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Dec 1 15 2:00 PM
AP/Crux - Pope Francis says he hopes to add the key Mexico-US border city of Ciudad Juárez to his Mexico itinerary next year, confirming that his trip will have a strong immigration theme.Speaking to reporters en route home from Africa on Monday, Francis said he would begin his trip in the capital, Mexico City, to pray before the Virgin of Guadalupe “the mother of the Americas.”He said he planned to visit Chiapas on Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, where many Central African migrants pass through en route to the United States. He said he was “almost sure” that he would end his visit in Ciudad Juárez, on Mexico’s northern border with the United States. In between, he said, he would stop in Morelia.Church officials have said the trip will begin Feb. 12.Francis also said he planned to return to Brazil in 2017 to mark a special feast of the Virgin of Aparecida, and that other countries on that trip are likely. He has yet to return to his native Argentina, and a planned Argentina-Uruguay-Chile trip rumored for 2016 has apparently been scrapped.In other travel, Francis said he has promised the patriarchs of Armenia that he would visit, but no date has been discussed.
Dec 13 15 4:27 AM
Pope Francis Visit to Juarez Will Include Cross-Border MassAccording to Chicago's Catholic Extention society, Pope Francis plans to celebrate an afternoon Mass near the U.S.-Mexico border during his visit to Ciudad Juárez in Mexico on Feb. 17. The 4 p.m. Mass will be celebrated at the Benito Juárez Stadium "right next to the border." The Mass will be the culmination of the pope's visit to Mexico. Also today the Diocese of El Paso, Texas announced that the Mass will include a cross-border component, adding that those details are still being worked out.According to a statement at its website: "The Diocese of El Paso is working with local, state and federal agencies to celebrate the Papal Mass at the U.S/Mexico border, specifically along Loop 375/César Chávez Highway within eyesight of the Papal Mass. Because of the anticipated crowds for this Mass, remote locations are also under consideration."Parishes in the two U.S. dioceses across the Rio Grande river from Juárez—El Paso and Las Cruces, New Mexico—will also receive tickets for their parishioners to attend the Mass in Juárez. Pope Francis’ plan to celebrate Mass at the border is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from both the U.S. and Mexico. The Catholic Extention release suggests it "will be a significant milestone of the trip’s itinerary."Today's update on the pope's itinerary during his Mexico visit still leaves open the question of whether or not the pope's proximity to the border suggests that he will make a personal visit to the border fence at Juarez. A spokesperson for Catholic Extention would only say, "These details are in the discussion phase. We have no specific information that we can confirm as of now."In the past Pope Francis has demonstrated a flair for the spontaneoous and dramatic during such high-profile visits. During a trip to the West Bank in May 2014, the pope paused in prayer before a security wall separating Palestinians from Israelis at Bethlehem. Catholic Extension, a Chicago-based papal society with a long history of providing crucial support to El Paso and the other Catholic dioceses at the U.S.-Mexico border, reports that it will be working with the El Paso diocese to plan the papal-visit events on the U.S. side of the border. Catholics make up 80 percent of the total population in the territory of the El Paso diocese—the third highest percentage in the country.Bishop Mark Seitz, who heads the Diocese of El Paso said he was “thrilled” to learn of the plans for the pope’s visit and added, “We hope that in a special way Pope Francis’ visit to this region will give voice to these often voiceless people here on the border, especially children and families who are the most vulnerable. And we hope that his presence will facilitate a much-needed national dialogue that will help unite our own country around a compassionate response to the poor in our midst.”He also highlighted the fact that the Vatican chose December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to officially announce the pope’s visit. Our Lady of Guadalupe is the “Patroness of the Americas,” whose devotion began in Mexico but who today unites Catholics across the entire hemisphere of the Americas.In a statement posted at the diocesan website, Bishop Seitz said, "We are thrilled that Pope Francis will make a stop through this border region. Bishop Jose Torres of Juarez and I, along with Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, N.M., enjoy a particularly close relationship as the bishops of the three dioceses located in this one metropolitan area."In spite of the borders and boundaries that exist, we see ourselves as one great Catholic community, and so we are immensely grateful and honored that our Universal Pastor, Pope Francis, has chosen to come to our area. We have many hopes for what this visit will accomplish."The bishop said the pope's visit "will undoubtedly call attention to many realities that are lived on both sides of the U.S. – Mexico border, particularly the plight of so many migrants and refugees fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries, in search of better lives for themselves and their children.""The Diocese of El Paso is very active in responding to the challenges of migrants and refugees, in collaboration with local U.S. immigration officials, to ensure that the most vulnerable in our midst (especially children and families) are clothed, housed, and loved," he said. "We hope that in a special way, Pope Francis’ visit to this region will give voice to these often voiceless people." Bishop Seitz added that he hoped the pope's presence at the border might "facilitate a much-needed national dialogue that will help unite our own country around a compassionate response to the poor in our midst."Father Jack Wall, president of Catholic Extension, said “Having worked closely with the dioceses on the U.S. side of the border for many years, Catholic Extension is pleased to be lending its assistance and resources to help Bishop Seitz and the El Paso diocese with the planning for this momentous event. We look forward to being of help in fulfilling Pope Francis’ dream of visiting the border, and know that his presence will shine a warm and loving glow on all ‘the joys and the hopes and the griefs and the anxieties’ the people—and the church—are experiencing there.”“In building up the faith among the poor,” said Father Wall, “we are answering the Gospel call to serve ‘the least of our brothers and sisters’ and the Gospel mandate of the ‘preferential option for the poor,’ which is a cornerstone of Catholic social teaching. During his visit to the border, Pope Francis will undoubtedly show us the way.”According to the El Paso diocese, Pope Francis will arrive at the Juarez airport on Feb. 17 at approximately 10:30 a.m MST.From there, he will travel via motorcade to Cereso prison where he will meet and pray with several inmates.The Pope’s next expected stop will be Colegio Bachilleres where he will be met by approximately 3,600 business leaders and workers.Pope Francis will then travel to the Seminary for a private lunch and rest before celebrating Mass at 4 p.m. at El Punto, a large field near Benito Juarez Stadium. El Punto holds about 220,000 people and tickets will be provided to parishes on both sides of the border for those who want to attend Mass in Juarez.The pope’s travels through the city streets of Juarez will provide an estimated 50 km of opportunity for the faithful to greet His Holiness.
Jan 20 16 8:26 AM
Fiat from Pope Francis' U.S. visit to be auctionedThe tiny black Fiat 500L that ferried Pope Francis to the White House and Congress during his historic first visit to the United States will be auctioned in Philadelphia next week, officials said on Wednesday.The car, which the 79-year-old Pontiff chose as a symbol of his concern for the environment and desire to put aside some of the rich trappings long associated with his office, will be auctioned off on Jan. 29, said organizers of last year's World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, organizers said. The car will then go on display at the Philadelphia Auto Show, officials said.The Fiat was one of two vehicles the Argentina-born Pontiff used during his visit to the Washington, New York and Philadelphia. The other was a white Jeep with open sides known as a "Popemobile" that allowed Francis to kiss babies as he passed.Amid heavy security and typically surrounded by the large, armored black limousines and SUVs preferred by traveling American politicians, the Fiat was conspicuous for its small size and ever-open rear window from which the Pope waved to crowds.Thousands of Americans, both followers of the Catholic religion and the curious, packed into the streets of the three cities during Francis' September visit, during which he also addressed the United Nations and met with prisoners and homeless people.
Jan 23 16 8:46 PM
Pope Francis will travel to Colombia in 2017, president of the Episcopal Conference in that country, Luis Augusto Castro, announced Saturday after meeting with the pontiff in the Vatican."The conclusions (of the meeting) are not so extraordinary but they are certain. The first is that the pope will definitely go to Colombia. He simply reaffirmed his pleasure at visiting us in Colombia," he said.He said the second conclusion of the meeting is that Jorge Bergoglio's visit to the Latin American nation "will only be possible in the first or second quarter" of 2017, because "his agenda this year is full."Castro added that "the pope wants to meet with the largest possible number of Colombians who want to hear him and be with him.""We're not going to pick a sanctuary in some little private place. No. He wants to be accessible to the greatest number of Colombians possible," he told the press.He added that it is "almost certain" he will visit Quibdo in the western province of Choco."He wants to meet with ethnic minorities, with those of African descent. So I believe that is settled. The rest has to be worked out," the head of the Episcopal Conference, who is also the archbishop of Tunja, said."The pope wants to do so much, he told us, he also wants to visit other places. He said 'Brazil is waiting for me and Argentina is yelling.' But Colombia is the priority," he laughed.As for the peace process between the Colombian government and the guerrillas, Castro Quiroga said "the pope is very interested in the matter" but "the peace process won't influence his visit."Taking part in the papal audience besides Castro were the archbishop of Bogota, Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez; Msgr. Oscar Urbina Ortega, the archbishop of Villavicencio and vice president of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia; and the secretary general of the conference, Jose Daniel Falla Robles, bishop of Calama and auxiliary bishop of Cali. EFE
Jan 24 16 5:25 AM
In Mexico, a carpenter for three popes awaits FrancisCarpenter Agustin Parra Echauri has worked for two pontiffs, and now his employees are busy hand-carving chairs and an altar for Pope Francis, set to arrive in Mexico in February.The 55-year--old entrepreneur is among a few carpenters tasked with making furniture and other artifacts for the pope's February 12-17 visit."It's a great surprise because this means that we will have worked for three popes. We take great pride in this," Parra said.Working in a brick building in Zapopan, a town outside the western city of Guadalajara, Parra was first approached by Roman Catholic church officials to work for the 1999 visit by Pope John Paul II.Church officials liked his work, for he was hired again for Pope Benedict XVI's visit in 2012.His craftsmen are now chiseling and polishing eight objects that will be used during Francis's first visit to Mexico, the country with the world's second largest number of Catholics after Brazil.The three popes had different tastes. For John Paul, there were baroque and Renaissance pieces with gold leaf finish. Benedict had more modern artifacts with a smooth, white finish.Francis, who has been dubbed the "pope of the poor," inspired Parra to make more modest articles."It will have a very simple finish, something baroque ... very easy and simple but elegant," Parra said, speaking from a workshop packed with religious paintings, wooden saints and sculptures of angels.Three seats are being made for the pope, President Enrique Pena Nieto and first lady Angelica Rivera, for their meeting at the National Palace in Mexico City.Mexican sculptor Agustin Parra's craftsmen are now chiseling and polishing eight objects that will be used during Francis's first visit to Mexico, the country with the world's second largest number of Catholics after BrazilParra was also asked to make the coats of arms of the Vatican and Mexico, as well as an altar and a pair of paintings."To know that we are creating something that the Holy Father will use is something that fills us with joy, something that I can't describe with words," he said.Three popes, three pictures?Parra's workshop makes statues and paintings for priests and other people, but their current job is focused on the pope's visit.On one side of the building, a woman chiseled designs on the Vatican coat of arms. Elsewhere, a man carved the back of one of the chairs."Each piece takes time and complete dedication. The patience and care that we dedicate to it is reflected in the final product," Parra said.He grabbed two pictures in his office, one showing him bowing in front of John Paul II and the other shaking the hand of Benedict XVI. He wants to get a third picture, this time with Francis."I hope he likes the work so that I can salute him and see him up close so that we can take a picture," he said. "If it's possible, it will go on this wall."
Jan 29 16 5:15 AM
Reuters - Pope Francis is expected to visit the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz during his visit to Poland in July, the Vatican said.The Vatican spokesman, speaking during the presentation of a book by a 90-year-old Italian Holocaust survivor on Wednesday night, said the visit was "highly probable".Francis will be in the southern Polish city of Krakow in July for an international jamboree of Catholic youth.Auschwitz, which is the German name for the Polish town of Oswiecim where the camp is located, is about 65 km (40.39 miles)from Krakow.Both of Francis' predecessors, Pope Benedict, a German, and Pope John Paul, a Pole, visited Auschwitz during their pontificates.Francis visited Rome's synagogue earlier this month and said the Holocaust, in which some 6 million Jews were killed, should remind everyone of the need for the "maximum vigilance" in the defense of human rights.
Feb 10 16 5:49 PM
The Vatican is working on a possible papal visit to Armenia, the country which last year marked the centenary of the “Great Evil”, the massacre carried out by the Ottoman empire. Francis hopes to fly to the country soon and his journey could include stopovers in two former Soviet republics in the Caucasus, Georgia and Azerbaijan. The possible date for the visit was originally June but it would have clashed with the pan-Orthodox Synod, making the visit practically impossible: it would have meant the Pope going to Georgia, an Orthodox country, while the local Church’s Patriarch was at the Synod assembly in Crete. The potential papal visit to Armenia is a delicate affair, partly because of the Holy See’s relations with Turkey. Normality in relations was restored in recent days when the Turkish ambassador to the Holy See returned to Rome again following the crisis that broke out last year when the Pope repeated John Paul II’s words on “the first genocide of the 20th century” at the celebrations for the centenary of the Armenian slaughter in 1915. In recent days, the Turkish authorities expressed their profound appreciation at the fact that a Vatican communiqué no longer used that word but referred to it instead as the “tragic events” of 1915. Pope Francis has wanted to visit Armenian for some time now. He wanted to wait until after his visit to Turkey and avoided going during the centenary of the “Great Evil” last year.
Mar 3 16 5:32 AM
The move looks set to boost the morale of the country's beleaguered Christian minority.Pope Francis is set to visit Pakistan this year after accepting an invitation from the country’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, according to the Pakistani government.News of the visit was confirmed by the Vatican on Wednesday, the Dawn newspaper reported.The invitation was reportedly passed on by Sardar Yusuf, Pakistan’s minister for religious affairs and Kamran Michael, the ports and shipping minister, during a meeting with the Pope in Rome as part of a high-level delegation.The head of the Catholic Church also offered prayers for the South Asian nation and its citizens who have been killed by terrorism.Christians make up about 1.6% of Muslim-majority Pakistan’s population, and have been targeted in the past, particularly under the country’s controversial blasphemy laws.
Mar 11 16 6:51 AM
Aboard the papal plane, fun and games abound Vatican City, March 3, 2016 - At the beginning of each trip aboard the papal plane, Jorge Mario Bergoglio greets every single journalist onboard. He spends a little time with each, shaking every hand warmly. He hugs those he knows personally. Many pose for selfies, others present him with little gifts. Bergoglio, better known as Pope Francis, looks at cellphone photos of kids’ birthday parties, watches grandkids singing songs on tablets. Francis is patient and kind. When some request a prayer, he asks for the person’s name and promises to pray for him or her.Things have changed aboard the papal plane: The atmosphere is now decidedly less uptight, and, at times, can get downright playful. We could chalk it down to the Francis effect. Or perhaps that even the strictest and most serious vaticanologists need some R&R after long and intense days as part of the papal cavalry.On this flight from Rome to Mexico, Pope Francis lets one journalist shine his shoes. To pay for his first communion robes as a child, the journalist had to shine shoes in the street. With this gesture, he wants to thank the pope for all he does for the poor, for people from the streets.Some journalists think that this closeness with Pope Francis sometimes goes too far – that the line between journalism and religion has blurred. But they nevertheless welcome the relationship.On some occasions, we’ll happen to celebrate someone’s birthday with the pope onboard the plane. We’ll bring in a cake and the pope will applaud along with everybody else. He never seems to be bored or bothered by it.On the way back from Mexico, there is a party for Alberto Gasbarri. It’s his last trip. The man is an institution: forever at the pope’s right-hand, Gasbarri has organized 30 years’ worth of trips. He was there for John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis.Numerous veterans of the Vatican press corps pay their tributes, and the pope adds one of his own: “Many thanks. He has given me countless good advice! He does have one flaw: He doesn’t really know how to calculate in kilometers!”Feeling like “Daniel in the lions’ den.”At the beginning of his papacy, Francis wasn’t always this comfortable. On his very first trip, for the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013, he said he feared journalists and felt like “Daniel in the lions’ den.” But on the return trip, he realized that these lions did not bite. Since then, he hasn’t stopped praising the “hard work of journalists,” highlighting how important it is that they accurately report his words and the work he does in matters of peace and reconciliation.“Thank you very much for your work,” he says often. “Do what you can! Thank you very much, thank you.”Sometimes, he confides in us, as if speaking to close friends. After leaving Rome at dawn because we had to stop at Havana airport for several extra hours to witness an intense history-making meeting between the pope and Patriach Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Pope Francis admits to fatigue. “Now, 23 km on the open popemobile awaits,” he says with a tired smile, just before we land in Mexico, referring to the journey between the airport and our destination.Correspondent Priscilla Quiroga takes a Papal selfie.Associated PressJesuit authorityThe traditional press conferences Pope Francis holds with the press corps aboard the plane on his return trips are also unconventional. In marked contrast to his predecessor, Benedict XVI, Pope Francis doesn’t know journalists’ questions in advance. He lets them ask him anything, preferring to be frank without losing his Jesuit authority.On the return flight, a journalist asks the pope whether he dreams in Spanish or Italian. Pope Francis, the grandchild of Italian immigrants born in Argentina, responds: “In Esperanto!”Trump “is not Christian”He tells her of his dream to visit China. Not always cautious, he says that U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “is not Christian” if he wants to build a wall on the border between Mexico and the United States. Ever the Jesuit, Pope Francis immediately clarifies and says he gives Trump “the benefit of the doubt” in case Trump’s words were wrongly reported. (Ironically enough, Trump's statement was accurately reported, while it was the Pope's that was taken out of context.)But the pope’s statement is sure to become headline news worldwide, just as in January 2015, when, on his return from the Philippines, he said that Catholics were not called on to breed “like rabbits.” On that trip, he also said that it would be normal for someone who insulted his mother to expect “a punch.”For journalists, trips with Francis offer regular moments for laughter and great humor. On landing at the airport in Kampala on a November trip to Uganda, for example, some journalists, lured by the traditional dances, also started dancing on their side.A pillow fight on the Pope's flightThere are others times when the papal press corps, due to fatigue, has completely let go: After a visit to Morelia, a town north of Mexico City, when a pillow fight unexpectedly broke out aboard as we left Mexico.The day has been a long one: up at 4 a.m., arrival by plane, bus transfers to the destination, long waits in press rooms with unreliable wifi, stops at two packed stadiums near galleries with thundering throngs… And we’re not finished: back at the hotel, we’ll have to wait for the day’s detailed report by Father Federico Lombardi, the Jesuit priest who acts as the pope’s spokesman. The day will again end too late for me to grab a drink with my colleagues!The plane waits for the arrival of the pope on the tarmac of the tiny airport in Morelia, the overhead bag compartments full of little presents the pope has received over the course of the day. A multicolor sombrero and a cross of Christ in a crude Sulpician style add a touch of Fellini to the whole.A colleague makes some of us laugh with a photo he took of the very serious Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the second in line at the Vatican to Pope Francis, hugging a huge mascot – a priest dressed as a giant teddy bear – during a ceremony for hundreds of children in Morelia’s cathedral.Add to this scene a shot of tequila swallowed in one gulp and happy hour begins: one pillow flies through the air. And then another. During a minute, the little cushions that flight attendants give out to passengers fly at noses and blindside the heads of one and all. Like high-schoolers, Vatican’s finest, men and women, engage in a pillow fight.Domenico Giani, the Inspector General of the Vatican’s police and security force, arrives. A pillow hits him on his bald head. Undeterred, he picks it up. This man who is under daily pressure by his boss to engage directly with the people, launches it back, smiling.
Mar 15 16 4:14 AM
Pope Francis will visit the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau during a July 27-31 visit to Poland for the celebration of World Youth Day, the Polish bishops announced.Up to 2.5 million young people from around the world, as well as 20,000 priests and 1,200 bishops, are expected at the July 26-31 youth gathering in Krakow, which is less than 50 miles from the site of the death camp.While the Vatican confirmed the dates of Pope Francis’ trip to Poland, it released no details of the itinerary.Announcing a preliminary schedule March 12, the Polish bishops’ conference said Pope Francis’ visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau will include prayers at the camp’s “Death Wall,” where prisoners were executed, and a stop at the nearby death cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who died there in 1941. The pope is expected to address Jewish and other faith representatives and camp survivors at the Holocaust memorial at Birkenau.The Auschwitz tour, which follows visits by St John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, will fall on the presumed anniversary of the decision by Conventual Franciscan Father Kolbe to offer his life for another prisoner.That evening, in Krakow’s Blonia Park, Pope Francis will lead a Way of the Cross service.“While this visit’s direct purpose is the World Youth Day in Krakow, he’s also been invited to our homeland,” said Auxiliary Bishop Artur Mizinski of Lublin, general secretary of the bishops’ conference. “It’s a great joy our overwhelmingly Catholic society will be able to unite the visit’s ecclesiastical, spiritual and pastoral dimension with social, cultural and political aspects of our Polish reality.”Pope Francis will be welcomed to Poland July 27 by President Andrzej Duda at Krakow’s Wawel Royal Castle and will address Poland’s 117-member bishops’ conference the same evening, before greeting young people from the window of the Krakow archbishop’s Franciszkanska Street residence.The pope is scheduled to travel by helicopter July 28 to Poland’s Jasna Gora national sanctuary in nearby Czestochowa for an open-air Mass marking the 1,050th anniversary of Poland’s conversion to Christianity.In the evening, at Blonia Park, he is expected to have his first formal meeting with participants in World Youth Day, which has as a theme, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”At the Divine Mercy center in Krakow’s Lagiewniki suburb July 30, the pope will pray before the relics of St. Faustina Kowalska and celebrate Mass for clergy, seminarians and members of religious orders.After hearing the confessions of some World Youth Day participants at Lagiewniki’s St. John Paul II Sanctuary, Pope Francis will have dinner with a group of young people from around the world.The traditional World Youth Day prayer vigil will be held at Campus Misericordiae near Krakow’s Wieliczka salt mine.Pope Francis’ last day in Poland, July 31, will include the final World Youth Day Mass and the recitation of the Angelus at Campus Misericordiae. He will then meet World Youth Day organizers and return to Rome.A senior Polish government official said priority would be given to security and good communications during the five-day pilgrimage to Poland, which will be the 12th by a pope in the past 37 years.“Today’s world demands a deepening of dialogue on contemporary challenges, and the Holy Father’s voice always has special significance in this field,” said Malgorzata Sadurska, head of chancery for Duda.“We’re delighted so many youngsters will be coming to Poland for this event and count on these meetings with the pope and voices of youth to send out an important summons to peace, values and dialogue,” she said.Poland’s Foreign Ministry has reduced visa charges for World Youth Day participants, who are expected to include at least 400,000 youths from Russia, Ukraine and other former communist countries.The July celebration will be the second international World Youth Day event held in Poland. St. John Paul II presided over the youth gathering in 1991 in Czestochowa.
Mar 18 16 6:16 AM
Apr 6 16 2:24 AM
The apostolic nuncio to Canada said Pope Francis is considering an invitation for a visit, during which many Canadians hope he will apologise for the Catholic Church’s role in running Indian residential schools.“The Pope has received this invitation, this request, from the First Nations,” said Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, nuncio. “He is considering it.”The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada – set up to discover what happened in the government-funded, church-run residential schools, issued 94 calls to action last year.One was for the Pope to apologise – on Canadian soil – for the Catholic Church’s role in Indian residential schools.“We heard many survivors say, ‘My Church has not apologised to me,'” Marie Wilson, a commission member, said at an Ottawa news conference on March 30.Asked if an apology from Pope Francis would be enough, she responded, “I’m certain it won’t be enough. It’s all just movement forward.”“No one thing will be perfect for everyone,” she said. “But we have to keep trying.”Wilson acknowledged that many bishops and Catholic organisations have apologised over the years, but many of the 7,000 witnesses who testified before the Truth and Reconciliation wanted “a corporate response.”Because the Catholic Church in Canada is made up of different dioceses and entities, a single Catholic response has not been possible.“We, all of us, have inherited this,” she said of Canadian church history. People are “still struggling over” it.Last June, the office of then-Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he discussed the truth commission’s calls to action when he met at the Vatican with Pope Francis.The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations had asked Harper to raise the issue with Pope Francis and ask the Pope for the public apology.In response to a recommendation from last year’s Truth and Reconciliation report, which asked faith groups to build a framework of reconciliation based on the 2007 UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document on March 29 that outlines several steps that can be taken to inspire Catholics to right past wrongs through a “practical commitment to heal enduring injustices.”The bishops said they had no problem reaffirming their support of the UN declaration, stating “its spirit can point a way forward to reconciliation between indigenous and non indigenous people in Canada.”The conference also released a document that, like previous Church documents and statements, repudiated “illegitimate concepts and principles” reflected in the 15th-century Doctrine of Discovery.That doctrine was used to justify “seizure” of land from indigenous peoples dating back to European settlement of North America.“I just hope more of our church and Canadians in general educate themselves about these issues,” said Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin-Le Pas, whose diocese is made up of 83 percent First Nations and Metis peoples.“Some of the philosophies and cultural practices” that went into Canada’s founding did not make a “level playing field at all” for indigenous peoples, he said.The bishops’ documents outline several steps to guide their organisations and inspire all Catholics to right past wrongs by a “practical commitment to heal enduring injustices.”These include efforts to make sure Catholic institutions tell a truthful history of the encounter with indigenous peoples, such as the effects of the residential school system, and the impact of ignoring or undermining treaties.The steps also include: making interaction with indigenous communities part of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue; acting to improve holistic health services; promoting a restorative justice model to combat the high incarceration rate of these communities; supporting the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women; helping indigenous communities build educational programs to promote their culture and experience; and for the bishops and other Catholic faith leaders to invite lay Catholics to reflect on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples so it might be supported and implemented.The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established under the 2007 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.The schools were established and paid for by the Canadian government in the late 1800s, but were administered by Church organisations of several religions, including the Catholic Church, which ran about 60 percent of them.The truth commission’s mandate included creating a public record of the tragedy of Indian residential schools and examining the ongoing fallout of a 130-year policy that separated 150,000 native children from their families.By witnessing the stories of many of the 80,000 survivors and documenting the cultural and societal devastation to families torn apart, the commission said it hoped to cultivate reconciliation between aboriginal people and the rest of Canada.The commission’s 94 recommendations in the June report covered a spectrum of aboriginal rights, including those concerning health, education, languages, equity in the legal system, and reconciliation. It called for increased funding and support for substance abuse treatment, some of which was funded by the residential schools settlement agreement
Apr 7 16 6:19 AM
Francis to visit Greece April 16 in flash show of solidarity with migrantsVATICAN CITY - Pope Francis will make a flash visit to the Greek island of Lesbos next week alongside Orthodox Christian Patriarch Bartholomew in a joint ecumenical sign of solidarity with refugees facing deportation to Turkey under a new European Union agreement, the Vatican has announced.The pontiff will make the visit, organized unusually rapidly, on April 16 and will spend only a few hours on the island. Because of the quick preparation for the trip, he will be traveling with a limited entourage.Vatican spokesman Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi said Francis wants to make the visit because he sees “an important emergency” taking place due to the situation facing refugees.“There is an intense, difficult, and dramatic situation for many people,” said Lombardi. “The pope naturally wants to be present to call attention and give a sense of solidarity and responsibility on behalf of all the faith community.”Noting Bartholomew’s presence for the visit, along with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ieronymos II, the spokesman said: “It is right that this takes place in an ecumenical way … manifesting also that the Christian churches are united before the great problems of humanity.”Greece and a number of other European countries around the Mediterranean Sea have been facing an influx of migrants in the past year. The European Union made an agreement with Turkey last month that all "irregular migrants" arriving in Greece from Turkey would be sent back.For every refugee returned, another refugee is theoretically supposed to be resettled from Turkey to the EU.The agreement has been criticized by several human rights groups, who say refugees being returned to Turkey from Greece may not be adequately aware of their rights or the possibility of claiming asylum.Rumors of Francis’ possible visit to Lesbos were first reported Tuesday, spurred by a statement from the Orthodox church in Athens that the pope had expressed a desire for such a visit to draw attention to the humanitarian problems migrants face, as well as the need for "an immediate cessation of hostilities in the wider Mediterranean region."Francis has drawn attention to the migration crisis throughout his papacy. On his first visit as pope in July 2013, he traveled to the Italian island of Lampedusa to highlight migrants' struggles.Francis’ visit will be only the second by a pope to Greece, following John Paul II’s trip to Athens in 2001. That earlier trip was the first visit by a pontiff to the country, which is 98 percent Greek Orthodox, in more than 1,000 years.In his visit, John Paul met with then Greek Orthodox Primate Christodoulos and apologized for Catholics’ historic mistreatment and violence against the Orthodox. The two also broke a long-standing taboo by praying together at a spot said to be where the apostle St. Paul preached to Athenian Christians.Bartholomew is the symbolic leader of the various Orthodox churches, based in Istanbul. Francis previously visited the patriarch in Turkey in November 2014.
Apr 10 16 1:29 AM
Pope Francis to visit Armenia, Georgia and AzerbaijanROME—After much rumor and speculation, the Vatican confirmed on Saturday that Pope Francis will visit Armenia this June. A trip to the Caucasus, to visit Georgia and Azerbaijan, is also in his schedule for autumn.The Armenia outing is set for June 24-26, while the stops in Georgia and Azerbaijan will come Sept. 30 – Oct. 2.Francis had expressed his desire to visit Armenia last November, during an airborne press conference coming back from his Africa tour. However, on previous opportunities the pope had also spoken of possible trips to Peru and his home country Argentina for 2016, neither of which appears likely to happen.The Armenia foray is bound to cause diplomatic tensions with Turkey, if recent experience is to be taken into consideration.On April 12, 2015 he celebrated a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the 100th anniversary of mass killings regarded by Armenians as a genocide and by Turks as a civil war. On that occasion, he described the events as “the first genocide of the 20th century,” prompting Turkey to recall its Vatican ambassador in protest.It wasn’t until early 2016 that Turkey sent the ambassador back to Rome.Scholars believe that 1 million to 1.5 million Armenians died during this period, and it’s often been acknowledged as the first specific attempt to destroy a particular ethnic group of the last century, forerunner to later atrocities such as those committed by Nazi Germany and Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge.The massacre of Armenians in Turkey at the end of World War I is formally recognized as a “genocide” by 22 countries around the world, including Uruguay, Cyprus, Russia, Germany, Argentina, France, Italy, and Venezuela.But beyond the use of the term, for the Argentine pontiff the visit to Armenia has a meaning that goes beyond what happened 100 years ago. In the days previous to the Mass he celebrated in 2015, he met with a group of Armenian bishops.“I think with sadness about those regions such as Aleppo [Syria], which a hundred years ago were a safe harbor for the few survivors,” Francis said. “Recently these regions have seen the endurance of Christians, and not only Armenians, put at risk.”Although the assault on Armenians a century ago isn’t considered to have been motivated primarily by religious reasons, the victims were largely Christian and Francis pointed it out.“Not few of your brothers and sisters,” Francis said, “pronounced Christ’s name as they shed their blood or died of starvation during the exodus into which they were forced.”Azerbaijan is an Islamic majority country which until 1991 was under the Soviet Union. The Russians destroyed the capital’s lone Catholic church in 1930s, and it was only rebuilt in 2007. According to the Catholic Almanac there are only two missionaries who serve the small Catholic community, of mostly Polish and Armenian origin.The Catholic influence in Georgia is also small, with Catholics representing only 2.5 percent of the total population of 4.5 million. The country was also under soviet ruling until 1991, and to this day both Catholics and Armenian Orthodox haven’t been able to secure the return of churches closed during the Soviet period, many of which were given to the Georgian Orthodox Church.St. John Paul II visited Azerbaijan in 2002.Also on the papal calendar for this year are a visit to the Greek island of Lesbos on April 16, to make a statement in defense of immigrant rights in the company of two Orthodox leaders, and to Poland in July, to participate in World Youth Day.
Apr 15 16 7:16 AM
Refugees, rights groups buoyed by Papal spotlightLESBOS, Greece (AP) -- Municipal crews were pressure-hosing streets, pruning trees and touching up building facades on this Greek island where Pope Francis will visit Saturday, a mission human rights groups hope will highlight the plight of refugees who fled their war-ravaged homes only to be denied entry to Europe.The Vatican insists Francis' five-hour visit is purely humanitarian and religious in nature and isn't a direct criticism of the European Union's new deportation plan. But the image of Francis meeting with refugees slated for deportation will likely bring the controversy back to the world's attention, if briefly.Francis will be joined by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians.The head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, Athens Archbishop Ieronymos II, arrived in Lesbos on Friday ahead of Francis' visit and said the ecumenical mission had one aim: "To take the problem we have been dealing with for so long and make it an international issue - to be not just a problem for Greeks, but for Europe and for all humanity."The three religious leaders will visit a camp on Lesbos where 2,300 migrants and refugees are being detained for deportation to Turkey under the agreement between Ankara and the European Union to ease the flow of migrants to Europe."The pope's visit comes at a pivotal moment: Right as Europe is gearing up to send thousands of refugees back to Turkey, locking them up in the meantime in horrible conditions, frightened of the future," Gauri van Gulik, deputy Europe director at Amnesty International, told The Associated Press."These are people who fled the horrors of Islamic State, the Taliban, bombings in Syria and more. They deserve Europe's protection and care, and hopefully the pope can shed light on their plight."Refugees and migrants reaching Greece have been arrested since March 20, when the EU-Turkey deal took full effect. Assisted by police officers sent from across the EU, Greece has so far deported 325 migrants, most on small ferries from Lesbos, which lies just 8 kilometers (6 miles) from the coast of Turkey.But most will have to wait months to have their asylum applications reviewed as they remain at camps created to register masses of migrants heading toward central Europe, but now being used to stop them."It's clear conditions at the camps are unacceptable. There are unaccompanied minors locked up behind barbed wire," said Jerome Oberreit, secretary general of the relief agency Doctors Without Borders, or MSF."I hope a leader who influences opinion, like the pope, will voice the worry that Europe is actually not going the right way, and that this deal will have repercussions. It's a historical dismantling of the right to asylum," he told the AP."You can't outsource people's rights. They have to be upheld inside Europe."More than a million refugees and migrants traveled to the EU last year, about half landing on the beaches of Lesbos, some of which are still littered with orange life vests. The migration was halted earlier this year after Austria and Balkan countries imposed strict border controls - leaving some 50,000 people transiting through Greece stranded.On Lesbos Friday, hundreds of police personnel were taking up positions after being sent to Lesbos on a chartered ferry from the mainland for the visit. They include anti-terrorism officers, riot squads, and plain clothed officers who will be deployed at the Moria detention camp where the leaders plan to meet some 250 asylum seekers in a large tent, make a public address, and join a group of detainees for lunch.Syrian refugee Muhammad Mansour reached Lesbos before the March 20 cutoff date and stays in an open camp run by the United Nations refugee agency. Though unlikely he would see the pope, he welcomed the visit.A hospital nurse, the 23-year-old from Damascus is hoping to work in Europe through an EU placement scheme."Actually, I hope it will make a difference because (Pope Francis) is a respected person," Mansour said. "I think it will be something new for the refugees."
May 14 16 12:49 AM
Pope Francis will visit the Armenian Genocide memorial complex during a three-day visit to the country in June, a move that may strain the Vatican’s diplomatic relations with Turkey.The pope will travel to the Tsitsernakaberd site in southern Armenia on June 25, spending an hour at the memorial, the Vatican announced on Friday (May 13). The complex commemorates up to 1.5 million Armenians killed between 1915 and 1923 under the Ottoman Empire.Francis’ trip to the site carries huge significance, following the pontiff’s description of the killings as “the first genocide of the 20th century.”The pope’s use of the term genocide, during an Armenian rite Mass at the Vatican last year, angered Turkey, which disputes the death toll and argues the killings 100 years ago did not amount to genocide.Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, at the time said the pope’s comments were unacceptable.“Religious offices are not places to incite hatred and revenge with baseless accusations,” said Cavusoglu. He also recalled Turkey’s ambassador to the Holy See.Francis’ visit to Tsitsernakaberd could further dent diplomatic relations between Ankara and the Holy See and is expected to be a focal point of the pope’s Armenia tour.Armenia has a population of 3 million, although an estimated 8-10 million people of Armenian descent live outside the country. An estimated 93 percent of the population affiliate with the Armenian Apostolic tradition, the country’s national church, while just under 14,000 are Catholic, according to Armenia’s 2011 census.Arriving in the capital Yerevan on June 24, the pope’s first day will include a prayer at the Apostolic Cathedral at Etchmiadzin, the center of the Armenian Apostolic Church. As is customary on a papal trip, Francis will also meet various political and diplomatic figures while in the capital.After the pope’s visit to Tsitsernakaberd he will be flown from Yerevan to Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city, where he will hold an open-air Mass in Vartanants Square. Francis will also visit the city’s Armenian Apostolic Cathedral of the Seven Wounds and the Armenian Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Martyrs in Gyumri.Crowds are expected in the capital for the pope’s open-air prayer for peace during the evening of June 25. Francis’ final day in Armenia will include meetings with religious leaders and the signing of a joint declaration.The pope’s participation in the Divine Liturgy in Yerevan’s Armenian Apostolic cathedral is also on the schedule, along with a visit to the Khor Virap monastery, close to the Turkish border.
May 16 16 6:28 AM
Pope to visit icon of world without mercy in AuschwitzOŚWIĘCIM, Poland — At the infamous German Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz, among the first things one encounters upon entering is a quotation from the Spanish thinker George Santayana: “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”It’s almost impossible not to hear those words echo in this place, where Pope Francis will visit in late July while in Poland for the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day festival.Upon arrival at Auschwitz under the Nazi regime, pregnant women, children, the elderly, and the infirm were declared unfit to work, and hence to survive, by a Nazi doctor, meaning they were “thrown away” into gas chambers. The vast majority of the rest didn’t survive more than a year as a result of mistreatment, hunger, coldness, desolation, untreated illnesses and slave labor.Even today, their suffering is palpable in the markings left by the bare hands of people desperate to escape death. By the end, it usually couldn’t come fast enough.Twin children were submitted to experiments so unimaginable that guides who explain some of the most sordid details of the “life” of the prisoners refuse to voice them, even dodging the question when asked directly.More than 1 million Jews from all over Europe, 150,000 Poles, 25,000 Gypsies, 15,000 Soviets and 25,000 prisoners from other ethnic groups were deported to Auschwitz by the Germans, who killed 1.1 million of them. 90 percent of those killed were Jews.The suffering was such, that when he visited in 2006 Pope Benedict XVI dared to question God amid what he described as a “stupefied” silence: “Where was God in those days? Why was he silent? How could he permit this endless slaughter, this triumph of evil?”“I pray to God not to allow a similar thing ever to happen again,” he said.Benedict also acknowledged that as a “a son of the German people” he could “not fail to come here. I had to come.”St. John Paul II, a son of Poland, who grew up in the nearby city of Wadowice, voiced similar words when he visited it for the first time as pope in 1979, though he had been in Auschwitz several times before.“It was impossible for me not to come here as pope.” John Paul said.Francis will follow the steps of his predecessors this July, when he travels to the nearby city of Krakow to join hundreds of thousands of young people from over 180 countries gathered for World Youth Day.According to Father Antonio Spadaro, who edits a Jesuit-run journal in Rome and is a confidante of Francis, the current pope, like John Paul II and Benedict XVI before him, “finds this to be a mandatory, one could say fundamental, stop.”As with Benedict, during his visit Francis will share an interreligious prayer with leaders of the local Jewish community.Spadaro believes that just as the German pontiff questioned God during his visit to Auschwitz, Francis is bound to question humanity, as he did in 2014, when he visited the Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem, in Israel.“Adam, where are you?” Francis asked at the time. “Adam, who are you? I no longer recognize you. Who are you, o man? What have you become? Of what horror have you been capable? What made you fall to such depths?”“In Auschwitz he will ask this question again to remind men and women that what was done here is incomprehensible,” Spadaro told Crux minutes after a visit to the extermination camp.On the other hand, the priest added, “in the relationship with God, Auschwitz is the icon of a world that doesn’t know mercy.”Spadaro, who’s been close to the Argentine pontiff since the beginning of his pontificate, gave two more reasons as to why Francis’ visit to Auschwitz is so important.One is the fact that doing so during World Youth Day will give him the possibility to shine the light of mercy over young people from around the world, so that they in time can bring it back to their own countries.That, in turn, is tied to the third reason cited by Spadaro: showing the importance of God’s mercy and his love to a world where divisions, violence, and extreme nationalisms seem to be flourishing.“Around the globe, political figures are emerging because they promise to build walls,” Spadaro said, comparing the barbed wire fences that are being built throughout Europe to keep immigrants out to those same fences which abound in Auschwitz.“The jubilee of mercy represents the response to this drama: A world without mercy, without God, that is Auschwitz,” he said.According to Father Manfred Deselaers, a German who’s been working in a Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim [Auschwitz is Oświęcim in German] for the past 20 years, this “death machine” is not only a place where one is shocked by the memory of evil – though that, he said, definitely happens here.“It’s also a place where you come for reconciliation,” he said. “It can be a positive place, for dialogue and encounter,” two key concepts in Francis’ pontificate.Having encountered hundreds of survivors, both Jewish and Polish, as a Catholic priest and a German, Deselaers said he’s learned that these people “don’t want for us to use this as a reason to become depressed.”“On the contrary,” he said, “they want for us to learn from it, to learn to respect one another, create friendships that would help build a better world.”“This is a school for young people, here they learn to value each other, and it creates the awareness in them that we have the responsibility to learn to live with one another,” Deselaers said.Deselaers too believes that Francis’ visit to Auschwitz with the world’s Catholic youth awaiting his message, could have a positive, long-term impact.He warns that just like almost 80 years ago, when no one thought something like this could happen, “we now know that because it did, it remains a human possibility.”“We trust the word of Christ has the last word, also about Auschwitz,” Deselaers said. “And we hope the memory of this horror doesn’t destroy trust in God and humanity, but calls us to love more, and trust more, and to heal the wounds.”The hope that the almost two million people who visit this place are conscious about the dangers of history repeating itself is what moves Agata Andrzejewski, day after day, to tell the history of what happened to the museum’s visitors.“It’s important to know about these people, to remember their stories, so that this doesn’t happen again. I hope we’ve learned, and that we remember, so we don’t repeat it,” she told Crux.
May 20 16 10:43 AM
Pope Francis is set to visit Ireland, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin has confirmed.The Archbishop of Dublin previously revealed that he had invited Francis to preside at the World Meeting of Families, a Vatican-sponsored event that is due to take place in Dublin 2018.Now, this week, Dr Martin has confirmed that when he discussed the issue of visiting Ireland with the Pontiff, Francis said “‘I will come’, and he said, ‘if I don’t come, my successor will come’,” indicating that the 2018 encounter is high on the papal agenda.As well as Dublin, the Pope would visit the North to complete the 1979 historic pilgrimage of St John Paul II when rising tensions in the North made a visit there impossible.“The only live invitation for Pope Francis to visit Ireland is earmarked for the time of the World Meeting of Families, and all the indications from Rome are very positive about this,” a well-placed Vatican source told The Irish Catholic this week.“It would obviously be the hope that the Holy Father would make a visit to Northern Ireland and, perhaps, some other parts of Ireland since many Irish Catholics will want to have an opportunity to attend Mass with Pope Francis,” the source continued. SpeculationThere has been speculation that the Pontiff would visit Ireland since he announced in Philadelphia last September that he had chosen Dublin to host 2018’s World Meeting of Families, an international gathering which takes place every three years. Popes have presided at all bar two of the eight meetings held since the first meeting in 1994.Following the Philadelphia announcement, Dr Martin said he hoped to have an opportunity in October to discuss a potential papal visit with the Pope and Vatican officials, and said if Pope Francis visited Ireland he would “certainly” wish to visit the North. The Holy See has long regarded St John Paul II’s 1979 visit as incomplete due to his inability to cross the border.It is expected that as well as visiting Dublin and the North, most probably Armagh, a papal visit to Ireland will include pilgrimages to one of Ireland’s historic monastic sites and to Knock Shrine, trips to Marian shrines being common features of papal visits. St John Paul II visited the shrine and celebrated Mass there during his 1979 visit.Archbishop Martin was speaking to Irish Independent journalist Paul Williams in a wide-ranging interview in which he also dismissed suggestions that he had been sent to Dublin as a sort of “saviour” for the Irish Church.“Some people say to me I came home with a packet of instructions from the Vatican saying you’re to clear up Dublin,” he said, continuing, “That wasn’t the case – the Vatican is not nearly as well organised as that.”
May 21 16 1:46 AM
Japan and the Holy SeeThe recent visit of Prince Akishino, the younger son of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan, and his wife Princess Kiko, with Pope Francis highlighted yet again the strong, friendly relationship that exists between the Holy See and the land of the rising sun. It all began on Aug. 14, 1549, when St. Francis Xavier arrived at Kagoshima, on the island of Kyshu, and introduced Christianity to the people there. During his 27-month sojourn he baptized some 700 Japanese, including Bernardo of Kagoshima, who became the first Japanese person to set foot in Europe—and the first to meet a pope.Thirty-six years later, official contact started between Japan and the Holy See thanks to another Jesuit, Alessandro Vagliano, who was superior there starting in 1579. He convinced Christian Japanese kings to send four young ambassadors to Spain, Portugal and Rome to ask for economic and spiritual assistance for the mission of evangelization.They left Nagasaki in 1582 and arrived in Rome on March 22, 1585. The next day Pope Gregory XIII received them but died three weeks later, and they assisted at the enthronement of his successor, Sixtus V. When they arrived back home in 1590, however, the persecution of Christians had begun. They joined the Jesuits, and one of the four emissaries, Julien Nakakura, died a martyr in 1602.Over the next two centuries Christians managed to survive in Japan, despite persecution and without priests. Then in 1873, Emperor Meiji lifted the ban on Christianity, allowed foreign missionaries to return and later guaranteed religious liberty. The Jesuits returned in 1908 and five years later established Sophia University, today one of Japan’s top educational institutions.In 1919 Japan agreed to the Holy See’s request to appoint an apostolic delegate and two years later established its legation to the Holy See. Prince Héritier Hirohito visited Pope Benedict XV in June 1921, the first of many members of the Imperial family to visit a pope in the 20th century.On April 25, 1942, Japan became the first Asian country to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Emperor Hirohito decided this for three reasons: The Holy See could act as a mediator for peace with the allies; it gathers information from all over the world; and it exercises moral influence on the major world players. Although the peace initiative proved impossible, the emperor upgraded the delegation to an embassy in 1958 and subsequently Pope Paul VI appointed the country’s first nuncio.When Prince Akishino and his wife met Pope Francis on May 12, they were but the latest members of the Imperial family to visit the pope. His father, Emperor Akihito, met Pius XII in 1953 and Paul VI in 1965, and with his wife, Empress Michiko, he had a private audience with John Paul II in 1993.No fewer than nine Japanese prime ministers have come to meet the pope since 1942, including Taro Aso, the country’s first Catholic prime minister. Shinzo Abe was the last to come; he visited Francis in June 2014.John Paul II is the only pope to have visited Japan. He went Feb. 23 to 26 and was received by Emperor Akihito. It is significant nevertheless that 467 years after the Gospel was first proclaimed in this land, Christians—among them 542,000 Catholics—count for only 1 percent of Japan’s 127 million people, most of whom profess Buddhism or Shintoism. It is surprising, therefore, that despite being a tiny minority, three Christians—including one Catholic— have been prime ministers.There have been five Japanese cardinals in the history of the church, and they, too, have sought to build bridges between their homeland and the Holy See. The last to be created cardinal was Stephen Fumio Hamao, who died in 2007. As a young priest, he taught Latin to the then-crown prince who is now the emperor. (Perhaps it's time for another red hat for Japan?)In interviews I had with Cardinal Hamao, we talked a lot about why Christianity has failed so far to spread widely in Asia and in Japan. He attributed much of the responsibility to Rome’s difficulty in understanding the Asian reality and the church there, in particular with regard to the dialogue with other religions. He felt the theology expressed in the Catechism is too European, too intellectual, too logical. He looked forward to the election of a pope who would lead Rome to have greater sensitivity to the cultures and the religions of this continent and “would listen to us.” He believed this would be important for the evangelization of his country.Kagefumi Ueno, a former Japanese ambassador to the Holy See, speaking at the Circolo di Roma in 2010, shared much of the cardinal’s analysis. He attributed Christianity’s lack of growth mainly to the fact that most Japanese “do not cling to any absolutized values” and “many” even today “find Christianity somewhat foreign [or Western].” Significantly, however, he emphasized that “this does not mean that they decline to accept it [Christianity] in its entirety. Many have sympathy for its faith and tenets, however not to the extent of 100 percent, but to the extent of 70 or 80 percent” because of “the basic and fundamentally cultural or philosophical difference between the two sides.”Mr. Ueno’s successor, Ambassador Hidekazu Yamaguchi, told trainee diplomats at the Holy See in 2012 that his government recognizes “the contribution that the Catholic Church has made to the education and health care of the Japanese people through its schools and hospitals” and the humanitarian aid and moral support given by the Holy See after the terrible earthquake of 2011. Other officials emphasize that Japan and the Holy See share much common ground on international issues.A Jesuit brought Christianity to Japan and two future heads of the Society spent many years in this land where they are greatly respected: Pedro Arrupe and Adolfo Nicolàs.Pope Francis, too, has personal links with Japan. As a young Jesuit, he wrote to Father Arrupe asking to be sent as a missionary to Japan, but his request was rejected for health reasons. Nevertheless, as Jesuit provincial in Argentina, he traveled to Japan in 1976 to visit members of his province working there. As pope, Francis seems to have made a big impact on the Japanese for his humility and openness, and both the government and bishops have invited him to visit. If Francis decides to travel to Indonesia in 2017 for Asian Youth Day, as many expect, he might also visit another other country in Asia. Could it be Japan? (Not a bad idea ... and maybe he can come back to Manila?)
Jun 1 16 7:13 AM
Pope to attend ecumenical prayer service and celebrate Mass in Sweden The prayer service will commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant ReformationPope Francis will attend two ecumenical events and celebrate Mass with Catholics when he visits Sweden on October 31, according to organisers.The Pope’s attendance at an ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Lund, Sweden, will include a prayer service in Lund Cathedral and a public event at Malmo Arena, said a joint press release on June 1 from the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.However, the Pope’s complete itinerary “will be published at a later date,” Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told journalists.“It was important that no one would think that just because we released the joint statement, that they were the only” events in the Pope’s schedule, Fr Lombardi said.Pope Francis, alongside Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, and the Rev Martin Junge, the federation’s general secretary, will lead a common prayer service “based on the recently published Catholic-Lutheran Common Prayer liturgical guide. The guide is based on From Conflict to Communion, a joint document that highlights the ecumenical developments between the two churches.“The joint commemoration is a witness to the love and hope we all have because of the grace of God,” Bishop Younan and Rev Junge stated in the joint press release.The prayer service will be followed by a public event at Malmo Arena, which can host up to 10,000 people and will be open to the public. The event, the press release stated, “will be the stage for activities focusing on the commitment to common witness and service of Catholics and Lutherans in the world.”Lutheran Archbishop Antje Jackelen of Uppsala said the idea behind the arena event “is to further describe the development from conflict to communion with a focus on hope for the future and common service in the world.”Fr Lombardi also told journalists that Pope Francis’ schedule includes a morning Mass with Sweden’s Catholic community on November 1.Catholic Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm said that when Pope Francis and Lutheran leaders visit Lund, “history will be written,” and he expressed his hope that it will “encourage all of us to go together on the road toward Christian unity.”
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