Category Archives: Vatican News

Vatican to mark 25th anniversary of Centesimus Annus foundation with conference

Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin

VATICAN CITY – Catholic social teaching is, by its nature, “a work in progress” that must be constantly in dialogue with political and economic policy makers.

That was a key message to emerge from a press conference on 18 Apr 2018 marking the 25thanniversary of the Centesimus Annus foundation, set up by Pope John Paul II to promote greater understanding and engagement with the Church’s social teaching.

The foundation is currently preparing for an international conference in Rome,  May 24 – 26,  on the theme of ‘New Policies and Life-Styles in the Digital Age’ at the Palazzo Cancelleria and in the Vatican.

The event will focus on three themes, namely ‘The family facing job uncertainties and the digital cultural revolution’, ‘Towards a sustainable food chain: responsibility against the ‘throwaway culture’, and ‘Human Work, Inclusive Employment’.

The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I will give a concluding address on the theme of ‘A common Christian agenda for the Common Good.’

One of the speakers at the press conference was the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin, who, as a former official of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council, was involved with the preparation of Pope John Paul’s 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus.  He reflected on some of the global challenges that have emerged since the foundation was set up, including the growth of economic inequality and increased levels of corruption.

Archbishop Martin  talked to Vatican News about the changing focus of the foundation over the past quarter of a century, saying he believes we “misread the situation at the end of the cold war.”

He said “we were too optimistic” about the possibilities for economic growth and “we didn’t realise how the fabric of society in many former communist countries was disintegrated.” Many of the current problems of corruption started to emerge at that time, he said, with the trade in arms, drugs and people trafficking.

Archbishop Martin spoke about the need for a “rigid reflection” on dialogue between social sciences and Catholic social teaching, underlining the responsibility of universities to form young people and indicate “pathways of application.”

In a large city like Dublin, he said problems of “new poverty” are evident, alongside problems linked with family breakdown.

He said he hoped the forthcoming World Meeting of Families in Dublin would explore questions relating to family life and the economy.  While people tend to think of families in an ideological or abstract way, he said, we have to see how family life is connected across society to challenges of homelessness, refugees, or prison ministry.

Asked about preparations for World Meeting of families, Archbishop Martin said: “Big events have big challenges, and there a s new one every day!”

Commenting on the papal visit to Ireland for the event, he said “The programme isn’t definitive yet, but the Pope is coming to Dublin for the WMF, that was always his intention. This pope has a different style of visits than his predecessors, and I think everything will work out well”.

For his part, Domingo Sugranyes Bickel, who chairs the Foundation’s Board of Directors, said that “like at the time of Rerum Novarum, we will try to identify ‘elements of novelty’ in order to rethink the socio-economic priorities we face today.”

The list of speakers includes members of the Pontifical Academy for Life, the Vatican Foundation Gravissimum Educationis, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the European Trade Union Confederation, and a number of economists, academics and business leaders. – Vatican News, AsiaNews

Pope Francis offers practical steps to holiness in new exhortation

VATICAN CITY – On 9 April 2018, which this year marked the transferred Solemnity of the Annunciation, the Vatican released the latest Apostolic Exhortation from Pope Francis: Gaudete et exsultate: On the call to holiness in today’s world.

“The Lord asks everything of us, and in return offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created.”

In his third Apostolic Exhortation (following Evangelii gaudium and Amoris laetitia) Pope Francis reflects on the call to holiness, and how we can respond to that call in the modern world. “My modest goal” in the Exhortation, Pope Francis says, “is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time.”

The five chapters of Gaudete et exsultate follow a logical progression, beginning with a consideration of the call to holiness as it is in itself. The Holy Father than examines two “subtle enemies of holiness,” namely, contemporary gnosticism and contemporary pelagianism.

Holiness in living the Beatitudes
The heart of Gaudete et exsultate is dedicated to the idea that holiness means following Jesus. In this third chapter, Pope Francis considers each of the Beatitudes as embodying what it means to be holy. But if the Beatitudes show us what holiness means, the Gospel also shows us the criterion by which we will be judged: “I was hungry and you gave me food… thirsty and you gave me drink… a stranger and you welcomed me… naked and you clothed me… sick and you took care of me… in prison and you visited me.”

Pope Francis devotes the fourth chapter of Gaudete et exsultate to “certain aspects of the call to holiness” that he feels “will prove especially meaningful” in today’s world: perseverance, patience and meekness; joy and a sense of humour; boldness and passion; the communal dimension of holiness; constant prayer.

Spiritual combat and discernment
Finally, the Exhortation makes practical suggestions for living out the call to holiness. “The Christian life is a constant battle,” the Pope says. “We need strength and courage to withstand the temptations of the devil and to proclaim the Gospel.” In the fifth chapter, he speaks about the need for “combat” and vigilance, and calls us to exercise the gift of discernment, “which is all the more necessary today,” in a world with so many distractions that keep us from hearing the Lord’s voice.

“It is my hope,” Pope Francis concludes, “that these pages will prove helpful by enabling the whole Church to devote herself anew to promoting the desire for holiness.” – Christopher Wells, Vatican News

Pope concludes General Audience cycle of catecheses on the Mass

St Peter’s Square is decked with flowers for Easter Week (Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis concluded the cycle of catecheses on the Mass at the General Audience on Easter Wednesday, 4 Apr 2018.

Joy was the prevailing theme of Pope Francis’ catechesis for the General Audience for Wednesday in Easter Week. The Holy Father reminded pilgrims that the Easter flowers speak to us of joy and gladness – the joy we feel in the flourishing of the Risen Christ, the flourishing of our justification, the flourishing of the holiness of the Church.

The celebration continues throughout the Paschal season, but especially during this week, when every day is celebrated like Easter Sunday. The Pope called on the crowd to greet one another with a joyful “Happy Easter,” and led them in extending Easter greetings to our “beloved Pope Benedict,” who, he said, was following the Easter celebrations on television.

Wednesday’s catechesis focused on the concluding rites of the Mass, the blessing and dismissal that follow the concluding prayer. With the blessing, which always follows a Trinitarian formula, the Mass concludes as it begins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

But, Pope Francis says, the conclusion of the liturgy is not the end of our Christian life; rather, it is the beginning of our “commitment to Christian witness.” Christians, he said, “don’t go to Mass to fulfill a weekly duty and then forget about it.” Christians go to Mass to participate in the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord, and then live even more as Christians. The Mass should lead us to participate even more in the life of Christ, to act as Jesus did – and this, he said, is Christian sanctity.

Pope Francis took care to explain that the presence of Christ in the Eucharist does not end with the Mass, but continues, which is why the Hosts are preserved in the tabernacle, both for the Communion of the sick and for Adoration. The worship of the Most Holy Sacrament in Adoration, he said, helps us to remain in Christ.

The Holy Father went on to describe the fruits of the Mass. The Mass, he said, is like a grain of wheat “that grows in our daily life, grows and matures in good works, in the attitudes that make us more like Jesus.”

When we go to Mass regularly, we grow in union with Christ, and are separated more and more from sin. Frequent participation in the liturgy renews and strengthens our bonds with one another in the Christian community. And finally, the Mass leads us to see Christ in our brothers and sisters, where He waits to be “recognised, served, honoured, and loved” by us.

“Bearing the treasure of union with Christ in earthen vessels,” he concluded, “we stand constantly in need of returning to the holy altar, until at last, in paradise, we might taste fully of the beatitude of the wedding feast of the Lamb.” – Christopher Wells, Vatican News

Document of pre-synodal meeting of young people released

VATICAN CITY – A document released by the pre-synodal meeting of young people was presented in the Vatican on 24 Mar 2018 following a weeklong meeting which was opened in the presence of Pope Francis.

The Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment” will take place in the Vatican in October 2018.

Presenting the document during a briefing at the Vatican Press Office, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, explained it is one of the sources that will contribute to the preparation of the Instrumentum Laboris (working instrument) for the Synod itself.

Baldisseri also said other contributions will be provided by the Episcopal Conferences, by the Synods of the Eastern Catholic Churches and by synthesis documents resulting from listening sessions conducted in dioceses across the world.

He added that the results of the online questionnaire proposed to young people and the interventions of the international seminar on young people organised by the General Secretariat of the Synod in September 2017 will be added to all that material, as well as observations spontaneously sent in by individuals and groups from all over the planet.

Baldisseri said the document drawn up during this week is divided into three parts, preceded by an introduction: the first part deals with the challenges and opportunities of young people in today’s world; the second on faith and vocation, on discernment and on the accompaniment of young people; the third on the Church’s formative and pastoral activities.

He noted that approximately 15,300 young people from the five continents took part in the meeting – physically or virtually – representing their peers all over the world.

Baldisseri concluded saying that on Sunday, Mar 25, some of the young people who have been involved in the meeting will have the privilege of offering the document to Pope Francis himself.

Significantly, he said, the person chosen to deliver the text into the hands of the Pope is a young man from Panama, the nation that will host World Youth Day in 2019. – Linda Bordoni, Vatican News

World Water Day: Contribution of Pope Francis and the Holy See

Pope Francis in Sri Lanka along the banks of the Indian Ocean in January 2015.

VATICAN CITY – Yesterday March 22 was World Water Day. “Nature for Water” is the theme for the 2018 celebration. Pope Francis and the Holy See have often contributed to this theme.

Pope Francis has already made it clear that the availability and care of the world’s water sources must be a global priority. In his encyclical Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home), the word “water” appears 47 times—22 occurrences within articles 27-30 which treat the subject of water specifically.

Laudato Si’
In this encyclical, Pope Francis expresses his concerns: the waste of water, a sustainable supply of fresh drinking water, the quality of the water available to poorer populations, water-related diseases, the threat of the pollution of underground water supplies, the privatizing and commoditization of water, and the future consequences that the lack of water will have on food supply and international relations.

Access to water is a human right
Pope Francis proposes that the “problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue”. Against the prevalent and growing abuse of water, Pope Francis has strong words.

Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.” (Laudato Si’, 30).

Water: long-time concern of the Holy See
Laudato Si’, however, states quite clearly what previous Popes, and the Holy See, have been saying for years. For example, in 2003, on the occasion of the Third World Water Forum in Kyoto, Japan, the Holy See presented a document entitled Water: An Essential Element for Life. Here, the Holy See states that the protection of water is a major factor in the development and sustainability of society. The Holy See renewed its concerns in the Fourth and Fifth Water Forums in Mexico City (2006), and Istanbul (2009). The Holy See’s latest contribution in 2012 for the Sixth Water Forum held in Marseille contains many of the same concerns presented by Pope Francis in Laudato Si’.

We need to unite our voices
In February 2017, Pope Francis addressed those participating in a Seminar organised by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican on the theme “The Human Right to Water.” Here he reiterated the centrality of water in the life of society.

“Water needs to be given the central place it deserves in the framework of public policy. Our right to water is also a duty to water. Our right to water gives rise to an inseparable duty. We are obliged to proclaim this essential human right and to defend it – as we have done – but we also need to work concretely to bring about political and juridical commitments in this regard.”

Given the gravity of the situation, education should be given high priority, Pope Francis underlined. Should the problems regarding water not be resolved, Pope Francis wonders that “in the midst of this ‘piecemeal third world war’ that we are experiencing, if we are not on the path towards a great world war over water.”

Pope Francis envisions that the treasure that water is will be safeguarded only if it becomes a single cause:

“We need to unite our voices in a single cause; then it will no longer be a case of hearing individual or isolated voices, but rather the plea of our brothers and sisters echoed in our own, and the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all.  In this culture of encounter, it is essential that each state act as a guarantor of universal access to safe and clean water.” – Sr Bernadette Mary Reis fsp, Vatican News

Analysis: What led to, and what will follow, ‘Lettergate’

VATICAN CITY – A new chapter for Vatican media and communications began on 30 Apr 2015, when Pope Francis established a commission of five members to analyse and implement the suggestions of a report from a Vatican Committee for Communication, which itself had been established in July 2014.

The commission, whose establishment was seen by some as a rejection of the previous committee, was chaired by Msgr Dario Edoardo Viganò, who at the time was still director of Vatican Television. The members were Msgr Lucio Adrian Ruiz, Fr Antonio Spadaro, the editor of the Jesuit magazine La Civiltà Cattolica, and then-Msgr Paul Tighe, who was Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Social Communication, and Paolo Nusiner, who came from the board of the Italian episcopal conference newspaper Avvenire.

Msgr Tighe was – along with Msgr. Ruiz – the only member of the original committee chaired by Lord Christopher Patten, which had drafted a reform proposal after a series of meetings with the staff of the Vatican media departments.

Then, the story is well known: Msgr Tighe was promoted adjunct secretary of the Pontifical Council of Culture and ordained a bishop, Msgr Ruiz became second-in-command at the Secretariat for Communications, while Msgr Dario Edoardo Viganò was appointed prefect.

On 21 Mar 2018, Vigano’s resignation as prefect was accepted; he will now serve as a consultor to the secretariat.

In this moment of crisis, many eyes are nowfixed on Bishop Tighe.

Vatican observers note that Tighe was received in a private audience by Pope Francis March 15, two days after the “Vatican lettergate” – as it was eventually dubbed – had exploded. Other Vatican insiders told CNA that Bishop Tighe is scheduled for another meeting with Pope Francis March 26.

Are these clues that Bishop Tighe will become the dicastery’s prefect?

On the plus side, he has been a part of the reform project since the beginning, he understands the adjustments that have been made, and he is a bishop, which gives him a status Msgr Viganò did not have.

On the other hand, should he be called to carry on a reform that he helped to design, he will be called to ride very difficult waves.

Msgr Viganò used to say that every reform faces resistance. In the case of the Vatican media reform, it seemed there was something more. Sources told CNA that the first leak about the doctoring of Benedict XVI’s letter came from inside the Secretariat for the Communication- this could be a sign of real internal discord.

From the time a commission was established to analyse and carry on the Patten Report, it was already clear that an internal struggle might take place: the commission had no representatives of Vatican Radio, the Vatican media department most touched by the reform. And neither were the Holy See Press Office, L’Osservatore Romano and the Vatican Publishing House represented. It is noteworthy that Gian Maria Vian, editor of L’Osservatore Romano, was a member of the Lord Patten committee, but not the subsequent commission.

The reform was carried forward, and led to the launch of the new Vatican News website, along with the Vatican media department that absorbed audio/video responsibilities previously entrusted to the L’Osservatore Romano Photo Service and to Vatican Television, while Vatican Radio ceased its legal existence and was absorbed in the Vatican News department, with a special label for Italian broadcasting called Radio Vaticana Italia.

In 2015, the motu proprio L’attuale contesto comunicativo established the Secretariat for Communication, and on 22 Sept 2016 the statues of the new secretariat were finally published.

The statutes divided the Secretariat for Communication into five ‘directions,’ or departments: the general affairs department; the editorial direction; the technological direction; the pastoral-theological direction; and the direction of the Holy See Press Office.

The five directions were part of the Lord Patten proposal, as he explained in a lecture delivered on 28 May 2015.

However, internal discussion about how to carry out the reform was open-ended.

Since the first Vatileaks scandal, back in 2012, discussion about communications issues have been intense within the Vatican. During the Vatileaks scandal, the Vatican decided to hire an adviser for communications within the Secretariat of State, American Greg Burke.

Communication strategy was important to cardinals during meeting preceding the conclave that elected Pope Francis.

This is the reason why cardinals in conclave chose for a “change of narrative,” according to a Wall Street Journal report based on conversation with four different cardinals. When Pope Francis’ started his reform plan, global consulting firm McKinsey & Company was engaged to propose a new Vatican media strategy.

But the discussion was not just technical. It also entailed the philosophy behind the Vatican’s communication strategy, and on that front, many questions remain unanswered.

Angelo Scelzo, a long term Vatican official who ended his career as deputy Director of the Holy See’s Press Office, and for years was an official of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, explained well the issues at stake.

In 2014, Scelzo wrote a book tracing back 50 years of Vatican communications, starting with the Second Vatican Council’s Inter Mirifica, its decree on social communications.

In the book, “La Penna di Pietro,” Scelzo explained that “as any good means and tools of communications, Vatican media had always relied on an editorial perspective. This editorial line was not put together in a marketing office, but emerged from the documents that, mostly from the Second Vatican Council onward, supported the development of Vatican media as well as shaped its character.”

All of these issues loom behind “Lettergate.” The new prefect – whether Bishop Tighe or not – will be called to solve them.

Pope Francis, however, seems to want to keep the discussion alive: Msgr Viganò is not gone, he remains part of the Secretariat for Communication as an assessor. How much he will influence is yet to be assessed. Certainly, his presence there will be a signal for his successor that the Pope’s intended reform must be carried forward. – Andrea Gagliarducci, CNA, 21 Mar 2018.

Vatican gathers statistics on Pope Francis’ 5th anniversary

VATICAN CITY – On 19 March  2013, the Solemnity of St Joseph, Pope Francis celebrated Mass inaugurating his pontificate. Since then, the 81-year-old pontiff has certainly left his mark on the Church. The statistics put together by the Holy See’s Press Office (see below) give us but an outline of Pope Francis’ papacy.

In the footsteps of John Paul II and Benedict XVI
Pope Francis has demonstrated that he is continuing in the footsteps of both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The themes of both synods – the Family and young people – were very dear to John Paul II. And both Encyclicals have connections with Benedict XVI. The first, Lumen Fidei, is based on a manuscript begun by Pope Benedict and concludes his Encyclicals on Faith, Hope and Charity. The second, Laudato Si’, not only cites Pope Benedict numerous times, but also treats a recurring theme from Pope Benedict’s pontificate.

Pope Francis’  Signature
But Pope Francis is also leaving his own mark on the Papacy, one which is rooted in his formation and pastoral experience in Argentina. The creation of a special Council of Cardinals to assist him in the reform of the Roman Curia is a concrete example of the collegiality that Pope Francis embraces.

Perhaps most remarkable of all is the Pope’s affable and affectionate personality which shines through every public and personal encounter with him. Francis is a Pope who enters into the everyday lives of people with phone calls and letters, with “Good evening,” “enjoy your lunch,” and “please don’t forget to pray for me.”

Statistics released by the Holy See’s Press Office

Encyclicals
Lumen fidei (20 June 2013)
Laudato si’ (24 May 2015

Apostolic Exhortations
Evangelii gaudium (24 November 2013)
Amoris laetitia (19 March 2016)

Bulls
Misericordiae vultus (11 April 2015)

Motu Proprios
3 in 2013
2 in 2014
4 in 2015
9 in 2016
4 in 2017
1 in 2018

General audiences: 219

Themes of the Wednesday Catechesis:
Profession of Faith
The Sacraments
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
The Church
The Family
Mercy
Christian hope
The Holy Mass

Angelus/Regina Coeli: 286

International trips: 22
Pope Francis has travelled a total of 250,000 km visiting: Brasil, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, South Korea, Albania, the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Turkey, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Cuba, the United States, Kenya, Uganda, Central African Republic, Mexico, Greece, Armenia, Poland, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Egypt, Portugal, Colombia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Chile, Peru

Trips within Italy: 18

Pastoral visits to the parishes of Rome: 16

Synods
3rd Extraordinary Synod on the Family (5-19 October 2014)
14th Ordinary Synod on the Family (4-25 October 2015)
16th Ordinary Synod on Youth (3-18 October 2018)
Special Synod on the Amazon (October 2019)

Special Years
Year of Consecrated Life (29 November 2014–2 February 2016)
Extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy (8 December 2015–20 November 2016)

Special Months
Extraordinary Missionary month (October 2019)

World Days
World Day of fasting and prayer for Peace I: Syria (7 September 2013)
24 Hours for the Lord a Friday in Lent (inaugurated in 2014)
World day of prayer for creation: 1 September (inaugurated in 2015)
World day of the poor: 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (inaugurated in 2017)
Sunday of the Word: One Sunday during the Liturgical Year (inaugurated in 2017)
World Day of Migrants and Refugees: Second Sunday of September (inaugurated 14 January 2018)
World day of prayer and fasting for peace II: South Sudan, Congo and Syria (23 February 2018)

World Youth Days
28th World Day in Rio de Janeiro: 23-28 July 2013
31st World Day in Krakow: 26-31 July 2016
34th World Day in Panama: 22-27 January 2019

Consistories for the creation of Cardinals
Pope Francis has created a total of 61 cardinals. Of these, 49 are electors and 12 are non-electors (one of whom has subsequently died)
19 Cardinals created on 22 February 2014
20 Cardinals created on 14 February 2015
17 Cardinals created on 19 November 2016
5 Cardinals created on 28 June 2017

Canonisations
Pope Francis has canonised a total of 880 saints, 800 of whom are the Martyrs of Otranto
9 canonization ceremonies in the Vatican
3 canonisations ceremonies outside of the Vatican: United States, Sri Lanka, Portugal
5 canonisations equipollent (equal in power)  – Sr Bernadette Mary Reis fsp, Vatican News

‘We are the church of hope’ – Vatican youth delegates speak up

Pope Francis at the Vatican’s pre-synodal youth meeting.  Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

VATICAN CITY – Young people from around the world have begun a meeting at the Vatican by voicing their hopes and expectations from the Church regarding the challenges they face and the questions life poses.

Specifically, they have said they want to know they are taken seriously, and they want the Church to talk to them about difficult issues, among them same-sex marriage, euthanasia and the role of women in the Church.

The young people are delegates to a special pre-synod meeting of youth, which is taking place March 19-24 and has drawn some 300 representatives from around the world to talk about key themes ahead October’s Synod of Bishops on “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”

CNA spoke with several young participants at the pre-synod meeting, hailing from Japan, Australia, Mexico, Iraq and the United States on 20 Mar 2018.

They spoke about issues important in their countries of origin, including persecution, the refugee crisis, suicide and drugs.

Australia

For 22-year-old Angelas Markas, a Chaldean Catholic living in Australia, youth need to “move forward, we need to be brave in addressing topics like same-sex marriage, euthanasia, sexuality – what does it mean to embrace our sexuality as Catholics, and the role of women – how important are we, how empowered are we?”

Markas was one of five young people to give testimonies in front of Pope Francis during the March 19 opening session.

In her speech, she highlighted, among other things, her life as part of the Iraqi Chaldean diaspora, her work with indigenous communities in Australia, and her hope that the Church would engage with young people on important issues, especially the role of women, who she said “need to feel our sense of empowerment.”

In comments to CNA, Markas said these are all the topics she wants to discuss during the event, and voiced hope that the stories and experiences she shares “will be embraced.”

On the role of  women, Markas said she believes they are already “embraced and empowered” in the Church, but thinks this sense of empowerment should be “more obvious.”

She also spoke of the tragedy of clerical abuse — which has plagued Australia for years and tarnished public perception of the Church — saying that while it is a problem, she trusts the Church “is going to find her path in this.”

“We are a Church of hope, if we aren’t a Church of hope, how are we really going to grow from this?” she said. “We are the witnesses of the Resurrection, so we have to have hope that this will all heal and we have to work toward it.”

Markas also voiced appreciation for Pope Francis’ appeals on behalf of migrants and refugees, which hold special significance for her because of her own heritage. The Pope, she said, “is so great in that he always addresses the littleness, the smallness of the youth from wherever we come from.”

“He’s doing such a brilliant job,” she said.  Recalling a brief handshake with Francis after giving her speech, Markas said she was still in disbelief: “I can’t believe I shook his hand and kissed his cheeks, I’m not going to wash my face! It was brilliant.”

Francis has a dynamic way of engaging the youth, she said, noting that many young people still crave connection with the Church, especially those who lack hope or who have experienced suffering or loss.

She challenged the Church to listen and engage more with young people, calling for a “transformation” of approach. This isn’t something that will happen immediately, she said, “but we are meeting this culture that desires to be connected and we need to address it in a more universal and listening way.”

The pre-synod gathering, she said, “is the perfect example” of how this connection and listening can take place. “It’s a real change, it’s not something that is delusional or a fantasy. Young people want to feel a sense of value and purpose, they want to hear and understand and be able to understand.”

Iraq

Shaker Youhanan Zaytouna, a 24-year-old seminarian from Iraq, told journalists March 20 that one of the biggest challenges the local Church faces is that many young people are leaving the country, opting to move abroad due to the threat of extremist violence and the country’s ongoing political instability.

This presents a unique challenge for the future of the country, he said, explaining that “it’s very hard to tell the Church to not allow youth to leave Iraq.” Security is a big problem, he said, because one can ask the youth to stay, but there’s no guarantee that they won’t be killed later.

A Chaldean Catholic studying in Rome, Zaytouna said the Church has a big role to play in encouraging youth to stay in Iraq and helping provide the conditions for them to stay. However, “the problem is that the government needs to initiate this step.”

Iraqi youth are being welcomed into other countries, but many want to return, he said. “[And] if the government isn’t helping the heart, if they aren’t providing that security, how can these youth return?” he said, adding that finding work is also a problem for many young families.

The seminarian also voiced concern over the fact that many young people, from various religions, are becoming either atheist or agnostic, calling it “a [big] a problem” for the future that will have to be addressed.

He also touched on the topic of vocations, saying the Church “must commit herself more to listening…and not only, but to learn to accompany.”

Noting that he is still a young seminarian himself, Zaytouna said better accompaniment is needed, because “if the bishop doesn’t accompany us, if the priests don’t accompany us, or someone else, how can I stay on this path?”

At times parents try to prevent children from pursuing consecrated vocations, he said, noting there are cultural pressures that make it difficult to accept or follow such callings. However, he said there have also been times when formators pressure someone discerning, telling them they are not cut out for religious life.

Those discerning need to be encouraged and accompanied, Zaytouna said, explaining that “listening comes first; learn to listen, accompaniment comes and then the discernment.”

Japan

Also participating in the pre-synod meeting is Yoshikazu Tsumuraya, a Japanese Buddhist from Fukushima who currently lives in Rome and works with the Japanese Buddhist Lay Movement. Before coming to Rome, he taught in a Buddhist seminary.

In comments to CNA, Tsumuraya said his organisation has strong ties with the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and was invited to participate in the meeting as a representative of the Buddhist community.

“When I received this invitation, I was really happy, because having a knowledge of Christianity, it pushed me to get to know Christian youth,” Tsumuraya said, explaining that he has worked with a lot of Christians and is very committed to interreligious dialogue.

Tsumuraya said he came primarily to listen and understand the different realities of youth from around the world.

In the case of Japan, he said the major challenges for youth are a widespread competitive and consumerist mentality, as well as the immense cultural pressure to be successful. And if youth don’t give in to this way of thinking, they might feel estranged from their peers or that they don’t fit in, Tsumuraya said.

In cases when this happens, young people react in a variety of ways, he said, explaining that one big problem is that youth who feel that they don’t quite fit in “are no longer able to go to school,” due to the stigma they face, “so they stay home closed in their rooms.”

Other major problems for Japanese youth are premature death due to “excessive work,” he said, as well as suicide, which is a common phenomenon among teenagers in the country.

Tsumuraya voiced appreciation for Pope Francis’ frequent references to the problem of teen and young adult suicide, which “is not just a Japanese problem, but it’s a global problem.”

“So thinking about this phenomena which affects the whole world, we must face it, above all in knowing the reality, then to think about how to accompany youth to avoid this terrible [phenomena],” he said.

The Americas

Nicholas Lopez, a 27-year-old campus minister from Dallas, Texas, is also participating in the meeting as one of three representatives from the United States.

Lopez gave his testimony during the opening session, pointing to various challenges young people have faced during his experience working with youth on campus.

In comments to CNA, Lopez said the major topics he wants to bring to the table during the pre-synod meeting are “the concerns of the Hispanic Americans in the United States, and the solidarity between us and them.”

The topic is particularly timely in the US as concerns continue to mount over President Donald Trump’s strict immigration policies. Many, including a high number of college students whose parents are immigrants, have voiced fear about deportation.

In addition to issues affecting the Hispanic community, Lopez said he also plans to discuss mental health issues, the higher education system in the United States and “the way young people are impacted on college campuses.”

Also participating in the meeting is 25-year-old Corina Fiore Mortola Rodriguez of Mexico. She came with a large group of other youth from Latin America, which is one of the youngest and most Catholic continents in the world.

In comments to CNA, Mortola Rodriguez said the message she wants the Church to hear this week is that young people like herself are “valid interlocutors,” and they need to be listened to and helped to go deeper in finding solutions to the problems they face, such as drugs, violence, poverty and unemployment.

Pointing to Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico in 2016, she said his encouragement to youth and his appeals to avoid hopelessness and the allure of gangs was “a call not of tension, but to action.”

Her reflection echoed the Pope’s March 19 opening speech, in which he told youth they need to approach problems with a “head, heart, hands” mentality. The call to “think, feel and act,” Mortola Rodriguez said, is also a call to be “unified” and to make concrete resolutions in confronting the problems they face.

As an example, Mortola Rodriguez said she helps lead a theatre workshop for incarcerated youth in Mexico, which has helped them to “heal the wounds that have caused through the crime they committed.”

“[Through us] they can heal this pain that they have in order to be able to return to society and find a new form of work,” because healing is essential for a person’s reintegration into society, she said.

Speaking of the contribution of the Latin American Church, Mortola Rodriguez said one thing she hopes her continent can offer the universal Church is “joy,” because Latin Americans are “ known for our joy.”

“I think youth should be more joyful,” she said, and noted how there are many young people who reflect what Pope Francis says when he talks about youth who seem old because they have lost their joy and happiness.

Another topic Mortola Rodriguez said she wants to discuss is vocation, because many people think of their vocations as only the choice of a state of life.

“But no. The vocation is a call, a call today, to the present, to be active, to be happy and to do concrete actions that benefit my society,” she said, and voiced her desire to fight against social evils such as human trafficking, and to fight to “stop the things that harm us.” – Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Pope responds to young people’s questions at pre-synodal meeting

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VATICAN CITY – At a pre-Synodal meeting on Monday, 19 Mar 2018, Pope Francis responded to five questions about issues faced by young people from around the world.

How can young people help victims of human trafficking?

Pope Francis was clearly moved by the first question which addressed the reality of sex trafficking. He referred to the stories he has heard from trafficked women about the dangers they face trying to escape their captors. The Pope described this abuse, and even torture, as the “slavery of today.” The Pope went on to denounce the evil of exploiting women. He had especially strong words for baptised Catholics who pay for prostitutes. This is a “crime against humanity,” he said. Pope Francis called on young people to fight for the dignity of women, and concluded by asking forgiveness for all the Catholics who take part in these “criminal acts.”

Where should a young person look for guidance in making life choices?

Pope Francis responded to a young French student seeking direction in his life, by suggesting we confide in those who possess wisdom, regardless of whether they are young or old. “The wise person,” he said, “is the one who is not scared of anything, but who knows how to listen and has the God-given gift of saying the right thing at the right time.” The Pope warned that when young people fail to find their “path of discernment,” they risk shutting themselves off. This can become like carrying a “cancer” inside, he said. And this risks weighing them down and taking away their freedom.

How can we teach young people to be open to their neighbour and to the transcendent?

Pope Francis said education should teach three basic languages: those of the head, the heart, and the hands. The language of the head, he said, means thinking well and learning concrete things. That of the heart means understanding feelings and sentiments. The language of the hands is making use of the gifts God has given us to create new things. The key, he said, is to use all three together. Pope Francis went on to criticise what he called the “isolating nature” of today’s digital, virtual world. Rather than demonise technology, the Pope called it a richness that must be used well with a “concreteness that brings freedom.”

How is a young person preparing for the priesthood to respond to the complexities of present-day culture – like tattoos, for instance?

Pope Francis used this question from a young Ukrainian seminarian to reflect on the priest as a “witness to Christ.”  Clericalism, on the contrary, said the Pope, is “one of the worst illnesses of the Church,” because it confuses the “paternal role of the priest” with the “managerial role of the boss.” He also spoke about the relationship between the priest and the community and how this relationship is compromised, and can be destroyed, by “gossip.” Responding specifically to the question of tattoos, Pope Francis recalled how different cultures have used them to distinguish and identify themselves, so “don’t be afraid of tattoos,” he said – but don’t exaggerate either. If anything, use the tattoo as a talking-point to begin a dialogue about what it signifies.

How can young women religious balance the dominant culture in society and the spiritual life in accomplishing their mission?

The Pope responded to this final question saying that an adequate formation throughout religious life needs to be built on four pillars: formation for an intellectual, communitarian, apostolic, and spiritual life. Having only a spiritual formation leads to psychological immaturity, he said. Even though this is often done to protect young religious from the world, Pope Francis said it is not protection, it is “deformation.”  Those who have not received affective formation are the ones who have ended up doing evil. Allowing people to mature affectively is the only way to protect them.

Pope Francis spoke at the opening session of the 19-24 March 2018 pre-synod meeting, which has drawn some 300 youth from around the world to talk about major themes for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on “Young People, Faith and the Discernment of Vocation.”

Youth in different states in life are in Rome to participate in the event. Priests, seminarians, and consecrated persons are also participating. Special attention will also be given to youth from both global and existential “peripheries,” including people with disabilities, and some who have struggled with drug use or who have been in prison.

At the end of the gathering, notes of the various discussions throughout the week will be gathered into a comprehensive concluding document, which will be presented to Pope Francis and used as part of the “Instrumentum Laboris,” or “working document,” of the October synod. – Vatican News/CNA

Pre-synodal meeting purposes proposed

VATICAN CITY – Final preparations are underway for the 19-24 March 2018, Pre-Synodal Meeting in Rome, organised by the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, in collaboration with the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life.

The Pre-Synodal Meeting will be an important part of the consultation phase before the 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme Young people, faith and vocation discernment, scheduled for October 2018.

During a press conference at the Press Office of the Holy See on 15 Mar 2018, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, reviewed the purposes of the Pre-Synodal Meeting:

  1. This is an event in which the young will be the actors and the protagonists. We will not only talk about “them”, but they will be telling themselves, with their language, their enthusiasm, and their sensitivity. The next Synod of Bishops wants to be, in fact, not only a Synod “on” young people and “for” young people, but also a Synod “of” young people and “with” young people.
  2. A keyword, repeatedly repeated by the Pope, is “listening”. In this Pre-Synodal Meeting we will listen to young people “live”, “live”, to try to better understand their situation: what they think about themselves and adults, how they live their faith and what difficulties they encounter to be Christians, how they plan their lives and what problems they find in discerning their vocation, as they see the Church today and how they would like it, etc.
  3. Among the young people to be listened to, there will be in particular those that come from situations of hardship and from the “existential outskirts”, young people who often do not have the opportunity to be heard to make their situation and their expectations known. Then there will be young non-Catholics, not Christians and non-believers because listening to young people will be realized as much as possible “at 360 degrees”.
  4. The Pre-Synodal Meeting will be an opportunity to put ourselves in step with the young: keeping in mind that the Synod is by definition a “journey made together”, we want to show what it means concretely to walk together with young people, to all young people excluding.
  5. Walking with young people also means identifying specific pastoral paths, which enable the Christian communities to consolidate their youth pastoral projects, adapting them to the needs of today’s young people.
  6. At the Pre-Synodal Meeting, together with the young people, some parents, educators, priests, pastoral workers and experts of the youth world will take part, to listen to those who live next to the young and have the “tools” to read from the inside and in depth. their situation.
  7. In this way we also want to propose a method of intergenerational exchange and collaboration, fostering dialogue between young people and adults, who often struggle to communicate with each other in everyday life.
  8. The Pre-Synodal Meeting intends to arouse participation dynamics based on the encounter between cultures, living conditions, faiths, and disciplines, developing a model that can be repeated in the different ecclesial realities.
  9. We will ask ourselves how to help young people to seek and find the meaning of their life, in the light of the specific vocational perspective that Pope Francis wanted to give to the Synod journey.
  10. Finally, the Pre-Synodal Meeting will come to elaborate a shared document, which will be delivered to the Pope on Sunday 25 March and, together with the other contributions received, will merge into the Instrumentum laboris, the document on which the Synodal Fathers will meet in October.

While the Pre-Synodal Meeting will have about 300 “in-person” participants, youth from around the world can participant via internet.  More information is available on the meeting website.zenit.org

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