POPE FRANCIS’ DAY IN A NUTSHELL – THREE POPES AND AN ARCHBISHOP

Pope Francis spent a very busy morning, meeting with and speaking to a number of groups, as you’ll see in a minute with the very brief summaries I will post. When I worked at the Vatican and many offices were preparing in some way, for weeks and months, for a papal trip, it always seemed to me that, as departure day approached, Popes tried to squeeze in a huge number of appointments, audiences meetings an speeches, often more activity than on a normal day.

Perhaps we all do similar things when we prepare for a trip or vacation – put some order into the house, make sure laundry is done, have mail held while we are away, make phone calls and answer emails we may have put on the back burner – all this (occasionally frantic) activity so that we can go away and think only of having a good time, not about the things we still have on our to-do list.

And now, some highlights of the Pope’s day:

POPE FRANCIS’ DAY IN A NUTSHELL

POPE FRANCIS THURSDAY, SPEAKING TO PARTICIPANTS OF A MEETING ON THE IRAQI-SYRIAN HUMANITARIAN CRISIS, called for a peaceful solution to the conflicts in those countries. He said, “the international community seems unable to find adequate solutions while the arms dealers continue to achieve their interests.” The meeting, promoted by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” is attended by Catholic charities that are active in the Middle East and by the bishops of the region. Francis said the consequences of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria are “one of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades. Millions of people are in distressing state of urgent need.” Highlighting “this ocean of pain,” he spoke of the particularly cruel predicament of Christians in the war-torn nations “where many brothers and sisters are oppressed because of their faith, driven from their land, kept in prison or even killed”. Pointing out that today’s media broadcasts live the images and stories pertaining to the catastrophe, Francis said: “No one can pretend not to know! Everyone is aware that this war weighs in an increasingly unbearable way on the shoulders of the poor. We need to find a solution, which is never a violent one, because violence only creates new wounds.”

THE HOLY FATHER SENT A MESSAGE TO PARTICIPANTS AT AN  INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF STREET PEOPLE in which he said abandoned children and exploited sex workers are a “shameful reality in our societies.”The five-day meeting, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, has focused especially on the plight of women and children living on the streets. Pope Francis praised the commitment of the many different organizations that care for street children and for girls or women who are exploited by criminal gangs, or even by their own family members. He said “every child abandoned or forced to live on the streets, at the mercy of criminal organizations, is a cry rising up to God, who created man and woman in his own image.  It is an indictment of a social system which we have criticized for decades, but which we find hard to change in conformity with criteria of justice.” He said, “the often sad realities which you encounter are the result of indifference, poverty, family and social violence, and human trafficking.  They involve the pain of marital separations and the birth of children out of wedlock, frequently doomed to a life of ‘vagrancy’.  Street children and street women are not numbers, or ‘packets’ to be traded; they are human beings, each with his or her own name and face, each with a God-given identity.”

POPE FRANCIS ALSO ADDRESSED A GROUP OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN CONSECRATED LIFE ON THURSDAY MORNING. The special audience was the highlight of the International Congress for Young People in Consecrated Life taking place in Rome this week in the context of the ongoing Year of Consecrated Life, which will close on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Feb. 2nd), 2016. Putting his prepared remarks aside, the Holy Father answered a series of three questions from the participants. The questions covered areas ranging from the Holy Father’s own first calling to religious life, to the mission of consecrated young people in the Church today, to the advice the Holy Father might have for young people who have completed their formation and lived some time in religion and are anxious not to lose the impetus of their original vocation.. He asked the young people to reflect on the “dangers” of a life that becomes “comfortable,” and renewed his repeated warning against the danger of gossip in religious life. “Never!” he said, “Never: gossip is the plague of community life.” In a particularly candid moment of the particularly frank and unguarded exchange, Pope Francis returned to the first question, about his memory of his first conscious experience of a vocation to religious life. “Memory,” he said. “You asked me to share my memory – how it was – that first call on September 21st, 1953 – but I don’t know how it was: I know that, by chance, I walked into church, I saw a confessional, and I came out different.” (Sources for above: news.va)

ALSO THURSDAY, THE HOLY FATHER RECEIVED THE PRIME MINISTER OF THE GRAND DUCHY OF LUXEMBOURG, His Excellency Mr. Xavier Bettel who also met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. The Vatican statement said: “the cordial discussions offered the opportunity to reaffirm the wish to consolidate the existing good relations between the Holy See and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and to consider issues of common interest, with special attention to the relationship between Church and State, underlining the relevance of religious freedom and spiritual values for social cohesion. Within the context of Luxembourg’s term of presidency of the European Union, attention then turned to various matters of a European and international nature, with particular reference to current conflicts, the issue of migration and the need to provide assistance to refugees and displaced persons, as well as the situation of persecuted religious minorities.”

THREE POPES AND AN ARCHBISHOP

Just days before Pope Francis’ plane lands in Havana, Cuba, making him the third Pope to visit that Caribbean nation, Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of Havana penned a piece for L’Osservatore Romano in which he describes the background of this papal trip, as well as his encounters with Francis’ two predecessors, St. John Paul and Benedict XVI. In fact, Cardinal Ortega y Alamino notes the special place he holds in papal travels: “I have the good fortune of being the only Archbishop to receive three Popes in the same See.”

Following is Cardinal Ortega y Alamino’s story:

During the Extraordinary Consistory last February, after I greeted the Pope Francis before the start of the first session, he turned to me and said: “I have an idea: to come to Cuba”. I shared with him my enthusiasm at the idea and suggested he add it on to his visit to Latin America in July. The Holy Father looked a bit perplexed, as Cuba was out of the way and the extended journey would already span three countries. But he said: “We shall see”.

In the afternoon session of the second day, Pope Francis motioned for me to come up to his table and he said, smiling: “I have decided to come to Cuba and I’ve already told Msgr. Angelo Becciu. A visit to Cuba will be added onto my journey to the United States in September”. I answered him: “Your Holiness, I am returning to Cuba with tremendous joy!”, and I thanked him. I then heard him say something that touched me even more deeply: “It’s the least I can do for you all”.

I have the good fortune of being the only Archbishop to receive three Popes in the same See. During that final afternoon of the Consistory, many recollections of these three popes flew through my mind in such rapid succession that I was barely able to follow the speeches of my brother Cardinals.

I recalled with deeply filial affection St. John Paul II’s visit to Cuba — this pope had risen on the horizon of my vocational discernment like a bright beacon, he had led me to become, first, a young Bishop of Pinar del Río (1978) and, three years later, to be the Archbishop of Havana (1981). Then, at the Consistory of 1994, it was he who created me cardinal. What closeness and fatherly affection I always sensed, what steadfast support at every moment, even when, at the end of his precious life, all his strength seemed to have left him!

For economic and social reasons, at the start of the 90s, Pope John Paul II was unable to accept the Cuban Bishops’ invitation to visit our country, an invitation he very much wanted to accept due to his interest in the situation of our Church, which had lived through situations similar to his own Poland.

St. John Paul and (then) Archbishop Ortega y Alamino (news.va)

Pope Francis spent a very busy morning, meeting with and speaking to a number of groups, as you’ll see in a minute with the very brief summaries I will post. When I worked at the Vatican and many offices were preparing in some way, for weeks and months, for a papal trip, it always seemed to me that, as departure day approached, Popes tried to squeeze in a huge number of appointments, audiences meetings an speeches, often more activity than on a normal day.

Perhaps we all do similar things when we prepare for a trip or vacation – put some order into the house, make sure laundry is done, have mail held while we are away, make phone calls and answer emails we may have put on the back burner – all this (occasionally frantic) activity so that we can go away and think only of having a good time, not about the things we still have on our to-do list.

And now, some highlights of the Pope’s day:

POPE FRANCIS’ DAY IN A NUTSHELL

POPE FRANCIS THURSDAY, SPEAKING TO PARTICIPANTS OF A MEETING ON THE IRAQI-SYRIAN HUMANITARIAN CRISIS, called for a peaceful solution to the conflicts in those countries. He said, “the international community seems unable to find adequate solutions while the arms dealers continue to achieve their interests.” The meeting, promoted by the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” is attended by Catholic charities that are active in the Middle East and by the bishops of the region. Francis said the consequences of the conflicts in Iraq and Syria are “one of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades. Millions of people are in distressing state of urgent need.” Highlighting “this ocean of pain,” he spoke of the particularly cruel predicament of Christians in the war-torn nations “where many brothers and sisters are oppressed because of their faith, driven from their land, kept in prison or even killed”. Pointing out that today’s media broadcasts live the images and stories pertaining to the catastrophe, Francis said: “No one can pretend not to know! Everyone is aware that this war weighs in an increasingly unbearable way on the shoulders of the poor. We need to find a solution, which is never a violent one, because violence only creates new wounds.”

THE HOLY FATHER SENT A MESSAGE TO PARTICIPANTS AT AN  INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON THE PASTORAL CARE OF STREET PEOPLE in which he said abandoned children and exploited sex workers are a “shameful reality in our societies.”The five-day meeting, organized by the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, has focused especially on the plight of women and children living on the streets. Pope Francis praised the commitment of the many different organizations that care for street children and for girls or women who are exploited by criminal gangs, or even by their own family members. He said “every child abandoned or forced to live on the streets, at the mercy of criminal organizations, is a cry rising up to God, who created man and woman in his own image.  It is an indictment of a social system which we have criticized for decades, but which we find hard to change in conformity with criteria of justice.” He said, “the often sad realities which you encounter are the result of indifference, poverty, family and social violence, and human trafficking.  They involve the pain of marital separations and the birth of children out of wedlock, frequently doomed to a life of ‘vagrancy’.  Street children and street women are not numbers, or ‘packets’ to be traded; they are human beings, each with his or her own name and face, each with a God-given identity.”

POPE FRANCIS ALSO ADDRESSED A GROUP OF YOUNG PEOPLE IN CONSECRATED LIFE ON THURSDAY MORNING. The special audience was the highlight of the International Congress for Young People in Consecrated Life taking place in Rome this week in the context of the ongoing Year of Consecrated Life, which will close on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (Feb. 2nd), 2016. Putting his prepared remarks aside, the Holy Father answered a series of three questions from the participants. The questions covered areas ranging from the Holy Father’s own first calling to religious life, to the mission of consecrated young people in the Church today, to the advice the Holy Father might have for young people who have completed their formation and lived some time in religion and are anxious not to lose the impetus of their original vocation.. He asked the young people to reflect on the “dangers” of a life that becomes “comfortable,” and renewed his repeated warning against the danger of gossip in religious life. “Never!” he said, “Never: gossip is the plague of community life.” In a particularly candid moment of the particularly frank and unguarded exchange, Pope Francis returned to the first question, about his memory of his first conscious experience of a vocation to religious life. “Memory,” he said. “You asked me to share my memory – how it was – that first call on September 21st, 1953 – but I don’t know how it was: I know that, by chance, I walked into church, I saw a confessional, and I came out different.” (Sources for above: news.va)

ALSO THURSDAY, THE HOLY FATHER RECEIVED THE PRIME MINISTER OF THE GRAND DUCHY OF LUXEMBOURG, His Excellency Mr. Xavier Bettel who also met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. The Vatican statement said: “the cordial discussions offered the opportunity to reaffirm the wish to consolidate the existing good relations between the Holy See and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and to consider issues of common interest, with special attention to the relationship between Church and State, underlining the relevance of religious freedom and spiritual values for social cohesion. Within the context of Luxembourg’s term of presidency of the European Union, attention then turned to various matters of a European and international nature, with particular reference to current conflicts, the issue of migration and the need to provide assistance to refugees and displaced persons, as well as the situation of persecuted religious minorities.”

THREE POPES AND AN ARCHBISHOP

Just days before Pope Francis’ plane lands in Havana, Cuba, making him the third Pope to visit that Caribbean nation, Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, archbishop of Havana penned a piece for L’Osservatore Romano in which he describes the background of this papal trip, as well as his encounters with Francis’ two predecessors, St. John Paul and Benedict XVI.

In fact, Cardinal Ortega y Alamino notes the special place he holds in papal travels: “I have the good fortune of being the only Archbishop to receive three Popes in the same See.”

Following is Cardinal Ortega y Alamino’s story:

During the Extraordinary Consistory last February, after I greeted the Pope Francis before the start of the first session, he turned to me and said: “I have an idea: to come to Cuba”. I shared with him my enthusiasm at the idea and suggested he add it on to his visit to Latin America in July. The Holy Father looked a bit perplexed, as Cuba was out of the way and the extended journey would already span three countries. But he said: “We shall see”.

In the afternoon session of the second day, Pope Francis motioned for me to come up to his table and he said, smiling: “I have decided to come to Cuba and I’ve already told Msgr. Angelo Becciu. A visit to Cuba will be added onto my journey to the United States in September”. I answered him: “Your Holiness, I am returning to Cuba with tremendous joy!”, and I thanked him. I then heard him say something that touched me even more deeply: “It’s the least I can do for you all”.

I have the good fortune of being the only Archbishop to receive three Popes in the same See. During that final afternoon of the Consistory, many recollections of these three popes flew through my mind in such rapid succession that I was barely able to follow the speeches of my brother Cardinals.

I recalled with deeply filial affection St. John Paul II’s visit to Cuba — this pope had risen on the horizon of my vocational discernment like a bright beacon, he had led me to become, first, a young Bishop of Pinar del Río (1978) and, three years later, to be the Archbishop of Havana (1981). Then, at the Consistory of 1994, it was he who created me cardinal. What closeness and fatherly affection I always sensed, what steadfast support at every moment, even when, at the end of his precious life, all his strength seemed to have left him!

For economic and social reasons, at the start of the 90s, Pope John Paul II was unable to accept the Cuban Bishops’ invitation to visit our country, an invitation he very much wanted to accept due to his interest in the situation of our Church, which had lived through situations similar to his own Poland.

St. John Paul and Cardinal Ortega y Alamino (news.va)

ABP HAVANA AND JOHN PAUL

Several years passed before our invitation was accepted by the Pope. In 1998, nearing the close of the millennium, weakened in the few years that had passed since we invited him, Pope John Paul II was finally able to embark on his emotional visit to Cuba. It would remain a ray of sunshine for the Church in our country and a milestone in her history and in that of the Cuban people as a whole. In his opening address to Cuba and the world, he made reference to our country’s isolation from the American continent and from the world, calling for this isolation to be broken — “May Cuba, with all its magnificent potential, open itself up to the world, and may the world open itself up to Cuba”. This call resounded around the world; it can still be heard today and it grows stronger with every event that seems to confirm the hope and prayer of that Holy Shepherd. An example was last 17 December, when the presidents of Cuba and the United States announced simultaneously the reinstatement of diplomatic relations between the two countries with the opening of embassies in their respective capitals.

And so began a new phase in diplomacy between two nations that have been separated for more than 50 years. During that historic announcement the two presidents thanked Pope Francis for his part in the process that led to this reconciliation and paved the way for coexistence and dialogue. Behind this agreement stands Pope Francis’ discrete but effective and clear conviction: that the creation and fostering of dialogue is indispensable in the resolution of tension and conflict. It’s not the first time he has stood by that conviction in his pontificate, but perhaps the continuously tense situation between Cuba and the US made it all the more important for the Holy Father’s silent intervention.

The path of dialogue between religions, of the Church’s dialogue with other Christian confessions and with Judaism, was significantly strengthened by Pope John XXIII and his convocation of the Second Vatican Council, which brought the Church, in a renewed way, into the concrete history of humanity in the 20th century. This call to dialogue was accepted by Pope Paul vi, who admirably promoted it throughout his pontificate. The best expression of that is contained in a few decisive words from Pope Montini: “Dialogue is the new name of love”. With these words the Pope illustrated how human beings must relate and the style that must prevail in the Church, among nations, among different groups in society and between Christians and the the world.

The pontificate of St John Paul II was enveloped in this journey of dialogue. He lived through a difficult dialogue as bishop in his native Poland, but he nevertheless promoted it, even when it seemed barren and impossible. His direction and his teachings were faithful to that fundamental spirit of Vatican II, in which he himself had participated.

Seeing these things close up, I found in Pope Benedict XVI a clear continuity with the Church’s line of interaction with the modern world, in her structures, in her political-social function and in the realm of ideas and conceptions that underlie current thought. In the latter context, Pope Benedict expressed himself magisterially: in his brilliant contribution to the style in which the Church dialogues, in his literary and personal contact with modernity and in the formulation of his thought regarding dialogue in interreligious, social and political spheres. All these constitute an inestimable treasure in the understanding of the fundamental role of dialogue in the life of the Church and of all Christians.

In June 2012, the current Pope emeritus visited Cuba as a pilgrim during our jubilee — we were celebrating the 400th anniversary of the rediscovery of the statue of Our Lady of Charity, Patroness of Cuba, which had been lost at sea. In an unforgettable conversation, the Pope expressed his happiness about the trip, for which we, the Cuban bishops, were so grateful. He warmly recalled the official welcome he had received, and the friendly gestures towards him. It was in that context that he spoke of dialogue as the rightful path of the Church. On various occasions I have cited these words from Pope Benedict, who struck me by the conviction with which he spoke them. He said: “Dialogue is the only path for the Church…. The Church is not in the world to change governments, but to penetrate the hearts of men and women with the Gospel”.

Pope Benedict XVI said this to me just before stepping down from the See of Peter. When, some months later, we Cardinals gathered together for the conclave that would quickly elect Cardinal Bergoglio as Supreme Pontiff, I had the opportunity to speak with the future Pope about Latin America and Cuba. At a certain moment in the conversation, while alluding to dialogue and its importance in the current climate of grand transformation in Latin America, I remembered my last conversation with Pope Benedict. He had said to me that dialogue was the only path for the Church in her relationship with political structures. Applying his words to the context at hand, I repeated them to the future Pope Francis, who raising his arms up in the air, exclaimed: “This should be written on a plaque and placed at the entrance of every city in the world”, and he repeated it, word for word: “The Church is not in the world to change governments, but to penetrate the hearts of men and women with the Gospel”. He then added: “Every social and political climate should be accompanied in a climate of dialogue”.

Shortly after Cardinal Bergoglio was elected to the Chair of Peter, we were filled with joy over having a Latin American Pope. He was someone close to us, who had handed to the Episcopate of Latin America in Aparecida, Brazil, the conviction that the Church is Christ’s mission for our people, that we all, bishops, priests, and lay people, should be conscious of our being missionaries. Seeing that the new Pope would surely communicate that evangelical zeal, I could not but ponder what Pope Benedict had said about the Church’s mission: “The Church is in the world to penetrate the hearts of men and women with the Gospel”. This is what the new Pope had repeated to me with such profound conviction, and which fervently inspires his pontificate.

This is Pope Francis, who will soon be with us in Cuba: a missionary pope who comes to our little country, as he did to Sarajevo, Sri Lanka or Albania; who comes to a country which has overcome isolation and distance, thanks also to the dialogue that the Church and the Popes of 20th century fostered. And it was Pope Francis who spurred and supported dialogue between the people and the governments of Cuba and the US. He comes among us to reaffirm the missionary condition of the Church and her preference for the little ones, the poor. He comes as a missionary of mercy. No other motto could better describe him in this world of ours laden with hardship, loneliness, every form of poverty, faded hopes and void of God, where love is seen as a game in which sad losers and false victors play for themselves and never manage to find true Love. And this has thrown the family, whose role is irreplaceable in the formation of new generations, into crisis, which is why it is at the centre of the Holy Father’s pastoral concern.

There is an essential link between the family and the restlessness and longing of the young people, whom Pope Francis will meet in Havana on Sunday evening. That meeting will, thus, be a very special moment during his visit to our country.

The God who is Love will be presented in Cuba by Pope Francis — to young people, to families, to priests, to sisters and to everyone: the merciful God who understands and forgives.

In the “José Martí” Plaza de la Revolución, before the altar where Pope Francis will preside at the Eucharistic Celebration, there will be a giant display of the Merciful Christ spanning ten floors of the National Library. At this moment, our Cuban people, like all people of the earth, need to experience mercy, not pity or mere condescension, but understanding of the human heart in all its restlessness and limitations. We will feel the encouragement of one who reaches out to us to lift our soul with simplicity and humility, just as Pope Francis will know how to do in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, as he passes through the streets of Havana, and especially during his meeting with young people.

How much can really be done in such a short period of time, just a glimpse of the Pope passing by in the distance? Sometimes a glance, a gesture, a smile is all it takes to know that God comes among us and that, through his Vicar on earth, Christ is visiting his people.

Thus we welcomed St John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and thus we wait for Pope Francis. The people have not always been the same: some have gone to God the Father, many have emigrated. Emigration has left its mark on every family in Cuba; it is a perennial temptation for our youth. The emigration of young people and the low birth rate means that the population of Cuba is rapidly declining and aging, and this worries us all; but we also have other worries at the moment.

Facing the new path that appears to be opening now before the Cuban people, with all its risks and its benefits, our people, believers for the most part, must turn their gaze to God and place their future in the hands of merciful Jesus. The Holy Father will invite them to do just that. Therein lies our hope. Pope Francis will come to spread hope among us. It is no more than trusting in the action of a merciful God who will help us in the future to overcome these risks and to discover, also with His help, that the benefits can outweigh the risks on this new path opening before us, if we are capable of making room in our lives for God.

This must free our families and our young people from the paralyzing skepticism, that is alien to the Christian faith and in which God is never present. The Pope comes to tell us something new in this new moment of our history. This is surely the presentiment of the people of Cuba as they wait for Pope Francis.

I am certain that those who welcome him with an attitude of faith, as one who comes in the name of the Lord, will not be disappointed. It’s true that the people of Cuba want progress and prosperity to the fair benefit of all, but not only that; on the spiritual level our people long for stable love and endurance in the family, for peace in the life of the family and the nation. In short, they long to enjoy a life of reconciliation and happiness. This is not a hopeless yearning, so long as in our hearts we do not forget that God is the giver of every good thing and that in Him nothing is impossible.

Pope Francis comes precisely for this reason, that we do not forget this, that we do not forget God, and he will be welcomed by our people with devotion and love. His presence in Cuba will leave an indelible mark, of this I am certain.

– by Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Cardinal Archbishop of Havana

 

VATICAN INSIDER: A SPECIAL VISIT TO ROME’S CAPUCHIN CEMETERY – POPE FRANCIS: MIGRANTS ARE PEOPLE ON A JOURNEY OF HOPE – “PEOPLE, NOT MONEY, CREATE DEVELOPMENT” – STAMPS FOR COLLECTORS, STAMPS FOR CHARITY

Tomorrow Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with the estimated 7,000 participants in the annual meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Health Care Pastoral as they focus on the theme, “The Person with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Animating Hope.”The three-day conference began November 20. I will post an update either in this column or on www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420

Today the Pope addressed participants in the Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants that took place this week at the Pontifical Urban University (the university that trains men and women religious to be missionaries or work in missionary lands). Given the U.S. president’s announcement Thursday of an executive decision on migration policy in the United States, you might want to read Pope Francis’ speech (below) to those involved in the Church’s pastoral ministry to migrants.

VATICAN INSIDER: A SPECIAL VISIT TO ROME’S CAPUCHIN CEMETERY

Who are the Capuchins? Why did they build a cemetery in the center of Rome using the bones of nearly 4,000 friars? Tune in to “Vatican Insider” this weekend to get the answers to those questions! You may have seen the TV show, “Bones” – well, this is the real thing!

And here’s a preview of part of that cemetery (Via Veneto, 27):

20141119_180142 20141121_193909 20141121_193920

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

 POPE FRANCIS: MIGRANTS ARE PEOPLE ON A JOURNEY OF HOPE

Pope Francis this morning welcomed the participants in the Seventh World Congress for the Pastoral Care of Migrants that took place this week at the Pontifical Urban University, and told them of his “sincere appreciation for your commitment to and solicitude for the men and women who even today are undertaking the ‘journey of hope’ on the path of migration. The congress, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Migrant and Itinerant Peoples, is focusing on the theme, “Cooperation and Development in the Pastoral Ministry of Migration.”

The Pope began by noting that, “Today, notwithstanding new developments and the emergence of situations which are at times painful and even tragic, migration is still an aspiration to hope. Above all in areas of the world in difficulty, where the lack of work prevents individuals and their families from achieving a dignified life, there is a strong drive to seek a better future wherever that may be, even at the risk of disappointment and failure. This is caused in great part by the economic crisis that, to different degrees, is affecting every country in the world.”

Francis then listed some of the factors that cause migration: “inequality, poverty, overpopulation, the growing need for employment in some sectors of the global job market, disasters caused by climate change, wars and persecution, and the desire of younger people to relocate as they seek new opportunities.” He spoke of the lights and shadows, the highs and lows, the hopes, joys and even disasters of migration for countries of origin and for those who receive migrants.

“In effect,” said the Holy Father, “receiving nations draw advantages from employing immigrants for production needs and national prosperity, not infrequently filling gaps created by the demographic crisis. In turn, the nations which migrants leave show a certain reduction in unemployment and, above all, benefit from earnings which are then sent back to meet the needs of families which remain in the country.”

He also noted that, “some problems also accompany these benefits.  We find in the countries of origin, among other things, an impoverishment due to the so-called “brain drain,” the effects on infants and young people who grow up without one or both parents, and the risk of marriages failing due to prolonged absences. In the receiving nations, we also see difficulties associated with migrants settling in urban neighborhoods that are already problematic, as well as their difficulties in integrating and learning to respect the social and cultural conventions that they find.  In this regard, pastoral workers play an important role through initiating dialogue, welcoming and assisting with legal issues, mediating with the local population. In the countries of origin, on the other hand, the closeness of pastoral workers to the families and children of migrant parents can lessen the negative repercussions of the parents’ absence.

The Pope stressed that, “the Christian community, in fact, is continuously engaged in welcoming migrants and sharing with them God’s gifts, in particular the gift of faith. The Church promotes pastoral plans for the evangelization and support of migrants throughout their journey from their country of origin, through countries of transit, to the receiving countries. She gives particular attention to meeting the spiritual needs of migrants through catechesis, liturgy and the celebration of the Sacraments.

Francis admitted that, “sadly, migrants often experience disappointment, distress and loneliness.  In effect, the migrant worker has to deal with the problem both of being uprooted and needing to integrate. Here the Church also seeks to be a source of hope: she develops programs of education and orientation; she raises her voice in defense of migrants’ rights; she offers assistance, including material assistance to everyone, without exception, so that all may be treated as children of God.”

He said people must be capable of “valuing a migrant’s potential rather than seeing them only as a problem to be confronted and resolved. … How much more necessary must this be in the case of the Christian community, where no one is a stranger and, therefore, everyone is worthy of being welcomed and supported.” The Holy Father quoted his 2014 Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees: “It is less the criteria of efficiency, productivity, social class, or ethnic or religious belonging which ground that personal dignity, so much as the fact of being created in God’s own image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27) and, even more so, being children of God. Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ!”

“Migrants, therefore,” he concluded, “by virtue of their very humanity, even prior to their cultural values, widen the sense of human fraternity. At the same time, their presence is a reminder of the need to eradicate inequality, injustice and abuses.  In that way, migrants will be able to become partners in constructing a richer identity for the communities which provide them hospitality, as well as the people who welcome them, prompting the development of a society which is inclusive, creative and respectful of the dignity of all.”

 “PEOPLE, NOT MONEY, CREATE DEVELOPMENT”

(Vatican Radio) – Saying people, not money, create development, Pope Francis called on Thursday for courageous initiatives to rethink our economic system so that we do not become slaves of money. His remarks came in a video message delivered to participants attending a Festival of Social Doctrine in Verona, Italy, promoted by the local Church.

The Pope urged people not to become discouraged by the economic crisis but instead turn their energies towards ways of “rethinking our economic model and the world of work.”  He warned that “the great temptation” when faced with these difficulties is to concentrate “on tending our own wounds and use that as an excuse to not heed the cry of the poor” and all those who are suffering because they have lost their jobs and the dignity that goes with that. The risk, he went on, is that “this indifference makes us blind, deaf and dumb”, closed in to the outside world and only concerned with ourselves.

Pope Francis spoke instead of the need to move beyond and “abandon the stereotypes which are considered safe and guaranteed” in order to respond to the real needs of people. In the field of economics, he Said,, we urgently need to take the initiative because “the system tends to homogenize everything and money becomes its master.”  Taking the initiative in this field, he added, means having the courage not to allow ourselves to be imprisoned and subsequently enslaved by money.

The true problem explained the Pope “is not money as such but people.”  This is because “money by itself does not create development” but instead we need people who have the courage to take the initiative. Pope Francis stressed that taking the initiative in this way means overcoming a tendency to always ask the state or other bodies for assistance but instead use our creative talents to find new ways of earning a living. He concluded his address by expressing his concern over the high number of unemployed young people, saying we need to invest more in them and give them a great deal of confidence.

STAMPS FOR COLLECTORS, STAMPS FOR CHARITY

Interesting news from the Vatican’s Philatelic and Numismatic (stamps and coins) Office: Today they issued a philatelic set celebrating Pope’s Francis’ apostolic journeys in 2013. The proceeds from the sale of the €.85 stamp and the €3.40 philatelic booklet, both of which celebrate the visit of Pope Francis to Lampedusa in July 2013, will be donated to Pope Francis for charity works to support migrants. The website for the philatelic office is: http://www.vaticanstate.va/content/vaticanstate/en/servizi/ufficio-filatelico-e-numismatico.html

There are many other stamps available for purchase (the site tells you how) including the 450th anniversary of the death of Michelangelo and (amazing coincidence) the 450th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare, the 85th anniversary of the founding of Vatican City State (February 11, 1929), the 50th anniversary of the visit of Paul VI in the Holy Land (commemorated last May by Pope Francis who recreated that 1964 Holy Land pilgrimage), Christmas 2014 and the series on 2013 papal trips.

The UFN (Italian acronym for this office) informs collectors that the stamps of the commemorative joint series of the II Year of Pontificate of Pope Francis issued by the Philippine Postal system can be requested at: Philatelic Division – Philippine Postal Corporation, Liwasang Bonifacio – 1000 Manila, Philippines: E-mail:   philpost[dot]stamps[at]gmail[dot]com – website: http://www.phlpost.gov.ph