Browsing News Entries
Posted on 09/23/2017 09:01 AM (Whispers in the Loggia)
Out in the Plains, this Saturday morning brings a historic moment for the Stateside Church – the first major beatification to take place on American soil, and of the nation's first declared martyr at that.
Beginning at 10am Central (11am ET, 5pm Rome) in Oklahoma City's 15,000-seat Cox Convention Center, the Mass declaring Fr Stanley Francis Rother (right) among the ranks of the Blessed will be celebrated by the Vatican's Saintmaker-in-Chief, Cardinal Angelo Amato, serving per usual as the papal legate for the occasion.
Though one earlier instance of the step before sainthood has taken place in the US since the rites were returned to the local churches by then-Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, the 2014 liturgy in Newark that elevated a Bayonne-born nun as Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich garnered far less prominence than the cause of Rother, a missionary in Guatemala who was murdered in 1981 by a guerrilla death squad.
Today's Mass is the first of two beatifications taking place in the US over the coming weeks: on 18 November, the Capuchin Fr Solanus Casey will be raised to the rank in a massive ceremony to be held at Ford Field, the 60,000-seat NFL stadium in his hometown of Detroit.
Back to Rother, it bears recalling that – as beatification provides solely for the veneration of a person on the local level – the celebration of the new Blessed's feast on the July 28th anniversary of his martyrdom will initially be restricted to the archdiocese of Oklahoma City alone. Should a critical mass of petitions from other US bishops arise, the USCCB may proceed to placing the feast on the national calendar, with an affirmative vote from the bench subject to recognitio by the Holy See.
Amato's powerhouse of a homily – a rare English-speaking turn for the onetime lead aide to B16:
...the Post-Communion remarks of OKC's Archbishop Paul Coakley – the figure who steered the process to today's result and, like Rother, a product of Mount St Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg:
And lastly, as a souvenir of the event, here's your copy of the 60-page worship aid – highlighted by the debut of the proper Collect used today, which'll now mark Blessed Stanley's feast:
who gave your priest Blessed Stanley
the heart of a pastor and the fidelity of a martyr,
grant, through his intercession,
that the humble flock may reach
where the brave Shepherd has gone before.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Posted on 09/22/2017 12:57 PM (News.va)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday made a surprise visit to a Rome rehabilitation centre for patients with neurological diseases.
A statement from the Holy See press office said the afternoon visit was a continuation of the ‘Fridays of Mercy’ initiative that he inaugurated during the recent Jubilee Year to encourage practical gestures of solidarity with those most in need.
The Santa Lucia Foundation, located to the south of Rome’s city centre, is well known for its quality care of patients affected by physical or mental disabilities resulting from strokes, bone marrow diseases, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.
Pope Francis was welcomed by the director and staff of the centre, as well as by the patients and their family members. The Holy Father spent time talking and laughing with many of the young children, watching with particular interest as he was shown some of the exercises which help them to regain their mobility.
He also met with older patients, aged between 15 and 25, many of whom suffer from severe disabilities as a result of car accidents. Before leaving the centre, the pope visited a gym providing rehabilitation for the elderly and then spent a few minutes in prayer in a chapel located on the premises.(from Vatican Radio)
Posted on 09/22/2017 08:45 AM (News.va)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged Churches in Europe to step up efforts to combat intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia against migrants and refugees.
The pope’s words came in a meeting with national migration directors under the auspices of the Council of European Bishops Conferences or CCEE. He said he was saddened to see that Catholic communities in Europe were also defensive and unwelcoming towards migrants, justifying their attitudes on grounds of conserving their cultural and religious identity.
Pope Francis said we must recognize and understand this sense of unease, in light of the economic crisis which has left deep wounds in society. Furthermore, he said, governments and communities have been ill prepared to cope with large influxes of migrants, highlighting the limits of the European unification process.
Churches become more 'catholic'
But from an ecclesiological perspective, the pope said, the arrival of so many Christian brothers and sisters offers the Church in Europe an opportunity to become ever more ‘catholic’. He noted how many migrants and refugees have already enriched parishes in their host countries.
Ecumenical and interreligious dialogue
From a missionary perspective, he said, ministering to migrants offers new frontiers to announce the Gospel and to witness to our Christian faith, while showing profound respect for other faith traditions. These encounters are fertile ground for developing sincere ecumenical and interreligious relations, he said.
Welcome, protect, promote, integrate
Pope Francis also noted that in his message for next year’s World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he speaks in detail about the need to welcome, protect, promote and integrate all people on the move. On the basis of these four verbs, he said, the Vatican office for migrants and refugees has published a 20 point action plan for local Churches seeking to promote best practices.
Constructive dialogue with governments
This action plan, he added, should be shared with all European bishops conferences, helping to promote constructive dialogue with governments ahead of the Global Compact for Migration, due to be draw up and approved at a United Nations conference in 2018.(from Vatican Radio)
Posted on 09/21/2017 12:00 PM (News.va)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has given money to the earthquake relief effort in Mexico to help survivors and victims’ families in the worst hit areas of the country.
The Vatican said on Thursday that an initial contribution of 150.000 dollars would be sent through the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.
The money will be divided between emergency relief efforts in the dioceses worst hit by the earthquake. The 7.1 quake on Tuesday caused at least 250 deaths and widespread damage in the capital and surrounding areas.
The donation, which is intended to show the pope’s solidarity and spiritual closeness to those affected by the disaster, is a small part of the financial support being sent to Mexico through many bishops conferences and Caritas organisations.(from Vatican Radio)
Posted on 09/21/2017 08:33 AM (News.va)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Mass on Thursday – the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist – in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.
In remarks following the Readings of the Day, which included St. Matthew’s own account of his conversion and calling into discipleship, the Holy Father focused on the three stages of the episode: calling, feasting, and scandal.
Jesus had just healed a paralytic, when He met Matthew – a tax-collector, hence a figure despised by Jewish authorities and considered a traitor to his land and people – sitting at the customs desk.
Jesus looked at him and said, “Follow me,” and Matthew got up and followed Him
Recalling Caravaggio’s famous depiction of the scene, Pope Francis spoke of Matthew’s “sidelong look” with one eye on Our Savior and the other on his purse: a look that was even stand-offish, if not outright aggressive. Then, there was the merciful gaze of Jesus, which communicated such overwhelming love that the resistance of the man who wanted the money, “fails”: Matthew got up and followed Him.
Click below to hear our report
“It is the struggle between mercy and sin,” Pope Francis said
Jesus’ love was able to enter into the heart of that man, Matthew, because he “knew he was a sinner,” he knew “he was not loved by anyone,” and was even despised. It was precisely “that sinful conscience, which opened the door to the mercy of Jesus.” So, “[Matthew] left everything” and went on a new journey with Our Lord.
This is the encounter between the sinner and Jesus:
“This is the first condition of salvation: feeling oneself in danger. It is the first condition of healing: feeling sick. Feeling sinful is the first condition of receiving this gaze of mercy. But let us think of the look of Jesus, so beautiful, so good, so merciful. And we, too, when we pray, we feel this look upon us; it is the look of love, the gaze of mercy, the gaze that saves us. Do not be afraid.”
Matthew – like Zaccheus – feeling happy, invited Jesus to come home to eat. The second stage is indeed “the party” – one of festivity. Matthew invited friends, “those of the same trade,” sinners and publicans.
The Pope said this recalls the words of Jesus in Chapter XV of Luke’s Gospel: “There will be more feasting in Heaven for a sinner who converts than for one hundred just men who will remain just.” This is the feast of the Father's meeting, the feast of mercy. Pope Francis said that Jesus is profligate with mercy, mercy for all.
Then comes the third moment: that of scandal
The Pharisees saw that publicans and sinners were at table with Jesus, and said to His disciples, “How is your Master eating with publicans and sinners?” Thus, Pope Francis noted, “Always a scandal begins with this phrase: ‘But how come?’” He went on to say, “When you hear this sentence, it smells,” and “scandal follows.” They were, in essence, scandalized by “the impurity of not following the law.” They knew “the Doctrine” very well, knew how to go “on the way of the Kingdom of God,” knew “better than anyone how things ought to have been done,” but “had forgotten the first commandment, of love.” Then, "”hey were locked in the cage of sacrifices,” perhaps thinking, “But let's make a sacrifice to God, let us do all we have to do, “so we are saved.” In summary, they believed that salvation came from themselves, they felt safe. “"No,” said Pope Francis. “God saves us, saves us Jesus Christ”:
“That ‘how come?’, which we’ve heard so many times from Catholics when they saw works of mercy. How come? Jesus is clear, He is very clear: ‘Go and learn.’ He sent them to learn, right? ‘Go and learn what mercy means. [That’s what] I want, and not sacrifices, for I did not come to call the righteous but the sinners.’ If you want to be called by Jesus, recognize yourself a sinner.”
If you would receive mercy, recognize yourselves as sinners
Francis exhorted us, therefore, to recognize ourselves as sinners, not guilty of “sin” in the abstract but guilty of “concrete sins”: so many “we all have committed them,” he said. “Let us look on Jesus with that merciful glance full of love,” he continued.
While still dwelling on the scandal, he noted that there are so many:
“There are so many, many – and always, even in the Church today. They say, ‘No, you cannot, it’s all clear, it’s all, no, no – those are sinners, we have to turn them away.’ Many saints have also been persecuted or suspected. We think of St. Joan of Arc, sent to the stake, because they thought she was a witch, and condemned her. A saint! Think of Saint Teresa, suspected of heresy, think of Bl. [Antonio] Rosmini. ‘Mercy I desire, and not sacrifices.’ And the door to meet Jesus is recognizing ourselves as we are: the truth [about orselves], [that we are] Sinners. And he comes, and we meet. It is very beautiful to meet Jesus.”(from Vatican Radio)
Posted on 09/21/2017 08:14 AM (News.va)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reiterated his pledge to combat the evil of clerical sex abuse affirming that at all levels, the Church will continue to respond applying the firmest of measures to “all those who have betrayed their call and abused God's children.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:
He was addressing members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors gathered for their Plenary Assembly.
The Commission is an institution that was established by the Pope to propose initiatives that ensure that crimes that have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church.
In prepared remarks and after having listened to the greetings of Commission President, Cardinal O’Malley and other members of the Commission, Pope Francis said “I wish to share with you the profound pain I feel in my soul for the situation of abused children, as I have had occasion to do recently several times”.
Painful experience for the Church
Describing the sex abuse scandal as a terrible evil for the whole of humanity, the Pope said it has also been a very painful experience for the Church: “We are ashamed of the abuses committed by holy ministers, who should be the most trustworthy”.
“Let me say quite clearly that sexual abuse is a horrible sin, completely opposite and in contradiction to what Christ and the Church teach us” he said.
Recalling the fact that he has had the privilege of listening to the stories that victims and survivors of abuses have wanted to share, Pope Francis observed that meetings such as these continue to nourish the personal commitment of all involved in the Commission to do everything possible to combat this evil and eliminate it.
The Church to respond at all levels with the firmest measures
“That is why, I reiterate today once again that the Church, at all levels, will respond with the application of the firmest measures against all those who have betrayed their call and abused the children of God” he said.
The Pope stressed that the disciplinary measures must apply to all those who work in the institutions of the Church, but he pointed out that “the primary responsibility lies with Bishops, priests and religious”: those who have received from the Lord the vocation to offer their lives to serving the Church and this includes “the vigilant protection of all vulnerable children, young people and adults”.
“For this reason, the Church irrevocably and at all levels seeks to apply the principle of "zero tolerance" against sexual abuse of minors” he said.
The Pope recalled his Motu Proprio entitled “As a Loving Mother” that was promulgated on the basis of a proposal by the Commission and in reference to the principle of responsibility in the Church. He said it addresses the cases of Diocesan Bishops, Eparches and Superior Generals of religious institutes who, through negligence, have carried out or omitted acts that may have caused serious harm to others, whether individuals or a community as a whole (see Article 1).
He said that over the last three years, since its establishment the Commission has consistently emphasized the most important principles guiding the Church's efforts to protect all vulnerable children and adults, thus fulfilling the mission entrusted to it as a "consultative function in the service of the Holy Father", offering its experience "in order to promote the responsibility of particular Churches in the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults" (Statute, Article 1).
Pope Francis said he was delighted to learn that many particular Churches have adopted the Commission’s recommendation for a Day of Prayer, and for dialogue with victims and survivors of abuses, as well as with representatives of victim organizations.
“It is also encouraging to know how many Episcopal Conferences and Conferences of Superior Generals have sought your advice regarding the Guidelines for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults” he said.
Value of sharing best practices
He emphasized the value of sharing best practices - especially for those Churches that have fewer resources for this crucial work of protection – and encouraged the Commission to continue its collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples “so that these practices may be inculturated in the different Churches around the world”.
Lastly, Pope Francis praised the many initiatives that offer opportunities for learning, education and training promoted by the Commission as well as the fact that a presentation made last week to new bishops has been so favorably received.
“These educational programs offer the kind of resources that will enable Dioceses, Religious Institutes and all Catholic institutions to adopt and implement the most effective materials for this work”.
The Church: a place of piety and compassion
The Pope concluded his address highlighting the fact that the Church is called to be a place of piety and compassion, especially for those who have suffered.
“For all of us, the Catholic Church remains a field hospital that accompanies us on our spiritual journey. It is the place where we can sit with others, listen to them and share with them our struggles and our faith in the good news of Jesus Christ. I am fully confident that the Commission will continue to be a place where we can listen with interest to the voices of the victims and the survivors. Because we have much to learn from them and their personal stories of courage and perseverance” he said.(from Vatican Radio)
Posted on 09/21/2017 07:40 AM (News.va)
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday met with the Italian Antimafia Parliamentary Commission in the Vatican.
In his prepared remarks to the group, the Holy Father began by recalling 3 high profile figures killed by the mafia, Magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were killed 25 years ago and Servant of God, Rosario Livatino, killed on September 21, 1990.
The Pope, during his address underlined how “corruption always finds a way to justify itself, presenting itself as the "normal" condition, the solution for those who are "shrewd", the way to reach ones goals.” The Pope went on to say that, “it has a contagious and parasitic nature, because it does not nourish what good produces, but how it subtracts and robs.”
Authentic politics, said Pope Francis, “the one we recognize as an important form of charity, works instead to ensure a future of hope and to promote the dignity of each person. It is precisely because of this, he added, that it sees the struggle against mafias as a priority, since they steal the common good, taking away peoples hope and dignity.
Fighting mafias, the Holy Father continued, means not only repressing them. “It also means reclaiming, transforming, building, and this entails two levels of commitment.”
The first is the political one, through greater social justice, because mafias, he said, put themselves forward as an alternative system in the area where rights and opportunities are lacking: work, home, education, and health care.
The second level of commitment, said the Pope is the economic one, through the correction or removal of those mechanisms that generate inequality and poverty everywhere.
This dual level, political and economic, noted Pope Francis, presupposes another no less essential element, that is the construction of a new civil consciousness, the only one that can lead to true liberation from mafias.
(from Vatican Radio)
Posted on 09/14/2017 10:09 AM (Whispers in the Loggia)
Then again, considering the daily bruising to which he's openly subjected – just from within the church – you already knew that.
Speaking of ticking, with his fifth anniversary on Peter's chair now just six months away, it's an allegory of Jorge Bergoglio's methodical consistency of chipping away at things that the visit marked his 20th overseas jaunt as Bishop of Rome. Two more are already in the works – the latter of which, slated for January, brings another return to Latin America (this time, Chile and Peru)... and with it, at least the possibility of what'd immediately become his most profound and far-reaching act on his home continent: a last-minute swing to El Salvador to canonize Blessed Oscar Romero, whose reported miracle to be cleared for sainthood was forwarded to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in March. (As 2017 marks the centenary of the Salvadoran martyr's birth – which the Pope already observed with a historic red hat to the keeper of Romero's flame at home – last month the cause's postulator, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, tipped the canonization to come within the year.)
Back to the present, while the Colombia tour brought its usual share of the now-expected evocative and freewheeling reflections, on the programmatic front, one address in particular stands out. So even for the usual input overload these visits tend to be in the moment, for the long haul, it's important that it not be lost in the sea of all the rest.
For the wider world – and, indeed, the host-nation itself – the trip's main emphasis was on reconciliation, in light of last year's hard-won peace accord which ended the decades-long scourge of violence by left-wing guerrillas. In church terms, however, the core element lay elsewhere, its ramifications likely to spread across the continent and beyond.
In all, CELAM encompasses the 21 national benches of Latin America and the Caribbean, which between them lead some 500 million faithful. Yet while each country retains its own proper conference, to view the wider body as some kind of weak confederation would be a grave mistake – if anything, it’s the closest thing the global church has to a ministry lab, policy shop and megaphone at the broadest possible level, and this pontificate has only served to amplify its unique role all the more.
Interestingly enough, on the death of the retired English prelate Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor earlier this month, the insight resurfaced that the now widely-known “St Gallen group” of progressive red-hats committed to Vatican II’s call for enhanced collegiality only saw its inception after John Paul II’s Curia sought to clip the wings of CELAM and its less-formidable European counterpart, the CCEE. As circumstances would have it, though, the 2013 Conclave saw the pendulum swing their way: in the watershed choice of the primate of Argentina, the lead architect of the Latin American bishops’ current operative charter – built upon the concept of a church in “a permanent state of mission” – garnered the mandate to bring the rest of the global fold under its umbrella.
Six years after the now-Pope led the drafting of said Message at Aparecida, Francis’ universal adaptation of it came in Evangelii gaudium – then as now, the blueprint of his ministry as the church's "Supreme Pastor." Accordingly, just as the preview of that overarching program was shared at Rio de Janiero months after his election during an address to CELAM’s leadership, so last week in Bogotá, another major talk to the conference’s summoned top brass serves as both a progress-check and an eye to what’s ahead.
In that light, a couple context notes bear recalling.
First, when it comes to Papa Bergoglio’s ideal of a more synodal church at every level – most palpably expressed by him on the 50th anniversary of the Roman Synod in 2015 – for Francis, the Latin conference is the template which best embodies the goal. It was CELAM, after all, which made the imperative of “the preferential option for the poor” not just part of the lexicon of the modern church, but one which has bled into wider society.
Second, as the wider group’s direction hinges upon its principal figures in the member-countries, arguably the whole of Latin America is currently on tenterhooks as it awaits the major decision currently pending before the pontiff: Francis' appointment of the next archbishop of Mexico City – the global church’s largest diocese all told, not to mention the center of gravity for Catholicism’s second-largest national bloc, its 95 million members surpassed only by Brazil's 130 million. (Fittingly, the impact said choice will have was foreshadowed by the 8.0 magnitude earthquake which struck the Pacific coast there last week, the shockwaves reported to have reached the capital.)
Convoked by the Pope at the behest of the body, then with several more years spent in preparation, the five CELAM assemblies have each served to reorient a continent-wide church around a shared vision and set of general priorities. While that’s no small feat in itself, given a Stateside church whose present and future are driven more from points South than East, what ensues on that front in due course will have an unprecedented effect above the Rio Grande – a state of affairs which only grows with each passing day.
All that said, marking an opening to some interesting possibilities – at least, if its operative word is heeded – as delivered last week at the Bogotá Nunciature, here’s the full English (emphases original) of Francis’ “Blueprint 2.0,” intended both for his home-turf and far afield.
I thank you for our meeting and for the warm words of welcome by the President of the Latin American Episcopal Council. Were it not for the tight demands of my schedule, I would have liked to visit you at the CELAM offices. I thank you for your thoughtfulness in meeting me here.
I appreciate your efforts to make this continental Episcopal Conference a home at the service of communion and the mission of the Church in Latin America, as well as a centre for fostering a sense of discipleship and missionary spirit. Over these decades of service to communion, CELAM has also become a vital point of reference for the development of a deeper understanding of Latin American Catholicism. I take this occasion to encourage your recent efforts to express this collegial concern through the Solidarity Fund of the Latin American Church.
Four years ago, in Rio de Janeiro, I spoke to you about the pastoral legacy of Aparecida, the last synodal event of the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean. I stressed the continuing need to learn from its method, marked in essence by the participation of the local Churches and attuned to God’s pilgrim people as they seek his humble face revealed in the Virgin fished from the waters. That method is also reflected in the continental mission, which is not meant to be a collection of programmes that fill agendas and waste precious energies. Instead, it is meant to place the mission of Jesus at the heart of the Church, making it the criterion for measuring the effectiveness of her structures, the results of her labours, the fruitfulness of her ministers and the joy they awaken. For without joy, we attract no one. I went on to mention the ever-present temptations of making the Gospel an ideology, ecclesial functionalism and clericalism. At stake is the salvation that Christ brings us, which has to touch the hearts of men and women by its power and appealing to their freedom, inviting them to a permanent exodus from themselves and their self-absorption, towards fellowship with God and with our brothers and sisters.
When God speaks to us in Jesus, he does not nod vaguely to us as if we were strangers, or deliver an impersonal summons like a solicitor, or lay down rules to be followed like certain functionaries of the sacred. God speaks with the unmistakable voice of the Father to his children; he respects the mystery of man because he formed us with his own hands and gave us a meaningful purpose. Our great challenge as a Church is to speak to men and women about this closeness of God, who considers us his sons and daughters, even when we reject his fatherhood. For him, we are always children to be encountered anew.
The Gospel, then, cannot be reduced to a programme at the service of a trendy gnosticism, a project of social improvement or the Church conceived as a comfortable bureaucracy, any more than she can be reduced to an organization run according to modern business models by a clerical caste.
The Church is the community of Jesus’ disciples. The Church is a Mystery (cf. Lumen Gentium, 5) and a People (cf. ibid., 9). Better yet, in the Church the Mystery becomes present through God’s People.
Hence my insistence that missionary discipleship is a call from God for today’s busy and complicated world, a constant setting out with Jesus, in order to know how and where the Master lives. When we set out with him, we come to know the will of the Father who is always waiting for us. Only a Church which is Bride, Mother and Servant, one that has renounced the claim to control what is not her own work but God’s, can remain with Jesus, even when the only place he can lay his head is the cross.
Closeness and encounter are the means used by God, who in Christ has drawn near to us to continually meet us. The mystery of the Church is to be the sacrament of this divine intimacy and the perennial place of this encounter. Hence, the need for the bishop to be close to God, for in God he finds the source of his freedom, his steadfastness as a pastor and the closeness of the holy people entrusted to his care. In this closeness, the soul of the apostle learns how to make tangible God's passion for his children.
Aparecida is a treasure yet to be fully exploited. I am certain that each of you has seen how its richness has taken root in the Churches you hold in your hearts. Like the first disciples sent forth by Jesus on mission, we too can recount with enthusiasm all that we have accomplished (cf. Mk 6:30).
Nonetheless, we have to be attentive. The essential things in life and in the Church are never written in stone, but remain a living legacy. It is all too easy to turn them into memories and anniversaries to be celebrated: fifty years since Medellín, twenty since Ecclesia in America, ten since Aparecida! Something more is required: by cherishing the richness of this patrimony (pater/munus) and allowing it to flourish, we exercise the munus of our episcopal paternity towards the Church in our continent.
As you well know, the renewed awareness born of an encounter with the living Christ requires that his disciples foster their relationship with him; otherwise, the face of the Lord is obscured, the mission is weakened, pastoral conversion falters. To pray and to foster our relationship with him: these are the most essential and urgent activities to be carried out in our pastoral mission.
When the disciples returned excited by the mission they had carried out, Jesus said to them: “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place” (Mk 6:31). How greatly we need to be alone with the Lord in order to encounter anew the heart of the Church’s mission in Latin America at the present time. How greatly we need to be recollected, within and without! Our crowded schedules, the fragmentation of reality, the rapid pace of our lives: all these things might make us lose our focus and end up in a vacuum. Recovering unity is imperative.
Where do we find unity? Always in Jesus. What makes the mission last is not the generosity and enthusiasm that burn in the heart of the missionary, even though these are always necessary. It is rather the companionship of Jesus in his Spirit. If we do not we set out with him on our mission, we quickly become lost and risk confusing our vain needs with his cause. If our reason for setting out is not Jesus, it becomes easy to grow discouraged by the fatigue of the journey, or the resistance we meet, by constantly changing scenarios or by the weariness brought on by subtle but persistent ploys of the enemy.
It is not part of the mission to yield to discouragement, once our initial enthusiasm has faded and the time comes when touching the flesh of Christ becomes very hard. In situations like this, Jesus does not feed our fears. We know very well that to him alone can we go, for he alone has the words of eternal life (cf. Jn 6:68). So we need to understand and appreciate more deeply the fact that he has chosen us.
Concretely, what does it mean to set out on mission with Jesus today, here in Latin America? The word “concretely” is not a mere figure of speech: it goes to the very heart of the matter. The Gospel is always concrete, and never an exercise in fruitless speculation. We are well aware of the recurring temptation to get lost in the cavils of the doctors of the law, to wonder how far we can go without losing control over our own bailiwick or our petty portion of power.
We often hear it said that the Church is in a permanent state of mission. Setting out with Jesus is the condition for this. Setting out, yes, but with Jesus. The Gospel speaks of Jesus who, having proceeded from the Father, journeys with his disciples through the fields and the towns of Galilee. His journeying is not meaningless. As Jesus walks, he encounters people. When he meets people, he draws near to them. When he draws near to them, he talks to them. When he talks to them, he touches them with his power. When he touches them, he brings them healing and salvation. His aim in constantly setting out is to lead the people he meets to the Father. We must never stop reflecting on this and examining our consciences. The Church has to re-appropriate the verbs that the Word of God conjugates as he carries out his divine mission. To go forth to meet without keeping a safe distance; to take rest without being idle; to touch others without fear. It is a matter of working by day in the fields, where God’s people, entrusted to your care, live their lives. We cannot let ourselves be paralyzed by our air-conditioned offices, our statistics and our strategies. We have to speak to men and women in their concrete situations; we cannot avert our gaze from them. The mission is always carried out by one to one contact.
A Church able to be a sacrament of unity
What lack of focus we see all around us! I am referring not only to the squandering of our continent’s rich diversity, but also to a constant process of disintegration. We need to be attentive lest we let ourselves fall into these traps. The Church is not present in Latin America with her suitcases in hand, ready, like so many others over time, to abandon it after having plundered it. Such people look with a sense of superiority and scorn on its mestizo face; they want to colonize its soul with the same failed and recycled visions of man and life; they repeat the same old recipes that kill the patient while lining the pockets of the doctors. They ignore the deepest concerns present in the heart of its people, the visions and the myths that give strength in spite of frequent disappointments and failures. They manipulate politics and betray hopes, leaving behind scorched land and a terrain ready for more of the same, albeit under a new guise. Powerful figures and utopian dreams have promised magic solutions, instant answers, immediate effects. The Church, without human pretensions, respects the varied face of the continent, which she sees not as an impediment but rather a perennial source of wealth. She must continue working quietly to serve the true good of the men and women of Latin America. She must work tirelessly to build bridges, to tear down walls, to integrate diversity, to promote the culture of encounter and dialogue, to teach forgiveness and reconciliation, the sense of justice, the rejection of violence. No lasting construction in Latin America can do without this unseen yet essential foundation.
The Church appreciates like few others the deep-rooted shared wisdom that is the basis of every reality in Latin America. She lives daily with that reserve of moral values on which the life of the continent rests. I am sure that, even as I say this, you can put a name on this reality. We must constantly be in dialogue with it. We cannot lose contact with this moral substratum, with this rich soil present in the heart of our people, wherein we see the subtle yet eloquent elements that make up its mestizo face – not merely indigenous, Hispanic, Portuguese or African, but mestizo: Latin American!
Guadalupe and Aparecida are programmatic signs of the divine creativity that has bought this about and that underlies the popular piety of our people, which is part of its anthropological uniqueness and a gift by which God wants our people to come to know him. The most luminous pages of our Church’s history were written precisely when she knew how to be nourished by this richness and to speak to this hidden heart. For it guards, like a small spark beneath a coat of ashes, the sense of God and of his transcendence, a recognition of the sacredness of life, respect for creation, bonds of human solidarity, the sheer joy of living, the ability to find happiness without conditions.
To speak to this deepest soul, to speak to the most profound reality of Latin America, the Church has no other way than to continually learn from Jesus. The Gospel tells us that he spoke only in parables (cf. Mk 4:34). He used images that engaged those who heard his word and made them characters in his divine stories. God’s holy and faithful people in Latin America understand no other way of speaking about him. We are called to set out on mission not with cold and abstract concepts, but with images that keep multiplying and unfolding their power in human hearts, making them grain sown on good ground, yeast that makes the bread rise from the dough, and seed with the power to become a fruitful tree.
A Church able to be a sacrament of hope
Many people decry a certain deficit of hope in today’s Latin America. We cannot take part in their “moaning”, because we possess a hope from on high. We know all too well that the Latin American heart has been taught by hope. As a Brazilian songwriter has said, “hope dances on the tightrope with an umbrella” (João Bosco, O Bêbado e a Equilibrista). Once you think hope is gone, it returns where we least expect it. Our people have learned that no disappointment can crush it. It follows Christ in his meekness, even under the scourge. It knows how to rest and wait for the dawn, trusting in victory, because – deep down – it knows that it does not belong completely to this world.
The Church in these lands is, without a doubt and in a special way, a sacrament of hope. Still, there is a need to watch over how that hope takes concrete shape. The loftier it is, the more it needs to be seen on the faces of those who possess it. In asking you to keep watch over the expression of hope, I would now like to speak of some of its traits that are already visible in the Latin American Church.
In Latin America, hope has a young face
We often speak of young people and we often hear statistics about ours being the continent of the future. Some point to supposed shortcomings and a lack of motivation on the part of the young, while others eye their value as potential consumers. Others would enlist them in drug trafficking and violence. Pay no attention to these caricatures of young people. Look them in the eye and seek in them the courage of hope. It is not true that they want to return to the past. Make real room for them in your local Churches, invest time and resources in training them. Offer them incisive and practical educational programmes, and demand of them, as fathers demand of their children, that they use their gifts well. Teach them the joy born of living life to the full, and not superficially. Do not be content with the palaver and the proposals found in pastoral plans that never get put into practice.
I purposely chose Panama, the isthmus of this continent, as the site of the 2019 World Youth Day, which will propose the example of the Virgin Mary, who speaks of herself as a servant and is completely open to all that is asked of her (cf. Lk 1:38). I am certain that in all young people there is hidden an “isthmus”, that in the heart of every young person there is a small strip of land which can serve as a path leading them to a future that God alone knows and holds for them. It is our task us to present the young with lofty ideals and to encourage them to stake their lives on God, in imitation of the openness shown by Our Lady.
In Latin America, hope has a woman’s face
I need not dwell on the role of women on our continent and in our Church. From their lips we learned the faith, and with their milk we took on the features of our mestizo soul and our immunity to despair. I think of indigenous or black mothers, I think of mothers in our cities working three jobs, I think of elderly women who serve as catechists, and I think of consecrated woman and those who quietly go about doing so much good. Without women, the Church of this continent would lose its power to be continually reborn. It is women who keep patiently kindling the flame of faith. We have a grave obligation to understand, respect, appreciate and promote the ecclesial and social impact of all that women do. They accompanied Jesus on his mission; they did not abandon him at the foot of the cross; they alone awaited for the night of death to give back the Lord of life; they flooded the world with the proclamation of his risen presence. If we hope for a new and living chapter of faith in this continent, we will not get it without women. Please, do not let them be reduced to servants of our ingrained clericalism. For they are on the front lines of the Latin American Church, in their setting out with Jesus, in their persevering amid the sufferings of their people, in their clinging to the hope that conquers death, and in their joyful way of proclaiming to the world that Christ is alive and risen.
In Latin America, hope passes through the hearts, the minds and the arms of the laity
I would like to repeat something I recently said to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. It is imperative to overcome the clericalism that treats the Christifideles laici as children and impoverishes the identity of ordained ministers.
Though much effort has been invested and some steps have been taken, the great challenges of the continent are still on the table. They still await the quiet, responsible, competent, visionary, articulated and conscious growth of a Christian laity. Men and women believers, who are prepared to contribute to the spread of an authentic human development, the strengthening of political and social democracy, the overturning of structures of endemic poverty and the creation of an inclusive prosperity based on lasting reforms capable of preserving the common good. So too, the overcoming of inequality and the preservation of stability, the shaping of models of sustainable economic development that respect nature and the genuine future of mankind, which unfettered consumerism cannot ensure, and the rejection of violence and the defence of peace.
One more thing: in this sense, hope must always look at the world with the eyes of the poor and from the situation of the poor. Hope is poor, like the grain of wheat that dies (cf. Jn 12:24), yet has the power to make God’s plans take root and spread.
Wealth, and the sense of self-sufficiency it brings, frequently blind us to both the reality of the desert and the oases hidden therein. It offers textbook answers and repeats platitudes; it babbles about its own empty ideas and concerns, without even coming close to reality. I am certain that in this difficult and confused, yet provisional moment that we are experiencing, we will find the solutions to the complex problems we face in that Christian simplicity hidden to the powerful yet revealed to the lowly. The simplicity of straightforward faith in the risen Lord, the warmth of communion with him, fraternity, generosity, and the concrete solidarity that likewise wells up from our friendship with him.
I would like to sum up all of this in a phrase that I leave to you as a synthesis, a synthesis and reminder of this meeting. If we want to serve this Latin America of ours from CELAM, we have to do so with passion, a passion that nowadays is often lacking. We need to put our heart into everything we do. We need to have the passion of young lovers and of wise elders, a passion that turns ideas into viable utopias, a passion for the work of our hands, a passion that makes us constant pilgrims in our Churches. May I say that we need to be like Saint Toribius of Mogrovejo, who was never really installed in his see: of the twenty-four years of his episcopacy, eighteen were passed visiting the towns of his diocese. My brothers, please, I ask you for passion, the passion of evangelization.
I commend you, my brother bishops of CELAM, the local Churches that you represent, and all the people of Latin America and the Caribbean, I commend you to the protection of Our Lady under the titles of Guadalupe and Aparecida. I do so, in the serene certainty that God who spoke to this continent with the mestizo and black features of his Mother, will surely make his kindly light shine in the lives of all. Thank you.
Posted on 09/11/2017 09:28 AM (Whispers in the Loggia)
There is, however, one exception – and it's rooted in the memory of this very morning.
To mark this 16th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, per custom here for the day, here again the Prayer at Ground Zero first used by Pope Benedict XVI on his 2008 visit to the site...
...the moment then reincarnated in turn two years ago this month by Pope Francis at an interfaith service during his own pilgrimage to the newly-built memorial:
O God of love, compassion, and healing,-30-
look on us, people of many different faiths
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.
We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and
Port Authority personnel,
along with all the innocent men and women
who were victims of this tragedy
simply because their work or service
brought them here on September 11, 2001.
We ask you, in your compassion
to bring healing to those
who, because of their presence here that day,
suffer from injuries and illness.
Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families
and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
Give them strength to continue their lives
with courage and hope.
We are mindful as well
of those who suffered death, injury, and loss
on the same day at the Pentagon and in
Our hearts are one with theirs
as our prayer embraces their pain and suffering.
God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.
God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.
Posted on 09/5/2017 12:01 PM (Whispers in the Loggia)
In a form reserved solely for the most significant policy pronouncements of the Stateside bishops, the USCCB president and vice-president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles, issued a searing response within minutes of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' confirmation that DACA permits would begin expiring in six months and gradually be "phased out," pending a new arrangement enacted by Congress:
The cancellation of the DACA program is reprehensible. It causes unnecessary fear for DACA youth and their families. These youth entered the U.S. as minors and often know America as their only home. The Catholic Church has long watched with pride and admiration as DACA youth live out their daily lives with hope and a determination to flourish and contribute to society: continuing to work and provide for their families, continuing to serve in the military, and continuing to receive an education. Now, after months of anxiety and fear about their futures, these brave young people face deportation. This decision is unacceptable and does not reflect who we are as Americans.From the helm of the nation's largest diocese, while Gomez pleaded for the program's survival in his own name ahead of the White House move, as reports circulated yesterday that President Trump would honor his campaign pledge to eliminate DACA, a group statement from the California bishops – remarkably issued amid the quiet of the Labor Day holiday – preemptively slammed the move as "capricious" and "ill-conceived."
The Church has recognized and proclaimed the need to welcome young people: 'Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me' (Mark 9:37). Today, our nation has done the opposite of how Scripture calls us to respond. It is a step back from the progress that we need to make as a country. Today's actions represent a heartbreaking moment in our history that shows the absence of mercy and good will, and a short-sighted vision for the future. DACA youth are woven into the fabric of our country and of our Church, and are, by every social and human measure, American youth.
We strongly urge Congress to act and immediately resume work toward a legislative solution. We pledge our support to work on finding an expeditious means of protection for DACA youth.
As people of faith, we say to DACA youth – regardless of your immigration status, you are children of God and welcome in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church supports you and will advocate for you.
"As bishops, every day we see the impact of the failure of a political leadership that washes its hands while immigrants suffer," the Western prelates said. "We choose to continue to serve, comfort, and protect our brothers and sisters," likewise pledging that they would "not allow reckless rhetoric to bully us from the course of compassion and basic decency" – one of several thinly-veiled critiques of the president himself.
A defeat for what's arguably been the US church's most concerted issue-advocacy of the Trump era, the fierce response marks yet another prominent break by the nation's largest religious body with a Republican administration that – despite an accord with Catholics on matters of abortion and religious liberty – has been found wanting in church circles for either opposing other top-tier priorities for the bishops, or failing to deliver on its stated goals in cases of agreement (most vividly the case on a broad conscience exemption from the contraceptive mandate in health-care plans).
As a similar drivenness to today's comments characterized the church's opposition to the GOP majority's thwarted efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, another protracted fight in Congress signals the bench's return as a key arbiter on the acceptability of dueling proposals for DACA's substitute, a standing born both from the historic role of Catholic entities in serving immigrant communities, not to mention the demographic reality that, today, sees Hispanics comprise roughly two-thirds of American Catholics younger than 30 – the very group most affected by today's policy change and the debate now ahead.