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Pope kicks off Italian Bishops' Assembly with frank and open dialogue
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday afternoon met with Italian Church leaders who are holding the 70th General Assembly of their bishops’ conference. The meeting began with a brief introduction from the outgoing President of the conference, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco . After that, the Pope greeted the bishops during a session, open to journalists, in the Vatican Synod Hall, before continuing the meeting behind closed doors. On Tuesday the bishops will elect three names which will be forwarded to the Pope to select a new president for the conference. They will then proceed with discussions on the main theme for this assembly, which is focused on an effective evangelization of young people.  On Wednesday the bishops will celebrate Mass in St Peter’s Basilica and on Thursday they will hold a concluding press conference in the Paul VI audience hall. After a brief speech of greeting during which Pope Francis thanked Cardinal Bagnasco for his ten years of service and for  his patience as, he said “it is not easy to work with this pope,” the bishops were handed prepared remarks by the Pope who, as he often does in such occasions, made it immediately clear he wanted a frank and open exchange with them behind closed doors. Apologizing to all the others present Pope Francis said his face-to-face with his brother bishops represented an important and private moment of encounter, and he pointed out that “when dialogue is stifled, gossip is sown” so, he said, it is important to enter into true dialogue even when it means listening to opinions that one may not agree with, but, he stressed “it’s important to be able to speak in freedom”.  Cardinal Bagnasco reflected briefly on one of the fundamental themes of the Assembly: young people’s formation. “Their conditions of life, Bagnasco said, their capacity for sharing and building a future are an urgent reminder to us of our educational responsibility and witness; meeting them helps us to rediscover, every day, the primacy of God in our lives to be able to think and take action in freedom that is born from truth.” And regarding the choice of his successor, Cardinal Bagnasco made assurances regarding the firm will of every one present to support and sustain whoever is chosen for the benefit of our Churches. (from Vatican Radio)...
Trump nominates Callista Gingrich ambassador to Vatican
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As he prepared to meet Pope Francis for the first time, President Donald Trump formally nominated Callista Gingrich, wife of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to be the new U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. The White House announced the nomination late May 19 as Trump was beginning his first overseas trip, a trip that would include a meeting with Pope Francis May 24 at the Vatican. The nomination of Gingrich, 51, a former congressional aide, had been rumored for months. If confirmed by the Senate, she would succeed Ambassador Ken Hackett, who retired in January. She would be the third woman to serve as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See after Lindy Boggs, who held the post in 1997-2001, and Mary Ann Glendon, who served in 2008-2009. Gingrich is president of Gingrich Productions, which produces documentaries as well as other materials related to her husband, Republican Newt Gingrich, who served from 1995 until 1999 as the 50th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2010, the company released the film "Nine Days That Changed the World" about Pope John Paul II's nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in 1979 and how it played a part in the fall of communism in Europe. Callista Gingrich graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1988, majoring in music, a passion that has remained with her throughout life. She is a longtime member of the choir at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Some like John Schlageter, executive director of the Bethlehem University Foundation in Washington, hailed the choice. "It might make me biased, but I think that her years of singing in the choir at the national shrine has given her a backstage pass to some of the most important events in the life in the church in the United States, including two papal visits," said Schlageter, who is a friend of the couple. The Gingriches are patrons of Bethlehem University, the first Catholic university in the Holy Land founded by the Vatican and the De La Salle Christian Brothers, he said. Schlageter said Callista Gingrich's time producing the documentary about Pope John Paul helped her create professional relationships and friendships in the U.S. and Rome that will serve her well should she be confirmed to the post. "She also loves the church and the United States," he told Catholic News Service May 15. "I think she's a wonderful choice." Others criticized the choice online because she admitted to having an affair for years with Newt Gingrich while he was married to his second wife. After his 1999 divorce, the two married the following year and he became a Catholic in 2009, saying Callista, a lifelong Catholic, was instrumental in making that choice.
Pope appeals for peace in CAR
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for peace in the Central African Republic following intense armed clashes there. He made the call following the Regina Caeli in St Peter's Square. Listen to our full report:  The Holy Father said it pained him to hear about the violence in CAR especially after visiting the country in November 2015. He went on to say that the fighting had claimed many victims, displaced people and threatened the peace process. “I am close to the people and to the bishops”, the Pope added, “and to all those who work for the good of the people and for peaceful coexistence.” Pope Francis prayed for the deceased and the wounded and he renewed his appeal calling for an end to the violence. He also expressed the hope that good will and dialogue would prevail into order to bring peace and development to the country. During his Regina Caeli address the Holy Father looked to Asia saying, “on May 24, let us all join spiritually with the Catholic faithful in China on the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary "Help of Christians," venerated at the Sheshan Shrine in Shanghai. To Chinese Catholics, said the Pope, “we look to our Mother Mary to help us discern God's will regarding the concrete path of the Church in China and may he support us in his generosity of love. Mary encourages us to offer our personal contribution to communion among believers and to the harmony of the whole of society. He continued, “let us not forget to bear witness to the faith with prayer and love, keeping us open always to encounter and dialogue.” (from Vatican Radio)...
Pope: ‘a Church without martyrs breeds distrust’
(Vatican Radio) On the second anniversary of the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was killed in 1980 by military squadrons linked to the Regime in San Salvador as he defended the poor, Pope Francis recalled Romero’s religious fervor and passion for justice while warning the faithful against a ‘lukewarm’ Church.  The Pope was speaking during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta . Pope Francis exhorted believers to leave comfort to the side and embrace an energetic lifestyle proclaiming Jesus with joy.  He reflected on the liturgical reading of the day which tells the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi where they were followed by a slave girl with an oracular spirit who was shouting “These people are slaves of the Most High God”. This seemed like praise, the Pope said, but Paul became annoyed and cast out the spirit.  Paul understood, the Pope explained, that that was not the path to conversion of that city; it was not the Church of Christ. Everyone there accepted the doctrine, there were no conversions. Similar situations, the Pope continued, have been repeated in the history of salvation: when the people of God are quiet, they do not take risks, but are servants of ‘worldliness’. Then the Lord, he said, sent the prophets who – like Paul - were persecuted "because they made people uncomfortable."  “In the Church when someone cries out against the many ways of worldliness, they are given ‘the crooked eye’ as if something were wrong with them, and then they are distanced” he said. Francis spoke of personal memories from his own homeland recalling many men and women, whom he said, were not supporters of an ideology but  “were good consecrated people” who spoke out saying “No, the Church of Jesus is like this....: they were branded as communists and persecuted” he said. “Think of the Blessed Romero.What happened to him for having told the truth? And so many others in the history of the Church, even here in Europe. Why? Because the evil spirit prefers a tranquil, risk-free Church, a business-like Church, a comfortable and lukewarm Church” he said. In chapter 16 of the Acts it is also said that the slaves of the slave were angry: they had lost their hope of earning money because the slave could no longer divine.  "The evil one, the Pope warned, always starts from the pocket. When the Church is lukewarm, quiet, organized, when there are no problems, look to where business is to be made" he said. Pope Francis also focused his homily, on joy. In fact, he told of how Paul and Silas were dragged by the slaves to the magistrates who ordered them to be beaten and then thrown into jail. The jailer threw them into the innermost part of the jail where the two men broke into song. Towards midnight a tremendous earthquake flung all the gates of the prison open.  The jailer was about to take his life because he would have been killed if the prisoners had escaped but Paul urged him not to do so because, he said, “we are all here”. Then the jailer asked for explanations and converted. He washed their sores, was baptized, and “was filled with joy”.  This, the Pope said, is the path of our daily conversion: “to move from a worldly, tranquil, safe, Catholic” lukewarm yes, to the true proclamation of Jesus Christ; to the joy of ' Christ's announcement. We must move, he said, from a religion that looks too much to earnings, to faith and to the proclamation that ‘Jesus is the Lord'. This, Francis continued, is the miracle performed by the Holy Spirit, and he invited the faithful to read Chapter 16 of the Acts in order to see how the Lord “together with his martyrs” makes the Church move forward. The Pope concluded his homily saying that a Church without martyrs breeds distrust; a Church that doesn’t take risks breeds distrust; a Church that is afraid of proclaiming Jesus Christ and of chasing out demons, idols and the lord of money is not Christ’s Church. “Let us ask the Lord for the grace for renewed vigor in faith and conversion from a lukewarm way of life so we are able to make the joyful proclamation that Jesus is the Lord” he said.   (from Vatican Radio)...
Trump arrives in Holy Land, visits Holy Sepulcher, Western Wall
JERUSALEM (CNS) -- Following his official welcome to Jerusalem by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, U.S. President Donald Trump began his two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories with a private visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and Western Wall. Details of the visits to the holy sites had been a carefully guarded secret until the last moment, but from early May 22 the alleyways of the Old City were closed to both residents and tourists, and the main thoroughfares leading to the Old City were closed off to all traffic. Under tight security and led by the traditional kawas honor guard announcing the way with the thumping of their ornamental staffs, the president made his way by foot through the Old City's alleyways to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. He and first lady Melania Trump were welcomed at the entrance of the church courtyard by Greek Orthodox Patriarch Archbishop Theophilos III; Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land; and Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian. The president spoke briefly to the religious leaders and stopped at the entrance of the church for a group photograph after also speaking to a few other religious. Trump, who also was accompanied into the church by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, spent about 30 minutes in the church, which encompasses the area where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus was crucified, buried and later rose from the dead. At the entrance of the church is the stone of unction, where tradition holds that Jesus' body was laid out and washed after his crucifixion. Inside the central rotunda is the newly renovated Edicule, where Jesus was buried. The delegation then walked the short distance to the Western Wall plaza, where Trump was greeted by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall. Wearing the traditional Jewish kippa or skullcap, Trump walked alone to the wall, where he placed his hands on the stones for several minutes. He then placed a note with a prayer into a crack in the wall, a Jewish tradition. Melania and Ivanka Trump visited the women's section of the wall separately, and the first lady spent a few minutes silently in front of the wall, touching it with her hand. Trump is the first sitting president to visit the Western Wall in the contested Old City of Jerusalem. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital city. The Western Wall, considered the holiest site for Judaism today as a remnant of the retaining wall of the Biblical Jewish Temple, also surrounds the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif compound, where the Jewish temple once stood and the location of Al-Aqsa mosque, Islam's third-holiest site. Avoiding any symbolic controversy involving the issue of the city's sovereignty, the Trump administration insisted the visit to the sites be private, vexing Israel by Trump's refusal to be accompanied by Israeli political leaders to the Western Wall. Meanwhile, Palestinians said Israel had not allowed a Greek Orthodox Scout marching band to accompany the delegation to Church of the Holy Sepulcher as planned because of the Palestinian flags on their uniform. A spokesman from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied any Israeli involvement in the matter, suggesting that it might have been a U.S. security issue. In a visit that encompasses both political and religious symbolism, Trump spent two days in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with King Salman and other Muslim leaders. He was scheduled to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas May 23 in Bethlehem, West Bank, and was expected to urge the Palestinian leader to take productive steps toward peace. According to media reports, he did not plan to visit Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity because of an exhibit there supporting hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. In statements upon his arrival in Israel, Trump spoke warmly about the U.S.-Israeli bond and his deep sense of admiration for the country. He also ...
Pope announces new cardinals from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos, Salvador
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis announced he will create five new cardinals June 28; the new cardinals-designate come from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos and El Salvador. Unusually, the group of prelates announced by the pope May 21 includes an auxiliary bishop whose archbishop is not a cardinal; he is Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez, 74, the current auxiliary bishop of San Salvador. The other churchmen who will receive red hats are: Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, 67; and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73. After briefly talking about the day's Gospel reading, leading the crowd in St. Peter's Square in reciting the "Regina Coeli" prayer and greeting various groups present, instead of wishing everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch -- the normal procedure at the noon prayer -- Pope Francis made his announcement. The five new cardinals coming from "different parts of the world demonstrates the catholicity of the church spread across the globe," Pope Francis said. And the practice of assigning to each of them a church in Rome "expresses that the cardinals belong to the Diocese of Rome," which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch explained, "presides in charity over all the churches." Pope Francis said that June 29, the day after the consistory and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the new cardinals would concelebrate a Mass with him, the entire College of Cardinals and new archbishops from around the world. "We entrust the new cardinals to the protection of Sts. Peter and Paul," Pope Francis said, praying that with St. Peter they would be "authentic servants" of communion in the church and that with St. Paul they would be "joyful proclaimers of the Gospel." The pope also prayed that "with their witness and their counsel," the new cardinals would "support me more intensely in my service as bishop of Rome, pastor of the universal church." With five new cardinals, the College of Cardinals will have 227 members, 121 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave. The number of electors exceeds by one the limit of 120 set by Blessed Paul VI. The next cardinal to turn 80 will be Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, who will celebrate his birthday Feb. 3. The Vatican released brief biographical notes about the five who will be inducted into the college in June: -- Cardinal-designate Zerbo was born Dec. 27, 1943, in Segou and was ordained to the priesthood there in 1971. He earned a license in Scripture studies from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and then returned to Mali as a pastor and professor at the seminary in Bamako. Ordained a bishop in 1988, he served first as auxiliary bishop of Bamako and then was named bishop of Mopti. He has led the Archdiocese of Bamako since 1998. According to the Vatican, "he played an active role in the Mali peace negotiations" and has worked for solidarity and reconciliation among the nation's citizens. -- Cardinal-designate Omella was born in the small town of Cretas April 21, 1946, and did his seminary studies in Zaragoza as well as Louvain, Belgium, and Jerusalem. He was ordained in 1970. In addition to parish work in Spain, he spent a year as a missionary in then-Zaire, now Congo. Ordained a bishop in 1996, he served as auxiliary bishop of Zaragoza and later as bishop of Barbastro-Monzon, then bishop of Calahorra and La Calzada-Logrorio. Pope Francis named him archbishop of Barcelona in 2015. He has long been a member of the Spanish bishops' commission for social questions and served two terms as commission president. He is a member of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops. -- Cardinal-designate Arborelius hosted Pope Francis' visit to Sweden in October as part of an ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. ...
Pope Francis: Open your heart to the Holy Spirit
It is only the Holy Spirit Who can teach us to say: “Jesus is the Lord.” That was the focus of Pope Francis’ reflections during the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Monday. The Holy Father emphasized that we must open our hearts in order to hear the Holy Spirit, and thus be able to bear witness to Christ. “Be calm, I will not leave you orphans; I will send you an advocate, the Holy Spirit, to defend you before the Father.” Pope Francis based his homily on the long discourse of Jesus to His disciples at the Last Supper. The Pope dwelt especially on the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who accompanies us and “gives us the assurance of being saved by Jesus.” The Holy Spirit, the gift of Jesus, is the travelling companion of the Church It is only the Holy Spirit, the Pope said, Who teaches us to say, “Jesus is the Lord”: “Without the Holy Spirit, none of us is able to say it, to perceive it, to live it. Jesus, in other places in this long discourse, said of Him [the Holy Spirit]: ‘He will lead you into all truth,’ He will accompany you towards the full truth. ‘He will bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you; He will teach you all things.’ That is, the Holy Spirit is the travelling companion of every Christian, and also the travelling companion of the Church. And this is the gift that Jesus gives us.” We must open our hearts to the Holy Spirit; otherwise, He cannot enter in The Holy Spirit, he continued, is “a gift, the great gift of Jesus,” Who does not lead us astray. But where does the Spirit dwell? the Pope asked. He looked to the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, where we see the figure of Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth, someone who “knew how to do things.” The Lord opened her heart, so that she might follow the Word of God: “The Lord opened her heart so that the Holy Spirit could enter, and she became a disciple. It is precisely within our hearts that we carry the Holy Spirit. The Church calls the Spirit ‘the sweet guest of the heart’: He is there. But He cannot enter a closed heart. ‘Ah, but where can one buy the keys to open the heart?’ No! That too is a gift. It is a gift of God: ‘Lord, open my heart so that the Spirit can enter it, and I can understand that Jesus is the Lord.’” This, the Pope said, is a prayer that we should say every day: “Lord, open my heart so that I can understand what You have taught us; so that I can remember Your words; so that I can follow Your words; so that I can come to the fullness of the truth.” Let us ask ourselves if our hearts are truly open to the Spirit Our hearts must be open, then, so that the Holy Spirit can enter, and so that we can hear the Spirit. Pope Francis said the readings of the Mass suggest two questions we can ask ourselves: “The first: Do I ask the Lord for the grace that my heart might be opened? The second question: Do I seek to hear the Holy Spirit, His inspirations, the things He tells my heart that I might advance in the Christian life, and that I too might bear witness that Jesus is the Lord? Think about these two things today: Is my heart open? Do I make an effort to listen to the Holy Spirit, to what He tells me? And so we advance in the Christian life, and we too bear witness to Jesus Christ.” (from Vatican Radio)...
Pope Francis: condolences to Manchester victims
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegram expressing condolences to the victims of Monday night's bombing of a concert venue in Manchester, England, and condemning the attack, in which at least 22 people were killed and 59 thers injured. Please find the full text of the telegram, below...   ******************************* His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the barbaric attack in Manchester, and he expresses his heartfelt solidarity with all those affected by this senseless act of violence. He commends the generous efforts of the emergency and security personnel, and offers the assurance of his prayers for the injured, and for all who have died. Mindful in a particular way of those children and young people who have lost their lives, and of their grieving families, Pope Francis invokes God’s blessings of peace, healing and strength upon the nation. (from Vatican Radio)...
AB Gallagher on Holy See's action to protect Christians and other minorities
(Vatican Radio) The Holy See’s ‘foreign minister’, Archbishop Paul Gallagher has highlighted the need to protect Christians and other religious minorities facing persecution in different parts of the globe. The words of the Secretary for Relations with States came on Saturday during an international meeting organised by the ‘Centesimus Annus pro Pontifice’ Foundation.   Participants at the meeting also met with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Saturday morning. Please find below the full address of Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, entitled “The Holy See’s Action to protect Christians and other religious minorities in different parts of the world” Distinguished guests, Dear Friends, Following our meeting last year, it is a pleasure to be with you again this morning and to have the opportunity to present the Holy See’s action to protect Christian and other religious minorities in different parts of the world. As you know, in the global turmoil, the fate of the Christians, particularly in their ancestral territories in the Middle East, where Christianity was born, is a priority for the Holy See. In presenting you the situation, I hope not only to update you with a vision of the Holy See’s line of action, but above all, to encourage you to consider ways in which you might intervene, within your own spheres of activity and influence, to support and protect Christians and other religious minorities. I would like to begin by recounting the recent meeting that I had here in the Vatican with Nadia Murad Basee Taha, the Yazidi survivor and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for the victims of human trafficking. During our meeting, she recounted the barbarous evil that had been visited upon her family and the Yazidi people by the so-called Islamic State. After witnessing the murder of her six brothers and mother, she was, along with thousands of other Yazidi women and young girls, imprisoned and used as a sex-slave by ISIS terrorists. She came to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis, not only to seek his spiritual support for the suffering of her people, but also to thank him and the Holy See for having spoken out about the atrocities, not just against Christians but also against the other ethnic and religious minorities, including the Yazidi, who were subjected to unspeakable and horrendous crimes after the invasion of the Nineveh plain, the heartland of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities, by the so-called Islamic State in early August 2014.  As you recall, within days of that invasion, the Holy Father wrote to the Secretary General of the United Nations appealing to the International Community to take urgent action to end the humanitarian tragedy and the Permanent Observer of the Holy See in Geneva raised those concerns with the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. In this, as in many other cases, the Holy See sought to be the voice of the voiceless. Last Sunday, at the Regina Coeli prayer, upon his return from Fatima, Pope Francis entrusted to Mary, the Queen of Peace, all those who have been afflicted by wars and conflicts, particularly in the Middle East, specifically mentioning Muslims, Christians and minorities, such as the Yazidi, who have suffered tragically from violence and discrimination. In expressing his solidarity and prayers for them, he gave thanks for all those who have helped those in need of humanitarian aid. Over the past few years, there has been a growing concern from the International Community and from many Christians in the West about the fate of Christianity in the Middle East. Unfortunately, such concern has arisen because of the atrocities that had forced hundreds of thousands of Christians and other minorities to abandon their homes and flee for their lives, seeking refuge in precarious conditions and with much suffering, both physical and moral. Many have been killed and kidnapped because of their religious faith. What is at stake are fundamental principles such as the right to life, human dignity, religious freedom, and the peaceful and harmonious coexistence between persons and peoples. We are well aware that Christians are not the only ones who suffer persecution in the world. There are many religious communities, including minority groups who experience persecution or repression, that may be state sponsored or societal in nature. There is a case, however, to focus on the persecution of Christians because, unfortunately, it seems to be on the rise. A number of studies have suggested that Christians are the victims of 80% of all acts of religious discrimination in the world.  However, given the existential threat to their continued survival, in dealing with our topic this morning, I would like to focus on the situation of Christians and other ethnic religious minorities in the Middle East. The very fact that several countries and international bodies have passed resolutions describing the threats against Christians and other ethnic religious minorities by the so-called Islamic State as genocide prioritises our attention and concern for the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, but not only. In Egypt, the recent terrorist attacks against Christians that were carried out by returning ISIS fighters underline the global reach and phenomenon of ISIS. Such events are a worrying indicator that the retaking of the principal cities under ISIS control, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, will not defeat terrorism but merely displace it as Islamic State ‘foreign fighters’ return to their countries of origin in Europe, Asia, Africa and elsewhere. Indeed, this is one of the challenges already facing the international community, particularly in light of the terrorism in Europe and elsewhere in the past few years. In focussing on the Middle East region, I begin by stressing that the Holy See’s efforts in that region are guided by the principle of defending the human rights of all people, regardless of race, religion or ethnic identity. While a particular concern and affinity for our Christian co-religionists is perfectly understandable and, indeed, is necessary for spiritual solidarity, it should not blind us to concern for the suffering and persecution of other groups. Threats to one or another group are a threat to all ethnic and religious minorities. Thus, I want to speak firstly about Christians in the Middle East; secondly, about the actions of the Holy See, both diplomatic and humanitarian, and thirdly, on the challenges for the future of ethnic and religious minorities of the Middle East. I.  Christians in the Middle East For centuries, Christians have lived side-by-side with various diverse ethnic and religious groups in the Middle East. This diversity has constituted a distinctive feature of the social fabric of the region – a mosaic of different peoples and religions – even if at times there were sporadic episodes of conflict and tensions between them. What we have seen in recent years, however, threatens the survival of a Middle East that is a place of peaceful coexistence of peoples with diverse religious and ethnic identities. The ideology unleashed by the so-called Islamic State seeks not only to change the borders of the Middle East but its very nature by eradicating Christians and other minorities who are an intrinsic part of its identity. Indeed, as Pope Benedict XVI wrote in the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, “a Middle East without Christians, or with only a few Christians, would no longer be the Middle East, since Christians, together with other believers, are part of the distinctive identity of the region.”  Indeed, Pope Benedict acknowledged that the distinctive identity of the region is formed by Christians together with other believers, thus acknowledging that religious pluralism is not something to be imported into or imposed on the Middle East from outside, but a reality that already has a millennial existence there and which is intrinsic to its identity. This is the truth, the reality of the Middle East. The atrocities of the past few years, however, underline the heroism and courage required to give witness to this truth. When I met with Nadia Murad Basee Taha recently I saw at first hand such heroism and courage but I have seen it also in countless others who, despite their suffering, remain steadfast in their desire to defend the ethnic and religious pluralism of the Middle East. The situation of Christians in the Middle East has been particularly desperate since the proclamation of the Caliphate of the Islamic State in Mosul in June 2014. In his letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, in August 2014, the Holy Father called upon the international community to help Christians and others who had fled the barbarism of ISIS to return safely “to their cities and their homes”. Since last autumn, most of the territory in Northern Iraq occupied by ISIS has been retaken, including the Christian villages of the Nineveh plain. Unfortunately, despite their desire to return, very few Christians or other groups have been able to do so.  Homes, schools and churches that would receive them continue to lie in ruins. Although liberated from the enemy, much still needs to be done to help Christians and other minorities to return safely “to their cities and their homes”. Constructing new buildings is perhaps the easier part; rebuilding Iraqi society and laying once again the foundations for harmonious and peaceful coexistence is the more difficult task. An important and significant intervention of Pope Francis, motivated in part by the events of the summer of 2014, was his letter to the Christians in the Middle East shortly before Christmas 2014.  I think that it is worth reflecting a little on this letter. On the one hand, the Holy Father writes as a religious leader to the Christian communities of the Middle East, while on the other, he also uses the letter to make an appeal to the international community to address the needs of Christians and “those of other suffering minorities, above all by promoting peace through negotiation and diplomacy”. Even though only one paragraph of the letter is explicitly addressed to the international community, the remaining paragraphs of the letter reflect the principles at the heart of the Holy See’s diplomacy in defending Christians and religious minorities in the Middle East by affirming that they are integral members of those societies who have the right, and the duty, to contribute to the common good.  Thus, he reminds Christians of their unique and specific vocation to be the leaven in the dough of the societies and communities to which they belong: “Your very presence is precious for the Middle East. You are a small flock, but one with a great responsibility in the land where Christianity was born and first spread. You are like leaven in the dough. Even more than the many contributions which the Church makes in the areas of education, healthcare and social services, which are esteemed by all, the greatest source of enrichment in the region is the presence of Christians themselves, your presence.”  In his letter, the Holy Father described the unique role and vocation of Christians in the Middle East: “Dear brothers and sisters, almost all of you are native citizens of your respective countries, and as such you have the duty and the right to take full part in the life and progress of your nations. Within the region you are called to be artisans of peace, reconciliation and development, to promote dialogue, to build bridges in the spirit of the Beatitudes (cf. Mt 5:3:12), and to proclaim the Gospel of peace, in a spirit of ready cooperation with all national and international authorities.” Although the letter was addressed to Christians, the Holy Father was not silent about the suffering of other religious and ethnic groups: “Nor, in writing to you, can I remain silent about the members of other religions and ethnic groups who are also experiencing persecution and effects of these conflicts”. This illustrates perfectly the unique character and voice of the Holy Father in the international forum as the Church’s Supreme Pastor and Diplomat par excellence. II.  The actions of the Holy See: diplomatic and humanitarian The primary diplomatic actor of the Holy See is the Holy Father. It is to the Holy Father that the world turns to, and it is his words and actions that inspire and animate the diplomatic activity of the Holy See. The Holy Father has various means at his disposal to exercise his unique and diplomatic role in the world. It is unique, primarily because the Holy Father speaks not simply as a world leader, but primarily as a religious leader. Indeed, his principal interventions come in the context of his Urbi et Orbi Messages at Christmas and Easter, the Sunday Angelus and his weekly Wednesday audiences with pilgrims who come to Rome, where he regularly appeals to the international community on the most pressing issues of the day. The Message for the World Day of Peace, on 1st January, and the annual New Year’s address of the Holy Father to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, are privileged occasions for the Holy Father to speak to the international community and set forth the Holy See’s principal concerns and priorities. The Holy Father’s international trips abroad are also privileged moments of the diplomatic activity of the Holy See because they allow the Holy Father to speak to the world of politics and the leaders of civil society, which was particularly evident during his recent visit to Egypt. These are some of the primary means through which the Holy Father exercises his unique mission to the world. All other diplomatic activity of the Holy See flows from the ministry of the Holy Father and is exercised primarily by the Secretariat of State and the network of Papal Representatives throughout the world, some of whom are in countries at war and in conflict, literally on the frontlines, giving witness to the Holy Father’s concern for the suffering of peoples afflicted by wars. In recognition of such dedicated service, the Holy Father raised Archbishop Mario Zenari, the Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, to the rank of Cardinal. Priorities and actions of the Holy See’s diplomacy The priorities of the Holy See, which are grounded in the dignity of the human person, include the common good of society, promoting peace and justice, so that the followers of different faiths may live together in peace and harmony. With regard to the protection of Christians and minorities in the Middle East, the Holy See’s primary response has been to raise awareness about the humanitarian emergencies and crises that inevitably arise from wars and conflicts, including direct appeals to the parties of such conflicts to respect international humanitarian law by ensuring all necessary humanitarian relief is given to those who need it. Similarly, the immediate appeals of the Holy See, in the summer of 2014, for example in the abovementioned letter of the Holy Father to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and constantly renewed since then, included calls to the international community to guarantee the right of refugees and internally displaced persons to return in safety to their homes. As I have already mentioned, the persons displaced by ISIS in the summer of 2014 are still waiting to return to their homes. In these last few years, the gravest threat to Christians and to the survival of Christianity in the Middle East has been terrorism, particularly, terrorism motivated by religious extremism. Thus, the Holy See, in the various spheres of its diplomatic activity has not tired in highlighting this particular heinous evil and the specific responsibility of religious leaders to confront it and to affirm constantly that there can be no religious justification for any form of violence. Being both religious leader and diplomatic actor par excellence, the Holy Father has a unique voice on the world’s stage and thus he is singularly placed to bridge the gap between religious leaders and civil authorities on that stage. During his meeting, on 9 January last, with the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis devoted his speech to the theme of security and peace, underlining and renewing his personal firm conviction “that every expression of religion is called to promote peace.”  Unfortunately, in the times in which we live, there has been no shortage of religiously motivated acts of violence that have caused countless innocent victims in various parts of the world. When we consider the great number of religiously inspired works that contribute to the common good through education and social assistance, especially in areas of poverty and conflict, it is particularly repugnant and offensive to all sincere religious believers that religion can be used to foster hatred, violence and death. For this reason, Pope Francis renewed his appeal “to all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.”  A message reaffirmed during his recent Apostolic Visit to Egypt and in his meeting with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmed Al Tayyeb. On that occasion, he invited religious leaders: “Let us say once more a firm and clear ‘No!’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God.” Understanding the motivations that lie at the root of terrorism and religiously motivated acts of violence is complex and requires careful reflection and analysis, all the more so when there is a religious dimension to it. Religious leaders are uniquely placed to offer such reflection. Pope Francis has helped to open up spaces for this reflection to occur so that religious leaders are able to contribute to the sensitive debate about religiously motivated terrorism. In this context, it is important to acknowledge the many initiatives and declarations of Muslim religious leaders to condemn those who use the teachings of Islam to justify violence and terrorism. For example, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious centre of learning, the University of Al-Azhar, has on many occasions, organised seminars and conferences in which it has condemned the use of religion to justify violence. Some recent examples include the seminar in Cairo last February, at which the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, participated and, more recently, the International Conference for Peace organised on the occasion of Pope Francis’s visit to the University of Al-Azhar last month. Acknowledging explicitly the religious dimension of violent extremism is fraught with danger, and we can understand the reluctance of governments and international bodies to do so. Thus, the most important contribution of religious leaders to this debate is to help people understand that acknowledging the religious dimension of violent extremism, or rather the manipulation of religion for violent ends, does not mean equating religion, or a particular religion, or an entire religious community, with violence. An essential element of eradicating terrorism is addressing the root causes, whether they be social, political or economic. Indeed, social poverty has been identified as a driver of terrorism. However, there are many forms of poverty. Indeed, Pope Francis has noted that religiously motivated fundamentalist terrorism “is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and often is linked to significant social poverty. It can only be fully defeated with the joint contribution of religious and political leaders. The former are charged with transmitting those religious values which do not separate fear of God from love of neighbour. The latter are charged with guaranteeing in the public forum the right to religious freedom, while acknowledging religion’s positive and constructive contribution to the building of a civil society that sees no opposition between social belonging, sanctioned by the principle of citizenship, and the spiritual dimension of life. Government leaders are also responsible for ensuring that conditions do not exist that can serve as fertile terrain for the spread of forms of fundamentalism. This calls for suitable social policies aimed at combating poverty; such policies cannot prescind from a clear appreciation of the importance of the family as the privileged place for growth in human maturity, and from a major investment in the areas of education and culture.” In citing the aforementioned remarks of Pope Francis, I wish to underscore the importance that the Catholic Church gives to the role of religion and education in preventing radicalization that leads to terrorism and extremist violence in contributing to the debate about terrorism and how to confront it. A better understanding of the role of religion and education can bring about the authentic social harmony needed for coexistence in a multicultural society. As I mentioned above, the diplomatic activity of the Holy See flows from the person of the Holy Father and it is exercised on a daily basis by the Secretariat of State through the network of papal representatives throughout the world. The Missions of the Holy See at the United Nations, particularly in New York and Geneva, are particularly engaged in the diplomatic efforts to support Christians and other persecuted minorities. The Holy See also participates in many international conferences. I mention just a few as a way of illustration. Paris, 8 September 2015: International Conference on the Victims of ethnic and religious violence in the Middle East. United Nations – Geneva, 7 March 2017: the Holy See Mission to the United Nations in Geneva organised a high level parallel event on the occasion of the 34th Session of the Council for Human Rights. The event, entitled “Mutual Respect and Peaceful Coexistence as a Condition of Interreligious Peace and Stability: Supporting Christians and other Communities” was organised by the Holy See Mission, together with the Missions of the Russian Federation, Lebanon and Armenia and was co-sponsored by Brazil, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary and Serbia. Moreover, numerous other delegations attended the event, including Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria as well as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. Brussels, 5 April 2017: The “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” Conference took place with its twofold aim to reconfirm the humanitarian commitments that the international community made in London in 2016 and to look at the best ways to support a lasting political solution to the Syrian crisis. Madrid, 24 May 2017: Follow-up Conference to Paris Conference on the Victims on ethnic and religious violence in the Middle East: “Protecting and promoting pluralism and diversity.” Humanitarian activity of the Holy See             From the very beginning of the humanitarian crises in Iraq and Syria, the Church, through its various structures and entities, has been playing its role in responding to the humanitarian needs of all the people affected.  Dioceses, religious congregations and the various Catholic charitable agencies on the ground have distributed this humanitarian aid without regard to religious or ethnic background. This humanitarian assistance depends not just on the generosity of donors but also on the many volunteers who so generously give of their time. In support of this activity of the local church, I would like to mention the annual meetings on the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East, organised since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, and coordinated, up to last year, by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum. In September 2014, the “Catholic Aid Agencies Information Focal Point for the Iraqi-Syrian Humanitarian Crisis” was established as a means to facilitate greater cooperation and exchange of information among the various Catholic agencies involved in delivering humanitarian assistance in Iraq and Syria. This focal point has also enabled us to have a clearer and more comprehensive picture of the humanitarian response of the Holy See and the Catholic Church. In 2016, according to the most recent data compiled by Cor Unum, the Holy See and the Catholic Church, through its network of charitable agencies, contributed to providing USD 200 million of humanitarian assistance of direct benefit to more than 4.6 million people in Syria and the region. In distributing aid, Catholic agencies and entities make no distinction regarding the religious or ethnic identity of those requiring assistance, and seek always to give priority to the most vulnerable and to those most in need. This approach was demonstrated also through the opening in January of a Caritas point in the Muslim area of East Aleppo and the “Open hospitals” project that seeks to open the Catholic hospitals in Aleppo and Damascus and render them fully operative for the needs of the local populations, especially the poor and disadvantaged. Such an approach is essential to Catholic charitable giving but it also bears remembering that, for many people in need of assistance, their first contact with the Church and Christianity is through the humanitarian assistance that they receive. III. Challenges for the future of ethnic and religious minorities of the Middle East. At the diplomatic level, the Holy See has always insisted upon the fundamental right of Christians and other religious minorities to be in the Middle East. The conflicts, wars and extremist terrorism, however, have contributed to the mass displacement and immigration of such minorities to other parts of the world for many decades. Indeed, it has been a constant preoccupation for the Holy See during all that time. The barbarity and cruelty of ISIS sponsored terrorism has only brought that worry into sharper relief. Can Christianity survive in the Middle East without Christians? We are facing a profound existential crisis and no effort must be spared in addressing this crisis. This crisis is not new; it existed long before a self-proclaimed Caliphate of the Islamic State installed itself in June 2014. Even though much of the ISIS-controlled territories in Iraq and Syria have been retaken, Christians and other minorities have yet to return, not least because their homes still lie in ruins or it is not yet safe to go back. And yet, even if those homes and towns were miraculously rebuilt overnight, given the traumatic experiences of these past three years, would Christians and other minorities, who genuinely fear that what has happened to them may happen again, return to those homes?   Christians do desire to return to their homes and villages because their identity is deeply rooted in their ancestral lands. The greatest challenge, therefore, is creating the conditions – social, political, economic – that will bring about a new social cohesion that favours reconciliation and peace and give Christians and other minorities the confidence to overcome such fears. As I mentioned earlier, constructing new buildings is perhaps the easiest part; the more difficult task is rebuilding society and laying once again the foundations for harmonious and peaceful coexistence. So what are the foundations necessary for guaranteeing the future of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East? In the west, we take such concepts of the ‘rule of law’, ‘law and order’, ‘peace and security’ for granted, but the experience of what has happened in Iraq and Syria, where a terrorist organisation succeeded in taking control of large swathes of territory and declaring itself to be State.  In the coming weeks, it is expected that the so-called Islamic State will be finally vanquished. But what will replace it?  Will the root causes for its rise be addressed? The international community and diplomacy needs to help broken countries of the Middle East to answer these questions by insisting on some fundamental principles. Hand in hand with the ‘rule of law’ is the unequivocal respect of human rights, in particular freedom of religion and of conscience. In this regard, it is important to insist on religious freedom, including the right to follow one’s conscience regarding religious matters. In many countries of the Middle East, there are limits on the right of religious freedom. In expanding religious freedom, members of the various religious communities, regardless of their relative size in the overall population, will be able to recognise themselves as equal partners with their fellow citizens contributing to the common good. Christians and other minorities do not want to be ‘protected minorities’ who are benevolently tolerated. They want to be equal citizens whose rights, including the right to religious freedom, are defended and guaranteed through guaranteeing and defending the rights of all citizens. Some concerted State-building is required in the Middle East in cooperation with the populations of those countries concerned. A proper functioning State that works for the common good is the ultimate prerequisite for protecting Christians and minorities in the Middle East and guaranteeing them a future there. However, more than that is required. Given the theme of your meeting “Constructive alternatives in an era of global turmoil: Job creation and human integrity in the digital space – Incentives for solidarity and civic virtue”, I would like to recall that one of the final conclusions of the last meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq, held under the auspices of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum last September, concerned the urgent need to promote initiatives for job creation in the Christian communities throughout the Middle East. In conclusion, I renew my opening invitation to you to consider ways in which you might intervene, within your own spheres of activity and influence, to support and protect Christians and other religious minorities who are in need of protection. Thank you for your kind attention. (from Vatican Radio)...
Pope to Sister Disciples of the Divine Master: 'be prophets of hope'
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday greeted the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master and encouraged them to go forward in their mission to bring the Gospel to the men and women of today with joy in unity, giving voice to plurality and respecting each other’s differences. The Pope words came as he addressed the Sisters who are holding their 9th General Chapter in Rome (10 April-28 May) on the theme “ New wine in new wineskins .” First of all, Pope Francis said to the Sisters, always be open the Holy Spirit, Master of diversity, Master of unity within differences. “Walk together in communion, he said, respecting plurality and tirelessly weaving your legitimate differences into unity, taking into account you are present in different Countries and cultures”. Basing his discourse on the many fruits yielded by communion , the Pope encouraged the Sisters to allow each other to express themselves freely, to be accepted with their own special gifts, and to become fully co-responsible. He urged them to cultivate mutual attention and practice sisterly correction and respect the weakest members. “Grow in the spirit of living together, banish divisions, envy, and gossip from your communities, speak frankly and with charity” he said. The Pope noted that the Sister Disciples of the Divine Master share Fr. Giacomo Alberione as father and founder with the Pauline family, as well as the mission to bring the Gospel to the men and women of our time. He spoke of the fruits of communion born from collaboration with other charisms saying it is the time for synergy between all consecrated persons who are called to welcome the riches of other charisms and put them all in the service of evangelization, remaining faithful to their identity. “No one, he said, builds the future by isolating themselves or on their own strength alone” and he invited them to cultivate dialogue and communion with other charisms, and to combat self-referentialism in every way. The Pope also mentioned the importance of the fruits produced by communion with the men and women of our time: “Our God is the God of history and our faith is a faith that works in history. In the questions and expectations of today's men and women, there are important indications for our pursuit of Christ”. Pope Francis said the Chapter is a time to listen to the Lord who speaks to us through the signs of the times . He said it is also a time for peaceful and unbiased confrontation which requires the opening of mind and heart, and he urged those present never to tire of the practice of listening and sharing with the men and women of today. “In this time of great challenges, which require devoted creative fidelity and passionate research, listening and sharing are more than ever necessary if we want our lives to be fully meaningful to ourselves and to the people we meet” he said. Pope Francis then told the Sisters that to this end it is necessary to maintain a climate of discernment , to recognize what belongs to the Spirit and what is contrary to it.  He said that a world of possibilities is open before us and that “the culture in which we are immersed presents them all as valid and good, but if we do not want to fall victim to the culture of zapping and sometimes to a culture of death”, we must always be discerning and never tire of asking the Lord “What do you want me to do?” The Chapter, the Pope said, is also a time in which to renew our docility towards the Spirit that animates prophecy . This, he said, is an indispensable value for consecrated life which itself is a special form of participation in the prophetic mission of Christ.  “As consecrated women, you live the prophecy of joy, that joy that comes from your encounter with Christ through a life of personal and communal prayer” he said, as well as in a joyful life of fraternity within the community and in your embrace of Christ’s flesh when you minister to the poor. Joy , the Pope said, is a beautiful reality in the lives of many consecrated persons, but it is also a great challenge for all of us because joy must be of the authentic kind, never self-referential or self-satisfied. “This joy, Francis continued, which fills your hearts and shows on your faces will lead you to go out to the peripheries and participate in the joy of the Church that is evangelization, convinced that Jesus is the Good News and is joy for all. This joy distances you from the cancer of resignation, the fruit of sloth that withers the soul”. Pope Francis concluded his address encouraging the Sisters to be prophets of hope with eyes turned to the future, and to let themselves be guided by the Spirit in order to continue to do great things. Trusting in Christian hope and in the strength it gives you, he said: “fortify your vocation of morning sentinels in order to announce the coming of the dawn: Wake up the world, light up the future ”. (from Vatican Radio)...
Vatican at UN: Don't let fear prevail in tackling migrant crisis
(Vatican Radio) When dealing with today’s large movements of refugees and migrants, it’s essential to use “adequate tools of analysis, rather than letting fear and self-interest prevail”. That was the message at the heart of a speech by Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, Undersecretary of the Vatican’s new department for Integral Human Development , to an event organised by the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York on Monday. The event, jointly promoted by the International Catholic Migration Commission, Caritas Internationalis and the Center for Migration Studies of New York, came during a second informal thematic session of the  Global Compact on “Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants" In the address, Fr Czerny – whose section of the new dicastery answers directly to Pope Francis – spoke about the reasons driving the current, complex movements of migrants and refugees, which few would deny “have reached crisis proportions”, he said. The most “honest, comprehensive and effective way of addressing the drivers of forced migration”, he continued, is “to ensure the right of all to remain in dignity, peace and security in their countries of origin”. Speaking of the many reasons why people are forced to flee from their homelands, Fr Czerny pointed to the immediate need to stop arms sales to countries in conflict, end the unscrupulous exploitation of territories and resources, and open “new and accessible channels for asylum and legal migration”. Please find below the full address by Fr Michael Czerny at the Holy See side event on: “Ensuring the right of all to remain in dignity, peace and security in their countries of origin.” United Nations, New York, 22 May 2017 The Right to Remain It is an honour to speak at this side Event of the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, together with the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), Caritas Internationalis and the Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) during the second informal thematic session, addressing the drivers of migration. Thank you for the opportunity to share understandings and develop common commitments. It is also a privilege to speak in the name of the Vatican’s new Dicastery for Integral Human Development . This department is dedicated to the fullest development of the whole person and of every person,  “and pays special attention to the issues pertinent to the needs of those who are forced to flee their homeland or have none.”  Finally, I am very happy to speak in the name of the Migrants & Refugees Section , whose mission is to assist the Church, its leaders and members and many other parties as well, to accompany people forced to flee in each phase of their trajectory: in their country of origin, during their transit, at their destination, and finally their possible return. To accompany, Pope Francis teaches, means to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.  Activating these four verbs would go far in fulfilling the promise of the New York Declaration and the purpose of the Global Compacts. Few would deny that today’s large movements of refugees and migrants are very complex, often disorderly, unpredictable and dangerous; have reached crisis proportions; seem likely to continue if not increase; and currently constitute a most alarming issue or topic. They seem to clutter many minds with alarming statistics and fill many imaginations with distressing images. To deal with today’s large dislocations responsibly, a first step is to employ adequate tools of analysis, rather than letting fear and self-interest prevail. On closer examination, there is much to appreciate rather than to fear, and much to do together rather than reject outright. For very plausible reasons, people opt to risk their lives in a dangerous journey hoping for better living conditions in country of destination. The total world scenario is made up of many millions of individual situations. Each one represents a particular reality to which fundamental rights apply, and the protection of those rights must always be a priority. This challenge calls us to steadiness of purpose and fidelity to our deeper values. Let these be the marks of the current thematic session and indeed of the whole Compacts process. Everyone wants migration flows be “safe, orderly and regular”; the Sutherland report calls for their “management” or, better, for their “governance”. But these values can easily, if unconsciously, get reduced to control, national control. Control, as just one legitimate dimension, cannot be exercised in neglect of other essential factors, many of which are embodied in the right to remain. Human security takes precedence over national security. The current  informal thematic session, the second, wisely seeks to address “the drivers that create or exacerbate large movements”. It takes its orientation from Paragraph 43 of the New York Declaration which states: We will analyse and respond to the factors, including in countries of origin, which lead or contribute to large movements. We will cooperate to create conditions that allow communities and individuals to live in peace and prosperity in their homelands. Migration should be a choice, not a necessity. We will take measures, inter alia, to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, whose objectives include eradicating extreme poverty and inequality, revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development, promoting peaceful and inclusive societies based on international human rights and the rule of law, creating conditions for balanced, sustainable and inclusive economic growth and employment, combating environmental degradation and ensuring effective responses to natural disasters and the adverse impacts of climate change. Migration will be “orderly, safe, regular and responsible” (paragraph 16) only when people are really free to stay. To make today’s migration a choice, not a necessity, is an enormous challenge. It would seem to depend, inter alia, on nothing less than the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. To motivate and orient such an enormous worldwide coordinated effort, will surely take a reliable compass, a shared sense of direction. This is what the Holy See Delegation and the other sponsoring organizations wish to offer under the deceptively simple title “Ensuring the right of all to remain in dignity, peace and security in their countries of origin.” To elaborate and promote the right to remain is deeply rooted in the Church’s faith and in her social teaching. Instead of putting the accent on control, promoting the right to remain is a deeper and more practical way of addressing the root causes. This then is our conviction: in order to prevent forced, involuntary and disorderly migration, which translates inevitably into unmanageable or ungovernable migration, there is a need to reaffirm the right to remain in one’s homeland and to live there in dignity, peace, and security.  The right to remain includes access to the common good, protection of human dignity, and access to sustainable human development. These are rights which should be effectively guaranteed in one’s own country and by one’s own State. With these assured, then, migration can flow from a free choice.  And therefore the theme of this side-event: the right to remain is the indispensable basis or condition for the free choice to migrate. The right to remain is prior to, deeper and broader than, the right to migrate. The right to remain really addresses those drivers of migration which compel people to abandon their homes and countries and contribute to disorderly, unpredictable and dangerous migration flows. Drivers of migration So what forces coerce emigration? What convinces people that it is necessary and urgent to flee? The drivers of forced migration are evils which oblige people to flee because their lives and/or the future of their children are at serious risk. The conditions have long been worsening and now become impossible, leaving absolutely no grounds for projecting a better future. Accordingly, to assure forced migrants a safe, orderly journey and integration on arrival is good. But it is even better and more basic to help them to remain at home where, indeed, the vast majority wants to stay. What, then, drives involuntary migration?  Experiential drivers Let us first look at the drivers as people actually experience them. Deciding to leave one’s place is a very hard decision. It can be triggered by something unpredictable like a natural disaster (earthquake, tornado etc.); the destruction, continuing danger and ensuing suffering drive people to abandon the area. In other cases, living conditions gradually become more difficult and dangerous, due to lack of work, criminal organization, corruption,  etc. Such causes are frequently multidimensional. For example, countries which are too poor to offer steady work, are also vulnerable to the disturbances of climate change. War and conflict, persecution and dictatorships are inter-related drivers likely to exacerbate already precarious living conditions. In fact, the majority of forced migrants avoid going too far away. They choose a relatively familiar place of refuge (climate, language, culture, etc.), and they definitely expect to return as soon as conditions permit.  Extreme poverty and inhumane living, without access to water, food and sanitation, healthcare and other necessary infrastructure, are the experiences which drive people out. Such situations, we spontaneously recognize, are not fit for human life. Moreover, personal and family development seem totally out of reach. Unaccompanied child migrants are often fleeing violence or insecurity, and their flight dramatically expresses the total lack of protection, education and so also of any future. So the experiences which drive people to flee include conflicts and wars, persecutions, dictatorships, famines, destructive weather events and natural disasters…. Submitting these experiential drivers to analysis, then, the social sciences uncover the systemic causes or drivers underlying people’s sufferings and insecurity. Systemic or underlying causes Among the systemic causes and probably heading the list are the world’s worsening inequalities or economic asymmetries. Developed countries benefit from huge multinational businesses and financial corporations which exercise decisive influence in their own interest. Since wealth and decision-making are concentrated elsewhere, the so-called developing countries suffer from such unfavourable conditions of production and trade, far from benefiting their workers and their families. With his customary critical clarity, Pope Francis explains: “‘We need, then, to find ways by which all may benefit from the fruits of the earth, not only to avoid the widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs, but above all because it is a question of justice, equality and respect for every human being.’ One group of individuals cannot control half of the world’s resources. We cannot allow for persons and entire peoples to have a right only to gather the remaining crumbs.”  “Ensuring justice means also reconciling history with our present globalized situation, without perpetuating mind-sets which exploit people and places, a consequence of the most cynical use of the market in order to increase the wellbeing of the few. As Pope Benedict affirmed, the process of decolonization was delayed ‘both because of new forms of colonialism and continued dependence on old and new foreign powers, and because of grave irresponsibility within the very countries that have achieved independence.’ For all this there must be redress.” So the underlying causes or systemic drivers include world economic asymmetries, failed processes of decolonization, economic and therefore political dependence, corruption and poor governance, dominance of multinationals, deprivation or maldevelopment of resources, climate change….   Keeping these two levels in mind -- the direct experiences and the underlying causes, let us consider how to address the drivers which, if not addressed, will inevitably force people from their homes. In the long run: a) Sustainable and inclusive development: Grinding poverty causes the absence, not only of the essentials but also of all prospects for improvement. Such poverty can be addressed only by promoting sustainable and inclusive development in the countries of origin, according to the principle of subsidiarity. To support, in the words of Pope Francis, “processes of development and paths of peace in the countries from which these brothers and sisters are fleeing or have left behind to seek a better future.”  b) Development assistance must reach and include the poor. “There are millions of sons and daughters of the Church who today live in the diaspora or who are in transit, journeying to the north in search of new opportunities. Many of them have left behind their roots in order to brave the future, even in clandestine conditions which involve so many risks; they do this to seek the “green light” which they regard as hope. So many families are separated; and integration into a supposed “promised land” is not always as easy as some believe.” c) Reduce self-interest in the allocation and delivery of international assistance: A huge second driver is the (ab)use of overseas assistance to further the interests and advantages of donor countries. Programmes of international cooperation must be freed from the donor’s self-interests. An effective way of doing this is to involve the poor local communities as active protagonists and really promote their interests -- to involve people, in other words, before they are forced to consider becoming migrants! In the medium run: a) Fostering regional processes like the free circulation of workers and establishing regional charters of rights for migrants and refugees: “Collaborate to create sources of worthy, stable and abundant work, both in the places of origin and in those of arrival, and in the latter, for both the local population and for immigrants. Immigration must continue to be an important factor in development.”  b) Strengthening the process of democratization: “The State does not need to have identical characteristics everywhere: the support aimed at strengthening weak constitutional systems can easily be accompanied by the development of other political players, of a cultural, social, territorial or religious nature, alongside the State. The articulation of political authority at the local, national and international levels is one of the best ways of giving direction to the process of economic globalization. It is also the way to ensure that it does not actually undermine the foundations of democracy.”  c) Promoting bilateral and multilateral agreements on migration and asylum: “A more decisive and constructive action is required, one which relies on a universal network of cooperation, based on safeguarding the dignity and centrality of every human person. This will lead to greater effectiveness in the fight against the shameful and criminal trafficking of human beings, the violation of fundamental rights, and all forms of violence, oppression and enslavement.” In the short run: a) Stopping the sale of arms to countries with on-going (or potential) internal or international conflicts “Today, too, the victims are many.... How is this possible? It is so because in today’s world, behind the scenes, there are interests, geopolitical strategies, lust for money and power, and there is the manufacture and sale of arms, which seem to be so important!”  b) Reducing the unscrupulous exploitation of territories and resources: “The first task is to put the economy at the service of peoples. Human beings and nature must not be at the service of money. Let us say NO to an economy of exclusion and inequality, where money rules, rather than service. That economy kills. That economy excludes. That economy destroys Mother Earth.”  c) Opening new and accessible channels for asylum and legal migration: “With regard to migrants, I would ask that legislation on migration be reviewed, so, while respecting reciprocal rights and responsibilities, it can reflect a readiness to welcome migrants and to facilitate their integration. Special concern should be paid to the conditions for legal residency, since having to live clandestinely can lead to criminal behaviour.” Conclusion In conclusion, we ask: How can migration flows be rendered controllable, manageable and governable, if they are driven by inequity and injustice? Having considered the experiential and systemic drivers, we see that disorderly, unpredictable and dangerous migration flows are a reliable barometer of injustice. Indeed they are linked, in inverse proportion: as justice and equality decrease, forced or “driven” migration increases. In response, we have considered the right to remain. The most honest, comprehensive and effective way of addressing the drivers of forced migration it to ensure the right of all to remain in dignity, peace and security in their countries of origin. Pope Francis sums up our topic deciseively: “The human promotion of migrants and their families begins with their communities of origin. That is where such promotion should be guaranteed, joined to the right of being able to emigrate, as well as the right to not be constrained to emigrate, namely the right to find in one’s own homeland the conditions necessary for living a dignified life. To this end, efforts must be encouraged that lead to the implementation of programmes of international cooperation, free from partisan interests, and programmes of transnational development which involve migrants as active protagonists.”   (from Vatican Radio)...
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Pope Francis receives the President of Ireland
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday morning  received in audience the President of Ireland, His Excellency Michael D. Higgins.  The President also met with Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States. A communique released by the Holy See Press Office said that "the cordial discussions began by evoking the constructive relations that unite the Holy See and Ireland, and their collaboration." It went on to say that "the parties then focused on several themes of mutual interest, such as the protection of the rights of humanity and its dignity in every stage and condition of life, the issue of migration and the welcome of refugees, safeguarding the environment, and sustainable development."  During the meeting special attention was paid to the young and families. The importance of ethical criteria in facing the challenges of globalization, especially at economic level, was then highlighted. Finally, there was an exchange of views on the future prospects of the European project.  (from Vatican Radio)...
Pope celebrates Mass at Roman parish
Pope Francis offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday at the Parish of Saint Peter Damian (San Pier Damiani ai Monti di San Paolo) in Rome. In his homily during the Mass for the parish, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of preserving within us the Holy Spirit, Whom we have received within us. The Holy Spirit, he said, speaks to us with a “special language,” a language of sweetness and respect – and this language of the Spirit should inform our attitude as Christians. The Holy Father warned against an attitude of anger and bitterness, inspired by the devil, manifesting itself in ambition envy and jealousy. This spirit of divisiveness, he said, is the most common sin of our Christian communities. “This truly wounds my heart,” he said. “It’s as if we were throwing stones at one another… and the Devil is having fun, it’s a carnival for the Holy Spirit.” He asked us to pray for the grace to preserve the Spirit within us and, in the words of St Paul, not to “grieve the Holy Spirit.” And he called on us to maintain an attitude of sweetness and respect for all. (from Vatican Radio)...
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