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Italians arrest suspected terrorists; Vatican says no current threat

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Italian police arrested at least nine people in what officials described as a terrorist cell that had planned, in 2010, to strike at the Vatican with a suicide bomber.

St. Peter's Square. (CNS file)

St. Peter’s Square. (CNS file)

A few hours after the police in Cagliari announced the arrests, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the planned attack on the Vatican was “a hypothesis going back to 2010, one which did not take place.”

The threat did not appear to be ongoing, he said, therefore it was not “a reason for particular concern.”

DIGOS, the Italian police division that investigates terrorism and organized crime, arrested eight Pakistanis and an Afghani in seven Italian provinces April 24. They were still looking for three more suspects.

Mauro Mura, chief prosecutor in Cagliari, told reporters that DIGOS agents had arrested the spiritual leader of the terrorist cell, which was believed to have ties to al-Qaida.

The Italian investigation dates to 2005 and included telephone wiretaps of conversations that led to the theory of a plan in 2010 to strike the Vatican using a suicide bomber from Pakistan. The man apparently is no longer in Italy.

 

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France says Vatican has not issued response for proposed ambassador

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Despite media reports that Pope Francis refused the candidate France proposed as its next ambassador to the Holy See, the French government has yet to receive an official response from the Vatican, said a spokesperson for the French government.

“For the moment, we wait,” said Stephane Le Foll.

During a press briefing April 22 in Paris, Le Foll confirmed that Pope Francis met with the proposed candidate, Laurent Stefanini. However, Le Foll discounted reports claiming the pope did not approve the nomination.

“What is cited in the newspaper is not the official word of the Vatican,” he said, responding to a question from a journalist. “I do not give any credit to the information (about the refusal) you brought up.”

According to the French Catholic news agency I.Media, the pope and Stefanini had a 40-minute private meeting at the Domus Sanctae Marthae April 17, during which they spoke and prayed together.

Since then, however, some media outlets published reports that accuse the Vatican of refusing France’s nomination because Stefanini is homosexual. The press also cited Dr. Bernard Kouchner, a French politician and co-founder of Medecins Sans Frontieres, as reacting to the Vatican’s alleged refusal, describing it as “racism.”

Le Foll told journalists he would not comment on Kouchner’s remarks, adding that as the former French minister of foreign and European affairs, Kouchner “should know in any case, on all of these subjects, to always take many precautions before commenting on information.”

The French government is waiting – “after the normal discussions, the time that is necessary for the study of the candidacy” — for a response from the Vatican, Le Foll said.

International law grants all states, including the Vatican, the right to review all nominations and accept or reject an appointed ambassador. The review process is usually private and states are not obliged to give a reason for refusing a proposed candidate.

Stefanini, currently France’s chief of protocol, is Catholic and worked as the first councilor for the French embassy to the Holy See from 2001 to 2005.

The Vatican press office has declined to comment on Stefanini’s candidacy.

 

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Pope Francis: Church is made of martyrs; world leaders must respond to killings

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — With so many women and men being killed because of their faith in Christ, the church today is a church of martyrs, Pope Francis said in a morning homily.

And, in a message to the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, he also urged the world’s leaders to hear the cry of all the Christians who are victims of violence, cruelty and killings.

Islamic State militants lead what are said to be Ethiopian Christians along a beach in Libya in this still image from an undated video made available on a social media website April 19. With so many women and men being killed because of their faith in Christ, the church today is a church of martyrs, Pope Francis said in a morning homily. (CNS photo/Social Media Website via Reuters TV) S

Islamic State militants lead what are said to be Ethiopian Christians along a beach in Libya in this still image from an undated video made available on a social media website April 19. With so many women and men being killed because of their faith in Christ, the church today is a church of martyrs, Pope Francis said in a morning homily. (CNS photo/Social Media Website via Reuters TV) S

“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil. All the more this cry must be heard by those who have the destiny of peoples in their hands,” the pope told Patriarch Mathias of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in a message sent April 20.

Pope Francis sent his condolences to the patriarch for the execution of more than 20 Ethiopian Christians at the hands of Islamic State militants in Libya. A video of the killings was released April 19.

“With great distress and sadness I learn of the further shocking violence perpetrated against innocent Christians in Libya,” the pope wrote.

He assured the patriarch of his “closeness in prayer at the continuing martyrdom being so cruelly inflicted on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and some parts of Asia. It makes no difference whether the victims are Catholic, Copt, Orthodox or Protestant. Their blood is one and the same in their confession of Christ.”

At a time when Christians worldwide were still celebrating the joy of Easter, he said, “we know that the life we live in God’s merciful love is stronger than the pain all Christians feel, a pain shared by men and women of good will in all religious traditions.”

Pope Francis highlighted the fate of the martyred Christians April 21 at his early morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta as the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (7:51-8:1) described the stoning and killing of St. Stephen, the church’s first martyr.

“How many Stephens there are in the world these days. We think of our brothers whose throats were slit on the beach in Libya; we think of that young boy burned alive by his fellow citizens because he was Christian; we think about those migrants who were thrown into the high seas by others, and many others whom we don’t know about, who suffer in prisons because they are Christians,” he said.

“Today the church is a church of martyrs: They suffer, they give their life and we receive God’s blessings for their witness,” the pope said, according to Vatican Radio.

Those who judged and persecuted St. Stephen could not bear to hear his condemnation of their sins and their opposition to the Holy Spirit, he said.

That’s because “the word of God always displeases certain hearts. The word of God irritates when your heart is hardened, when you have a pagan heart because the word of God asks you to go further, searching and feeding you with that bread Jesus spoke of” that comes from God, he said.

Those who persecuted St. Stephen and the prophets believed that they were acting on God’s behalf, “to give glory to God, they believed that (by doing) this they were faithful to God’s doctrine,” the pope said.

However, he said, their hearts were corrupt and hardened to the work of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, there are also “hidden martyrs, those men and women who are faithful to the power of the Holy Spirit, to the voice of the Spirit, who make inroads, who look for new ways to help brothers and sisters and to love God better,” he said. For that reason “they come under suspicion, are slandered, persecuted by many ‘modern Sanhedrins’ who believe they own the truth,” he said.

“Let us unite ourselves with so many brothers and sisters who suffer the martyrdom of persecution, slander and murder in order to be faithful to the only bread that satiates, Jesus,” he said.

 

 

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Pope calls for Catholics and Jews to stand together to defend believers

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — European Christians and Jews must stand together in witnessing to faith in God and in defending one another from discrimination and persecution around the world, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis met April 20 with a 30-member delegation of the Conference of European Rabbis in anticipation of the 50th anniversary in October of “Nostra Aetate,” the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on relations with the Jews, Muslims and other religions.

“Today, in Europe, it is more important than ever to emphasize the spiritual and religious dimension of human life,” the pope said.

“In a society increasingly marked by secularism and threatened by atheism, we run the risk of living as if God did not exist,” the pope said. But Christians and Jews know “God is holy, and the life he has given is holy and inviolable.”

Condemning new waves of anti-Semitic incidents in Europe, Pope Francis noted the 70th anniversary last January of “the liberation of Auschwitz, the concentration camp which has come to be synonymous with the great tragedy of the Shoah.”

“The memory of what took place there, in the heart of Europe, is a warning to present and future generations,” the pope said.

“Acts of hatred and violence against Christians and the faithful of other religions must likewise be condemned everywhere,” the pope said.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the chief rabbi of Moscow and president of the conference, told the pope, “We express our deepest sympathy, prayers and support for the Christians in the Middle East.”

The Jewish community, he said, appreciates Nostra Aetate’s “rejection of every persecution against any man,” its recognition of the spiritual patrimony Jews and Christians share and its condemnation of “displays of anti-Semitism directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”

And he, like the pope, spoke of the importance of reminding Europeans of God’s existence and of traditional religious values.

“Who would have thought even 25 years ago that the East will become the defender of traditional religious values while the West has embraced a secularism which moves it away from its Judeo-Christian heritage,” he said.

Coming from Russia, the rabbi said, he could not help but mention the continuing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the situation of refugees it is creating and the economic hardships that are spreading.

Rabbi Goldschmidt said he thought Pope Francis was in a unique position “to be God’s emissary to help build new bridges and bring the East and the West back from the brink of war, to a unified and peaceful Europe and the world.”

 

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700 migrants drown: Pope Francis urges action on behalf of migrants, unemployed, poor

April 20th, 2015 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The poor, migrants in search of a better life and the unemployed want what all human beings want: life, dignity and a chance to earn a decent living, Pope Francis said in several speeches urging compassion and assistance by both governments and individuals.

A child is carried by a rescue worker as migrants arrive on a boat at the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo April 19. Reciting the ìRegina Coeliî prayer April 19, just hours after reports surfaced that perhaps more than 700 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe, Pope Francis asked the thousands of people in St. Peterís Square for a moment of silence and to join him reciting a Hail Mary for the victims and survivors. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

A child is carried by a rescue worker as migrants arrive on a boat at the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo April 19. Reciting the ìRegina Coeliî prayer April 19, just hours after reports surfaced that perhaps more than 700 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe, Pope Francis asked the thousands of people in St. Peterís Square for a moment of silence and to join him reciting a Hail Mary for the victims and survivors. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer April 19, just hours after reports surfaced that perhaps more than 700 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe, Pope Francis asked the thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for a moment of silence and then to join him reciting a Hail Mary for the victims and survivors.

The Italian coast guard reported that as of late April 19, 28 survivors had been rescued and 24 bodies had been recovered; one of the survivors, a Bangladeshi, told authorities the smugglers had locked hundreds of people in the hold, so there may have been as many as 950 people on board.

Pope Francis called on the international community to act decisively and quickly to prevent the deaths of more migrants. “They are men and women like us, our brothers and sisters who seek a better life; hungry, persecuted, injured, exploited, victims of war — they seek a better life. They were seeking happiness.”

Pope Francis had spoken April 18 with Italian President Sergio Mattarella about the continuing wave of migrants who set off from North Africa, often in overcrowded and unsafe fishing boats, hoping to land in Italy and make their way to other European countries. For years the Italian government has been asking the European Union for concrete assistance in regulating migration, patrolling the waters and rescuing those at risk of drowning.

The pope thanked Italy for assisting “the numerous migrants who, at the risk of their lives, ask to be welcomed. It is obvious the size of the phenomenon requires a much broader involvement,” the pope said. “We must never tire of requesting a commitment that extends to a European and international level.”

As Mattarella made his first state visit to the Vatican, Pope Francis also urged greater Italian government efforts to create jobs, especially for the young. Among all the ingredients needed for economic growth and development, the pope said, work is one of the most important because it is tied to the dignity of the person and his or her ability to build a life.

“The lack of jobs for young people,” he said, is “a cry of pain” that must be heard by governments, private businesses and the church community, which should rally together to give job creation priority. “Access to dignity and a future relies on access to a job,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also spoke April 18 with members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which dedicated its plenary assembly to examining the phenomenon of human trafficking, including the trafficking of migrants.

The Bible insists that Christians will be judged by how they cared for “the least” of their brothers and sisters, he said. “And today among these most needy brothers and sisters are those who suffer the tragedy of modern forms of slavery, forced labor, prostitution” as well as the victims of trafficking in organs and in drugs.

Slavery, which “was widespread and socially accepted, scandalously including in the Christian world because it was big business,” eventually was abolished through long-term and dedicated efforts by both Christians and people of no religious faith who worked together to fight for human dignity, he said.

“Unfortunately, in a global economic system dominated by profit, new forms of slavery have developed and in some ways they are worse and more inhumane than that of the past,” the pope said. “We are called to denounce and combat them.”

Every citizen of every country must be made aware of human trafficking and join the fight against it, he said.

Special action is needed to encourage countries to enact legislation to bring traffickers to justice and to use “their unjust earnings for the rehabilitation of victims,” he said. Nations also must be encouraged to grant asylum to the migrants who have fallen prey to traffickers and ended up in their nations.

Also April 18, Pope Francis met with representatives of the International Catholic Society for Girls, an organization offering shelter and education, training, psychological and spiritual assistance to migrants and other girls and young women at risk.

While he praised the organization’s members for living out the Gospel call to service, he also asked them to “learn from these young women you stand alongside and help. Despite their difficulties, they often are witnesses of the essential virtues of brotherhood and solidarity.”

In addition, the pope said, “they remind us that we are fragile and depend on God and on others.”

Pope Francis prayed, “May the merciful gaze of the Father touch us and help us accept our own poverty in order to move forward with trust and commit ourselves together to that revolution of tenderness that Jesus began with his incarnation.”

 

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Heart, mind and touch: Pope Francis shares personal devotion to Mary

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — From Easter to Pentecost, and especially during the Marian month of May, Catholics recite the “Regina Coeli” (“Queen of Heaven”) prayer “with the emotion of children who are happy because their mother is happy” that Jesus has risen from the dead, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis uses incense to venerate a statue of Mary as he celebrates Mass at the Verano cemetery in Rome on the feast of All Saints in 2013. The pope is deeply devoted to Mary and often expresses his devotion by praying in front of Marian statues and then gently touching them. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis uses incense to venerate a statue of Mary as he celebrates Mass at the Verano cemetery in Rome on the feast of All Saints in 2013. The pope is deeply devoted to Mary and often expresses his devotion by praying in front of Marian statues and then gently touching them. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Although his devotion to the Mother of God is profound, it is simple in many ways: Mary is a mother to every believer; Jesus would not leave his followers orphans.

While his connection to Mary clearly is a matter of heart and mind, it is also physical. Whenever Pope Francis passes a statue or icon of Mary, he kisses it or allows his hand to rest tenderly upon it.

Honoring the Mother of God, of course, is a solid part of Catholic tradition and a mainstay in the devotion and teaching of the popes. St. John Paul II’s motto, “Totus Tuus” (“All yours”), and the large M on his coat of arms were just the most graphic elements of a devotion that led to a whole body of teaching about Mary, her role in Catholics’ faith life and the importance of praying the rosary.

Pope Francis would not have an argument with any of St. John Paul’s Marian piety or discourse.

But there are differences.

“The sense of Pope Francis’ devotion to Mary is a little more personal, more intimate” than St. John Paul’s was, said Redemptorist Father Sabatino Majorano, a professor at Rome’s Alphonsianum Institute. Pope Francis expresses “that feeling that exists between a son and his mother, where I think Pope John Paul’s was more that of a subject and his queen.”

The difference, he believes, comes from their roots: Pope Francis’ Latin roots, not just in Argentina, but also from his Italian family, and St. John Paul’s Slavic, Polish culture.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI spoke and wrote less about Mary than his predecessor and successor, but one now-solid Marian custom began in his pontificate: Whether or not it is a Marian feast day, a statue of Mary is placed prominently near the altar at papal liturgies.

Pope Francis’ habit of touching images of Mary is a typical Latin American gesture, one Father Majorano said he saw repeated thousands of times at Brazil’s Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, which is staffed by his brother Redemptorists. “The tactile experience is part of praying. It’s a spirituality that takes flesh, becomes concrete; it is not just an idea or a theory.”

At Mass and other formal liturgical services, Pope Francis uses incense to bless the Marian images. He notices the images and often comments on them.

In Caserta, Italy, last July, Pope Francis celebrated the feast of St. Anne, Mary’s mother. A locally loved statue of St. Anne holding the hand of her little girl, Mary, was placed to the side of the altar.

In his homily, the pope said, “When I was using the incense, I noticed something very beautiful: The statue of St. Anne does not have a crown, but her daughter Mary is crowned. St. Anne is the woman who prepared her daughter to become queen, to become queen of heaven and earth. This woman did a great job.”

Visiting Naples in March, Pope Francis told priests, nuns and seminarians that one way to make sure Jesus is the center of their lives is to ask “his mother to take you to him. A priest, a brother, a nun who does not love Mary, who does not pray to her, I would even say one who does not recite the rosary, well, if you don’t love the mother, the mother will not give you the Son.”

In the same talk, the pope spoke again about how he recently read “The Glories of Mary,” a hefty book written in 1750 by St. Alphonsus Liguori. “In this book, I like reading the stories about Mary that are behind each chapter; in them you see how Mary always leads us to Jesus.”

Father Majorano, an expert in the writings of St. Alphonsus, said he and his confreres were not surprised to hear Pope Francis praising the 265-year-old work of their founder.

The style St. Alphonsus uses to speak of Mary reflects the Latin culture he and the pope share, “warm, written with the heart more than the head, although it is intelligent,” Father Majorano said. “In general, St. Alphonsus in his books shows a great knowledge of patristic works and other church writers; he cites them continually, but this work on Mary is written more with the heart.”

The two focal points of St. Alphonsus’ life, he said, were “the crucifix as an expression of God’s love, not his justice, and Mary. They were the two realities that motivated his preaching and what he proposed in his missions.”

St. Alphonsus focused on Mary’s role as the “Queen of Mercy,” the Redemptorist said. “The basic characteristic he emphasizes is that Mary is God’s welcomer; that is, when we are afraid to approach God because of our sins, she welcomes us and helps us turn to him. So, her mercy is acceptance and her mercy is her ability to intercede for us and her mercy is to always anticipate our needs, like she did at the wedding at Cana.”

In his official proclamation of the 2015-2016 Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote, “Mary attests that the mercy of the son of God knows no bounds and extends to everyone, without exception. Let us address her in the words of the ‘Salve Regina,’ (‘Hail Holy Queen’) a prayer ever ancient and new, so that she may never tire of turning her merciful eyes toward us, and make us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her son Jesus.”

 

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Retired Pope Benedict XVI celebrates his 88th birthday

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — An inability to dialogue and to accept that God may be doing new things are signs of disobedience to God, Pope Francis said.

Obedience often leads people to a path for their life that is not the one they planned on taking, he said. To obey is “to have the courage to change paths when the Lord asks this of us.”

Retired Pope Benedict XVI makes a toast during celebrations marking his 88th birthday at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Retired Pope Benedict XVI makes a toast during celebrations marking his 88th birthday at the Vatican April 16. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Celebrating Mass April 16 in the chapel of his residence, Pope Francis told the small congregation that because it was the 88th birthday of retired Pope Benedict XVI, he wanted to offer the Mass for him. “I invite you to pray for him, that the Lord might sustain him and grant him much joy and happiness.”

In his homily, Pope Francis looked at the story in the day’s first Scripture reading, Acts 5:27-33, about Jewish leaders ordering the disciples to stop preaching about Jesus, but the disciples reply: “We must obey God rather than men.”

The Jewish leaders, the pope said, “were doctors, they had studied the history of the people; they studied the prophecies; they studied the law; they knew the whole theology of the people of Israel, the revelation of God, they knew everything, they were doctors and yet they were incapable of recognizing God’s salvation.”

Their “anger and desire to silence those who were preaching the newness of God, that is, that Jesus was risen,” was the clearest sign that they were “not open to the Lord’s voice and to the signs of the Lord in the midst of his people.”

“They were the same ones who paid the guards at the tomb to tell the disciples that Jesus’ body had been stolen,” the pope said. “They did all that to avoid opening themselves to God’s voice.”

The leaders, he said, were not simply “hard headed, it wasn’t a simple stubbornness.” The problem, he said, was “hardness of heart.”

People are not born hard hearted, he said; they’ve practiced “closing in on themselves” and refusing to dialogue or listen to others.

“They didn’t know how to dialogue,” not even with God, he said. “They did not know how to pray and hear the Lord’s voice, and they didn’t know how to dialogue with others.”

Their only key for interpreting the law, Pope Francis said, was “to make it more precise. But they were closed to the signs of God in history and were closed to his people, their people. They were closed, closed.”

The tragedy of the doctors of the law, “these theologians of the people of God,” he said, was that “they did not know who to listen and they didn’t know how to dialogue. Dialogue is what you do with God and with your brothers and sisters.”

 

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Vatican approves new statutes and bylaws for U.S. nuns’ leadership group, ends oversight

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican approved new statutes and bylaws for the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious, ending a seven-year process of investigating the group and engaging in dialogue with its officers to ensure greater harmony with church teaching. Read more »

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Beyond question: ‘We have to do much more in favor of women,’ pope says while warning against ‘gender theory’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY— Eradicating male and female identities does nothing to solve the problem of unfair or disrespectful treatment based on people’s gender, Pope Francis said.

“Getting rid of the difference is the problem, not the solution,” he said April 15 during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis passes flag twirlers as he arrives to lead general audience in St. Peter's Square at VaticanThe right way to solve the problems and conflicts in male-female relations is to have men and women “talk to each other more, listen to each other more, know each other better, care more for each other,” he said.

The pope continued a series of general audience talks about the family by beginning the first of two talks on “the difference and complementarity between men and women.” He said the two talks would serve as the foundation for two later talks dedicated to the sacrament of marriage.

At the end of the audience, Pope Francis personally greeted the husband and a daughter of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian woman sentenced to death in 2010 under Pakistan’s controversial laws against blaspheming Islam. Bibi’s family came to Rome as part of a campaign to rally international support for her release.

In his main audience talk, Pope Francis said that when God created humanity in his image, he did so for man and woman together, “as a couple,” in a state of sharing and harmony.

Sexual differentiation, therefore, exists not for creating conflict or a situation of subordination, but for reciprocity and fruitfulness, “for communion and generation, always in the image and likeness of God,” the pope said.

“We are made to listen to each other and help each other,” he said. “We can say that without mutual enrichment in this relationship — in thinking and action, in feelings and work, even in faith — the two can’t even understand fully what it means to be a man and woman.”

Modern culture has done much to open up a new and deeper understanding of men and women, “but it also has introduced many doubts and much skepticism,” he said.

“For example, I wonder if so-called gender theory may not also be an expression of frustration and resignation that aims to erase sexual differentiation because it no longer knows how to come to terms with it,” the pope said.

With gender theory, which argues that male and female characteristics are largely malleable social constructs, he said, “we risk going backward.”

“God entrusted the earth to the covenant between man and woman: its failure drains the world of affection and obscures the heavens of hope,” he said.

There are many “worrying” signs of the failure to live out God’s original plan of reciprocity and harmony, he said, as he pointed out two things that “I think we have to commit ourselves to with greater urgency.”

“The first: It is beyond question that we have to do much more in favor of women,” such as making sure “that women not only are listened to more, but that their voice carries real weight, (is) an acknowledge authority in society and the church,” he said to applause.

A powerful guiding light, the pope said, is “the way in which Jesus considered women,” especially in a social and historical context that was much “less favorable than ours” and in which women “were really in second place.”

Humanity has gone only “a tiny way” along the path God wants everyone to take, he said.

“We still have not grasped fully the things that the feminine genius can give us, what society and we can be given by women who know how to see things with another pair of eyes that complement men’s ideas. It is a path to take with more creativity and audacity,” he said to more applause.

The second thing that needs urgent attention, the pope said, is to see “if the collective crisis of faith in God, which is very harmful to us — afflicting us with resignation, skepticism and cynicism — may not be linked to this crisis of the covenant between men and women.”

In fact, it is said that “communion with God is reflected in the communion of the human couple and that the loss of faith in the heavenly Father generates division and conflict between men and women.”

Pope Francis said the church and all Catholics carry a great responsibility in “rediscovering the beauty of the Creator’s plan.”

Men and women “must treat each other with respect and friendly cooperation,” and once this proper basis is created with God’s grace, solid marriages and families can be built, he said.

“I would like to urge intellectuals to not abandon this subject, as if it had become secondary to the task of promoting a freer and more just society,” he said.

 

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Pope’s morning homily: Harmony, sharing, patience are signs of Spirit’s presence

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The presence of the Holy Spirit makes Christian communities places of harmony and sharing where wealth is not accumulated, but put at the service of the needy, Pope Francis said.

A Christian community shows it is filled with the Holy Spirit “when it is a community that seeks harmony” and does not allow internal divisions to fester, “when it seeks poverty” and “not the accumulation of riches for itself because wealth is for service,” he said April 14 at his early morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.

What’s more, he said, a sure sign of the Spirit’s presence is that community members “do not get angry or feel offended as soon as a difficulty arises,” but they are as patient as Jesus was.

According to Vatican Radio, the pope quoted from the day’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (4:32-37): “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.”

While the reading begins by saying, “The community of believers was of one heart and mind,” Pope Francis noted that the problems they faced began rather quickly.

The next chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, he said, describes how a married couple — Ananias and Sapphira — try to fool the community by pretending they are giving all the proceeds from the sale of their property, when they kept some for themselves.

“These are like the patrons or benefactors who approach the church, enter to help, but use the church for their own ends, aren’t they?” he said.

But even bigger troubles are looming, he said. The persecution of Christians begins soon after the Resurrection, just as Jesus foretold.

The clearest sign of the Spirit’s presence among the early Christians, the pope said, was their “patience in enduring: enduring the problems, enduring the difficulties, enduring the malicious gossip and slander, enduring sickness and enduring pain,” especially regarding the death of their loved ones.

As the Easter season continues and Christians prepare to celebrate Pentecost, Pope Francis said “it would do us good to think about our communities, whether they are dioceses, parishes, families or something else, and ask for the grace of harmony, which is more than unity; it’s a harmonious unity.”

Christians also should ask for “the grace of poverty,” which is the ability to manage money and material things with generosity for the common good, and for “the grace of patience,” the pope said.

The Bible makes clear that the Holy Spirit gives those gifts not just to individuals, he said, but also to communities.

 

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