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‘No easy answers’ — Pope Francis visits sick children at Krakow hospital

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Catholic News Service

KRAKOW, Poland — Questions about suffering have “no easy answers,” Pope Francis said in a visit to Children’s University Hospital.

Pope Francis blesses a girl during a visit to the Children's University Hospital in Krakow, Poland, July 29. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Pope Francis blesses a girl during a visit to the Children’s University Hospital in Krakow, Poland, July 29. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

“How I would wish that we Christians could be as close to the sick as Jesus was, embracing them and willingly seeking them out,” Pope Francis said. “Sadly, our society is tainted by the culture of waste, which is the opposite of the culture of acceptance. And the victims of the culture of waste are those who are weakest and most frail; and this is indeed cruel.”

The brief ceremony in the hospital reception area, before a statue of St. John Paul II lifting a child, took place before 50 children in wheelchairs, some hairless from cancer treatment, clasping rosaries and papal flags. Addressing patients, parents and staff, Pope Francis said he was grateful for the sign of love offered by those welcoming and caring for “the smallest and most needy.”

He told those gathered: “To serve with love and tenderness persons who need our help makes all of us grow in humanity. … Those who engage in works of mercy have no fear of death.”

Looking solemn after his address, the pope recited the Hail Mary and delivered a blessing, before greeting the young patients and their parents, with the sound of crying children in the background.

Pope Francis said he wished to “draw near to all children who are sick, to stand at their bedside and embrace them,” adding that Jesus was “always attentive” and “moved by compassion” toward the sick, regarding them “in the same way that a mother looks at her sick child.”

However, he added that families sometimes felt “alone in providing care,” and said he wished to “listen to everyone here, even if for only a moment, and be still before questions that have no easy answers.”

“From this place, so full of concrete signs of love, I would like to say: Let us multiply the works of the culture of acceptance, works inspired by Christian love,” Pope Francis said.

“I encourage all those who have made the Gospel call to visit the sick a personal life decision: physicians, nurses, health care workers, chaplains and volunteers. May the Lord help you to do your work well, here as in every hospital in the world.”

He later visited the emergency unit and prayed in the chapel, accompanied by Father Lucjan Szczepaniak, one of 500 Catholic chaplains ministering full-time at Poland’s 550 state hospitals.

Dr. Maciej Kowalczyk, hospital director, said the children’s hospital represented the last chance for many severely sick children. He said he hoped the pope’s words and prayers would give patients and their parents “strength and hope to overcome their illnesses.”

Children’s University Hospital admits around 36,000 seriously ill young patients per year and treats 180,000 outpatients. It was founded in 1965 with finding from the U.S. government and Poles abroad.

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Pope pays tribute to Holocaust victims in silence, prayer

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Catholic News Service

OSWIECIM, Poland — Sitting with head bowed and eyes closed, Pope Francis paid silent tribute to the victims of one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

Pope Francis enters the main gate of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, July 29. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, pool))

Pope Francis enters the main gate of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, July 29. (CNS photo/Alessia Giuliani, pool))

The pope arrived July 29 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, an area now blanketed by green fields and empty barracks lined by barbed wire fences, remnants of a horror that remains embedded in history.

Used by the Nazis from 1940 to 1945, the camp was the Nazi’s largest and consisted of three parts: Auschwitz I, where many were imprisoned and murdered; the Birkenau extermination camp, also known as Auschwitz II, and Auschwitz III (Auschwitz-Monowitz), an area of auxiliary camps that included several factories.

In 1942, Auschwitz became the site of the mass extermination of over 1 million Jews, 23,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war and thousands of Polish citizens of different nationalities.

Among those killed were St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, and Edith Stein, a Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite nun, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.

Crossing the gate inscribed with the infamous motto “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work sets you free”) the pope quietly sat on a small bench for 10 minutes with his head bowed, occasionally glancing somberly around before closing his eyes in silent prayer.

He stood up, and slowly walked up to the wooden post of one of the barracks, reverently touching and kissing it.

The pope then made his way to Block 11 to greet a dozen survivors of the camp, including a 101-year-old violinist, who survived by being in the camp orchestra. Pope Francis greeted each survivor individually, gently grabbing their hands and kissing their cheeks.

Among the survivors was Naftali Furst of Bratislava, Slovakia, who was deported to Auschwitz and was evacuated to Buchenwald in January 1945 before his liberation.

Furst, who now lives in Israel, gave the pope a photograph showing him and other inmates imprisoned in the Auschwitz barracks.

Pope Francis also signed a book for Furst before he made his way toward the “death wall” where thousands of prisoners were lined up and shot in the back of the head before their bodies were sent to the crematoriums.

Candle in hand, the pope lit an oil lamp in front of the wall, before praying and laying his hand on the wall. He then turned around and entered the barracks of Block 11.

Also known as “the death block” because the Nazis used it to inflict torture, it houses the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe spent his final hours, starved and dehydrated before being given a lethal injection of carbolic acid.

Pope Francis entered the darkened cell, illuminated by a faint light from the corridor, revealing a candle, an engraved plaque marking the site of the Franciscan friar’s death, and countless words, even a cross, etched on the walls by those who spent their final moments in the starvation cell.

Once again Pope Francis sat in silence with his head bowed. Alone in the cell for eight minutes, he occasionally looked up to contemplate his surroundings.

Outside the cell, he signed the visitors’ book, writing a simple message: “Lord, have mercy on your people. Lord, forgive so much cruelty.”

Pope Francis then made his way to the Holocaust memorial at Auschwitz II-Birkenau, driven in an electric cart on a path parallel to the railroad tracks that carried countless men, women and children to their doom. It now leads to a monument that honors their memory.

To the left of the memorial lay the ruins of one of four crematoriums used to incinerate the bodies of those who died of disease or starvation or who were executed in the two gas chambers housed within the extermination camp.

The pope approached the memorial to the victims, lined with 23 plaques, each inscribed with a message in a different language: “Forever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe.”

Passing each plaque, Pope Francis reached the end of the monument where he set a candle in a large glass bowl and once again stood in silence, clasping his hands together over his chest in prayer.

While he prayed, the voice of Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Joseph Schudrich echoed Psalm 130 in Hebrew throughout the camp. The psalm begins with a cry to God: “From the depths I have cried out to you, O Lord.”

The event ended with the pope greeting 25 people honored as “righteous among the nations,” a recognition of non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazi extermination.

Among those present for the solemn occasion was Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a longtime friend of the pope from Buenos Aires.

Speaking to journalists July 28, Rabbi Skorka recalled a telephone conversation with Pope Francis in which he asked about the visit to Auschwitz.

“The pope told me, ‘I am going to behave the same way I did in Armenia, the places where people were killed, I will remain silent,’” he said.

“From a theological point of view and from a biblical point of view, this attitude means a lot,” the rabbi said.

 

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God shows greatness in humility, ‘Papa Franciszek’ says at Polish shrine

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Catholic News Service

CZESTOCHOWA, Poland — God chose to manifest his power not by amazing feats of greatness but rather through small acts of humility, choosing to enter the world as a child born of a woman, Pope Francis said.

The Lord’s “humble love” is reflected throughout Poland’s history, particularly through “meek and powerful heralds of mercy,” such as St. John Paul II and St. Faustina Kowalska, the pope said July 28 at a Mass outside the Marian shrine of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa. Read more »

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In Krakow for World Youth Day, Pope urges Poles to value their memories, but be open to change

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Catholic News Service

KRAKOW, Poland — Poland’s memory and identity are the two catalysts that will lead the country forward and turn hopeless situations, such as those facing migrants, into opportunities for future generations, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis, Polish President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda arrive for a meeting with government authorities and the diplomatic corps in the courtyard of Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow, Poland, July 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis, Polish President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda arrive for a meeting with government authorities and the diplomatic corps in the courtyard of Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow, Poland, July 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cloudy skies and a light drizzle did little to dampen the spirits of pilgrims cheering loudly as the pope’s plane landed in Krakow July 27. The arrival ceremony at Krakow’s John Paul II International Airport was marked by the presence of hundreds of Polish men and women, dressed in traditional clothes and dancing.

Stepping down from his plane and before he departed for Wawel Castle, Pope Francis was greeted by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Polish President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda.

Addressing civil authorities and members of the country’s diplomatic corps, the pope noted that “memory is the hallmark of the Polish people,” a notable characteristic of his predecessor, St. John Paul II.

He said being aware of identity was “indispensable for establishing a national community on the foundation of its human, social, political, economic and religious heritage,” but that people must remain open to renewal and to change. He added that while good memory can remind society of God and his saving work, bad memory keeps the mind and heart “obsessively fixed on evil, especially the wrongs committed by others,” he said.

Pope Francis called on the people of Poland to hold on to their positive memories so they can look to the future with hope in respecting human dignity, economical and environmental concerns and “the complex phenomenon of migration.”

The issue of migration, he added, “calls for great wisdom and compassion, in order to overcome fear and to achieve the greater good.”

“Also needed is a spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one’s faith in freedom and safety,” he said.

Pope Francis, who has brought attention to the plight of migrants in the past, met with 15 young refugees prior to his departure to Krakow. The Vatican press office said the young refugees are currently in Italy without documents that will allow them to travel out of the country.

“The youths, accompanied by the papal almoner, wished the pope a good journey and a happy participation at WYD, to which they cannot participate but are united spiritually,” the Vatican said.

Inviting Polish people to “look with hope to the future,” the pope said the memory of their thousand-year history would create a climate of respect that fosters a better life for future generations.

“The young should not simply have to deal with problems, but rather be able to enjoy the beauty of creation, the benefits we can provide and the hope we can offer,” he said.

Social policies, he added, must also support families who are “the primary and fundamental cell of society” as well as “helping responsibly to welcome life” so that children may be seen as a gift and not a burden.

“Life must always be welcome and protected. These two things go together, welcome and protection, from conception to natural death. All of us are called to respect life and care for it.”

 

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World is waging a fragmented war, but religions want peace, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO KRAKOW, POLAND — The world, not religion, is waging a war in pieces, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis gestures as he speaks to journalists aboard his flight from Rome to Krakow, Poland, July 27. The pope is attending World Youth Day in Krakow. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis gestures as he speaks to journalists aboard his flight from Rome to Krakow, Poland, July 27. The pope is attending World Youth Day in Krakow. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

While it “is not at as organic” as past world wars, “it is organized and it is war,” the pope told journalists July 27 on his flight to Krakow.

“Someone may think that I am speaking about a war of religions. No, all religions want peace. Others want war,” the pope said.

He spoke one day after the murder of a priest during Mass in a Catholic church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France. Two men, armed with knives, entered the church during Mass. The attackers murdered 84-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, slitting his throat.

“This holy priest who died precisely at the moment he was offering prayers for the whole church,” he said. While lamenting the priest’s death, the pope added that was one of countless innocents butchered by a war fought in pieces.

“How many Christians, how many children, how many innocents?” he said. “We are not afraid of saying this truth: The world is at war because it has lost peace.”

The pope also thanked people for their the countless condolences following the murder. He said this included French President Francois Hollande, who “wished to connect with me by telephone, like a brother.”

Pope Francis expressed his desire that young people attending World Youth Day in Krakow offer a message of hope in a chaotic world.

“Youths always give us hope. Let us hope the youths may tell us something that will give us more hope in this moment,” he said.

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Pope, U.S. bishops’ leader express shock after Islamic State murder of a priest in French church

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The murder of a priest in northern France, taken hostage with a handful of other faithful during a weekday morning Mass July 26, is another act of “absurd violence” added to too many stories of senseless violence and death, said the Vatican spokesman.

People walk past St. Therese Church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France, near Rouen July 27, a day after a French priest was killed with a knife during Mass. (CNS photo/Pascal Rossignol, Reuters)

People walk past St. Therese Church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France, near Rouen July 27, a day after a French priest was killed with a knife during Mass. (CNS photo/Pascal Rossignol, Reuters)

Pope Francis was informed about the hostage situation at the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray near Rouen and the murder of 85-year-old Father Jacques Hamel, said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman.

“With pain and horror” for the “absurd violence,” Pope Francis expressed his condemnation of “every form of hatred” and offered his prayers for all those involved.

“We are particularly stricken because this horrible violence occurred in a church, a sacred place in which the love of God is proclaimed, with the barbaric killing of a priest,” Father Lombardi said.

Police said two men, armed with knives, entered the church during Mass. They reportedly slit the throat of Father Hamel. They said another person present at the Mass was in serious condition at the hospital. An Interior Ministry spokesman said the attackers were killed by police, ending the hostage situation.

A nun who witnessed the attack described the scene to French radio station RMC.

“In the church, everyone screamed ‘’Stop, you don’t know what you’re doing.’ They didn’t stop. They forced him to his knees; he tried to defend himself, and it was then that the drama began,” said the nun, who identified herself as Sister Danielle.

“They recorded themselves (on video). They did a little, like a sermon, around the altar in Arabic. It was a horror.”

The sister managed to escape the church and flag down a car for help, RMC reported.

She told the station about her respect for her colleague.

“It’s necessary to remember that this was an extraordinary priest,” Sister Danielle told RMC. “That’s all I want to say. He’s great, Father Jacques.”

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack via its news site, though the group’s involvement has not been confirmed by French police. French President Francois Hollande suggested the group was behind the attack.

Hollande called Pope Francis to express “the grief of the French people after the odious assassination of Father Jacques Hamel by two terrorists,” said a statement from the president’s office.

Archbishop Dominique Lebrun of Rouen, who was in Krakow, Poland, with World Youth Day pilgrims when the attacked occurred, said he would return to his archdiocese.

“The Catholic Church can take up no weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among people of goodwill,” the archbishop said in a statement from Krakow. He said that while he would leave Poland, hundreds of young people from his diocese would remain. “I ask them not to give in to violence,” but instead “become apostles of the civilization of love.”

Msgr. Olivier Ribadeau Dumas, secretary-general of the French bishops’ conference, also was in Krakow for World Youth Day. He told media: “We know now they were both terrorists.”

“We believe that evil and violence will not have the upper hand, and all the French bishops share this opinion,” he said.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, sent a message of condolence to Archbishop Lebrun. The cardinal said Pope Francis was “particularly upset that this act of violence took place in a church during Mass, the liturgical act that implores God’s peace for the world.”

In the latest event of violence, the cardinal said, the pope prayed God would “inspire in all thoughts of reconciliation and brotherhood.”

Chaldean Archbishop Bashar Warda of Irbil, Iraq, was another church leader in Krakow for World Youth Day. He told Catholic News Service the attack in France reminded him of the 2010 massacred in Baghdad’s Church of Our Lady of Deliverance “when they held the people inside the church” during Sunday evening Mass “and killed two priests and then started killing the rest.” A total of 48 people were killed and more than 100 were injured.

“This is the sort of world we are living in,” Archbishop Warda said. “We pray for the priest and everyone who was shocked and horrified.”

At the same time, “we pray for all of ISIS so they could really wake up and know the God of mercy,” he said. “We know that it is going to be harder and harder because the more you push them, they come up with more terrifying stories and events.”

“It’s shocking, it’s sad, really sad” to know they could “enter a church, a place of prayer” and commit such violence, the archbishop said. “Imagine you enter a mosque and start killing people; but that’s ISIS. That’s the way they act. Unfortunately this is the way they’ve been trained.”

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed gratitude for “the unforgettable witness of the faithful” in the church attack.

“Jesus calls us to be sisters and brothers, to strive to care for one another, and always to reject the evil that seeks to divide us,” the archbishop wrote in a July 26 statement.

 

Contributing to this story were Colleen Dulle in Washington and Robert Duncan in Krakow.

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Krakow police raise security threat level at World Youth Day but say no concrete danger

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Catholic News Service

KRAKOW, Poland — Polish police have raised the official security threat level at World Youth Day in Krakow, after an Iraqi man was arrested with traces of explosives.

Police officers stand guard during World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, July 26. Mariusz Ciarka, spokesman for Poland's Warsaw-based police headquarters, said Polish police have raised the official threat level after an Iraqi man was arrested with traces of explosives. (CNS photo/David W. Cerny, Reuters)

Police officers stand guard during World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, July 26. Mariusz Ciarka, spokesman for Poland’s Warsaw-based police headquarters, said Polish police have raised the official threat level after an Iraqi man was arrested with traces of explosives. (CNS photo/David W. Cerny, Reuters)

However, a police spokesman said the category of high, was not linked to any “concrete threat,” adding that security arrangements were “proceeding smoothly” for the expected arrival of 2 million young people in the southern city.

“We’re determined to assure maximum security for all, and our staffers are doing everything they should,” said Mariusz Ciarka, spokesman for Poland’s Warsaw-based police headquarters.

“But we’re also urging everyone to be vigilant and to inform the police or Youth Day volunteers if they see anything suspicious, such as baggage or packs left unattended, and to show understanding if we implement selective controls and movement restrictions. Safety of such a huge gathering of people is what’s most important,” Ciarka said July 26 ahead of the official opening ceremony World Youth Day.

Officials were expecting half a million young people to attend opening ceremonies from 187 countries in Krakow’s Blonia Park.

He said security services had so far noted only “minor incidents,” such as lost documents and small injuries, as well as a July 25 bus crash in which no one was reported injured.

He said police were using mobile X-ray devices and metal detectors, as well as using dogs trained to detect explosives, at railway and bus stations and major road hubs around the city, as well as anywhere crowds gathered.

Gas tankers and large trucks had been barred from Krakow, Ciarka said, after a 19-ton truck was driven into a celebration in Nice, France, July 15.

Security fears are high in Europe in the wake of the Nice outrage and a spate of Islamist-linked attacks in neighboring Germany, as well as the July 26 killing of French Father Jacques Hamel, 84, during an attack during a Mass at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack.

Polish police said they had arrested a 48-year-old Iraqi man July 24 in Krakow, after explosive traces were found in his luggage and his clothes, as well as at hotels where he had stayed in Krakow and Lodz.

However, a Krakow prosecutor told journalists there were no grounds for charging the man with terrorism and said not enough explosive material had been detected to cause an explosion.

Ciarka said July 26 that 200 people had so far been barred from entering the country.

The police spokesman said drones and “unauthorized flying objects” had also been banned over a 65-mile zone around Krakow, as well as over the nearby city of Czestochowa, where Pope Francis will celebrate an open-air Mass July 29.

The carrying of arms and dangerous substances had also been outlawed, Ciarka added, as well as any objects normally not permitted aboard planes.

“From today, all movements are being limited around Krakow, as well as at Blonia and the Lagiewniki suburb, where pedestrians will have total priority,” the police official said. “The Polish government has given the police the task of serving society by ensuring this huge event passes off safely, and that’s what we will do.”

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Vatican leads effort to get AIDS drugs to more children soon

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Catholic News Service

DURBAN, South Africa — The face of the AIDS epidemic has changed dramatically in recent years as scientists have created antiretroviral drugs that lower levels of the virus in the bloodstream, allowing those infected with HIV to live relatively normal lives.

Demonstrators in Durban, South Africa, perform street theater July 18 demanding better funding for HIV and AIDS treatment around the world. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Demonstrators in Durban, South Africa, perform street theater July 18 demanding better funding for HIV and AIDS treatment around the world. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Yet getting those drugs into the hands of everyone who needs them remains difficult. Worldwide, only 17 million of the 36.7 million people who carry the virus are receiving treatment, U.N. officials told delegates to the International AIDS Conference here. As long as those numbers do not improve, untreated carriers will continue to pass on the virus to others.

So a major point of discussion at the conference, which ended July 22, was how to get more drugs to more people. Despite what many dub “AIDS fatigue,” Catholics and other religious leaders recommitted themselves to work to expand treatment, especially among children.

Vatican officials have already begun pushing a unique project to rapidly expand the availability of antiretroviral drugs for children.

The first step was getting drug manufacturers on board. Since not many children in developed countries contract HIV these days, there’s no sizable market to recoup research and development and manufacturing costs. With only poor children needing the drugs, there’s less of an incentive to manufacture pediatric medicines or the specific diagnostic tools that are also needed.

“We have a commitment to make those medicines for children at the right dosage levels, but it’s not a very profitable business. But then none of this HIV work is,” Anil Soni, vice president for infectious diseases at Mylan, the largest producer of generic antiretroviral medicines, told a gathering of religious activists held in conjunction with the AIDS conference.

Soni was one of a handful of pharmaceutical executives invited to Rome for meetings in April and May with high-level Vatican officials and AIDS experts from the United Nations and the United States. The meetings came after years of lobbying by church officials to get governments and drug makers to take action on their own. Frustrated by the lack of progress that produced, the Vatican decided to more directly intervene. It did so by appealing to their sense of morality.

“We recognized up front that this wasn’t something companies could make a lot of money on, but we also think there’s a moral imperative for them to act,” said Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo, who became the general secretary of the International Catholic Migration Commission in May. Until a successor is named, he also continues as the Vatican’s special adviser on HIV and AIDS.

Msgr. Vitillo told Catholic News Service that the Vatican did not invite Martin Shkreli, the U.S pharmaceutical boss who increased the price of an HIV-related drug by 5,000 percent. Shkreli has been indicted for fraud in a U.S. federal court. An off-Broadway musical about his greed opened in July.

Pope Francis was scheduled to meet with the group April 16, but a last-minute trip to the Greek island of Lesbos took him out of Rome.

“He did send a personal message to the group, however. It was strong motivation to these corporate executives to hear the pope state that what they’re doing is vitally important, and that they must do it together,” Msgr. Vitillo said.

Msgr. Vitillo said he found participants open to new ideas and wanting to be involved.

“I didn’t hear anyone say we can’t do this. They did share the challenges they face and a belief that if we could share some kind of united approach” that guaranteed enough of a market, their companies could participate, even if it wouldn’t be a highly profitable.

The meetings gave enough encouragement to AIDS officials that a new target for reaching children with life-saving drugs was inserted into a document signed at the High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS held at the United Nations in June. Not all of the details have been worked out yet, and Msgr. Vitillo took advantage of the presence of all the players in Durban to continue refining their plans.

He said the next steps include forming a working group with a smaller number of representative stakeholders, then bringing an action plan back to the larger group. Msgr. Vitillo said they would probably start pilot projects in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Congo.

The target numbers the group will pursue are ambitious: getting 1.6 million children under 15 on antiretroviral medications in the next two years. Msgr. Vitillo called that a major step toward eliminating AIDS as a major public health crisis by 2030.

Soni said new approaches will be necessary to meet that goal, because what has been tried with children until now simply is not working. He said he was recently in China, where some people crush adult tablets to treat children.

“It’s the wrong dosage and it’s a taste that the children can’t take,” he said.

Soni said researchers are developing new pediatric formulations that can, for example, be sprinkled on food. But these must be brought to market quickly. He said half of children born with HIV will die within 24 months of birth if not treated.

Faith-based groups, which in several countries are among the largest providers of health care, must continue to push their corporate partners, Soni said.

“From our perspective in industry, we appreciate and really look to faith-based organizations for their leadership in reaching out to communities, identifying patients and supporting them and offering both care and prevention services,” he said. “The church has shown tremendous leadership this year in encouraging all partners to reach the children who are living with or affected by HIV to receive treatment and care.”

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Pope Francis sends letters urging peace to South Sudan leaders

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis sent a high-ranking cardinal to South Sudan to urge a peaceful end to the escalating violence in the country.

A worker from the International Committee of the Red Cross speaks on his phone July 16 as workers prepare to move bags containing bodies of unidentified people killed in the recent fighting in Juba, South Sudan. Pope Francis sent a high-ranking cardinal to South Sudan to urge for a peaceful end to the escalating violence in the country. (CNS photo/Jok Solomun, Reuters)

A worker from the International Committee of the Red Cross speaks on his phone July 16 as workers prepare to move bags containing bodies of unidentified people killed in the recent fighting in Juba, South Sudan. Pope Francis sent a high-ranking cardinal to South Sudan to urge for a peaceful end to the escalating violence in the country. (CNS photo/Jok Solomun, Reuters)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, met with President Salva Kiir in the capital, Juba, July 19 and delivered two letters on the pope’s behalf — one addressed to the nation’s president and another to the vice president.

The cardinal said the letters, which the pope gave to him prior to his departure to Juba, contained a message calling for peace in the country.

The pope’s message “can be summarized like so: ‘Enough now, enough with this conflict,’” Cardinal Turkson told Vatican Radio July 20.

The Ghanaian cardinal noted that “the speed with which the pope reacted to the need of sending a message of solidarity and to call for peace is amazing.”

“Speaking to him some time ago, he told me, ‘I want to go.’ These difficult situations are always in the Holy Father’s heart,” the cardinal said.

According to SIR, the Italian bishops’ news agency, a local missionary priest confirmed the pope’s concern for the increasing violence in the country.

“We know that Pope Francis is following every evolution (of the crisis) very closely. Cardinal Peter Turkson was sent by the pope here in these days to us in Juba,” said Italian Comboni Father Daniele Moschetti, superior of the Comboni Missionaries in Juba.

For nearly a year, South Sudan has been trying to emerge from a civil war caused by political rivalry between Vice President Riek Machar and Kiir, who represent different ethnic groups. Violent clashes spread across the city and left tens of thousands of people dead since the beginning of their rivalry in December 2013.

Although a cease-fire is currently in effect in Juba, Father Moschetti said the threat of violence continues to loom large over the people and the church, which includes 350 local and international missionaries.

“The climate, including toward the church, is changing: We are all at risk,” SIR reported him as saying.

 

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Pope calls attack on Nice an act of ‘blind violence’ — updated

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis condemned the attack on Bastille Day celebrations in France, calling it an act of “blind violence.”

Paramedics rush a young woman to a waiting ambulance July 14 as they evacuate victims from the scene where a truck crashed into the crowd during the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, France. More than 80 people were killed and the death toll was rising. (CNS photo/Oliver Anrigo, EPA)

Paramedics rush a young woman to a waiting ambulance July 14 as they evacuate victims from the scene where a truck crashed into the crowd during the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, France. More than 80 people were killed and the death toll was rising. (CNS photo/Oliver Anrigo, EPA)

The pope expressed his “deep sorrow” and “spiritual closeness” with the French people in a message to Bishop Andre Marceau of Nice. The message, signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said Pope Francis entrusted the victims and their families to God’s mercy.

“The pope expresses his sympathy to those injured and to all those who have contributed to rescue efforts, asking the Lord to sustain each one in this trial,” the cardinal wrote. He said Pope Francis imparted his blessing on grieving families while invoking “God’s gift of peace and harmony” upon the people of France.

France declared three days of mourning and extended its state of emergency after the July 14 attack along Nice’s seaside promenade; more than 80 people were killed and the death toll was mounting. The three days of mourning were to begin July 16.

Bishop Marceau told Vatican Radio he experienced shock and fear following news of the terrorist attack.

The attack “was one of those insane acts that can arise in the hearts of men, and in this case, one man. How can it be reasonably possible that man can be the author of such carnage?” he asked.

The bishop said he hoped compassion and closeness would overcome the “scandal of evil” that might “rightly arouse hate, misunderstanding and closed-mindedness.”

“We must find a way to avoid this at all cost,” he told Vatican Radio. “The message I bring is that which, above all, calls people to be close to one another, to speak, to meet with each other.”

In a statement posted on the French bishops’ website, he said: “We can’t understand such an inhuman act. Nothing can legitimize deadly craziness, barbarism.”

He urged people not to keep their emotions bottled up. “Let’ not hesitate to tell each other what hurts our hearts; this is what being human is.”

“Don’t be afraid to go meet priests, people that can help you. Don’t keep for yourself what might become violence, hate maybe. This man cannot succeed in arousing what was in his own heart,” he said.

Adding that churches in Nice will be open for continuous prayer, Bishop Marceau said that in times of distress, the key word guiding the Catholic Church’s mission is “closeness.” The church is called “to be close and to also have the courage to take (people) by the hand, because words often can’t be understood. It is difficult, but we are there.”

“Christians, Catholics, let us bring around us this message of love. Our brothers need it. We need it. Our society needs it,” he said. “Let us bring a message that tells the strength of the heart of man. Death will not have the last word.”

Reaction from church leaders in France came quickly.

Msgr. Olivier Dumas Ribadeau, secretary general of the French bishops’ conference, called for solidarity and prayer in a post on Twitter early July 15. French bishops reacted to the tragedy on social media and in statements, calling on people to pray for the victims and their families.

Churches around France set up special Masses. In Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral scheduled a Mass July 17 to commemorate the victims.

The French bishops’ conference said it “fully shares the grief of relatives and families of the victims.”

“This tragedy is added to the sad list of terrorist acts that have marred our country and other countries in the world for many months,” the bishops said. “Whatever the reason, this barbarism is unacceptable, intolerable. … More than ever, national solidarity must be stronger than terrorism. In pain of the day, we need to keep the certainty that unity is greater than division.”

Appalled by the dramatic news of the attack in Nice, the Belgian bishops said they shared the emotions of their southern neighbors and assured them of their unity in prayer.

“May real encounters consolidate the bonds of fraternity and respect between all citizens,” they said.

 

Contributing to this story was Philippe Vaillancourt, editor of Presence info in Montreal.

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