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Jul 28 16 7:33 AM
Jul 28 16 11:42 AM
Jul 29 16 2:23 AM
Pope Francis silently begged God for mercy on humanity's behalf in a symbol-laden visit to the World War II concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau Friday, asking forgiveness "for so much cruelty" in the place where at least 1.1 million were killed in the Nazis' inhuman extermination program.Entering the Auschwitz camp alone on foot, the pontiff passed under the infamous arch of metalwork that declares Arbeit mach frei ("Work sets you free") as the sun caused several of its letters to appear in shadow over his white cassock.The pope then traveled in a small vehicle to a red-bricked area of buildings inside the barbed-wire enclosed camp that was built solely to torture prisoners. He stopped and exited the vehicle to sit near what is known as the "Death Wall," where the condemned were led by soldiers before being shot and executed.Francis sat in the spot, head bowed low in prayer, for more than ten minutes. Getting up slowly, he walked towards one of the buildings, touching its outer brick wall with both of his hands.
The pope came to the camps as part of his Wednesday-Sunday visit to Poland, where he is staying in Krakow, 30 miles away, for World Youth Day. He chose not to speak publicly during Friday's visit, wanting instead to remain silent in the face of such tragic history.
In his only words of the two-hour trip, the pontiff wrote in Spanish in the museum's commemorative book: "Lord, have mercy on your people. Lord, forgiveness for so much cruelty."Historians say the total number killed at the camps could have reached 4 million. It is estimated that ninety percent of Poland's nearly 3.5 million Jews at the time were killed by the Nazi regime.During the visit, Francis met individually with about a dozen survivors of the camps, taking several moments with each and offering an embrace and kisses on the cheeks. The last survivor to greet Francis gave him a lit candle that he then placed inside a lamp set near the Auschwitz wall.Francis then went to the cell where martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan held at the camp who offered himself in place of another person chosen to die, was starved for weeks before he was killed by lethal injection.The pope entered the cell alone, kneeling before a small image of the saint and remaining there for five minutes.Francis then traveled to Birkenau, the nearby camp that was built as the Nazi regime expanded its detention and extermination program.Set inside a several-mile-wide open field, the camp is bounded by layers of barbed wire and wooden guard towers and marked by long brick buildings that housed the prisoners in squalid conditions. As you walk through the area, your field of vision is filled with wire, brick, and grass.The pontiff visited Birkenau's International Monument to the victims of Fascism, set among the ruins of where the camp's two largest gas chambers were located. A stark stone platform of various levels, the monument is bounded on one side by 22 large plaques stating in 22 separate languages that the place should be "a cry of despair and a warning to humanity."Francis walked slowly along the line of plaques, holding his right hand over his chest as he paused at each for several moments. At the end of the line, he placed another small candle on one of the platforms.As the pope bent to put the candle on the stone, a Rabbi slowly sang aloud the Hebrew words of Psalm 130: "Lord, hear my cry! May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.""If you, Lord, keep account of sins, Lord, who can stand?" the song continued. "But with you is forgiveness and so you are revered."
Auschwitz-Birkenau is rightly known as the world’s preeminent monument to evil, a reminder in cinder and stone of the stunning depravity of which human beings are capable. It was striking on Friday to watch Pope Francis sitting on a bench in the camp, by himself, in silence and prayer, for a remarkable stretch of time, clearly meditating on what his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI called “this place of horror.”Yet the terrible paradox of Auschwitz is that alongside the lessons it has to teach about inhumanity, there are also chapters of deep humanity - stories of courage, and sacrifice, and the kind of self-giving love that becomes most visible, and dramatic, only in moments of terrifying hate.In the Catholic imagination, the best-known example of that paradox is St. Maximillian Kolbe, the Franciscan priest who volunteered to die in place of a stranger at Auschwitz and was starved to death with nine other inmates in the summer of 1941. He was declared a saint and martyr by Pope John Paul II in 1982, and Pope Francis on Friday visited the cell where he died.During his visit, Francis offered the world another powerful lesson in “man’s humanity to man” by meeting 25 “Righteous Among the Nations”.The title “Righteous Among the Nations” has been awarded since 1963 by a commission of the Supreme Court of Israel to recognize non-Jews who took substantial risks during the Holocaust to save Jewish lives. To date, more than 26,000 men and women from 51 countries have received the honor.The personal stories represented by the 25 people who greeted the pontiff each embody the sort of astonishing goodness ordinary people can summon when the chips are truly down.There was Anna Bando, whose mother, Janina Stupnicka, was employed by the Nazis to manage residential buildings in Warsaw, including some in the infamous Jewish ghetto. Twelve-year-old Anna and her mother would smuggle in bread to feed starving families, and eventually they took in several Jews, providing them shelter and helping them obtain forged documents that allowed them to survive.There was Witold Lisowski, who at 13 found his close Jewish friend, Dudek Inwentarz, exhausted and starving in a forest after fleeing a convoy transporting Jews to the Treblinka death camp. Lisowski brought Inwentarz home, where he and his mother sheltered him for several weeks until neighbors became suspicious. Inwentarz then hid in the forest, where Lisowski brought him food and clothing on a regular basis and kept him company until the Red Army liberated the area in September 1944.Also on hand was Sister Janina Kierstan, the Mother General of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family, representing Sister Matylda Getter and other nuns from the order who were responsible for saving 500 Jewish children and 250 elderly Jews in Warsaw. One witness later recalled that it was an open secret among the Jews of Warsaw that if someone needed refuge, he or she could find it from Getter, who was known as “Mamma.”One survivor in 1993 recalled arriving at the sister’s convent and being received by Getter, who asked what she wanted.“I answered that the police were on my tracks and I could not go back to my apartment; that I was Jewish, and I did not know where to go with this life that was beating so desperately in my heart,” the survivor said. “From that day on I lived in the house on Hoża Street. The Sisters found me a job. I know, I saw with my own eyes, and I can attest that many Jewish people went through the convent, and especially a great number of small children.”Getter reportedly once said that her actions were based on her religious faith, but also her basic sense of human decency. As she put it, “I am saving man.”The lone Catholic priest among the group was Father Stanisław Ruszała, on hand to represent the parish in a village where an impoverished Catholic couple and their children were killed for saving Jews - including the couple’s son, who began to be born at the moment of execution.Józef and Wiktoria Ulma had agreed to give shelter to eight Jews in their village, despite a constant threat of detection. Someone obviously denounced them, and in March 1944 five German gendarmes and several Polish policemen arrived at the house. They first shot the Jews being sheltered there, then killed Józef and Wiktoria, and eventually decided to kill the children too, leaving seventeen people dead in all.In 2003, a sainthood case was opened for the Ulmas by the Polish Diocese of Przemyśl, and is currently under review by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.One could go on telling the stories of these remarkable people, but the point should be clear that terrifying moments of brutality can sometimes elicit the best of the human spirit right alongside the very worst.In graduate school, a professor of mine once insisted in a moral theology seminar that Christian thought has spent too much time over the centuries pondering what’s often called the “Mystery of Evil,” and not nearly enough on what he insisted is an equally tough-to-explain “Mystery of Good.”On Friday in Auschwitz, Pope Francis witnessed - and, of course, occasioned - a moment when the awful juxtaposition of those two mysteries was about as clear as it’s ever going to get.
Jul 29 16 7:22 AM
Jul 29 16 9:52 AM
World Youth Day, the massive gathering of Catholic youth from around the globe unfolding this week in Krakow, is a celebration of faith. Millions of young people are currently roaming the streets singing, praying and making new friends, and throughout the city, a spirit - and noise - of celebration is palpable.Friday, however, was a reality check kind of day from the pope.During a haunting Way of the Cross ceremony Friday night, against the backdrop of the brutal murder earlier in the week of a French priest by Islamic State-inspired assassins, Francis asked, ” Where is God, when innocent persons die as a result of violence, terrorism and war?”Early in the morning, Pope Francis’ silent visit to the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau spoke volumes. The only actual words from the pontiff shared at that moment are ones he didn’t actually speak, but wrote in the visitor’s book: “Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”Early in the afternoon he visited a pediatric hospital in Krakow, where the suffering of the young patients clearly moved Francis, who’s made such visits during his trips abroad a standard part of his itinerary.Later in the day, Francis once again met with the young pilgrims in Krakow, this time to lead them in the prayer of the Way of the Cross. In many ways, it’s the saddest prayer in Catholicism, formed by a fourteen-stations representation of Jesus’ death on the Cross.According to Christian teaching, had it not been for that redeeming gesture, God’s greatest gift to humanity, the entire world today would be like Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camp where an estimated 1.1 to 1.5 million people, most Jews, were killed during the Second World War.Christianity teaches that without the cross, the world would be a place without mercy. And despite some stories of humanity during the Holocaust that throughout the years have emerged, the Nazis wanted for Auschwitz to be just that.“By embracing the wood of the cross, Jesus embraced the nakedness, the hunger and thirst, the loneliness, pain and death of men and women of all times,” Francis said on Friday afternoon.God, Francis told the hundreds of thousands gathered in Krakow’s Blonia Park, is found wherever there’s suffering.“Where is God, if evil is present in our world, if there are men and women who are hungry and thirsty, homeless, exiles and refugees? Where is God, when cruel diseases break the bonds of life and affection? Or when children are exploited and demeaned, and they too suffer from grave illness? Where is God, amid the anguish of those who doubt and are troubled in spirit?” Francis asked.Little imagination is needed to add “Where was God in Auschwitz?” or “Where is God in Prokocim Pediatric Hospital?”“These are questions which, humanly speaking, have no answer,” the pope said.“We can only look to Jesus and ask him. And Jesus’ answer is this: ‘God is in them’. Jesus is in them; he suffers in them and deeply identifies with each of them. He is so closely united to them as to form with them, as it were, ‘one body,’” he continued.The Way of the Cross, Francis said, is a reminder of the importance of imitating Jesus through the fourteen works of mercy, seven corporal and seven spiritual, which the pontiff listed.Through the corporal works of mercy, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and those in prison, and burying the dead, the pope told youth to “serve the crucified Jesus,” who’s present in the marginalized, the disadvantaged, the persecuted, refugees and migrants.He then listed the spiritual works of mercy: Counseling the doubtful, instructing the ignorant, admonishing sinners, consoling the afflicted, pardoning offences, bearing wrongs patiently, praying for the living and the dead.“In welcoming the outcast who suffer physically and welcoming sinners who suffer spiritually, our credibility as Christians is at stake,” Francis said.On Thursday, during the opening ceremony of World Youth Day, a week-long event hosted every two or three years in different cities, Pope Francis appealed the youth not to opt for “early retirement” and not to let anyone tell them they can’t change what’s wrong in the world.This Friday, the pontiff told them that Jesus wants to use them as a “concrete response to the needs and sufferings of humanity.”“He wants you to be signs of his merciful love for our time! To enable you to carry out this mission, he shows you the way of personal commitment and self-sacrifice. It is the Way of the Cross,” Francis said.The suffering Francis spoke about was represented in spades at the Via Crucis rite, as were those who today put the works of mercy into practice as part of their day-to-day lives. Each one of the 14 stations represented one of those works of mercy.This way, the first one, “Jesus is sentenced to death” became welcoming the pilgrims-homeless. During the actual representation of the stations, members of the Community of Sant’Egidio, which is currently leading the Catholic Church’s response to the migrant crisis in Europe with a humanitarian corridor from the Middle East to Europe, carried the cross.The third station, “Jesus falls for the first time,” stood for admonishing the sinners. At that point, young Iraqi pilgrims, who came to Krakow with the help of the papal charity Aid to the Church in Need, carried the cross.The eleventh station, “Jesus is nailed to the Cross,” turned into an appeal to bear wrongs patiently, with the Missionary Sisters of Charity of Mother Teresa of Calcutta taking the stage. Mother Teresa is set to be declared a saint by Pope Francis on Sept. 4 in a massive Rome ceremony.The reflections were written by Krakow’s Auxiliary Bishop Grzegorz Rys.Along the way, each station was represented with different artistic forms, such as modern dance, mural painting, aerial acrobatics, computer animation and street art.
Ever since St. John Paul II first visited his hometown Krakow, popes have felt obliged to address the large, pumped-up crowds that gather every night under the window of the archbishop’s residence whenever a pontiff is in town.Pope Francis, for sure, has not broken that tradition.Yet the circumstances of this World Youth Day have made these traditional appearances take on a somewhat different feel from the more laid-back, happy appearances familiar from the John Paul II years, which generally featured singing in Polish and walks down memory lane.“I don’t want to make you bitter, but I have to tell the truth. The cruelty of Auschwitz and Birkenau hasn’t ended. Even today many people are tortured,” the pontiff told the crowds of young pilgrims on Friday.“Many prisoners”, he continued in Italian, “are tortured immediately, “in order to get them to talk. It’s terrible! Today there are men and women in overcrowded prisons. They live- forgive me- like animals. This cruelty is there today.”Francis’s words came during his third night in Poland. In the morning, he had visited the Nazi concentration and extermination camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, and in the afternoon he stopped at a children’s hospital.For the almost two-hour long visit to the camps, the pope remained virtually silent, only exchanging private words when he greeted a small group of Holocaust survivors in Auschwitz and then 25 “Righteous Among the Nations” in Birkenau, including a Catholic nun and a priest representing two sainthood candidates.Yet at the end of the day, from the balcony at Franciszkańska 3, Francis spoke about his day, saying it was had been special, “a day of suffering.”Every Friday, he said, Christians remember the death of Jesus, which was the reason why in the afternoon he led hundreds of thousands of young people who’ve gathered in Krakow in the prayer of the Way of the Cross.“We were united the suffering Christ. But not only suffering 2,000 years ago, but also today,” Francis said.“There’s so much suffering: the infirm, those who are at war, the homeless, the hunger, those who are doubtful in life, who do not feel happiness, salvation or who feel the weight of their own sin,” he said.Francis then spoke about his visit to a local pediatric hospital, saying that to him, children’s suffering is a mystery.Last but not least, he spoke about his morning visit to the extermination camp, where he remembered “the pain of 70 years ago … so much pain, how much cruelty!”“[But] today there is this cruelty. We say: yes, we have seen the cruelty from 70 years ago, how [the prisoners] died shot, hanged, or with gas. But today in many places of the world where there is war, it’s the same,” Francis said.He didn’t mention any specifics, but cases of mass murder with the aims of exterminating peoples are an everyday reality in many countries in the Middle East, where the so-called Islamic terrorist organization ISIS is engaged in what various prominent individuals and institutions, including Francis and the U.S. State Department, have recognized as a “genocide” against Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq.Friday wasn’t the first time Francis used the window to deliver a somewhat somber address.On Wednesday, when he arrived for his July 27-31 visit to Poland, the took this opportunity to talk about Maciej Szymon Cieśla, a graphic design who two years ago quit his job to be a full time volunteer for World Youth Day.On July 2, only weeks before the event began, he died of cancer.“He did a lot of good for everyone,” Francis said that day talking about Cieśla.Adding that he didn’t want to ruin the mood of celebration, he said that “We must get used to the good things and the bad things. Life is like this, dear young people,” he said, while stressing that “there is something we cannot doubt: the faith of this young man, of our friend, who worked so much for this WYD.”Thursday’s window address, on the other hand, had a different spirit. He spoke in Spanish, and in particular to the many newlywed couples that were present. To them, he spoke of the “three words” that can help live a married life: “permission, thanks, and forgiveness.”“Permission: always ask the spouse (the wife to the husband, the husband to the wife) what to you think? Never run over. Permission,” he said.On thanks- or being thankful- Francis said the spouses should use this word often.Forgiveness, he said, is a word “difficult to pronounce.” In a marriage, he said, both the husband and the wife make mistakes, and it’s important to recognize this and apologize.He also told them that even though arguments are bound to happen- with some silverware flying here or there- they must never end the day without making peace.“You know why? Because the cold war on the next day is very dangerous!” Francis said.
Jul 29 16 1:06 PM
Jul 30 16 3:11 AM
Francis tells Polish clergy: The Gospel is unfinished, we write it with our mercyKRAKOW, POLAND - Pope Francis told Poland's Catholic clergy Saturday that the key challenge of the Gospel is that it remains unfinished -- that Jesus looks to us to "take concrete care" of his wounds by serving our brothers and sisters, "those close at hand and those far away, the sick and the migrant."In a Mass with the country's bishops, priests and religious at a shrine dedicated to the memory of their hero-Pope John Paul II, the pontiff said the Gospel "still has many blank pages left.""It remains an open book that we are called to write in the same style, by the works of mercy we practice," the pope continued, asking the clergy: "What are the pages of your books like? Are they blank?""By serving those who suffer we honor the flesh of Christ," Francis exhorted.About 7,000 people attended the Mass at the shrine, which contains a series of colorful modern mosaics depicting biblical events and also houses many relics of John Paul II, including the bloodied white cassock he was wearing the day he was shot in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican in 1981.The event was the only occasion during Francis' Wednesday-Sunday visit to Poland dedicated specifically to the country's clergy, and the pontiff took advantage of the opportunity to again outline his vision for the Catholic church.Reflecting on the story in John's Gospel about how the apostles locked themselves in an upper room in fear following Jesus' death, the pope said Jesus' appearance to them was a reminder that he wants his followers not to be locked up but to be going out."Jesus sends," said Francis. "From the beginning, he wants his to be a church on the move, a church that goes out into the world. And he wants it to do this just as he did.""He was not sent into the world by the father to wield power, but to take the form of a slave; he came not 'to be served, but to serve' and to bring the Good News," said the pope."In our lives as priests and consecrated persons, we can often be tempted to remain enclosed, out of fear or convenience, within ourselves and in our surroundings," said the pontiff."But Jesus directs us to a one-way street: that of going forth from ourselves," he continued. "It is a one-way trip, with no return ticket. It involves making an exodus from ourselves, losing our lives for his sake and setting out on the path of self-gift."Before celebrating Mass at the John Paul II Shrine Saturday, Francis also visited the nearby Divine Mercy Sanctuary, dedicated to the devotion promoted by 20th century saint and mystic Faustina Kowalska.The pontiff entered the sanctuary through the church's special holy door for the continuing Jubilee year of mercy and prayed before the saint's tomb. He also heard confessions from eight people, speaking in Spanish, Italian and French.Francis' visit to Poland continues Saturday with a private lunch with 12 young people. Later, he will attend a prayer vigil with pilgrims for World Youth Day, expected to attract crowds in the hundreds of thousands.
Pope urges clergy to go into world and tend to needyKRAKOW, Poland (AP) -- Pope Francis encouraged his churchmen to leave their comfort zones and tend to the needy on the peripheries as he celebrated a Mass Saturday in a Polish church dedicated to St. John Paul II, the Polish pontiff whose staunch defense of workers' rights in the 1970s and 80s challenged his nation's then Communist rulers.Francis said Jesus wants the church "to be a church on the move, a church that goes out into the world," as he gave his homily in a spanking new monumental church dedicated to John Paul on the outskirts of Krakow.He said that Jesus' call to his followers to minister to the world is relevant today to church men and women."This call is also addressed to us. How can we fail to hear its echo in the great appeal of Saint John Paul II: 'Open the doors'?" Francis said to rows of priests in white robes and nuns sitting in pews on the side.A year after John Paul II was elected pope in 1978, he returned to his homeland, urging millions of his beleaguered Poles behind the Iron Curtain - in nuanced and coded words - to oppose communism. That visit inspired the birth of Solidarity, a labor movement which struggled through the 1980s and eventually became a key factor in the collapse of communism in 1989 in Poland, and throughout the East Bloc.At the end of the Mass on Saturday, Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dwiwisz, who for decades was John Paul's closest aide, told Francis the church remains open."We are not closed," Dziwisz said. "We are open to the needs of the church."The religious celebrations Saturday came on the fourth day of the pope's five-day visit to Poland, his first ever visit to Eastern Europe, where he has been gathering with young Catholics attending World Youth Day, a global event. He has also held meetings with Polish leaders and visited Auschwitz.Francis began his public day with a visit to the Divine Mercy Sanctuary, a kilometer (half-mile) stroll away from the St. John Paul II shrine.In 2002 a frail, 82-year-old John Paul II consecrated that new basilica during his last visit to his homeland, anointing its white marble altar. John Paul stressed then his special attachment to St. Faustina, whose accounts in her diary of visions of Jesus spread devotion to Divine Mercy.Francis prayed before the chapel of St. Faustina, where she is buried.Going into the church, the pope paused to see a young girl, whose artificial legs were paid for by Francis, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said. The Argentine pope also heard confessions from seven young people and a priest, speaking Italian, Spanish or French.From there it was a quick drive to the hilltop Sanctuary of St. John Paul II. That church was consecrated in 2013 and dedicated to the late pope who is still the source of great pride in Poland. The lower church hosts a glass container of blood from John Paul, who died in 2005, while his body is entombed in a lower level of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican.
'Go out,' keep writing Gospel of mercy, pope tells clergy, religiousKRAKOW, Poland (CNS) -- Catholic priests and nuns must renounce their personal interests and create a church that "goes into the world" with "living writers of the Gospel," Pope Francis said."In our lives as priests and consecrated persons, we can often be tempted to remain enclosed, out of fear or convenience, within ourselves and in our surroundings," the pontiff said July 30 during a Mass with Polish religious, priests, seminarians and bishops."Jesus directs us to a one-way street: that of going forth from ourselves," he said. "It is a one-way trip, with no return ticket. It involves making an exodus from ourselves, losing our lives for his sake."Pope Francis was preaching at Krakow's St. John Paul II Shrine on the fourth day of his visit to Poland for World Youth Day.With a reliquary containing a vial of St. John Paul's blood present in the sanctuary, Pope Francis told the clergy and religious their lives should be "marked by service and availability" with "no closed spaces or private property for our own use."Disciples, he said, "do not build on the shaky foundations of worldly power, or settle into the comforts that compromise evangelization. They do not waste time planning a secure future, lest they risk becoming isolated and gloomy, enclosed within the narrow walls of a joyless and desperate self-centeredness," the pope continued.True disciples "love to take risks and to set out, not limited to trails already blazed, but open and faithful to the paths pointed out by the Spirit," he said."Jesus' heart is won over by sincere openness, by hearts capable of acknowledging and grieving over their weakness, yet trusting that precisely there God's mercy will be active," Pope Francis said.Those who truly consecrate themselves to Jesus, draw life from the experience of forgiveness and "pour it out with compassion on our brothers and sisters," he said. "Jesus wants hearts that are open and tender toward the weak, never hearts that are hardened."In a country where more than 94 percent of the people describe themselves as Catholic and some 39 percent attend weekly Mass, Pope Francis insisted the Gospel story of God's mercy is still being written.Catholic priests and nuns should strive to overcome any "resistance and weariness" and be "living writers of the Gospel," he said. They must "take concrete care of the wounds of Jesus in our brothers and sisters in need, those close at hand and those far away, the sick and the migrant, because by serving those who suffer we honor the flesh of Christ."The Mass, which began 30 minutes earlier than planned because of the pope's early arrival, followed his morning visit to the tomb of St. Faustina Kowalska at the nearby Divine Mercy basilica in Krakow's Lagiewniki suburb.Waiting for the pope in the basilica, the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy gathered to pray the rosary in the chapel that houses St. Faustina's tomb.The solemn atmosphere became more upbeat as they began to rehearse their welcoming song for Pope Francis. They sang in Spanish, "Alabare" ("I will praise"), a popular Latin American church hymn in honor of the pope.Excitement grew to a fever pitch as security guards and the papal entourage entered, signaling the pope's arrival. The nuns sang louder and waved small flags emblazoned with the Vatican coat of arms and the World Youth Day logo.Pope Francis greeted the nuns as he walked down the center aisle, making his way toward St. Faustina's tomb, where he stood in prayer for several minutes.He was then led to small table where he signed a visitor's book with a citation from the Bible: "I desire mercy, not sacrifices."The sisters presented the pope with a replica of the famed image of Divine Mercy. The painting of Jesus with white and red lights emanating from his heart is one of two images commissioned by St. Faustina following her visions of Christ.The pope gently touched the image and reverently kissed it, thanking the nuns for their gift. After departing the chapel, he boarded the popemobile to make his next stop at the Shrine of the Divine Mercy.As the popemobile made its way, a throng of nuns chased after him while waving their flags. One smiling nun ran after the pope while playing her dark blue guitar and singing "Alabare" at the same time.Before entering through the Holy Door of the Divine Mercy Shrine, the pope greeted hundreds of people waiting outside hoping to catch a glimpse of him.Speaking in Spanish, Pope Francis called on them to never be far from Jesus "even when we think we are the worst because of our sins and faults.""That is how he prefers us; that is how his mercy pours over us. Let us take advantage of this day so that we can receive all of Jesus' mercy."Walking toward the shrine, the pope greeted two young girls, one of whom lost both her legs. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the girl received two prosthetic legs thanks to a donation by Pope Francis.Once inside the shrine, the pope walked toward the confessionals. He was handed a purple stole, which he kissed, and began hearing confessions. He offered the sacrament to eight people: five young women, two young men and a priest.
Mass with Priests, Religious, Consecrated Persons and SeminariansKrakow, 30 July 2016The words of the Gospel we have just heard (cf. Jn 20:19-31) speak to us of a place, a disciple and a book.The
place is where the disciples gathered on the evening of Easter; we read
only that its doors were closed (cf. v. 19). Eight days later, the
disciples were once more gathered there, and the doors were still shut
(cf. v. 26). Jesus enters, stands in their midst and brings them his
peace, the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins: in a word, God’s
mercy. Behind those closed doors there resounds Jesus’ call to his
followers: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (v. 21).Jesus
sends. From the beginning, he wants his to be a Church on the move, a
Church that goes out into the world. And he wants it to do this just as
he did. He was not sent into the world by the Father to wield
power, but to take the form of a slave (cf. Phil 2:7); he came not “to
be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45) and to bring the Good News (cf. Lk
4:18). In the same way, his followers are sent forth in every age. The contrast is striking: whereas the disciples had closed the doors out of fear, Jesus sends them out on mission. He wants them to open the doors and go out to spread God’s pardon and peace, with the power of the Holy Spirit.This
call is also addressed to us. How can we fail to hear its echo in the
great appeal of Saint John Paul II: “Open the doors”? Yet, in our
lives as priests and consecrated persons, we can often be tempted to
remain enclosed, out of fear or convenience, within ourselves and in our
surroundings. But Jesus directs us to a one-way street: that of
going forth from ourselves. It is a one-way trip, with no return
ticket. It involves making an exodus from ourselves, losing our lives
for his sake (cf. Mk 8:35) and setting out on the path of self-gift. Nor
does Jesus like journeys made halfway, doors half-closed, lives lived
on two tracks. He asks us to pack lightly for the journey, to set out
renouncing our own security, with him alone as our strength.In
other words, the life of Jesus’ closest disciples, which is what we are
called to be, is shaped by concrete love, a love, in other words,
marked by service and availability. It is a life that has no closed spaces or private property for our own use.
Those who choose to model their entire life on Jesus no longer choose
their own places; they go where they are sent, in ready response to the
one who calls. They do not even choose their own times. The house where they live does not belong to them, because the Church and the world are the open spaces of their mission.
Their wealth is to put the Lord in the midst of their lives and to
seek nothing else for themselves. So they flee the satisfaction of
being at the centre of things; they do not build on the shaky
foundations of worldly power, or settle into the comforts that
compromise evangelization. They do not waste time planning a secure
future, lest they risk becoming isolated and gloomy, enclosed within the
narrow walls of a joyless and desperate self-centredness. Finding
their happiness in the Lord, they are not content with a life of
mediocrity, but burn with the desire to bear witness and reach out to
others. They love to take risks and to set out, not limited to trails
already blazed, but open and faithful to the paths pointed out by the
Spirit. Rather than just getting by, they rejoice to evangelize.Secondly,
today’s Gospel presents us with the one disciple who is named: Thomas.
In his hesitation and his efforts to understand, this disciple, albeit
somewhat stubborn, is a bit like us and we find him likeable. Without
knowing it, he gives us a great gift: he brings us closer to God,
because God does not hide from those who seek him. Jesus shows
Thomas his glorious wounds; he makes him touch with his hand the
infinite tenderness of God, the vivid signs of how much he suffered out
of love for humanity.For us who are disciples, it
is important to put our humanity in contact with the flesh of the Lord,
to bring to him, with complete trust and utter sincerity, our whole
being. As Jesus told Saint Faustina, he is happy when we tell him
everything: he is not bored with our lives, which he already knows; he
waits for us to tell him even about the events of our day (cf. Diary, 6
September 1937). That is the way to seek God: through prayer that is
transparent and unafraid to hand over to him our troubles, our
struggles and our resistance. Jesus’ heart is won over by sincere
openness, by hearts capable of acknowledging and grieving over their
weakness, yet trusting that precisely there God’s mercy will be active. What
does Jesus ask of us? He desires hearts that are truly consecrated,
hearts that draw life from his forgiveness in order to pour it out with
compassion on our brothers and sisters. Jesus wants hearts that are
open and tender towards the weak, never hearts that are hardened. He
wants docile and transparent hearts that do not dissimulate before those
whom the Church appoints as our guides. Disciples do not hesitate
to ask questions, they have the courage to face their misgivings and
bring them to the Lord, to their formators and superiors, without
calculations or reticence. A faithful disciple engages in constant
watchful discernment, knowing that the heart must be trained daily,
beginning with the affections, to flee every form of duplicity in
attitudes and in life.The
Apostle Thomas, at the conclusion of his impassioned quest, not only
came to believe in the resurrection, but found in Jesus his life’s
greatest treasure, his Lord. He says to Jesus: “My Lord and my God!”
(v. 28). We would do well each day to pray these magnificent words, and
to say to the Lord: You are my one treasure, the path I must follow,
the core of my life, my all.The
final verse of today’s Gospel speaks of a book: it is the Gospel that,
we are told, does not contain all the many other signs that Jesus worked
(v. 30). After the great sign of his mercy, we could say that there is
no longer a need to add another. Yet one challenge does remain. There
is room left for the signs needing to be worked by us, who have
received the Spirit of love and are called to spread mercy. It might be
said that the Gospel, the living book of God’s mercy that must be
continually read and reread, still has many blank pages left. It
remains an open book that we are called to write in the same style, by
the works of mercy we practise. Let me ask you this: What are the pages of your books like? Are they blank?
May the Mother of God help us in this. May she, who fully welcomed
the word of God into her life (cf. Lk 8:20-21), give us the grace to be
living writers of the Gospel. May our Mother of Mercy teach us how to
take concrete care of the wounds of Jesus in our brothers and sisters in
need, those close at hand and those far away, the sick and the migrant,
because by serving those who suffer we honour the flesh of Christ. May
the Virgin Mary help us to spend ourselves completely for the good of
the faithful entrusted to us, and to show concern for one another as
true brothers and sisters in the communion of the Church, our holy
Mother.Dear brothers and sisters, each
of us holds in his or her heart a very personal page of the book of
God’s mercy. It is the story of our own calling, the voice of the love
that attracted us and transformed our life, leading us to leave
everything at his word and to follow him (cf. Lk 5:11). Today let
us gratefully rekindle the memory of his call, which is stronger than
any resistance and weariness on our part. As we continue this
celebration of the Eucharist, the centre of our lives, let us thank the
Lord for having entered through our closed doors with his mercy, for
calling us, like Thomas, by name, and for giving us the grace to
continue writing his Gospel of love.
Jul 30 16 5:51 AM
Jul 30 16 6:03 AM
Before heading to an evening prayer vigil with youth, Pope Francis made an unannounced stop at a Franciscan monastery housing the relics of two martyrs, where he prayed for peace and an end to violence.“O almighty and merciful God, Lord of the universe and of history. All is good and your compassion for the mistakes of mankind knows no limits,” Francis said in the opening of the July 30 prayer.He asked that God sow “peace the world and its people,” and to keep “the devastating wave of terrorism” far from them.The Pope also prayed for all those who have died as victims of “brutal terrorist attacks” and invoked the intercession of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in eliminating the threat of terrorism and in sowing peace and forgiveness in the heart of each person.According to a July 30 Vatican communique, the Pope stopped by the monastery and Church of St. Francis around 6p.m. local time in Krakow while on his way to a prayer vigil with youth participating in WYD.The church is home to relics of two Polish martyrs, Bl. Zbigniew Strzalkowski and Bl. Michal Tomaszek, who were killed in hatred of the faith Aug. 9, 1991, by guerilla forces of the Shining Path terrorist organization in Pariacoto, Peru.The friars came to Pariacoto as missionaries in the 1990s, and were gunned down by the terrorists after only a short period of time in region. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints opened the cause for martyrdom in 1995, and they were beatified in Pariacoto Dec. 5, 2015, alongside Italian priest Fr. Alessandro Dordi, from the diocese of Bergamo.Apart from the Franciscan friars, the Pope and his delegation, the only others present were some of the martyr’s family members.Pope Francis’ prayer in front of the martyrs comes just days after French priest Fr. Jacques Hamel was brutally killed by teenage ISIS sympathizers while saying Mass at his parish in Rouen.The priest’s death took place just over a week after a teenage Afghan Islamist went on an axe rampage in Würzburg, Germany, which left several passengers severely wounded. More recently, around 80 people were killed and 230 people wounded after two explosions struck the Afghan city of Kabul July 16.In less than two years, France has witnessed several deadly attacks attributed to Islamic state militants, with the most recent – and second deadliest – taking place earlier this month. On July 14, 84 people were killed in Nice, France when a Tunisian man intentionally drove a large truck through a crowded beach street at high speed during a Bastille Day celebration.On Nov. 13, 2015, nearly 130 people were killed in a series of attacks throughout Paris. In January of that same year, a total of 12 people were killed in the French capital after terrorists stormed the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.Other European cities such as Belgium and Germany were also the site of deadly attacks in 2015. The Pope’s prayer, then, is significant, timely and seemingly needed more than ever.
Jul 30 16 10:25 AM
Pope Francis issued a rousing and impassioned call to action to young people around the world Saturday, saying our unsettled times require them to get off the couch and "set out on new and uncharted paths."In 34-minute remarks to more than a million youths from 187 countries participating in a prayer vigil here for World Youth Day, the pontiff urged them to avoid "confusing happiness with a sofa" and instead put on their shoes and head out to "open up new horizons."In a sometimes forceful but an often affectionately worded address, the pope in effect outlined a new, hopeful way of life for an entire generation."The time we are living in does not call for young couch potatoes but for young people with shoes -- or better -- boots laced," Francis exhorted the youth. "It only takes players on the first string, and it has no room for benchwarmers.""Today’s world demands that you be a protagonist of history," said the pope. "The Lord wants to work one of the greatest miracles we can experience: he wants to turn your hands, my hands, our hands, into signs of reconciliation, of communion, of creation.""Today, we adults need you to teach us how to live in diversity, in dialogue, to experience multiculturalism not as a threat but an opportunity," he continued."Have the courage to teach us that it is easier to build bridges than walls!" he nearly shouted, before adding quietly: "You will be our accusers if we choose the life of walls, of enmity, of war."Looking out over a crowd filling miles of open field for the chance to be with him, Francis emphasized the point by asking those present to make what he termed the "primordial bridge" and take each other's hands.As the throngs -- cassocked bishops, habited sisters, and t-shirt and shorts-wearing pilgrims among them -- locked fingers, the pontiff exclaimed: "This is a great bridge of brotherhood, and would that the powers of this world might learn to build it."Francis was speaking Saturday evening at a vigil that was at times joyful and at other times deeply saddening. He was responding in his remarks to testimonies from three young people who have been through difficult situations.One woman -- a 26-year-old named Natalia -- explained that she lives in Aleppo, Syria, and began sobbing as she described the violent deaths of friends and family members. She poignantly asked God to grant Syrians and the world 's people "the grace to show a touch of mercy and to plant joy on the hearts of everyone that is sad."Responding to Natalia at the beginning of his address, Francis asked for prayers for Syria and said bluntly: "This is no time for denouncing anyone or fighting.""We have no desire to conquer hatred with more hatred, violence with more violence, terror with more terror," the pope said. "We are here today because the Lord has called us together. Our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, its name is family."Later, the pontiff warned the youth against paralysis that can come from thinking the problems of the world are too large to confront. But then he warned against what he called an "even more dangerous" kind of paralysis: "to think that in order to be happy all we need is a good sofa.""A sofa that makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe," the pope described. "A sofa like one of those we have nowadays with a built-in massage unit to put us to sleep. A sofa that promises us hours of comfort so we can escape to the world of video games and spend all kinds of time in front of a computer screen.""It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark," Francis warned. "But when we opt for ease and convenience, for confusing happiness with consumption, then we end up paying a high price indeed: we lose our freedom.""Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease," the pontiff continued. "Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths.""God expects something from you," Francis told the young people. "God wants something from you. God hopes in you. God comes to break down all our fences. He comes to open the doors of our lives, our dreams, our ways of seeing things.""God comes to break open everything that keeps you closed in," said the pope. "He is encouraging you to dream. He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different. For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different."Saturday's vigil took place about 10 miles southeast of central Krakow in a special outdoor venue set up by World Youth Day organizers that they are calling "Campus Misericordiae."Francis entered the vigil by walking through a wooden trellis-like structure that organizers had prepared as the venue's holy door for the Jubilee year of mercy. He walked through with several young men and women, each taking hands and walking side-by side.Once through the door, the pontiff invited the young people to join him in the pope-mobile as he drove through the crowd. Later, he asked them to sit at his feet as he sat on the large stage set up for the event.The three testimonies were accompanied by a mini-play put on by about a dozen young people, showing different evocative scenes of younger peoples' lives today.In one scene meant to evince the separation some people experience, several youths stood in glass boxes apart from one another as they typed or talked on their cell phones. A woman in a white dress moved around them, leading one man out of his box to dance with him.Francis' visit to Poland continues Sunday with an open-air Mass at the same outdoor location before he heads back to Rome in the afternoon.
Jul 30 16 10:27 AM
Jul 31 16 3:34 AM
Francis asks world's youth to be vanguard of a 'new humanity'KRAKOW, POLAND - Pope Francis has asked global young people to show the world a new way, telling more than a million pilgrim youths gathered on a vast plain here to proclaim hope "with a smile and open arms" and be the vanguard of a "new humanity" that breaks down borders.In a homily Sunday for the festive closing Mass of World Youth Day, the pontiff told the youths that God is demanding "real courage" from them: the courage to exercise the power of mercy and forgiveness to heal the world."How truly hard it is to welcome Jesus, how hard it is to accept a 'God who is rich in mercy,'" the pope said."People will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive, good to the good and bad to the bad," Francis warned. "Instead, our heavenly father 'makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good.'""He demands of us real courage: the courage to be more powerful than evil by loving everyone, even our enemies," the pope continued. "People may laugh at you because you believe in the gentle and unassuming power of mercy. But do not be afraid.""People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centered or small-minded," he told the youths."Don’t be discouraged!" he exhorted. "With a smile and open arms, you proclaim hope and you are a blessing for our one human family, which here you represent so beautifully!"Francis was speaking Sunday in the last major event of his five-day trip to Poland, in which he celebrated World Youth Day events but also touched on political themes with the country's leaders and made a symbol-laden visit to the World War II concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau.Enthusiasm for the pope's visit has been high, with many of those who attended the Mass Sunday sleeping outside at the venue overnight to preserve their spots. Most had simply stayed there after a prayer vigil with Francis at the same field Saturday evening, which organizers said attracted some 1.6 million people.Four hours before the start of the Mass, the open field about 10 miles southeast of central Krakow was a vast scene of tents and people covered in brightly colored ponchos and blankets sleeping in the open air, some covered in national flags.Youths from some 187 countries have been reported at World Youth Day, including more than 30,000 from the U.S. Many have been accompanied by their bishops, and organizers say about 70 cardinals and 800 bishops from around the world are participating.At the end of the Mass, Francis announced that the next such gathering will be held in 2019 in Panama.Security for the Polish event was extraordinarily tight, with thousands of police and security officials maintaining a secure area for miles around the Mass venue and slowly performing an electronic scan on each of the more than a million people, one at a time.Francis was reflecting in his homily Sunday on a passage from Luke's Gospel, where a tax collector named Zacchaeus hears Jesus will be coming to visit his town and climbs a sycamore tree in order to get a better view of the famous Nazarene.Seeing the publican, Jesus tells him: "Come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house."Crowds near the scene express anger that Jesus would stay with someone that Jewish tradition considered a sinner, but Jesus responds: "Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost."The pontiff told the youths that the crowd had judged Zacchaeus, saying: "they looked him over, up and down.""But Jesus did otherwise: he gazed up at him," said Francis. "Jesus looks beyond the faults and sees the person. He does not stop before past evil, but sees future good.""His gaze remains constant, even when it is not met it seeks the way of unity and communion," said the pope. "In no case does it halt at appearances, but looks to the heart.""With this gaze of Jesus, you can help bring about another humanity, without looking for acknowledgement but seeking goodness for its own sake, content to maintain a pure heart and to fight peaceably for honesty and justice," said Francis.The pope is to conclude his visit to Poland Sunday with a meeting later in the afternoon with some 20,000 volunteers who helped make World Youth Day possible before heading back to Rome.
Pope to young on Poland trip: believe in a new humanityKRAKOW, Poland (AP) -- Pope Francis on Sunday encouraged hundreds of thousands of young people gathered in southern Poland to "believe in a new humanity," which is stronger than evil and refuses to use borders as barriers.His appeal came at the end of World Youth Day, a weeklong event which draws young Catholics to a different city every three years in a polyglot spiritual pep rally.The event was Francis' main focus during his pilgrimage to Poland, which also included meditation at the Auschwitz death camp and an imploration to God to keep away a devastating wave of terrorism.For a second straight day, a huge crowd filled a green field in the gentle countryside outside of Krakow for Francis, whose five-day trip introduced the Argentine to Eastern Europe.Some of the faithful had camped out overnight after an evening of entertainment and prayer with the pope there that drew 1.6 million people, according World Youth Day organizers.Sunday's faithful numbered at least in the hundreds of thousands, similar to the number of attendants seen at the pope's other public appearances in the overwhelmingly Catholic country in the past days.The pope used his several encounters with the young pilgrims - from mega-gatherings to a private lunch with only a dozen of them from five continents - to encourage a new generation to work for peace, reconciliation and justice.God, said Francis in his final homily of the pilgrimage, "demands of us real courage, the courage to be more powerful than evil, by loving everyone, even our enemies.""People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centered or small-minded," Francis told his flock before him, many of them in their late teens, 20s or 30s.Earlier in his pilgrimage, Francis had expressed dismay that many people and places aren't welcoming to refugees or those fleeing poverty in their homelands.As hundreds of thousands of migrants arrive in smugglers' boats on Europe's southern chores, some nations on the continent, notably in central and eastern Europe, have thrown up fences to keep the refugees out. Poland has been among the countries which have refused to take in many refugees, saying it already hosts many Ukrainian migrants.Attending Francis' closing Mass on Sunday were some of Poland's top leaders, including President Andrzej Duda and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, head of the conservative ruling Law and Justice party. Kaczynski is widely regarded as the most powerful figure in Poland's politics and toes a generally pro-Catholic but anti-migrant line.On his way to the site, Francis made a stop to bless two buildings run by the Catholic charity Caritas, one built as a day center for the elderly and the other to be a storehouse for food for the needy called "The Bread of Mercy."As he left, Francis nibbled on some dark bread from a big, round loaf offered by women in traditional Polish costumes. He nodded in approval as he chewed away.The World Youth Day events, held every three years in a different country, took place amid very high security following a string of extremist attacks in Western Europe. No incidents were reported, according to police.Later, Francis announced that the next World Youth Day will take place in Panama in 2019.
Don’t tuck life away, take risks, pope tells young peopleKRAKOW, Poland (CNS) -- Take risks and do not let life's obstacles get in the way of encountering the true joy and life that Jesus can give, Pope Francis told more than 1 million young people."Don't be afraid to say 'yes' to him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him," the pope told pilgrims at the closing Mass July 31 for World Youth Day. "Don't let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice.""When it comes to Jesus, we cannot sit around waiting with arms folded; he offers us life. We can't respond by thinking about it or 'texting' a few words," he told the young people, thousands of whom had spent the night camping at an area dubbed the Field of Mercy.The lack of sleep and morning heat seemed to have little impact as the young men and women energetically waved their flags and ran as close as possible to the popemobile to greet Pope Francis.In his homily, the pope reflected on the Gospel story of Zacchaeus, a reviled tax collector who, due to his short height, climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus.The obstacles Zacchaeus faced -- including his short stature -- the pope said, can also "say something to us.""Even today we can risk not getting close to Jesus because we don't feel big enough, because we don't think ourselves worthy. This is a great temptation; it has to do not only with self-esteem, but with faith itself," he said.By not accepting themselves and their limitations, Christians deny their "real stature" as children of God and see themselves as unworthy of God's love.At the same time, he said, people will try to convince Christians that there are others who are unworthy of God's love."People will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive, good to the good and bad to the bad," he told the young people. "Instead, our heavenly Father 'makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good.' He demands of us real courage: the courage to be more powerful than evil by loving everyone, even our enemies."The pope noted that Jesus looks at all people with the same gaze he looked at Zacchaeus, not taking into account his sins, wealth or social standing."God counts on you for what you are, not for what you posses. In his eyes the clothes you wear or the kind of cell phone you use are of absolutely no concern. He doesn't care whether you are stylish or not, he cares about you! In his eyes, you are precious and your value is priceless," the pope said.Another obstacle, the pope continued, is the "paralysis of shame," one that Zacchaeus overcame by climbing the sycamore tree at "the risk of appearing completely ridiculous."Pope Francis encouraged the young men and women to not be ashamed in bringing "everything to the Lord in confession, especially your weaknesses, your struggles and your sins.""Don't be afraid to say 'yes' to him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him! Don't let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice," the pope said.Zacchaeus' final obstacle, he noted, did not come from within but from the "grumbling of the crowd" who first blocked him and then criticized him" for being a sinner.God challenges Christians to be more powerful than evil by loving everyone and to risk being ridiculed for believing "in the gentle and unassuming power of mercy," he said.As he did with Zacchaeus, Jesus looks beyond appearances and faults to the heart -- something young people are called to imitate, the pope said."Don't stop at the surface of things; distrust the worldly cult of appearances, applying makeup on our souls so we seem better than we are," he said. "Instead, establish the most secure connection, that of the heart that sees and transmits goodness without tiring."Although the Mass brought the World Youth Day celebrations to an end, Pope Francis invited the youth to continue along the path that began with their pilgrimage to Krakow and bring the remembrance of God's love to others."Trust the memory of God: his memory is not a 'hard disk' that saves and archives all our data, but a tender heart full of compassion that rejoices in definitively erasing every trace of evil," the pope said.Before concluding the Mass with the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the pope invited the youths to carry the "spiritual breath of fresh air" back to their countries and communities and "wherever God's providence leads you."That same providence, he concluded, is "one step ahead of us" and "has already determined the next stop in this great pilgrimage begun in 1985 by St. John Paul II!""So now I am happy to announce that the next World Youth Day -- after the two that will be held on the diocesan level -- will take place in 2019 in Panama," Pope Francis told the youths.The Panama delegation Krakow greeted the announcement with shouts of joy -- dancing, bouncing and high-fiving each other.Pope Francis invited bishops from Panama to join him at center stage in blessing the crowd.
Mass for World Youth DayKrakow, Campus Misericordiae, 31 July 2016Dear young people, you have come to Krakow to meet Jesus. Today’s Gospel speaks to us of just such a meeting between Jesus and a man named Zacchaeus, in Jericho (cf. Lk 19:1-10). There Jesus does not simply preach or greet people; as the Evangelist tells us, he passed through the city (v. 1). In other words, Jesus wants to draw near to us personally, to accompany our journey to its end, so that his life and our life can truly meet.An amazing encounter then takes place, with Zacchaeus, the chief “publican” or tax collector. Zacchaeus was thus a wealthy collaborator of the hated Roman occupiers, someone who exploited his own people, someone who, because of his ill repute, could not even approach the Master. His encounter with Jesus changed his life, just as it has changed, and can daily still change, each of our lives. But Zacchaeus had to face a number of obstacles in order to meet Jesus. At least three of these can also say something to us.The first obstacle is smallness of stature. Zacchaeus couldn’t see the Master because he was little. Even today we can risk not getting close to Jesus because we don’t feel big enough, because we don’t think ourselves worthy. This is a great temptation; it has to do not only with self-esteem, but with faith itself. For faith tells us that we are “children of God… that is what we are” (1 Jn 3:1). We have been created in God’s own image; Jesus has taken upon himself our humanity and his heart will never be separated from us; the Holy Spirit wants to dwell within us. We have been called to be happy for ever with God! That is our real “stature”, our spiritual identity: we are God’s beloved children, always. So you can see that not to accept ourselves, to live glumly, to be negative, means not to recognize our deepest identity. It is like walking away when God wants to look at me, trying to spoil his dream for me. God loves us the way we are, and no sin, fault or mistake of ours makes him change his mind. As far as Jesus is concerned – as the Gospel shows – no one is unworthy of, or far from, his thoughts. No one is insignificant. He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important: you are important! God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess. In his eyes the clothes you wear or the kind of cell phone you use are of absolutely no concern. He doesn’t care whether you are stylish or not; he cares about you! In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable.L'Osservatore Romano / APAt times in our lives, we aim lower rather than higher. At those times, it is good to realize that God remains faithful, even obstinate, in his love for us. The fact is, he loves us even more than we love ourselves. He believes in us even more than we believe in ourselves. He is always “cheering us on”; he is our biggest fan. He is there for us, waiting with patience and hope, even when we turn in on ourselves and brood over our troubles and past injuries. But such brooding is unworthy of our spiritual stature! It is a kind of virus infecting and blocking everything; it closes doors and prevents us from getting up and starting over. God, on the other hand, is hopelessly hopeful! He believes that we can always get up, and he hates to see us glum and gloomy. Because we are always his beloved sons and daughters. Let us be mindful of this at the dawn of each new day. It will do us good to pray every morning: “Lord, I thank you for loving me; help me to be in love with my own life!” Not with my faults, that need to be corrected, but with life itself, which is a great gift, for it is a time to love and to be loved.Zacchaeus faced a second obstacle in meeting Jesus: the paralysis of shame. We can imagine what was going on in his heart before he climbed that sycamore. It must have been quite a struggle – on one hand, a healthy curiosity and desire to know Jesus; on the other, the risk of appearing completely ridiculous. Zacchaeus was public figure, a man of power. He knew that, in trying to climb that tree, he would have become a laughingstock to all. Yet he mastered his shame, because the attraction of Jesus was more powerful. You know what happens when someone is so attractive that we fall in love with them: we end up ready to do things we would never have even thought of doing. Something similar took place in the heart of Zacchaeus, when he realized that Jesus was so important that he would do anything for him, since Jesus alone could pull him out of the mire of sin and discontent. The paralysis of shame did not have the upper hand. The Gospel tells us that Zacchaeus “ran ahead”, “climbed” the tree, and then, when Jesus called him, he “hurried down” (vv. 4, 6). He took a risk, he put his life on the line. For us too, this is the secret of joy: not to stifle a healthy curiosity, but to take a risk, because life is not meant to be tucked away. When it comes to Jesus, we cannot sit around waiting with arms folded; he offers us life – we can’t respond by thinking about it or “texting” a few words!Dear young friends, don’t be ashamed to bring everything to the Lord in confession, especially your weaknesses, your struggles and your sins. He will surprise you with his forgiveness and his peace. Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him! Don’t let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice. Say a firm “no” to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort.After his small stature and the paralysis of shame, there was a third obstacle that Zacchaeus had to face. It was no longer an interior one, but was all around him. It was the grumbling of the crowd, who first blocked him and then criticized him: How could Jesus have entered his house, the house of a sinner! How truly hard it is to welcome Jesus, how hard it is to accept a “God who is rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4)! People will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive, good to the good and bad to the bad. Instead, our heavenly Father “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good” (Mt 5:45). He demands of us real courage: the courage to be more powerful than evil by loving everyone, even our enemies. People may laugh at you because you believe in the gentle and unassuming power of mercy. But do not be afraid. Think of the motto of these days: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7). People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centred or small-minded. Don’t be discouraged: with a smile and open arms, you proclaim hope and you are a blessing for our one human family, which here you represent so beautifully!L'Osservatore RomanoThat day the crowd judged Zacchaeus; they looked him over, up and down. But Jesus did otherwise: he gazed up at him (v. 5). Jesus looks beyond the faults and sees the person. He does not halt before bygone evil, but sees future good. His gaze remains constant, even when it is not met; it seeks the way of unity and communion. In no case does it halt at appearances, but looks to the heart. With this gaze of Jesus, you can help bring about another humanity, without looking for acknowledgement but seeking goodness for its own sake, content to maintain a pure heart and to fight peaceably for honesty and justice. Don’t stop at the surface of things; distrust the worldly cult of appearances, cosmetic attempts to improve our looks. Instead, “download” the best “link” of all, that of a heart which sees and transmits goodness without growing weary. The joy that you have freely received from God, freely give away (cf. Mt 10:: so many people are waiting for it!Finally let us listen to the words that Jesus spoke to Zacchaeus, which to be seem meant for us today: “Come down, for I must stay at your house today” (v. 5). Jesus extends the same invitation to you: “I must stay at your house today”. We can say that World Youth Day begins today and continues tomorrow, in your homes, since that is where Jesus wants to meet you from now on. The Lord doesn’t want to remain in this beautiful city, or in cherished memories alone. He wants to enter your homes, to dwell in your daily lives: in your studies, your first years of work, your friendships and affections, your hopes and dreams. How greatly he desires that you bring all this to him in prayer! How much he hopes that, in all the “contacts” and “chats” of each day, pride of place be given to the golden thread of prayer! How much he wants his word to be able to speak to you day after day, so that you can make his Gospel your own, so that it can serve as a compass for you on the highways of life!In asking to come to your house, Jesus calls you, as he did Zacchaeus, by name. Your name is precious to him. The name “Zacchaeus” would have made people back the think of the remembrance of God. Trust the memory of God: his memory is not a “hard disk” that “saves” and “archives” all our data, but a heart filled with tender compassion, one that finds joy in “erasing” in us every trace of evil. May we too now try to imitate the faithful memory of God and treasure the good things we have received in these days. In silence, let us remember this encounter, let us preserve the memory of the presence of God and his word, and let us listen once more to the voice of Jesus as he calls us by name. So let us now pray silently, remembering and thanking the Lord wanted us to be here and has come here to meet us.
Pope Francis Urges Poles to Embrace Migrants on Final Day of VisitPontiff calls on crowds near Krakow to reject consumerism, materialismKRAKOW, Poland— Pope Francis repeated his call for open-migration policies and warned against the temptations of capitalism and consumerism in the post-Communist homeland of St. John Paul II, on the last of a five-day visit to Poland.“People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centered or small-minded,” the pope told a congregation of more than 1.5 million, which included Polish President Andrzej Duda.The Polish government, controlled by the conservative Law and Justice Party, has opposed the more-open policies of neighboring Germany toward refugees and other migrants from the Middle East.On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that she wouldn’t abandon those policies, despite two recent terrorist attacks in Germany, which injured 20 people, committed by asylum seekers apparently inspired by radical Islam.Every day since he arrived in Poland, the pope has echoed his well-known support for such policies.The outdoor Sunday Mass, the culminating event of World Youth Day, took place a few miles east of Krakow. Worshippers shielded themselves against the bright sun with caps, umbrellas and improvised headscarves.Pope Francis urged the crowd to ignore the distractions of materialism.“God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess. In his eyes, the clothes you wear or the kind of cellphone you use are of absolutely no concern. He doesn’t care whether you are stylish or not,” the pope said.That remark underscored the challenge the church faces in Poland and other post-Communist countries, which have embraced the values of capitalism and aspirational consumerism that the pope so often warns against.“Say a firm ‘no’ to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort,” the pope said.Pope Francis paid tribute to native son Pope John Paul, who founded the World Youth Day tradition, saying that he “has rejoiced from heaven, and he will help you spread the joy of the Gospel everywhere.”Many in the crowd waved national flags. At the end of the Mass, the pope announced that the next World Youth Day would be held in 2019 in Panama, bringing the triennial celebration back to Latin America. Pope Francis presided over World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, a few months after becoming Pope.The pope celebrated Mass on a white stage dominated by a colossal picture of Jesus, with rays emanating from his chest to represent his divine mercy. The image is associated with visions of the Polish St. Faustina Kowalska, who was canonized by John Paul.Both John Paul and Francis have emphasized the importance of mercy in their teaching, but some conservative Catholics have criticized Francis’ interpretation of the concept, particularly in regard to his more lenient approach to divorce.Polish bishops have been among the most adamant opponents of Pope Francis’ call to allow some divorced Catholics who remarry without an annulment to receive Communion—a practice explicitly prohibited by John Paul.
Do not be afraid to trust in mercy, pope tells millions at closing WYD MassIn his homily at the closing Mass at Krakow, Pope Francis told an immense crowd of young pilgrims from across the globe not to surrender to paralysis but boldly to embrace God's idea of them -- and to trust in His mercy.KRAKOW, Poland-Addressing a vast sea of young women and men gathered in Krakow for World Youth Day (WYD), Pope Francis told them not to be deterred by those who want to present the image of an insensitive God, and to believe in the power of God’s mercy.“People will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive, good to the good, and bad to the bad. Instead, our heavenly father ‘makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,’” Francis said on Sunday.The pope was addressing some two million women and men gathered in Campus Misericordiae, a field set up for the occasion in the outskirts of Krakow, Poland.Most of the pilgrims had spent the previous night in the field, some nine miles out of the city. Hundreds of thousands arrived throughout Saturday afternoon, carrying backpacks and sleeping bags, after a hot trek.They remained there all night, following a prayer vigil led by Francis in which he urged them not to be “couch potatoes” but to instead wake up and take ownership of their own life. If not, he warned, other people - “not necessarily better” - would make decisions for them.Before Francis’ arrival, in a 100-yard-long altar area in Campus Misericordiae, several dozen Catholic artists were in charge of waking the young up after a night spent outside.Israeli artist Noa, with a stunning performance of the Ave Maria, was the soundtrack during much of Francis’ long ride in the popemobile through the vast field.In his homily, Francis returned to the previous night’s theme, warning against the “paralysis of shame” and telling the pilgrims that God expects from them “real courage,” meaning a bravery that defeats evil by loving everyone, “even our enemies.”“People may laugh at you because you believe in the gentle and unassuming power of mercy. But do not be afraid,” Francis said, using an iconic phrase associated with St. John Paul II.Reminding the young of the motto for WYD, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy,” the pope urged the young not to be deterred by those who are wary of them for being dreamers.“People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centered or small-minded,” Francis warned.He went on to insist on the call to be merciful to those in need, highlighting the suffering of migrants and refugees.Together with Hungary, Poland is the European country most determined to close its borders to immigrants coming from Africa and the Middle East fleeing war, persecution, hunger, and violence.But WYD this week caused the idea of reinforcing borders to dissolve in the mix of pilgrims from Syria and Iraq, brothers and sisters in the faith at one with Poles and Hungarians.For one week, liberal, conservative or traditionalist Catholics put differences aside to shared liturgies and prayers in harmonious coexistence.For one week, the streets of Krakow, a deeply Catholic city, with over 300 churches, became a mirror of the Universal Church. A glimpse of a united Christianity was visible, too, as Russian Orthodox and Pentecostal pilgrims joined Catholics in the festivities.A peek into one of the many churches offering permanent Eucharistic adoration during these days showed youngsters from Ukraine and Russia - whose nations are at war - praying together.Mexican and American pilgrims shared boat rides along Krakow’s river, Argentines and Brazilians shared pep-rallies, and nuns and priests twirled together.On Sunday, the ‘Mercy Field’ spectacularly illustrated that togetherness. Like a medieval battlefield, it was a sunlit sea of national flags under a clear sky, yet here the people were at peace with each other.Perhaps nothing symbolized this more than to see Israeli and Palestinian flags mixed in with each other.As the pope put it on Saturday’s prayer vigil, situations that would typically seem distant, “because we see them on the screen of a cell phone or a computer,” became a reality for many this week.The long homily Francis delivered on Sunday was an epic pep-talk aimed at young people in a world that can too often give them reasons for paralysis and fear.Reflecting on the Gospel passage that presents the story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector, a “sinner”, who climbed over a tree to catch Jesus’ attention as he was passing through Jericho, the pope spoke of the “three obstacles” the man of the parable had to overcome.The first one, Francis said, was his “smallness of stature.” Even today, he continued, “we can risk not getting close to Jesus because we don’t feel big enough, because we don’t think ourselves worthy.”This he said, is a great temptation related not only to self-esteem (something many teenagers lack), but to lack of faith.Our “‘real ‘stature’, our spiritual identity” is that “we are God’s beloved children, always,” Francis said. Not being self-accepting, leading a grim-faced or negative life, was a failure to recognize this.“God loves us the way we are, and no sin, fault or mistake of ours makes him change his mind,” the pope said. “As far as Jesus is concerned - as the Gospel shows - no one is unworthy of, or far from, his thoughts. No one is insignificant.”In God’s eyes, the pope told the young, people are not defined by possessions or clothes or looks.“In his eyes,” Francis told the captivated audience, “you are precious, and your value is inestimable.”God, he said, “is always ‘cheering us on’”, he said, “he is our biggest fan.”The second obstacle Zacchaeus faced, according to Francis, was the “paralysis of shame.”“Zacchaeus was public figure, a man of power. He knew that, in trying to climb that tree, he would have become a laughing stock to all. Yet he mastered his shame, because the attraction of Jesus was more powerful,” he said.The tax collector put “his life on the line” and this, Francis continued, is the secret of joy: “not to stifle a healthy curiosity, but to take a risk, because life is not meant to be tucked away. When it comes to Jesus, we cannot sit around waiting with arms folded; he offers us life - we can’t respond by thinking about it or ‘texting’ a few words!”As he often does, he invited the young to go to confession, and not to be ashamed of bringing their weaknesses, struggles and sins.Say yes to God, Francis said, and a firm no to “the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort.”The third obstacle Zacchaeus had to face was the “grumbling of the crowd” who blocked him because he was a sinner. Here, he said, it was important to resist the images of an insensitive God, and to believe in the unassuming power of his mercy.Picking up on a major theme this week of memory, he finally urged the pilgrims to “trust the memory of God”.“His memory is not a ‘hard disk’ that ‘saves’ and ‘archives’ all our data, but a heart filled with tender compassion, one that finds joy in ‘erasing’ in us every trace of evil,” he said.As he finished his homily by leading some minutes of silent prayer, a great stillness fell on the vast assembly.
World Youth Day Closes with Pope's Homily on 'Courage'Pope Francis bade farewell on Sunday to one and a half million young people from 187 countries in Krakow for World Youth Day by saying that God wants them “to have the courage to be more powerful than evil by loving everyone, even our enemies” and “to believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centered or small-minded.”He challenged them to do this in his homily at the closing Mass of the festival, which he concelebrated with 70 cardinals and over 800 bishops—including 80 from the United States—at the Field of Mercy (Campus Misericordiae), in the countryside 10 miles from Krakow. At the end of his homily, he announced that the next W.Y.D. will be in Panama in 2019.Most had camped here overnight after a spectacular vigil of prayer the previous evening.This final festive celebration took place on a hot, sunny morning, under conditions of maximum security. It began three hours before the Mass with music and dance by artists from Poland and elsewhere, including the famous Israeli singer Noa. The joyful event also included a magnificent Polish choir.When Francis arrived at Mercy Field, he rode among the ecstatic crowd; everyone seemed eager to touch him, or to take a photo and get his blessing.“He comes like a friend to everyone, so open, so calm, so very, very friendly, smiling, so joyful like the young people here,” said Dorota, a 30-year-old Polish woman.In his homily, the pope commented on the Gospel story read at Mass about Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who climbed a tree to see Jesus because he was so small. The homily was a masterpiece of simplicity and profound spirituality.He told the young that just as Jesus met Zacchaeus, so too “Jesus wants to draw near to us personally, to accompany our journey to its end, so that his life and our life can truly meet.” Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus “changed his life, just as it has changed, and can daily still change, each of our lives,” the pope told the young people—who were at some distance from him because the inner circles were filled with clergy, dignitaries and leading lay people. (They must have felt like Zacchaeus!)But Zacchaeus “had to face a number of obstacles in order to meet Jesus,” the pope said, and he mentioned three: smallness of stature, the paralysis of shame and the grumbling of the crowd. Young people face similar obstacles, he added.First, like Zacchaeus, they feel “small of stature” and don’t think themselves “worthy.” This, the pope said, “has to do not only with self-esteem, but with faith itself.” He reminded them that “our real stature” is that “we are God’s beloved children, always!” As such, “no one is insignificant. He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important: you are important! God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess. In his eyes the clothes you wear or the kind of cell phone you use are of absolutely no concern. He doesn’t care whether you are stylish or not; he cares about you! In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable.”At times in our lives, he said, “we aim lower rather than higher. At those times, it is good to realize that God remains faithful, even obstinate, in his love for us. The fact is, he loves us even more than we love ourselves. He believes in us even more than we believe in ourselves. He is always ‘cheering us on’; he is our biggest fan.” And, “He is there for us, waiting with patience and hope, even when we turn in on ourselves and brood over our troubles and past injuries.”Zacchaeus faced a second obstacle in meeting Jesus, he said: “the paralysis of shame.” But “he mastered his shame” and climbed a tree “because the attraction of Jesus was more powerful.” Looking at the young people, Francis remarked, “You know what happens when someone is so attractive that we fall in love with them: we end up ready to do things we would never have even thought of doing.”Recalling that Zacchaeus “took a risk, he put his life on the line,” Francis said, “for us too, this is the secret of joy: not to stifle a healthy curiosity, but to take a risk, because life is not meant to be tucked away.” And “When it comes to Jesus, we cannot sit around waiting with arms folded; he offers us life—we can’t respond by thinking about it or ‘texting’ a few words!” As a 17-year-old, Jorge Mario Bergoglio found his vocation after going to confession; today he told the young, “don’t be ashamed to bring everything to the Lord in confession, especially your weaknesses, your struggles and your sins. He will surprise you with his forgiveness and his peace. Don’t be afraid to say ‘yes’ to him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him! Don’t let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice.”He next went referred to the third obstacle that Zacchaeus had to face: “the grumbling of the crowd, who first blocked him and then criticized him” and asked, “How could Jesus have entered his house, the house of a sinner!”Commenting on this, Francis said, “How truly hard it is to welcome Jesus, how hard it is to accept a ‘God who is rich in mercy.’” People “will try to block you, to make you think that God is distant, rigid and insensitive, good to the good and bad to the bad,” but instead, “our heavenly Father ‘makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good’ alike.”He told his young audience, stretching as far back as the eye could see, “God demands of us real courage: the courage to be more powerful than evilby loving everyone, even our enemies. People may laugh at you because you believe in the gentle and unassuming power of mercy. But do not be afraid. Think of the motto of these days: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy’” (Mt5:7).Indeed, he said, “People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centered or small-minded.” When this happens, he said, “Don’t be discouraged. With a smile and open arms, you proclaim hope and you are a blessing for our one human family, which here you represent so beautifully!”He reminded them that “Jesus looks beyond the faults and sees the person. He does not halt before bygone evil, but sees future good. He does not look at appearances, he looks to the heart.”With Jesus, he said, “you can help bring about another humanity, without looking for acknowledgement but seeking goodness for its own sake, content to maintain a pure heart and to fight peaceably for honesty and justice.”He counseled them, “Don’t stop at the surface of things; distrust the worldly cult of appearances, cosmetic attempts to improve our looks.”Then, using the language of the internet, as he has done several times in these days, he encouraged them to “download the best ‘link’ of all, that of a heart which sees and transmits goodness without growing weary. The joy that you have freely received from God, freely give away, so many people are waiting for it!”Francis concluded by recalling that Jesus told Zacchaeus, “I must stay at your house today” and telling the young people that Jesus extends that same invitation to them. Indeed, he said, “We can say that World Youth Day begins today and continues tomorrow, in your homes, since that is where Jesus wants to meet you from now on.”
Jul 31 16 6:16 AM
Before heading to the Tauron Arena, where more than 20,000 volunteers excitedly awaited his arrival, the Pope made one last appearance at the balcony of the bishop’s palace in Krakow to bid farewell to a small crowd that gathered to see him. “Thank you for the warm welcome you have given me,” he said. “Before I go I want to give you my blessing and ask you not to forget to pray for me. Let us pray together to the Virgin, each of us in our own language.” This afternoon, Francis ended his visit to Poland for the 31st World Youth Day by meeting the volunteers that worked hard to prepare this year’s youth gathering and make sure it went smoothly. Before the Pope took the floor, he was greeted by Damian Andrzej Muskus, coordinator of the Polish World Youth Day and two volunteers – a Polish girl and a young man from Panama, where the next edition of WYD is to be held – who embodied the qualities Francis went on to encourage young people to cultivate. After listening to these testimonies, the Pope pronounced a speech off the cuff in Spanish. His words were the following: “So I wrote this speech, I don’t know if it’s well or badly written. It’s five pages long. A bit boring. But I was told I could speak in any language I want because everyone has a translator. Yes? Shall I speak in Spanish?” “Yes!” young pilgrims responded enthusiastically. Preparing a WYD is a big adventure, it means embarking on an adventure and serving, working, doing and then saying goodbye. First of all an adventure, generosity. I want to thank you, volunteers, benefactors, for everything you have done. I want to thank you for the hours of prayer you have put in. Because I know this event involved a great deal of work and prayer. Thank you to the volunteers who devoted time to prayer so that we could go ahead with WYD. Thank you to the priests who accompanied them. Thank you to the nuns who accompanied them, to the consecrated and thanks to you for embarking on this adventure with the hope of moving forward. When the bishop gave his presentation, he paid you – I don’t know if you’ll get this word – a “piropo”, a compliment. Do you understand? He told you that you are the hope for the future. And it’s true, but on two conditions: Do you want to be hope for the future or not? On two conditions – no you don’t have to pay an entry fee, no. The first condition is hold onto memory. Ask me where I come from, memory of my country, my family, my entire history. The testimony given to us by the second volunteer was full of memory. Memory of a path take, memory of all that I received from my elders. A young person with no memory is not hope for the future. “Father, what do I do to hold onto my memory?” Talk to your parents, with your elders, above all talk to your grandparents. If you want to be hope for the future, you need to receive the torch from your grandfather or grandmother. Do you promise me you’ll talk to your grandparents more in preparation for Panama? And if your grandparents are already in heaven, talk with the elderly. Ask them questions. They are a people’s wisdom.” “So, to be hope, the first condition is to hold onto memory. You are the hope for the future, the bishop said. Second condition: If I have memory, that’s the past sorted, and if I’m hope then that’s the future sorted, what remains? The present. What must I do in the present? Be courageous. Be brave. Not be afraid. We heard the testimony/farewell of a companion of ours who was unable to beat cancer. He wanted to be here but didn’t make it. However, he had the courage to carry on fighting even in the worst of conditions. That young man is not here today but he sowed hope for the future. In the present we must therefore be courageous and brave. So, if you have memory and you have courage, then you will be the hope for the future. Is that all clear? I don’t know if I’ll be in Panama but I assure you that Peter will be and Peter is going to ask you whether you talked to your grandparents, whether you were brave enough to face situations, to sow a future and you’ll give Peter your answer. Thank you, thank you for everything.”
Jul 31 16 8:04 PM
During his flight from Krakow to Rome on Sunday, Pope Francis gave a press conference to the journalists assembled aboard the papal plane. He reflected on the World Youth Day gathering in the Polish city, and the recent attempted coup in Turkey.He also addressed abuse accusations against Cardinal Pell, the crisis in Venezuela, Islam and violence, and Panama – which will host the next World Youth Day.Please find below the full text of the July 31 press conference, translated by Catholic News Agency:
>Fr. Lombardi: Holy Father, thanks a lot for being here with us on the return from this trip. Despite the storm tonight it seems that everything went very well and we are all happy and content and we hope that you are as well in these days. As usual, we will ask you some questions. We are here, if you want to say something for an introduction, we are at your disposal.Pope Francis: I would like to thank you for your work and your company. I would also like to give you, because you are colleagues, condolences for the death of Anna Maria Jacobini (Editor’s note: Jacobini is an Italian journalist who died unexpectedly in Krakow while covering the trip). Today I met her sister, niece and nephew: they were so saddened by this. Then, I would like to thank Lombardi and Mauro, because this will be the last trip they take with us. Fr. Lombardi was at Vatican Radio for more than 25 years and then on the flights 12-13, 10 (years). Mauro: 37. Thirty-seven years in charge of the bags on the flight. I thank you very much, Mauro and Fr. Lombardi. And then at the end we’ll thank them with a cake. I am at your disposal; the trip is short, so we’ll do it in a hurry this time.Fr. Lombardi: Thank you, Holy Father. The first question we’ll do as usual, from our Polish colleague, Magdalena Wolinska from TVP. Here she is.Magdalena Wolinska-Riedi, TVP: Holy Father, in your speech at Wawel, in your first speech immediately after arriving, you said that you were happy to begin getting to know Central Eastern Europe. I come from Poland, and in the name of the nation I would like to ask you how was Poland for you in these five days, how did it seem?Pope Francis: But it’s a special Poland, because it was a Poland invaded once again, this time by youth. But Krakow...what I have seen, I saw very beautiful. The Polish people...so much enthusiasm! But look, this evening, with the rain, and long streets...it wasn’t only the youth! Even the elderly! It’s a goodness, a nobility! I had an experience of knowing the Polish people when I was a child, and where my father worked many Poles came to work after the war. They were good people, and this has stayed in my heart. I rediscovered this goodness of yours. It’s a beauty. Thank you.Fr. Lombardi: We give the word to another of our Polish colleagues, Ursula Rzepczak from Polsat.Ursula Rzepczak, Polsat: Holy Father, our young children were touched by your words, which correspond very well to their reality, to their problems...but you also used, in your speeches, you used the words, the very expressions, of the language of the youth. How did you prepare? How were you able to give so many examples close to their lives, to their problems, but also with their words?Pope Francis: I like to speak with the youth, and I like to hear the youth. They always put me in difficulty. They tell me things that I haven’t thought of, or that I’ve partly thought of. The restless youth, the creative youth, I like them! And thence I take that language. Many times I have to ask myself: what does this mean? And they explain what it means! They explain to me what it means...but I like to speak with them. They are our future, and we must have a dialogue. This dialogue between the past and the future is important. Because of this I underline so much the relationship between the youth and grandparents. They must speak with...when I say grandparents, I mean those who are old and those who are not so old...but me, yes! To also give our experience, which they feel as the past, as history and they take it up again and carry it forward with the courage of the present, as I said this evening...but it’s important, it’s important! I don’t like it when I hear it said: ‘but these youth say stupid things!’ Even we say many of them, eh! The youth say stupid things and they say good things, as we do, as everyone does. But hear them, speak with them, because we must learn from them and they must learn from me, from us. It’s like this. And this is how history is made, this is how it grows, without closure, without closure. I don’t know, it’s like this. This is how I learn these things.Fr. Lombardi: Thank you very much. And now we give the word to Marco Ansaldo from La Repubblica, who will ask the question for the Italian group.Marco Ansaldo, La Repubblica: Holiness, the repression in Turkey, the 15 days that followed the coup, according to almost all international observers were perhaps worse in respect to the coup. There were entire categories affected: the military, magistrates, public administrators, diplomats, journalists. I cite data from the Turkish government: it speaks of more than 13,000 arrests, more than 50,000 people torpedoed. A purge. The day before yesterday, the president Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced the critics and said: ‘Mind your own business’ - in front of external critics. We would like to ask you: until now you haven’t intervened, you haven’t spoken. Perhaps you fear that there could be repercussions on the Catholic minority in Turkey?Pope Francis: When I had to say something that I didn’t like to Turkey, but of which I was sure, I said it, with the consequences that you all know (Editor’s note: a reference to his comments on the Armenian Genocide). I said these words … I was sure … I didn’t speak because I am still not sure with the information that I received on what is happening there. And I listen to the information that is arriving in the Secretariat of State and some important political analyst, I am studying the situation even with the councilors of the Secretariat of State and the thing still isn’t clear. It’s true, harm to Catholics must always be avoided, and all of us do this...but not at the price of the truth! There is the virtue of prudence; this must be said, when, how, but in my case, you are my witnesses that when I’ve had to say something that involves Turkey, I’ve said it.Fr. Lombardi: Now we give the word to Frances D’Emilio, who is a colleague from the Associated Press, the large English-language agencyFrances D'Emilio, AP: Good evening. My question is a question that many are asking in these days because it has come to light in Australia that the Australian police would be investigating new accusations against Cardinal Pell, and that this time the accusations involve the abuse of minors that are very different from the previous accusations. So, the question that I ask which many others ask is: according to you, what would be the right thing for Cardinal Pell to do, given his serious situation and in such an important position and the confidence that he enjoys from you?Pope Francis: Thank you. The first information that arrived was confusing. It was news from 40 years back that not even the police made a case about at first. It was a confusing thing. Then, all the rest of the accusations were sent to justice. Right now, they are in the hands of justice. And one mustn't judge before justice judges, eh. If I were to say a judgement in favor of or against Cardinal Pell, it wouldn't be good because I (would) judge before. It's true that there there is doubt and there's that clear principal of the law: in dubio pro reo (Editor’s note: the phrase is a Latin expression meaning in favor of the alleged guilty party), no? But, we must wait for justice and not make a first judgement ourselves, a media trial, or...because this doesn't help. The judgement of gossip and then, one can...we don't know what the result will be but be attentive to what justice decides. Once justice speaks, I will speak. Thank you.Fr. Lombardi: Now we give the word to Hernan Reyes from TELAM, I ask you to come near. As we know he’s Argentine and represents Latin America in the midst of us.Hernan Reyes, TELAM: Holiness, how are you after your fall the other day? We hope that you are well...after the fall...Pope Francis: Ah! The fall.Reyes: This is the first question...and the second question, last week the secretary-general of UNASUR, Ernesto Samper, spoke about a mediation from the Vatican in Venezuela. Is this a concrete dialogue? Is this a real possibility, and how do you think that this mission with the mission of the Church can help in the stabilization of the country?Pope Francis: First, the fall: I was looking at the Madonna and I forgot about the stairs. I was with the thurible in hand. And when I felt that I was falling, I let myself fall and this saved me, because if I had made some resistance, I would have had consequences. Nothing. I am wonderful, I am very well.The second, the second was? Venezuela. With Venezuela, two years ago I had a very, very positive meeting with president Maduro...then he asked for an audience last year, it was Sunday, the day after arriving from Sarajevo. But then he cancelled that because he was very sick with an ear infection and couldn’t come. Then after this I let some time go by and I wrote a letter to him. Then, there were contacts...you mentioned one...of an eventual meeting. Yes, yes. With the conditions that are made in this case. And if you think, right now...I am not sure, I can’t guarantee this, eh. Clear? I am not sure! But I think that in the group of the mediation, someone, and I’m not sure if the government also - but I’m not sure - wants a representative from the Holy See. This until the moment that I left Rome. But things are there. In the group there is Zapatero from Spain, Torrijos and another, three...and a fourth that is said from the Holy See...but of this I am not sure. Okay.Fr. Lombardi: Now we give the word to Antoine Marie Izoard, from France. We know what France is living these days.Antoine Marie Izoarde, i.Media: Holy Father, before all I make the congratulations to you and Father Lombardi and also to Fr. Spadaro for the feast of St. Ignatius, if you allow me. The question is a little difficult: Catholics are a bit in shock, and not only in France, after the barbarous assassination of Fr. Jacques Hamel - as you know well - in his church while celebrating the Holy Mass. Four days ago you here told us that all religions want peace. But this holy, 86-year-old priest was clearly killed in the name of Islam. So Holy Father, I have two brief questions: why do you, when you speak of these violent events, always speak of terrorists, but never of Islam, never use the word Islam? And then, aside from prayer and dialogue, which are obviously essential, what concrete initiatives can you advise or suggest in order to counteract Islamic violence? Thank you, Holiness.Pope Francis: I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy… this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law… and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence . . . and no, not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent. It is like a fruit salad; there’s everything. There are violent persons of this religion… this is true: I believe that in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists. Fundamentalists. We have them. When fundamentalism comes to kill, it can kill with the language -- the Apostle James says this, not me -- and even with a knife, no? I do not believe it is right to identify Islam with violence. This is not right or true. I had a long conversation with the imam, the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University, and I know how they think . . . They seek peace, encounter . . . The nuncio to an African country told me that the capital where he is there is a trail of people, always full, at the Jubilee Holy Door. And some approach the confessionals -- Catholics -- others to the benches to pray, but the majority go forward, to pray at the altar of Our Lady... these are Muslims, who want to make the Jubilee. They are brothers, they live… When I was in Central Africa, I went to them, and even the imam came up on the Popemobile… We can coexist well… But there are fundamentalist groups, and even I ask… there is a question… How many young people, how many young people of our Europe, whom we have left empty of ideals, who do not have work… they take drugs, alcohol, or go there to enlist in fundamentalist groups. One can say that the so-called ISIS, but it is an Islamic State which presents itself as violent . . . because when they show us their identity cards, they show us how on the Libyan coast how they slit the Egyptians’ throats or other things… But this is a fundamentalist group which is called ISIS… but you cannot say, I do not believe, that it is true or right that Islam is terrorist.Izoard: Your concrete initiatives to counteract terrorism, violence?Pope Francis: Terrorism is everywhere. You think of the tribal terrorism of some African countries. It is terrorism and also . . . But I don’t know if I say it because it is a little dangerous… Terrorism grows when there are no other options, and when the center of the global economy is the god of money and not the person -- men and women -- this is already the first terrorism! You have cast out the wonder of creation -- man and woman -- and you have put money in its place. This is a basic terrorism against all of humanity! Think about it!Fr. Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness. Seeing as how the announcement was made this morning of Panama as the next World Youth Day, there was a colleague here who wanted to give you a small gift in order to prepare yourself for this event.Javier Martinez Brocal, Rome Reports: How are you, Holy Father? You told us in the meeting with volunteers that maybe you will not go to Panama, this you cannot do, we are waiting for you in Panama...Pope Francis: No no, this one is not going, Peter is going, whichever it isMartinez Brocal: We believe that you will go. I give you on behalf of the Panamanians two things: a shirt with the number 17, which is your date of birth, and later the hat that the farmers in Panama wear. They asked me to put it on, but...Pope Francis: The tribute to the farmers...Martinez Brocal: If you would like to greet the Panamanians...Pope Francis: To those from Panama, thank you very much for this and I hope that you prepare well with the same strength, the same spirituality, the same depth with which the Poles, the Cracovians and the Poles, prepared.Izoarde: Holiness, in the name of my journalist colleagues - because I feel a little obligated to represent them, I must also say two words if you allow me, Holiness, about Fr. Lombardi in the Press Office with Pope Benedict, an unprecedented interregnum, and then your election, Holy Father, and the surprises that followed. What one can say, though, is the constant availability, commitment, and dedication of Fr. Lombardi, your incredible ability to respond or not to our questions, and this is also an art - to our often strange questions. And then also your humor, a little British, in all situations, even the worst. And we have many examples. Obviously we welcome with you your successors, two good journalists, but let’s not forget that you, more than being a journalist, were, and still are, a priest. And also a Jesuit, wow! So we cannot wait until September to celebrate with dignity your departure for other services, but we wish to congratulate you today...a wish for a happy feast, we said, of St. Ignatius, and then for a long life, of 100 years as they say, of humble service. “Stolat,” they say in Poland, stolat, Fr. Lombardi.Pope Francis: Thanks a lot. Did Mauro run away?
The Pope's in-flight press conference returning from Krakow
Aug 2 16 7:27 AM
Argentinian Teens Say Pope Francis Is Bringing Young People Back to GodSix thousand young Argentinians came to Krakow for the World Youth Day, and among them was a high school student from Buenos Aires, Paula (‘Poli) Piqué, who had traveled to Rio de Janeiro to participate in the first World Youth Day led by Pope Francis.She returned home so “spiritually energized and excited” from that international gathering, which brought together four million young people from all continents, that she has decided to attend this W.Y.D. in Krakow, Poland, because, she told America, “I want to live that experience again.” This time, however, Poli, a 19-year-old student of social communications at Austral University in Buenos Aires, brought two others with her: her twin sister Isabella (‘Isa’) and a very close friend, Alexia. (Poli and her twin sister are nieces of my wife, Elisabetta Piqué.) They were so captivated by what she told them about her experience in Rio that they decided to come with her to Poland in the hope of experiencing similar “spiritual feelings.”A recent survey has shown that most young people (ages 14-35) come to W.Y.D. to be with Jesus and with the pope. Poli and her friends fit the pattern. She came to Krakow, she said, because in Rio she “felt the presence of God” and was inspired by “the presence of Pope Francis” and by “being with millions of young Catholics from so many different countries.”She confided: “Rio changed my way of seeing things. I feel the presence of God in my life. I feel the desire to go on mission and ‘shake things up’ (Hagan lio!), as Francis told us.” When she returned home from Rio she “went on mission” talking about Jesus to people in other parts of Argentina who knew little about him. Poli, Isabella and Alexia told me, when I met them in Krakow, that they experienced similar “spiritual feelings” here to what Poli had felt in Rio as they mixed and interacted with many of the 1.5 million young people from 187 countries in the various events—catechesis, prayers and the big events with the pope: the opening ceremony, the Way of the Cross, the prayer vigil, sleeping overnight after the vigil in the Mercy Field (Campus Misericordiae) and then the closing Mass. They experienced a “tsunami” of emotions and were sad to leave at the end. All three have come from Buenos Aires as part of a larger group from the Schoenstatt movement in Argentina and Chile. They are not members of this Marian renewal movement, which was founded in Germany in 1914, but they are close to it and joined this pilgrimage to W.Y.D. that it organized. Before coming to Krakow, they visited the holy sites in Rome and Assisi as well as the headquarters of the movement in Germany. They were overjoyed to be with Pope Francis because, Poli said, expressing their shared view, “He is Argentinian like us, we connect better with him, we understand him better. He inspires us.”Alexia de Bary, 18, a psychology student at El Salvador University in Buenos Aires, said she has came because of what Paula had told her about Rio.” She said, “My religion is very important to me and very present in my life.” She has gone on a number of retreats and done some missionary work, “speaking about Jesus” in places where they know little about him. She also visits one of the city’s shantytowns.She was particularly delighted to be at this W.Y.D. with the pope and other teenage Catholics from different countries who share the same faith, particularly, she said, since so many teenagers even back in Argentina focus on other things in their lives. “I feel this W.Y.D. is a very good thing for me; it helped me to connect with God and share my culture and religion with other young people.” She considers it “very significant” that the pope is Argentinian and added, “I know that more teenagers than before focus on God and religion since Bergoglio became pope.”Isabella, Paula’s twin sister, studies psychology like Alexia but at the Austral University. She decided to come to this W.Y.D. because she saw her sister “so happy and energized” after the “wonderful” Rio experience. She rated this experience as “both necessary and important,” and said she now feels particularly strengthened in her faith “through my meeting with so many other young people that believe in God and share the same values and religion like me.”Isa, her sister and Alexia are all inspired by “the humility and sensitivity” of Pope Francis, and his concern for the poor. They said he has taught them that “having less is not the worst thing in life” and that “being rich is not what makes you happy.”“Here in Krakow he has challenged us to build our relationship with Jesus, and as he said at Mass today to have courage to overcome evil with good by loving everyone, even our enemies. He gives us hope that we can make a difference in the world. And that makes us happy!”
Aug 11 16 10:43 AM
When the pope paid his first visit to Poland in late July, it was widely expected he'd rebuke the country's predominant Catholic church for opposing his reforms.With all sides publicly lauding the event as a resounding success, it's clear his dealings with Poland's bishops were outwardly restrained. Yet the visit has nevertheless raised questions about how the pontiff's vision of the church is being treated in Europe's most Catholic country -- a country still firmly aligned with the conservative teachings of his Polish predecessor, St. John Paul II."Poland's bishops have been unsure how to react to new papal statements on subjects like divorce and homosexuality, which are traditionally presented in clear, black-and-white terms by the church here," explained Malgorzata Glabisz-Pniewska, a senior Catholic presenter with Polish Radio. "After his five days in Poland, he still won't have persuaded them to embrace his reformist outlook. But he will have convinced many ordinary people, who were impressed by what they saw and heard. This could make it harder for the bishops to maintain such a severe, uncompromising attitude."Pope Francis' stay in Krakow was devoted to World Youth Day, which drew over two million youngsters from 187 countries to the southern city, accompanied by 50 cardinals, 850 bishops, 20,000 priests and 30,000 nuns. The Polish government deployed 38,000 police and troops to ensure order; and for the pontiff's final Mass, hundreds of thousands made the journey to a specially prepared Campus Misericordiae, or Field of Mercy, near the fabled Wieliczka Saltmine. While the festival theme was Divine Mercy, the pope also brought messages of peace and forgiveness during stopovers at Poland's Jasna Gora shrine and the former concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, as well as at a convent, children's hospital and the burial place of Divine Mercy visionary St. Faustina Kowalska.As for Poland, the mass circulation Gazeta Wyborcza predicted Francis would caution the country's church against an "alliance of throne and altar," and denounce its "non-Franciscan association with palaces and colorful robes." This was contested by the church's Catholic Information Agency, KAI, which insisted the pope would instill "a new dynamism and pastoral conversion," and encourage the church to be "more open to those lost, wounded and seeking."Whatever the visit's outcome, Poland's church will remain crucially important in world Catholicism. Though seminary admissions have recently declined, halving the number of priests in training, the country still provides at least a quarter of all vocations in Europe, and has supplied clergy for Russia and Central Asia, as well as for dioceses around the world. Ninety-four percent of Poland's 38.5 million inhabitants still described themselves as Catholics in a survey this May, while average Sunday Mass attendance in the whole population stands at 39 percent. Poll evidence suggests most Poles have doubts about church teachings on issues like clerical celibacy, contraception and extra-marital relationships. The country's bishops insist there's no popular support for liberal changes. Today, as before, Poland's clergy see their task as safeguarding the church's dominant role and holding the line against Western-style secularization. This task was made easier by the 2015 election of a center-right president and government, but some caution is necessary. Poland's bishops have been careful not to identify directly with chairman Jaroslaw Kaczyński's controversial center-right Law and Justice party (PIS), which holds an absolute majority of 234 places in Poland's 460-seat Sejm lower house.Returned to power last October, the party has claimed a mandate for sweeping reforms -- designed, backers say, to break the previous Civic Platform government's stranglehold over the economy, administration, justice and the media. Kaczyński's opponents accused him of monopolizing power and took their case to the European Union, which agreed to investigate a possible "systemic threat" to fundamental EU values. But his supporters say European institutions are being deliberately misled by the Civic Platform, whose former leader, ex-Prime Minister Donald Tusk, now heads the European Council. Tusk's own government helped the well-off prosper at the expense of the excluded and marginalized, they allege, and created a web of powerful interests which now seeks to sabotage the Law and Justice party government.Although Kaczyński's government has sought the church's blessing, scrapping state funding of in vitro fertilization and backing legislation to ban all abortions, Catholic commentators say the Polish bishops have kept their distance, urging national unity instead, and calling on rival factions to tone down their rhetoric.In the bishops' conservative interpretation of Catholic teaching, however, there's been no hint of change. Polish media have regularly cited reservations about Pope Francis' reformist statements, and say the teachings of St. John Paul II, 11 years after his death, are invoked more readily and willingly. That overriding loyalty to the canonized pontiff was showcased at Rome's Synod of Bishops last October, when the Polish church's chief representative, Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, condemned "feelings of false compassion" towards "mistaken modes of thought," and rejected any rethink on marriage, divorce and homosexuality.When the pope's 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, invited Catholics to be "bold and creative" in "rethinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization," it was given a frosty reception in Poland. And when a follow-up exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, was published this March, conceding "the need for continued open discussion," the reaction was similarly lukewarm. Polish church spokesmen point out that the pope hasn't changed Catholic teaching itself. Amoris Laetitia stipulates that each national church can "seek solutions" suited to its "traditions and local needs" -- and that counts for conservatives as much as for liberals. But they doubt whether the Argentinian pontiff fully understands the church's difficulties in Europe, and fear his calls to tolerance and inclusiveness could relativize key aspects of Catholic doctrine.Poland's church has also differed starkly from the pope when it comes to his calls for hospitality towards migrants and refugees. In June, after months of international criticism, the Poland Bishops Conference modified its position and concurred that local parishes should help set up "humanitarian corridors" for those seeking shelter from the Middle East and Africa. The pope referred to the "complex phenomenon of migration" in his first address in Poland, urging "a spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger." In this and other areas, however, disagreements clearly remain. Just before Francis' arrival, one Polish weekly, Przeglad, ran a cover story titled "This isn't our pope." Glabisz-Pniewska thinks the pontiff's World Youth Day presence delivered a forceful challenge, making it harder for local bishops to resist his new direction. The pope was said to be shocked at some of the archaic practices he encountered in Poland, such as the price lists for sacraments which are still displayed in some Catholic parishes. She believes his unscripted exhortation to World Youth Day volunteers at the end of the visit -- "memory, courage and future" -- is the kind of message the Polish church needs, enabling it to uphold its historic role while modernizing and looking ahead."The pope represents a completely different mentality when it comes to the church's place in daily life -- and as someone from outside, he may not grasp the extent of the differences," the Radio commentator told NCR. "But he'll certainly have taken many ordinary Polish Catholics along with him. People like this were moved by his words and gestures, and felt he understood their needs. There'll be pressure from below to abandon the bad practices which persist here."It was Pope Francis' 90-minute meeting with the 117-member Bishops Conference in Krakow's Wawel Castle just after his July 27 arrival which provoked the most speculation. Perhaps fearing a confrontation, the meeting was held privately behind closed doors. A partial transcript, released by the Vatican six days later, suggested Pope Francis had indeed laid down some challenges.The pope pleased conservatives by condemning "gender theory," long an object of Polish church concerns, and warning against "an increasingly secularized and de-Christianized culture leaves people orphaned." And when asked by Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Lodz for advice on how the Polish church could "stay faithful to its thousand-year Christian tradition," he duly cautioned against a "subjective spirituality without Christ." But Pope Francis also urged clergy to be less aloof and impatient, a charge often levelled against them in Poland, and to "go out looking for people." He also warned against "parishes with closed doors," and called on priests to visit their parishioners -- something barely known in Poland.Pope Francis returned to the refugee issue as well, when told by the bishops how "fear of a possible invasion" had "paralyzed society." Every country had to consider its own "situation and culture," the pope replied. However, there was still an "absolute need" to maintain "an open heart ready to receive." How will Poland's bishops respond?Among the many voices raised in praise of the pope's World Youth Day guidance, the president of Europe's Justice and Peace Commissions, Archbishop Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg, told NCR he believed Francis had spoken "the language of the Gospel, but not in complex theological terms," revealing that God's love was "for everyone equally." Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston told NCR he was impressed by the huge numbers attending the festival, and sure the pope's "resonating messages" would strengthen their "experience of the church's catholicity." In Poland, however, the practical implications are still being considered.The country's prime minister, Beata Szydlo, has already ruled out changes to her government's policy on refugees, insisting the pontiff's appeal for "an open heart" does not have to mean offering them shelter.Gadecki, the bishops conference president, has announced plans for a national Rome pilgrimage this October to express "our gratitude, loyalty and filial piety." The pope's task was to "care for the unity, wholeness and inviolability of Christ's teaching," Gadecki cautioned, and set out general principles for the local church to interpret and apply as it thinks best. "We agreed with the pope our attitude and behavior must be based on Gospel values -- and the Holy Father has helped us think how best to do this," he told NCR. "But the Holy Father acts on the principle that general issues are difficult to settle in every individual case. This is why he speaks about decentralization, so a Bishops Conference in a particular country can formulate its own perspective." In a glowing tribute to his Polish hosts at a general audience three days after leaving Krakow, Pope Francis praised the country's "holy, faithful people" for helping preserve Europe's "founding values" -- but also for seeking a wise balance "between tradition and innovation, the past and the future." But some Catholics think that sums up the problems facing the Polish church. With a firm grip over their country's Catholic media, and a strong influence in secular debates, the Polish bishops have so far largely controlled how the pope's initiatives are reported and received. This will be less easy now that Pope Francis has been seen and heard by local people. While no bishop will risk criticizing the pontiff directly, some prominent Catholics may well begin to argue in support of his reforms. The country's regimented and submissive church may well be facing turbulent times."Having always stressed the pope's infallibility under St. John Paul II and deterred any debate on papal pronouncements, the church can't now openly question the actions of his successor -- though some bishops clearly disagree with him, they've no way of expressing this," explained Glabisz-Pniewska, the Catholic radio presenter. "Most have no intention of changing their policies and practices, and will merely go on doing what they've always done. But this may become harder now that ordinary people have encountered the pope for themselves."
Sep 12 16 11:19 AM
Sep 27 16 1:31 AM
Pope Francis 16th journey outside of Italy from September 30 to October 2 to two countries, Georgia and Azerbaijan, where Catholics are a small minority, will be a difficult one. In Georgia, in fact, Catholics are just 112 thousand out of a population of over 3.5 million and in Azerbaijan they are just 570, or 0.01 per cent of the nearly 10 million inhabitants.Beyond the numbers, they are two very different realities. Georgia is the country where over 80 percent of the inhabitants are Christians, but the Orthodox Church is particularly “intransigent” on its principles. This is demonstrated by its decision not to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council that was held in Crete in June this year and the fact that between the Patriarch Ilia II and the Pope there will be no joint prayer.The patriarch, however, will be at Tbilisi airport. This was announced by the director of the Vatican press office, Greg Burke, who described the visit today. "Of course - he said – it is a journey of peace. The Pope carries a message of reconciliation for the whole region. It will be the first time that an Orthodox delegation will participate in the Mass presided by the Holy Father ".In short, things will go a bit' better the visit by John Paul II in November 1999, when a penance was imposed on those who had attended the celebrations and meetings with the Pope.Instead Azerbaijan is a Muslim country and Francis, as John Paul II did before him, is going there for reasons of inter-religious relations, and political and diplomatic reasons, due to the decades-long conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.The Pope will leave Friday morning and will arrive in Tbilisi at 15 (local time). After the welcoming ceremony and the traditional courtesy visit to President Giorgi Margvelashvili and with the Georgian authorities, Francis will travel to the palace to meet with Catholicos Patriarch Elijah II.The last appointment of the day, a visit to the Chaldean Catholic church of St. Simon Bar Sabbae, where he will attend the Chaldean Synod, namely the episcopate of the Eastern Church in communion with Rome widespread mainly in Iraq and the Middle East. In the church of St. Simon Bar Sabbae Pope Francis will preside at a prayer service to express closeness to the Syrian and Iraqi peoples.The next day, Saturday, October 1, Francis will celebrate Mass in M. Meskhi stadium. Subsequently, in the church of the Assumption, he will meet priests, religious and seminarians and in the Camillians Service Center he will meet with those assisted by the Church's charitable works as well as the operators. The last appointment of the day, a visit to the Patriarchal Cathedral of Svetitskhoveli in Mtskheta.On Sunday, October 2, the Pope will leave Georgia for Azerbaijan. The arrival in Baku is scheduled at 9:30 am, local time. Francis will travel to the church of the Salesian Center in Baku, where he will celebrate Mass.After lunch, in the Presidential Palace Ganjlik there will be the official ceremony of welcome and the visit to the President of the Republic Ilham Aliyev. The Pope will then visit the war of independence memorial ' and local authorities.At 17.45, he is expected to hold a private meeting with the Sheikh of Caucasus Muslims in the mosque "Heydar Aliyev", followed by an interfaith meeting with representatives of the communities present in the country. It will be the last event of the trip. The Pope’s departure is scheduled for 19:15, and the arrival in Rome for 22.00.
Sep 29 16 12:59 AM
Pope Francis this weekend is visiting Georgia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics radically different from each other, in what’s perceived as the closing of his Caucasus tour after his visit to Armenia last June.Georgia is a country with a Christian Orthodox majority and in constant friction with Russia, while Azerbaijan has a Shi’a Muslim majority and a long-standing dispute with Armenia over the province of Nagorno-Karabakh.Pope Francis is expected to bring up the issues of peace, solidarity and reconciliation throughout the Sept. 31-Oct 2 visit, making the pitch at both religious and political levels.As Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s top diplomat, said speaking to the Vatican’s Television Center this week, these lands have a “particular richness and liveliness, but at the same time they suffer from particular strains, lacerations.”“The message of the pope will really be an invitation to do what he often says: don’t turn differences into sources of conflict, but of mutual enrichment,” he said.The motto of the papal visit for Georgia will be “We are all brothers,” which has an evident ecumenical undertone, and for Azerbaijan “Pax vobis,” which translates to “peace to you.”Hence the trip presents itself as a sensitive one, where locals might hope for the pope to address some long-standing disputes, but which Francis might choose to skip to avoid adding fuel to the fire or being perceived as taking sides.The numbersAlthough comparisons are difficult, there are some statistics of both countries worth looking into ahead of this trip, the 16th of Francis’s papacy, and the 23rd and 24th countries he visits, respectively.The two countries have welcomed a pope once before, St. John Paul II, who visited Georgia in 1999 and Azerbaijan in 2002.In Georgia, the Eastern Orthodox make up 84 percent of the population, Muslims 10 percent, Apostolic Armenians close to three, and Catholics less than one. In Azerbaijan, 96 percent of the population is Muslim, 63 percent of which is Shi’a while 33 percent Sunni. Catholics represent 0.01 percent of the total.This makes Azerbaijan the country with the smallest Catholic community Francis has visited to date. It has, quite literally, less than 300 people. According to Google flights, it would be cheaper to fly every Catholic Azerbaijani to Rome ($118,872 for a return flight) than flying the pope to them ($141,655, based on what journalists flying with him are paying).Georgia’s Catholic community is a bit bigger, though with 110,000 people Catholics are still overwhelmingly a minority. With 32 parishes, the former Soviet nation has one Church for every 3,500 people, one bishop for every 55,000, a priest for every 4,000 and a religious sister for every 3,000.Azerbaijan, in the other hand, has one parish in total, no bishop, only seven priests and seven religious sisters.Francis will spend two nights in Georgia and 11 hours in Azerbaijan, delivering 10 addresses in total, three of them during the last leg of the trip.The pope will also celebrate two public Masses, one in each country.What to look for in GeorgiaUpon arriving in the country’s capital city of Tbilisi, Francis will first meet political leaders, including President Giorgi Margvelashvili. He will also hold separate meetings with the leader of the Orthodox Church in Georgia, Patriarch Ilia II, and the Assyrian Chaldean community.A Vatican spokesman said earlier in the week that the pope’s visit to the Chaldean Catholic Church of St. Shemon Bar Sabbae was a sign of support to Catholics in Syria and Iraq amidst the ongoing wars, something Francis spoke about on Wednesday, when he said that those bombing civilians in Aleppo will “face God’s judgement.”At least 13 Chaldean bishops will participate in this prayer service. They will be flying to Georgia after their synod, held in Erbil, Iraq, from Sept. 21-28.Francis and Ilia will exchange a greeting and deliver speeches - yet, as was the case when John Paul II visited the country, the two won’t pray together. In fact, the pope will be received by his religious counterpart as a “head of state.”Although Pope Francis is not expected to address the issues directly during his meeting with Marvelashvili, the matter of the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia since the Russo-Georgian War in 2008 will be in the air.A major part of the international community, including the United States and the European Union consider these to be occupied territories and have condemned the Russian military presence there.Sources have told Crux that although with Francis one has to “expect the unexpected,” he’ll probably refrain from using the term “occupation” choosing instead to speak of “territorial integrity,” an expression Benedict XVI sometimes used.It’s worth mentioning however, that ahead of his visit to Armenia a papal spokesman suggested Francis wouldn’t use the politically loaded term term “genocide,” yet he did.A term he will probably use, and more than once, is “refugee,” not necessarily referring to the European crisis, which has long been dubbed the worst since World War II, but to the 300,000 internally displaced persons in Georgia, a product of the 2008 war.Something else that’s expected to happen during the pope’s visit to one of the first countries to adopt Christianity as a state religion, back in the fourth century, is the protest of some Gregorian Orthodox priests and ultranationalist movements.According to Georgia Today, some have already held a rally outside the Vatican Embassy in Tbilisi to protest the pope’s visit, claiming that it was an affront to the purity of the Georgian Orthodox faith and an insult to the Georgian people.The news site quotes Avtandil Ungiadze, one of the organizers of the rally, who claimed the protesters were there to “preserve the reputation of the true church,” and vowed to bar Pope Francis from entering the 11th century Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in nearby Mtskheta.Francis will visit the cathedral on Saturday, after celebrating Mass at the Meski stadium. Although the Catholicos won’t attend, it’ll be the first time in modern history that a delegation from the Gregorian Orthodox Church participates in a papal Mass.What to look for in AzerbaijanFrancis’s visit to this country will be his first to a majority Shi’ite nation.During his 11-hour visit to the capital, Baku, Francis will meet local authorities and celebrate Mass.Yet a central moment of the day will be his meeting with the Grand Mufti of the Caucasus region, Allahshukur Pashazadeh, one of the most influential Muslims in the world. The two will take part in an interfaith encounter with Baku’s Orthodox bishop and with the president of the local Jewish community.Talking at the 3rd International Forum “Religion and Peace,” the imam strongly condemned the acts of ISIS and similar organizations with their “pseudo-religious” ideas. “God won’t forgive their inhumane acts,” he said.After the years of Soviet rule, Catholicism was officially recognized in Azerbaijan in 2002, following John Paul’s visit. It was only after this papal trip that the task of rebuilding St Mary’s Catholic Church, destroyed by communist authorities in the 1930s, was allowed. This makes the church where Francis will celebrate Mass only nine years old.For centuries Christians, Muslims and Jews have lived peacefully in the country, with no religiously-motivated fights recorded to date. It’s actually common practice for Christians and Muslims to exchange visits on the occasion of religious feasts, and Muslims even provided financial aid for Catholics to rebuild the Salesian-run lone church.Just as he did when visiting Armenia earlier in the year, the pope is expected to address the two countries long-standing conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in passing, speaking of the need for peace and reconciliation without actually mentioning the disputed region, where more than 70 soldiers were killed in April.The previous papal visitsIn modern times, both countries received one papal visit each.John Paul II went to Tbilisi in 1999, where he, as Francis will do, celebrated only one public Mass for the country’s small Catholic community. Reports from that time say an estimated ten-thousand people, a fifth of the country’s Catholics back then, attended the service.Despite the Polish pope’s calls for closer links between the two Christian churches, there was no Orthodox delegation participating in the Mass, something that is expected to happen this time around.During his homily, John Paul told the newly freed former Soviet nation birth place of Joseph Stalin, that without God, man is unable to find true happiness.“Without God, man ends up, in fact, going against himself, because he is unable to build a social order sufficiently respectful of the fundamental rights of the person and of civic coexistence.”His encounter with the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, the same who will welcome Francis, visibly illustrated the lingering obstacles to John Paul’s longtime dream of Christian unity.While the Catholic leader spoke of his desire to promote reconciliation between the two churches, Ilia II addressed the pope as a visiting head of state and spoke of “friendly relations” between the two “countries.”In an odd reversal of roles, it was President Eduard Shevardnadze, a former Soviet foreign minister who was baptized in the Orthodox Church in 1992, who pressed for the papal visit and persuaded the patriarch to consent.During his 2002 visit to Azerbaijan, the Polish pope focused on the issue of religious coexistence in many of his addresses.For instance, talking to religious and political leaders, he said: “Despite the differences between us [Jewish, Christians and Muslims], together we feel called to foster ties of mutual esteem and benevolence.”After saying that religion “must not serve to increase rivalry and hatred, but to promote love and peace,” John Paul II promised that as long as he had breath within him he shall cry out: “Peace, in the name of God!”
Sep 29 16 1:51 PM
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