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Pope visits parish of Santa Maria Josefa del Cuore di Gesù

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis travelled across Rome Sunday afternoon for a visit to the parish of Santa Maria Josefa of the Heart of Jesus (It: Santa Maria Josefa del Cuore di Gesù) in the suburb of Castelverde. It’s the Pope’s thirteenth visit to a Roman parish.

The Pope was welcomed at the parish by the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini; the auxiliary bishop for the eastern part of the city, Bishop Giuseppe Marciante, and by the pastor, Fr Francesco Rondinelli.

As is usual, Pope Francis had an encounter with children and young people in the parish, followed by visits with sick persons and the elderly, married couples who have had children baptized recently; families assisted by Caritas, and workers in the parish.

Following the meetings with parishioners, the Holy Father celebrated Mass in the parish church, where he delivered an off-the-cuff homily. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Christ's law of love overcomes law of retaliation

(Vatican Radio) During his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis said the day’s Gospel – part of the Sermon on the Mount, from the Gospel of Saint Matthew – is one of the Biblical passages that best expresses the Christian “revolution.”

In the day’s Gospel reading, he said, “Christ shows the path of true justice, through the law of love that overcomes that of retaliation, that is, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’.” Jesus, he continued, does not ask His disciples simply to bear evils patiently, but to return good for evil: “Only in this way can the chains of evil be broken, and things can truly change.”

Pope Francis notes that for Jesus, the refusal to return evil for evil goes so far as to sometimes involve giving up a legitimate right: turning the other cheek, or giving up one’s cloak, or making other sacrifices. But, he said, “this renunciation doesn’t mean that the needs of justice should be ignored or contradicted; on the contrary, Christian love, which is manifested in a special way in mercy, represents a superior realization of justice.”

Jesus, the Pope said, wants to teach us the distinction between justice and vengeance: “We are allowed to ask for justice; it is our duty to practice justice. On the other hand, we are forbidden to revenge ourselves or to encourage vengeance in any way, insofar as it is an expression of hatred or of violence.”

In fact, Christ’s law of love calls on us to love even our enemies. This, Pope Francis said, should not be seen as an approval of their wicked actions, but as “an invitation to a higher perspective, like that of the heavenly Father, who makes His sun to rise on the wicked and the good.” Even our enemies, the Pope explained, are human persons, created in the image of God – even if that image is sometimes obscured by evil acts. Christ calls us to respond to our enemies with goodness, inspired by love.

Before leading the traditional Angelus prayer, Pope Francis prayed that the Virgin Mary might help us follow “this demanding path” set out by Jesus, “which truly exalts human dignity, and makes us live as children of our Father Who is in heaven.” The Holy Father prayed that Mary might help us to practice patience, dialogue, forgiveness, and to be artisans of communion and of fraternity in our daily life.”

Listen to Christopher Wells' report: 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope prays for victims of violence in DR Congo and Pakistan

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis led the crowds gathered for the Sunday Angelus in a prayer for the victims of violence in Africa and around the world. In particular, he prayed for those affected by violence in the region of the Kasaï Central province in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “I suffer deeply for the victims, especially for so many children ripped from their families and their schools to be used as soldiers.”

The Holy Father renewed his “heartfelt appeal to the consciences and the responsibility of the national authorities and the international community, that they might take adequate and timely decisions to assist these our brothers and sisters.”

In praying for victims of violence in the world, the Pope turned his thoughts in particular to “the dear peoples of Pakistan and of Iraq, struck in recent days by cruel acts of terrorism.”

Pope Francis prayed for all victims of violence, those who have died and those who have been injured, as well as for their families. “Let us pray ardently,” he concluded “for every heart hardened by hatred, that they might be converted to peace, according to the will of God.” Then, following a moment of silent prayer, he led the crowd in the recitation of the “Hail Mary”. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to visit Anglican church in Rome

(Vatican Radio) The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke, has confirmed that Pope Francis will be visiting All Saints’ Anglican Church in Rome on February 26.

The Pope’s visit will be part of an Ecumenical Service celebrating the 200th anniversary of the first Church of England worship service in Rome, which took place on October 27th 1816.

The Holy Father will be the first reigning Pope to visit an Anglican Church in the Diocese of Rome. The ecumenical event will consist of a short Choral Evensong service which includes the blessing of a specially commissioned icon and the twinning of All Saints with the Catholic parish of Ognissanti, a Rome church with strong ecumenical ties. Pope Francis is expected to deliver a homily during the event, and afterwards to take questions from members of the parish community. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Open hearts with the Gospel message

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday  received the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception who are in Rome for their General Chapter, telling them to open hearts with the Gospel message.

Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s report

The Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception was founded, in 1673, in Poland and works in 26 countries around the world.

In prepared remarks to the participants of the Congregation’s General Chapter on Saturday, Pope Francis told them that the example of their founder, St. Stanislaus of Jesus and Mary, who was canonized last year, was both the light and guide of their walk and fully understood the meaning of being a disciple of Christ.

In this perspective, the Pope said, “your service of the Word is the witness of the Risen Christ, that you have encountered on your path…” adding, that they were called to spread the Gospel message wherever they are sent.

The Pope also underlined that Christian witness requires engagement with and for the poor, noting it was a commitment that has characterized the Congregation.

The Holy Father encouraged the Marian Fathers to  keep alive this tradition of service to the poor and the humble, through the proclamation of the Gospel, along with the works of mercy and prayers for the souls of the faithfully departed.

He continued by saying that “the great challenge of inculturation asks you today to announce the Good News in languages ​​and ways understandable to the men and women of our time, involved in rapid social and cultural transformation processes.

The horizons of evangelization and the urgent need to bear witness to the Gospel message, without distinction, the Pope said “constitute the vast field of your apostolate.” Many people, the Holy Father observed, “are still waiting to know Jesus, the one Redeemer of man.”

Such an urgent mission, Pope Francis underlined, “requires personal and community conversion. Only fully open hearts to the action of Grace”, he said, “are able to interpret the signs of the times and to seize the appeals of humanity in need of hope and peace.”

 

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope sends message to popular movements meeting in California

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to hundreds of faith and community leaders taking part in a regional meeting of popular movements in Modesto, California, in the United States.

The encounter, taking place from February 16th to 18th, has been organised with the support of the Vatican’s new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, the U.S. Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the National Network of People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO).

Philippa Hitchen reports: 

We must become good neighbours to any person in need. That was Pope Francis’ message to the leaders of popular movements that are working for structural changes in society to promote greater social, economic and racial justice.

Reflecting on the current global crisis, driven by what he called the “invisible tyranny of money”, the Pope said we must find opportunities to respond with compassion to those suffering most from the violence, corruption and injustice in our societies.

The god of money leaves people by the wayside

Speaking of the parable of the Good Samaritan, Pope Francis said  an economic system that has the god of money at its center can act with the same brutality as the robbers in that story. While we try to ignore the injuries it causes, he said, the suffering is televised live yet “nothing is done systematically to heal the wounds or to confront the structures that leave so many brothers and sisters by the wayside”

Shifting blame for society's ills

But Pope Francis told the leaders of grassroots organizations that “the system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong”. When it can no longer be denied, he said, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating peoples’ fear, insecurity and indignation in order to shift the responsibility onto a “non-neighbour” who can be blamed for society’s ills.

Follow the example of the Good Samaritan

We must follow the examples of the Samaritan and the innkeeper, the Pope said, by providing practical support for those suffering in body and spirit. He urged the popular movements to persevere in combatting the ecological crisis and in standing alongside migrants or those who are branded as criminals or terrorists.

No people is criminal, no religion is terrorist

No people is criminal and no religion is terrorist, he insisted, adding that there are fundamentalists and violent individuals in all peoples and religions. With intolerant generalisations, he said, they become stronger, feeding on hate and xenophobia, but by confronting terror with love, we work for peace. 

Please find below the full English language text of Pope Francis’ message:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

            First of all, I would like to congratulate you for your effort in replicating on a national level the work being developed in the World Meetings of Popular Movements. By way of this letter, I want to encourage and strengthen each one of you, your organizations, and all who strive with you for “Land, Work and Housing,” the three T’s in Spanish: Tierra, Trabajo y Techo. I congratulate you for all that you are doing.

            I would like to thank the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, its chairman Bishop David Talley, and the host Bishops Stephen Blaire, Armando Ochoa and Jaime Soto, for the wholehearted support they have offered to this meeting. Thank you, Cardinal Peter Turkson, for your continued support of popular movements from the new Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development. It makes me very happy to see you working together towards social justice! How I wish that such constructive energy would spread to all dioceses, because it builds bridges between peoples and individuals. These are bridges that can overcome the walls of exclusion, indifference, racism, and intolerance. 

            I would also like to highlight the work done by the PICO National Network and the organizations promoting this meeting. I learned that PICO stands for “People Improving Communities through Organizing”. What a great synthesis of the mission of popular movements: to work locally, side by side with your neighbors, organizing among yourselves, to make your communities thrive. 

            A few months ago in Rome, we talked at the third World Meeting of Popular Movements about walls and fear, about bridges and love.  Without wanting to repeat myself, these issues do challenge our deepest values.

            We know that none of these ills began yesterday. For some time, the crisis of the prevailing paradigm has confronted us. I am speaking of a system that causes enormous suffering to the human family, simultaneously assaulting people’s dignity and our Common Home in order to sustain the invisible tyranny of money that only guarantees the privileges of a few. “In our time humanity is experiencing a turning-point in its history.”  

            As Christians and all people of good will, it is for us to live and act at this moment. It is “a grave responsibility, since certain present realities, unless effectively dealt with, are capable of setting off processes of dehumanization which would then be hard to reverse.”  These are signs of the times that we need to recognize in order to act. We have lost valuable time: time when we did not pay enough attention to these processes, time when we did not resolve these destructive realities. Thus the processes of dehumanization accelerate. The direction taken beyond this historic turning-point—the ways in which this worsening crisis gets resolved—will depend on people’s involvement and participation and, largely, on yourselves, the popular movements. 

            We should be neither paralyzed by fear nor shackled within the conflict. We have to acknowledge the danger but also the opportunity that every crisis brings in order to advance to a successful synthesis. In the Chinese language, which expresses the ancestral wisdom of that great people, the word “crisis” is comprised of two ideograms: Wēi, which represents “danger”, and Jī, which represents “opportunity”.

            The grave danger is to disown our neighbors. When we do so, we deny their humanity and our own humanity without realizing it; we deny ourselves, and we deny the most important Commandments of Jesus. Herein lies the danger, the dehumanization. But here we also find an opportunity: that the light of the love of neighbor may illuminate the Earth with its stunning brightness like a lightning bolt in the dark; that it may wake us up and let true humanity burst through with authentic resistance, resilience and persistence.

            The question that the lawyer asked Jesus in the Gospel of Luke (10:25-37) echoes in our ears today: “Who is my neighbor?” Who is that other whom we are to love as we love ourselves? Maybe the questioner expects a comfortable response in order to carry on with his life: “My relatives? My compatriots? My co-religionists? ...” Maybe he wants Jesus to excuse us from the obligation of loving pagans or foreigners who at that time were considered unclean. This man wants a clear rule that allows him to classify others as “neighbor” and “non-neighbor”, as those who can become neighbors and those who cannot become neighbors.

           Jesus responds with a parable which features two figures belonging to the elite of the day and a third figure, considered a foreigner, a pagan and unclean: the Samaritan. On the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, the priest and the Levite come upon a dying man, whom robbers have attacked, stripped and abandoned. In such situations the Law of the Lord imposes the duty to offer assistance, but both pass by without stopping. They were in a hurry. However, unlike these elite figures, the Samaritan stopped. Why him? As a Samaritan he was looked down upon, no one would have counted on him, and in any case he would have had his own commitments and things to do—yet when he saw the injured man, he did not pass by like the other two who were linked to the Temple, but “he saw him and had compassion on him” (v. 33). The Samaritan acts with true mercy: he binds up the man's wounds, transports him to an inn, personally takes care of him, and provides for his upkeep. All this teaches us that compassion, love, is not a vague sentiment, but rather means taking care of the other to the point of personally paying for him. It means committing oneself to take all the necessary steps so as to “draw near to” the other to the point of identifying with him: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the Lord’s Commandment.    

            The economic system that has the god of money at its center, and that sometimes acts with the brutality of the robbers in the parable, inflicts injuries that to a criminal degree have remained neglected. Globalized society frequently looks the other way with the pretence of innocence. Under the guise of what is politically correct or ideologically fashionable, one looks at those who suffer without touching them. But they are televised live; they are talked about in euphemisms and with apparent tolerance, but nothing is done systematically to heal the social wounds or to confront the structures that leave so many brothers and sisters by the wayside. This hypocritical attitude, so different from that of the Samaritan, manifests an absence of true commitment to humanity.

            Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates. The wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real. The system’s gangrene cannot be whitewashed forever because sooner or later the stench becomes too strong; and when it can no longer be denied, the same power that spawned this state of affairs sets about manipulating fear, insecurity, quarrels, and even people’s justified indignation, in order to shift the responsibility for all these ills onto a “non-neighbor”. I am not speaking of anyone in particular, I am speaking of a social and political process that flourishes in many parts of the world and poses a grave danger for humanity.

            Jesus teaches us a different path. Do not classify others in order to see who is a neighbor and who is not. You can become neighbor to whomever you meet in need, and you will do so if you have compassion in your heart. That is to say, if you have that capacity to suffer with someone else. You must become a Samaritan. And then also become like the innkeeper at the end of the parable to whom the Samaritan entrusts the person who is suffering. Who is this innkeeper? It is the Church, the Christian community, people of compassion and solidarity, social organizations. It is us, it is you, to whom the Lord Jesus daily entrusts those who are afflicted in body and spirit, so that we can continue pouring out all of his immeasurable mercy and salvation upon them. Here are the roots of the authentic humanity that resists the dehumanization that wears the livery of indifference, hypocrisy, or intolerance.

            I know that you have committed yourselves to fight for social justice, to defend our Sister Mother Earth and to stand alongside migrants. I want to reaffirm your choice and share two reflections in this regard.

            First, the ecological crisis is real. “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system.”  Science is not the only form of knowledge, it is true. It is also true that science is not necessarily “neutral”—many times it conceals ideological views or economic interests. However, we also know what happens when we deny science and disregard the voice of Nature. I make my own everything that concerns us as Catholics. Let us not fall into denial. Time is running out. Let us act. I ask you again—all of you, people of all backgrounds including native people, pastors, political leaders—to defend Creation.

            The other is a reflection that I shared at our most recent World Meeting of Popular Movements, and I feel is important to say it again: no people is criminal and no religion is terrorist. Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist. They do not exist. No people is criminal or drug-trafficking or violent. “The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence yet, without equal opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and will eventually explode.”  There are fundamentalist and violent individuals in all peoples and religions—and with intolerant generalizations they become stronger because they feed on hate and xenophobia. By confronting terror with love, we work for peace. 

            I ask you for meekness and resolve to defend these principles. I ask you not to barter them lightly or apply them superficially. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, let us give everything of ourselves: where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, let us sow pardon; where there is discord, let us sow unity; where there is error, let us sow truth.  

            Please know that I pray for you, that I pray with you, and I ask God our Father to accompany and bless you. May He shower you with his love and protect you. I ask you to please pray for me too, and to carry on.

Vatican City, 10 February 2017   

(from Vatican Radio)