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FEAST DAY SPECIAL: 100 Ways Pope Saint John Paul II Changed the World

10 hours 45 min ago

The feast of St. John Paul II is marked on October 22, the anniversary of the inauguration of his pontificate. Here we bring you this special on the beloved Polish Pope from ZENIT’s Archives

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How can one possibly try to wrap their mind around, somewhat rapidly, the countless ways a beloved pontiff, genius, and now saint, changed the world during his 26-year pontificate that drew with a close on April 2, 2005, on Divine Mercy Sunday?

A new work by Patrick Novecosky, titled ‘100 Ways John Paul II Changed the World,’ and published by Our Sunday Visitor, seeks to do just that, and does so as today, Monday, May 18, marks the 100 year anniversary of the Polish Pontiff’s birth.

The American Catholic communicator who has traveled to 26 countries, met Pope St. John Paul II five times, often in private venues in Rome, and is a husband and father of five. The award-winning journalist has edited and written for some of America’s top Catholic publications and has been published in five languages. Patrick is Managing Partner at NovaMedia a public relations firm specializing in the Catholic space.

Shattering the Mold

In his book, he examines in one or two pages per chapter, the mystical beloved Pope’s remarkable and difficult upbringing. Remembering his friendships, and unforgettable, as well as less known, moments, it also examines his impact on the world, including being an incredibly important force in the eventual collapse of Communism in Poland and Eastern Europe.

The Pontiff who made 104 trips, and traveled enough that he, in his 775,000 miles, could have circled the planet ‘30 times’ covered two thirds of the world’s countries, and was arguably “most seen person in history.” As the author recalls, Pope Paul VI was the first pope to “break the mold” with his international travels, but John Paul II “shattered it.” The Pontiff visited almost all of Africa, during the course of 14 trips, and in addition to making important church appointments, he canonized various African saints.

He also spoke about the Pope’s affinity for the US, where he made five official visits, with stops even in Alaska. He expressed his appreciation for the ‘warm hospitality’ of the American people.

The author gives a tender look at the Pope’s friendships, including with Mother Teresa of Calcutta, US President Ronald Reagan, Padre Pio, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński (his superior, the Primate of the Poland, when the Cardinal Wojtyla was Archbishop of Krakow), Sister Faustina Kowalska, and Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

In 1984, the Polish Pope and President Reagan had established full diplomatic relations between the United States and the Holy See.

My Best Friend…

In 1989, ex-President Ronald Reagan, the book notes, received two Polish Americans and Solidarność [Solidarity] labor union representatives, whose movement, supported by John Paul II and the former US President, constituted the first independent labor union in the Soviet bloc and contributed “the first crack in the Iron Curtain, and it sent shock waves through the entire Soviet Union” beginning from the Polish Pope’s 1979 visit to his native country.

When they asked Reagan for words of political wisdom for the Solidarność members, he told them to listen to their conscience as that is where the Holy Spirit talks to you.

“Reagan then pointed to a picture of John Paul: ‘He is my best friend. Yes, you know I’m Protestant, but he’s still my best friend,’” he said.

Miraculous Cure…

Padre Pio also had a dear friendship with John Paul II, confiding in Wojtyla details he never told others.

“During a visit to Rome in 1962,” the book also recounts, “’Archbishop Wojtyła learned that one of his Polish friends was dying. He wrote to Padre Pio, asking his intercession. The letter was hand-delivered to the friar, who reportedly replied: “I cannot say no to this request.’”

“’Eleven days later, Wojtyła sent Pio a second letter thanking him for his intercession: ‘The lady who was ill with cancer was suddenly healed before entering the operating room.’”

Statues in Poland to Commemorate

The first time Wyszyński and John Paul II met after his election as Successor of Peter– Novecosky also remembers– became “one of the most touching moments” of his pontificate.

“The Polish cardinal approached the new pope to kiss his ring in Saint Peter’s Square on the day of his inauguration, but John Paul quickly rose, embraced his mentor, and kissed his cheek,” he said, observing that now hundreds of statues across Poland commemorate the moment.

The book also reflects upon the special bond and friendship he had with Joseph Ratzinger that began in 1978 during the conclave where John Paul I (Albino Luciani), would be elected, and that would lead to Wojtyla eventually making Ratzinger his closest confident, and staying, even when he would have liked to go home to his native Bavaria.  The author recounts how the two used to meet every Friday night at 6 o’clock when Ratzinger was Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, not only as collaborators but as dear friends.

Saint Factory, or Recognizing Holiness

The book recalls that some accused the Vatican under this Pope of being a ‘saint factory.’

“Over the course of his papacy, John Paul canonized 482 saints— more than all popes of the previous 500 years combined — and beatified 1,341 men and women,” the author explains. Some of those saints included, Padre Pio, Maximilian Kolbe, Edith Stein, Faustina Kowalska, and Katherine Drexel.

He recalls that the Pope whose legacy would be impossible to give justice, lost his mother at age nine, from kidney disease and congestive failure, and his father by 21, and his brother as well. Being effectively ‘orphaned’ while still in university, he turned to Mary, and developed a filial relationship with Our Lady of Czestochowa.

Bringing God to Where He Was Denied

He also sheds light on how Wojtyla was an actor, wrote poetry and five plays, and, having discovered his vocation, worked during the day in a stone quarry, while having to study meanwhile for the priesthood in secret. Wojtyla kept his eyes on Christ, during his personal heartbreak, and during Nazi Occupation of Poland and subsequent Communism.

He practiced what he would later preach, when he would tell young people: ‘Do not be afraid.’

Early in his ecclesial career in Poland, when they created at Nowa Huta, outside Krakow, as a ‘Worker’s Paradise’ and forbid that a church be built, Wojtyla as a young bishop, and for 20 years, used to celebrate an open-air Mass there every Christmas, until eventually a church could be built. He did not hesitate to challenge authorities when one was being deprived of Christ.

No Compromising the Faith

While advancing ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, and attention to the environment, poor, China and the persecuted, the Polish Pontiff voiced a conservative, uncompromising faith, even to those who disagreed with him. He used to confront politicians whose policies did not protect life without reservations.

Pope John Paul II marked the first world leader to visit largely-Roman Catholic East Timor, ever since Indonesia invaded and annexed it in 1976. When the Polish Pope was in East Timor, and called on Indonesia to respect human rights, his fearless affirmations resulted in various newborns—the author remembers—being named John Paul in the Asian island nation.

In working toward dialogue, John Paul II became the first Pope to enter a mosque during his trip to Syria in 2001.

John Paul II, the book reminds, told the United Nations in 1995 that it must “safeguard the fundamental right to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, as the cornerstones of the structure of human rights and the foundation of every truly free society.”

“No one,” he said, “is permitted to suppress those rights by using coercive power to impose an answer to the mystery of man.”

Mary’s Hand Guided the Bullet

Looking again at the pontificate itself, the author also recalls the assassination attempt on May 13, 1981, and how John Paul II, met, without handcuffs and televised, his aggressor, and forgave him. Moreover, he stresses how the Polish Pope would credit Our Lady of Fatima with saving his life, saying “one hand pulled the trigger, and another guided the bullet.”

Later the bullet that lodged closest to John Paul II’s heart was removed and welded into the crown of Mary’s statue in Fatima.

The book dives into Wojtyla’s efforts to protect religious freedom, promote a ‘culture of life,’ and combat against a ‘culture of the death.’ Reflecting on the ‘Pope of the Rosary,’ Novecosky remembers details about the Pope’s own personal prayer life, and his encouragement for families to pray the rosary together, essentially suggesting that a family that prays together, stays together.

Always sensitive to the terror attacks against the Twin Towers and Pentagon on 9/11, the Polish Pontiff also said to pray the rosary to combat against ‘terrorism.’

Looking at who he said could be considered the ‘most productive’ pontificate in history, the author looks at how under his watch, the Code of Canon Law was effectively revised in less than 11 months, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, and various other texts.

Examining the impact of the World Youth Days, and the spiritual fruits they have given youth worldwide, Novecosky remembers how the news led the world to believe the Denver WYD in 1993 would be ‘a bust,’ when rather there was incredible attendance for the 73-year-old Polish Pontiff, and how subsequently numerous apostolates were born in Denver.

Led the Way for Francis in Havana

There are also reflections on the Pope’s disappointment that he never was able to go to Russia, nor meet the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, as hoped, in 1997, to sign a joint declaration with Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow, an act that Pope Francis would be able to achieve for him, in 2016, when meeting Alexey’s successor, Patriarch Kirill, in Cuba, on his way to Mexico.

The Pope also made great strides diplomatically, including establishing diplomatic relations with Israel and Palestinian Authority, urging an end to Catholic-Protestant violence during his 1979 trip to Ireland, and speaking out against conflict, such as violence provoked by apartheid in South Africa, the conflict in Bosnia, and against the First Gulf War, and 2003 United States-driven Iraq War, as he encouraged those involved to not be afraid “to take a chance on peace.”

He combatted against abuses of Liberation Theology, confusion promoted by some orders in the Church, and against child abuse, even if this continues to be the weak spot of his legacy, given that many argue more should have been done.

The Pope’s personal secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz—the author recalls in the book—has reflected that with time, the Church learned much more about what was actually happening and its gravity.

Couldn’t Say No

The author expresses that beyond his own research and personal experiences, he spoke to and drew inspiration from other experts on the Pope, including papal biographer George Weigel.

The author also shares about his moments with the Pope, including the following anecdote recalling how Wojtyła began writing poetry as a university student in 1939, often using pseudonyms, and how he continued writing poems well into his papacy.

“Among this author’s most treasured possessions,” Patrick Novecosky shares, “is a copy of The Place Within: The Poetry of Pope John Paul II, signed by John Paul on July 31, 1998,” noting: “I used to own a signed deluxe edition with a slipcover, a gift from a friend with connections to the papal household.”

“But then came a call from the Vatican in 1999: the pope did not have a deluxe version in his private library and was requesting my copy. I couldn’t say no. In return, they sent me a “lowly” hardcover version — along with the knowledge that my deluxe edition made it into John Paul’s personal library.”

This and many more anecdotes are waiting in this work for future readers….

#ThankYouJohnPaul2

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Order the Book Here: https://www.amazon.com/Ways-John-Paul-Changed-World-ebook/dp/B08635NDGD/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1580996167&sr=8-3&fbclid=IwAR3ej79-kH9OlLVUm-ITk_i8vIVf161TPflCdRrPgL9oz4Gb-1xmrRIAaNY&pldnSite=1

 

 

The post FEAST DAY SPECIAL: 100 Ways Pope Saint John Paul II Changed the World appeared first on ZENIT - English.

CONFIRMED: Holy See Renews Agreement With China for Another Two Years

11 hours 31 min ago

It is official: the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and China has been renewed.

Today, Oct. 22, the Holy See issued a communiqué on the extension of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China regarding the appointment of Bishops.

“Upon the expiration of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China regarding the appointment of Bishops, which was signed in Beijing on 22 September 2018 and took effect one month later,” it began, “the two Parties have agreed to extend the experimental implementation phase of the Provisional Agreement for another two years.”

“The Holy See,” the statement concluded, “considers the initial application of the Agreement – which is of great ecclesial and pastoral value – to have been positive, thanks to good communication and cooperation between the Parties on the matters agreed upon, and intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people.”

Cardinal Parolin spoke to ZENIT English and other journalists yesterday about the agreement, also confirming to them today’s renewal.

FEATURE: Cardinal Parolin to ZENIT: We Appeal to International Community to Respond to ‘New Threat’ & ‘New Bomb’ in Syria

While reflecting on the agreement, a reporter asked: “Do you have a wish for the Chinese Church?”

“My wish,” Cardinal Parolin said, “is that the Chinese Church rediscover, thanks also to this agreement, her unity and through this unity can become an instrument of evangelization, hence of proclamation of the Gospel in the Chinese society and of the genuine development of all its inhabitants.”

Asked whether he is satisfied with the results of the Agreement in the last two years, he noted: “If we look at the Agreement, I believe so, we can be content. We hope there can be a better and continuous functioning of the terms of the Agreement.”

“Then there are so many other problems,” he underscored, “that the Agreement did not intend to resolve. We stress this very much: don’t think that the Agreement can resolve all the problems that exist in China.”

When one pointed out the continued persecution of religion in the Asian superpower, the Cardinal replied: “But, persecutions . . . It’s necessary to use the words correctly. There are rules that are imposed and that concern all religions, and of course they also concern the Catholic Church.”

One asked whether the Agreement anticipates a future re-establishment of diplomatic relations. “For the moment,” he clearly stated, “there is no talk of diplomatic relations; we are concentrated on the Church. This is another point on which we would like to insist.”

“The Agreement,” he said, “has not resolved all the problems and difficulties that exist and that we hope to address with dialogue, because the Agreement is not concerned with diplomatic relations and doesn’t foresee the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Agreement is concerned with the situation of the Church, on a specific point, which is the appointment of bishops.”

“The objective is the unity of the Church; we have had important results, such as the fact that all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Pope. There are no more illegitimate Bishops; this seems to me to be a notable step forward. We will try to start again from here and then, step by step, rediscover a normalization of the Church in China.”

Cardinal Parolin also spoke to ZENIT English at the private event, titled “Advancing and Defending Religious Freedom Through Diplomacy,” organized by the US Embassy to the Holy See on, Sept. 30, 2020, asking him whether the Vatican’s motivation to continue with the agreement was to eventually lead to better religious freedom in the Asian country.

“We are for the policy of small steps, you know it well, the policy of small steps,” he began. “And we believe that every result, even if not striking or inconspicuous, or which at first does not seem to give great results, is however a step forward, towards the affirmation of greater religious freedom,” he said.

FEATURE: Cardinal Parolin to ZENIT: Motivation for China Deal, ‘Little Steps Toward Greater Religious Freedom’

FEATURE: ‘Religious Freedom Under Attack Worldwide’ – US Embassy to Holy See Organizes Important Event in Rome

The post CONFIRMED: Holy See Renews Agreement With China for Another Two Years appeared first on ZENIT - English.

Interview: President of Polish Bishops’ Conference on Feast Day of St. John Paul II

15 hours 30 min ago

Archbishop, you witnessed the moment when Karol Wojtyła was elected to the See of Peter. Could you please tell us a few words about the circumstances in which it happened and your reaction to the election?

In fact, we were many in St. Peter’s Square then, including many Poles. I was fortunate to be there with others and to witness this unique, historic moment when Karol Wojtyła’s name was announced. Apart from the normal emotion that accompanies such moments, the first thought that came to my mind was: This is something that happens only once in a thousand years for the Christian Nation, for the Poles, and it may never happen again.

Thinking about the situation in which the new Pope found himself, I wondered how he would deal with the whole Vatican machine. At the time it seemed that he was not as prepared to lead the Church as many Western cardinals were, but it turned out that this Pope did an excellent job, by pushing the entire administration of the Church into the background and devoting himself to Peter’s main task, namely teaching.

What began with Karol Wojtyla’s election as Pope developed into a beautiful program, the main theme of which was man. “+ Man is the way of the Church. +” And it all started with the Pope’s first encyclical, which began with these significant words Redemptor hominis. While the term Redemptor mundi or Redemptor generis humani usually emphasizes the universalism of Christ’s work of redemption, the Pope is talking about the Redeemer of man, because every man is the way of the Church. Now, precisely this raised this pontificate to an exceptionally high level.

Moreover, the Holy Father was truly fortunate and accompanied by the Holy Spirit, in the sense that he chose very strong cardinals who carried out the immediate work that he moderated and programmed.

Archbishop, did you already know Karol Wojtyła before he was elected, as a bishop and cardinal? Did you have the opportunity to meet him, to talk with him? What kind of man was he before he became Pope?

I got to know him at the yearly meetings on the feast of St. Wojciech in Gniezno. He usually came to Gniezno together with Cardinal Wyszyński, and once I had the opportunity to listen to his sermon. Usually, he celebrated the Holy Mass and Cardinal Wyszyński preached. I once saw him preach, and we were amazed because it was quite incomprehensible compared to what we heard from the Servant of God, Card. Stefan Wyszyński.

Then, I also met him at the Polish Institute in Rome and during a dinner in a wider group. All this made his character a bit more familiar. He was certainly characterized by such a special openness to other people. It is also interesting that, after being elected Pope, Cardinal Wojtyła became more understandable, that is, the thoughts he conveyed became easier. Less philosophical and more theological or theological-moral. We saw this breakthrough when Wojtyła came to our Institute as Pope and spoke to us. We were all impressed by the man’s courage, to which he referred during his installation as Pope. So, he had a strong personality, even though he seemed to be a warm person and could talk with anyone. Above all, however, he was certainly extremely brave, because he soon began to lead the Vatican with determination.

Credit: John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin.

Archbishop, later you probably had many occasions to meet John Paul II, but was there one encounter, not necessarily known to the media, that you particularly remember?

Of course, we went to encounters for caroling and, later, on Ad Limina visits. During these visits, I was most surprised by the fact that he knew more about Poland than we did. Supporting his chin with his hand, he would nod – our explanations were of no use to him. In comparison with Pope Benedict or Francis, it is clear that John Paul II came to the universal Church from the experience of the Church in Poland.

If we tried to outline the main lines of the pontificate of John Paul II, how could you describe this 27-year period?

Following Fr. Prof. Andrzej Szostek, we can identify eight main lines in this pontificate. Namely: respect for the life of every person, respect for the family, the social doctrine, the proclamation of the Gospel to the whole world, religious dialogue and reconciliation, the new face of the unity of the Church, increasing closeness of the God rich in mercy, and the personal holiness of the Pope.

The first task that the Pope set for himself was to care for the respect for the life of every human being. Life is not just one good among many others, but it is the basis on which all other abilities and talents can be developed. Concern for the life of every human being entailed the Pope’s concern for the family in which a person is born, matures in love and loves. On the other hand, John Paul II’s social teaching called for every human being to have a chance to live in dignity and contribute in a creative way to the growth of prosperity. As far as dialogue with non-Christian religions is concerned, according to the Pope, it is an element of a missionary challenge that the Church cannot abandon, since she is called to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world. Religious dialogue and reconciliation are also important, because the division between Christ’s disciples is a scandal for the world and impoverishes the faithful of individual Churches by depriving them of the wealth that the piety of other Christian communities has developed over the centuries. This dialogue must also include non-Christians, primarily the followers of Judaism, our elder brothers in faith. The sixth matter is the Church’s unity. The Pope took several steps to preserve and strengthen it. A special topic for the Pope was mercy: St. John Paul II wanted to bring people closer to the God rich in mercy. Finally, the eighth theme is the Pope’s personal holiness. It is difficult to consider it as one of the lines of John Paul II’s pontificate, but without it, his teaching would not have been so powerful and would not have touched the depths of human hearts. Indeed, all the Pope’s words and actions were backed up by his personal holiness. And that is what gave strength to everything he said and did (cf. the Homily on the centennial of Karol Wojtyla’s birth in the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wadowice).

Let us, therefore, love St. John Paul II who lived faith that sees differently, hope that sees further, love that sees deeper. Among the changes taking place today and in which we sometimes lose the proper measure and assessment of things, matters, and people—as the Primate of the Millennium used to say—it is so easy to lose sensitivity for a man who, destressed by the material reality, has lost his proper dignity. At those times, one must lift God’s friends high to the heavens and say: “Look how honored God’s friends are.”

Archbishop, thank you very much for this wide panorama and the eight main lines of the pontificate. It is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration, because the 27 years of the pontificate and these main lines show the extraordinary richness of both the personality and work of John Paul II. Now, finally, a concluding question. You concluded with a reflection on the Pope’s personal holiness. Is there one thing about his personality, in its uniqueness, which today, perhaps in a special way, should be useful to us, so that we may imitate him and become better?

It seems to me that a focal point was his reverence for the Eucharist. The Holy Father restored the Corpus Christi processions in Rome. He led the processions from St. John in Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major. Back then, when he was able to walk, and later when he could no longer walk, it was extremely edifying to watch his behavior and see how he revered the Eucharist. Now, I think that the whole Church needs that today.

Archbishop, thank you very much for this interview.

(Translation from Polish Original P. Nau/Office for Foreign Communication of the Secretariat of the Polish Bishops’ Conference)

 

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Pope Names Vatican-Based Filipino Priest a Monsignor

16 hours 8 min ago

A Filipino priest serving in the Vatican has received a papal honor.

Pope Francis has conferred the title “Chaplain of His Holiness” to Fr. Jan Thomas Limchua, a recognition that comes with the title “Monsignor”.

Ordained a priest for the Cebu archdiocese in 2010, Limchua is currently serving at the Section for the Relations with States of the Holy See.

Limchua, in a Facebook post, said the “privileged honor” makes him “officially part of the pontifical family”.

“I graciously ask for your continued prayers as I, with my own limitations, commit myself more deeply to serve the Church with joy, humility, and generosity,” he said.

Before going to the Vatican in September, he served as secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Cairo, Egypt for four years.

The title of monsignor is an honor bestowed by the pope on certain priests in recognition of their service to the Church. It is also usually granted to priests serving in the papal household or the group of dignitaries who directly assist the pope in carrying out religious and civil duties.

Limchua finished his theological studies at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. He later earned his Doctorate in Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.

The priest also prepared for his entry into the Holy See’s diplomatic service by undergoing diplomatic formation at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy.

In 2014, he officially started his tour of duty in the Holy See’s diplomatic service, serving at the Apostolic Nunciature in Benin and Togo (West Africa) and most recently in Egypt.

Limchua is the third Cebuano to enter the diplomatic service, the other two are Archbishop Osvaldo Padilla, Apostolic Nuncio Emeritus to Mongolia, and his younger brother Archbishop Francisco Padilla, the current Apostolic Nuncio to Guatemala.

Soon after his election to the papacy in 2013, Pope Francis reformed the issuance of the honorific title and rank of Monsignor.

In December of the same year, he made public his decision not to accept any requests from bishops for appointments to any of the three classes of Monsignori (Protonotary Apostolic, Honorary Prelate or Chaplain of His Holiness) except for that of Chaplain of His Holiness, the lowest of the three classes, but the candidate must be at least be 65 years old.

Officials of the Roman Curia and the diplomatic service of the Holy See, like Limchua, are still granted the rank and title due to the nature of their work for the Vatican.

Priests who are vicars general of the diocese are addressed as monsignor for their position in the diocese even though the title was not granted to them by the pope.

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FEATURE: Cardinal Parolin to ZENIT: We Appeal to International Community to Respond to ‘New Threat’ & ‘New Bomb’ in Syria

16 hours 19 min ago

The Vatican and Catholic Church is appealing to the International Community to help respond to the “new threat” and “new bomb” in Syria.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, expressed  this to ZENIT when its Senior Vatican Correspondent asked him about Syria.

Cardinal Parolin had spoken at the Pontifical University Antonianum, or the Pontifical University of St. Anthony,  in Rome for the awarding of an honorary doctorate to Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, Oct. 21, 2020 at 9:30 am, at the solemn inauguaration of its 2020 academic year.

Organized by the Franciscan pontifical university in Central Rome, the private event took place, without public, in a large auditorium in full compliance with anti-COVID 19 rules and provisions. Also giving interventions at the event moderated by TV2000 journalist Fabio Bolzetta, were the Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Cardinal Peter Turkson; President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Cardinal Kurt Koch; the Rector of the Antonianum, Br. Agustín Hernández Vidales, OFM, and Fr. Michael Anthony Perry, the General Minister of the Order of Friars Minor.

Addressing the Vatican Secretary of State, ZENIT’s Senior Vatican Correspondent recalled that the Apostolic Nuncio to Syria, Cardinal Mario Zenari met last week with members of the Holy See’s Diplomatic Corps in the Vatican, and that Cardinal Parolin introduced the Cardinal to the diplomats, while decrying “the litany of horrors” still plaguing the Middle Eastern country. Given this, ZENIT asked him what response does the Vatican seek from the tormented nation, especially in the wake of having organized this encounter with the ambassadors.

“Cardinal Zenari illustrated very strongly this new threat to Syria,” Cardinal Parolin responded, lamenting: “the violence has not ceased entirely.” He lamented that in the South and several other parts of the country, “combat continues.”

“Cardinal Zenari said that there is another bomb,” Cardinal Parolin noted, “which is the bomb of poverty that risks impoverishing even more the population and leaving it in conditions of extreme poverty.

“First of all, we must address this question,” the Vatican’s Secretary of State said, adding: “I hope Cardinal’s appeal, heard and received by all the Ambassadors present in the Holy See, who will report it to their respective governments to sensitize them on the question, will find a common answer in the International Community.”

The Vatican Secretary of State confirmed to journalists asking about the Provisional Agreement expiring between the China and the Holy See, that it would be renewed. The Vatican announced the deal’s renewal this morning in a communique on “the extension of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China regarding the appointment of Bishops.”

“Upon the expiration of the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China regarding the appointment of Bishops, which was signed in Beijing on 22 September 2018 and took effect one month later,” it began, “the two Parties have agreed to extend the experimental implementation phase of the Provisional Agreement for another two years.”

“The Holy See,” it said, “considers the initial application of the Agreement – which is of great ecclesial and pastoral value – to have been positive, thanks to good communication and cooperation between the Parties on the matters agreed upon.”

The Holy See, the statement concluded, “intends to pursue an open and constructive dialogue for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and the good of Chinese people.”

Wish for Church in China — Eventual Instrument of Evangelization for Chinese Society

While reflecting on the agreement, a reporter asked: “Do you have a wish for the Chinese Church?”

“My wish,” Cardinal Parolin said, “is that the Chinese Church rediscover, thanks also to this agreement, her unity and through this unity can become an instrument of evangelization, hence of proclamation of the Gospel in the Chinese society and of the genuine development of all its inhabitants.”

Asked whether he is satisfied with the results of the Agreement in the last two years, he noted: “If we look at the Agreement, I believe so, we can be content. We hope there can be a better and continuous functioning of the terms of the Agreement.”

“Then there are so many other problems,” he underscored, “that the Agreement did not intend to resolve. We stress this very much: don’t think that the Agreement can resolve all the problems that exist in China.”

When one pointed out the continued persecution of religion in the Asian superpower, the Cardinal replied: “But, persecutions . . . It’s necessary to use the words correctly. There are rules that are imposed and that concern all religions, and of course they also concern the Catholic Church.”

No Talk of Diplomatic Relations for Time Being

One asked whether the Agreement anticipates a future re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

“For the moment,” he clearly stated, “there is no talk of diplomatic relations; we are concentrated on the Church. This is another point on which we would like to insist.”

“The Agreement,” he said, “has not resolved all the problems and difficulties that exist and that we hope to address with dialogue, because the Agreement is not concerned with diplomatic relations or foresee the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Agreement is concerned with the situation of the Church, a specific point which is the appointment of Bishops.”

“The objective is the unity of the Church; we have had important results, such as the fact that all the Bishops in China are in communion with the Pope. There are no more illegitimate Bishops; this seems to me to be a notable step forward. We will try to start again from here and then, step by step, rediscover a normalization of the Church in China.”

CONFIRMED: Holy See Renews Agreement With China for Another Two Years

From discussing Syria and China, the next questions turned to the Vatican, with new details emerging these days on financial affairs, which the Secretary of State had once described as “opaque.” Journalists asked about the recent financial scandals concerning former Substitute of the Secretary of State and former Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, who Pope Francis has removed from his post, along with his rights and privileges as cardinal. Journalists said there is talk of an imminent trial and asked if dates were set.

“No, I’m not aware of fixed dates for an eventual trial,” stated Cardinal Parolin, adding: “I imagine that the investigations will come to a conclusion and that, at that point, on the basis of the elements gathered over this long time, the Promoter of Justice will make his decisions. The thing remains naturally reserved; we will know it when the Promoter of Justice and his deputies disclose it.

When asked whether Cardinal Becciu will be tried, Cardinal Parolin said he did not know. When a journalist questioned if he believes such news can cause a disorientation of the faithful, he replied: “Yes, and I live this personally with great suffering. I think that what is happening, beyond the responsibilities that will also be established by the judicial investigation, cannot but create much disorientation among the faithful.

“However,” he continued, “I would also like to add that — and I don’t know if it’s a Chinese proverb to say it — that it seems to me that a tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that grows. The forest grows in the Church, in the sense that there is so much good that the Church does in her dealings with men and perhaps we should not concentrate only on the evil that, unfortunately, exists, as it does in every human reality.”

The last question recalled that Pope Francis changed partially the composition of IOR’s Commission of Cardinals. The journalist pointed out that Cardinal Parolin is no longer part of it and asked whether the decision were linked to the financial affair.

“It is a normal rotation,” Cardinal Parolin responded, noting: “The Holy Father believes the Cardinals can carry out this task. In so far as I know, it’s certainly not linked to all the economic affairs in the Vatican.”

FEATURE: Cardinal Parolin to ZENIT: Motivation for China Deal, ‘Little Steps Toward Greater Religious Freedom’

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English Bishop: Be Physically Present at Mass, Despite World Being ‘Shrouded in Gloom’

17 hours 39 min ago

The Bishop of Plymouth,  England, Bishop Mark O’Toole, has encouraged those who can, to return to Mass, to be physically present in a church.  Recognizing that the world is in many ways “shrouded in gloom” at this time because of the “deadly virus”, Bishop Mark, asked parishioners who were not vulnerable and not having to shield, “to be present once more at the holy sacrifice of the Mass.”  He stressed that they could do so, “safely, whilst observing all the necessary protocols”.

On  October 25, the Catholic Church marks the fiftieth anniversary of the canonization of St Cuthbert and the thirty-nine other Martyrs, who died during a dark chapter of English history, when it was illegal to practice the Catholic faith.  Quoting from the homily of Pope Paul VI, at the Canonisation ceremony, the Bishop highlighted that among the forty holy martyrs were “secular and regular priests, religious of various orders, and of different rank, laypeople of very noble descent, as well as of modest condition……..women who were married, mothers with a family”.

The Bishop drew attention to the witness and example of St Cuthbert Mayne, who was born in Devon and who ministered as a priest in Cornwall.  He was captured there in 1577 and imprisoned in Launceston Castle for several months before being hung, drawn, and quartered in the Market Square on 29 November 1577.  He is known as “the protomartyr”, or first, of the “Martyrs of Douai”, some 158 priests who, over a period of a hundred years, were formed for the priesthood at the College of Douai, in France, and who then surreptitiously returned to this country, to minister to the Catholic faithful in secret.  When caught, they ended up on the scaffold, many of them inspiringly testifying to the truth of their faith, and at the same time, pledging their loyalty to the King or Queen.

Bishop Mark highlighted that what united these martyrs of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was their witness to “two truths, the sacrifice of Jesus manifest anew in the sacrifice of the Mass and communion with the Holy Father.”  He commented that these two traits have, “for many centuries, been the hallmarks of the Catholic Faith in these islands”.

Echoing the words of Pope Paul VI, spoken in the Canonisation homily, Bishop Mark urged that, “the Church and the world today have the greatest need of such men and women, of every state of life: priests, religious and laity because only people of such stature and holiness will be able to change our tormented world and to give that spiritual and truly Christian orientation to which every person intimately yearns – even sometimes without being aware of it – and of which we all so much need”.

Pastoral Message for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Canonisation of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales – 25th October 2020.

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UK Bishop for European Affairs Prays for People of Belarus

22 hours 52 min ago

Bishop Nicholas Hudson, Lead Bishop for European Affairs of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has expressed his concern and support for Belarusians facing injustice and oppression in the unrest that followed August’s controversial presidential elections.

The incumbent, Alexander Lukashenko, controversially claimed a landslide victory to continue his 26-year presidency – an outcome that has seen widespread protests in the European country.

“I have watched the developing situation in Belarus with increasing concern; and prayed for the Belarusian people – particularly those who have been harmed or unjustly incarcerated,” said Bishop Hudson.

“The Catholic Church is a minority in Belarus but plays a vitally important role in promoting peace, justice and reconciliation there.”

Calls for Archbishop’s Return

Bishop Hudson also called for the civic authorities to allow the spiritual leader of Catholics in Belarus, Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, to return to his homeland, where he was born and raised, to continue his ministry.

“The enforced exile of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, President of the Bishops’ Conference, affects not only Belarusian Catholics but the whole nation.

“I support fully calls which have come from the Church across Europe for the civic authorities to allow the return of Archbishop Tadeusz to his homeland, to release all political prisoners and to enter into meaningful dialogue about the future of their nation.

“Our Belarusian sisters and brothers remain very much in my prayers as they strive for peace in their land.”

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India, Panama, Honduras Receive Aid from PMS Fund for Covid Emergency

22 hours 53 min ago

In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Church in India has reached and provided assistance to several million people, especially the poorest and those in vulnerable conditions. Indian Christians have responded with generosity and commitment to the emergency, despite their number – 2.5 percent out of a population of 1,298,041,000 inhabitants, reported Fides News Agency.

As elsewhere in the world, the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the virus has resulted in the loss of jobs and minimal livelihoods for a large number of workers, immigrants, and the poor, who have suffered the most. Thousands of immigrants found themselves stranded unexpectedly in different areas of the country where they found themselves without food or shelter. Parishes and religious communities have mobilized to collect donations and funds to be distributed, through daily meals and essential goods, to thousands of people, entire families, the elderly, the poor, the sick, tribal populations, immigrants, street children, the homeless, and vulnerable people.

The long period of the pandemic has meant an extraordinary action for the local Churches in India and dealing with an unpredictable situation. The generosity and commitment of the Catholic communities were manifested towards all, without discrimination, but also led to the depletion of the meager economic resources at their disposal for the development of their ordinary activities of evangelization, assistance, and human promotion. Through the Emergency Fund established by Pope Francis at the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in order to respond to the needs caused by the Covid-19 emergency within the Churches of the mission territories, it was possible to help Dioceses and Parishes which have particular needs.

The latest aid from the PMS Emergency Fund was sent to various ecclesiastical districts in India: to the diocese of Daltonganj to contribute to the purchase and distribution of kits for children and the current expenses of 23 parishes; to the Diocese of Khunti for formation activities, meetings, and seminars; to the Diocese of Jalpaiguri for online formation; to the Diocese of Baruipur to support the most needy and vulnerable families; to the Archdiocese of Patna and the Diocese of Kohima to address the different needs to face the various needs that have arisen as a result of the pandemic; to the Diocese of Purnea to support educational activities; to the Diocese of Aizawl for the vocational training of young people from tribal populations.

Latin America has also been plagued by the pandemic for some time and the local Churches are now at the end of their rope after having sought to alleviate the suffering of so many people for such a long period. Unfortunately, even before the spread of Covid-19, in many countries, precariousness was ordinary as was the lack of health and reception facilities, so the effects of the precautionary measures adopted further worsened the situation. In Panama, the Emergency Fund of the PMS sent aid to the Diocese of Colon-Kuna Yala and to the Territorial Prelature of Bocas del Toro to contribute to their needs following the effects of Covid-19. The same dramatic situation is also being experienced in Honduras. The aid sent to the Diocese of La Ceiba will be used to support parishes, now deprived of resources, as well as priests, and the formation of religious and laypeople. The subsidies sent by the PMS Fund to the Diocese of Trujillo will be used to support 1000 families in 4 communities.

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Pope Francis: Financial Aid to Families of Crew Members of M / V Gulf Livestock 1 Ship

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 5:09 PM

Pope Francis has decided to send — through the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development — a financial contribution to all the families of the crew members of the M/V Gulf Livestock 1 ship (39 Filipinos, 2 Australians, and 2 New Zealanders) which sank in the Sea of Japan close to the Amami Oshima Island last September 2, after having experienced the failure of the main engine while typhoon Maysak was raging. The ship was navigating from New Zealand’s Napier port to China’s Jingtang port, Tangshan.

The financial aid, in collaboration with the Apostolic Nunciature and the Stella Maris <Centers> of the Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand, will be delivered personally to the families of the missing and to two survivors, together with a small personal gift of Pope Francis, to express his closeness and solidarity.

From the first days of the misfortune, this contribution has been accompanied by the spiritual, psychological, and personalized support offered to the Filipino families, on the part of a team of professionals, chaplains, and Sisters of the Nation’s Stella Maris Centers. The support, which in consideration of the COVID-19 restrictions has been implemented through the use of social media and a digital platform, will continue for some months. May this endeavor, entrusted to Mary, Stella Maris, Protectress of seafarers, infuse courage and strength in all family members to face the future without uncertainties but with trust and serenity.

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

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‘Francesco’ tells Story of Jorge Mario Bergoglio

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 4:55 PM

The documentary “Francesco”, by director Evgeny Afineevsky, interweaves voices and stories from past and present to tell the story of  Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Vatican News reported on October 21, 2020.

The film includes exclusive interviews with Pope Francis himself, with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, with members of the Pope’s family, and many others. In it, Afineevsky highlights the challenges of our time, the urgencies that need answering, and the mission of the Church in looking to those who suffer injustices.

The film premiered today at the Rome Film Festival in the Special Events Section. Tomorrow, in the Vatican Gardens, it will receive the 18th Kinéo Prize. The “Kinéo Movie for Humanity Award” is awarded to those who promote social and humanitarian themes. This year, it will be personally awarded by Rosetta Sannelli, the creator of the award, who underlined the film’s historic value. “Every one of Pope Francis’ journeys to various parts of the world,” she said, “is documented in Afineevsky’s work through images and news footage, and reveals an authentic glimpse into the events of our time.”

Evgeny Afineevsky finished shooting “Francesco” last June, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. He uses hugely impactful images to recount various themes such as the pandemic, racism, and sexual abuse, according to Vatican News. The film deals with the war in Syria and Ukraine as well as with the persecution of Rohingya Muslims. In the communiqué presenting the work, we read that in the film Pope Francis answers questions “with wisdom and generosity” sharing “moving examples of his life lessons”, relaunching ideals that “can help us build a bridge to a better future and grow as a global community”.

The premiere of “Francesco” in the United States is scheduled for October 25 at the Savannah Film Festival. The film is produced in part with the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television. Director Evgeny Afineevsky was nominated for an Oscar and Emmy in 2016 for his film “Winter on Fire” and in 2018 received 3 Emmy nominations for “Cries from Syria”.

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Pakistani Girl Kidnapped and Converted to Islam

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 4:11 PM

Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old Catholic from Karachi, was kidnapped, forcibly converted to Islam, and then forced to marry a 44-year-old Muslim man, named Ali Azhar, who kidnapped her on the morning of 13 October 13. As confirmed to Agenzia Fides, this is the latest in a series of cases that has shaken the Catholic community in Pakistan.

Nasir Raza, human rights activist who assists Raja’s Catholic family in this delicate situation, declares in an interview with Agenzia Fides: “This is the umpteenth case, a story that repeats itself: on 13 October, the girl was kidnapped, and on the same day she was forcibly converted to Islam and forced into an Islamic marriage with impunity. She was playing at home. She went out to go to a shop and never came back. After her disappearance, the family filed a First Information Report against unknown persons around 5 pm”.

Nasir Raza explains: “Arzoo is a 7th-grade student and, as evidenced by her birth certificate from the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), she was born on July 31, 2007”, and adds: “The girl’s family is in shock and very tense. The inappropriate behavior of the police at the police station is another challenge for the family, in the throes of suffering and despair”.

In fact, the police dismissed the case because, on the evening of October 14, the kidnapper’s lawyer appeared at the police station, presenting the documents that, according to him, would grant full legitimacy to the abductor: an “Affidavit”, signed by Arzoo, who attests her free will for her conversion to Islam and for marriage; a “certificate of conversion to Islam” and a marriage certificate. The girl’s parents were unable to do anything, even though they provided the girl’s birth certificate and referred to the law that prohibits marriage under 18 years of age (according to Islamic law, it is allowed).

Anthony Naveed, a Catholic politician and member of the Provincial Assembly of Sindh Province, is currently dealing with the case and has visited the family. Speaking to Fides, Naveed said: “I offered the family legal assistance and I also spoke with the police officers for the analysis and review of the case”. Anthony Naveed remarks: “The complaint filed now is weak because it is filed against unknown persons, but now that more details are known, correct information must be added, and the laws on child protection and child marriage must be recalled”. Naveed concluded: “The increase in the number of kidnappings and forced conversions of Christian and Hindu girls is a very serious phenomenon. The increase in these cases is worrying, even though it is due to the narrow and sick mentality of very few people in Pakistani society. In the current context of social and political status, religious minorities constitute weaker elements and consequently, minority women and girls become an easy targets for kidnappers and men who carry out forced conversions”.

According to Anjum James Paul, a Pakistani Catholic, President of the Association of Teachers of Religious Minorities in Pakistan, “these kidnappings are against the law and constitute a pedophilia offense that the whole of Pakistani society, primarily the civil authorities, must fight with all their might. We ask for a strong and decisive government intervention to put an end to this criminal phenomenon against girls, the most vulnerable in society, and which gives Pakistan a very bad image”.

As the NGO Human Rights Commission of Pakistan noted in a note sent to Agenzia Fides, every year at least 1,000 Christian and Hindu women are kidnapped and forced to convert and marry their aggressor. Many families do not report the crime or withdraw their complaints, in the face of threats against other family members.

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Canadian Bishops Renew Opposition to Assisted Death Legislation

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 3:16 PM

With the approval of the Executive Committee, the Most Reverend Richard Gagnon, Archbishop of Winnipeg and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), signed a statement on behalf of the Bishops of Canada expressing their opposition to the re-tabling of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medically assisted dying), re-introduced by the federal government on October 5, 2020. Prepared on behalf of the CCCB, this statement is in addition to the joint ecumenical and interfaith statement released on 14 October 2020 entitled: “We Can and Must do Much Better – Religious Leaders in Canada denounce Bill C-7, ‘An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying)’“.

As the legislation introduced this month remains unchanged from that which was tabled on 24 February 2020, the Bishops of Canada once again express their serious concerns regarding Bill C-7 and call upon all Canadians to express their opposition to the Bill. As said in the statement: “The proposed legislation of Bill C-7 remains deeply flawed, unjust, and morally pernicious. The Bishops of Canada call on Catholics and all people of goodwill to make their voices heard in opposition to the Bill. Similarly, all Canadian legislators should recall that no law that permits the taking of innocent human life can ever be morally justified. Such a law would always violate the intrinsic dignity of the human person.”

Read full statement here.

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Pope Appoints New Bishop of León, Spain

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 2:56 PM

Resignation and appointment of bishop of León, Spain

The Holy Father has accepted the resignation from the pastoral care of the diocese of León, Spain, presented by Bishop Julián López Martín.

The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Luis Ángel de las Heras Berzal, C.M.F., of Mondoñedo-Ferrol as bishop of the diocese of León.

Bishop Luis Ángel de las Heras Berzal, C.M.F., was born in Segovia on 14 June 1963. In 1981 he entered the Claretian noviciate and gave his religious vows on 26 April 1986, the year in which he was awarded a degree in ecclesiastical studies. He studied the science of education at Comillas Pontifical University, and at the same time was responsible for youth pastoral care for the Claretian province of Castilla.

He was ordained a priest on 29 October 1988.

He dedicated himself to parish ministry with adolescents, young people at risk, marginalized, and drug addicts. He was a formator of postulants, superior and master of novices, provincial vicar, and prefect of major seminarians. In the years 2004-2007, he was delegate of the superior for formation in the Claretian Confederation of Aragón, Castilla y León. In 2007 he was elected prefect of spirituality and formation. From 2007 to 2012 he was provincial vicar, prefect of students and postulants, and professor at the Theological Institute of Religious Life and the Regina Apostolorum School in Madrid. He was also provincial superior of the Claretian Missionaries of the Province of Santiago and president of the Spanish Confederation of Religious (CONFER) (2012-2016).

On 16 March 2016, he was appointed bishop of Mondoñedo-Ferrol and was consecrated the following 7 May. He is a member of the Permanent Commission of the EEC and president of the Episcopal Commission for Consecrated Life.

Appointment of metropolitan archbishop of Brasilia, Brazil

The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Paulo Cezar Costa as metropolitan archbishop of the archdiocese of Brasilia, Brazil, transferring him from the diocese of São Carlos.

Curriculum vitae

Bishop Paulo Cezar Costa was born on 20 July 1967 in Valença, in the diocese of the same name. He carried out his studies in philosophy in the Nossa Senhora do Amor Divino in Petrópolis and in theology in the Superior Institute of Theology of the archdiocese of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. He then obtained a licentiate and doctorate in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome (1996-2001).

He received priestly ordination on 5 December 1992 and was incardinated in the diocese of Valença.

During his priestly ministry, he carried out the following tasks: parish vicar in Paraíba do Sul (1993); parish priest of the São Sebastião dos Ferreiros parish in Vassouras (1994-1996), parish priest of the Santa Rosa de Lima parish in Valença (2001-2006); director and professor of the department of theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (2007-2010); rector of the Paulo VI Interdiocesan Seminary and director of the Paulo VI Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Nova Iguaçu (2006-2010). On 24 November 2010 he was appointed as titular bishop of Esco and auxiliary of the metropolitan archdiocese of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. He received episcopal ordination on 5 February 2011. On 22 June 2016, he was transferred as bishop of São Carlos.

Within the Brazilian Episcopal Conference, he is a member of the Permanent Council and of the Episcopal Commission for Culture and Education. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity and of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Appointment of bishop of Barreiras, Brazil

The Holy Father has appointed Bishop Moacir Silva Arantes as bishop of the diocese of Barreiras, Brazil, transferring him from the titular see of Tituli in Numidia and the office of auxiliary of the metropolitan archdiocese of Goiânia.

Curriculum vitae

Bishop Moacir Silva Arantes was born on 3 June 1969 in Itapecerica, diocese of Divinópolis, in the State of Minas Gerais. He studied philosophy and theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte.

He received priestly ordination on 14 August 1999 and was incardinated in the diocese of Divinópolis, where he held the following positions: parish vicar; parish administrator; parish priest; rector of the major seminary and the preparatory seminary; spiritual director of the Theology Seminary; diocesan counselor for vocations, youth, and family pastoral care; representative of priests; member of the presbyteral council, the diocesan pastoral council, and the diocesan formation council.

Within the Brazilian Episcopal Conference, he has served as counselor for family pastoral care for the Regionale Leste 2 (2011-2015) and national counselor of the Pastoral Episcopal Commission for Life and the Family.

On 11 May 2016, he was appointed as titular bishop of Tituli in Numidia and auxiliary of the metropolitan archdiocese of Goiânia, receiving episcopal ordination the following 13 August.

He is currently secretary of the Regionale Centro-Oeste of the Brazilian Episcopal Conference.

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Pope Not a Fan of Being Distant from the Faithful

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 2:45 PM

It should come as no surprise that Pope Francis is not a fan of “social distancing.”

He likes to be among the crowds, hugging, shaking hands, holding babies, sharing the joy of life. No one will ever accuse him of being cold or indifferent to the people.

But with the pandemic, even the Holy Father has been forced to make some concessions for the sake of health and safety. And for that, he expressed his regret during his October 21, 2020, general audience in Paul VI Hall.”

“Today, we need to change a bit the way the audience is conducted because of the coronavirus.,” Francis lamented. “You are separated, with the protection of masks as well, and I am here, a bit distant and I cannot do what I always do, coming near you, because every time I do that all of you come together and do not maintain distance and there is the danger of contagion for you.

“I apologize for this, but it is for your safety. Instead of coming near you and shaking your hands and greeting you, we have to greet each other from a distance, but know that I am near you with my heart. I hope that you understand why I am doing this.”

The Holy Father also confessed to having experienced a distraction many people encounter when attending Mass: a crying baby. But he turned the distraction into a blessing.

“Also, while the readers were reading the biblical passage, my attention was caught by that baby boy or girl over there who was crying, and I was watching the mamma who was cuddling and nursing the baby and I said: this is what God does with us, like that mamma.,” the Pope said. “With what tenderness she was trying to comfort and nurse the baby. They are beautiful images.

“And when it happens that a baby cries in Church, listening to that and feeling that tenderness of a mamma there, like today, and thanks for your witnesses, and there is the tenderness of a mamma which is the symbol of God’s tenderness with us. Never silence a crying baby in Church, never, because it is the voice that attracts God’s tenderness. Thank you for your witness.”

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General Audience: Pope Completes Catechesis on Prayer of Psalms (Full text)

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 1:59 PM

“Prayer is the center of life… the Psalter presents prayer as the fundamental reality of life,” Pope Francis said at today’s General Audience in Paul VI Hall as he concluded his catechesis on the prayer of the psalms.

“There often appears a negative figure in the Psalms, called the ‘wicked’ person, that is, he or she who lives as if God does not exist. This is the person without any transcendent referent, whose arrogance has no limits, who fears no judgment regarding what he or she thinks or does,” the Pope explained.

“For this reason, the Psalter presents prayer as the fundamental reality of life. The reference to the absolute and to the transcendent – which the spiritual masters call the ‘holy fear of God’ – and which makes us completely human, is the boundary that saves us from ourselves, preventing us from venturing into life in a predatory and voracious manner. Prayer is the salvation of the human being.”

The Holy Father warned of a “false prayer” that can include dressing fashionably and going to Mass to be seen by others. He also pointed out the danger of praying “tiredly, by rote”.

“The prayers of the Psalms help us not to fall into the temptation of the ‘wicked’, that is, of living, and perhaps also of praying, as if God does not exist, and as if the poor do not exist,” the Pope concluded.

Here is the Holy Father’s full commentary, provided by the Vatican:

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, we need to change a bit the way the audience is conducted because of the coronavirus. You are separated, with the protection of masks as well, and I am here, a bit distant and I cannot do what I always do, coming near you, because every time I do that all of you come together and do not maintain distance and there is the danger of contagion for you. I apologize for this, but it is for your safety. Instead of coming near you and shaking your hands and greeting you, we have to greet each other from a distance, but know that I am near you with my heart. I hope that you understand why I am doing this. Also, while the readers were reading the biblical passage, my attention was caught by that baby boy or girl over there who was crying, and I was watching the mamma who was cuddling and nursing the baby and I said: this is what God does with us, like that mamma. With what tenderness she was trying to comfort and nurse the baby. They are beautiful images. And when it happens that a baby cries in Church, listening to that and feeling that tenderness of a mamma there, like today, and thanks for your witnesses, and there is the tenderness of a mamma which is the symbol of God’s tenderness with us. Never silence a crying baby in Church, never, because it is the voice that attracts God’s tenderness. Thank you for your witness.

Today we will complete the catechesis on the prayer of the Psalms. Above all, we see how there often appears a negative figure in the Psalms, called the “wicked” person, that is, he or she who lives as if God does not exist. This is the person without any transcendent referent, whose arrogance has no limits, who fears no judgment regarding what he or she thinks or does.

For this reason, the Psalter presents prayer as the fundamental reality of life. The reference to the absolute and to the transcendent – which the spiritual masters call the “holy fear of God” – and which makes us completely human, is the boundary that saves us from ourselves, preventing us from venturing into life in a predatory and voracious manner. Prayer is the salvation of the human being.

There certainly also exists a false prayer, a prayer said only for the admiration of others. The person or those persons who go to Mass only to make it seen that they are Catholics or to show off the latest fashion that they acquired, or to make a good impression in society. They are moving toward false prayer. Jesus strongly admonished against such prayer (see Mt 6:5-6; Lk 9:14). But when the true spirit of prayer is sincerely received and enters the heart, it then allows us to contemplate reality with God’s very eyes.

When one prays, everything acquires “depth”. This is interesting in prayer, perhaps something subtle begins but in prayer that thing acquires depth, it becomes weighty as if God takes it in hand and transforms it. The worst service someone can give God, and others as well is to pray tiredly, by rote. To pray like parrots.  No, one prays with the heart. Prayer is the center of life. If there is prayer, even a brother, a sister, even an enemy becomes important. An old saying from the first Christian monks reads: “Blessed the monk who regards every human being as God, after God” (Evagrius Ponticus, Trattato sulla preghiera, n. 122). Those who adore God, love His children. Those who respect God, respect human beings.

And so, prayer is not a sedative to alleviate life’s anxieties; or, in any case, this type of prayer is certainly not Christian. Rather, prayer makes each of us responsible. We see this clearly in the “Our Father” that Jesus taught His disciples.

To learn how to pray this way, the Psalter is a tremendous school. We saw how the Psalms do not always use refined and gentle language, and how they often bring out the scars of existence. And yet, all these prayers were first used in the Temple of Jerusalem and then in the synagogues; even the most intimate and personal ones. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: “The Psalter’s many forms of prayer take shape both in the liturgy of the Temple and in the human heart” (n. 2588). And thus, personal prayer draws from and is nourished first by the prayer of the people of Israel, then by the prayer of the Church.

Even the Psalms in the first person singular, which confide the most intimate thoughts and problems of an individual, are a collective patrimony, to the point of being prayed by everyone and for everyone. The prayer of the Christian has this “breath”, this spiritual “tension” holding the temple and the world together. Prayer can begin in the penumbra of a church’s nave but come to an end on the city streets. And vice versa, it can blossom during the day’s activities and reach its fulfillment in the liturgy. The church doors are not barriers, but permeable “membranes”, willing to allow everyone’s groans in.

The world is always present in the prayer found in the Psalter. The Psalms, for example, voice the divine promise of salvation for the weakest:.. “ ‘Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan I will now arise,’ says the Lord;  ‘I will place him in the safety for which he longs’ ” (12:5). Or again, they warn about the danger of worldly riches because… “Man cannot abide in his pomp, he is like the beasts that perish” (49:20). Or still, they open the horizon to God’s view of history: “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to naught; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations” (33:10-11).

In short, where there is God, the human person must be there as well. Sacred Scripture is categorical: “We love because he first loved us”. He always goes ahead of us. He always awaits us because He loves us first, He looks at us first, He understands us first. He always awaits us. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen”. If you pray many rosaries each day but then gossip about others, and nourish grudges inside if you hate others, this is truly artificial, it is not true. “And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also” (1 Jn 4:19-21). Scripture acknowledges the case of the person who, even though he or she sincerely searches for God, never succeeds to encounter Him; but it also affirms that the tears of the poor can never be repudiated on pain of not encountering God. God does not support the “atheism” of those who repudiate the divine image that is imprinted in every human being. That everyday atheism: I believe in God but I keep my distance from others and I allow myself to hate others. This is practical atheism. Not to recognize the human person as the image of God is a sacrilege, an abomination, the worst offense that can be directed toward the temple and the altar.

Dear brothers and sisters, the prayers of the Psalms help us not to fall into the temptation of the “wicked”, that is, of living, and perhaps also of praying, as if God does not exist, and as if the poor do not exist.

Special greetings:

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors who join us for today’s Audience. Upon you and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. God bless you

Summary of the Holy Father’s words:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, today we conclude our catechesis on prayer by turning once more to the Psalms. In the Psalter, prayer appears as essential to a good and truly human life, guiding our steps according to God’s will and teaching us to avoid the snares of evil. Genuine prayer enables us, even at times of great distress, to see reality with God’s eyes and to look upon our brothers and sisters with compassion and respect. In the Psalms, personal and communal prayer merge, and praise of God is joined to concern for others, especially the poor and those in need. Even the Psalms that seem most personal and private were prayed in the liturgy of the Temple and in the synagogues, and then in the assemblies of the earliest Christian community. They remind us that prayer must embrace every aspect of our lives in this world. Sometimes, prayer begins in our churches but then leads us to serve others in the streets of our cities. At other times prayer originates in the midst of our daily work and then finds its completion in the Church’s liturgy. May we learn to pray the Psalms more consciously, letting their voice become our own, as we seek to grow in love for God, trust in the fulfillment of his saving plan, and charity towards all our brothers and sisters.

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

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ACN Announces Fresh Help for Beirut

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 12:38 AM

Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) has announced another massive program of aid to help Beirut rise up from the ashes following the explosion in August.

The latest grants by the charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians mean that in total ACN has committed €5 million (£4.53m) in the wake of the 4th August 2020 blast, which killed more than 200 people, with at least 6,000 injured and more than 300,000 made homeless.

The aid, announced yesterday (15th October), mostly provides repairs for church buildings in the immediate vicinity of the blast which caused particularly serious damage to a historic Christian quarter of the Lebanese capital.

The charity is helping to reconstruct the iconic Maronite Cathedral of St George, which was badly damaged by the blast, and repair St Saviour’s Melkite Greek Catholic Church.

Other buildings ACN will be helping to repair are Sisters’ convents including one at the hospital of the Sisters of the Holy Rosary and the Mother House of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern, ACN (international) Executive President, said the charity’s priority “is to provide the necessary funds to complete the essential emergency repair work before the arrival of winter in order to forestall still greater damage, caused by the winter rains for example, and at the same time to make these buildings usable”.

He stressed the importance of providing help, given Lebanon’s economic and healthcare crisis which pre-dates the explosion and which has caused the Lebanese pound to lose 80 percent of its value against the US dollar.

Dr. Heine-Geldern said: “The Christians of Lebanon feel very much alone at the present time and are considering emigration as a solution to their problems.

“Pope John Paul II said that Lebanon has a special mission in the Middle East. ACN will always remember it. We will therefore continue to support the Christians in this country and [the charity is] not going to leave them to face this task alone.”

This latest grant from ACN comes on top of aid approved within days of the blast, providing emergency support for 5,880 homeless families.

Last month, ACN carried out a fact-finding and project-assessment trip to Beirut led by Reinhard Backes, the charity’s project coordinator for the region. 

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Franciscan Friars Give Hope to Christians Living Under Sharia in Idlib Province, Syria

Wed, 10/21/2020 - 12:37 AM

The villages of Knayeh and Yacoubieh, in Idlib province, close to the Turkish border in western Syria, still find themselves under the control of jihadist groups. Here the fearsome Islamic caliphate still holds sway; the sharia is the law, women are forced to wear veils, Christian properties have been confiscated and Christian symbols such as crosses torn down.

Among the local inhabitants who have remained in their homes despite the terrible situation, there are an estimated 300 Christian families of different denominations and ethnic groups. Two Franciscan friars, Luai Bsharat, aged 40, and 67-year-old Hanna Jallouf, have also stayed on here to minister to them.

The Christians remaining in these areas are facing persecution, fear, violence and danger, and even death. So the continuing presence of the Christians in these villages, and of the two Franciscan friars, says much about their heroic commitment. “In spite of the difficulties, Father Luai and Father Hanna have stayed on there because they believe that this region should not be abandoned. For it is close to Antioch, where Saint Paul began his travels, spreading the Word of God”, explains Father Firas Lutfi OFM, who is Custodian of the Province of Saint Paul for the Franciscans of Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. He is speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN International.

He continues: “Their sufferings began a decade ago. When the militant groups took control of the region and proclaimed the Islamic State, they confiscated Christian properties, imposed Islamic Sharia law on all non-Muslims, and suppressed their right to move around freely within their own villages.”

Father Firas, who previously gave his testimony about this situation in 2017 at the shrine of Fatima in Portugal, during the international pilgrimage there by ACN to mark the seventieth anniversary of the founding of the charity, recalls that “those extremists have often persecuted, attacked, beaten, tortured and even murdered some of our brothers and sisters”, as for example in the notorious case of Father François Murad, who was “beheaded in 2013”, and more recently the case of “a female schoolteacher who was raped and then murdered in Yacoubieh”.

In his recent message, which was sent to the Portuguese national office of ACN International, Father Firas reminds us that the friars are there to help everyone in need of support and guidance, regardless of their religion, race, nationality, or political opinions. “On many occasions”, he explains “the monasteries of Knayeh and Yacoubieh welcomed and gave shelter to dozens of Muslim families who were seeking refuge in the churches”, when the region became a battleground and a place of conflict.

“The presence of the Franciscans is a sign of hope in the midst of the darkness and despair”, Father Firas explains. But they also depend heavily on whatever outside support they can obtain, especially financial support since the local people can no longer harvest their own crops, which have been confiscated, or sell their own produce – and so they are in constant need of outside humanitarian aid.

ACN is currently supporting over fifty different projects to assist Christians in Syria. In addition to the emergency aid projects for vulnerable families in Aleppo and Damascus, the charity is also sponsoring a number of different projects through Father Firas Lufti.

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FEATURE: ‘Let’s Ask Crucified God to Grace Us With More Unity & Fraternity’ — Pope Appeals for Peace at Sant’Egidio’s Prayer for Peace

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 5:02 PM
“Let us ask the crucified God to grant us the grace to be more united and more fraternal…”
Pope Francis encouraged this when participating today, Oct. 20, in this year’s International Meeting on the theme “No One Is Saved Alone. Peace and Fraternity,” promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio. Every year, the Encounter recalls the historic Day of Prayer for Peace convoked in Assisi by St. Pope John Paul II in 1986, with representatives of all the world religions.
The title of this year’s Meeting was inspired by Pope Francis’ words during his March 27 Extraordinary Urbi et Orbi in a pouring St. Peter’s Square, for the end of the coronavirus. This 2020 Meeting marks the second time Pope Francis has participated in the encounter, following his traveling to Assisi for the event in 2016.
Normally at meetings, hundreds of religious leaders and representatives gather from more than 50 countries worldwide. This year, to be safe amid the COVID pandemic, the Ceremony to Pray for Peace is taking place in the afternoon at Rome’s iconic Campidoglio with interfaith leaders and important officials, including President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella and the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I.
ZENIT’s Senior Vatican Correspondent was present at the Campidoglio today as this year’s meeting is in Rome.
Ahead of the event she had interviewed the President of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, who noted that this year’s 34th Prayer for Peace was organized in full compliance with all hygiene and health rules, “because in this difficult time, there is a need for words of peace and hope, which indicate a future for humanity overwhelmed by the pandemic.”
After having presided over the moment of ecumenical prayer for peace with other Christian confessions in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli this afternoon, Pope Francis took part in the ceremony with the representatives of the great world religions in the Piazza of the Campidoglio, where the Holy Father spoke.
There was a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the pandemic and all wars, immediately followed by the reading of the Rome 2020 Appeal for Peace. Some children received the appeal text from the religious leaders and delivered it to the ambassadors and representatives of national and international politics present.
At the end of the meeting, after the lighting of the candles of peace by the Holy Father and the religious leaders and exchanging, without contact, a sign of peace.
The Holy Father gave a moving homily during the Prayer of Christians, where he reflected on how before His Crucifixion that many told Him to save Himself.
“When we are tempted to follow the way of this world,” he said,’ “may we be reminded of Jesus’ words: “Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it” (Mk 8:35).
“What is counted loss in the eyes of the world is, for us,” he said, “salvation.”
Francis invited Christians to learn from the Lord, “who saved us by emptying himself and becoming other,” noting from “being God, He became man; from spirit, He became flesh: from a king, He became a slave.”
“He asks us to do the same,” he reminded: “to humble ourselves, to “become other” in order to reach out to others. The closer we become to the Lord Jesus, the more we will be open and “universal”, since we will feel responsible for others.” Others, he noted, will become the means of our own salvation, all others.
“May the Lord,” he prayed, “help us to journey together on the path of fraternity, and thus to become credible witnesses of the true God.”
In the Pope’s address at Campidoglio, the Pope expressed his gratitude, despite the difficulties of travel these days, that other faith leaders, along with himself, wished to take part in this prayer meeting. The Assisi Meeting and its vision of peace, he said, “contained a prophetic seed that by God’s grace has gradually matured through unprecedented encounters, acts of peacemaking and fresh initiatives of fraternity.”

Although these years have witnessed painful events, “including conflicts, terrorism and radicalism, at times in the name of religion,” he admitted, “we must also acknowledge the fruitful steps undertaken in the dialogue between the religions. This is a sign of hope that encourages us to continue cooperating as brothers and sisters.” A product of this fruitful dialogue, the Pope noted, arrived at the important Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together , which he signed with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, in 2019 in Abu Dhabi.

The Appeal began noting that those of different religious traditions present gathered in order to send a message of peace.

“To show clearly that the religions do not want war and, indeed, disown those who would enshrine violence.” They also asked everyone to pray for reconciliation and to strive to enable fraternity to pave new paths of hope.

“We solemnly commit ourselves,” they promised, “to make this Appeal for Peace our own and to propose it to the leaders of nations and the citizens of the world.” In these uncertain times, as we feel the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that threatens peace by aggravating inequalities and fear, they acknowledge, “we firmly state that no one can be saved alone: no people, no single individual!”

“The time has come to boldly dream anew that peace is possible, that it is necessary, that a world without war is not utopian,” they stated, explaining: “This is why we want to say once more: ‘No more war!'” They invited leaders of nations to work together to create a new architecture of peace.

“Let us join forces to promote life, health, education and peace,” the appeal urged. “Let us waste no time!” it demanded, suggesting: “Let us start with achievable goals: may we immediately join our efforts to contain the spread of the virus until there is a vaccine that is suitable and available to all. The pandemic is reminding us that we are blood brothers and sisters.” Calling for all believers, and people of good will to become creative artisans of peace, friendship and dialogue, no one, it stressed, can feel exempted from this, noting all of us have a shared responsibility.

The Appeal for Peace concluded, praying: “May God inspire in us a commitment to these ideals and to the journey that we are making together. May he touch every heart and make us heralds of peace.”

Pope Francis has been close to the Community, often at its events and collaborating or promoting different initiatives, for the homeless, migrants and refugees, and the prayer for peace. He also has worked with the Community’s peace initiatives in Mozambique, Lesbos, and even if from Rome, regarding South Sudan.
The photos in this text are ‘Vatican Media’ copyright.
Here is the Vatican-provided text of the Pope’s full homily at the Christian prayer service, his address at the Campidoglio, and the text of the religious leaders’ Appeal for Peace:
***
HOMILY AT CHRISTIAN PRAYER SERVICE:
It is a gift to pray together. I greet all of you cordially and with gratitude, especially my brother, His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and dear Bishop Heinrich, President of the Council of the Evangelical Church of Germany.
The passage from the account of the Lord’s Passion that we have just heard comes shortly before Jesus’ death. It speaks of the temptation he experienced amid the agony of the cross. At the supreme moment of his sufferings and love, many of those present cruelly taunted him with the words: “Save yourself!” (Mk 15:30). This is a great temptation. It spares no one, including us Christians. The temptation to think only of saving ourselves and our own circle. To focus only on our own problems and interests, as if nothing else mattered. It is a very human instinct, but wrong. It was the final temptation of the crucified God.
Save yourself. These words were spoken first “by those who passed by” (v. 29). They were ordinary people, those who had heard Jesus teach and who witnessed his miracles. Now they are telling him, “Save yourself, come down from the cross”. They had no pity, they only wanted miracles; they wanted to see Jesus descend from the cross. Sometimes we too prefer a wonder-working god to one who is compassionate, a god powerful in the eyes of the world, who shows his might and scatters those who wish us ill. But this is not God, but our own creation. How often do we want a god in our own image, rather than to become conformed to his own image. We want a god like ourselves, rather than becoming ourselves like God. In this way, we prefer the worship of ourselves to the worship of God. Such worship is nurtured and grows through indifference toward others. Those passers-by were only interested in Jesus for the satisfaction of their own desires. Jesus, reduced to an outcast hanging on a cross, was no longer of interest to them. He was before their eyes, yet far from their hearts. Indifference kept them far from the true face of God.
Save yourself. The next people to speak those words were the chief priests and the scribes. They were the ones who had condemned Jesus, for they considered him dangerous. All of us, though, are specialists in crucifying others to save ourselves. Yet Jesus allowed himself to be crucified, in order to teach us not to shift evil to others. The chief priests accused him precisely because of what he had done for others: “He saved others and cannot save himself!” (v. 31). They knew Jesus; they remembered the healings and liberating miracles he performed, but they drew a malicious conclusion. For them, saving others, coming to their aid, is useless; Jesus, who gave himself unreservedly for others was himself lost! The mocking tone of the accusation is garbed in religious language, twice using the verb to save. But the “gospel” of save yourself is not the Gospel of salvation. It is the falsest of the apocryphal gospels, making others carry the cross. Whereas the true Gospel bids us take up the cross of others.
Save yourself. Finally, those who were crucified alongside Jesus also joined in taunting him. How easy it is to criticize, to speak against others, to point to the evil in others but not in ourselves, even to blaming on the weak and the outcast! But why were they upset with Jesus? Because he did not take them down from the cross. They said to him: “Save yourself and us!” (Lk 23: 39). They looked to Jesus only to resolve their problems. Yet God does not come only to free us from our ever-present daily problems, but rather to liberate us from the real problem, which is the lack of love. This is the primary cause of our personal, social, international and environmental ills. Thinking only of ourselves: this is the father of all evils. Yet one of the thieves then looks at Jesus and sees in him a humble love. He entered heaven by doing one thing alone: turning his concern from himself to Jesus, from himself to the person next to him (cf. v. 42).
Dear brothers and sisters, Calvary was the site of a great “duel” between God, who came to save us, and man, who wants to save only himself; between faith in God and worship of self; between man who accuses and God who excuses. In the end, God’s victory was revealed; his mercy came down upon the earth. From the cross forgiveness poured forth and fraternal love was reborn: “the Cross makes us brothers and sisters” (BENEDICT XVI, Address at the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum, 21 March 2008). Jesus’ arms, outstretched on the cross, mark the turning point, for God points a finger at no one, but instead embraces all. For love alone extinguishes hatred, love alone can ultimately triumph over injustice. Love alone makes room for others. Love alone is the path towards full communion among us.
Let us ask the crucified God to grant us the grace to be more united and more fraternal. When we are tempted to follow the way of this world, may we be reminded of Jesus’ words: “Whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it” (Mk 8:35). What is counted loss in the eyes of the world is, for us, salvation. May we learn from the Lord, who saved us by emptying himself (cf. Phil 2:7) and becoming other: from being God, he became man; from spirit, he became flesh: from a king, he became a slave. He asks us to do the same, to humble ourselves, to “become other” in order to reach out to others. The closer we become to the Lord Jesus, the more we will be open and “universal”, since we will feel responsible for others. And others will become the means of our own salvation: all others, every human person, whatever his or her history and beliefs. Beginning with the poor, who are those most like Jesus. The great Archbishop of Constantinople, Saint John Chrysostom, once wrote: “If there were no poor, the greater part of our salvation would be overthrown” (On the Second Letter to Corinthians, XVII, 2). May the Lord help us to journey together on the path of fraternity, and thus to become credible witnesses of the true God.
***
ADDRESS AT PRAYER FOR PEACE – Piazza del Campidoglio
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I rejoice and give thanks to God that here on the Capitoline Hill, in the heart of Rome, I can meet with you, distinguished religious leaders, public authorities and so many friends of peace. At each other’s side, we have prayed for peace. I greet the President of the Italian Republic, the Honorable Sergio Mattarella. I am happy to encounter once more the Ecumenical Patriarch, His Holiness Bartholomewolins. I am most grateful that, despite the difficulties of travel these days, he and other leaders wished to take part in this prayer meeting. In the spirit of the Assisi Meeting called by Saint John Paul II in 1986, the Community of Sant’Egidio celebrates annually, in different cities, this moment of prayer and dialogue for peace among believers of various religions.
The Assisi Meeting and its vision of peace contained a prophetic seed that by God’s grace has gradually matured through unprecedented encounters, acts of peacemaking and fresh initiatives of fraternity. Although the intervening years have witnessed painful events, including conflicts, terrorism and radicalism, at times in the name of religion, we must also acknowledge the fruitful steps undertaken in the dialogue between the religions. This is a sign of hope that encourages us to continue cooperating as brothers and sisters. In this way, we arrived at the important Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together , which I signed with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, in 2019.
Indeed, “the commandment of peace is inscribed in the depths of the religious traditions” ( Fratelli Tutti , 284). Believers have understood that religious differences do not justify indifference or enmity. Rather, on the basis of our religious faith we are enabled to become peacemakers, rather than standing passively before the evil of war and hatred. Religions stand at the service of peace and fraternity. For this reason, our present gathering also represents an incentive to religious leaders and to all believers to pray fervently for peace, never resigned to war, but working with the gentle strength of faith to end conflicts.
We need peace! More peace! “We cannot remain indifferent. Today the world has a profound thirst for peace. In many countries, people are suffering due to wars which, though often forgotten, are always the cause of suffering and poverty “( Address to Participants in the World Day of Prayer for Peace , Assisi, 20 January 2016). The world, political life and public opinion all run the risk of growing inured to the evil of war, as if it were simply a part of human history. “Let us not remain mired in theoretical discussions, but touch the wounded flesh of the victims … Let us think of the refugees and displaced, those who suffered the effects of atomic radiation or chemical attacks, the mothers who lost their children, and the boys and girls maimed or deprived of their childhood “( Fratelli Tutti, 261). Today the sufferings of war are aggravated by the suffering caused by the coronavirus and the impossibility, in many countries, of access to necessary care.
In the meantime, conflicts continue, bringing in their wake suffering and death. To put an end to war is a solemn duty before God incumbent on all those holding political responsibilities. Peace is the priority of all politics. God will ask an accounting of those who failed to seek peace, or who fomented tensions and conflicts. He will call them to account for all the days, months and years of war endured by the world’s peoples!
The words Jesus spoke to Peter are incisive and full of wisdom: “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword “( Mt 26:52). Those who wield the sword, possibly in the belief that it will resolve difficult situations quickly, will know in their own lives, the lives of their loved ones and the lives of their countries, the death brought by the sword. “Enough!” says Jesus ( Lk 22:38), when his disciples produce two swords before the Passion. “Enough!” That is his unambiguous response to any form of violence. That single word of Jesus echoes through the centuries and reaches us forcefully in our own time: enough of swords, weapons, violence and war!
Saint Paul VI echoed that word in his appeal to the United Nations in 1965: “No more war!” This is our plea, and that of all men and women of good will. It is the dream of all who strive and work for peace in the realization that “every war leaves our world worse than it was before” ( Fratelli Tutti , 261).
How do we find a way out of intransigent and festering conflicts? How do we untangle the knots of so many armed struggles? How do we prevent conflicts? How do we inspire thoughts of peace in warlords and those who rely on the strength of arms? No people, no social group, can single-handedly achieve peace, prosperity, security and happiness. It is not. The lesson learned from the recent pandemic, if we wish to be honest, is “the awareness that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all. Once more we realized that no one is saved alone; we can only be saved together ”( Fratelli Tutti , 32).
Fraternity, born of the realization that we are a single human family, must penetrate the life of peoples, communities, government leaders and international assemblies. This will help everyone to understand that we can only be saved together through encounter and negotiation, setting aside our conflicts and pursuing reconciliation, moderating the language of politics and propaganda, and developing true paths of peace (cf. Fratelli Tutti , 231).
We have gathered this evening, as persons of different religious traditions, in order to send a message of peace. To show clearly that the religions do not want war and, indeed, disown those who would enshrine violence. That they ask everyone to pray for reconciliation and to strive to enable fraternity to pave new paths of hope. For indeed, with God’s help, it will be possible to build a world of peace, and thus to be saved together.
***
APPEAL FOR PEACE:
Gathered in Rome, in “the spirit of Assisi”, and spiritually united to believers worldwide and to all men and women of good will, we have prayed alongside one another to invoke upon our world the gift of peace. We have called to mind the wounds of humanity, we are united with the silent prayers of so many of our suffering brothers and sisters, all too often nameless and unheard. We now solemnly commit ourselves to make our own and to propose to the leaders of nations and the citizens of the world this Appeal for Peace.
On this Capitoline Hill, in the wake of the greatest conflict in history, the nations that had been at war made a pact based on a dream of unity that later came true: the dream of a united Europe. Today, in these uncertain times, as we feel the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that threatens peace by aggravating inequalities and fear, we firmly state that no one can be saved alone: no people, no single individual!
Wars and peace, pandemics and health care, hunger and access to food, global warming and sustainable development, the displacement of populations, the elimination of nuclear threats and the reduction of inequalities: these are not matters that concern individual nations alone. We understand this better nowadays, in a world that is amply connected, yet often lacks a sense of fraternity. All of us are brothers and sisters! Let us pray to the Most High that, after this time of trial, there may no longer be “others”, but rather, a great “we”, rich in diversity. The time has come to boldly dream anew that peace is possible, that it is necessary, that a world without war is not utopian. This is why we want to say once more: “No more war”!
Tragically, for many, war once again seems to be one possible means of resolving international disputes. It is not. Before it is too late, we would remind everyone that war always leaves the world worse than it was. War is a failure of politics and of humanity.
We appeal to government leaders to reject the language of division, often based on fear and mistrust, and to avoid embarking on paths of no return. Together let us look at the victims. All too many conflicts are presently in course.
To leaders of nations we say: let us work together to create a new architecture of peace. Let us join forces to promote life, health, education and peace. The time has come to divert the resources employed in producing ever more destructive and deadly weapons to choosing life and to caring for humanity and our common home. Let us waste no time! Let us start with achievable goals: may we immediately join our efforts to contain the spread of the virus until there is a vaccine that is suitable and available to all. The pandemic is reminding us that we are blood brothers and sisters.
To all believers, and to men and women of good will, we say: let us become creative artisans of peace, let us build social friendship, let us make our own the culture of dialogue. Honest, persistent and courageous dialogue is the antidote to distrust, division and violence. Dialogue dismantles at the outset the arguments for wars that destroy the fraternity to which our human family is called.
No one can feel exempted from this. All of us have a shared responsibility. All of us need to forgive and to be forgiven. The injustices of the world and of history are not healed by hatred and revenge, but by dialogue and forgiveness.
May God inspire in us a commitment to these ideals and to the journey that we are making together. May he touch every heart and make us heralds of peace.
Rome, Capitoline Hill, 20 October 2020.
[Original text: Italian]
***

 

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President of Korean Bishops’ Conference Rejects Amendment of Nation’s Abortion Law

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 2:54 PM

“Abortion is unacceptable. The Church will always protect human life, from conception to natural death. Therefore, we hope the Korean government will allow a conscientious objection to the abortion law”, said Bishop Mathias Lee Yong-hoon, at the head of the diocese of Suwon, who was elected CBCK’s new president at the Oct. 12-15 Fall General Assembly, reported Fides News Agency.

The Bishop, who was previously President of the Bioethics Commission of the Bishops’ Conference, comments on the debate about changes to the abortion law currently underway in the Korean parliament, observed: “The protection of the dignity of human life and the inalienable right to life and human dignity are values that cannot be compromised”, he said. Based on this conviction, the Bishop asked the civil authorities for the recognition of a conscientious objection: “The right to conscientious objection enables doctors and nurses to refuse abortions requested by their patients. Health workers should not be punished just because they refuse to perform an abortion procedure”.

The government recently announced a revision of the abortion act, changing both the Criminal Act and the Mother and Child Health Act to legalize abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy. Abortions for women who are between 15 weeks and 24 weeks pregnant will also be decriminalized under “certain conditions”, such as medical, economic, or social reasons as well as rape.

The bill, presented to the National Assembly on 7 October, revokes the total ban on abortions imposed in 1953. The announcement of the bill – which for the first time would allow voluntary abortion in the country, except for rare exceptions introduced in 1973 – comes after the Constitutional Court ruled last year that the criminalization of abortion would violate the Constitution.

The Christian churches, which are very widespread in Korea, have meanwhile launched a campaign against the proposed change in the law. The new President of the Catholic Bishops added that “a better Korea can only come if one respects the life and culture of life”. Song Young-chae, a Christian university professor, says: “Abortion contradicts my religious values, but also Korean values and those of our ancestors and society. Koreans should always place the highest value on human life, even if it has not yet seen the light of day”.

Under current law, a Korean woman can be punished up to one year in prison or fined up to 2 million won (approximately $ 1,700) for an abortion, while a doctor or health care worker performing the abortion can be sentenced to up to two years in prison.

The government also justified the need for the amendment to the law on the basis of some data submitted by the Ministry of Health: 30 out of 1,000 Korean women between the ages of 15 and 44 had illegal abortions in 2005, and these data placed South Korea in the top three countries in terms of per capita abortion rate in the world, after Russia and Vietnam. According to opinion polls today, 75% of South Koreans are in favor of dropping the absolute ban on abortion. South Korea has a birth rate of 1.1 births per woman, well below the global average of 2.4, according to the 2020 report of the UN Population Fund. Report.

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Holy Father’s Address at Church of Saint Maria in Aracoeli

Tue, 10/20/2020 - 2:45 PM

Below is the Vatican-provided text of the address delivered by Pope Francis today at the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace: “No one is saved alone. Peace and Fraternity” at the Church of Saint Maria in Aracoeli.

In an exclusive interview with ZENIT in Rome, the President of the Community of Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, gave words of encouragement and comfort before the Pope’s visit. The event is promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio (presided over by Impagliazzo). Every year, the Meeting recalls the historic Day of Prayer for Peace convoked in Assisi by St. Pope John Paul II in 1986, with representatives of all the world religions.

Here is the address of the Holy Father:

It is a gift to pray together. I greet all of you cordially and with gratitude, especially my brother, His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and dear Bishop Heinrich, President of the Council of the Evangelical Church of Germany.

The passage from the account of the Lord’s Passion that we have just heard comes shortly before Jesus’ death. It speaks of the temptation he experienced amid the agony of the cross. At the supreme moment of his sufferings and love, many of those present cruelly taunted him with the words: “Save yourself!” (Mk 15:30). This is a great temptation. It spares no one, including us Christians. The temptation to think only of saving ourselves and our own circle. To focus only on our own problems and interests, as if nothing else mattered. It is a very human instinct, but wrong. It was the final temptation of the crucified God.

Save yourself. These words were spoken first “by those who passed by” (v. 29). They were ordinary people, those who had heard Jesus teach and who witnessed his miracles. Now they are telling him, “Save yourself, come down from the cross”. They had no pity, they only wanted miracles; they wanted to see Jesus descend from the cross. Sometimes we too prefer a wonder-working god to one who is compassionate, a god powerful in the eyes of the world, who shows his might and scatters those who wish us ill. But this is not God, but our own creation. How often do we want a god in our own image, rather than to become conformed to his own image. We want a god-like ourselves, rather than becoming ourselves like God. In this way, we prefer the worship of ourselves to the worship of God. Such worship is nurtured and grows through indifference toward others. Those passers-by were only interested in Jesus for the satisfaction of their own desires. Jesus, reduced to an outcast hanging on a cross, was no longer of interest to them. He was before their eyes, yet far from their hearts. Indifference kept them far from the true face of God.

Save yourself. The next people to speak those words were the chief priests and the scribes. They were the ones who had condemned Jesus, for they considered him dangerous. All of us, though, are specialists in crucifying others to save ourselves. Yet Jesus allowed himself to be crucified, in order to teach us not to shift evil to others. The chief priests accused him precisely because of what he had done for others: “He saved others and cannot save himself!” (v. 31). They knew Jesus; they remembered the healings and liberating miracles he performed, but they drew a malicious conclusion. For them, saving others, coming to their aid, is useless; Jesus, who gave himself unreservedly for others was himself lost! The mocking tone of the accusation is garbed in religious language, twice using the verb to save. But the “gospel” of save yourself is not the Gospel of salvation. It is the falsest of the apocryphal gospels, making others carry the cross. Whereas the true Gospel bids us take up the cross of others.

Save yourself. Finally, those who were crucified alongside Jesus also joined in taunting him. How easy it is to criticize, to speak against others, to point to the evil in others but not in ourselves, even to blaming the weak and the outcast! But why were they upset with Jesus? Because he did not take them down from the cross. They said to him: “Save yourself and us!” (Lk 23: 39). They looked to Jesus only to resolve their problems. Yet God does not come only to free us from our ever-present daily problems, but rather to liberate us from the real problem, which is the lack of love. This is the primary cause of our personal, social, international, and environmental ills. Thinking only of ourselves: this is the father of all evils. Yet one of the thieves then looks at Jesus and sees in him a humble love. He entered heaven by doing one thing alone: turning his concern from himself to Jesus, from himself to the person next to him (cf. v. 42).

Dear brothers and sisters, Calvary was the site of a great “duel” between God, who came to save us, and man, who wants to save only himself; between faith in God and worship of self; between man who accuses and God who excuses. In the end, God’s victory was revealed; his mercy came down upon the earth. From the cross, forgiveness poured forth and fraternal love was reborn: “the Cross makes us brothers and sisters” (BENEDICT XVI, Address at the Way of the Cross at the Colosseum, 21 March 2008). Jesus’ arms, outstretched on the cross, mark the turning point, for God points a finger at no one, but instead embraces all. For love alone extinguishes hatred, love alone can ultimately triumph over injustice. Love alone makes room for others. Love alone is the path towards full communion among us.

Let us ask the crucified God to grant us the grace to be more united and more fraternal. When we are tempted to follow the way of this world, may we be reminded of Jesus’ words: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it” (Mk 8:35). What is counted loss in the eyes of the world is, for us, salvation. May we learn from the Lord, who saved us by emptying himself (cf. Phil 2:7) and becoming other: from being God, he became man; from spirit, he became flesh: from a king, he became a slave. He asks us to do the same, to humble ourselves, to “become other” in order to reach out to others. The closer we become to the Lord Jesus, the more we will be open and “universal”, since we will feel responsible for others. And others will become the means of our own salvation: all others, every human person, whatever his or her history and beliefs. Beginning with the poor, who are those most like Jesus. The great Archbishop of Constantinople, Saint John Chrysostom, once wrote: “If there were no poor, the greater part of our salvation would be overthrown” (On the Second Letter to Corinthians, XVII, 2). May the Lord help us to journey together on the path of fraternity, and thus to become credible witnesses of the true God.

[01239-EN.01] [Original text: Italian]

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

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