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.”

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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 PRESENTS JULIANA BIONDO AND “PATRUM” – POPE ADDRESSES U.N. AS IT MARKS ITS 70TH ANNIVERSARY – PAPAL PORTRAIT UNVEILED IN WASHINGTON

As I write, an inter-religious prayer service is taking place at the Ground Zero Memorial in New York. The Pope placed flowers at the site and met with 20 family members of first responders killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Pope and Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, will visit the Memorial Museum.

Just before 4 pm local time today, the Holy Father will visit Our Lady Queen of Angels school in Brooklyn, an elementary school for students from low income families, most of whom receive scholarships to attend this school. Pope Francis will meet children and families of immigrants. At 6 pm Friday he celebrates Mass at Madison Square Garden.

Saturday and Sunday, Pope Francis will be in Philadelphia for the long-awaited World Meeting of Families under the leadership of Abp. Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. The weekend includes Mass with bishops, clergy and religious of Pennsylvania and, at Independence National Historical Park, an encounter for religious freedom with the Hispanic community and other immigrants. Afterwards the Pope transfers to Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the Festival of Families and prayer vigil for the World Meeting of Families.

Sunday the Pope meets with bishops, visits a correctional facility and, at 4 pm, celebrates Mass for the 8th World Meeting of Families. His plane for Rome departs Philadelphia at 8 pm Sunday.

VATICAN INSIDER PRESENTS JULIANA BIONDO AND “PATRUM”

I urge you this week not to miss “Vatican Insider” and my fascinating conversation with Juliana Biondo, creator of the app called PATRUM for the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican. A native of Baltimore, Juliana is a young, enthusiastic, dedicated member of the Patrons team with a great love for art and also for modern technology. You will not want to miss a minute of this conversation! It truly would be your loss!

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It is such fun to be around young people today! The ones I know – and now I add Juliana to that list! – seem to be ultra-talented, intelligent, exuberant youths, far-sighted young people with a passion for life and all the newness it brings every day – and technology is certainly a part of that! And you will see this when Juliana explains PATRUM and how the idea for this app came about and what she anticipates bringing to it on a daily basis. It is available now only for Apple products but the Android app is under development.

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 ADDRESSES U.N. AS IT MARKS ITS 70TH ANNIVERSARY

In a highly anticipated speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Pope Francis Friday afternoon spoke of the protection of the environment, the protection of man, in particular, the poor, marginalized, excluded and victims of war and violence, today’s “culture of waste,” and the effects of a globalized economy that runs rampant, which too often leads to social exclusion with, “its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime.”

The Holy Father’s Spanish-language talk was 3,700 words in length. Translations were on the Vatican website, news.va and simultaneous interpretation was offered at U.N. headquarters.

His entire address in English can be found here: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-addresses-the-un-general-assembly

Following are some of the salient paragraphs:

“…the experience of the past seventy years has made it clear that reform and adaptation to the times is always necessary in the pursuit of the ultimate goal of granting all countries, without exception, a share in, and a genuine and equitable influence on, decision-making processes. The need for greater equity is especially true in the case of those bodies with effective executive capability, such as the Security Council, the Financial Agencies and the groups or mechanisms specifically created to deal with economic crises. This will help limit every kind of abuse or usury, especially where developing countries are concerned. The International Financial Agencies are should care for the sustainable development of countries and should ensure that they are not subjected to oppressive lending systems which, far from promoting progress, subject people to mechanisms which generate greater poverty, exclusion and dependence.”

“The work of the United Nations, according to the principles set forth in the Preamble and the first Articles of its founding Charter, can be seen as the development and promotion of the rule of law, based on the realization that justice is an essential condition for achieving the ideal of universal fraternity. In this context, it is helpful to recall that the limitation of power is an idea implicit in the concept of law itself. To give to each his own, to cite the classic definition of justice, means that no human individual or group can consider itself absolute, permitted to bypass the dignity and the rights of other individuals or their social groupings. The effective distribution of power (political, economic, defense-related, technological, etc.) among a plurality of subjects, and the creation of a juridical system for regulating claims and interests, are one concrete way of limiting power.”

“First, it must be stated that a true ‘right of the environment’ does exist, for two reasons. First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. … Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value, in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures. We Christians, together with the other monotheistic religions, believe that the universe is the fruit of a loving decision by the Creator, who permits man respectfully to use creation for the good of his fellow men and for the glory of the Creator; he is not authorized to abuse it, much less to destroy it. In all religions, the environment is a fundamental good (cf. ibid.).

“The misuse and destruction of the environment are also accompanied by a relentless process of exclusion. In effect, a selfish and boundless thirst for power and material prosperity leads both to the misuse of available natural resources and to the exclusion of the weak and disadvantaged, either because they are differently abled (handicapped), or because they lack adequate information and technical expertise, or are incapable of decisive political action. Economic and social exclusion is a complete denial of human fraternity and a grave offense against human rights and the environment. The poorest are those who suffer most from such offenses, for three serious reasons: they are cast off by society, forced to live off what is discarded and suffer unjustly from the abuse of the environment. They are part of today’s widespread and quietly growing “culture of waste.”

“…The classic definition of justice which I mentioned earlier contains as one of its essential elements a constant and perpetual will: Iustitia est constans et perpetua voluntas ius sum cuique tribuendi. Our world demands of all government leaders a will which is effective, practical and constant, concrete steps and immediate measures for preserving and improving the natural environment and thus putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences: human trafficking, the marketing of human organs and tissues, the sexual exploitation of boys and girls, slave labour, including prostitution, the drug and weapons trade, terrorism and international organized crime. Such is the magnitude of these situations and their toll in innocent lives, that we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges.”

“… It must never be forgotten that political and economic activity is only effective when it is understood as a prudential activity, guided by a perennial concept of justice and constantly conscious of the fact that, above and beyond our plans and programmes, we are dealing with real men and women who live, struggle and suffer, and are often forced to live in great poverty, deprived of all rights.

“To enable these real men and women to escape from extreme poverty, we must allow them to be dignified agents of their own destiny. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity cannot be imposed. They must be built up and allowed to unfold for each individual, for every family, in communion with others, and in a right relationship with all those areas in which human social life develops – friends, communities, towns and cities, schools, businesses and unions, provinces, nations, etc. This presupposes and requires the right to education – also for girls (excluded in certain places) – which is ensured first and foremost by respecting and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate its children, as well as the right of churches and social groups to support and assist families in the education of their children. Education conceived in this way is the basis for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for reclaiming the environment.

“At the same time, government leaders must do everything possible to ensure that all can have the minimum spiritual and material means needed to live in dignity and to create and support a family, which is the primary cell of any social development. In practical terms, this absolute minimum has three names: lodging, labour, and land; and one spiritual name: spiritual freedom, which includes religious freedom, the right to education and other civil rights.”

“Without the recognition of certain incontestable natural ethical limits and without the immediate implementation of those pillars of integral human development, the ideal of “saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter of the United Nations, Preamble), and “promoting social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom” (ibid.), risks becoming an unattainable illusion, or, even worse, idle chatter which serves as a cover for all kinds of abuse and corruption, or for carrying out an ideological colonization by the imposition of anomalous models and lifestyles which are alien to people’s identity and, in the end, irresponsible.

“War is the negation of all rights and a dramatic assault on the environment. If we want true integral human development for all, we must work tirelessly to avoid war between nations and between peoples.

To this end, there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm….”

“ … Strongly opposed to such statements, and in practice denying them, is the constant tendency to the proliferation of arms, especially weapons of mass distraction, such as nuclear weapons. An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are self-contradictory and an affront to the entire framework of the United Nations, which would end up as “nations united by fear and distrust.

“The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy. I express my hope that this agreement will be lasting and efficacious, and bring forth the desired fruits with the cooperation of all the parties involved.

“… While regretting to have to do so, I must renew my repeated appeals regarding to the painful situation of the entire Middle East, North Africa and other African countries, where Christians, together with other cultural or ethnic groups, and even members of the majority religion who have no desire to be caught up in hatred and folly, have been forced to witness the destruction of their places of worship, their cultural and religious heritage, their houses and property, and have faced the alternative either of fleeing or of paying for their adhesion to good and to peace by their own lives, or by enslavement.

“These realities should serve as a grave summons to an examination of conscience on the part of those charged with the conduct of international affairs. Not only in cases of religious or cultural persecution, but in every situation of conflict, as in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region, real human beings take precedence over partisan interests, however legitimate the latter may be. In wars and conflicts there are individual persons, our brothers and sisters, men and women, young and old, boys and girls who weep, suffer and die. Human beings who are easily discarded when our only response is to draw up lists of problems, strategies and disagreements.”

“Along the same lines I would mention another kind of conflict which is not always so open, yet is silently killing millions of people. Another kind of war experienced by many of our societies as a result of the narcotics trade. A war which is taken for granted and poorly fought. Drug trafficking is by its very nature accompanied by trafficking in persons, money laundering, the arms trade, child exploitation and other forms of corruption.”

“The common home of all men and women must continue to rise on the foundations of a right understanding of universal fraternity and respect for the sacredness of every human life, of every man and every woman, the poor, the elderly, children, the infirm, the unborn, the unemployed, the abandoned, those considered disposable because they are only considered as part of a statistic. This common home of all men and women must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature.

“Such understanding and respect call for a higher degree of wisdom, one which accepts transcendence, rejects the creation of an all-powerful élite, and recognizes that the full meaning of individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the sage and respectful use of creation for the common good.”

PAPAL PORTRAIT UNVEILED IN WASHINGTON

Internationally known portrait artist, Igor Babailov, officially unveiled his portrait of Pope Francis yesterday afternoon at the apostolic nunciature, the Vatican embassy, in Washington. The painting commemorates the historic visit of the Holy Father to the United States. Babailov has painted the official portraits of some of the most important leaders in our century including presidents, prime ministers, royalty and celebrities and three Popes.

In a press release about the unveiling, Babailov says, “My painting of Pope Francis which I called ‘The Holy Cross,’ is more than a portrait in the traditional sense. It is a story of the Pope told through symbols with the Pontiff’s figure in the center. It tells of His Holiness’s mission of love, faith and devotion to help the needy and bring people of the world together. During the unveiling of the painting, the Holy Father said to me ‘It is inspirational, it touches me!’”

In this photo, Igor is explaining the symbolism to Pope Francis: They are joined by Msgr. Mark Miles, who has been the papal translator throughout the trip so far and Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the apostolic nuncio. Behind Igor is Alberto Gasbarri, the papal trip advance man.

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His portrait of St. John Paul II hangs in the Vatican in Castelgandolfo and his portrait of Pope Benedict XVI hangs in the Vatican in Rome. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI personally selected Babailov’s portrait to represent his papacy in the Vatican Splendor’s museum tour in the US, where more than 200 artifacts that had never left the Vatican Museums, were displayed. Igor Babailov was the only living artist to exhibit alongside Michelangelo.

Pope Francis’ portrait –

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I have known Mary and Igor for many years and we get together each time they come to Rome. The last time Mary and Igor were in Rome, as a matter of fact, Igor sat close to Pope Francis during a Wednesday general audience so he could capture the Pope’s expressions, movements, etc.

Igor has told me he relies on his hand drawings, on sketches done in the presence of the person whose portrait he will do. He said he cannot work from photographs because he feels he cannot capture the essence the spirit, the soul of his subject through a photo, And yet, one of his most famous portraits, such as that of George Washington, have been done based on previous paintings. (Here is his website: www.babailov.com).

Mary said in an email to me with the two photos, “Words cannot communicate yesterday, only love could.”

VATICAN SPOKESMAN ON PAPAL VISITS WITH CASTRO BROTHERS – DAY THREE IN CUBA: HOLQUIN AND SANTIAGO DE CUBA – HOLY SEE FLAG TO FLY AT U.N. WHEN POPE FRANCIS ARRIVES –

Just a brief note to start this column today to thank so many of you who, through Facebook messages and emails, have said you are looking forward to my participation in the coverage of the papal visit to the U.S. and who have wished me safe travels. I’ve even received invitations to speak post-papal trip about what it is like to cover the visit of a Pope. However, I will not be on this trip. I know my colleagues will be doing very able jobs and that the coverage will be special.

Maybe I’ll try to be at the airport next Monday – or the Santa Marta residence – when Pope Francis returns and I can officially welcome him back to Rome!

I am sure you all have been following Pope Francis’s first days and events in Cuba and that you’ll be even more riveted to the television – or perhaps the radio or some form of social media – when the Holy Father arrives Washington, D.C. tomorrow.

There are countless ways, with EWTN alone, to follow the Pope’s every move, every word, every embrace of a little child or disabled person, every homily or important speech as, in coming days, he addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress and speaks at the U.N. in New York. Thus, I’ll not be doing a summary every day of the papal visit as you will have already seen and heard all he important news stories, but I do have a few interesting items today for this column.

I’ve spent part of this afternoon, and will spend this evening, watching the coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Holquin and Santiago de Cuba. I have been asked by TV2000, the network of the Italian bishops’ conference, to appear for two hours tomorrow on their morning show that will look at the Pope’s day in Cuba today and his prospects for the U.S. TV2000 wants to learn more about EWTN and our worldwide coverage, and to hear about my years at the Vatican, especially the period regarding St. John Paul’s 1998 trip to Cuba, the first ever by a Pope. I have some interesting background material for that!

Now, here’s today’s stories from news.va

VATICAN SPOKESMAN ON PAPAL VISITS WITH CASTRO BROTHERS

(Vatican Radio) Perhaps the event that created most media interest during Pope Francis’s first full day in Cuba was his meeting with revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

During a private encounter at the 89-year-old retired President’s home, the Pope and Castro discussed religion and world affairs.

The meeting took place just hours after the Pope at Mass urged Cubans to serve one another and not ideology. His message reaches out as their Communist-ruled country enters a new era of closer ties with the United States.

During the afternoon Pope Francis also went to the Palace of the Revolution, where he held private talks for about an hour with President Raul Castro, Fidel’s 84-year-old younger brother.

At the conclusion of the busy day packed with events of both pastoral and a political nature, Vatican Radio’s Sean Patrick Lovett spoke to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Head of the Vatican Press Office about the meetings between the Pope and the Castro brothers.

Sean Patrick Lovett recalls the fact that in 1988, when Mario Bergoglio was not yet even Archbishop of Buenos Aires “he wrote a little book called ‘Dialogues between John Paul II and Fidel Castro’. One of his conclusions in that book, after comparing the discourses of the two men, was that they had failed to listen to one another: there was not sufficient dialogue in their encounters” he says.

And pointing to the fact that 17 years have passed since then, Sean Lovett asks Fr Lombardi whether he thinks there is a “new kind of listening happening between the Pope and Cuba?”

Lombardi says he thinks that Cuba understands very well that the Catholic Church and the Popes are the world’s moral authorities today, and that they take Cuba, its history and its people very seriously. He says Cubans know that “they need a dialogue with the Popes”. Lombardi points out that the presence of 3 Popes in 17 years on the island and the help they have proffered in finding the way towards more openness is something really exceptional.

He says that history also shows how aware the Church has been regarding the importance of this land for the American continent. “I think that the experience of important diplomats like that of Cardinal Parolin who knows very well the region – he was nuncio in Venezuela – allows the Church to understand well the significance of Cuba for the Latin American continent.”

Lombardi also points out that if Cuba finds the way to become more open, it could become a bridge between continents and peoples. This, he says, will also help reconciliation between other peoples and encourage reconciliation in nations like Venezuela, Colombia and so on. “This is really important for this part of the world” he says.

He says the United States also understands very well the importance of a relationship with Cuba and points out that the process that is going on is a clear sign of this.

“Cuba is a very important point of encounter, as the Pope said yesterday, between North and South, between East and West. … I think the Castro brothers have understood very well that the Popes are great moral and religious authorities, that they are pastors that can give a contribution to the nation of invaluable importance” he says.

DAY THREE IN CUBA: HOLQUIN AND SANTIAGO DE CUBA

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Monday traveled from the Cuban capital, Havana, to visit Holguin and Santiago de Cuba on the eastern tip of the Caribbean island nation.

Both cities are closely linked to the famous statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, formally declared patroness of the Cuban people by Pope Benedict XV a century ago.

Philippa Hitchen reports on this second stage of the Pope’s pastoral visit to Cuba:

The city of Holguin is famed as the birthplace of Cuba’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his brother Raul, who between them have ruled the country since 1959. It’s also known for its five-metre high cross on the hillside that looks out over the city –and offers a unique view of he entire island of Cuba – where, at 3:34 pm local time, Pope Francis will stop to pray. He has already celebrated Mass in Holquin’s main square.

It was not far from the city of Holguin that Christopher Columbus first landed in Cuba in 1492 and it was in the bay there that three local fishermen first saw Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, floating on the water in 1612. The small wooden statue of Our Lady, wearing a gold mantle and holding the Infant Jesus in her left arm, is now housed in the shrine dedicated to her in the nearby city of Santiago de Cuba where the Pope will conclude his journey to the island nation.

Over the centuries many miracles have been attributed to Our Lady who’s seen as a powerful symbol of liberation during the struggle for independence from the Spanish and for the slaves, brought in to work the copper mines in the early 16th century. Descendants of those African slaves make up over 30 percent of Cuba’s population, yet they remain amongst the poorest inhabitants of the country.

Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI came to pray at the shrine during their trips to Cuba and another famous visitor, author Ernest Hemingway, left his Nobel medal for Literature there as a sign of gratitude for the warm welcome he received from the people of Cuba.

Pope Francis will join the crowds of other pilgrims down the centuries who’ve come to pray before the statue of La Mambisa, as she’s popularly known. He’ll celebrate Mass there on Tuesday and rededicate the nation to her, before travelling on to Washington D.C. with the hopes of encouraging the ongoing ‘miracle’ of reconciliation between Cuba and the United States.

HOLY SEE FLAG TO FLY AT U.N. WHEN POPE FRANCIS ARRIVES

(Vatican Radio) A communiqué released today by the United Nations says the Holy See flag will fly at the UN building in New York when Pope Francis arrives there on Friday.

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It says that after consultations with the Holy See, the United Nations will raise the flag of the Holy See for the first time on the morning of September 25, so that it will be flying when Pope Francis arrives at the UN Headquarters.

The Holy See and the United Nations Secretariat have agreed that the flag will be raised with no ceremony. UN personnel will raise it at the same time they will raise the other flags that day.

The flag of the Holy See has two vertical bands, one gold and one white. The white side features an image of two traversed keys, one gold and one silver, bound together by a red cord, and topped by a triple-crown or tiara crowned by a cross. The keys (Mt 16:19) and tiara are both traditional symbols of the papacy. It has been the official flag of the Holy See since 1929.

 

“VATICAN INSIDER” THIS WEEK: BIRMINGHAM MAYOR WILLIAM BELL – UPDATE ON IRAQ AND ISIS BY CHALDEAN PATRIARCH SAKO – C-FAM AT THE UNITED NATIONS

“VATICAN INSIDER” THIS WEEK: BIRMINGHAM MAYOR WILLIAM BELL

Stay tuned after the news segment on “Vatican Insider” to listen to my interview with Birmingham, Alabama Mayor William Bell who was in Rome for several days attending a Vatican-sponsored workship for mayors from around the world entitled “Modern Slavery and Climate Change.” The conference, at which Mayor Bell spoke, was organized by the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences, and by the chancellor of the academies, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo.

MAYOR BELL AT CONFERENCE

We have a fascinating conversation and you’ll hear Mayor Bell, a very articulate speaker, tell of his own experience of working against human trafficking, of his participation in the workshop and what he learned from other mayors from around the world. Just one technical note. I welcomed Mayor Bell to Vatican Insider and he responded in a most friendly manner and we had a brief conversation but my recorder had stopped so his initial words were lost – but I did not realize that until I got home and was editing the piece. Apologies for losing part of a delightful conversatione!

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=

UPDATE ON IRAQ AND ISIS BY CHALDEAN PATRIARCH SAKO

(Vatican Radio)  The Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, Louis Sako, says he is personally “very worried” about his nation’s future and warns that the so-called Islamic State, ISIS, “is growing” in strength and influence each day and nowadays the militant group is “like a real state.”

We first met when he was the Chaldean archbishop of Kirkuk.

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In a recent gesture of solidarity, the Iraqi Patriarch donated food and medical supplies to displaced Muslims living in a refugee camp near the city of Ramadi. Accompanied by other members of the Church and representatives of Caritas Iraq, Patriarch Sako personally brought the relief supplies to 250 Muslim families living in the refugee camp. His action came during the recent Muslim feast of Eid al Fitr marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Patriarch Sako spoke to Susy Hodges about his visit to the Muslim refugees and his views about Iraq’s future.

Serving lunch at his residence in Kirkuk

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The displaced Iraqi Muslim families are currently being housed in tents in the desert near the city of Ramadi in very “critical conditions” said Patriarch Sako. He described their visit by car to the refugees to bring them food and other relief supplies as “a sign of solidarity” to show them that as a Church they are reaching out to all Iraqis in need, regardless of their religion.  He told the refugees, “we are close to you, we understand your suffering.”  Patriarch Sako described the gratitude of the refugees who begged them “not to forget them.” He said their situation was “a tragedy” with their plight going largely unnoticed because of the nation’s conflicts.

At the residence

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Asked for his views on Iraq’s future, Patriarch Sako said he was personally “very worried” given the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and elsewhere although he said there are “some signs of hope.” He said there was an urgent need for the Muslim nations in the region to resolve the sectarian conflict between Sunnis and Shiites. The Patriarch also called for serious action to be taken against ISIS (the so-called Islamic State) and other fundamentalist groups.  He said ISIS “is growing” with each day that passes and that nowadays the militant group is “like a real state.” http://www.news.va/en/news/iraqi-patriarch-says-isis-is-growing-each-day

C-FAM AT THE UNITED NATIONS

Do you know C-Fam?

The Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, known as C-Fam, is a non-partisan, non-profit research institute that monitors and affects the social policy debate at the United Nations. I get the Friday Fax updates from Austin Ruse at the U.N. and read his reports with great interest as he always is current with the behind.the-scenes machinations at this international body – deliberations, meetings (sometimes secret) and bargains that often do not see the light of day. Some are downright frightening. (You can subscribe to Friday Fax at https://c-fam.org/)

Today’s Friday Fax, for example, carries an article by Stefano Gennarini entitled “Will Obama Re-define the Family for the World?” Here it is, in all its scary implications:

NEW YORK, July 24 (C-Fam) The Obama administration’s placement of LGBT rights at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy has caused backlash against LGBT rights in many parts of the world. But after repeated failures to re-define the family to include homosexuality, something may be about to change at UN headquarters.

Obama’s multi-year campaign to discard the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ longstanding description of the family as the “natural and fundamental group unit of society” may pay off as the United Nations celebrates the 70th anniversary of its founding in September this year, and a new UN agreement on development is adopted by world leaders.

UN delegates are deep into the final two weeks of negotiations for a massive new UN development scheme to tackle poverty and promote economic and social development that is environmentally friendly. The subjects up for negotiation are legion, but in the back of everyone’s mind is also the fate of the family.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other binding and non-binding UN agreements recognize the family as resulting from the union of a man and a woman who freely marry. International law and policy make provision for children born in irregular situations or out of wedlock not to be discriminated against, and special protections for single mothers, but do not recognize same-sex relations as capable of constituting a family.

In recent years UN member states have rejected the phrase “various forms of family” in UN agreements, because North American and European countries see it as recognizing same-sex “families,” and it does not appear that such language could make it in a UN agreement anytime soon.

Delegates from around the world have told C-Fam, publisher of the Friday Fax, that U.S. diplomats at the highest levels have been pressuring capitals and missions to ask countries to soften their posture on family language in UN resolutions. Delegations that are unable to support LGBT rights are usually asked to abstain and not show up for voting on resolutions. In this case they have been asked to refrain from proposing language from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Even staunch opponents of LGBT rights appear ready to jettison settled language declaring the family as the “natural and fundamental group unit of society.” An exception is the strong statements from African countries.

A delegate from Cameroon told the General Assembly his delegation wanted to see “family” and “culture” recognized in the final agreement.

Ambassador Usman Sarki of Nigeria was also adamant about seeing the natural family reflected in the final outcome and not “various forms of the family.”

Sarki’s said, “There is no possible rational justification for member states to sit in conclave on issues that will not be implementable at the national level.” In a reference to the pressure for LGBT rights, he said, “Abortion for instance, or reconfiguration of the family, or endorsing behavior that goes against the grain of traditionally accepted practices.”

Recognition of same-sex “families” may be a long way off, but if the Obama administration has its way and gets UN member states to forsake the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it may pave the way for future recognition of homosexual relationships as family in international law and policy.

CHILDREN, A TREASURE FOR HUMANITY, SPEAK WITH SIMPLE, PURE, TRUSTING HEARTS – MIRACLE APPROVED FOR PARENTS OF ST. THERESE OF LISIEUX – “WOMEN KNOW HOW TO EMBODY THE TENDER FACE OF GOD, HIS MERCY”

The Pope’s audience catechesis today on children was just marvelous. He reminds us that we are all children, even if no longer tiny children.

If you have children, given them an extra hug today and tell them what a treasure they are. Tell them that Pope Francis said so!

CHILDREN, A TREASURE FOR HUMANITY, SPEAK WITH SIMPLE, PURE, TRUSTING HEARTS

Having spoken in previous general audiences of the various members of families – mothers, fathers, children, siblings, and grandparents – Pope Francis concluded this first section of catechesis on the family by talking about children. Today he focused on what a great gift children are for humanity, and next week he will speak about wounds that damage childhood.

Interrupted by the applause of the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square when he affirmed that “children are a gift to humanity,” Pope Francis thanked them and exclaimed: “but they are also greatly excluded because they are even not allowed to be born. A society can be judged, not only morally but also sociologically, on how it treats its children, if it is a free society or a slave society of international interests.”

POPE FRANCIS - AUDIENCE ON CHILDREN

The Pope Francis recalled the many happy children he met during his recent journey to Asia, children brimming with life and enthusiasm, noting that, on the other hand, he thinks of the countless children throughout our world who are living in poverty and need.

The Holy Father noted that “children remind us that we all, in the first years of life, are totally dependent on the care and kindness of others. The Son of God was not spared this stage. This is the mystery that we contemplate every year at Christmas time. The manger scene is the icon that communicates this reality in the most simple and direct way.”

Francis explained that, “God has no difficulty in being understood by children and children have no trouble in understanding God. It isn’t by chance that in the Gospels Jesus speaks beautiful and strong words about the ‘little ones’.” The Pope noted that this term “little ones,” indicates all those who depend on the help of others, particularly children.  He said, “Children, therefore, are a treasure for humanity and also for the Church because they constantly remind us of the necessary condition for entering into the Kingdom of God: that we must not consider ourselves self-sufficient, but in need of help, of love, and of forgiveness.”

Children also remind us that we are always children even when we become adults or if we become parents; beneath it all we keep our identity as a child. “And this always leads us back to the fact that we are not given life, but that we have received it,” the Pope said.

“The great gift of life is the first gift we have received. Sometimes we risk forgetting about this, as if we were the masters of our existence, while instead we are radically dependent. In fact, it is a source of great joy to hear that at every age in life, in every situation, in every social condition, we are and remain sons and daughters. This is the main message that children give us with their presence: with just their presence they remind us that each and every one of us is a child.”

Listing some of the other gifts that children bring to humanity the Pope highlighted their way of seeing reality, “with a confident and pure gaze. Children have a spontaneous trust in mom and dad and they have a spontaneous trust in God, in Jesus, and in the Madonna. At the same time, their inner gaze is pure, not yet tainted by malice, duplicity, and the ‘incrustation’ of life that harden one’s heart. We know that even children have original sin, that they can be selfish, but they retain a purity and an inner simplicity. Children are not diplomats: they say what they feel, they say what they see, directly. And many times they make parents uncomfortable, saying in front of other people: “I don’t like this because it’s ugly.” But children say what they see. They aren’t split persons; they still haven’t learned that science of duplicity that we adults have unfortunately learned.”

Francis underscored how children also bring with them the ability to receive and to give affection. “Tenderness is having a heart ‘of flesh and not of stone’, as the Bible says. Tenderness is also poetry. It is feeling things and events, not treating them as mere objects only to use them because they they’re useful.”

“The ability to smile and to cry is another gift that children bring us, one which we grown-ups often block out. Many times our smile becomes a cardboard one, something lifeless and cold or even an artificial, clown’s smile. Children smile and cry spontaneously. It always comes from the heart, and often our hearts are closed and we lose this ability to smile and to cry. Children, then, can teach us how to smile and how to cry again. This is why Jesus invites his disciples to become like children because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

“Children bring life, joy, hope, even troubles. But life is like that. They certainly also bring worries and, at times, many problems. But a society with these worries and problems is a better one than a society that is sad and gray because it is childless! And when we see a society with a birthrate of just one percent,” he concluded, “we can say that that is a sad and gray society because it is without children.” Great applause followed this comment.

Francis inviting everyone to “welcome and treasure our children, who bring so much life, joy and hope to the world.”

On greeting pilgrims from English-speaking countries, the Pope was warmly hailed by students from The Catholic University of America and Loyola University Maryland who are studying in Rome for the semester. (source: VIS)

MIRACLE APPROVED FOR PARENTS OF ST. THERESE OF LISIEUX

Pope Francis on Wednesday received in audience Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. During the audience, the Holy Father authorized the congregation to promulgate decrees concerning several causes for saints. Most notably, the Pope has approved a decree recognizing a miracle attributed to the intercession of Blessed Louis Martin and Blessed Marie-Azélie Guérin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

The congregation also promulgated decrees of heroic virtue for seven individuals who are on the path to canonization. The Servants of God whose heroic virtues were recognized on Tuesday are: Fr. Francesco Gattola (Italian); Pietro Barbarić (Bosnia Herzegovina); Mary Aikenhead (Irish); Elisabetta Baldo (Italian); Vincenza of the Passion of the Lord (née Edvige Jaroszewska, Polish): Giovanna of the Cross (Spanish); and Maria Orsola Bussone (Italian).

With the papal decree, these holy men and women are now referred to as Venerable.

For complete information, click here: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/03/18/pope_authorizes_promulgation_of_miracle,_heroic_virtue/1130266

“WOMEN KNOW HOW TO EMBODY THE TENDER FACE OF GOD, HIS MERCY”

Archbishop Bernadito Auza, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, spoke Tuesday during a meeting of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and speaking for the Holy See, called for the promotion of inclusive and equitable economies to advance the status of women in the world. (photo news.va)

ARCHBISHOP AUZA - UN

“Notwithstanding the fact that women constitute the majority of the poor and are affected by the burden of poverty in very specific ways, they are nevertheless courageously at the forefront in the fight to eradicate extreme poverty,” he said.  “From this perspective, the fight for the advancement of women must also mean assuring them equal access to resources, capital and technology.”

Archbishop Auza said studies have demonstrated that fragile family structures and the decline of marriage among the poor are very closely linked to poverty among women.

“Single mothers are left alone to raise children. Many mothers in situations of distress fail to send their children to school, thus entangling them in the vicious circle of poverty and marginalization,” he said.

“While Governments and society do not create families, they have crucial roles to play in supporting healthy families and fostering parenting,” said Archbishop Auza.

“We are thus called to foster that atmosphere in which men and boys – and women  and girls themselves  –  can better appreciate the full greatness of woman, which  includes not just the aspects she shares in common with man, but also the unique  gifts that pertain to her as woman, like her capacity for motherhood understood  not just as a reproductive act, but as a spiritual, educational, affective, nurturing  and cultural way of life.”

“This work of fostering a wholesome atmosphere is ever more urgent, because we’re  living  in a  time when the unique value and dignity of motherhood in some societies  is  insufficiently  defended,  appreciated  and  advanced,  leaving  women  culturally  and  legally  in  a  position  to  choose  between  their  intellectual  and  professional  development and their personal growth as wives and mothers.”

“Studies  indicate  that  behind  cases  of  juvenile  delinquency  and  children  in  distressed and distressing situations is often a weak or a broken family. In this sphere, Pope Francis expressed appreciation for the contribution of so many  women who work within the family, in the areas of teaching the faith, and in all  areas  of  social,  education  and  cultural  development.  He  affirmed  that  “women  know how to embody the tender face of God, his mercy, which is translated into a  willingness to give time rather than to occupy space, to welcome rather than to  exclude.”

Full text here: http://www.news.va/en/news/holy-see-women-must-be-appreciated-for-their-uniqu

POPE FRANCIS DONATES €500,000 TO AID EBOLA VICTIMS IN WEST AFRICA

Pope Francis has given €500,000 ($531,183) to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by the Ebola crisis in West Africa, especially Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The fund is being distributed by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. (photo: Vatican Radio)

CARDINAL TURKSON

Cardinal Peter Turkson, council president, said the fund has many objectives, including improving existing health care structures, offering psychological help for families affected by the Ebola crisis, and to aid local dioceses and parishes to develop sacramental practices which minimize the risk of transmitting the virus.

Justice and Peace is currently seeking additional donors to add to the fund, and has doubled the amount of the original papal donation, but Cardinal Turkson said he hopes to have 2 or 3 million euros before distributing funds to Catholic organizations battling the crisis.

“The applications [for grants] have started coming already, but want to reach a decent level before we start treating applications,” Cardinal Turkson told Vatican Radio.

The council has limited initial grants to €30,000 ($31,868), and is encouraging larger projects to get matching funds before applying.