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Vatican commission launches child protection website

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VATICAN CITY — The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors has launched a beta version of its website in English and has included its template for local guidelines on preventing sexual abuse, resources for a day of prayer for the victims and survivors as well as a mailing address to contact commission members.

The website — www.protectionofminors.va — eventually will include versions in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French, the commission said in a statement Dec. 6.

Pope Francis’ international Council of Cardinals identified the protection of children and young adults as one of the church’s priority needs and suggested in December 2013 that he create a commission to advise him and assist dioceses and religious orders around the world in drawing up guidelines, handling accusations and ministering to victims and survivors.

Pope Francis named the first members three months later and appointed as president Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston.

Pope asks business leaders to share their resources for the common good

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis pleaded with a group of billionaires to take seriously their personal obligation to share their resources and make a real commitment to doing business in a way that helps other people realize their potential, too.

The global economic system, he said Dec. 3, needs a “fundamental renewal” that “does not have to do simply with market economics, figures to be balanced, the development of raw materials and improvements made to infrastructure.”

Pope Francis greets Nancy Gibbs, editorial director of Time Inc. News Group, and Alan Murray (behind her), editor-in-chief of Fortune, during an audience with business leaders at the Vatican Dec. 3. The business leaders were taking part in the Fortune-Time Global Forum in Rome. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis greets Nancy Gibbs, editorial director of Time Inc. News Group, and Alan Murray (behind her), editor-in-chief of Fortune, during an audience with business leaders at the Vatican Dec. 3. The business leaders were taking part in the Fortune-Time Global Forum in Rome. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“What we are speaking about is the common good of humanity, of the right of each person to share in the resources of this world and to have the same opportunities to realize his or her potential, a potential that is ultimately based on the dignity of the children of God, created in his image and likeness,” the pope told CEOs and other leaders taking part in the Fortune-Time Global Forum.

Business leaders like Virgin’s Richard Branson, LRN’s Dov Seidman, Siemens’ Joe Kaeser and IBM’s Ginni Rometty met in Rome for two days to respond to what they described as Pope Francis’ “passionate pleas for broader prosperity and lasting ways to lift the poor.” They also spoke with concern of growing popular discontent with the way big business and governments operate.

“Populism and protectionism are rearing their heads around the world, and trust in business, as well as other institutions, has plummeted,” the leaders said in their report to the pope.

After public sessions focused on what Branson defined as “moral leadership” — “leadership that accepts that the long-term sustainability of our actions is more important than short-term gain’ — the CEOs and heads of major nongovernmental organizations participated in working groups to develop practical commitments aimed at increasing people’s access to finance, health care, the internet, energy, food, clean water, education and job training.

“Our great challenge,” Pope Francis told them, “is to respond to global levels of injustice by promoting a local and even personal sense of responsibility so that no one is excluded from participating in society.”

“The centrality and dignity of the human person,” especially the poor and refugees, must be the key factor in strategizing sustainable development, the pope said.

“When we ignore the cries of so many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world, we not only deny them their God-given rights and worth, but we also reject their wisdom and prevent them from offering their talents, traditions and cultures to the world,” he told the CEOs. “In so doing, the poor and marginalized are made to suffer even more, and we ourselves grow impoverished, not only materially, but morally and spiritually.”

While the CEOs recognized that globalization and digitization “have created unprecedented growth and lifted billions of people out of poverty,” both they and Pope Francis also acknowledged that the growth has been uneven and “inequality within nations is on the rise.”

“People want to make their voices heard and express their concerns and fears,” Pope Francis told the leaders. They want to contribute and “to benefit from the resources and development too often reserved for the few.”

“While this may create conflict and lay bare the many sorrows of our world, it also makes us realize that we are living in a moment of hope. For when we finally recognize the evil in our midst, we can seek healing by applying the remedy,” the pope said.

“Institutional and personal conversion” is the only way forward, he said. “Seek ever more creative ways to transform our institutions and economic structures so that they may be able to respond to the needs of our day and be in service of the human person, especially those marginalized and discarded.”

And that cannot be done from the boardroom, he said. “Involve in your efforts those whom you seek to help; give them a voice, listen to their stories, learn from their experiences and understand their needs. See in them a brother and a sister, a son and a daughter, a mother and a father. Amid the challenges of our day, see the human face of those you earnestly seek to help.”

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Pope recognizes martyrdom of Father Rother, Oklahoma priest killed in Guatemala — updated

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, making him the first martyr born in the United States.

The Vatican made the announcement Dec. 2. The recognition of his martyrdom clears the way for his beatification.

Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, making him the first martyr born in the United States. Father Rother is pictured in an undated file photo. (CNS photo/Charlene Scott) See VATICAN-CAUSES-ROTHER Dec. 2, 2016.

Pope Francis has recognized the martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, making him the first martyr born in the United States. Father Rother is pictured in an undated file photo. (CNS photo/Charlene Scott) See VATICAN-CAUSES-ROTHER Dec. 2, 2016.

Father Rother, born March 27, 1935, on his family’s farm near Okarche, Oklahoma, was brutally murdered July 28, 1981, in a Guatemalan village where he ministered to the poor.

He went to Santiago Atitlan in 1968 on assignment from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. He helped the people there build a small hospital, school and its first Catholic radio station. He was beloved by the locals, who called him “Padre Francisco.”

Many priests and religious in Guatemala became targets during the country’s 1960-1996 civil war as government forces cracked down on leftist rebels supported by the rural poor.

The bodies of some of Father Rother’s deacons and parishioners were left in front of his church and soon he received numerous death threats over his opposition to the presence of the Guatemalan military in the area.

Though he returned to Oklahoma for a brief period, he returned to the Guatemalan village to remain with the people he had grown to love during the more than dozen years he lived there.

He was gunned down at the age 46 in the rectory of his church in Santiago Atitlan. Government officials there put the blame on the Catholic Church for the unrest in the country that they said led to his death. On the day he died, troops also killed 13 townspeople and wounded 24 others in Santiago Atitlan, an isolated village 50 miles west of Guatemala City.

Many priests and religious lost their lives and thousands of civilians were kidnapped and killed during the years of state-sponsored oppression in the country.

While his body was returned to Oklahoma, his family gave permission for his heart and some of his blood to be enshrined in the church of the people he loved and served. A memorial plaque marks the place.

Father Rother was considered a martyr by the church in Guatemala and his name was included on a list of 78 martyrs for the faith killed during Guatemala’s 36-year-long civil war. The list of names to be considered for canonization was submitted by Guatemala’s bishops to St. John Paul II during a pastoral visit to Guatemala in 1996.

Because Father Rother was killed in Guatemala, his cause should have been undertaken there. But the local church lacked the resources for such an effort. The Guatemalan bishops’ conference agreed to a transfer of jurisdiction to the Oklahoma City archdiocese.

News of the recognition was welcomed in Oklahoma.

“This comes as a great joy to all of us here not only in Oklahoma, but I think it’s a great blessing to the church in the United States,” Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City told Catholic News Service Dec. 2.

He also called the recognition of the priest’s martyrdom a gift to the Catholic Church in Guatemala.

Archbishop Coakley recalled how both he and Father Rother are alumni of Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He remembered a ceremony at the school a few months after the priest’s death in which a plaque was erected in his honor.

“His witness has marked me from my earliest days in priestly formation,” the archbishop said. “It’s a blessing to be the archbishop now who has the opportunity to bring to fruition the work on my predecessor Archbishop (Eusebius J.) Beltran.”

Now-retired Archbishop Beltran was head of the archdiocese when the sainthood cause for Father Rother was officially opened in 2007.

Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda, author of a 2015 biography of the priest, “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run: Fr. Stanley Rother, Martyr from Oklahoma,” wrote in an email that the martyrdom recognition was “an incredible gift not only to the United States, but to the universal church.”

“I am delighted and grateful that more people will come to know and be changed by his beautiful story,” Scaperlanda said. “Not only because of his death as a martyr. But even more significantly, because his life and his priestly service remain a testament to the difference that one person can, and does, make.”

Scaperlanda described Father Rother’s martyrdom as a “reminder that we are all called to holiness in our ordinary lives, and that holy men and women come from ordinary places like Okarche, Oklahoma.”

Describing the priest as a faithful man, Scaperlanda said he was called to serve in the fields of Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala, alongside his Tz’utujil Mayan parishioners. “This is what his community remembers — that he was one of them,” she wrote. “And when their village suffered oppression and killings from a violent and brutal civil war, he remained one with them. He was truly the shepherd who didn’t run.”

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Editor’s Note: A CNS review of Scaperlanda’s biography of Father Rother can be found at http://tinyurl.com/glcxso2.

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Pope: Year of Mercy may be over, but compassion must live on

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Year of Mercy and its series of papal reflections may be over, but compassion and acts of mercy must continue and become a part of everyone’s daily lives, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets a boy while meeting the disabled during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a boy while meeting the disabled during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Nov. 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Let us commit ourselves to praying for each other so that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy increasingly become our way of life,” he said Nov. 30 during his general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall.

Because the day also marked the feast of St. Andrew, brother of St. Peter and founder of the church in Constantinople, Pope Francis gave special greetings to his “dear brother,” Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Pope Francis, the bishop of Rome and successor of Peter, said he was sending “a big embrace” to the patriarch and “this cousin church.”

The Vatican released a letter from the pope to the patriarch, which praised the way Catholics and Orthodox have begun “to recognize one another as brothers and sisters and to value each other’s gifts, and together have proclaimed the Gospel, served humanity and the cause of peace, promoted the dignity of the human being and the inestimable value of the family, and cared for those most in need, as well as creation, our common home.”

In his main audience talk, the pope ended his yearlong series of talks on mercy with a reflection on the corporal work of burying the dead and the spiritual works of praying for the living and dead.

Catholics particularly remember the faithful departed during the month of November, he said. Praying for those who have died “is a sign of recognition for the witness they have left us and the good they have done. It is a giving thanks to the Lord for having given them to us and for their love and friendship.”

By entrusting their souls to God’s mercy, “we pray with Christian hope that they are with him in heaven,” he said.

While for many burying the dead is an expected, straightforward ritual, there are some parts of the world where this may not be a given, such as places experiencing “the scourge of war, with bombings day and night that sow fear and innocent victims,” he said.

“Even today, there are those who risk their life to bury poor victims of war,” he added, thanking those particularly in Syria and the Middle East for their courage in recovering the dead and going to rescue the injured.

Praying for the living, he said, can be done in many ways, such as: blessing one’s children every morning and evening; visiting and praying for the sick; praying silently, “sometimes in tears,” for help during difficult times; even thanking God for the blessings bestowed upon one’s family, friends and co-workers.

The important thing, he said, is to always have one’s heart open to the Holy Spirit, “who knows our deepest desires and hopes,” and can “purify and bring them to fulfillment.”

“We always ask that God’s will be done for ourselves and for others, like in the Lord’s Prayer, because his will is definitely the greatest good, the goodness of a father who never abandons us,” he said.

After his main talk, the pope also made an appeal for World AIDS Day Dec. 1, urging “everyone to adopt responsible behavior to prevent the further spread of this disease.”

The Catholic Church promotes sexual abstinence before marriage and monogamy within marriage as the best ways to limit HIV transmission, and holds that condom-distribution campaigns aggravate the problem.

In his appeal, Pope Francis called for prayers for those affected by HIV/AIDS and for renewed efforts in getting adequate testing and therapy to the poorest in the world. He said the United Nations estimates only half of those living with HIV/AIDS have access to lifesaving treatment.

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Pope Francis urges scientists to find solutions, declare rules to save planet

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Humanity does not own God’s gift of creation and has no right to pillage it, Pope Francis said.

“We are not custodians of a museum and its masterpieces that we have to dust off every morning, but rather collaborators in the conservation and development of the existence and biodiversity of the planet and human life,” he said Nov. 28.

Pope Francis greets British theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, during an audience with participants attending a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican Nov. 28. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)

Pope Francis greets British theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking, during an audience with participants attending a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Vatican Nov. 28. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

The pope addressed experts attending a plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences Nov. 25-29 to discuss the impact of scientific knowledge and technology on people and the planet.

People in the modern world have grown up “thinking we are the owners and masters of nature, authorized to plunder it without any consideration for its secret potential and evolutionary laws, as if it were an inert substance at our disposal, causing, among other things, a very serious loss of biodiversity,” he said.

An “ecological conversion” is needed in which people recognize their responsibility for caring for creation and its resources, for trying to bring about social justice and for overcoming “an unfair system that produces misery, inequality and exclusion,” the pope said. In fact, with sustainable development, the tasks of taking care of both people and the planet are inseparable, he said.

The pope said there was a “weak response” in most international policies to promoting the common good.

He lamented how easily well-founded scientific counsel is “disregarded” and how politics tends to obey technology and finance instead.

The proof of that, he said, is the way countries are still “distracted” or delayed in applying international agreements on the environment as well as the “continuous wars of dominance masquerading as noble declarations that cause increasingly serious harm to the environment and the moral and cultural wealth of peoples.”

Pope Francis told the scientists that it was up to them to “build a cultural model to tackle the crisis of climate change and its social consequences so that enormous productive capacities are not reserved only to the few.”

To do that, he said, the scientists would have to be free of political, economic and ideological interests, too.

Because scientists have been able to study and demonstrate many crises facing the planet, the pope called on them to be leaders in proposing solutions to the many problems, such as water, energy and food security.

He said it would be “indispensable” for the world’s scientists to collaborate and create “a regulatory system that includes inviolable limits and guarantees the protection of ecosystems before new forms of power derived from the technological-economic paradigm produce irreversible damage not just to the environment but also to coexistence, democracy, justice and freedom.”

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Pope Francis chooses Mary as focus for upcoming World Youth Day celebrations

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis has chosen a focus on Mary for the next World Youth Day celebrations, which will be held in dioceses in 2017 and 2018 and with an international gathering in Panama in 2019.

The pope has highlighted the way the Mother of Jesus was always open to the Lord’s will and has described her “as a role model to be imitated,” said the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life in a press release Nov. 22.

A statue of Mary and the Christ child are seen Nov. 12 at Our Lady of the Island Shrine in Eastport, N.Y. Pope Francis has chosen a focus on Mary for the next World Youth Day celebrations, which will be held in dioceses in 2017 and 2018 and as an international gathering in Panama in 2019. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

A statue of Mary and the Christ child are seen Nov. 12 at Our Lady of the Island Shrine in Eastport, N.Y. Pope Francis has chosen a focus on Mary for the next World Youth Day celebrations, which will be held in dioceses in 2017 and 2018 and as an international gathering in Panama in 2019. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

The themes “are intended to give a clear Marian tone to the spiritual journey” of the next three World Youth Days as well as to “give a picture of young people on a journey between the past (2017), present (2018) and future (2019), inspired by the three theological virtues of faith, charity and hope.”

World Youth Day is celebrated annually on a local level, and every two or three years with an international gathering with the pope. At the end of the World Youth Day celebration in July in Krakow, Poland, Pope Francis announced the next international gathering would be held in Panama in 2019.

The annual Rome diocesan celebration with the pope is held on Palm Sunday each year; the date of the celebration in other dioceses varies.

The themes chosen by the pope, the dicastery said, were:

  • For 2017: “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:49).
  • For 2018: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1:30).
  • For 2019: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38).

This journey the pope is proposing to young people coincides with the reflection the pope “has entrusted to the next Synod of Bishops: Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment,” the press release said.

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Pope Francis, with apostolic letter, extends special Year of Mercy provisions

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Acknowledging and sharing God’s mercy is a permanent part of the Christian life, so initiatives undertaken during the special Year of Mercy must continue, Pope Francis said.

“Mercy cannot become a mere parenthesis in the life of the church,” the pope wrote in an apostolic letter, “Misericordia et Misera,” (“Mercy and Misery”), which he signed Nov. 20 at the end of the Year of Mercy. The Vatican released the text the next day.

Pope Francis signs an apostolic letter, "Misericordia et Misera," (Mercy and Misery) after celebrating the closing Mass of the jubilee Year of Mercy in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. In the letter the pope called for several special initiatives begun during the Year of Mercy to continue on a permanent basis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis signs an apostolic letter, “Misericordia et Misera,” (Mercy and Misery) after celebrating the closing Mass of the jubilee Year of Mercy in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov. 20. In the letter the pope called for several special initiatives begun during the Year of Mercy to continue on a permanent basis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The Catholic Church’s focus on God’s mercy must continue with individual acts of kindness, assistance to the poor and, particularly, with encouraging Catholics to participate in the sacrament of reconciliation and making it easier for them to do so, the pope wrote.

In his letter, Pope Francis said he formally was giving all priests permanent permission to grant absolution to those who confess to having procured an abortion. While many bishops around the world, and almost all bishops in the United States, routinely grant that faculty to all their priests, Pope Francis had made it universal during the Holy Year.

According to canon law, procuring an abortion brings automatic excommunication to those who know of the penalty, but procure the abortion anyway. Without formal permission, priests had been required to refer the case to their bishops before the excommunication could be lifted and sacramental absolution could be granted to a woman who had an abortion or those directly involved in the procedure.

“I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life,” the pope wrote. “In the same way, however, I can and must state that there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with the Father.”

Speaking to reporters during a Vatican news conference Nov. 21, Archbishop Rino Fisichella said procuring an abortion still results in automatic excommunication the very moment the procedure is carried out.

Sacramental absolution, therefore, is not just forgiving the sin of abortion, but also means “the excommunication is removed,” he said.

Now that all priests have been given the faculty to lift the excommunication and grant absolution, the Code of Canon Law will have to be updated, said the archbishop, who is president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, the office that organized events for the Year of Mercy.

The pope also formally extended the provision he made during the Year of Mercy of recognizing as valid the sacramental absolution received by “those faithful who, for various reasons, attend churches officiated by the priests of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X,” the traditionalist society founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre.

Although the Vatican and the society continue talks aimed at formally restoring the society’s full communion with the church, Pope Francis said he was extending the pastoral provision “lest anyone ever be deprived of the sacramental sign of reconciliation through the church’s pardon.”

The title of the document is taken from a sermon by St. Augustine about Jesus’ encounter with the woman caught in adultery. After those who wanted to stone her slinked away, only Jesus and the woman — mercy and misery — remained.

In the Gospel story, the pope wrote, and in the sacraments of the church, particularly confession and the anointing of the sick, “references to mercy, far from being merely exhortative, are highly performative, which is to say that as we invoke mercy with faith, it is granted to us, and as we confess it to be vital and real, it transforms us,” as it did with the woman caught in adultery.

“This is a fundamental element of our faith,” Pope Francis wrote.

“Even before the revelation of sin, there is the revelation of the love by which God created the world and human beings,” he wrote. “His love always precedes us, accompanies us and remains with us, despite our sin.”

In celebrating and welcoming God’s love and mercy, he said, a special place in the church must be given to families, especially at a time when the very meaning of family is in crisis.

“The beauty of the family endures unchanged, despite so many problems and alternative proposals,” he said. “The grace of the sacrament of marriage not only strengthens the family to be a privileged place for practicing mercy, but also commits the Christian community and all its pastoral activity to uphold the great positive value of the family.”

Still, he wrote, “the experience of mercy enables us to regard all human problems from the standpoint of God’s love, which never tires of welcoming and accompanying,” even in situations marked by failure or sin.

“Our life, with its joys and sorrows, is something unique and unrepeatable that takes place under the merciful gaze of God,” he said. In counseling couples priests must use “a careful, profound and far-sighted spiritual discernment, so that everyone, none excluded, can feel accepted by God, participate actively in the life of the community and be part of that People of God which journeys tirelessly toward the fullness of his kingdom of justice, love, forgiveness and mercy.”

“Nothing of what a repentant sinner places before God’s mercy can be excluded from the embrace of his forgiveness,” the pope wrote. “For this reason, none of us has the right to make forgiveness conditional.”

In the letter, Pope Francis also asked dioceses that have not yet done so to consider joining the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative. Near the fourth Sunday of Lent, dioceses choose a church or churches to stay open for 24 hours to offer the sacrament of reconciliation and eucharistic adoration. The pope opens the Rome celebration with a penance service in St. Peter’s Basilica.

After his Year of Mercy celebration Nov. 13 with the homeless and other people who are “socially excluded,” the pope wrote that he would like a similar celebration to be held annually in every diocese.

“The entire church might celebrate, on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, the World Day of the Poor,” he said. The celebration, a week before the feast of Christ the King, would be “the worthiest way to prepare” to acknowledge the kingship of Christ, “who identified with the little ones and the poor and who will judge us on our works of mercy.”

“It would be a day to help communities and each of the baptized to reflect on how poverty is at the very heart of the Gospel and that, as long as Lazarus lies at the door of our homes, there can be no justice or social peace,” he said.

Calling the Bible “the great story of the marvels of God’s mercy,” Pope Francis also asked every Catholic parish in the world to set aside at least one Sunday a year to promote reading, studying and praying with the Scriptures.

Teaching people “lectio divina,” the prayerful reading of the Bible, especially when focused on texts that speak of God’s mercy and love, will help “give rise to concrete gestures and works of charity,” he wrote.

In another continuation of a Year of Mercy project, Pope Francis asked the more than 1,100 priests he commissioned as “missionaries of mercy” to continue leading retreats, missions, prayer services and offering confession in dioceses around the world.

“Their pastoral activity sought to emphasize that God places no roadblocks in the way of those who seek him with a contrite heart, because he goes out to meet everyone like a father,” the pope said.

While he said he did not have specifics about how the missionaries’ work should continue, Pope Francis said the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization “will supervise them and find the most suitable forms for the exercise of this valuable ministry.”

 

Contributing to this story was Carol Glatz at the Vatican.

      Follow on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden and @CarolGlatz.

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Pope calls new cardinals to be agents of unity in divisive world

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church’s 17 new cardinals must dedicate their lives to being ministers of forgiveness and reconciliation in a world, and sometimes a church, often marked by hostility and division, Pope Francis said.

New Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis gives a thumbs up as he arrives for a consistory in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 19. Cardinal Tobin was among 17 new cardinals created by Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

New Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis, who has been named by the pope to lead the Newark, NJ, archdiocese,  gives a thumbs up as he arrives for a consistory in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 19. Cardinal Tobin was among 17 new cardinals created by Pope Francis. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Even Catholics are not immune from “the virus of polarization and animosity,” the pope told the new cardinals, and “we need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts.”

Creating 17 new cardinals from 14 nations Nov. 19, the pope said the College of Cardinals and the Catholic Church itself must be a sign for the world that differences of nationality, skin color, language and social class do not make people enemies, but brothers and sisters with different gifts to offer.

Three of the new cardinals created during the prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica were from the United States: Cardinals Blase J. Cupich of Chicago; Kevin J. Farrell, prefect of the new Vatican office for laity, family and life; and Joseph W. Tobin, whom the pope asked to move from being archbishop of Indianapolis to archbishop of Newark, New Jersey.

Only 16 of the new cardinals were present for the ceremony. The Vatican said 87-year-old Cardinal Sebastian Koto Khoarai, the retired bishop of Mohale’s Hoek, Lesotho, was created a cardinal although he was unable to travel to Rome.

After reciting the Creed and taking an oath of fidelity to Pope Francis and his successors, each cardinal went up to Pope Francis and knelt before him. The pope gave them each a cardinal’s ring, a three-cornered red hat and a scroll attesting to their appointment as cardinals and containing their “titular church” in Rome. The assignment of a church is a sign they now are members of the clergy of the pope’s diocese.

After the consistory, Pope Francis and the new cardinals hopped in vans for a short ride to visit retired Pope Benedict XVI in the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery, his residence in the Vatican gardens. The retired pope greeted each cardinal, thanked them for stopping by and assured them, “My prayers will accompany you always.”

Cardinal Mario Zenari, the pope’s ambassador to Syria, spoke on behalf of the new cardinals, promising Pope Francis that they and the entire church would continue to be envoys of God’s mercy, bending down to help those “left half dead on the side of the road, wounded in body and spirit.”

The Gospel reading at the consistory was St. Luke’s version of Jesus’ discourse to his disciples: ‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

“They are four things we can easily do for our friends and for those more or less close to us, people we like, people whose tastes and habits are similar to our own,” Pope Francis said. But Jesus, not mincing his words, calls his followers to more.

“With people we consider our opponents or enemies,” the pope said, “our first instinctive reaction … is to dismiss, discredit or curse them. Often we try to ‘demonize’ them, so as to have a ‘sacred’ justification for dismissing them.”

In God, he said, there are no enemies. There are only brothers and sisters to love.

All people are embraced by God’s love, he said. “We are the ones who raise walls, build barriers and label people.”

Just as God loves and forgives the pope and the cardinals for their sinfulness, he said, so they must love and forgive others, undergoing “the conversion of our pitiful hearts that tend to judge, divide, oppose and condemn.”

Looking around the modern world, Pope Francis said, “We live at a time in which polarization and exclusion are burgeoning.”

“We see, for example, how quickly those among us with the status of a stranger, an immigrant or a refugee” are seen as threats, he said. They are presumed to be an enemy because they come from a different country, “because of the color of their skin, their language or their social class. An enemy because they think differently or even have a different faith.”

The “growing animosity between peoples” is found even “among us, within our communities, our priests, our meetings,” the pope said.

“We need to take care lest such attitudes find a place in our hearts, because this would be contrary to the richness and universality of the church, which is tangibly evident in the College of Cardinals,” he said. The cardinals come from different countries, “we think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches.”

Speaking to Catholic News Service after the consistory, Cardinal Tobin said the pope’s homily was “very timely” and the cardinals, as well as all Catholics, should “examine ourselves and the church to see whether we have unconsciously appropriated this ‘virus’” of polarization and animosity. It may hide under “the name of truth or the name of orthodoxy or something, when it actually serves to divide. I think probably that is resistance to the acts of the Holy Spirit.”

Pope Francis and new cardinals visit with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the retired pope's residence after a consistory at the Vatican Nov. 19. Pope Francis created 17 new cardinals at the consistory. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)

Pope Francis and new cardinals visit with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the retired pope’s residence after a consistory at the Vatican Nov. 19. Pope Francis created 17 new cardinals at the consistory. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

“In this year of mercy,” Cardinal Farrell told CNS, “we all need to be a little more concerned about and merciful and compassionate to each of our brothers and sisters. And I think that’s the great message that the Holy Father wished to convey.

“We all need to learn how to respect each other. We can disagree on many points, but we need to enter into dialogue and conversation with each other. I believe that is what the Holy Father wanted and what the year of mercy is all about,” the cardinal said. People can discuss and debate theological problems, “but if they don’t do it with charity, as St. Paul would say, what good is it?”

Cardinal Cupich said Pope Francis “hit the nail on the head because a virus can be contagious and it can spread like wildfire, and he wanted to make sure that every individual took responsibility for making sure that whoever the person is who we disagree with, we do not make an enemy out of them, that we remember that we are all sons and daughters of the same God and that we are brothers and sisters to each other.”

“We have to break that cycle of violence and hatred and bigotry, otherwise it will be contagious like a virus,” Cardinal Cupich said.

As the Year of Mercy was ending, Pope Francis called on the new cardinals and everyone present in the basilica to continue to proclaim “the Gospel of mercy,” going out to where people live, giving them hope and helping them become signs of reconciliation.

At the end of the consistory, the College of Cardinals had 228 members, 121 of whom are under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a pope.

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Pope Francis says he doesn’t lose sleep over his critics’ lack of understanding

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The church is not a prop for one’s ego, a soapbox for ideas or a suit of armor protecting a sad life, Pope Francis said.

“The church exists only as an instrument for communicating God’s merciful plan to the people,” he said in an interview published in the Nov. 18 edition of Avvenire, an Italian Catholic newspaper.

Pope Francis attends an ecumenical event at the Malmo Arena in Malmo, Sweden, Oct. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis attends an ecumenical event at the Malmo Arena in Malmo, Sweden, Oct. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

God doesn’t ask for grand gestures, just for the trustful abandon of a child in a father’s arms and for sharing that divine love and mercy with others, he said.

“Those who discover they are loved very much begin to emerge from terrible solitude, from the separation that leads to hating others and oneself,” he added.

While most of the lengthy interview’s questions touched on ecumenism and the meaning of the Year of Mercy, the pope’s responses revealed his vision of the church and the “bad spirit” or psychological defects that foster division.

For example, he said, some reactions to his apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” continue to reflect a lack of understanding about how the Holy Spirit has been working in the church since the Second Vatican Council.

With “Lumen Gentium,” its dogmatic constitution on the church, he said, the church “returned to the source of her nature, the Gospel. This shifted the axis of Christian understanding from a kind of legalism, which can be ideological, to the person of God, who became mercy in the incarnation of the son.””

“Think about certain reactions to ‘Amoris Laetitia’ — some continue to not understand, (seeing) either white or black, even if it is in the flow of life that one must discern.”

Historians, however, say it takes a century for a council’s teachings to fully sink in, which means “we are at the halfway mark,” Pope Francis said.

[On Nov. 14, four cardinals — Cardinals Walter Brandmuller, a former president of the Pontifical Commission for Historical Sciences; Raymond L. Burke, a U.S. cardinal and patron of the Knights of Malta; Carlo Caffarra, retired archbishop of Bologna, Italy; and Joachim Meisner, retired archbishop of Cologne — said they formally asked Pope Francis to clarify his teaching in “Amoris Laetitia” on Communion for the divorced and civilly remarried and, not receiving a response after two months, they released their letter to the press.

“We have noted a grave disorientation and great confusion of many faithful regarding extremely important matters for the life of the church,” the cardinals said. “Even within the episcopal college, there are contrasting interpretations of Chapter 8 of ‘Amoris Laetitia,’” the chapter dealing with ministry to the divorced in his exhortation on the family.]

Pope Francis told Avvenire in the Nov. 18 article that the church and its members are asked to be docile to the Holy Spirit and to let the Spirit do the work because the Spirit knows when “the time is ripe” for things.

Calling the Year of Mercy was an example of that, he said. It was not “a plan” of his own, but something inspired by the Spirit and built on the cornerstones of his predecessors.

“The church is the Gospel, it is the work of Jesus Christ,” the pope said. “It is not a course of ideas, a tool for asserting them.”

“The cancer in the church is giving glory to one another,” he said in response to an observation made by Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, who said a worldly mentality within the church was at the root of divisions among Christians.

Someone who has never heard of or encountered Christ can always come to know him someday, Pope Francis said.

But, he said, if someone is already “in the church and moves within it because precisely in the world of the church they cultivate and feed their hunger for domination and self-affirmation, (then) they have a spiritual disease; they believe the church is a self-sufficient human reality where everything proceeds according to the logic of ambition and power.”

There is a “sinful habit of the church to look too much at itself as if it believed it had its own light” — what Bartholomew called an “ecclesial introversion,” the pope said. Divisions are born when the church looks too much too itself and not to the real light of Christ, which the church reflects like the moon does sunlight.

“Looking at Christ frees us from this habit and also from the temptation of triumphalism and rigidity,” the pope said.

The guide for knowing the right path to take is always understanding the importance of following the Holy Spirit, he said when asked about criticisms that his outreach to other Christian communities was a sign of “selling out” Catholic doctrine or “Protestant-izing” the church.

He said he doesn’t “lose sleep” over such critiques because it’s important to see what kind of “spirit” is motivating such opinions.

“When there is no bad spirit” behind the remarks, differing opinions can be helpful for walking the way of the Lord, he said.

Other times, it is immediately obvious when criticism is driven by wanting to “justify a position that’s already been taken,” he said. Such criticisms “are not honest, they are made with a bad spirit to foment division.”

One sees right away that certain forms of strictness “arise from a shortcoming, from the desire to hide one’s own sad discontent within a suit of armor,” he said, adding that the film Babette’s Feast offered a good example of “this rigid behavior.”

As long as the church and its members keep their focus on Christ, they will avoid many of these errors and temptations, he said.

It is walking behind Christ and doing his will by praying together, helping the needy and dying as martyrs together that will unite all Christians who already share the same baptism.

Ecumenism is a process, a walking together, not carving out or “occupying spaces,” or setting aside and ignoring theological differences, he said.

The “grave sin” of proselytism, too, goes against the “dynamic” of authentically becoming and being Christian. “The church is not a soccer team seeking fans,” he said.

 

 

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Admonish sin without putting on airs or being hypocritical, pope says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Offering counsel and admonishing sinners are works of mercy, but they are not a license to pretend to be better than others, Pope Francis said.

To counsel others is a chance to see how well you, too, measure up to essential standards, he said Nov. 16 to people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square Nov. 16. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square Nov. 16. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

In his final general audience during the Year of Mercy, which was to close Nov. 20, Pope Francis reflected on two verses in the Gospel of St. Luke (6:41-42) in which Jesus warns against the hypocrisy of noticing “the splinter in your brother’s eye,” but not perceiving “the wooden beam in your own.”

“Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye,” Jesus says.

Those verses and Jesus’ vision of leadership as service, the pope said, help guide Christians in how to carry out the works of mercy traditionally described as instructing the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, admonishing sinners and bearing wrongs patiently.

“We are all very good at recognizing something that may be an annoyance” and thinking, “How much longer must I listen to this person’s complaints, gossip, requests or bragging,” he said.

Patiently putting up with people is an essential part of the faith, he said, because God showed so much mercy and patience with his people.

The best example, the pope said, is seen in the Book of Exodus when the people became “truly unbearable,” always finding something new to complain about every time God brought relief to each preceding grievance.

“What must we do with bothersome people?” the pope asked. First, look in the mirror and see “if we, too, may sometimes prove to be bothersome to others.””

“It’s easy to point a finger at other people’s faults and shortcomings, but we must learn to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes,” he said.

Like his father, Jesus showed a lot of patience, too, the pope said. For example, when James’ and John’s mother begged Jesus to grant her sons positions of power in his future kingdom, Jesus used the opportunity to offer instruction on the true purpose of his coming — to sacrifice himself for and care for others, not wield power over them.

The spiritual works of instructing the ignorant and admonishing sinners, he said, are all about helping people grow in the faith and discover the path to true joy.

Think, for example, how hard it is for catechists, “especially when kids would rather be playing than listening to the catechism,” he said. Instead, these women and men patiently dedicate their time to teaching young people about the faith.

It is wonderful and important to help people seek what’s truly essential so that they, too, can share in the joy of “savoring the meaning of life.”

So often people just dwell on things that are “superficial, ephemeral and banal,” sometimes because they’ve never run into anyone who encourages them to look deeper, seek something better and appreciate what really matters, he said.

Teaching people to see what is essential is especially critical today when it seems so many “have lost (their) bearings and chase after short-term pleasures.”

Jesus shows how to avoid “envy, ambition and adulation — temptations that are always lurking even among us Christians. The need to counsel, admonish and instruct must not make us feel superior to others, but, above all, requires us to go back into ourselves to make sure we are consistent with what we are asking of others.”

At the end of the audience, in anticipation of the Nov. 20 celebration of Universal Children’s Day, the pope launched an appeal for protecting children and their right to an education.

Pope Francis said he was appealing “to the conscience of everyone — institutions and families — so that children may always be protected and their well-being safeguarded, so that they never end up in some form of slavery, conscripted into armed groups or mistreated.”

He asked the international community to “keep watch” and help guarantee “the right to schooling and education for every boy and girl so that they grow with serenity and look to the future with confidence.”

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