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Pope Francis to preside over 20 September weddings at Vatican

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Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will preside over his first wedding ceremony as pontiff during a nuptial Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Sept. 14.

Pope Francis will preside at 20 weddings at St. Peter's in September. (CNS)

Pope Francis will preside at 20 weddings at St. Peter’s in September. (CNS)

The Vatican confirmed Aug. 29 that 20 couples from the Diocese of Rome will be married by the pope, the bishop of Rome. The papal Mass celebrating the couples’ marriage will come just a few weeks before the start of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, Oct. 5-19. Since Pope Benedict XVI never publicly presided over a marriage ceremony as pope, the mid-September ceremony will be the first papal celebration of a wedding since 2000, when St. John Paul II married eight couples from different parts of the world as part of the Jubilee for Families. St. John Paul presided over another joint wedding for a group of couples in 1994 as part of his celebration of the International Year of the Family. He also married a number of other couples at private Masses during his lengthy pontificate.

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Catholic aid groups hope latest Israeli-Hamas cease-fire holds

August 27th, 2014 Posted in Featured, International News

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Catholic News Service

JERUSALEM — Catholic aid organizations are hopeful that the most recent cease-fire between Israel and Hamas will hold as they begin to assess the needs in Gaza after 50 days of war.

“This is a window of opportunity,” said Sami El-Yousef, Catholic Near East Welfare Association’s regional director for Israel and the Palestinian territories. “(We hope) the unity government will take the lead. A lot of people here think the stage is set (for) a meaningful resumption of negotiations. Now it is up to leaders on both sides to make it happen, to move beyond (the same political hurdles.)

Palestinian civil defense officers inspect the rubble of a destroyed tower shortly after the ceasefire was announced Aug. 26 in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya. Catholic aid organization officials, who are coordinating aid in the region, say they hope the Egyptian-brokered Israeli-Hamas ceasefire proposal will hold. (CNS photo/Mohammed Saber, EPA

Palestinian civil defense officers inspect the rubble of a destroyed tower shortly after the ceasefire was announced Aug. 26 in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya. Catholic aid organization officials, who are coordinating aid in the region, say they hope the Egyptian-brokered Israeli-Hamas ceasefire proposal will hold. (CNS photo/Mohammed Saber, EPA

“Both leaderships must rise up to the occasion for us to move forward. Otherwise, the temporary cease-fire may last for a few months, then we will be back to the resumption of hostilities.”

The cease-fire that took effect Aug. 26 calls for the easing of the Israeli-enforced embargo to allow humanitarian aid and construction material into Gaza under strict monitoring. Egyptians, who brokered the cease-fire, will open the Rafah crossing into the Gaza Strip. Terms also include enlarging the offshore zone for Palestinian fishermen to six miles.

The agreement was the latest of numerous attempts to end a seven-week conflict in which more than 2,100 largely civilian Palestinians and 70 Israelis, including 64 soldiers, were killed.

The organizations have coordinated their aid efforts, with Caritas Jerusalem focusing on food and cash assistance while Catholic Relief Services is distributing nonfood items and CNEWA is assisting with repairing damaged homes and institutions.

Father Raed Abusahlia, director of Caritas Jerusalem, said his agency’s long-term emergency appeal would last until Christmas. He said Caritas will provide food to 2,000 families as well as a cash distribution about $350 to all the Christian families in Gaza, with specific emphasis on those who lost all of their possessions and homes.

Caritas also will provide all the necessary school supplies for the students of the five Christian schools in Gaza, although it is not clear when school will begin.

“At the same time we have already sent three truckloads of food, diapers, milk and hygiene supplies last week,” he said, noting that the almost $84,000 worth of supplies came from local Catholic parishes as well as four Israeli groups.

El-Yousef said response to CNEWA’s earlier appeal for help from its donors has surpassed expectations, largely thanks to donations from European donors; he said donations would soon top $1 million. He added that the money will be largely used to help rebuild and rehabilitate Christian homes and institutions damaged during the conflict.

He said the big challenge is the Holy Family School, which Argentine Father Jorge Hernandez of the Institute of the Incarnate Word opened up to shelter hundreds of Palestinians who fled their homes during the Israeli airstrikes. Much of the furniture has been destroyed and the classrooms, which were used and divided as living quarters, must be restored to their previous conditions.

El-Yousef said when school begins in Gaza, CNEWA will implement its psychosocial intervention plan. The United Nations says approximately 373,000 Gaza children are in need of psychosocial help, he noted.

 

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It’s only human to be envious or mean, but it’s not Christian, pope says

August 27th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , , ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Envy, jealousy and meanness are human instincts, but they are not Christian, since the division they cause among believers is the work of the devil, Pope Francis said.

“Instead, God wants us to grow in the ability to come together, forgive each other and love each other in order to be ever more like him,” he said at his weekly general audience Aug. 27.

Pope Francis drinks mate, the traditional Argentine herbal tea, as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Aug. 27. The tea was presented by someone in the crowd. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis drinks mate, the traditional Argentine herbal tea, as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 27. The tea was presented by someone in the crowd. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A strong breeze and temperatures around 80 degrees made it possible to move the weekly event from the indoor air-conditioned Vatican audience hall to St. Peter’s Square, where more than 12,000 people gathered for the pope’s catechesis and blessing.

The Creed describes the Catholic Church as being “one and holy,” the pope said, yet its members are sinners, who “experience, every day, their own fragility and wretchedness.”

“That’s why this faith we profess impels us toward conversion, to have the courage to live in unity and holiness every day,” he said.

“If we are not united, if we are not holy, it’s because we are not being faithful to Jesus,” who is the source of all unity and holiness, the pope said.

Divisions are manifested not only in schisms or major rifts among Christians; they also frequently occur on the local level, as “parochial sins,” in Catholic parishes, schools, communities and organizations, Pope Francis said.

“Sometimes, in fact, our parishes, which are called to be places of sharing and communion, are sadly marked by envy, jealousy, resentment.”

“This is human, but it is not Christian,” the pope said.

“How much gossip (goes on) in parishes,” the pope lamented. “We mustn’t do it. I won’t tell you to cut off your tongue. No. Not that. But do ask the Lord for the grace to not do it, all right?”

The refusal to gossip, in fact, is such an outstanding Christian virtue, it should make a person a saint overnight, the pope said.

He recalled the sterling reputation of an elderly woman who used to work in a parish in his former Archdiocese of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

People remembered her as someone who “never talked badly of others, never gossiped, was always with a smile. A woman like that can be canonized tomorrow. This is beautiful, this is a great example,” he said to applause.

Conflict arises when people judge others; look only at others’ defects, not their gifts; give more weight to differences than common ground; make themselves the top priority; and follow their own ambitions and points of view, he added.

“In a Christian community, division is one of the gravest of sins because it turns it into a sign not of God’s work, but of the devil, who, by definition, separates, ruins relationships and instills prejudice.”

The pope asked people to examine their consciences and sincerely repent “for all the times in which we caused division or misunderstanding in our communities.”

He asked people pray for the grace to better reflect the “beautiful and joyful” unity of Jesus and the Father, and the grace “to not talk badly about others, not criticize, not gossip, and to love each other.”

“This is the holiness of the church: in recognizing in each other the image of God,” who calls for continual conversion in everyone.

Despite the faults of his followers, “Jesus never leaves us by ourselves, he doesn’t abandon his church. He walks with us, understands us, our weaknesses, our sins and forgives us,” inspiring people to forgive each other, too.

 

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Patriarch calls Islamic State invasion ‘attempted genocide’

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BEIRUT — Returning from a visit to the Kurdish region of Iraq, Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan called the Islamic State invasion “pure and simple religious cleansing and attempted genocide.”

“What we, the five patriarchs, saw in Ankawa, Irbil and other cities of Kurdistan, was something indescribable in terms of the violation of human rights and the threat of disappearing of various communities among the vulnerable minorities of Northern Iraq,” Patriarch Younan said. “It is a pure and simple religious cleansing and attempted genocide.”

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, left, speaks to other Christian leaders during an Aug. 20 visit to Iraqi refugees in Irbil, Iraq. The patriarch recently called actions by the Islamic State "attempted genocide." (CNS photo/Mychel Akl, courtesy Maronite Patriarchate)

Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph III Younan, left, speaks to other Christian leaders during an Aug. 20 visit to Iraqi refugees in Irbil, Iraq. The patriarch recently called actions by the Islamic State “attempted genocide.” (CNS photo/Mychel Akl, courtesy Maronite Patriarchate)

Patriarch Younan and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II stayed in Iraq for six days after arriving as part of a delegation of Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs who visited Irbil to give moral and spiritual support to the beleaguered Iraqis from the Ninevah Plain. The displaced minorities — Christians, Yezidis, Shiite Muslims and Shabaks -— sought refuge there from their besieged towns and villages, which fell to Islamic State militants in early August after they were evicted for their religious affiliation.

Patriarch Younan spoke to Catholic News Service about the flood of displaced Iraqis they encountered.

In the Kurdistan region, “we saw hundreds of families still living on the streets, exposed to an unbearable heat wave, lacking the basic needs and primarily fearing for their future,” as winter approaches, Patriarch Younan said. Temperatures in the Kurdish region currently climb above 105 degrees Fahrenheit, yet winters are harsh and freezing, often with torrential rain and snow.

Patriarch Younan said the most-asked question by many of the Christian refugees was, “Can we ever return?”

“At that question, the most feared answer was: No answer could be given,” he said.

The patriarch said that along with the little financial assistance they could offer the displaced, the patriarchs “prayed with them, consoling, encouraging and inspiring them with Christian ‘Hope against all hope,’ repeatedly reminding them of the promise of the Lord: ‘Do not be afraid, you little flock. … I will be with you until the end of time.’”

“The church’s leaders committed themselves to sound the alarm of the very survival of Christians in Iraq and in the whole Middle East region and pledged to bring the plight of their people to all international arenas: the (U.N.) Security Council, the United States of America, the European Union, as well to Russia and China,” Patriarch Younan said.

The patriarchs met at Bkerke, north of Beirut, Aug. 27, to further address the crisis. Local media in Beirut reported that Cardinal Bechara Rai, the Maronite patriarch, was scheduled to meet with Pope Francis the following day.

All the patriarchs involved in the Irbil delegation, along with other Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs of the Middle East and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, are scheduled to participate in the Sept. 9-11 In Defense of Christians Inaugural Summit for Middle East Christians in Washington. As part of that visit, the prelates will also seek to meet with members of Congress and White House officials.

— By Doreen Abi Raad

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Bell tower that’s also a cell phone tower planned for All Saints Cemetery grounds

August 25th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Our Diocese

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Dialog reporter

PIKE CREEK – The executive director of Catholic Cemeteries is defending the organization’s decision to host a cellular phone tower at All Saints Cemetery, saying the opposition to the tower is limited to a few neighboring homeowners.

“We’ve done what we could to make this palatable to the local community,” Mark Christian said.

A sign at All Saints Cemetery in Wilmington announces a Sept. 11 New Castle County Board of Adjustment meeting that will address Catholic Cemeteries' application for a bell tower that's also a cell phone tower. (Mike Lang/The Dialog)

A sign at All Saints Cemetery in Wilmington announces a Sept. 11 New Castle County Board of Adjustment meeting that will address Catholic Cemeteries’ application for a bell tower that’s also a cell phone tower. (Mike Lang/The Dialog)

Catholic Cemeteries negotiated extensively with AT&T over the course of several months about the design of the tower.

According to the application on file with New Castle County, the 142-foot high structure would be “sheathed” and serve as a bell tower for All Saints. It will sit in the section of the cemetery farthest from Kirkwood Highway, toward the football field at St. Mark’s High School, Christian said. He described it as a remote area of the cemetery, closest to a mausoleum.

Some cemetery plot owners with relatives buried at All Saints are upset they weren’t notified before the agreement between Catholic Cemeteries and AT&T. Frances Kelleher of Bellefonte, whose parents are buried there and who owns six unused plots, said if the project is approved she will be looking right at it from her parents’ graves.

“I don’t buy this bell tower is going to make it look right,” said Kelleher, a member of St. Helena’s Parish. “And to me that’s not really the issue. The issue is that it doesn’t belong on Catholic cemetery land. “I’m just really appalled that our Catholic cemetery would think that’s appropriate.”

Christian said relatives of those buried at All Saints were not notified because the tower will sit so far from any gravesites. He added that the reaction from plot owners or those with relatives buried there and from neighbors has been split about evenly on the issue.

An online petition opposing the tower stated nearby property values would be affected, as prospective homebuyers may be deterred by the “perceived health hazard” of electro-magnetic signals.

A website created to oppose the tower application says speakers will be placed 75 feet high to broadcast “bells, chimes or whatever else the cemetery chooses to broadcast.”

Christian said no final decision has been made on how the tower would be used by the cemetery.

“More than likely, if the noise becomes the overriding factor, we won’t even use the chimes. At this point, all that’s going to play is the chimes when a funeral comes to the cemetery.”

The New Castle County Board of Adjustment was scheduled to vote on the application in July, but that was postponed. It is expected to be on the agenda in September.

Christian said in a Facebook post that “lots of misinformation” has been disseminated regarding the tower. The nearest houses are more than 750 feet from the proposed site, and it was designed as a bell tower to fit the religious nature of the cemetery.

Cell-phone providers have approached Catholic Cemeteries many times over the years, Christian wrote, and “extensive” negotiations with AT&T “resulted in a cell tower that represents an attractive addition to the cemetery without negatively impacting any of our neighbors.”

“Little did we know,” the post continues, “that some of our neighbors would react so negatively to what we thought was a positive act for our community.”

The surrounding areas have suffered from poor cell service, he wrote, and the area has been designated as in need of improvement. Christian cited statistics that more than twice as many 911 calls originate from cell phones as from landlines and that All Saints is being a responsible neighbor.

Christian noted opposition from neighbors to other cemetery projects even though All Saints existed before most of those homes were built. Catholic Cemeteries, he added, has always tried to be a good neighbor, allowing an easement for a sewer feeder line for surrounding communities and donating the land across Kirkwood Highway where the New Castle County library branch was built. Cemeteries has also allowed its neighbors access to their backyards from All Saints property so swimming pools and other projects could be completed.

 

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New lives sustained: Sustaining Hope for the Future helps Bayard House assist homeless mothers

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Special to The Dialog

 

Magdalena Ochoa’s life came tumbling down last year.

She was driving a van that was involved in an incident in which her brother was fatally injured. Her family, which she said was already dysfunctional, struggled with the brother’s death. Her father kicked Magdalena out of his house.

She moved in with her boyfriend, but again was kicked out after he learned she was pregnant. While living with her grandmother, she realized she wanted a more stable life for her unborn child. Read more »

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Parents of slain U.S. journalist discuss phone call from Pope Francis — second update

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Pope Francis phoned the bereaved family of James Foley, a U.S. journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Syria.

In an Aug. 22 interview on NBC’s “Today” show, John and Diane Foley briefly described the previous day’s discussion with the pope, in which they spoke of shared grief at the death of loved ones.

“Pope Francis was so dear because he is grieving himself, having just lost three members of his family and (with) his nephew critically ill,” Diane Foley said on the program. “Here in the midst of his tremendous grief, he took the time to call. Our whole family was there, one of our beloved priest friends … was there, my brother-in-law spoke in Spanish to him. He was just so kind.”

The wife and two young children of the pope’s nephew, 35-year-old Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, were killed in a car crash Aug. 19 in Argentina. Bergoglio was critically injured.

John Foley said on the “Today” show that “we felt very comforted and supported” that the pope offered his personal prayer.

Father Paul Gousse, pastor of the family’s parish, Holy Rosary Church in Rochester, New Hampshire, told Catholic News Service in an Aug. 22 phone call that the Foleys told him they were especially struck by the pope’s outreach to them at a time when he is grieving himself. He said the pope spoke with several members of the family in a call that lasted more than 20 minutes.

Shortly after the call was made, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told the Vatican press that Pope Francis called to console the family for their loss and assure them of his prayers.

U.S. journalist James Foley speaks at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., after being released from imprisonment in Libya in 2011. Foley, a freelance war correspondent from New Hampshire and a Marquette University alum, was killed at the hands of the Islamic State militant group. (CNS photo/Tommy Giglio, Northwestern University via Reuters)

U.S. journalist James Foley speaks at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., after being released from imprisonment in Libya in 2011. Foley, a freelance war correspondent from New Hampshire and a Marquette University alum, was killed at the hands of the Islamic State militant group. (CNS photo/Tommy Giglio, Northwestern University via Reuters)

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office, told reporters the next day that the pope’s call came shortly after 2 p.m. New Hampshire time, and that the conversation was “long and intense.”

Pope Francis was particularly “struck by the faith” of the late journalist’s mother, Diane Foley, the spokesman said. The pope spoke with her and the deceased’s father, John Foley, through an interpreter. At one point, an unidentified family member came on the line and was able to converse with the pope directly in Spanish.

According to The Associated Press, U.S. officials confirmed a graphic video released Aug. 19 that showed Islamic State fighters beheading Foley, a 1996 graduate of Marquette University who had been a freelance journalist for the past several years, mostly in the world’s trouble spots. In 2011, he was kidnapped on a Libyan battlefield and held captive in Tripoli for 45 days.

Sometime in late 2012, he went missing in Syria. The last time his family heard from him was before Thanksgiving that year.

The Islamic State militants said they killed Foley in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes on their strongholds, and the group threatened to kill another U.S. hostage also shown in the video.

President Obama called Foley’s parents  Aug. 20 before addressing the nation about their son’s death and told them: “We are all heartbroken.”

When the president was making his televised remarks about James Foley’s death, his parents spoke to reporters on the front yard of their home.

“We thank God for the gift of Jim. We are so, so proud of him,” said Diane Foley.

She added that he was “a courageous, fearless journalist, the best of America.”

John Foley told reporters: “We think his strength came from God,” and his wife interjected: “We know it did.”

His father also described how their son not only wanted to humanize the wars he was covering but would also “take a bullet” for any of his colleagues.

“It’s not difficult to find solace,” his father added, saying he knows his son is “in God’s hands.”

He said it is now up to others to “pick up the gauntlet” and continue the work his son was doing.

 

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Pope thanks people at audience for prayers for his family after deadly crash

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, in mourning for the deaths of his nephew’s wife and two small children, thanked people at his weekly general audience Aug. 20 for their prayers.

After each of the priests who translate the pope’s words offered him condolences for the tragedy that struck his family, Pope Francis explained to the people: “The pope has a family, too. We were five siblings, and I have 16 nieces and nephews. One of these nephews was in an accident. His wife died along with his two small children — one who was 2 years old and the other several months.”

Pope Francis gives a blessing to the crowd during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 20. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis gives a blessing to the crowd during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 20. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

The pope said that after the crash in the early morning hours Aug. 19, his 35-year-old nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio, “is in critical condition right now. I thank you, I thank you very much, for your condolences and prayers.”

Memories, from the important to the light-hearted, took center stage at the pope’s audience with about 7,000 people gathered in the Vatican audience hall.

Seated on the stage, among the visiting bishops, was a delegation representing the players and coaches of the soccer team that has been the pope’s favorite since he was a small child. They brought along the massive Copa Libertadores trophy testifying to their Aug. 13 win in the championship of Latin American clubs. They also brought a copy of the trophy for the pope to keep.

Greeting Spanish-speakers at the audience, Pope Francis gave a special shoutout to the team, “the champions of America,” and a team “that is part of my cultural identity.”

On the flight back from Seoul Aug. 18, an Argentine journalist asked the pope what he thought about his team winning.

“San Lorenzo is the team my whole family cheered for,” the pope responded. “As children we went, even mom went” to their games. “I remember as if it were today the 1946 season when San Lorenzo had a brilliant team and were champions.”

As is customary at the first general audience after a foreign trip, Pope Francis shared reflections on his Aug. 14-18 visit to South Korea.

“The meaning of this apostolic visit can be summarized in three words: memory, hope and witness,” he said.

The church, he said, “is the custodian of memory and hope. It is a spiritual family in which the adults transmit to the young the flame of faith received from their ancestors; the memory of the witnesses of the past become a new witness in the present and hope for the future.”

Pope Francis said that his beatifying 124 Korean martyrs and meeting young people from many countries gathered for Asian Youth Day, brought memory, hope and witness together.

“Youths are people seeking something worth living for, and martyrs give a witness of something, or rather someone, for whom it is worth giving one’s life,” he said. “This reality is love, it’s God who became flesh in Jesus.”

The pope also spoke about how Christianity came to Korea in the 1700s through young laypeople reading about Christ, traveling abroad to be baptized, then baptizing others, initially without priests. The young people tried to live like the earliest Christians did, “practicing fraternal love that overcame every social distinction” and promoting sharing and care for the poor.

“The history of the faith in Korea demonstrates how Christ does not annul cultures; he does not suppress the journey of peoples who through centuries and millennia have sought the truth and practiced love for God and their neighbors,” he said. “Christ does not abolish that which is good, but brings it to completion.”

On the other hand, he said, Christ does “combat and defeat” evil, which sows division between peoples and “generates exclusion because of the idolatry of money.”

During the audience, the pope prayed again for reconciliation and reunification between North and South Korea, and he asked people to continue to pray “for all persecuted Christians in the world, particularly in Iraq, and for those non-Christian religious minorities who equally are being persecuted.”

Greeting his visitors, Pope Francis singled out a French couple and their six children who traveled on foot to Rome on a pilgrimage with two donkeys. “They didn’t let the donkeys inside?” he asked them. The animals were outside, tied to scaffolding on a Vatican building.

 

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Airborne pope says he would consider going to war zone for peace

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Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM SEOUL, South Korea — Pope Francis said the use of force can be justified to stop “unjust aggressors” such as Islamic State militants in northeastern Iraq, but he declined to endorse U.S. military airstrikes against the militants and said such humanitarian interventions should not be decided on by any single country.

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard the papal flight from Seoul, South Korea, to Rome Aug. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard the papal flight from Seoul, South Korea, to Rome Aug. 18. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope also said he was willing to travel to the war zone if necessary to stop the violence.

Pope Francis made his remarks Aug. 18 during an hourlong inflight news conference on his way back from South Korea.

In response to other questions, the pope acknowledged a need to lighten his work schedule for the sake of his health; said he might make a combined visit to the U.S. and Mexico in 2015; and explained why the Vatican is still studying whether the late Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero should be beatified as a martyr.

The pope’s words on Iraq came a week after his representative in Baghdad welcomed President Barack Obama’s decision to use military force against Islamic State positions.

Asked about the airstrikes Aug. 11, Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican nuncio to Iraq, told Vatican Radio: “This is something that had to be done, otherwise (the Islamic State) could not be stopped.”

That statement surprised many because, since the pontificate of St. John Paul II, the Vatican has stressed that military interventions for humanitarian purposes should have the support of the international community.

When a reporter on the plane asked Pope Francis whether he approved of the airstrikes, he replied:

“In these cases where there is unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘stop’; I don’t say bomb, make war, stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest. A single nation cannot judge how to stop this, how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there arose the idea of the United Nations. That is where we should discuss: ‘Is there an unjust aggressor? It seems there is. How do we stop him?’ But only that, nothing more.”

The pope said his recent appeal to the U.N. to “take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway in Iraq” was one of a series of measures he had considered with Vatican officials, including his decision to send Cardinal Fernando Filoni to the region to meet with church and government officials and refugees.

“In the end we said, should it be necessary, when we get back from Korea I can go there,” he said. “At this moment it is not the best thing to do, but I am willing.”

Asked whether he was keeping an excessively busy schedule, the pope admitted that “one of my neuroses is that I am too attached to my habitat,” so he has not taken an out-of-town vacation since 1975.

The pope said he regularly takes the equivalent of a vacation, however, by taking it easier at home: “I change pace, I read things I like, I listen to music, I pray more, and that makes me rested.”

But he admitted his decision to call off a planned June 27 visit to Rome’s Gemelli Hospital, one of several appointments he had canceled due to illness, came after “very demanding days. Now I should be a bit more prudent.”

The pope showed little concern for his longevity, however, predicting with a laugh that his pontificate would last “two or three years, and then to the house of the Father.”

In the meantime, to guard against the temptation of pride in his immense popularity, “I try to think of my sins, of my mistakes.”

Asked about other possible foreign travel, besides officially announced trips to Albania in September and Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January, Pope Francis said he had received invitations to Spain and Japan but that nothing had been decided yet.

The pope said he would gladly visit China “tomorrow,” even though the Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with Beijing since shortly after the China’s 1949 communist revolution. The two sides have struggled over issues of religious freedom, including the pope’s right to appoint bishops, and Chinese authorities have frequently arrested Catholics who reject government control of the church.

“We respect the Chinese people,” the pope said. “The church asks only the liberty to do its work, no other condition.”

Yet the pope made clear the church should not accept a rigid separation between religion and politics. On four of his five days in South Korea, he wore a yellow-ribbon pin commemorating the approximately 300 people killed in the April sinking of the Sewol ferry, a gesture some interpreted as support for demands by victims’ families that the government appoint an independent investigation of the disaster.

The pope recalled: “I took (the pin) out of solidarity with them, and after half a day, somebody came up to me and said, ‘You should take it off; you need to be neutral.’ I answered this way: ‘Listen, with human pain you can’t be neutral.’ That’s how I feel.”

The pope said he “would like” to attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in September 2015. He also noted that Obama and the U.S. Congress have invited him to Washington, D.C., and that the secretary-general of the United Nations has invited him to New York.

“Maybe the three cities together, no?” he said, adding that he could also visit the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico on the same trip, “but it is not certain.”

Asked about the beatification cause of the late Archbishop Romero of San Salvador, an outspoken advocate for the poor who was killed in 1980 during his country’s civil war, the pope said theologians still need to clarify if he was killed because of his faith.“For me, Romero is a man of God,” the pope said. “But the process must go ahead, and God must give his sign. If he wants to do so, he will.”

Pope Francis also reported progress on a future encyclical on ecology, saying that Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, had delivered a first draft just a few days before the pope’s departure for South Korea.

The pope said the draft encyclical was about one third longer than his 50,000-word apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” but that it would be shortened by removing the more debatable scientific hypotheses or relegating them to footnotes.

“An encyclical like this, which must be magisterial, must rely only on certainties,” he said. “Because if the pope says the center of the universe is the earth, not the sun, he errs.”

 

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Pope tells Asians to witness to Christ in all aspects of life

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Catholic News Service

SEOSAN, South Korea — Pope Francis told young Asian Catholic leaders to witness to Christ in everything they do.

Young women wait for Pope Francis to arrive to celebrate the closing Mass of the sixth Asian Youth Day at Haemi Castle in Haemi, South Korea, Aug. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Young women wait for Pope Francis to arrive to celebrate the closing Mass of the sixth Asian Youth Day at Haemi Castle in Haemi, South Korea, Aug. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

During his homily Aug. 17 on the muddy grounds of Haemi Fortress, Pope Francis urged more than 40,000 people, including young Catholic leaders from 22 Asian countries, to “reflect God’s love.” He reminded them it was their “right and duty to take part in the life of (their) societies.”

“Do not be afraid to bring the wisdom of faith to every aspect of social life,” the pontiff said. He also urged them to discern “what is incompatible with your Catholic faith … and what aspects of contemporary culture are sinful, corrupt and lead to death.”

Young people are always choosing their social lives over other things, and this makes it complicated to “grow up in their faith also,” said Montira Hokjareon, a youth coordinator in Thailand’s Udon Thani diocese. She said it was especially hard for young Thai Catholics to practice their faith in a predominantly Buddhist country where less than half of 1 percent of the population is Catholic.

Hokjaroen, 34, was one of 20 participants who had lunch with Pope Francis Aug. 15. She told Catholic News Service it was good he nudged the youth leaders to evangelize, “because I think the people will learn (about) Jesus through us.”

Rain threatened the closing Mass for Asian Youth Day, which, unlike the massive international World Youth Day events, focuses more on youth leaders. At one point, the wind whipped off the pope’s cap.

Pope Francis emphasized the theme of this year’s gathering, “Asian Youth Wake Up, the Glory of the Martyrs Shines on You.”

“It’s no good when I see young people who sleep,” said the pontiff. “No. Wake up! Go! Go!”

Haemi Fortress was where thousands of Catholics were killed during a 100-year period in the 18th and 19th centuries. In the 1700s laypeople formed the church based on Catholic writings that they got ahold of from China. The original founders pledged loyalty to God rather than the Korean king, which was socially unacceptable. The government pursued them for carrying out Catholic rites and baptisms, killing 10,000 faithful in the century beginning in 1791.

A day before the closing Mass, Pope Francis beatified 124 of the founders of the Korean Catholic Church, moving them a step closer to sainthood.

Michael Hwang of Seoul said being on these grounds was “exhausting emotionally,” because his ancestors were among those executed. But he said he was glad to be a part of Asian Youth Day because it brought him closer to other Catholics from Asia.

The pope said “to wake up and a lot of people can come together, and we could be like one nation,” said Hwang, a 17-year old high school student.

Hwang said his friends are not Catholic, “but I think Catholicism is a great thing and I can tell to my friends about how (being) Catholic is great, and this event will be a great background to teach or tell other people.”

Stephen Borja of Manila, Philippines, told CNS the founding of the church in Korea “is such a unique story, and it really touched me. How passionate they were about receiving the faith, standing up for it, even giving up their lives for it.”

Borja, 34, works with the youth commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. He said the pope’s words inspired him to show his faith to others, which is still a challenge in his predominantly Catholic country.

The three characteristics the pope identified for the church in Asia are “holier, more missionary and humbler,” he said. “Those are words I would carry with me and also with my work in the church.”

Pope Francis celebrated Mass at an altar made up of 16 wooden crosses that locked together like wooden blocks and were decorated by the youth. Readings and intercessions were in Filipino, Indonesian, Korean and other languages.

“As young Christians, whether you are workers or students, whether you have already begun a career or have answered the call to marriage, religious life or the priesthood, you are not only a part of the future of the church, you are also a necessary and beloved part of the church’s present,” said the pope.

He told young Asian to build “a church which loves and worships God by seeking to serve the poor, the lonely, the infirm and the marginalized.”
— By Simone Orendain

 

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