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Pope Francis to Augustinian Recollects: renewal in continuity

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the participants in the 55th General Chapter of the Order of Augustinian Recollects on Thursday in the Vatican.

The Augustinian Recollects trace their origins to a 1588 reform of the Augustinian Friars in Spain, and became an autonomous congregation in 1621. It was only in the early 20th century, however, that they received full recognition as a Mendicant Order under the Rule of St. Augustine – and they have the distinction of being the last Order to receive such recognition from the Holy See.

In Spanish-language remarks prepared for the occasion and delivered on Thursday morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis encouraged the Recollects to continue in their ongoing work of renewing the vision of St. Augustine, “[T]o live as brothers ‘with one heart and one soul (Rule 1, 2),’ reflecting the ideal of the first Christians and being a living spirit of prophecy and communion in this world of ours, that there might be neither division nor conflict nor exclusion, but that harmony might reign[.]”

Click below to hear our report

The General Chapter of the Augustinian Recollects is the supreme authority within the Order. It takes place every six years and it examines the status of the institution. The Prior General and his counsellors are also elected in it, and these then prepare a plan to put into operation the decisions taken by the members of the Chapter over the subsequent six years.  

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Catechism is not enough to know Jesus, we need prayer

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said the catechism on its own is not sufficient to truly know Jesus and we need prayer, worship and to recognize ourselves as sinners. His words came during his morning Mass celebrated on Thursday in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence.

The cue for the Pope’s reflections during his homily came from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians where the Apostle prayed that they may be strengthened with power through the Holy Spirit and that Christ may dwell in their hearts.

Noting that Paul spoke of plunging into the immense sea that is the person of Christ, Pope Francis asked “how can we know Christ, How can we understand His love that is beyond all knowledge?”

“Christ is present in the Gospel and we know Christ by reading the Gospel. And all of us do this, at least we hear the Gospel when we go to Mass. And studying the catechism teaches us who Christ is. But this is not enough. In order to understand the breadth and length and height and depth of Jesus Christ we need to enter into the habit, firstly of praying, as Paul did on his knees: “Father send me the Holy Spirit to know Jesus.”

But in order to truly know Christ, the Pope stressed that prayer on its own is not enough and as Paul said, in addition to praying he “worships this mystery” that is beyond our knowledge and in this spirit of worship or adoration he asks for this grace from the Lord.

“We cannot know the Lord without this habit of worship, to worship in silence, adoration. If I am not mistaken, I believe that this prayer of adoration is the least known by us, it’s the one that we do least. Allow me to say this, waste time in front of the Lord, in front of the mystery of Jesus Christ. Worship him. There in silence, the silence of adoration. He is the Saviour and I worship Him.” 

Pope Francis said the third requirement for truly knowing Christ was to know ourselves and as a result be accustomed to describing ourselves as sinners.

“We cannot worship without accusing ourselves. In order to enter into this bottomless and boundless sea that is the mystery of Jesus Christ, this thing is necessary. (Firstly), prayer:  ‘Father, send me the Holy Spirit so that he leads me to know Jesus.’  Secondly, worship the mystery, enter into the mystery and worship Him. And thirdly, accuse ourselves. ‘I am a man of unclean lips.’ May the Lord give us too this grace that Paul implored for the Ephesians, this grace to know and earn Christ.

(from Vatican Radio)

Card. Turkson calls for new economy that respects the human person

(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, called on Monday for a financial system and a global economy that respects the human person.

Speaking on the first day of the 3rd European Microfinance Forum (3rd EMF) taking place in Rome, Cardinal Turkson quoted from Pope Francis’ encyclicals and messages that denounce the current culture of waste and speak of an anthropological crisis that has placed wealth at the summit of a scale of values. He also praised the tools provided by microfinance and microcredit which, he said, “not only have a positive economic impact, but also a social and cultural one. 

The Forum aims to provide public institutions, private sector operators and non-profit organizations with an opportunity to debate and share views from their various perspectives on economic and social development and credit access.

In his speech Cardinal Turkson said that right from the beginning of his Pontificate, starting with his Encyclical “Evangelii Gaudium”, Pope Francis has decried the fact that the current economic system is founded on exclusion and a throwaway culture that produces inequity: “that’s why he speaks of an economy that kills!”

Referring to the Pope’s “Laudato Sii’” encyclical, Turkson continued: “the Pope says: “Once more, we need to reject a magical conception of the market, which would suggest that problems can be solved simply by an increase in the profits of companies or individuals. Is it realistic to hope that those who are obsessed with maximizing profits will stop to reflect on the environmental damage which they will leave behind for future generations? Where profits alone count, there can be no thinking about the rhythms of nature, its phases of decay and regeneration, or the complexity of ecosystems which may be gravely upset by human intervention.”

And quoting from Pope Francis’ words again, this time upon receiving the Charlemagne Prize, Turkson said that the Pope clearly calls for the urgent need to come up with “new, more inclusive and equitable economic models, aimed not at serving the few, but at benefiting ordinary people and society as a whole”. Doing this – he said - “calls for moving from a liquid economy in which numbers are more important than people to a social economy”.

The Pope, Turkson said, clearly indicates that it is unacceptable that “the death from cold of an old man living on the streets doesn’t make the news while the loss of 2 points on the stock exchange does”.

The cause of his, he said, is the anthropological crisis the world is going through; and it is much deeper than the economic one: “the denial of the primacy of the human person”. Money and wealth – he explained – are being worshipped as the new idol.

Cardinal Turkson also explained that the Pope does not limit himself to criticizing the current economic model, but outlines the characteristics of a more equal economy, that gives everyone the possibility to participate within respect for human dignity and care for the environment.

Indicating a social economy that “invests in persons by creating jobs and providing training,” Turkson said, the Pope asks us to “move from a liquid economy prepared to use corruption as a means of obtaining profits to a social economy that guarantees access to land and lodging through labour.”

Highlighting the fact that we need a modern social market economy to be able to tackle the challenges of unemployment, increasing inequality and environmental degradation, the Cardinal stressed how the human person and his and her fundamental and inalienable human rights must be at the fulcrum of such a system.

Cardinal Turkson acknowledged that the crucial challenge a new model of social economy will be called to face is globalization, and especially that “globalization of indifference” that opposes a globalization of solidarity.

The Cardinal concluded his speech saying that the tools provided by microfinance and microcredit in tackling unemployment, inequality and environmental degradation are of “crucial importance”.

Microcredit, he said, places trust in those who are not considered “adequate” by banks to receive financial loans, “it places trust in the marginalized, in the excluded of our throwaway culture, in their capacity to get organized and bring about change for themselves, for their families, for their communities”.

And, he said, microfinance and microcredit do not only have an economic impact, but a social and cultural one as well.

Cardinal Turkson concluded his address quoting from Evangelii Gaudium: “As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis at GA: access to food, water basic human right

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday said access to food and water is a basic human right, and called on believers and people of good will everywhaere to take personal responsibility for the needs of their neighbors. The appeal came during the Holy Father's weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square. The Pope focused on feeding the hungry – the first of the Corporal Works of Mercy – during the catechetical portion of the event.

Below, please find the official English-language summary read out following the main catechesis in Italian


Dear Brothers and Sisters:  In our catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, we have reflected on God’s mercy and our own responsibility, as followers of Jesus, to be “merciful like the Father”.  Among the corporal works of mercy, the first is that of feeding the hungry. Access to food and water is a basic human right, yet so many members of our human family, especially children, continue to suffer from hunger and thirst. While grateful for the generosity and solidarity shown in the case of many tragic situations worldwide, we must never forget that this work of mercy calls us to respond personally to concrete situations of need in our own lives. Saint James warns against ignoring the practical needs of our brothers and sisters, for faith without works is dead (Jas 2:14-17). In the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus tells his disciples to provide food for the crowds, yet he shows them that, in sharing what they have, he will give it increase. Jesus himself is the bread of life, and he makes it clear that our relationship with the Father depends on the way we respond to the hunger and thirst of our brothers and sisters.

Following the catechetical summary, the Holy Father greeted English-speaking pilgrims

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Malta, Ghana, Uganda, South Africa, Indonesia, China, Singapore, Japan, the Philippines and the United States of America. With prayerful good wishes that the present Jubilee of Mercy will be a moment of grace and spiritual renewal for you and your families, I invoke upon all of you joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

(from Vatican Radio)

The happiest day of Mother Teresa's life

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2016 / 06:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- It’s been said that saints often come in pairs. Sts. Peter and Paul, Mary and Joseph, Francis and Clare, and Louis and Zelie Martin are just a handful of such saints, coupled together through marriage or friendship. Perhaps the best-known modern saintly pair of friends would be Mother Teresa and John Paul II, whose lives intersected many times during her time as Mother Superior of the Missionaries of Charity, and his pontificate. When John Paul II came to visit Mother Teresa’s home in the heart of the slums in Kolkata in 1986, Mother Teresa called it “the happiest day of my life.” When he arrived, Mother Teresa climbed up into the white popemobile and kissed the ring of the Bishop of Rome, who then kissed the top of Mother’s head, a greeting they would exchange almost every time they met. After their warm hello, Mother took John Paul II to her Nirmal Hriday (Sacred Heart) home, a home for the sick and the dying she had founded in the 1950s. Footage of the visit shows Mother Teresa leading John Paul II by the hand to various parts of the home, while he stops to embrace, bless, and greet the patients. He also blessed four corpses, including that of a child. According to reports of the visit from the BBC, the Pope was “visibly moved” by what he saw during his visit, as he helped the nuns feed and care for the sick and the dying. At some points the Pope was so disturbed by what he saw that he found himself speechless in response to Mother Teresa. Afterwards, the Pope gave a short address outside the home, calling Nirmal Hriday “a place that bears witness to the primacy of love.” “When Jesus Christ was teaching his disciples how they could best show their love for him, he said: 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Through Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, and through the many others who have served here, Jesus has been deeply loved in people whom society often considers ‘the least of our brethren,’” the Pope remarked. “Nirmal Hriday proclaims the profound dignity of every human person. The loving care which is shown here bears witness to the truth that the worth of a human being is not measured by usefulness or talents, by health or sickness, by age or creed or race. Our human dignity comes from God our Creators in whose image we are all made. No amount of privation or suffering can ever remove this dignity, for we are always precious in the eyes of God,” he added. After his address, the Pope greeted the gathered crowds, making a special stop to greet the smiling and singing sisters of the Missionaries of Charity. Besides calling the visit the happiest day of her life, Mother Teresa also added: "It is a wonderful thing for the people, for his touch is the touch of Christ." The two remained close friends, visiting each other several times over the years. After her death in 1997, John Paul II waived the five-year waiting period usually observed before opening her cause for canonization. At her beatification in 2003, John Paul II praised Mother Teresa’s love for God, shown through her love for the poor. “Let us praise the Lord for this diminutive woman in love with God, a humble Gospel messenger and a tireless benefactor of humanity. In her we honour one of the most important figures of our time. Let us welcome her message and follow her example.”   This article was originally published Aug. 26, 2016.

Ratzinger prize recipients include first-ever Orthodox winner

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2016 / 10:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Among the recipients of this year’s Ratzinger Prize is Greek-born Orthodox professor Ioannis Kourempeles, who is widely known for his extensive teaching career and work in dogmatic theology. The two winners of the 2016 prize were announced Oct. 18, and, in addition to Kourempeles, include Italian priest Msgr. Inos Biffi, whose career has focused largely on the history of theology and medieval philosophy. Born in Athens in 1965, Kourempeles studied Theology at the Faculties of Theology in Thessaloniki, Erlangen and Heidelberg before going on to teach the History of Dogmas and Dogmatic and Symbolic Theology at the Faculty of Theology of the “Aristotle” University of Thessaloniki. He is the first-ever Orthodox to be awarded the Ratzinger Prize. Msgr. Biffi originally comes from the northern Italian city of Lomagna. He was born there in 1934 and is professor emeritus of Systematic Theology and the History of Medieval Theology at the Theology Faculty of Northern Italy. He is also professor emeritus of the same subjects at the Faculty of Theology of Lugano. He is currently also a member of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, president of the Institute for the History of Medieval Theology of Milan and director of the Institute of the History of Theology at the Faculty of Theology in Lugano. Pope Francis himself will award the two theologians the Ratzinger Prize inside the Clementine Hall of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace Nov. 26, at the close of an international symposium dedicated to “Eschatology: Analysis and Perspectives.” The Ratzinger Prize was begun in 2011 to recognize scholars whose work demonstrates a meaningful contribution to theology in the spirit of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Bavarian theologian who became Benedict XVI. The prize is awarded by the Ratzinger Foundation, which was founded in 2010 with Benedict XVI’s approval to study and promote his writings as a theologian, as a cardinal in charge of the Vatican’s Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, and as Pope. Set to take place at the Pontifical University of Santa Croce, the conference marks the 6th such international symposium the Ratzinger Foundation has hosted. This year’s theme of eschatology was particularly prominent in the theological writings and research of the organization’s protagonist, Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI). Apart from discussing eschatology in the faith and in the Church, the symposium will also feature two workshops, one of which is dedicated to current questions surrounding eschatology, while the other will present the prospects of eschatology in Judaism. Participating in the workshop will be the Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni, the Chief Rabbi of Genoa Giuseppe Momigliano. Other professors participating will include: Paul O’Callaghan, Thomas Söding, Romano Penna, Bernardo Estrada, Maurizio Marcheselli, Giovanni Ancona, Riccardo Battocchio, Santiago Del Cura Elena e Robert Wozniak.  

The reality of poverty is challenging, but don't avoid it, Pope says

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2016 / 04:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that while donating money to charity might make us feel good, seeing real poverty in the flesh is a challenge we have to face, rather than trying to avoid it. “Poverty in the abstract doesn’t challenge us, it makes us think, lament, but when you see poverty in the flesh of a man, woman or child, yes, this challenges us,” he said Oct. 19. To see our brothers and sisters in this state, he said, questions “the attitude we have to run away, the attitude of running away from the needy and not drawing near to them.” Pope Francis’ comments were made during his catechesis for the general audience, which centered on the passage in James 2 that says “faith without works is dead.” In particular, Francis highlighted the corporal works of mercy of feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty. When faith is dead, it is “incapable of doing works, of charity.” There is always someone who needs our help, our words and our commitment, the Pope said, stressing that we cannot delegate this job to someone else. “One of the consequences of so-called ‘well-being’ is to lead people to withdraw into themselves, making them insensitive to the needs of others.” This model deceives us, making us live as if our lives were “a fad to follow and change with every season,” he said, adding that reality is “not so,” and “must be accepted and dealt with for what it is, and often there is the need to meet urgent situations.” Frequently we do not encounter the hungry and thirsty in person, but merely hear about sad news or see sad images in the media, Francis explained, noting that often these images move us and encourage us to donate to charity. This is important, because it can help many, but it “perhaps does not involve us directly,” he pointed out. “But when, going down the street, we cross a person in need, or a poor man comes knocking at the door of our house, it is very different,” because we are “no longer in front of an image, but we are personally involved. There is no longer any distance between me and him or her.” It is important to question ourselves honestly about what we do in these situations, the Pope said, asking: do we look away or step around the person? Do we stop what we are doing to help? Or do we try to get rid of them as soon as possible? “The experience of hunger is tough,” especially for those who have lived through times of war or famine, he said, “yet this experience is repeated every day” with the poor living “next door to abundance and waste.” “Think for a moment,” he continued. “How many times do we pray the ‘Our Father,’ and yet we do not really focus on those words: ‘Give us this day our daily bread?’” Quoting Pope Benedict XVI’ encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” Pope Francis said that feeding the hungry is “an ethical imperative for the universal Church” and “it is therefore necessary to cultivate a public conscience that preserves food and access to water as universal rights of all human beings, without distinction or discrimination.” “This is why feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty are included among the corporal works of mercy,” the Pope said, telling pilgrims to refrain from putting “a bit of makeup on the reality of the needy” in order to hide from one’s own responsibility. However, story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes gives us all hope for how we can help, he said, explaining that “it tells us that the little we have, if we entrust it to the hands of Jesus, and we share it with faith, becomes a superabundant wealth.”

A lesson from one of the Church's newest saints

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2016 / 02:46 pm (CNA).- When we find ourselves weary from the troubles of life, we can find inspiration in the heroism of one of the Church’s new saints, said Cardinal Alberto Suarez Inda of Morelia, Mexico. From its inception, “the history of the Church is the history of a martyr Church,” the cardinal told CNA. He pointed to the persecutions of the first Christians – including Peter and Paul – and those that took place in Korea, Japan, and even in countries with deep Catholic roots such as Spain and Mexico. Still, the cardinal continued, “many of us don't have the grace of a bloody martyrdom.” However, we are called “to be heroic every day, in ordinary life, and this calls us to not falter, to not be carried away by some trend, but to stand firm in the faith when there are more subtle persecutions.” Cardinal Suarez reflected on the life of Jose Sanchez del Rio, who was canonized by Pope Francis on October 16, alongside 6 other Blesseds. St. Jose Sanchez del Rio was born in Sahuayo de Morelos, Mexico in 1913. During the 1924-1928 religious persecution by Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles, St. Jose became a Mexican Cristero, fighting against the anti-Catholic legislation. At that time, the laws banned religious orders, deprived the Church of property rights and denied priests civil liberties, including the right to trial by jury and the right to vote. As the restrictions on religious liberty increased, Catholics could be fined or imprisoned for teaching Church doctrine, wearing clerical attire, meeting together after their convents were disbanded, promoting religious life or holding religious services in non-church locations. At age 14, St. Jose was martyred by the Federal Army on Feb. 10, 1928. According to witness accounts, soldiers cut off the soles of his feet and forced him to walk barefoot to his grave. Although he was tortured, he refused to renounce his Catholic faith. Moments before he was killed, the teen shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” which means “Long live Christ the King!” Cardinal Suarez pointed to the story of the young saint as an example of Christian courage. “Jose Sanchez del Rio, who in a courageous, generous and determined way, preferred to die for Christ, longed for martyrdom as a grace; and now that Pope Francis is canonizing him today, we can certainly recognize that we have a great intercessor and a great example for youth,” he said. The cardinal recalled that the religious persecution in Mexico was a “bitter, dramatic epoch.” Nevertheless, he said, “God's providence has left (the Mexican martyrs) as the seed of many new, authentic Christians, and certainly young people like Jose Sanchez del Rio are a cause for holy pride. Not a conceited pride, but that of knowing that a young person can be brave, can be clear-sighted.” Seeing heaven as an opportunity and refusing to turn back are a witness to us today that “what is truly worth most in life, more than money, is the treasure of our faith,” Cardinal Suarez said. He added that this also an example for Mexico today, “where they put a price on the lives of some people.” The cardinal encouraged the faithful not to grow weary from routine, or a worldly spirit, or ideological colonization. “We need to react and be truly faithful to Jesus in virtue, in an attitude of trust in God and also in facing all those obstacles presented to the Christian life in today's world in whatever time or environment,” he said.  

Cardinals up in arms over new 'McVatican' proposal

Vatican City, Oct 18, 2016 / 09:27 am (CNA).- The decision to open a McDonald’s restaurant inside a Vatican property just around the corner from St. Peter’s Square has been met with harsh criticism from cardinals who live in the building. But the man in charge of rolling out the project says the plan is moving forward despite disagreement. Dubbed by some as “McVatican,” the new restaurant will be located in a Vatican property on the intersection of Rome’s Via del Mascherino and Via Borgo Pio, literally around the corner from the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. After having received numerous requests from different companies to move into the empty space, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See (APSA), which oversees the Vatican's assets, decided to rent it to McDonald’s for 30,000 euros a month. In an interview with Italian newspaper La Reppublica, Italian Cardinal Elio Sgreccia, president emeritus of the Pontifical Academy for Life, called the deal “a controversial, perverse decision to say the least.” The presence of the fast-food chain so close to the Vatican, he said, “is not at all respectful of the architectural and urban traditions of one of the most characteristic squares overlooking the colonnade of St. Peter visited every day by thousands of pilgrims and tourists.” Cardinal Sgreccia called the deal “a business decision that, moreover, ignores the culinary traditions of the Roman restaurant.” The “mega sandwiches” on the McDonald’s menu are a hazard to peoples’ health, he said, adding that because of this, the “questionable” activity shouldn’t even be a consideration for Vatican property. In addition to Cardinal Sgreccia, who rumored to have written a letter of protest to the Pope, other cardinals living in the building have also voiced their discontent. Concern has arisen over what will become of the homeless who have been living outside the building, some of them for years, but who will be forced to leave once the restaurant is constructed. Cardinal Sgreccia told La Reppublica that in addition to being a “disgrace,” the McDonald’s would have been better used as a space used for “activities in defense of the needy in the area, hospitable areas of welcome and help for those who suffer, as the Holy Father teaches.” However, despite the aggravation of cardinals living inside the building, Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, president of APSA, has been unsympathetic, and said he doesn’t see what the problem is. Also speaking to La Reppublica Oct. 15, Cardinal Calcagno responded to criticism surrounding the McDonalds by saying that everything was done “in respect of the law and that there will be nothing done which will go against the current rules, tradition and interests of the Holy See.” “Above all there is respect for the law. Then the rest comes,” he said, explaining that APSA is “not prepared to make any step backward because everything is in order.” Cardinal Calcagno said he is unaware of any letters supposedly written to the Pope. While he is aware of how his brother cardinals feel, “we are free people” and everyone has “the right to express their own views,” he said. “We can’t all be in agreement on everything,” he said, explaining that as president of APSA, “I do not see anything negative in this initiative. The technical departments of APSA have felt the offer of the American company executives fair and just. I do not see any scandal.”  

Pope's Iraq envoy says peace stifled by lack of 'political will'

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2016 / 01:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Alberto Ortega, the Pope's Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq and Jordan, has said that in the midst of a drawn-out humanitarian crisis and ongoing feelings of mistrust and betrayal, Christians can be a sign of reconciliation where political efforts continue to fall short. In order for current conflicts destroying much of the Middle East to come to an end, “there is first of all the political will,” Archbishop Ortega told CNA in an interview. “If the international community, if they really want to make peace, to promote peace, they can engage more intensively and to reach the agreements necessary to reach peace,” he said, stressing that dialogue is also important. However, in order for dialogue to be effective, one must “put aside personal interests or the interests of a group or of a country, (and) put in the center the attention to the people, to every single person, because behind all these numbers...there are concrete people with a face and a family.” Christians, he said, can play a “very important role,” especially in the context of the Holy Year of Mercy. “Even if as a number they are a minority, they can play a very important role as wielders of reconciliation, of peace, of unity, as they have done in the past,” he said, adding that “they have always been a factor of stability and a factor of development in the country.” Archbishop Ortega was present in Rome for a Sept. 29 symposium on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria, organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. Marking the fifth such meeting, the symposium gathered 80 representatives from various Catholic charitable organizations in the Middle East, as well as those in religious congregations who work in crisis areas. The archbishop provided participants with an update on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, and how the Church has responded. In his comments to CNA, he said spoke not only about the concrete material needs of the Iraqi people, but also how each person can work to overcome the general attitude of mistrust that has developed in the region, explaining that peace can and must be achieved at both a political and individual level. Please read below for the full interview with Archbishop Ortega: Can you tell us from your perspective on the ground, what are the most immediate needs of the people? I think there are many needs from the humanitarian point of view. For example in Iraq there are 10 million who are in need of humanitarian assistance. That’s a lot, that’s nearly one-third of the population. There are 3.5 million internally displaced, and there are also many needs from other points of view, especially the need for reconciliation. There is lack of unity, many tensions among different groups, so the biggest need for me is the need of reconciliation and that all groups can build society together, that they agree, at least on the principals, to work together. If they work together it’s easier also to overcome terrorism and extremism. But it’s so important that they work together and look for the common good of the population.   Trust has been a big issue. Do you think people in this area will eventually be able to trust one another again? I think this is a big challenge but it is the only way. In this aspect, in this Year of Mercy, mercy is the solution to the problems. Because after so many years of tensions, of conflicts, you need to move forward and the only way is to forgive. At the end, mercy is the only way to reconciliation. In this aspect the Christians can play a very important role. Even if as a number they are a minority, they can play a very important role as wielders of reconciliation, of peace, of unity, as they have done in the past. They have always been a factor of stability and a factor of development in the country.  Are people on the ground hopeful to be able to return home soon? There are different kinds of people. Some of them are very tired after so many years, because the last problem with the Islamic State is just the last development of many other problems. Since many years they are suffering the consequences of one war after another, so some of them are tired and they are looking forward to going abroad. Other people, they are very attached to their roots and they want to remain there. We encourage, especially the Christians, we encourage them to remain there because we think that their presence is so important for the country. Not just for the Church, that is so important, but also for society because they can play a very important role. And to encourage them to remain I always tell them that they have a very special mission that no one can play in their place. They have a special mission of being Christians in the Holy Land, of being Christians in a context that is difficult but is very necessary. In his speech to conference participants the Pope spoke about the need for peace at both a political and individual level. What is needed at a political level to have peace, and what can each person do? I think that at a political level there is first of all the political will. Because if the international community, if they really want to make peace, to promote peace, they can engage more intensively and to reach the agreements necessary to reach peace. But also dialogue is so important, and to put aside personal interests or the interests of a group or of a country, to put in the center the attention to the people, to every single person, because behind all these numbers or big themes of people suffering, there are concrete people with a face and a family, and every one of them is important. So I think if we put them in the main point of reference, it’s not so difficult to reach an agreement to obtain peace and stability. From your perspective as someone living in the midst of the situation, is there a specific message you have on behalf of the Christians in Iraq? It’s important to work together. And to transmit this necessity of continuing to help these people, to assist these people, with prayers and spiritual assistance, but also with concrete contact authorities, to engage more in promoting peace and development. Also because it’s the best way to avoid the problem of migration. Instead of trying to cover the emergency here (in Europe), to try to solve the problems at the root so that people don’t have to leave their countries.

Francis, Benedict praise Bartholomew I as a brother in faith

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2016 / 10:55 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In their forewords to a new book about the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church Patriarch Bartholomew I, Pope Francis and retired Pope Benedict XVI praised the faith and goodness of the ecumenical patriarch. “Today, we brothers in the faith and hope that does not disappoint, we are deeply united in the desire that Christians of the East and the West can feel part of the one and only Church,” Pope Francis wrote. The forewords were contributions to the book Bartholomew, Apostle and Visionary by John Chryssavgis, written in honor of the 25th anniversary of the patriarch’s election as head of the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was released Oct. 11. In the messages, Pope Francis and Benedict both reflected on their meetings with Patriarch Bartholomew and on the things which unite them. “My first meeting with my beloved brother Bartholomew took place the same day in which I started my papal ministry, when he honored me with his presence in Rome,” Pope Francis recalled. Patriarch Bartholomew’s presence at the inaugural Mass of Pope Francis on March 19, 2013 was the first time that an ecumenical patriarch had attended the inauguration of a pope since the schism between the Eastern Orthodox and Catholics in 1054. “I felt I was meeting a man walking in the faith,” Francis continued, “who in his person and in his manner expresses deep human and spiritual experience of the Orthodox tradition. On that occasion we hugged with sincere affection and mutual understanding.” Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew have met together frequently since Pope Francis’ election, including during the Pope’s visit to a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos April 16. They have also met in Jerusalem, Rome and Constantinople. These meetings “not only strengthened our spiritual affinity, but above all deepened our shared understanding of the common pastoral responsibility we have in this moment in history, before the urgent challenges that Christians and the entire human family must face today,” Francis said. The Pope highlighted the “shared commitment” between the two leaders, exemplified in the two joint statements they signed in Jerusalem and Phanar to build a world “more just and more respectful of dignity and fundamental freedoms, the most important of which is the freedom of religion.” Benedict XVI, who first met Bartholomew in 2002, while still Cardinal Ratzinger, said he also was immediately moved by the personal warmth and openness of the patriarch. “It did not take a great effort to draw close to one another. His interior openness and his inspired simplicity suffered a welcoming intimacy.” The meeting took place on a train to Assisi for the international prayer meeting with Pope John Paul II. “For me,” Benedict wrote, “this meeting – along the way – it’s more of an accidental expression of the state of faith.” Pope Francis also compared unity between the Eastern and Western Churches as a gradual journey. “The Church of Rome and the Church of Constantinople are joined by a deep and ancient bond that not even centuries of silence and misunderstanding have been able to break,” he said. They now have “the sacred task to walk back along the path that led to the separation of our churches, healing sources of our mutual estrangement, and to proceed towards the restoration of full communion in faith and love, conscious of our legitimate differences.” Francis praised the patriarch’s commitment to increasing awareness regarding the “protection of creation,” saying that they were “fundamentally united” in this commitment. “I found a deep spiritual sensitivity in Patriarch Bartholomew for the painful condition of humanity today, so deeply wounded by unspeakable violence, injustice and discrimination.” Patriarch Bartholomew has also praised Pope Francis on several occasions, notably for his humility, his care for the environment, and his concern for the plight of Christians in the Middle East. “This is precisely why the path toward unity is more urgent than ever for those who invoke the name of the great Peacemaker,” Patriarch Bartholomew said Nov. 30, 2014, and prayed that restoration of full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox churches “will not be prolonged.” He urged greater collaboration, saying that “we no longer have the luxury of isolated action” due to the current persecution of Christians, who are targeted regardless of which church they belong to. The two leaders “are both greatly troubled by the grave sin against God, which seems to grow by the day, which is the globalization of indifference before the disfigurement of the image of God in man,” Francis said. “It is our belief that we are called to work for the construction of a new civilization of love and solidarity.” “We are both aware that the voices of our brothers and sisters, now at the point of extreme anguish, force us to move more quickly on the path of reconciliation and communion between Catholics and Orthodox, so that they can credibly proclaim the Gospel of peace that comes from Christ.”  

Pope Francis to visit Italian diocese of Genoa May 27

Vatican City, Oct 17, 2016 / 02:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Shortly after their bishop was named the new president of the Council of Catholic Episcopal Conferences in Europe, the Archdiocese of Genoa announced that Pope Francis will make a daytrip to the city this coming spring. According to an Oct. 16 communique posted on the Archdiocese of Genoa’s website, their archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, made the announcement of the Pope’s visit “with great joy” after celebrating Mass in the city’s cathedral. He had told churchgoers that the archdiocese would be starting a new pastoral year in which special emphasis would be placed on the liturgy and Eucharistic Adoration, prayer within the family, youth and education.   In the context of this special pastoral year, the Pope’s visit is “a grace which Genoa awaits” with joy, the communique read, explaining that the diocese is preparing “in a spirit of communion and collaboration, to welcome Francis May 27.” The Pope’s daytrip also coincides with the 380th anniversary of Mary Queen of Genoa, a title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1637. Like Milan, the visit to Genoa had already been planned for an earlier date, but was postponed due to the Pope’s numerous commitments for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The Vatican announced Dec. 10, 2015, that due to Pope Francis’ busy schedule during the Holy Year he had decided to postpone his May 7, 2016, visit to the Archdiocese of Milan until the following year. On Saturday it was announced that the delayed visit would now take place March 25, 2017. Genoa was the site of the recent Sept. 15-18 National Eucharistic Congress, which Pope Francis was unable to attend due to commitments for the Jubilee of Mercy. He named Cardinal Bagnasco as his special envoy. The announcement of Francis’ trip to Genoa came shortly after the election of Cardinal Bagnasco as the new President of the Council of Catholic Episcopal Conferences in Europe. An outspoken voice on many current issues, Bagnasco has come out as a hard-hitter on several major topics, including gender theory, abortion, civil unions and communion for the divorced and remarried. Also President of the Italian Bishops Conference, Bagnasco was elected by the Council of Catholic Episcopal Conferences in Europe (CCEE) during their Oct. 6-9 Plenary Assembly and will take over for Hungarian Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has been at the helm since 2006. The CCEE is a gathering of the presidents of the individual European Bishops Conferences. In his role as president, Bagnasco will be responsible not so much for political procedures, but will head a wide range of activities overseen by the individual bishops conferences, including catechesis.

Pope at canonization Mass: Prayer isn’t always easy, pray anyway

Rome, Italy, Oct 16, 2016 / 06:50 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis canonized seven new saints in the Catholic Church, saying that prayer isn’t always a smooth path, but that like the saints, Christ supports us even when it is difficult. “The saints are men and women who enter fully into the mystery of prayer. Men and women who struggle with prayer, letting the Holy Spirit pray and struggle in them,” Pope Francis said Oct. 16. “They struggle to the very end, with all their strength, and they triumph, but not by their own efforts: the Lord triumphs in them and with them. The seven witnesses who were canonized today also fought the good fight of faith and love by their prayers.” In a Mass with 80,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis declared seven new saints, including the new Saints Elizabeth of the Blessed Trinity, a Carmelite nun; and José Sánchez del Río, who was martyred at the age of 14. “…we declare and define Blessed Solomon Leclercq, José Sánchez del Río, Manuel González García, Lodovico Pavoni, Alfonso Maria Fusco, José Gabriel del Rosario Brochero and Elizabeth of the Trinity Catez to be Saints,” Francis stated. “And we enroll them among the Saints, decreeing that they are to be venerated as such by the whole Church.” In his homily, Pope Francis likened our prayers to the battle Moses waged against Amalek as recounted in the Book of Exodus. Even though he grew weary and discouraged, Moses was supported by Aaron and Hur, and was able to persevere in prayer for Israel. “This is the kind of spiritual life the Church asks of us: not to win by war, but to win with peace! There is an important message in this story of Moses: commitment to prayer demands that we support one another,” he said. “To pray is not to take refuge in an ideal world, nor to escape into a false, selfish sense of calm,” Francis said. “On the contrary, to pray is to struggle, but also to let the Holy Spirit pray within us.” Not alone, but through Christ, the saints “attained the goal,” the Pope continued. “Thanks to prayer, they had a generous and steadfast heart. They prayed mightily; they fought and they were victorious. So pray!” St. Elizabeth of the Trinity was a Carmelite nun from the 20th century. She grew up in Dijon, France near a Carmelite monastery. After visiting the monastery at age 17, she felt called to join. Obedient to her mother, who said she could not enter until age 21, she continued to work with troubled youth, teaching them the faith, until she entered the Carmel in Dijon in 1901. She died from Addison’s disease only 5 years later, at the age of 26. St. José Sánchez del Río was born in Sahuayo de Morelos, Mexico in 1913. He was a Mexican Cristero. At the age of 14 he was tortured and put to death by government officials when he refused to renounce his Catholic faith. Often pictured on horseback, Argentinian priest St. José Gabriele del Rosario Brochero was known for his service to the poor and sick; St. Solomon Leclercq was a French priest killed during the French Revolution for refusing to swear an oath of allegiance to the new government. St. Manuel González García was a Spanish Roman Catholic bishop; St. Lodovico Pavoni, an Italian priest, founded the Sons of Mary Immaculate; and St. Alfonso Maria Fusco, also an Italian priest, founded the Sisters of St. John the Baptist. Pope Francis acknowledged that weariness in our prayer lives is “inevitable.” But that, with the support of our brothers and sisters, the Lord can succeed in us. “The ‘battle’ of perseverance cannot be won without prayer. Not sporadic or hesitant prayer, but prayer offered as Jesus tells us in the Gospel: ‘Pray always, without ever losing heart,’” he said. “This is the Christian way of life: remaining steadfast in prayer, in order to remain steadfast in faith and testimony.” The mystery of prayer, Pope Francis said, is to keep “crying out, not to lose heart, and if we should grow tired, asking help to keep our hands raised.” We are members of the Body of Christ, the Church, so even if we grow weary, we are not alone, the Pope said. “Only in the Church, and thanks to the Church’s prayer, are we able to remain steadfast in faith and witness.” At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis led pilgrims in the Angelus, noting in his message the World Day against Poverty taking place Oct. 17. “Let us join forces, moral and economic, to fight together against poverty that degrades, insults and kills so many brothers and sisters, by implementing standard policies for families and for work,” he said.

Have grandkids? Pope Francis wants you to talk with them

Rome, Italy, Oct 15, 2016 / 11:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday, Pope Francis told grandparents that they are valuable and that their wisdom should be shared with the younger generation, to help them grow and to support them in their faith. “And talk to your grandchildren, talk. Let them ask you questions,” he said. They may be different from you, they may do other things, “they like other music... but they need the elderly, this ongoing dialogue.” “You are an important presence, because your experience is a precious treasure, essential to looking to the future with hope and responsibility,” Pope Francis said Oct. 15 at the Vatican. The Pope met with pilgrims, including around 7,000 grandparents, to share a reflection and prayer as part of the Celebration of Grandparents. The audience also included the National Association of Older Workers and the Federation of Seniors Italy. During the audience, Pope Francis acknowledged how many elderly people give generously of their time in the Church – whether as catechists, or during the liturgy, or by cleaning or decorating. “And what about their role in the family?” he said. “How many grandparents care for grandchildren, simply by transmitting to children the experience of life, the spiritual and cultural values of a community and a people!” It is important to promote the bond between generations, the Pope said. “The future of a people requires the encounter between young and old: the young people are the vitality of a people on the way and the elderly reinforce this vitality with memory and wisdom.” The elderly show that it is possible to withstand even the greatest trials, never losing confidence in God or in a better future, Francis continued. The elderly are like trees that “continue to bear fruit” giving their contribution for a society “rich in values,” and affirming the “culture of life.” He shamed the “throwaway” culture which considers old people unproductive and useless, instead of respecting and appreciating their personal dignity. In a world that believes strength and appearance are the most important things, “you have the mission to witness to the values that really matter and which endure forever because they are engraved on the heart of every human being and guaranteed by the Word of God,” he told pilgrims. “You, or rather we – because I too am one of them,” Francis noted, “are called to work for the development of the culture of life, witnessing that every season of life is a gift from God and it has its own beauty and its importance, although marked by fragility.” In countries that have been under severe religious persecution, grandparents have had an important role of passing along the faith to the next generation, the Pope said. They have even lead children to be baptized, despite suffering or an underground church. Pope Francis thanked the grandfathers and grandmothers present for their example of love, dedication and wisdom. “Continue with courage to bear witness to these values! Not lacking your smile in society and the beautiful brightness of your eyes!” “The Church regards the elderly with affection, gratitude and high esteem. They are an essential part of the Christian community and society, in particular they represent the roots and the memory of a people.” At the end of his speech, the Pope encouraged people to pray to St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus: “Everyone ask Anne to teach us to be good and wise grandparents,” he said.