Author Archives: bbfsp

Pope Francis’ lunch with the poor

Vatican – Pope Francis on Sunday joined about 1,500 poor people and a group of volunteers for lunch to mark the World Day of the Poor.
After Holy Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, during which he urged believers to heed the cry of the poor and said that “the cry of the poor daily becomes stronger but heard less, drowned out by the din of the rich few, who grow ever fewer and more rich”, the Pope addressed the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer, and then went to a beautifully decked out Paul VI Hall and took his seat at the main table.
Before lunch was served, the Pope asked for thanks for those who prepared the lunch and for those who were serving and prayed for the Lord’s blessing for all those present.
A youth band from the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompei provided musical accompaniment and the menu included lasagna, chicken morsels, mashed potatoes and tiramisu.- Linda Bordoni, 18 Nov 2018

Vatican documentary on priest who transformed poverty into hope

The Vatican Film Library presents a trailer on Friday for a documentary film “Good Friend-Pedro Opeka” by Jože Možina.

Known as the ‘Holy Fighter’ or ‘the man of miracles’, Father Pablo Pedro Opeka, the Lazzarist missionary shows Christ’s compassionate face to the poor in the peripheries of Madagascar through his humanitarian work. Father Pedro Opeka, an Argentinian with Slovenian origins, was ordained a priest in Buenos Aires on 28 September 1975 and was sent to a rural parish in southeast Madagascar.

Fr Opeka discovered that the people there were living in utter poverty with no proper food or shelter. He created a local non-governmental organization called Akamasoa (the good and faithful friends) in December 1989, which now sustains about thirty thousand people in 18 villages.

His story has been made into a documentary, entitled ” Good Friend – Pedro Opeka”, and was screened in the Vatican on Friday, November 16. The images chosen by the film’s creator – Slovenian national television journalist, Jože Možina – do not focus, as often happens, on suffering and degradation, but – like Father Pedro Opeka’s entire life – on dignity and rebirth.

The film is being presented thanks to a collaboration with the Embassy of Slovenia to the Holy See and the Slovenian Ministry of Culture. – Vatican News

Reflection for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time B

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First Reading
Daniel 12:1-3
Daniel prophesies about the judgment of the last days.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 16:5,8,9-10,11
God protects us and shows us the path of life.

Second Reading
Hebrews 10:11-14,18
Jesus’ offering for sin has made all to be consecrated perfect forever.

Gospel Reading
Mark 13:24-32
Jesus teaches about the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.

Background on the Gospel Reading

This Sunday is the second to last Sunday of our liturgical year. As we approach the end of the Church year, our Gospel invites us to consider Jesus’ predictions and teaching about the end of the world. In the context of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’ words about this are spoken to his disciples as he prepares them for his passion and death.

Before we consider Jesus’ words, it is important to note the political backdrop against which many think Mark’s Gospel was written. Most scholars concur that Mark wrote his Gospel for Christians living in or near Rome about 30 to 40 years after the death of Jesus. This was a time of political turmoil in Rome. Some Christians experienced persecution by the Romans during the reign of the emperor Nero (about 64 A.D.). Jewish revolutionaries rebelled against the Romans, which led the Romans to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. In this time of political turmoil and persecution, many in Mark’s community might have wondered if the end times predicted by Jesus were in fact quite near.

Last Sunday we heard Jesus’ observation about the contributions being made to the temple treasury and the example of sacrificial giving that he saw in the poor widow’s offering. If we had been reading Mark’s Gospel continuously, we would have heard Jesus predict the destruction of the Temple, his teaching about the costs of discipleship, and the woes that will accompany the end times. Finally, we would have heard Jesus instruct his disciples about the need for watchfulness so that they will not be caught unprepared for this final day of judgment.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus continues this teaching by offering his disciples signs to look for that will indicate that the coming of the Son of Man is near. His words and images draw upon Old Testament imagery, especially images found in the Book of Daniel. Next, Jesus offers the lesson of the fig tree, a parable that teaches that if one knows how to read the signs, one can be prepared for the end times. Jesus also teaches, however, that no one knows when the end time will come, except the Father. In the verses that follow this reading in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus continues to warn his disciples to be on watch for this end time.

Jesus’ words are not spoken to frighten his disciples, nor should they frighten us. Rather, they are offered to prepare us for the changes we will experience during our lifetimes and at the end times. Our consolation and hope is found in the lasting nature of Jesus’ words and God’s never-ending love for us.- loyolapress.com

Caritas Pakistan in support of integral ecology, planting 700,000 saplings

Pakistan’s Catholic Church is behind a plan to plant a million trees by 2019. Lahore and Karachi are among the most polluted cities in the world. In 2025 Pakistan will be in absolute water scarcity.

Lahore – Caritas Pakistan has launched a campaign to plant a million trees. In doing so, it is putting into action the Church’s doctrine on integral ecology.

Planting beech trees and orchids trees began in 2016 and will end in 2019. The work is well underway, with 700,000 saplings already planted in various parts of the country.

The initiative is called ‘One Million Tree Plantation Campaign (2016-2019)’, and involves many primary school students.

During the latest operation, last Sunday, more than 50 students planted saplings along the banks of a canal in Farooqabad, a city in Sheikhupura district (Punjab province).

The event was sponsored by NutriCo Morinaga, which is affiliated with a famous Japanese company that produces baby food, in collaboration with Punjab’s Forestry Department.

According to some studies, Lahore and Karachi are among the ten most polluted cities in the world in terms of air quality. About 21 million people across the country (10% of the country’ population) do not have access to drinking water.

The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources warns that that Pakistan will approach absolute water scarcity by 2025.

“The plantation drive is part of preparedness to combat climate change effects. Instead of ornamental shrubs, we are focusing on shade trees,” Amjad Gulzar Executive Director Caritas Pakistan told AsiaNews.

Syed Nadeem Abbass the sub-divisional forest officer in Punjab’s Forestry Department assured Caritas Pakistan of his department’s support.

“Tree plantation is the only natural method to counter increasing pollution, the rest is just adaptation. Government departments can only plant trees on state owned land but civil society can help in expanding the drive,” he said. – Kamran Chaudhry, AsiaNews, 15 Nov 2018

PNG bishops: APEC’s success on the backs of the poor

The Pacific Rim summit will cost at least 1.5 billion dollars to a country where 40 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and resources for education and health are scarce. The US-China trade war will dominate the meeting.

Port Moresby – The bishops of Papua New Guinea have strongly criticised the government for the huge cost incurred with the APEC summit (17-18 November) at a time when many Papua New Guineans lack essential services like health, education and hygiene.

“We share the concern of many about the huge amount of our limited resources being expended on this event which seems designed to entertain and impress the rich and powerful,” said Mgr Rochus Tatamai, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Papua-New Guinea.

The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is an inter-governmental forum for 21 Pacific rim countries and holds annual meetings since 1989.

This year, in addition to trade opportunities, the main issue is the US-China trade war and the tensions that it has caused with their ripple effect across Asia.

China’s Xi Jinping will be present as will Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, will not.

To welcome all these potentates, the capital Port Moresby has been given a facelift that included the construction of a new International Convention Centre, the APEC House (pictured), meeting places, repaved roads downtown, huge security measures, and new service cars (including 40 Maserati).

Two years ago, the cost estimate for the event was one and a half billion US dollars. By comparison, Port Moresby is the fifth worst city in the world in terms of liveability; in fact, half of its 300,000 residents live in squatter settlements.

Papua New Guinea is the poorest APEC country. About 40 per cent of the population lives on less than a dollar a day (below the poverty line) and the country lacks basic medicines, investments in education, and its public servants are poorly paid.

To help the country, China is paying for some of the cost of the new convention centre, Australia is covering security costs and deploying 1,500 soldiers, and the United States is providing additional assistance.

But for many Papua New Guineans none of this will remain with the local population. For Mgr Tatamai, Papua New Guineans are “suffering and dying in order to make APEC a success”. – AsiaNews, 15 Nov 2018

Pope: the Church grows in silence through testimony, through prayer, through good works

“The Bride of Christ has a silent temperament, generates fruits” without noise “, without” playing the trumpet like the Pharisees “.”The Church also grows with the blood of the martyrs, men and women who give their lives. Today there are many. Curious: they do not make the news. The world hides that. The spirit of the world does not tolerate martyrdom, it hides it”.

Vatican – The Church grows “in simplicity, in silence, in praise, in the Eucharistic sacrifice, in fraternal community, where all are loved,” and none are rejected. That was the message of Pope Francis during the daily Mass celebrated in the chapel at Casa Santa Marta. Commenting on the day’s Gospel (Lk 17:20-25), the Pope said that the Kingdom of God “is not spectacular,” and that it grows in silence.

The Church, he said, is manifested “in the Eucharist and in good works,” even if they don’t “make the news.” The Bride of Christ has a temperament given to silence; she produces fruit “without making a fuss,” without “sounding the trumpet, like the Pharisees”:

The Lord explains to us how the Church grows with the parable of the sower. The sower sows and the seed grows by day, by night… – God gives the growth – and then the fruit is seen. But this is important: First, the Church grows in silence, in secret; it is the ecclesiastical style. And how is this manifested in the Church? By the fruits of good works, so that the people see and glorify the Father who is in heaven, Jesus says. And in the celebration, the praise and the sacrifice of the Lord – that is, in the Eucharist. There the Church is manifested: in the Eucharist and in good works.

“The Church grows through witness, through prayer, through the attraction of the Spirit who is within,” Pope Francis said in his homily, “and not through events.” These events certainly help, he continued, but “the growth proper to the Church, that which bears fruit, is in silence, in hiding, with good works, and the celebration of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery, the praise of God.”

The Lord helps us to not fall into the temptation of seduction. “We want the Church to be seen more; what can we do so that it will be seen?” So usually one falls into a Church of events that is not capable of growing in silence with good works, in secret.

In a world that too often gives into the temptation to sensation, to worldliness, to appearance, Pope Francis recalled that Jesus Himself was tempted to create a sensation: “But why take so long to accomplish the work of redemption? Perform a good miracle. Cast yourself down from the temple, and everyone will see; they will see, and they will believe in you.” But He chose “the path of preaching, of prayer, of good works,” the way “of the Cross” and “of suffering”:

The Cross and suffering. The Church grows also with the blood of the martyrs, men and women who give their lives. Today there are many [martyrs]. It’s strange; they don’t make the news. The world hides this fact. The spirit of the world does not tolerate martyrdom; it hides it. – AsiaNews, 15 Nov 2018

WWI: Papal diplomacy during and after The Great War

Following a series of commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, this week attention turns to a world post-WWI, and Papal diplomacy.

Remembrance Day observing the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI (ANSA)

At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the guns fell silent and an Armistice between warring nations was declared. When World War I began no one thought it would last for so long. Those who went off to fight expected to be back for Christmas. It was not to be, and for four long years Europe was ravaged and 16 million lives were claimed.

On Sunday 11th November 2018 in many countries around the world a 2 minute silence descended to remember the fallen in this conflict which changed the map of Europe. On Wednesday an international conference got underway focusing on Catholics and the Holy See in the post war world of 1918-1922. Fittingly, a diplomat and the Vatican’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, addressed the gathering remarking that at the end of this war and under the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XV, “there was a clear awareness of witnessing upheavals of unprecedented depth, but also Catholic optimism ready to open up to new paths…for the mission of the Church.”

The war time Pope

Pope Benedict XV, who was elected in a Conclave at the outbreak of WWI, had been a career diplomat and according to Papal author and Emeritus Fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Dr John Pollard, “saw the war as a tragedy and in some sense an unnecessary tragedy.” He also notes that Benedict’s diplomatic skills were to stand him in good stead before and after this lengthy campaign as, “he did understand the international scene and he also made an absolutely crucial appointment of Cardinal Pietro Gasparri as his Secretary of State. Gasparri, like Benedict, was a diplomat and had long diplomatic experience.”

The author of Pope Benedict XV, “The Unknown Pope”, said “he adopted very very quickly the position of neutrality and impartiality…”

World War I was in many respects different from wars that had been fought in the past and was seen as the first truly modern war. Aircraft, armoured vehicles, modern artillery and machine guns were the weapons of choice and they were used to deadly effect. This type of mechanized warfare, Dr Pollard says, horrified the Pontiff. “He was outraged by the new methods of warfare, i.e. the trench warfare; by the torpedoing of passenger merchant vessels; by the aerial bombardment; by the attacks on civilian populations.”

Cardinal Parolin and post-WWI diplomacy

In his address, at the Pontifical Lateran University, Cardinal Parolin underlined that following the Armistice that ended WWI the fundamental path to tread was that of peace.
“It was natural”, he said, “that pontifical diplomacy, which during the war had dedicated so many forces to the restoration of peace, should first of all seek, even after the end of hostilities, the true consolidation of peace and its basic presupposition – the relaxation of tensions.” The Cardinal also noted that ”the peace negotiations took place without the participation of the Holy See, excluded because of article 15 of the London Pact, but also because of the intervention of the secularist forces determined to oppose religious-ecclesiastical interference in international bodies. Nevertheless, Benedict XV did not renounce those cards that remained for him to intervene with: the pastoral word in public pronouncements, the mobilization of Catholic public opinion and the presence, at least unofficially, of his diplomatic representatives.”

Dr Pollard also alludes to the exclusion of the Holy See from these post war discussions and says that Benedict and his Secretary of State Gasparri, “were very concerned about the outcomes of the Versailles peace conference of 1919 and in the end they felt it was too harsh particularly on Germany; they did not feel that it was a really good basis for future peace.”

The Pope of Peace

History has a habit of looking back at the life of a Pope and applying a label; St John XXIII was known as “Good Pope John “ and Pope John Paul I was affectionately described as the “smiling Pope”. In Benedict XV’s case, he was known as the “Pope of Peace”. This Dr Pollard explains is due to the fact that “he very genuinely and quite persistently tried to get the belligerent powers to the negotiating table, not just with the famous peace note of August 1917, but on several occasions before that and even after the peace note, tried to persuade the powers to start negotiating.”

Speaking about this famous Peace Note, Cardinal Pietro Parolin commented that the document signified a “respect for justice and equity in relations between States and peoples, renunciation of reciprocal compensation, respect for the natural principle of nationality and the legitimate aspirations of peoples, fair access to material goods and means of communication for all, the reduction of arms, arbitration as a peaceful means of resolving conflicts. Significantly, the Pontiff preferred, instead of justice, to speak of equity, that is, of animated justice”, he said.

Papal Polices and the Path of Peace

So what is the legacy of Pope Benedict XV and his diplomatic efforts during and after this devastating war? According to the Cambridge Fellow, “the moral standing of the Papacy was enormously enhanced by Benedict’s policies during the war, one of the most important being the humanitarian efforts which the Vatican made; the Vatican ran a sort of relief effort for prisoners of war and for civilians… secondly, the war obliged many countries to have a second look at the Vatican”, such as Britain who re-established diplomatic relations with the Holy See very shortly after World War I started. Dr Pollard adds that, “it can be argued that, -with I think a great deal of conviction- that Benedict’s policies during the First World War really put the Holy See on the path of peace diplomacy, that it became its vocation, if you like, or one of its vocations and ever since, the Papacy has been very concerned about peace and also about broader issues of social justice in the world.”Lydia O’Kane, Vatican News, 15 Nov 2018

Marriage preparatory programs

Credit: Unsplash.

Singapore – The Archdiocese of Singapore has introduced a new policy to ensure couples are taking the time they need to properly prepare for marriage.

Catholics looking to getting married in any of the archdiocese’s 32 churches have to book their wedding date at least one year in advance, according to Catholic News.

Previously, the couples only had to notify the church six months before the wedding. Archbishop William Goh Seng Chye of Singapore made the decision in October after discussing the move with the archdiocese’s priests.

Couples must still undergo the same marriage preparatory programs, including a marriage course and a meeting with the priest who will preside over the wedding.

A Catholic spokesperson for the archdiocese told Strait Times that the new policy emphasizes the importance of the commitment of matrimony and helps Catholics prepare for it.

“In response to the feedback and to help our fellow Catholics prepare for such a major commitment in their lives, the Archbishop, in consultation with his Senate of Priests, is looking to refine the recommended policies presently in place,” he said.

“It marks the beginning of a journey that the Church and the couple take together to prepare the couple for their commitment to each other,” he added.

Numerous other Christian dominations in Singapore have similar requirements, which may range from six to nine months prior to the wedding day.

Daniel Seah is an engaged Catholic in Singapore who plans to get married in 2020. He told Straight Times that he was happy with the new policy.

“In my opinion, the divorce rate is quite high and I think the Church is looking at ways to help couples discern deeper if this is the right person for them before they walk down the aisle,” he said.

“Even if you book a hotel, you may also need to book one year in advance but people don’t grumble about that.” – CNA, 12 Nov 2018

World Diabetes Day focuses on role of families

More than 400 million people are currently living with diabetes worldwide.

On World Diabetes Day on Wednesday, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) is joining partners around the world to highlight the impact that diabetes has on families and the role of family members in supporting prevention, early diagnosis and good management of diabetes.

The theme for World Diabetes Day 2018 and 2019 is “The Family and Diabetes”.

Established in 1991 by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) with support from WHO in response to growing concerns about the health and economic threat posed by diabetes, the November 14 World Diabetes Day became an official UN day in 2006.

More than 425 million people are currently living with diabetes worldwide, and the prevalence is predicted to continue rising if current trends prevail. Diabetes is a major cause of premature dying, blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and lower limb amputation. It was the seventh leading cause of death in 2016.

Growing numbers

Globally, an estimated 422 million adults were living with diabetes in 2014, compared to 108 million in 1980. The global prevalence of diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980, rising from 4.7% to 8.5% in the adult population.

This reflects an increase in associated risk factors such as being overweight or obese. Over the past decade, diabetes prevalence has risen faster in low and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.

The number of people with diabetes is expected to rise to 522 million by 2030.  Three out of four people with diabetes live in low and middle-income countries; 1 in 2 with diabetes (212 million) remain undiagnosed; less than 1 in 2 people with diabetes and 1 in 4 family members of people with diabetes have access to diabetes education programmes.

Type 2 diabetes

Most of these cases are type 2 diabetes, which is largely preventable through regular physical activity, a healthy and balanced diet, and the promotion of healthy living environments.

Families have a key role to play in addressing the modifiable risk factors for type 2 diabetes and must be provided with the education, resources and environments to live a healthy lifestyle.

Besides the economic burden on the health-care system and national economy, diabetes can impose a large economic burden on people with diabetes and their families in terms of higher health-care costs and loss of family income associated with disability, premature death, and caring for disabled family members. – Robin Gomes, Vatican News, (Source: WHO/IDF), 14 Nov 2018

UNHCR urges “decisive action” for some 12 million stateless people

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said eliminating statelessness is the right thing to do, “humanly, ethically and politically”.

Stateless minority Rohingya people of Myanmar as refugees in Bangladesh. (AFP or licensors)

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR on Monday appealed to governments to take “decisive action” to eliminate the problem of statelessness, saying an estimated 12 million people may be its victims.

Regarding it as a grave human rights issue, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said eliminating the problem is the right thing to do, “ humanly , ethically and politically”.

In international law, a stateless person is one “who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law”.  Statelessness can occur for several reasons, including discrimination against particular ethnic or religious groups, or on the basis of gender.

Fundamental human rights

Grandi said that stateless people “still face huge barriers to exercising fundamental human rights”, such as education, medical care or legal employment, and called on states to tackle discrimination in nationality laws, which is regarded as the biggest driver of the problem.

He called on “politicians, governments and legislators around the world to act now, to take and support decisive action to eliminate statelessness globally by 2024.”

“Humanly, ethically and politically it is the right thing to do. Every person on this planet has the right to nationality and the right to say I BELONG,” he said.

Countless in limbo

Grandi’s appeal came four years after the launch of UNHCR’s 10-year  #IBelong campaign to eradicate statelessness globally, in recognition that millions remain stateless and living in limbo around the world, with the majority in Asia and Africa.

According to UNHCR, no region of the world is untouched by statelessness with some countries having hundreds of thousands of stateless persons.

The very nature of statelessness means it is difficult to determine exactly how many people are affected, or at risk. In 2017, approximately 70 countries reported 3.9 million stateless individuals. But UNHCR estimates that this is only a fraction of the total and the true number could be three times higher.

Only 25 countries around the world retain gender discrimination in their legislation that prevents mothers from conferring their nationality to their children on an equal basis as men.

Among the targets of Sustainable Development Goals adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, is Goal 16, which calls for the elimination of statelessness, i.e. ensuring legal identity for all by 2030. – Robin Gomes (Source: UNHCR) 

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