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Papal charities buy food products to help quake-hit Italian farmers

(Vatican Radio)  The Office of Papal Charities this week helped out the earthquake-hit regions of central Italy at the express wish of Pope Francis, buying typical food products from local producers and distributing it to several soup kitchens in Rome.

Central Italy was hit by a powerful 6.3 magnitude quake in August 2016, which killed nearly 300 people. Other earthquakes have since caused major damage to the area.

Farmers and merchants in the affected areas have since suffered a drastic reduction in their revenues.

A communique from the Office of Papal Charities said the organization selected “several groups of farmers and producers at risk of closure because of the damages provoked by the earthquake” from which to buy alimentary products.

It said vendors were chosen in conjunction with Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti, Bishop Giovanni D'Ercole of Ascoli Piceno, Archbishop Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro of Camerino-San Severino Marche, and Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia.

“The Office of Papal Charities bought a large quantity of their products with the intention, expressed by the Holy Father, to help and encourage them in their activities. It is a gesture in line with the Magisterium of Pope Francis, who in his meetings has often said that ‘when a person does not earn their bread, their dignity is lost’”.

The food products bought in the name of the Pope were distributed to several soup kitchens in Rome to make meals for homeless people in need.

The Vatican supermarket currently sells products from the earthquake hit zones of central Italy, in an effort to help out the local economy.

(from Vatican Radio)

Vatican seminar on water pushes for better public policies

(Vatican Radio) A 2-day seminar aiming to propose much needed public policies for water and sanitation management is underway in the Vatican. 

Organized by the Vatican Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the seminar is entitled “The human right to water: An interdisciplinary focus and contributions on the central role of public policies in water and sanitation management”.

The workshop focuses on the potential and effective contribution of science, culture, politics and technological advancements to the attainment of a fairer world of greater social justice and solidarity. 

One of the participants, Father Peter Hughes, a missionary priest who has spent his life working in the Amazon region, pointed out that water management impacts many issues including peace and the prevention of conflicts.

Listen:

Father Peter Hughes, who has worked all his life in Peru, in the Andes and in the Amazon explains he is currently involved in a new project in defense of the Amazon region – the Pan Amazon – which comprises nine geographical countries.

“We are very much aware that the life of the Amazon is now in real danger; the life of so many indigenous communities, their lands that are being taken over and destroyed by the onslaught of mining and oil companies and the destruction of the rainforest for the so-called timber industry” he said.

Hughes says all this is also to be taken into consideration in relation to the question of climate.

He says the destruction and the depredation of the Amazon is destroying the equilibrium of world climate.

“One fifth of the world’s water supply comes from the Amazon; another fifth of the drinking water of the world comes from the Amazon, and it’s now true to say that twenty percent of the Amazon has now been irrevocably destroyed. So the question is: can we, the human family, have the political will to stop the accelerated rate of destruction?” he said.

If not, he says, we are in deeper trouble.

Regarding the Vatican seminar which focuses on water, Hughes says everybody is aware that “the bottom line of life in all its manifestations is the need for water”

He said the need for water has become crucial in a world where water not only is scarce, “but is being denied as a human right, as a basic right for life to too many people”.

Hughes says this is due to a number of factors, one of which is that water has been transformed into something with market value.

“This takes away from water as something that has something to do with a fundamental human right and the common good” he said.

He pointed out that it is increasingly a subject of conflict and violence between peoples and between nations.

He says neighboring communities who have lived in relative peace and harmony over the ages are now, because of the scarcity of water, are entering conflictual relationships.

“These are some of the questions we are trying to address, he said, pointing out that water has to do with politics, with economics, with culture, with education.”

It is also a very sacred issue, Hughes concludes: “the religious dimension in relation to water is founded in all the great religious traditions, particularly in the Christian and Catholic tradition that a lot of us come from and a lot of are engaged in”.            

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis to Rabbis: Torah manifests God's paternal love

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received his long-time friend from his native Argentina, Rabbi Abraham Skorka, on Thursday, along with a delegation of Jewish leaders involved in the preparation of a new edition of the Torah.

The annotated, illustrated edition is already being hailed as an achievement in both the literary and visual arts.

Pope Francis told his guests, “The extensive introduction to the text and the editor’s note emphasize this dialogical approach and communicate a cultural vision of openness, mutual respect and peace that accords with the spiritual message of the Torah.”

Click below to hear our report

The Holy Father went on to say, “The important religious figures who have worked on this new edition have paid special attention both to the literary aspect of the text and to the full-colour illustrations that add further value to the publication.”

Also in his remarks, Pope Francis spoke of the Torah as a building-block of community – the worldwide Jewish community and the Christian community. “The Torah,” said the Holy Father, “manifests the paternal and visceral love of God, a love shown in words and concrete gestures, a love that becomes covenant.”

“The very word covenant is resonant with associations that bring us together,” and, “[t]his publication is itself the fruit of a ‘covenant’ between persons of different nationalities, ages and religious confessions, who joined in this common effort.”

The Pope went on to say, “God desires a world in which men and women are bound to him and as a result live in harmony among themselves and with creation. In the midst of so many human words that lead to tragic division and rivalry, these divine words of covenant open before all of us paths of goodness to walk together.”  

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Don't put off conversion, give up a double life

(Vatican Radio) Don’t scandalize “the little ones” with a double life, because scandal destroys. That was the message of Pope Francis in his homily at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. And so, the Pope said, we should not put off conversion.

“Cut off your hand,” “Pluck out your eye,” but “don’t scandalize the little ones,” that is, the just, those who confide in the Lord, who believe simply in the Lord. That was the Pope’s exhortation in the homily, based on the day’s Gospel. For the Lord, he said, scandal is destruction:

“But what is scandal? Scandal is saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money…’ A double life. And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others. How many times have we heard – all of us, around the neighbourhood and elsewhere – ‘but to be a Catholic like that, it’s better to be an atheist.’ It is that, scandal. You destroy. You beat down. And this happens every day, it’s enough to see the news on TV, or to read the papers. In the papers there are so many scandals, and there is also the great publicity of the scandals. And with the scandals there is destruction.”

The Pope gave the example of a company that was on the brink of failure. The leaders wanted to avoid a just strike, but the company had not done well, and they wanted to talk with the authorities of the company. The people didn’t have money for their daily needs because they had not received their wages. And the head of the company, a Catholic, was taking his winter vacation on a beach in the Middle East, and the people knew it, even if it hadn’t made the papers. “These are scandals,” Pope Francis said:

“Jesus talks, in the Gospel, about those who commit scandal, without saying the world ‘scandal,’ but it’s understood: But you will arrive in heaven and you will knock at the gate: ‘Here I am, Lord!’ – ‘But don’t you remember? I went to Church, I was close to you, I belong to this association, I did this… Don’t you remember all the offerings I made?’ ‘Yes, I remember. The offerings, I remember them: All dirty. All stolen from the poor. I don’t know you.’ That will be Jesus’ response to these scandalous people who live a double life.

“The double life comes from following the passions of the heart, the capital sins that are the wounds of original sin,” hiding the passions, but following them, the Pope explained. The first Reading, in fact, tells us that they do not satisfy, and not to trust in riches, to not say, “There’s enough for myself.” And so Pope Francis calls us to not put off conversion:

“It would be good for all of us, each one of us, today, to consider if there is something of a double life within us, of appearing just, of seeming to be good believers, good Catholics, but underneath doing something else; if there is something of a double life, if there is an excessive confidence: ‘But, sure, the Lord will eventually forgive everything, but I’ll keep going as I have been…’ If there is something saying, “Sure, this is not going well, I will convert, but not today: tomorrow.’ Let’s think about that. And let us profit from the Word of the Lord and consider the fact that on this point, the Lord is very strict. Scandal destroys.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope tells football players team spirit is important in life

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday told members of the Spanish Villarreal football club that the team spirit which is so vital in playing a good match is fundamental in life and society as well.

The Pope was receiving some of the Villarreal club players, managers and coaching staff who are in Rome to take on the “AS Roma” team in their second leg of the “Europa League” championship.  

To those present he said that football, like others sports, is a mirror of life and society: “when you are on the field you need each other. Each player puts his professional skill and talent to the benefit of a common goal, which is to play well and to win.”

The Pope pointed out that much training is needed to achieve that affinity and said that it is important to invest time and effort in creating a team spirit.

“This is possible if you act in the spirit of fellowship, leaving aside individualism or personal aspirations. If you play for the good of the group, then it is easier to win” he said.

Pope Francis also spoke of the power of sports to educate and transmit positive values.

He said many people, especially young people, watch and admire football players who have the responsibility to provide a good model and highlight the values of football, which are “companionship, personal effort, the beauty of the game, team play”.

The Pope also said one of the traits of a good athlete is gratitude: “you must remember the many people who have helped you and without whom you would not be here”. 

These include, he said, those with whom you played as children, your first teammates, coaches, assistants, and also your fans that encourage you in every game with their presence.

He said these memories are important and help one not to feel superior but to always  be aware that one is only part of a great team that goes back a long time. 

“Feeling this way helps us grow as people, because our ‘game’ is not only ours, but also that of others, who are somehow part of our lives” he said.

Pope Francis is known to be a football fan himself and he concluded his audience encouraging the athletes to keep playing and to keep giving the best of themselves so that others can enjoy those beautiful moments.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis marks Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis remembered the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter during his final blessing at his weekly General Audience on Wednesday.

“Today we celebrate the feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, the day of the special communion of believers with the Successor of St Peter and the Holy See,” the Pope said.

“Dear young people, I encourage you to intensify your prayers for of my Petrine ministry; dear sick people, I thank you for the witness of life given in suffering for the building up of ecclesial community; and you, dear newlyweds, build your family on the same love that binds the Lord Jesus to His Church,” he continued.

On this feast day, the statue of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica is dressed in Papal vestments, and venerated by the faithful.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Audience: ‘Hope helps to see beyond negativity of present’

(Vatican Radio)  Self-centeredness and sin corrupt the beauty of Creation, but God does not abandon humanity and turns Creation’s groans into hope for new life. That was at the heart of Pope Francis’ catechesis on Christian hope at his Wednesday General Audience.

Listen to Devin Watkins' report:

Drawing inspiration from Chapter 8 of the Letter to the Romans, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on Christian hope. He said that St. Paul reminds us that Creation is God’s gift to humanity but that sin corrupts it.

“St. Paul reminds us that Creation is a marvelous gift, which God has placed in our hands, so that we can enter into relationship with Him and recognize the imprint of His love, in whose realization we are all called to collaborate, every single day.”

But when we are self-centered and commit sin, the Pope said we break our communion with God, and the original beauty of human nature and creation is marred.

“With the tragic experience of sin, having broken communion with God, we damaged our original communion with all that surrounds us and we ended up corrupting Creation, turning it into a slave, submitted to our feebleness. Unfortunately, we see the dramatic consequences of this every day. When communion with God is broken, humanity loses its original beauty and ends up disfiguring everything around it; and where before all pointed to the Creator Father and His infinite love, now it carries the sad and desolate sign of pride and human voracity.”

Thus, rather than show God’s infinite love, creation bears the wounds of human pride.

Pope Francis said the Lord “does not abandon us but offers us a new horizon of freedom and salvation”.

He said St. Paul reminds us of this truth, by inviting us to hear the groaning of all Creation.

“In fact, if we listen attentively everything around us groans: Creation itself groans; we human beings groan; the Holy Spirit groans in our hearts.”

He said these groans “are not sterile or inconsolable, but – as the Apostle points out – they speak of the pangs of birth; they are the groans of one who suffers, but knows that a new life is coming to light.”

Despite the many signs of our sins and failings, the Pope said, “we know that we are saved by the Lord, and even now contemplate and experience within ourselves and all around us signs of the Resurrection, of Easter, of a new creation.”

He said the Christian does not live outside of this world, but in it. “The Christian has learned to read all things with eyes informed by Easter, with the eyes of the Risen Christ.”

And when we are discouraged or tempted to despair, Pope Francis said the Holy Spirit comes to our aid and “keeps alive our groans and the hopes of our hearts. The Spirit sees for us beyond the negative appearances of the present and reveals to us even here new heavens and a new earth, which the Lord is preparing for humanity.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis appeals for ‘suffering South Sudan’

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has appealed for the hard-hit people of South Sudan, “where a fratricidal conflict is compounded by a severe food crisis which has hit the Horn of Africa region and condemns to death by starvation millions of people, including many children”.

He called on all involved to “commit not to stop at making statements, but also to provide concrete food aid and to allow it to reach suffering populations”.

The Holy Father also prayed that the Lord sustain “these our brothers and all those working to help them”.

South Sudan’s government officially declared a famine in some parts of the country on Monday.

The United Nations has warned that areas hardest hit by war and a collapsing economy have left about 100,000 people facing starvation, while one million others are at risk of famine.

Please find below a Vatican Radio English translation of the Pope’s appeal:

Of particular concern is the painful news coming from suffering South Sudan, where a fratricidal conflict is compounded by a severe food crisis, which has hit the Horn of Africa region and condemns to death by starvation millions of people, including many children. At this time, it is more necessary than ever that all commit not to stop at making statements, but also to provide concrete food aid and to allow it to reach suffering populations. May the Lord sustain these our brothers and all those working to help them.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: the Torah is a manifestation of God’s love for man

Vatican City, Feb 23, 2017 / 07:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis welcomed longtime friend and Rabbi Abraham Skorka to the Vatican for the presentation of a new version of the Torah, which he said is a sign of the love God shows to man in both words and gestures. The Torah “manifests the paternal and visceral love of God, a love shown in words and concrete gestures, a love that becomes covenant,” the Pope said during the Feb. 23 audience, adding that the word covenant in itself “is resonant with associations that bring us together.” He noted how St. John Paul II in his speech for the 25th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council document “Nostra Aetate,” which marked a milestone in improving Catholic-Jewish relations, called the Torah “the living teaching of the living God.” “God is the greatest and most faithful covenantal partner,” he said, noting that not only did God call Abraham to form a people that would become “a blessing for all peoples of the earth,” but he still desires world in which men and women “are bound to him and as a result live in harmony among themselves and with creation.” At a time when things people say often “lead to tragic division and rivalry, these divine words of covenant open before all of us paths of goodness to walk together,” he said. The publication of the new edition of the Torah, he said, “is itself the fruit of a ‘covenant’ between persons of different nationalities, ages and religious confessions, who joined in this common effort.” Pope Francis spoke to Skorka – a longtime friend from his time in Buenos Aires – and the delegation of Jewish leaders that came with him to present a new, annotated edition of the Torah complete with colorful illustrations. The Torah refers to Jewish Written Law and traditionally consists of the first five books of the Old Testament. Calling Skorka both a “brother and friend,” Francis voiced his gratitude to the delegation for the “thoughtful gesture” of coming to the Vatican to present the Torah, which is “the Lord’s gift, his revelation, his word.” He noted that the “fraternal and institutional dialogue” between Christians and Jews is now “well-established and effective,” and continues to be strengthened and carried forward through various encounters and collaborations. Turning to the text of the new Torah itself, he said the editor’s note inside emphasizes the “dialogical approach” that Catholics and Jews have regarding their relations, and communicates “a cultural vision of openness, mutual respect and peace that accords with the spiritual message of the Torah.” Those who designed the new edition, he said, paid special attention to both the important literary aspects of the text, as well as the colorful illustrations that now accompany it, adding “further value” to what was already there. “Every edition of sacred Scripture, however, possesses a spiritual value that infinitely surpasses its material value,” he said, and prayed that God would bless all those who contributed to the new edition, as well as those present for the encounter. The presentation of the Torah was the latest sign of collaboration between Jews and Catholics, falling just days after a new joint-exhibit of the Menorah was presented by the Vatican Museums and the Jewish Museum of Rome. The exhibit, titled “Menorah: Worship, History, Legend,” will be shown simultaneously at both the Jewish Museum as well as the Braccio di Carlo Magno Museum in the Vatican, located under the left colonnade in St. Peter’s Square. It will run May 15-July 23 and marks the first time such a joint-exhibit has been done. Pieces featured will include roughly 130 artifacts, including Menorah from different periods and depictions of them in paintings, sarcophagi, sculptures and medieval and Renaissance drawings and manuscripts.

Banker under scrutiny after alleged misuse of Vatican financial system

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2017 / 04:34 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A banker who allegedly used the Vatican Bank and other aspects of Holy See finances to manipulate the market for his bank stock price continues to be under investigation, as Italian authorities froze millions of euros in his personal assets on Tuesday. Giampietro Nattino, the head of Banca Finnat Euramerica SpA, allegedly used Vatican financial institutions as cover for “a complex stock operation which resulted in criminal behavior regarding market manipulation.” Police said he used “misleading and false” methods to “substantially alter” the price of shares in his bank, Reuters reports. The alleged manipulation used the Institute for Religious Works, known informally as the Vatican Bank, and APSA, which oversees Vatican real estate and investments. Vatican investigators suspect that during a stock placement handled by Nattino’s bank, shares were bought through the accounts at APSA before the shares were allocated to other investors. Nattino is also accused of providing false information to Italy’s stock regulator, Consob.     Italian magistrates are investigating two people who were managers at APSA in 2011, suspecting they were collaborators with Nattino’s bank. In a statement, Nattino said that his work had “always been characterized by maximum transparency and correctness.” He said the frozen assets belong to him, not his bank, and he pledged cooperation with investigators. Efforts to reform Vatican finances have been ongoing. Vatican officials have closed many outside accounts in an effort to block corruption. In June 2013, a longtime accountant at APSA, Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, was arrested and faced charges of conspiracy to smuggle 20 million euros from Switzerland to help friends avoid taxes. Though he was acquitted on those charges, and denies all charges of wrongdoing, he will face a separate trial for alleged money laundering.

Pope meets families of victims from deadly Bangladesh attack

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2017 / 11:24 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met Wednesday morning with the families of nine of the victims of a terrorist attack which took place in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, last summer. The attack was carried out July 1, 2016 during a hostage scenario in the Hotel Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka. Twenty-eight people died in the attack – including six gunmen and two police officers.  Most of the 20 hostages killed in the attack were foreigners from Italy and Japan, with one from India and one from the U.S. Although the attack was staged by radical Islamist militants, authorities said the gunmen had no ties to the Islamic State, the BBC reports.   Pope Francis met Feb. 22 with 36 family members of the nine Italian victims of the attack. During the visit he embraced and comforted the families, Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reports. “It's easy to take the road from love that leads to hatred, while it is difficult to do the opposite: from bitterness and hatred to go towards love,” he said. “You are left in anger, bitterness and desire for revenge, but you have embarked, with the pain inside, on the path of love to build and help the people of Bangladesh, especially young people so that they can study: this is to sow peace and I thank you, for me it is an example.” The bishop of Alife-Caiazzo, Valentino Di Cerbo, was also present at the meeting and presented profiles on the lives of the nine victims to the Pope. During the visit, Francis was also presented with nine olive tree seedlings with the names of the victims written on pictures of doves attached. Those present also shared about special projects they are working on following the tragedy as a way to honor their loved ones: one brother of a victim is leaving soon to volunteer in Dhaka with Aid to the Church in Need and another family has helped to build a church in a small town in the south of Bangladesh. Another project provides study grants for young people in Bangladesh. One day after the attack, the Pope sent a letter expressing his heartfelt condolence and condemning the “barbarous” act as an offence “against God and humanity.” Signed on behalf of the Pope by the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the letter said that in commending the dead to God’s mercy, “His Holiness gives the assurance of his prayers for the grieving families and the wounded.” As he often does following violent attacks or deadly natural disasters, Pope Francis also remembered the victims during his Sunday Angelus July 3, praying for the conversion of persons “blinded by hate” who commit such acts of violence. “I express my closeness to the families of the victims and the wounded in yesterday's attack in Dhaka,” he said after the Angelus, also leading the crowds in praying the Hail Mary. It is believed that Pope Francis may make a trip to Bangladesh sometime in 2017, although no dates have been announced. Newly installed Cardinal and Archbishop of Dhaka, Patrick D’Rozario, the first prelate from Bangladesh to receive a red hat, told journalists in November that if the Pope comes, it will likely be near the end of 2017, after the country’s monsoon season. Pope Francis’ visit to Bangladesh will be “a great event for the whole Church in the country, especially for interreligious harmony, the rights of government workers and for climate change,” Cardinal D'Rozario said.  “He’s a kind of ‘spiritual guru,’ the Holy Father,” the cardinal said, predicting the visit will “boost-up the spirituality, the communion of all the people.” It is possible the Pope’s visit with the families of victims Feb. 22 means he will not be visiting the country after all. However, if he does go, it is a strong sign of Francis’ connection to the reality the country faces. Islam is the major religion in Bangladesh by far. As of 2013, some 89 percent of the population was Muslim, with only around 10 percent Hindu, and Christians and Buddhists making up less than 1 percent of the population. 

Vatican to crack down on illegal sale of papal symbols, coat of arms

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2017 / 07:19 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday the Vatican announced plans to monitor with a more careful eye those who print official images of the Pope or the Holy See and sell them for profit, intervening with “appropriate action” when necessary. A Feb. 22 communique issued by the Secretariat of State said pointed out that among its various tasks, it also has “that of protecting the image of the Holy Father, so that his message can reach the faithful intact and that his person not be exploited.” Because of this, part of the department is dedicated to protecting “the symbols and coats of arms of the Holy See” through appropriate channels on an international level. In order to make this “protective action” more effective and to “halt situations of illegality that arise,” the department said they will begin carrying out “systematic surveillance activities apt to monitor the ways in which the image of the Holy Father and the coats of arms of the Holy See are used,” intervening with “appropriate action” if and when needed. The announcement came just weeks after posters critical of Pope Francis appeared on the walls and buildings of the city center of Rome, depicting a sour-faced pontiff with a list of grievances regarding his recent reform efforts. A few days after the posters appeared and quickly went down, a spoof version of the Vatican’s daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano was sent to members of the Curia claiming the Pope had answered the five “dubia” on Amoris Laetitia sent to him by four cardinals in September, which were subsequently published. However, the Vatican was quick to clarify that there was no link between the anti-Francis propaganda and the Secretariat of State’s decision. In a Feb. 22 communique, the Holy See Press Office clarified that Secretariat of State’s decision to crack down on the illegal sale of papal symbols and images “does not originate from any recent news report,” but is rather aimed at protecting the image of the Holy Father and his official coat of arms “against cases of illicit use and exploitation for unauthorized profit.” Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice-spokesman for the Holy See, told journalists that the decision “deals with all things of value which are sold or used to earn money.” “We’re talking about the product and the use of the image of the Pope or the Holy Father’s coat of arms or that of the Holy See which are exploited” for economic purposes, she said. “So no posters, no Osservatore...It has nothing to do with the posters or the fake Osservatore Romano,” she said, “because they weren’t sold.” The Secretariat of State’s crackdown is a follow-up of their 2009 decision to issue a strict copyright of the Pope’s name, image and symbols. In the Dec. 19, 2009, statement announcing the copyright deal, the Vatican stressed that “it alone has the right to ensure the respect due to the Successors of Peter, and therefore, to protect the figure and personal identity of the Pope from the unauthorized use of his name and/or the papal coat of arms for ends and activities which have little or nothing to do with the Catholic Church.” “Consequently, the use of anything referring directly to the person or office of the Supreme Pontiff... and/or the use of the title 'Pontifical,' must receive previous and express authorization from the Holy See,” the statement read.

Pope Francis: Creation is a sign of hope – we have to take care of it

Vatican City, Feb 22, 2017 / 04:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said creation has often suffered because of humanity’s sins and failings, stressing that we must take care of it because as Christians, we see signs of hope in Christ’s Resurrection in nature every day. “We are still struggling with the consequences of our sin and everything around us still bears the mark of our efforts, of our shortcomings, our closures,” he said Feb. 22. “At the same time, however, we know that they are saved by the Lord and already we are given to contemplate and anticipate in ourselves and in the world around us signs of the Resurrection, Easter, which operates a new creation.” Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims during his general audience, held in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since winter, continuing his catechesis on the theme of hope. He reminded pilgrims that God has entrusted creation to us as a gift that can draw us closer to him, even if our selfishness and sin has contributed to its destruction. “Creation is a wonderful gift that God has placed in our hands that we may enter into a relationship with him and we can recognize the imprint of his loving plan, the achievement of which we are all called to work toward together, day after day,” he said. But when we get caught up in our selfishness, we ruin even the most beautiful things entrusted to us, he continued, “and so it happened for creation.” “With the tragic experience of sin, broken fellowship with God, we have broken the original communion with everything around us and we ended up corrupting creation, thus making it a slave, submissive to our frailty.” We see the consequence of this before us every day, he said, pointing to water as an example. “Water is beautiful, water is important, water is life,” yet we have helped to destroy creation by contaminating water, the Pope observed. His reference comes a day ahead of the start of a two-day seminar on water and sustainable development hosted by the Pontifical Academy for the Sciences. “But the Lord does not leave us alone,” he said, and turned to a passage from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans which says that “all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.” If we pay attention to creation and to ourselves, Francis said, we will see that we are all groaning, just like a woman experiencing labor pains, and this is because the Holy Spirit is working within us. These groans are the cries of those who suffer, who are waiting for the recreation of the world, the Pope said, adding that “this is the content of our hope: (that we are living in) the time of waiting, the time of longing that goes beyond the present, the time of fulfillment.” Because we live in the world, we see “signs of evil, selfishness and sin” both in ourselves and in what surrounds us, he said. But at the same time, as Christians we also have learned to see the world “through the eyes of Easter, with the eyes of the Risen Christ.” That’s why this is a time of waiting, a time of longing: we have hope in our knowledge that the Lord wants to permanently heal our wounded hearts with his mercy, and in this way, regenerate “a new world and a new humanity, finally reconciled in his love.” We can often be tempted by pessimism, by disappointment, Pope Francis said. However, “we find solace the Holy Spirit, breath of our hope, which keeps alive the groaning and the expectation of our hearts.” At the end of the audience, the Pope and those gathered in the square received a surprise performance by an Italian circus group, Rony Roller Circus. Francis said afterwards that “they make beauty, and beauty is the road that leads to God. Continue to make beauty!” He also made an appeal for “the martyred South Sudan,” where millions of people are dying of hunger due to a food crisis brought on by the country’s drawn-out internal conflict. Right now “a fratricidal conflict joins a severe food crisis that condemns to death by hunger millions of people, including many children,” the Pope observed, and called for action. Just within the past few days a famine was declared in some areas of South Sudan as some 100,000 people face starvation and another 1 million are described as being on the brink of famine, according to the World Food Programme (WFP). According to both WFP and FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) sources, the number of people facing hunger is expected to raise to 5.5 million by July if nothing is done to curb the food crisis. However, the agencies report that if adequate food assistance is urgently delivered to the suffering areas, the situation can be improved and further crisis averted. In his appeal, Pope Francis said that right now “it is more needed than ever” for everyone to commit to not stopping with declarations, “but to give real food aid and to allow that it reach the suffering populations.” “May the Lord sustain these brothers of ours and those who work to help them,” he said, and gave his blessing before closing the audience.

Vatican, Jewish museum launch first joint-exhibit on the Menorah

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2017 / 03:24 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican and the Jewish community in Rome are marking a new step in relations between the two religions by rolling out the first-ever joint exhibition focused entirely on the Menorah – an ancient symbol representing their shared roots. “The relation between the Catholic Church and the Jewish community is not extrinsic, but is intrinsic,” Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told CNA at the Feb. 20 presentation of the exhibit, quoting St. John Paul II. “That means we must know the Jewish roots of Christianity and we cannot be Christian without knowledge of the religion of the Jews because the Jews are the mother of Christianity,” he said, adding that in this sense, “it’s very important to know the roots, the family roots, of Christianity.” Since the Menorah such an important symbol for the Jewish people, to have a joint-exhibit on it “is a very important thing and I think it will be a beautiful opportunity to deepen knowledge about the other religion; about the Jewish tradition, but also the Jewish roots in the Christian world.” A Menorah is a seven-lamp candelabra made from pure gold and was used by Moses in the desert. According to the Book of Exodus, God asked Moses to create the candelabra and put into the temple in Jerusalem to mark it as a sacred space. The Menorah is still depicted in modern Jewish temples, and a nine-lamp version is lit during the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. The Menorah is often used in Christian artwork, particularly paintings depicting scenes from the life of Jesus, such as his preaching in the temple Jerusalem. Riccardo Di Segni, Chief Rabbi of Rome, told CNA Feb. 20 that the exhibit is “a small but important example” of how Catholics and Jews can “work together for a better world.” Calling the exhibit “a cultural enterprise, a link between two worlds,” Di Segni said the fact that it’s a joint-exhibition between Catholics and Jews is “a way of teaching the world about common roots and different interpretations” between the two religions. “The Menorah is a Jewish symbol. It’s not a Christian symbol, but the Christians use this symbol and work with it in many ways,” he said, calling it “a symbol of the connection between the new religion of Christianity and (it’s) Jewish roots.” Part of what is represented in the exhibit “is the connection between what they call ‘old’ and what they call ‘new.’ So the problem is how to relate to this old symbol,” he said, adding that “to discover this story and to put it in an exhibition is very interesting because by itself it is a history of the relation between Christianity and the Jews.” Alongside Di Segni and Koch at the presentation of joint-exhibition were Barbara Jatta, the new Director of the Vatican Museums, and Alessandra Di Castro, head of Rome’s Jewish Museum. The exhibit, titled “Menorah: Worship, History, Legend,” will be shown simultaneously at both the Jewish Museum as well as the Braccio di Carlo Magno Museum in the Vatican, located under the left colonnade in St. Peter’s Square. It will run May 15-July 23 and will include roughly 130 pieces, including Menorah from different periods and depictions of them in paintings, sarcophagi, sculptures and medieval and Renaissance drawings and manuscripts. The works displayed will include pieces from the first century up to the modern times century, including the use of the Menorah as part of the crest of the State of Israel. Divided into three key stages, the exhibit walks visitors through different ages and genres, with the first stage divided into three different sections: Visualizing the Menorah; The Menorah in the temple and in Jewish art: iconography and symbology; and The Menorah in ancient art from Jerusalem to Rome. The second stage is divided into four sections, and focuses on the Menorah From late antiquity to the 14th century; The Renaissance; The pictorial fortune from the 600s to the 19th century; and Jewish Menorah in applied arts from the late Middle Ages to the beginnings of the 20th century. While the first stage focuses on the story of the Menorah, its presence in the temple of Jerusalem and its dispersal throughout Rome in both ancient and modern times, the second stage provides an analysis on the Menorah in Christianity, particularly liturgical candelabras, as well as the Menorah’s consistent presence as a strong unifying symbol for Jewish identity throughout history. In the third stage, the exhibit focuses on the theme “From the First World War to the 21st century,” and offers a panorama of the various representations of the Menorah throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. More than 20 museums throughout the world have lent pieces to the exhibit, including the Louvre in Paris, the National Gallery of London and the Albertina Museum of Vienna. During the presentation attention also turned to speculation as to the current whereabouts of the solid gold Menorah taken from the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans during their siege in 70AD, but which has gone missing for the past 1,500 years. The Menorah was originally taken from Jerusalem when its temple was destroyed by the Roman general Titus, who became emperor nine years after that victory. Rumors throughout history have said the Menorah was lost during the Vandal’s Sack of Rome in 455, while others say it was buried in a cave, hidden in the Vatican or thrown into the Tiber, where it still rests. However, despite the various theories, Di Segni said “nobody knows what had happened” since it disappeared from Jerusalem. Present at the exhibit instead will be the ancient the Magdala Stone, which was found in 2009 during an archaeological excavation that uncovered an ancient synagogue on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. But regardless of the legends, Di Segni said “it will be very interesting to see how people will visit, what they would say and how they will be impressed.” “The reaction of the public” is also important, he said, “so we are waiting for this moment.”

Pope Francis: Protecting migrants is a 'moral imperative'

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2017 / 08:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday Pope Francis said that it is our duty to defend the dignity of migrants, particularly by enacting just laws that offer protection to those forced to flee from dangerous or inhumane situations. “Defending (migrants’) inalienable rights, ensuring their fundamental freedoms and respecting their dignity are duties from which no one can be exempted,” the Pope said Feb. 21. “Protecting these brothers and sisters,” he said, “is a moral imperative which translates into adopting juridical instruments, both international and national, that must be clear and relevant; implementing just and far reaching political choices.” Although sometimes it takes longer, we must also implement timely and humane programs that fight against human trafficking, since migrants are an especially vulnerable population, the Pope observed.     Pope Francis’ speech was addressed to participants of the sixth international forum on Migration and Peace at the Vatican. The meeting, which runs Feb. 21-22, is titled “Integration and Development: From Reaction to Action.” It was organized by the Vatican’s Congregation for Integral Human Development, the Scalabrini International Migration Network (SIMIN) and the Kondrad Adenauer Foundation. In his speech, Francis noted that our current millennium is characterized by migration involving nearly “every part of the world.” The forced nature of this phenomenon, he added, “amplifies the urgency for a coordinated and effective response” to challenges. “Unfortunately, in the majority of cases this movement is forced, caused by conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence, extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions,” he said. This is why it is more necessary than ever to affirm the dignity of the migrant as a human person, “without allowing immediate and ancillary circumstances, or even the necessary fulfilment of bureaucratic and administrative requirements, to obscure this essential dignity.” During the meeting, Pope Francis heard the testimony of three people and their families, all of whom have emigrated from their homelands to a new country. One woman, her husband and their young son were migrants from Eritrea. They fled across the Red Sea to Yemen, but because of the war, they later fled to Jordan, where they were again confronted by “dangerous conditions” on their journey to Italy, including a perilous journey from Libya across the Mediterranean before landing on the island of Lampedusa. After sharing their story, the woman raised “a heartfelt appeal” to Pope Francis for better legal channels of entrance so that others seeking asylum will not have to “risk their lives in the hands of traffickers” or by crossing the desert and the sea. Another woman then told her story of migrating to Chile in 1997. Although she had been a professor in her home country of Peru, when she arrived in Chile she was forced work in domestic servitude to support herself, sleeping in the metro station on the weekends when she had nowhere to stay. She said that one day after seeing fellow migrants arriving at the metro station, she was inspired to help people in her situation. “I am sure that this inspiration was God’s providence,” she said, because soon after she went to a parish in Santiago and a priest there invited her to be the director of the center for integration of migrants that they were launching. She has now worked there since 2000, helping to provide various services to migrants including healthcare, food, professional formation and psychological and religious support. In the past 17 years, the woman said more than 70,000 women have come to Chile as migrants to rebuild their lives, with more than half passing through the center she directs. The third family was Italian, but has lived in Canada for more than 50 years. The brother immigrated to Canada when just 14-years-old, joining his father to work in construction in order to save money for the rest of the family to eventually join them. “We are truly blessed as immigrants that we went to Canada,” the sister of the family said. “With God's help, with a lot of faith, determination and perseverance…we today have realized a universal dream of all migrants to fulfill the dreams of providing a better home, a better life for our family and our loved ones.” For the past 40 years they have volunteered with the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Charles, also called Scalabrinians, to assist fellow migrants. After hearing their testimonies, the Pope in his speech used four words to explain what our shared response to the contemporary challenges of the migration issue should be: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate. To welcome the migrant, he said, we must change our attitude of rejection, “rooted ultimately in self-centeredness,” in order “to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors.” A responsible and dignified welcome begins with offering decent and appropriate shelter, he said. Large gatherings of refugees and asylum-seekers, such as in camps, has created more issues, not fewer, he said, noting that more widespread programs which emphasize personal encounter have appeared to have better results. We protect the migrant when we enact just laws, especially in recognition of the fact that migrants are more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and violence, he said, referring to a point previously made by Benedict XVI. Development, according to the social doctrine of the Church, is “an undeniable right of every human being,” the Pope said. As such, development “must be guaranteed by ensuring the necessary conditions for its exercise, both in the individual and social context, providing fair access to fundamental goods for all people and offering the possibility of choice and growth.” This takes a coordinated effort from everyone, he said, placing specific emphasis on the political community, civil society, international organizations and religious institutions. On the point of integration, Francis emphasized that it is not the same as “assimilation” or “incorporation,” but is rather a “two-way process.” This, he said, means it requires joint recognition on the part of both the migrant and the person in the receiving country. We must beware of a sort-of cultural “superimposing” of one culture over another, he said, and also cautioned against a “mutual isolation” which has the “dangerous risk of creating ghettoes.” Above all, policies should favor the reunion of families, the Pope said, but stressed that those who arrive in a new country are “duty bound not to close themselves off from the culture and traditions of the receiving country, respecting above all its laws.” Through welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating, we discover the “sacred value of hospitality,” he said. “For us Christians, hospitality offered to the weary traveler is offered to Jesus Christ himself, through the newcomer.” And in the duty of solidarity we find a counter to the “throwaway culture,” he said, adding that “solidarity is born precisely from the capacity to understand the needs of our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and to take responsibility for these needs.”

Vatican, Al-Azhar team up to counter religious justification for violence

Vatican City, Feb 21, 2017 / 05:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican and one of Islam’s most renowned schools of Sunni thought are joining forces to discuss how they can work together in combating religious extremism that uses God’s name to justify violence. On Feb. 21 the Vatican announced that Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, will travel to Cairo to participate in a special seminar at the Al-Azhar University. He will be joined by the council’s secretary, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, and the head of their Office for Islam, Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, to discuss the theme “The role of al-Azhar al-Sharif and of the Vatican in countering the phenomena of fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion.” The meeting will take place “on the vigil” of Feb. 24 in honor of Pope Saint John Paul II’s visit to the university on that day in 2000. It will also be attended by the Holy See’s ambassador to Egypt, Archbishop Bruno Musarò, as well as various representatives from Al-Azhar. Currently Ahmed al Tayyeb, the Imam of al Azhar is considered by some Muslims to be the highest authority the 1.5-billion strong Sunni Muslim world and oversees Egypt’s al-Azhar Mosque and the prestigious al-Azhar University attached to it. Founded in the Fatimid dynasty in the late 10th century together with the adjoining mosque, the university is one of the most renowned study centers for the legal principals of Sunni Islam. Al Tayyeb paid a visit to the Vatican May 23 for a meeting with Pope Francis, which marked a major step in thawing relations between the al-Azhar institution and the Holy See, which were strained in 2011 with claims that Pope Benedict XVI had “interfered” in Egypt’s internal affairs by condemning a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria during the time of Coptic Christmas. Since then relations have continued to move forward at a surprisingly fast pace, leading to the Oct. 21 announcement from the Vatican that sometime this spring the Holy See and the Al-Azhar Mosque and adjunct University will officially resume dialogue. After the announcement, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, traveled to Cairo for an Oct. 23 meeting with a delegation from Al-Azhar to discuss the details. Bishop Ayuso made a similar visit to Al-Azhar in July 2016, where he met with Sunni academic and politician Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk that to discuss the formal resumption of dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Al-Azhar University, which culminated in the Oct. 23 encounter. The current seminar, which is the work of several “preliminary meetings,” can been seen as the next step in officially restoring ties. In an interview with Vatican Radio published May 24, the day after his historic visit to the Vatican, Al Tayyeb spoke out harshly against terrorism carried out by extremist Islamic groups such as ISIS, saying that “those who kill Muslims, and who also kill Christians, have misunderstood the texts of Islam either intentionally or by negligence.” “We must not blame religions because of the deviations of some of their followers,” he said, and issued a global appeal asking that the entire world to “close ranks to confront and put an end to terrorism.” If the growing problem of terrorism is neglected, it’s not just the east that will pay the price, but “both east and west could suffer together, as we have seen.” In their Feb. 21 communique, the Vatican also announced that from Feb. 21-25 the annual meeting of the Board of Directors of the John Paul II Foundation for the Sahel will take place in Dakar, Senegal. Founded by St. John Paul II in 1984, the foundation was establish by the late pontiff after his first visit to Africa, during which he came face to face with the daily suffering the people endured due to years of draught and desertification. While the foundation was previously under the care of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, the dicastery has since merged with several others to form a new, mega-dicastery for Integral Human Development, which is now responsible for the Sahel foundation. The 5-day meeting will be attended by various representatives from the Holy See, including the new dicastery’s secretary, Msgr. Giampietro Dal Toso, who will participate as an observer, and the Vatican ambassador to Senegal, Archbishop Michael Wallace Banach. According to the communique, discussion will focus largely on projects awaiting funding. In 2016 alone 43 projects in 6 countries were financed for a grand total of $550,000. Since the foundation’s beginning until 2015, they have financed roughly 3,200 projects in the Sahel region, for a total of more than $37,000,000. With particular help received from both the Italian and German bishops conferences, specific projects focus on eliminating desertification and managing and developing agricultural units, as well as other projects aimed at providing water pumping systems and improving drinking water and renewable energies. The foundation also seeks to form skilled technical personnel. Recent data from the Human Development Index, which measures the level of development in each country worldwide, shows that 19 of the 20 least developed countries on the list come from Africa, the communique said. Of these 19 countries, 7 are from the Sahel region.   In addition to desertification, the index lists several other factors that compound the situation, including frequent food crisis, the exhaustion of natural resources, particularly water, and violence carried out by extremist groups. Members of the Board of Directors attending the meeting are: Bishop Sanou Lucas Kalfa of Banfora, Burkina Faso, who is the president; Bishop Mamba Paul Abel of Ziguinchor, Senegal, who is the vice-president; Bishop Happe Martin Albert of Nouakchott, Mauritania, who is the treasurer; Bishop Ouédraogo Ambroise of Maradi, Niger; Bishop Ildo Fortes of Mindelo, Cape Verde; Archbishop Djitangar Edmond of N’Djamena, Chad; Bishop Ellison Robert Patrick of Banjul, Gambia; Bishop Pedro Carlos Zilli of Bafatá, Guinea-Bissau and Bishop Traoré Augustin of Segou, Mali.

Pope Francis: to love your enemies, prayer is a game-changer

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2017 / 01:21 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The path to holiness and sainthood, Pope Francis said, requires imitating Christ by loving our enemies and praying for those who wrong us even when it is difficult. “It’s true, God the Father is merciful,” he said Feb. 19. “And you? Are you merciful, are you merciful with the people who have hurt you? Or who do not love you?” “If He is merciful, if He is holy, if He is perfect, we must be merciful, holy and perfect like Him,” he continued. “This is holiness. A man and a woman who do this deserve to be canonized: they become saints. So simple is the Christian life.” Pope Francis gave his homily during Mass at the parish of Santa Maria Josefa of the Heart of Jesus, where he visited Sunday. Before Mass he visited with young people, the sick, families and those in charge of the parish’s Caritas organization. He also heard the confessions of four parishioners. This was the Pope’s 13th visit to a parish in the diocese of Rome during his pontificate, and the second in just a little over a month. In his homily, the pontiff reflected on the way of holiness. This path cannot be followed if we harbor resentment or wish to exact revenge against someone. Quoting the words of Jesus in the Gospel, the Pope said: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Pray for the one who hurts me?” the Pope asked. “Yes,” he answered, “because it changes lives.” If we think it is impossible, then pray, the Pope said. Pray every day for the grace to forgive and the grace to love. The Gospel is simple, he said. “This advice: ‘Be holy, for I the Lord your God, am holy.’ And then: ‘You shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’,” the Pope remarked. Forgiveness and prayer are the way to do this. “This is the way of holiness,” he said. “If all men and women of the world learned this, there would be no wars, there would not be.” Wars begin “in bitterness, rancor, the desire for revenge, to make someone pay. But that destroys families, destroys friendships, destroys neighborhoods, destroys so much,” he said. For Pope Francis, this is why we must pray always for the grace not to hold grudges and for “the grace to pray for our enemies, to pray for the people that do not love us, the grace of peace.” If we make this our daily prayer, the Pope continued, even just praying one prayer a day for our enemies, this is how we will “win” and make progress “on the path of holiness and perfection.” In the end, “evil is overcome by good,” he said, and “sin is won with generosity.” “Prayer is an antidote against hatred, against wars, these wars that start at home, which start in the neighborhood, which begin in families,” he said. The Pope said if he knows that someone wants to hurt him and does not love him, “I pray especially for him.” “Pray for there to be peace,” he said.

Pope prays for victims of terrorist attacks in Iraq and Pakistan

Vatican City, Feb 19, 2017 / 05:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After leading the Angelus Sunday, Pope Francis prayed for all those affected by violence and war around the world, particularly the victims of recent terrorist attacks in Pakistan and Iraq, asking pilgrims to offer a moment of silence before leading them in praying the ‘Hail Mary.’ “I think, in particular, of the dear people of Pakistan and Iraq, hit by cruel terrorist acts in recent days,” the Pope said Feb. 19. “We pray for the victims, the wounded and the families. Let us pray fervently that every heart hardened by hatred is converted to peace, according to the will of God.” A suicide bomber reportedly loyal to the Islamic State attacked devotees at a Sufi shrine in Sehwan, Pakistan, more than 90 miles northwest of Hyderabad, Feb. 16. In addition to the more than 80 killed in the attack, some 250 were wounded. The same day, a car bomb exploded in Baghdad's southwestern al-Bayaa neighborhood shortly before sunset, killing at least 55 people and wounding more than 60 others, according to Iraq's Interior Ministry. In his message after the Angelus, Pope Francis also highlighted the ongoing violence in the Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying that he feels a strong sorrow for the victims, especially child soldiers, which he called “a tragedy.” “I strongly feel sorrow for the victims,” he said, “especially for the many children torn from their families and school to be used as soldiers.” “I assure you of my closeness and my prayer, for religious and humanitarian personnel working in that difficult region; and renew an urgent appeal to the conscience and responsibility of national authorities and the international community, so that you take appropriate and timely decisions in order to help these brothers and sisters.” Before leading the Angelus, the Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, which comes from Matthew. In it, Jesus tells his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.” In this way, “Jesus shows the way of true justice through the law of love that surpasses that of retaliation.” This is how we can “break the chain of evil, and really change things,” Francis said. “Evil is in fact a ‘vacuum’ of good,” he said, which can only be filled with good, not with another evil, “another void.” However, this doesn’t mean we are ignoring or contradicting justice, the Pope emphasized. “On the contrary, Christian love, which is manifested in a special way in mercy, is a greater realization of justice.” “What Jesus wants to teach us is the distinction we have to make between justice and revenge,” he said. “Distinguish between justice and revenge. Revenge is never right.” We are allowed to seek justice – and it is our duty to do so – he explained, but to take revenge is to incite hatred and violence, which is always wrong. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also tells his disciples to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This does not mean that Jesus in any way endorses the wrongdoing or evil, Francis said. It should be understood as “an invitation to a higher perspective.” This is the same higher perspective that God the Father has, he noted, who “causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” No matter what, the Pope continued, our enemies, are in fact still human people, “created in God’s image,” although at the present time they may be tarnished by sin or error. Francis said that it’s important to remember that our “enemies” may not just be people who are different from us or who live far away, but that in many cases we can speak about even ourselves as enemies, especially to those we come into conflict with on a regular basis, such as our neighbors and family members. An enemy is anyone who commits a wrong against us, but “to all of them we are called to respond with good…inspired by love,” he said. “May the Virgin Mary help us to follow Jesus on this difficult path,” he concluded, “which really enhances human dignity and makes us live as children of our Father who is in heaven.” “Help us to practice patience, dialogue, forgiveness, and so to be artisans of communion and artisans of brotherhood in our daily lives.”