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Pope Francis sees ‘bits and pieces’ of a World War III happening amid indifference

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When will people ever learn that war is madness and conflicts are only resolved by forgiveness, Pope Francis asked.

The pope said it is believed that more than 8 million soldiers and 7 million civilians died during World War I, a four-year-long conflict that began 100 years ago.

Pope Francis walks through the  Austro-Hungarian cemetery for soldiers of World War I in Fogliano di Redipuglia, Italy, Sept. 13. The pope prayed for the fallen of all wars and also celebrated an outdoor Mass in front of the nearby Redipuglia war memorial, which honors the 100,000 Italian soldiers who died during World War I. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis walks through the Austro-Hungarian cemetery for soldiers of World War I in Fogliano di Redipuglia, Italy, Sept. 13. The pope prayed for the fallen of all wars and also celebrated an outdoor Mass in front of the nearby Redipuglia war memorial, which honors the 100,000 Italian soldiers who died during World War I. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The number of so many lost lives “lets us see how much war is insanity,” Pope Francis said after praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

“When will we learn this lesson?” he asked, telling people to look at the crucified Christ “to understand that hatred and evil are defeated with forgiveness and good, and to understand that responding with war only augments evil and death.”

The pope’s remarks came the day after a morning visit to Italy’s largest war memorial, Redipuglia, a town in northeast Italy near the border with Slovenia. Giovanni Bergoglio, the pope’s Italian grandfather who later immigrated to Argentina, fought nearby during the Italian campaign against the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The memorial made of enormous stone steps leading to three bronze crosses pays homage to more than 100,000 Italian soldiers. while a nearby military cemetery is the final resting place for some 15,000 Austro-Hungarian soldiers, all of whom lost their lives in nearby battlefields. The pope laid a floral wreath at the cemetery, celebrated Mass at the memorial, and prayed for all victims of all wars.

The gorgeous landscape used to be a place where men and women worked hard to raise their families, children played and the elderly daydreamed, he said in his homily.

Instead of safeguarding God’s creation, especially his “most beautiful of all, the human being,” people have set about destroying it through war, he said.

“Greed, intolerance, a lust for power, these are the reasons that incite decisions to go to war,” he said.

Also, “behind the scenes, there are special interests, geopolitical plots, lust for money,” he said, as well as the powerful arms industry.

But the most shocking aspect of so much bloodshed is the continued legacy of indifference, the pope said. Being indifferent began with Cain murdering his brother Abel and then rebuking God for asking where his now dead brother was, replying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Above the tombs of so many dead, Pope Francis said, “hovers the sneering motto of war” – Cain’s complaint of “What do I care?”

“All these people, here in eternal rest, they had plans, had dreams, but their lives were broken. Why? Because humanity said, ‘What do I care?’”

Today the world is still up in arms with a kind of “World War III (waged) in bits and pieces with criminal acts, massacres and destruction,” he said.

“To be honest, the newspaper front page should have the headline: ‘What do I care?’”

“Those who plot terror, organizations fueling conflict, as well as arms manufacturers, all have ‘What do I care’ engraved in their hearts,” he said.

And like Cain, their hearts have become so corrupt, “they’ve lost the ability to cry,” much less do what Jesus asks — to help the sick, the wounded and the hungry, the pope said.

The pope asked people to pray that their heart be transformed from one that has stopped caring to one that can weep “for all those who have fallen in useless massacres, for all the victims of the insanity of war of every era. Tears, brothers and sisters, humanity needs to cry, this is the moment to cry.”

 

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At weddings in St. Peter’s, Pope Francis says spouses make each other better men and women

September 15th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Vatican News Tags: , , ,

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Presiding over the wedding of 20 couples in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis celebrated marriage as the union of a man and woman playing complementary roles during their common journey through life.

Newly married couples Marco Purcaro and Laura Capurso, center, and Fiorenzo Genito and Lidia Tortora, right, react after exchanging vows as Pope Francis celebrates the marriage rite for 20 couples during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Sept. 14. At left is Flaviano Picchi and Giulia Capozi, who are preparing to exchange vows. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Newly married couples Marco Purcaro and Laura Capurso, center, and Fiorenzo Genito and Lidia Tortora, right, react after exchanging vows as Pope Francis celebrates the marriage rite for 20 couples during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Sept. 14. At left is Flaviano Picchi and Giulia Capozi, who are preparing to exchange vows. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“This is what marriage is all about: man and woman walking together, wherein the husband helps his wife to become ever more a woman, and wherein the woman has the task of helping her husband to become ever more a man,” the pope said Sept. 14. “Here we see the reciprocity of differences.”

The pope spoke during a wedding Mass for couples from the diocese of Rome.

In typically frank style, Pope Francis admitted married life can be tiring, “burdensome, and often, even nauseating.”

But the pope assured the brides and grooms that Christ’s redemptive sacrifice would enable them to resist the “dangerous temptation of discouragement, infidelity, weakness, abandonment.”

“The love of Christ, which has blessed and sanctified the union of husband and wife, is able to sustain their love and to renew it when, humanly speaking, it becomes lost, wounded or worn out,” he said.

Pope Francis also offered practical advice for dealing with marital discord.

“It is normal for a husband and wife to argue,” he said. “It always happens. But my advice is this: never let the day end without having first made peace. Never. A small gesture is sufficient. Thus the journey may continue.”

Speaking three weeks before the start of an extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family, the pope emphasized the importance of the institution based on marriage.

“It is impossible to quantify the strength and depth of humanity contained in a family: mutual help, educational support, relationships developing as family members mature, the sharing of joys and difficulties,” he said. “Families are the first place in which we are formed as persons and, at the same time, the bricks for the building up of society.”

The newlyweds ranged in age from 25 to 56 and represented a variety of situations, with some already having children or having lived together before marriage.

Cohabitation, though not a canonical impediment to marriage, violates the Catholic Church’s teaching on marriage and sexual love. Pastoral ministers helping Catholic couples prepare for the sacrament are urged to encourage them to regularize such situations prior to marrying.

At the start of the papal wedding Mass, the brides, wearing traditional white gowns, were accompanied up the aisle of the basilica by their fathers or other male relatives. The grooms entered with their mothers. One at a time, each couple read the wedding vows and exchanged rings before the congregation and the television audience.

As a thank-you present to the pope, the couples jointly contributed to an educational and recreational center for disadvantaged youth in a suburban neighborhood of Rome, to be established by the local branch of Caritas.

The ceremony was the first public papal celebration of a wedding since 2000, when St. John Paul II joined in marriage eight couples from different parts of the world as part of the Jubilee for Families. He also publicly presided over another joint wedding for a group of couples in 1994 as part of his celebration of the International Year of the Family.

 

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Pope to address European Parliament Nov. 25

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis will address the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Nov. 25.

The Parliament’s president, Martin Schultz, made the announcement Sept. 11, and the Vatican immediately confirmed it.

According to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, Pope Francis will travel to Strasbourg and back to Rome the same day, and his brief trip should not be considered a pastoral visit to France.

In visiting the parliament, the pope will be accepting an invitation made by Schultz during a visit to the Vatican in October 2013.

“The decision to come to Strasbourg before visiting any individual EU member state as such gives a strong signal that the pope supports and encourages the pursuit of European integration and unity,” said a statement by German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, president of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community. “We hope that the Holy Father will encourage European parliamentarians in their work and that he will indicate how the foundational values of the Union, inspired to a large degree by the Christian faith, may shape the Europe of tomorrow.”

Pope Francis will be the second pope to speak before the European Parliament.

When St. John Paul II addressed the body in October 1988, the event was disrupted by the Rev. Ian Paisley, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, who unfurled a large orange banner branding the pope “Antichrist’” and shouted, “I renounce you. I renounce you and all your cults and creeds.”

Fellow parliamentarians threw papers at Rev. Paisley, and after a brief scuffle, he was forcibly ejected from the hall.

 

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Feast days of new papal saints added to universal calendar

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In light of “countless requests from every part of the world,” Pope Francis has approved putting Sts. John Paul II and John XXIII on the church’s universal calendar of feast days.

Images of St. John XXIII (left) and St. John Paul II. (CNS)

Images of St. John XXIII (left) and St. John Paul II.
(CNS)

Called the General Roman Calendar, it is the universal schedule of holy days and feast days for the Latin rite of the Catholic Church.

The two saints’ feast days, both of which have the ranking of an optional, not obligatory, memorial, are Oct. 11 for St. John XXIII and Oct. 22 for St. John Paul II.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published the decree Sept. 11 from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

The pope determines who makes the universal calendar based on recommendations from the congregation for worship.

In 2007, Pope Benedict approved stricter guidelines for determining which saints will be remembered with mandatory feast days. The new norms were necessary, the congregation had said, because the year does not have enough days to include all the saints in the universal calendar, particularly when Sundays and holy days are subtracted.

Pope Francis, who canonized the two saints in April, approved the optional memorials “given the extraordinary nature of these pontiffs in offering the clergy and the faithful a unique model of virtue and in promoting the life of Christ,” the decree said.

“Taking into consideration the countless requests from every part of the world,” the pope took “as his own the unanimous wishes of the people of God,” it said.

 

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All sorts of couples among those marrying at papal Mass Sept. 14

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Among the men and women Pope Francis was set to unite in marriage were Catholics who have been living together as well as couples who already have children.

The pope, who is the bishop of Rome, will preside over his first wedding ceremony as pontiff during a nuptial Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Sept. 14.

Newly married couples watch as Pope Francis leads his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 10. Pope Francis will preside at the weddings of 20 couples at St. Peter's on Sept. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Newly married couples watch as Pope Francis leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 10. Pope Francis will preside at the weddings of 20 couples at St. Peter’s on Sept. 14. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The event, which will see 20 couples from the Diocese of Rome celebrate the Sacrament of Marriage, was organized by the vicariate of Rome.

“Those who will get married Sunday are couples like many others,” the diocese said in a press release Sept. 10.

The ages of the brides and grooms range from the youngest being 25 to the oldest being 56, the vicariate said.

It said the couples also come from all kinds of situations with some “who have been engaged for a long period of time or for not as long; there are those who are already cohabitating; who already have children; who got to know each other in church,” it said.

While cohabitation is not in itself a canonical impediment to marriage, it is contrary to the church’s teaching on marriage and sexual love. The church urges that pastoral ministers help couples preparing for marriage by showing them the witness of Christian family life in such a way as they may regularize their situation before their wedding ceremony.

One of the brides, identified only as Gabriella, has never been married, but she had a daughter when she was quite young, she told the Italian daily La Repubblica Sept. 9. Her grown daughter will also attend the ceremony at the Vatican, Gabriella said.

Gabriella’s fiance, Guido, has had an annulment, the newspaper said.

“We’ve known each other for five years and our wanting to get married in the church stems from no longer wanting to live in a union and with feelings that are deprived of some of the sacraments,” the couple said.

When their parish told them about the possibility of having their marriage in the church presided over by the pope, they said they were shocked. “We didn’t feel worthy, because of our age and personal background.”

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.

Pope Francis has said the church’s pastoral approach to helping couples must be “intelligent, courageous and full of love” because the family today is “looked down upon and mistreated.”

He told the world’s cardinals in February that reflections on the family “must keep before us the beauty of the family and marriage, the greatness of this human reality, which is so simple, yet so rich, made up of joys and hopes, of struggles and sufferings.”

The mid-September ceremony will be the first public papal celebration of a wedding since 2000, when St. John Paul II joined in marriage eight couples from different parts of the world as part of the Jubilee for Families. He also publicly presided over another joint wedding for a group of couples in 1994 as part of his celebration of the International Year of the Family.

 

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Christians are called to help those who don’t love back, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians are called to help those who have nothing to give and love those who don’t love back, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis kisses the forehead of Salvatore D'Argento from Chieti, Italy, as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 10. D'Argento has quadriplegia. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis kisses the forehead of Salvatore D’Argento from Chieti, Italy, as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 10. D’Argento has quadriplegia. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Salvation and changing the world for the better require “doing good to those who aren’t able to repay us, just like the Father did with us, giving us Jesus,” the pope said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square Sept 10.

“How much have we paid for our redemption? Nothing! It was all free. So do good without expecting something in return. Just as the father did with us, we have to do the same. Do good and keep going.”

“It’s not enough to love the one who loves us. It’s not enough to do good to those who help us.”

People are called not to be self-centered, but to model themselves after Jesus’ gratuitous love, he said.

The pope continued a series of talks on the nature of the Catholic Church, focusing on “the church as a mother who teaches us the works of mercy.”

The Gospel is all about showing others mercy, the pope said. He referred to “The Judgment of the Nations” in Matthew, Chapter 25, which reveals that those who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, care for the sick and visit the imprisoned inherit God’s kingdom.

“Could a Christian who isn’t merciful ever exist? No! A Christian must by necessity be merciful because this is the core of the Gospel,” he said.

The church “doesn’t give theoretical lessons about love and mercy. She doesn’t spread a philosophy to the world, a path to wisdom,” he said. The church backs up what she says by mirroring what Jesus did.

While Christianity is also about the written word and church teachings, the church “teaches, like Jesus, by her example, and words serve to illuminate the meaning behind her gestures,” he said.

Asking how the church shows people the way, Pope Francis said the lives of saints and mothers and fathers who teach their children what true mercy and hospitality entail offer good examples to follow.

Pope Francis then told the story of a mother he knew when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He said her way of teaching was “a beautiful example that helped me a lot.”

The woman answered her door one day to see a man who came looking for food; her three very young children agreed that the mother should give the man something to eat, the pope recalled.

When the mother said, “OK, let’s all give the man half of what’s on each of our plates,” the children protested, “Oh no, that’s not right!” they said, coveting their own serving of steak and fried potatoes.

By making each child contribute, the mother taught them that giving was not some abstract gesture, but required “giving what’s really yours” to someone else, the pope said.

The pope said he realized people may also feel uncomfortable about visiting those in prison, thinking that “It’s dangerous. They are bad people!”

“Listen up. Each one of us is capable of doing the same thing done by that man or woman in jail. All of us are capable of sinning and making the same mistake in life. They are not worse than you and me.”

Showing mercy to those who have strayed can be life changing, he said. “Mercy overcomes every wall, every obstacle” and can instill new life and hope in others.

The pope also encouraged those in the Middle East to show mercy.

When greeting different language groups after his main catechesis, the pope told Arabic-speaking pilgrims, especially those from Syria and the Middle East, “to face hatred with love, conquer violence with forgiveness; respond to weapons with prayer.

“May the Lord reward your fidelity, instill in you courage in the fight against the forces of evil and open the eyes of those who are blinded by evil, so that they may soon see the light of truth and repent for their errors,” he said.

- – -

 

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Pope Francis mourns missionary nuns murdered in Burundi

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis mourned the deaths of three Xaverian Missionary Sisters of Mary, who were murdered in two separate attacks in their residence in Burundi.

Sister Lucia Pulici, 75, and Sister Olga Raschietti, 82, were found dead Sept. 7 in their mission residence in the capital of Bujumbura. Sister Bernadetta Bogianni, 79, who had found the bodies, was killed the next night.

In telegrams sent to Archbishop Evariste Ngoyagoye of Bujumbura and Sister Ines Frizza superior general of the Xaverian Missionary Sister of Mary, the pope expressed his sadness concerning the “tragic deaths” of these “faithful and devout nuns.”

The messages, sent on behalf of the pope by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the pope hoped that “the blood they have shed may become the seed of hope to build true fraternity between peoples.”

Xaverian Missionary Father Mario Pulcini, superior of the Xaverian Missionaries in Burundi, told MISNA, the missionary news service, that he had gone to the mission house Sept. 7 after he and Sister Boggiani had been unable to reach Sisters Pulici and Raschietti by telephone all of that day.

“I was in front of the main door with the idea of forcing it open when it opened and I saw Bernadetta there very upset. She had found a side service entrance open and, once she entered, found the lifeless bodies of Sisters Olga and Lucia,” he said.

They alerted government, military, judicial and religious authorities, the priest said, and an investigation was begun.

Despite the murders, the sisters decided to spend the night in their home. However, they phoned Father Pulcini during the night of Sept. 8, afraid that “the aggressor was in the home.” When the priest arrived, he found Sister Bogianni had been killed, too.

There was no word yet on possible suspects or motives of the killings.

The three missionary sisters had been working in Burundi, helping the poor and the sick, the past seven years, Vatican Radio reported. Sister Bogianni had been a superior of the congregation for many years.

On Sept. 8, the mission house was “full of people who have come to mourn the nuns and express their solidarity,” the radio said.

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Pope cites lessons from Mary: Be joyful, help others, never give up

September 8th, 2014 Posted in International News, Uncategorized, Vatican News

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When a mother has a birthday, children send their greetings and love, so make sure to do the same thing on the feast of the Nativity of Mary, Pope Francis said.

The liturgical feast day Sept. 8 “would be her birthday. And what do you do when your mom has a birthday? You send her greetings and best wishes,” the pope said, after praying the Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 7.

Pope Francis waves as he leads his Angelus from the window of his office in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 7.  (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis waves as he leads his Angelus from the window of his office in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

The pope asked people to say “a Hail Mary from the heart” and to not forget to tell her “Happy Birthday.”

Mary has three very important lessons for today’s Christians, the pope said in a written message to Cuban bishops marking Sept. 8 as the feast of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, patroness of Cuba.

He said Mary teaches people to experience the joy of Christ and share it with others; to never let adversity beat you down; and always help those in need with love and mercy, he said.

The pope said people should imitate how Mary responded to God’s call with her same joy, haste and perseverance, the pope said.

“Every time I read sacred Scripture, in the verses that talk about Our Lady, three verbs catch my attention,” the pope said.

The three kinds of action — be joyful, help without hesitation and persevere, should be “put into practice” by all Catholics, he added.

Whoever discovers Jesus will be “filled with an inner joy so great that nothing and no one can take it away,” he said.

With Christ in their lives, people find the strength and hope “not to be sad and discouraged, thinking problems have no solution.”

For the second action, people should always rise “in haste,” just like Mary, to help others in need, he said.

“Victory is to those who repeatedly rise up, without getting discouraged. If we imitate Mary, we cannot sit with our arms crossed, just complaining or perhaps avoiding any effort so that others do what is our responsibility,” he said.

Making a difference and helping others does not have to be done on a grand scale, he said, but entails doing everyday things “with tenderness and mercy.”

“The third verb is to persevere,” the pope said.

Mary relied on God and his goodness for the strength and courage needed to stay by Christ’s side no matter what and to encourage his disciples to do the same.

“In this world in which long-lasting values are rejected and everything is changing, in which the disposable triumphs, in which it seems people are afraid of life’s commitments, the Virgin encourages us to be men and women who are constant in their good works, who keep their word, who are always faithful,” the pope said.

Cuban bishops visited the Vatican in late August for the installation of their gift, a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, which was placed in the Vatican Gardens.

 

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True religious leaders are always against war, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — War is just “senseless slaughter” and should never be seen as inevitable or a done deal, Pope Francis said.

“War drags people into a spiral of violence which then proves difficult to control; it tears down what generations have labored to build up, and it sets the scene for even greater injustices and conflicts,” he said in a written message to a world summit of religious leaders.

“War is never a necessity, nor is it inevitable. Another way can always be found: the way of dialogue, encounter and the sincere search for truth,” he wrote.

The pope’s message was presented Sept. 7 to people taking part in the International Meeting of People and Religions, organized by the Rome-based lay Community of Sant’Egidio and hosted by the Diocese of Antwerp, Belgium.

More than 300 leaders representing the world’s religions participated in the global summit, which was being held Sept. 7-9. Its aim was to create an international alliance of religions dedicated to peace and dialogue and to countering fundamentalist ideologies and violence.

In his written message read to participants Sept. 7, the pope said this year’s 100th anniversary of the start of World War I “can teach us that war is never a satisfactory means of redressing injustice and achieving balanced solutions to political and social discord.”

Citing the wartime pope, Pope Benedict XV, Pope Francis said, “All war is ultimately ‘senseless slaughter’” that ruins lives and poisons relationships.

“We cannot remain passive in the face of so much suffering,” he said.

The pope urged the world’s religious leaders to cooperate in “healing wounds, resolving conflicts and pursuing peace.”

Among those speaking at the summit in Antwerp was Ali Abtahi Sayyed Mohammad, a former vice president of Iran and current president of Iran’s Institute for Interreligious Dialogue.

“Radicalism is the product of an alliance between tyrants and ignorant followers,” Abtahi said Sept. 8.

All conflicts based on presumably religious motives have shown that political leaders are the ones fomenting the violence, trying to convince “the devout that they are the only authentic religious group in the world and that the other religions are deviant and false.”

True religious believers, he said, “are those who understand the essence of religion” and are “always against war and the hostility that religious radicalism spreads in the world.”

Abtahi said the radical religious groups, al-Qaida and fighters for the Islamic State, developed because of support from the West, “especially from the United States,” in order to carry out Western interests.

“Those who blew up the Twin Towers were the ones America armed to fight against communism” spreading from the Soviet Union, he said, “and those who are killing Muslims and Yezidi in Iraq are those who received financial support in Syria” to counter the regime there.

“History teaches us this rule: You can build religious groups that (will be) very dangerous, but it will be very difficult to suppress or eliminate them,” the Muslim scholar said.

Egypt’s grand mufti, Shawqi Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam said in his presentation Sept. 8 that “Islam is a religion of dialogue,” and that radical extremists are “secular people who proclaim to be religious authorities, even though they are unqualified to interpret religious and moral laws.”

These extremists have an “eccentric and rebellious attitude toward religion” that “opens the door to extremist interpretations totally extraneous to Islam,” he said.

However, it’s not enough to dismiss extremists as having no legitimate religious authority, he said.

“If we do not understand the factors that contribute to the justification of terrorism and extremism, we will never be able to eradicate this epidemic,” he said.

 

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‘Google Hangout’ — Pope tells teens online that society is neglecting well-being of children

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The wisdom of “It takes a village to raise a child” has been lost as kids are either overprotected by permissive parents or neglected, Pope Francis said.

“The educational partnership has been broken” as families, schools and society are “no longer united together for the child,” he said Sept. 4 after holding his first Google Hangout, a live video conversation, across five continents with teenagers who belong to the international network of “Scholas occurentes,” uniting students of all faiths and cultures.

Pope Francis video chats with a Salvadoran student in the gang-infested neighborhood of La Campanera, San Salvador, Sept. 4. The pope said all of society needs to help children and young people who are homeless, exploited, victims of violence or without any prospects. (CNS photo/ Jose Cabezas, Reuters)

Pope Francis video chats with a Salvadoran student in the gang-infested neighborhood of La Campanera, San Salvador, Sept. 4. The pope said all of society needs to help children and young people who are homeless, exploited, victims of violence or without any prospects. (CNS photo/ Jose Cabezas, Reuters)

Parents and teachers used to stick together to teach kids important values, the pope said, recalling when he got into trouble in the fourth grade.

“I wasn’t respectful toward the teacher, and the teacher called my mother. My mother came, I stayed in class and the teacher stepped out, then they called for me,” he told a group of educators and experts involved with the worldwide Scholas network.

“My mom was really calm. I feared the worst,” he said. After getting him to admit to his wrongdoing, his mother told him to apologize to the teacher.

The pope said he apologized and remembered, “it was easy and I was happy. But there was an Act 2 when I got home,” insinuating stiffer punishment had followed.

However, today, “at least in lots of schools in my country,” if a teacher notes a problem with a student, “the next day, the mother and father denounce the teacher,” he said.

The family, schools and culture have to work together for the well-being of the child, he said. People have to “rebuild this village in order to educate a child.”

All society also needs to help children and young people who are homeless, exploited, victims of violence or without any prospects, he said.

The pope pointed the blame on today’s “culture of disposal” and “the cult of money” for creating and perpetuating adults’ apathy to or complicity in the mistreatment of kids.

This is why “it’s very important to strengthen bonds: social, family and personal ties” with kids and young adults, and create an environment that helps them approach the world with “trust and serenity.”

Otherwise, kids will be “left only with the path of delinquency and addiction,” he said.

The pope’s comments came at the end of an afternoon encounter to launch scholas.social, a new social network for students from all over the world to cooperate on environmental and social causes, sport and art initiatives, and charitable activities.

The Scholas initiative was begun in Buenos Aires and supported by its then-Archbishop Jorge Bergoglio, who also used to teach high school when he was a young Jesuit priest.

When he became pope, he asked fellow Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, to expand the network’s reach and impact.

With a small digital camera and studio lights aimed at him in the Vatican synod hall, the pope took questions from five Scholas members, who were linked in from Australia, Israel, Turkey, South Africa and El Salvador.

The pope urged the young people to build bridges through open and respectful communication, in which they listen carefully to others and exchange experiences, ideas and values.

Sina, a teenage boy in Istanbul, thanked the pope for letting more than schools and students come together, “but also our beliefs and hearts.” He then asked the pope if he thought the future was going to get better or worse.

“I don’t have a crystal ball like witches do to see the future,” the pope answered, adding that what the future will be like is in the hands of today’s young people.

The future “is in your heart, it’s in your mind and your hands,” and if people cultivate constructive thoughts and feeling and do good things, “the future will be better.”

He said young people need two things: They need wings to fly and the courage to dream of big things, and they need strong roots and respect for their culture, their heritage and all the wisdom passed down from their elders.

“Today’s young people need three key foundations: education, sports and culture, that’s why Scholas unites everything,” he said.

He urged the teens to speak out against war and injustice, and to stick together like a team, defending each other against gangs and other negative influences that only seek to destroy and isolate people.

His last piece of advice, he said, came from Jesus, who often said, “Be not afraid!”

“Don’t lose your nerve. Don’t be afraid. Keep going. Build bridges of peace. Play as a team and build a better future because, remember, that the future is in your hands.”

 

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