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Sin is scary, but God is always ready to forgive, pope says

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Witches don’t really exist, so they can do no harm, Pope Francis told a young girl, but gossip, sin and evil exist and they hurt people every day.

Pope Francis greets people March 12 during a visit at the Rome parish of St. Magdalene of Canossa. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis greets people March 12 during a visit at the Rome parish of St. Magdalene of Canossa. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

“What frightens me?” the pope asked, repeating the question posed by Sara, one of the children at the Rome parish of St. Magdalene of Canossa. “I’m frightened when a person is bad; the wickedness of people” is scary.

Spending close to four hours at the parish March 12, Pope Francis answered questions from the children, met with the older and sick members of the parish, spent time with parents whose babies have been baptized in the past year and with the Canossian Sisters, whose founder is honored as the parish’s patron saint.

Before celebrating an evening Mass, the pope also heard confessions.

He had told the children that the “seeds of wickedness” lie within each human being, but that God is always willing to forgive those who are sincerely sorry for their sins.

Sara had told him she’s afraid of witches, but Pope Francis told her that witches don’t really exist and those who claim to be able to cast spells are lying.

What is really frightening, the pope said, is the harm caused when people choose to sin, a choice that often begins small. “And it frightens me when in a family, neighborhood, workplace, parish, or even the Vatican, there is gossip. That’s scary.”

“You have heard or seen on TV what terrorists do? They throw a bomb and run,” he said. “Gossip is like that. It’s throwing a bomb and running away. Gossip destroys” people and reputations.

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis described sin as being ugly, an offense against God and “a slap” to God’s face.

“We are used to talking about other people’s sins. It’s an ugly thing to do,” the pope said. Instead, people need to look at their own sins and at Jesus, who took upon himself the sins of all humanity.

“This is the path toward Easter, toward the resurrection” where Jesus’ face will shine like it did at the transfiguration.

But Christians also need to gaze at the crucifix and at the face of Jesus “disfigured, tortured, despised, bloodied by the crown of thorns” because he loved humanity so much that he took on the sins of the world and “paid so much for all of us.”

The face of Jesus, he said, “encourages us to ask forgiveness for our sins and not to sin so much. It encourages us most of all to trust because if he has made himself sin and has taken on our sins, he is always ready to forgive us. We just need to ask him.”

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Pope Francis talks criticisms, populism in interview with German weekly

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When facing criticism, a sense of humor and the grace to remain at peace are always the best response, Pope Francis said in an interview with Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper.

In the interview, published March 8 online and in print March 9, the pope laughed and said the Roman dialect featured in posters that were plastered around the Rome city center criticizing him “was great.”

Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 1.In an interview he gave to a German weekly newspaper, Die Zeit, published March 8, the pope addressed his response to criticisms and the current populism trend.  (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 1.In an interview he gave to a German weekly newspaper, Die Zeit, published March 8, the pope addressed his response to criticisms and the current populism trend. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The poster, featuring a stern-faced picture of the pope, said: “Ah Francis, you’ve taken over congregations, removed priests, decapitated the Order of Malta and the Franciscans of the Immaculate, ignored cardinals … but where is your mercy?”

“There is this prayer, which is attributed to (St.) Thomas More, that I pray every day: ‘Lord, give me a sense of humor!’ The Lord preserves my peace and gives me a great sense of humor,” Pope Francis said.

Vatican Radio released a brief summary with selected quotes from the nearly 6,000-word interview, in which the pope discussed several issues and events.

Order of Malta

Among the areas of discussion was his relationship with Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, current patron of the Order of Malta, who is often viewed as one of Pope Francis’ most vocal critics.

The pope denied rumors that Cardinal Burke was sent to Guam as a form of “exile” to be the presiding judge in a church trial investigating allegations of sexual abuse leveled against Archbishop Anthony S. Apuron of Agana.

Instead, he was chosen, the pope said, because the former head of the Vatican’s highest court is “an excellent jurist” and the allegations were “terrible incidents.” He said he was grateful for the cardinal’s service to address “a serious abuse case.”

“I do not regard Cardinal Burke as an adversary,” the pope said.

The pope was asked about the recent change of leadership at the Knights of Malta, in which Fra Matthew Festing, the former grand master, resigned at the pope’s request, after the order’s forced ouster of its grand chancellor, Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager.

While Cardinal Burke remained the order’s patron, the pope appointed Archbishop Angelo Becciu as his special delegate and sole spokesman to the Knights of Malta.

“The problem with the Order of Malta was more that (Cardinal Burke) was unable to deal with it,” he said. “I have not removed his title of patron. He is still the patron of the Order of Malta.”

The pope suggested it was a question of “clearing things up a bit in the order, and that is why I sent a delegate with a different charism than (Cardinal) Burke.”

Pope Francis has been an outspoken in his criticism against populist rhetoric that views refugees escaping war, violence and poverty as “unworthy of our attention, a rival or someone to be bent to our will.”

Rise of populism

When asked by Die Zeit about the rise of populism, particularly from those on the right of the political spectrum , the pope said he uses the word “populism” in the sense defined in Latin America as way “to use the people” to gain power.

Recalling Germany’s history, the pope said Adolf Hitler rose to power promising to return Germany to its former glory after a serious economic crisis.

“He convinced the people that he could. Populism always needs a messiah and a justification: ‘We preserve the identity of the people!’” the pope said.

“Great politicians,” such as Germany’s first post-war chancellor, Konrad Adenauer and former French Prime Minister Robert Schuman, envisioned a Europe united in brotherhood, and that “had nothing to do with populism,” he said.

“These men had the gift of serving their country without placing themselves in the center, and this made them great leaders. They did not have to be a messiah. Populism is evil and ends badly, as the past century has shown,” Pope Francis said.

Other topics the pope touched on in the interview included the shortage of priests and the possibility of female deacons.

“The call for priests represents a problem, an enormous problem,” especially in Germany and Switzerland, he said.

“The problem is the lack of vocations. And the church must solve this problem,” the pope said.

He expressed the view that an increase in prayer and outreach to youth could change the situation.

“The Lord has told us: Pray! That is what’s lacking: prayer. And also lacking is the work with young people who are seeking direction. Service to others is missing” and low birth rates are also a factor, said the pope. “Working with young people is difficult, but it is essential, because youth long for it.”

He added that youths are the ones who lose most in many modern societies because of a lack of employment.

Asked whether the vow of celibacy could be optional for the priesthood, but not for higher offices like bishop or cardinal, the pope said, making clerical celibacy optional “is not the solution.”

When asked about ordaining married men of proven virtue, known in Latin as “viri probati,” Pope Francis replied that was a topic, like others, theologians needed to study more in depth.

“Then we must determine what tasks they could undertake, for example in remote communities,” he said.

Women deacons?

Pope Francis spoke about the commission studying women deacons and the exact roles they played in early church history. The commission is an ongoing project, he said, dedicated to open dialogue.

“It was about exploring the subject, and not to open a door” on automatic approval, Pope Francis said of the commission.

“This is the task of theology; it must research to get to the foundation of things, always. That also goes for the study of the sacred Scriptures. … What does that mean today? Truth is to have no fear. That is what historical truth and scientific truth tell us: Do not be afraid! That makes us free.”

Pope Francis also discussed his personal faith experiences and beliefs about God’s mercy, saying that an individual’s faith grows throughout a lifetime.

“Faith is a gift. It will give itself,” said the pope, adding that faith is to be prayed for.

“He said he does not like to be idealized by others, saying that idealizing a person leads to aggression.

“I am a sinner and I am fallible,” he said. “When I am idealized, I feel attacked.”

He said that he views himself as a normal person trying to do his best.

He also added that he does not become angry at people who disagree with his opinions and believes that diverse opinions are good for the world.

“Since I was elected pope, I have never lost my peace. I can understand if some people do not like my own way of going about things, and that is completely normal,” said Pope Francis.

“Everyone may have their own opinion. That is legitimate and humane and enriching,” he said.

Travel plans

In response to a question, Pope Francis said he is not able to visit Germany this year for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, despite an invitation from Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“The appointment calendar is very full this year,” he told Die Zeit.

Asked whether he would visit Russia, China, India or other countries perhaps this year, Pope Francis replied: “To Russia I cannot travel, because then I would also have to travel to Ukraine.

Even more important would be a trip to South Sudan, but I don’t believe that is possible. Also, a trip to the Congo was planned, but that will also not work with (President Joseph) Kabila. So, remaining on the program are India, Bangladesh and Colombia, one day for Fatima in Portugal, and as far as I know, a trip to Egypt is being studied. Sounds like a full calendar, right?”

Contributing to this story were Zita Fletcher in Germany and Carol Glatz in Rome.

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Vatican forum encourages women’s voices of faith in the church

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Women and men from around the globe gathered for an event inside Vatican City that celebrated and encouraged the need for women’s voices to be heard in the church and in the world.

The annual Voices of Faith conference was held March 8, coinciding with the celebration of International Women’s Day.

Marguerite Barankitse of Burundi speaks during the Voices of Faith gathering March 8 at the Vatican. The event, held on International Women's Day, had the theme "Stirring the Waters-Making the Impossible Possible." (CNS photo/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)

Marguerite Barankitse of Burundi speaks during the Voices of Faith gathering March 8 at the Vatican. The event, held on International Women’s Day, had the theme “Stirring the Waters-Making the Impossible Possible.” (CNS photo/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)

According to its website, the Voices of Faith event “provides what has been a notably absent, the voices of Catholic women and their capacity to exercise authority within and outside the church and faith that emerges not from abstract theological ideals but in confronting the reality of the poor.”

The event featured several guest speakers, including Dr. Mireille Twayigira, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, and twin sisters Nagham and Shadan, whose last name was not given; the two are refugees from Homs, Syria, who work with Jesuit Refugee Services helping others forced to flee violence in their homeland.

Jesuit Father Arturo Sosa Abascal, superior general of the Society of Jesus, said in the opening address for the conference, that women and men of faith need to stand together in today’s difficult political and social climate.

Faith, he said, gives the audacity “to seek the impossible, as nothing is impossible for God.”

The participation of women is also necessary in positions of leadership, especially in areas of conflict such as the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Colombia, he said.

While it is “hard to imagine peace, can we have the audacity to dream to bring peace to these countries?” he asked.

Among the examples of the need for the voice of women in the political spectrum, Father Sosa cited German Chancellor Angela Merkel who “has been the most courageous and visionary leader in Europe.”

“She had the compassion to look at those who were in need and the vision to see that they would make a contribution to Germany and Europe,” he said.

He also cited the example of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia, for bringing peace and reconciliation “to her war-torn country in a way that for most men would be impossible.”

Although Pope Francis has voiced his support for broader participation of women’s voices in the decisions of the Catholic Church, Father Sosa acknowledged “that the fullness of women’s participation in the church has not yet arrived.”

“We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of women,” he said. However, their “inclusion, which will bring the gift of resilience and collaboration, remains stymied.”

Among the presenters at an afternoon panel discussion was Sister Simone Campbell, a Sister of Social Service and executive director of Network, a Catholic social justice lobbying organization that sponsored the “Nuns on the Bus” tour in the United States.

Sister Campbell explained it was “essential for women to work for peace” and social justice, particularly for the poor and the marginalized, and she praised Pope Francis’ efforts to bring their plight to the forefront of Catholic social teaching.

“We rejoice in ‘Laudato Si’;’ that (says) care for the earth and care for the poor come from the same reality of exploitation of both and that until we learn to end the exploitation, we will not care for those at the margins, we will not care for our earth. And that is what moves me in such a deep way,” she said.

Highlighting four virtues young women need to make their voices heard, Sister Campbell said that joy and a holy curiosity to “listen, ask questions and learn from others” was important.

She also encouraged women to engage in “sacred gossip,” explaining the need to share the stories they have learned from others so that those stories “can multiply” in others.

Finally, Sister Campbell also called on women to pray so that they discover what their role is within the body of Christ.

Recalling a moment of prayer, Sister Campbell said she “realized that my role is to be stomach acid in the body of Christ.”

“That is because I’m called to nourish, to break down food, release energy. But I can be toxic in large quantities so I need to be contained. But if we each do our part, then the body is whole and it all gets done. So, I urge you to do your part,” she said.

 

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Humility need to recognize God’s voice in others, priest tells pope and Curia during retreat

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Humility is needed in order to recognize the voice of God in others, especially those who are perceived to be weak or subject to prejudice, a Franciscan friar told Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia during their Lenten retreat.

Pope Francis prays during a March 6-11 Lenten retreat in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis prays during a March 6-11 Lenten retreat in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

God not only speaks through Jesus, but also speaks to him through Peter, who recognizes Christ as the Messiah “by revelation,” Franciscan Father Giulio Michelini said March 6, according to Vatican Radio.

“Do I have the humility to listen to Peter? Do we have the humility to listen to one another, paying attention to prejudices that we certainly have, but attentive to receive that which God wants to say despite, perhaps, my closures? Do I listen to the voice of others, perhaps weak, or do I only listen to my voice?” he asked.

The pope and top members of the Roman Curia attended their annual Lenten retreat March 5-10 at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome.

Father Michelini was chosen by Pope Francis to lead meditations on the Gospel of Matthew’s description of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus.

The Franciscan delivered two meditations March 6, with the first reflecting on “Peter’s confession and Jesus’ path toward Jerusalem.”

According to Vatican Radio, Father Michelini called on the 74 people present for the retreat to reflect on the criteria on which they base their discernment and whether “I place myself and my personal benefit before the kingdom of God.”

To listen and act upon God’s will, he said, Christians must have “courage to go into the deep to follow Jesus Christ, taking into account that this involves carrying the cross.”

Jesus, he added, not only proclaimed the joy of the resurrection “but also trial” when he said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

In the afternoon, Father Michelini delivered his second meditation, “Jesus’ last words and the beginning of the Passion.”

He explained that the reading of Christ’s Passion reveals two distinct types of logic: Jesus, an observant Jewish layman preparing to celebrate the Passover, and the high priests, who are concerned with the outward appearance of the feast but, at the same time, “prepare to murder an innocent man.”

The question Christians must ask themselves, he said, is if they are “sacred professionals resorting to compromise in order to save the facade, the institution at the expense of individual rights.”

“This is about an attitude that loses the right perspective, believing they are serving God,’ Father Michelini said.

 

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Consult the Bible as often as you use a cellphone, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians should care about reading God’s messages in the Bible as much as they care about checking messages on their cellphones, Pope Francis said.

As Christ did in the desert when tempted by Satan, men and women can defend themselves from temptation with the word of God if they “read it often, meditate on it and assimilate it” into their lives, he said before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square March 5.

Pope Francis attends the first day of his Lenten retreat at the Pauline Fathers' retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome, March 5. The pope and top members of the Roman Curia are on retreat from March 5-10. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis attends the first day of his Lenten retreat at the Pauline Fathers’ retreat center in Ariccia, 20 miles southeast of Rome, March 5. The pope and top members of the Roman Curia are on retreat from March 5-10. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

“What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the messages of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?” the pope asked the crowd.

The pope’s reflection centered on the day’s Gospel reading (Matthew. 4:1-11) in which Jesus is tempted by the devil while fasting in the desert for 40 days and nights before beginning his ministry.

Satan, he said, attempts to dissuade Jesus from fulfilling his message and to undermine his divinity by tempting him twice to perform miracles like “a magician” and lastly, by adoring “the devil in order to have dominion over the world.”

“Through this triple temptation, Satan wants to divert Jesus from the path of obedience and humiliation, because he knows that through that path evil will be defeated, and take him on the false shortcut of success and glory,” the pope said.

However, Jesus deflects “the poisonous arrows of the devil” not with his own words but “only with the Word of God.”

Christians, the pope continued, are called to follow Jesus’ footsteps and “confront the spiritual combat against the evil one” through the power of God’s word which has the “strength to defeat Satan.”

“The Bible contains the word of God, which is always relevant and effective. Someone once said: What would happen if we treated the Bible like we treated our cellphones? What would happen if we always brought it with us, or at least a small pocket-sized Gospel?” he asked.

While the comparison between the Bible and a cellphone is “paradoxical,” he added, it is something that all Christians are called to reflect on during the Lenten season.

“If we have the Word of God always in our hearts, no temptation could separate us from God and no obstacle would deviate us from the path of good,” the pope said.

After praying the Angelus prayer with the faithful in the square, Pope Francis asked for prayers before departing for a weeklong Lenten retreat with members of the Roman Curia.

Lent, he said, “is the path of the people of God toward Easter, a path of conversion, of fighting evil with the weapons of prayer, fasting and works of charity,” Pope Francis said. “I wish everyone a fruitful Lenten journey,” he said.

 

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Cardinal calls alleged Vatican resistance to child protection a ‘cliché’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s doctrinal chief dismissed accusations that some Vatican officials are resisting recommendations on best practices for protecting children and vulnerable adults from clergy sex abuse.

Marie Collins of Ireland, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, is pictured in a 2014 photo. Collins was one of the founding members and the last remaining abuse survivor on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. She left her position over what she described as resistance in Vatican offices against implementing recommendations for protecting people from abuse. (CNS photo/Carol Glatz) See VATICAN-ABUSE-RESIGNATION-COLLINS March 1, 2017..

Marie Collins of Ireland, above, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse,resigned her post on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minor March 1, citing what she called resistance from Vatican offices. Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has dismissed the accusation as a cliché.(CNS photo/Carol Glatz)

“I think this cliché must be put to an end: the idea that the pope, who wants the reform, is on one side and, on the other, a group of resisters who want to block it,” said Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The congregation is charged with carrying out canonical trials and seeking justice for victims of clerical abuse, while local bishops and heads of religious orders must care for their pastoral needs, he said in an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, published March 5.

Cardinal Muller responded to complaints made by Marie Collins, who resigned her post on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors March 1, citing what she described as resistance coming from Vatican offices against implementing recommendations.

In an editorial published online March 1 by National Catholic Reporter, Collins said an unnamed dicastery not only refused to cooperate on the commission’s safeguarding guidelines, but also refused to respond to letters from victims.

Collins said the refusal “to implement one of the simplest recommendations the commission has put forward to date” was the last straw that led to her resignation.

While acknowledging that personal care of victims is important, Cardinal Muller said Collins’ accusations “are based on a misunderstanding” and that bishops and religious superiors “who are closer” to victims of clergy sex abuse are charged with their pastoral care.

“When a letter arrives, we always ask the bishop that he take pastoral care of the victim, clarifying that the congregation will do everything possible to do justice. It is a misunderstanding that this dicastery, in Rome,” can be aware of everything happening in all the dioceses and religious orders in the world, the cardinal said.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he added, “acts as the supreme apostolic tribunal” on matters dealing with clerical abuse.

“All our collaborators humanly suffer with the victims of abuse. Our task is to do everything possible to do justice and avoid further crimes,” he said.

Through the work of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, the cardinal said, Pope Francis “wished to offer an exemplary service” as a help for the church and the world in dealing with the scourge of child sex abuse.

“Pedophilia is monstrous crime as well as a grave sin. We must remember Jesus’ words to the children and his condemnation against those who harm them,” Cardinal Muller said.

 

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Faith can’t grow without temptation, pope tells Rome priests

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Faith is a continuing path of growth and maturity that cannot progress without the presence of temptations, Pope Francis told priests of the Diocese of Rome.

Pope Francis addresses priests of the Diocese of Rome during a meeting at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome March 2. The Vatican said Pope Francis spent about 45 minutes hearing confessions, offering the sacrament to a dozen priests before beginning his talk. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis addresses priests of the Diocese of Rome during a meeting at the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome March 2. The Vatican said Pope Francis spent about 45 minutes hearing confessions, offering the sacrament to a dozen priests before beginning his talk. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

How faith develops in “a man, in a priest” despite his flaws can be seen in St. Peter, the pope said March 2 as he led a meditation with diocesan and religious clergy.

“One thing is clear: Temptation is always present in the life of Simon Peter and temptation is always present in our lives. Moreover, without temptation, you cannot progress in faith. In the Our Father, we ask for the grace to not fall but not to not be tempted,” he said.  

The meeting, held at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, was delayed for roughly 45 minutes as Pope Francis heard the confessions of a dozen priests, according to the Vatican press office.

Greeted with a warm applause by the priests, the pope said that he would not read his entire meditation and instead focus on key aspects of his talk, titled, “The progress of faith in priestly life.”

Without a continual growth in faith, the pope said, priests run the risk of remaining immature and living priestly life “halfway.”

“And we priests, if we do not have a mature faith capable of generating faith in others — that is, fatherhood — we can do harm and so much evil. But if faith grows, it does so much good,” the pope said, departing from his prepared remarks.

Faith, he continued, must be nourished by three important components: memory, rooted in the faith of the church and “the faith of our fathers”; hope, which sustains faith; and “discernment of the present moment.”

These three components, however, hinge on a “fixed point.” The pope gave the example of a basketball player who, with his foot firmly “pinned to the ground,” moves to either protect the ball, find a way to pass it or look for a path toward the basket.

“For us, that foot pinned to the ground, around which we pivot, is the cross of Christ,” the pope said. “Faith, the progress and growth of faith, is always based on the cross, on the scandal of the cross.”

Memory, he explained, feeds and nourishes faith, particularly the memory of the “covenant the Lord has made with us” through parents and grandparents.

Speaking off-the-cuff, the pope recalled a retreat when he found it difficult to be touched by the preacher’s meditation on death and the final judgment.

At that moment, he said, “I remembered a writing my grandmother had on her nightstand: ‘Be careful, God is watching you. Think that you will die and you do not know when.’ And in that moment, I could pray and go forward. It was (my) roots that opened the way. A Christian always progresses from the root. Do not forget your roots.”

Pope Francis said that faith is also strengthened through hope, which helps priests to “find new things” from their past to encounter God in those they are called to help.

“Faith is knowing how to see in the face of the poor you meet today, the same Lord who will come to judge us according to the protocol of Matthew 25, ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’”

To understand the past and sustain hope for the future, he added, discernment in the present is important and it often involves taking a step back to see the bigger picture.

Priests, however, often have the “insidious temptation” of “sterile pessimism,” which seeks to resolve matters quickly and often gives in to the “evil spirit of defeat.”

An example of a progression in faith through memory, hope and discernment, he said, is the apostle Peter, a man who is a “paradox” in that Jesus would often extol the virtues of others while Peter was often reproached for his lack of faith.

Peter’s faith, however, is “faith that is tested,” and through that he has the mission of confirming the faith of the disciples and the church today.

At key moments in his life, the pope continued, Peter is strengthened in his faith. Jesus “prays for him so that his weakness, and even his sin, is transformed into a grace” for him and for all.

Not following the example of Peter, the pope said, “a priest or a bishop who does not feel he is a sinner, who does not confess, who is closed in himself, does not progress in faith.”

Pope Francis explained that the devil’s greatest temptation was to instill in Peter the idea that he was “not worthy to be Jesus’ friend because he betrayed him.”

Although “the weight of our sins makes us move away from the Lord,” the pope said the Lord is always faithful and “confirms us in our shepherding, in leading the flock.”

“The Lord keeps moving forward and Peter’s faith is full. And that sinner, who denied him, the Lord made him pope,” Pope Francis said. “That is the Lord’s logic.”

 

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Pope, at Anglican church in Rome, calls ecumenism a shared journey

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Catholic News Service

ROME — The path toward Christian unity can’t be found isolated in a laboratory hashing out theological differences, but rather by walking together on a common journey, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis laughs during an evening prayer service at All Saints' Anglican Church in Rome Feb. 26. It was the first time a pope has visited an Anglican place of worship in Rome. (CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella,)

Pope Francis laughs during an evening prayer service at All Saints’ Anglican Church in Rome Feb. 26. It was the first time a pope has visited an Anglican place of worship in Rome. (CNS photo/Maria Grazia Picciarella,)

While theological dialogue is necessary, Catholics and Anglicans can continue to “help each other in our needs, in our lives and help each other spiritually,” the pope said Feb. 26 while answering questions from parishioners of All Saints’ Anglican Church in Rome.

“This cannot be done in a laboratory; it must be done walking together along the way. We are on a journey and while we walk, we can have these (theological) discussions,” he said.

The pope made history as the first pontiff to visit the Anglican parish, which was celebrating the 200th anniversary of its establishment in Rome.

Invited by the Anglican community, Pope Francis took part in an evening liturgy and blessed an icon of Christ the Savior to commemorate the occasion.

The prayer service included a “twinning” pledge between All Saints’ Anglican Church and the Catholic parish that shares its name in Rome. As Pope Francis looked on, the pastors of both parishes signed a pledge to collaborate in joint retreats, works of charity and sharing meals with each other.

Rev. Jonathan Boardman, chaplain of the Anglican church in Rome, presented the pope with several gifts that highlight his concern for the poor and the marginalized, including a promise to serve meals to the homeless once a week in his name.

He also said 50 English Bibles will be given in the pope’s name to Anglican nuns in Rome who minister to the city’s prostitutes.

The Anglican community also presented Pope Francis with a basket of homemade jams and chutneys as well as a Simnel cake, a traditional fruitcake typically served on the fourth Sunday of Lent and adorned with 11 marzipan balls representing the 12 apostles, minus Judas.

After welcoming the pope to the parish, Rev. Boardman noted that when divisions first began, the title “Bishop of Rome” was once used by Anglicans as an insult “or an attempt to belittle it.”

“Today for us recognizing your unique role in witnessing to the Gospel and leading Christ’s church, it is ironic that what we once used in a cruel attempt to put you in your place has become the key to your pastoral kindness in being alongside us and so many other Christians around the world,” Rev. Boardman said.

The pope thanked the congregation and acknowledged that much has changed between Anglicans and Catholics, “who in the past viewed each other with suspicion and hostility.”

“Today, with gratitude to God, we recognize one another as we truly are: brothers and sisters in Christ, through our common baptism. As friends and pilgrims, we wish to walk the path together, to follow our Lord Jesus Christ together,” he said.

He also emphasized the need for Catholics and Anglicans to work together to help those in need in order to build “true, solid communion” through a “united witness to charity.”

Following the prayer service, the pope took some moments to answer questions from several members of the Anglican church.

Asked his opinion on current relations between Catholics and Anglicans, the pope said that while relations between the two communities have been at times “two steps forward, half step back,”” they are still good and “we care for each other like brothers and sisters.”

Ernest, an Anglican seminarian, also asked the pope whether Anglicans and Catholics in Europe can learn from the example of churches in Asia, Africa and the Pacific whose “ecumenical relations are better and more creative.”

Pope Francis said the younger churches “have a different vitality” and have a “stronger need” to collaborate.

An example of this, he added, was a request made by Anglican, Catholic and Presbyterian bishops of South Sudan for him to visit the country along with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury.

“This creativity came from them, the young church. And we are thinking about whether it can be done, if the situation is too difficult down there. But we must do it because they, the three (bishops), together want peace and they are working together for peace,” the pope said.

 

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Access to clean water is essential right for humanity, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right and a key component in protecting human life, Pope Francis said.

“The right to water is essential for the survival of persons and decisive for the future of humanity,” the pope said Feb. 24 during a meeting with 90 international experts participating in a “Dialogue on Water” at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

A man fills buckets with drinking water a a public filling area Feb. 3 in Aleppo, Syria. Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right and a key component in protecting human life, Pope Francis said Feb. 24 during a meeting with 90 international experts participating in a "Dialogue on Water" at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. (CNS photo/Youssef Badawi, EPA) See POPE-WATER Feb. 24, 2017.

A man fills buckets with drinking water a a public filling area Feb. 3 in Aleppo, Syria. Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right and a key component in protecting human life, Pope Francis said Feb. 24 during a meeting with 90 international experts participating in a “Dialogue on Water” at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. (CNS photo/Youssef Badawi, EPA) 

Looking at all the conflicts around the globe, Pope Francis said, “I ask myself if we are not moving toward a great world war over water.”

Access to water is a basic and urgent matter, he said. “Basic, because where there is water there is life, making it possible for societies to arise and advance. Urgent, because our common home needs to be protected.”

Citing troubling statistics from the United Nations, the pope said, “each day’ each day! — a thousand children die from water-related illnesses and millions of persons consume polluted water.”

While the situation is urgent, it is not insurmountable, he said. “Our commitment to giving water its proper place calls for developing a culture of care, that may sound poetic, but that is fine because creation is a poem.”

Scientists, business leaders, religious believers and politicians must work together to educate people on the need to protect water resources and to find more ways to ensure greater access to clean water “so that others can live,” he said.

A lack of clean and safe drinking water “is a source of great suffering in our common home,” the pope said. “It also cries out for practical solutions capable of surmounting the selfish concerns that prevent everyone from exercising this fundamental right.”

“We need to unite our voices in a single cause; then it will no longer be a case of hearing individual or isolated voices, but rather the plea of our brothers and sisters echoed in our own, and the cry of the earth for respect and responsible sharing in a treasure belonging to all,” he said.

If each person contributes, he said, “we will be helping to make our common home a more livable and fraternal place, where none are rejected or excluded, but all enjoy the goods needed to live and to grow in dignity.”

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‘In God, justice is mercy and mercy is justice,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus was motivated by truth and mercy, not blanket judgments that lead to deceit and hypocritical ways of skirting around God’s law, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis delivers his homily during Mass  in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta last year at the Vatican. In his Feb. 23 at the chapel, the pope said Jesus was motivated by truth and mercy, not blanket judgments. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano handout via EPA) See POPE-HOMILY-DESOLATION Sept. 27, 2017.

Pope Francis delivers his homily during Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta last year at the Vatican. In his Feb. 23 at the chapel, the pope said Jesus was motivated by truth and mercy, not blanket judgments. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano/EPA) 

Christians are called to be “just in mercy” rather than following the letter of the law but not the heart of the law, the pope said Feb. 23 during morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta.

“To those who wanted to put him to the test, to those who thought with this logic of ‘you can do this,’ he regards them, not here but in another passage of the Gospel, as hypocrites,” the pope said.

The day’s Gospel reading told of the Pharisees attempting to trap Jesus by asking his thoughts on Moses granting permission for men to divorce their wives.

“Jesus doesn’t answer saying whether it is lawful or not lawful; he does not enter into their case-based reasoning. Because they thought about faith only in terms of you can or you cant” do this or that, he said.

However, the pope noted, Jesus uses the truth to trap them, calling them out on their “hard-hearted” nature, which is precisely what they used to justify their actions.

Instead of being “deceitful” and “hypocritical” like the Pharisees, he continued, Jesus focuses on truth and mercy. Although Jesus confirms that leaving one spouse for another is adultery, he doesn’t reject those who are considered adulterous.

Several times in the Gospels, Jesus speaks to adulterers and says, “‘I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.’ How is this possible?” the pope asked.

“The path of Jesus, it is clearly seen, is the path from case-based reasoning to truth and mercy,” he said.

Christians need the grace of God in order to pass from a hypocritical mentality of case-based reasoning that views justice and mercy as two separate entities, he said.

“They are not two: it is only one, one thing,” Pope Francis said. “In God, justice is mercy and mercy is justice. May the Lord help us to understand this path, which isn’t easy but it will make us happy and it will make many people happy.”

 

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