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Mar 17 17 4:09 PM
No words, no comment, but a long moment of silence, reflection and prayer. Pope Francis who did not deliver any homily during the Lenten penitential liturgy called "24 hours for the Lord," which, as every year, was held in the afternoon in St. Peter's Basilica. A novelty compared to other years; probably a choice of the Pope, in a time of such persistent "noise", to highlight the sense of a fundamental sacrament in the Christian life as a "place" to learn "the face of God's mercy." A chance for the Argentine Pope also to pray with the faithful of Rome arrived in the Basilica. Because it is precisely in prayer that one can ask God for "the gift of a wounded heart, able to understand other people's wounds and heal them with the oil of mercy," as he said in this morning audience to the participants at an annual course on the internal forum, organised by the Apostolic Penitentiary. As in other years, however, the liturgy has seen the image of a penitent Pope in front of a priest, his head bowed and hands clasped, kneeling in one of the 95 confessionals that line the right aisle of St. Peter's Basilica. His vestments set aside, Bergoglio confessed first, for about four minutes, and then confessed for about 50 minutes some of the faithful. Seven of them received by the Pope himself the sacrament of Reconciliation: three men and four women, all of whom were lay people. In total, tells the Vatican press office, the confessions lasted about 50 minutes, at the sound of the songs of the choirboys of the choir of the Sistine Chapel, conducted by Monsignor Massimo Palombella. This year, the booklet of the liturgy suggested some ideas for the examination of conscience. Twenty-five questions to "examine oneself in the light of God's Word." Among these were some dedicated to issues of human life, such as: "Have I attempted on the existential and physical integrity of the other?"; "Have I procured or advised abortion?"; "Have I acted against my physical integrity (e.g., sterilization)?". Or moments of everyday life: "Have I refrained from exercising unnecessary work on holidays?"; " Have I endangered my life or that of others driving a car or using other means of transport?". Some suggestions were addressed to parents: "Have I set a good example for my children?"; the and to the children: "Have I been obedient to my parents? Have I respected their authority? "; to spouses: "Have my feelings and actions been always faithful?". There were also some questions with more "social" nuances “Am I able to give, with no self-interest, to those who are poorer than me? As far as it depends on me, do I defend the oppressed and help the needy? Or do I treat my neighbor with arrogance or hardness, especially the poor, the weak, the elderly, the marginalized, the immigrants? ". The initiative "24 hours for the Lord", of the Pontifical Council for the Promoting of the New Evangelization, will simultaneously involve many dioceses of the world next 24 and 25 March, on the eve of the fourth Sunday of Lent. The theme of this year's initiative is "I desire Mercy "(Mt 9:13).
Mar 18 17 6:24 AM
The handwriting is tiny, barely legible and written in the author's native Spanish. But the ideas are so familiar by now that they are easily understood.They are the handwritten notes of the speech Jorge Mario Bergoglio delivered to his fellow cardinals on the eve of his election as pope. And they make for fascinating reading now, a preview to a papacy that has been marked by Bergoglio's wish for a church that isn't consumed with "theological narcissism" or "spiritual worldliness" but instead goes to the "peripheries" to find wounded souls.The man who is now Pope Francis celebrated the fourth anniversary of his March 13, 2013, election this week amid a stream of commentary about what he has and hasn't achieved as the 266th pontiff.What isn't up for debate is that his 2013 speech, delivered during the closed-door "general congregations" that precede a conclave, was so inspiring to the princes of the Catholic Church that they elected him pope a few days later."The church is called to go outside of itself and go to the peripheries, not just geographic but also the existential peripheries," he said. "Those of the mystery of sin, of pain, injustice, ignorance, spiritual privation, thoughts and complete misery."He denounced what he called the "self-referential" tendency of the church to remain closed-in on itself, unwilling to open its doors and go out to find those who most need God's comfort. "The evil that can afflict church institutions over time has its root in this self-referential nature, a sort of theological narcissism."He said the future pope should be a man who, contemplating Jesus, "helps the church go to the existential peripheries and helps it to be a fertile mother who lives from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing."Havana's then-archbishop, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, was so taken by Bergoglio's speech that he asked for a copy. Bergoglio didn't have one — he often speaks off-the-cuff — but he put some notes down on paper as best as he could remember and handed them over. Ortega asked if he could publish the text, and asked again after Bergoglio was elected pope, knowing well the historic value of what amounted to the winning stump speech by history's first Latin American pope.The answer was yes.The notes, divided into four bullet-point sections with a few key terms underlined, are kept in the Havana archdiocese. The archdiocesan magazine "Palabra Nueva" published them originally and provided the image to The Associated Press this week.
Mar 19 17 5:34 AM
4 years of Francis. Hummes: “Every reform raises resistances”On the anniversary of Bergoglio’s pontificate, an analysis by the Cardinal who whispered to the newly elected Pontiff the famous phrase: “Do not forget the poor!”Some refer to him as one of the “grand electors” of the Argentine Pope. He reacts more modestly and does not accept any merit. Nor he would have ever imagined that a simple phrase uttered as a friend would have had such an impact on Jorge Mario Bergoglio. That March 13, 2013, the Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes was the first to embrace the newly elected Pope and whisper in his ear: “Do not forget the poor.” A few simple words, that had an enormous effect on the Pontiff to the point of taking the name Francis after the poor of Assisi. Hummes, a Franciscan, former archbishop of São Paulo and former prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, in an interview with Vatican Insider takes an overall look at Bergoglio’s four years of pontificate, during which the Church has lived and is living a “strong shock” despite some resistances. Which, according to the cardinal, are “normal” because “every reform arouses resistance.” How would you consider these past four years? Excellent. It is an extraordinary pontificate. Pope Francis has prompted the Church to open up, to reach out, especially to the suburbs and the poor, asking for solidarity and closeness. He has always done it with great commitment. This is perhaps the most obvious feature of these four years. As well as the issue of peace, another real challenge. The Pope is always where the conflicts are, he is there, he personally goes and convenes the public authorities involved to encourage them to launch peace processes of dialogue and openness . What struck you most of Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s pontificate? I remember that shortly after his election, when he feared the threat of a military intervention in Syria by the United States, the Holy Father called a vigil for peace. He stayed for about six hours in prayer, with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square. At the end, there was no war. This means that even Barack Obama has understood ... Prayers to God have an enormous power and have moved the heart of the former US president who has long pondered the Pope’s gesture before moving the army. Then the Pope summoned at the Vatican the presidents of Israel and Palestine to pray for peace. And they came! He was also in Cuba to “build a bridge” with the US, he has done a great work for peace. He has also expressed interest in creation, the climate and environment crisis with his encyclical “Laudato si’”. Another of his strong commitments that can be retraced to his name choice: Francis, the saint of the poor, of peace and creation, as he explained to reporters moments after his election. These three topics - the poor, peace, and creation - are the fundamentals of his ministry. In your opinion, what has been the impact of the Argentine Pope within the Church? The issue of mercy shook the Church. It encouraged relying less on the law and more on love, less on the structures and more on life, to do good and be close to people in a comforting act. Because we shall remember that not the law, but only mercy can saves us. It is a new climate for the Church, in the sense that there is a strong returning to the Gospel. A pilgrimage through history to include people and not exclude anyone. Even dialogue has been an important chapter in the Pope’s mission ... One of the most important things for Pope Francis is sharing the path with everyone: as friends, as brothers and not as opponents, in mutual respect, united when possible always in favor of the common good and the salvation of humanity. This is enlighten history: the Pope wants to dialogue with other religions, with other Christian Churches, with all people of good will. March 13, 2013, when Bergoglio was elected Pope, you were the first Cardinal to embrace him with the famous phrase: “Do not forget the poor.” Why did you say this? I had not prepared anything, when I embraced him these words came out spontaneously:” Do not forget the poor! “. It was in my heart, but had never practiced it. Nor could I imagine that this could have had such a strong effect on the new Pope, in his thinking. He himself told me that he had chosen the name of Francis for this ... Obviously it was the Holy Spirit speaking through my mouth. In addition to the positive things, in the past four years some resistances have also emerged. Did you expect such strong criticism against this Church reform? All reforms arouse resistance. There are people who are comfortable the way things are and are afraid of losing something, or perhaps just have a different vision. However, diversity within the Church is not a bad thing, because the church itself is united in diversity: diversity of cultures, thoughts, of ways of understanding life. Evil happens when differences become divisions, contrasts, conflicts. This cannot be accepted, division destroys the Church. Are these resistances a temporal phenomenon or have deeper roots? I am very optimistic. I believe that this is all part of the path, we shall go forward, and the Pope does it with great serenity. We all need support to walk. At the end, God shall enlighten us by his grace. Even reforms grow roots. Perhaps the Pope is not fully understood by his critics? For example, do you believe there has been a misunderstanding regarding the exhortation “Amoris laetitia”? I would rather not go much into the matter; the context is already quite hectic. I fully support the apostolic exhortation. Let us not forget that there have been two synods to confirm the Pope’s teaching. How is the Pope perceived in the southern hemisphere? His Latin American and non-European origins are definitely an asset. The Church has broken off from an historical circle. For centuries, in fact, the Church has been “self-acculturated” in Europe and this self-acculturation has been a great success. Now, the fact that the Pope is not part of this “circle” gives the Church a more comprehensive attitude and a new universality. Not that it was not universal before, but it is now richer, and more multifaceted. The Church cannot fail to acculturate from other peoples. The fact that the Pope comes “from outside” gives the Church new openings, new possibilities.
Mar 20 17 7:30 AM
Pope begs forgiveness for Church role in Rwanda genocide VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis on Monday begged forgiveness for the "sins and failings of the church and its members" during Rwanda's 1994 genocide, and told Rwanda's president that he hoped his apology would help the country heal.In an extraordinary statement after Francis' meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, the Vatican acknowledged that the church itself bore blame, as well as some Catholic priests and nuns who "succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission" by participating in the genocide.During the 100-day genocide, more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists. Many of the victims died at the hands of priests, clergymen and nuns, according to some accounts by survivors, and the Rwandan government says many died in the churches where they had sought refuge.During the 25-minute meeting in the Apostolic Palace, Francis "implored anew God's forgiveness for the sins and failings of the church and its members," the Vatican said.He "expressed the desire that this humble recognition of the failings of that period, which unfortunately disfigured the face of the church, may contribute to a 'purification of memory' and may promote, in hope and renewed trust, a future of peace."The Rwandan government has long pressured the church to apologize for its complicity in the genocide, but both the Vatican and the local church have been reluctant to do so. The church has long said those church officials who committed crimes acted individually.In 1996, St. John Paul II refused to take blame on the church's part for what transpired in Rwanda, saying in a letter to Rwandan bishops that: "The church in itself cannot be held responsible for the misdeeds of its members who have acted against evangelical law." Four years later, however, he did make a general apology for a host of Catholic sins and crimes over its 2,000-year history.Amid continued pressure from the government, Rwanda's Catholic bishops last year apologized for "all the wrongs the church committed."The ministry of local government rejected the apology then as inadequate. During Rwanda's annual dialogue in December, Kagame said he didn't understand why the church was so reluctant to apologize for genocide when popes have apologized for much lesser crimes."I don't understand why the pope would apologize for sexual offenses, whether it is in the U.S., Ireland or Australia, but cannot apologize for the role of the church in the genocide that happened here," Kagame said at the time.On Monday, the Rwandan government called Francis' meeting with Kagame a "positive step forward.""Today's meeting was characterized by a spirit of openness and mutual respect," said Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo. "It allows us to build a stronger base for restoring harmony between Rwandans and the Catholic Church."However, Mushikiwabo repeated charges that even before 1994, Catholic institutions helped divide Rwandans and "laid the intellectual foundation for genocide ideology.""Today, genocide denial and trivialization continue to flourish in certain groups within the church and genocide suspects have been shielded from justice within Catholic institutions," the statement said.
Mar 20 17 11:51 AM
Pope Francis on Netflix: from the slums of Argentina to the halls of the Vatican Released in Italian cinemas in late 2015, “Call Me Francis” could not have predicted the pontiff’s more startling recent statements about marriage and the clergy. But the series, now available on Netflix, obviously has a good sense of the pope’s character and ethos. And where they tend to lead him.In one key scene, the no-longer-fresh-faced but ever-wiser Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Rodrigo De la Serna) is ministering near Buenos Aires to a slum priest who has fallen in love with a young catechist. Bergoglio doesn’t chastise. He doesn’t judge. He counsels: The people here need you, he says; your work is important. And if you really can’t leave the girl, “there are churches that can accept you as a married priest. The Evangelical Church, for example.” The look on the younger cleric’s face is comically confused.“Call Me Francis” is unafraid to delve into Francis’ subtle intellectual conflicts with himself, the anxieties of being a pro-Peronist in the polarized Argentina of the 1960s, the real peril of defying, however clandestinely, the military junta that oppressed his native land from 1976 to 1983. But neither is it afraid to be funny. The scene described above takes a rather light-hearted approach to a serious priestly dilemma; so does a sequence in Buenos Aires earlier in the series during which Bergoglio seeks an alliance with a sympathetic judge (Muriel Santa Ana). They have dinner, he agrees to baptize her baby and only then learns that she is unmarried with three children. You can literally hear him gulp.The scene with the amorous priest is not just funny but, like much of “Call Me Francis,” also bitingly political. The challenge to Roman Catholicism dominance by Evangelical Protestantism in South America has much to do with the church’s perceived moral rigidity and compliance with the kind of government that Bergoglio valiantly—if pragmatically—resisted as provincial superior of the Society of Jesus during the mid- to late-70s. It is also quite revealing of Francis’ nature as a spiritual shepherd: He does not instruct his subordinate in the course he must follow; he lays out the man’s options in a way that encourages the righteous path. One might say his papacy has taken a similar tack.If one is inclined to celebrate the four years of this pope by watching the four parts of “Call Me Francis,” rest assured there are worse ways of spending one’s time. If you understand Spanish, great. Otherwise you will find the subtitles less than fully illuminating. The initial episode of the series is something of a slog, at least until the young Bergoglio somehow gets the illustrious Jorge Luis Borges to visit his high school literature class in Santa Fe, Argentina—where, again, pro-and anti-Peronist sentiments clash and the half-blind Borges is insulted by the kind of privileged individual who will later be oppressing his country.De la Serna—who was Gael García Bernal’s sidekick when the latter played Che Guevara in “The Motorcycle Diaries”—is more of a leading man than the pope probably ever was, but he brings to the role an inner life and intellectual gravity that serve his character well. The romance that the pope has said nearly derailed his early vocation is portrayed here as almost entirely one-sided—the young woman is in love with him, not he with her, and his extrication from what is less than a romance is a little awkward, but mostly gentle. His interrogation by Jesuits when he tries to join the order is an intricate dance of minds, the questions arcane, the answers equally subtle. When he goes to Rome 10 years after his teaching career in Santa Fe, he expects, perhaps, an assignment to Japan. But no, he is told, “You are strong in your doctrine, and flexible with humanity.” He is exactly who they need back in Argentina. (His differences with the order are not part of the story.)As a de facto politician during the Junta, Bergoglio is unafraid to play hardball, using the imprimatur of the church to extort decency out of thuggish generals who don’t mind torturing innocents if their hereafter is assured by an accommodating church. Yes, the church takes a few beatings itself in “Call Me Francis,” for absolving the sins of oppressors, for complicity with the dictatorship and, even, a decade after the fact, urging “forgiveness” for crimes that were never prosecuted—or, in most cases, acknowledged. It was not anyone’s finest hour, but Bergoglio, it is made clear, acquitted himself with honor, compassion and no small amount of remorse for some very human shortcomings.The Chilean actor Sergio Hernández plays Francis as an older man (De la Serna is Argentine); his ruminations in Rome, just prior to his election, bookend the chapters and the series. The transition from one actor to the other is one of the more stirring sequences in the film: During a homily about poverty and exclusion delivered to a church full of well-to-do Argentines, there are two priests speaking, two Bergoglios; the initial effect is bewildering, but then one realizes we are watching the physical man change before our eyes, while his principals remain the same. And though older, he will wade back into the crisis in Argentina with vigor when bodies begin turning up and the scandals of the dictatorship resurface.“Call Me Francis” is occasionally much too talky; the direction by the Italian Daniele Luchetti, despite a few dazzling flourishes, is mostly workmanlike. But the charity and soulfulness of the story are considerable. That it was purchased by Netflix from an Italian production company owned by Silvio Berlusconi might give one pause. But why be small-minded about such a big-hearted story?
There are few who have this Pope’s ear in the same way as Honduran Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga. The 74-year-old saxophone-playing prelate is a telegenic polyglot who has been co-ordinating the important "C9" council of nine cardinals advising Francis on his reforms. He’s just provided an insight into that work in a book by Italian journalist Francesco Antonioli compiling reflections on the Pope titled Francis and Us (Francesco e Noi). Among the contributors is Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman who died in January. In his essay, Cardinal Rodriguez reveals how Francis was a reformer right from the moment of his election when, during the conclave, he scrapped the tradition of cardinals “paying homage” to the new Pope by greeting them himself. Then, just four days after his election, Francis approached Rodriguez with a proposal about the new cardinal advisory body he wanted to set up. “Can you coordinate it?” the Pope asked him. The cardinal, who has been a close friend of Jorge Bergoglio’s since 2007 when they worked on the Latin American church’s Aparecida document, replied: "If you ask me, I have to."Since then, the 74-year-old Salesian explained that Francis has changed the exercise of the papacy through an “encyclical of gestures” such as washing the feet of Muslim women and migrants while insisting on living in the Casa Santa Marta. After looking around the palatial papal apartments Francis told Rodríguez they were like “a prison”.While these gestures are important the Pope was elected with a clear wish from his fellow cardinals which the Honduran papal adviser sums up as follows: “the Vatican curia needs to be reformed”. Today he says Francis is pressing ahead with the mandate “great sincerity and, at the same time, firmness”. But he admits there is still much work to be done. Areas of the Vatican’s finances still need to be tackled while a revamp of the Holy See’s media operation is underway: the two are linked with Rodríguez explaining that Vatican Radio had a deficit of €26 million. While reforms are taking shape at the Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR) - better known as the Vatican Bank - the C9 are now looking at another financial power house Administration of the Patrimony of the Holy See (APSA) which has investments and properties in Rome, Paris and London. This body, the cardinal explained, acts as a sort of central bank for the Vatican, and it is APSA that pays the wages of Holy See employees. The cardinal stresses that the top priority for the Pope has been sorting out the finances, work that is being followed by writing a new constitution for the Roman Curia. This, Rodriguez says, will take into greater account the role of bishops conferences and the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in ensuring more say goes to local churches. In the book Rodriguez also gives an insight into the informal - more Latin American - style of papal meetings. He explains that the C9 now gathers in Santa Marta on his suggestion. The first meeting, he explained, took place at the Vatican’s Apostolic palace requiring them to wear “official cassock and lace” and leave half an hour to arrive and another half an hour to leave. As a result Cardinal Rodriguez told the Pope they should use a meeting room in the Pope’s residence, and Francis agreed.The discussions here taken place in a fraternal spirit and “a love for the Church”, according to Rodríguez, while the Pope happily stops to have a coffee break with his fellow cardinals. While Francis’ Vatican reforms are taking time to be implemented - however they do shake out, expect Cardinal Rodríguez to be playing a central role.
“What hope is there for the Europe of today and tomorrow?” Pope Francis asked when he addressed the leaders of 27 European Union countries this evening in the Sala Regia (Royal Hall) of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome, March 25, 1957, that created the European Economic Community, the forerunner of today’s European Union.He said the answer to that question is to be found in “the pillars” with which the union’s founding fathers—the leaders of Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Italy and Luxembourg—had laid 60 years ago, namely: “the centrality of man, concrete solidarity, openness to the world, the pursuit of peace and development, openness to the future.”Today the E.U. has 28 member states (but the United Kingdom has voted to leave it, and its Prime Minister was not present), some 500 million people, 22 percent of the world’s G.D.P., and is a big hitter on the world scene, but it is threatened by populist movements in several countries that exploit internal problems, including the question of migration, and push to exit from the union.Francis believes in the E.U., and sees its importance not only for the peoples of this continent but also for peace and development in the world, but he is convinced it must be reformed. He made this clear today, and advocated that on the path to reform E.U.’s leaders should revisit the origins of the union in 1957 when its founding fathers signed the Treaty “after the dark years and bloodshed of the Second World War” because they “had faith in the possibility of a better future.”He recalled that from the outset, the founding fathers understood that the Treaty would remain a dead letter unless they had “spirit and life” and so they agreed that “the first element of European vitality must be solidarity.” Francis emphasized that this spirit of solidarity “remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the Union to productive, economic and financial needs.”Sixty years ago, he said, the world was marked “with the tragedy of walls and divisions” and “it was clearly important to work for a united and open Europe,” but he noted that today Europeans seem to have forgotten all this and now focus on “how to keep out the ‘dangers’ of our time: beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones.” They forget too that the 1957 treaty has led to “the longest period of peace experienced in recent centuries” and “without peace we cannot build a future for anyone.”The world “has changed greatly” since then he said, and is today “dominated by the concept of crisis”: the economic crisis, the crisis of the family and of established social models, the crisis of institutions and the migration crisis. These crises “engender fear and profound confusion in our contemporaries, who look for a new way of envisioning the future.”He explained that in the original Greek the word “crisis” means “to discern, to weigh, to assess,” and declared that “ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it. It is a time of challenge and opportunity.”He said the opportunity can come by restoring “the pillars” on which the union was first founded. He told E.U. leaders that the union “finds new hope when man is the center and the heart of her institutions.” But for this hope to become reality he said E.U. leaders must listen to “the expectations voiced by individuals, society, and the peoples who make up the Union,” because right now this is not happening and “there is a growing ‘split’ between the citizenry and the European institutions, which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the Union.”By affirming “the centrality of man,” Francis said one can also recover the spirit of family, “whereby each contributes freely to the common home in accordance with his or her own abilities and gifts.” He described the E.U. as “a family of peoples” that “was born as a unity of differences and a unity in differences” and said that today it “needs to recover the sense of being primarily a ‘community” of persons and peoples.’”Above all, he said, Europe needs to recover a sense of “solidarity,” because therein lies its hope for the future. This solidarity entails “the awareness of being part of a single body” so that “when one suffers, all suffer.” In this context, Francis expressed solidarity “with the United Kingdom” and said, “we mourn the victims of the attack that took place in London two days ago.”Solidarity as “the most effective antidote to modern forms of populism,” Francis said and contrasted it with populism. “Solidarity is expressed in concrete actions and steps that draw us closer to our neighbours, in whatever situation they find themselves,” whereas “forms of populism are instead the fruit of an egotism that hems people in and prevents them from overcoming and ‘looking beyond’ their own narrow vision.” He emphasized the need for the peoples of the E.U. “to start thinking once again as Europeans” and called for a political leadership “which avoids appealing to emotions to gain consent, but instead, in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity, devises policies that can make the Union as a whole develop harmoniously” as a result of which “those who run faster can offer a hand to those who are slower, and those who find the going harder can aim at catching up to those at the head of the line.”He told the E.U. heads of state that “Europe finds new hope when she refuses to yield to fear or close herself off in false forms of security.” He encouraged the E.U. to show “openness to the world” and to develop the capacity for dialogue on all levels: “between member states, between institutions and citizens, and with the numerous immigrants landing on the shores of the Union.”Then turning to the question of immigration that is sparking much controversy in the union, Pope Francis, the son of immigrants, said it is not enough to deal with the immigration crisis as if it were a question of numbers, or an economic or security matter. “The Immigration issue poses a deeper question, one that is primarily cultural. What kind of culture does Europe propose today?”Referring to “the fearfulness” that “is becoming increasingly evident,” Francis said this fear “has its root cause in the loss of ideals” and added that “without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts, and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone.”The Jesuit pope recalled that “the richness of Europe has always been her spiritual openness and her capacity to raise basic questions about the meaning of life” and “a positive openness to this world” but he noted that “today’s prosperity seems to have clipped the continent’s wings and lowered its gaze.”He reminded E.U. leaders that “Europe has a patrimony of ideals and spiritual values unique in the world, one that deserves to be proposed once more with passion and renewed vigor, for it is the best antidote against the vacuum of values of our time, which provides a fertile terrain for every form of extremism.”He told them that the union would regain hope if it “invests in development and in peace,” a development that includes “the dignity of labor, decent living conditions, access to education and necessary medical care.” In his encyclical on “The Progress of Peoples,” Paul VI said that “development is the new name of peace,” and today Francis added that “there is no true peace whenever people are cast aside or forced to live in dire poverty. There is no peace without employment and the prospect of earning a dignified wage. There is no peace in the peripheries of our cities, with their rampant drug abuse and violence.”He told the E.U. leaders that “Europe finds new hope when she is open to the future. When she is open to young people, offering them serious prospects for education and real possibilities for entering the workforce. When she invests in the family, respects the consciences and the ideals of her citizens, makes it possible to have children without the fear of being unable to support them and defends life in all its sacredness.Francis said the European Union “is called today to examine itself, to care for the ailments that inevitably come with age, and to find new ways to steer its course.” He said it can gain “a new youthfulness” but this “will depend on its readiness to work together once again,” and “to wager on the future.”He concluded by telling E.U. leaders that they are “called to blaze the path of a ‘new European humanism’ made up of ideals and concrete actions,” and this means “being unafraid to take practical decisions capable of meeting people’s real problems and of standing the test of time.”He prayed that God would bless Europe with “peace and progress,” and afterwards greeted each E.U. leader.
Francis, My PopeFrancis is quite the case.In a world after Amoris Laetitia, after supposed near-schism, after port-a-potties, it’s hard to think of a Francis beyond controversy, or at least the one of days past: the one scrutinized for embracing the deformed, for housing the homeless—the man in white.But he lives on, and it is precisely we Catholics who forget this. Caught up in our controversies as we are, we forget that Pope Francis is, in fact, a global figure, one seen, one observed, by more non-Catholics than Catholics.I was personally reminded of this during a recent conversation with a secular friend. In brief, she was clear: Francis is a reminder for her that there do exist religious people who transcend partisan politics, who stand in what a non-Christian can recognize as love (and is that not, in part, the definition of evangelization?). Global wars, dying refugees, a shattered nation, and, yes, Trump—in spite of these Pope Francis trods on and the world watches.Undeniably, the papacy of the digital age has its drawbacks. But what of the benefits? How many secular people look on and see both someone they can admire and, at the same time, someone who challenges their values? How many observe a man professing Christ and living what they can feel in their marrow to be love? How many remember that, indeed, there is a spiritual dimension to life—and one not merely beholden to chest-thumping and shouts—every time they see that old Argentine shuffle across a hallway or smile at a crowd?Pope Francis is imperfect; that ought to be clear. But we, my fellow Catholics, are blind at times to what to others are his most obvious traits. Conversion is a slow thing; I can say that from experience. I cannot say whether or not Pope Francis will bring us many converts, or at least begin to help people be open to the workings of the Spirit. Regardless, I do know many watch him and joy in the reminder that faith can bring great love, difficult works, a spirit imbued with genuine laetitia. And that warms my heart.For all his problems, for all our quarrels, I will say this: I am thankful for Pope Francis’ deep faith and joyous persona, for the hope he brings for the salvation of souls.
Pope Francis has written to the United Nations to encourage this week’s talks at the global organization on crafting a new worldwide treaty to ban nuclear weapons, saying in a letter it is time for the international community to “go beyond” nuclear deterrence.Writing to the president of the conference -- which has been boycotted by many nuclear powers, including the United States -- the pontiff says he wants to encourage the some 120 countries taking part in the talks to “work with determination” to eliminate the need for atomic weapons.“We need … to ask ourselves how sustainable is a stability based on fear, when it actually increases fear and undermines relationships of trust between peoples,” Francis writes in the letter, released by the Vatican Tuesday.“International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power,” says the pope.“We need to go beyond nuclear deterrence,” Francis continues. “The ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons [is] both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative.”The nuclear ban treaty talks are being held at the UN in New York March 27-31. They were first announced in October and are being led by Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa and Sweden.The United States and most other nuclear powers, including Russia, oppose the negotiations. The Obama administration voted against convening them, and President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, announced Monday that she was joining a boycott of the talks, along with representatives from several dozen other nations.Francis sent his letter to Elayne Whyte Gómez, who is heading the talks and is Costa Rica’s representative at the UN. The pope had the document read aloud at the negotiations by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, an undersecretary at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.In the text the pope references his speech to the UN General Assembly during his trip the U.S. in September 2015, quoting his exhortation then that “an ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction -- and possibly the destruction of all mankind -- are contradictory to the very spirit of the United Nations.”Francis has put a special emphasis on Jesus’ teachings of nonviolence during his papacy. In his message for this year’s World Day of Peace he called on Christians to emulate Jesus way of acting nonviolently.“Jesus marked out the path of nonviolence,” the pope said in that message. “To be true followers of Jesus today also includes embracing his teaching about nonviolence.”
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