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John Paul II relic given to 2019 World Youth Day

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At a Nov. 17 ceremony at the Polish Embassy to the Holy See, Ambassador Janusz Kotanski delivered a relic of Pope St. John Paul II to Panama’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Miroslava Rosas Vargas.  The relic is a gift from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz to the Church in Panama, as it prepares to host the 2019 World Youth Day.

John Paul II created World Youth Day in 1985 to harness the energy of young people and encourage them to participate in his call for a “new evangelization.” The first World Youth Day gathering took place in Rome in 1986.  The gatherings, held every three years, draw millions of participants from around the world.  The late Pope also created a special “youth section” within the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Laity, charged with coordinating World Youth Days.

In attendance at the ceremony delivering the relic were Polish Cardinal Stanis?aw Ry?ko, former head of the Pontifical Council for Laity and organizer of World Youth Day;  Panamanian Cardinal José Luis Lacunza, and Hondurian Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the Council of Cardinals called by Pope Francis to advise him in the government of the Church. Cardinal Maradiaga’s presence was a reminder to many of the 2019 World Youth Day’s regional importance.

During the ceremony Cardinal Rylko called John Paul II the "Pope of the youth,” because of the focus on young people that defined his papacy and his pastoral ministry.

Ambassador Kotanski expressed hope that World Youth Day in Panama would continue the “renewed springtime of the Church” called for by the late Pope. He also noted that Polish youth have begun a prayer campaign for the success of the 2019 World Youth Day, and expressed hope that the prayer campaign and relic would be a bridge between Central American and Europe.

Ambassador Vargas of Panama remarked that "to host World Youth Day is a great privilege." The ambassador’s memories of John Paul II included "the sweet and profound look, typical of the saints, the invitation to dialogue and to communication, the faith and missionary zeal so that humanity can live in a better world."

John Paul II’s "values, his principles and his love live still,” Vargas added, giving thanks that the late Pope "will be always present in the prayers of us all."

This article was originally published in Italian by our sister agency, ACI Stampa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Two years later, aunt of drowned refugee child pleads for action

Vancouver, Canada, Nov 20, 2017 / 04:20 pm (CNA).- “We're still grieving” – these are the words of Tima Kurdi, the aunt of the young refugee boy who captured the world’s attention when he drowned trying to cross the Aegean Sea two years ago.

On Sept. 2, 2015, the haunting image of three-year-old Alan Kurdi’s tiny body laying face down on a Turkish beach made headlines, drawing attention to the stark reality of forced migration, and becoming a global symbol of the ongoing crisis.

 

A year on from Alan Kurdi, we continue to ignore future refugee crises https://t.co/Jegv1nPoKX pic.twitter.com/Ln1UXg5Tyz

— Brigitte Colman (@lakolman) September 1, 2016
In many ways, a global conscience seemed to be awoken as people learned of the tragic fate of Alan, his brother Ghalib and their mother, Rehanna, who decided to make the perilous, 30-minute boat ride from Bodrum, Turkey to the Greek island of Kos, along with their husband and father, Abdullah.

The dinghy, designed for eight passengers but packed with 16, capsized just a few minutes after setting sail. Abdullah lost track of his family in the confusion, and while he was able to reach safety, his wife and sons met a different fate. Only four people survived the voyage.

“After that image, the world woke up,” Tima said. “That’s when people started talking about it, and that’s when I went crying to world leaders: open your heart, open your border, my people are being forced to flee their home, not by choice.”

In wake of the event, global leaders promised the family “that our tragedy would be the last,” she said. “But of course, a few months later, everyone went back to sleep, went back to business.”

And while many countries offered to give Abdullah asylum, he refused. “To him it was, ‘Where were you when my family needed it?’” she said.

Speaking to CNA over Skype from her home in Vancouver, Canada, where she has lived with her husband and son for the past 23 years, Tima shared the story of what led her five siblings to pack up their families and seek refuge elsewhere, and how her life has changed after the death of her nephews.

Ever since the occurrence of what she calls “the tragedy,” Tima has become the public face of her family's suffering and the plight of thousands of others like them, quitting her job in mid-2016 to advocate on behalf of refugees, raising awareness at conferences and universities.

War breaks out

When the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, “it was very shocking to the whole country,” Tima said, including to her family, who is from Damascus.

Life before the war was peaceful, and people of different religions lived side-by-side without problems, she said. But once the conflict erupted, things became dangerous very quickly, and many of her siblings lived in areas that were being bombed.

“What would you do as a family if you have children and they are in danger?” she said, explaining that she encouraged her family to flee as the situation worsened. Eventually, the home of one of her sisters was bombed, further cementing the decision to leave.

Tima’s siblings and their families – each with small children – made their way to Turkey, where they hoped to stay temporarily until things in Syria calmed down. But when they got there, they found that the refugee camps were already at maximum capacity, and the family was not able to enter.

Facing the risk of homelessness, Tima’s siblings struggled to find work. Tima helped them find housing and began paying their rent. After hearing about their ongoing struggles, she decided to go in person and see if she could help.

But when she arrived in 2014, she was shocked at what she found. “What we see in the news was not what I experienced,” she said. “It was worse than I could ever have imagined. I saw my people in the streets, families, they have no home, they were in the park. I talked to them personally, I heard heartbreaking stories.”

The experience “changed me a lot,” she said, adding that watching children begging for bread shows the inhumane reality of their plight. “It broke my heart to witness it myself.”

After returning to Canada, Tima began researching how to sponsor her family to come as refugees, but was unable to do so at that time. So when Germany offered to take in some 1 million migrants in 2015, her brother Abdullah, who was struggling to afford even diapers, decided the best option for his family was to leave, and asked Tima for help.

“Of course you discuss it. It’s risky, it’s not good, but they have no choice,” Tima said. “And that’s when they were forced to take that journey.”

“I paid for it. I paid for it,” she said, wiping tears from her face. “The guilt...that’s why I want to keep my voice alive, because that guilt, I will take it to my grave, but I did it with a good intention, because I saw the desperation, I saw my family only eating rice, I saw those children being abused at work rather than being in school, and the world was silent.”

'I want the world to wake up'

Even two years later, Tima said it pains her to talk about the experience, “and that’s why I want the world to wake up. There is no one who will leave their home and leave everything behind just because they want to take advantage of Europe or the Western world.”

She said she rarely watches the news, because she's tired of feeling “hopeless” when she sees the reports and the lack of action.

Tima said she doesn't like to get into politics, and her family doesn't support either side of the war in Syria, but she does condemn the use and sale of weapons, because ultimately, weapons “are what caused those people to flee their homes, weapons killed their loved one.”

Rather than pointing fingers, she wants the world to look at the root cause, because “nobody is talking about it.”

She voiced her admiration for Pope Francis, who often speaks out on the same issues, saying “his message and my message are exactly the same thing, from day one. He is my inspiration.”

A goal of hers, she said, is to one day visit the Vatican and meet the Pope, to discuss how to promote peace.

In her time as a public speaker and advocate, Tima has been asked to speak at various conferences and universities throughout Canada, the U.S., and Europe. She has also given a TED Talk on her story.

However, her preferred venue is the university, because she wants to educate young people to think about the importance of promoting peace.

In addition to her speaking engagements, Tima and her brother Abdullah have launched the Alan and Ghalib Kurdi Foundation to raise money in support of refugee children. Each year on the anniversary of the boys' death, she visits her brother, who is now living in Iraq, to distribute clothes and supplies to the children living in refugee camps.

Abdullah, who was offered a house with free rent in Kurdistan after losing his family, now lives in Erbil, and is still coping with the death of his wife and sons.

“The emotional (stress) really paralyzed him and he’s not doing well,” Tima said, explaining that the first year was especially difficult. When she came to visit her brother on the first anniversary of the tragedy, he didn't want to leave the house.

She offered him $500 to buy “whatever the children wanted” in the camps. Abdullah chose to buy diapers, since he couldn't afford them as a refugee, and often used a cloth or a plastic bag for Alan, who as a result frequently had a rash.

This year, Tima had raised $1,000 for her small foundation at a speaking event held at a Canadian university. She again contributed $500 of her own money as well, helping to buy and distribute 500 pieces of clothing to the refugee children, which she described as “the most beautiful thing we ever did.”

Since the fatal boat ride in 2015, the rest of her family has dispersed. While her father continues to live in Damascus, two of her three sisters are refugees in Turkey, one has moved to Germany, and she was able to sponsor her other brother and his family to come to Canada as refugees.

Of the two sisters in Turkey, one – who has three children – is hoping to either join her 18-year-old son in Germany, or else come to Canada.

The other sister, whose house was bombed, is struggling to move forward. Her family has no home to return to, and her husband recently suffered a stroke, leaving him half paralyzed. Good medical treatment is hard to obtain in the area.  

Tima said she has been offering her sister encouragement, and sending her information about local medical centers that may be able to help her cope with the trauma that she has experienced.

Tima herself often grows discouraged at the lack of international action to help refugees. Her advocacy work takes a tough mental and emotional toll. But it’s worth it, she said, if she is able to help people who are suffering.

“When I go to sleep at night and put my head on the pillow, I always say, ‘Thank God my voice is being heard, you give me power to help others.’ And (I) thank God every moment.”

Curia reform: Pope Francis reorganizes Vatican Secretariat of State

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 01:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has established a third section, or department, of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, which reportedly began its operations Nov. 9. The new section is named “Section for the Diplomatic Staff,” and is tasked with overseeing the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, stationed around the world.
 
Archbishop Jan Romeo Pawlowski has been appointed to helm the third section. Previously the apostolic nuncio to Gabon, in 2015 Archbishop Pawlowski was appointed head of the Office for Pontifical Representations, a sort of “human resources office” within the Secretariat of State.
 
That office has been now elevated into an independent department, alongside the two sections that already constitute the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.
 
The First Section of the Secretariat of State oversees the general affairs of the Roman Curia, and is led by the Secretariat’s “substitute,” currently Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu.
 
The second section, the “Section for the Relations with States”, is entrusted with the diplomatic activity of the Holy See. At the helm of the office is the Secretary for Relations with States, often described as the Vatican “foreign minister.”  Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, of Great Britain, holds the post.
 
The Pope established the third section via a letter sent in October to Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, and delivered to the Apostolic Nunciatures, the embassies of the Holy See, around over the world.
 
In his letter, the Pope expressed that he had “great care for those who assist the ministry of Rome”, both “those who work in the Holy See, and in the Vatican City State, and in the Apostolic See” and its related institutions.
 
The Pope recalled his address to the Roman Curia for the 2013 Christmas greeting, and said that “since the beginning” he proposed the criteria of “professionalism, service, and holiness of life” in order to be a good Vatican official.
 
Pope Francis also underscored that he expressed “vivid appreciation” for the work of “pontifical representatives,” an “important work, that undergoes peculiar difficulties.”
 
He then explained that his decision was motivated by the need to provide “more human, priestly, spiritual and professional accompaniment” to those who are “in the diplomatic service of the Holy See,” whether they are head of mission or even students at the Ecclesiastical Academy, where young priests are trained for diplomatic service.
 
The letter says that “the Office of the Delegate for the Pontifical Representation is strengthened into a Third Section, with the name of Section for the Diplomatic Staff of the Holy See”; the office “will depend from the Secretary of State,” will be given  “a proper number of officials” and will demonstrate “the Pope’s attention to the diplomatic staff.”
 
The Pope’s letter also says that the delegate “will be able to regularly visit pontifical representatives” and will oversee the “permanent selection” of staff as well of “career advancement” for diplomatic personnel.
 
According to a source within the Secretariat of State, this reform is just one step toward a general reorganization of the Secretariat of State.
 
The Council of Cardinals has discussed several times the importance of clarifying and supporting the role of nuncios and diplomatic staff.

 

Pope mourns death of Cardinal Montezemolo, long-time Vatican diplomat

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent a telegram Monday for the death of long-time Vatican diplomat Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, who died in Rome Sunday at the age of 92.

His death, the Pope wrote Nov. 20, “raises in my soul a feeling of sincere admiration for an esteemed man of the Church who lived with fidelity his long and fruitful priesthood and episcopate serving the gospel and the Holy See.”

Pope Francis offered his prayers for Cardinal Montezemolo’s welcome, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul, “into joy and eternal peace,” and for those who mourn the death of this “zealous pastor.”

The Pope also expressed his gratitude for the cardinal’s many years of “generous work” as an apostolic nuncio, and the wisdom with which he devoted himself to the good of people in countries around the world.

Montezemolo's final appointment was as Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, from 2005 to 2009.

In his telegram, Pope Francis noted how the cardinal, in his role as the first archpriest of the basilica,  “gave witness to a particularly intense and expert task.”

“Both from the pastoral point of view and from the organizational and artistic-cultural point of view, (he) aimed at restoring spiritual vitality to the whole structure and new impetus to the ecumenical vocation of that place of worship,” Francis said.

The Pope had visited the cardinal in a nursing home about one year ago, in one of his unexpected and private exits from the Vatican.

His funeral Mass will be said Nov. 21 in St. Peter's Basilica. It will be celebrated by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis will preside over the rite of Last Commendation and the Valedictus.

Montezemolo was born in Turin Aug. 27, 1925. His father, a colonel in the Italian army, was killed during the Ardeatine Massacre in the Second World War. Many years later, Montezemolo and his sister publicly expressed their forgiveness of those who had killed their father.

As a young man he also fought in World War II before studying and obtaining a degree in architecture. Feeling a calling to the priesthood, he then obtained a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, while working as an architect.

He was ordained a priest in 1954, and in 1959 obtained a degree in canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University.

That same year he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See and for 42 years served as the nunciature secretary in various countries, including the apostolic delegation in Mexico, the apostolic nunciatures in Japan, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, and the Secretariat of State, as council for public affairs.

He was appointed under-secretary and then secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace and in 1977 was nominated titular Archbishop of Anglona and Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in Papua New Guinea and Apostolic Delegate in the Solomon Islands.

He was ordained a bishop June 4, 1977 and over the next 24 years was appointed to various apostolic nunciatures, first in Honduras and Nicaragua.

He was then made Apostolic Nuncio in Uruguay. In 1990 he was appointed Apostlic Delegate in Jerusalem, Palestine and Jordan, as well as Apostolic Nuncio in Cyprus.  

In 1991 he was transferred to the titular see of Tuscania and from 1994-1998 he served as Apostolic Nuncio in Israel. Finally, from 1998-2001 he served as Apostolic Nuncio in Italy and in San Marino, retiring at the age of 75 in 2001.

Four years later, he was appointed Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

As an expert in heraldry, the system by which a coat of arms is devised, he contributed to the design of Benedict XVI's coat of arms. He was elevated to the position of cardinal by Benedict XVI in the consistory of March 24, 2006.

Pope addresses Italian road and railway police

While commending Italy’s police force for ensuring the safety and security of those travelling by road and train, Pope Francis on Monday called on them to also inculcate humanity, uprightness ‎and “mercy”.  ‎  The Pope met some 100 top leaders and officials of Italy’s road police that celebrating its 70th anniversary and railway police that is marking its 110 years. 

Click below to listen:

 

Road safety

Talking about road safety, Pope Francis told the group it is necessary to deal with the low level of responsibility on the part of many drivers, who often do not even realize the serious consequences of their inattention (for example, with improper use of cell phones) or their disregard.  He said this is caused by a hurried and competitive lifestyle that regards other drivers as obstacles or opponents ‎to overcome, turning roads into "Formula One" tracks and the traffic lights as the starting line of a Grand Prix race.  In such a context, the Pope said, sanctions are not just enough to increase security, but there is a need for an ‎educative action, which creates greater awareness of one’s responsibilities for those traveling ‎alongside. ‎

Beyond professionalism

The Pope told the police men and women that the fruit of their experience on the road and the railway will help in raising awareness and increase civic sense. Their professionalism not only depends on their skills but also on their “profound uprightness” which never takes ‎advantage of the powers they possess, thus helping develop a “high degree of humanity.”  The Pope said that in surveillance and prevention, it is important to ensure never to let the use of force degenerate into ‎violence, especially when a policeman is regarded with suspicion or almost as an enemy instead of a guardian of the common good.

Mercy

In fulfilling their functions, the Holy Father suggested the police have a “sort of mercy”, which he said is not synonymous with ‎weakness.  Neither does it mean renunciation of the use of force.  It means not identifying the ‎offender with the offence he has committed, that ends up creating harm and generating revenge.  Their work requires them to use mercy even in the countless situations of weakness and pain that they face daily, ‎not only in various types of accidents but also in meeting needy or disadvantaged people.

Good vs evil

The Pope also asked the road and railway police to recognize the presence of the clash between good and evil in the world and within us, and to do everything possible to fight egoism, injustice and  ‎indifference and whatever offends man, creates ‎disorder and foments illegality, hindering the happiness and growth of people. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Are you afraid of God? If so, you don't really know who he is

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 05:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Sunday cautioned against having a “mistaken” idea of God as harsh and punishing, saying this fear will end up paralyzing us and preventing us from doing good, rather than spreading his love and mercy.

“Fear always immobilizes and often leads us to make bad choices,” the Pope said Nov. 19. “Fear discourages us from taking the initiative, and encourages us to seek refuge in safe and guaranteed solutions, and so we end up doing nothing good.”

To go forward and grow on the path of life, he said, “we must not be afraid, but we have to trust.”  

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square during his Sunday Angelus address on the first-ever World Day for the Poor, which he implemented at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy.

In his speech, the Pope turned to the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, which recounts the parable of the talents. In the passage, a master goes on a long trip and entrusts three servants with different talents, but when he returns, only two have gained profit from it, while the third buried his out of fear.

This parable “makes us understand how important it is to have a true idea of God,” Francis said, noting that the third servant didn't really trust his master, but but feared him, and this fear prevented him from acting.

We shouldn't think that God is “an evil, harsh and severe master who wants to punish us,” the Pope said, explaining that if we have this “mistaken image of God, then our lives cannot be fruitful, because we will live in fear and this will not lead us to anything constructive.”

Fear, he said, paralyzes us and so is self-destructive. So when faced with the unfaithful servant in this parable, each of us is called to reflect on what our idea of God really is.

Turning to the Old Testament, Francis noted how in Exodus God is described as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Even in the New Testament, Jesus always demonstrated that God is not “a severe and intolerant master,” but a father full of “love and tenderness, a father full of goodness,” Francis said, and because of this, “we can and must have immense trust in him.”

Jesus, he said, shows us his generosity in various ways, through his words, actions, and his welcome towards all, especially toward sinners and the poor and vulnerable. But also with his admonishments, “which show his interest in us so that we do not waste our lives uselessly.”

This, the Pope said, is a sign of the great esteem God has for us, and having this knowledge ought to help us to take responsibility for our every action.

Concluding, Pope Francis said parable invites us to have “a personal responsibility and fidelity which become capable of continually placing ourselves on new roads, without burying the talent, which is are the gifts that God has entrusted to us and of which he will ask us to account for.”

After leading pilgrims in the Angelus prayer, the Pope made a series of appeals, the first of which was for the World Day for the Poor. He prayed that the poor and disadvantaged would be “the center of our communities” not just on special occasions, but always, “because they are the heart of the Gospel, in them we encounter Jesus who speaks to us and challenges us through their sufferings and their needs.”

He also drew attention to beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey yesterday in Detroit, saying the friar was “a humble and faithful disciple of Christ, who distinguished himself with an untiring service to the poor.”

“May his witness help priests, religious and laity to live with joy the link between the announcement of the Gospel and the love for the poor.”

Francis also offered special prayers for those living “a painful poverty” due to war and conflict, and renewed his appeal to the international community “to commit every possible effort in favor of peace, especially in the Middle East.”

He prayed especially for Lebanon, particularly for the country's stability, “so that it may continue to be a message of respect and sharing for every religion and for the entire world.”

A final appeal he made was for the crew of an Argentine military submarine, who have been missing for several days without a trace.

After concluding the Angelus, Pope Francis made his way to the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, where he had lunch with some 1,500 poor and needy in town for the World Day of the Poor.

Before the meal, Francis said a blessing for the food and for everyone there, asking the Lord “to bless us, to bless the meal, to bless those who prepared it, to bless all of us, our hearts, our families, our desires and our lives, that he give us health and strength. Amen.”

He also offered a blessing for all those eating in other soup kitchens throughout Rome. “Rome is full of these today,” he said, and asked for “a greeting and an applause” for the thousands of others participating in the event.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PopeFrancis?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PopeFrancis</a> says blessing before eating lunch, prays for the cooks, the guests, their families &amp; charity organizations in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rome?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Rome</a>: asks that they receive &quot;health &amp; strength&quot; <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldDayofthePoor?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldDayofthePoor</a> <a href="https://t.co/jRrW0dN3xc">pic.twitter.com/jRrW0dN3xc</a></p>&mdash; Elise Harris (@eharris_it) <a href="https://twitter.com/eharris_it/status/932212710749691905?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 19, 2017</a></blockquote>
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Pope Francis: the poor are our 'passport to paradise'

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 02:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the first World Day for the Poor, Pope Francis said caring for the needy has a saving power, because in them we see the face of Christ, and urged Christians to overcome indifference and seek ways to actively love the poor that they meet.

“In the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor,” the Pope said Nov. 19. Because of this, “in their weakness, a saving power is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“They are our passport to paradise,” he said, explaining that it is an “evangelical duty” for Christians to care for the poor as our true wealth.

And to do this doesn't mean just giving them a piece of bread, but also “breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them,” Francis said, adding that to love the poor “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.”

Pope Francis spoke during Mass marking the first World Day of the Poor, which takes place every 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time and is being organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Established by Pope Francis at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, the World Day for the Poor this year has the theme “Love not in word, but in deed.”

In the week leading up to the event, the poor and needy had access to free medical exams at a makeshift center set up in front of St. Peter's Square.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for Evangelization, led a Nov. 18 prayer vigil at Rome's parish of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls the night before the big event. After Mass with Pope Francis, the poor will be offered a three-course lunch at different centers and organizations around Rome, including the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

According to the Council for Evangelization, some 6-7,000 poor from around Europe, as well as some migrants from around the world, were estimated to attend the Mass along with the organizations that care for them.

In his homily, Pope Francis said no matter our social condition, everyone in life is a beggar when it comes to what is essential, which is God's love, and which “gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.”

Turning to the day's Gospel passage from Matthew recounting the parable of the talents, the Pope noted how in God's eyes, everyone has talents, and consequently, “no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others.”

“God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission,” he said, explaining that God also gives us a responsibility, as is seen in the day's Gospel.

Francis pointed to how in the day's passage only the first two servants make their talent profitable, whereas the third buries it, prompting the master to call him “wicket and lazy.”

Asking what sin the servant had committed that was so wrong, the Pope said above all “it was his omission.”

Many times we believe that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so are content with the presumption that we are good and righteous, he said, but cautioned that with this mentality, “we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground.”

However, “to do no wrong is not enough,” Francis said, adding that God is not “an inspector looking for unstamped tickets.” Rather, he is a Father that looks for children to whom he can entrust both his property and his plans.

“It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments,” he said, noting that someone who is only concerned with preserving the treasures of the past “is not being faithful to God.”

Instead, “the one who adds new talents is truly faithful...he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right omission.”

Omission, Francis said, is also a big sin where the poor are concerned, though it has a different name: indifference. This sin, he said, takes place when we feel that the brother in need is not our concern, but is society's problem.

The sin typically shows up in our lives when we choose to turn the other way, or “change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it.”

“God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good,” the Pope said.

Asking those present how we can please God, Pope Francis said when we want to give someone a gift, we first have to get to know them. And when we look to the Gospel, we hear Jesus say “when you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

These brothers, he said, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned.

In the poor, “Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love,” he said, adding that “when we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren,” only then are we being faithful.

An example of this attitude is seen in the woman who opens her hand to the poor in the day's first reading from Proverbs, he said. In her, “we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.”

Choosing to draw near to the poor among us “will touch our lives” and remind us of what really counts, Francis said, explaining that this is love of God and neighbor.

“Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away,” he said. “What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”

Pope Francis closed his homily saying the choice we all have before us is whether “to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven.”

“Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give,” he said. “So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us.”

Pope on World Day of the Poor: they open for us the way to heaven

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday – the XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time and the first-ever World Day of the Poor – in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Holy Father announced the World Day of the Poor during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and entrusted its organization and promotion to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

There were some 4 thousand needy people in the congregation for the Mass, after which Pope Francis offered Sunday lunch in the Paul VI Hall.

Speaking off the cuff to guests at the luncheon, the Holy Father said, “We pray that the Lord bless us, bless this meal, bless those who have prepared it, bless us all, bless our hearts, our families, our desires, our lives and give us health and strength.” The Holy Father went on to ask God's blessing on all those eating and serving in soup kitchens throughout the city. “Rome,” he said, “is full of this [charity and good will] today.”

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The World Day of the Poor is to be marked annually, on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the homily he prepared for the occasion and delivered in St. Peter’s Basilica following the Gospel reading, Pope Francis said, “In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love.” He went on to say, “When we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren, we are his good and faithful friends, with whom he loves to dwell.”

Reminding the faithful that it is precisely in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8:9), and that there is therefore in each and every poor person, a “saving power” present, Pope Francis said, “[I]f in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“For us,” the Pope continued, “it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them.

“To love the poor,” Pope Francis said, “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material: and it will also do us good. Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbour. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away.” 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: homily for World Day of the Poor

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday – the XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time and the first-ever World Day of the Poor – in St. Peter’s Basilica. Below, please find the full text of his homily on the occasion, in its official English translation

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We have the joy of breaking the bread of God’s word, and shortly, we will have the joy of breaking and receiving the Bread of the Eucharist, food for life’s journey. All of us, none excluded, need this, for all of us are beggars when it comes to what is essential: God’s love, which gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.

The Gospel parable speaks of gifts. It tells us that we have received talents from God, “according to ability of each” (Mt 25:15). Before all else, let us realize this: we do have talents; in God’s eyes, we are “talented”. Consequently, no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others. We are chosen and blessed by God, who wants to fill us with his gifts, more than any father or mother does with their own children. And God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission.

Indeed, as the loving and demanding Father that he is, he gives us responsibility. In the parable, we see that each servant is given talents to use wisely. But whereas the first two servants do what they are charged, the third does not make his talents bear fruit; he gives back only what he had received. “I was afraid – he says – and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours” (v. 25). As a result, he is harshly rebuked as “wicked and lazy” (v. 26). What made the Master displeased with him? To use a word that may sound a little old-fashioned but is still timely, I would say it was his omission. His evil was that of failing to do good. All too often, we have the idea that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so we rest content, presuming that we are good and just. But in this way we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground. But to do no wrong is not enough. God is not an inspector looking for unstamped tickets; he is a Father looking for children to whom he can entrust his property and his plans (cf. v. 14). It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments, like hired hands in the house of the Father (cf. Lk 15:17).

The unworthy servant, despite receiving a talent from the Master who loves to share and multiply his gifts, guarded it jealously; he was content to keep it safe. But someone concerned only to preserve and maintain the treasures of the past is not being faithful to God. Instead, the parable tells us, the one who adds new talents is truly “faithful” (vv. 21 and 23), because he sees things as God does; he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right “omission”.

Omission is also the great sin where the poor are concerned. Here it has a specific name: indifference. It is when we say, “That doesn’t regard me; it’s not my business; it’s society’s problem”. It is when we turn away from a brother or sister in need, when we change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it. God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good.

How, in practice can we please God? When we want to please someone dear to us, for example by giving a gift, we need first to know that person’s tastes, lest the gift prove more pleasing to the giver than to the recipient. When we want to offer something to the Lord, we can find his tastes in the Gospel. Immediately following the passage that we heard today, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you that, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40). These least of our brethren, whom he loves dearly, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned, the suffering who receive no help, the needy who are cast aside. On their faces we can imagine seeing Jesus’ own face; on their lips, even if pursed in pain, we can hear his words: “This is my body” (Mt 26:26).

In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love. When we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren, we are his good and faithful friends, with whom he loves to dwell. God greatly appreciates the attitude described in today’s first reading that of the “good wife”, who “opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy” (Prov 31:10.20). Here we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.

There, in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). For this reason, in them, in their weakness, a “saving power” is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven; they are our “passport to paradise”. For us it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them. To love the poor means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.

And it will also do us good. Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbour. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away. What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes. Today we might ask ourselves: “What counts for me in life? Where am I making my investments?” In fleeting riches, with which the world is never satisfied, or in the wealth bestowed by God, who gives eternal life? This is the choice before us: to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven. Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give, for “those who store up treasures for themselves, do not grow rich in the sight of God” (Lk 12:21).

So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us. May the Lord, who has compassion for our poverty and needs, and bestows his talents upon us, grant us the wisdom to seek what really matters, and the courage to love, not in words but in deeds.

(from Vatican Radio)

Compassion is the heart of healthcare, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2017 / 05:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday sent a message to health workers and organizations, saying compassion is the heart of what they do, and stressed the need for a more equitable distribution resources and services throughout the world.

“A healthcare organization that is efficient and capable of addressing inequalities cannot forget its raison d’être, which is compassion,” the Pope said Nov. 18.

This includes the compassion of doctors, nurses, support staff volunteers and all others able to “minimize the pain associated with loneliness and anxiety,” he said, and stressed the importance for healthcare workers to focus not just on good organization, but on listening, accompanying and supporting the people they care for.

Compassion, Francis said, is “a privileged way to promote justice,” since empathizing with what others are experiencing allows us to not only understand their struggles, hardships and fears, but also “to discover, in the frailness of every human being, his or her unique worth and dignity.”

“Indeed, human dignity is the basis of justice, while the recognition of every person’s inestimable worth is the force that impels us to work, with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, to overcome all disparities.”

Pope Francis sent his message to participants in the Nov. 16-18 conference “Addressing Global Health Inequalities,” organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in collaboration with the International Confederation of Catholic Healthcare Institutions.

The goal of the conference is to launch a network connecting all 116,000 Catholic health organizations around the world through a platform of collaboration and sharing aimed at exchanging information.

Another key goal of the conference is to raise awareness about global disparities in access to healthcare.

In his speech, he quoted from the Vatican's new Healthcare Charter, released in February, which states that “the fundamental right to the preservation of health pertains to the value of justice, whereby there are no distinctions between peoples and ethnic groups, taking into account their objective living situations and stages of development.”

The Church, he said, continuing the quote, “proposed that the right to health care and the right to justice ought to be reconciled by ensuring a fair distribution of healthcare facilities and financial resources, in accordance with the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.”

To this end, he praised the participants for establishing the new platform, which he said will concretely address the challenges faced in healthcare in different geographical and social settings.

Francis said this task is something that belongs in particular to healthcare workers and their organizations, since they are committed in a special way to raising awareness among institutions, welfare agencies and the healthcare industry as a whole, “for the sake of ensuring that every individual actually benefits from the right to health care.”

This not only depends on the services provided, but also on the economic, social and cultural factors in decision making processes.

He also stressed the need to eradicate the structural causes of poverty, “because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises.”

Welfare projects should only be considered temporary responses, he said, explaining that “as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

Francis also offered a special word to representatives of pharmaceutical companies present, and who were invited to Rome  to address the topic of access to antiretroviral therapies by paediatric patients.

Again quoting from the Vatican's healthcare charter, he said that while scientific knowledge and research on their part have their own laws to abide to, “ways must be found to combine these adequately with the right of access to basic or necessary treatments, or both.”

He also advocated for healthcare strategies that pursue the common good and that are “economically and ethically sustainable.”

Pope Francis closed his message thanking participants for their “generous commitment,” and gave his blessing.