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Pope Francis renews appeal for prayers for Iraqi people
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has asked for prayers for the people of Iraq, also appealing for all in Mosul to “engage fully with the civil protection forces, as an imperative and urgent obligation.” The Pope’s appeal came at the end of his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square in words to a delegation from the Iraqi Supervisory Board. The interreligious group was accompanied by Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Pope Francis said, “The richness of the dear Iraqi nation lies exactly in this mosaic, which represents unity in diversity, strength in union, and prosperity in harmony.” He encouraged efforts toward interreligious harmony and asked for prayers for this end. “I invite all to pray that Iraq may find peace, unity, and prosperity in reconciliation and in harmony among its different ethnic and religious components.” The Holy Father then turned his thoughts to the people of western Mosul and those forced to leave the area in search of security. “My thoughts go to the civilian populations trapped in the western districts of Mosul and to the people displaced by war, to whom I feel united in suffering through prayer and spiritual closeness. While expressing deep sorrow for the victims of the bloody conflict, I renew to all the appeal to engage fully with the civil protection forces, as an imperative and urgent obligation.” Pope Francis also invited pilgrims from Iraq and other Arab-speaking countries to look to Mary, the Mother of God, and follow her model of faith. “Like her, we are called to live a life sustained by faith and to look with hope to the completion of the Will of God in our lives. May God bless you!” (from Vatican Radio)...
Pope: 'to have faith is to live our lives with joy'
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday encouraged Christians to get on with things, living life with joy. Speaking during the homily during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta , he urged them to avoid complaining and not to let themselves be paralyzed by the ugly sin of sloth . The Gospel story at the heart of Pope Francis’ reflection tells of a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years. He was lying at the side of a pool called Bethesda with a large number of ill, blind, lame and crippled who believed that when an angel came down and stirred up the waters the first to bathe in the pool would be healed. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him: “Do you want to be well?” “It’s what Jesus repeatedly says to us as well” the Pope said: “do you want to be well? Do you want to be happy? Do you want to improve your life? Do you want to be filled with Holy Spirit?” When Jesus, the Pope pointed out, asked that strange man if he wanted to be well, instead of saying “yes” he complained there was on one to put him in the pool while the water is stirred up and that someone else always got there  before him. His answer, Francis said, was a complaint, he was  implying that life had been unjust with him.  “This man, the Pope noted,  was like the tree planted along the bank of the rivers, mentioned in the first Reading, but it had arid roots, roots that did not reach the water, could not take nourishment from the water”. The Pope said this is clear from his attitude of always complaining and trying to blame the other.  “This is an ugly sin: the sin of sloth” he said. Pope Francis said this man’s disease was not so much his paralysis but sloth, which is worse than having a lukewarm heart. It causes one to live without the desire to move forward, to do something in life, it causes one to lose the memory of joy, he explained, saying the man had lost all of this. Jesus, the Pope continued, did not rebuke him but said: “Take up your mat, and walk”. The man was healed but since it was a Sabbath, the doctors of the law said it was not lawful to carry a mat on that day and they asked him who was the man who told him to do so. The sick man, the Pope noted, had not even thanked Jesus or asked for his name: “he rose and walked with that slothful attitude “living his life because oxygen is free”, always looking to others “who are happier” and forgetting joy. "Sloth, he said, is a sin that paralyzes us, stops us from walking”. Even today, the Pope said, the Lord looks to each of us sinners - we are all sinners - and says “Rise”. The Lord tells each of us, Pope Francis concluded, to take hold of our life, be it beautiful or difficult and move on: “Do not be afraid, go ahead carrying your mat” and remember to come to the waters and quench your thirst with joy and ask the Lord to help you get up and know the joy of salvation.  (from Vatican Radio)...
PCPM meets for Plenary Assembly

(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] met for its eighth Plenary Assembly from March 24-26, 2017. The resignation of founding member Marie Collins was a key topic on the agenda. The Commission expressed its gratitude to her and supported her continuing work to promote healing for victims of abuse and the prevention of all abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. During the Plenary the Commision also discussed  the importance of responding directly and compassionately to victims/survivors when they write to offices of the Holy See. The Plenary Assembly followed the Education Day on March 23, at the Gregorian University, co-sponsored in partnership with the Centre for Child Protection and the Congregation for Catholic Education. Please find below the Concluding Statement  The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] met for its eighth Plenary Assembly from March 24-26, 2017.  A central topic in this Plenary Assembly was the resignation of founding member Marie Collins. The Commission members expressed strong support for her and her continuing work to promote healing for victims of abuse and the prevention of all abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.  They also expressed their particular gratitude that Marie Collins has agreed to continue working with the Commission’s educational programs for new bishops and the offices of the Roman Curia. Commission members have unanimously agreed to find new ways to ensure its work is shaped and informed with and by victims/survivors. Several ideas that have been successfully implemented elsewhere are being carefully considered for recommendation to the Holy Father. The Commission discussed the importance of responding directly and compassionately to victims/survivors when they write to offices of the Holy See.  Members agreed that acknowledging correspondence and giving a timely and personal response is one part of furthering transparency and healing.  They acknowledged that this is a significant task due to the volume and nature of the correspondence and requires clear and specific resources and procedures. They have agreed to send further recommendations to Pope Francis for consideration. This Plenary Assembly followed the Education Day on March 23, at the Gregorian University, co-sponsored in partnership with the Centre for Child Protection and the Congregation for Catholic Education.  Titled “Safeguarding in schools and homes: learning from experience worldwide”, it had a particular focus on Latin American countries that have large Catholic school systems, and presentations concerning efforts in Australia and Italy.  The academic seminar was attended by more than 150 people.  These included prefects and representatives from Vatican dicasteries including the Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin, seminary rectors, educators, formators and authorities from Italian State Police and the Vatican gendarme who are all seen as key collaborators in the PCPM’s educational efforts.  The Commissioners reiterated their sincere gratitude to the invited guests and speakers:  Fr Friedrich Bechina, FSO, Undersecretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Mónica Yerena Suárez - Provincia Marista de México Central; Fr Wilfredo Grajales Rosas, SDB – Director del Instituto Distrital para la Protección de Niños, Niñas, Adolescentes y Jóvenes, Bogotá, Colombia; Juan Ignacio Fuentes, CONSUDEC Argentina; Francis Sullivan, CEO, Truth Justice and Healing Commission, Australia and Dott. Giovanni Ippolito, Direttore Tecnico Capo Psicologo, Questura di Foggia.  The speakers were also invited to address the opening session of the PCPM Plenary Assembly.   The Commission members continue the work entrusted by Pope Francis to assist local Churches with their responsibility for the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults (Statutes, art. 1).  As our Holy Father wrote to the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences and Superiors of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, “I now ask for your close and complete cooperation with the Commission for the Protection of Minors. The work I have entrusted to them includes providing assistance to you and your Conferences through an exchange of best practices and through programmes of education, training, and developing adequate responses to sexual abuse” (2 February 2015).  The Commission is also receiving representatives of bishop’s conferences around the world who are in Rome for their Ad Limina visits. Commissioners continue to visit episcopal conferences and local churches throughout the world to assist in policy development and implementation of best practices to create a safer environment. So far this year, these include workshops with the Church leadership, formators, catechists and child protection officers in Zambia and Colombia. Members are currently preparing to present to the first European Conference on Formation and Prevention in Seminaries co-organized by the Archdiocese of Florence and the Centre for Child Protection of the Gregorian University, and the upcoming meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Bangkok, Thailand this Spring, and the May meeting of the Directors of CELAM and the Presidents of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean Islands. An essential element of these presentations is the PCPM Guidelines template. The Holy Father wrote, “every effort must also be made to ensure that the provisions of the Circular Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith dated 3 May 2011 are fully implemented” (2 February 2015).  Thus, at the plenary meeting, the members spoke again of their willingness to work together with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith communicating a “Guidelines Template” to episcopal conferences and religious congregations, both directly and through the CommissionWebsite (www.protectionofminors.va). (from Vatican Radio)...

Pope sends message to UN conference on nuclear weapons
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to the “United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination,” the first part of which is taking place in New York from 27-31 March. The message was read by Msgr Antoine Camilleri, Under-Secretary for Relations with States, and Head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the meeting. Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ Message:   To Her Excellency Elayne Whyte Gómez President of the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination I extend cordial greetings to you, Madam President, and to all the representatives of the various nations and international organizations, and of civil society participating in this Conference.  I wish to encourage you to work with determination in order to promote the conditions necessary for a world without nuclear weapons. On 25 September 2015, before the General Assembly of the United Nations, I emphasized what the Preamble and first Article of the United Nations Charter indicate as the foundations of the international juridical framework: peace, the pacific solution of disputes and the development of friendly relations between nations.  An ethics and a law based on the threat of mutual destruction – and possibly the destruction of all mankind – are contradictory to the very spirit of the United Nations.  We must therefore commit ourselves to a world without nuclear weapons, by fully implementing the Non-Proliferation Treaty, both in letter and spirit (cf. Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations , 25 September 2015). But why give ourselves this demanding and forward-looking goal in the present international context characterized by an unstable climate of conflict, which is both cause and indication of the difficulties encountered in advancing and strengthening the process of nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation?  If we take into consideration the principal threats to peace and security with their many dimensions in this multipolar world of the twenty-first century as, for example, terrorism, asymmetrical conflicts, cybersecurity, environmental problems, poverty, not a few doubts arise regarding the inadequacy of nuclear deterrence as an effective response to such challenges.  These concerns are even greater when we consider the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that would follow from any use of nuclear weapons, with devastating, indiscriminate and uncontainable effects, over time and space.  Similar cause for concern arises when examining the waste of resources spent on nuclear issues for military purposes, which could instead be used for worthy priorities like the promotion of peace and integral human development, as well as the fight against poverty, and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. We need also to ask ourselves how sustainable is a stability based on fear, when it actually increases fear and undermines relationships of trust between peoples.            International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power.  Peace must be built on justice, on integral human development, on respect for fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation, on the participation of all in public life, on trust between peoples, on the support of peaceful institutions, on access to education and health, on dialogue and solidarity.  From this perspective, we need to go beyond nuclear deterrence: the international community is called upon to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security. In this context, the ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons becomes both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative.  A concrete approach should promote a reflection on an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond the fear and isolationism that prevail in many debates today.  Achieving a world without nuclear weapons involves a long-term process, based on the awareness that “everything is connected” within the perspective of an integral ecology (cf. Laudato Si’ , 117, 138).  The common destiny of mankind demands the pragmatic strengthening of dialogue and the building and consolidating of mechanisms of trust and cooperation, capable of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. Growing interdependence and globalization mean that any response to the threat of nuclear weapons should be collective and concerted, based on mutual trust.  This trust can be built only through dialogue that is truly directed to the common good and not to the protection of veiled or particular interests; such dialogue, as far as possible, should include all: nuclear states, countries which do not possess nuclear weapons, the military and private sectors, religious communities, civil societies, and international organizations.  And in this endeavour we must avoid those forms of mutual recrimination and polarization which hinder dialogue rather than encourage it.  Humanity has the ability to work together in building up our common home; we have the freedom, intelligence and capacity to lead and direct technology, to place limits on our power, and to put all this at the service of another type of progress: one that is more human, social and integral (cf. ibid., 13, 78, 112; Message for the 22nd Meeting of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Agreement on Climate Change (COP22) , 10 November 2016). This Conference intends to negotiate a Treaty inspired by ethical and moral arguments.  It is an exercise in hope and it is my wish that it may also constitute a decisive step along the road towards a world without nuclear weapons.  Although this is a significantly complex and long-term goal, it is not beyond our reach. Madam President, I sincerely wish that the efforts of this Conference may be fruitful and provide an effective contribution to advancing an ethic of peace and of multilateral and cooperative security, which humanity very much needs today.  Upon all those gathered at this important meeting, and upon the citizens of the countries you represent, I invoke the blessings of the Almighty.                                                                                                             FRANCIS From the Vatican, 23 March 2017   (from Vatican Radio)...
Catholic advocates critical of Trump's order to review Clean Power Plan
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic environmental advocates decried President Donald Trump's executive order that would begin a review of his predecessor's Clean Power Plan, which set targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. The advocates said that reversing any effort that reduces greenhouse gas pollution endangers the planet and puts the world's most vulnerable people at risk because of climate change. Citing the efforts by Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, St. John Paul II and the U.S. bishops to address the importance of protecting the environment, Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, said Trump's action "neither protects our common home nor promotes the common good." "The administration claims that these new orders will create jobs and grow the economy," Misleh said in a statement March 28, the day Trump signed the order. "The fact is, however, that those who work in energy conservation and renewable energy are already experiencing an economic boom." Misleh also called for bipartisan cooperation to reach solutions to climate change. Trump, flanked by coal miners, signed the order, titled "Energy Independence." In his remarks at the EPA, the president said the country will still have clean water and clean air, but his order seeks to eliminate what he said are too many job-killing regulations. The president said his goal was to drive energy independence and bring back coal-mining and manufacturing jobs while reducing the cost of electricity. According to Patrick Carolan, executive director of the Franciscan Action Network, Trump's order indicates the administration "does not care about climate change" or protecting people of color and low-income and indigenous communities that are most likely to experience the effects of pollution. "By cutting the Clean Power Plan, the administration is demonstrating that corporate polluters are more important than the health and prosperity of our common home," Carolan said in a statement. Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, episcopal liaison to the Catholic Climate Covenant, did not refer specifically to the executive order during a March 28 conference call -- introduced as " President Trump's Dirty Energy Executive Order Conference Call" -- that was held shortly before Trump's executive order was issued. But he cited three effects of climate change: the increasingly intense weather events that "we believe are an assault on God's creation" and which affect the world's poor more drastically than others; the support the U.S. bishops, as well as Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, have given, in a letter to Congress, of the Clean Power Plan, vehicle fuel economy standards, the Green Climate Fund and the Paris climate agreement; and a growth in jobs from alternative energy efforts. "Pope Francis could not be more strong on jobs," said Bishop Pates, who referred to the pope's 2015 encyclical "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home." "He believes that providing work is a moral imperative of every economy." In Iowa, he added, 35 percent of the state's energy comes from wind or solar power, and has created 17,300 jobs, and has been cited by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, as having been a source for "good, high-paying jobs, helping families grow." Bishop Pates said the bishops and their allies would "work closely" with the White House, Congress and "everybody who's involved with this." Others on the conference call with the bishop described other effects of the Trump order. "The American Lung Association and its partners from coast to coast will push back," said Lyndsay Moseley Alexander, assistant vice president and director of its Healthy Air Campaign, citing the projected loss of 300,000 school and work days a year to 2030, and an estimated 306,000 "lives ended prematurely," if the Clean Power Plan is scuttled. The executive order also would have deleterious effects on the military, according to Stephen Cheney, a ...
Pope appeals for protection for Iraqi civilians trapped in war
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has appealed for a concerted effort to protect Iraqi civilians who are victims of the ongoing bloody war in their nation and he prayed in particular for those who are trapped in the embattled city of Mosul. The Pope’s appeal came at the end of his catechesis during the General Audience in St. Peter’s Square. Expressing deep pain for the victims of the bloody conflict in Iraq, Pope Francis appealed to all to  make every possible effort to protect civilians, which he said is an  “imperative and urgent” obbligation.  Encouraging the Iraqi people to pursue a path of unity within respect for diversity, the Pope also asked for prayers for reconciliation and harmony between the different ethnic groups that make up the population.       In his catechesis the Pope encouraged Christians to always put their trust in God’s word, even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible. Reflecting on St. Paul’s Letter to Romans in which he presents Abraham not only as our father in faith, but also as our father in hope, Francis said the reading helps us put the strong tie that exists between faith and hope into focus. He said that hoping against hope, Abraham trusted in God’s promise that, despite his old age and that of Sarah his wife, he would become the father of many nations.   “Great hope, he said, is rooted in faith”, that’s why it is able to go beyond all human expectations. “We must all pray to God, open our hearts and He will teach us what hope is” he said.  Reminding those present that  God promises to set us  free from sin and death by the power of Christ’s resurrection, Pope Francis urged the faithful to place their certainties not so much in their own capacities, but in the hope that derives from God’s promise of life.   Faith, he said, teaches us, to hope against hope by putting our own trust in God’s word even at those times when hope seems humanly impossible.   The Pope concluded urging believers to be confirmed in faith and hope during this Lenten journey to Easter, and to accept the promise of new life given us in the Lord’s resurrection. (from Vatican Radio)...
Global peace, security demand an end to nuclear weapons, pope tells U.N.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Today's threats to global peace and security must be countered through dialogue and development, not nuclear weapons, Pope Francis told the United Nations. "How sustainable is a stability based on fear, when it actually increases fear and undermines relationships of trust between peoples," the pope asked in a letter sent to a U.N. meeting on nuclear arms. "International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power," he said in the message, released by the Vatican March 28. The message was read aloud at the U.N. by Msgr. Antoine Camilleri, Vatican undersecretary for relations with states. The pope's message was sent to Elayne Whyte Gomez, president of the U.N. Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards Their Total Elimination. The conference was being held at the U.N. headquarters in New York March 27-31, with a follow-up meeting June 15-July 7. A number of nations -- many of which already possess nuclear arms -- were boycotting the negotiations to ban such weapons. These included the United States, France, the United Kingdom and about 40 other nations. Some continue to support the Non-Proliferation Treaty to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters in New York March 28 that it was the responsibility of leaders to keep their nations safe. "There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons. But we have to be realistic," Haley said. "In this day and time, we can't honestly say that we can protect our people by allowing the bad actors to have them and those of us that are good, trying to keep peace and safety, not to have them," she said. However, Pope Francis said in his message that the strategy of nuclear deterrence was not an effective response to today's threats to peace and security: terrorism, cybersecurity, environmental problems and poverty. "Peace must be built on justice, on integral human development, on respect for fundamental human rights, on the protection of creation, on the participation of all in public life, on trust between peoples, on the support of peaceful institutions, on access to education and health, on dialogue and solidarity," he said. The world needs "to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security," he said. The complete elimination of nuclear weapons is "a moral and humanitarian imperative" that should prompt people to reflect on "an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond the fear and isolationism that prevail in many debates today." Making a total global ban possible will demand more dialogue, trust and cooperation. "This trust can be built only through dialogue that is truly directed to the common good and not to the protection of veiled or particular interests," he added. Humanity has the ability, freedom and intelligence to work together to "lead and direct technology, to place limits on our power, and to put all this at the service of another type of progress: one that is more human, social and integral," he said.
Mexican archdiocese: Companies that work on border wall are 'traitors'
CUERNAVACA, Mexico (CNS) -- An editorial in a publication of the Archdiocese of Mexico City condemned Mexican companies wishing to work on the proposed wall being built on the U.S.-Mexico border as "traitors" and called on authorities to castigate any company that provides services for fencing off the frontier. "What's regrettable is that on this side of the border, there are Mexicans ready to collaborate with a fanatical project that annihilates the good relationship between two nations that share a common border," said the March 26 editorial in the archdiocesan publication Desde la Fe. "Any company that plans to invest in the fanatic Trump's wall would be immoral, but above all, their shareholders and owner will be considered traitors to the homeland," the editorial continued. "Joining a project that is a grave affront to dignity is like shooting yourself in the foot." President Donald Trump ran on a promise of constructing a wall between the United States and Mexico and has signed an executive order to begin building the barrier on the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The Mexican government has repeatedly said it will not pay for any border wall. Security analysts say illegal merchandise mostly crosses through legal ports of entry and express doubts a wall would keep out drugs, as Trump insists. Catholics who work with migrants transiting the country en route to the United States express doubts, too, saying those crossing the frontier illegally mostly do so with the help of human smugglers, who presumably pay bribes on both sides of the border. Some Mexican companies have mused about working on the wall, though others such as Cemex -- whose share prices surged on speculation it would provide cement for the wall -- told the Los Angeles Times that it would not participate in the building of a border barrier. Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray Caso has urged company officials to use their conscience when considering work on the wall, though the archdiocesan editorial said, "What is most surprising is the timidity of the Mexican government's economic authorities, who have not moved firmly against these companies." Desde la Fe has previously blasted Trump's proposed policies. In September 2015, it called Trump "ignorant" and a "clown" and blasted Mexican government passivity in defending its migrants as "unpardonable." Father Hugo Valdemar, Archdiocese of Mexico City spokesman, told Catholic News Service some conservative Catholics in Mexico viewed Trump's positions on pro-life issues favorably and were still angry the U.S. ambassador to Mexico marched in the annual pride parade. But he said he knew of no one in Mexico that openly supported the U.S. president. "What we see from him is an authentic threat and an unstable person," Father Valdemar said.
Pope Francis' activities for Holy Week and Easter
(Vatican Radio) The Vatican on Tuesday released details of the celebrations that Pope Francis will preside over for Holy Week and Easter. A note from the liturgical office said that on Palm Sunday, April 9th, the Pope will lead a procession for the blessing of the olive and palm branches in St Peter’s Square, starting at 10am, and then celebrate the Mass of Our Lord’s Passion. Palm Sunday also marks the XXXII World Youth Day with the theme taken from St Luke’s Gospel ‘The Mighty One has done great things for me’  On Thursday April 13th Pope Francis will preside at the Chrism Mass with the blessing of the holy oils in St Peter’s Basilica, starting at 9.30am. On Good Friday, April 14th, the Pope will lead the celebration of Our Lord’s Passion in St Peter’s Basilica, beginning at 5pm. That will be followed at 9.15pm by the traditional Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, at the Colosseum, after which the Pope will greet the crowds and impart his Apostolic Blessing. On Saturday April 15th the Holy Father will celebrate the Easter Vigil in St Peter’s Basilica beginning at 8.30pm with the blessing of the new fire and a procession with the Pasqual candle. During the celebration he will administer the Sacrament of Baptism before concelebrating Mass with the other cardinals and bishops. Finally on Easter morning, Sunday April 16th, beginning at 10am, Pope Francis will preside at the Mass of Our Lord’s Resurrection in St Peter’s Square before giving his ‘Urbi et Orbi’ blessing (to the city of Rome and to the world) from the central balcony of St Peter’s Basilica. (from Vatican Radio)...
Pay close attention to pope's words and actions, papal nuncio says
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, gets plenty of questions about Pope Francis. A March 27 discussion at Georgetown University, sponsored by the university's Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, was no exception. The nuncio, who sat onstage with John Carr, the initiative's director, was asked about the pope's key issues and his impact in the four years since his election. Instead of emphasizing the pope's special qualities or accomplishments, Archbishop Pierre, who has been in the Vatican diplomatic corps for almost 40 years, stressed how Catholics are called to view the pope and essentially work with him in the mission of spreading the Gospel. He told the audience, nearly filling a campus auditorium, that it is not a question of whether the pope is good or bad or if one agrees with him or not. The issue, for Catholics, is to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying through the pope. "We have to pay a lot of attention to the person of the pope and to his message and to his testimony because the pope is not just words but he is also actions and actions that are powerful words," the nuncio said. Archbishop Pierre, who was appointed to the U.S. post by Pope Francis last April, would not comment on the pope's approval ratings compared to politicians nor would he address the current political climate, but he stressed that one's personal faith can't be separated from daily life and that people need to use discernment even in civic duties like voting. When asked about care for migrants in today's world, he said Christians should be the "soul of this country" and Catholics should follow the example of Pope Francis who goes out to the borders and reaches out to those who are broken and those who suffer. "The church is in the business of evangelization," he added, saying this works best when the church "goes outside herself" to meet people where they are. And in a pointed statement to this country, he added: If America is the center of the world then it has "a huge responsibility to help others." When the nuncio was joined on stage by other panelists, they reiterated the importance of the pope's message that has come across just as much from his actions as his words. To sum up the pope's message to Catholics today, Ken Hackett, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and former president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, looks to the example of the pope's visit to the United States in 2015 where the pope's presence, in front of Congress and with the poor, and his words at each stop made Catholics proud of their faith. Kim Daniels, a member of the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications, said the pope's message has resonated not just with Catholics but also with those who have heard him even through social media. She said he has made the call to live out one's faith "something that's concrete and not abstract" and something "we can do right here, right now, where we are." For Maria Teresa Gaston, managing director of the Foundations of Christian Leadership Program at the Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, the pope has been clearest on his message of community, telling people, including "those who are undocumented: You are loved and valued." She also points to his message to youths at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 as something that still resonates with her. He told the crowd "not to be afraid, to take risks and to be courageous" stressing they should prepare for "courageous and prophetic action in solidarity with the earth and with the poor."
Pope sends message to young people at Barcelona symposium
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a message to participants in the European Symposium on Young People, encouraging them to reflect “on the challenges of evangelization”. The event, entitled “ He walked by their side (Lk 24:15) - Accompanying young people to freely respond to Christ's call ”, is taking place in Barcelona, Spain on 28-31 March. In the message signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis encouraged young people to “conduct a reflection on the challenges of evangelization and on the accompaniment of young people, so that – through dialogue and encounter and as living members of the family of Christ – young people may be enthusiastic bearers of the joy of the Gospel in all areas.” The Holy Father invoked the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary upon the Symposium’s participants and imparted his Apostolic Blessing. The Barcelona Symposium is promoted by the Council of European Catholic Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) in collaboration with the Spanish Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Archdiocese of Barcelona. Among Church leaders taking part are Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Archbishop Juan José Omella of Barcelona, and Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski of Krakow. Young people will also have the opportunity to listen to the reflections and testimonies of several national directors along with those of other young people. (from Vatican Radio)...
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