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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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Pope names archbishops of Madrid, Valencia

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis reassigned two prominent Spanish bishops, giving a new leader to the country’s largest diocese and leaving a vacancy at the head of the Vatican’s liturgical office.

The Vatican announced Aug. 28 that the pope had named Archbishop Carlos Osoro Sierra as the new archbishop of Madrid and Cardinal Antonio Canizares Llovera to be archbishop of Valencia, in eastern Spain.

Archbishop Osoro, 69, had served as archbishop of Valencia since 2009. To replace him there, Cardinal Canizares, 68, leaves his job as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments; his successor has not been announced.

In Madrid, Archbishop Osoro replaces Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, who at age 78 is three years past the standard retirement age for bishops.

During his 20 years as archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Rouco was elected to a record four three-year terms as president of the Spanish bishops’ conference. Archbishop Osoro is currently vice president of the conference.

Archbishop Osoro was born in Castaneda, in northern Spain, May 16, 1945. He studied at the Pontifical University of Salamanca, where he earned a joint degree in philosophy and theology. He later earned degrees in science and adult education from Madrid’s Complutense University and a degree in pedagogy from the University of Salamanca. He was ordained in 1973.

He was appointed bishop of Orense in 1996 and archbishop of Oviedo in 2002 before Pope Benedict XVI moved him to Valencia.

Born in Utiel, Oct. 15, 1945, Cardinal Canizares was ordained in 1970 after training at the local seminary and studying at the Pontifical University of Salamanca and Madrid’s Pastoral Institute. He later taught theology at both schools for two decades, while running San Gerardo Parish in Madrid.

Appointed bishop of Avila in March 1992, Cardinal Canizares drafted documents for the Spanish bishops’ conference on subjects ranging from ecclesiology and the sacraments to sexual and medical ethics.

He was named archbishop of Granada in December 1996 and was transferred to Toledo six years later.

Cardinal Canizares served as vice president of the Spanish bishops’ conference from 2005 to 2008. Pope Benedict made him a cardinal in 2006 and named him prefect of the worship congregation two years later.

 

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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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Vatican says former papal nuncio could stand trial

August 26th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican denied covering up for a former papal ambassador accused of sexually abusing boys and suggested he might have to stand trial on the charges in the Dominican Republic.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, released a statement Aug. 25 in response to journalists’ questions about former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, a Pole who served as nuncio to the Dominican Republic until August 2013.

Former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, former nuncio to the Dominican Republic is shown in 2011.  The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found the archbishop guilty of sexual abuse of minors and he has been laicized. (CNS photo/Orlando Barria, EPA)

Former Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, former nuncio to the Dominican Republic is shown in 2011. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith found the archbishop guilty of sexual abuse of minors and he has been laicized. (CNS photo/Orlando Barria, EPA)

According to an Aug. 23 article in the New York Times, the Vatican “secretly recalled (Wesolowski) to Rome last year before he could be investigated, and then invoked diplomatic immunity for Mr. Wesolowski so that he could not face trial in the Dominican Republic.”

Father Lombardi responded that the Vatican, by recalling the diplomat from his post last summer, “moved without delay and correctly in light of the fact that former nuncio Wesolowski held the position of a diplomatic representative of the Holy See.”

“Far from any intention of a cover-up, this action demonstrates the full and direct undertaking of the Holy See’s responsibility even in such a serious and delicate case, about which Pope Francis is duly and carefully informed and one which the pope wishes to address justly and rigorously,” the statement said.

The spokesman added that, “since former nuncio Wesolowski has ended all diplomatic activity and its related immunity, he might also be subjected to judicial procedures from the courts that could have specific jurisdiction over him.”

The Vatican announced June 27 that a canonical court had investigated Wesolowski on charges of sex abuse and concluded by dismissing him from the “clerical state,” depriving him of all rights and duties associated with being a priest except the obligation of celibacy. Wesolowski would face a criminal trial under the laws of Vatican City State, the Vatican said at the time.

In his Aug. 25 statement, Father Lombardi said Wesolowski’s appeal of his laicization will be judged “over the course of the coming weeks, mostly likely in October 2014,” and criminal proceedings will ensue “as soon as the canonical sentence becomes definitive.”

Pope Francis told reporters in May 2014 that three bishops were under investigation for misdeeds related to the sexual abuse of minors. One, presumably the former nuncio, had “already been condemned,” the pope said, and his penalty was being studied.

The pope told reporters the abuse of children was “an ugly crime” and affirmed a policy of “zero tolerance” for abusers.

Previously, the Vatican had acknowledged that a formal investigation was underway against Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the former archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, who resigned in 2013 after admitting to sexual misconduct.

Only a few bishops have been laicized in connection to allegations of abusing minors; they include Auxiliary Bishop Gabino Miranda Melgarejo of Ayacucho, Peru, who was dismissed from the priesthood in 2013 because of sexual misconduct. Retired Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, was convicted by a civil court in 2011 of importing child pornography and was laicized by the Vatican in 2012.

 

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Pope marks Ukrainian Independence Day

August 25th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis lamented “tension and conflict” in Ukraine and prayed for “peace and tranquility” there on the country’s Independence Day.

The pope made his remarks Aug. 24, after praying the Angelus with a crowd in St. Peter’s Square.

Ukrainian soldiers march along a street during a rehearsal for the Independence Day parade in Kiev Aug. 20. The parade will take place Aug. 24. (CNS photo/Gleb Garanich, Reuters)

Ukrainian soldiers march along a street during a rehearsal for the Independence Day parade in Kiev Aug. 20. The parade will take place Aug. 24. (CNS photo/Gleb Garanich, Reuters)

“My thoughts go in a particular way to the beloved land of Ukraine,” he said, “to all its sons and daughters, to their yearning for peace and tranquility, threatened by a situation of tension and conflict that continues unabated, causing so much suffering among the population.”

Fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces continues in the eastern part of the country, having killed more than 2,000 and displaced more than 30,000 over the past several months.

“Let us entrust the whole nation to the Lord Jesus and to the Madonna, and let us pray together above all for the victims, their families, and all those who suffer,” the pope said.

In an off-the-cuff addition to his prepared remarks, Pope Francis mentioned a letter he had received from a Ukrainian bishop, recounting “all the pain” of the people there.

“Let us pray together to the Madonna for this beloved land of Ukraine, on its Independence Day,” he said, then led the crowd in reciting the Hail Mary.

 

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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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Pope requests prayers for his relatives killed, injured in car crash

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Pope Francis (CNS)

Pope Francis (CNS)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis asked people to join him in prayer Aug. 19 after he learned that two of his little great nephews and their mother had died in a car crash in Argentina and his nephew was in critical condition.

The dead were identified as the wife and two young sons of Pope Francis’ nephew, Emanuel Horacio Bergoglio: Valeria Carmona, 39, Antonio Bergoglio, 8 months, and Joseph Bergoglio, 2 years.

According to Argentine news reports, the 35-year-old son of the pope’s late brother Alberto Bergoglio underwent emergency surgery and was on a respirator.

The crash occurred in the early morning hours on the highway between Rosario and Cordoba.

 

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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’s Aug. 15 homily: Mary’s Assumption shows us our own destiny

August 15th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News

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Homily of Pope Francis Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Daejeon, World Cup Stadium
15 August 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In union with the whole Church, we celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady, body and soul, into the glory of heaven. Mary’s Assumption shows us our own destiny as God’s adoptive children and members of the body of Christ. Like Mary our Mother, we are called to share fully in the Lord’s victory over sin and death, and to reign with him in his eternal Kingdom.

ROSE WINDOW DEPICTS MARY'S ASSUMPTION INTO HEAVENThe “great sign” presented in today’s first reading – a woman clothed in the sun and crowned by stars (cf. Rev 12:1) – invites us to contemplate Mary enthroned in glory beside her divine Son. It also invites us to acknowledge the future which even now the Risen Lord is opening before us. Koreans traditionally celebrate this feast in the light of their historical experience, seeing the loving intercession of Our Lady at work in the history of the nation and the lives of its people.

In today’s second reading, we heard Saint Paul tell us that Christ is the new Adam, whose obedience to the Father’s will has overturned the reign of sin and bondage and inaugurated the reign of life and freedom (cf. 1 Cor 15:24-25). True freedom is found in our loving embrace of the Father’s will. From Mary, full of grace, we learn that Christian freedom is more than liberation from sin. It is freedom for a new, spiritual way of seeing earthly realities. It is the freedom to love God and our brothers and sisters with a pure heart, and to live a life of joyful hope for the coming of Christ’s Kingdom.

Today, in venerating Mary, Queen of Heaven, we also turn to her as Mother of the Church in Korea. We ask her to help us to be faithful to the royal freedom we received on the day of our Baptism, to guide our efforts to transform the world in accordance with God’s plan, and to enable the Church in this country to be ever more fully a leaven of his Kingdom in the midst of Korean society. May the Christians of this nation be a generous force for spiritual renewal at every level of society. May they combat the allure of a materialism that stifles authentic spiritual and cultural values and the spirit of unbridled competition which generates selfishness and strife. May they also reject inhumane economic models which create new forms of poverty and marginalize workers, and the culture of death which devalues the image of God, the God of life, and violates the dignity of every man, woman and child.

As Korean Catholics, heirs to a noble tradition, you are called to cherish this legacy and transmit it to future generations. This will demand of everyone a renewed conversion to the word of God and a passionate concern for the poor, the needy and the vulnerable in our midst.

In celebrating this feast, we join the Church throughout the world in looking to Mary as our Mother of Hope. Her song of praise reminds us that God never forgets his promise of mercy (cf. Lk 1:54-55). Mary is the one who is blessed because “she believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord” (Lk 1:45). In her, all God’s promises have been proved trustworthy. Enthroned in glory, she shows us that our hope is real; even now it reaches as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb 6:19) to where Jesus is seated in glory.

This hope, dear brothers and sisters, the hope held out by the Gospel, is the antidote to the spirit of despair that seems to grow like a cancer in societies which are outwardly affluent, yet often experience inner sadness and emptiness. Upon how many of our young has this despair taken its toll! May they, the young who surround us in these days with their joy and confidence, never be robbed of their hope!

Let us turn to Our Lady and implore the grace to rejoice in the freedom of the children of God, to use that freedom wisely in the service of our brothers and sisters, and to live and work as signs of the hope which will find its fulfillment in that eternal Kingdom where to reign is to serve. Amen.

Angelus Address following Mass on Feast of Assumption of Mary

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Pope Francis urges U.N. to end violence against religious minorities in Iraq

August 13th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis formally asked U.N. agencies and the entire international community “to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway” in northeastern Iraq.

In a letter signed Aug. 9, but released by the Vatican only after it had been delivered, Pope Francis told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon immediate action was needed “to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.”

An Iraqi Christian refugee holds a 12-day-old baby in Ankawa, Iraq, Aug. 7. Witnesses claim refugees are dying in the crowded camps. (CNS photo/Sahar Mansour

An Iraqi Christian refugee holds a 12-day-old baby in Ankawa, Iraq, Aug. 7. Witnesses claim refugees are dying in the crowded camps. (CNS photo/Sahar Mansour

The papal letter was sent after militants of the Islamic State terrorist organization had captured Mosul in late July and Qaraqosh in early August, killing hundreds of people and forcing tens of thousands of Christians, Yezidis and other religious and ethnic minorities from their homes.

The U.S. military began airstrikes against the Islamic state Aug. 8 as well as airdrops of food and water for Iraqi minorities who had been forced to flee.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Aug. 13 that Pope Francis was using language in line with the development in Catholic social teaching and international ethics on humanitarian intervention and the “obligation to protect” people facing widespread massacres and outright genocide.

He pointed to Pope Benedict XVI’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly in 2008: “Recognition of the unity of the human family, and attention to the innate dignity of every man and woman, today find renewed emphasis in the principle of the responsibility to protect. This has only recently been defined, but it was already present implicitly at the origins of the United Nations.”

If a nation cannot guarantee the protection of its citizens, Pope Benedict had said, “the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments.”

Father Lombardi said Pope Francis was not dictating the use of internationally sanctioned military power against the Islamic State or “giving specific operational indications — that is the responsibility of the international community to determine.”

Pope Francis, referring to the U.N.’s foundation immediately after the horrors of World War II, told Ban: “The tragic experiences of the 20th century, and the most basic understanding of human dignity, compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.”

“It is with a heavy and anguished heart that I have been following the dramatic events of these past few days in northern Iraq,” the pope told Ban.

Pope Francis noted that he had sent Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the former nuncio to Iraq and current prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to Iraq to express the church’s concern “for the intolerable suffering of those who only wish to live in peace, harmony and freedom in the land of their forefathers.” The cardinal arrived in Amman, Jordan, Aug. 12 and expected to reach Irbil, Iraq, Aug. 13, Father Lombardi said.

The presidents of 36 bishops’ conferences belonging to the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences sent a letter Aug. 12 to each member of the U.N. Security Council, calling for “decisions that would stop these acts of atrocity” in Iraq.

The purpose of the U.N. Security Council, the bishops said, is “to ensure international peace and security and to promote human rights,” something which requires real action and immediate decisions regarding Iraq.

 

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