VATICAN INSIDER: AN INSIDER’S LOOK AT THE LIFE OF NORMA MCCORVEY – PAPAL ALMONER SUPPORTS FARMERS, PRODUCERS FROM EARTHQUAKE-STRUCK TOWNS – COULD ONE BISHOP’S IDEA HELP THE WORLD’S DIOCESES?

Pope Francis on Twitter today: The Christian heart is always full of joy. Always. Joy received as a gift and kept in order to be shared with everyone.

Shall we all try to share a moment of joy with one new person this weekend!

If you follow events in the Holy Land, having perhaps made several pilgrimages to Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon (yes, all are the Holy Land), there are two websites you really might want to visit to keep well informed on all that is happening in the area, especially vis-à-vis the Catholic Church.

The first is http://en.lpj.org/

The LPJ stands for Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem and it is a fact-filled site with daily news stories (such as “Don’t Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Bishops Ask Secretary of State), videos, upcoming events, a look at the Order of the Holy Sepulchre (to which I belong) and information for visitors and pilgrims. You might already be familiar with this site: if not, it is a must-visit site if you love the Holy Land, or are simply curious to know more.

A second site will probably be less familiar: http://en.abouna.org/

The “en” in the site refers to the English version, as you probably guessed: the original is in Arabic (abouna.org). “Abouna” is Arabic for Father. A good friend of mine in Amman, Jordan, Fr. Rifat Bader, put this together a few years ago and he and his team (a fairly small one) are doing a great job. He is the founder and director of the Amman-based Catholic Center for Studies and Media.

Father is pointing at me – we are at the Beirut Airport in September 2012 for the arrival of Pope Benedict:

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I saw a story here this morning (also on lpj.org) about the arrival in Amman today of another friend, Bishop William Shomali, as the new patriarchal vicar of Jordan (for the Latin Patriarchate). He succeeds Bishop Maroun Lahham whom I interviewed in 2014 on my trip to Jordan. When Bishop Shomali and I first met, he was rector of the Patriarchate seminary in Beit Sahour, not far from Bethlehem.. I had lunch with then-Father Shomali, the seminarians and staff just before they all left on Christmas vacation.

He is on the right on this photo –

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…and on the top of the group photo, wearing a gray scarf.

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VATICAN INSIDER: AN INSIDER’S LOOK AT THE LIFE OF NORMA MCCORVEY

My guest this week on “Vatican Insider” in the interview segment is Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life. As I wrote last weekend on these pages, she was in Rome last week with Fr. Frank Pavone and I had interviewed her about their work at Priests for Life, the March for Life in DC, etc. She suggested that we do a separate interview about someone big in the prolife movement and a good friend to Janet and Father Frank who was in failing health – that is, Norma McCorvey, the Roe of Roe v Wade in the 1973 Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion.

It was Norma’s courageous decision later in life, to renounce abortion – the goal she had espoused as the plaintiff in Roe v Wade – and to denounce it as the deliberate killing of a human being in its mother’s womb that led her to spend successive decades trying to overturn the law she had been instrumental in creating – even though she never set foot in court.

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Listen as Janet tells the inside story of Norma McCorvey who died one hour after we did our interview!

PAPAL ALMONER SUPPORTS FARMERS, PRODUCERS FROM EARTHQUAKE- STRUCK TOWNS

(Vatican Radio)  The Office of Papal Charities this week helped out the earthquake-hit regions of central Italy at the express wish of Pope Francis, buying typical food products from local producers and distributing it to several soup kitchens in Rome.

Central Italy was hit by a powerful 6.3 magnitude quake in August 2016, which killed nearly 300 people. Other earthquakes have since caused major damage to the area.

Farmers and merchants in the affected areas have since suffered a drastic reduction in their revenues.

A communique from the Office of Papal Charities said the organization selected “several groups of farmers and producers at risk of closure because of the damages provoked by the earthquake” from which to buy alimentary products.

Papal Almoner, Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, is standing on the right:

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It said vendors were chosen in conjunction with Bishop Domenico Pompili of Rieti, Bishop Giovanni D’Ercole of Ascoli Piceno, Archbishop Francesco Giovanni Brugnaro of Camerino-San Severino Marche, and Archbishop Renato Boccardo of Spoleto-Norcia.

“The Office of Papal Charities bought a large quantity of their products with the intention, expressed by the Holy Father, to help and encourage them in their activities. It is a gesture in line with the Magisterium of Pope Francis, who in his meetings has often said that ‘when a person does not earn their bread, their dignity is lost’”.

The food products bought in the name of the Pope were distributed to several soup kitchens in Rome to make meals for homeless people in need.

The Vatican supermarket currently sells products from the earthquake hit zones of central Italy, in an effort to help out the local economy.

COULD ONE BISHOP’S IDEA HELP THE WORLD’S DIOCESES?

(Vatican Radio) A bishop in Scotland has high hopes for his diocese as a new fundraising initiative was recently launched at his cathedral.

Bishop John Keenan is encouraging the faithful of the Diocese of Paisley to become ‘Friends’ of certain diocesan projects in a bid to combat a £3 million (€3.5 million) deficit. Bishop Keenan explained in a letter read out at all Masses in St Mirin’s Cathedral that the cause for the deficit is not surprising. “It is the same deadly combination of rising costs and falling income that you know all too well from your own home finances.” (photo: news.va)

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The bishop emphasised that a change in culture is needed. In his letter, he tells the lay faithful that he would rather put his trust in his own people than in professional fundraisers. If his desire for a deficit-free diocese is to be realised, then annual savings worth £300,000 must be found. He added that the “bulk of our efforts to eradicate the deficit will come from fundraising.”

He has appointed Fr Oliver Freney, administrator of St Mirin’s Cathedral, as the new diocesan Director of Fundraising and has challenged him to raise £100,000 annually. He said that the ‘Friends Project’ will be the “heart and soul of his fundraising campaign.”

Fr Freney was joined by several young people from the diocese for the launch at St Mirin’s. His fellow priests will be launching it in their parishes over the coming weeks. He said after the launch: “If every member of our diocese signed up to give just £5 a year, we would be in surplus.” He added that he encourages parishioners to “think about our situation and give thoughtfully and generously.”

The diocesan treasurer attended the launch. Fr Stephen Bailey explained that the faithful could opt to become ‘Friends’ of particular projects like ‘vocations’, ‘education’ and ‘youth’.  He added that Bishop Keenan wants to let people know how their money is being spent.

Bishop Keenan recently led the diocesan community through a synod, during which the important role of the lay faithful within the Church was highlighted.

THE DEVIL HAS TWO WEAPONS, SAYS FRANCIS, “DIVISION AND MONEY” – VATICAN RELEASES ITINERARY FOR PAPAL TRIP TO SWEDEN – “LAST CONVERSATIONS” BY POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT DEBUTS TODAY

Join me this weekend on VATICAN INSIDER for Part II of my conversation with Fr. Brian Kolodeijchuk, MC, the postulator of Mother Teresa’s cause for canonization. He has, of course, terrific insight and wonderful stories about this nun who was larger than life for everyone who came into contact with her. This is the end of an amazing week in Rome that began with the canonization of Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calutta but still ‘Mother Teresa’ to so many around the world who knew and loved this miniscule woman who was a giant of integrity and sanctity.

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As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:00 am (Eastern time). On the SKY satellite feed to the UK and parts of Europe, VI airs on audio channel 0147 at 11:30 am CET on Saturdays, and 5:30am and 10pm CET on Sundays. It’s also available on demand on the EWTN app and on the website. CHECK FOR YOUR TIME ZONE. Past shows are in VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Which Pope died after 12 days in office?

(Remember, do NOT email me – just enjoy!)

THE DEVIL HAS TWO WEAPONS, SAYS FRANCIS, “DIVISION AND MONEY”

Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday told bishops that division, gossip and money are weapons in the hands of the devil.

Speaking to a group of recently appointed bishops of mission countries at the end of a formation course organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Pope said each bishop is called to give testimony of God’s love, care and mercy with their own lives and example. (photo: news.va)

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Pointing out that bishops of mission countries come from places that are “different and distant”, each of you – Pope Francis said – has “the great privilege and responsibility of being on the front lines of evangelization”.

Inviting them never to forget that one of their foremost duties is to respond immediately to the requests and needs of their priests, the Pope warned them against the evils that can wreak damage and destroy their mission to evangelize.

He reminded them that a missionary bishop’s first duty as a pastor is to reach out to the lost sheep and to bring the joy of the gospel to those who perhaps do not know Jesus or have rejected him.

He spoke of the vocation of the episcopal ministry saying that each bishop is called give testimony of Jesus’s care and love for all men and women also through their own personal example.

And he warned of the dangers that can foil this vocation mentioning specifically the factors that – he said – become weapons in the hands of the devil bent on destroying the Church.

“The devil – he said – has two weapons: the main one is division; the other is money”.

And saying that the devil slips in through one’s pockets and wreaks havoc through ‘the tongue’, Pope Francis described the tendency to gossip as “a terroristic” one.

“He who gossips is a terrorist who throws a bomb” – because gossip, he said, destroys.

Urging those present to fight against divisions which can destroy the local Church and the universal Church, he said there are many difficult challenges to overcome, but thanks to the grace of God, thanks to prayer and thanks to penitence, it is possible.

Pope Francis concluded his address to the new missionary bishops urging them to take good care of the people of God who have been entrusted to them, to take good care of their priests, and of their seminarians. “This – he said – is your job”.

VATICAN RELEASES ITINERARY FOR PAPAL TRIP TO SWEDEN

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Friday released details of Pope Francis’ trip to Sweden at the end of October to mark the joint Lutheran-Catholic commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

The Pope is scheduled to leave from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 8.20 on the morning on Monday October 31st and arrive in the southern Swedish city of Malmö at 11.00.

Following an official welcome, the Pope will travel to the nearby city of Lund and pay a courtesy visit to the Swedish royal family before leading an ecumenical prayer service with Lutheran leaders in Lund cathedral.

In the afternoon the Pope will take part in a second ecumenical event in Malmö arena and meet with delegations of different Christian Churches present for the occasion.

The following morning, Tuesday November 1st, the Pope will preside at Mass in Malmö  for the Swedish Catholic community before travelling back to the international airport there for an official departure ceremony.

The papal plane is scheduled to leave Malmö at 12.45 and arrive back at Rome’s Ciampino airport at 15.30.

“LAST CONVERSATIONS” BY POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT DEBUTS TODAY

(Vatican Radio) A new book of interviews by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI hit bookshelves Friday in the Italian language. The book entitled “The Last Conversations”, by German journalist Peter Seewald covers a number of themes including his decision to resign.

Jesuit Fr. Federico Lombardi, former head of Vatican Radio and president of the Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict XVI ) Foundation, spoke to the radio’s Lydia O’Kane about some of the key themes.

Scroll down in this link to listen:  http://www.news.va/en/news/fr-lombardi-pope-emeritus-benedict-xvis-new-book-a

For Fr. Lombardi there are two very important aspects of this book. The first he says, is the witness Pope Emeritus Benedict gives as he lives this last phase of his life. “The last time of his life is preparation to (for) the encounter with God. This is a very important witness, profound, spiritual; a witness of faith.”

Fr Lombardi goes on to say that this theme “justifies this book”, because his explanation of “how he experiences now the presence of God in his life is something that is precious and urgent…”

Theme of resignation

Another key theme, says Fr. Lombardi, is “how he gives again clearly – and I think in a definitive way – the reasons for his resignation, eliminating every rumor, every false interpretation as consequence of the scandals of the difficulties.”

“No,” (Benedict) says no, “it was a time I had already overcome the difficulties and then there was the good time to take a decision before God in total responsibility and this I have done and I am happy with this decision and I have not changed my mind.””

Recalling other interesting themes and points in the book, Fr. Lombardi mentions Pope Benedict’s reflections on his participation at the Second Vatican Council, and his collaboration with St John Paul II.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s “The Last Conversations” is published worldwide in Italian September 9th. It is due in English in November. The title is “Last Testament: In His Own Words.”

CNA/EWTN NEWS, in an article dated today, September 9, wrote:

Though he has rarely spoken since resigning from the papacy, Benedict XVI granted several lengthy interviews to German journalist Peter Seewald shortly after stepping down – conversations that touched on themes such as the reform of the Curia, his resignation and his thoughts on Pope Francis.

The interviews, conducted a few months after Benedict’s Feb. 28, 2013, resignation, were released as a book in several languages Sept. 9. The English language version, Last Testament, is due to be published in November.

About 240 pages in length, the book in German is titled Letzte Gespräche. It “touches upon all the most important stages of life of Joseph Ratzinger.”

These stages include Benedict’s childhood under the Nazi regime, the discovery of his vocation to the priesthood, the hardships of the war and his time in the Vatican until his election to the papacy. It also covers “the anxiety” of his first few days as successor of St. Peter, as well as his “painful” decision to resign and his thoughts on Pope Francis.

n his responses to Seewald, Benedict speaks about himself, his faith, his weaknesses, his private life, the scandals and controversial issues of his reign, and his papacy in general, explaining the reason for his choice to resign – “initially only communicated to a few trusted people to avoid leaks,” Corriere della Sera reports.

The retired Pope also speaks about the reform of the Roman Curia, the “Vatileaks” scandal that many pinned as the reason for his stepping-down, and outlines the differences between him and Francis in light of “his own peculiarities” and those of his Argentine successor.

He also mentions the “gay lobby” at the Vatican – a group of four to five persons, which he says he was able to break up.

In a June 28 ceremony at the Vatican marking his 65th anniversary as a priest, Benedict told Pope Francis that from the moment of his election and every day since “your goodness…moves me interiorly, brings me inwardly more than the Vatican Gardens.”

“Your goodness is a place in which I feel protected,” he said of his successor.

Seewald, the author of the new book, is also the author of the 2010 book-length interview with Benedict titled “Light of the Word: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times.” He had previously published two other books on then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, ““Final Conversations,” then, will mark the journalist’s fourth book on Benedict from before his election to the throne of Peter, during his papacy and now after his resignation.

CNA contacted Seewald for comment on the book, however, the author said that for the moment, he prefers not to speak.   In an interview with CNA when “Light of the World” came out in 2010, Seewald said Benedict “is one of the greatest minds of the Catholic Church; someone with a great heart and…a fighter by nature, someone who remains standing amidst the storms, someone who is not afraid.”

“He is someone who does not get stuck in the past or in the present. He is someone who is very much a part of our times,” Seewald said, adding that he has always considered Benedict “a very modern man, someone who is always accessible, who promotes and seeks dialogue.”

“I would say he is an upright man and by far one of the greatest figures of our time…he is man who is always willing to listen, because he is not only a great thinker, he is also a great spiritual teacher.”

In a world that is “often blind,” it’s important to have someone “with this unbreakable attitude of openness,” he said, voicing his belief that Benedict “will be much better appreciated in the future” than he was at that time.

This article was originally published July 1, 2016.

“VATICAN INSIDER” GOES TO MEXICO – GOD IS LOVE, CHARITY HIS ESSENCE

“VATICAN INSIDER” GOES TO MEXICO

My guest this weekend on Vatican Insider is Alan Holdren, a real Vatican insider who produces “Vaticano” for EWTN and also is the bureau chief for News Nightly. You saw him on the news during the days he was in Mexico with Pope Francis and that is exactly what he will tell us about this week on VI. We look at highlights of the trip, some special moments for both the Pope and Alan, and talk about a lot of behind the scenes – or on the scene! – stories.

As you know, in the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at www.ewtn.com) or on Sirius-XM satellite radio. If you live outside the U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” Vatican Insider airs Saturday mornings at 9:30 am (Eastern time) and re-airs Sundays at 4:30 pm (ET). Check for your time zone. Past shows are found in Vatican Insider archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

GOD IS LOVE, CHARITY HIS ESSENCE

Pope Francis, evidently recovered from his one-day indisposition and fever on Thursday, at noon today addressed participants in the international congress that, 10 years on from its publication, has been reflecting on Pope Benedict’s Encyclical Deus caritas est. The gathering was organized by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.

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The Holy Father explained that, “The first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI concerns a theme that allows us to retrace the entire history of the Church, which is also a history of charity . It is a story of the love received from God, to be carried to the world: this charity received and given is the fulcrum of the history of the Church and of the history of each one of us.” He added that, “Charity, therefore, is at the center of the life of the Church and, in the words of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, is truly the heart of the Church.”

“The present Jubilee Year,” added Francis, “is also an opportunity to return to this beating heart of our life and our witness, to the center of the proclamation of faith: ‘God is love’. God does not simply have the desire or capacity to love; God is love: charity is his essence, it is his nature. He is unique, but not solitary; he cannot be alone, he cannot be closed in on himself because he is communion, he is charity; and charity by its nature is communicated and shared. In this way, God associates man to his life of love, and even if man turns away from him, God does not remain distant but goes out to meet him. This going out to meet us, culminating in the Incarnation of his Son, is his mercy. … Charity and mercy are in this way closely related, because they are God’s way of being and acting: his identity and his name.”

Pope Francis said that, “God, without ever tiring, pours out his love on us, and we are called to become witnesses to this love in the world. Therefore, we should look to divine charity as to the compass which orients our lives, … From charity we learn how to see our brothers and sisters and the world. Ubi amor, ibi oculus, say the Medievals: where there is love, there is the ability to see.”

Emphaszing a second point of Deus caritas est, the Pope said the Encyclical “reminds us that this charity needs to be reflected more and more in the life of the Church. How I wish that everyone in the Church, every institution, every activity would show that God loves man! The mission that our charitable organizations carry out is important, because they provide so many poor people with a more dignified and human life, which is needed more than ever. But this mission is of utmost importance because, not with words, but with concrete love it can make every person feel loved by the Father, loved as His son or daughter and destined for eternal life with Him.

“I would like,” continued Francis, “to thank all those who daily are committing themselves to this mission which challenges every Christian. In this Jubilee Year, my intention has been to emphasize that we can all experience the grace of the Jubilee by putting into practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy: to live the works of mercy means to conjugate the verb ‘to love’ according to Jesus. In this way then, all of us together can contribute concretely to the great mission of the Church: to communicate the love of God which is meant to be spread.”

 

 

NEWS IN BRIEF

When you got up today and saw the date, did you say “why does February 11 ring a bell?!” Well, it was exactly three years ago today that Pope Benedict resigned! Does that seem possible?! So many millions still miss him and many millions pray for him daily, as do I. Blessings on you, Holy Father emeritus!

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February 11 is traditionally a holiday at the Vatican because Vatican City State became an independent sovereign state after signing a treaty with Italy on February 11, 1929. This year we mark the 87th anniversary of the Lateran Pacts. In addition, the Church annually marks the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick on this date.

Pope Francis is getting ready to leave tomorrow on an apostolic pilgrimage to Mexico, but he made time today for a number of appointments as you will see. As a native Spanish-speaker he surely did not have to spend as much time in recent weeks practicing his language skills for his 6 days in Mexico. He will, however, have spent a lot of time honing diplomatic skills because his first stop tomorrow on the way to Mexico is of huge, dramatic, historic importance because he will meet in Cuba for two hours with Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the first time leaders of the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox Church have met since the great schism in 1054. The two are expected to sign a Joint Declaration.

Pope Francis is expected to land in Cuba at 2 pm (ET) and meet for two hours with Patriarch Kirill. More on that tomorrow. In the meantime, some highligjts of the day….

NEWS IN BRIEF

POPE FRANCIS THURSDAY MORNING PAID A PRIVATE VISIT to St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, where – as has become customary – he prayed before the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani ahead of his Apostolic Voyage to Mexico. From St Mary Major, the Holy Father made the short journey to Rome’s cathedral, St. John Lateran basilica, where the priests of the diocese were meeting at the beginning of Lent. During the visit, Pope Francis heard the confessions of several priests. St. John is the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. Cardinal Agostino Vallini, vicar for the diocese of Rome, said the meeting with priests had a “penitential” character, offering the clergy the opportunity “to have an experience of the mercy of the Father; and, in turn, to be able to ministers of mercy in the communities entrusted to us.” As a Lenten “sign,” the offering taken up during the encounter was donated to the diocesan branch of Caritas. Pope Francis offered as a gift to each of the priests of the diocese a copy of his book “The Name of God is Mercy.”

POPE FRANCIS HAS DONATED 500 ROSARIES TO THE DETAINEES in a prison in the Italian city of Padua. Fr. Marco Sanavio, the priest entrusted with delivering the papal gift, had the idea to “more directly”involve prisoners in the “Moment of Peace” (Un’ attimo di pace) initiative launched four years ago on the web in Italy. The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, reports that the request for the rosaries came from Zhang Augustine Jianqing, a young Chinese man currently incarcerated in the Padua prison, who also participated in Rome at the presentation of the book-length interview of Pope Francis by veteran Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli, The Name of God is Mercy.

CARDINAL LEONARDO SANDRI, PREFECT OF THE CONGREGATION FOR ORIENTAL CHURCHES, has sent a letter to the bishops of the world, appealing for aid to the Church in the Holy Land. The letter is dated Ash Wednesday, 2016, and looks forward to the worldwide collection for the Christians of the Holy Land, which is made at Good Friday each year in churches around the globe. The English-language letter starts, “Good Friday is the day when evil seemed to triumph, as the Innocent One suffered death on the Cross. It is a day that never seems to end in the Holy Land, where apparently interminable violence must be endured. Broadening our the gaze to the whole world, it is no less difficult to give wings to hope for a serene future.” The cardinal adds: “The Collection for the Holy Land reminds us of an ‘ancient’ duty, which the history of recent years has made more urgent, but no less a source of the joy that comes from helping our brothers.” Cardinal Sandri explains that, “In this Jubilee year, we are urged more than ever to demonstrate our mercy and solicitude for our brothers in the Middle East. Refugees, displaced persons, the elderly, children, and the sick are all in need of our help. In this land of the East, people are dying, being kidnapped and even killed. Many live in agony for their loved ones, or suffer when the family is divided on account of forced migration and exodus.”

POPE FRANCIS’ SPECIAL ENVOY, ARCHBISHOP ZYGMUNT ZIMOWSKI, celebrated Mass on Thursday in the town of Nazareth in the Holy Land to mark the Church’s World Day of the Sick. The Mass took place in Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation and was the centerpiece of events marking the 2016 World Day of the Sick that is celebrated each year on February 11th, the feast day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes. In his homily at the Mass, Archbishop Zimowski, who is President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers, reminded his listeners that the central theme of Pope’s Francis’ message for this year’s World Day of the Sick is the need for us to entrust our lives to the Merciful Jesus like Mary did.  Archbishop Zimowski said all of us are called in our different ways to help the person who is suffering and stressed we must not be intimidated by the fact that we cannot help in a satisfactory way, in the way that Jesus did. “The important thing,” he said, “is to go, to be at the side of the man who suffers.”

NAZARETH

THE PHILATELIC AND NUMISMATIC OFFICE OF VATICAN CITY STATE has announced that the 2016 Vatican coins will soon be released. These include the 8 usual Euro coins (2 and 1 Euro, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, 1 euro-cent), bearing the image of Pope Francis, as Sovereign of the Vatican City State. This year, the €20 Silver coin and the €50 Gold coin have images chosen for the Year of Mercy. The Silver coin has an image of Pope Francis embracing a teenager, while the back has an image of the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The Gold coin has an image of the Holy Father opening the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica, while the back has an image of the Jubilee logo, which features Jesus carrying a man – representing humanity – on his shoulders. The Philatelic and Numismatic Office is also releasing a Jubilee of Mercy coin card. (sources for stories: new.va)

VATICAN COINS

THE CHURCH IS A SPIRITUAL FAMILY, THE FAMILY IS A SMALL CHURCH – BENEDICT XVI PRAYS FOR MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES

As you know, the past week has been marked by three important events, by three Pope Francis “Moments of Mercy,” as I call them.

The first was last week’s announcement that confessors during the Year of Mercy can absolve the sin of abortion; the second occurred last Sunday at the Angelus when Francis asked that “every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family (of refugees);” and the third was yesterday’s announced reform, via two papal Motu proprio, of the canonical process of nullity of marriage.

Big moments, each and every one. Today I’d like to take a look at how the Pope leads by example, at least vis-à-vis the huge refugee crisis in Europe.

How can the Holy Father ask parishes, monasteries, etc. to take in a refugee family unless he leads the way? And he has.

According to Cardinal Angelo Comastri, vicar for Vatican City and archpriest of the Vatican basilica, the Pope’s announcement, his appeal, Sunday at the Angelus, “took all of us totally by surprise but we are used to Pope Francis’ surprises. No one knew of this initiative but the response was immediate and enthusiastic!”

Cardinal Comastri and the Papal Almoner, Polish Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, both responsible for such a gesture of charity and mercy, jumped into action.

As the Vatican paper L’Osservatore Romano tells us:

“The parishes of St. Peter and St. Anne in the Vatican will soon find a home for least two families of refugees. As soon as Pope Francis asked at the Angelus for parishes to open their doors to welcome refugees, both parishes, as well as Cardinal Vicar Angelo Comastri and Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, Almoner, began organizing just that.

“The Pope ‘wants two apartments very close to the Vatican to be made available to welcome two nuclear families of refugees,” the cardinal and archpriest of the basilica of St. Peter’s told us, explaining that the families will be selected by the Offices of Papal Charities. APSA (Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See) and its president, Cardinal Domenico Calcagno, are in the process of choosing the proper apartments. ‘The Pope wants the apartments to be close to him’, Cardinal Comastri said, ‘ensuring that they receive health care so as not to weigh on the Italian system, ensuring also that these families have all the material support they need.”

“Both parishes – run by Augustinians, Fr. Bruno Silvestrini of St. Anne’s and Fr. Mario Bettero of St. Peter’s – have a long history of hospitality. ‘I am very, very happy’, Fr Bettero said, ‘that Pope Francis is asking everyone to make this beautiful gesture for the Jubilee. We will do our best’. The parish priest of St. Anne’s is also enthusiastic about the proposal. ‘The Pope has awakened us from the slumber of simply watching’, said Fr. Silvestrini, ‘and now we are returning to help people, giving them back their dignity’. ‘In addition to a home, we will find work for the head of the family’.”

Cardinal Comastri indicated in an interview with Vatican Radio that the Caritas offices of Agrigento and Lampedusa are looking for two families, each averaging perhaps 5 components, to bring to the Vatican. He said it would take a bit for APSA to figure out what apartments to offer.

On a personal note: There are several large Vatican-owned apartment buildings right across from Vatican City (and across from the Santa Marta residence where Pope Francis lives), though I have no idea if there are available apartments (I’m guessing our doormen will know!). Obviously there will have to be translators available as so many of the refugee families are from the Middle East or North African countries where Arabic is spoken as a first language.

I cannot even remotely imagine having to flee for my life, leaving everything that was my life, everything and everyone familiar to me – friends, a home, a neigborhood, my church – taking my family with me and able to bring only what I can carry on my back or in pockets or perhaps one small piece of luggage. Not only fleeing persecution and violence but seeking safe haven in a place where the people, the language, the culture, even the food, are foreign to you. If we can help these people get acclimated to a new language and culture, I for one am ready.

THE CHURCH IS SPIRITUAL FAMILY, THE FAMILY IS A SMALL CHURCH

(VIS) – The relationship between the family and the Christian community, “a ‘natural’ bond, since the Church is a spiritual family and the family is a small Church,” was the theme chosen by the Pope for the catechesis of today’s Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (photo news.va)

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The Christian community is the home of those who believe in Jesus as the source of fraternity between all humanity, said the Pope. The Church journeys among peoples, in the history of men and women, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. “This is the history that matters to the Lord,” he explained. “The great events of world powers are written in history books, and stay there. But the history of human affections is inscribed directly on God’s heart, and it is the history that remains for eternity. It is the place of life and faith. The family is the locus of our initiation – irreplaceable, indelible – into this history of full life that culminates in the contemplation of God for all eternity in heaven, but begins in the family.”

“The Son of God also learned human history in this way, and experienced it to its end. … Then, when he left Nazareth and began his public life, Jesus formed a community around him, an ‘assembly’, a convocation of people. This is the meaning of the word ‘church’.”

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In the Gospels, Jesus’ assembly has the form of “a hospitable family, not an exclusive closed sect.” Pope Francis observed that, “we find Peter and John, but also the hungry and the thirsty, the outsider and the persecuted, the sinner and the publican, the Pharisees and the masses. And Jesus never ceases to welcome them all and to speak with them, including those who did not expect to encounter God in their lives. It is a powerful lesson for the Church! The same disciples were chosen to take care of this assembly, of this family invited by God.”

In order to continue to experience the reality of Jesus’ assembly, Francis said, “it is essential to revive the alliance between the family and the Christian community. We could say that the family and the parish are the two places in which the communion of love that finds its ultimate source in God Himself is realized. A true Church according to the Gospel cannot but have the form of a welcoming home, with open doors, always. Churches, parishes and institutions with closed doors cannot call themselves churches – they should call themselves museums”.

“Today this alliance is crucial. Against the centers of power – ideological, financial and political – we posit our experiences in these centers of love: evangelizing, full of human warmth, based on solidarity and participation, and also mutual forgiveness. Certainly, it requires a generous faith to find the intelligence and the courage to renew this alliance. Families at times pull back, saying that they are not up to the challenge. … But no-one is! … Without God’s grace, we cannot do anything. And the Lord never arrives in a new family without some kind of miracle. Let us remember what He did at the wedding in Cana. Yes, the Lord, if we place ourselves in His hands, makes us perform miracles: these everyday miracles, when the Lord is there, in the family”.

“Naturally the Christian community must play its part. For instance … favoring interpersonal dialogue, and mutual understanding and respect. May families take the initiative and be conscious of their responsibility to bring their precious gifts to the community!” exclaimed the Pope. “We must all be aware that Christian faith plays on the open field of life shared with all, and the family and parish must perform the miracle of achieving a more community-based life for the whole of society.”

After the catechesis, in his greetings to various groups of faithful, the Pope remarked that today the Church celebrates the liturgical memory of the Jesuit St. Peter Claver, patron of the missions in Africa, and he expressed his hope that the saint’s example, with his tireless service to the weakest, impel the young to choose solidarity with the needy. “May his spiritual vigor help the sick to carry the cross with courage, and his love for Christ be a model for newlyweds of the love that should occupy the center of the family”

BENEDICT XVI PRAYS FOR MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES

(Vatican Radio) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI carries the tragedy of migrants and refugees in his heart and he prays for them, acording to his private secretary, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein.

After celebrating Mass in the Italian city of Ancona on Sunday, Abp.Gaenswein told the faithful that the Pope Emeritus is following the migrant situation closely. The archbishop is also Prefect of the Papal Household. He was in this port city to celebrate Mass for the city’s annual celebration of the sea.

“Unfortunately the sea for many has become a tomb, but it should be a bridge. It must not be considered a border: the sea connects one country to another, one continent to another. If there are problems in a country or in a continent, the opposite shore should be there to help,” he said.

During the Eucharistic celebration some of the prayer intentions were dedicated to the many migrants and refugees forced to flee conflict and hunger who have found death in the sea.

During the homily Archbishop Gaenswein said, “we live in times of difficulty and crisis (…) and in a society that is becoming more and more cruel and sometimes inhuman. … We must find ways to recuperate hope and the serenity that comes from knowing that God’s living presence is among us,” he said.

He exhorted the faithful not to be closed within themselves but to re-discover a sense of justice, mercy, honesty and the capacity to truly love.

LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR APPEAL TO SUPREME COURT – ARCHBISHOP GAENSWEIN TALKS OF TWO POPES

POPE FRANCIS’ TWEET FOR THE DAY: The one who helps the sick and needy touches the flesh of Christ, alive and present in our midst.

LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR APPEAL TO SUPREME COURT

This just in from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty:

Forced to choose faith or massive fines, nuns seek relief

JULY 23, 2015 – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, for the second time in two years, the Little Sisters of the Poor must ask the Supreme Court to protect them from the government. The order of Catholic nuns and other non-profits have been forced to ask the Court for relief to the government’s refusal to exempt them from a regulation that makes them choose between their faith—which prohibits them from providing contraceptives—and continuing to pursue their religious mission of serving the elderly poor.

LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR

“The government has lost every single time they have made these arguments before the Supreme Court—including last year’s landmark Hobby Lobby case. One would think they would get the message and stop pressuring the Sisters,” said Mark Rienzi, Senior Counsel of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and lead attorney for the Little Sisters of the Poor. “The government is willing to exempt big companies like Exxon, Chevron, and Pepsi Bottling, but it won’t leave the Little Sisters alone.”

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and leading Supreme Court advocate Paul Clement—the same legal team that won Hobby Lobby—filed the petition on behalf of the Little Sisters as well as the Christian Brothers Employee Benefit Trust, Christian Brothers Services, Reaching Souls International, Truett-McConnell College, and GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. They are seeking relief from a 100-page decision by the Tenth Circuit that disagrees with the ministries’ understanding of moral theology. Today’s petition is the fifth the Court has received and makes it likely the Court will decide in the upcoming term whether religious ministries, like religious for-profits, will receive protection from the Mandate.

“The Sisters consider it immoral to help the government distribute these drugs. But instead of simply exempting them, the government insists that it can take over their ministry’s employee healthcare to distribute these drugs to their employees, while dismissing the Sisters’ moral objections as irrelevant,” said Rienzi. “In America, judges and government bureaucrats have no authority to tell the Little Sisters what is moral or immoral. And the government can distribute its drugs without nuns—it has its own healthcare exchanges that can provide whatever it wants.”

“As Little Sisters of the Poor we dedicate our lives to serving the neediest in society, with love and dignity. We perform this loving ministry because of our faith and simply cannot choose between our care for the elderly poor and our faith, and we shouldn’t have to,” said Sr. Loraine Marie Maguire, Mother Provincial of the Little Sisters of the Poor. “We hope the Supreme Court will hear our case and ensure that people from diverse faiths can freely follow God’s calling in their lives.” For more, click here: http://www.becketfund.org/littlesisters-scotus-appeal/

ARCHBISHOP GAENSWEIN TALKS OF TWO POPES

Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, private secretary to Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and Prefect of the Papal Household for Pope Francis talks about the two Popes in a wide-ranging interiew done by Zenit. He is asked how he manages collaborating with two Popes, about the different personalities of each pontiff, about Benedict’s election and his reaction and then, eight years later, his resignation. He also talks about the problems the Church in Germany is experiencing.

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The archbishop also talks about the upcoming October Synod, saying it “must begin not from a particular problem, but from the main topic and that is, from ‘the evangelization of the family’. Clearly the Church doesn’t close her eyes in face of the difficulties of faithful living in difficult situations. However, the Church must give sincere answers that are oriented, not to the spirit of the times, but to the Gospel, to the Word of Jesus Christ and to the Catholic Tradition.”

Click here to read the entire interview: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/francis-is-the-only-convincing-voice-that-says-things-as-they-are

HOLY SEE EXPRESSES POSITIVE VIEW OF NUCLEAR AGREEMENT – POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI RETURNS TO VATICAN – POPE FRANCIS ON HIS LATIN AMERICAN TRIP: I HAVE NEVER SEEN SO MANY KIDS!

As he does before he leaves on every trip and upon his return from a pilgrimage, Pope Francis yesterday visited Saint Mary Major to pray before the image so beloved by Romans, “Salus Populi romanus.”

-S.S. Francesco -  Omaggio Salus Populi Romani  13-07-2015  - (Copyright L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO - Servizio Fotografico - photo@ossrom.va)

-S.S. Francesco – Omaggio Salus Populi Romani 13-07-2015
– (Copyright L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO – Servizio Fotografico – photo@ossrom.va)

HOLY SEE EXPRESSES POSITIVE VIEW OF NUCLEAR AGREEMENT

The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., made the following statement this morning regarding the nuclear agreement with Iran:

“The agreement on the Iranian nuclear program is viewed in a positive light by the Holy See. It constitutes an important outcome of the negotiations carried out so far, although continued efforts and commitment on the part of all involved will be necessary in order for it to bear fruit. It is hoped that those fruits will not be limited to the field of nuclear program, but may indeed extend further.”

POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI RETURNS TO VATICAN

(Vatican Radio) Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI returned to the Vatican on Tuesday after spending two-weeks at the papal residence in Castelgandolfo.

The Pope sent a letter of thanks to the mayor of the town, Milvia Monaschesi, along with a book as a gift. The Pope-emeritus thanked the mayor for her “warm welcome”, and mentioned the “natural beauty” and “hospitality of the people” of Castel Gandolfo, which is about 25 kilometres southeast of Rome.

“As a concrete sign of my gratitude, please accept this book on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of my election to the Chair of St. Peter,” the Pope-emeritus wrote.

Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI arrived at the town on June 30, after a brief meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican’s “Mater Ecclesia” Residence.

POPE FRANCIS ON HIS LATIN AMERICAN TRIP: “I’VE NEVER SEEN SO MANY KIDS!”

Sean-Patrick Lovett of Vatican Radio noted in a summary of the Pope’s in-flight press conference that, “as often happens, the in-flight papal press conference en route from Asunciòn to Rome, was both a synthesis of the trip to Latin America as a whole – and an insight into the mind and heart of Pope Francis.”

He said, “looking back over the 8-day visit to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, journalists asked the Pope to summarize his ‘message’ to the Latin American Church. He did so by recalling the thing that struck him most in all three countries: the children. ‘I’ve never seen so many kids,’ he said. ‘This is a Church of life…I wanted to encourage this young Church…which I believe can teach us a lot.”

Lovett then summarized part of the press conference, and Vatican Radio later provided a full transcript of the papal interview. This is lenghy but covers many interesting topics in depth and it is, as Lovett said, “an insight into the mind and heart of Pope Francis.”

Question: Why does Paraguay not have a cardinal? What sin has Paraguay committed, so as not to have a cardinal?

Answer: Well, not having a cardinal isn’t a sin. The majority of countries in the world do not have a cardinal. The nationalities of the cardinals … are a minority compared to the whole. … At times, for the election of cardinals, an evaluation is made, the files are studied one by one, you see the person, the charism especially, of the cardinal who will have to advise and assist the Pope in the universal government of the Church. The cardinal, though he belongs to a particular Church, is incardinated in the Church of Rome, and needs to have a universal vision. This does not mean that there is not a bishop in Paraguay who has it, but you always have to elect up to a number, there is a limit of 120 cardinal electors. … I ask another question: Does Paraguay deserve a cardinal, if we look at the Church of Paraguay? I’d say that yes, they deserve two, but it has nothing to do with merits. It is a lively Church, a joyful Church, a fighting Church with a glorious history.

Question: We would like to know whether you consider (as) just the Bolivians wish to have sovereign access to the sea, to return to having a sovereign access to the Pacific, and by what criteria. And, Holy Father, should Chile and Bolivia ask for your mediation, would you accept?

Answer: The issue of mediation is very delicate, and it would be a last step. That is, Argentina experienced this with Chile, and it was truly to stop a war. It was a very extreme situation, and dealt with very well by those appointed by the Holy See, always backed by John Paul II who was very interested. … At the moment, I have to be very respectful about this because Bolivia has made an appeal to an international court. So at present if I make a comment, as a head of State, it could be interpreted as involvement or pressure on my part. It is necessary to be very disrespectful of the decision of the Bolivian people who made this appeal. … There is another thing I want to make very clear. In the Cathedral of Bolivia, I touched on this issue in a very delicate way, taking into account the situation of the appeal to the international court. I remember the context perfectly – brothers have to engage in dialogue, the Latin American peoples need to engage in dialogue. I stopped, I was silent a moment, and then said, “I’m thinking of the sea”. I continued, “dialogue and dialogue.” I think it was clear that my comment referred to this problem, with respect for the situation as it is at present. It is in an international tribunal, so it is not possible to speak about mediation or facilitation. We have to wait.

Follow-up question: Is the Bolivians’ wish just or not?

Answer: There is always a base of justice when there is a change in the territorial borders, particularly after a war. So this is under continuous revision. I would say that it is not unfair to present something like this, this wish. I remember that in the year 1961, during my first year of philosophy, we were given a documentary about Bolivia … called “The Ten Stars”. And it presented each one of the nine provinces and then, at the end, for the tenth, there was the sea, without a word. That stayed in my mind. It was the year 1961. In other words, it is clear that there is a desire.

Question: Ecuador was in a state of unrest before your visit, and after you left the country those who oppose the government returned to the streets. It seems that they would like to use your presence in Ecuador for political ends, especially because of the phrase you used, “the people of Ecuador have stood up with dignity”. I would like to ask you, if possible, what did you mean by this phrase?

Answer: Evidently there were some political problems and strikes. I don’t know the details of politics in Ecuador and it would be foolish of me to give an opinion. Afterwards I was told that there was a type of hiatus during my visit, which I am grateful for, as it is the gesture of a people on their feet, of respect for the visit of a Pope. … But if these problems resume, clearly, the problems and political debates continue. With regard to the phrase you mentioned: I refer to the greater awareness of their courage that the people of Ecuador have been gaining. There was a border war with Peru not long ago. There is a history of war. Then, there’s been a greater awareness of Ecuador’s ethnic diversity and dignity. Ecuador is not a throwaway country. Or rather, it refers to the people as a whole and to all of the dignity of the people who, after the border war, stood up with ever greater awareness of its dignity and the wealth it has in its diversity and variety. In other words, it cannot be attributed to one concrete political situation. That phrase – I was told, I did not see it myself – was manipulated to suggest that the government had put Ecuador on her feet, or that she had been raised to her feet by those opposing the government. One comment can be manipulated, and I believe that in this we must be very careful.

Question: In your address to popular movements in Bolivia you spoke about the new colonialism and the idolatry of money that subjugates the economy, and the imposition of austerity measures that continually “tighten the belt” of the poor. For some weeks now in Europe there is the situation in Greece, which risks leaving the Euro zone. What do you think about what is happening in Greece, and which also affects all of Europe?

Answer: I am near to this situation, as it is a phenomenon present throughout the world, all over the world. Also in the East, in the Philippines, in India, in Thailand. There are movements that are organised among themselves not as a form of protest but in order to keep going and to be able to live. And they are movements that have momentum, and these people – there are many of them – do not feel represented by union, as they say that the unions are now corporations and do not fight – I am simplifying somewhat – for the rights of the poor. And the Church cannot be indifferent to this. The Church has a social doctrine and is in dialogue with these this movement, and does so well. You have seen the enthusiasm of feeling that the Church – they say – is not distant from us, the Church has a doctrine that helps us to fight for this. It is a dialogue. The Church does not choose an anarchic path. No, we are not anarchists. These people work, they try to work hard even with waste, with what is left over; they are real workers.

Then, regarding Greece and the international system, I do not understand it well … but it would certainly be all too simple to say that the blame lies only on one side. If the Greek government has advanced this situation of international debt, it too bears responsibility. With the new Greek government, there have been steps in the right direction, towards revision. I hope, and it is the only thing I can say to you, as I do not know the situation well, that a way will be found to solve the Greek problem, and also a path of supervision so that other countries do not experience the same problem, and that this may help us to go ahead, as the path of loans and debts never ends. I was told, about a year or so ago, that there was a United Nations project … whereby a Country can declare itself bankrupt – which is not the same as being in default – but it is a project I heard about and I do not know how it ended or whether or not it was true. If a company can declare bankruptcy why can’t a country do it, so that we can then go to the aid of others?

Then, with regard to the new colonialisms, evidently these are a question of values. The colonialism of consumerism, for example. The habit of consumerism is the result of a process of colonisation, as it leads to a habit that is not one’s own and causes a personality imbalance. Consumerism also upsets the balance of the domestic economy and of social justice, as well as physical and mental health, for instance.

Question: Holy Father, what did you think when you received the hammer and sickle with Christ on it, offered by President Morales? And what became of the object?

Answer: I didn’t know about it, and I was not aware that Fr. Espinal was a sculptor and also a poet. I found out in these days. I saw it and it was a surprise to me. It can be qualified as belonging to the genre of protest art. For example, in Buenos Aires a few years ago there was an exhibition of protest art by a good, creative Argentine sculptor – he is dead now – and I remember a work which was a crucified Christ on a bomber that was falling down. It was a critique of Christianity allied with imperialism, in the form of the bomber. Firstly, then, I did not know about it and secondly, I would qualify it as protest art that can in some cases be offensive; in some cases. Thirdly, in this specific case: Fr. Espinal was killed in the year 1980. It was a time in which liberation theology had many different threads, one of which was the Marxist analysis of reality, and Fr. Espinal subscribed to this. … In the same year, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Arrupe, sent a letter to the whole Society regarding the Marxist analysis of reality in theology, stopping this to some extent, saying no, this doesn’t work, they are different things, it is not right. And four years later, in 1984, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith published its first short volume, its first declaration on liberation theology, which it criticised. Then there was the second, that opens up more Christian perspectives.

… Let us consider the hermeneutics of that period. Espinal was an enthusiast of the Marxist analysis of reality, but also of theology. That work came from this. Espinal’s poetry also belongs to the protest genre: it was his life, his thought. He was a special man, with great human geniality, who fought in good faith. Through a hermeneutics of this type I understand the work. To me it was not offensive. But I had to apply this hermeneutics and I say this to you, so that there are not any mistaken opinions. I now carry the object with me, it is coming with me. You perhaps heard that President Morales wished to bestow two honours on me: one is the most important in Bolivia and the other is of the Order of Fr. Espinal, a new Order. I have never accepted honours, but he did this with such good will and with the wish to please. And I thought that this comes from the people of Bolivia – I prayed about this and thought about it – and if I take them to the Vatican they will end up in a museum where nobody will see them. So, I decided to leave them to Our Lady of Copacabana, the Mother of Bolivia, and these two honours will go to the Shrine of Copacabana, to Our Lady. However, I am taking the the sculpture of Christ with me.

Question: During the Mass in Guayaquil, you said that the Synod will have to develop true discernment to find concrete solutions to the difficulties faced by families. And then you asked the people to pray because even that which may seem impure to us, which may seem scandalous or frightening, can be transformed into a miracle by God. Can you clarify what “impure”, “scandalous” or “frightening” situations you were referring to?

Answer: Here again there is a need for a hermeneutics of the text. I was talking about the miracle of the wine during the wedding at Cana and I said that the jars of water were full, but they were intended for purification. Or rather, every person who entered the feast carried out a rite of cleansing, leaving behind their spiritual impurities. It is a purification rite performed before entering a house or a temple. A rite that we have in holy water, which is what remains to us of the Jewish ritual. I said that Jesus made good wine with the impure water, the worst water. In general, I thought about making this comment: the family is in crisis, we all know this. … I was referring to all of this, in general: that the Lord may purify us of these crises, of the many things that are described in the Instrumentum laboris. It is a general issue, not referring to any particular point.

Question: Seeing how well the mediation went between Cuba and the U.S., do you think it would it be possible to do something similar between other delicate situations in other countries on the Latin American continent? I’m thinking of Venezuela and Colombia.

Answer: The process between Cuba and the United States was not mediation. It did not have the character of mediation. There was a wish that came … And then, to tell you the truth, three months went by, and I only prayed about the matter … what could I do with these two who had been like this for more than 50 years. Then the Lord made me think of a cardinal. He went there and talked; then knew nothing more and months went by. One day the secretary of State, who is here, told me, “Tomorrow we will have the second meeting with the two teams.” … “Yes, yes, they are talking, the two groups are talking …”. It happened by itself. It was not a mediation. It was the goodwill of the two countries, and the merit is theirs, the merit is theirs for doing this. We did hardly anything, only small things. And in mid-December, it was announced. … Now, I am concerned that the peace process in Colombia must not come to a halt. I have to say this, and I hope that the process goes ahead. In this sense, we are always willing to help, in many ways. It would be a bad thing if it did not go ahead. In Venezuela, the Episcopal Conference is working to make peace there, too. But there too, there is no mediation.

Question: One thing we have heard very little of is a message for the middle class, that is, people who work, who pay their taxes, normal people. My questions is: why are there so few messages for the middle class in the Holy Father’s teaching?

Answer: Thank you, it is a good correction? You are right, it is an error on my part. The world is polarised. The middle class is becoming smaller. The polarisation between rich and poor is great, this is true, and perhaps this has led me not to take account of it. Some nations are doing very well, but in the world in general polarisation is very evident. And the number of poor is large. And why do I speak of the poor? Because they are at the heart of the Gospel. … Then with regard to the middle class, I have said a few words, but somewhat “in passing”. But the common people, the simple people, the worker, that is a great value. But I think you are telling me about something I need to do: I need to deepen the magisterium on this.

Question: Now that Cuba will have a greater role in the international community, do you think that Havana will have to improve its reputation with regard to human rights and religious freedom? And do you think that Cuba risks losing something in its new relationship with the most powerful country in the world?

Answer: Human rights are for all, and are not to be respected only in one or two countries. I would say that in many countries throughout the world human rights are not respected. … What will Cuba or the U.S. lose? Both will gain something and lose something, because this happens in negotiations. Both will gain, this is sure: peace, encounter, friendship, collaboration. These they will gain … but what will they lose, I cannot imagine. They may be concrete things. But in negotiations one always [both] wins and loses. But returning to human rights, and religious freedom: just think that in the world there are some countries, even in Europe, where you cannot make a religious sign, for different reasons. The same applies to other continents. Religious freedom is not respected in all the world: there are many places where it is not respected.

Question: Holy Father, in summary, what message did you want to give to the Latin American Church in these days? And what role can the Latin American Church have, also as a sign to the world?

Answer: The Latin American Church has a great asset: it is a young Church … with a certain freshness, also some informalities, it is not very formal. In addition it has a rich body of theological research. I wanted to encourage this young Church and I believe that this Church can offer us much. One thing that really struck me was that in all three countries, in the streets, there were many fathers and mothers with their children. … I have never seen so many children! It is a people – and also a Church – that has a lesson for us, for Europe, where the declining birthrate is worrying, and there are few policies for helping large families. France has a good policy for helping large families and it has achieved a birthrate of more than two per cent, but in others it remains at zero percent. … The greatest asset of this people and of this Church is that it is a living Church. I believe we can learn from this and correct it as otherwise, if we no longer have children … It is what touches me most about this tendency to cast aside: children are discarded, the elderly are discarded, and through the lack of work, the young too are discarded. These new nations of young people give us greater strength. For the Church, I would say that a young Church – with many problems, because it has problems – I think that this is the message I find: do not be afraid of this youth and this freshness of the Church. It can also be a somewhat undisciplined Church, but with time it will become disciplined, and it offers us much that is good.