7 November 2019
Pope Francis meets with members of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat of the Society of Jesus in the Vatican's Clementine Hall on 7 November 2019.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
At a time when “situations of injustice and human pain” seem to be growing around the globe, Christians are called to “accompany the victims, to see in their faces the face of our crucified Lord,” Pope Francis said.
The pope spoke about the Gospel call to work for justice on 7 November when he met with about 200 people, Jesuits and their collaborators, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Jesuits’ Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat.
Listing examples of places where Catholics are called to work for justice and for the safeguarding of creation, Pope Francis spoke about “a Third World War being fought in pieces,” human trafficking, the growing “expressions of xenophobia and the selfish search for national interests,” and the inequality between and within nations, which seem to be “growing without finding a remedy.”
Then there is the fact that “never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years,” he said, and that environmental destruction impacts the world’s poorest people most of all.
From the beginning, St. Ignatius of Loyola intended the Society of Jesus to defend and spread the faith and to help the poor, Pope Francis said. In establishing the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat 50 years ago, the Rev. Pedro Arrupe, then superior general, “intended to strengthen it.”
Father Arrupe’s “contact with human pain,” the pope said, convinced him that God was close to those who suffer and was calling all Jesuits to incorporate the quest for justice and peace into their ministries.
For Father Arrupe and for Catholics today, attention to society’s “discarded ones” and the struggle against the “throwaway culture” must be born of prayer and fortified by it, Pope Francis said. “Father Pedro always believed that the service of faith and the promotion of justice could not be separated: they were radically united. For him, all the ministries of the society had to respond, at the same time, to the challenge of proclaiming the faith and promoting justice. What until then had been a commission for some Jesuits should become everyone’s concern.”
Pope Francis said that when contemplating Jesus’ birth, St. Ignatius encouraged people to imagine that they were there as a lowly servant, helping the Holy Family in the poverty of the stable.
“This active contemplation of God, of God excluded, helps us discover the beauty of every marginalized person,” the pope said. “In the poor, you have found a privileged place of encounter with Christ. That is a precious gift in the life of the follower of Jesus: to receive the gift of meeting him among the victims and the impoverished.”
Pope Francis encouraged the Jesuits and their collaborators to continue to see Jesus in the poor and to listen to them humbly and serve them any way they can.
“Our broken and divided world needs to build bridges,” he said, so that people can “discover in the least ones the beautiful face of a brother or sister in whom we recognize ourselves, and whose presence, even without words, demands our care and our solidarity.”
While individual care for the poor is essential, a Christian cannot overlook structural “social evils” that create suffering and keep people poor, he said. “Hence the importance of the slow work of transforming structures through participation in public dialogue where decisions are made.”
“Our world is in need of transformations that protect life that is threatened and defend the weakest,” he said. The task is enormous and can cause people to despair.
But, the pope said, the poor themselves can show the way. They often are the ones who continue to trust and hope and organize to improve their lives and that of their neighbors.
A Catholic social apostolate should try to solve problems, Pope Francis said, but, above all, it should encourage hope and promote “processes that help people and communities to grow, that lead them to be aware of their rights, to use their abilities and to create their own future.”
24 October 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Poor/Poverty
In this image from January, Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios of Italy and Malta, Pope Francis and the Rev. Tim Macquiban, minister of Rome's Ponte Sant'Angelo Methodist Church, leave an ecumenical prayer service at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome.
(photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
Working for Christian unity and engaging in formal theological dialogues to promote it obviously raises questions about what the nature and mission of the church is.
In a project that took two decades of work by Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal theologians, the World Council of Churches in 2013 published a document summarizing the points of greatest consensus.
In late October, the Vatican gave the WCC its formal response to the document, which was called “The Church: Towards a Common Vision.”
The response, coordinated by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and posted on its website, included input from Catholic theologians from around the world, bishops’ conferences and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
What is meant by “church” is a key ecumenical question as Christians work and pray for the unity Jesus wanted his followers to have, the Catholic response said.
Or, as the WCC document said, “agreement on ecclesiology has long been identified as the most elemental theological objective in the quest for Christian unity.”
In the Creed, Christians profess a belief in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church,” yet they differ on what Christ intended for his church, how it should be governed and how it should minister in the world.
“From a Catholic perspective,” the Vatican said, “the term ‘church’ applies to the Catholic Church in communion with the bishop of Rome. It also applies to churches which are not in visible communion with the Catholic Church but have preserved the apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, remaining true particular churches. Other Christian communities which have not preserved the valid episcopacy and Eucharist are called ‘ecclesial communities’“ in official Catholic documents.
The Vatican said of the WCC document, “While it presents a remarkable degree of common thinking on a wide range of important issues, it does not claim to have reached full consensus, the full agreement on all issues which is necessary in order to achieve full visible unity among the churches.”
The text, however, does show common agreement on “significant ecclesiological doctrines,” the Vatican said. Further theological dialogue is needed and, especially, study of the WCC document by Christians of all denominations.
Of fundamental importance, the Vatican said, is the document’s affirmation that “certain aspects of church life are to be considered as determined by God’s will,” although the WCC did not find enough consensus yet to affirm that “the threefold ministry of bishops, presbyter and deacon” is one of those aspects. The Catholic Church, of course, believes it is.
Still, the Vatican said, the document “traces ordained ministry to the Lord’s choice of the Twelve” and, in that way, “promotes the view that certain aspects of the church’s order were willed and instituted by Christ himself.”
The Vatican praised the WCC document for recognizing that “the three essential elements of communion concern faith, worship and ministry or service” and for acknowledging that both Scripture and tradition are necessary sources for determining what “church” means.
While the document uncovers “greater common ground in ecclesiology” than many people would have imagined possible, the Vatican noted that it did not treat the papacy or the role and ministry of the pope, the successor of St. Peter.
Other “unresolved concerns include who may be baptized, the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the relation of the Eucharist to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and churches who do not practice baptism or Eucharist,” the Vatican said.
Many modern developments within the Catholic Church, like a growing understanding of the church as a communion given life by the Trinity and an increasing emphasis on the need for “synodality,” also are recognized by other Christian communities and present in the WCC document, the Vatican response said.
“The most fundamental convergence is found in the affirmation that unity among Christians is vital for fulfilling the church’s mission of proclaiming the good news of reconciliation in the Lord and that this is a biblical mandate,” the response said.
The WCC also asked churches and Christian communities to look at areas in their lives that may need “renewal” in the light of the agreed principles and the commitment to Christian unity.
“The Catholic Church,” the Vatican said, “commits itself to respond to the call to grow in holiness,” to continue the process of renewal begun at the Second Vatican Council, “to being the church of the poor and for the poor,” to continue developing its “current practice of synodality,” and to strengthening laypeople in their role as missionary disciples.
While it is “painful,” the response said, the Catholic Church insists its members cannot celebrate the Eucharist with members of other churches. However, it said, “we will renew our commitment to do together whatever we can do together, even in the context of the liturgy.”
Those possibilities, the Vatican said, include the rite of washing the feet, the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday and celebrating prayer vigils and liturgies of the Word for major feasts such as Christmas, Epiphany, the Ascension, Pentecost and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.
16 September 2019
Pope Francis greets bishops from Eastern Catholic churches during a meeting at the Vatican on 14 September 2019. Meeting some 40 bishops serving in Europe, the pope praised them for their fidelity to Rome and encouraged them to be more active in seeking Christian unity.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Praising the fidelity of Eastern Catholics, Pope Francis also urged them to be more active in the search for Christian unity, especially unity with their Orthodox counterparts.
In heaven, he said, “the Lord will not seek an account of which or how many territories remained under our jurisdiction. He will not ask how we contributed to the development of our national identities. Instead, he will ask how much we loved our neighbor, every neighbor, and how well we were able to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to those we met along the road of life.”
The pope met 14 September with about 40 bishops in Europe from Eastern Catholic churches; they included bishops from the Eastern-rite Ukrainian, Romanian, Greek and Slovak churches, but also those who minister to migrant communities from outside of Europe, including the Coptic, Chaldean and Syriac Catholic
Churches from the Middle East and the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches of India.
The multiple expressions of Catholic liturgy, spirituality and governance are a sign of the Catholic Church’s true unity, Pope Francis said. “Uniformity is the destruction of unity; Christian truth is not monotonous, but ‘symphonic,’ otherwise it would not come from the Holy Spirit.”
Preserving their Eastern identity while holding fast to their unity with Rome came at the price of martyrdom for many of the Eastern Catholic churches, the pope acknowledged. “This fidelity is a precious gem in your treasury of faith, a distinctive and indelible sign.”
Unity with the wider Catholic Church, he said, does not detract from the identity of the Eastern churches but “contributes to its full realization, for example, by protecting it from the temptation of closing in on itself and falling into national or ethnic particularisms that exclude others.”
While the Eastern churches have national roots and cultures, and in many cases have contributed to preserving local languages and identity, the churches are called to proclaim the Gospel, not a national identity, he said.
“This is a danger of the present time in our civilization,” the pope said, because one can see “particularisms that become populisms and seek to dictate and make everything uniform.”
At the same time, he said, the witness of the saints and martyrs of the Eastern Catholic churches calls Eastern Catholics today to purify their “ecclesial memory” -- for example, the memory of knowing the Orthodox did not experience the same level of persecution under communism -- “and to aspire to ever greater unity with all who believe in Christ.”
In a world where so many people sow division, he said, Catholics are “called to be artisans of dialogue, promoters of reconciliation and patient builders of a civilization of encounter that can preserve our times from the incivility of conflict.”
“The way shown to us from on high is made up of prayer, humility and love, not of regional or even traditionalist claims; no. The way is prayer, humility and love,” the pope said.
As churches that share a spirituality, liturgy and theology with the Orthodox churches, he said, the Eastern Catholic churches have a special role to play in promoting Christian unity.
Pope Francis encouraged shared academic programs, especially for priests “so that they can be trained to have an open mind.”
But it is especially in concrete service to others that Catholics and Orthodox should join together, he said. “Love knows no canonical or jurisdictional boundaries. It pains me to see, even among Catholics, squabbles about jurisdictions.”
12 September 2019
Tags: Eastern Catholic Churches
Pope Francis is flanked by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, on 12 September 2019, during an audience with bishops who were ordained over the past year and were attending a course sponsored by the two congregations. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
New bishops need to prepare for a life filled with God’s surprises, with daily plans that change at the last minute and, especially, for a life dedicated to spending time with God and with the people, Pope Francis said.
“God surprises us and often likes to mess up our appointment books: prepare for this without fear,” the pope told about 130 bishops attending a course for bishops ordained in the past year.
Bishops exist to make tangible God’s love for and closeness to his people, the pope told them on 12 September. “But one cannot communicate the closeness of God without experiencing it every day and without letting himself be infected by his tenderness.”
Pope Francis told the new bishops that no matter what else is going on in their lives and ministries, they must spend time in prayer.
“Without this intimacy cultivated daily in prayer, even and especially in times of desolation and dryness, the nucleus of our episcopal ministry splits apart,” he said.
Without a strong relationship to God, the sower of every good seed, a bishop’s own efforts will not seem worth the effort, he said, and it will be difficult to find the patience necessary to wait for the seeds to sprout.
Closeness to God also leads directly to desire for closeness to God’s people, the pope said. “Our identity consists in being near. It is not an external obligation, but a requirement that is part of the logic of gift.”
“Jesus loves to approach his brothers and sisters through us, through our open hands that caress and console them, through our words pronounced to anoint the world with the Gospel and not ourselves,” Pope Francis said.
A bishop cannot simply “proclaim” his closeness to the people, the pope said. He must be like the good Samaritan: seeing people in need rather than looking the other way, stopping to help, bandaging wounds, taking responsibility for them and paying the cost of caring for them.
“Each of these requires putting yourself on the line and getting your hands dirty,” Pope Francis told the bishops.
“Being close to the people,” he said, “is trusting that the grace God faithfully pours out on us and of which we are channels, even through the crosses we bear, is greater than the mud we fear.”
And, he said, a simple lifestyle is part of a bishop’s mission because it is the first and clearest way to proclaim with integrity that “Jesus is enough for us and that the treasure we want to surround ourselves with is made up of those who, in their poverty, remind us of and represent him.”
Bishops must spend more time visiting parishes and other communities than they spend at their desks, and those visits should not be super-formal affairs, he said.
“What comes to mind are pastors who are so groomed that they seem like distilled water that has no taste,” he said. They must truly listen to people, rather than surrounding themselves with “lackeys and yes men,” he added.
3 September 2019
Tags: Pope Francis
Pope Francis greets Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, at the Vatican 2 September 2019. The 47 bishops from Ukrainian dioceses in Ukraine and 10 other nations met the pope during their synod in Rome. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Before a synod, bishops must learn what their people want and think and need, not so they can change church teaching, but so they can preach the Gospel more effectively, Pope Francis told the bishops of the Ukrainian Catholic Church.
Forty-seven bishops from Ukrainian dioceses in Ukraine and 10 other nations, including the United States, Canada and Australia, met the pope on 2 September during their synod in Rome.
Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, told Pope Francis that “every bishop and representative of our local communities has made his journey to Rome carrying with him the sufferings and hopes of the people of God entrusted to our pastoral care.”
The bishops, he said, want to be synodal -- walking together with their people -- “not only during our sessions but also when we return to our communities. Because, in fact, one cannot walk while seated!”
Speaking to the bishops, Pope Francis focused on Archbishop Shevchuk’s remarks and on how the Eastern Catholic churches, like the Orthodox churches, have a longer and uninterrupted history of decisions flowing from bishops’ synods.
“There is a danger,” the pope said, which is “thinking today that making a synodal journey or having an attitude of ‘synodality’ means investigating opinions -- what does this one and that one think -- and then having a meeting to make an agreement. No! The synod is not a parliament!”
While synod members must discuss matters and offer their opinions, he said, the purpose is not “to come to an agreement like in politics: ‘I’ll give you this, you give me that.’“
Bishops must know what their lay faithful, priests and religious think, the pope said, but it’s not a survey or a vote on what should change.
“If the Holy Spirit is not present, there is no synod,” he said. “If the Holy Spirit is not present, there is no synodality. In fact, there is no church.”
The vocation of the church is to evangelize, he said, and the Holy Spirit should help bishops gathered in a synod to do that better.
“Pray to the Holy Spirit,” the pope told the bishops. “Argue among yourselves” like early church leaders did at Ephesus but listen to the Holy Spirit.
“We don’t want to become a congregationalist church, but a synodal church,” he said. “Keep moving forward on this path.”
30 August 2019
Tags: Ukraine Ukrainian Catholic Church
In this image from 2012, Cardinal George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly, India, is pictured at the Vatican. (photo: CNS/Paul Haring)
In a step designed to quell ongoing controversies, the Vatican announced the appointment of a vicar for the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, and Pope Francis conferred on him the personal title of archbishop.
Archbishop Antony Kariyil had led the Syro-Malabar Diocese of Mandya, India, and served as secretary of the synod of bishops of the Eastern-rite church before his appointment as vicar was announced by the Vatican on 30 August.
The website Matters India reported that the synod, in agreement with the Vatican, created the post of vicar to the major archbishop to help deal with ongoing controversies involving Cardinal George Alencherry of Ernakulam-Angamaly, major archbishop of the church.
The vicar was to have broad administrative powers and complete control over the financial affairs of the archdiocese, but the cardinal would retain the title of major archbishop and must be consulted on important decisions, the website said.
Matters India also reported that the synod lifted the suspension of the archdiocese’s two auxiliary bishops and transferred them to other dioceses: Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath will succeed Archbishop Kariyil in Mandya and Bishop Jose Puthenveettil will become auxiliary bishop of Faridabad. Both appointments were announced by the Vatican on 30 August.
In June 2018, Pope Francis had named an apostolic administrator to run the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly in an effort to put an end to infighting and financial controversies aggravated by disputed land deals approved by the cardinal.
14 June 2019
Tags: Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Claudio Di Segni, a tenor and director of the choir at Rome's main synagogue, performs with the choir on 13 June 2019, during a concert at the synagogue marking the 25th anniversary of formal diplomatic ties between Israel and the Holy See. (photo: CNS/Robert Duncan)
Plaintive pleas and rousing, rhythmic recognitions of God’s goodness filled the air at Rome’s main synagogue as Israeli and Vatican officials celebrated 25 years of formal diplomatic relations.
“A concert of sacred Jewish music in a highly symbolic place like the major synagogue of Rome highlights our special bond that is founded in our common root: the Bible,” Oren David, the Israeli ambassador to the Holy See, told Catholic News Service.
“Songs from the Psalms show that we have a common heritage, which is reflected in the biblical values that we share, and we want to bring attention to the special and unique bond between us,” said David, who hosted the concert on 13 June.
Nathan Lam, the cantor of Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles, was one of four cantors to perform at the concert. He said the singers, who are ordained for service and can preside at weddings and funerals, purposefully chose songs with texts common to Jews and Christians for the celebration.
Jews and Christians will interpret those texts differently, he said, “but the fact that we share them is a very important commonality.”
“I hope this leads to more and more dialogue, to more and more celebrations of relationships that are productive and good,” Lam said.
Celebrating 25 years of formal Vatican-Israeli diplomatic relations is not only about the relationship of two states. The ties were built on decades of Catholic-Jewish dialogue, which first focused on healing a relationship wounded by anti-Jewish church teaching and then moved on to common religious and moral teachings.
Celebrating what has been accomplished does not mean ignoring the sticky issues that remain on a diplomatic, political and religious level: for example, diplomats on both sides continue to try to negotiate an agreement governing church property ownership and taxation issues; the Vatican continues to call for international guarantees of Jerusalem’s status as a city sacred to Jews, Christian and Muslims; and Jewish religious leaders continue to press Catholic theologians involved in dialogue to discuss the religious significance of the land of Israel.
The Israeli ambassador and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, mentioned the three issues in their remarks before the concert. But they both also insisted there was much more to celebrate than to worry about.
“In our relations, political and religious issues are intertwined, this is why they are so special,” the ambassador told CNS.
For Catholics, the “special” relationship includes recognizing that Jesus was a Jew, the apostles were Jews and that Christianity not only recognized the Hebrew Scriptures -- the Old Testament -- as part of God’s revelation, but Catholics adopted and adapted Jewish liturgy, including the chanting and singing of the Psalms.
“Our liturgy stems from the liturgy of the Jewish people,” said the Rev. Norbert Hofmann, secretary of the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. “For example, reading texts, interpreting texts, giving sermons on texts -- that already can be found in Judaism, in Jewish liturgy and practice.”
“Jews and Christians are praying with the same texts,” he said, “but with a different interpretation” because Christians would read those texts in the light of their faith in Jesus.
Lam, the “chazzan” or cantor, prayed that those differing understandings would not overshadow the basic shared faith in one God, the creator of all, and -- to a lesser degree -- in the power of music to carry prayer and to touch hearts.
Like Christian sacred music, Jewish sacred music includes many styles influenced by the cultures the Jews were living in when the music was written. The cantor and choir of the Rome synagogue, who also performed 13 June, had a unique sound and style reflecting what the program described as the Jewish “Roman rite.”
The songs are sacred not because of their style, Lam said, but because the texts are the word of God, and the music upholds, reflects and emphasizes its content.
For Jews and for Christians, the Psalms have a special connection to liturgical music and not just because
they are written in a poetic form that makes it natural to chant or sing them.
Lam, who has been the cantor at Stephen Wise Temple for 43 years, said the Psalms seem to be growing in importance for both Jews and Christians “because the Psalms are a great source of comfort, knowledge, joy and wisdom.”
The central piece of the anniversary concert fittingly was Psalm 122 with its prayer for the peace of Jerusalem, peace in the world and, finally a personal, “I pray for your good.”
You can watch a related video from CNS below:
12 April 2019
Tags: Vatican Jewish-Catholic relations
Pope Francis kisses the feet of South Sudan President Salva Kiir on 11 April 2019, at the conclusion of a two-day retreat at the Vatican for African nation’s political leaders. The pope begged the leaders to give peace a chance. At right is Vice President Riek Machar.
(photo: CNS/Vatican Media via Reuters)
At the end of a highly unusual spiritual retreat for the political leaders of warring factions, Pope Francis knelt at the feet of the leaders of South Sudan, begging them to give peace a chance and to be worthy “fathers of the nation.”
“As a brother, I ask you to remain in peace. I ask you from my heart, let’s go forward. There will be many problems, but do not be afraid,” he told the leaders, speaking without a text at the end of the meeting.
“You have begun a process, may it end well,” he said. “There will be disagreements among you, but may they take place ‘in the office’ while, in front of your people, you hold hands; in this way, you will be transformed from simple citizens to fathers of the nation.”
“The purpose of this retreat is for us to stand together before God and to discern his will,” he said in his formal remarks on 11 April, closing the two-day retreat in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the Vatican guesthouse where he lives.
The retreat participants included South Sudanese President Salva Kiir and four of the nation’s five designated vice presidents: Riek Machar, James Wani Igga, Taban Deng Gai and Rebecca Nyandeng De Mabior. Under the terms of a peace agreement signed in September, the vice presidents were to take office together on 12 May, sharing power and ending the armed conflict between clans and among communities.
The retreat was the idea of Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, who attended the final part of the gathering. He and Pope Francis have been supporting the peace efforts of the South Sudan Council of Churches and, the pope said again on 11 April, they hope to visit South Sudan together when there is peace.
Pope Francis told the politicians and members of the Council of Churches that “peace” was the first word Jesus said to his disciples after the resurrection.
“Peace is the first gift that the Lord brought us, and the first commitment that leaders of nations must pursue,” he told them. “Peace is the fundamental condition for ensuring the rights of each individual and the integral development of an entire people.”
When South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 after years of war, the people were filled with hope, the pope said. Too many of them have died or been forced from their homes or face starvation because of five years of civil war.
After “so much death, hunger, hurt and tears,” the pope said, the retreat participants “have clearly heard the cry of the poor and the needy; it rises up to heaven, to the very heart of God our father, who desires to grant them justice and peace.”
“Peace is possible,” the pope told the leaders. They must tap into “a spirit that is noble, upright, strong and courageous to build peace through dialogue, negotiation and forgiveness.”
As leaders of a people, he said, those who govern will have to stand before God and give an account of their actions, especially what they did or didn’t do for the poor and the marginalized.
Pope Francis asked the leaders to linger a moment in the mood of the retreat and sense that “we stand before the gaze of the Lord, who is able to see the truth in us and to lead us fully to that truth.”
The leaders, he said, should recognize how God loves them, wants to forgive them and calls them to build a country at peace.
Jesus, he said, calls all believers to repentance. “We may well have made mistakes, some rather small, others much greater,” but Jesus always is ready to forgive those who repent and return to serving their people.
“Dear brothers and sisters,” he said, “Jesus is also gazing, here and now, upon each one of us. He looks at us with love, he asks something, he forgives something, and he gives us a mission. He has put great trust in us by choosing us to be his co-workers in the creation of a more just world.”
Pope Francis expressed his hope that “hostilities will finally cease -- please, may they cease -- that the armistice will be respected, and that political and ethnic divisions will be surmounted.”
Closing his prepared remarks with a prayer, he asked God “to touch with the power of the Spirit the depths of every human heart, so that enemies will be open to dialogue, adversaries will join hands and peoples will meet in harmony.”
“By your gift, Father, may the whole-hearted search for peace resolve disputes, may love conquer hatred and may revenge be disarmed by forgiveness, so that, relying solely on your mercy, we may find our way back to you,” he prayed.
11 March 2019
Tags: Pope Francis Interreligious Africa Interfaith
A representative of the American Jewish Committee gives Pope Francis a certificate on 8 March 2019, certifying that a grapevine in Israel has been dedicated to him and promising that each year he will receive a bottle of wine produced with the vine's grapes. (photo: CNS/Vatican Media)
Engaging in any form of anti-Semitism is a direct contradiction with the Christian faith, Pope Francis said.
Meeting members of the American Jewish Committee on 8 March, the pope shared his “great concern” over “the spread, in many places, of a climate of wickedness and fury, in which an excessive and depraved hatred is taking root,” including “the outbreak of anti-Semitic attacks in various countries.”
“It is necessary to be vigilant about such a phenomenon,” he said, because, as the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews said, “History teaches us where even the slightest perceptible forms of anti-Semitism can lead: the human tragedy of the Shoah, in which two-thirds of European Jewry were annihilated.”
Cultivating good relations, showing respect for others and being vigilant against any sign of hatred and prejudice is “a call from God,” the pope said.
Christians and Jews, he said, must transmit to their children “the foundations of love and respect. And we must look at the world with the eyes of a mother, with the gaze of peace.”
Meeting the group on International Women’s Day, Pope Francis spoke of “the irreplaceable contribution of women in building a world that can be a home for all,” a home where believers strive to fulfill God’s command in Deuteronomy to “love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.”
“Women make the world beautiful, they protect it and keep it alive,” the pope said. “They bring the grace of renewal, the embrace of inclusion and the courage to give of oneself.”
“If we take to heart the importance of the future, if we dream of a future peace, we need to give space to women,” Pope Francis said.
Interreligious dialogue, he said, is an important part of efforts to fight hatred and anti-Semitism. The dialogue aims to promote “a commitment to peace, mutual respect, the protection of life, religious freedom and the care of creation.”
Pope Francis urged Jews and Christians to work together, countering the spread of “a depersonalizing secularism” by “making divine love more visible for humanity” and engaging in common works of charity “to counter the growth of indifference.”
“In a world where the distance between the many who have little and the few who have much grows every day,” he said, “we are called to take care of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters: the poor, the weak, the sick, children and the elderly.”
Pope Francis also encouraged Catholics and Jews to involve young people in interreligious dialogue as “an effective means of countering violence and opening new paths of peace with all.”
John Shapiro, president of the American Jewish Committee, thanked Pope Francis for deciding to open to scholars in March 2020 material in the Vatican Secret Archives covering World War II and the papacy of Pope Pius XII.
“We look forward especially to the involvement of the leading Holocaust memorial institutes in Israel and the U.S. to objectively evaluate as best as possible the historical record of that most terrible of times, to acknowledge both the failures as well as valiant efforts during the period of the Shoah,” Shapiro said, according to a statement from the AJC.
Members of the group also presented Pope Francis with a certificate testifying that a grapevine dedicated to him would be the first in a “vineyard of the nations,” a vineyard in Israel where each vine is sponsored by a Christian outside of the country. In addition, they told the pope, each year he would receive a bottle of wine from his vine.
15 February 2019
Tags: Pope Jewish-Catholic relations anti-Semitism
Even if Christians struggle to recognize him with his “torn clothes (and) dirty feet,” Jesus is present in the migrants and refugees who seek safety and a dignified life in a new land, Pope Francis said.
If Jesus’ words, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” are true, the pope said, then “we must begin to thank those who give us the opportunity for this encounter, namely, the ‘others’ who knock on our doors, giving us the possibility to overcome our fears in order to encounter, welcome and assist Jesus in person.”
Pope Francis spoke about overcoming fear and welcoming others during a Mass he celebrated 15 February at a church-run retreat and conference center in Sacrofano, about 15 miles north of Rome.
The Mass was part of a conference titled, “Welcoming Communities: Free of Fear,” which was sponsored by the Italian bishops’ office for migration, Caritas Italy and Jesuit Refugee Service’s Centro Astalli. The 500 participants included representatives of parishes, religious orders and Catholic-run agencies assisting migrants and refugees, as well as individual families who host newcomers.
At a time when Italy’s government is trying to severely restrict immigration, Caritas Italy said the meeting was designed to encourage those working with migrants and refugees and to counteract fear of migration by highlighting how individuals and the entire country benefit from welcoming them.
At a Mass on Friday, Pope Francis preached about the necessity of welcoming migrants and refugees. (video: CNS/YouTube)
The prayers of the faithful, most of which were read by migrants, included asking God to help pastors educate all Catholics to welcome migrants and refugees and to help government leaders promote tolerance and peace. Ending, as is traditional, with a prayer for the dead, the petitions made special mention of people who were killed for their faith.
In his homily, Pope Francis noted how the ancient Israelites had to overcome their fear of crossing the Red Sea and trust God in order to make it to the promised land. And, when the disciples were on the lake in a storm, Jesus told them to not be afraid and assured them he was there with them.
“The Lord speaks to us today and asks us to allow him to free us of our fear,” the pope said.
“Fear is the origin of slavery,” just as it was for the ancient Israelites, he said, “and it is also the origin of every dictatorship because, on the fear of the people, the violence of the dictator grows.”
Of course, the pope said, people naturally are afraid of what they don’t understand and of strangers who speak another language and have another culture. The Christian response is not to play on those fears, but to educate people and help them turn strangers into friends.
“We are called to overcome fear and open ourselves to encounter,” he said. “The encounter with the ‘other,’ then, is also an encounter with Christ. He himself told us this. It is he who knocks on our door hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick and imprisoned, asking to be met and assisted.”
Pope Francis asked Catholics who have had “the joy” of assisting migrants and refugees to “proclaim it from the rooftops, openly, to help others do the same, preparing themselves to encounter Christ and his salvation.”
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