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Pope to EU Churches: Combat intolerance against migrants

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged Churches in Europe to step up efforts to combat intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia against migrants and refugees.

The pope’s words came in a meeting with national migration directors under the auspices of the Council of European Bishops Conferences or CCEE. He said he was saddened to see that Catholic communities in Europe were also defensive and unwelcoming towards migrants, justifying their attitudes on grounds of conserving their cultural and religious identity.

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Pope Francis said we must recognize and understand this sense of unease, in light of the economic crisis which has left deep wounds in society. Furthermore, he said, governments and communities have been ill prepared to cope with large influxes of migrants, highlighting the limits of the European unification process.

Churches become more 'catholic'

But from an ecclesiological perspective, the pope said, the arrival of so many Christian brothers and sisters offers the Church in Europe an opportunity to become ever more ‘catholic’. He noted how many migrants and refugees have already enriched parishes in their host countries.

Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue

From a missionary perspective, he said, ministering to migrants offers new frontiers to announce the Gospel and to witness to our Christian faith, while showing profound respect for other faith traditions. These encounters are fertile ground for developing sincere ecumenical and interreligious relations, he said.

Welcome, protect, promote, integrate

Pope Francis also noted that in his message for next year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he speaks in detail about the need to welcome, protect, promote and integrate all people on the move.  On the basis of these four verbs, he said, the Vatican office for migrants and refugees has published a 20 point action plan for local Churches seeking to promote best practices.

Constructive dialogue with governments

This action plan, he added, should be shared with all  European bishops conferences, helping to promote constructive dialogue with governments ahead of the Global Compact for Migration, due to be draw up and approved at a United Nations conference in 2018.

Pope Francis: if you want mercy, know that you are sinners

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Mass on Thursday – the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist – in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.

In remarks following the Readings of the Day, which included St. Matthew’s own account of his conversion and calling into discipleship, the Holy Father focused on the three stages of the episode: calling, feasting, and scandal.

Jesus had just healed a paralytic, when He met Matthew – a tax-collector, hence a figure despised by Jewish authorities and considered a traitor to his land and people – sitting at the customs desk.

Jesus looked at him and said, “Follow me,” and Matthew got up and followed Him

Recalling Caravaggio’s famous depiction of the scene, Pope Francis spoke of Matthew’s “sidelong look” with one eye on Our Savior and the other on his purse: a look that was even stand-offish, if not outright aggressive. Then, there was the merciful gaze of Jesus, which communicated such overwhelming love that the resistance of the man who wanted the money, “fails”: Matthew got up and followed Him.

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“It is the struggle between mercy and sin,” Pope Francis said

Jesus’ love was able to enter into the heart of that man, Matthew, because he “knew he was a sinner,” he knew “he was not loved by anyone,” and was even despised. It was precisely “that sinful conscience, which opened the door to the mercy of Jesus.” So, “[Matthew] left everything” and went on a new journey with Our Lord.

This is the encounter between the sinner and Jesus:

“This is the first condition of salvation: feeling oneself in danger. It is the first condition of healing: feeling sick. Feeling sinful is the first condition of receiving this gaze of mercy. But let us think of the look of Jesus, so beautiful, so good, so merciful. And we, too, when we pray, we feel this look upon us; it is the look of love, the gaze of mercy, the gaze that saves us. Do not be afraid.”

Matthew – like Zaccheus – feeling happy, invited Jesus to come home to eat. The second stage is indeed “the party” – one of festivity. Matthew invited friends, “those of the same trade,” sinners and publicans.

The Pope said this recalls the words of Jesus in Chapter XV of Luke’s Gospel: “There will be more feasting in Heaven for a sinner who converts than for one hundred just men who will remain just.” This is the feast of the Father's meeting, the feast of mercy. Pope Francis said that Jesus is profligate with mercy, mercy for all.

Then comes the third moment: that of scandal

The Pharisees saw that publicans and sinners were at table with Jesus, and said to His disciples, “How is your Master eating with publicans and sinners?” Thus, Pope Francis noted, “Always a scandal begins with this phrase: ‘But how come?’” He went on to say, “When you hear this sentence, it smells,” and “scandal follows.” They were, in essence, scandalized by “the impurity of not following the law.” They knew “the Doctrine” very well, knew how to go “on the way of the Kingdom of God,” knew “better than anyone how things ought to have been done,” but “had forgotten the first commandment, of love.” Then, "”hey were locked in the cage of sacrifices,” perhaps thinking, “But let's make a sacrifice to God, let us do all we have to do, “so we are saved.” In summary, they believed that salvation came from themselves, they felt safe. “"No,” said Pope  Francis. “God saves us, saves us Jesus Christ”:

“That ‘how come?’, which we’ve heard so many times from Catholics when they saw works of mercy. How come? Jesus is clear, He is very clear: ‘Go and learn.’ He sent them to learn, right? ‘Go and learn what mercy means. [That’s what] I want, and not sacrifices, for I did not come to call the righteous but the sinners.’ If you want to be called by Jesus, recognize yourself a sinner.”

If you would receive mercy, recognize yourselves as sinners

Francis exhorted us, therefore, to recognize ourselves as sinners, not guilty of “sin” in the abstract but guilty of “concrete sins”: so many “we all have committed them,” he said. “Let us look on Jesus with that merciful glance full of love,” he continued.

While still dwelling on the scandal, he noted that there are so many:

“There are so many, many – and always, even in the Church today. They say, ‘No, you cannot, it’s all clear, it’s all, no, no – those are sinners, we have to turn them away.’ Many saints have also been persecuted or suspected. We think of St. Joan of Arc, sent to the stake, because they thought she was a witch, and condemned her. A saint! Think of Saint Teresa, suspected of heresy, think of Bl. [Antonio] Rosmini. ‘Mercy I desire, and not sacrifices.’ And the door to meet Jesus is recognizing ourselves as we are: the truth [about orselves], [that we are] Sinners. And he comes, and we meet. It is very beautiful to meet Jesus.”

Bishop: ‘Communion should lead to commitment’

“Communion should lead us to commitment, so that what we have learned may find beneficial fruits” said the National director of Caritas Philippines on Friday launching its 24 “Change Projects” of personal and community transformation at the Astoria Plaza. 

CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA)/Caritas Philippines national director Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona, in his video message during the launching of the program said, “Communion should lead us to commitment, so that what we have learned may find beneficial fruits …And we can only do so when we commit our time our talent … to what is noble, what is good, what is true as demanded by the Gospel,”

Archbishop Tirona who also heads the Archdiocese of Caceres in Bicol, lauded the NASSA/Caritas Philippines’ 14-month long Lead to Heal leadership program, which trained 24 social action leaders to initiate change in how their respective dioceses do social action work and reminded the faithful that communion demands commitment.

 “Lead to Heal empowers us first to be agents of communion and this is the call of the Church today to be in communion with our communities, especially among the poor,” he added.

He called on some 200 attendees to become “constant visionaries” and said that  we need visionary leaders, leaders who see beyond what is the now… what is the best for our people…what is achievable… what will transform us and make us a better nation.

The 24 leaders of the Lead to  Heal program, who dared to be the change and make the change they want to see in their communities were able to share stories about their “change projects” across 4 conversation platforms:

Formation of leaders and strengthening volunteerism;

Citizenship and participation as a way to sustainability;

Rekindling faith through positive collaboration; and

Institutionalizing humanitarian responses and sustainable development

“Lead to Heal”  the 14-month transformational leadership program aimed at strengthening the leadership and social innovation skills of the diocesan social action directors, personnel and staff of NASSA/Caritas Philippines through 4 leadership modules, which included public narrative of the leadership journey and change projects at the end of the program. (CBCP)

Philippine bishop “stop the killings; start the healing!”

(Vatican Radio) A Catholic bishop in Philippines denounced the justification of killings of suspected criminals and said that he was witnessing a worse kind of death, the death of conscience.   

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, on Thursday during his homily at Mass at the San Agustin Church in Intramuros for the victims of drug-related killings and to mark the 45th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, lamented that conscience is no longer seen as a consideration in societal matters.  “By repeating arguments of justification over and over again, they begin to sound right, they begin to resemble a Gospel truth. They become part of the culture; they become the new normal,” he said. “When I hear comments like these, I get stunned” he added.

He reiterated that the fight against criminality must be in a manner that is “lawful and humane”. According to him, addiction to drugs is a disease, “a serious illness” that must be dealt not with bullets but with rehabilitation.

Echoing the call of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in its recent pastoral statement, Bishop David said: “Our desperate plea is only this: For God’s sake, stop the killings; start the healing!”

He also refuted claims that people who committed crimes or those who have gone wayward can no longer be reformed and cannot be given a second chance to change their ways.

“If we were to hold that as true, that will be as good as giving up one of the most important principles of our faith as Christians that we all live only by grace and mercy of a forgiving God,” said Bishop David.

“Who are we to condemn, if our own God refuses to condemn us? Who of us do not sometimes stray from the right paths? Who of us does not commit mistakes? Who of us does not get sick—not just physically but sometimes also mentally and spiritually?” he added.

The bishop also warned against “fighting evil with evil”, insisting that people are called “to be humane, to be refined in our ways”.

“Let us never give in to provocation, to the impulse to react with anger and retaliation, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, unless we want to finish off the human race,” he said.

Duterte came to power on June 30, following an election campaign in which he promised to use deadly force to wipe out crime and drugs. Keeping to his word he has ordered to kill drug addicts and traders with a firm belief that he is reducing what ails his country but in reality it has been an act of barbarity. (CBCPNews)

Pope: "Church will apply firmest measures against those who abuse minors"

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reiterated his pledge to combat the evil of clerical sex abuse affirming that at all levels, the Church will continue to respond applying the firmest of measures to “all those who have betrayed their call and abused God's children.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

He was addressing members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors gathered for their Plenary Assembly.

The Commission is an institution that was established by the Pope to propose initiatives that ensure that crimes that have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church.   

In prepared remarks and after having listened to the greetings of Commission President, Cardinal O’Malley and other members of the Commission, Pope Francis said “I wish to share with you the profound pain I feel in my soul for the situation of abused children, as I have had occasion to do recently several times”. 

Painful experience for the Church

Describing the sex abuse scandal as a terrible evil for the whole of humanity, the Pope said it has also been a very painful experience for the Church: “We are ashamed of the abuses committed by holy ministers, who should be the most trustworthy”. 

“Let me say quite clearly that sexual abuse is a horrible sin, completely opposite and in contradiction to what Christ and the Church teach us” he said. 

Recalling the fact that he has had the privilege of listening to the stories that victims and survivors of abuses have wanted to share, Pope Francis observed that meetings such as these continue to nourish the personal commitment of all involved in the Commission to do everything possible to combat this evil and eliminate it. 

The Church to respond at all levels with the firmest measures 

“That is why, I reiterate today once again that the Church, at all levels, will respond with the application of the firmest measures against all those who have betrayed their call and abused the children of God” he said. 

The Pope stressed that the disciplinary measures must apply to all those who work in the institutions of the Church, but he pointed out that “the primary responsibility lies with Bishops, priests and religious”: those who have received from the Lord the vocation to offer their lives to serving the Church and this includes “the vigilant protection of all vulnerable children, young people and adults”. 

“For this reason, the Church irrevocably and at all levels seeks to apply the principle of "zero tolerance" against sexual abuse of minors” he said.

The Pope recalled his Motu Proprio entitled “As a Loving Mother” that was promulgated on the basis of a proposal by the Commission and in reference to the principle of responsibility in the Church. He said it addresses the cases of Diocesan Bishops, Eparches and Superior Generals of religious institutes who, through negligence, have carried out or omitted acts that may have caused serious harm to others, whether individuals or a community as a whole (see Article 1).

He said that over the last three years, since its establishment the Commission has consistently emphasized the most important principles guiding the Church's efforts to protect all vulnerable children and adults, thus fulfilling the mission entrusted to it as a "consultative function in the service of the Holy Father", offering its experience "in order to promote the responsibility of particular Churches in the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults" (Statute, Article 1).

Pope Francis said he was delighted to learn that many particular Churches have adopted the Commission’s recommendation for a Day of Prayer, and for dialogue with victims and survivors of abuses, as well as with representatives of victim organizations. 

“It is also encouraging to know how many Episcopal Conferences and Conferences of Superior Generals have sought your advice regarding the Guidelines for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults” he said. 

Value of sharing best practices

He emphasized the value of sharing best practices - especially for those Churches that have fewer resources for this crucial work of protection – and encouraged the Commission to continue its collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples “so that these practices may be inculturated in the different Churches around the world”.

Lastly, Pope Francis praised the many initiatives that offer opportunities for learning, education and training promoted by the Commission as well as the fact that a presentation made last week to new bishops has been so favorably received.

“These educational programs offer the kind of resources that will enable Dioceses, Religious Institutes and all Catholic institutions to adopt and implement the most effective materials for this work”.

The Church: a place of piety and compassion 

The Pope concluded his address highlighting the fact that the Church is called to be a place of piety and compassion, especially for those who have suffered. 

“For all of us, the Catholic Church remains a field hospital that accompanies us on our spiritual journey. It is the place where we can sit with others, listen to them and share with them our struggles and our faith in the good news of Jesus Christ. I am fully confident that the Commission will continue to be a place where we can listen with interest to the voices of the victims and the survivors. Because we have much to learn from them and their personal stories of courage and perseverance” he said.

Vatican presents guidelines for Catholic educational institutions

(Vatican Radio) A press conference was held in the Holy See Press Office on Friday to present the work of the Pontifical Foundation Gravissimum educationis and the document “Educating to fraternal humanism. Building a ‘civilization of love’ 50 years after Populorum progressio”.

Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:

Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, presented the document at Friday’s press conference.

He said it contains the guidelines for education in fraternal humanism and that it will be distributed to all 216,000 Catholic schools and universities around the world.

'Fraternal humanism'

Entitled “Educating to fraternal humanism. Building a ‘civilization of love’ 50 years after Populorum progressio”, the document seeks to trace a path forward in Catholic education based on the principles set out in Populorum progressio.

The document says, “Our efforts at education will be inadequate and ineffectual unless we strive to promote a new way of thinking about human beings, life, society and our relationship with nature”.

“Solidarity and brotherhood,” Cardinal Versaldi said, can be promoted by Catholic schools and universities “through a formative experience capable of integrating science and conscience.”

Pontifical Foundation Gravissimum educationis

The press conference also gave voice to the two-year old Pontifical Foundation Gravissimum educationis, instituted by Pope Francis in 2015.

Msgr. Guy-Réal Thivierge, the Foundations’ secretary general, said its work is to incarnate the educative vision promoted by the Congregation for Catholic Education.

He said the Foundation is inspired primarily by Church teaching and by the charism of Pope Francis.

Key words behind its work, Msgr. Thivierge said, are “inclusion, dialogue, cooperation, and transcendence.”

“The Foundation’s vocation is to enact innovative projects to improve the quality of education, to promote scientific studies, and to favor networking and collaboration between educational institutions,” he said.

At the heart of both the document and the Pontifical Foundation, Cardinal Versaldi said, is the desire “to humanize education” in order to build “a civilization of love”.

Vatican to set up joint committee with Muslim World League

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has held talks with Dr. Muhammad Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, accompanied by a delegation.

The meeting came during an informal encounter on Wednesday between the World Muslim League delegation and the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.

Combat fundamentalism

A statement from the Pontifical Council said that the two sides reaffirmed the following points: that religion and violence are incompatible; that religions have moral resources capable of contributing to fraternity and peace; that the phenomenon of fundamentalism, in particular when violent, is troubling and joint efforts are required to counter it.

Protect religious freedom

In addition, the statement said, situations exist where freedom of conscience and of religion are not entirely respected and protected, so there is an urgent need to remedy this, renewing “religious discourse” and reviewing school books.

In conclusion, the statement said both sides agreed to establish a joint permanent committee in the near future.

Homeless at St Peter's moved on due to security concerns

(Vatican Radio) Regarding the news that the Vatican's Gendarmeria have moved on homeless people who sleep rough around St Peter's Square, the Director of Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke said that the measure was for reasons of “security” and “common sense”, due to the fact that during the daytime the homeless leave bags, parcels, and crowds cannot be controlled.

They are invited during the day to take their things away and not to stay in bivouacs, while at night they can return freely.

 

Pope Francis sends money for Mexico earthquake relief

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has given money to the earthquake relief effort in Mexico to help survivors and victims’ families in the worst hit areas of the country.

The Vatican said on Thursday that an initial contribution of 150.000 dollars would be sent through the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

The money will be divided between emergency relief efforts in the dioceses worst hit by the earthquake. The 7.1 quake on Tuesday caused at least 250 deaths and widespread damage in the capital and surrounding areas.

The donation, which is intended to show the pope’s solidarity and spiritual closeness to those affected by the disaster, is a small part of the financial support being sent to Mexico through many bishops conferences and Caritas organisations.

Vatican Secretariat for Communications signs convention with Jesuits

(Vatican Radio)  The Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications and the Society of Jesus signed a Convention on Thursday.

Msgr. Dario Edoardo Viganò, the Secretariat’s Prefect, said, “This signing comes only a few days after the 100th birthday of Fr. Stefanizzi.”

“Fr. Stefanizzi was the Director of Vatican Radio during the years of the Second Vatican Council, an event which needed to be recounted to those persons who understood neither Latin nor theology. From this point of view, therefore, Fr. Stefanizzi followed the model of ‘user first’, putting primary focus, that is, on the users of communication, which is today the center of the Vatican Media reform desired by Pope Francis. Fr. Stefanizzi knew how to mediate what happened in the Council room with what people needed to know, so as to avoid a double reading of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the Council, often highlighted by both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis,” Msgr. Viganò said.

The Prefect of the Secretariat for Communications also expressed gratitude, both his own and that of the whole dicastery, to the Society of Jesus, with which, during the last year and half, a process of discernment and rethinking has begun of the Jesuit’s presence within, no longer Vatican Radio, but a much larger reality. With the signing of the Convention, the Society makes itself available to this service according to the apostolic mission of the world of communications. Msgr. Viganò also relayed the gratitude and satisfaction of the Pope for this new form of collaboration within the reform process.

“We are fulfilling,” he concluded, “an act of obedience to the Holy Father regarding the criteria indicated by him. This new collaboration will bear much fruit because, when one lives in service to the Church, personal gratification is overcome. Service overcomes each of us, and the hope is that one’s vocation can be lived ‘in God’s way’. We are not only professionals but good professionals transfigured by the experience of the mystery of God.”

“Times change,” declared the delegate of the Society of Jesus, Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves. “They are a part of the vocation of the Society of Jesus to serve the Church, as the Church requests. Our contribution in the field of communications makes us happy, because we can contribute to the reforms desired by the Holy Father.”