IRAQI DELEGATE AT SYNOD: YOUNG PEOPLE NEED A “FAST RESPONSE” – SYNOD OF BISHOPS: “HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO FIND DAWN IN TWILIGHT”

I posted news yesterday on Facebook about the canonization ceremony for seven news saints during Mass in St. Peter’s Square, including St. Pope Paul VI and murdered Salvadoran Archbishop St. Oscar Romero.

If you tune it tonight to EWTN’s “At Home with Jim and Joy,” you will hear me share two interesting stories about the first Pope I ever spoke to, the new saint, Paul VI. John XXIII was the first Pope I ever saw in a general audience but no words were exchanged.

It was a very busy morning today for Pope Francis as he addressed thousands of pilgrims who had come to Rome for St. Romero’s canonization, welcomed the president of Poland and later, in the Secretariat of State, presented the new Substitute for General Affairs, 58-year old Venezuelan Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra. Appointed by Pope Francis on 15 August, he succeeds Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who was recently named Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The Romero pilgrims –

Read on for synod news: I am puzzled by some words, a bad translation probably, in one part of the press briefing, as you can see here:  Fr Marco Tasca, O.F.M., the Franciscan General, said that he has been reflecting on St Francis of Assisi who had to make a radical choice to follow a different lifestyle. He said that this is what the Church offers today. Listening, he said, has been key. He told a story that he heard about a bishop who visited a family. A young person in the house told the bishop that he is fake. He said that the bishops responded by asking the young person to help him not to be fake.

IRAQI DELEGATE AT SYNOD: YOUNG PEOPLE NEED A “FAST RESPONSE”

Iraqi auditor, Mr Safa al Abbia, speaks about his experience of the Synod and the response to his presentation to the Synod assembly.
(vaticannews – Russell Pollitt, SJ)

Mr Safa al Abbia is a 26-year-old Chaldean Catholic dentist from Iraq. He was invited to the Synod of Bishops on Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment currently underway in Rome.

His plea to the Bishops is that the universal Church helps young people in Iraq who are being persecuted for their faith. He explained that the main challenge for youth in Iraq is “peace and stability and their right to live in dignity.”

In his intervention at the Synod, which ended with rapturous applause, he told the Bishops that young people were struggling to remain as faithful witnesses to Jesus and hold onto their traditions, values and liturgy. He said that many of them have watched their brothers and sisters being martyred and their churches bombed.
He also related a painful experience. He said that he will never forget the face of his friends who, after Mass, said, “See you next week”. He never saw them again because they were “burned under the fire of the bombed car” near their church.

He told Pope Francis that he had a message for him from the young people of Iraq: “They hope one day to see you in Iraq.”

He said that he had two important experiences at the Synod: First, that he was able to tell the world what was happening in Iraq because it was important that others knew the inside story. He said he felt supported by many who were at the Synod who heard his story. Second, he discovered that many young people across the world are suffering for different reasons. He mentioned sexuality, social media and the breakdown of family life. He said that it was important because knowing what happens in other places means that young people can support each other in all sorts of ways – including through prayer and by helping people rebuild what has been destroyed.

Mr Al Abbia said that he believes that he was really heard at the Synod. He said that after the applause he received in the general assembly, many people came to him and asked how they could help the people of Iraq.

He hopes that the Synod will, in the end, result in an accurate account of reality. He does not want the Synod to be “saying a speech and clapping and support [for] the talk” but a real “positive feedback” of reality on the ground, the lived experiences of many young people.

He says that he had more than one opportunity to speak to Pope Francis. Smiling broadly he says that the first time he met the Holy Father he could not speak because he was so stunned to be standing in front of the Pope. He tells of how, in Brazil, at World Youth Day, they only saw the Pope in the distance. Now he stood before him!

The second time he met Pope Francis he says he asked him to pray for his country in general but also for all the Christians of Iraq and for him and his family.

The third time he met the Pope he made a video, asking the Holy Father to give a message to the young people of Iraq which he intends playing to them next week when the young people of Iraq will gather to pray for the Synod currently underway.

He said that Pope Francis is a wonderful person.

The Holy Father responded telling him that he would pray for the people of Iraq. Mr Al Abbia explains how, when talking about Iraq, he sees a real sadness in the Pope’s eyes.

At the end of his speech he told the Pope that the Iraqi people, especially young people, hope he will visit the country. He says that the Holy Father laughed when he heard that.

Mr Al Abbia said that his message to the world is to ask for prayer for Iraq. He also says “do not forget us.” He said that he realises that there is a lot of suffering in the world and maybe the attention of the world has shifted to places like Syria. Although the situation in Iraq is a bit better, he says that nothing is guaranteed. “Don’t forget us because we have a wonderful group of young people that are steadfast in their faith, salt to the earth as Jesus said.”

He says that he is afraid that young people in Iraq will lose their faith and become hopeless. This he believes leads to two possibilities: young people leave the Church or immigrate from Iraq. He said that in 2003 there were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq, now there are only 400 thousand. This is a “miserable thing!” He reminds the world that Christianity was in Iraq from the first century.

“It is not possible to say, one day, oh there were Christians in Iraq, no, the Christians have to still be in Iraq. This is the message, we need the world to support us and at the same time we support all the young people around the world and we pray for them and their countries and their families.”

He says that the biggest challenge of this Synod will be that young people are waiting for results, they want “fast results.” He says that young people are tired and bored and they want something that reflects reality.

Mr Al Abbia said that in an email he was told that the Synod was a waste of money, that the Vatican brought people from all over the world and that this could have be done through electronic means, like Skype. He said that it was important that people came together in Rome, to share their stories like he shared his. He said that being able to share his story helped him tell the world, for example, about what is really happening in Iraq.

He said that it was important that the Church listened to young people and then responded. He adds, “but we need a fast response.”

Mr Al Abbia had to return to Iraq soon after doing this interview. His mother is unwell and he needed to be with her. He told Vatican News that he could not come back to the Synod of Bishops on Young people because his visa only allowed him one entry into the EU.

SYNOD OF BISHOPS: “HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO FIND DAWN IN TWILIGHT”

Three General Superiors and an auditor from Chile were present at the daily press briefing on the Synod of Bishops on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment
By Russell Pollitt, SJ (vatiannews)

The message of young people to bishops

Ms Silvia Teresa Retamales Morales said that it was a great privilege and responsibility for her to be at the Synod. She said that she was here to express the voices of all those young people who wanted to come to Rome and talk to the bishops. She says that when the young heard she was coming to the Synod they reached out to her, many of whom were non-Catholic. They told her that they wanted her to bring this message: they want a multi-cultural Church that is open to all, not a Church this is judgmental. They want a Church that makes everyone feel at home, a Church that reflects the message of Jesus Christ. She also said that young people say that the Church should not discriminate against minorities – especially people of different sexual orientations and the poor.

Addressing, specifically, homosexuality, she said that young people believe that gay people have the same rights as everyone else and that they too want to live their faith in the Church. She says that she sees discrimination, people who are not open to gays. She said that the Church’s first mandate is love. Gay people must be fully recognised as brothers and sisters that need to be accompanied by us. She said that this had been discussed in the Synod assembly.

Ms Morales said that young people also want women to be given a bigger role and responsibility in the Church. In Chile, she said, women are becoming more empowered in both society and in the Church, they must be given more responsibility.

Opportunity for a renewed mission

Fr Arturo Sosa, S.J., said that many challenges, like secularisation and the digital world, are an opportunity to renew the mission of the Church to proclaim the Gospel. He said that the challenge of how to educate young people in an unpredictable world needs consideration.

Fr Sosa also said that a sign of our times is migration and the way that migrants are treated in every country. Migrants, he said, are people who are looking for a better life. He said that the reaction to migrants and refugees shows us just how inhumane we are becoming. He said we need to understand why people leave their countries and also why there is massive internal movement. He says this necessitates that we ask questions like why democracy seems to be weakening and nationalism is on the rise and how this is linked to migration.

The Jesuit Superior General said that people are helped in emergency situations but that he was also shocked to see how much time refugees spend in camps, some most of their lives. Can you imagine what happens to young men and women who spend their lives in refugee camps, he asked. He explained that the Jesuits are trying to use technology, the digital world, to provide education in the camps.

Listening must move to action

Dominican General, Fr Bruno Cadoré, said that Church, through the Synod, wants to pass from listening to conversation. He says that the preparation for the Synod was accurate and detailed and that young people were listened to inside and outside of the Church.

Fr Marco Tasca, O.F.M., the Franciscan General, said that he has been reflecting on St Francis of Assisi who had to make a radical choice to follow a different lifestyle. He said that this is what the Church offers today. Listening, he said, has been key. He told a story that he heard about a bishop who visited a family. A young person in the house told the bishop that he is fake. He said that the bishops responded by asking the young person to help him not to be fake. Fr Tasca said that this is the meaning of the word listening: being open to what young people say, their style. He said that the Synod was taking place to build the Church, together. He said that the Synod must move from listening to conversation so that the Church can find its way. He said that sometimes it is “difficult to find dawn in twilight.”

Fr Sosa said that he personally believed that Vatican II introduced an ecclesiological model that has not become a reality. He said that we made some progress and then took steps back. He said that at the heart of that model is that the people of God are in the centre. This model, he said, needs to be embodied in history.

Fr Cadoré said that a hallmark of the Church is that it is open to change, orientated towards the future.

At the briefing Dr Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications, clarified that on Saturday 27 Oct. 2018 the Synod Father’s will vote paragraph by paragraph on the final document. Each paragraph needs a two-third majority to be part of the final text.

The question of women auditors being allowed to vote was asked again. The Superiors present reminded journalists that this was a Synod of Bishops and the Church is marked by its culture. Fr Sosa said that Pope Francis wants a deeply synodal Church so changes might be forthcoming. He said that the discomfort with this is important as it means something is not right and it needs to be addressed.

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VATICAN INSIDER WELCOMES CHALDEAN PATRIARCH SAKO – POPE’S AUGUST PRAYER INTENTION: FOR THE TREASURE OF FAMILIES

There are more wonderful stories to tell about my time in Prague, in particular the afternoon visit for Mass and prayer in the church of Our Lady Victorious, home to the celebrated statue known as the Infant of Prague. I’ve been preparing Vatican Insider for this weekend, among other projects, so don’t have time today for Prague adventures but I’ll set aside some time in coming days to continue my travelblogue © about the Infant of Prague, St. Vitus Cathedral and the wonderful Premonstratensian monastery of Zeliv! So stay tuned!

It’s unusually hot here in Rome, although as I write, it is 6:30 pm and the skies are dark and threatening. A little rain – or a lot of it! – might help the temps go down, though I’m not sure if it will bring down the high humidity. The weather has been a huge problem for millions and surely none more so than the homeless. Shelters here are being strained to the limits and there is no immediate relief in sight. Even if a storm occurs, temps will probably be back up within hours.

VATICAN INSIDER WELCOMES CHALDEAN PATRIARCH SAKO

My guest in the interview segment of “Vatican Insider” this week is Cardinal and Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon Louis Raphael I Sako. We spoke the day after Pope Francis made him a cardinal in the June 28th consistory. We met at an international house for clergy and spoke for about a half hour.


The patriarch and I have been friends since 2010, having first met in Kirkuk, Iraq when he was bishop of that diocese. We’ve met a number of times since, in Iraq, Lebanon and Rome and it was a joy to renew our acquaintance on this auspicious day for the Chaldean Church and faithful.


An alert: The residence for clergy has few public rooms for interviews and they all have the same drawback – small rooms very high ceilings and nothing to soften or reduce an echo when we speak. However, you will probably not notice that when you listen to Cardinal Sako’s message. This week it is Part I of our conversation.

Cardinal Sako was not new to the color red when he became a cardinal – his color as patriarch is red. Speaking on behalf of all the new cardinals, Patriarch Sako addressed the Pope at the start of the June 28th consistory. You will hear some of those remarks in our conversation this weekend.

“A number of Muslims have come to give me their best wishes, and they expressed their admiration for the opening of the Church and for your always being close to people in their concerns, fears and hopes.

”As far as I am concerned, I am the recipient of your special attention for the Eastern Churches and for the small flock at constitutes the Christians in the Middle East, in Pakistan and in other countries that are going through a difficult period because of wars and sectarianism and where there are still many martyrs. We pray and hope that your efforts to promote peace will change the hearts of men and women for the better and will contribute to assuring a dignified atmosphere for every person.”

“Naming one to the cardinalate is not a prize or a personal honor, as is sometimes thought but rather it is sending us into mission with a red habit (indicating) that we will give our life to the very end, even to the shedding of blood, bringing “Evangelii gaudium” –the gospel of joy – to everyone.”

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on http://www.ewtn.com. 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.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on http://www.ewtnradio.net ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/multimedia/audio-library/index.asp (write Vatican Insider where it says Search Shows and Episodes)

POPE’S AUGUST PRAYER INTENTION: FOR THE TREASURE OF FAMILIES

Pope Francis on Thursday released a video message accompanying his prayer intention for August 2018, “For the treasure of Families”.
In his prayer intention for this month, Pope Francis says: “Together, let us ask Jesus that any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.”

It has become the custom of Pope Francis to release a video message detailing his prayer intention for each month.

The full text of his intention follows:

“When speaking of families, often the image of a treasure comes to my mind. Today’s rhythm of life, stress, pressure at work, and also the little attention paid by institutions, could put them in danger. It’s not enough to talk about their importance: it’s necessary to promote concrete means and to develop their role in society with a good family policy.Together, let us ask Jesus that any far-reaching decisions of economists and politicians may protect the family as one of the treasures of humanity.”

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network of the Apostleship of Prayer developed “The Pope Video” initiative to assist in the worldwide dissemination of monthly intentions of the Holy Father in relation to the challenges facing humanity. (vaticannews.va)

Click here to see video: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-08/pope-francis-prayer-august-families.html#play

VATICAN INSIDER: AN IRAQI BISHOP SPEAKS OF HIS ABDUCTION

VATICAN INSIDER: AN IRAQI BISHOP SPEAKS OF HIS ABDUCTION

My amazing guest in the interview segment this week is Bishop Saad Sirop Hanna, auxiliary of the Chaldean Patriarchate of Baghdad, and the Apostolic Visitor for Chaldeans Residing in Europe. He was in Rome to talk about his book “Abducted in Iraq” and graciously made time for an interview with “Vatican Insider.”

Bishop Hanna has advanced degrees in aeronautical engineering (Baghdad University), theology (Pontifical Urbaniana University) and a doctorate in philosophy (Pontifical Gregorian University).

Ordained to the episcopacy in 2014, he previously served as Director of Studies for Philosophy and Theology and at the Pontifical Babel College.

Bishop Hanna is a master linguist with fluency in Arabic, Aramaic, Italian, English, German and is also versed in classical Latin, Greek and Hebrew. He is a prolific writer of academic articles on Christianity and contemporary cultural challenges as well as ethical and anthropological questions in modern philosophy.

Bishop Hanna is author and translator of several books including his latest Abducted in Iraq: A Priest in Baghdad .

Abduction” is the firsthand account of his kidnapping in his hometown of Baghdad on August 15, 2006 by a militant group associated with al-Qaeda. As a young parish priest at the time and visiting lecturer on philosophy at Babel College near Baghdad, Fr. Hanna was kidnapped after celebrating Mass on August 15 and released on September 11. He was beaten because he would not become Muslim. He escaped but was soon captured once again. After a month in captivity, he was finally released and found his way back to his family.

Hanna’s plight attracted international attention after Pope Benedict XVI requested prayers for the safe return of the young priest.

“Abduction” is his inspiring tale of faith – in God and mankind – and courage and his insights on the future of Christianity in Iraq.

I felt I was in the presence of a very saintly man as we spoke and this is a do-not-miss interview.

As I was writing this introduction I received an email from Bishop Hanna (a letter to members of the media) stating: “I wanted to share with you the good news received this morning from University of Notre Dame that My book “Abducted in Iraq” was selected as a ForeWord Reviews Indies Award Finalist in the Religion Category. I thank God for his Love and Blessings. I pray for you all and for your families.”

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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 9:00am (ET). 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 YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

VATICAN INSIDER AND THE ARCHBISHOP OF ERBIL, IRAQ – SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: THE BEATITUDES OF THIRST

In case you missed the link I posted on Twitter and on Facebook, here is video of the final morning of Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia on retreat in Ariccia, as well as their return to Vatican City (Vatican Media): https://youtu.be/HJ6bwXvJG2A

VATICAN INSIDER AND THE ARCHBISHOP OF ERBIL, IRAQ

Welcome to Vatican Insider on this last weekend of February when my very special guest in the interview segment is Archbishop Bashar Ward of Erbil, northern Iraq to whom I spoke during his brief time in Rome with other Chaldean bishops on their ad limina visit. We spoke after he had appeared on EWTN’s News Nightly show and just before his departure for the U.S. where he has been giving talks at universities and creating both awareness of and funding for the plight of Christians in Iraq. As you may know, there are strong Chaldean Catholic communities in Detroit and San Diego in the United States.

In the United States, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (there is a list of U.S. stations at http://www.ewtn.com) or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio. 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 9:00am (ET). 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 YOUR TIME ZONE. Here’s a link to download VI to your iTunes library: http://www.ewtn.com/se/pg/DatService.svc/feed/~LE.xml For VI archives: http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=7096&pgnu=

SPIRITUAL EXERCISES: THE BEATITUDES OF THIRST

Pope Francis and the Roman Curia concluded their spiritual exercises this morning – a retreat that had begun late last Sunday afternoon on the theme “In praise of Thirst.”

The last meditation of Fr.José Tolentino Mendoça focussed on the “Beatitudes of Thirst” and concluded his cycle of meditations on thirst.
By Sr.Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

The Beatitudes: Matthew sets the scene on the mountain. We therefore understand that “He is creating a parallel between Jesus and the figure of Moses—between the presentation of the Old Law, the Decalogue, and that of the New Law, the Beatitudes.”

The Beatitudes are our path

The Beatitudes are more than a law. They are, rather “ configuration of life, a true existential call.”In this way, they enlighten the path for the Church and for humanity as we journey toward an eschatological horizon.

The Beatitudes are a self-portrait of Jesus

Jesus’ Beatitudes are not only words that he proclaimed. “They represent the key by which to read his entire life.” We find in Jesus a model for living each of the Beatitudes. Above all, for us Christians, they are a “elf-portrait of the one who pronounced them.” Fr. Tolentino says that for Jesus this self-portrait “is an image of himself which he is constantly revealing to us and imprints on our hearts.” It is the model that we should use in order to “transform our own image.”

How are we proclaiming the Beatitudes?

God desires that our life be lived according to the beatitudes. “But what have we made of the Gospel of the Beatitudes? How have we proclaimed it? How do we put it into practice?” Do we see those who mourn, those who are in need of consolation, those who hunger and thirst for justice, the peacemakers?” If we do, Fr.Tolentino observes, “by being at their side,” the Church will rediscover her mission.

Beatitude people

The parable that best describes “Beatitude people” is that of the wedding guests (Luke 14:15-24). After the invited guests refuse to come, the “poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” are invited. “The Church is not an exclusive club, closed, happy in measuring who to exclude. She must keep the doors open and, in an inclusive key, mirror in herself the world’s crossroads.”

GROWING IN LOVE THROUGH PRAYER, FASTING AND ALMSGIVING – FAITHFUL OF OTHER RELIGIONS INVITED TO JOIN DAY OF FAST AND PRAYER FOR PEACE

Just got back from a brief but wonderful visit and interview for Vatican Insider with Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq. He and the other Chaldean bishops are in Rome for their ad limina visit. We first met in 2010 on a visit I paid to Kurdistan for 8 days, met again in July of that year when he was consecrated archbishop of Erbil, We’ve met many other times in Rome, and have shared a meal at my home with Abp. Amel Nona, formerly of Mosul and now in Australia, and the late Cardinal Francis George.

Abp. Warda came to the EWTN offices to do a segment for News Nightly and we then taped an interview for my weekend radio program. More about that later.

I met another prelate last night, Archbishop Gintaras Gausas of Vilnius, Lithuania. He was dining with a mutual friend of ours at a restaurant we frequent. We spoke ever so briefly – his English is wonderful because he was born in Washington D.C.!  I went online to make sure how to spell his name and read this amazing fact about his family: His parents were separated by World War II and, after 16 years of being caught behind the Iron Curtain, his mother and 17-year-old sister were among just 200 families allowed to leave the Soviet Union to be reunited with family in the United States.

GROWING IN LOVE THROUGH PRAYER, FASTING AND ALMSGIVING

The Vatican today released Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2018 whose title, as the Pope explains, comes from the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “Because of the increase of iniquity, the love of many will grow cold” (24:12).
Francis starts the message by explaining that, “These words appear in Christ’s preaching about the end of time. They were spoken in Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, where the Lord’s passion would begin. In reply to a question of the disciples, Jesus foretells a great tribulation and describes a situation in which the community of believers might well find itself: amid great trials, false prophets would lead people astray and the love that is the core of the Gospel would grow cold in the hearts of many.”

In the section titled “False prophets,” Pope Francis says “let us try to understand the guise such false prophets can assume.”

He then explains how to discover false prophets:

“They can appear as ‘snake charmers’, who manipulate human emotions in order to enslave others and lead them where they would have them go. How many of God’s children are mesmerized by momentary pleasures, mistaking them for true happiness! How many men and women live entranced by the dream of wealth, which only makes them slaves to profit and petty interests! How many go through life believing that they are sufficient unto themselves, and end up entrapped by loneliness!

“False prophets can also be ‘charlatans’, who offer easy and immediate solutions to suffering that soon prove utterly useless. How many young people are taken in by the panacea of drugs, of disposable relationships, of easy but dishonest gains! How many more are ensnared in a thoroughly ‘virtual’ existence, in which relationships appear quick and straightforward, only to prove meaningless! These swindlers, in peddling things that have no real value, rob people of all that is most precious: dignity, freedom and the ability to love. They appeal to our vanity, our trust in appearances, but in the end they only make fools of us. Nor should we be surprised. In order to confound the human heart, the devil, who is ‘a liar and the father of lies’ (Jn 8:44), has always presented evil as good, falsehood as truth. That is why each of us is called to peer into our heart to see if we are falling prey to the lies of these false prophets. We must learn to look closely, beneath the surface, and to recognize what leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, because it comes from God and is truly for our benefit.”

“What are the signs that indicate that our love is beginning to cool?” asks the Pope.

He answers: “More than anything else, what destroys charity is greed for money, ‘the root of all evil’ (1 Tim 6:10). The rejection of God and his peace soon follows; …. All this leads to violence against anyone we think is a threat to our own ‘certainties’: the unborn child, the elderly and infirm, the migrant, the alien among us, or our neighbour who does not live up to our expectations.”
The Pope points out that, “creation itself becomes a silent witness to this cooling of charity. The earth is poisoned by refuse, discarded out of carelessness or for self-interest. … The heavens, which in God’s plan, were created to sing His praises, are rent by engines raining down implements of death.”

Lastly, notes the Holy Father, “Love can also grow cold in our own communities.”

So, asks the Pope, “What are we to do?”

“The Church, our Mother and Teacher, along with the often bitter medicine of the truth, offers us in the Lenten season the soothing remedy of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

“By devoting more time to prayer, we enable our hearts to root out our secret lies and forms of self-deception, and then to find the consolation God offers. He is our Father and he wants us to live life well.

“Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us to regard our neighbour as a brother or sister. What I possess is never mine alone. How I would like almsgiving to become a genuine style of life for each of us! How I would like us, as Christians, to follow the example of the Apostles and see in the sharing of our possessions a tangible witness of the communion that is ours in the Church!”

“Fasting weakens our tendency to violence; it disarms us and becomes an important opportunity for growth. On the one hand, it allows us to experience what the destitute and the starving have to endure. On the other hand, it expresses our own spiritual hunger and thirst for life in God. Fasting wakes us up. It makes us more attentive to God and our neighbour. It revives our desire to obey God, who alone is capable of satisfying our hunger.”
Pope Francis extended his invitation to “all of you, men and women of good will, who are open to hearing God’s voice. Perhaps, like ourselves, you are disturbed by the spread of iniquity in the world, you are concerned about the chill that paralyzes hearts and actions, and you see a weakening in our sense of being members of the one human family. Join us, then, in raising our plea to God, in fasting, and in offering whatever you can to our brothers and sisters in need!”

The Holy Father urged “the members of the Church to take up the Lenten journey with enthusiasm, sustained by almsgiving, fasting and prayer. If, at times, the flame of charity seems to die in our own hearts, know that this is never the case in the heart of God! He constantly gives us a chance to begin loving anew.

“One such moment of grace will be, again this year, the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative, which invites the entire Church community to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation in the context of Eucharistic adoration. In 2018, inspired by the words of Psalm 130:4, “With you is forgiveness”, this will take place from Friday, 9 March to Saturday, 10 March. In each diocese, at least one church will remain open for twenty-four consecutive hours, offering an opportunity for both Eucharistic adoration and sacramental confession.

Francis ends his Lenten 2018 Message; “With affection and the promise of my prayers for all of you, I send you my blessing. Please do not forget to pray for me.”

FAITHFUL OF OTHER RELIGIONS INVITED TO JOIN DAY OF FAST AND PRAYER FOR PEACE

The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a communiqué today, underscoring Pope Francis’ invitation, made Sunday at the Angelus, to the faithful to join him on February 23 in a Special Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace, in particular for the peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

The communiqué noted that the Pope, in his Sunday announcement at the Angelus, also invited members of other religions to join in this initiative in whatever form they consider to be opportune. The Council for Interreligious Dialogue therefore stated today that, “aware that religions con contribute in a great way to obtaining and consolidating peace, we will be grateful to our brothers and sisters of other religions who wish to welcome this appeal and live moments of prayer, fasting and reflection according to their own tradition and in their places of worship.”

PENCE MEETS WITH IRAQI BISHOP AHEAD OF MIDEAST TRIP

I knew this meeting was taking place yesterday and emailed my friend Archbishop Warda to assure him of prayers! When we first met in 2010, he was then Fr. Bashar Warda, rector of the new Chaldean seminary that, because of the violence in Baghdad, had to move from that city to Erbil in Kurdistan, northern Iraq. Fr. Warda followed – and probably oversaw – every stage of the construction of the new seminary and it was just about two years old when I first visited for a week in February 2010.

My second visit was in July 2010 when Fr.Warda was ordained to the episcopacy – an incredible moment in his life (I met his entire family and travelled around Kurdistan with one brother), the life of the Chaldean Church and the diocese of Erbil as it had been without a bishop for five years. Another Iraqi Chaldean bishop visited occasionally to take care of business matters, preside at confirmations, etc. but the faith community here really needed their own head of family, their own bishop.

I am delighted at the news of the meeting with Vice President Pence and even more so, what Bashar Warda has accomplished as archbishop. The very day of his ordination he said his two priorities would be to build a university and to build a hospital – employing Christians and Muslims to build both, and then staffing them with Christians and Muslims – what a great way to work towards peace!

His hardest challenge was to find homes and jobs for the huge numbers of mainly Christians who were forced out of their homes and towns – IDP, Internally Displaced Peoples – by terrorists and constrained to move to Kurdistan.

How many wonderful stories I have about my visits to Iraq!

Lots of people are praying for you, my friend, and for the day that all of Iraq can live in peace.

PENCE MEETS WITH IRAQI BISHOP AHEAD OF MIDEAST TRIP

(CNA/EWTN News).- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence met with Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Matti Warda of Erbil on Monday for a “substantial discussion” on the needs of persecuted Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq.

“I updated him on the situation facing our people and expressed our hope that peace would soon come to Nineveh,” Warda said in a statement about the Dec. 4 meeting.

Since 2014, the Islamic State has forced thousands of Iraqi Christians to flee their homes after telling them they must convert to Islam, pay an exorbitant tax, or be killed. Many of these Christians have resettled in or around Erbil.

Warda has often spoken out on behalf of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, and was in the United States for “Solidarity in Suffering,” a Week of Awareness for Persecuted Christians, an event that began on Nov. 26 and was co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a tweet, Pence said his meeting with Warda was an “(i)mportant dialogue…about (President Trump’s) commitment to directly assist persecuted Christians & religious minorities in Iraq. I’m heading to the Middle East this month to discuss U.S. plans to accelerate funding those impacted in the region.”

Warda said that “On behalf of our people, I expressed our gratitude for his promise of swift assistance to our communities who suffered genocide at the hands of ISIS.”

“I also mentioned to the Vice President the importance of the aid and support we have received from the Knights of Columbus in the United States, and Aid to the Church in Need in Europe,” he added.

Pence’s coming trip to the Middle East is part of a series of conferences he has attended regarding the plight of Christians in the region. In October, Pence addressed In Defense of Christians’ annual Solidarity Dinner for Christians in the Middle East. The vice president said groups such as the Islamic State have singled out Christians for persecution and noted that Christianity could disappear from some parts of the Middle East.

“Let me assure you tonight, President Trump and I see these crimes for what they are – vile acts of persecution animated by hatred for Christians and the Gospel of Christ,” Pence said at the time.

Warda said that during their meeting, he gave Pence a crucifix from Karemlesh, a town near Mosul which was “targeted and badly damaged when ISIS invaded.”

“I also assured him of our prayers and told him that if he ever visits Iraq, he is most welcome in Erbil.”

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pence-meets-with-iraqi-archbishop-ahead-of-middle-east-trip-99245

AUDIENCE CATECHESIS: HOPING AGAINST HOPE – FRANCIS: PROFOUND SORROW FOR VICTIMS OF BLOODY CONFLICT IN IRAQ – POPE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: REFLECT ON CHALLENGES OF EVANGELIZATION – 25,000 JOIN LENTEN WALKING PILGRIMAGE IN INDIA

After reports on the weekly general audience, the papal appeal for Iraq and his meeting with religious leaders from that nation and the Holy Father’s Message to young people in Barcelona, I offer an interesting story about the Catholic Church in India. We know the word “catholic” means universal but on occasion we can forget about the faithful in nations other than the ones we live in, the believers around the world in the Universal Church.

POPE FRANCIS TWEETED TODAY: The peace that springs from faith is a gift: it is the grace of feeling that God loves us and that he is always beside us.

AUDIENCE CATECHESIS: HOPING AGAINST HOPE

Pope Francis at today’s general audience again focused the weekly catechesis on hope, this time linking that virtue to faith. Above all, he explained how the faithful should put their trust in God’s word, even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible, hoping against hope.

“In the chapter from the Letter to Romans that opened today’s audience,” said the Pope, referring to the reading that precedes the weekly catechesis in all languages, “Saint Paul presents Abraham not only as our father in faith, but also as our father in hope.  Paul tells us that Abraham put his faith in the God who gives life to the dead, who calls all things into being.  Hoping against hope, he trusted in God’s promise that, despite his old age and that of Sarah his wife, he would become the father of many nations.

“In Abraham, we see the close bond existing between faith and hope.  Abraham’s hope in God’s promises was fulfilled in the birth of his son Isaac, and, in the fullness of time, in the ‘many nations’ gathered into a new humanity set free from sin and death by the power of Christ’s resurrection.”

Francis explained that, “faith teaches us, in fact, to hope against hope by putting our own trust in God’s word even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.  In our Lenten journey to Easter, may we be confirmed in faith and hope, and show ourselves children of Abraham by accepting the promise of new life given us in the Lord’s resurrection.”

“And now, said the Holy Father, “I would like to ask you a question: are we all convinced of this? Are we convinced that God wishes us well and that all that He promised us is able to bring it to fruition? But Father, how much do we have to pay for this? There is just one price: opening your hearts. Open your hearts and this strength of God will lead you ahead, it will do miraculous things and will teach you what hope is. This is the only price: open your heart to faith and He will do the rest. This is the paradox and, at the same time, the strongest, highest element of our hope! A hope based on a promise that from a human point of view seems uncertain and unpredictable, but which is no less even when faced with death, when it is the God of Resurrection and life Who promises. This is not a promise from anyone? He Who promises is the God of Resurrection and of life.

“Today we are all in the square, we praise the Lord, we will sing the Lord’s Prayer, then we will receive the blessing. But this passes. But this is also a promise of hope. If today we have an open heart, I assure you that all of us will meet in the square of Heaven that never comes to an end. This is God’s promise, and this is our hope, if we open our hearts. Thank you.”

FRANCIS: PROFOUND SORROW FOR VICTIMS OF BLOODY CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Before today’s weekly general audience in a sun-splashed St. Peter’s Square, in a room adjacent to the Paul VI Hall, Pope Francis received participants in the meeting of the permanent Committee for Dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Iraqi superintendents: Shiite, Sunni, and those for the Christians, Yazidis, Sabeans/Mandaeans.

At the end of the weekly catechesis in Italian, Pope Francis greeted that delegation of Iraqi superintendents, noting it was “composed of representatives of different religious groups, accompanied by His Eminence Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The richness of the dear Iraqi nation consists precisely in this mosaic that represents unity in diversity, strength in union, prosperity in harmony.

“Dear brothers,” continued the Holy Father, “I encourage you to go ahead on this road and I invite you to pray that Iraq may find peace, unity and prosperity in reconciliation and harmony between the various ethnic and religious groups. My thoughts go to the civil populations trapped in the western districts of Mosul and those displaced by war, to whom I feel united in suffering, through prayer and spiritual closeness. In expressing my profound sorrow for the victims of the bloody conflict, I renew to all my appeal for every effort to be made to protect civilians, an imperative and urgent obligation.”

POPE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: REFLECT ON CHALLENGES OF EVANGELIZATION

Pope Francis has sent a Message to a symposium for youth in Barcelona, Spain telling the young people they should reflect on the challenges of evangelization. The theme of the four-day meeting that began March 28 is “He walked by their side (Lk 24:15) – Accompanying young people to freely respond to Christ’s call.

The symposium was organized by the CCEE, Council of European Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, the Spanish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the archdiocese of Barcelona. Joining Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona are other church leaders including Cardinal Vincent Nichols, archbishop of Westminster, and Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow.

The message was sent in the Pope’s name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. The Holy Father urged youth “to conduct a reflection on the challenges of evangelization and on the accompaniment of young people, so that – through dialogue and encounter and as living members of the family of Christ – young people may be enthusiastic bearers of the joy of the Gospel in all areas.”

25,000 JOIN LENTEN WALKING PILGRIMAGE IN INDIA

About 25,000 people took part in the annual Lenten Walking Pilgrimage in the western Indian city of Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in which Catholics, members of other Christian Churches and other religions also participated. A large number of priests, religious, Catholic lay people and members of other confessions and religions participated in the overnight march led by the Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay.    The pilgrimage began at night on March 25 from Cross Maidan, wound its way to the Basilica of Mount Mary (some 20 kilometers distant) the following morning, Sunday, where it concluded with Holy Mass.

Cardinal Gracias, president of India’s Latin-rite bishops, began the pilgrimage with his blessings and reciting prayers to the Virgin, interceding for the city of Mumbai and the whole of India.  He prayed in particular for harmony and peaceful coexistence among the different components of Indian society, asking that,”Christians in India may live their faith in peace.”

More than 50 percent of the participants were boys and girls from remote villages of Goral, Uttan, Vasai Agassi, Korlai, Roha and from the suburbs of Maharashtra. Cardinal Gracias recited a special prayer for the young people: “Mary Seat of Wisdom guide our young people, and direct their steps towards mission, both for the country and for the Church, and intercede for the young people present, to contribute mission of the Church and the growth of the nation. We also pray for our young people for their faith and for their vocational discernment.”

The cardinal led the pilgrimage for a short distance, reuniting with the crowd at the time of recitation of the Holy Rosary. The pilgrims walked for seven hours at night, animated by prayers, songs and the many volunteers.  Felix Sequeira, one of the pilgrimage organizers told AsiaNews: “About 25,000 pilgrims carried four statues in procession decorated with flowers and lights: Mary Queen of Peace, Jesus carrying the Cross, Mary Mother of Sorrows and St. Joseph Patron of the pilgrimage.”

The pilgrimage is held every year in March, during the season of Lent. The first edition took place in the Marian Year 1988, when some devotees have decided to organize a Lenten march for peace. “Since then, the number of participants has grown from year to year with people of every creed and caste,” Francis Fernandes, president of Marian Seva Sangh, a main organizer, told AsiaNews. (Source: AsiaNews)