POPE FRANCIS FOCUSES ON FATHERS, FATHERHOOD AT WEEKLY AUDIENCE – PATRIARCHS AND CHRISTIAN LEADERS MEET IN LEBANON

POPE FRANCIS FOCUSES ON FATHERS, FATHERHOOD AT WEEKLY AUDIENCE

Wednesday at the general audience in the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis returned to the theme of the family and dedicated his catechesis to fathers and fatherhood. Weeks ago the Pope had announced that, between the two synods dedicated to the family – October 2014 and this coming October – he would be dedicating a series of catechesis to the family. In a previous audience he spoke on mothers and motherhood and today, at the end of his talk, said he will further pursue this theme and focus on “the beauty of paternity,” saying, “May the Lord help us to understand these things well.”

At the end of the general audience, performers from the Medrano circus entertained the Holy Father, who visibly enjoyed the jugglers and other acts, and the faithful who filled the hall on a cold January morning

Pope Francis began his talk by noting that, “Father is a universal word, known to all. It indicates a fundamental relationship that is real and ancient as the history of mankind. Today, however, we have reached the point of affirming that ours would be a ‘society without fathers’. In other words, in particular in western culture, the figure of the father seems to be symbolically absent, seems to have vanished. … At first, this was perceived as a form of liberation: freedom from the father-master, …. Indeed, in the past in some cases authoritarianism, indeed even oppression, reigned in some homes: parents who treated their children like servants, who did not respect the personal needs of their growth, fathers who did not help them to embark on their path in freedom, to assume their own responsibilities for building their future and that of society”.

And now, said the Pope, “we have gone from one extreme to the other. …. from the invasive presence of fathers … to their absence. … Fathers are so focused on themselves, on their work and at times their personal fulfilment, that they even forget their families, leaving children and the young to their own devices. … Now, on this shared path of reflection on the family, I would like to say to all Christian communities that we must be more careful: the absence of the paternal figure in the life of children and the young produces voids and wounds that can be very serious.” The Pope explained how serious it is when children do not have “examples and authoritative guidance in their everyday life” or “closeness and love from their fathers.”

“The feeling of orphanhood experienced by many young people,” explained the Holy Father,” is more profound than we might think. They are orphans in their families because their fathers are often absent, also physically, from the home, but above all because when they are present, they do not act like fathers: they do not speak with their children, they do not give their children, by their example accompanied by words, those principles, those values, those rules for life that the young need in the same way as they need bread. … At times it seems as if fathers are not sure what position they should occupy in the family, or how to educate their children. And so, in doubt, they abstain, they withdraw and neglect their responsibilities, possibly seeking refuge in an improbable relationship of parity with their children.”

The Pope said that sometimes the civil community”neglects or poorly exercises” its responsibilities and this too leaves children “as orphans, and does not offer them true prospects. The young are therefore orphaned of sure paths to follow, orphaned of teachers in whom they can trust, orphaned of ideals to warm their hearts, orphaned of values and hopes that support them day by day. They are filled with idols but robbed of their hearts; they are driven to dream of enjoyment and pleasure, but they are not given work; they are deluded by the god of money and denied true richness.”

Pope Francis concluded by noting that, “just as Jesus promised that he would not leave us orphans, let us ask him to deepen and renew our appreciation of fatherhood and to raise up good fathers for the benefit of our families, our Church and our world.”

PATRIARCHS AND CHRISTIAN LEADERS MEET IN LEBANON

(From Beirut – AsiaNews) – A meeting of the Patriarchs and Christian leaders of the East was held yesterday in Bkerke, the seat of the Patriarchate of Lebanon to address the situation of Christians in the Middle East and ask the Arab and international community to stop supporting terrorism, aid the refugee emergency and work for their return home. The need for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis was also underscored.

Patriarch Beshara Rai said that the goal of the gathering was to study the situation of Christian refugees and that of the faithful who have decided to stay in their country, despite war and difficulties. For them, he added, it is urgent to help them secure a job, schools, housing so “they can stay in their respective countries and preserve their Christian tradition and mission.” The other goal is an appeal “to the two communities Arab and international” to come to the aid of the refugees, helping them to return home and to rebuild their houses. This can be done “by ending the war in Syria and Iraq by peaceful means, through political negotiations and a serious dialogue between the warring parties, neutralizing terrorist organizations.” This can only be achieved if the Arab and the international community “cease to support [the terrorists] in financial and military terms, closing the borders where it is necessary to prevent the movement of mercenaries”.

“Political and economic designs – he added – cannot justify these terrible attacks against humanity.” For the Christian patriarchs and leaders, greater efforts must be made to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, on the basis of the formula “two peoples, two states”, allowing the return of refugees to their homes. “It ‘obvious – said Patriarch Rai – that both the Israeli Palestinian conflict and Israeli-Arab conflict is the root cause of the misfortunes that we are experiencing today in the Middle East.” Christian leaders are asking for greater effort on the part of governments and non-governmental organizations to assist refugees and securing the release of all those who have been abducted, or detained, whether civil, military or religious figures. These include the two bishops, the Greek-orthodox bishop of Aleppo, Boulos Yazigi, and the Syriac Orthodox, Youhanna Ibrahim, in the hands of fundamentalist groups in Syria for almost two years.

The situation in Lebanon was also discussed particular the lack of President since last May and the Christian and Muslim political groups who are boycotting the election of the head of state. The meeting was attended by Greek-orthodox patriarch Youhanna Yazigi; Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Mar Aghnatios Afram II; Patriarch Greek-catholic Gregory III Laham; Syrian Catholic Patriarch Mar Aghnatios Youssef III Younane; Joseph Arnaout, representative of the Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia, Nercès Bedros IX; Michel Kassargi, Chaldean bishop in Lebanon; Pastor Sélim Sahyoun, President of the High Council of the Evangelical community in Lebanon and Syria; the Apostolic Nuncio Gabriele Caccia; several representatives of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant charitable organizations.

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