Saturday, September 7, 2013

FRANCIS: WAR IS ALWAYS A DEFEAT FOR HUMANITY


Vatican City, 7 September 2013 (VIS) – More than a hundred thousand people gathered in St- Peter's Square this evening in response to Pope Francis' appeal during last Sunday's Angelus in which he convoked for today, 7 September, a day of fasting and prayer for peace, in the light of the dramatic circumstances which have engulfed Syria. Since then, this initiative has been welcomed and applauded not only by Catholics and other Christian confessions, but also by those belonging to other religions, from Buddhists to Jews and Muslims, and even those who do not belong to any religion. This week has seen extensive mobilisation on the part of parishes and associations, Caritas and the Community of St. Egidio, prayer groups and religious orders such as the Descalced Carmelites of the Holy Land, mayors and presidents of autonomous regions, organisations for peace, co-operation and development, unions, and so on. Many prominent figures have joined in with the initiative, such as the architect Renzo Piano, the president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and the Grand Mufti of Syria, spiritual leader of the Sunnis, who invoked peace this afternoon in the Ummayad Mosque, Damascus, with the nation's religious leaders. A prayer for peace was raised this afternoon in Catholic churches around the world, from Australia to Egypt.

The Square was crowded with people since the morning; among them there were many who wished to confess, from 5.45 onwards, to one of the fifty priests in the Constantine Wing and below the colonnade; Francis wanted confessors to be present on this day as “true peace is born of the human heart reconciled with God and with one's brothers”. At 18.30, the words uttered by the Pope last Sunday were repeated as an introduction to the Vigil which began at 7 p.m. with a greeting from the Pope and the singing of the “Veni Creator”, followed by the enthroning of the image of the Virgin as “Salus Populi Romani”, carried by four Swiss Guards.

The Pope began by praying the Rosary; each mystery was accompanied by the reading of a poem by St. Therese of Lisieux about the child Jesus, and at the end he invoked Maria: “Queen of Peace, pray for us”. He then pronounced the following homily:

“'And God saw that it was good'. The biblical account of the beginning of the history of the world and of humanity speaks to us of a God who looks at creation, in a sense contemplating it, and declares: 'it is good'. This, dear brothers and sisters, allows us to enter into God’s heart and, precisely from within him, to receive his message. We can ask ourselves: what does this message mean? What does it say to me, to you, to all of us?

“It says to us simply that this, our world, in the heart and mind of God, is the 'house of harmony and peace', and that it is the space in which everyone is able to find their proper place and feel 'at home', because it is 'good'. All of creation forms a harmonious and good unity, but above all humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, is one family, in which relationships are marked by a true fraternity not only in words: the other person is a brother or sister to love, and our relationship with God, who is love, fidelity and goodness, mirrors every human relationship and brings harmony to the whole of creation. God’s world is a world where everyone feels responsible for the other, for the good of the other. This evening, in reflection, fasting and prayer, each of us deep down should ask ourselves: Is this really the world that I desire? Is this really the world that we all carry in our hearts? Is the world that we want really a world of harmony and peace, in ourselves, in our relations with others, in families, in cities, in and between nations? And does not true freedom mean choosing ways in this world that lead to the good of all and are guided by love?

“But then we wonder: Is this the world in which we are living? Creation retains its beauty which fills us with awe and it remains a good work. But there is also 'violence, division, disagreement, war'. This occurs when man, the summit of creation, stops contemplating beauty and goodness, and withdraws into his own selfishness.

“When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the centre, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict. This is precisely what the passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the Fall: man enters into conflict with himself, he realizes that he is naked and he hides himself because he is afraid, he is afraid of God’s glance; he accuses the woman, she who is flesh of his flesh; he breaks harmony with creation, he begins to raise his hand against his brother to kill him. Can we say that from harmony he passes to 'disharmony'? Can we say this: that from harmony he passes to 'disharmony'? No, there is no such thing as 'disharmony'; there is either harmony or we fall into chaos, where there is violence, argument, conflict, fear.

“It is exactly in this chaos that God asks man’s conscience: “Where is Abel your brother?” and Cain responds: 'I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?'. We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another! But when harmony is broken, a metamorphosis occurs: the brother who is to be cared for and loved becomes an adversary to fight, to kill. What violence occurs at that moment, how many conflicts, how many wars have marked our history! We need only look at the suffering of so many brothers and sisters. This is not a question of coincidence, but the truth: we bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. All of us! And even today we continue this history of conflict between brothers, even today we raise our hands against our brother. Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death! Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death!

“After the chaos of the Flood, when it stopped raining, a rainbow appeared and the dove returned with an olive branch. I think also of the olive tree which representatives of various religions planted in Plaza de Mayo, in Buenos Aires, in 2000, asking that there be no more chaos, asking that there be no more war, asking for peace.

“And at this point I ask myself: Is it possible to walk the path of pace? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Or even better, I would like for each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken. This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace! Let everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother’s sorrow – I think of the children, look upon these - look upon your brother's sorrow, and do not add to it, stay your hand, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: 'No more one against the other, no more, never! ... war never again, never again war!'. 'Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love'. Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! Amen”.

Following the Pope's words, a moment of silence was observed during the preparation of the altar for the exposition of the Holy Sacrament. The adoration was accompanied by a biblical reading on the theme of peace, followed by the Pope's prayer on this subject and a responsorial invocation as a plea for peace. At the end of each of those moments, five pairs of people, representing Syria, Egypt, the Holy Land, the United States and Russia, placed incense in the censer to the right of the altar. This offering was accompanied by a series of invocations on the common theme of peace, including: “Lord of life, bring to us your peace, to where the fate of nations is decided” and “Stop, with your creative power, all violence against human life”.

The adoration was followed by the reading - “in the longest form planned for the celebration of a vigil” - of the Gospel of St. John. Then, from around 10.15 to 10.40 p.m., there was a long period of silence for personal prayer.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Pope Francis imparted his Eucharistic blessing to those present. Today, the Pope wrote to his nine million followers on Twitter, “Pray for peace”.


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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

TO THE FAITHFUL IN IRAQ, JORDAN AND EGYPT: FAITH IS A FORCE FOR JUSTICE IN THE WORLD

Vatican City, 4 September 2013 (VIS) – In his greeting in various languages, the Pope addressed the Arabic-speaking faithful, especially those from Iraq, Jordan and Egypt, encouraging them to “be always united with Christ, building his Kingdom with fraternity, sharing and merciful works. Faith is a potent force capable of making the world a more just and beautiful place! Be an example of God's mercy and demonstrate to the world that trials and tribulations, difficulties, violence and evil can never defeat He Who has vanquished death: Jesus Christ”.


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APPEAL FOR SYRIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST: RAISE A CRY FOR PEACE

Vatican City, 4 September 2013 (VIS) – “This coming Saturday we will experience together a special day of fasting and prayer for pace in Syria, the Middle East”, said the Pope at the end of the catechesis of today's general audience. “I renew my invitation to all the Church to live this day intensely, and from this moment on, express my gratitude to those brothers and sisters, Christians and of other religions, and to men and women of good will who wish to join, wherever they may be and in their own way, in this moment. I particularly urge the faithful and pilgrims in Rome to participate in the prayer vigil here in St. Peter's Square at 7 p.m., to invoke from the Lord the gift of peace. Let us raise a cry for peace all over the world!”



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WELCOME, CELEBRATION AND MISSION: THE POPE RECALLS WORLD YOUTH DAY IN RIO DE JANEIRO

Vatican City, 4 September 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis today recommenced the Wednesday general audiences, following the summer break. Addressing the faithful in a crowded St. Peter's Square, the Holy Father selected as the theme of his catechesis the World Youth Day held at the end of July in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in the continent “where the majority of the world's Catholics live”.

To summarise his experience of the World Youth Day in Brazil, the Pope proposed three words: welcome, celebration and mission, remarking that the welcome he received from Brazilian families and parishes was one of the most beautiful features of his trip. “Pilgrimage always involves some discomforts, but the welcome we receive helps us to overcome them and, instead, to transform them into an opportunity for knowledge and friendship. Bonds are created that remain, especially in prayer. Also, in this way the Church grows throughout the world, as a network of true friendship in Jesus Christ, a network that, when it 'captures' you, liberates you”.


To explain the second word describing the event – celebration - Francis commented that this is always typical of World Youth Day since “when a city is full of young men and women, walking the streets carrying flags from all over the world, greeting each other, embracing each other, this is a real celebration. It is a sign for everyone, not only for believers”. But on this occasion there is also “the greatest celebration of all, which is the celebration of faith, when together we praise the Lord, we sing, we listen to the Word of God … all this is the culmination of World Youth Day, the true aim of the pilgrimage, and we live this in a special way in the great Saturday evening Vigil and the final Mass. This is the great celebration, the celebration of faith and brotherhood, which begins in this world and is without end”.

Mission is a key characteristic of this World Youth Day, the theme of which was “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Pope Francis emphasised that this is “Christ's mandate to his disciples: 'Go', come out of yourselves … to bring the light and the love of the Gospel to all, to the every extremes of existence”. And it is precisely this, Jesus' mandate, which I entrusted to the young people who filled the beach of Copacabana as far as the eye could see. A symbolic place, the ocean shore, that recalls the shore of the Lake of Galilee. Yes, as also today the Lord repeats, 'Go', and adds, 'I am with you, every day'. … Even a boy, a girl, who in the eyes of the world is of little or no account, is in the eyes of God an apostle of His kingdom, a hope for God”.

“Do you want to be a hope for God, hope for the Church?” the Holy Father asked, addressing the young people present, recalling the multitudes of their peers who in Rio de Janeiro encountered the Risen Christ and are “filled with His love in their everyday lives, who live and communicate it. They do not end up in the newspapers, because they do not commit acts of violence; they do not provoke scandals, and so they do not make the news. But, if they remain united with Jesus, they build his Kingdom, they build fraternity, sharing, they carry out merciful works, and they are a potent force for making the world a more just and beautiful place, for transforming it!”

“The experience of World Youth Day”, he concluded, “reminds us of the true great news of history, the Good News, even if it does not appear in the newspapers or on television: we are loved by God, Who is our Father and Who sent his Son Jesus to be near to every one of us and to save us. Welcome, celebration, mission: may these words be not only a memory of what took place in Rio; but also the spirit of our lives and our communities”.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

THE POPE CONVOKES A DAY OF PRAYER AND PENANCE FOR PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Vatican City, 1 September 2012 (VIS) – Pope Francis has launched a heartfelt appeal for peace in Syria, expressing his pain and concern regarding the conflict and asking the concerned parties and the international community to embark on the path of negotiation, setting aside partisan interests. His plea was made during the Angelus prayer at midday in St. Peter's Square, in the presence of thousands of faithful. We offer below the full text of the Holy Father's homily:

“Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

“There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

“I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children who will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgement of God and of history upon our actions which is inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

“With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigour I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.

“May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries. May humanitarian workers, charged with the task of alleviating the sufferings of these people, be granted access so as to provide the necessary aid.

“What can we do to make peace in the world? As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love.

“All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!

“I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

“May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

“To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

“On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 7 p.m. until 12 a.m. we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

“Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!”

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BENEDICT XVI CELEBRATES MASS FOR THE RATZINGER SCHULERKREIS

Vatican City, 1 September 2012 (VIS) – This morning Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI celebrated Holy Mass in the Chapel of the Governorate of Vatican City State, to mark the conclusion of the traditional summer seminar held by the Ratzinger Circle of Alumni, the so-called “Ratzinger Schulerkreis”. The meeting took place in Castel Gandolfo but Benedict XVI did not participate this year. The 38th edition of the Ratzinger Schulerkreis examined the theme “The question of God against the background of secularisation” in the light of the theological work of the thinker Remi Brague, who was awarded last year's Ratzinger Prize for theology.

Holy Mass was attended by around fifty people, and Benedict XVI concelebrated with the cardinals Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity and Christoph Schonborn, archbishop of Vienna, Austria; the archbishops Georg Ganswein, prefect of the Papal Household, and Barthelemy Adoukonou, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture; and Bishop Hans-Jochen Jaschke, auxiliary of Hamburg, Germany.

The Pope-emeritus commented in his homily on today's gospel in which Jesus invites his disciples to take the last place, “a place which seems very good”, he said, “but which proves to be very bad. … Those who in this world and throughout history are perhaps driven ahead and arrive in first place, must be aware of the danger they are in; they must look ever more to the Lord … they must measure up to their responsibility for others, become those who serve, who in reality place themselves at the feet of others, who bless and are in turn blessed”.

“The cross, throughout history”, he explained, “is the last place … the Cross is no place, it is bare, nothing … and yet this “extreme humiliation” is “the true exaltation. … Yes, Jesus is at the level of God, because the height of the Cross is the height of God's love, the height of His self-abnegation and His dedication to others. Thus, this is the divine place, and we pray to God that He may enable us to understand this ever more clearly so that we might accept with humility, each in his own way, this mystery of exaltation and humiliation”.

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ARCHBISHOP PIETRO PAROLIN TO BE NEW SECRETARY OF STATE

Vatican City, 31 August 2013 (VIS) – The Holy Father today accepted the resignation of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone from the office of Secretary of State in accordance with canon 354 of the Code of Canon Law, requesting that he remain in office until 15 October 2013, to all effects. At the same time he appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin, currently apostolic nuncio to Venezuela, as the new Secretary of State. The archbishop will assume this role on 15 October 2013.

On this occasion the Pope will receive in audience the superiors and officials of the Secretariat of State to publicly thank Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone for his loyal and generous service to the Holy See and to present the new Secretary of State.

Archbishop Pietro Parolin was born in Schiavon, Italy in 1955 and was ordained a priest in 1980. He holds a licentiate in Canon Law. He entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See in 1986 and has worked in the pontifical representations in Nigeria and Mexico, and in the Section for Relations with States of the Secretariat of State, where he was appointed under-secretary in 2002. In 2009 he was appointed as apostolic nuncio to Venezuela and at the same time elevated to the dignity of archbishop. He received episcopal ordination from Pope Benedict XVI on 12 September of the same year.

Upon learning of his nomination, Archbishop Parolin thanked the Holy Father, expressing his “complete availability” and willingness to collaborate with him, and under his guidance “for the greater glory of God, the good of the Holy Church, and the progress and peace of humanity, that humanity might find reasons to live and to hope”. He extended his thanks to all those who have been part of his life, in the parishes where he has served and the countries in which he has worked, to Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI, to Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and to the Secretariat of State, which was his “home for many years”, and his colleagues and members of the Roman Curia.

“It is with trepidation that I place myself in this new service to the Gospel, to the Church and to Pope Francis, but also with trust and serenity – disposed – as the Holy Father has asked us from the beginning – to walk, to build and to profess”, he writes.

“May our Lady, whom I like to invoke under her titles as Our Lady of Monte Berico, Guadalupe and Coromoto, give us the courage to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward."

“And, as they say in Venezuela, "¡Que Dios les bendiga!", he concluded.


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POPE FRANCIS' PASTORAL VISIT TO ASSISI

Vatican City, 2 September 2012 (VIS) – On Friday 4 October Pope Francis will visit the city of Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. The Pope will depart from the Vatican at 7 a.m. by helicopter and will land around three quarters of an hour later at the sports field of the Seraphic Institute of Assisi, where he will meet with disabled and sick children.



At 8.45 a.m. he will make a private visit to the Shrine of St. Damian to pray, and from there will proceed to the archbishop's residence, where he will meet with the poor assisted by Caritas. After this meeting he will transfer by car to the Superior Basilica of St. Francis where he will be received by the convent friars and will pray in the crypt where the saint is buried.

At 11 a.m. he will celebrate Holy Mass in Piazza San Francesco. Following the Eucharist he will proceed to the Caritas reception centre near the railway station of Santa Maria degli Angeli where he will have lunch with the poor from the city centre. After lunch he will make a private visit to the Hermitage of the Prisons, where he will pray in St. Francis' cell. At 3.15 p.m. he will meet with clergy, consecrated persons and members of the diocesan pastoral council in the cathedral of St. Rufino. From there he will transfer to the Basilica of St. Clare to venerate the body of the saint and pray in silence before the cross of St. Damian. He will subsequently proceed to the Porziuncola in Santa Maria degli Angeli and at 5.45 p.m. will meet with young people on the terrace in front of the basilica. At 6.30 he will transfer to Rivotorto where he will pray privately in St. Francis' hovel and at 7.15 p.m., after greeting the authorities who received him in the morning, will begin his return trip by helicopter to the Vatican, where he is scheduled to arrive at 8 p.m.

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