POPE FRANCIS TO MEET VICTIMS OF PERSECUTION

POPE FRANCIS TO MEET VICTIMS OF PERSECUTION

Pope Francis on Saturday, February 24, will receive in a private audience relatives of Asia Bibi – Ashiq Masih and Eisham Ashiq, respectively her husband and daughter – and Mrs. Rebecca Bitrus, a victim of Boko Haram. They will be accompanied by Alessandro Monteduro, the direct of ACN, Aid to the Church in Need.

The evening of February 24 at 6 pm, the Colosseum will be spotlighted in red, to represent the blood of Christians who have been wounded or lost their lives due to religious persecution. Simultaneously, in Syria and Iraq, prominent churches will be illuminated with red lights. In Aleppo, the St. Elijah Maronite Cathedral will be lighted, and in Mosul, the Church of St. Paul, where this past December 24, the first Mass was celebrated after the city’s liberation from ISIS.

That event is sponsored is ACN, as it has done in other cities in previous years. Alessandro Monteduro, director of ACN, told journalists February 7 that the “illumination [of the Colosseum] will have two symbolic figures: Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian condemned to death for blasphemy and whose umpteenth judgment is expected to revoke the sentence; and Rebecca, a girl kidnapped by Boko Haram along with her two children when she was pregnant with a third. One of the children was killed, she lost the baby she was carrying, and then became pregnant after one of the many brutalities she was subjected to by her captors.”

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POPE FRANCIS ON THE FAMILY, PARDON AND FORGIVENESS – POPE PRAISES THE WORK OF AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED

It was a very busy day for me but it fell short of time for writing so today’s column is just a quick account of the general audience in St. Peter’s Square and papal praise for a group that helps persecuted Christians.

In other news, the Vatican today posted a very lengthy commentary by Fr. Federico Lombardi, calling it “reflections by Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., director of the Holy See Press Office, regarding a new chapter in discussions on the economic matters of the Holy See.” I am posting that in a separate column.

POPE FRANCIS ON THE FAMILY, PARDON AND FORGIVENESS

Pope Francis continued to focus on the family as the main thrust of his weekly audience catechesis, and today he spoke about the family as the first place where we learn about pardon, forgiveness and reconciliation, and how we can pass these values on to society as a whole.

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Below is the English language summary of his longer catechesis in Italian. Each week the catechesis is summarized for pilgrims in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish

“Dear Brothers and Sisters, Buon Giorno, Good Day!” he began.

Francis starts his catechesis the same way every week and every week these two words – Buon Giorno – elicit huge applause from the faithful.

He explained his catechesis: “Following the recent Assembly of the Synod of Bishops which reflected on the vocation and mission of the family, today we reflect on the importance of the family as the place where we learn the value of forgiveness.  Each day, in the words of the Our Father, we ask God to forgive us and to grant us the grace to forgive others.  As difficult as forgiveness may be, it is essential for our personal growth, our capacity to acknowledge our failures and to mend broken relationships.  It is a virtue we learn first in the family.

The Holy Father stressed that, “forgiveness strengthens families in love and, through them, makes society as a whole more loving and humane.  It is a solid rock on which to build our lives and an eloquent sign of our Christian discipleship and obedience to the Father’s will.  May the coming Jubilee of Mercy encourage families everywhere to rediscover the power of forgiveness, and enable the great family of the Church to proclaim the power of God’s reconciling love at work in our world.”

POPE PRAISES THE WORK OF AID TO THE CHURCH IN NEED

(Vatican Radio) During his language greetings at the Wednesday audience, Pope Francis gave his support to the work of Aid to the Church in Need, which offers help to persecuted Christians around the world.

The Church in Poland will mark on Sunday a “Day of Solidarity with the Persecuted Church,” which is promoted by Aid to the Church in Need in collaboration with the Polish Bishops’ Conference. This year, the Day for Solidarity will be used to offer spiritual and material assistance in particular to Christians in Syria.

“Your work of prayer and solidarity bring relief and support to our brothers and sisters who suffer for Christ in the Middle East and around the world,” Pope Francis said while greeting Polish pilgrims at his weekly general audience. “I support you with my blessing.”

When greeting Arabic-speaking pilgrims, Pope Francis also made a special appeal for “the Lord to protect [their families] from evil.”