POPE CELEBRATES 800 YEARS OF FRANCISCANS IN THE HOLY LAND – BISHOP THANKS POPE FOR CALLING SYNOD FOR PAN-AMAZON REGION

Pope Francis tweeted today: It is the duty of the human family to help free every single person from poverty and hunger.

As a Lady of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, I follow any and all news on the Holy Land because it is that holy part of the world that is the first and main concern of the Order – of our activities, our pilgrimages, our financial help and our prayers. The Franciscans in the Holy Land are celebrating a historic anniversary, and Pope Francis had great praise for the Order as you’ll read below. If you’ve even been on a Holy Land pilgrimage, the Franciscans undoubtedly played a big role in your visit. Remember them in your prayers today!

The big news this weekend was Sunday’s announcement by the Holy Father of a synod for the Pan-Amazon region! The staff of the Synod of Bishops never seems to rest – they are currently working on the October 2018 synod for young people.

Before I move on, here’s a photo I took when I got up this morning. This vessel looked familiar and I remembered I had seen a news story on TV Sunday when I arrived. Here’s a related online news story with video: http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/36597875/fire-ignites-aboard-vessel-stuck-in-waikiki-waters

Someone in our building told me today the big problem is trying to remove this vessel without harming the reef it is stuck on!

POPE CELEBRATES 800 YEARS OF FRANCISCANS IN THE HOLY LAND

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land marking the 800th anniversary of their presence as guardians of the holy sites in modern day Israel and Palestine.

In the letter, published on Tuesday, the pope praises the Franciscans for their vital contribution to life in the Holy Land, in particular their work to accompany pilgrims coming from all over the world. (photo: news.va)

The Pope recalls the way that Saint Francis, in May 1217 during the chapter of his recently founded order, decided to send the friars out on mission. The first missionaries to the Holy Land arrived that summer in the town of Acre, near Haifa, in northern Israel and just over a hundred years later, Pope Clement VI confirmed them as the custodians of the holy places.

Sowing peace, fraternity, respect

In the message, Pope Francis notes how the Franciscans live alongside people of different cultures and religions, sowing seeds of “peace, fraternity and respect”. As well as their work as guides for pilgrims, the Pope recalls, they are also committed to biblical and archaeological studies. Franciscans also work closely with the local Churches taking care of the poor, the sick, the elderly and the young people who find it hard to keep up hope amidst the ongoing conflict.

Collection for the Holy Land

The Pope says that the Franciscans are ambassadors for the whole people of God, who support them through the traditional Good Friday collection for the Holy Land and through the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches, which is currently marking the centenary of its foundation.

BISHOP THANKS POPE FOR CALLING SYNOD FOR PAN-AMAZON REGION

(Vatican Radio) Bishop Emmanuel Lafont of Cayenne in French Guyana reacted with joy Monday when he heard Pope Francis’ announcement of a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region.

French Guyana and Suriname are part of the Amazon territory together with Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil. (photo news.va)

Pope Francis had announced a special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region that will focus on the needs of its indigenous people, on new paths for evangelization and on the crisis of the rain forest. The announcement came on Sunday during the Angelus after a canonization Mass during which he canonized 35 new saints, including three indigenous children martyred in 16th century Mexico.

As well as being an essential ‘lung’ for the entire planet as Pope Francis said when he made the announcement, the six million square kilometers that define the region are home to indigenous tribes and even uncontacted peoples whose cultures and whose very existences are threatened by large-scale logging, mining and other industrial projects as well as by pollution and climate change

Speaking to Vatican Radio Bishop Lafont said he is very grateful to Pope Francis for having called this Synod.

“I am very happy, grateful to the Holy Father for having called this Synod which is most important” he said.

For the benefit of the indigenous peoples

First of all, Bishop Lafont continued “for the benefit of the indigenous people – the First Nations – of the Amazonian region, because they have a long history, for the past 500 years of submission, of exploitation, of misunderstanding.”

For the protection of Creation

The second reason for which he is grateful, the Bishop said, that “the Amazon is one of the most important regions in the world for the protection of Creation” and it is currently facing many challenges. “The Church, he said, ought to speak even more loudly for the protection of the region, and for the sake of the protection of the whole world”.

 

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CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO BE JOY-FILLED MISSIONARIES OF HOPE – POPE ANNOUNCES 2018 PRE-SYNOD MEETING FOR YOUTH – EGYPT, “A LAND OF COHABITATION, HOSPITALITY AND ENCOUNTER, OF HISTORY AND OF CIVILIZATION”

The Catholic American Community of Saint Patrick’s Church is holding a Prayer Vigil to honor the victims of the tragedy in Las Vegas tomorrow, Thursday, October 5 at 5 PM., Via Boncompagni, 31. All are welcome.

October is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. Pope Francis tweeted the following today: Like Saint Francis of Assisi, let us be transformed by the love of Christ in order to live in simplicity and joy.

CHRISTIANS ARE CALLED TO BE JOY-FILLED MISSIONARIES OF HOPE

Pope Francis Wednesday continued his catechesis on Christian hope at the weekly general audience in a sun_splashed St Peter’s Square. This week he turned his attention to the Christian’s calling to be a missionary of hope.

“I would like to speak of our calling to be missionaries of hope,” began the Pope. He expèlained that “October is traditionally dedicated to reflection on our participation in the Church’s mission.  Saint Francis of Assisi, whose feast we celebrate today, can serve as our model in this regard.  Francis was a true missionary of the joyful hope born of Christ’s victory over death and our own share in his risen life.”

Francis stated that “Jesus asks us to be witnesses of that same hope, confident in the transforming power of his Spirit at work in our hearts and in our world.  Joy is the sure sign of true Christian hope, for we know that evil will not have the upper hand, and that God’s love, revealed on the cross, will ultimately triumph.”

“However,” noted the Holy Father, “there are certainly times when the gift of hope proves cost. This is the case with so many of our fellow Christians who presently experience persecution, and with the martyrs in every age.  Their witness inspires us to continue to hope in Christ’s promises.  As missionaries of hope, may we rejoice in God’s saving power, never lose heart, and help others to look to the future with confidence.”

POPE ANNOUNCES 2018 PRE-SYNOD MEETING FOR YOUTH

(Vatican Radio) After delivering his general audience catechesis on Christian hope, Pope Francis announced that the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops will convene a pre-synodal meeting from March 19 to 24, 2018, to which it will invite young people from different parts of the world, including young Catholics, young people from different Christian denominations and other religions, and non-believers.

“This initiative is part of the preparations for the next General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will be on ‘Youth, Faith and Vocation Discernment’ in October 2018. With this journey, the Church wants to listen to the voice, the sensitivity, of faith and also the doubts and criticisms of young people. Following this, conclusions of the March Meeting will be transmitted to the Synod Fathers.”

EGYPT, “A LAND OF COHABITATION, HOSPITALITY AND ENCOUNTER, OF HISTORY AND OF CIVILIZATION”

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis Wednesday had a special greeting for an Egyptian delegation led by the country’s Tourism Minister, in Rome to promote a pilgrimage in the footsteps of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt.

Speaking during the Wednesday general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope recalled his Apostolic Journey to Egypt last April saying that he has fond memories of the visit.

He said Egypt is “a land where Saint Joseph, the Virgin Mary and the Baby Jesus, as well as many prophets lived: a land that has been blessed with the precious blood of martyrs spilt throughout the centuries”.

And describing Egypt as a land of cohabitation and hospitality; a land of encounter, of history and of civilization, the Pope imparted his blessing on Egyptians and prayed the Lord to protect the nation, the Middle East and the whole world from all kinds of terrorism and from evil.

The Pope also blessed an icon that represents the Flight of the Holy Family to Egypt.

The Egyptian delegation, led by the Minister of Tourism Yahya Rashed, is meeting with tourism officials in Rome in an effort to promote the Holy Family in Egypt route as an important  pilgrimage destination.

 

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)

 

2018 SYNOD THEME: YOUNG PEOPLE, FAITH AND VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT – U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: “POPE FRANCIS IS A MAN OF PEACE, OF VISION”

What a week this has been so far! The three-day weekend papal trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan, Pope Francis’ unannounced visit Tuesday to the towns in central Italy struck by the earthquake last August 24, and three big moments on Wednesday: The first took place at 9 a.m., before the general audience, when Pope Francis received representatives of the Vodafone Foundation. The Vodafone CEO presented the Pope with an initiative called “Instant Schools for Africa,” which seeks to offer online access to important educational resources for a great number of African youth, some of whom are living in refugee camps.

The general audience followed that meeting, with the papal catechesis centered on the Holy Father’s apostolic trip to the Caucasus region. Wednesday afternoon, Francis addressed the First Global Sports and Faith Conference and, that evening, celebrated vespers in the Rome church of St. Gregory al Celio with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to mark the 50th anniversary of Anglican-Catholic relations. The Holy Father recalled the historic meeting 50 years ago between Blessed Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey, a meeting that led to a gradual rapprochement based on theological dialogue. During the liturgy the two leaders signed a common declaration and sent out on mission together 19 pairs of Anglican and Catholic bishops.

The big news today was the Vatican’s announcement of the theme of the October 2018 Synod of Bishops – see that story below. Also, please find a Vatican Radio interview with outgoing U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon who is in Rome for the Sports and Faith Conference. That meeting, now in its second day, was organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture and supported by the U.N. and the International Olympic Committee.

Pope Francis also met with Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the USCCB, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Msgr. Brian Bransfield, secretary general, and Msgr. Jeffrey Burrill, adjunct secretary general.

2018 SYNOD THEME: YOUNG PEOPLE, FAITH AND VOCATIONAL DISCERNMENT

The Vatican press office announced today that, “Pope Francis, after consulting, as is customary, with Bishops Conferences, the Eastern Catholic Churches sui iuris and the Union of Superior Generals, in addition to having listened to the suggestions of the Synod Fathers from the last Synod and the opinion of the XIV Ordinary Council, has decided that the XV General Assembly of the Ordinary Synod of Bishops will take place in October 2018 on the them, ‘Young people, faith and vocational discernment’.”

The press office statement described the theme “as an expression of the Church’s pastoral concern for the young, in continuity with what emerged from the recent Synods on the family and the content of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia. It intends to accompany young people along their existential journey towards maturity so that, through a process of discernment, they can discover their life plan and achieve it joyfully, opening themselves up to an encounter with God and humanity and actively taking part in the building of the Church and society.”

U.N. SECRETARY GENERAL: “POPE FRANCIS IS A MAN OF PEACE, OF VISION”

Pope Francis met with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday before the start of the First Global Conference on Sport and Faith on the theme “Sport at the Service of Humanity.” The conference was organized by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the United Nations, and the International Olympic Committee.

After his meeting with Pope Francis, the Secretary General spoke to Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti.

BAN KI-MOON: I’m grateful to His Holiness Pope Francis, the Vatican, and also the International Olympic Committee for organizing this very meaningful event, where people can be inspired to promote peace and development through sports. Sports is a universal language. It transcends all the national barriers. It transcends all ethnicities and nationalities and whatever differences one may have. It can have instant power of mobilizing people’s energy, and also commitment for development.

“Togetherness, oneness, can easily be realized through sports. In that regard, the United Nations is very much committed. The UN General Assembly has designated April 6, every year, as the International Day of Sports for Development and Peace, and I have appointed a special envoy to promote peace and development through sport. The United Nations and the IOC have been building a very strong partnership; now the Vatican – the Holy See – is joining. The Vatican, IOC, and the United Nations can have a very strong driving force to promote peace and development through sports.”

ban-ki-moon

Question: How important has the role of Pope Francis been in promoting peace and reconciliation, in your opinion?

BAN KI-MOON: His Holiness Pope Francis is a man of peace; a man of vision. He is a man of more voice. It has been a great privilege and honor for me to work with him. For example, when world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it was the Pope’s urging and appeal to world leaders: He urged world leaders to have a stronger and visionary commitment for the world – people and planet – so that they can live in peace and prosperity through partnership. And also, it was His Holiness who, through his encyclical on climate change, Common Home [Laudato si’] – he termed it: Our planet earth is our common home. We are all seven billion people, and all creatures should live together, and that has given much inspiration. Strong voice: so that the world leaders adopted climate change agreement in Paris last year. I expressed my deepest admiration and gratitude to His Holiness during my audience with him.

Question: Finally, sport is an eloquent example today of this possibility and opportunity of the Holy See and the United Nations to play a role together. Do you think even in the construction of a more human society – peace, reconciliation, human dignity –  that the Holy See and the United Nations, the Church and the United Nations, can work together?

BAN: The Holy See, the Vatican, and Christianity and other religions, they share common goals, visions, and values as the Charter of the United Nations: Peace, respect for humanity, and human rights. And also through sports we can promote sustainable development. In that regard, it is very important that the United Nations has been working very closely with the Holy See, and also a strong partnership with the IOC. The idea of having this Faith and Sports for Peace and Development all came from His Holiness, and also the United Nations and IOC. That is why this is unprecedented that the Secretary General of the United Nations, the IOC, and Holy See work together for common good.

VATICAN INSIDER HOSTS CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN – “THE JOY OF LOVE”: DOCTRINAL UNITY, PERFECTING PASTORAL CARE – AMORIS LAETITIA: NO DOCTRINAL CHANGES, BUT BETTER PASTORAL CARE

VATICAN INSIDER HOSTS CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN

I dedicate the entire news segment of Vatican Insider this weekend to the just-released Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia but there was plenty of time for my special guest on the interview segment, Cardinal Dolan, and this may be one of the funniest you have ever heard on Vatican Insider!

CARDINAL DOLAN

I had spent some time this week with Cardinal Dolan and the 120 members of his archdiocedan pilgrimage group. We have shared a number of meals, I’ve signed a lot of books, and I had asked the cardinal for an interview, knowing very well how full his schedule was but I’m always optimistic.

Last night was the annual elegant, gala fund-raising Rector’s Dinner at the North American College and the cardinal asked that I arrive at bit before the start of the 6:30 reception. I got to NAC about 6:10 and eventually found the cardinal with all the other American cardinals as they were taking a group photo in the gardens. We ended up sitting in two chairs overlooking the garden and just outside NAC’s celebrated Red Room where other dignitaries and guests were enjoying a cocktail. Seating or standing close by were other cardinals.

I started to record our coversation and was shortly in to the conversation when a friend of Cardinal Dolan’s came up, there was a brief conversation – and so the program went! People talking and laughing, the cardinal and I having an excellent time but none of this in the acoustic purity of a studio – so thanks for being understanding about the sounds.

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=

“THE JOY OF LOVE”: DOCTRINAL UNITY, PERFECTING PASTORAL CARE

If I had to give today’s press conference on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia a title, it would be doctrinal unity – pastoral plurality. No teachings of the Church on marriage and the family were upended, in fact, they were reaffirmed.

We learned in reading Amoris laetitia that this is a very beautiful document written by a man who well understands the beauty of love and marriage and family life but also a man who well undestands the wide varierty of difficulties into which a couple, a family, can fall, and he looks at all those situations, with love and pastoral understanding. In fact, the key words to reading this document – and it should be ready very slowly, at your leisure, to get its full beauty – are respect, discernment, accompaniment.

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One of the common threads in this document was Pope Francis’ insistence that the Church, bishops, priests, work much harder to help those in difficulty. Saying, “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is troubling,” he added: “Our most important pastoral task with regard to families is to strengthen their love, helping to heal wounds and working to precent the spread of this drama of our times.”

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of the Synod of Bishops, explained at the press conference that the Exhortation Amoris laetitia is made up of 9 chapters, subdivided into 325 paragraphs with 391 notes and the final prayer to the Holy Family. (see CNA summary below)

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He said, “the title Amoris laetitia (AL) is in continuity with that of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (EG): from the joy of the Gospel to the joy of love in the family. The synodal process has presented the beauty of the family by speaking of love. This constitutes the foundation of the family institution, because God is love among Persons, Trinity and not solitude. In this document, the Holy Father deepens the “gospel of marriage and the family” (AL 89) and offers concrete pastoral orientations which, in continuity with the previous EG, take on new dynamism and value.

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Cardinal Baldiseri quoted Pope Francis: “The various interventions of the Synod Fathers, to which I paid close heed, made up, as it were, a multifaceted gem” (AL 4) – writes the Holy Father, evoking the geometric design of the polyhedron already used in EG (cf. 236). In fact, the results of the Synod Fathers’ work brings together the diversity of experiences and points of view of the particular Churches. Disputes between different opinions took place with freedom and openness, which allowed an almost unanimous outcome to be achieved.

He said, “In full harmony with the Jubilee period that the Church is living, a suitable key for reading the document is “the logic of pastoral mercy” (AL, 307-312). The Holy Father clearly affirms the doctrine of marriage and the family, especially in Ch. III, and he proposes it as an indispensable ideal….. On the other hand, the Pope does not overlook the fragility of families and even their failure.

Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna, who has been in Rome for a congress on Divine Mercy, noted: “It must be said that the documents of the Church often do not belong to one of the most accessible literary genres. This text of the Pope’s is readable, and those who are not dissuaded by its length will find joy in its concreteness and realism. Pope Francis speaks about families with a clarity that is not easy to find in the magisterial documents of the Church.

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The cardinal explained, “Pope Francis has succeeded in speaking about all situations without cataloguing them, without categorising, with that outlook of fundamental benevolence that is associated with the heart of God, with the eyes of Jesus that exclude no-one (cf. AL 297), that welcome all and grant the “joy of the Gospel” to all. This is why reading Amoris Laetitia is so comforting. No-one must feel condemned, no-one is scorned. In this climate of welcome, the discourse on the Christian vision of marriage and the family becomes an invitation, an encouragement, to the joy of love in which we can believe and which excludes no-one, truly and sincerely no-one.

For me, said Cardinal Schonborn, whose own parents separated, “Amoris laetitia is, first and foremost, a “linguistic event”, as was Evangelii gaudium . Something has changed in ecclesial discourse. This change of language was already perceptible during the Synod process. Between the two Synods of October 2014 and October 2015, it may clearly be seen how the tone became richer in esteem, as if the different situations in life had simply been accepted, without being immediately judged or condemned. In Amoris Laetitia this tone of language continues.

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Before this there is obviously not only a linguistic choice, but rather a profound respect when faced with every person who is never firstly a “problematic case” in a “category”, but rather a unique person, with his story and his journey with and towards God. In Evangelii gaudium Pope Francis said that we must take off our shoes before the sacred ground of others (EG 36). This fundamental attitude runs throughout the Exhortation. And it is also provides the most profound reason for the other two key words, to discern and to accompany . These words apply not only to the so-called “irregular situation” (Pope Francis underlines this “so-called”) but rather for all people, for every marriage and for every family. Indeed, we are all journeying and we are all in need of “discernment” and “accompaniment”.

The archbishop of Vienna said, “Pope Francis leaves no doubt regarding his intentions or our task: “As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings. We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer. It is true that there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.” (AL 35). Pope Francis is convinced that the Christian vision of marriage and the family also has an unchanged force of attraction. But it demands “a healthy dose of self-criticism”: “We also need to be humble and realistic, acknowledging that at times the way we present our Christian beliefs and treat other people has helped contribute to today’s problematic situation” (AL 36).

Cardinal Schonborn, on one issue that he called a “hot potato” issue – communion for the divorced and remarried – reiterated St. John Paul’s words in his 1981 Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consorzio, Para 84: “…The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based on Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorce persons who have remarried.”

However, the cardinal pointed out that, while there has been no change from that 1981 statement, there has been development, what he called “an organic development of doctrine.” He was quite clear that there is no new canonical disposition. The Pope does not “innovate” but uses pastoral prudence.

Before the press conference, Cardinal Schornborn spoke to Vatican Radio and offered one significant clarification, explaining that, when Pope Francis discusses the possibility of admitting people in irregular marital situations “to the sacraments,” the Holy Father is speaking first and foremost of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “I think it is very clear there are circumstances in which people in irregular situations may really need sacramental absolution, even if their general situation cannot be clarified.”

AMORIS LAETITIA: NO DOCTRINAL CHANGES, BUT BETTER PASTORAL CARE

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2016 / 04:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Catholics who have divorced-and-remarried need the fullness of Church teaching. They also need a wise pastoral and community response to their difficulties that can help them grow in the Christian life, Pope Francis said on Friday in his new document on love in the family.

“The Church’s pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full ideal of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravation or unduly harsh or hasty judgements,” the Pope said in Amoris Laetitia.

Pope Francis’ highly anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation on the gifts and challenges of family life was published April 8.

Titled Amoris Laetitia, or The Joy of Love, the document was presented to journalists in Italian, French, English, German, Spanish and Portuguese. Signed March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, the release of the document was delayed in order to allow time for its translation into other languages.

The apostolic exhortation is the conclusion of a two-year synod process discussing both the beauty and challenges of family life today. Hosted at the Vatican in 2014 and 2015, these synods gathered hundreds of bishops from around the world.

While much of the Western secular media focused its coverage on homosexuality and the question of communion for the divorced-and-civilly remarried, actual topics discussed in the meetings were much broader, with synod fathers touching on themes such as domestic violence, incest and abuse within families, and marriage preparation.

Pope Francis acknowledged the attention generated by the synods, saying, “The debates carried on in the media, in certain publications and even among the Church’s ministers, range from an immoderate desire for total change without sufficient reflection or grounding, to an attitude that would solve everything by applying general rules or deriving undue conclusions from particular theological considerations.”

The wide-ranging document included Biblical reflections on family, as well as discussion of the family as a place of faith and labor, celebration and tears. The Pope spoke about sexuality within marriage and on the sometimes devastating effects of poverty and migration on families. He also touched on the importance of communication within the family, the challenges of raising children in a technology-saturated world, and the witness of virginity.

Pope Francis devoted a substantial section of the document to the topic of educating children, observing, “The family is thus the place where parents become their children’s first teachers in the faith.” He also offered suggestions for improving marriage preparation programs, inviting engaged couples to consider a simple wedding and to set aside technological distractions.

In a world where many have lost respect for marriage and are delaying the union or choosing cohabitation instead, the Church must speak up, Pope Francis said.

“As Christians, we can hardly stop advocating marriage simply to avoid countering contemporary sensibilities, or out of a desire to be fashionable or a sense of helplessness in the face of human and moral failings,” he reflected. “We would be depriving the world of values that we can and must offer.”

At the same time, he said, “there is no sense in simply decrying present-day evils, as if this could change things. Nor it is helpful to try to impose rules by sheer authority. What we need is a more responsible and generous effort to present the reasons and motivations for choosing marriage and the family, and in this way to help men and women better to respond to the grace that God offers them.”

Pope Francis praised the “indissolubility of marriage,” saying that it “should not be viewed as a ‘yoke’ imposed on humanity, but as a ‘gift’ granted to those who are joined in marriage.” He added that “Divorce is an evil and the increasing number of divorces is very troubling.”

In addition, he said that, “divorced people who have not remarried, and often bear witness to marital fidelity, ought to be encouraged to find in the Eucharist the nourishment they need to sustain them in their present state of life.”

In the document’s introduction, Pope Francis wrote that, “everyone should feel challenged by Chapter Eight,” which is titled “Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness.”

That chapter, which describes the Church as “a field hospital,” discusses the pastoral care of the divorced-and-civilly-remarried, as well as those who cohabit and face other irregularities.

Pope Francis wrote that, “it is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community.” He emphasized that the divorced-and-remarried “can find themselves in a variety of situations” and that this variety requires discernment and accompaniment on the part of pastors.

The Pope voiced agreement with the Synod Fathers’ observations that divorced-and-remarried Catholics need to be “more fully integrated into Christian communities…while avoiding any occasion of scandal.” He restated that the divorced-and-remarried are not excommunicated, and quoted the Synod Fathers, who had said that, “language or conduct that might lead them to feel discriminated against should be avoided.”

Care for these persons is not a weakening of Christian faith and belief in the indissolubility of marriage, but is rather “a particular expression of its charity,” he said, again quoting the Synod Fathers.

While he affirmed the ideal of sacramental marriage in ministering to those in broken situations, the Pope also rejected a one-size-fits-all approach to individual cases.

Considering the “immense variety of concrete situations” that the divorced-and-remarried have put themselves in, he said, “it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules … applicable to all cases.”

Instead, he said, what is possible is “a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases” which would recognize varying degrees of responsibility and therefore varying consequences or effects.

This is also the case with admission to the sacraments of Confession and Communion, he said, due to mitigating factors that might reduce a person’s culpability.

“Hence it can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace,” Pope Francis said. “More is involved here than mere ignorance of the rule. A subject may … be in a concrete situation which does not allow him or her to act differently and decide otherwise without further sin.”

Someone in such a situation of objective sin but without full culpability can grow in charity with the help of the Church, and “in certain cases, this can include the help of the sacraments,” he noted. “I would also point out that the Eucharist ‘is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak’,” he added, quoting from his 2013 apostolic exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

The Pope acknowledged the importance of fidelity to the Gospel, saying that, “To show understanding in the face of exceptional situations never implies dimming the light of the fuller ideal, or proposing less than what Jesus offers to the human being.”

He called it “reductive” in discernment merely “to consider whether or not an individual’s actions correspond to a general law or rule.”

“A pastor cannot feel that it is enough simply to apply moral laws to those living in ‘irregular’ situations, as if they were stones to throw at people’s lives. This would bespeak the closed heart of one used to hiding behind the Church’s teachings.”

Pope Francis professed understanding for those who prefer “a more rigorous pastoral care which leaves no room for confusion.”

“But I sincerely believe that Jesus wants a Church attentive to the goodness which the Holy Spirit sows in the midst of human weakness, a Mother who, while clearly expressing her objective teaching, ‘always does what good she can, even if in the process, her shoes get soiled by the mud of the street’.”

 

THE SYNOD’S LIGHTS AND SHADOWS SEEN IN FINAL DOCUMENT

Following is an excellent summary of remarks made by Fr. Lombardi after the release Saturday evening of the final document of the three week-long synod on the family. The document, published at this point only in the original Italian, will eventually be published in other languages after what everyone hopes will be careful and accurate translations. There were huge translation problems at the 2014 synod – at least from Italian into English – where entire meanings of paragraphs were changed.

The 94-paragraph document has been given to Pope Francis and, as I write, only the Holy Father knows what will come of that. Will he produce a magisterial papal document – as hoped for by many Synod Fathers and other participants? Will it be given to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops to file away with other documents – or will it produce a new one?

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the document is how it was reported on by the media. Headlines ranged from observations and victory language on the far right to observations and language of victories won on the far left. And just about everything in between.

For now, here is Father Lombardi’s summary. When we have the entire English translation (and I’ve checked it out against the Italian), I’ll bring you that. I will try in coming days to synthesize the Pope’s speech to the synod at its closing.

(VIS) – The Synod Fathers approved by 177 votes out of 265, a two-thirds majority, the final Relatio of the 14th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod on the Family, made up of 94 paragraphs, each one of which was voted on individually. The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., gave a briefing on the document, which was authorised for publication in Italian by Pope Francis. (photo ANSA for news.va)

FR. FEDERICO LOMBARDI

Fr. Lombardi remarked that the text takes into account the many difficulties faced by the family, but also its great capacity for facing and reacting to them. The conclusive document of the Synod includes many of the amendments to the Instrumentum Laboris presented by the Synod Fathers and therefore reflects the voice of the Assembly.

With reference to the two paragraphs dedicated to complex family situations, which were approved by a very slender majority of 178 and 180 votes, Fr. Lombardi noted that they regard the pastoral approach to wounded families or those that are irregular from a canonical point of view and in terms of the discipline of the Church: in particular, cohabitation, civil marriage, divorced and remarried persons and the way of pastorally addressing these situations.

Fr. Lombardi underlined that the tone of the document is positive and welcoming, and that it has greatly enriched the Instrumentum Laboris. Similarly, the Pope’s Motu Proprio on the reform of marriage annulment procedures made an effective and decisive contribution to the theme of the Synod.

The final Relatio reaffirms the doctrine of the indissolubility of sacramental marriage, which is not a yoke but rather a gift from God, a truth based in Christ and in His relationship with the Church. At the same time, it underlines that truth and mercy converge in Christ, which leads to welcome to wounded families. Without expressly mentioning access to the Eucharist for remarried divorcees, the Synod document recalls that they are not excommunicated and refers the analysis of complex family situations to the discernment of pastors. This discernment, the text underlines, must be applied in accordance with the teaching of the Church, with trust in God’s mercy that is denied to no-one. With regard to cohabiting couples, the text reiterates that this situation should be faced constructively, seeking to transform it into an opportunity for a path to conversion towards the fullness of marriage and family, in the light of the Gospel.

Other salient points of the document refer to homosexuality. There must be no discrimination against people with homosexual tendencies, but at the same time the text states that the Church is contrary to same-sex unions and external pressure on the Church in relation to this matter is not accepted. There are special paragraphs dedicated to immigrants, refugees and persecuted families who are often divided and whose members can become victims of trafficking. A welcoming approach was invoked for them too, recalling their rights and also their duties in their host countries.

There are specific paragraphs on women, men and children, the mainstays of family life: the text emphasises the need for the protection and the recognition of the value of their respective roles. It is hoped that a more prominent role will be identified for women in the formation of ordained ministers, while in relation to children mention was made of the beauty of adoption and fostering, practices which reconstruct ruptured family bonds. The Synod does not forget widows and widowers, the disabled, the elderly and grandparents, who enable the transmission of faith in the family and must be protected from the throwaway culture. Unmarried people must also be acknowledged for their commitment to the Church and society.

Among the “shadows” that are frequently cast on the family, the Synod notes the presence of political and religious fanaticism hostile to Christianity, growing individualism, gender ideology, conflicts, persecution, poverty, precarious employment, corruption, economic difficulties that can exclude families from education and culture, the globalisation of indifference in which humanity’s place at the centre of society is usurped by money, pornography, and the declining birth rate.

The Relation therefore gathers together suggestions for strengthening preparation for marriage, especially for the young who appear intimidated by it. They are in need, says the Synod, of an adequate emotional formation, following the virtues of chastity and self-giving. In this regard, mention was made of the bond between the sexual act and procreation between spouses, of which children are the most precious fruit, since they bear the memory and hope of an act of love. Another bond is that between the vocation of the family and the vocation to consecrated life. Education in sexuality and corporeality and the promotion of responsible parenting would also be central, in accordance with the teachings of Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae” and the primary role of parents in the education of their children in faith.

An appeal is launched to institutions to promote an support policies in favour of the family, and Catholics engaged in politics are exhorted to protect the family and life, as a society that neglects them loses its openness to the future. In this respect, the Synod reaffirms the sacredness of life from conception to natural death, and warns against the grave threats posed to the family by abortion and euthanasia. Further paragraphs are dedicated to mixed marriages, whose positive aspects in relation to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue are underlined, while confirming the need to protect religious freedom and the right to conscientious objection in society.

The text includes extensive reflection on the need to modify the language of the Church, making it more meaningful so that the proclamation of the Gospel of the family may truly respond to the deepest human aspirations. This means not only presenting a series of regulations but rather announcing the grace that gives the capacity to live well the good of the family.

Finally, the Relatio emphasises the beauty of the family: as a domestic church based on marriage between a man and a woman, the fundamental cell of the society whose growth it contributes, a safe entry to the deepest sentiments, the sole point of connection in a fragmented age, and an integral part of human ecology, it must be protected, supported and encouraged, also by the authorities.

The document concludes by a plea to the Synod Fathers by the Pope, regarding the possibility of producing a document on the family. As Fr. Lombardi explains, “The Synod Fathers do not say that all is complete, but affirm that they offer the Relatio to the Holy Father to enable him to evaluate whether to continue on this route with a document, on the basis of the Synod text, to further examine the theme of the family from the perspective he wishes to offer. ‘We continue on our path’”.

 

VATICAN INSIDER: A SYNOD COUPLE SPEAKS, PART TWO – POPE FRANCIS CREATES NEW VATICAN OFFICE – SYNOD FATHERS REACT TO DRAFT OF FINAL DOCUMENT

VATICAN INSIDER: A SYNOD COUPLE SPEAKS, PART TWO

Please tune in this weekend to “Vatican Insider” for Part Two of my conversation with Cathy and Tony Witczak, a couple from Philadephia who have been married for 48 years, are leaders in the Worldwide Marriage Encouter movement and auditors at the synod on the family They talk to me about Marriage Encounter, how they were invited to the synod, what they are hearing and seeing and what their hopes are for the post-synod period, including a papal document. They addressed the synod last week.

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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 CREATES NEW VATICAN OFFICE

We have heard about this possibility for months but Thursday, at the beginning of the afternoon General Congregation of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Francis formalized the news with the following announcement:

“I have decided to establish a new Dicastery with competency for Laity, Family and Life, that will replace the Pontifical Council for the Laity and the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Pontifical Academy for Life will be joined to the new Dicastery. To this end, I have constituted a special commission that will prepare a text delineating canonically the competencies of the new Dicastery. The text will be presented for discussion to the Council of Caridnals at their next meeting in December.”

Dicastery is another word for an office of the Roman Curia, such as a pontifical council or a congregation. The new office for Laity, Family and Life, has not been given a name but indications are that it will be a congregation.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity was instituted in 1967 by Paul VI who acted on some of the suggestions from Vatican Council II that had ended in December 1965.

It seemed fitting that Pope Francis announced the new dicastery on October 22, the feast day of St. John Paul II, the Pope who created two of the above-mentioned dicasteries.

In fact, the Pontifical Council for the Family was instituted by John Paul II in 1981 with the Motu Proprio “Familia e Deo Instituta.” It substituted the Committee for the Family created by Paul VI in 1973. Thirteen years later, on February 11, 1994, St. John Paul instituted the Pontifical Academy for Life with the Motu Proprio “Vitae Mysterium.”

SYNOD FATHERS REACT TO DRAFT OF FINAL DOCUMENT

With just two days to go until the end of the Synod of Bishops on the Family, participants on Friday gave their reactions to a draft of the final document which is now being fine-tuned and will be voted on by the bishops on Saturday.

At a press conference following the Friday morning session, press office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi was joined by Cardinal Peter Turkson from Ghana, Canadian Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec and Belgian Archbishop Lucas Van Looy of Ghent to talk about their hopes for the outcome of the three-week meeting.

Vatican Radio’s Philippa Hitchens reports on Friday’s press briefing:

Long days and sleepless nights is how Cardinal Turkson characterised the work of the drafting committee, currently trying to integrate over 1,350 proposals for changes to the original working document put forward by the Synod’s small groups. On top of that, there were over 50 further comments made in the Synod Hall on Friday on subjects ranging from biblical quotations, to pastoral formation to the crucial question of the relationship between the Church’s moral law and the individual’s right to follow his or her own conscience.

Is it possible to integrate so many differing perspectives without watering down the contents of the final document, journalists wanted to know? Will the substance of the debate on key issues really be reflected, or must it be sacrificed to the need for consensus that can be accepted by all? Cardinal Lacroix noted the final Synod document is not a legislative text so it doesn’t have to reflect unanimity among the Church leaders – on the contrary, he said, differences of opinion reflect a healthy engagement with the difficult issues under discussion.

Among them are the ever-present questions of how to help divorced and remarried couples be reintegrated into the life of the Church and how to approach the issue of homosexuality, which some Synod fathers suggest has not been adequately dealt with at this meeting. Not so, said Cardinal Turkson, revealing that in his small group some bishops and cardinals themselves had shared experiences of gay members of their families. The cardinal also reiterated the view of another Ghanaian participant who told journalists that attitudes in Africa on this issue are changing, faster than they are in other parts of the world.

All three participants pointed to the important experience of synodality, as outlined in the Pope’s own words, allowing bishops in the different parts of the globe greater freedom to exercise leadership, while allowing the Pope to draw on the wealth of local expertise and experience.

Archbishop Van Looy said another key word of this Synod is tenderness, heralding a new attitude of the Church to stop judging and start journeying with people in whatever situation they may find themselves. While it’s vital to support families who do live up to Church teaching, Cardinal Lacroix said there is no such thing as the perfect family and the Church must remain close to all those looking for God’s grace in times of struggle and need.