8. He noted how certain “prejudices” can be nurtured in Christians which prevent them from accepting the reality of how God works, however, “the Lord does not conform to prejudices. We have to force ourselves to open the mind and heart to welcome the divine reality that comes to meet us.” Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square for his Sunday Angelus address, which focused on the day's Gospel reading from Mark. In the passage, Jesus returned to his native land to do ministry, but was unable to perform the same miraculous works he had done in other places since people knew him and were skeptical of his preaching and ministry. In his speech, Francis said the people were “scandalized” by what Jesus was doing, since they recognized him as one of them. Asking how it is possible for Jesus' fellow citizens to go from marvel to disbelief, the pope said this is because they made a comparison between the “humble origins” of Jesus and his current abilities to preach and perform miracles. “He is a carpenter, he did not study, yet he preaches better than the scribes and performs miracles. And instead of opening themselves to the reality, [the people] are scandalized,” he said, noting that for the inhabitants of Nazareth, “God is too great to lower himself to speak through such a simple man!” This, he said, is “the scandal of the incarnation: the shocking event of a God made flesh, who thinks with a human mind, works and acts with human hands, loves with a human heart; a God who struggles, eats and sleeps as one of us.” However, in becoming flesh, Jesus “overturns every human scheme: it is not the disciples who washed the feet of the Lord, but it is the Lord who washed the feet of the disciples,” the pope said, noting that this fact is “a cause of scandal and disbelief in every age, even today.” In off-the-cuff remarks, Francis pointed to St. Teresa of Calcutta, who he canonized in September 2016, as a modern-day example of someone simple who performed great works. Even though she was “a small sister,”  St. Teresa through prayer and simplicity was able to “work wonders,” he said, adding that “she is an example from our day.” Closing his address, Pope Francis said learning to have a mind and heart open to God's logic above all means having faith. “The lack of faith is an obstacle to God's grace,” he said, noting that many baptized Catholics “live as if Christ does not exist: they repeat the signs and acts of faith, but they do not correspond to a real adhesion to the person of Jesus and his Gospel.” Every Christian, he said, “is called to deepen this fundamental belonging, trying to bear witness with a coherent conduct of life, whose leitmotif is charity.” After leading pilgrims in the traditional Angelus prayer, the pope gave a shout-out to patriarchs and representatives from Eastern Catholic and Orthodox churches in the Middle East who were present for an July 7 ecumenical gathering in Bari to pray for peace in the region. Francis said the event was “an eloquent sign of Christian unity,” and thanked all those who participated. He also noted how July 8 marks the “Sunday of the Sea,” which is dedicated to seafarers and fisherman, and prayed for them and their families, and for the chaplains and volunteers who do ministry to them. The pope offered a special prayer for those who live at sea in situations of “undignified work,” and for all those who are committed to freeing the sea of pollution.

Peace cannot be built with walls, Pope Francis says in Bari

Vatican City, Jul 7, 2018 / 05:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis said Saturday that peace in the Middle East will never be achieved through division, violence or the pursuit of private interests, and called for negotiation on issues such as the status of Jerusalem and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As he has often done in the past, the pope condemned the arms trade, using Hiroshima and Nagasaki as an example of the potential destruction of major weapons, and stressed the need to drop a profit mentality which exploits both the land and the poor, favoring instead a vision that puts the best interests of the person in first place. In a July 7 speech closing an ecumenical gathering in Bari with heads of Christian churches in the Middle East, Francis said that for peace to be a realistic possibility, “it is essential that those in power choose finally and decisively to work for true peace and not for their own interests.” “Let there be an end to the few profiting from the sufferings of many! No more occupying territories and thus tearing people apart! No more letting half-truths continue to frustrate people’s aspirations! Let there be an end to using the Middle East for gains that have nothing to do with the Middle East!” he said. There is no alternative to peacemaking if the Middle East is to thrive, the pope said, saying these efforts toward peace must be cultivated in the “parched soil of conflict” which has plagued the region for years. “Truces maintained by walls and displays of power will not lead to peace, but only the concrete desire to listen and to engage in dialogue,” he said, and urged Christians to commit to working and praying together in hopes that “the art of encounter will prevail over strategies of conflict.” Pope Francis spoke after holding a private meeting with heads of Christian Churches in the Middle East during his July 7 daytrip to Bari for an ecumenical encounter titled “Peace be upon you! Christians together for the Middle East” and organized to discuss promoting peace in the region. Located in the southern Italian region of Puglia, Bari is known as the “porta d’Oriente,” or the “Eastern Gate,” because of its connection to both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches through the relics of St. Nicholas, who is highly venerated in both traditions. The ecumenical gathering in Bari drew the participation of some 19 leaders of Eastern Catholic Churches and Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and other ecclesial communities. After venerating the relics of St. Nicholas and leading both patriarchs and pilgrims in a prayer gathering, Pope Francis and the heads of churches present held a closed-door meeting to evaluate the situation of the Middle East, and discuss peace efforts. Speaking to crowds after the private discussion, Francis issued a litany of the risks and consequences of war, beginning with the effects conflict has on the poor, who are the “principal victims” of any violence. Pointing to Syria, he said war is the “daughter of power and poverty,” and can only be defeated by overcoming a “thirst for supremacy.” He pointed to the problem of fundamentalism and fanaticism as driving factors in many of the world's current conflicts, which “under the guise of religion, have profaned God’s name – which is peace – and persecuted age-old neighbors.” Violence of any kind “is always fueled by weapons,” he said, stressing that “you cannot speak of peace while you are secretly racing to stockpile new arms. This is a most serious responsibility weighing on the conscience of nations, especially the most powerful.” Pointing to the devastation that ensued in the aftermath of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the pope urged the world not to forget the destructive potential of an unbridled pursuit of power and profit. “Let us not turn the Middle East, where the Word of peace sprang up, into dark stretches of silence. Let us have enough of stubborn opposition,” he said, and condemned the “thirst for profit that surreptitiously exploits oil and gas fields without regard for our common home, with no scruples about the fact that energy market now dictates the law of coexistence among peoples!” The pope also called for a “common citizenship” among all people in the Middle East, where Christians and other minorities are often viewed as second-class citizens, and are subject to persecution and discrimination. Turning to Jerusalem, an inter-religious hub sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike, Francis said he was “anguished” to think about the ongoing tensions in the area, and said the status quo of the city “demands to be respected, as decided by the international community and repeatedly requested by the Christian communities of the Holy Land.” “Only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians, firmly willed and promoted by the international community, will be able to lead to a stable and lasting peace, and guarantee the coexistence of two states for two peoples,” he said. Noting the high number of children who have died in armed conflicts, Pope Francis said hope for the Middle East “has the face of children,” and lamented the “appalling” number of children who have either died, or witnessed death in their families. “This is the death of hope,” he said, noting that “all too many children have spent most of their lives looking at rubble instead of schools, hearing the deafening explosion of bombs rather than the happy din of playgrounds.” “May humanity listen – this is my plea – to the cry of children,” he said, because “only by wiping away their tears will the world recover its dignity.” Francis closed his speech voicing hope that a longing for peace would be stronger than the “dark cloud” of conflict that has overshadowed the region, and prayed that the Middle East would not longer be an “ark of war,” but an “ark of peace” which is welcoming to people from all backgrounds and beliefs. “Beloved Middle East, may you see dispelled the darkness of war, power, violence, fanaticism, unfair gains, exploitation, poverty, inequality and lack of respect for rights,” he said, and prayed that justice would “dwell within your borders, and may God’s blessing come to rest upon you.”