PEOPLE MUST BE AT THE CENTER OF ALL ACTIVITY, POPE TELLS G20

It has been a very different, and at many moments difficult, week for me, given the continuing problems with my right ankle, problems that almost pale by comparison to the loss of my very dear friend of 33 years, Joaquin Navarro-Valls. As you know by now – and some of you may well remember – this charismatic and talented Spaniard led the Holy See Press Office for 22 years in an historic and remarkable fashion.

I will pray tribute to him as soon as I can. I have a thousand stories to tell, and have already shared some of them on radio.

Family and friends were able to pay tribute to Joaquin as of 4 pm yesterday in the basilica of Sant’Eugenio in Rome. This is also where his funeral took place this morning at 11. A pain almost larger than learning of his death was what I felt at being unable to go to eiether event to say my final arrivederci and grazie.

I’ve spent most mornings and part of one afternoon this week (and many of the preceding weeks) at the Vatican’s health care center, seeing doctors and having additional tests to determine the specific nature (we have no idea of the cause) of the infection in my right ankle. The final test and final visit to a specialist in infections determined that the best option is several days in a hospital with antibiotics administered under medical supervision, given that I normally have very severe allergic reactions to antibiotics.

I’ve been working with my insurance company but do not know, as I write, when I will be admitted. Hopefully I will have to post a note here when that day comes.

The hardest part of my ankle problem has been having to cancel a one week Danube River cruise with my sister! We have never gone on a vacation together! We’ve had family vacations, etc, but never just the two of us! We consider it just postponed, not cancelled. (My advice to travellers, by the way, never say ‘no’ to travel insurance!)

Work has been beneficial for me and I’ve enjoyed doing “Catholic Connection” with Teresa Tomeo, preparing my twice weekly contributions to “At Home with Jim and Joy,” and posting some items on this page. Sitting on my sofa with my laptop (on my lap) has been workable.

VATICAN INSIDER this weekend, however, has been prepared by my radio colleagues given that I simply did not have the time this week to dedicate to the three segments – News, the Q&A and the weekly interview. You will hear “The best of” with Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Action Institute’s Rome office. We talk about the mission and work of the Institute but our focus was principally on one of our favorite people and friends, the late, great Michael Novak, and his impact on the world, on Acton and on our personal lives.

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 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=

PEOPLE MUST BE AT THE CENTER OF ALL ACTIVITY, POPE TELLS G20

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a Message to the participants in the G20 meeting taking place in Germany July 7-8. The Message is addressed to the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, and details what the Holy Father recognizes as four principles of action for the building of fraternal, just and peaceful societies: time is greater than space; unity prevails over conflict; realities are more important than ideas; and the whole is greater than the part.

To Her Excellency Mrs Angela Merkel Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany

Following our recent meeting in the Vatican, and in response to your thoughtful request, I would like to offer some considerations that, together with all the Pastors of the Catholic Church, I consider important in view of the forthcoming meeting of the G20, which will gather Heads of State and of Government of the Group of major world economies and the highest authorities of the European Union.  In doing so, I follow a tradition begun by Pope Benedict XVI in April 2009 on the occasion of the London G20.  My Predecessor likewise wrote to Your Excellency in 2006, when Germany held the presidency of the European Union and the G8.

In the first place, I wish to express to you, and to the leaders assembled in Hamburg, my appreciation for the efforts being made to ensure the governability and stability of the world economy, especially with regard to financial markets, trade, fiscal problems and, more generally, a more inclusive and sustainable global economic growth (cf. G20 Leaders Communiqué, Hangzhou Summit, 5 September 2016).  As is evident from the Summit’s programme, such efforts are inseparable from the need to address ongoing conflicts and the worldwide problem of migrations.

In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, the programmatic document of my Pontificate addressed to the Catholic faithful, I proposed four principles of action for the building of fraternal, just and peaceful societies: time is greater than space; unity prevails over conflict; realities are more important than ideas; and the whole is greater than the part.  These lines of action are evidently part of the age-old wisdom of all humanity; I believe that they can also serve as an aid to reflection for the Hamburg meeting and for the assessment of its outcome.

Here is full text of Pope Francis’ Message, in its official English translation; http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/07/07/pope_francis_message_to_g20/1323678

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR FIRST WORLD DAY OF THE POOR – SYNOD OF BISHOPS LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE

Pope Francis tweeted today: In his passion, Jesus took upon himself all our suffering. He knows the meaning of pain, he understands and comforts us, giving us strength.

There have been a few rough days lately, given an infection in my right ankle that has made walking difficult and painful. Several days ago, as I was leaving the Vatican medical center and nearing the Sant’Anna entrance to Vatican City to get a taxi, I had a lovely encounter with a Swiss Guard. As two elderly gentlemen were leaving the church of Sant’Anna, one with obvious mobility issues, the Swiss Guard stepped in and helped the gentleman.  As they walked away, I smiled and said to him, “That’s also part of the life of a guard, isn’t it?  His answer (with a smile): “That’s the best part of my life as a Guard!”

May God bless this young man abundantly! He made my day and I’ve thought of that answer every day since.

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR FIRST WORLD DAY OF THE POOR

The Vatican today released Pope Francis’ message for the First World Day of the Poor to be celebrated worldwide next November 19 on the theme, “Let us love, not with words but with deeds.”

At a press conference today announcing the papal Message and the November 19 celebration, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, charged with implementing this World Day, said that Pope Francis wil presidet at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on November 19, after which there will be a lunch for about 500 poor in the Paul VI Hall.

The archbishop is president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. That office was also charged with organizing the recent Holy Year of Mercy.

In his Message, in number 3, Francis writes: “We are called, then, to draw near to the poor, to encounter them, to meet their gaze, to embrace them and to let them feel the warmth of love that breaks through their solitude.  Their outstretched hand is also an invitation to step out of our certainties and comforts, and to acknowledge the value of poverty in itself.”

Pope Francis eats lunch with homeless and poor people in Campobasso, Italy (photo Boston Globe)

“Let us, then, take as our example Saint Francis and his witness of authentic poverty,” the Pope wrote. “Precisely because he kept his gaze fixed on Christ, Francis was able to see and serve him in the poor.  If we want to help change history and promote real development, we need to hear the cry of the poor and commit ourselves to ending their marginalization.  At the same time, I ask the poor in our cities and our communities not to lose the sense of evangelical poverty that is part of their daily life.

“We know how hard it is for our contemporary world to see poverty clearly for what it is.  Yet in myriad ways poverty challenges us daily, in faces marked by suffering, marginalization, oppression, violence, torture and imprisonment, war, deprivation of freedom and dignity, ignorance and illiteracy, medical emergencies and shortage of work, trafficking and slavery, exile, extreme poverty and forced migration.  Poverty has the face of women, men and children exploited by base interests, crushed by the machinations of power and money.  What a bitter and endless list we would have to compile were we to add the poverty born of social injustice, moral degeneration, the greed of a chosen few, and generalized indifference!”

In Number 6, the Holy Father explains when this world day was born: “At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, I wanted to offer the Church a World Day of the Poor, so that throughout the world Christian communities can become an ever greater sign of Christ’s charity for the least and those most in need.  To the World Days instituted by my Predecessors, which are already a tradition in the life of our communities, I wish to add this one, which adds to them an exquisitely evangelical fullness, that is, Jesus’ preferential love for the poor.

“I invite the whole Church, and men and women of good will everywhere, to turn their gaze on this day to all those who stretch out their hands and plead for our help and solidarity.  They are our brothers and sisters, created and loved by the one Heavenly Father.  This Day is meant, above all, to encourage believers to react against a culture of discard and waste, and to embrace the culture of encounter.  At the same time, everyone, independent of religious affiliation, is invited to openness and sharing with the poor through concrete signs of solidarity and fraternity.  God created the heavens and the earth for all; yet sadly some have erected barriers, walls and fences, betraying the original gift meant for all humanity, with none excluded.

“It is my wish that, in the week preceding the World Day of the Poor, which falls this year on 19 November, the Thirty-third Sunday of Ordinary Time, Christian communities will make every effort to create moments of encounter and friendship, solidarity and concrete assistance.  They can invite the poor and volunteers to take part together in the Eucharist on this Sunday, in such a way that there be an even more authentic celebration of the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on the following Sunday.  The kingship of Christ is most evident on Golgotha, when the Innocent One, nailed to the cross, poor, naked and stripped of everything, incarnates and reveals the fullness of God’s love.  Jesus’ complete abandonment to the Father expresses his utter poverty and reveals the power of the Love that awakens him to new life on the day of the Resurrection.

“This Sunday, if there are poor people where we live who seek protection and assistance, let us draw close to them: it will be a favourable moment to encounter the God we seek.  Following the teaching of Scripture (cf. Gen 18:3-5; Heb 13:2), let us welcome them as honoured guests at our table; they can be teachers who help us live the faith more consistently.  With their trust and readiness to receive help, they show us in a quiet and often joyful way, how essential it is to live simply and to abandon ourselves to God’s providence.

Click here for complete Message: http://www.news.va/en/news/first-world-day-of-the-poor-message-released

SYNOD OF BISHOPS LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE

The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops announced a new website on Tuesday in preparation for the October 2018 synod that be dedicated to the role of young people in the life of the Church. That site will be active as of tomorrow, June 14: http://youth.synod2018.va

A statement from the Secretariat explains that the site is designed to promote the broad, interactive participation of young people from all around the world in preparations for the Assembly.

The new website includes an online questionnaire addressed directly to young people in different languages ​​(Italian, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese), with answer due in by November 30, 2017.

The statement goes on to encourage young people especially to visit the site and respond to the Questionnaire, saying that wide and fulsome response will be of great use in the process of preparing the Synod Assembly, and will be part of the extensive consultation that the General Secretariat is doing at all levels of the people of God. (Vatican radio)

 

POPE FRANCIS TAPES VIDEO MESSAGE FOR SUPER BOWL PLAYERS, FANS AND VIEWERS

POPE FRANCIS TAPES VIDEO MESSAGE FOR SUPER BOWL PLAYERS, FANS AND VIEWERS

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday reached out to Americans urging them to make this year’s Super Bowl a sign of peace, friendship and solidarity to the world.

In a specially recorded video message for the event, which will hold the attention of much of the nation and command a television audience larger than for any other event of the year, the Pope points out that great sporting events like the championship game of the National Football League are highly symbolic, and show that it is possible to build a culture of encounter and a world of peace.

https://youtu.be/KIjJ4BTNzUQ

“By participating in sport, we are able to go beyond our own self-interest – and in a healthy way – we learn to sacrifice, to grow in fidelity and respect the rules. May this year’s Super Bowl be a sign of peace, friendship and solidarity to the world” he said.

The 2017 Super Bowl takes place in Houston and features the final NFL showdown between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons.

Vice President Mike Pence, who is scheduled to attend, will be the fourth sitting vice president to see the game in person.

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR LENT: “I DESIRE MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE”

PAPAL MESSAGE FOR LENT: “I DESIRE MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE”

The Vatican today published Pope Francis’ Message for Lent 2016 – “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice (Mt 9:13). The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee.” It was dated October 4, 2015, Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.

LENT 2016

The heart of the Pope’s Message is in Number 3, The works of mercy, where he quotes Misericordiae vultus, the Bull of Indiction for the Jubilee of Mercy:

“God’s mercy transforms human hearts; it enables us, through the experience of a faithful love, to become merciful in turn. In an ever-new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbour and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbours in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them. On such things will we be judged. For this reason, I expressed my hope that “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy; this will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty, and to enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel where the poor have a special experience of God’s mercy” (ibid., 15). For in the poor, the flesh of Christ “becomes visible in the flesh of the tortured, the crushed, the scourged, the malnourished, and the exiled… to be acknowledged, touched, and cared for by us” (ibid.). It is the unprecedented and scandalous mystery of the extension in time of the suffering of the Innocent Lamb, the burning bush of gratuitous love. Before this love, we can, like Moses, take off our sandals (cf. Ex 3:5), especially when the poor are our brothers or sisters in Christ who are suffering for their faith.”

And Francis continues, pointing to the need for conversion, another central point of his Lenten Message:

“In the light of this love, which is strong as death (cf. Song 8:6), the real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they too are only poor beggars. The greater their power and wealth, the more this blindness and deception can grow. It can even reach the point of being blind to Lazarus begging at their doorstep (cf. Lk 16:20-21). Lazarus, the poor man, is a figure of Christ, who through the poor pleads for our conversion. As such, he represents the possibility of conversion which God offers us, and which we may well fail to see. Such blindness is often accompanied by the proud illusion of our own omnipotence, which reflects in a sinister way the diabolical “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5), which is the root of all sin. This illusion can likewise take social and political forms, as shown by the totalitarian systems of the twentieth century, and, in our own day, by the ideologies of monopolizing thought and techno-science, which would make God irrelevant and reduce man to raw material to be exploited. This illusion can also be seen in the sinful structures linked to a model of false development based on the idolatry of money, which leads to lack of concern for the fate of the poor on the part of wealthier individuals and societies; they close their doors, refusing even to see the poor.

“For all of us, then, the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year is a favourable time to overcome our existential alienation by listening to God’s word and by practising the works of mercy….”

The full papal Lenten message is here: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/events/event.dir.html/content/vaticanevents/en/2016/1/26/messaggioquaresima.html

MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER: MESSAGE FOR THE JUBILEE OF MERCY FOR THE YOUNG – VATICAN HOSTING TWO REFUGEE FAMILIES – HOMELESS AND POOR ATTEND CIRCUS, THANKS TO PAPAL ALMONER

MERCIFUL LIKE THE FATHER: MESSAGE FOR THE JUBILEE OF MERCY FOR THE YOUNG

(VIS) – Pope Francis’ message for the Jubilee of Mercy for young boys and girls was published today. In the text, dated 6 January 2016, Solemnity of the Epiphany, the Holy Father addresses youngsters aged 13 to 16, many of whom intend to make a pilgrimage to Rome from 23 to 25 April, and who are “preparing to be Christians capable of making courageous choices and decisions, in order to build daily, even through little things, a world of peace., He encourages those who live in difficult situations not to lose hope as the Lord “has a great dream” for them that He wishes to come true. He invites them not to be “taken in by the messages of hatred or terror all around us”, and instead to make new friendships.

Click here to read the message in English: http://www.news.va/en/news/merciful-like-the-father-message-for-the-jubilee-o

VATICAN HOSTING TWO REFUGEE FAMILIES

A communique announced today that two refugee families are now being hosted by the two parishes of the Vatican, in response to the September 6, 2015, Angelus appeal of Pope Francis for every parish in Europe to welcome a family of refugees, starting with his own diocese of Rome.

The parish of Sant’Anna has provided a nearby apartment for a Christian Syrian family, consisting of the parents and two children, whereas the parish of St. Peter’s Basilica has provided an apartment for an Eritrean family consisting of a mother and her five children. Three of those children, including one only several months old, are already in Italy, and two others are in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, but are expected to be reunited in Rome the coming weeks. Another woman and her child also live in the apartment which the Vatican communique described as ‘large’.

This entire project has been under the direction of Archbishop Konrad Krajewski, the papal Almoner, and the Sant’Egidio Community. Pope Francis met briefly with the Syrian family shortly after they moved into their apartment in September.

HOMELESS AND POOR ATTEND CIRCUS, THANKS TO PAPAL ALMONER

(Vatican Radio) The Office of the Papal Almoner has announced a unique charity event scheduled for Thursday afternoon in Rome: a circus for the poor. (AP photo: news.va)

ALMONER

The homeless, refugees, prisoners, and those most in need, were invited to the entertainment, offered free of charge at the Rony Roller Circus, which made all 2000 seats under its big top available for the event.

A press release with details of the spectacle highlights the show’s opening number: a song composed by a Spanish singer-songwriter, who was also homeless at one time, dedicated to Pope Francis and written to serve as an opening prayer and expression of gratitude to the Holy Father for his closeness to the guests.

In a January audience last year Pope Francis said that those who create circus shows create beauty which is good for the soul. “How much we need beauty,” he said. He applauded circus artists who with perseverance and sacrifice give beauty to others.

The Almoner’s announcement also explained that medical personnel from Vatican Health Services would be available to give treatment free of charge to any of the event’s attendees with a mobile camper and Vatican ambulances. A small snack will be offered the end of the show.

 

POPE EXPRESSES “GREAT SADNESS” AT ESCALATING ANTI-CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION

POPE EXPRESSES “GREAT SADNESS” AT ESCALATING ANTI-CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION

The Vatican today published a Message from Pope Francis to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and to all the participants in the three-day meeting of the Global Christian Forum that ended yesterday in Tirana, Albania. The theme of the meeting was “Discrimination, persecution, martyrdom: following Christ together.”

CARDINAL KOCH

Delegates of the Global Christian Forum, at the end of their last meeting in October 2011 in Manado, Indonesia, said they would like, in their next meeting, to address concerns that are common to the different religions and the issue that came to the forefront was precisely the theme chosen this year: “Discrimination, persecution, martyrdom: following Christ together.” The Tirana Forum urged persecutors to cease their violence, and exhorted governments to respect and protect religious freedom, especially those persecuted for their beliefs.

GCF

To prepare the consultation for the 2015 meeting in Albania the GCF held a planning group that included representatives appointed by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the World Evangelical Alliance, the World Council of Churches and the Pentecostal World Fellowship. The consultation was to give leaders who experienced discrimination and persecution the chance to meet one another, unite their voices and have their stories heard. The GCF is based in Strasbourg, France.

Pope Francis opened his Message by greeting “our brothers and sisters of different Christian traditions who represent communities suffering for their profession of faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. I think with great sadness of the escalating discrimination and persecution against Christians in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and elsewhere throughout the world. Your gathering shows that, as Christians, we are not indifferent to our suffering brothers and sisters.”

The Holy Father underscored how, “in various parts of the world, the witness to Christ, even to the shedding of blood, has become a shared experience of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, which is deeper and stronger than the differences which still separate our Churches and Ecclesial Communities. The communio martyrum is the greatest sign of our journeying together. At the same time, your gathering will give voice to the victims of such injustice and violence, and seek to show the path that will lead the human family out of this tragic situation.”

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.”