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Synod2018: October 19 Intervention of Archbishop Ryś

6 hours 56 min ago

Following is the October 19, 2018, Synod2018 intervention by Archbishop Rys, provided by the Polish Bishops Conference.


Most Holy Father,
My Brothers Bishops,
Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Please, let me call Your attention just to one – but in my opinion crucial – a moment of our reflection based on the Instrumentum Laboris. In the point 173 we read: All accompaniment is a way to introduce the call to joy and can thus become the appropriate place to proclaim the good news of Easter and foster the encounter with the risen Christ: a kerygma that «expresses God’s saving love which precedes any moral and religious obligation on our part; it should not impose the truth but appeal to freedom; it should be marked by joy, encouragement, liveliness and a harmonious balance» (EG 165) – the last piece is a quotation of Evangelii gaudium.

This is surely an important statement, but – even in it’s own light – it has to generate at least few capital question tags: In a whole Instrumentum Laboris the word KERYGMA is used only twice (both in the III Part) – here and in the point 151, but in that second usage (n. 151) is – to be honest – put without great understanding. The text speaks about the need of contemplation of the KERYGMA in the Catholic schools and universities. The KERYGMA is certainly not a theory to be contemplated in an academic way. We do not need too much to talk, to discuss the KERYGMA. It is not a mere discourse; it is an event – or THE EVENT! The experience – THE ENCOUNTER with living Lord. It is fundamental. Nothing happens without it. It is an Evangelization. It is the reason for our existence as the Church: Ecclesia evangelizandi causa exstat (Evangelii nuntiandi, p. 14). But we speak about KERYGMA in our Instrumentum just once.

And it is also not without meaning that when we do speak about the KERYGMA it is already point number 173. And what we have before? Many „things”: the idea of out-going Church (YES! but why? And with what a massage?); then we speak about economy, technology, work (job), social and political activity (common good), promotion of the dignity of women (as the first area of engagement”), music, sports, marginalization, culture of hospitality. Does it really show our priorities?

Please, let me call just one example showing how important is the matter I speak about. Last Lent in my diocese we organized the retreats for youth. Two days. We had altogether 14 thousand young people. On the second day there were seven thousand, being 16 to 19 years old. At the beginning of our meeting we ask them: „Is there any question You would like to ask God?” [the retreats were based on the Gospel of Jesus meeting a young fellow, and he – as You remember – comes to Jesus with a question: what I am to do to receive the eternal life?”). So: „Is there any question You would like to ask God?” And… more than two thousand (1/3) of them responded: „I have no question to God!” And we know: it is not that they have no important questions, but they do not address them to God (and to us). It is not their fault – it is our fault surely: the God they know is just a name, a word, a catechetical definition, an abstract – but not a PERSON – living and important enough to ask Him questions! Last year we have asked more then 4 thousand youth being 19 years old about the most important values in their life. They said: FAMILY (94%), health (92%), FRIENDSHIP (91%). They put FAITH on the 13th place (60,5%) – before the POLITICS (44%) and FAME (15%). When asked where do they seek the important values in their life, only 20% pointed to FAITH. But only 10% say they are not believers, and more than 50% of them come at least few times a year to the church, and also at least once to the sacrament of penance and Holy Communion. This is the fruit of the twelve years of catechesis without the EXPERIENCE OF KERYGMA. They know the name of Jesus, and they do not meet HIM! Do not know HIM! Not as their Lord and Savior! Out of all the questions being asked to young people the most difficult for them to answer is a question about the experience of God.

We have spoken so much about „listening” to young People, and it is surely the right thing to do; but without the KERYGMA they do not even come to ask the questions, or they will put the answers they got on the „13th place”. The main aim of the 3rd part of Instrumentum Laboris is to show us the pastoral way and first: our pastoral CONVERSION to Youth. It is to be summarized – I believe – in two words: THE KERYGMA (what to offer) and FRIENDSHIP (how to offer).

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Poland: Archbishop Budzik Recalls Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko

7 hours 5 min ago

Commemorating the martyrdom of Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, on October 19th, we also remember the martyrdom of priests who gave their lives for faith in the times of totalitarianism in the 20th century.

Archbishop Stanisław Budzik recalled how, while he was the Secretary General of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, together with the Episcopate’s Presidency, he met Pope Benedict XVI. During the 40-minute meeting, they gave the Holy Father a book evoking three thousand priests martyred in the 20th century. “These are documented cases of priests who gave their lives for faith in the horrors of the twentieth century. They were victims of two totalitarian regimes, on the one hand, that of Nazi Germany, symbolized by Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, and on the other hand, all the victims who died in the East, as a result of communist repression, symbolized by Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko. Both are representatives of these 3,000 priests who were martyred,” said Archbishop Budzik.

The book with the names of 3,000 Polish priests martyrs, who bore witness to the faith in the times of totalitarianism in the twentieth century, was prepared by the seminarians of the Seminary in Tarnow (the book is available on the seminary website). “They must not be forgotten, rather they must be remembered and their lives documented. The names of many are unknown; the names of some have been denigrated by their persecutors, who tried to add disgrace to martyrdom; the names of others have been concealed by their executioners,” said John Paul II during the Jubilee Year in Rome, on 7 May 2000.

“Today, remembering Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, we remember the unswerving priests who preached the Gospel, served God and people in the most terrible times and had the courage not only to suffer for the faith but to give what is most dear to men: their lives,” emphasized Archbishop Budzik.


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Humanae Vitae: The Beauty of the True Nature of Marriage, of the Family and of Sexuality

7 hours 21 min ago

The regulation of births doesn’t only touch the moral behavior of Christian couples, but it has a social, cultural and even political and universal dimension, stressed Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Intervening on October 18, 2018, at the presentation of the book “Birth of An Encyclical: Humanae Vitae in the Light of the Vatican Archives,” by Gilfredo Marengo, published by Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV), the Secretary of State commented on the timeliness of Paul VI’s document, 50 years after its promulgation.

At the time, recalled Cardinal Parolin, “one began to feel the diffusion of processes that put the traditional family progressively in crisis.” Humanae Vitae “was charged with new emerging problems, taking care to avoid all disapproving tonality or nostalgia for past times,” reported “Vatican News.”

The objective of the encyclical, which was elaborated over five years, was to “trace the great lines of Christian spirituality, of the conjugal vocation and life,” in particular on the subject of “responsible paternity-maternity,” which is “an important element of the whole of conjugal and family spirituality,” having a “vocation to perfection,” he said.

For Paul VI it was about “transmitting to the new generations the beauty of what we know about the true nature of marriage, of the family and of human sexuality” while contraceptive methods were expanding.

Paul VI had No Doubts about the Doctrinal Content

 From Professor Marengo’s study, it emerges that the encyclical shows “a significant sliding of subjects inherent to the presence of the Church in the world, to those concerning rather the urgency to recall the principles of the moral doctrine.” Paul VI “had no doubt about the doctrinal content that the encyclical should have,” affirmed Cardinal Parolin. Rather, his concern was to be able to find the adequate means to present it. Hence the removal of a text – “De nascendae prolis –, which did no more than reaffirm the doctrine and asked that it be adhered to without reservations.

“The Magisterium isn’t  . . . an immovable monolith, but a living organism that grows and develops.” In this connection, Paul VI had the acute awareness that the regulation of births didn’t only touch the moral behavior of Christian couples, but it had a social, cultural and even political <and> universal dimension. It was about emitting a judgment on the orientations that put into question the supreme value of human life, wanting to bend couples to an exercise of paternity and maternity conditioned by political discussions and economic strategies contrary to man’s dignity,” continued Cardinal Parolin.

“If the love of spouses is the place where the Creator engenders new lives, how can one not question the ways in which too often the child is considered “one more problem in the life of couples or, on the contrary, almost as an object that is desired at all costs?” asked the Cardinal.

Today “we are able to appreciate better all the value of Humanae Vitae, its prophetic accent and to leave aside the debates and oppositions that followed its publication.” The present challenge is to rediscover and enhance the specific dignity of woman and her vocation in society and in the Church” and “to recognize the beauty of the man-woman complementarity,” concluded the Cardinal.

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Santa Marta: Christians Make Mistakes, Fall, but They Correct Themselves and Get Up Again

7 hours 31 min ago

Christians “sometimes make mistakes, but they correct themselves; they fall sometimes, but they get up again. They also sin sometimes, but they repent; they are always turned “towards the exterior,” stressed Pope Francis during the morning Mass, on October 19, 2018,  at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.

There is a “bad” leaven that “ruins,” noted the Holy Father, in his homily, reported by “Vatican News.” “The hypocrisy’ of people who are “closed-in on themselves, who think of what appears, who pretend to give alms and then ‘blow the trumpet’ to make it known.” Their preoccupation is to protect their “egoism,” their “security”: “when something puts them in difficulty,” they “look elsewhere,” according to their “internal laws.”

“This leaven is dangerous . . . Jesus doesn’t tolerate hypocrisy, continued the Pontiff. “On the outside, you are beautiful as the sepulchers, but inside there is putrefaction or destruction, there are defilements . . . it’s a leaven that makes one grow without a future, because in egoism, in introspection, there is no future, there is no future.” Jesus then says:  “Beware.”

The good leaven is turned toward “the exterior,” explained the Pontiff. Christians “make mistakes sometimes, but they correct themselves; they fall sometimes, but they get up again. They also sin sometimes, but they repent – but they are always towards the exterior, towards that heritage, because it has been promised. And these people are always joyful because a very great happiness has been promised to them: that they will be the glory, the praise of God.”

Pope Francis encouraged all to be “always on the way, with the leaven of the Holy Spirit who never makes one grow toward the interior . . . as the hypocrites.” The Holy Spirit “pushes one towards the exterior,” “towards the horizon.” And, despite the “difficulties, the sufferings, the problems, the falls, Christians hope “to find” the promised “heritage.”

To sum up by way of conclusion: one must choose between being “led by one’s egoism,” grow “towards the interior,” be preoccupied “only to appear balanced, well: that one’s bad habits not be seen” or be “Christians.” “The leaven of Christians is the Holy Spirit, who pushes us outside, makes us grow, with all the difficulties of the way, with all sins also, but always with hope . . . People who have the Holy Spirit as leaven are joyful, even in problems and in difficulties. Hypocrites have forgotten what it is to be joyful.”

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Synod Auditor: Before Getting Married Recently, Had Great Wedding Prep Course, But Now Where Is the Accompaniment?

9 hours 2 min ago

I have just gotten married recently. We had a great marriage prep course beforehand. But now we ask what do we have available to help us?

This observation was made by Yadira Vieyra, an auditor from Chicago, Illinois, during a briefing in the Holy See Press Office, where the Vatican’s Prefect for the Dicastery for Communication, Paolo Ruffini, today, Oct. 19, 2018, at 1:30, briefed journalists on the themes touched on during this morning’s congregation of the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith, and Vocational Discernment, Oct. 3-28, 2018.

Speaking along with the prefect and the auditor were the Holy See Press Office’s Director, Greg Burke; Bishop Joseph Naffah of Lebanon;Bishop Emmanuel Kofi Fianu of Ghana; and Father Valdir José De Castro, Superior General of the Paulinos.

Vieyra, who helps migrant families and is a daughter of immigrants herself, expressed: “you cannot minister to the young, without ministering to the family.” She underscored the importance of the Church accompanying couples after marriage.

She also stressed her experience with the suffering of those who have migrated and suffer depression, anxiety, from their experiences. She also underscored the importance of understanding what is causing these people to flee from their lands, what are the problems behind this exodus.


Lebanese Bishop Joseph Naffah reflected on the synod, acknowledging how some of his young people actively witness Christ in the Middle East, “even to the point of martyrdom.”

He observed that the digital dimension  is important in order to communicate with young people. “Thanks to the web I am able to connect with many young people from the Middle East,” he said, noting how helpful this is since many have left their homeland. “We’ve also had young people’s conversions, who recognized Jesus through our social presence.”

“There are sites,” the Lebanese Maronite prelate also warned,  “which appear “Catholic,” but are actually against the Church and attack it. It is necessary to put the faithful on watch.”

Importance of Sacred Scripture; Access online, But Remaining Catholic, Not Vulnerable to Misuse

Bishop Fianu of Ghana also touched on this theme: “For me, in Ghana it’s helpful to use digital platforms to share biblical reflections. Young People are asking the Church to be able to understand the Gospel and the web helps us to do this.”

The African bishop expressed that at the Synod, he suggested digitizing their apostolates. He emphasized the importance of young Catholics getting more acquainted with Sacred Scripture, and this would be most effective if they can identify a way they find attractive, and explained that for platforms to remain properly ‘Catholic,’ there would be an application process and criteria for selecting sound administrators to manage them in the proper way.

Superior General Father José de Castro also underscored the need that the Catholic sites and platforms be managed to prevent vulnerabilities to inappropriate manipulation. He called for the Church to not be afraid of a digital environment, if She wishes to speak to young people. “We have to discern our presence on social media,” he said.


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Synod2018: Polish Bishop’s Summary of October 19 Sessions

9 hours 39 min ago

Today, October 19, 2018, the morning session was devoted to working in groups on the adoption of the relations regarding Part 3 of the Instrumentum Laboris. The discussion focused on the meaning of the message of faith and how the action of God is expressed. The topic of the difficulties that young people meet with on their path was also addressed.

“With regard to the transmission of faith, there is a need for a great deal of cooperation between priests, Christian communities, and pastoral helpers in developing an itinerary of accompaniment, discernment, and integration. In this area, there are considerable deficiencies, for example, the poor cooperation of church entities when it comes to transmitting the faith. Often, there is also a lack of dialogical reference or a common reference to the truth,” said Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, President of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

The relation evokes different ways of getting this message to young people, including through sports and music. “The relation also emphasizes the important role of the parish and the oratory as places that adults prepare for the young, thus giving them great opportunities for meeting, friendship, sports, or human and spiritual experiences,” noted Archbishop Gądecki.

The relation also highlights the difficulties faced by young priests. “The point is for young priests to take responsibility for the formation of the young. Sometimes young priests flee into an environment where the pastoral work is quieter, where they find recognition,” said Archbishop Gądecki.

The second part of this morning’s meeting was devoted to discussions on the proposals for Instrumentum Laboris. “They touched on point no. 149, i.e., the need for a certain synergy between the humanities and the sciences regarding the things of God. This has happened in Catholic schools and universities that gave young people a good professional preparation but did not necessarily prepare them to live by faith,” said Archbishop Gądecki.

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Trip to Taiwan of Pope Francis Is Not Being Planned, Says Holy Press Office Director Greg Burke

9 hours 49 min ago

The Pope is not planning a visit to Taiwan, has stated the Holy See.

In an Oct. 19 statement issued by the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, he affirmed that Taiwan’s Deputy President, Chen Chien-jen, during the brief courtesy greeting during the Oct. 14 Canonization of seven saints, in the “context, strictly religious,”reiterated his invitation for the Pope to visit Taiwan.

“In this regard,” Greg Burke stated, “I am able to state that such a visit by the Holy Father is not being planned.”

Here is the full Vatican-provided English text of the statement:


The Canonization of Pope Paul VI and another six Blesseds was attended by various Delegations, including one from Taiwan, led by the Deputy President, H.E. Mr. Chen Chien-jen.

Before the Holy Mass, there was a brief courtesy greeting to Pope Francis by the Heads of the Delegations, in accordance with the Protocol for such occasions.

In this context, strictly religious, the Deputy President Mr. Chen reiterated his invitation to the Pope to visit Taiwan.

In this regard, I am able to state that such a visit by the Holy Father is not being planned.


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Australia: Catholic Mission Group Aids Female Training in Myanmar

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 10:01 PM

“We thank God because the construction of the training center for girls continues and is about to end. We hope that we can soon start decorating the interior spaces. We also thank you for the prayers, support, and understanding of the importance of this project”.

This is what Sister Agatha Phawsu, Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco says in a note of “Catholic Mission Australia” (the Pontifical Missionary Societies in Australia), sent to Agenzia Fides, talking about the work related to a center for female professional training in Myanmar.

The training institute, now almost completed, was built in Yangon thanks to the support of Catholic Mission Australia. Each year, the Center will allow 30 girls to take two-year professional training courses in the food and home management sectors.

“The idea is to equip women with the skills required by employers. The Center will aim to respond to the various challenges related to education and support for girls in Yangon, where there is a high school dropout rate and there are few job chances”, reports the note sent to Fides.

For some years now, Catholic Mission has started projects aimed at supporting Catholics in Myanmar, giving priority to education and professional training. In addition to the Yangon Center, in fact, the Pontifical Australian Mission Societies support, in particular, the San Giovanni Catholic school in Hakha, a remote city in the north of the country. One of the main objectives is to have well-trained teachers and to guarantee the right to education of the children in the area.

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Archbishop Auza: Reject the Fallacy that ‘Might Makes Right’

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 9:29 PM

The UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was signed a year ago by nations that accept the end of the fallacy that “might makes right”. That was the message delivered October 17, 2018, by Archbishop Bernardito AuzaApostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations at the Seventy-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly First Committee General and complete disarmament (102 jj): Humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and (102 kk): Ethical imperatives for a nuclear-weapon-free world in New York.

Archbishop Auza’s Full Statement

Mr. Chair,

As this is the first time the Holy See has taken the floor in this Committee this year, allow me to congratulate you on your election as chair, and to pledge our full cooperation in the vital work of the Committee.

A year has passed since the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The Holy See signed and ratified the Treaty during the 20 September 2017 signing ceremony, because the Treaty gives hope to this generation and to those still to be born that one day our world will be free from nuclear weapons, which, for more than seventy years, have daunted humanity’s aspirations for peace.

The Holy See believes the Treaty meets the challenge Pope Francis expressed in his Message to the negotiating conference, “to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security.”[1] The States signing the Treaty have rejected the fallacy that ‘might makes right’ and its pernicious modern corollary that some nations have the right to nuclear weapons while others do not. On the contrary, in adhering to the Treaty they affirmed that the achievement and maintenance of international peace and security consist in what supports the common good of all humanity.

Mr. Chair,

The strategies of deterrence on which some nations rely are deeply flawed. For a couple of decades, some nuclear-armed States made significant cuts in nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Such reductions have halted, however, and in what some are calling a new cold war, the process risks going into reverse. Strategic doctrine, moreover, does not limit itself to the deterrence aspects of nuclear weapons, but rather continues to embrace the possible use of these weapons for a variety of military goals, even against non-nuclear aggression. For these reasons, Pope Francis last November declared, “The threat of [the] use [of nuclear weapons], as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.”[2] Abolition of nuclear weapons is an ethical imperative of the first order.

Following the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, Pope John XXIII wrote that the world could not expect to abolish the nuclear arms race “unless the process is complete and thorough, unless it proceeds from inner conviction, unless, that is, everyone sincerely cooperates to banish the fear and anxious expectation of war with which [humanity is] oppressed.”[3] Pope John concluded, “The true and solid peace of nations consists not in equality of arms but in mutual trust alone.”[4] Abolition of nuclear weapons requires this profound change of perspective, indeed a metanoia, that is, a change of heart. Only with such a conversion of moral outlook will negotiation, disarmament, verification and the other necessary programmatic components of abolition yield the harvest of a non-nuclear peace: a world free of nuclear weapons. Disarmament implemented on the basis of a change of fundamental attitude, a movement from fear to trust, is what Pope Francis means by “integral disarmament.” To build this new culture of peace, extensive investment in peace and disarmament education is needed.

Mr. Chair,

Even if it begins with an extensive preamble on humanitarian concerns and recommendations for victim assistance and environmental remediation, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons nonetheless stipulates few steps for disarmament. In particular, the “international authority” designated to negotiate and verify elimination of nuclear arsenals needs to be designed.[5] Establishing the goal of nuclear abolition is not enough; the means to achieve it are also needed. Elimination of nuclear weapons requires the establishment of a global public authority endowed with a wideness of powers, structure, and means to operate in an effective manner on a worldwide basis. The establishment of such an authority ought to be high on the agenda of the first Treaty Review Conference.

Within months of the adoption of the Treaty and in spite of the widespread support it enjoyed, the world was alarmed by the escalation of talk of nuclear war. With some relief, we have observed the reduction of the risk of war in the Korean peninsula, along with confidence-building measures and those expressions of friendship that always accompany the quest for denuclearization. At this point, the mutual engagement of the two Koreas shows some promise of developing into an integral process, in which disarmament is linked to building up peaceful and mutually beneficial relations. By contrast, the effort to undo the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran is cause for concern. Although the Plan may not be to the full satisfaction of all interested parties and while more acceptable terms to all parties may be reached through continued negotiations, it can and should continue to serve to obtain assurances of the exclusively peaceful nature of the nuclear program of the State in question.

As we look ahead to the 2020 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, there is an urgent need to address the problems presented by breakaway and undeclared nuclear States. Amid the chaos and destruction of the Middle East, prudence demands the Member States revive the quest of a Middle East Nuclear Free Zone. Above all, the world expects the Nuclear Weapon States fully to implement their obligations under (NPT) Article VI for nuclear and general disarmament.

Mr. Chair,

In conclusion, the Preamble of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons states: “The establishment and maintenance of world peace and security are to be promoted with the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources.”[6] Likewise, Sustainable Development Goal 16 aims to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

The Holy See urges Governments to consider reallocating a sizable portion of the savings from disarmament for the development of their own citizens and of the world’s poor. In addition, the Holy See would urge the “international authority” designated by the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to include among the terms of disarmament for new signatories the reallocation of funding from nuclear armaments to sustainable development as an element of disarmament planning.

“We need,” Pope Francis has said, “to reject the culture of waste and to care for individuals and peoples laboring under painful disparities through patient efforts to favor processes of solidarity over selfish and contingent interests.”[7] As swords are beaten into plowshares, the poor and the vulnerable can rightly expect that integral disarmament should yield fruit in integral development.

Finally, Mr. Chair, my Delegation believes that the document “Securing our Common Future: the Agenda for Disarmament” could provide important insights and recommendations for us as we address the full agenda of disarmament challenges.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

1. Pope Francis, Message to the United Nations Conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination, United Nations, New York, 27-31 March 2017.
2. Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the International Symposium “Prospects for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament”, Vatican, 10 November 2017.
3. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth), no. 113.
4. Ibid.
5. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Article 4, passim.
6. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Preamble, para. 12.
7. Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the International Symposium “Prospects for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Disarmament”, Vatican, 10 November 2017.

Copyright © 2017 Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, All rights reserved.

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Archbishop Follo: A New Perspective: Service as a Career

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 8:52 PM

XXIX Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B – October 21, 2018

Roman Rite
Is 53:10 to 11; Ps 33; Heb 4, 14-16; Mk 10:35 to 45

Ambrosian Rite
Is 26, 1-2.4.7-8; 54, 12-14a; [Ap. 21, 9a.c-27]; Ps 67; 1 Cor 3.9 to 17; Jn 10.22 to 30
Dedication of Milan Cathedral

1) A God who serves.

This Sunday’s Gospel passage (Mark 10.35 to 45) seems to repeat some words that Christ has previously pronounced: “Whoever wants to be great should become servant of all” (see Mk 9:35). However, the disciples still don’t understand them and moreover, they don’t understand Christ who is announcing his passion. The reaction of the Apostles at the third prediction of the Passion is worse than the previous ones.

After the first prediction, there was a discussion between Jesus and Peter. The disciple was still thinking like a human being, not according to God. Therefore, he wanted to convince Christ not to give his life.

After the second prediction, there was the misunderstanding of all the apostles whose focus was on who was the greatest.

After the third prediction, it is as if Jesus had not said anything. Indeed, James and John, the favored disciple, instead of doing his will, want Him to do theirs. They ask Jesus “We want to sit one at your right hand and one at your left” (see Mk 10: 37). The other disciples get upset by this request.

Their reaction is certainly not in line with the humble love preached by the Master. Jesus patiently gathers around him all the apostles and, speaking to the two who sought power and honor and to the other ten, who were irritated by the request perhaps because it had been made before they could do the same, says that the most important Apostle is the one who serves.

To make his thinking better understandable for the disciples, Jesus uses two comparisons, one negative and one positive. He invites them not to exercise their authority as the princes of the world do (this is the negative comparison), then he continues asking them to behave like Him, who is “the Son of Man (here is the positive comparison) who did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for the multitudes “.

Therefore, in the Kingdom of God great is the one who serves and the best service is to give one’s own life. To serve is already a bit “to die”, it is the daily cross. If we accept this cross, we unite ourselves to the service that Christ offers to all humanity, manifesting the gratuitous and merciful love of God.

If giving life is the highest way of serving, in daily life serving means at least being useful for free, without calculation, disinterestedly. Serving means organizing one’s whole existence in such a way as to take charge of the other up to the complete gift of self. Serving with authority means putting oneself at the disposal of the beloved so that he or she can grow (authority comes from the Latin ‘augere’ which means to grow). It is a service of love that operates “in redemption” of the multitude, as the missionaries do in a wonderful way.

The expression “in redemption” should not be understood as if it meant “to pay off the debt”, but as “solidarity with” or “instead of”. The prevailing idea is not that of debt which must absolutely be paid at any cost, but the idea of the solidarity that exists between the Son of man and the multitudes (Jesus, in other words, is the Big good Brother. Nothing prevents us from thinking, with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, that in addition to the two sons there is a third one -mentioned in the parable of the Merciful Father – who feels involved and takes on his shoulders the situation of his younger prodigal brother). The Son of God and of man came to live this solidarity, thus becoming the visible, tangible transparency of God’s love and his covenant. As a missionary once told me: “The greatest solidarity, the greatest charity that we can do to others is to proclaim to them that Christ is risen” and changes life because the love of the risen Christ is not “something individualistic, uniquely spiritual, but it concerns the flesh, it concerns the world and must transform it “(Benedict XVI, June 28, 2007). We are therefore called to “serve the Gospel in solidarity and in communion … It is a vocation that we must fulfill by wearing the service apron, as Jesus did at the Last Supper with his Apostles (Pope Francis, November 16, 2017).

Jesus patiently teaches that, in order to be great with him and like him, we must exercise authority in the same way he does: serving. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). This sentence is the highlight of the whole teaching of Christ. It is a sentence that goes far beyond the mere exercise of authority made with patience, kindness, and humility. The author of The Imitation of Christ writes “If you want to reign with Jesus, carry the cross with him. Only the servants of the cross find the way of bliss and true light “(see Ch. 56)

To participate to his greatness, Jesus not only asks us to act like him but to be like Him: servants. “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve. It is not necessary to have a college degree to serve.  In order to serve, subject and verb do not have to agree. It is only necessary to have a heart full of grace “(Martin Luther King) regenerated from the love of Christ on the Cross.


2) Authority belongs to the one who loves and practices it with service[1].

Authority in Christianity is understood and lived as an exercise of love because for Christ the one who loves Him is the one who can and must lead his friends, becoming their servant.

This is the teaching that comes from the text of St. Mark that we are commenting today. To the disciples who are asking Jesus to share His greatness, He responds by teaching that greatness is in service and that the service is a way of the cross, namely the gift of self so that the friend can live. It is not pleasant to suffer, but “to serve “is right, good and joyful even though it has as a price the renunciation of self. “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This is a teaching that is also a non-Christian, as the Indian poet Tagore writes “I dreamed that life was joy. I woke up. Life was service. I served and in the service I found joy. “And the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta has completed it saying “Where God is, there is love. And where there is love, there is always service. The fruit of love is service; the fruit of service is peace. ”

True greatness, which is the greatness of God, is to be a servant of love, because to serve is, in the New Testament, the concrete expression of love. To love is to serve the others. Selfishness means the use of the other.

In the prevailing mentality, authority is conceived and practiced as power. It is almost synonymous of domination and, in this sense, it is the opposite of service[2]. But it must be kept in mind that even though Jesus has enjoyed deep authorities and acted with authority, he was also the one that the New Testament presented above all using the hymn of the suffering servant (Is 52.13 to 53.12), one who gave his life for the others, expressing to the highest degree the truth that there is no better friend than he who gives his life for the others. “Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights” (Is 42.1). It is God the one who speaks and presents “his” servant; it is He who has “chosen” him, it is He who supports him.

Every election, in the Scripture, is in view of a mission and, to address it, grace is needed. God says that his servant is “good” and that He has placed his Spirit in him. “Hear me, islands, listen carefully, distant nations; the Lord called me from the womb, up from the womb of my mother he named my name”. (Is 49.2) “He made my mouth like a sharp sword, he hid me in the shadow of his hand, made me a sharp arrow, He put me in its quiver.” (Ibid.)

To sum up, the servant is a man chosen among men. He is not better than the others or more capable. It is God who goes out to meet him; it is He who purifies and enables him to say yes. The call to be holy is realized in the mission toward the others as sent by God. This mission is mainly in announcing the Word, in providing the voice of God and being his witness. According to the Gospel, authority is, therefore, a qualification that God gives for a service. If we wanted to explain it with a passage from the Gospel of St. John, we could refer to the washing of the feet, in the evening of the Last Supper in the Upper Room.

The episode of the washing of the feet sends us to the Gospel of Mark, in which Jesus is not concerned to assimilate himself to the great of the earth. He does not want to be served but to serve. By giving his life, he wants to prove that he knows how to take to the extreme the truth in which he believes and the mission that the Father has entrusted to him. He not only wanted us to understand that Christian life is life in joy because to serve God, the neighbor, and the Church gives joy ” if one contributes, in generosity; if one does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Rom 12: 7-8).


3) The authoritative service of the consecrated virgins[3].

Reflecting on how the consecrated virgins are great and how they exercise the authority of obliging love, I thought that today is important to highlight the following.

The consecrated virgins in the world dedicate their lives and all their love to God and to his Kingdom. They testify that every vocation is acceptance of the love of God and answer to Him in the service of others. They remind to us, mainly through virginity, the theological source of love that speaks of the virginity of the heart and of the affections born from the intimate and fruitful communion with the Lord.

These women follow the example of Our Lady. The Virgin Mary responded yes to the proposal of “being for the other”.  She has not only realized the scale and the grandeur of God’s call but in her words “Behold the handmaid of the Lord” understood in an exemplary manner the true attitude about the service requested by God. A service hardworking and quiet that under the cross has cooperated with the will of the Father. Perhaps never before as at that time the words “Behold, I am the servant of my Lord” echoed in her heart.

Those who love serve all and go looking, like Christ, particularly for the excluded, the dispossessed, the sinners, and with a chaste life proclaim that God looks at them, loves them and saves them.

Their importance is not measured by what they produce in terms of efficiency, but by the spirit and the style that motivates them, and by the living ecclesial communion.

Theirs is a vocation of service that shows, through the consecration and the life that follows, that it is possible to go from a possessive “I” to an oblative “I”.

These women show how you can love your neighbor as yourself. It is enough to love Jesus, because those who really love, love also those loved by the Beloved.

This is also taught by the Rite of Consecration of Virgins. With this rite, the Church celebrates the decision of a woman to give her virginity to Christ the Bridegroom and, invoking upon her the gift of the Spirit, dedicates her to always serve and worship the Lord and to a service of love for the ecclesial community and for the world.

The consecration is a response to the call of God the Father “pure spring from which flows the gift of chaste integrity”. Through Christ, He calls the virgins “for a plan of love […] to join them more closely to him and put them in the service of the Church and humanity” (Rite of Consecration of Virgins, Homily). For this reason, the Church calls upon them all the virtues, graces and gifts they need to live their vocation, praying “Through the gift of your Spirit, Lord, give them modesty with right judgment, kindness with true wisdom, gentleness with the strength of character, freedom with the grace of chastity. Give them the warmth of love, to love you above all others. Make their lives deserve our praise, without seeking to be praised”. (Prayer of consecration)


Patristic Reading

Saint Augustin of Hyppo

Sermon XLVI. [XCVI. Ben.]

 On the words of the gospel, Mc 8,34 “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself,” etc. And on the words 1 John chapter ii, verse 15, “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

1). Hard and grievous does that appear which the Lord hath enjoined, that “whosoever will come after Him, must deny himself.”1 But what He enjoineth is not hard or grievous, who aideth us that what He enjoineth may be done. For both is that true which is said to Him in the Psalm, “Because of the words of Thy lips I have kept hard ways.”2 And that is true which He said Himself, “My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”3 For whatsoever is hard in what is enjoined us, charity makes easy. We know what great things love itself can do. Very often is this love even abominable and impure; but how great hardships have men suffered, what indignities and intolerable things have they endured, to attain to the object of their love? whether it be a lover of money who is called covetous; or a lover of honor, who is called ambitious; or a lover of beautiful women, who is called voluptuous. And who could enumerate all sorts of loves? Yet consider what labor all lovers undergo, and are not conscious of their labors; and then does any such one most feel labor, when he is hindered from labor. Since then the majority of men are such as their loves are, and that there ought to be no other care for the regulation of our lives, than the choice of that which we ought to love; why dost thou wonder, if he who loves Christ, and who wishes to follow Christ, for the love of Him denies himself? For if by loving himself man is lost, surely by denying himself be is found.


  1. The first destruction of man, was the love of himself. For if he had not loved himself, if he had preferred God to himself, he would have been willing to be ever subject unto God; and would not have been turned to the neglect of His will, and the doing his own will. For this is to love one’s self, to wish to do one’s own will. Prefer to this God’s will; learn to love thyself by not loving thyself. For that ye may know that it is a vice to love one’s self, the Apostle speaks thus, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves.”4 And can he who loves himself have any sure trust in himself? No; for he begins to love himself by forsaking God, and is driven away from himself to love those things which are beyond himself; to such a degree that when the aforesaid Apostle had said,” Men shall be lovers of their own selves,” he subjoined immediately, “lovers of money.” Already thou seest that thou art without. Thou hast begun to love thyself: stand in thyself if thou canst. Why goest thou without? Hast thou, as being rich in money, become a lover of money? Thou hast begun to love what is without thee, thou hast lost thyself. When a man’s love then goes even away froth himself to those things which are without, he begins to share the vanity of his vain desires, and prodigal as it were to spend his strength. He is dissipated, exhausted, without resource or strength, he feeds swine; and wearied with this office of feeding swine, he at last remembers what he was, and says, “How many hired servants of my Father’s are eating bread, and I here perish with hunger!”5 But when the son in the parable says this, what is said of him, who had squandered all he had on harlots, who wished to have in his own power what was being well kept for him with his father; he wished to have it at his own disposal, he squandered all, he was reduced to indigence: what is said of him? “And when he returned to himself.” If“he returned to himself,” he had gone away from himself. Because he had fallen from himself, had gone away from himself, he returns first to himself, that he may return to that state from which he had fallen away by falling from himself. For as by falling away from himself, he remained in himself; so by returning to himself, he ought not to remain in himself, lest he again go away from himself. Returning then to himself, that he might not remain in himself, what did he say? “I will arise and go to my Father.”6 See, whence he had fallen away from himself, he had fallen away from his Father; he had fallen away from himself, he had gone away from himself to those things which are without. He returns to himself, and goes to his Father, where he may keep himself in all security. If then he had gone away from himself, let him also in returning to himself, from whom he had gone away, that he may “go to his Father,” deny himself. What is “deny himself”? Let him not trust in himself, let him feel that he is a man, and have respect to the words of the prophet, “Cursed is every one that putteth his hope in than.”7 Let him withdraw himself from himself, but not towards things below. Let him withdraw himself from himself, that he may cleave unto God. Whatever of good he has, let him commit to Him by whom he was made; whatever of evil he has, he has made it for himself.The evil that is in him God made not; let him destroy what himself has done, who has been thereby undone. “Let him deny himself,” He saith, “and take up his cross, and follow Me.”


  1. And whither must the Lord be followed? Whither He is gone, we know; but a very few days since we celebrated the solemn memorial of it. For He has risen again, and ascended into heaven; thither must He be followed. Undoubtedly we must not despair of it, because He hath Himself promised us, not because man can do anything. Heaven was far away from us, before that our Head had gone into heaven. But now why should we despair, if we are members of that Head? Thither then must He be followed. And who would be unwilling to follow Him to such an abode? Especially seeing that we are in so great travail on earth with fears and pains. Who would be unwilling to follow Christ thither, where is supreme felicity, supreme peace, perpetual security? Good is it to follow Him thither: but we must see by what way we are to follow. For the Lord Jesus did not say the words we are engaged in, when He had now risen from the dead. He had not yet suffered, He had still to come to the Cross, had to come to His dishonoring, to the outrages, the scourging, the thorns, the wounds, the mockeries, the insults, Death. Rough as it were is the way; it makes thee to be slow; thou hast no mind to follow. But follow on. Rough is the way which man has made for himself, but what Christ hath trodden in His passage is worn smooth. For who would not wish to go to exaltation? Elevation is pleasing to all; but humility is the step to it. Why dost thou put out thy foot beyond thee? Thou hast a mind to fall, not to ascend. Begin by the step, and so thou hast ascended. This step of humility those two disciples were loth to have an eye to, who said, “Lord, bid that one of us may sit at Thy right hand, and the other at the left in Thy kingdom.”8 They sought for exaltation, they did not see the step. But the Lord showed them the step. For what did He answer them? “Ye who seek the hill of exaltation, can ye drink the cup of humiliation?” And therefore He does not say simply, “Let him deny himself, and follow Me” howsoever: but He said more, “Let him take up his cross, and follow Me.”


  1. What is, “Let him take up his cross “? Let him bear whatever trouble he has; so let him follow Me. For when he shall begin to follow Me in conformity to My life and precepts, he will have many to contradict him, he will have many to hinder him, he will have many to dissuade him, and that from among those who are even as it were Christ’s companions. They who hindered the blind men from crying out were walking with Christ.9 Whether therefore they be threats or caresses, or whatsoever hindrances there be, if thou wish to follow, turn them into thy cross, bear it, carry it, do not give waybeneath it. There seems to be an exhortation to martyrdom in these words of the Lord. If there be persecution, ought not all things to be despised in consideration of Christ? The world is loved; but let Him be preferred by whom the world was made. Great is the world; but greater is He by whom the world was made. Fair is the world; but fairer is He by whom the world was made. Sweet is the world; but sweeter is He by whom the world was made. Evil is the world; and good is He by whom the world was made. How shall I be able to explain and unravel what I have said? May God help me? For what have I said? what have ye applauded? See, it is but a question, and yet ye have already applauded. How is the world evil, if He by whom the world was made is good? Did not God make all things, “and behold they were very good “? Does not Scripture at each several works of creation testify that God made it good, by saying, “And God saw that it was good,” and at the end summed them all up together thus how that God had made them, “And behold they were very good”?10



1 Mc 8,34

2 Ps 16,4 Sept. (XVII. English version).

3 Mt 11,30

4 2Tm 3,2

5 Lc 15,17

6 Lc 15,18

7 Jr 17,5

8 Mc 10,37

9 Vid. Serm. 38,(LXXXVIII. Ben). 13 (xiv). Mt 20,31

10 Gn 1


[1] Consider the episode in which, after the Resurrection on the shore of Lake Tiberias, Jesus Christ asks Peter: “Do you love me?” “I do”. “Feed my sheep.”

[2] It is Mark that tells us how Jesus taught with authority from the beginning (1.27).

[3] The Ordo Virginum is a form of consecrated life; in the Code of Canon Law it is inserted with the can. 604 in Part III “The Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life” (Liber II: “De Populo Dei”) “To these different forms of consecrated life is added the order of virgins who, uttering the holy plan to follow Christ more closely, by the diocesan Bishop are consecrated to God according to the approved liturgical rite and, betrothed mystically to Christ Son of God, are dedicated to the service of the Church.”

The post Archbishop Follo: A New Perspective: Service as a Career appeared first on ZENIT - English.

INTERVIEW: While World Focuses on Possible Korea Visit, Here’s ZENIT’s Inside Look at Roots of Church in Japan Awaiting Pope Francis in 2019

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 6:19 PM

“These are the roots of the Church in Japan, roots that have nourished its uneasy existence, which still nourish her life and give hope for the future.”

In an in-depth interview with ZENIT, Xavian missionary Sister Maria De Giorgi, an expert of interreligious dialogue of the Shinmeizan Centre for Interreligious Dialogue in Japan, said this,  while sharing her expertise about the Asian country.

With the President of South Korea visiting the Pope yesterday, Oct. 19, and speculation that a papal visit to the Koreas may not be completely far-fetched, especially given that Pope Francis has said he wishes to visit Japan in 2019, we decided to take a closer look at Japan.

We spoke to Sister Maria in Bologna, Italy, on the sidelines of the 32nd meeting in the Spirit of Assisi, Oct. 14-16, started by St Pope John Paul II in 1986 and continued by the Community of Sant’Egidio, where representatives of different cultures, faiths and religions joined together to build “Bridges of Peace.” She was one of those intervening in the panel “Japan: Religions and Value of Life.”

Sister Maria is a theologian and scholar of Japanese spiritual thought is also consultor of the Commission of the Japanese Episcopal Conference for interreligious dialogue and lecturer at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In the interview, she reflects on the history of the Church in Japan, its martyrs, what the Pope would find there if he makes this hoped-for visit in 2019, including its Catholic community, as well as the interreligious and intercultural dialogue in which she was participating in the northern Italian city. Here is our interview:


ZENIT: Saint Pope John Paul II was a great bridge builder. Tomorrow will be the 40th anniversary of his election as Pope. How can John Paul II be an example of building bridges of peace and dialogue today, after so much time and so many historical events?

Maria De Giorgi: I believe that the example of St. John Paul, as that of all the true Greats of history, is everlasting and can inspire courageous choices also for today. His “times” were certainly not easier than the present ones, or devoid of challenges: suffice it to think of the tragedy of World War II, of the invasion of Poland by the Nazis and the Soviets and of all that implied for his country and for the world. We find an echo of all this in his book “Memory and Identity,” in which he proposes a dramatic reflection on the mystery of evil that goes across history, “mystery that in the 20th century, “brief century and the most violent of history” (E. J. E. Hobswam) manifested itself with an unheard-of cruelty. Suffice it to think of the Holocaust, of the gulags, the mass exterminations, etc. And yet, John Paul II never lost confidence in history — which he knew and believed is guided by God –, and in man, whom he recognizes as creature of God, made in His image and likeness. And it’s from this, his granite faith, that he taught us — with words, gestures and above all with his life — that evil never has the last word.  Saint John Paul II’s work could not be understood without taking into account his faith in God and in man, which enabled him not only to build bridges but also to pull down walls! Today also, if we truly want to pull down walls and build bridges we have no other way. Man is by nature “person,” “relationship” called to a fullness of love, which only God can bring to fulfilment. Humanity will only be able to grow in peace by discovering that it is one community, that it has one origin and one ultimate end — God, as Nostra Aetate states. And Saint John Paul II taught this authoritatively.

ZENIT: Why is it important to build bridges with other religions? Why is an encounter, like this one of Sant’Egidio, helpful?

Maria De Giorgi: Again in Nostra Aetate, Vatican II affirms that “ Men expect from the various religions the answer to recondite enigmas of the human condition, which today as yesterday profoundly trouble man’s heart: man’s nature, the meaning and end of our life, good and sin, the origin and purpose of pain, the way to attain true happiness, death, judgment and sanction after death, finally, the last and ineffable mystery that surrounds our existence, from whence we derive our origin and towards which we tend.”

The religious dimension is constitutive and intrinsic to the human being. The existence of the various religions is an irrefutable proof. Every man, whether he wishes or not, is called to confront himself with “the ultimate and ineffable mystery that surrounds our existence, from where we derive our origin and towards which we tend.” In the journey towards the fullness of the encounter with the Mystery, the answers of the various religions — as the Council states — cannot be trivialized. In fact, they enclose “treasures” that can be shared and can help in understanding the Great Mystery that exceeds us. That is why encounter and dialogue with other religions is fundamental. It was no accident that Saint Paul VI, the great Pope of dialogue, said: “the transcendent origin of dialogue is found in the intention itself of God” (Ecclesiam Suam).

I like to recall how a great prophet and teacher of dialogue, H.E. Monsignor Pietro Rossano, liked to repeat that dialogue between religions doesn’t exist, but between persons of different religions. Dialogue is, first of all, an encounter, a looking at one another in the eyes, acknowledging one another, speaking to each other, confronting one another loyally <and> sharing. The great value of Sant’Egidio’s Meetings is precisely this. In these 30 years of journeying, it’s not the religions that “engaged in dialogue” abstractly. It is men and women of different religious traditions that have met one another, known each other, confronted one another, learned to esteem each other and love one another despite the differences; they have prayed next to one another experiencing a new and real fraternity. It’s only by beginning from these premises that we can truly build a more just world, a true peace that isn’t just a pause between one war and another. I’ve been taking part in these Meetings for 30 years, and I have lived personally their richness and fruitfulness, and I can be a witness of this. Thanks to the commitment of Sant’Egidio Community, the “spirit of Assisi” has put down firm roots and will certainly bear its fruits.

ZENIT: What have been your greatest takeaways from this encounter? What are you bringing to it — if you had to say the main message of your intervention here (your main message)?

Maria De Giorgi: As I said shortly before, the greatest “treasure” of these inter-religious gatherings is the personal encounter between persons of different cultures and religions; the familiarity that is experienced, the joy of seeing ourselves different but always closer, of discovering ourselves friends, brothers, desirous of exchanging gifts and of enlarging the area of “dialogue,” committing ourselves, according to our respective responsibilities, to have “dialogue” — as Saint Paul VI taught prophetically — become  truly an attitude of the heart and of the mind, a natural way of relating to one another, whoever the other may be, to address the differences and difficulties, to assume shared responsibility in the quest for the common good. There is certainly much work to be done in this direction, but as Saint John Paul II already wrote, “dialogue is a way towards the Kingdom and it will surely bear its fruits, although the times and moments are reserved to the Father” (RM 57).

ZENIT: Some expect the Pope to visit Japan in 2019 — do you? What would you expect from such a visit?

Maria De Giorgi: As a missionary living in Japan for over 30 years, I’m certainly very happy that the Holy Father is likely to visit this country. Pope Francis’ creativity certainly surpasses every expectation of ours. I know that there are many who desire this visit. Japan is also not living an easy juncture. The only country wounded twice by the atomic bomb, many expect from Pope Francis words and gestures of peace, a clear and strong denunciation against the atomic threat and every form of violence. And then, the Japanese Catholic Church, although always a small minority in this great country, will certainly draw comfort and incitement from this visit of Pope Francis. Saint John Paul II’s visit, the first Pope to visit the Land of the Rising Sun, had a great impact on the life and mission of the Church in Japan. I think Pope Francis’ visit won’t be less so.

ZENIT: What will the Pope find in Japan? How does one observe the Catholic faith there? Tell us something about its Catholic community.

Maria De Giorgi: The Pope will find a country that lives many of the contemporary contradictions. It’s difficult to summarize in a few words the situation of the Japanese Church, heir of a history of martyrdom and of minority, but also of hidden heroism.

The Catholic Church is a small minority: about 450,000 Japanese Catholics and the same number or perhaps even greater of Catholic immigrants especially from the Philippines, South America and other countries, sown in a population of 127 million inhabitants. The challenges that this community must address today are numerous: the growing process of secularization, which touches all religions and that brings with it what is described as “shukyo banare,” “estrangement and disaffection” with religion; a phenomenon that touches, although in different ways, all the religious Traditions present in the country. Added to this is the problem of the low birth rate and of an ageing population problem that touches the entire Japanese society and, consequently, also the Church.

ZENIT: How are relations there with non-Catholics? We know Catholics make up a small minority…

Maria De Giorgi: At present, relations between the Catholic Church in Japan and members of other religions are good, be it at the ecumenical level, be it at the inter-religious level.  The complex Japanese religious panorama is very heterogeneous: besides Shintoism, Japan’s native religion, we have the different Buddhist Schools and the so-called new Religions. In regard to Christianity, in addition to the presence of the Catholic Church, we have that of the Orthodox Church, of Anglicans and Protestants.

Although in different measures, I would say that the relationship between these realities is positive. Notable steps have been taken, be it at the ecumenical level, be it at the inter-religious <level>. There are numerous initiatives and organizations that seek to foster dialogue between these components, be it at the grassroots level, be it at the institutional level. Within the Japanese Episcopal Conference there is a Sub-Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and one for Ecumenism, which has worked actively for years to foster dialogue and good mutual relations.

Among the events at the national level that most manifest this atmosphere, one can recall the so-called “Summit of Religions,” organized by Tendai Buddhism that every year on mount Hiei (Kyoto) proposes again the event of Assisi, in a similar way as Sant’Egidio Community does in Europe.

ZENIT: The Pope’s visit to Japan will bring to light, especially, the incredible story of the Japanese Christian martyrs. This history has even inspired a famous movie. Why does this history deserve to be known also outside of Japan? For someone unfamiliar, can you briefly share about this history . . . these martyrs.

Maria De Giorgi: Yes, Japan has a long and glorious history of martyrdom. After the rapid successes of the first evangelization, initiated by Saint Francis Saverio in 1549, and lasting for more than 50 years without serious difficulties, persecution ripped through the young Christian community with unheard of ferocity. The first martyrs — Jesuits, Franciscans and Franciscan Tertiaries, among whom were some who were very young — were crucified at Nagasaki on February 5, 1597. Beatified by Pope Urban VIII in 1627, they were canonized by Pius IX in 1862.

With the worsening of the persecution, between 1617 and 1632 a good 205 Christians — nobles, simple citizens, men, women and children; fathers and mothers of families, priests and men religious — endured a cruel martyrdom.  Some were tied to stakes and burned by slow fire; others were decapitated or quartered member by member, while their remains were dispersed to prevent devotion to the martyrs. Pius IX beatified them on July 7, 1867.

Then we have the group associated to Saint Dominic’s Order (Priests, Religious Brothers, Consecrated virgins and laymen of various nationalities among whom were nine Japanese) killed between 1633-1637, after having sown the seed of the Gospel in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Beatified at Manila by Saint John Paul II in 1981, they were canonized by him at Rome in 1987. Another 188 martyrs were beatified at Nagasaki in 2008. Added to them is nobleman Dom Juston Takayama Ukon, beatified at Osaka on February 7, 2017.

In addition to these martyrs, whose death in witness of the faith was documented in a rigorous canonical process, are thousands upon thousands of those that witnessed with blood their faith in Christ. It’s a glorious history that deserves to be better known, not only in Japan. Because of this long, bloody and systematic persecution, the few surviving Christians took refuge in remote places, especially in smaller Islands off the coast of Nagasaki (the so-called “kakure Christian” or “hidden Christians”), where they survived, handing down the faith and Baptism, without the assistance of priests or other ministers, for a good seven generations, until 1865, when some European missionaries were able to return to Japan. However, then also, when they came out into the open presenting French missionary, Father Bernard Petitjean of the Foreign Missions of Paris, there was a new wave of persecutions. Only in 1872, also following international pressures, the death penalty for Christians in Japan was abrogated definitively.

These are the roots of the Church in Japan, roots that have nourished its uneasy existence, which still nourish her life and give hope for the future.


Here is her intervention given during the panel on Japan, published on the Community of Sant’Egidio website:


After spending more than thirty years in Japan, working in the field of interreligious dialogue, I feel extremely happy and grateful in taking part, as the only “adoptive Japanese”, in this round table addressing the issue of Japan, the Land I love and consider my second Home-Country. My heartfelt thanks to the Community of Saint Egidio for the invitation to participate once more in this annual event, and my admiration for its faithful perseverance in carrying on for more than thirty years the “spirit of Assisi” from which this annual event was born. Gratitude and admiration also for the subject chosen this year: Japan, Religions and the value of life, which, I think, has a great and peculiar meaning for Japan today. As a matter of fact, a vivid perception of nature and of life can be considered a peculiar characteristic of Japanese culture, which can be seen and perceived in all its various Religious Traditions. When I first arrived in Japan in 1985, I was particularly struck by this aspect of Japanese culture. But sadly, with the passing of time, I had to take stock of how modern developments have progressively weekend this traditional attitude, with negative influence also on human relations. In the great cities, where the majority of the Japanese actually spend their life, not only contact with nature but also human relations are often threatened by a kind of consumerism that aims first of all at financial profit, leaving aside the cultural and religious values which for centuries have nourished the Japanese spirit. Connected with this trend is the upsetting phenomenon of the so called “shukyo banare”: the gradual disaffection and estrangement from religious life. We are dealing with a rather complex phenomenon at the root of which we find not so much a positive refusal of religion as such, but ignorance and indifference concerning religions and the values they propose. More than fifty years ago, the Declaration Nostra Aetate of the Second Vatican Council on the relation of the Catholic Church towards non-Christian Religions stated: «Men expect from the various religions answers to the unsolved riddles of the human condition, which today, even as in former times, deeply stir the hearts of men: What is man? What is the meaning, the aim of our life? What is moral good, what is sin? Whence suffering and what purpose does it serve? Which is the road to true happiness? What are death, judgment and retribution after death? What, finally, is that ultimate inexpressible mystery which encompasses our existence: whence do we come, and where are we going? ». Today we have to ask ourselves to what extent these questions really touch and move the heart of contemporary men and women, and to what extent religions can give credible and significant answers. All religions in fact, not only in Japan, are faced with the situation created by the so called “shukyo banare” and are called to offer to the world generously and courageously the great values which they have inherited, those values which alone give meaning and shed light on “the unsolved riddles of the human condition”. Such is the great and urgent challenge for religions today, a challenge for all and each religious tradition, called to give answers and bear witness to such values through interreligious dialogue and cooperation. Coming back now, with a more alert awareness, to the topic of our panel, that is: Japan, Religions and the value of human life, looked at, as far as my specific contribution is concerned, from the point of view of the Catholic Church in Japan, I cannot forget the important document of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Japan first edited in 2001 and recently re-published in a new edition in 1917, with the significant title of «Inochi e no manazashi» (Turning our eyes to life). In the edition of 2001, published right after the “Great Jubilee of the year 2000”, the Catholic Bishops of Japan wanted to send a message of hope to the Japanese society entering the 21st century, as we read in the introduction written by the then President of the Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Shimamoto Kaname of Nagasaki: «Japanese society is marked today by anxiety and sadness. Economic stagnation due to the collapse of the “bubble economy,” the weakening of family bonds, violence in schools, shocking crimes by children and an increasing number of suicides by middle-aged and elderly people have led many people to think that there is no answer to our longing for light and support.Yet, God made and loves people. Human life, God’s one-time gift to each of us, is sacred. That is the main reason the Catholic bishops of Japan have decided to present this message regarding life and humanity to the world […]. We hope that our reflections will give courage and hope to our sisters and brothers throughout Japan. We pray that God’s loving kindness will be poured out on all creation and especially on the people of Japan to whom we address this message». Actually, this document – while taking in consideration the problems facing today the Japanese society: the critical situation of the family, the dramatic number of suicides, the great number of abortions and the problem of euthanasia, the growing threat to our natural habitat – it is a message of hope! The roots of this message sink deep in the ground of religious faith: faith that life comes from God, who is a tender Father and loves all His creatures; and that men and women are called to cooperate with God in taking care for creation. This message of the Catholic Bishops of Japan reminds us that we need the light of God’s word, to fully understand the sacred nature of human life, and of all life. Well aware of the complexity of the subject, and of the unavoidable limitations of their reflections, the Bishops thus conclude their message: «This marks the first time, we bishops of Japan have prepared a message not only for Catholics, but for all of Japanese society. Those who read it may find points that dissatisfy them and about which they have complaints. […] We are convinced that our vocation as bishops requires us to issue a call for people to understand a human posture toward life based on the light of God». The second edition of the document – published after the dramatic events of the beginning of this century: the increase of terrorism in the world, and, in Japan, the great earthquake of 2011 which caused the meltdown of the Fukushima atomic center, and the earthquake of Kumamoto in 2012 – dwells more at length on some more recent threats to life: nuclear armaments, genetic manipulations, and the death penalty. In the light of Pope Francis’ encyclical letter “Laudato si’”, it gives ample consideration to the ecological problem, pollution of nature and the safeguard of our “common home”, the earth. Finally, the Bishops ask that the loving and merciful way God looks at his creatures become also our way to look at them! Another initiative of the Catholic Church in Japan to deal with the safeguard of life has been the organization of annual symposia by the Subcommittee of the Bishops’ Conference in charge of interreligious dialogue inviting representatives of the various religious traditions of Japan: Shintoism and Buddhism, and also of the new religions like Tenrikyo and Risshokoseikai, to reflect together, in an interreligious context, on the various problems connected with the protection of life. I wish to mention here especially the symposium held in 2013 on the dramatic problem of suicides, the one held in 2014 on the social problems posed by the gradual extension of life expectancy and the consequent growing number of people of advanced age, and the one held in 2017 on the problems faced by young people today. I cannot even summarize here the wealth of contributions given by the various religious traditions in these interreligious exchanges. I just wish to point out the reasons which prompted the Catholic Church to promote such initiatives. These ‘reasons’ reflect the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. First of all, the deep conviction, rooted in the Christian faith, that all forms of life are a gift from God, are created by Him and loved by Him; and that human life constitutes the apex and, so to say, the crown of all creation. Secondly, the central mystery of Christian faith, that is the “incarnation” of God, or God becoming “flesh” in Jesus Christ, taking human life to an unsurmountable level of dignity and sacredness. Finally, the Christian faith that human life does not end with death but is destined to the resurrection of the body and eternal life with God Himself. The Catholic Church in Japan jealously guards these convictions, rooted in her faith in Christ, and wishes to share them with all people, as the glad news of God’s revelation, as a joyful regard on life, as a religious commitment to the defense of life in all its forms. It is this Christian faith that also inspires the Catholic Church in Japan to take a stand on concrete issues being debated today in Japan that deal with the value of human life, issues that have a strong social dimension, and therefore, also inevitably a political repercussion, like, for example: 1. The safeguard of creation, or the “care for our common house, the earth” as Pope Francis calls it in his encyclical letter “Laudato si’ “ (2015) to which the Catholic Church in Japan has given special attention during the year 2017. 2. The reverence and respect for life, from its very beginning to its natural end, in countertrend with the legalization of abortion and the acceptance of sophisticated forms of the so called “anrakushi“ which at times approach euthanasia or mercy-killing. This fundamental attitude has taken concrete forms with the institution of the so called “akachan-posto” (cradles for unwanted children) like in the case of Jikei Hospital in Kumamoto, and hospices for terminally ill patients, like in the case of the Mikokoro Byoin (Hospital of the Sacred Heart) again in Kumamoto. 3. The participation of the Catholic Church in Japan in the campaign carried on by several organizations (among which special mention must be made of the Community of Saint Egidio) for the abolition of the death penalty in the Country. 4. The active involvement in the interreligious organization to safeguard article 9 of the Constitution, by which Japan has rejected the solution of international conflicts by means of war and, in a special way, the adoption of atomic weapons. To conclude, I wish to emphasize once more the fact that in our secularized world, weakened by the so called “shukyo-banare”, that is the phenomenon of indifference and disaffection towards the religions, paradoxically, these very religions, and the great values they guard and transmit, are the necessary and indispensable support to safeguard and promote the values of life, especially human life, its ultimate meaning and its sacredness. This is why, the commitment to the safeguard and the promotion of life is or must be a high priority also in interreligious dialogue and cooperation. Each one and all of us, deeply rooted in his or her own religious conviction, also in Japan, must unite and join forces to defend life, especially human life, from all threats. And let me conclude with a very beautiful Japanese expression, that can hardly be translated in English: “Ikiru to wa, ikasarete iru koto desu”, that is, literally translated: “to live is to be made to live”! Life is a most precious gift that we receive, which therefore, by its very nature, points to a religious dimension; a precious gift that we are all called to protect and defend together.

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Democratic Republic of Congo Faces Rise in Ebola Cases

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 12:53 PM

Aid workers on the frontline of the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are being met with significant suspicion in many communities in North Kivu — contributing to the 33 new confirmed cases of the disease last week, the worst on record since this most recent outbreak began in August, according to an October 16, 2018, news release by Save the Children.

Unless outreach workers on the ground manage to get through to communities —helping them to understand how to stop the deadly disease from spreading— there is a risk the virus could spiral out of control and become an international threat, Save the Children warned.

Heather Kerr, Save the Children’s Country Director in the DRC, said: “People in and around Beni are very frightened, as many have seen neighbours or loved ones die in dreadful circumstances from Ebola.

“Unfortunately, our Community Health Workers are often met with hostility, and sometimes violence, when they’re approaching homes to talk to families about protecting themselves against the deadly virus. One of our community health workers reported that stones were hurled at our vehicle as they approached a house.”

The local Ministry of Health announced new measures on Saturday to stem the country’s most recent outbreak of the deadly virus in conflict-affected North Kivu—one of the regions hardest hit by the outbreak—including a social media campaign, and the recruitment of local staff to trace people who have been in contact with confirmed cases.

“Our coordinated responses with other agencies in North Kivu have also been severely hindered by the recent outbreaks of violence in Beni town. Despite all these challenges, we’ll continue to do whatever it takes to protect as many children and their families as we can from contracting this devastating disease.”

There have been 214 Ebola cases so far (179 confirmed, 35 probable), with 139 deaths (104 cases confirmed, 35 probable), according to the latest figures from the WHO.

Working alongside the Ministry of Health, Save the Children has recruited and trained 230 Community Health Workers who travel door-to-door and inform families on how to prevent the spread of the disease through simple steps like handwashing. The aid organization is also tracing contacts of confirmed cases to make sure they access treatment centers if they have contracted the virus. To date, Save the Children has reached more than 290,000 people, including 163,200 children with life-saving messaging.

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Synod2018: Polish Bishops Report on October 18 Sessions

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 12:42 PM

Jesus’ life in Nazareth, the “option for the desert,” and modern forms of slavery were the themes of the Synodal session on October 18th.

During today’s synod session, the subject of 40 million modern slaves—people who are subjected to trafficking, forced labor, and sexual abuse—was addressed. “One of the Synod Fathers from the Central African Republic spoke about the situation of the war that is afflicting his country and about the need to accompany Catholics who live in conditions of armed conflict. It was emphasized how important it is to accompany those who convert from all kinds of war crimes,” said Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś.

Another topic taken into consideration during the deliberations was that “preferential options for the desert are needed.” “One of the fathers from Kazakhstan analyzed chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation that tells of the struggle between the woman, who is the Church, and the dragon, which is evil. He stressed that the woman does not fight the dragon herself, but flees to the desert, into the experience of salvation, and the Lord deals with the dragon. Yet, we are opening ourselves to the experience of God’s victory over evil precisely in the desert,” noted Archbishop Ryś.

Many today spoke with reference to Jesus. One of the fathers talked about a true image of Jesus, a man who spent most of his life in a colorless place as a carpenter. His real life—by choice, not by divine retribution—should be looked at. “He said that Jesus’ life was transparent. We often say that it was a hidden life, but it was not hidden. Jesus really lived with his door open. He could say: Come and see! That is why His home in Capernaum was an open house, accessible to everyone. He said that such a life is also necessary today for the pastors of the Church,” recounted Archbishop Ryś.

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Pope Francis Receives President of Republic of Korea

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 12:27 PM

Pope Francis on October 18, 2018, received Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, and with Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States.

During what the Vatican termed “cordial discussions”, the parties evoked the good bilateral relations and the positive contribution offered by the Church in the social, education and healthcare sectors, as well as the promotion of dialogue and reconciliation between Koreans. Strong appreciation was expressed for the common commitment to fostering all useful initiatives to overcome the tensions that still exist in the Korean Peninsula, in order to usher in a new season of peace and development.

Finally, some matters of a regional nature were discussed.

The audience with the Holy Father follows closely on a Mass celebrated the evening of October 17, 2018, by Cardinal Parolin in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Mass included prayers for peace on the Korean peninsula.

President Moon, who is Catholic, his wife, and a group of Korean faithful, priests, and missionaries attended the Mass, along with many members of the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, according to Vatican News.

In his homily, Cardinal Parolin said that they were praying for peace in the world, especially in the Korean Peninsula, so that “after so many years of tension and division, the word peace may finally fully resound…peace is built by daily choices, by a serious commitment to the service of justice and solidarity, by the promotion of the rights and dignity of the human person, and especially by caring for the weakest…But, for the one who believes, peace, first of all, is a gift that comes from above, from God Himself.

“With God’s grace the path of forgiveness becomes possible, the choice of fraternity among peoples becomes a concrete fact, peace becomes a shared horizon even in the diversity of those who make up the international community.”

Pope Francis spoke about the “historic” summit on Friday, April 27, 2018, between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his southern counterpart, Moon Jae-in, on the dividing military dividing line. the peninsula, to Panmunjon. Kim Jong-un was the first North Korean leader to walk on South Korean soil since the Korean War (1950-1953).

“I accompany with prayer the positive outcome of last Friday’s Inter-Korean Summit and the courageous commitment of the leaders of both sides to a sincere dialogue for a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons,” said the Pope. Francis after the Marian prayer of Regina Caeli, Sunday, April 29, St. Peter’s Square, in the presence of some 30,000 pilgrims.

“I pray to the Lord that hope for a future of peace and fraternal friendship will not be disappointed and for the collaboration to continue to bear fruit for the beloved Korean people and the whole world, “added the pope who had repeatedly invited Catholics to join his prayer for the success of this dialogue, including April 25, at the Wednesday audience.

The Vatican also welcomed the denuclearization agreement last June: “In Singapore, go with history,” headlined L’Osservatore Romano dated June 13, 2018, making its front page on the agreement between the president American Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, on the denuclearization of North Korea.

The summit, which took place on June 12, 2018, in Singapore, saw “the long-awaited handshake, which lasted more than ten seconds, with Trump who strengthened the contact by also briefly placing his left hand on the arm Kim’s right, “noted the Vatican daily.

The previous Sunday, the pope had invited the crowd – of some 20,000 pilgrims – to present at the Angelus of June 10, 2018, St. Peter’s Square, and all those who followed the Angelus live, to pray with him a ” Hail Mary “for this purpose.

Full Text of Cardinal Parolin’s Homily

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Cardinal Parolin’s Homily at Mass for Peace in Korea (Full Text)

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 12:25 PM

Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, presided over a “Mass for Peace” — in the Vatican Basilica — for the Korean Peninsula on October 17, 2018. Among those attending the Mass were the President of the Republic of Korea, Jae-in Moon, his wife, and many Korean faithful, priests, and missionaries.

Here is a ZENIT translation of Cardinal Parolin’s homily, delivered during the Eucharistic Celebration.

* * *

Homily of the Cardinal Secretary of State


Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and the Presbyterate,

Distinguished Authorities and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

The Evangelist John narrates that the Lord Jesus, appearing to His disciples for the first time after the Resurrection, addressed them with this greeting: “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19). The disciples had already heard similar words on the evening of the Last Supper, before the Lord handed Himself over to the hands of His persecutors, accepting to the end the sacrifice of the Cross for the salvation of the world. In fact, taking leave of His own, Jesus said: “I leave you peace, I give you my peace. Not as the world gives it do I give it to you. Let not your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

The peace that the Lord gives to man’s heart, in search of the true life and full joy, is that spiritual mystery that unites the sacrifice of the Cross to the renewing power of the Resurrection. ”I leave you peace, I give you my peace!”

This evening we wish to raise our gaze humbly to God, to Him who rules history and humanity’s fate, and to implore, once again, for the whole world the gift of peace. We do so praying in particular so that in the Korean Peninsula also, after so many years of tensions and divisions, the word peace may finally resound fully.

In the First Reading of this Celebration, we heard the author of Deuteronomy recall the twofold experience lived by the people of Israel, that of “blessing” and that of “curse.” “When all these things that I have put before you, blessing and curse, are realized in you, you will recall them to your mind in the midst of all the nations, where the Lord, your God, will have scattered you [. . . ] then the Lord your God will change your fortune; He will have mercy on you and He will gather you again from all the peoples [. . . ].”

The wisdom of Scripture makes us understand that only one who has experienced the inscrutable mystery of the apparent absence of God, in face of sufferings, of oppression and of hatred, can understand thoroughly what it means to hear the word peace resound again.

As persons of good will, we all certainly know that peace is built with the choices of every day, with a serious commitment to the service of justice and of solidarity, with the promotion of the rights and dignity of the human person, especially through care of the weakest. However, for one who believes, peace is first of all a gift that comes from on high, from God Himself. Thus it is the full manifestation of the presence of God, of Him whom the prophets proclaimed as Prince of Peace.

Moreover, we know well that the peace that comes from God isn’t an abstract  and distant idea, but an experience lived concretely in the daily path of life. As Pope Francis has recalled many times, it is “peace in the mist of tribulations.” Therefore, when Jesus promises peace to His disciples, He also adds: “Not as the world gives it, do I give it to you.”

In fact, as Pope Francis also stresses, the world often “anesthetizes us so that we won’t see another reality of life: the cross.” See how the peace that God offers us goes beyond  merely earthly expectations; it’s not the fruit of a simple compromise, but a new reality, which involves all of life’s dimensions, including those mysterious ones of the cross and the inevitable sufferings of our earthly pilgrimage. Therefore, Christian faith teaches us that “peace without the cross isn’t Jesus’ peace.”

Pope Paul VI, whom we had the joy to see canonized last Sunday in a radiant day of celebration, announcing for the first time the “World Day of Peace” on January 1, 1968, and taking up some expressions already dear to Saint John XXIII, addressed the Catholic faithful and all men of good will thus: “ It is always necessary to speak of peace! It is necessary to educate the world to love peace, to build it, and to defend it; and against the renascent premises of war [. . . ] it is necessary to arouse in the men of our time and of the generations to come the meaning and love of peace founded on truth, on justice, on freedom <and> on love.”[1]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Let us ask the Lord for the grace to make peace a genuine mission in today’s world, trusting in the mysterious power of the cross of Christ and of His Resurrection. With the grace of God, the way of forgiveness becomes possible, the choice of fraternity among peoples <becomes> a concrete fact, peace a shared horizon also in the diversity of subjects that give life to the International Community.

“Then our prayers for peace and reconciliation will be raised to God from purer hearts and by His gift of grace, they will obtain that precious good to which we all aspire.”[2] Amen.

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

[1] Paul VI, Message for the 1st World Day of Peace, December 8, 1967.

[2] Francis, Homiky in the Cathedral of Myeong-dong (Seoul), August 18, 2014.

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Italy: Pope Receives Antonietta Gargiulo

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 11:01 AM

On October 13, 2018, Pope Francis received at Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican, Antonietta Gargiulo, gravely wounded by her husband, who killed their two daughters before committing suicide.

It was Antonietta who wished to meet the Pontiff, specified a press release of the Holy See, which was published at the end of the day. After awakening from her coma, the survivor of the drama gave witness of her faith in God and of the strength of love, stronger than evil.

Last February, Antonietta’s husband, Luigi Capasso, from whom she was separated, entered her home, at Cisterna di Latina, and killed their two daughters Alessia 14 and Martina 8.

“My life today is a miracle,” said Antonietta Gargiulo, in words reported by “Vatican News.” “The real miracle was the love that surrounded me and that surrounded my two daughters. God’s word triumphed over death,” she said.

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Cameroon: Seminarian Killed in English-Speaking Region

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 10:58 AM

A seminarian has been killed in one of the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon, according to Fides News Agency.

According to a statement signed by Archbishop Cornelius Fontem Esua of Bamenda, the young seminarian was named Gérard Anjiangwe, and was 19 years old. He was killed by a group of soldiers on October 4, 2018, in front of the parish church of Santa Teresa of Bamessing, a village near Ndop in Ngo-Ketunjia department, in the northwest of Cameroon.

The Archdiocese’s statement states that around 9.30 am, at the end of mass, while Gérard Anjiangwe and the faithful “were in front of the church, a military truck arrived from Ndop and stopped at the beginning of the road leading to the church. Some soldiers got out of the vehicle and started shooting.

While the faithful took refuge in the sacristy, barring the door, the seminarian prostrated himself on the floor and started to pray the rosary. “The military tried in vain to open the door; then they approached Gerard lying on the floor and ordered him to get up, which he did hesitantly”, reported Archbishop Esua.

After interrogating him, the soldiers ordered the seminarian to kneel again. “Then they shot him three times in the neck and he died instantly,” said the Archbishop.

In his statement, Archbishop Esua calls upon all Christians in this moment of sorrow to pray for the soul of Gérard and also for Stephen Akiata and Comfort Akiata, his parents, and his whole family since the seminarian was their only child”.

The dramatic episode is part of the tensions that preceded and accompanied the presidential elections held on October 7  in the English-speaking regions of the Country.

According to the count carried out by the National Commission for the counting of votes, outgoing President, Paul Biya, obtained 71.28 percent of the votes. These are the conclusions contained in the report sent by the Commission to the Constitutional Council on October 15.

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Santa Marta: ‘For the Last Time – Do You Renounce Jesus Christ?’

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 10:50 AM
“For the last time: do you renounce Jesus Christ?” At the Mass on October 18, 2018, in Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis spoke about the story of a young Christian recently killed for his faith.

In his homily reported by Vatican News, the Pope meditated on the “three stages” of the poverty Jesus asked of the disciples: to be detached from wealth is “the condition to begin”. This requires having “a poor heart”. “If apostolic work requires structures or organizations that seem to be a sign of wealth, use them well,” said the pope, “but with detachment … If you want to follow the Lord, choose the path of poverty, and if you have riches because the Lord has given them to you, use them to serve others, with a detached heart. The disciple must not be afraid of poverty, or the opposite: he must be poor. ”

The second form of poverty is “humbly receiving persecutions, tolerating persecutions”, persecutions “of slander, rumors”, “jealousies”, “small persecutions in the neighborhood, in the parish”.

The Pope also spoke of physical persecution: “Yesterday, in the Synod Hall, a bishop from one of those countries where there is persecution, said that a young Catholic was taken by a group of young people who hated the Church, fundamentalists: he was beaten and thrown into a cistern and they threw him mud and at the end, when the mud came to his neck: ‘For the last time: do you renounce Jesus Christ? Christ?’ -‘ No!’ They threw a stone and killed him. We have all heard it. And that does not date from the first centuries: it happened two months ago! It’s an example. But how many Christians today suffer physical persecution: “Oh, he blasphemed! On the gallows!”

The third form of poverty identified by the pope: solitude, abandonment and especially “the solitude of the end”, lived by Saint Paul in the first reading (2 Tim 4, 10-17b): “All have abandoned me”. And lived by Jesus on the cross: “Father, Father, why have you forsaken me? ”

“I think of the greatest man of humanity, added the pope, and this qualification comes from the mouth of Jesus: John the Baptist …. great preacher, people would be baptized by him. How did he finish? Only; in prison … alone, forgotten, slaughtered by the weakness of a king, the hatred of adultery and the whim of a young girl: thus ends the greatest man in history. ”

“And without going so far,” lamented the Pope, “so often in rest homes, there are priests and nuns who have spent their lives in preaching, they feel alone, alone with the Lord: no one ‘ remembers. ”

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Synod2018: Letter to Young People to be Prepared

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 10:33 AM
The synod on “the young, the faith and the discernment of vocations” (October 3-28, 2018) is preparing a letter to young people around the world, at the request of fathers of the synod, the Vatican announced on October 18, 2018. An eight-member commission is working on it.

A statement said that “some synod fathers have offered to write a letter to young people from all over the world during this synod”: “With the consent of the Holy Father, a commission is responsible for the composition of the text, which will be submitted to the review of the Assembly. ”

The members of the commission reflect the different geographical origins and different categories of participants in the synod: a cardinal (Africa) and three bishops (France, Australia, Argentina), two young people (United States, Indonesia), Fr Alois (Taizé) and a priest (Italy):

Synod Fathers (4):

Cardinal Dieudonné NZAPALAINGA, Sp.CS, Archbishop of Bangui (Central African Republic);

Emmanuel GOBILLIARD, Auxiliary Bishop of Lyon (France);

Anthony Colin FISHER, OP, Archbishop of Sydney (Australia);

Bishop Eduardo Horacio GARCÍA, Bishop of San Justo (Argentina).

Young auditors (2):

Ms. Briana Regina SANTIAGO, Apostles of the Inner Life (United States);

Ms. Anastasia INDRAWAN, Member of the Youth Committee of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference (Indonesia).

Special Envoy (1):

Brother ALOIS, prior of the ecumenical community of Taizé (France).

Expert (1):

P. Michele FALABRETTI, Head of the National Service for the Ministry of Youth of the Italian Episcopal Conference (Italy).

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Full Text of Pope’s Conversation With Seminarians from Lombardy

Thu, 10/18/2018 - 9:23 AM

Here is a ZENIT working translation of the transcription of the Holy Father’s Dialogue with Lombardian seminarians, who were received in audience last Saturday, in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

* * *

Pope Francis:

I have the questions, because they were sent to me, but you ask them. I’ll note the things that come to me, because I want to be spontaneous in the answer.


Holy Father, I’m Daniele, of the diocese of Mantova, and I am in the introductory year.  At the beginning of our seminarian journey, joy is the predominant emotion in us. Sometimes, however, behind this enthusiasm the germ of doubt and effort is hidden, to follow Jesus as a priest in contemporary society.  From your experience, in what way can we seminarians, who are on the way, be able to face the cross of doubt?

Pope Francis:

The cross of doubt is a cross, but fecund. I have no confidence in persons who never doubt. Doubt puts us in crisis. Doubt makes us ask ourselves, “but is this all right or not all right? Doubt is richness. I’m speaking of normal doubt, not those of doubting persons who become scrupulous.  No, this isn’t all right. But the normal doubt of the personality is richness, because it puts me in crisis and makes me ask: does this thought come from God or does it not come from God? Is this a positive or not a positive thing?

You said “the cross of doubt,” and I’m answering you in regard to interior doubt, the doubt you have in your spiritual orientation. Perhaps you are also speaking of cultural doubt. However, today there is not so much cultural doubt; perhaps there are more contrary cultural affirmations, each one has his own and I believe that humanity is lacking somewhat the capacity to doubt well. The big questions . . . think of doubt about war, about migrations. They are doubts to be taken seriously because otherwise, in these ambits the problems isn’t resolved with an interior search, but according to the interest of each nation, of each society, of each people. Then the lack of these doubts is awful, because it makes one always feel secure, without posing the problem to oneself . . . Doubt is a cross, but it’s a cross that brings you close to Jesus and puts you in crisis. And as you said — it’s written here –: “what concrete actions can we put into practice every day so that our everyday nourishes this journey of entrustment?” The specific action is dialogue with the person that accompanies you, dialogue with the Superior, dialogue with companions, but open dialogue, sincere dialogue, concrete things and, especially, dialogue with the Lord. “Lord, what do you wish to say to me with this, which you make me feel, with this desolation, with this doubt?  Take the doubt as an invitation to seek the truth, to seek an encounter with Jesus Christ: this is a true doubt, all right?


Holiness, I’m Andrea, of the diocese of Brescia, and I am in the first <year> of Theology. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Holiness, meditating on your words with which you invite the Church to be outgoing, called, therefore, to carry out a new evangelizing mission, we question ourselves about some difficulties to put <your words> into practice. In face of a world that is ever more secularized, in which Jesus is forgotten and it’s an effort to transmit Him and, therefore, to understand the truth; in face of the weakness of communion and of the sense of belonging and of identity in the Christian communities, and in face of little active participation in the liturgy, we ask you with what concrete means is it possible to realize this going out to which you call us and, especially, how can one educate love for the Church and for the Church herself?

Pope Francis:

Thank you.

An outgoing Church, as Jesus willed: “Go, preach the Gospel, go . . . “ Not a “Church going for a walk!” Perhaps sometimes we are confused on some pastoral area, about what it means to go out to meet persons, and what it is to have a lovely walk and then stay where I am. This is important: the going out isn’t an adventure; it’s a mandate of the Lord, it’s a vocation; it’s a commitment.  You speak of “this ever more secularized world.” But I say to you: which world was more secularized, our <world> or that of Jesus? Which world was more corrupt, our <world> or that of Jesus? Both <are> the same. Yes <ours> is more secularized with new, modern means, but <His> was secularized with the means of that time. However, the corruption was the same. Think of the corruption of the inhabitants of Athens, when Paul began to speak that discourse so well done, which also quoted their poets and in the end, when he came to a rather difficult point [that of Christ’s Resurrection], the Athenians said: “Yes, yes, go on . . . , we will hear you <again> tomorrow: It happens also today. If you go to talk of Jesus, in many places, in many cities they don’t listen to you; they don’t hear you. That time was also secularized. Think that at that time there were also human sacrifices  . . . and also today! <They are done> in another way <today>, with white gloves, but they are carried out. The secularization is the same, more or less, that of Jesus’ <time> and that of our time. Instead, what should we do, <what> concrete things <should we do> in this secularized world? The same concrete things that Jesus did, that the Apostles did. How is the Church built? Take the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and the same thing is there. There is no other different fundamental method. Yes, there are shades, changes of time, but the essential is the same that Jesus did.

And, starting from Jesus, what can we say? What is, in fact, the kernel of Jesus’ message, of Jesus’ attitude in face of that secularized world? What did Jesus do? Closeness, closeness <and> encounter. Jesus encountered the Father in prayer and Jesus encountered the people. He also encountered enemies, who sometimes listened to him; He explained <things> to them; at other times He said things to them that seem like bad language. For instance, read Matthew 23: they are not lovely things that Jesus says there. Because He was close He could say things clearly and some weren’t pleased. And then He had to pay the price for this on the cross. Do the same as Jesus: closeness, closeness to God, closeness to the people of God, closeness to the people of God.

Therefore, I like to say that you must be priests of the people of God, namely, Pastors of the peoples, Pastors of the people and not “clerics of the State, ” because Jesus thrashed strongly the clericalism of his time: the Scribes, the Pharisees, the Doctors of the Law . . . . <He thrashed them> very strongly. And I say to you that clericalism is a perversion of the Church. When a young priest is seen altogether focused on himself, who thinks of having a career, this is <to be> more on the part of the Pharisees and Sadducees than on the part of Jesus. This is the truth. When you see a priest who prays, who is with children, teaches catechesis, celebrates Mass with his community, who knows the people’s names because he approaches them, at the end of Mass he goes and greets them one by one: “How are you? And <how is> the family?  . . . This is the closeness that Jesus had. Once I heard someone from here, one who worked in the Vatican, because there are saints in here, there are saints! Who said to me that he had been a parish priest at one time and knew everyone’s name, even the names of the dogs! This is <what should be> the closeness of a priest, a holy priest, but with the ordinary holiness to which we are all called — closeness to the people and closeness to God in prayer. A priest who is too eager in the organization of things and loses somewhat this closeness, distances himself from Jesus’ priestly ideal.

But why is closeness <necessary>? I would like to stress a theological aspect of closeness — I’ve said this at other times, perhaps you’ve heard it. In Deuteronomy God says to His people: “Think, what people have their gods so close to them as I am close to you?” Closeness to the people is a choice of God. And He led His people as a Pastor, and He led them well. However, one sees that He wasn’t satisfied with this, and He came also to make Himself one of us — so close! It’s God’s condescendence who comes down, what is called synkatabasi. It’s God’s essential attitude, who makes Himself man for us, He makes Himself close. That <should be> the attitude of the priest. I was given  . . . Father Rupnik gave me an icon of Our Lady made by himself. Our Lady is at the center but, looking carefully, it’s not an icon of Our Lady: Our Lady is at the center, large, and She has little Jesus here [in the womb but standing], a Jesus who is four or five years old, Our Lady’s hands are like this, as a stepladder, and Jesus comes down, He comes down to us . . . In the right hand He has the fullness of the Law [a scroll], and with the left hand He clings to Our Lady, not to fall. God is a man who comes down. She is Our Lady of condescendence: Jesus is the center. Our Lady is the stairs for this mystery of closeness. Therefore, devotion to Our Lady helps one to be close to Jesus. There is a prayer that we were taught, a short prayer that does one so much good: “Mother, put me with your Son, make me be close to your Son.” This help is so, because one who is close to Jesus is close to the people and does what Jesus did.  

So, <we have> a secularized world as at Jesus’ time, this is clear. Jesus’ most concrete attitude was closeness, pastoral closeness. And also among yourselves, <there must be> presbyterial closeness . . . If there is time — I don’t remember if there is a question about this — about the presbyteral college . . . If there isn’t, remind me of it.  


Holy Father, I’m Giovanni, I come from the diocese of Bergamo and I’m in the fourth year of Theology. Holiness, some among us seminarians, who are preparing to receive the ministry of Readers and to address the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini of the Holy Father Benedict XVI, were stirred in particular by number 82: “The Synod recommended that seminarians be helped concretely to see the relationship between biblical study and praying with Scripture. To study the Scriptures should make one more aware of the mystery of divine revelation and nourish an attitude of prayerful response to the Lord who speaks. On the other hand, an authentic life of prayer can also make the desire grow in the candidate’s soul to know God ever more, who revealed Himself in his Word as infinite love.” We would like to ask you about your personal experience, in the years of formation, of the relationship between study and prayer, and between study and pastoral activity. Finally, we would like to know what passage of Scripture, discovered and relished largely thanks to the studies, which accompanied you in prayer during the years of formation and still accompany you.

Pope Francis:

Thank you.

I begin with a quotation of Pope Benedict XVI. He touches a very important point: the relationship between prayer and Scripture. Something that we must learn to do and to do continually is lectio divina, that is, the encounter with the Lord through his Word: lectio divina. Go always to Scripture. The Word of God that teaches us to dialogue with Scripture: this is lectio divina; to be before the Lord, in His presence, with the Bible, and to listen. This can be done also with short passages. I recommend to people to carry the Bible in their pocket — a pocket Gospel — or in their bag [and to read it] when they have time — two or three things.

Familiarity with the Word of God — there are so many spiritual authors that teach us to go forward in the spiritual life, and they should be read, isn’t that so? However, the Word of God; it’s to know the Word of God, this lectio divina, this familiarity with the Word of God — which isn’t a familiarity of quotations, in this or that verse. No, not that. It’s a familiarity of the heart; it’s to know the Word of God from within.

Then the question: “We would like to ask you about your personal experience in the years of formation, about the relationship between study and prayer, between study and pastoral activity,” and a fourth element is missing: there are four columns, the pillars of formation: study, prayer, pastoral activity and communal life and, for this, the Seminary is important. Once, a wise Bishop said: “The worst Seminary is better than no Seminary,” because communal life helps us: it is an introduction to the presbyteral college. The relationship between study, prayer, pastoral activity and communal life are the four pillars that interact, and you must pray with the things you study or with what you see in pastoral life at the weekend, or with what happens in the community. Prayer must address everything. The four aspects are interactive, they aren’t separate pieces: it’s a unity of the four pillars of formation. And when you go to your spiritual Father, to your accompanier or your Rector or the Superior of the community, you must speak of all four, as they interact, and look for the relationship that exists. I don’t know if this is clear . . . Is it clear? There are four, but it’s necessary to speak of the relationship, of the relationship between the four.

Then, this is somewhat of a curiosity — but poor Eve, what happened to her because of her curiosity! “In fine, we want to know which passage of Scripture, discovered and relished largely thanks to the studies, accompanied you in prayer during the years of formation and still accompany you.” The dimension of the memory strikes me a lot — the “Deuteronomic” dimension and, because of this, a passage of the Bible which has accompanied me — and I always go back to it — is Deuteronomy 26: “Remember, do not forget, when you arrive in that land, which you have not conquered, when you have a full stomach of things you have not sown, when you dwell in a house that you did not build, remember, remember that you were a slave in Egypt (Cf. vv. 1-7). The memory, always look back. To where I come from, from where the Lord has saved me. The Deuteronomic dimension does me good.  “Ah, I’m a great priest, see, they have appointed me Rector of that Shrine, I do this and that . . . “ Remember from where you were taken. “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son . . .but the Lord took me from following the flock . . . (Cf. Amos 7:14-15). This strikes me a lot: to turn back, to remember, don’t be swollen with vanity, pride, self-sufficiency — everything was given to you. This is a passage with which I pray a lot today; it does me good.


Then, another passage, which I consider as the story of my life, is Ezekiel 16. Of the New Testament, I pause — it must be because I like celebrations — I pause on the Wedding of Cana, as Our Lady acts at that moment, discreetly, as she realizes, as she does . . . and that order of Our Lady — it’s the only order that Our Lady gives us” “Do whatever He tells you” (Cf. John 2:5). I like it; it touches me. These are the three passages that, I would like to say, touch me a lot. However, I recommend the first: take this Deuteronomic dimension of life, which will help you a lot, with the memory, and don’t believe yourselves <to be> more than you are.


Holy Father, good morning, I’m Piergiorgio from the diocese of Crema. I’m an acolyte and next Saturday I will be ordained Deacon. Some among us seminarians will receive, in the coming months, the ministry of acolyte, which will make them extraordinary ministers of Eucharistic Communion. Therefore, the deepening of the most holy mystery of the Eucharist accompanies and will accompany our whole journey. In this connection, and also on the occasion of the Synod on Young People, we would like to ask you a question that stems from our pastoral experiences. Seeing so many young people who don’t recognize the Eucharist, much less so as something important, how can we make them perceive, on the contrary, the culminating centrality that, in fact, springs for the life of every man and every woman? In this connection, would you like to share with us the memory of your youth regarding the relationship with Jesus-Eucharist?

Pope Francis:

Yesterday, at the Altar of the Chair [in St. Peter’s Basilica], at 5:45 in the afternoon, there were almost a thousand young people, and I gave a meditation, and then they did an hour of Eucharistic Adoration. The young people don’t reject it, but <only> when they come to understand <it>, to feel the need . . . It’s true, if you take one and say to him: “Come, let’s go do Adoration,” he falls asleep. However, it’s also good to fall asleep before the Lord! Saint Therese of the Child Jesus did it often, and I do too, it’s true! However, a catechesis is necessary on what the Eucharist is, a catechesis of life. I’ll you an anecdote.  In one of the parishes of Buenos Aires, the parish priest carried out the service of giving the homeless dinner. It was all well organized. Every day of the week there was a different group. Young people of good will, in the majority Catholics, and also some who didn’t believe in anything but wanted to do this service, and it worked well. There were those that cooked. In total, — I think — some 20 young people every day: 150 young people more or less with whom the cooking was done. At a certain point, the parish priest said: “They are doing this service well. I must do more.” What did he suggest before going out? Listen to the word of the Gospel. So, all <went to> the church, <for> not more than five minutes: <and listened> to a word of the Gospel. And they said: “This is good, but it’s little . . . “ And the parish priest said: Jesus is here with us. You go to give needy Jesus something to eat but Jesus is also here, hidden in the bread. We can look at Him a while before leaving . . . See, yes, not to make it long, he began to do that reading of the Bible before the Lord, not longer than a quarter of an hour. And these young people learned what the Eucharist is, but little by little. The catechesis on the Eucharist must be done little by little, because it is the great mystery of the Lord’s presence with us. You can’t go with a book and say: “The Eucharist is this; it’s the sacrifice of the Ancient Law, which then etc., etc. A youth won’t understand this. Make him feel the need. . In this case, the priest was clever. He said: They go to needy Jesus. I will make them see the Jesus that gives them strength with the Word — <for> 15 minutes, not more.” Then, on the other hand, he began to do Adoration, and many of them went to Adoration.

In this connection, I would like to go further on the liturgical celebrations. The liturgical celebration is an act of Adoration, an act of participation in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. We all know it. It’s an act of praise to God, of spiritual joy.  However, it often seems like a wake! And here we must help the priests. And you who will be priests, please, don’t bore the people. There was a custom — I don’t know if it’s still done here — , when the preaching began, many went out to smoke a cigarette — boring preaching. The preaching is the homily: it must touch the heart. <If>, on the contrary, it’s boring, it’s not understood. As priests, you must read what is written in Evangelii Gaudium on the homily. It’s long but I wanted to do it so — to touch. A priest who taught us homiletics, said to us: “<It should be> an idea, an image, a sentiment.” And this can be done in five minutes. Think that psychologically the people can’t pay attention for more than eight minutes <so give> an eight-minute, well prepared homily: with a clear idea, a clear sentiment or a clear image.

Love of the Eucharist must be done with a catechesis, but in this way, through the Mass: so that they see how the Mass is celebrated; so that they understand this. Adoration is easier than the Holy Mass, because of the catechesis <given> to young people, because you can explain: there will be 20 minutes of Adoration and, every six to seven minutes the priest says a word, and this helps. Introduce Adoration. But the Eucharistic celebration is important: it’s important to do it well, that it be worship of adoration, of joy, of communion among us, of communion with Christ. In this, we are in crisis; we haven’t resolved the problem of the Eucharistic celebration. I speak in general. There are many valid examples, but in general we must take it up again. And this is a global problem. Some believe that we don’t do the rubrics well, that it’s not right. We must celebrate and make noise: it’s not right. Good rubrics are needed, celebration is needed, music is needed, prayer is needed, silence is needed. However, it’s not easy to celebrate the Eucharist.  And this is a task for you as future priests. Then often the Eucharist — and this is awful, but I must say it — the Eucharist is celebrated too “socially” [as a social custom], not communally. Is there a Mass for that deceased father? Take advantage of the social custom to evangelize, to say a good word, to celebrate with beauty. A Bishop here in Italy said that some of his priests, when they are asked to say a Mass for an anniversary in the villages, if he doesn’t arrive before the offering, <the people> don’t go. I didn’t invent this. That Bishop recounted it to me. <This is> to instrumentalize the Eucharist. I stress this because <the Eucharist> is the center of our life. However, today the Eucharistic celebration is in crisis. Some good steps have been taken, but we must take care of it always. You can’t go to celebrate the Eucharist in a hurry – “toccata and fugue,” no. Your heart must be there, in the Eucharist. And this is passed on. How often people say: “How well this priest celebrates!” And they refer to the [spiritual] unction, the true unction. Think about this. I remember the Eucharist as a boy, as a child, and the Sister who prepared me was good. She made us sing, she taught us the Mass with a song that perhaps is sung: “O holy altar, protected by Angels.” She taught us the song and then she explained one thing after another . . . and we were curious. And so she taught me the Mass, preparing me for my First Communion.

I don’t know, I’ve lengthened <the time> on this, but it worries me; the Eucharistic celebration must be fitting, pious, involving also the people’s affection, also in the homily. Then, as a youth, after my conversion, at 17-18 years of age, I went once or twice a month in the evening to attend perpetual Adoration at the Church of the Sacramentini. It was the time when there wasn’t an evening Mass and in Buenos Aires the Sacramentini have an elegant  church in the center <of the city>. I remember — it was 5:30 am, there was Mass, after Adoration, and people came directly from parties to the Mass, to <then> sleep the whole of Sunday. I remember I didn’t like this, because I said: “But they come to Mass only to fulfil the precept.” And I didn’t like very much the luxury of the women there. However, those evenings of Adoration . . . it was one hour, then 40 minutes of rest, then <again> one hour. It did me good at that time to prepare myself for the definitive decision. Yes . . . I don’t know if I’ve answered the question on the Eucharist.


Holy Father, I’m Marco, of the diocese of Milan, seminarian in the fifth year of Theology. Holiness the fifth year of Theology is a decisive year in order of the path of vocational discernment, in view of Holy Orders. We ask you: how did you live the part of spiritual discernment in your life? How did you understand the call to the religious life and to the priesthood, with particular attention to the emotional life? How were the different figures of spiritual accompaniment in the years of formation true and proper subjects of your discernment?

Pope Francis:

<I did> as every one of you, engaged in discernment in your life to decide to enter  the Seminary. Discernment is a path to see what the Lord wants from me, accompanied by another who helps me. How is it seen? What do I feel, what leaves me in peace, what makes me anxious, what takes peace away from me . . . I had a great man who helped me so much on this. He was the Dean of Philosophy, but he was a man who had studied the spiritual life a lot and especially discernment from the time of the monks until now. And he helped me a lot. He gave real, concrete advice to help <me> go forward. For instance, I remember once that there was talk in a school of anthropology of maturity. “And does one know — a companion of mine said– how does one know, if one is or is not mature? And he said: “But you have brothers and sisters: are they married? “ “Yes, two are.” “And do they have children?” “Yes. Are you capable of playing with your nephews?” “Well, I don’t know . . . “”Try to see if you are capable. All right, if you’re not capable, you are lacking something.” The concrete things of life lead you to discernment. A sign of maturity is to be able to play with children.  A man that doesn’t know how to play with children, is lacking something. To play with children of the family; to spend time, as fathers and mothers . . . Mothers do it more often because they are with the child, but when the father returns tired from work, he must make an effort to play with the child. This is an example of discernment. Christian life is to discern. Why must I make an examination of conscience today? Not only to count the sins i’ve committed or the virtues of today, but to see what happened in my heart. A boy looks at a girl and he likes her. What is it? Then he likes another. He looks at another and doesn’t like her. And he works on this and in the end he speaks to her; they get engaged and go forward. See what is happening in my heart: this is discernment. What is happening within me? What thoughts give me joy? What thoughts make me sad? What things leave me sad, and I feel they are things that aren’t useful to me? It’s one of the most difficult things in Christian life and in which discernment is needed so much. It’s like living with sin. We are all sinners — all, and not only in theory, <but> in practice. And when I fall, how do I live with this fall? How do I resolve this failure?  Seek in prayer, in advice how to go on with sin and resolve it. I remember once — I was in Buenos Aires — in the Bishop’s residence, I had appointments and the Secretary came and gave me an envelope and said: “Father so and so is here; he asks only that you read this, between one appointment and another. .” I took it and said: “Father, I have sinned. I need your help. I’m calm, I’ll wait downstairs. When you have some time, call me.” And he didn’t leave the Bishop’s residence until the moment in which I called him. It’s an extreme example, but that man was in crisis, because he didn’t know how to resolve a slip he’d made. This is to discern. I’m in darkness because of an error., a sin that I committed. I go immediately to the Father, or I go to that companion who will help me. But always look for someone who can help me with my bad things, with my mistakes. Also with the good things, but I want to stress living with sin., because it seems that we don’t know how to resolve the concrete problem of being sinners. We resolve it in theory, but not in the concrete. And discernment is needed for this.

I would like to greet you one by one, but let’s hear another question . . .

Don Davide:

Holy Father, I am Don Davide, since two weeks Deacon of the diocese of Milan. Holiness, we want to ask you a question, beginning from the Pauline phrase  “Be joyful in hope. “ That <bit about> hope, in fact, is a necessary and essential feature of the witness the Church must give of Christ, and it’s only true hope that springs from Jesus’ Easter that enables us seminarians to surrender our life to God  and to His Bride, <he Church>. Many, however, are enemies of this hope: in the last few months we have witnessed two grave events that have shaken Peter’s bark within and have profoundly desolated us. We ask you: how can one be authentically before the scandals that afflict us and even involve the consecrated?  How can one help the faithful not to lose hope despite the poverty of <the Church’s> ministers? In sum, what steps of conversion <must> we priests and future priests take in this connection?

Pope Francis:

“It’s necessary that there be scandals,” Jesus says. Scandal has existed since the beginning of the Church: think of Ananias and Sapphira, those two who wanted to cheat the community: a scandal. Peter resolved the scandal clearly in that case. He “cut the head” of both. Jesus says, if it’s necessary that there are scandals, see where your heart is, but He also admonishes: “Woe, woe to you if you scandalize one of these .” To scandalize the people of God is most awful; it’s most awful. And I’m not speaking of the scandal of the weak, but of the people of God. In my land, for example, the people of God aren’t very scandalized, but they act. For example, they are able to forgive a poor priest who has a double life with a woman and who doesn’t know how to resolve <the situation>. “Ah, poor man, let’s help him, but they don’t condemn him immediately. They are able to forgive another priest who is a bit alone and takes a drink too often. ”Well, poor thing. A bit of wine does him good; he is alone . . .” The people have great wisdom. But the priest doesn’t forgive you for mistreating the people. He doesn’t forgive you this because it scandalizes. And the priest doesn’t forgive you if you are attached to money: he doesn’t forgive you. To scandalize the people is an awful thing, and to scandalize the priest is also an awful thing, and to scandalize the presbytery is also an awful thing. If you go to a meeting of the Presbytery, and the Bishop speaks, or someone else speaks and then goes out with one or two friends to gossip against the Bishop or against the other one who said that thing — against the other one . . . it’s a scandal that wounds the body — scandal wounds. We must be clear: we must not yield on this point. No to scandals, especially when the scandals wound littlest ones. The people are simpler. Condemn scandal always. Don’t yield. “But what can I do?” Go, speak to them; speak to them as a brother: “Listen, you are scandalizing the people with this.” Or go to the Bishop and tell the Bishop. Speak to them as a father.” But when you see that a priest scandalizes, please, go directly to him or to his friend or parish priest, or the Bishop, so that he is helped.  In Argentina there is the custom of inviting the priests to the celebration of a wedding, when they officiate at the wedding, then they invite you to the celebration. With us, marriages are done in the late evening. Then there is a celebration, and so many priests go there and they make a bad figure because they go in the midst of a worldly celebration and then drink too much. . . . <it’s> a scandal. “No, I go to engage in the apostolate.” But please! [they laugh] It’s true that the spouses ask them “yes, come, come!” but the smart priests say this: “No, look. I’ll see, but when you return from your honeymoon. I’ll see you in your home, I’ll bless the house, and dine with both of you.” This doesn’t scandalize. But, please, the art of being in one’s place. Never scandalize. Behind your question is the scandal of the abuses. You know the statistics: priests commit 2% of the abuses. “Ah, that’s few, Father.” No, because if it’s only one priest, it’s monstrous. Let us not justify ourselves because we are only 2%. 70% happens in families and in the neighbourhood, then in gyms — the trainers, in schools . . . It’s a scandal, but it’s a global scandal, which makes me think of the human sacrifices of children, as the pagans did. On this point, <we must> speak clearly: go immediately to the Bishop, to help that abuser brother. <Go> immediately to the Bishop. However, there are other scandals of which it’s not fashionable to speak. A great scandal is the worldly priest, the one who lives in spiritual worldliness.<he is> a polite man, socially well accepted, but worldly. You never sees him pray before the Tabernacle; you never see him go to a hospital and stop to take the hands of the sick — never. He never <engages> in works of mercy, those that are difficult to do. He is the worldly priest: this is a scandal. And worldliness . . . It struck me so much when I read for the first time “Meditation on the Church” by Cardinal de Lubac: the last chapter, the last two pages. He quotes a Benedictine who says that the worst sin of the Church is spiritual worldliness. It’s to convert religion into anthropology. Read these two pages; it will do you good. It will do you good.

Don Marco:

Good morning, I’m Marco of the Seminary of Cremona. At Florence, you gave the Italian Church the <Apostolic Exhortation> Evangelii Gaudium, and we imagined not only what it meant to say “delivered to the dioceses and the parishes,” but “delivered to the community of the Seminary”: What are the processes of renewal that every community, also with its own Bishops, with its own educators, is committed to do. The second thing we would like to ask you as educators is, first of all, that  to be in the Seminary with these young men is something great for us, but it’s also something that calls us to conversion every day; it’s what the priest just said: what does it mean, as priests, to be genuine? Perhaps it’s not for us to teach them great philosophies: we must make them understand that to spend life is one thing . . . but for us it becomes very challenging. And the third thing we’d like to ask you is:  when the Bishop asks us in the Ordination: “Are you certain that you are worthy?” Then there comes to mind all the reflections: the future that opens before them, with the grace of God, with the Church . . . See if you can help us to say — you referred to it earlier — what does it mean to live as presbyters, communally, the “we” not only the “I.” Earlier you referred to clericalism: can you say to us again a word on this? Thank you.

Pope Francis:

Here, also in the written question was: “A question on the fear of being outgoing  and living the condition of Church as a field hospital.” To live this it’s necessary to reconnect the vocation-conversion bond. It strikes us how you often invite the Church to accept how the Spirit leads us outside of our securities: how can we avoid the risk wisely? What does it mean for us that we must also take care of an ancient tradition of seminary formation? What can we suggest to help our young men to savour the risk of the Gospel and not be seduced by the form of defense and of clericalism? I wanted to read it because there were three and I wanted . . .

First of all, put them on the way. A serious formation is to put them on the way; they must not stand still. Put them on the way because a priest who’s not on the way thinks of stupidities, says stupidities and does stupidities.  <He must> always be on the way, so that at least he won’t do stupidities. “However, it’s risky . . .”Yes, he will have slips, but I’ll tell you something: I have often prayed to the Lord for a priest — as example for many, but we think of one — to throw him a banana peel and he has a real slip that humiliates him and thus he be able to go forward. Put them on the way, without so many securities.  It’s true that there is a risk — to form people is a risk, but take the risk. Once, a wise old priest said: “When the Bishop asked my Rector: Do you know if this one is worthy? In that moment, my Rector had fallen asleep and I don’t know what he answered . . .” It’s a risk.

Day before yesterday — listen to this — I had to suspend from Rome a priestly Ordination in another continent. But what did that Bishop have in his head? And those formators who presented such a person to the Bishop? The news that had arrived was terrible! There are such cases, but the majority isn’t like that.  You have the experience of fraternity; you are older brothers, and with dialogue . . . One risks. If you don’t risk in life you don’t go forward. But risk with prudence, risk with prudence. And from where do I get prudence? <I get it> from my experience of accompaniment of this youth, and from prayer. There is no precise “how.” In the meetings to examine the suitability, there are pros and cons, but you must make a prudent decision and make it known to the Bishop, and it will be up to the Bishop to decide. However, you are co-responsible with the Bishop.

“To help our young men to like the risk of the Gospel “is to put them on the way, so that they feel the many things that one feels who is on the way: acceptance, rejection, insult, praises, vanity . . . And they must learn this: to distinguish things. And above all — I will use a somewhat strange word — educate them to patience. There is a book of Guardini, I don’t know how it’s translated in Italian — “Glaubenserkenntnis”, “knowledge of the faith,” chapters on different topics: the first is on Adoration, the second chapter on God’s patience. Educate them to patience, because God is also patient.  That chapter is a gem: look for it and make it known. God is patient with us.

The problem of stiffening oneself: defense, clericalism . . . When this is a criterion in a youth that I’m sure of — if you see  a young seminarian who is stiff, who falls into rigidity, make him wait. If he is rigid, he isn’t suitable for Ordination. Today rigidity is an impediment to Ordination. If you see another who takes everything seriously and has no sense of humour, send him to work in a circus for a while! Then, when he returns, after two years, we’ll see how thing are going — a sense of humour, not rigidity: rigidity is an impediment; behind all rigidity, there are terrible problems.

I could continue, but . . . the last <question>

Don Ivan:

Good morning, Holiness, I’m Ivan, Rector of the Seminary of Como. I ask you a question on behalf of the formators and docents. It’s a question on the criterion “time is superior to space.” Today it always seems to us more decisive that the ministry be conceived and especially lived in a communal way, and thus seek to decipher the Council’s profound message. This is important either because of the way in which we live in the Presbytery or because of the way in which we propose to seminarians the way to live and be formed with us, among themselves and with those they meet. To live the process makes us appreciate the possible good, oriented to the Gospel, and you insist constantly on this aspect. Holiness, can you help us to decipher educationally the scope of this criterion “time is superior to space’? And then, in the ambit of this question: what do you ask of the docents of the Seminaries of the Lombardian dioceses? Thank you.

Pope Francis:

<We must> live the process and not be afraid. Life happens always in a process: children aren’t born adults; it’s a whole process to become — it’s a whole process of maturation or of corruption, but it’s a process, and, also, how to help seminarians and priests in this. It’s Jesus’ method with the Apostles! We can take the way Jesus taught the Apostles; how He made them begin the work of evangelization . . . Think that all [the seminarians] are in a process. Those that have done the first step badly, if this isn’t corrected, they will walk badly their whole life. Think of the “climber” for example: if you don’t correct a seminarian who gives signs of being a climber, we’ll do harm to the Church. I once heard an experienced Bishop say: “The climber wants the most, but if you offer him the smallest diocese, he will take it because he takes a step forward: now he is Bishop, but instead of leading <his> diocese, he will look at the other, that of the neighbour and — that Bishop said —  this is episcopal adultery: to look at another’s wife, until he arrives where he wants <to be>. The climber is always in the process. I was very much touched by Saint John Paul II’s word when he was Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops. He went to say to them” Give me a criterion for the choice of Bishops.” And, with that voice that John Paul II had [he lowers the tone of his voice]: “First criterion: volentes nolumus.”  With this he wished to say: there is no place for climbers. Service. A Saint is also in process: of going . . . one never arrives at sanctity if one lives a life of holiness in process. And one seeks to go with Jesus’ method: Jesus bet on time, on the disciples’ development: He was able to tolerate the mistakes: He tolerated Peter when he denied Him; He tolerated the others who ran away, because Jesus followed the processes.

I’ve given these two examples, the climber and the Saint, both in process. I go back: the rigid person isn’t in process. With this, you see things well: the rigid person protects himself, because he is afraid or has some sickness within, an imbalance, to cover something . . . but he is always incapable of entering the process. Instead, the good and the bad are always in process.

I don’t know . . . it’s somewhat the synthesis of what I wanted to say. And I thank you for <your> confidence in asking the questions.  Wisdom in Christian life, rather than giving answers, is knowing how to ask questions. We will go with this on the path of time, of processes. If a young man doesn’t know how to ask questions, he must learn: this is your job as formators.  And, if he doesn’t learn, he is not suited for the priesthood.

Thank you so much for your testimony!

“Hail Mary . . . “


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

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