Category Archives: Vatican News

Pope: Machines are useful but they do not think

Francis receives the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life, meeting in plenary to discuss “Roboethics. People, machines and health “. Technology is useful if at the service of man, machines are used for the development of society and the planet “.

Vatican City – Artificial devices that simulate human capabilities “are inextricably devoid of human quality. It must be taken into account to guide the regulation of their use, and the research itself, towards a constructive and equitable interaction between human beings and the latest versions of machines. In fact, they spread in our world and radically transform the scenario of our existence. If we can also put these references in practice, the extraordinary potential of the new discoveries will radiate their benefits on each person and on the whole of humanity,” said Pope Francis this morning.

He was receiving the participants at the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy for Life which is celebrated this year on the 25th anniversary of his birth. The pontiff opened his speech by thanking the presidents and the members of the Academy who – in these first 25 years – have carried out a “competent service” with “generous commitment” for the protection and promotion of human life. Immediately after, Francesco addressed the plenary topic: “Roboethics. People, machines and health”.

The Pope noted: “We live in a world full of contrasts, and we see a dramatic paradox: just when humanity possesses the scientific and technical capacities to achieve a fairly widespread well-being, according to God’s mandate, we observe instead an exacerbation of conflicts. and a growth in inequality. The enlightenment myth of progress is dwindling and the accumulation of the potential that science and technology have provided us do not always give the desired results. In fact, on the one hand, technological development has allowed us to solve problems that were insurmountable until a few years ago, and we are grateful to the researchers who have achieved these results; on the other hand, difficulties and threats are sometimes more insidious than the previous ones “.

The “being able to do”, he adds, “risks obscuring the person doing it. The technocratic system based on the criterion of efficiency does not respond to the most profound questions that man poses; and if on the one hand it is not possible to do without its resources, on the other it imposes its logic on those who use them. Yet the technique is characteristic of the human being. It should not be understood as a force that is alien and hostile to it, but as a product of its ingenuity through which it provides for the needs of living for oneself and for others. It is therefore a specifically human way of inhabiting the world “.

But this brings with it a serious problem: “Instead of delivering the tools that improve their care to human life, there is the risk of giving life to the logic of the devices that decide its value. This overturning is destined to produce nefarious outcomes: the machine is not limited to driving alone, but ends up guiding man. Human reason is thus reduced to an alienated rationality of effects, which cannot be considered worthy of man “.

After denouncing the serious damage to the environment created by a mad rush to innovation, Francis recalled the message he sent to the Davos Forum in January 2018: “Artificial intelligence, robotics and other technological innovations must be used to serve humanity and to protect our common home instead of the exact opposite, as unfortunately they provide some estimates. The inherent dignity of every human being must be firmly placed at the center of our reflection and action “.

The Pope noted that there is a very real risk “that man is being technologized, rather than technology humanized: so-called ‘intelligent machines’ are hastily attributed skills that are properly human. We need to understand better what the intelligence, the conscience, the emotionality, the affective intentionality and the autonomy of moral action mean in this context. In fact, artificial devices that simulate human capabilities are devoid of human quality. It must be taken into account to guide the regulation of their use, and the research itself, towards a constructive and equitable interaction between human beings and the latest versions of machines. In fact, they spread in our world and radically transform the scenario of our existence. If we can also put these references in practice, the extraordinary potential of the new discoveries will radiate their benefits on each person and on the whole of humanity “. – AsiaNews

Pope’s Lenten Message calls for conversion

In his message for Lent, Pope Francis warns that once God’s law is forsaken, the law of the strong over the weak takes over.

Vatican – Pope Francis is calling on the faithful not to let the Lenten season of grace pass in vain, and to live as children of God acknowledging and obeying His law, in particular in regards to our brothers and sisters and to creation.

In this year’s Lenten message, the Pope invites believers to prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed, warning that “Sin leads man to consider himself the god of creation, to see himself as its absolute master and to use it, not for the purpose willed by the Creator but for his own interests”.

The Pope’s Lenten message was released on Tuesday during a press conference at the Holy See Press Office. The theme chosen this year is “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God” (Rom 8:19)

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, 6 March, and will conclude on Holy Saturday, 20 April, the day before Easter.  

“Let us leave behind our selfishness and self-absorption, and turn to Jesus’ Pasch. Let us stand beside our brothers and sisters in need, sharing our spiritual and material goods with them”.

This is one of the key passages of Pope Francis’ Lenten Message for 2019. Reflecting on a verse from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, the Pope highlights how the season before Easter must be a time to “welcome Christ’s victory over sin and death into our lives”, and attract “its transforming power to all of creation”

Fasting, prayer, almsgiving

Appealing to the faithful to not allow this season of grace to pass in vain, Pope Francis says that if, “the Lent of the Son of God ‘was an entry into the desert of creation to make it become again that garden of communion with God” that it was before the original sin, Christians today are invited “to embody the paschal mystery more deeply and concretely in their personal, family and social lives, above all by fasting, prayer and almsgiving.”

Fasting, the Pope says, means turning away from the temptation to “devour” everything to satisfy our voracity; Prayer teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego; Almsgiving, whereby we escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us.

If we follow this journey, he said it “is possible to rediscover the joy of God’s plan for creation and for each of us, which is to love him, our brothers and sisters, and the entire world, and to find in this love our true happiness”.

Conversion

The path to Easter, therefore, demands that “we renew our faces and hearts as Christians through repentance, conversion and forgiveness” the Pope said pointing out that it is a call that involves the whole of creation.

This “eager longing”, this expectation of all creation, Pope Francis says, will be fulfilled in the revelation of the children of God, that is, when Christians and all people enter decisively into the “travail” that conversion entails. Linda Bordoni

Bishop Ayuso: ‘Abu Dhabi Document roadmap for interreligious dialogue’

Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United Arab Emirates is being widely seen as a milestone in interreligious dialogue.

Pope Francis visits UAE  (ANSA)

Vatican – Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, told Vatican News that the Abu Dhabi document signed by the Pope and the Grand Imam of Al-Ahzar, is a precious roadmap for peace, and contains indications that must be spread throughout the world.

Bishop Ayuso describes the Pope’s journey to the Gulf Region as historical.

He says Pope Francis was a true “peacemaker” in this journey to the Arab Emirates, and that the signing of the “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” Document, together with the Great Imam of Al-Azhar, calls on each of us to become instruments of much needed inter-religious dialogue and peace. 

This document, he says, has its roots in the necessity to safeguard the future of mankind and of the world and is particularly poignant in the face of “a wounded humanity”.

As Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Bishop Ayuso issues an appeal to make the text of the Declaration known, through the will of Pope Francis, to all men and women of good will also through social media, describing it as “road map of interreligious dialogue for the future”.

“Because universal fraternity is key” he says “so that through a culture of dialogue, joint collaboration and mutual knowledge may be the pillars for building a better world”. – Linda Bordoni,07Feb2019

Pope says UAE trip was ‘new page’ in dialogue between Christians, Muslims

Pope Francis at the general audience Feb. 6, 2019. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City – Pope Francis said Wednesday that his recent trip to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates was a step forward in Catholic-Muslim dialogue and promoting peace among religions.

Though a brief visit, the “scattered seeds” of the Feb. 3-5 trip will bear fruit according to God’s will, he said during the general audience Feb. 6.

The visit to the UAE, and second meeting with the Muslim Grand Imam of al-Azhar, “wrote a new page in the history of dialogue between Christianity and Islam and in the commitment to promote peace in the world on the basis of human brotherhood.”

Pope Francis first met the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, Ahmed el-Tayeb, during a 2017 apostolic visit to Egypt. The two signed a joint document on human fraternity Feb. 4.

In the document, “we condemn all forms of violence, especially those with religious motivation, and we commit ourselves to spreading authentic values and peace throughout the world,” the pope stated.

In this era, he said, when there is strong a temptation to discord between Christian and Islamic cultures, and considering religions as sources of conflict, “we wanted to give a further, clear and decisive sign, that instead it is possible to meet, it is possible to respect and dialogue.”

He added that he recommends people read the document and try to understand it, because it has helpful points for how to carry out a dialogue on human fraternity.

“Despite the diversity of cultures and traditions, the Christian and Islamic world appreciate and protect common values: life, family, religious sense, honor for the elderly, the education of young people, and still other things,” he said.

Francis’ trip to the UAE, the first of a pope to the Arabian Peninsula, also fell 800 years after St. Francis of Assisi visited the Sultan Malik al Kamil in Egypt. Pope Francis said it was “Providence” that a pope named Francis made the historic trip on the 800th anniversary of the saint’s visit.

“I often thought of Saint Francis during this journey: he helped me to keep the Gospel, the love of Jesus Christ in my heart, while I was living the various moments of the visit,” he said.

“In my heart there was the Gospel of Christ,” he said, “the prayer to the Father for all his children, especially for the poorest, for the victims of injustice, wars, misery; prayer because the dialogue between Christianity and Islam is a decisive factor for peace in today’s world.”

During the audience, Francis also recalled his meetings with two 90-year-old priests who have both served in the UAE for many years. One, he said, is now blind and in a wheelchair, but a smile never left his lips. “The smile of having served the Lord and done very good.”

Another highlight of the trip, he pointed out, was the Mass he celebrated in the stadium in Abu Dhabi Feb. 5, which was attended by around 150,000 people. “There were so many people!” he said. “We prayed in a special way for peace and justice, with special intention for the Middle East and Yemen.” – Hannah Brockhaus, 6Feb2019 (CNA/EWTN News)

Message of Asian bishops’ president for World Day of the Sick 2019

Cardinal Charles Bo of Myanmar, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), has issued a message for the special celebration of World Day of the Sick in Kolkata, the city of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

Mother Teresa of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). 

The Asian bishops’ president is urging believers in the continent to continue upholding the sacred duty and tradition of caring and respecting the elderly, the infirm and the helpless, saying it is a barometer of society’s health. 

Cardinal Charles Bo, the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), made the exhortation in a message he released on Sunday in view of the upcoming international celebration of the Catholic Church’s World Day of the Sick.

The annual day was instituted by St. John Paul II on 13 May 1992, designating its celebration to the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11 each year.   The purpose is to draw attention to the sick and their caregivers and the redemptive act of human suffering.

Kolkata – city of Mother Teresa

Each year, the day is marked in a special way in a place chosen by the Pope who issues a message for the occasion.   The 27th World Day of the Sick will be celebrated in the eastern Indian city of  Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), the city of St. Mother Teresa

In his message for this year’s observance, Pope Francis urges believers to promote a culture of generosity, noting that the joy of generous giving is a barometer of the health of a Christian.

The theme of this year’s World Day of the Sick has as its theme, “You received without payment; give without payment”. (Mt 10:8).

Recalling Kolkata as the “karma bhumi” (workplace) of St.Teresa of Calcutta, Card. Bo says that this year’s theme was the mantra that Jesus gave His disciples “before sending them forth to spread the good news of the kingdom of God.”

Caring for sick, infirm – a sacred duty

“Allow me to remind myself and encourage all believers to uphold the traditional values embedded in the psyche of our varied ethnic groups in this vast Asian continent which considers caring for the elderly and infirm as a sacred duty of respect and devotion,” explains the cardinal, the Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar. 

“Our traditional customs of reaching out in solidarity to those in need especially those who are sick, helpless or fall victims to accidents of calamitous emergencies,” he says, “must continue to be embraced as a culture of generosity – a barometer denoting societal health.”

Card. Bo, who assumed his leadership of the FABC on Jan. 1, holds Mary as a model, saying she set out to be at the side of her cousin Elizabeth in her hour of need.  He wishes that she be an inspiration and example to us “to reach out as visible signs of God’s love for the poor and the sick.”

He wishes that Mother Teresa, who showed what it means “give till it hurts”, also be an inspiration and model in giving our time and talents in caring for the sick. 

The 70-year old cardinal expressed his gratitude and encouragement to volunteers and associations who help the sick, and all those organize campaigns for blood, tissue and organ donation.

Pope Francis on Dec. 11 appointed Bangladeshi Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario as his envoy to the special celebration of the World Day of the Sick in Kolkata. 

This year’s World Day of the Sick will be a 3-day event, starting in Kolkata on February 9 and will culminate on February 11 at the historical Marian Shrine at Bandel on the banks of the Hooghly River some 60 kms north of Kolkata.

The first World Day of the Sick was marked in 1993 at the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in southern France, one of the world’s most famous Marian shrines.  Since then, the day has been observed all over the world with a special celebration in a particular place each year. 

According to Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, that organizes the World Day of the Sick, Kolkata was chosen as a venue mainly “in light of the experience of St. Teresa of Calcutta”.

This is only the second time a place in India has been chosen.  The first was Vailankanni in 2003. – Robin Gomes, Vatican News, 27Jan2019

‘WYD journey to Lisbon has already begun!’

The Archbishop of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, comments on the announcement of Lisbon as the next city to host World Youth Day.

Cardinal Manuel Clemente and Father Alexandre Awi Mello at a press WYD press briefing

World Youth Day 2019 wrapped up in Panama on Sunday with the announcement that the next World Youth Day will be held in LisbonPortugal in 2022.

The announcement was received with joy and excitement, especially – of course – by Portuguese pilgrims and by all those who will be directly involved in preparing for the event.

Amongst them Cardinal Manuel Clemente, Archbishop of Lisbon who had a word with Seàn-Patrick Lovett  just moments after the announcement was made at the end of the WYD Panama  closing Mass.

Commenting on the Pope’s invitation to young people to continue walking the journey from Panama to Portugal, Cardinal Clemente said “that journey has already begun”:

“We are already walking from Panama to Lisbon” Cardinal Clemente  says, pointing out that  three years is really not a very long time in which to prepare for such an event.

Of course, he adds, “we want to do our best, so it is a great challenge! But it’s also great news, not only for us, the Portuguese people,  but for all the young people of the world who are all welcome!

A special thought  goes, he says, to those who will be coming from nations like Brazil, Mocambique, Angola because of our common language which will ensure they will feel especially at home in Lisbon.

Cardinal Clemente agrees it is not possible to speak of Portugal without speaking of Fatima, which is at the heart of spirituality in the country.

“Yes, Fatima will be in Lisbon” he says, “and the experience and presence of the Mother of Jesus in our life is perhaps even more visible in Fatima for all the world”.

“What do you say to the young people of the world?” Sean asks the Cardinal, to which he responds: “You are all welcome in Lisbon in 2022: I wait for you!” – Linda Bordoni, Vatican News, 28Jan2019

Full text of Pope’s homily at concluding Mass for WYD Panama

Sunday, Jan. 27, was the final day of the World Youth Day in Panama City. Pope Francis celebrated an open-air Holy Mass at the capital’s Metro Park to conclude the WYD. – Vatican News

Pope Francis celebrating the concluding Mass of the World Youth Day at Metro Park in Panama City, Jan. 27, 2019. 

            “The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.  And he began to say to them: ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Lk 4:20-21).

            With these words, the Gospel presents the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  It started in the synagogue that saw him grow up; he was in the midst of neighbours and people he knew, and perhaps even some of his childhood “catechists” who had taught him the Law.  It was an important moment in the life of the Master: the child who was educated and grew up in that community, stood up and took the floor to proclaim and put into action God’s dream.  A word previously proclaimed only as a future promise, but now, on the lips of Jesus alone, could be spoken in the present tense, as it became a reality: “Today it has been fulfilled”.

            Jesus reveals the now of God, who comes to meet us and call us to take part in his now of “proclaiming good news to the poor… bringing liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, setting at liberty those who are oppressed, announcing the year of the Lord’s favour” (Lk 4:18-19).  This is the now of God.  It becomes present with Jesus: it has a face, it is flesh.  It is a merciful love that does not wait for ideal or perfect situations to show itself, nor does it accept excuses for its appearance.  It is God’s time, that makes every situation and place both right and proper.  In Jesus, the promised future begins and becomes life.

            When?  Now.  Yet not everyone who was listening felt invited or called.  Not all the residents of Nazareth were prepared to believe in someone they knew and had seen grow up, and who was now inviting them to realize a long-awaited dream.  Not only that, but “they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’” (Lk 4:22).

            The same thing can also happen with us.  We do not always believe that God can be that concrete and commonplace, that close and real, and much less that he can become so present and work through somebody like a neighbour, a friend, a relative.  We do not always believe that the Lord can invite us to work and soil our hands with him in his Kingdom in that simple and blunt a way.  It is hard to accept that “God’s love can become concrete and can almost be experienced in history with all its painful and glorious vicissitudes” ( BENEDICT XVI, General Audience, 28 September 2005).

            Often we too behave like the neighbours in Nazareth: we prefer a distant God: nice, good, generous but far-off, a God who does not inconvenience us.  Because a close and everyday God, a friend and brother, demands that we be concerned with our surroundings, everyday affairs and above all fraternity.  God chose not to reveal himself as an angel or in some spectacular way, but to give us a face that is fraternal and friendly, concrete and familiar.  God is real because love is real; God is concrete because love is concrete.  Indeed, this “concrete manifestation of love is one of the essential elements in the life of Christians” (BENEDICT XVI, Homily, 1 March 2006).

            We can also run the same risks as the neighbours at Nazareth, when within our communities the Gospel seeks to be lived concretely.  We begin to say: But these young people, aren’t they the children of Mary, Joseph, aren’t they the brothers and sisters of so and so?  Are these not the youngsters we saw grow up?  That one over there, wasn’t he the one who kept breaking windows with his ball?  What was born as prophecy and proclamation of the kingdom of God gets domesticated and impoverished.   Attempts to domesticate the word of God occur daily.

            You too, dear young people, can experience this whenever you think that your mission, your vocation, even your life itself, is a promise far off in the future, having nothing to do with the present.  As if being young were a kind of waiting room, where we sit around until we are called.  And in the “meantime”, we adults or you yourselves invent a hygienically sealed future, without consequences, where everything is safe, secure and “well insured”.  A “make-believe” happiness.  So we “ tranquilize ” you, we numb you into keeping quiet, not asking or questioning; and in that “meantime” your dreams lose their buoyancy, they begin to become flat and dreary, petty and plaintive (cf. Palm Sunday Homily, 25 March 2018).  Only because we think, or you think, that your now has not yet come, that you are too young to be involved in dreaming about and working for the future.

            One of the fruits of the last Synod was the enrichment that came from being able to meet and above all to listen to one another.  The enrichment of intergenerational dialogue, the enrichment of exchange and the value of realizing that we need one another, that we have to work to create channels and spaces that encourage dreaming of and working for tomorrow, starting today.  And this, not in isolation, but rather side by side, creating a common space.  A space that is not simply taken for granted, or won in a lottery, but a space for which you too must fight.

            You, dear young people, are not the future but the now of God.  He invites you and calls you in your communities and cities to go out and find your grandparents, your elders; to stand up and with them to speak out and realize the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you.

            Not tomorrow but now, for wherever your treasure is, there will your heart also be (cf. Mt 6:21).  Whatever you fall in love with, it will win over not only your imagination, it will affect everything.  It will be what makes you get up in the morning, what keeps you going at times of fatigue, what will break open your hearts and fill you with wonder, joy and gratitude.  Realize that you have a mission and fall in love; that will decide everything (cf. PEDRO ARRUPE, S.J., Nada es más práctico).  We may possess everything, but if we lack the passion of love, we will have nothing.  Let us allow the Lord to make us fall in love!

            For Jesus, there is no “meantime”, but only a merciful love that wants to enter into and win over our hearts.  He wants to be our treasure, because he is not a “meantime”, an interval in life or a passing fad; he is generous love that invites us to entrust ourselves.

            He is concrete, close, real love.  He is festive joy, born of opting for and taking part in the miraculous draught of hope and charity, solidarity and fraternity, despite the paralyzed and paralyzing gaze born of fear and exclusion, speculation and manipulation.

            Brothers and sisters, the Lord and his mission are not a “meantime” in our life, something temporary; they are our life!

            In a special way throughout these days, Mary’s fiat has been whispering like a kind of music in the background.  She not only believed in God and in his promises as something possible, she believed God himself and dared to say “yes” to taking part in this now of the Lord.  She felt she had a mission; she fell in love and that decided everything.

            As in the synagogue of Nazareth, the Lord stands up again among us his friends and acquaintances; he takes the book and says to us “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).

            Do you want to live out your love in a practical way?  May your “yes” continue to be the gateway for the Holy Spirit to give us a new Pentecost for the world and for the Church.

Farewell

            At the conclusion of this celebration, I thank God for having given us the opportunity to share these days together and to experience once more this World Youth Day.

            In particular, I would like to thank the President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez, the Presidents of other nations and the other political and civil authorities for their presence at this celebration.

            I thank Bishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, Archbishop of Panama, for his generosity and hard work in hosting this World Youth Day in his diocese, as well as the other bishops of this and the neighbouring countries, for all they have done in their communities to provide accommodation and assistance to the great numbers of young people.

            My thanks also go to all those who have supported us with their prayers, and who have helped by their efforts and hard work to make this World Youth Day dream come true in this country.

            And to you, dear young people, a big “thank you”.  Your faith and joy have made Panama, America and the entire world shake!  As we have heard so many times in these days in the song of this World Youth Day: “As your pilgrim people we are gathered here today from every continent and city”.  We are on a journey, keep walking, keep living the faith and sharing it.  Do not forget that you are not the tomorrow, you are not the “meantime”; you are the now of God.

            The venue for the next World Youth Day has already been announced.  I ask you not to let the fervour of these days grow cold.  Go back to your parishes and communities, to your families and your friends, and share this experience, so that others can resonate with the strength and enthusiasm that is yours.  With Mary, keep saying “yes” to the dream that God has sown in you.

            And, please, do not forget to pray for me.

Full text of Pope’s speech to WYD volunteers

At the conclusion of World Youth Day in Panama, Pope Francis meets with 22,200-odd volunteers and thanks them for their hard work and generosity.

Pope Francis hugs a WYD volunteer

Dear Volunteers,

            Before we conclude the celebration of World Youth Day, I wanted to meet all of you and to thank every one of you for the service you rendered during these days and in the months preceding WYD.

            Thanks to Bartosz, Stella Maris del Carmen and Maria Margarida for sharing their personal experiences.  How important it is to listen to them and to appreciate the fellowship that comes about when we come together to serve others.  We experience how faith takes on a completely new flavour and force: it becomes more alive, dynamic and real.  We experience a different kind of joy from having had the opportunity to work side by side with others in achieving a shared dream.  I know that all of you have experienced this.

            Now you know how our hearts beat faster when we have a mission, not because someone told you this, but because you experienced it for yourselves.  You experienced in your own life that “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13).

You also had to experience some difficult moments that called for additional sacrifice.  As you told us, Bartosz, we also come to experience our own weaknesses.  The good thing is that you did not let those weaknesses get in the way of your service, or bother you too much.  You experienced them in serving others, yes; in trying to understand and help other volunteers and pilgrims, yes; but you were determined not to let this stop you or paralyze you, you went ahead.  That is the beauty of knowing that we are sent, the joy of knowing that, in spite of every difficulty, we have a mission to carry out.  Not to let our limitations, our weaknesses and even our sins hold us back and stop us from living the mission, because God invites us to do what we can and ask for what we cannot, in the knowledge that his love is taking hold of us and transforming us progressively (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 49-50).  Put service and mission first, and you will see that everything else will follow.

            Thank you all, because in these days you have been attentive to even the smallest details, however ordinary and apparently insignificant, like offering someone a glass of water.  Yet you have also been concerned with the larger things that called for careful planning.  You prepared every detail with joy, creativity and commitment, and with much prayer.  For when we pray about things, we feel them more profoundly.  Prayer gives force and vitality to everything we do.  In praying, we discover that we are part of a family larger than what we can see or imagine.  In praying, we open everything we do to the Church that supports and accompanies us from heaven, to the saints who have shown us the way, but above all, we open it all to God.

            You have dedicated your time, and your energy and resources, to dreaming and putting together this meeting.  You could have easily chosen to do other things, but you wanted to be involved.  To give your best to making possible the miracle of the multiplication not only of loaves but also of hope.  Here, once again, you have shown that it is possible to set aside your own interests in order to help others.  As you did, Stella Maris, when you saved up to attend the WYD in Krakow, but decided not to go, so that you could look after your three grandparents.  You gave up doing something you wanted to do and had dreamed about, in order to help and accompany your family, to honour your roots.  But the Lord, unbeknownst to you, was preparing a gift for you; he brought the WYD to your own country.  Like Stella Maris, many of you also made all sorts of sacrifices.  You had to defer your dreams to care for your land, your roots.  The Lord always blesses that, and he can never be outdone in generosity.  Every time we forego something that we like for the good of others and especially those most in need, or our roots as in the case of our grandparents and the elderly, the Lord pays it back a hundredfold.  For when it comes to generosity, no one can beat him; when it comes to love, no one can outdo him.  Friends, give and it will be given to you, and you will experience how the Lord “puts into your lap good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over” (Lk 6:38).

            You have had a more lively and real experience of faith; you have experienced the strength born of prayer and a new and different kind of joy, the fruit of working side by side even with people you did not know.  Now is the moment when you are sent forth: go out and tell, go out and bear witness, go out and spread the word about everything you have seen and heard.  Dear friends, let everyone know about what happened during these days.  Not with lots of words but rather, as you did here, with simple and ordinary gestures, those that transform and renew each hour of the day.

            Let us ask the Lord for his blessing.  May he bless your families and communities, and all those whom you will meet and encounter in the days to come.  Let us also place ourselves under the mantle of the Blessed Virgin.  May Our Lady accompany you always.  And, as I told you in Krakow, I do not know if I will be there for the next WYD, but Peter will surely be there to confirm you in faith.  Press on, with courage and strength, and please, do not forget to pray for me.  Thank you. – Vatican News, Rommel Fernández Stadium, 27 Jan 2019

Full Text of Pope Francis’ speech at WYD 2019 Opening Ceremony

Pope Francis told young people at Panama’s World Youth Day opening ceremony that the Church is walking with them. He was addressing the crowds gathered at the Santa Marta La Antigua Field in Panama City.

Pope Francis on Thursday presided over the Official Welcome and Opening Ceremony of World Youth Day 2019. Addressing the crowds gathered in a specially organized open area along Panama City’s Coastal Belt, he encouraged them to nurture the culture of encounter that has made the event possible.

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims at the WYD opening ceremony  (Vatican Media)

Dear Young People, good evening!

How good it is to get together again, this time in a land that receives us with such radiance and warmth! As we gather in Panama, World Youth Day is once more a celebration of joy and hope for the whole Church and, for the world, a witness of faith.

I remember that in Krakow several people asked me if I was going to be in Panama, and I told them: “I don’t know, but certainly Peter will be there. Peter is going to be there”. Today I am happy to say to you: Peter is with you, to celebrate and renew you in faith and hope. Peter and the Church walk with you, and we want to tell you not to be afraid, to go forward with the same fresh energy and restlessness that helps make us happier and more available, better witnesses to the Gospel. To go forward, not to create a parallel Church that would be more “fun” or “cool” thanks to a fancy youth event, as if that were all you needed or wanted. That way of thinking would not respect either you or everything that the Spirit is saying through you.

Not at all! With you, we want to rediscover and reawaken the Church’s constant freshness and youth, opening ourselves to a new Pentecost (cf. SYNOD ON YOUNG PEOPLE, Final Document, 60). As we experienced at the Synod, this can only happen if, by our listening and sharing, we encourage each other to keep walking and to bear witness by proclaiming the Lord through service to our brothers and sisters, and concrete service at that.

I know getting here was not easy. I know how much effort and sacrifice was required for you to participate in this Day. Many weeks of work and commitment, and encounters of reflection and prayer, have made the journey itself largely its own reward. A disciple is not merely someone who arrives at a certain place, but one who sets out decisively, who is not afraid to take risks and keeps walking. This is the great joy: to keep walking. You have not been afraid to take risks and to keep journeying. Today we were all able to “get here” because for some time now, in our various communities, we have all been “on the road” together.

We come from different cultures and peoples, we speak different languages and we wear different clothes. Each of our peoples has had a different history and lived through different situations. We are different in so many ways! But none of it has stopped us from meeting one another and rejoicing to be together. The reason for this, we know, is that something unites us. Someone is a brother to us. You, dear friends, have made many sacrifices to be able to meet one another and in this way you have become true teachers and builders of the culture of encounter. By your actions and your approach, your way of looking at things, your desires and above all your sensitivity, you discredit and defuse the kind of talk that is intent on sowing division, on excluding or rejecting those who are not “like us”. It is because you have that instinct which knows intuitively that “true love does not eliminate legitimate differences, but harmonizes them in a superior unity” (BENEDICT XVI, Homily, 25 January 2006). On the other hand, we know that the father of lies prefers people who are divided and quarrelling to people who have learned to work together.

You teach us that encountering one another does not mean having to look alike, or think the same way or do the same things, listening to the same music or wearing the same football jersey. No, not at all… The culture of encounter is a call inviting us to dare to keep alive a shared dream. Yes, a great dream, a dream that has a place for everyone. The dream for which Jesus gave his life on the cross, for which the Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost and brought fire to the heart of every man and woman, in your hearts and mine, in the hope of finding room to grow and flourish. A dream named Jesus, sown by the Father in the confidence that it would grow and live in every heart. A dream running through our veins, thrilling our hearts and making them dance whenever we hear the command: “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35).

A saint from these lands liked to say that, “Christianity is not a collection of truths to be believed, of rules to be followed, or of prohibitions. Seen that way it puts us off. Christianity is a person who loved me immensely, who demands and asks for my love. Christianity is Christ” (cf. Saint Oscar Romero, Homily, 6 November 1977). It means pursuing the dream for which he gave his life: loving with the same love with which he loved us.

We can ask: What keeps us united? Why are we united? What prompts us to encounter each other? The certainty of knowing that we have been loved with a profound love that we neither can nor want to keep quiet about a love that challenges us to respond in the same way: with love. It is the love of Christ that urges us on (cf. 2 Cor 5:14).

A love that does not overwhelm or oppress, cast aside or reduce to silence, humiliate or domineer. It is the love of the Lord, a daily, discreet and respectful love; a love that is free and freeing, a love that heals and raises up. The love of the Lord has to do more with raising up than knocking down, with reconciling than forbidding, with offering new changes than condemning, with the future than the past. It is the quiet love of a hand outstretched to serve, a commitment that draws no attention to itself.
Do you believe in this love? Is it a love that makes sense?

This is the same question and invitation that was addressed to Mary. The angel asked her if she wanted to bear this dream in her womb and give it life, to make it take flesh. She answered: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). Mary found the courage to say “yes”. She found the strength to give life to God’s dream. The angel is asking the same thing of each of you, and of me. Do you want this dream to come alive? Do you want to make it take flesh with your hands, with your feet, with your gaze, with your heart? Do you want the Father’s love to open new horizons for you and bring you along paths never imagined or hoped for, dreamt or expected, making our hearts rejoice, sing and dance?

Do we have the courage to say to the angel, as Mary did: Behold the servants of the Lord; let it be done?

Dear young friends, the most hope-filled result of this Day will not be a final document, a joint letter or a programme to be carried out. The most hope-filled result of this meeting will be your faces and a prayer. Each of you will return home with the new strength born of every encounter with others and with the Lord. You will return home filled with the Holy Spirit, so that you can cherish and keep alive the dream that makes us brothers and sisters, and that we must not let grow cold in the heart of our world. Wherever we may be and whatever we may do, we can always look up and say, “Lord, teach me to love as you have loved us”. Will you repeat those words with me? “Lord, teach me to love as you have loved us”.

We cannot conclude this first encounter without giving thanks. Thank you to all those who have prepared this World Youth Day with so much enthusiasm. Thank you for encouraging one another to build up and to welcome, and for saying “yes” to God’s dream of seeing his sons and daughters gathered. Thank you to Archbishop Ulloa and his team who have helped Panama to be today not only a channel that joins oceans, but also a channel where God’s dream continues to find new streams that enable it to grow, to multiply and to spread to every corner of the earth.

Dear friends, may Jesus bless you and Santa Maria Antigua ever accompany you, so that we can say without fear, as she does: “I am here. Let it be done”. – Vatican News, 25 Jan 2019

WYD Panama: Jewish synagogue hosting WYD group

The synagogue of Panama City is hosting a group of WYD pilgrims. Rabbi Gustavo Kraselnik of the synagogue spoke to Seàn-Patrick Lovett of Vatican News about the warm relations between his community and Catholics.

Rabbi Gustavo Kraselnik (r) speaking to Seàn-Patrick Lovett. 

Vatican – The Catholic Church’s World Youth Day is unfolding in Panama City around Pope Francis, with thousands of young people from around the world participating in various events. 

One of the numerous venues where young people are gathering is the Jewish synagogue of Panama City, which speaks volumes about the close friendship between Jews and Christians in the Central American nation.

To find more about this “strong and vibrant collaboration” between the two communities, Seán-Patrick Lovett spoke to the Jewish Rabbi of Panama City, Gustavo Kraselnik, whose synagogue is hosting a group of 50 young participants in the WYD

Rabbi Kraselnik said that this friendship is not surprising as it comes to them naturally, not just with Catholics but with all religions. Panama being a small country, they know each other well.

The rabbi pointed out that Jewish-Catholic relations have greatly improved since Vatican II. In the last 15 to 20 years, Jews and Catholics in Panama began to visit, meet and talk to each other more frequently, to build a relationship based on respect and joining hands in good works. 

Rabbi Kraselnik said that in their neighbourhood, Jews talked with the parish of St. Lucas Parish to host a group of WYD participants in their synagogue. 

The rabbi said that relations between religious communities depend on how much hope religious leaders bring in their ecumenical or inter-faith dialogue, especially in moments of crisis and tension such as the period of dictatorship in Panama. This, he said, benefits society. 

With Panama a mosaic of diversity, Rabbi Kraselnik said inter-religious friendship is only natural. – Robin Gomes, 24 Jan 2019

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