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Details of Pope Francis' visit to Georgia and Azerbaijan

(Vatican Radio) At a briefing for journalists at the Holy See press office on Monday, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke gave details of Pope Francis’ forthcoming three day visit to the republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. It’ll be his 16 pastoral visit outside Italy and it’ll be focused on the themes of peace and brotherhood, following on from the message of peace that he took with him to republic of Armenia last June. Listen:  The Pope is scheduled to leave the Vatican on Friday morning, headed for the Georgian capital Tbilisi. His first encounter there will be with the president, with government authorities and representatives of civil society gathered at the imposing presidential palace. From there he goes on to meet the country’s Orthodox leader Patriarch Elia, who was also on hand for Pope John Paul’s visit to the newly independent nation back in 1999. The final event on Friday will be a visit to the Syro-Chaldean church of St Simon the Tanner, one of three different rites making up the small Catholic community in the former Soviet nation. The pope will join Syro-Chaldean bishops from around the world there to pray for peace in Syria and Iraq. Pope Francis begins the following day with Mass at a stadium in Tbilisi named after one of Georgia’s most famous footballers. Significantly, a delegation from the Orthodox Patriarchate will also be present at the Mass, a sign of growing friendship despite the many doctrinal difficulties that continue to divide leaders of the two Churches. In the afternoon, the Pope will meet with priests, religious and seminarians at one of the two Catholic parishes in the capital, before greeting several hundred disabled and vulnerable people being cared for by members of the Camilian order.  The Pope’s final event in Georgia will be a visit to the patriarchal cathedral in the nearby ancient city of Mtshketa, listed as one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites. On the final day of the trip, Pope Francis flies from Tbilisi to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan where he’ll celebrate Mass for the tiny Catholic community at the only parish church run by the Salesian order. In the afternoon he’ll make a courtesy visit to the president and meet the region’s Muslim leader, Sheik  Allashukur Pashazade, before taking part in an interfaith encounter with representatives of all the other religious communities in the country. (from Vatican Radio)...

Know the positions of the presidential candidates

Our Sunday Visitor has partnered with the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC), the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) and the Virginia Catholic Conference (VCC) in creating and distributing this 2016 election guide. In keeping with their missions, the FCCB, PCC and VCC aim to educate and inform Catholics about a wide range of issues. The information listed here has been compiled from policies, public statements, official and campaign websites and other resources to help voters form their consciences before entering the voting booth. The issues that appear here do not represent a complete list of issues that may be of importance to Catholics. Our Sunday Visitor, the PCC, FCCB and VCC neither support nor oppose any candidate for public office. Download the 2016 Election Guide here. "Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care. Therefore, Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas ... But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the ‘rightness’ of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community. If we understand the human person as the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ — the living house of God — then these latter issues fall logically into place as the crossbeams and walls of that house. All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house’s foundation. These directly and immediately violate the human person’s most fundamental right — the right to life.” — From Living the Gospel of Life , No. 22 with original emphasis (Pastoral Statement of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1998). “The right to life implies and is linked to other human rights — to the basic goods that every human person needs to live and thrive. All the life issues are connected, for erosion of respect for the life of any individual or group in society necessarily diminishes respect for all life. The moral imperative to respond to the needs of our neighbors — basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work — is universally binding on our consciences and may be legitimately fulfilled by a variety of means. Catholics must seek the best ways to respond to these needs….Above all, the common outcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights — for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture — is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.’’ — From Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship , Nos. 25, 26, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2015. Published in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Virginia Catholic Conference. Visit www.pacatholic.org , www.flaccb.org or www.vacatholic.org for more information. Download the 2016 Election Guide here. Related Reading How Kaine, Pence reflect problems of Church

Pope accepts Lubbock bishop's resignation, names Dallas priest successor

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Bishop Placido Rodriguez of Lubbock, Texas, and has named as his successor Msgr. Robert M. Coerver, a priest of the Diocese of Dallas. Bishop Rodriguez has headed the diocese since 1994. He turns 76 Oct. 11; canon law requires bishops to turn in their resignation at age 75. The changes were announced Sept. 27 in Washington by Msgr. Walter Erbi, who is charge d'affaires at the apostolic nunciature to the United States. Bishop-designate Coerver, 62, will become the third bishop of the Diocese of Lubbock. His episcopal ordination and installation Mass will be celebrated Nov. 21 at Christ the King Cathedral in Lubbock. In a statement, he said he looked forward to "this new role as chief shepherd of the Catholic faithful in Lubbock," though he said he'll miss his home diocese. He asked for prayers from the people of Dallas "as I prepare to assume my new responsibilities." "I was born and raised here in Dallas; my family roots are here and my ancestors were among Dallas' first Catholics," said Bishop-designate Coerver, pastor of St. Rita Parish in Dallas since 2010. "I have developed so many fantastic relationships over the years and it will be difficult to have them take on a different nature. I have cherished my work among my brother priests, and upon hearing of my appointment, a slight pang of sadness came upon me." But as a priest, he continued, "I have always known that I must follow wherever the Lord leads me, and so when asked if I would accept the appointment, I did so immediately because I have promised to serve wherever the church needs me." Bishop Kevin J. Farrell, Dallas' bishop for 10 years who this past August was named by Pope Francis to lead a new Vatican office for the laity, family and life, said Bishop-designate Coerver "will be a tremendous blessing" to the Lubbock Diocese. "(His) extensive experience as a pastor ... (and) his service on priest leadership boards and committees will be a tremendous asset in his new role," Bishop Farrell said in a statement. "His keen theological insight and deep devotion to our church, as well as an excellent pastoral manner, will serve him well as he leads his new diocese." Born in Dallas June 6, 1954, Robert Coerver graduated from Jesuit College Preparatory School in 1972 and from the University of Dallas in 1976; he earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy there. He received his priestly formation at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, Texas. He pursued post-graduate studies at Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum. He also has a licentiate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and a master's degree in counseling and guidance from Texas A&M University. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Dallas in 1980. His assignments after ordination included parochial vicar at a Dallas parish and a Plano, Texas, parish, followed by 11 years as director of spiritual formation at Holy Trinity Seminary, 1985-1996. He was Dallas' diocesan director of spiritual development of priests in 1996 and diocesan director of the Committee for Ongoing Formation of Priests,1996-2004. St. John Paul II named him a monsignor in 2004. He was pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Rockwall, Texas, from 2005 to 2010, when he was named pastor of St. Rita Parish. Bishop-designate Coerver also has served the Diocese of Dallas in other capacities, including as vicar forane, 2007-2013; a member of the college of consultors, 2007 to present; and a member of the priests' council, 2008 to present. Bishop Rodriguez was born Oct. 11, 1940, in Guanajuato in central Mexico; he was the 11th of 14 children. He grew up in the city of Celaya, about 125 miles northwest of Mexico City, and attended Catholic elementary school there. In January 1953, his parents, Eutemio and Maria Concepcion Rodriguez, immigrated to Chicago with their six youngest children. He was ordained a Claretian ...

OSV's top reads – September 26

1. Awaiting vote, Church readies for pastoral work (New Analysis, Oct. 2) 2. Top 10 college tips (College Special Section, Sept. 18) 3. No more 'nones' (Perspectives, Sept. 25) 4. Sent with a message of mercy to the world (Faith, Oct. 2) 5. Lost in translation (God Lives, Oct. 2) 6. Called to serve: The importance of giving back (Faith, Oct. 26, 2014) 7. Young people are leaving the faith. Here's why (In Focus, Aug. 28) 8. An obscene scene (Catholic Journal, Oct. 2) 9. The love of the poor (Opening the Word, Sept. 25) 10. Belgium continues its way down slippery euthanasia slope (Openers, Oct. 2)

Pope Francis to deaf people: together for more welcoming Church, society

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered prayers and encouragement to deaf people everywhere on Sunday – the World Day of the Deaf, which marks the close of the International Week of the Deaf . “I want to salute all deaf persons – some of whom are here [at the Angelus ] – and encourage them to give their part for a Church and for a society that are both ever more ready and willing to welcome everyone.” First launched in 1958 in Rome, the International Week of the Deaf takes place annually in the last full week of September, and is the only week in a year that sees highly concerted global action to raise awareness about the needs of deaf people and the contributions of the deaf community to broader society. (from Vatican Radio)...

How Kaine, Pence reflect problems in Church

Partisan politics aside, this year’s Republican and Democratic vice presidential candidates, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, between them reflect two of the biggest problems now facing the Catholic Church in the United States. With the GOP’s Pence, governor of Indiana and a former U.S. congressman, the problem is attrition — loss of members to other religious groups or to religious non-affiliation. Pence was raised a Catholic but has switched to evangelicalism. With the Democrats’ Kaine, a former governor of Virginia who is a U.S. senator, the issue is the separation of faith from life practiced by Catholic politicians who say they’re personally opposed to abortion and other things condemned by the Church while supporting those same things in the public policy arena. To note these concerns as they apply to Pence and Kaine isn’t passing judgment on the character of either man. Nor is there any reason to think either wishes ill to the Catholic Church. But things both have said and done are in conflict with the Church, albeit in different ways. A break from the Church Pence, 57, was one of six children in a devout Irish-American family, and he and his three brothers were altar servers in their local parish. While the process by which he moved away from Catholicism is not known in detail, it appears to have begun during his student years at Hanover College in Indiana. Even so, Pence worked after graduation as a Catholic youth minister and, it’s said, thought about becoming a priest. But along the line he started describing himself as an “evangelical Catholic.” An acquaintance of those years told the New York Times he was increasingly eager to have “a very personal relationship with Christ.” A Catholic might reply that it’s hard to imagine a relationship with Christ more personal than the one that comes with receiving Communion. The Church teaches that Christ is really present — body and blood, soul and divinity, an old formula says — in the consecrated Eucharistic species. Admittedly, though, the Eucharist is celebrated in the context of a stylized liturgical rite, the Mass, which often is performed in a more or less matter-of-fact manner. Whenever it happened, Pence’s break with Catholicism apparently was definitive by the mid-1990s. By then he and his wife were regular attendees at an evangelical church. Today, they are said frequently to worship at an Indianapolis “megachurch” where there are three giant video screens, colored lights and Christian bands. The Times described the Pences there the Sunday after the GOP convention “standing and clapping in time with the music.” Like what you’re reading? Subscribe now in print or digital . Pence is scarcely the first Catholic to leave the Church. According to a major study of religion in America published by the Pew Research Center in 2014, fully 41 percent of Americans who were raised Catholic no longer identify themselves as such, while only 2 percent raised in some other tradition have become Catholics. By no means all the Catholics who’ve left the Church have taken up evangelicalism, but some have. Pence’s nomination for vice president was greeted enthusiastically by pro-lifers who consider him to be a solid friend. In Congress, he worked to cut off federal funds to Planned Parenthood. Last March as governor he signed a bill banning abortions for fetal disability. A federal judge has barred enforcement of the law. But this year Pence also received criticism from social conservatives for backing away from support for a bill allowing commercial firms to refuse on conscience grounds to provide services to same-sex couples. The governor changed his position after several large companies threatened to boycott the state. Last year Pence was one of two dozen governors reacting to terrorist attacks who opposed the admission of Syrian refugees to their states. Catholic Charities of Indianapolis was then preparing to bring a Syrian family to Indiana, and after a meeting between Pence and ...

Pope Francis meets with World Jewish Congress

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with members of the World Jewish Congress on Monday evening. An article published on Tuesday by the Vatican newspaper, the 'Osservatore Romano', highlighted how the Holy Father spoke about a series of issues pertaining to inter faith relations and the current migration crisis on the European continent. “Europe often forgets that it has been enriched by migrants,” – Pope Francis said – “Europe is closing itself up. Europe is lacking creativity. Europe has a falling birth rate, and problems of high unemployment.” Pope Francis also spoke about migrants integrating into their new surroundings, which he called “important.” “The people who committed the terrorist attacks in Belgium were not properly integrated,” he said. Pope Francis also reiterated  a good Christian could not be an anti-Semite, and said Christians and Jews must speak out against brutality in the world. “We need more friendliness and kindness, and we should not be afraid to speak out against brutality,” – the Holy Father said – “We should go on a joint journey together to make the world more secure. We need to speak out for peace.” The World Jewish Congress includes the heads of  Jewish communities in Europe and the Americas, and in light of the upcoming Rosh Hashana holiday, Pope Francis wished the Jewish world a happy new year. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope: overcome spiritual desolation through prayer, not pills or drink

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said silence and prayer is the way to overcome our darkest moments, rather than resorting to pills or alcoholic drinks to escape from our woes. His comments came during his homily at the morning Mass celebrated on Tuesday at the Santa Marta residence.  Taking his cue from the day’s first reading where Job was living through a spiritual desolation and was giving vent to his sorrows before God, the Pope’s homily focused on these dark moments of spiritual desolation that all of us experience at some point and explained how we can overcome them. He said although Job was in deep trouble and had lost everything he did not curse God and his outburst was that of “a son in front of his father.” All of us sooner or later experience a spiritual darkness “Spiritual desolation is something that happens to all of us: it can be stronger or weaker … but that feeling of spiritual darkness, of hopelessness, mistrust, lacking the desire to live, without seeing the end of the tunnel, with so much agitation in one’s heart and in one’s ideas…  Spiritual desolation makes us feel as though our souls are crushed, we can’t succeed, we can’t succeed and we also don’t want to live: ‘Death is better!’ This was Job’s outburst. It was better to die than live like this. We need to understand that when our soul is in this state of generalized sadness we can barely breathe: This happens to all of us… whether strong or not ….. to all of us. (We need to) understand what goes on in our hearts.” Pope Francis went on to pose the question: “What should we do when we experience these dark moments, be it for a family tragedy, an illness, something that weighs us down?.” Noting that some people would think of taking a pill to sleep and remove them from their problems or drinking one, two, three or four glasses” he warned that these methods “do not help.” Instead, today’s liturgy shows us how to cope with this spiritual desolation, “when we are lukewarm, depressed and without hope.” The Pope said the way out from this situation is to pray, to pray loudly, just as Job did, day and night until God listens. “It is a prayer to knock at the door but with strength! ‘Lord, my soul is surfeited with troubles. My life draws near to Hell. I am numbered among those who go down into the pit; I am a man without strength.’ How many times have we felt like this, without strength?  And here is the prayer. Our Lord himself taught us how to pray in these dreadful moments. ‘Lord, you have plunged me into the bottom of the pit. Upon me, your wrath lies heavy. Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ This is the prayer and this is how we should pray in our darkest, most dreadful, bleakest and most crushed moments that are really crushing us. This is genuine prayer. And it’s also giving vent just like Job did with his sons. Like a son.” Silence, closeness and prayer is how to help those who are suffering The importance of silence, being close and using prayer was stressed by Pope Francis who said that was the correct way for friends to behave when faced with those who are undergoing dark moments, warning words and speeches in these situations can do harm.   “First of all, we must recognize in ourselves these moments of spiritual desolation, when we are in the dark, without hope and asking ourselves why. Secondly, we must pray to the Lord like today’s reading from Psalm 87 teaches us to pray during our dark moments. ‘Let my prayer come before you, Lord.’ Thirdly, when I draw close to a person who is suffering, whether from illness, or whatever other type of suffering and who is experiencing a sense of desolation, we must be silent: but a silence with much love, closeness and caresses.  And we must not make speeches that don’t help in the end and even can do harm.” The Pope concluded his homily by asking the Lord to grant us these three graces: the grace to recognize spiritual desolation, the grace to pray when we are afflicted by this feeling of spiritual desolation and also the grace to know how to be close to people who are suffering terrible moments of sadness and spiritual desolation.” (from Vatican Radio)...

'Ponder anew what the Almighty can do'

On a cool May morning in 2007, I found myself in the last place I ever expected to be: face down on the hard floor of a Catholic basilica, as a choir chanted the Litany of the Saints and I received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Moments later, the bishop’s hands rested on my head and I became, incredibly, a permanent deacon. How on earth did this happen? If I had to pinpoint a date, it would be Sept. 11, 2001. I was a writer and producer for CBS News, and that morning, they put me to work in the television newsroom, writing hourly updates for an event unlike any we had covered before. That night, Dan Rather opened the CBS Evening News with these words: “Good evening. This is a day you will remember for the rest of your life.” I didn’t realize then what that really meant — and how everything in my world was about to change. In the days that followed, between the candlelight vigils and photocopied pictures taped to bus stops and the endless funerals accompanied by bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace,” I had a growing sense that the world had shifted. And my priorities had shifted, too. Again and again, I was reminded that everything I’d worked for could be gone in an instant. I thought of the old Peggy Lee standard: “Is that all there is?” There must be something else I was supposed to be doing, right? Leaning on faith I turned to what had kept me grounded in the past: my faith. I found myself suddenly praying more. I read Thomas Merton. I spent more time in the pews for daily Mass. I went on retreats. I started to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. I actually considered, for a time, becoming a lay Cistercian. Then, while on retreat at a Trappist monastery in 2002, I met someone I hadn’t expected: a deacon from England. I’d never met a deacon before. I was intrigued. We struck up a conversation after Mass and spent a long afternoon talking about the diaconate. I was amazed to learn that he also worked in broadcasting, for the BBC. He’d done some freelance work for CBS, too, and we knew a lot of the same people. Was God trying to tell me something? The next day, I saw the deacon in action, serving Mass in the abbey church and preaching a wonderful homily. And it was then that it struck me: Here was a man much like myself, doing what I did, and dedicating his life to God. Could I do this? As I sat in the abbey and heard the chants and watched him elevating the chalice, the thought came to me: Yes. Yes. You can do this. You should do this. When I returned home and told my wife, she understandably thought I was nuts. But time and prayer and long talks around the dinner table convinced the both of us that maybe, just maybe, this is something I could do, and should do, and soon. Taking a leap of faith, I applied for the next class in the diaconate program in September 2002. What followed were five years of classes, homework, workshops and retreats. Weekends were taken up with church work; evenings were spent on schoolwork. Life became a lot more complicated. More than a few times, I thought: Am I out of my mind? All of it came to an end, fittingly, just a few days after Ascension Thursday — the time when the apostles had been left alone and were waiting for the Holy Spirit. At my Mass of Thanksgiving following ordination, I spoke in my homily about feeling like the apostles during that time before Pentecost — living in an upper room, unsure of what was about to happen, prayerfully yearning for the next part of their lives to begin. I knew how they must have felt. As I preached in my first homily: “Each of us at some moment in our lives has known that upper room, that place of uncertainty. We can measure its walls. We have all walked its floor, locked its windows and prayed that no one will find us — just like the apostles in that dark valley between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost. “I think the message of those days before Pentecost is one of the hardest to accept,” I said. “It is simply to trust. Trust that God’s promise will be kept, that ...

Pope Francis: Bl. Engelmar Unzeitig CMM a model of charity

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, following a Mass to mark the Jubilee of Catechists celebrated as part of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy . In remarks to the faithful ahead of the mid-day prayer of Marian devotion, the Holy Father recalled the beatification – which took place in the German city of Würzburg on Saturday – of the Servant of God, Fr. Engelmar Unzeitig CMM , a Czech-born priest who ministered in Austria and was martyred in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. “[Saturday], in Würzburg,” said Pope Francis, “Engelmar Unzeitig, priest of the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mariannhill, was proclaimed Blessed.” The Holy Father went on to say, “Killed in hatred of the faith in the extermination camp of Dachau, he opposed hatred with love, and answered ferocity answered with meekness: may his example help us to be witnesses of charity and hope even in the midst of trials.” (from Vatican Radio)...

Colombian peace agreement is start of change, says Vatican official

CARTAGENA, Colombia (CNS) -- To chants of "No more war," the Colombian government and Marxist rebels signed an agreement to end Latin America's last armed conflict, which the Vatican's secretary of state called "the start of a process of positive change for the country." Under an agreement signed Sept. 26 with a pen made from a bullet -- inscribed with "Bullets wrote our past. Education, our future," -- the country's largest rebel group, known as the FARC, will lay down weapons and soldiers will submit to a process of reintegration into society. If Colombians ratify the peace accord in a plebiscite Oct. 2, a civil war dating to the mid-1960s will be brought to an end. "I would like to ask for forgiveness from all the victims for all the pain that we have caused during this war," said Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, also known as Timoleon Jimenez, leader of the FARC, a Spanish acronym for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Londono and President Juan Manuel Santos shook hands and smiled before a large crowd in Cartagena, on Colombia's Caribbean coast. Hours earlier, Cardinal Pietro Parolin said the "country of Catholics has come together in prayer." The Vatican official spoke before roughly 2,500 who had gathered in St. Peter Claver Church in Cartagena. "Colombians have lived through forced displacements and violence. ... And that is why we need to find the road to peace and justice." The liturgy touched on the historic significance of the day, which brought the country of 47 million people a step closer to ending a conflict that claimed the lives of at least 220,000 people and forced roughly 5 million from their homes and communities. The war outlasted internal conflicts in other Latin American countries and left Colombia with a long-standing reputation for violence and bloodshed. "Colombia should begin to ease the pain of so many of its people by working to build a better future and by rebuilding the dignity of those who have suffered," Cardinal Parolin said, adding that Pope Francis has paid close attention to the peace process in Colombia. The service was attended by foreign dignitaries, including 15 presidents, three former presidents, and 27 foreign ministers -- including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry -- who filed into the church wearing white and commenting on the historic significance of the day. "I hope it will inspire other countries in the world that are in conflict, such as Syria, where people are killing each other. It can show them that peace is possible," said Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, on the church's steps in a national broadcast prior to the liturgy. Cardinal Parolin said the peace agreement, the culmination of four years of negotiations, is a historical marker for a country that has been deeply affected by the war. "We don't consider this just another event," he said. "This is a manifestation of the trust on the part of the Colombian people."

Holy See: Peace of nuclear deterrence "a tragic illusion"

(Vatican Radio) The Vatican told the United Nations on Monday “nuclear arms offer a false sense of security, and that the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion.” “Nuclear weapons cannot create for us a stable and secure world,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. He was speaking at an event marking the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. “Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of total annihilation,” the Vatican diplomat said.   The full statement of Archbishop Auza can be found below   Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations at the High-level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote The International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons New York, 26 September 2016   Mr. President, The  Holy  See  fervently  hopes  that  this  annual  commemoration of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will contribute to breaking the deadlock that has beset the United Nations’ disarmament machinery for far too long now. In February 1943, two years and a half before the Trinity test, Pope Piu XII had already voiced deep concern regarding the violent use of atomic energy.  After Hiroshima and Nagasaki  and  given  the  totally uncontrollable and indiscriminate consequences of nuclear weapons, Pope Pius XII demanded the effective proscription and banishment of atomic warfare, calling the arms race a costly relationship of mutual terror. The Holy See has maintained this position ever since the advent of nuclear weapons. My delegation believes that nuclear arms offer a false sense of security, and that the uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence is a tragic illusion. Nuclear weapons cannot create for us a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or  on the threat of total annihilation. The Holy See believes that peace cannot be solely the maintaining of a balance of power. On the contrary, as Pope Francis affirmed, “Peace must be built on justice, socio-economic development, freedom, respect for human rights, the participation of all in public affairs  and the building of trust between peoples.” Lasting peace thus requires that all must strive for progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament. The Holy See has been a Party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since the very beginning, in order to encourage nuclear possessing States to abolish their nuclear weapons, to dissuade non-nuclear possessing States from acquiring or developing nuclear capabilities, and to encourage international cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear material. While firmly believing that the NPT remains vital to international peace and security and regretting deeply our collective failure to move forward with a positive disarmament agenda, the Holy See will continue to argue against both the possession and the use of nuclear weapons, until the total elimination of nuclear weapons is achieved. Indeed, the Holy See considers it a moral and humanitarian imperative to advance the efforts towards the final objective of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Disarmament treaties are not just legal obligations; they are also moral commitments based on trust between States, rooted  in  the  trust  that  citizens place in their governments. If commitments to nuclear disarmament are not  made in good faith and consequently result in breaches of trust, the proliferation of such weapons would be the logical corollary. For our own good and that of future generations, we have no reasonable or moral option other than the abolition of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are a global problem and they impact all  countries and all peoples, including future generations. Increasing interdependence and globalization demand that whatever response we make to the threat of nuclear weapons be collective and concerted, based on reciprocal trust, and within a framework of general and complete disarmament, as Art. VI of the NPT demands. Moreover, there is the real and present danger that nuclear weapons and other arms of mass destruction would fall into the hands of extremist terrorist groups and other violent non-state actors. The 2030  Agenda for Sustainable Development calls upon all of us to embark on the implementation of the daunting ambition to better every life, especially those who have been and are left behind. It would be naïve and myopic if we sought to assure world peace and security through nuclear weapons rather than through the eradication of extreme poverty, increased accessibility to healthcare and education, and the promotion of peaceful institutions and societies through dialogue and solidarity. Mr. President, No one could ever say that a world without nuclear weapons is easily achievable. It is not; it is extremely arduous; to some, it may even appear utopian. But there is no alternative than to work unceasingly towards its achievement. Let me conclude by reaffirming the conviction that Pope Francis expressed in his December 2014 message to  the  President  of  the  Vienna  Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons: “I am convinced that the desire for peace and fraternity planted deep in the human heart will bear fruit in concrete ways to ensure that nuclear weapons are banned once and for all, to the benefit of our common home.” (from Vatican Radio)...

St. Teresa of Calcutta at the movies

The life of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta has been dramatized onscreen three times in the last 20 years. The most recent version, “The Letters” (2014), starring Juliet Stevenson, is the first version of her story theatrically released in the United States, and perhaps the most familiar to American viewers — though it’s far from the best. The 2003 TV movie “Mother Teresa of Calcutta,” starring Olivia Hussey, was originally a two-part miniseries on Italian television. In 2006, a heavily edited and muddled 110-minute version was released on DVD by 20th Century Fox. Eight years later Ignatius Press released a “complete, unedited” three-hour version on DVD under the title “Mother Teresa.” I prefer the three-hour Mother Teresa to “The Letters” — but by far my favorite dramatization of Blessed Teresa’s life is the first, and, alas, the least well-known: “Mother Teresa: In the Name of God’s Poor” (1999), starring Geraldine Chaplin. All three are pious, hagiographical portraits, and unsurprisingly overlap substantially. The decisive events in each begin in 1946, nine years after Blessed Teresa’s final vows as a Sister of Loreto — the year she will receive her fateful “call within the call.” We find her in Calcutta, teaching geography to schoolgirls at the Loreto convent school. There are references to Gandhi, Hindu–Muslim conflict, and social upheaval in India in the last days of British rule (independence will follow in 1947). The “call within the call” comes while Blessed Teresa is taking a train to Darjeeling. Returning to Calcutta, she is convinced that Jesus has called her to work with the poorest of the poor. Teresa makes a highly unusual request for an indult of exclaustration allowing her to work outside the cloister as a nun. She will not, however, consider leaving religious life. Although her superior, Mother Cenacle, is against it, Archbishop Ferdinand Perier of Calcutta petitions the Vatican on her behalf — a petition unexpectedly granted and later extended. Working in the slums, Teresa encounters resistance from the Hindu populace, but presently wins supporters, particularly as she teaches children to read. Eventually she is joined by former students who wish to share her work. Finally, with the help of her spiritual director, Father Celeste van Exem, she petitions the Vatican for the founding of a new religious community, the Missionaries of Charity — an extraordinary dream that becomes a reality in 1950. Among Teresa’s first moves is the conversion of an abandoned Hindu temple to the goddess Kali into a hospice for the dying and destitute, Kalighat Home for the Dying. A Christian woman making such use of a Hindu sacred place leads to mob protests and threats of violence, but the work continues. So much of the story — between five and 10 years — is common to all three films, along with the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize speech, which appears as a flash-forward epilogue in “God’s Poor” and “The Letters.” The 2003 Olivia Hussey film, “Mother Teresa,” goes much further, particularly in the Ignatius Press DVD. After relating the first half of the story in flashback, as a priest from Rome evaluates Mother Teresa’s work in 1950 for the inquiry into her petition for a new community, the second half relates the half-century that follows: a hospice for sufferers of leprosy, an orphanage, the scandal that arose from a large donation from a con artist who later misused Mother Teresa’s image and more. “The Letters” takes the flashback device further, telling its entire story in posthumous flashback, from the perspective of her spiritual director van Exem (Max von Sydow) and the postulator for her cause for canonization, fictionally named Father Praggh (Rutger Hauer), as they discuss her life. They particularly focus on the depths of spiritual darkness and anguish revealed in her letters to Archbishop Perier and Father van Exem, some of which were made public about a decade ago and published under the title “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light.” ...

Pope Receives President of Democratic Republic of Congo

(Vatican Radio)  Today, Monday 26 September 2016, the Holy Father received in audience, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, His Excellency Joseph Kabila, who subsequently met with His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. In a statement, the Holy See's Press Office said during the "cordial discussions,"  the good relations between the Holy See and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were evoked, "with particular reference to the important contribution of the Catholic Church in the life of the nation, with its institutions in the educational, social and healthcare spheres, as well as in development and the reduction of poverty. In this context, mutual satisfaction was expressed for the signing of the framework Agreement between the Holy See and the State, which took place on 20 May this year." Particular attention was paid, the comunique continues, "to the serious challenges placed by the current political challenge and the recent clashes that have occurred in the capital. Emphasis was placed on the importance of collaboration between political actors and representatives of civil society and religious communities, in favour of the common good, through a respectful and inclusive dialogue for the stability of peace in the country." Finally, the Parties focused on the persistent violence suffered by the population in the east of the country, and on the urgency of cooperation at national and international levels, in order to provide the necessary assistance and to re-establish civil co-existence. (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope Francis at Angelus: prayers for Mexican Church, nation

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered prayers for slain Mexican priests on Sunday, and put his support behind the ongoing pro-family and pro-life efforts of the Mexican Bishops. Speaking with the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, following Mass to mark the Jubilee of Catechists celebrated as part of the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and ahead of the traditional noonday Angelus prayer, Pope Francis said, “I am very happy to associate myself with the Bishops of Mexico, in supporting the commitment of the Church and of civil society in favor of the family and of life, which in this time require special pastoral and cultural attention in all the world.” The Holy Father went on to say, “I assure my prayer for the dear Mexican people, that the violence, which has in recent days reached even several priests, might cease.” Two priests were abducted and murdered in Poza Rica, Veracruz state. Their abductions and murders took place at a time in which Church leaders have been calling for increased protection for clergy, as the Church in Mexico advocates in defence of traditional marrigage while the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto pushes for a change in the law to allow legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriages. 14 priests have been killed since Peña Nieto took office in 2012, along with scores of thousands of kidnappings and homicides since that same year, most of which are related to the ongoing violence between rival drug cartels in the country. (from Vatican Radio)...

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