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Updated: 30 min 25 sec ago

Pope Names Three New Jersey Priests as Auxiliary Bishops of Archdiocese of Newark

9 hours 28 min ago

Pope Francis has appointed three New Jersey priests as Auxiliary Bishops for the Archdiocese of Newark.

According to the resignations and appointments section of the Holy See Press Office’s ordinary bulletin today, Feb. 27, the Holy Father named Msgr. Gregory Studerus, Benedictine Father Elias Lorenzo and Father Michael Saporito to the new roles.

Bishop-designate Studerus, already clergy of the same Archdiocese, until now has been serving as Episcopal Vicar of the Hudson County and Parish Priest of the Saint Joseph of the Palisades Parish in West New York.

Likewise, Bishop-designate Saporito already serves the archdiocese, and has been serving as parish priest of Saint Helen Parish in Westfield.

Bishop-designate Lorenzo, abbot president of the American Cassinese Benedictine Congregation, is a monk of St. Mary’s Abbey in Morristown, New Jersey.

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Pope Names New Auxiliary Bishop for San Diego

10 hours 5 min ago

Pope Francis has appointed Father Ramon Bejarano of the Diocese of Stockton as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of San Diego.

Father Bejarano was born on July 17, 1969, in Laredo, Texas. He completed his ecclesiastical studies at the Diocesan Seminary of Tijuana , Mexico, (1989-1992) and at the Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon (1992-1998).

He was ordained a priest on August 15, 1998 for the Diocese of Stockton.

After his priestly ordination, he held the following positions: Parish Vicar of Saint George Parish in Stockton (1998-2003) and Sacred Heart Parish in Turlock (2004-2006).

He was parish priest of the Holy Family Parish in Modesto (2006-2008) and since 2008, he has served parish priest of the Saint Stanislaus Parish in Modesto. 

He was also member of the presbyteral council and of the college of consultors.

 

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Due to ‘Slight Indisposition,’ Pope Doesn’t Meet Rome’s Clergy at St. John Lateran

10 hours 35 min ago

Due to a ‘slight indisposition,’ Pope Francis did not go St. John Lateran this morning where he was expected to meet with Rome’s clergy this morning.

The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed this to ZENIT English’ Deborah Lubov, ahead of a statement he issued later, stating the following:

“This morning,” the statement said, “the Holy Father did not go to the Lateran for the penitential liturgy with the Roman clergy.”

“Due to a slight indisposition,” it concluded, “he preferred to remain in the rooms close to Santa Marta; the other commitments proceed regularly.”

He also told ZENIT English that the Holy Father not only received, as planned, the ‘Global Climate Change’ group this morning in the Vatican, but also went ahead with all his private audiences too.

Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the Vicar of Rome, read the Pope’s discourse to the clergy at the Lateran. ZENIT is translating the text and it will be available as soon as possible.

 

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Holy See Addresses UN on Seabed Mineral Issues

11 hours 53 sec ago

On February 20, Monsignor Fredrik Hansen, Head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the First Part of the Twenty-sixth Session of the Council of the International Sea Bed Authority (ISA), gave an intervention during the Council’s meeting in Kingston, Jamaica.

In his intervention, Monsignor Hansen expressed the Holy See’s appreciation for the work of the ISA and offered five points with regard to negotiations taking place on Regulations on the exploitation of mineral resources in the Area. He urged that negotiations be thorough and not truncated due to artificial deadlines and that there be clarity and external and internal consistency in terminology used in the Regulations, special attention given to some overarching principles he listed, accountability, compliance and oversight, and the highest environmental standards. 

Following is the full intervention:

Mr. President,

The Holy See congratulates you on your election to the Presidency of this Council session, assuring you of the full support and constructive engagement of this Delegation.

My Delegation takes this opportunity also to express its appreciation for the work undertaken by the Council and the Assembly during the 25th session, as well as to thank the Secretary-General and the Secretariat for its ongoing assistance to the Organs of the Authority, in particular during the intersessional periods.

In this regard, allow me to echo the words of the Secretary-General, who during his statement to the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly noted that the 25 years of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea have been accompanied by the ongoing work of the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to “build a solid institutional architecture and an ever-growing regulatory framework for the oversight of the activities in the Area, and which currently constitutes the most comprehensive and equitable regime to govern the access to and utilization of the mineral resources and the protection of the marine environment in areas beyond national jurisdiction”.[1]

The Holy See continues to follow this work with great attention and encourages ISA Council members, Member States and Observers to make every possible effort to ensure meaningful and result-oriented progress during this 26th session.

On more specific issues related to the ongoing negotiations on the draft Regulations on the exploitation of mineral resources in the Area, the Holy See wishes to make the following five points:

Ensuring exhaustive negotiations rather than artificial deadlines

The advances made during the 25th session on the draft regulations confirmed that the goal of adopting the regulations is drawing ever closer. While completing the negotiations is important, the Holy See underscores that doing so within a deadline cannot be the primary focus. The importance of the subject matter and the real-world consequences that the regulations will have – for us and future generations – demand that exhaustive consideration and discussions be devoted to the text.

Consistency and clarity in terminology

Like other Delegations, the Holy See believes it most important that the work on the text during this session should in a particular manner be devoted to ensuring clarity and consistency in the terminology of the regulations. This applies both to what may be termed external consistency, with the Convention and with the ongoing work of the Intergovernmental Conference on an international legally binding instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), and with internal consistency, ensuring that the draft regulations and its various parts are coherent and internally uniform.

Overarching principles

During previous meetings of the Council and the Assembly, the Holy See has stressed the importance of a number of overarching principles included in the draft.

These include that the “resources of the Area are vested in mankind as a whole” (Regulation 2, a), the “development of the common heritage for the benefit of mankind as a whole” (2, b, ix), the “protection of human life and safety” (2, d), the “effective protection of the Marine Environment” (2, e), the “application of the precautionary approach” or principle (2, e, ii), the “application of the ecosystem approach” (2, e, iii), the “polluter pays principle” (2, e, iv), “access to data and information relating to the protection of the Marine Environment” (2, e, v), “[a]ccountability and transparency in decision-making” (2, e, vi) and providing for “the prevention, reduction and control of pollution and other hazards to the Marine Environment” (2, f).

My Delegation continues to believe that to ensure that the draft regulations will have a concrete, substantive and lasting impact, the identification of and precision about key principles remains crucial. Without the necessary strictures and clarity, mechanisms that seek to ensure governance of the oceans and the implementation of international conventions often end up being fragmented and without much effect, as Pope Francis noted in his encyclical letter Laudato si’.[2]Clarity of terminology becomes especially significant considering the important role that the process of applications, the applications themselves and their review will have in the regulations and the need to provide the private sector and Governments with a common and verifiable understanding of the regulations’ implementation, including their legal basis and obligations.

Accountability, compliance and oversight

The draft regulations, while advancing these overarching principles, must also be grounded in and support more practical and business-oriented principles, notably accountability, compliance, and oversight. Without ensuring that the exploitation of minerals in the Area is held to such standards of good corporate governance, the draft regulations risk becoming more exhortatory than impactful. My Delegation continues to urge that any form of conflict of interest in the approval and monitoring of applications and exploitation must be avoided, including by designating various bodies to perform subsequent oversight. In this, the role of sponsoring States is essential in assuring the veracity and accuracy of all information and exercising necessary controls.

The highest possible environmental standards

The Holy See is pleased to see that a great number of proposals and suggestions presented on the draft regulations called for the inclusion of the highest possible environmental standards – in all aspects and in all phases of the exploitation of mineral resources. It is my Delegation’s hope that work on such standards and their concrete inclusion in the draft will be advanced during this session. This would build upon the “responsibilities-based” approach that should characterize the work of the Authority, which begins with its most important goal: the conservation of our precious oceans with all their biological diversity and ecological integrity and the use of resources in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all mankind.

In closing, allow me to once more ensure all participants of this Council meeting of the support and constructive engagement of the Holy See

Thank you, Mr. President.

[1] Mr. Michael W. Lodge, Secretary-General of the International Seabed Authority, Statement to the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, United Nations Headquarters, New York City, 10 December 2019.

[2] Pope Francis, encyclical letter Laudato si’ on care for our common home, 25 May 2015, n. 174.

Copyright © 2020 Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations, All rights reserved.

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Batnaya, Iraq is Back

11 hours 8 min ago

A massive program has just received the go-ahead to help revive a Christian village in Iraq, which was almost completely razed to the ground after being seized by Daesh (ISIS).

The plan for Batnaya devised by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) will involve restoring the Chaldean Catholic village’s parish church, repairing the nearby chapel, parish hall, library and parish house (presbytery) and rebuilding a children’s nursery school and a convent.

The scheme is seen as crucial to the revival of a village, where, after two years of Islamist occupation, one percent of its 997 homes were still standing.

The extremists had smashed altars, decapitated statues and daubed blasphemous anti-Christian messages on the walls.

Now ACN will restore the parish church of St Kyriakos as well as the nearby Chapel of the Immaculate Conception and rebuild the flattened St Oraha’s Dominican Convent and the kindergarten, which the Sisters will run, catering for 125 children.

Announcing the scheme for the most devastated of the 13 Daesh-occupied Christian towns and villages in the Nineveh Plains, ACN Middle East projects director Father Andrzej Halemba described the program as “a new and courageous step forward to secure the future of Batnaya.

“Even if the situation is not very clear, we see the importance of a sign of hope.

“ACN is determined to help the Christians to stay. Our task is to stand by the people who would like to come back.”

After the Daesh occupation ended in October 2016, the village was abandoned as a ghost town.

Batnaya was disputed territory between the federal government of Iraq and the Kurdish Regional Government.

But more recently work got underway to repair houses, electricity, water and schools and last summer families finally started to return.

Within eight months, 300 people have come back and church leaders now think hundreds more will return after years of displacement in neighboring towns and villages.

Work on the church and chapel will involve replacement windows, doors and roof tiles, redecoration throughout and removal of Daesh graffiti such as “Slaves of the Cross, we will kill you all. This is Islamic territory. You do not belong here.”

Rebuilding Batnaya is an immense task as the village was on the frontline of fighting between Daesh and coalition forces.

Widespread booby-trapping has delayed work which could only begin after a huge de-ordnance program had been completed.

Restoration has been further hampered by the extensive tunnels dug under the village by captives of Daesh who went underground to escape bombardment.

For many Christians, returning has meant overcoming memories of Daesh daubing homes with ‘n’ for ‘Nazarene’ (Christian) and demands to pay jizya Islamic tax, convert to Islam or face execution by the sword.

Resettlement of Batnaya is seen as crucial for the recovery of the Christian presence in the Nineveh Plains.

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Asia Bibi: My Faith has Saved Me

14 hours 20 min ago

Asia Bibi has given a landmark interview saying that her faith in Christ was what got her through her long ordeal behind bars.

In an interview, February 26, 2020, with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Catholic charity for persecuted Christians, the Christian woman from Pakistan, sensationally acquitted last year, gave a powerful account of how her faith helped her through her darkest hours.

Asia Bibi, who was on death row for blasphemy said:  “During my detention, I held the hand of Christ. It is thanks to him that I have stayed standing. Do not be afraid.”

Describing her time in jail, she gave no impression of anger or bitterness about nine years of trial and internment.

The mother from Pakistan’s Punjab province, who was accused of blaspheming against the Islamic Prophet Mohammad in June 2009, said she wants to use her media profile to speak up for other victims of injustice in her home country, including those falsely accused of blasphemy.

She said: “It is thanks to the media that I am still alive.”

Asia Bibi, who has spent nine months in Canada following her departure from Pakistan, described how she longs to return to her native country.

She said: “[Pakistan] is my homeland. I love Pakistan passionately.”

Meanwhile, she is appealing for asylum in France, saying: “I have found a lot of love here. I think I’d be fine with you.”

She recalled a childhood in Pakistan where Christians mixed happily with Muslims.

Asia Bibi, who was baptized a Christian aged eight, said: “I played with Muslim neighbors. There was no separation.”

She went on to explain how inter-faith relations soured, with growing numbers of Islamist attacks on Christians.

Christians, Ahmadi Muslims, Hindus, and other religious minorities have experienced a disproportionate number of blasphemy allegations in Pakistan, with many accusations apparently resulting from personal vendettas.

There are frequent cases involving the abduction and forced conversion of Christian girls who are subjected to forced marriages.

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Bishops of Mexico and Paraguay Call for Respecting Women

14 hours 52 min ago

“We are deeply saddened by the violence against women, which has expressed itself in a new and aggressive way, so cruel as to generate confusion, pain, bitterness, sadness, tears, indignation, helplessness and many wishes for vengeance.” This is what the Presidency of the Bishops’ Conference of Mexico writes in a statement entitled “Educating for peace, national urgency”, which takes its cue from the recent brutal crimes committed against women and girls, to affirm that “the cry of pain of the victims of violence cries out to heaven for justice. Christians cannot remain indifferent”.

“This reality puts us in front of an authentic educational emergency because we have lost the basic references of human coexistence: truth, goodness and beauty,” underlines the text, sent to Agenzia Fides. The Bishops stress that education cannot be reduced only to the educational institution, although important, but not sufficient. “We recognize the need for an educational base that involves family life”, they reiterate, stressing that the lessons taught in schools “cannot replace the education that the family can give.”

The Bishops recall: “We are all co-responsible for the solution of the crisis of humanity that we face: family, school, the media, Churches”, in order to forge a culture of hope and peace, joining the responsibility of the State. “We ask all believers and people of good will to do everything possible to prevent violence from growing and spreading, in a special way we invite everyone to respect women and recognize the right they have, to promote their dignity, guaranteeing their freedom and integrity in our society.”

On the occasion of the “Paraguayan Women’s Day” celebrated across the country on February 24, in memory of the first assembly of American women, which was held in Paraguay on February 24, 1967, the country’s Bishops published a message in which they emphasize that “women have always played an important role in society and particularly in Paraguay, women have even given their lives to save their country in critical moments. Paraguayan women have been able to forge a new path for the reconstruction of the Paraguayan nation after the catastrophe we experienced between 1865 and 1870. Despite the great contribution, in this case, too, women have been demoted”.
Although the contribution of women in various sectors of society has been widely recognized, the Bishops point out, “our country’s macho society has always postponed their participation in various aspects of public life”. Today the Church appreciates “the incorporation of women in the traditionally male-occupied work areas” and recognizes that “they are brave heroines who save lives, administer justice and work to end corruption”.

In conclusion, the Bishops of Paraguay find that “violence against women continues to increase and highlight the lack of recognition of the dignity and value of many women, for this reason, it is important to “talk with them”, as Aparecida asks us, recognize them and create spaces of participation to walk together towards a more inclusive, cooperative and supportive country”.

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Peace, Security, and Stability: Key Points of Lent in Africa

15 hours 29 min ago

A new era for the African continent, tormented by evil and suffering, is the common hope of the Church of the Country for the time of Lent. In the various socio-political contexts of the vast African continent this “will be a time of grace in Africa in particular: a time in which the Bishops, in the various nations and Bishops’ Conferences, will urge the faithful to live a real renewal and a conversion of the heart, which can then be transformed into opportunities for renewal in social, economic and political action, generator of peace, security and stability,” said theologian and missionary Donad Zagore of the Society for African Missions, reported Fides News Agency.

Each national community will respond differently, according to the problems and issues that affect it most closely: in Kenya, the fight against corruption will be at the center of the main challenges to face during this period; in Nigeria, Christians will dress in black to show their solidarity with all Christians, victims of violence in the country. In the region of Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, “hope for the Resurrection will uplift the population from the climate of tensions caused by the evil that prevails and that divides these countries”. “Ivory Coast, Togo, Guinea, on the other hand, will experience this period of conversion projected towards peace and hope for peaceful elections”, the missionary notes.

“Commitment and hope for a better future remain a fundamental imperative for the African continent. In Lent we will pray to the Prince of Peace for conversion, reconciliation, and justice, basic principles for all Christians in Africa”, he concludes.

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Be Reconciled As God’s Beloved Children – Pope’s Words of Comfort This Ash Wednesday

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 7:04 PM

“Holiness is not achieved by our efforts, for it is grace! By ourselves, we cannot remove the dust that sullies our hearts. Only Jesus, who knows and loves our heart, can heal it. Lent is a time of healing.”

In his homily in Rome’s church of Santa Sabina on the Aventine Hill this Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis gave this reassurance.

This first day of the beginning of Lent, the Holy Father–continuing an annual papal tradition–presided over an assembly of prayer that took place in the form of the Roman “Stations.”

Ashes are thus a reminder of the direction of our existence: a passage from dust to life. We are dust, earth, clay, but if we allow ourselves to be shaped by the hands of God, we become something wondrous. More often than not, though, especially at times of difficulty and loneliness, we only see our dust! But the Lord encourages us: in his eyes, our littleness is of infinite value. So let us take heart: we were born to be loved; we were born to be children of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, may we keep this in mind as we begin this Lenten season.

“For Lent,” the Pope said, “is not a time for useless sermons, but for recognizing that our lowly ashes are loved by God. It is a time of grace, a time for letting God gaze upon us with love and in this way change our lives.”

Since we were put in this world to go from ashes to life, Francis said we mustn’t “turn our hopes and God’s dream for us, into powder and ashes,” nor “grow resigned.”

The Pope also reminded faithful that we are citizens of heaven, and that our ‘passport’ is, our love for our neighbor.

Moreover, the Holy Father pointed out, we can receive God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance, because there “the fire of God’s love consumes the ashes of our sin.”

Assuring that “the embrace of the Father in confession renews us from inside and purifies our heart,” Pope Francis prayed “we allow ourselves to be reconciled, in order to live as beloved children, as forgiven and healed sinners, as wayfarers with Him at our side.”

He then appealed for us to let ourselves be loved, and stand up walking toward Easter, so that then “we will experience the joy of discovering how God raises us up from our ashes.”

This afternoon at 4:30, in the church of Saint Anselmo all”Aventino, a moment of prayer was held followed by a penitential procession to the Basilica of Saint Sabina.

Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, Benedictine monks of Saint Anselm, Dominican Fathers of Saint Sabina and some faithful, participated. At the end of the procession, Pope Francis presided over the celebration of the Eucharist in the Basilica of Saint Sabina, with the rite of the blessing and imposition of ashes.

Here is the Vatican-provided text of the Pope’s homily:

****

We begin the Lenten Season by receiving ashes: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return (cf. Gen 3:19). The dust sprinkled on our heads brings us back to earth; it reminds us that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We are weak, frail and mortal. Centuries and millennia pass and we come and go; before the immensity of galaxies and space, we are nothing. We are dust in the universe. Yet we are dust loved by God. It pleased the Lord to gather that dust in his hands and to breathe into it the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). We are thus a dust that is precious, destined for eternal life. We are the dust of the earth, upon which God has poured out his heaven, the dust that contains his dreams. We are God’s hope, his treasure and his glory.

Ashes are thus a reminder of the direction of our existence: a passage from dust to life. We are dust, earth, clay, but if we allow ourselves to be shaped by the hands of God, we become something wondrous. More often than not, though, especially at times of difficulty and loneliness, we only see our dust! But the Lord encourages us: in his eyes, our littleness is of infinite value. So let us take heart: we were born to be loved; we were born to be children of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, may we keep this in mind as we begin this Lenten season. For Lent is not a time for useless sermons, but for recognizing that our lowly ashes are loved by God. It is a time of grace, a time for letting God gaze upon us with love and in this way change our lives. We were put in this world to go from ashes to life. So let us not turn our hopes and God’s dream for us into powder and ashes. Let us not grow resigned. You may ask: “How can I trust? The world is falling to pieces, fear is growing, there is so much malice all around us, society is becoming less and less Christian…” Don’t you believe that God can transform our dust into glory?

The ashes we receive on our foreheads should affect the thoughts passing through our minds. They remind us that, as God’s children, we cannot spend our lives chasing after dust. From there a question can pass into our hearts: “What am I living for?” If it is for the fleeting realities of this world, I am going back to ashes and dust, rejecting what God has done in my life. If I live only to earn money, to have a good time, to gain a bit of prestige or a promotion in my work, I am living for dust. If I am unhappy with life because I think I do not get enough respect or receive what I think is my due, then I am simply staring at dust.

That is not why we have been put in this world. We are worth so much more. We live for so much more, for we are meant to make God’s dream a reality and to love. Ashes are sprinkled on our heads so that the fire of love can be kindled in our hearts. We are citizens of heaven, and our love for God and neighbour is our passport to heaven. Our earthly possessions will prove useless, dust that scatters, but the love we share – in our families, at work, in the Church and in the world – will save us, for it will endure forever.

The ashes we receive remind us of a second and opposite passage: from life to dust. All around us, we see the dust of death. Lives reduced to ashes. Rubble, destruction, war. The lives of unwelcomed innocents, the lives of the excluded poor, the lives of the abandoned elderly. We continue to destroy ourselves, to return to ashes and dust. And how much dust there is in our relationships! Look at our homes and families: our quarrels, our inability to resolve conflicts, our unwillingness to apologize, to forgive, to start over, while at the same time insisting on our own freedom and our rights! All this dust that besmirches our love and mars our life. Even in the Church, the house of God, we have let so much dust collect, the dust of worldliness.

Let us look inside, into our hearts: how many times do we extinguish the fire of God with the ashes of hypocrisy! Hypocrisy is the filth that Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel that we have to remove. Indeed, the Lord tells us not only to carry out works of charity, to pray and to fast, but also to do these without pretense, duplicity and hypocrisy (cf. Mt 6:2.5.16). Yet how often do we do things only to be recognized, to look good, to satisfy our ego! How often do we profess to be Christians, yet in our hearts readily yield to passions that enslave us! How often do we preach one thing and practice another! How many times do we make ourselves look good on the outside while nursing grudges within! How much duplicity do we have in our hearts… All this is dust that besmirches, ashes that extinguish the fire of love.

We need to be cleansed of all the dust that has sullied our hearts. How? The urgent summons of Saint Paul in today’s second reading can help us. Paul says: “Be reconciled to God!” He does not simply ask; he begs: “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20). We would have said: “Reconcile yourselves with God!” But no, Paul uses passive form: Be reconciled! Holiness is not achieved by our efforts, for it is grace! By ourselves, we cannot remove the dust that sullies our hearts. Only Jesus, who knows and loves our heart, can heal it. Lent is a time of healing.

What, then, are we to do? In journeying towards Easter, we can make two passages: first, from dust to life, from our fragile humanity to the humanity of Jesus, who heals us. We can halt in contemplation before the crucified Lord and repeat: “Jesus, you love me, transform me… Jesus, you love me, transform me…” And once we have received his love, once we have wept at the thought of that love, we can make the second passage, by determining never to fall again from life into dust. We can receive God’s forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance, because there the fire of God’s love consumes the ashes of our sin. The embrace of the Father in confession renews us from inside and purifies our heart. May we allow ourselves to be reconciled, in order to live as beloved children, as forgiven and healed sinners, as wayfarers with him at our side.

Let us allow ourselves to be loved, so that we can give love in return. Let us allow ourselves to stand up and walk towards Easter. Then we will experience the joy of discovering how God raises us up from our ashes.

[Original text: Italian] [Vatican-provided text]

POPE’S GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Lent (Full Text)

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POPE’S GENERAL AUDIENCE: On Lent (Full Text)

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 6:09 PM

This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:15 am in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.

In his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on Lent: to enter in the desert (Biblical passage: From the Gospel according to Luke 4:1).

After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. Then he expressed again his closeness to the sick with Coronavirus and to the health workers committed in their care.

The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

* * *

The Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

Today we begin the Lenten journey, journey of forty days to Easter, to the heart of the Liturgical Year and of the faith. It’s a journey that follows that of Jesus, who at the beginning of His ministry withdrew to the desert for forty days, to pray and fast, and to be tempted by the devil. In fact, it’s the spiritual meaning of the desert that I would like to talk to you about today.

What does the desert mean spiritually for all of us, also for us that live in cities, what does the desert mean? Let us imagine we are in a desert. The first sensation would be that of finding ourselves enveloped in a great silence: no noises, apart from the wind and our breathing. See, the desert is the place of detachment from the din that surrounds us. It’s absence of words to make room for another Word, the Word of God, which caresses the heart as a light breeze (Cf. 1 Kings 19:12). The desert is the place of the Word, with a capital W. In fact, in the Bible the Lord likes to talk to us in the desert. He gives Moses the “ten words” in the desert, the Ten Commandments. And when the people distance themselves from Him, becoming an unfaithful bride, God says: “Behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth (Hosea 2:16-17). In the desert one listens to the Word of God, which is like a light sound. Intimacy with God, the love of the Lord is rediscovered in the wilderness. Jesus liked to withdraw every day to desert places to pray (Cf. Luke 5:16). He taught us how to seek the Father, who speaks to us in silence. And it’s not easy to be silent in the heart, because we always seek to speak a bit, to be with others.

Lent is the propitious time to make room for the Word of God. It’s the time to turn off the television and to open the Bible. When I was a child, there was no television, but there was the custom not to listen to the radio. Lent is desert, it’s the time to give up, to tear ourselves away from our mobile phone and connect ourselves to the Gospel. It’s the time to give up useless words, slander, rumours and gossip, and to speak and give oneself to the Lord. It’s the time to dedicate oneself to a healthy ecology of the heart, to clean it. We live in a polluted environment of too much verbal violence, of many offensive and harmful words, which the network amplifies. Today one insults as if one said “Good Day.” We are submerged in empty words, publicity, sly messages. We are used to feeling everything about everything and we risk sliding into a worldliness that atrophies the heart, and there is no bypass to heal this, but only silence. It’s hard for us to distinguish the Lord’s voice, which speaks to us, the voice of conscience, of goodness. Calling us in the desert, Jesus invites us to listen to what matters, to the important, to the essential. To the devil that tempted Him, He answered: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). As bread, more than bread we need the Word of God, we need to talk to God: we need to pray, because only before God do the inclinations of the heart come to light and the duplicities of the soul fall. Behold the desert, place of life not of death, because to converse with the Lord in silence restores life to us. Let’s try again to think of a desert. The desert is the place of the essential. Let us look at our lives: how many useless things surround us! We pursue a thousand things that seem necessary and in reality, aren’t so. How much good it would do us to be free of so many superfluous realities, to rediscover what counts, to rediscover the face of the One next to us! On this also Jesus gives us the example by fasting. To fast is not only to slim down, to fast is in fact to go to the essential and to seek the beauty of a simpler life.

Finally, the desert is the place of solitude. Today also, close to us, there are so many deserts. They are the people that are alone and abandoned. How many poor and elderly are next to us and live in silence, without clamouring, marginalized and discarded! To speak of them doesn’t command an audience. But the desert leads us to them, to all those that, silenced, ask for our help in silence. The Lenten journey in the desert is a journey of charity to the weakest.

Prayer, fasting, works of mercy: behold the journey in the Lenten desert. Dear brothers and sisters, with the prophet Isaiah’s voice, God has made this promise: “Behold, I am doing a new thing, I will make a way in the wilderness” (Isaiah 43:19). The way is opened in the desert that leads us from death to life. We enter the desert with Jesus, and we will come out of it savouring Easter, the power of God’s love that renews life. It will happen to us as it does in those deserts that flower in spring, making buds and plants sprout suddenly “from nothing.” Courage, let us enter in this desert of Lent, let us follow Jesus in the desert: with Him our deserts will flower.

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

In Italian

A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking faithful. In particular, I greet the members of the Focolare Movement and of the Missionary Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit; and the parish groups, in particular that of Cisterna di Latina. Moreover, I greet the Cantori delle Cime  [“Singers of the Summits”] of Lugano. A special thought goes to the dependents of the Air Italy Company, and I hope that their work situation can find a fair solution in respect of the rights of all, especially of the families. Finally, I greet the young people, the elderly, the sick and the newlyweds. Today, Ash Wednesday, the Lord points out to us the journey of faith to follow. Allow yourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit on this journey of conversion, to rediscover the joy of Christian hope.

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

The Holy Father’s Appeal

I wish to express again my closeness to the sick with Coronavirus, and to the health workers taking care of them, as well as to the Civil Authorities and to all those that are committed in assisting the patients and halting the contagion.

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During General Audience, Pope Prays for Those With Coronavirus

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 12:16 PM

Pope Francis has expressed his closeness to all those ill with Coronavirus and to all those working to help them and stop the contagion from further spreading.

The Holy Father did so today, Ash Wednesday, during his weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Feb. 26, 2020, toward its conclusion.

‘I wish to again express my closeness to those ill with Coronavirus,” Francis said.

The Holy Father also expressed this closeness “to the healthcare workers working to cure them, as well as to the civil authorities and everyone working to assist patients and stop the contagion.’

Vatican Adopts Preventive Measures in Response to Coronavirus

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Pope at General Audience: May Lenten Journey Bring Us to Easter With Renewed & Purified Hearts

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 11:01 AM

Here is the Vatican-provided English-language summary of the Pope’s address at the General Audience this morning:

***

Speaker:

Dear brothers and sisters: Today, Ash Wednesday, begins our annual Lenten journey of preparation for Easter. In a sense, we imitate Jesus, who spent forty days of prayer in the desert preparing for his public ministry. From a spiritual perspective, the desert is a place of life, not death. It is a place of silence, where we are interiorly free to hear the Lord’s word and to experience his loving call. In our busy world, how much we need that kind of silence, in order to grow in prayerful openness to God, to cultivate an ecology of the heart and to centre our lives on the things that really matter. An important part of our Lenten desert experience is the practice of fasting, which trains us to recognize, in simplicity of heart, how often our lives are spent in empty and superficial pursuits. The solitude of the desert makes us all the more sensitive to those in our midst who quietly cry out for our help and encouragement. This Lent, may our prayer, fasting and works of mercy strengthen us in our resolve to follow the Lord on his journey through Good Friday to Easter Sunday, and enable us to know the power of his grace, which can make of every desert a garden of new life.

Speaker:

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States of America. May the Lenten journey we begin today bring us to Easter with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Upon you and your families I invoke joy and peace in Christ our Redeemer.

© Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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General Audience: Pope: May Lenten Journey Bring Us to Easter With Renewed & Purified Hearts

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 10:58 AM

Here is the Vatican-provided English-language summary of the Pope’s address at the General Audience this morning:

***

Speaker:

Dear brothers and sisters: Today, Ash Wednesday, begins our annual Lenten journey of preparation for Easter. In a sense, we imitate Jesus, who spent forty days of prayer in the desert preparing for his public ministry. From a spiritual perspective, the desert is a place of life, not death. It is a place of silence, where we are interiorly free to hear the Lord’s word and to experience his loving call. In our busy world, how much we need that kind of silence, in order to grow in prayerful openness to God, to cultivate an ecology of the heart and to centre our lives on the things that really matter. An important part of our Lenten desert experience is the practice of fasting, which trains us to recognize, in simplicity of heart, how often our lives are spent in empty and superficial pursuits. The solitude of the desert makes us all the more sensitive to those in our midst who quietly cry out for our help and encouragement. This Lent, may our prayer, fasting and works of mercy strengthen us in our resolve to follow the Lord on his journey through Good Friday to Easter Sunday, and enable us to know the power of his grace, which can make of every desert a garden of new life.

Speaker:

I welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Indonesia, the Philippines and the United States of America. May the Lenten journey we begin today bring us to Easter with hearts purified and renewed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Upon you and your families I invoke joy and peace in Christ our Redeemer.

© Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Dialogue and Fraternity: Legacy of Abu Dhabi Declaration in Pakistan

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 9:49 AM

Dialogue without prejudice, the culture of encounter, the fraternal relationship with others, beyond the differences of culture, religion or ethnicity, language or social class, material and spiritual collaboration between Christian faithful and Muslims: this is the precious patrimony that the historic document gives on “Human fraternity for peace and life in the world” signed by Pope Francis and Ahmad Al -Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Ahzar, on February 4, 2019. This is what emerged from a recent meeting, held in Lahore, which wanted to celebrate the first anniversary of that historic signature, which in Pakistan generated initiatives for exchange, dialogue, interreligious prayer, reported Fides News Agency.

The commemoration, organized by the National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue and Ecumenism, within the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, was attended, among other Christian leaders, by Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, President of the Commission, and Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis, Apostolic Nuncio to Pakistan. Next to them, Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, Governor of the Punjab province, Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad, Imam of the great “Royal Mosque” of Lahore and numerous other prominent Muslim leaders. Participants included members of civil society, school representatives, students of college and university faculties and a good number of faithful from different religions.

The purpose of the event was to renew the common commitment for dialogue and fraternity in Pakistan and express solidarity with Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb for their efforts in promoting reconciliation, the culture of dialogue, peace, freedom, and justice in the world.

Archbishop Shaw said that “accepting and welcoming one another is essential for living together in peace and harmony”, welcoming the fact that “many people of different religions” were brought together “to commemorate the first anniversary of that historic document”. The Apostolic Nuncio Zakhia El-Kassis reaffirmed Pope Francis’ vision for peace, harmony, and coexistence in the world, recalling that “it is necessary to promote the culture of dialogue as a path for mutual respect, acceptance, harmony, justice, freedom, and equality”.

The commitment of Christians and Muslims in Pakistan for dialogue and coexistence, with a view to the common good of the country, was appreciated by Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, Governor of the Punjab province, who said: “We are all called to give our contribution to making Pakistan a better country”. Peace, he recalled, “cannot be promoted in a society without justice”, promising that “the government will do its best to promote religious harmony”.

Muhammad Abdul Khabir Azad and the other Muslim leaders also expressed their favorable view regarding the Abu Dhabi document, confirming their commitment to “mutual respect, dialogue, human rights, and justice, based on mercy, in order to build a prosperous and peaceful society in Pakistan”.

At the end of the commemoration, an olive tree was planted in the garden of the Governor’s Palace of Punjab in Lahore, a symbol of peace and prosperity in the Holy Bible and the Koran.

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Beatification Begins for Wanda Błeńska

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 9:44 AM

The Congregation for the Causes of Saints has given permission to start the process of beatification of the Polish doctor and missionary, Wanda Błeńska, also known as “the Mother to Lepers”, who spent 40 years in Uganda caring for lepers.

Nihil obstat was signed by the prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints Cardinal Angelo Becciu. The process of beatification will be solemnly inaugurated in 2020.

“What she saw in the lepers was not just the disease. She saw the entire human being, along with their fears and hopes, who deserved, apart from professional care, respect and tenderness. She was called the Mother to Lepers,” said Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki in 2019.

Wanda Błeńska’s life was marked by sacrifice from her birth in 1911 in the city of Poznań. During WWII, she became a member of Poland’s underground Home Army (AK) fighting against the Nazi-German occupation. After the war, she emigrated to the UK where she graduated from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

From then on her life was connected with Africa, as in 1950 she left for Buluba, Uganda. There, in the St. Francis Hospital, she delivered help to the sick for over 40 years. She was especially involved in treating patients suffering from leprosy. Given Wanda Błeńska’s selfless dedication and kindness of heart, the leprosy center was recognized as “Wanda Blenska Training Centre”. Another medical center in Madagascar has also been named after her.

Wanda Błeńska returned to Poznań in 1993. She was also decorated by Pope John Paul II with the Order of St. Sylvester. Wanda Błeńska passed away in 2014 at the age of 103.

More information about Wanda Błeńska: https://wandablenska.pl/en/ The website is also available in Polish, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, German, and French.

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Caritas Invites Journey of Love for Lent

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 11:01 PM

By Msgr. Pierre Cibambo, Caritas Internationalis ecclesiastical advisor

In his Lent message this year, Pope Francis invites us all to “shake ourselves out of our torpor”. He invites us to hear “the cry of the poor and of the earth”, to change direction and to be moved to action. Read Pope Francis’ message.

The Holy Father asks us to put the Paschal Mystery at the center of our lives and “to feel compassion for the wounds of the crucified Christ in the many innocent victims of wars and tyrannies”. He asks us to focus on the countless forms of violence in the world, environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the goods of the earth, the trafficking of people and all forms of rampant materialism.

Torpor comes in many forms for many people. Torpor lulls us into a comforting sleep but takes us further from God. It gives us a sense of being self-sufficient and having all the answers to our problems, it means we pass by others without really seeing or hearing them.

Maybe we bury ourselves in our work or in our mobile phones or turn to drink and artificial stimulants to get through the day. Maybe we obsess about our looks or possessions or envy other people theirs or wrap ourselves in pride or arrogance, unable to see the true beauty of others and the world around us.

The journey of our awakening is one of renunciation and humility. Our Lenten journey takes us into the desert to face our true selves and to become closer to God. It is a journey that leads to death and resurrection, and this ultimately leads to love, joy, and hope.

Our Lenten journey is accompanied by prayer and fasting. It is only by emptying ourselves out that there will be space for God in our lives and we will awaken the desire to give ourselves fully to others and to take action in the face of suffering and injustice. We are invited to accompany the poor and give alms at Lent, to really see where there is great need in the world and to respond to it. We are invited to understand our true place in the human family and recognize the bonds that unite us all.

If you look around our world in 2020, where do you see the cries of the poor and of the earth? We are listening to these cries and we ask you to listen too. The cries come from regions devastated by climate change where people go hungry and thirsty, such as in Zambia and the Sahel; women such as Nduwimana cry out as they give birth in refugee camps far from home; the people of Venezuela cry out for justice in their society, where people are faced with the choice of fleeing or letting their children starve; the sick and dying meanwhile are reaching out to us for a hand to hold and accompany them on their journey.

In his recent Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia, speaking of the exploitation of the people and resources of the Amazon, Pope Francis says, “We need to feel outrage…in the face of injustice”. He warns of the dangers of our social conscious becoming dulled and inured to evil. He says that humanity must be increasingly conscious and respectful of nature and human ecology.

The world may sometimes seem unjust, overwhelming and disconnected and you may ask yourself “What can I do in the face of all this?” Caritas invites you to take the first step on your journey by simply stopping for a moment and prayerfully and humbly seeing and hearing the people around you. The next step is to offer food to the hungry, a caring hand to the sick and dying, listen to the voice of the voiceless and echo their cries, and giving alms to those who are needy. We are called to promote healing in ourselves and in others and to strengthen our human family with love.

Pope Francis once said, “It takes one good person to restore hope!” We can all be this person.

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Artificial Intelligence: The Pontifical Academy for Life Will Seek the ‘Good Algorithm’

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 5:01 PM

From February 26-28,  2020, the Pontifical Academy for Life will dedicate its annual Assembly to Artificial Intelligence in three realms: Ethics, Law, and Health. The “Good Algorithm” workshop was presented this morning in the Holy See Press Office.

Taking part in the presentation of the event on Tuesday, February 25, 2020, were Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life; Reverend Father Paolo Benanti, Franciscan Third Order Regular, academic of the Vatican institution; and Maria Chiara Carrozza, Professor of Industrial Bio-Engineering, Saint Anne’s Higher School of Pisa.

Monsignor Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life, pointed out that “a strong moral ambition” is necessary “to humanize technology and not technologize the human” –, announcing in a particular way the event with which the meeting will close on Friday, February 28, during which the “Rome <Calls>” appeal will be signed for the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, which will be presented to the Holy Father.

“Rome Calls”

 “Rome Calls” for the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence is not an official text of the Academy, said Bishop Paglia, but a “document of shared commitments, proposed by us,” in which “some commitments are formulated, basically linked to three chapters: Ethics, Law <and> Education.”

The Academy’s President clarified that the digital innovation “in fact, touches all aspects of life, both personal as well as social; it affects the way we understand not only the world but also ourselves.”

International Speakers

Taking part as interlocutors in the event, to be held from Wednesday to Friday in the Synod’s New Hall, are: Brad Smith, President of Microsoft; John Kelly III, Executive Vice-President of the International Business Machines Corporation (IBM); David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament; and Dongyu Qu, Director General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Moreover, Pope Francis will be connected in streaming video from the Apostolic Palace to address a few words to the participants.

This event is being held in continuity with the workshop that the Academy organized last year on “Robotics, Persons, Machines and Health,” held in February of 2019.

Monsignor Paglia said that Pope Francis has asked the Academy to “engage in a reflection” on the “new emerging and converging technologies of finite objects,” such as technologies of information and communication, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and robotics.

The Italian Prelate also explained that the “decisions, including the most important, such as those of a medical, economic and social character, are today the result of the human will and of a series of algorithmic contributions,” he noted. “Human life is on the point of convergence between the human entrance and automatic calculation so that it’s ever more complex to understand its objective, foresee its effects and define its responsibility.”

Father Paolo Benanti

“Artificial Intelligence doesn’t work to do something specific; it is geared, above all, to changing the way in which we do everything,” as happened with electricity, said the Franciscan.

“If we want the machine to support man and the common good, without ever substituting the human being, then the logarithms must include ethical, and not only numerical values,” pointed out the academic. Basically, ”we need to be capable of indicating the ethical values through the numerical values that fuel the algorithm,” he specified.

The Italian priest offered another premise. “Ethics needs to contaminate computation,” adding that we “need algorithms, namely, a way of making computable the good and bad evaluations. Only thus will we be able to create machines that can become instruments of humanization of the world,” he concluded.

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FEATURE : ‘An Economy Which Excludes No One’ — Cardinal Turkson Explains to ZENIT Importance of Pope’s Assisi Encounter

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 4:29 PM

An invitation to conceive, to dream, to formulate a new form of economy that leaves no one behind, that puts the person at the center….

Speaking to ZENIT, Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Human Development, says this is at the heart of Pope Francis’ upcoming event ‘The Economy of Francesco’ scheduled to take place in the Umbrian hill town, March 26-28, 2020. The Cardinal was speaking at the presentation of the Pontiff’s Message for Lent this 2020 yesterday, Feb. 24, in the Holy See Press Office.

Lenten Appeal for Inclusive, Just Economy

Signed on Oct. 7, 2019 in the Papal Basilica of St John Lateran, and titled: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:20),” the message calls for renewed conversion and not living this period in vain.

After an appeal to be charitable and less self-centered toward the end of the document’s four sections, Francis spoke about his motivation for convoking the “Economy of Francis” event, where he will be participating in about a month’s time, noting: “We can and must go even further, and consider the structural aspects of our economic life.”

“For this reason, in the midst of Lent this year,” Francis continued, “I have convened a meeting in Assisi with young economists, entrepreneurs and change-makers, with the aim of shaping a more just and inclusive economy.”

“As the Church’s magisterium has often repeated, political life represents an eminent form of charity,” Francis recalled, adding: “The same holds true for economic life, which can be approached in the same evangelical spirit, the spirit of the Beatitudes.”

The Economy of Francesco

According to a press release, more than 2,000 young people under 35, from all over the world, will participate in the “Economy of Francesco,” including men and women entrepreneurs, economists, students, promoters of activities at the service of the common good and a sustainable economy. They will participate “with the common goal of building a fairer and more sustainable world, as indicated by Pope Francis in the encyclical Laudato Si.‘”

Young people will take part in the thematic tables, set up in 12 “villages,” where they will discuss ideas, challenges and proposals for a new economy: management and gift, finance and humanity, work and care, energy and poverty, agriculture and justice,  business and peace, women for economy, CO2, inequalities, vocations, companies in transition, life and lifestyles, policies and happiness.

The countries most represented will be Italy, Brazil, the United States, Argentina, Spain, Portugal, France, Mexico, Germany, and Great Britain.

Cardinal on Concrete Hopes of Pope

ZENIT asked Cardinal Turkson to elaborate on the Pope’s concrete hopes for this gathering and event.

“This initiative in Assisi, entitled “The Economy of Pope Francis,” comes after various initiatives of this type, starting with Migrants & Refugees Section, which helped with the migration pact, and then also the Congregation for Catholic Education which is working on an educational pact.”

The Holy Father–through these Vatican congregations and dicasteries– “is identifying certain situations that require special attention.”

“The meeting in Assisi,” the Cardinal elaborated, represents “a follow-up to an observation made: Pope Francis cites an observation made by Pope Pius XI, which was then also made by Pope Benedict XVI  in the encyclical Caritas in Veritate.”

According to this observation, the Ghanaian Cardinal suggested, politics is a form of charity.

While reminding that we can always speak of political charity, he reminded that: “Pope Francis says, we can also speak of economic charity.”

“This is the beginning of his reflection in this message, of the event of Assisi, in the context of the formulation of an economic charity,  which leads him to say that this is already an invitation to conceive, to dream, to formulate a new form of economy that leaves no one behind, that puts the person at the center, which makes sure – as the Pope says – that money serve the person and not the person be reduced to serving money.”

This, he noted, is the economy of Pope Francis.

The prefect of the dicastery specifically pointed out how the Holy Father’s attention and view is not new.

Economy That Guarantees Future for Younger Generations

“Already the Minister of Finance in France, in an article in the Financial Times in January, said that this is the time for young people to help formulate an economic system that guarantees the future for the younger generations.”

The Cardinal reiterated this invitation for young people to contribute, “formulating an economy that they will have in the future.”

“The Holy Father,” Cardinal Turkson concluded, “simply invites us to sit down again to see if the economy still serves to satisfy the needs of all those living in this common home.

“This,” he said, “is the Assisi initiative.”

 

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Vatican Adopts Preventive Measures in Response to Coronavirus

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 3:59 PM

Given the imminent threat of the coronavirus in Italy — already present in eight regions, among them Lazio, where the capital is located –, Matteo Bruni, Director of the Holy See Press Office, announced the decision to postpone some events organized in closed places with a significant public presence.

However, the Wednesday General Audience on February 26, has not been canceled. It will be held outdoors beginning at 9:30 am.

It’s a measure flanked by others of a medical character, in the first place, the setting up of a post with “a nurse and doctor on duty for immediate assistance in the Vatican’s dispensary, in case of patients with symptoms attributed to the coronavirus,” points out “Vatican News.”

Moreover, “dispensers with hand disinfectants” have been installed in offices in which access to Vatican City is permitted.

Health Protocol

 Matteo Bruni said that the Vatican’s health personnel will implement “the procedures provided in the agreements with the Italian Ministry of Health,” in case of positivity of Covid-19 — for the time being, not detected. “The Health and Hygiene Office of Vatican City State is in constant contact with the Lazio Region and the Working group of the Health Ministry and will continue to do so and publish the recommendations made to it.”

Among the said prevention measures, the Pontifical Urban University canceled the presentation of a volume dedicated to the figure of Cardinal Celso Costantini, which was to take place this afternoon, with a large number of participants and several personalities, among them Cardinals Parolin, Tagle and Filoni.

Seven Dead

The first case registered in the South of Italy was that of a woman of the North of the country who was on vacation in Palermo, in the Island of Sicily. The virus has also reached Tuscany, where two men — in Florence and Pistoia –, have proved positive, and in Liguria. Seven people have died in the Trans-Alpine country, and 283 are infected. The affected regions include Lazio, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Veneto, Piedmont, Tuscany, and Sicily.

The Vatican portal says that maximum attention is being paid to other dioceses of the North. The Diocese of Venice has suspended Masses until March 1, the same is true in Pavia, whereas in Turin, from now until March 1 pastoral activities with groups of people have been suspended, except Holy Masses. Masses are virtually suspended in all parts of Piacenza and Modena.

The Spanish newspaper “El Pais” reports that a thousand tourists staying in a hotel in Adeje (H10 Costa Adeje Palace), south of Tenerife, are isolated following directives of the Health Authorities, police sources reported.

Closing of Borders

 The speed with which the virus is spreading has caused several countries to close their borders with China and also with Iran, where the number of dead has increased over the past few days. Weeks ago, Russia decreed the closing of its borders with China, and Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, and Armenia have closed their border passes with Iran.

For their part, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Bahrain have adopted preventive measures with travelers from China, Iran, South Korea, Singapore, and Malaysia. The first cases of the virus have been detected in Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, and Bahrain.

Moreover, China’s National Health Commission has published a new report regarding the novelties of the coronavirus. According to this document, the number of deaths caused by COVID-19 in the Asian country has reached 2,663, seventy-one more than in the previous day.

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Irish Campaign: ‘#LivingLent to Bring us Closer to God’

Tue, 02/25/2020 - 3:31 PM

Ahead of Ash Wednesday tomorrow, which marks the beginning of Lent 2020, Archbishop Eamon Martin has launched the #LivingLent initiative on Twitter and Instagram.  #LivingLent invites the faithful to use social media to grow closer to God during this sacred season.

Archbishop Eamon said, “As we prepare for Easter over the next 40 days, our spiritual conversion can be nourished by daily actions, thoughts, prayers, and words.  During Lent, we also offer a particular sacrifice in our personal lives to help strengthen our relationship with the all-merciful Lord.  In his message for Lent 2020 We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:20), we are encouraged by Pope Francis who reminds us, ‘life is born of the love of God our Father from the desire to grant us life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10)’.”

Archbishop Eamon continued, “I invite everyone to read the Holy Father’s short Lenten message.  To complement his text our #LivingLent initiative on Twitter and Instagram, and online resources on catholicbishops.ie, offer suggestions for fasting, prayer, and charity – the three pillars of the Lenten season.  The objective of our Lenten digital initiative is to assist our spiritual preparation for the joy and hope of the Easter season.”

The #LivingLent initiative offers short daily suggestions on Twitter and Instagram.  These include prayer and scripture suggestions; opportunities for penance and fasting in our daily lives, for example fasting from gossip, fasting from negativity online, giving up certain foods; availing of the Sacrament of Reconciliation/Confession; suggestions of charitable acts like donating to Trócaire and other charities; donating your time by helping your own family, school, parish; and, by behaving in a charitable way towards all those whom we meet.

Everyone can use the hashtag #LivingLent and share with their followers how they are putting the themes of prayer, fasting, and charity into practice during this Lenten season.

In addition, the 2020 Lenten campaign of Trócaire, the overseas development agency of the Bishops’ Conference, focuses on the theme of mothers protecting their families.  The Trócaire box tells the story of two mothers: Angela in Honduras who is protecting her family’s land from logging companies, and Madris in Kenya who is trying to provide for her family in the face of climate change.  It tells two very different stories but both are linked by mothers trying to provide futures for their children.  See www.trocaire.org for details.

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