FRANCIS: MIGRANT SITUATION WORLD’S GREAT TRAGEDY SINCE WWII – ITALIAN LIFEGUARDS GIVE POPE BACKPACKS FOR THE NEEDY

FRANCIS: MIGRANT SITUATION WORLD’S GREAT TRAGEDY SINCE WWII

Pope Francis has called for an ongoing commitment to welcome and integrate forced migrants and refugees and described the current migration phenomenon as the world’s greatest tragedy after the Second World War.

At the audience he spoke specifically to the Italian association, Migrantes Foundation, an arm of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) that promotes the pastoral care of migrants and refugees arriving in Italy. Noting that it offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2.

He was addressing the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly general audience during which he continued his catechesis on Christian hope and appealed to the faithful to ‘re-discover’ the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Pope Francis reflected on a reading from Saint Paul that centers on the attitudes of steadfastness and encouragement, saying they “are intimately connected to the reality of Christian hope because ours is a God of steadfastness as he loves us perseveringly and never tires of consoling us.”

“He is also a God of encouragement,” said Francis, “who calls us to be close to the weak and the needy with whom he asks us to be strong and to be sowers of hope. Even more, Christians are called to spread hope by supporting and encouraging one another, especially those in danger of faltering.  But we do so with the strength provided by the Lord, who is our unfailing source of hope.”

Later, speaking to an Italian association that offers services and help to migrants and refugees upon their arrival and a long-term process of integration, the Pope highlighted the rights and the responsibilities of those who receive and of those who are received, and described the current migration crisis as the greatest tragedy after World War 2.

He was speaking just days before EU Heads of State or Government convene in the city to mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rom that established the European Union.

In an appeal after the catechesis, Pope Francis reminded all Catholic communities to participate in the upcoming “24 hours for the Lord” initiative on March 24 and 25 with churches across the globe offering the Sacrament of Confession as a “privileged moment of grace” during our Lenten journey.

In Rome, on Friday March 24, the churches of Santa Maria in Trastevere and Le Stimmate di San Francesco will remain open from 8pm for Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

On Saturday March 25, a service of thanksgiving will take place at 5pm in the church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, will preside over First Vespers of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

People around the world can show their support for the initiative by using the #24hoursfortheLord hashtag.  (source Vatican Radio)

ITALIAN LIFEGUARDS GIVE POPE BACKPACKS FOR THE NEEDY

More than 1,500 lifeguards and coastal resort business representatives wearing distinctive red jackets were at Wednesday’s General Audience to give backpacks to the Holy Father containing items like toothpaste and razors.

The initiative was organized by the “Sindacato Italiano Balneari (S.I.B),” an organization that provides vital supervision for bathers at coastal resorts throughout the country.

o

The organization president, Riccardo Borgo, said: “With this gesture we came to give a concrete help to Pope Francis and his works in support of the homeless. We also delivered to His Holiness the distinctive symbol of Italian lifeguards, the red shirt with the word ‘Rescue’ identical to the one worn on our beaches by the thousands of boys and girls each summer who supervise and work so that bathing happens in complete safety and tranquility.”

He added, “For this summer, we have other charitable initiatives and solidarity planned in favor of children and the poor.”

More than 1,000 reusable backpacks made up of different products including soap, shaving foam, and deodorants were handed over to the Holy Father for distribution to the poor at Easter. S.I.B came up with the idea following Pope Francis’ initiative launched at the Vatican two years ago that provides showers and barber services for homeless people.

The lifeguards and coastal resort entrepreneurs were joined in St Peter’s Square by their families and were accompanied by the Bishop of Chioggia, Adriano Tessarolo, as well as several priests from coastal regions.

Following the audience, a delegation consisting of one representative for each coastal town met with the papal almoner Archbishop Konrad Krajewski who gave them Rosary beads as a memento of the event.

THE RESPONSE TO PHENOMENON OF MIGRATION: WELCOME, PROTECT, PROMOTE, INTEGRATE – VATICAN DELEGATION TO ATTEND SEMINAR AT AL-AZHAR UNIVERSITY

Pope Francis tweeted today: God knows better than we do about what we need. We must have faith, because his ways are different from ours.

And yesterday: If evil is contagious, so is goodness. Let us be infected by goodness and let us spread goodness!

THE RESPONSE TO PHENOMENON OF MIGRATION: WELCOME, PROTECT, PROMOTE, INTEGRATE

This morning the Holy Father welcomed the participants of an International Forum on Migration and Peace taking place in Rome, and told them the political community, civil society and the Church must offer a shared response to the complexities of the phenomenon of migration today, a response that “may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.” (photo news.va)

francis-migrants

The two-day forum has been organized by the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development in collaboration with the Scalbrini International Migration Network. Its theme is: “Integration and Development: From Reaction to Action.”  Francis said “development and integration were the very reason I wanted to establish the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, with a Section concerned exclusively for migrants, refugees and the victims of human trafficking.”

Pope Francis singled out particularly vulnerable group of migrants, exiles and refugees:  “children and young people who are forced to live far from their homeland and who are separated from their loved ones.”

“The beginning of this third millennium,” he stated, “is very much characterized by migratory movement which, in terms of origin, transit and destination, involves nearly every part of the world.  Unfortunately, in the majority of cases this movement is forced, caused by conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence, extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions: The sheer number of people migrating from one continent to another, or shifting places within their own countries and geographical areas, is striking. 

To welcome.  “Rejection is an attitude we all share; it makes us see our neighbour not as a brother or sister to be accepted, but as unworthy of our attention, a rival, or someone to be bent to our will” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 12 January 2015).  Faced with this kind of rejection, rooted ultimately in self-centredness and amplified by populist rhetoric, what is needed is a change of attitude, to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors.  For those who flee conflicts and terrible persecutions, often trapped within the grip of criminal organisations who have no scruples, we need to open accessible and secure humanitarian channels.  A responsible and dignified welcome of our brothers and sisters begins by offering them decent and appropriate shelter.  The enormous gathering together of persons seeking asylum and of refugees has not produced positive results.  Instead these gatherings have created new situations of vulnerability and hardship.  More widespread programmes of welcome, already initiated in different places, seem to favour a personal encounter and allow for greater quality of service and increased guarantees of success.

To protect.  My predecessor, Pope Benedict, highlighted the fact that the migratory experience often makes people more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and violence (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 18 October 2005).  We are speaking about millions of migrant workers, male and female – and among these particularly men and women in irregular situations – of those exiled and seeking asylum, and of those who are victims of trafficking.  Defending their inalienable rights, ensuring their fundamental freedoms and respecting their dignity are duties from which no one can be exempted.  Protecting these brothers and sisters is a moral imperative which translates into adopting juridical instruments, both international and national, that must be clear and relevant; implementing just and far reaching political choices; prioritising constructive processes, which perhaps are slower, over immediate results of consensus; implementing timely and humane programmes in the fight against “the trafficking of human flesh” which profits off others’ misfortune; coordinating the efforts of all actors, among which, you may be assured will always be the Church.

To promote.  Protecting is not enough.  What is required is the promotion of an integral human development of migrants, exiles and refugees.  This “takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” (Apostolic Letter Humanam Progressionem, 17 August 2016).  Development, according to the social doctrine of the Church (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 373-374), is an undeniable right of every human being.  As such, it must be guaranteed by ensuring the necessary conditions for its exercise, both in the individual and social context, providing fair access to fundamental goods for all people and offering the possibility of choice and growth.  Also here a coordinated effort is needed, one which envisages all the parties involved: from the political community to civil society, from international organisations to religious institutions.  The human promotion of migrants and their families begins with their communities of origin.  That is where such promotion should be guaranteed, joined to the right of being able to emigrate, as well as the right to not be constrained to emigrate.”

To integrate.  Integration, which is neither assimilation nor incorporation, is a two-way process, rooted essentially in the joint recognition of the other’s cultural richness: it is not the superimposing of one culture over another, nor mutual isolation, with the insidious and dangerous risk of creating ghettoes.  Concerning those who arrive and who are duty bound not to close themselves off from the culture and traditions of the receiving country, respecting above all its laws, the family dimension of the process of integration must not be overlooked: for this reason I feel the need to reiterate the necessity, often presented by the Magisterium (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 15 August 1986), of policies directed at favouring and benefiting the reunion of families.  With regard to indigenous populations, they must be supported, by helping them to be sufficiently aware of and open to processes of integration which, though not always simple and immediate, are always essential and, for the future, indispensable.  This requires specific programmes, which foster significant encounters with others.  Furthermore, for the Christian community, the peaceful integration of persons of various cultures is, in some way, a reflection of its catholicity, since unity, which does not nullify ethnic and cultural diversity, constitutes a part of the life of the Church, who in the Spirit of Pentecost is open to all and desires to embrace all (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 5 August 1987).

The Pope closed his lengthy address by highlighting “a duty of solidarity.  In the face of tragedies which take the lives of so many migrants and refugees – conflicts, persecutions, forms of abuse, violence, death – expressions of empathy and compassion cannot help but spontaneously well-up. ‘Where is your brother’? (Gen 4:9): this question which God asks of man since his origins, involves us, especially today with regard to our brothers and sisters who are migrating: “This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us” (Homily at the “Arena” Sports Camp, Salina Quarter, Lampedusa, 8 July 2013).  Solidarity is born precisely from the capacity to understand the needs of our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and to take responsibility for these needs.  Upon this, in short, is based the sacred value of hospitality, present in religious traditions.  For us Christians, hospitality offered to the weary traveller is offered to Jesus Christ himself, through the newcomer: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).  The duty of solidarity is to counter the throwaway culture and give greater attention to those who are weakest, poorest and most vulnerable.  Thus “a change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 5 August 2013).

VATICAN DELEGATION TO ATTEND SEMINAR AT AL-AZHAR UNIVERSITY

(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialogue has announced that council president, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, accompanied by Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, secretary, and Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, head of the Office for Islam, will be in Cairo, Egypt, on February 22-23, to participate at a seminar at the University of Al-Azhar, with the theme: “The role of al-Azhar al-Sharif and of the Vatican in countering the phenomena of fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion.”

The cardinal president will lead the Catholic delegation, which will also include Archbishop Bruno Musarò, apostolic nuncio to Egypt.

cardinal-tauran

After the historic meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Professor Ahmad Al-Tayyib on 23 May 2016, the Secretary of the Dicastery has travelled to Cairo several times, where he participated in many meetings and preliminary preparations for this event.

This meeting will conclude on the vigil of the anniversary of the visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Al-Azhar, which took place on February 24, 2000.

 

WHAT WOULD SAINTS AUGUSTINE AND THOMAS SAY ABOUT EXECUTIVE ORDER ON BORDERS?

WHAT WOULD SAINTS AUGUSTINE AND THOMAS SAY ABOUT EXECUTIVE ORDER ON BORDERS?

I was introduced to Fr. Rutler’s writing some time ago by a very good friend in Hawaii who forwarded Father’s homilies and missives to me on a regular basis. Since then, other friends have done the same, and I now regularly read what he has to say, especially when he links Church teachings to important moral and social questions of the day.

You might find the following column fascinating, especially in light of President Trump’s Executive Order ordering a review of visa procedures to enter the United States and restricting the entrance into our country of citizens from 7 nations for a period of 90 days, pending background checks.

February 5, 2017 – FROM THE PASTOR by Fr. George W. Rutler

In the margin of a public speaker’s manuscript was the notation: “Weak point. Shout.”

Such is the rhetoric of those who place emotion over logic and make policy through gangs rather than parliaments. In Athens 2,400 years ago, Aristophanes described the demagogue as having “a screeching, horrible voice, a perverse, cross-grained nature and the language of the marketplace.” That marketplace today includes the biased media and the universities that have become daycare centers.

The recent action of our government’s executive branch to protect our borders and enforce national security is based on Constitutional obligations (Art. 1 sec 10 and Art. 4 sec 4). It is a practical protection of the tranquility of order explained by Saint Augustine when he saw the tranquillitas ordinis of Roman civilization threatened. Saint Thomas Aquinas sanctioned border control (S. Th. I-II, Q. 105, Art. 3). No mobs shouted in the marketplace two years ago when the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act restricted visa waivers for Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen. The present ban continues that, and only for a stipulated ninety days, save for Syria. There is no “Muslim ban” as should be obvious from the fact that the restrictions do not apply to other countries with Muslim majorities, such as Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Turkey.

These are facts ignored by demagogues who speak of tears running down the face of the Statue of Liberty. At issue is not immigration, but illegal immigration. It is certainly manipulative of reason to justify uncontrolled immigration by citing previous generations of immigrants to our shores, all of whom went through the legal process, mostly in the halls of Ellis Island. And it is close to blasphemy to invoke the Holy Family as antinomian refugees, for they went to Bethlehem in obedience to a civil decree requiring tax registration, and they violated no statutes when they sought protection in Egypt. Then there was Saint Paul, who worked within the legal system, and invoked his Roman citizenship through privileges granted to his native Tarsus in 66 B.C. (Acts 16:35-38; 22:25-29; 25:11-12) He followed ordered procedure, probably with the status of civis Romanus non optimo jure—a legal citizen, but not allowed to act as a magistrate.

It is obvious that the indignant demonstrators against the new Executive Orders are funded in no little part by wealthy interests who would provoke agitation. These same people have not shown any concern about the neglected Christians seeking refuge from persecution in the Middle East. In 2016 there was a 675% increase in the number of Syrian refugees over the previous year, but while 10% of the Syrian population is Christian, only one-half of one percent of the Syrian Christians were granted asylum. It is thankworthy that our changed government now wants to redress that. The logic of that policy must not be shouted down by those who screech rather than reason.

(From Joan: What does St. Thomas say? http://www.returntoorder.org/2014/07/saint-thomas-say-immigration-2/

For those interested in taking the time to read the January 27 Executive Order: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/01/27/executive-order-protecting-nation-foreign-terrorist-entry-united-states)

HOPE SHOULD COME FROM TRUST IN GOD’S WORD, NOT FALSE IDOLS – MEDIA CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED BY VATICAN MIGRATION, REFUGEE OFFICE – TWO PRIESTS ATTACKED IN ST. MARY MAJOR – 800 DEAD, 16 CHURCHES DESTROYED IN NIGERIA BY TERRORIST GROUP

HOPE SHOULD COME FROM TRUST IN GOD’S WORD, NOT FALSE IDOLS

Pope Francis continued his series of catecheses on Christian hope at his Wednesday audience in the Paul VI Hall and stressed that true hope is born of trust in God’s word, not in false idols such as wealth, power, beauty or even fortune tellers.

At one point, he departed from his prepared catechesis about false idols to tell a story about fortune tellers in a park in his native Buenos Aires. He said he used to walk through the park and see countless very small tables where these seers or fortune tellers were seated, talking to individuals.

Francis said: “It was always the same story: there’s a woman in your life, a man will come, everything will be just fine.” The Pope lamented that people paid these seers to get a sense of security, “ a false sense of security, one of – and pardon me! – stupidity.” He said it was so sad that people could feel better, more hopeful, with such false idols rather than having hope in Jesus Christ: “How very sad we do not trust Him as much!”

ag-jan-11

Our hope, said the Holy Father, “must be rooted in what can actually help in living and giving meaning to our existence,” not in illusions that are both useless and meaningless.

He noted that, “hope in God demands strength and perseverance, whereas these false gods promise an easy security, a future we can control. The Psalmist denounces this kind of idolatry, stating that those who put their trust in images that are the work of human hands, will come to be like them: spiritually blind, deaf and insensible.”

The false idols that the Pope mentioned, “with their illusion of eternity and omnipotence,” include values such as physical beauty, he said. This is not bad itself, but “when it becomes an idol to which we sacrifice everything, they are all realities that confuse the mind and the heart.”

The Pope interrupted himself once again to tell a story. When we have false idols and don’t trust in the Lord, “It’s terrible, it hurts the soul what I heard one time years ago in the diocese of Buenos Aires: a woman, a good woman, beautiful, very, very beautiful and who bragged about her beauty, said with great naturalness, ‘Yes, I had to have an abortion because my figure is so important’.He said this surely puts one on the wrong path and does not lead to lasting happiness.

“God is always greater than we are,” said Francis, “and we, created in his image and likeness, cannot reduce him to our size or fabricate other gods, made in our own image and tailored to our desires. By trusting in God’s word and hoping in his promises, we become more and more like him, sharing in his life and rejoicing in his provident care, revealed in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus his Son.”

At the end of the catechesis, the Pope said, “Now I must tell you something that I don’t want to tell you.” He held up a red audience ticket, saying tickets to papal events, whether in St. Peter’s Square or the audience hall are always entirely free, noting that the tickets say this in six languages. Anyone who wants you to pay for a ticvket, said Francis, is a fraud, devious and a delinquent.

audience-ticket
He called weekly audiences a chance “to talk to the Pope, to visit the Pope. If someone says you must pay, they are ripping you off. Beware – tickets are free!”

MEDIA CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED BY VATICAN MIGRATION, REFUGEE OFFICE

The Migration and Refugee Section of the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development has announced it is launching its first media campaign.

Although the Dicastery is run by Cardinal Peter Turkson – who had been serving as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace – the Migration and Refugee Section is being led for the time being by Pope Francis himself, to show his particular concern during the ongoing refugee crisis.

The new media campaign is being launched to coincide with the 103rd World Day for Migrants and Refugees, which is observed 15 January 2017.

From 12 to 15 January 2017, the tweets of Pope Francis will focus on migrants and refugees, and will link directly to the Section’s Facebook page, which will present a brief story and reflection relevant to each day’s topic.

The media accounts of the new section are listed below
Twitter Accounts:
English – https://twitter.com/M_RSection
Italian – https://twitter.com/M_RSezione
Spanish – https://twitter.com/M_RSeccion
French – https://twitter.com/M_RSection_Fr
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MandRSection/
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/migrants-&-refugees-section

TWO PRIESTS ATTACKED IN ST. MARY MAJOR

A man entered the sacristy of a Roman basilica on January 7 and used a broken bottle to attack two priests.

Worshippers at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore heard shouts from the sacristy as a 42-year-old man cut the faces of Father Angelo Gaeta, the sacristan, and Father Adolfo Ralf. Police soon apprehended the perpetrator.

The victims, according to Italy’s state radio and television network, are priests of the Franciscan Friars of Immaculate who have been critical of the institute’s founder, Father Stefano Maria Manelli. The network reported that the attacker’s motive was unknown and that he may have been psychologically disturbed. He was heard to have said, “I am misunderstood.”

800 DEAD, 16 CHURCHES DESTROYED IN NIGERIA BY TERRORIST GROUP

A report from Nigeria from Fides News service, an agency of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples states that over 800 people have been killed and 16 churches destroyed by the terrorist group of Fulani herdsmen.

Bishop Joseph Danlami Bagobiri of Kafanchan in the state of Kaduna told Fides, “In the last three months attacks have increased carried out by the Fulani Herdsmen Terrorist (FHT) in more than half of the territory of the southern State of Kaduna.” Bishop Bagobiri was speaking in Rome where he was visiting the Italian headquarters of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

“In the West, this group is almost unheard of, he said, “but it has been responsible since September of fires in 53 villages, of the death of 808 persons, the wounding of 57 others, the destruction of 1,422 houses and 16 churches.

He also noted that from 2006 to 2014, more than 12,000 Christians were killed and 2,000 churches destroyed because of terrorism in Nigeria. These crimes were mainly committed by the Islamic fundamentalist group Boko Haram, he said, but Boko Haram is not the only group that spreads terror in the African country, and he highlighted the role of Fulani herdsmen in recent years.

The Fulani are a nomadic ethnic group that has been protagonists of recurrent conflicts with farmers in the area. However in recent times the attacks are of a completely different kind compared to the old clashes between farmers and herders, as the latter use “sophisticated weapons that did not exist before, such as the AK-47, said Bishop Bagobiri, adding that it is not known where the weapons come from.

SHOW OPENNESS AND SOLIDARITY TO MIGRANTS, REFUGEES

SHOW OPENNESS AND SOLIDARITY TO MIGRANTS, REFUGEES

At today’s general audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis continued his weekly catechesis for this Holy Year of Mercy, and highlighted “two particular corporal works of mercy: welcoming the stranger and clothing the naked,” noting that “Jesus mentions both of these in connection with the Last Judgement. Nowadays, the ‘stranger’ is often the immigrant in our midst.”

“In every age,” said the Pope, “the phenomenon of immigration calls for a response of openness and solidarity.  In our own day, the growing influx of refugees fleeing war, famine and dire poverty is a summons to welcome and care for these brothers and sisters.  Like so many committed Christians who have gone before us, such as Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, we need to find generous and creative ways of meeting their immediate needs.

“So too,” he went on to explain, “’clothing the naked’ increasingly means caring for those whose dignity has been stripped from them, and working to ensure that it is upheld and safeguarded.  As followers of Christ, may we never close our hearts to those in need.  For by openness to others, our lives are enriched, our societies enjoy peace and all people can live in a way befitting their God-given dignity.”

Vatican Radio reported that Francis, setting aside his prepared text, told the story of a lady who was approached by a refugee asking directions for the Holy Door. The man, the Pope said, was dirty and barefoot but wanted to go to St. Peter’s Basilica to cross the holy threshold. The woman took stock of his bare feet and called a taxi, but the taxi driver initially didn’t want him on board because he was ‘smelly’. The taxi driver ended up taking the woman and the man who, during the drive, told his story of pain, war, hunger and migration.

On reaching destination, said the Pope, the taxi driver, the same man who initially didn’t want the refugee to board his taxi because he was ‘smelly’, refused to accept payment for his service from the woman because he said: “It is I who should pay you because thanks to you I have listened to a story that has changed my heart.”

The Pope continued, saying that the woman was well aware of the pain of a migrant because she had Armenian blood and knew the suffering of her people. “When we do something like that initially there is some discomfort – ‘a smell’ – but at the end, a story like this brings fragrance to our soul, and changes us. Think about this story and think what you can do for refugees”

This is on the front door of my home. For decades it was on a pillar just inside the front door of my Mom and Dad’s home in California.

hospitality

At the end of the weekly general audience, the Holy Father reminded the faithful that October, as we near its end, is always the month dedicated to the Rosary, and he invited believers to recite this Marian prayer.

Francis explained that the Rosary is “a synthesis of Divine Mercy,” saying, “With Mary, in the mysteries of the Rosary  we contemplate the life of Jesus which pours forth the mercy of the Father. Let us rejoice in His love and forgiveness, let us recognize it in foreigners and in those who are needy, let us live His Gospel every day.”

In the customary weekly greetings to young people, the sick and newlyweds, Pope Francis said: “May this simple Marian prayer show you, young people, the way to give life to God’s will in your lives; dear sick people, love this prayer because it brings consolation for the mind and the heart; and dear newly wedded spouses, may it represent a privileged moment of spiritual intimacy within your new family”

On October 7, feast of the Blessed Virgin of the Rosary, Francis tweeted: “The Rosary is the prayer that always accompanies my life: it is also the prayer of simple people and saints…it is the prayer of my heart.”

REFUGEE, MIGRANT TRAGEDIES CONTINUE. HUNDREDS DIE AT SEA – POPE TO JESUIT REFUGEE CENTER: “I WAS A STRANGER AND YOU INVITED ME IN” – SAY A FERVENT PRAYER FOR THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR….AND A PRAYER FOR NUNS WHO DIED IN EARTHQUAKE

PAPAL TWEETS:

April 18: We pray for the earthquake victims in Ecuador and Japan. May God and all our brothers and sisters give them help and support.

April 19: The royal road to peace is to see others not as enemies to be opposed but as brothers and sisters to be embraced.

REFUGEE, MIGRANT TRAGEDIES CONTINUE. HUNDREDS DIE AT SEA

Just two days after Pope Francis visited the Greek island of Lesbos to meet with refugees fleeing their native countries because of war, violence and poverty, hundreds more died in an attempt to reach the shores of Europe.

Hundreds of refugees are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Europe, one year after a similar tragedy, Italy’s president confirmed Monday. Italian President Sergio Mattarella said during a prize ceremony in Rome on Monday that Europe faced “yet another tragedy in the Mediterranean in which, it seems, several hundred people have died.” His comments are the first official remarks on a recent incident that had previously been denied by Italian authorities. Italy’s foreign minister also confirmed the tragedy on Monday but said that details were still scarce. (Washington Post)

Just over a week ago, over a period of four days, the Italy navy rescued as many as 6,000 migrants attempting a dangerous sea crossing to Europe. Italy should have more assistance from allies, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said Friday. It estimates that more than 40 boats crammed with migrants, many fleeing wars in the Middle East and Africa, have been rescued as they struggled to reach the coasts of Sicily and Calabria. (photo: telegraph uk)

migrants telegraph

Syrian, Iraqi refugees arrive Lesbos:

syrian iraq migrants arrive lesbos

POPE TO JESUIT REFUGEE CENTER: “I WAS A STRANGER AND YOU INVITED ME IN”

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday delivered a video message to the administration, staff, volunteers, and guests of the Centro Astalli, a welcome center for refugees in Rome, which is operated by the Society of Jesus through the Jesuit Refugee Service in Italy. The Centro Astalli is marking the 35th anniversary of its founding. Following is the Pope’s message to his Jesuit confreres:

Dear refugees, volunteers, workers and friends of the Centro Astalli,

During this year of Mercy, we’re marking the 35th anniversary of Jesuit Service for refugees in Italy, an activity that has been above all a walk together, as one people. And this is beautiful and just!

We must continue with courage: “I was a stranger and you invited me in” cfr Mt 25,35

I was a stranger… Each one of you refugees who knock on our doors has the face of God and is the body of Christ. Your experience of pain and hope reminds us that we are all strangers and pilgrims on this Earth, welcomed by someone with generosity and without any merit. Whosoever has fled his own land due to oppression, war, nature defaced by pollution and by desertification, or the unjust distribution of the planet’s resources, as you have, is a brother with whom we share bread, homes and life.

Too many times you have not been welcomed: forgive the closure and indifference of our society that fears the change in lifestyle and mentality that your presence asks for. Treated as a burden, a problem, a cost, instead you are a gift. You are the testament to how our gracious and merciful God can transform the pain and injustice that you suffer into a love for all. For, each one of you can be a bridge that unites distant peoples, which makes the meeting of different cultures and religions possible, a road to rediscover our common humanity.

…and you invited me in. I was a stranger and you invited me in. Yes, the Centro Astalli is a concrete, daily example of this welcome, born of the prophetic vision of Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ. It was his dying wish, [expressed] at a refugee center in Asia. Thanks to you all, women and men, lay and religious, workers and volunteers, because in fact you show that if we walk together we are less afraid. I encourage you to continue. 35 years is only the beginning of a journey that is ever more necessary, the only way for a reconciled co-existence. Always be witnesses of the beauty of this encounter. Help our society to listen to the voice of refugees.

Continue to walk with courage by their side, go with them and be guided by them: the refugees know the roads that lead to peace because they know the acrid odor of war.

SAY A FERVENT PRAYER FOR LITTLE SISTERS OF THE POOR….

(From the BECKET FUND) – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Tomorrow, April 20, 2016 at 4:00 p.m. EST, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty will hold a press call to discuss the briefs being submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the Little Sisters of the Poor case in Zubik v. Burwell. Both the Little Sisters of the Poor and the government will file briefs, due by 3:00 p.m. EST, in response to the supplemental briefs filed last week (Available here) to answer the Court’s question whether the government has other ways to distribute contraceptives without forcing the nuns to violate their faith.

Less than a week after the Supreme Court heard the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Court made an almost unprecedented move asking both sides to provide additional arguments about whether the government could find ways to distribute contraceptives without the involvement of religious non-profits and their health plans.

Currently the government exempts 1 in 3 Americans from this regulation. It also exempts large corporations such as Exxon, Visa and even the government’s own Military family plan. A total of 100 million Americans are exempt.

…AND FOR NUNS WHO DIED IN EARTHQUAKE

Six members of the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother, including a young nun from Northern Ireland, are among the dead in the strongest earthquake to strike Ecuador since 1979.

Sister Clare Theresa Crockett, 33, of Londonderry, died while leading children to safety in a school at Playa Prieta, where she was teaching the youngsters to play the guitar, according to the Spain-based order.

Her body was found under rubble April 18, about 36 hours after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck the Pacific Coast region of the country. Five Ecuadorean postulants also died in the collapse.

The order identified them by their first names: Jazmina, Maria Augusta, Maira, Valeria and Catalina.

The six women were among at least 272 people who died in the massive earthquake that struck communities in the northern part of the country. Authorities reported that nearly 3,000 people were injured and that an unknown number of buildings were destroyed or damaged.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ relief and development agency, was partnering with local relief organizations to determine how best to respond in the communities most affected by the temblor. Water, food and emergency shelter are the biggest needs, the agency said on its website. (CNS)

POSSIBLE PAPAL TRIP TO GREECE?

POSSIBLE PAPAL TRIP TO GREECE?

A Vatican statement today said the Orthodox Church of Greece on Tuesday said it would welcome a visit of Pope Francis to the island of Lesbos to meet with migrants and refugees arriving across the Mediterranean sea. A statement from the Holy Synod, or ruling body of the Orthodox Church in Athens, said the Pope had expressed a desire to visit one of the islands in order to draw attention to the humanitarian problems of the migrants, as well as the need for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in the wider Mediterranean region”.

The head of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, said there have been discussions about a possible papal visit, but he could not confirm any dates or details. The statement from the Orthodox Church proposed a visit to the island of Lesbos, where hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees have arrived in recent months. Many of them are fleeing from conflicts or persecution in the Middle East and Africa, while many so-called economic migrants are seeking better living conditions in Europe or other Western countries.

A communique from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople on Tuesday confirmed he would also be visiting the island of Lesbos to highlight the plight of the refugees and migrants throughout the region.

AP HAD THIS:

Discussions are underway about a possible trip by Pope Francis to Greece as early as next week as the country begins deporting migrants back to Turkey.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said Tuesday that no decision had been made but in an email to The Associated Press he said “I don’t deny that there are contacts about a possible trip.”

A Greek ecclesiastic website, Dogma, reported Tuesday that Francis was planning to visit refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos on April 15 along with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop of Athens Ieronymos. The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, the decision-making body of the Greek church, said Francis had asked to come and the request had been accepted as it was a humanitarian visit of just a few hours.

A controversial European Union plan to stem the flow of refugees began Monday with more than 200 people deported from Lesbos and Chios back to Turkey. Human rights organizations have denounced the deportations as the undoing of Europe’s obligations to protect refugees.

Francis, the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, has been outspoken about the need for Europe and other countries to open their doors and hearts to people fleeing persecution and poverty.

In his first trip outside Rome, he visited the Italian island of Lampedusa, which has seen thousands of migrants arriving on smugglers’ boats from Libya. And recently he celebrated a Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border to pray for Central and South American migrants who died trying to reach the United States.

The Church of Greece said Tuesday that Francis had proposed visiting Greece to raise awareness about the plight of refugees “searching for a better future in the European continent.”

It said it had extended an invitation to Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, to visit at the same time. It said the visit of the leaders of the Catholic and Orthodox churches would send a “very strong signal” about the need to help refugees and protect Christians “who are cruelly suffering” in the Middle East.