POPE ADDRESSES WORLD CONGRESS ON CHILD DIGNITY IN THE DIGITAL WORLD

POPE ADDRESSES WORLD CONGRESS ON CHILD DIGNITY IN THE DIGITAL WORLD

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the participants in the first-ever World Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital World on Friday. The Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University hosted the four-day event, which brought experts in child care, internet security, law enforcement, education, and a host of other fields together to share experiences and best practices, with a view to addressing the problem of the effective protection of the dignity of minors in the digital world.

Child dignity – a crisis and a response in context

In remarks prepared for the participants and delivered to them in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace shortly after noon on Friday, Pope Francis placed the challenges facing individuals and whole societies the world, over, in the context of the struggle not only to articulate, but effectively to guarantee, the rights and dignity of every person – especially the weakest and most vulnerable, and chief among these, children and young people – on which the human family has embarked and in which the Church has been engaged especially since the drafting of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1959 Declaration on the Rights of the Child.

“As representatives of various scientific disciplines and the fields of digital communications, law and political life,” Pope Francis said, “you [participants in the World Congress] have come together precisely because you realize the gravity of these challenges linked to scientific and technical progress.” He went on to say, “With great foresight, you have concentrated on what is probably the most crucial challenge for the future of the human family: the protection of young people’s dignity, their healthy development, their joy and their hope.”

Speaking specifically of the danger the proliferation of pornographic material poses in the digital age, Pope Francis said, “The spread of printed pornography in the past was a relatively small phenomenon compared to the proliferation of pornography on the net.”

He went on to say, “[W]e must not let ourselves be overcome by fear, which is always a poor counsellor, nor let ourselves be paralyzed by the sense of powerlessness that overwhelms us before the difficulty of the task,” at hand.

“Rather,” he said, “we are called to join forces, realizing that we need one another in order to seek and find the right means and approaches needed for effective responses.”

Painful lessons – profound commitment

Pope Francis also spoke of the painful lessons the Church has learned through her recent experience with clerical sex abuse, saying that the Church has come to acknowledge her own failures in providing for the protection of children. “[E]xtremely grave facts have come to light,” he said, “for which we have to accept our responsibility before God, before the victims and before public opinion.” The Pope went on to say, “For this very reason, as a result of these painful experiences and the skills gained in the process of conversion and purification, the Church today feels especially bound to work strenuously and with foresight for the protection of minors and their dignity, not only within her own ranks, but in society as a whole and throughout the world.”

The pernicious effects of mainstreaming pornography

The Holy Father also discussed the pernicious effects that the so-called “mainstreaming” of pornography – not only its broad and ready availability, but also the acceptance of it by society – on adults. “We rightly insist on the gravity of these problems for minors,” he said, “but we can also underestimate or overlook the extent that they are also problems for adults.”

The Pope noted that the spread of ever more extreme pornography and other improper uses of the internet not only causes disorders, dependencies and grave harm among adults, but also has a real impact on the way we view love and relations between the sexes. “We would be seriously deluding ourselves,” he said, “were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors.”

Warning against a “technocratic” approach to the problem

“The second mistaken approach would be to think that automatic technical solutions, filters devised by ever more refined algorithms in order to identify and block the spread of abusive and harmful images, are sufficient to deal with these problems,” he said. “But there is also an urgent need, as part of the process of technological growth itself, for all those involved to acknowledge and address the ethical concerns that this growth raises, in all its breadth and its various consequences.”

What the internet is, and is not

A third risk of which we must be aware in our approach to the digital world is the deluded notion that “the net” is or should be a realm of unlimited freedom.

While the internet and other technologies that are part of the contours, content, and structures of this new digital world have opened vast new fora for free expression and free exchange of ideas and information, it has also offered new means for engaging in heinous illicit activities, including the abuse of minors and offences against their dignity, the corruption of their minds and violence against their bodies.

“This,” said Pope Francis, “has nothing to do with the exercise of freedom: it has to do with crimes that need to be fought with intelligence and determination, through a broader cooperation among governments and law enforcement agencies on the global level, even as the net itself is now global.”

Final Declaration

Toward this end, the participants produced a final document, The Declaration of Rome, which includes its own urgent call to action.

Pope Francis received the Declaration from a young girl participating in the Congress, who gave it to him “on behalf of millions of young people around the world who need information and far more protection from the risks of sexual and other forms of abuse on the internet.”

CLICK HERE FOR FULL SPEECH: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-speech-to-world-congress-on-child-dig

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CHILD DIGNITY CONFERENCE ISSUES FINAL DECLARATION

CHILD DIGNITY CONFERENCE ISSUES FINAL DECLARATION

Pope Francis today addressed the world congress, “Child Dignity in the Digital World,” a conference sponsored by the Child Protection Center of the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome.

Simultaneous with his speech to the group in the Apostolic Palace, the Congress released a final declaration.

DICHIARAZIONE DI ROMA_Child Dignity World Congress_ENG.pdf 271K View as HTML Scan and download

Spanish: DICHIARAZIONE DI ROMA_Child Dignity World Congress_ES.pdf 260K View as HTML Scan and download

 

CHILD DIGNITY IN THE DIGITAL WORLD

CHILD DIGNITY IN THE DIGITAL WORLD

World Congress – October 3-6, 2017 – Rome

From the Congress website https://www.childdignity2017.org/:

Children and adolescents make up over a quarter of the more than 3.2 billion Internet users worldwide. This generation of over 800 million young users is in danger of becoming victims of sextortion, sexting, cyberbullying and harassment.

This global problem calls for a global solution. We need an open and thorough discussion to build awareness, and to mobilize action for a better protection of minors online.

‘Child Dignity in the Digital World’ is the first world congress of its kind that brings together key stakeholders and international leaders from all relevant areas.

This pioneering congress hosted by the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome sets a milestone in the international fight against digital sexual child abuse.

The invitation-only congress brings together distinguished academic experts, business leaders, leaders of civil society, high-level politicians and religious representatives from across the globe. This provides a historic opportunity to set the global agenda for the fight against online sexual child abuse and for child protection in the digital world.

Follow #ChildDignity to receive the latest tweets about the congress

Father Hans Zollner, president of the Gregorian University’s Child Protection Centre, gave a pre-conference interview to SIR, religious news service:

Father Zollner, what are the most worrying aspects of this phenomenon?

Sexual abuse of minors exists in all societies, cultures and countries in the world; this evil is much more widespread than one imagines. A few years ago the European Union launched an initiative titled “One in Five”, based on data showing that one in five boys or girls, that is, 20% of all minors in Europe, are victims of some form of sexual violence. These are horrifying figures. From this perspective, the Internet – a wonderful communication tool – can become a dangerous place, triggering a spiral of danger. Let us consider for example the phenomenon of “sexting”: mostly against girls who are forced by their peers to post pictures of themselves naked, but once the image is online it remains in the web forever and it is constantly re-launched into a system that spirals out of control. There is also the phenomenon of sexual violence committed against very small children filmed “live” in a given world country, seen “live” and paid from anywhere in the world.

Are you referring to the Periscope phenomenon?

This phenomenon circulates very easily also on Skype. What is most surprising is that so many people talk about these situations, yet governments and businesses have failed to adopt targeted, determined actions to counteract them. Something has been done, but it remains a drop in the ocean. Thus we decided to organize this Conference to bring all those in positions of responsibility around the same table and find ways whereby each and everyone together can do their share.

Which enforcement actions can be adopted to counter such a devious and widespread phenomenon?

Focusing on education will be extremely important. Youths today know how to bypass programs that block online access to certain websites. Thus it will be increasingly important to educate youths on the responsible use of the Internet, without forgetting social media, which ranges from Snapchat to Facebook, where youths establish connections, and befriend strangers with the risk of becoming victims of dangerous circles. Businesses should thus declare what they want and can do to avoid “grooming”, which is the process by which an adult befriends a child with the intention of committing sexual abuse. We call upon government authorities to contact businesses, ensure that they fulfil their responsibilities and then – with dedicated legislation – reach an agreement to prevent the perpetrators of abuses to seek their victims on the web.

The world of child molesters unfortunately also sees the presence of priests and religious. Sadly the scandals are ongoing.

Our goal is to give a clear sign that the Church is the first to assume her responsibilities, and that we want and must cooperate with law-enforcement authorities. We are not a separate reality, thus not only must we comply with the law, we must also actively cooperate with the State. Obviously, child sexual abuse , that includes child pornography images, is a serious crime. This crime is even more serious when it is committed by a priest or a religious. That’s why the Pope, during the audience he granted to us last Thursday as representatives of the Pontifical Commission for Child Protection, reiterated his zero tolerance approach towards all forms of abuse inside the Church. Unquestionably, a clear line has been adopted by the Holy See and by Bishops’ Conference worldwide. But this approach won’t solve the problem: there will always be people who will continue doing harm and committing these crimes. Our commitment is thus to persevere in our endeavor to do our utmost to stop this evil and offer this platform of discussion and action to all involved parties.

Speaking to the members of the Pontifical Commission the Pope said that the Church addressed these crimes with considerable delay, while a few months ago Marie Collins denounced what she believed to be excessive inactivity. Unfortunately the issue was addressed too late and with poor efforts. What is your reply to this criticism?

Many people are engaged in addressing this situation at length. In those places where the Church has put her greatest efforts – as in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Australia – prevention activity has delivered positive results. This is out of question. Often courage is what is lacking. In my journeys to 50 world countries I noticed that the phenomenon is not fully acknowledged. It should be said that the phenomenon was seriously addressed in Italy no later than eight years ago. The issue was swept under the carpet and nobody wanted to talk about it.

It was an uncomfortable, painful theme that is hard to cope with, in some cases the will to address it is lacking: this is true not only inside the Church but also across society,

There is no other explanation to the fact that nobody acknowledges that the European Union launched a campaign because one in five European youths was sexually abused. Is the phenomenon too horrendous to speak of? Indeed, it is. And that is why we must discuss it.

 

POPE FRANCIS MOURNS VICTIMS OF LAS VEGAS MASSACRE – WATCH FOR THESE EVENTS……

Early on the morning of Saturday, September 16, my final day of vacation in Honolulu, I was awakened in my hotel room by a noise that I thought was fireworks. I thought of fireworks for a nanosecond as it was still dark outside – nighttime, I thought – but then almost immediately recognized the noise as gunshots. The siren of a police car arriving nearby confirmed that I had heard shots. I did not count but if I had to estimate, I’d have said I heard 8 or so gunshots.

Normally when something suddenly wakes me, as earthquakes have done in the past, I look at the alarm clock but did not do so that morning. Only later, when I looked out my sixth floor window beyond my balcony and saw police car lights flashing, did I learn that, at about 6 am, three men had been shot in a small courtyard I saw every morning as I had breakfast on my balcony.

I never went back to sleep but spent time wondering what had happened, had anyone been hit or hurt on the ground and first floor rooms of the hotel and/or adjacent buildings, and so on. At least half a dozen police cars were still on Kuhio Street, outside my hotel and on the cross street, Seaside, when friends came at noon to pick me up for lunch.

News updates arrived in bits and spurts but I learned eventually that a man was arrested, one of three, after the shooting that left one man dead and two others wounded.

Whether that shooting was drug-fueled or part of a gang killing, I do not know.

And, as horrible as any shooting is, what happened last night in Las Vegas leaves me breathless. I’m a wordsmith by profession but words fail me at this moment. To use “massacre,” “senseless tragedy,” “horrifying,” “unspeakable,” to describe last night’s killing spree just doesn’t seem to be enough.

I’ve followed events on Foxnews all day and even the expression, “an image is worth a thousand words,” doesn’t seem to do it.

As President Trump said, this was “an act of pure evil.” The evil of the killer in fact defies description. The numbers of dead and injured are mind-boggling: 58 dead and over 500 injured as I write.

Two of my nieces and one nephew and his wife (my sister’s two daughters and one son) went to a U-2 concert in San Diego on September 22 – yet another big venue and enormous crowd. All went well, of course, but that’s all I could think of today as I followed the news from Las Vegas. I though about that San Diego concert, of all the people who went home that night, tired but very happy, of seeing my nieces and nephew who could tell me about the concert.

And the people last night who will never go home again.

The best we can do now is pray. I know there are moments in life – such as now – when those words might seem almost trivial to some, but to people of real faith, praying is now the best way we can help those who mourn, especially prayers for the repose of the souls of those who died.

Requiescat in pace!

POPE FRANCIS MOURNS VICTIMS OF LAS VEGAS MASSACRE

Following is the telegram sent by Secretary of State Pietro Parolin in the name of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to the Most Reverend Joseph Anthony Pepe, Bishop of Las Vegas:

Deeply saddened to learn of the shooting in Las Vegas, Pope Francis sends the assurance of his spiritual closeness to all those affected by this senseless tragedy. He commends the efforts of the police and emergency service personnel, and offers the promise of his prayers for the injured and for all who have died, entrusting them to the merciful love of Almighty God.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State

The attack in Las Vegas is being described as the deadliest mass shooting in United States history. The gunman, identified by police as Stephen Paddock,64, died at the scene. Police said he fired from the 32nd floor of a Las Vegas Strip casino onto an outdoor country music festival Sunday night.

WATCH FOR THESE EVENTS……

Two very important meetings will take place in Rome this week. Members of the Child Protection Center of Rome’s Jesuit-run Gregorian University will meet October 3 to 6 for a global conference on “Child Dignity in the Digital World.”

This is the result of an initiative launched by the European Union called ONE IN FIVE, referring to the fact that that one boy or girl of every five, that is, 20% of all children in Europe, are victims of sexual abuse. Father Hans Zollner, president of the Child Protection Center, said, ahead of the first global conference on “Child Dignity in the Digital World, “These are horrifying figures.”

This phenomenon circulates on the web via sextortion, sexting, cyberbullying, etc. The victims are children and adolescents in particular. Moreover, 25% of over 3.2 billion Internet users worldwide are children.

Fr. Zollner said, “The purpose of the meeting is to elicit a discussion and sharing platform, and, above all, to launch a set of actions against the sexual abuse of minors online and for the protection of minors in the digital.”

The conference will bring together people and institutions involved in countering this problem in different ways. Government representatives, business executives – especially CEOs of companies linked to the Internet world – law-enforcement authorities, NGOs, international organizations such as UNICEF, along with representatives of media outlets and religious communities: Christians, Jews and Muslims, and experts in the digital world.

The second big meeting this week is that of the Pontifical Academy for Life as members gather in Vatican City for the 23rd General assembly and the October 5 to 7 Workshop, “Accompanying Life: New Responsibilities in the Technological Era.” This is the first meeting of the Academy since the statutes were revised and new members appointed by Pope Francis.

 

POPE FRANCIS TALKS ABOUT THE FIRST TWO YEARS OF HIS PAPACY – CARDINAL MARADIAGA ON FRANCIS’ DESIRE FOR “A POOR CHURCH, FOR THE POOR” – DON’T FORGET “24 HOURS FOR THE LORD”! – VATICAN INSIDER FEATURES TALK BY CARDINAL SEAN O’MALLEY

I’m still in Sorrento on the Amalfi Coast for a few days off but I could not let the Pope’s anniversary pass without some news, in addition to announcing, as I do every Friday, my guest this weekend on “Vatican Insider.” I’ve also posted some news on facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420 – and be sure to check this every day because I have an important announcement to make.

And how can we not think of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI on this day!  Many prayers and much love is being sent your way, today, Santo Padre!

Now, on to Pope Francis’ anniversary…..

The following two verses, two of the three original verses of Fr. Frederick Faber’s hymn, were part of the Prayer for the Evening on Friday, March 6 in the March edition of MAGNIFICAT. Only one thought went through my mind as I read these words: Isn’t this what Pope Francis has been telling us for two years?  Church teaching but with room for God’s love and mercy, His understanding and forgiveness:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy like the wideness of the sea;

there’s a kindness in his justice, which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner, and more graces for the good;

there is mercy with the Savior; there is healing in his blood.

For the love of God is broader than the measure of man’s mind;

and the heart of the Eternal;

Is most wonderfully kind.

But we make His love too narrow

By false limits of our own;

And we magnify his strictness

With a zeal He will not own.

The lines above in italics are not part of the original whose final four lines are:

If our love were but more faithful, we should take him at His word;

and our life would be thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord.)

Here is the original second verse (not included in Magnificat)

There is no place where earth’s sorrows are more felt than in heaven; there is no place where earth’s failings have such kind judgment given. There is plentiful redemption in the blood that has been shed; there is joy for all the members in the sorrows of the Head.

Click here to read more about Fr. Faber: http://www.crisismagazine.com/2012/the-zeal-of-a-convert-father-frederick-faber

POPE FRANCIS TALKS ABOUT THE FIRST TWO YEARS OF HIS PAPACY

Pope Francis addressed migration, drug trafficking, the reform of the Curia, the challenges of the synod for the family, making the Church a safe home for all children and vulnerable adults, details of the conclave that elected him, the proliferation of sects in Latin America, the length of his pontificate and why Mexico is not on his September trip to the United States in an interview with Valentina Alazraki of Televisa, a Mexican broadcaster.

POPE FRANCIS - BALCONY ELECTION   1 POPE FRANCIS ON ELECTION DAY

Click here to read the transcript of the conversation between the Pope and mexican journalist: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-on-his-pontificate-to-date

CARDINAL MARADIAGA ON FRANCIS’ DESIRE FOR “A POOR CHURCH, FOR THE POOR”

(Vatican Radio)  As Pope Francis marks the second anniversary of his election, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, President of Caritas Internationalis, looks at one of the main hallmarks of his papacy, his desire “for a poor Church, for the poor.”  It was only three days after his election on March 13, 2013 that Pope Francis spoke that much-quoted phrase during an audience with journalists and since then the Pope’s words and deeds have helped to reinforce that message in many different ways.

Cardinal Maradiaga it was obvious “right from the very beginning” when the newly-elected Pope chose the name of Francis after the great Italian saint from Assisi who renounced his wealth and devoted his life to the poor that reaching out to the poor and marginalized would be a key hallmark of his papacy.  Calling it a “great message”, the Honduran Cardinal said Pope Francis is trying “to change attitudes” and fight “the indifference” of so many in today’s society to this moral imperative to help the poor and marginalised.

Cardinal Mariadiaga, who’s the coordinator of the C-9 group of cardinals tasked with helping the Pope to reform the Roman Curia, spoke to Susy Hodges: http://www.news.va/en/news/cardinal-maradiaga-on-popes-desire-for-poor-church

DON’T FORGET “24 HOURS FOR THE LORD”!

Help Pope Francis mark the second anniversary of his election to the papacy by participating in the second annual “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative that starts this evening, Friday, March 13 with a penitential prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica presided over by Pope Francis in order to place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center of the Church’s mission of the new evangelization. The theme that will guide the reflection in 2015 isGod rich in mercy (Eph 2:4).

The Holy Father announced this initiative last year at the Angelus on March 23 when he said,  a “special moment of penance” called the “24 Hours for the Lord”‘ will be held in St Peter’s Basilica and in many churches in Rome and around the world.” It was held on March 28-29 last year. The Pope said at the time that this event “will start with a celebration in St Peter’s Basilica on Friday afternoon, Then, in the evening and overnight some churches in the center of Rome will be open for prayers and confessions. It will be a festival of forgiveness, which will also take place in many dioceses and parishes around the world.”

In Rome, some of the churches that will be open through the night for confessions, Eucharistic adoration and private prayer include Sant’Agnese in Piazza Navona, Santa Maria in Trastevere, and the Church of the Stigmata of St. Francis (Chiesa delle Sacre Stimmate di San Francesco) in Rome’s central Largo Argentina.

“24 Hours for the Lord” concludes at 5pm on Saturday with Vespers presided over by Archbishop Fisichella at Santo Spirito in Sassia, Archbishop Fisichella is president of the council for the new evangelization from whence came this initiative.

(Dioceses around the world are participating in this event, so check with your local diocese, if you have not already done so

VATICAN INSIDER FEATURES TALK BY CARDINAL SEAN O’MALLEY

I have a different format this weekend on Vatican Insider because I dedicate the entire program to a wonderful talk given by Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome. The cardinal spoke on February 16 at a presentation for the press, and a later one for the public, of the CCP, the Center for Child Protection.

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The CCP was established in 2012 by the Gregorian, by the archdiocese of Munich and Freising and by the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology of the State University Clinic of Ulm in Germany.  First located in Munich it has now found a new and permanent home at this pontifical university where it is part of the Institute of Psychology.

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In February 2012, an international symposium of bishops and Church personnel was held at the Gregorian on the sex abuse crisis. Entitled, “Towards Healing and Renewal,” it had the support of the Holy Father (then Pope Benedict) and numerous offices of the Roman Curia, most notably the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that has been overseeing sex abuse cases. The aim of the 2012 symposium was to inform Catholic bishops and religious superiors on the global, cross-cultural resources available in responding to sexual abuse within the Church and society. They learned that the Center for Child Protection, previously set up and running in Munich, would be one such resource tool, as would an e-learning center – now fully operational – at the Gregorian, to help safeguard children and the victims of molestation.

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The February 16 two-part conference, also entitled, “Towards Healing and Renewal,” focused on the renewed commitment of everyone involved in the CCP as well as an update on the Center three years after the 2012 symposium.

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Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley spoke at both events. He is one of the C9 cardinals – the advisory council instituted by Pope Francis that consists of nine cardinals – and is also the head of the Vatican’s own Commission for the Protection of Minors, though that Commission and the CCP are separate entities. The CCP is not a Vatican body.

POPE FRANCIS DENOUNCES MAN’S CAPABILITY FOR EVIL AND DESTRUCTION, CONDEMNS “MERCHANTS OF DEATH” – POPE FRANCIS TELLS YOUTH, “HAVE THE COURAGE TO BE HAPPY!”

Yesterday, I spent a fascinating afternoon and early evening at the Pontifical Gregorian University for an updated presentation for the press, and later for the public, of the CCP, the Center for Child Protection. Established in 2012 by the Gregorian, the archdiocese of Munich und Freising and the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology of the State University Clinic of Ulm, the CCP was first located in Munich but now has found a new and permanent home at the Jesuit-run Roman university where it is part of the Institute of Psychology.

In February 2012, an international symposium of bishops and Church personnel was held at the Gregorian on the sex abuse crisis. Entitled, “Towards Healing and Renewal,” it had the support of the Holy Father (then Pope Benedict) and numerous offices of the Roman Curia, most notably the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that has been overseeing sex abuse cases. The aim of the 2012 symposium was to inform Catholic bishops and religious superiors on the global, cross-cultural resources available in responding to sexual abuse within the Church and society. They learned that the Center for Child Protection, previously set up and running in Munich, would be one such resource tool, as would an e-learning center – now fully operational – at the Gregorian, to help safeguard children and the victims of molestation.

Yesterday’s two-part conference, again entitled “Towards Healing and Renewal,” focused on the renewed commitment of everyone involved in the CCP as well as an update on the Center three years after the 2012 symposium.

Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley spoke at both events yesterday. He is one of the C9 cardinals – the papal advisory council that consists of nine cardinals – and is also the head of the Vatican’s own Commission for the Protection of Minors, though that Commission and the CCP are separate entities. The CCP is not a Vatican body.

Members of both the CCP and the Vatican Commission spoke, as did the president of the Gregorian University and other guests. I want to write more in-depth about the speeches given yesterday, the progress made by the CCP, and the programs offered relative to this at the Greg (as the Gregorian University is affectionately called in Rome) and will do so in a special profile of this Center next week.

FYI: In another vein: You’ve been hearing for some time now, in this column and elsewhere, about the showers that the Vatican has built for the homeless and the barber service that began yesterday in the same area just off the right hand colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. My colleagues at CNA wrote a story about yesterday’s inaugural haircuts (which I also posted on facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/unexpected-friendships-bloom-as-vatican-rolls-out-haircuts-for-homeless-35710/

I began to wonder if there was a patron saint for the homeless. This thought had never occurred to me!  Indeed, there is one – Benedict Joseph Labre!  Here is his story:

Benedict Joseph Labre was truly eccentric, one of God’s special little ones. Born in France and the eldest of 18 children, he studied under his uncle, a parish priest. Because of poor health and a lack of suitable academic preparation he was unsuccessful in his attempts to enter the religious life. Then, at 16 years of age, a profound change took place. Benedict lost his desire to study and gave up all thoughts of the priesthood, much to the consternation of his relatives.

He became a pilgrim, traveling from one great shrine to another, living off alms. He wore the rags of a beggar and shared his food with the poor. Filled with the love of God and neighbor, Benedict had special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Blessed Sacrament. In Rome, where he lived in the Colosseum for a time, he was called “the poor man of the Forty Hours Devotion” and “the beggar of Rome.” The people accepted his ragged appearance better than he did. His excuse to himself was that “our comfort is not in this world.”

On the last day of his life, April 16, 1783, Benedict Joseph dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours before he collapsed, dying peacefully in a nearby house. Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint. (Source: www.americancatholic.org)

THE NEWS: Two stories today: The first reflects Pope Francis’ soul and the second his heart. The first, a papal homily, should be read slowly and thoughtfully, almost as a pre-Lenten meditation. The second story tends to be more joyful  – but also meditative – as Pope Francis talks to young people in his message for the 2015 World Youth Day that will mark the 30th anniversary of WYD, established by St. John Paul in 1985.

POPE FRANCIS DENOUNCES MAN’S CAPABILITY FOR EVIL AND DESTRUCTION, CONDEMNS “MERCHANTS OF DEATH”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered Mass Tuesday morning for the repose of the souls of the 21 Coptic Christians martyred for their faith in Christ. The Mass was attended by the Pope’s personal secretary, Father Yoannis Lahzi Gaid, who is Coptic Catholic. (Photo: news.va)

COPTIC CHRISTIANS

As he prepared to begin Mass in the Santa Marta Chapel, the Pope invited the congregation to join him in prayer for “our brother Copts, whose throats were slit for the sole reason of being Christian, that the Lord welcome them as martyrs, for their families, for my brother Tawadros, who is suffering greatly.”

Pope Tawadros II is the leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

Monday afternoon, Pope Francis called the Coptic leader to express sincere condolences to the Coptic Church for the recent barbaric assassination by beheading of 21 Coptic Christians by militants of the fundamentalist Islamic State. The beheadings took place in Libya. The Holy Father promised his prayers on Monday and also Tuesday, the day of the funeral celebrations for the victims. He told the patriarch he unites himself spiritually to the prayers and the sorrow of the Coptic Church in his morning Mass Tuesday.

During his homily the Pope spoke of man’s capability for evil and destruction and condemned what he termed ‘merchants of death’, business people who sell arms to those at war, furthering a cycle of hate, fratricide and violence.

Pope Francis was reflecting on the passage from Genesis that speaks of God’s wrath at man’s wickedness that is a prelude to the great flood. The Pope noted with regret that man, “seems to be more powerful than God,” because he is capable of destroying the good things that God has made.

Man is capable of destroying fraternity

Pope Francis pointed out that in the first chapters of the Bible we find many examples – Sodom and Gomorrah, the Tower of Babel – in which man reveals his wickedness. “An evil that lurks in the depths of the heart.” The Pope noted some people would urge him not to be so negative, but – he continued – “this is the truth. We are also capable of destroying fraternity: Cain and Abel in the first pages of the Bible. They destroy fraternity. This is where wars begin. Jealousy, envy, so much greed for power, to have more power. Yes, this sounds negative, but it is realistic. You only have to pick up a newspaper, any newspaper – left-wing, center, right-ring … whatever. And you will see that more than 90% of the news is news of destruction. More than 90%. We see this every day”. Pope Francis then asked the question: “What is happening in man’s heart?” He said Jesus reminds us that, “from within, out of the heart of man, comes evil. … (Our) weak heart is wounded.”

Merchants of death sell arms to those who are at war

Pope Francis observed that man always “desires autonomy”: “I do what I want and if I want to do something, I will! So, if I want to make war, I will!” “Why are we like this? Because we are capable of destruction, that’s the problem.  There are wars, arms trafficking … ‘But, we are businessmen!’ Yes, but of what? Of death? And there are countries that sell weapons, are at war with one side but also selling weapons to them, so that the war continues. A capacity for destruction.  It’s not coming from our neighbors: it’s coming from us! ‘Every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’. Everyone has this seed within, this possibility, but we also have the Holy Spirit who saves us! We must choose, in the little things.”

Pope Francis went on to warn against using gossip or slander against our neighbor: “Even in parishes and associations,” “jealousy” and “envy” can push people to go to their pastor to speak ill of others.

He warned: “This is evil and we all have this ability to destroy.” As Lent begins, the Church “invites us to reflect on this.”

Pointing to today’s Gospel where Jesus rebukes the disciples who are arguing among themselves about having forgotten to bring bread, the Lord tells them to “watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  He gives the example of two people: Herod who “is bad, a murderer, and the Pharisees who are hypocrites.” In doing so, Jesus reminds them of when he broke the five loaves and urges them to think of salvation, of what God has done for all of us. Pope Francis went on to note that, “they did not understand, because their hearts were hardened by this passion, by this evil need to argue among each other and see who was guilty of having forgotten the bread”.

Choosing to do good, thanks to the strength Jesus gives us

Pope Francis said we have to take the Lord’s message “seriously.” “There is nothing strange in this, these are not the words of a Martian,” “man is able to do so much good,” he continued citing the example of Mother Teresa, “a woman of our time.”  All of us, he said, “are capable of doing good, but we are also all capable of destruction; destruction great and small and even within our own family.  [We are capable of destroying] our children,” not allowing them to grow “in freedom, not helping them to mature; canceling out our children.”  We are capable of this and this means that we need to constantly “meditate, pray, discuss things with each other, so as not to fall into this evil that destroys everything.”

“And we have the strength, Jesus reminds us. Remember. He says to us today: ‘Remember. Remember Me, I shed my blood for you; remember Me, I have saved you, I have saved you all; Remember Me, I have the strength to accompany you on the journey of life, not on the path of evil, but on the path of goodness, of doing good to others; not the path of destruction, but the path that builds: builds a family, builds a city, builds a culture, builds a home and much, much more”.

During Lent, we pray not to be misled by temptations

The Pope concluded: “We ask the Lord, today, before the beginning of Lent for this grace: to always choose the right path with his help and not be misled by temptations down the wrong path.”

POPE FRANCIS TELLS YOUTH, “HAVE THE COURAGE TO BE HAPPY!”

The Vatican today released Pope Francis’ Message for World Youth Day 2015 in which he urges young people to “have the courage to be happy.” WYD will be celebrated around the world on a diocesan level on Palm Sunday, the last celebration before the international youth day to be held in Krakow, Poland in July 2016. The Message also marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of this world day by Pope John Paul II. (logo of WYD Krakow)

WYD KRAKOW LOGO

Continuing his focus on the Beatitudes in World Youth Day messages, Pope Francis this year underscores “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5: 8).

He writes that, “God has placed in the heart of every man and woman an irrepressible desire for happiness, for fulfillment,” and he tells young people in particular it is in Christ that “you will find fulfilled your every desire for goodness and happiness. He alone can satisfy your deepest longings, which are so often clouded by deceptive worldly promises.”

He encouraged youth “to rediscover the beauty of the human vocation to love, I also urge you to rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone, deprived of its essential characteristics of beauty, communion, fidelity and responsibility.” As he highlighted the “precious treasure” of “the ability to love and be loved,” he emphasized “Do not let this precious treasure be debased, destroyed or spoiled.”

“In a culture of relativism and the ephemeral,” he tells his young friends, “many preach the importance of ‘enjoying’ the moment. They say that it is not worth making a life-long commitment, making a definitive decision, ‘for ever’, because we do not know what tomorrow will bring.  I ask you, instead, to be revolutionaries, I ask you to swim against the tide; Yes, I am asking you to rebel against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love.”

The Pope asks: “In what, then, does the happiness born of a pure heart consist?  From Jesus’ list of the evils which make someone impure, we see that the question has to do above all with the area of our relationships.  Each one of us must learn to discern what can “defile” his or her heart and to form his or her conscience rightly and sensibly, so as to be capable of ‘discerning the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (Rom 12:2).  We need to show a healthy concern for creation, for the purity of our air, water and food, but how much more do we need to protect the purity of what is most precious of all: our heart and our relationships.  This ‘human ecology’ will help us to breathe the pure air that comes from beauty, from true love, and from holiness.”

Francis notes that, “Our hearts can be attached to true or false treasures, they can find genuine rest or they can simply slumber, becoming lazy and lethargic.  The greatest good we can have in life is our relationship with God.  Are you convinced of this?  Do you realize how much you are worth in the eyes of God?  Do you know that you are loved and welcomed by him unconditionally, as indeed you are?  Once we lose our sense of this, we human beings become an incomprehensible enigma, for it is the knowledge that we are loved unconditionally by God which gives meaning to our lives.”

The Pope pointed out that, “Saint Teresa of Avila, born in Spain five hundred years ago, even as a young girl, said to her parents, ‘I want to see God’.  She subsequently discovered the way of prayer as ‘an intimate friendship with the One who makes us feel loved’ (Autobiography, 8,5).  So my question to you is this: Are you praying?  Do you know that you can speak with Jesus, with the Father, with the Holy Spirit, as you speak to a friend?”  And he urged daily reading of Scripture to realize this friendship and get to know God.

In the section of his message entitled “On the way to Krakow,” Pope Francis says: “Dear young men and women, as you see, this beatitude speaks directly to your lives and is a guarantee of your happiness.  So once more I urge you: Have the courage to be happy!

“This year’s World Youth Day,” he continues, “begins the final stage of preparations for the great gathering of young people from around the world in Krakow in 2016. Thirty years ago Saint John Paul II instituted World Youth Days in the Church.  This pilgrimage of young people from every continent under the guidance of the Successor of Peter has truly been a providential and prophetic initiative.  Together let us thank the Lord for the precious fruits which these World Youth Days have produced in the lives of countless young people in every part of the globe!

“How many amazing discoveries have been made, especially the discovery that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life!  How many people have realized that the Church is a big and welcoming family!  How many conversions, how many vocations have these gatherings produced!  May the saintly Pope, the Patron of World Youth Day, intercede on behalf of our pilgrimage toward his beloved Krakow.  And may the maternal gaze of the Blessed Virgin Mary, full of grace, all-beautiful and all-pure, accompany us at every step along the way.”