Tag Archives: pope francis

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

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

Pope calls for solidarity and penance in letter on abuse crisis

 

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis has written a letter to the whole People of God addressing the ongoing crisis of sexual abuse in the Church, calling for solidarity and penance.

“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.”

These words, taken from St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, struck the key note for Pope Francis in an impassioned letter addressed to the whole People of God on 20 Aug 2018.

The letter comes in response to an ongoing crisis of sexual abuse by “a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons” – crimes that were covered up and perpetuated by those who should have been protecting the vulnerable.

In particular, the Holy Father referred to a report released by a Grand Jury in the US state of Pennsylvania which, he wrote, “detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years.”

However, despite being occasioned by the recent scandals, the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke insisted that the letter was meant for the whole Church. “This is about Ireland, this is about the United States, and this is about Chile. But not only. Pope Francis has written to the People of God – and that means everyone.”

In his letter, the Holy Father speaks of the realisation that the “wounds” caused by abuse “never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death.”

He admits that the Church has failed to deal adequately with the crisis of abuse. “With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realising the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives,” the Pope says. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”

Pope Francis calls for solidarity with those who have been abused. “Such a solidarity,” he said, “demands that we in turn condemn whatever endangers the integrity of the person.” It is a solidarity, “that summons us to fight all forms of corruption, especially spiritual corruption.”

The Pope also notes that the Church has delayed in applying the “actions and sanctions” that are necessary for the implementation of a “zero tolerance” policy, but said he is “confident that” those actions and sanctions “will help to guarantee a greater culture of care in the present and the future.”

Pope Francis calls on all the baptised to be a part of the “ecclesial and social change we so greatly need.” This change, he continued, requires “personal and communal conversion.” And in order to experience that “conversion of heart,” he encouraged “the entire faithful People of God to a penitential exercise of prayer and fasting” – a reference to our Lord’s words in Matthew 17:21 that “this kind [of demon] does not come out except by prayer and fasting.”

Greg Burke explained, “Pope Francis says greater accountability is urgently needed, not only for those who committed these crimes, but also for those who covered them up – which in many cases means Bishops.”

The Holy Father emphasises that the present crisis demands a response from the whole Church as a body. “Consequently, the only way that we have to respond to this evil that has darkened so many lives is to experience it as a task regarding all of us as the People of God.” This response requires the “active participation of all the Church’s members,” and “will be helped by the penitential dimension of fasting and prayer.”

Pope Francis says, “It is essential that we, as a Church, be able to acknowledge and condemn, with sorrow and shame, the atrocities perpetrated by consecrated persons, clerics, and all those entrusted with the mission of watching over and caring for those most vulnerable. Let us beg forgiveness for our own sins and the sins of others.” – Christopher Wells, Vatican News

Pope Francis: ‘death penalty inadmissible’

VATICAN CITY – After an audience with Pope Francis earlier this year, and following his approval, the Vatican’s CDF says it has made changes to the CCC on the death penalty according to which capital punishment is inadmissible.

Pope Francis has approved a new revision of paragraph number 2267 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, according to which “a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state,”  thus “the death penalty is inadmissible.”

The decision was announced by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in a ‘Letter to the Bishops’ dated 1 August 2018 and signed by the Prefect, Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria.

2267. Recourse to the death penalty on the part of legitimate authority, following a fair trial, was long considered an appropriate response to the gravity of certain crimes and an acceptable, albeit extreme, means of safeguarding the common good.

Today, however, there is an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes.  In addition, a new understanding has emerged of the significance of penal sanctions imposed by the state.  Lastly, more effective systems of detention have been developed, which ensure the due protection of citizens but, at the same time, do not definitively deprive the guilty of the possibility of redemption.

Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that “the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”,[1] and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide”. (FRANCIS, Address to Participants in the Meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation, 11 October 2017: L’Osservatore Romano, 13 October 2017.)

According to the previous text of paragraph 2267, the Church did not exclude recourse to the death penalty in “very rare, if not practically nonexistent” circumstances:

2267. Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.”68

In the Letter to the Bishops  Cardinal Ladaria explained that the revision of n. 2267 of the CCC   “expresses an authentic development of doctrine that is not in contradiction with the prior teachings of the Magisterium” and said “these teachings, in fact, can be explained in the light of the primary responsibility of the public authority to protect the common good in a social context in which the penal sanctions were understood differently, and had developed in an environment in which it was more difficult to guarantee that the criminal could not repeat his crime.”

Ladaria recalled that John Paul II asked that  the teaching on the death penalty be reformulated to better reflect the development of the doctrine that centres on the clearer awareness of the Church for the respect due to every human life affirming that  “Not even a murderer loses his personal dignity, and God himself pledges to guarantee this.” Ladaria said that in many occasions John Paul II intervened for the elimination of capital punishment describing it as “cruel and unnecessary.”

In the letter Cardinal Ladaria also recalled Benedict XVI who appealed for “the attention of society’s leaders to the need to make every effort to eliminate the death penalty” and encouraged  “political and legislative initiatives being promoted in a growing number of countries to eliminate the death penalty and to continue the substantive progress made in conforming penal law both to the human dignity of prisoners and the effective maintenance of public order.”

The new revision of number 2267 of CCC  approved by Pope Francis, Ladaria said, “situates itself in continuity with the preceding Magisterium while bringing forth a coherent development of Catholic doctrine” taking into account the new understanding of penal sanctions applied by the modern State.”

Its new revision, he continued, “desires to give energy to a movement towards a decisive commitment to favour a mentality that recognises the dignity of every human life and, in respectful dialogue with civil authorities, to encourage the creation of conditions that allow for the elimination of the death penalty where it is still in effect”. – Linda Bordoni, Vatican News

Pope says no to women priests, yes to women in curial leadership

Pope Francis meets with a woman at the general audience in Paul VI Hall, 13 Jan 2016.  Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA

VATICAN CITY – In an interview with Reuters, Pope Francis said more space has to be created for women to take on leading roles in the Roman Curia, but that priestly ordination is not an option.

Responding to a question about women’s ordination to the priesthood, the pope said “there is the temptation to ‘functionalise’ the reflection on women in the Church, what they should do, what they should become.”

“We cannot functionalise women,” he said, explaining that while the Church is referred to as a woman, the Sacrament of Holy Orders is out of the question “because dogmatically it doesn’t work.”

“John Paul II was clear and closed the door, and I will not go back on this. It was something serious, not something capricious,” he said, adding, “it cannot be done.”

However, Francis stressed that while the priesthood is out, women do need to be given more opportunities for leadership in the Roman Curia – a view he said has at times been met with resistance.

“I had to fight to put a woman as the vice-director of the press office,” he said, referring to his decision in 2016 to name Spanish journalist Paloma Garica Ovejero as the Vatican’s deputy spokesperson.

He said he at one point offered a woman the job of heading the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, but she turned it down because “she already had other commitments.”

Women in the Curia “are few, we need to put more,” he said, adding that it can be either a religious sister or a laywoman, “it doesn’t matter,” but there is a need to move forward with an eye for quality and competency in the job.

“I don’t have any problem naming a woman as the head of a dicastery, if the dicastery doesn’t have jurisdiction,” he said, referring to the fact that some Vatican departments have specific functions in Church governance that require a bishop to do the job. Lay men are also ineligible to oversee offices that require the jurisdictional authority of a priest or bishop.

For example, the Vatican’s Congregation for Clergy has jurisdiction, so it has to be led by a bishop, but for others, such as the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy, “I would not have a problem naming a competent woman,” Francis said.

Women must continue to be promoted, but without falling into “a feminist attitude,” the pope said, adding that “in the end it would be machismo with a skirt. We don’t want to fall into this.”

Pope Francis spoke during an interview with American journalist Phil Pullella of Reuters, which took place on 17 June 2018 at the pope’s Vatican residence, and was published June 20.

In the interview, the pope touched on a variety of topics, including a possible deal with China on the appointment of bishops, clerical abuse and the ongoing scandal in Chile, the reform of the Roman Curia, and criticism he’s faced.

On the topic of women, Francis said that in his experience, things are usually done better when there is a mixed group working on a task, rather than just men.

“Women have an ability to understand things, it’s another vision,” he said, noting that whenever he has visited prisons run by women, they “seemed to do better,” because women know how to be “mothers” and care for inmates and their needs in a unique way.

“Women know how to manage conflicts better. In these things, women are braver,” he said, adding, “I think it would be so also in the Curia if there were more women.”

Francis noted that some have said inviting more women into the mix might mean there is more gossip, however, he said he does not believe that would be the case, “because we men are also gossipers.” – Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Why Catholics should beware as high-tech ‘deepfake’ videos emerge

Credit: Unsplash.

DALLAS, Texas – Like any figure of importance, there is high likelihood that the Pope or another Catholic leader could be the subject of a fake video using a rapidly improving technology—and everyone needs to take care not to empower such a hoax, said Rudolph Bush, director of journalism at the University of Dallas.

“It’s very likely to happen, I think, and the consequences could be serious,” Bush told CNA  on 23 April 2018. “Depending on who is targeted by this, depending on how ripe that target is to be manipulated, it could be very damaging.”

For Bush, the prospect is “really worrisome,” given reports that social media have been used to incite societies during elections or times of racial or ethnic tensions. These tensions are manipulated to foment “not only political strife but war and in some cases genocide.”

Bush has worked as a professional journalist since 1997, serving as Dallas and Enterprise editor at the Dallas Morning News. He has written for the Chicago Tribune and the Dallas Morning News on politics and crime.

He spoke in response to the development of so-called “deepfake” videos, which are created with artificial intelligence software. One video published by Buzzfeed appeared to feature former US President Barack Obama in a public service announcement about fake news.

“We’re entering an era in which our enemies can make it look like anyone is saying anything at any point in time — even if they would never say those things,” Obama’s image said.

“So, for instance, they could have me say things like, I don’t know, ‘Killmonger was right!’” said the digitally modified president, referring to the antagonist in the 2018 hit movie “Black Panther” who aimed to launch a global African uprising.

In the video, Obama appears to insult President Donald Trump and make fun of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, before it is revealed that the president’s image is a digital modification. His lips have been synchronised with those of filmmaker Jordan Peele, who has acted as an Obama impersonator.

“This is a dangerous time. Moving forward, we need to be more vigilant with what we trust from the internet,” Peele’s Obama says.

The footage of President Obama was manipulated and set to a script. Adobe After Effects and a programme called FakeApp were used. Rendering of the clip took about 56 hours. Peele, a filmmaker who won an Oscar for the movie “Get Out,” conceived the video with his brother-in-law BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti.

With the prospect of such videos, Bush said, one has to work to “straighten out what is fake news and what is real news.”

“What it does is sow seeds of distrust and worry in societies,” he said. “And of course democracies are based on communal trust, the idea we can get together and solve our problems peacefully.”

The rise of the “deepfake” video also poses the question: will falsehood triumph?

“There used to be an old saying that the truth will win out. That is something that we based our societies on, our journalism on: over time, what is true will carry more weight than what is false,” Bush continued. “That’s being tested now.”

“We live in an age when there is so much false information, at such a volume, that it can be hard to sort out what is true,” he said. “We have a responsibility as consumers to verify what is true, and when we understand what is true, to share it with our fellow parishioners.”

He advised readers to find trusted sources of information within their community, whether in their church community or in the local newspaper, and to rely on those.

“This is a really difficult conversation in our society: whether people will trust the so-called traditional media or mainstream media,” Bush said. “A great deal of effort has been put into sowing distrust in those organisations.”

“Know from where your news comes. That’s very important.”

Both the fundamentals of Catholic teaching and of journalism and communication have shared priorities: “we seek truth, and we also verify truth,” said Bush.

“That has to be a priority when we go and we communicate. It’s a responsibility to communicate truthfully, to make sure the information we’re disseminating is truthful, it’s verified, that it’s critically appraised, before we start disseminating it,” he said.

“Otherwise we just become part of the problem.”

For Bush, it is hard to say whether the new video technology will fundamentally change the media environment or simply continue current trends.

People have become more savvy about relatively new technological hoaxes, such as scam emails promising money from a Nigerian prince, he noted.

“Nobody believes that kind of stuff anymore. So we do adapt,” Bush said. “At the same time, as these things become more sophisticated, particularly if they’re used by state actors or groups with a high level of understanding of what it takes to manipulate a society or a group, then we’ll see whether we can parse what’s real or not real.” – Kevin Jones, CNA, 25 Apr 2018

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

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

Pope Francis warns against ‘fake fasting’ during Lent

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at Casa Santa Marta (Vatican Media).

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis’ words of warning against what he called “fake fasting” came during the homily at the morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on 16 Feb 2018.

When fasting, Pope Francis said, a true Christian must be consistent, not putting himself on show, never despising others or engaging in quarrels or disagreements.

Warning against behavior that is inconsistent with the Lenten spirit, the Pope invited those present to ask themselves how they interact with others.

He reflected on the First Reading of the day that highlights how the fasting that is acceptable to the Lord aims to “release those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke.”

Pope Francis reminded believers that fasting is one of the tasks of Lent, and said that even “if you cannot commit to a total fast, the kind that makes you feels hunger in your bones” you can still fast humbly and consistently.

Isaiah, he said, highlights so many inconsistencies in the practice of virtue, like “carrying out your own pursuits, driving all your laborers, and yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting.”

Fasting, the Pope said, is a little like “stripping oneself” of pride. He said that to thank the Lord and at the same time despise your labourers that are forced to fast because they do not have enough to eat is inconsistent and unchristian.

Inviting those present to perform penance in peace, he said, “you cannot talk to God on the one hand and to the devil on the other.”

He also warned against the temptation of ‘showing off’ by fasting: “by making a fuss of it and letting people know that we are practising Catholics and we do penance, so that people think ‘what a good person.’  “This is a trick,” he said, “It’s pretending to be virtuous.”

“We must pretend,” Francis continued, “but with a smile. That is not showing others that we are performing acts of penance.”

He invited the faithful to fast in order “to help others. But always with a smile.”

Fasting, he said, also involves lowering oneself by reflecting on one’s sins and asking forgiveness from the Lord.

How ashamed would I be, he continued, if my sin was to become common knowledge through the press? And referring again to the Scripture Reading of the day he invited Christians to “release unjust bounds.”

“I think of so many maids who work for their bread and they are humiliated and despised … I have never been able to forget the time I went to a friend’s house as a child and I witnessed the mother slapping the 81-year-old maid…”

Reiterating that he has never forgotten that shameful episode, Pope Francis urged the faithful to ask themselves whether they treat their domestic workers with fairness, whether they treat them “as people or as slaves,” whether they are paid a just salary and have the right to holidays and are recognised in their human dignity.

Pope Francis went on to tell another story stemming from personal experience. He said that once, when speaking to a very cultured gentleman who was known to exploit his domestic workers, he explained to him that this is a serious sin because we are all created in the image of God.

And referring again to the First Reading that tells us “to share our bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when we see them, not turn our back on our own,” the Pope noted that currently there is much discussion around whether or not to give shelter to those who ask for it.

He exhorted Christians to “do penance,” to “feel a little hunger,” to “pray more during Lent,” and to ask themselves how they behave towards the other.

“Does my fast help others? If it does not it’s fake, it’s inconsistent and it takes you on the path to a double life, pretending to be a just Christian – like the Pharisees or the Sadducees,” he said.

“Let us ask for the grace of consistency,” he said,  “if I am unable to do something, I will not do it. I will do only what I can with the consistency of a true Christian.” – Linda Bordoni, Vatican News

Pope Francis: sinners can become saints, but the corrupt cannot

Pope Francis celebrates Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday, 8 Feb 2018. (Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY – In his homily at the morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on 8 Feb 2018, Pope Francis spoke of the risk to which all people are exposed, weakness of the heart.

David is a saint, even if he was a sinner; the great and wise Solomon, on the other hand, was rejected by the Lord because he was corrupt. Pope Francis focused on this apparent paradox in his homily at the daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. The first Reading in the day’s liturgy, taken from the First Book of Kings, speaks about Solomon and his disobedience. We have heard about something a bit strange, the Pope said. The heart of Solomon was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of David, his father, had been.

He explained that it was strange because we do not know that Solomon had committed great sins, he was always very balanced; while we know that David had had a difficult life, that he was a sinner. And yet David is a saint, while it is said of Solomon, who had been praised by the Lord for seeking wisdom rather than riches, that his heart was “turned away from the Lord.”

How can we explain this? the Pope asked. It is because David, knowing that he had sinned, always asked for forgiveness, while Solomon, who was praised throughout the world, distanced himself from the Lord to follow other gods, but did not recognise his fault.

And here is the problem of “weakness of the heart.” When the heart begins to weaken, it is not like a situation of sin: you commit a sin, and you realise it immediately. “I have committed this sin”; it’s clear. Weakness of the heart is a slow journey, that slides along step by step, step by step, step by step… And Solomon, adorned in his glory, in his fame, began to take this road.

Paradoxically, “the clarity of a sin is better than weakness of the heart,” the Pope said. “The great king Solomon wound up corrupted: tranquilly corrupt, because his heart was weakened”:

And a man and a woman with weak hearts, or weakened hearts, is a defeated woman, a defeated man. This is the process of many Christians, of many of us. ‘No, I haven’t committed grave sins.’ But how is your heart? Is it strong? Does it stay faithful to the Lord, or is it slowly sliding away?

The drama of the weakness of the heart can happen to all of us in life. What do we do then? The answer, Pope Francis said, is vigilance: “Be watchful. Guard your heart. Be watchful. Every day, be careful about what is happening in your heart. He concluded:

David was a saint. He was a sinner. A sinner, and he became a saint. Solomon was rejected because he was corrupt. Someone who is corrupt cannot become a saint. And one becomes corrupt by following the path of weakness of the heart. Vigilance! Guard your heart at all times. How is my heart doing? How is my relationship with the Lord? And enjoy the beauty and the joy of fidelity. – Vatican News

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