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Church is always in need of repair, reform, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Although the church is built upon a strong foundation, it is always in need of being reformed and repaired, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis arrives for his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 23. (CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Before reciting the Angelus prayer Aug. 27, Pope Francis said that Christians are the “living stones” that Christ uses to fill in the gaps and crevices that continually appear.

“Even with us today, Jesus wants to continue building his church, this house with solid foundations yet where cracks aren’t lacking and which still needs to be repaired. Always,” the pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

The pope spoke about the day’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew in which Peter proclaims that Jesus is “the Christ, the son of the living God.”

With Peter’s affirmation, the pope said, Jesus understands that “thanks to the faith given him by the father, there is a solid foundation upon which he can build his community, his church.”

Christ proclaimed Peter the rock upon which he would build his church, the pope said. And Christ sees every believer, no matter how small, as a precious stone that he can use “in the right place” and continue building up the church.

“Each one of us is a small stone, but in Jesus’ hands we participate in the construction of the church,” the pope said. “And all of us, as small as we are, are made into ‘living stones’ because when Jesus takes a stone in his hand, he makes it his own, he makes it alive, full of life, full of the life of the Holy Spirit, full of life from his love.”

“Thus, we have a place and mission in the church: to be a community of life made up of many stones, all different, that form one single edifice in the sign of brotherhood and communion,” Pope Francis said.

The Gospel, he added, reminds Christians that Jesus wanted Peter and his successors, the popes, to be the “visible center of communion” for the church.

     

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Pope Francis calls Vatican II’s liturgical reforms ‘irreversible’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church must continue to work to understand the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and why they were made, rather than rethinking them, Pope Francis said. Read more »

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Imprisonment without hope for the future is torture, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Although prisoners must pay a price for their crimes, incarceration must not be used as a method of torture but rather an opportunity to become contributing members of society, Pope Francis said. Read more »

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Pope: God weeps with the suffering and offers a future of joy

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — While the world reels from terrorism, natural disasters and division, God weeps with those who suffer and offers the hope of a future full of joy and consolation, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets children as he arrives for his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 23. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Recalling the victims of a terror attack in Barcelona Aug. 17, a devastating landslide Aug. 16 in Congo, and “many other” tragic global events, the pope urged Christians to meditate on God’s tenderness when “they report sad news, which we are all at risk of becoming accustomed to.”

“Think of the faces of children frightened by war, the cry of mothers, the broken dreams of many young people, the refugees who face terrible journeys and are exploited so many times,” the pope said Aug. 23 during his weekly general audience.

Continuing his series of audience talks on Christian hope, Pope Francis said that in moments of suffering, Christians can find comfort in knowing they have a heavenly father, who “weeps tears of infinite pity for his children” and “has prepared for us a different future.”

Reflecting on a reading from the Book of Revelation in which God proclaims that he “makes all things new,” the pope explained that Christian hope is based on “faith that God always creates new things” in history, in the cosmos and in everyday life.

Christians must not look downward “like pigs” as if “we were forced into an eternal wandering without any reason for our many labors,” he said. Rather, they must trust in God’s promise of a “heavenly Jerusalem,” a place “where there is no more death nor mourning nor weeping or pain.”

God did not create human beings “by mistake, sentencing himself and us to hard nights of anguish,” the pope said. “He created us because he wants us to be happy. He is our father and, if right now we are experiencing a life that isn’t what he wanted for us, Jesus assures us that God himself is working on our salvation. He works to save us.”

Christians, he added, are called to be “people of spring rather than fall” and must always hold on to the hope that “our most beautiful days are yet to come.”

“Don’t forget to ask yourselves this question: Am I a person of the spring or the fall?” the pope told the pilgrims. “Am I of the spring, which awaits the flowers, awaits the fruit, awaits the sun that is Jesus? Or fall, which always has a face cast down, bitter and, as I have said at times, a sourpuss?”

Like the wheat that grows even when surrounded by darnels, the kingdom of God continues to grow even amid “problems, gossip, war, and sickness,” Pope Francis said.

“Creation did not end on the sixth day of Genesis, but continued tirelessly because God always worries about us,” he said. “Yes, our father is a God of newness and surprises. And on that day, we will be truly happy and we will weep, but we will be weeping with joy.”

     

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Pope Francis urges respect for migrants, refugees

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — With millions of people fleeing violence, persecution and poverty around the globe, individual nations must expand options that make it possible for migrants and refugees to cross their borders safely and legally, Pope Francis said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers arrest a man in San Clemente, Calif., May 11. Pope Francis released a statement Aug. 21 urging respect for the life and dignity of migrants and refugees. (CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters)

“The principle of the centrality of the human person, firmly stated by my beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI, obliges us to always prioritize personal safety over national security,” Pope Francis wrote in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2018.

The Vatican will mark the day Jan. 14, while in the United States, the bishops’ conference sets aside an entire week, Jan. 7-13, as National Migration Week.

The pope’s message for the annual event was released Aug. 21, which is earlier than normal, to stimulate Catholic involvement in the U.N. process for developing and adopting a Global Compact for Migration and a Global Compact on Refugees.

Since the U.N. General Assembly voted in September 2016 to draw up the compacts, the Vatican and many Catholic organizations have been participating in the discussions and hearings to formulate them. The U.N. hopes to have a draft of the compacts ready by February and to present them to the General Assembly in September 2018.

Approving the development of the compacts, “world leaders clearly expressed their desire to take decisive action in support of migrants and refugees to save their lives and protect their rights,” the pope said in his message. He urged Catholics to get involved by lobbying their governments to include in the compacts proposals that would ensure the welcome, protection, promotion and integration of migrants and refugees.

For Catholics, he said, “every stranger who knocks at our door is an opportunity for an encounter with Jesus Christ, who identifies with the welcomed and rejected strangers of every age.”

“The Lord entrusts to the church’s motherly love every person forced to leave their homeland in search of a better future,” Pope Francis wrote.

To fulfill its duties toward migrants and refugees, he said, the church needs all of its members to act in solidarity with them, whether it is in countries of departure, transit, arrival or return.

In the message, Pope Francis called for countries to: “increase and simplify the process for granting humanitarian visas and for reunifying families”; grant special temporary visas to people fleeing conflict; uphold the rights and dignity of migrants and refugees “independent of their legal status”; educate people in migrant-sending countries about their rights and obligations abroad; stop the detention of underage migrants; provide migrants, refugees and asylum seekers with work permits so they can begin supporting themselves and contributing to their new communities; and guarantee the right of all migrants and refugees to practice their faith.

“Considering the current situation, welcoming means, above all, offering broader options for migrants and refugees to enter destination countries safely and legally,” the pope said.

And, he said, even when faced with situations in which someone has entered a country without the proper legal permits, “collective and arbitrary expulsions of migrants and refugees are not suitable solutions, particularly where people are returned to countries which cannot guarantee respect for human dignity and fundamental rights.”

Nations and local communities, the pope said, need to do more to integrate migrants and refugees in the communities that welcome them. Integration does not mean the newcomers will be asked to give up their cultural identity, but that they will have opportunities to share their cultures and to discover the cultural heritage of their new communities.

Pope Francis signed the message Aug. 15, the feast of the Assumption, and entrusted to Mary “the hopes of all the world’s migrants and refugees and the aspirations of the communities which welcome them, so that, responding to the Lord’s supreme commandment, we may all learn to love the other, the stranger, as ourselves.”

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Pope leads prayers for an end to ‘inhuman violence’ of terrorism

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — “Let us beg the Lord, God of mercy and peace, to free the world from this inhuman violence,” Pope Francis prayed after a week of deadly terrorist attacks in Africa and Europe.

People pay tribute in Barcelona, Spain, Aug. 18, to victims on the site of a deadly van attack the previous day. (CNS photo/Quique Garcia, EPA)

Reciting the Angelus prayer at midday, the pope asked an estimated 10,000 people in St. Peter’s Square to pray in silence and then to join him in reciting the Hail Mary for the victims of the attacks the previous week in Burkina Faso, Spain and Finland.

At a restaurant in Ouagadougou Aug. 13, gunmen opened fire on people eating outside. Authorities in Burkina Faso said 18 people died and 20 were injured. The gunmen were believed to be part of a group known as “al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.”

In Spain, 13 people died after a van mowed down pedestrians Aug. 17 on Barcelona’s famous Las Ramblas street and another woman died in a vehicle attack the next day in Cambrils. Five suspects were killed by police and other members of what authorities described as a 12-man terrorist cell were being sought.

In Turku, Finland, Aug. 18, two women were stabbed to death and eight other people were injured in what police described as a terrorist attack.

Among the pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square for the midday prayer were the 50 first-year students of the Pontifical North American College, the seminary in Rome sponsored by the U.S. bishops. Pope Francis gave them a shout out before wishing everyone in the square a happy Sunday.

In his main Angelus talk, the pope spoke about the day’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew about the Canaanite woman who persistently asks Jesus to heal her daughter.

“This woman’s interior strength, which allows her to overcome every obstacle, can be found in her maternal love and in her trust that Jesus can fulfill her request,” the pope said. “This makes me think of the strength of women. With their strength they are able to obtain great things. We’ve know many women like this.”

In the Gospel story, when the woman first cries out, Jesus seems to ignore her, the pope noted. But she is not discouraged and continues to call out to him.

In the end, Jesus recognizes her great faith and answers her request, the pope said. “Her insistence in invoking Christ’s intervention stimulates us never to be discouraged and not to despair when we are oppressed by the harsh trials of life.”

“The Lord does not turn away from our needs and, if sometimes he seems indifferent to our requests for help, it is to test us and strengthen our faith,” Pope Francis said. “We must continue to cry, like this woman: ‘Lord, help me. Lord, help me.’’”

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On feast of Assumption, pope entrusts victims of disasters, conflict, social tension to Mary

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In a week in which natural disasters, war and racial conflicts dominated the headlines, Pope Francis prayed that Mary would bring peace to a divided world.

After reciting the Angelus prayer on the feast of the Assumption, the pope asked Mary to obtain “for everyone consolation and a future of serenity and harmony.”

Pope Francis gives a blessing during his Angelus prayer on the feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15, at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

“To Mary, Queen of Peace, who we contemplate today in the glory of paradise, I entrust once again the anxieties and sorrows of the people who suffer in many parts of the world due to natural disasters, social tensions or conflicts,” the pope told thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 15.

Pope Francis did not name any specific location, but as he spoke, the search for survivors continued in Sierra Leone after a devastating mudslide engulfed the outskirts of the capital, Freetown, killing more than 300 people. Flooding and landslides also struck southern Nepal, killing at least 70 people.

In Charlottesville, Va., clashes between white nationalists and protesters resulted in the death of three people, including a 32-year-old paralegal, Heather D. Heyer, who was killed Aug. 12 when a car plowed into a group protesting the white nationalist rally.

In his main Angelus talk, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, which recalled Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth.

The joy felt by Elizabeth and the child in her womb reflects the interior joy Christians feel in Christ’s presence, the pope said. “When Mary arrives, joy overflows and bursts from their hearts because the invisible yet real presence of Jesus fills everything with meaning: life, family, the salvation of the people. Everything!”

In response, Mary proclaims the Magnificat, her hymn of praise to God for his great works. Pope Francis said it is the hymn of “humble people, unknown to the world, like Mary, like her husband Joseph as well as the town where they live, Nazareth.”

God accomplishes “great things with humble people,” the pope said, inviting people in St. Peter’s Square to reflect on the state of their own humility.

“Humility is like an empty space that leaves room for God. A humble person is powerful because he is humble, not because he is strong. This is the greatness of humility,” he said.

The joy Mary brings because she brings Jesus to the world gives all Christians “a new ability to pass through the most painful and difficult moments with faith” as well as the “ability to be merciful, to forgive, understand and support each other.”

“Mary is a model of virtue and faith,” Pope Francis said. “We ask her to protect and sustain us that we may have a faith that is strong, joyful and merciful. May she help us to become saints, to meet her one day in paradise.”

     

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Cling to the Lord for security, not horoscopes, pope says

August 14th, 2017 Posted in Vatican News

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When passing through the storm of life’s difficult moments, Christians must latch on to Christ and not the false sense of security offered by psychics and soothsayers, Pope Francis said.

Speaking to pilgrims before reciting the Angelus Aug. 13, Pope Francis talked about the day’s Gospel passage, which recounts the story of Jesus walking on water. Jesus tells St. Peter to come to him, but his lack of faith when walking on the water toward Jesus during a storm leads to him slowly to start sinking in the sea.

A parrot of a Pakistani fortuneteller holds a fortune letter in Karachi, Pakistan, in this file photo. (CNS photo/Akhtar Soomro, EPA)

Christians today, Pope Francis said, also can doubt the assurance of Christ’s presence when confronting life’s “turbulent and hostile waters.”

“When we do not cling to the word of the Lord, but consult horoscopes and fortunetellers to have more security, we begin to sink,” the pope said.

Although most Romans escape the city during the summer, hundreds of pilgrims still made their way to St. Peter’s Square, waving banners and flags while cheering loudly as the pope appeared in the window of the Apostolic Palace.

Pope Francis said the Sunday Gospel reading invites all Christians to reflect on their faith “both as individuals and as an ecclesial community, even the faith of all us here today in the square.”

St. Peter’s request that Jesus call him, his moment of doubt and his subsequent cry for Jesus to save him, the pope said, “resembles our desire to feel close to the Lord, but also the fear and anguish that accompanies the most difficult moments of our life and of our communities, marked by internal frailty and external difficulty.”

“Today’s Gospel reminds us that faith in the Lord and in his word doesn’t open a path where everything is easy and calm; it doesn’t take away life’s storms,” the pope said. “Faith gives us the security of a presence, Jesus’ presence, which pushes us to overcome existential storms, and the assurance of a hand that grabs us to help us face the difficulties, showing us the way even when it is dark.”

The image of the boat in troubled waters, he added, also can represent the church, which throughout history has faced storms that “threaten to overwhelm her.”

What saves the church is not “courage or the quality of its members,” but rather “faith in Christ and his word.”

“In short, faith is not an escape from life’s problems but sustains it along the journey and gives it meaning,” Pope Francis said.

     

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Pope Francis saddened by ‘perfect’ Catholics who scorn others

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God did not choose perfect people to form his church, but rather sinners who have experienced his love and forgiveness, Pope Francis said.

The Gospel of Luke’s account of Jesus forgiving the sinful woman shows how his actions went against the general mentality of his time, a way of thinking that saw a “clear separation” between the pure and impure, the pope said Aug. 9 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis blesses a woman during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 9 . (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis blesses a woman during his weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 9 . (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“There were some scribes, those who believed they were perfect,” the pope said. “And I think about so many Catholics who think they are perfect and scorn others. This is sad.”

Continuing his series of audience talks about Christian hope, the pope reflected on Jesus’ “scandalous gesture” of forgiving the sinful woman.

The woman, he said, was one of many poor women who were visited secretly even by those who denounced them as sinful.

Although Jesus’ love toward the sick and the marginalized “baffles his contemporaries,” it reveals God’s heart as the place where suffering men and women can find love, compassion and healing, Pope Francis said.

“How many people continue today in a wayward life because they find no one willing to look at them in a different way, with the eyes, or better yet, with the heart of God, meaning with hope,” he said. But “Jesus sees the possibility of a resurrection even in those who have made so many wrong choices.”

Oftentimes, the pope continued, Christians become accustomed to having their sins forgiven and receiving God’s unconditional love while forgetting the heavy price Jesus paid by dying on the cross.

By forgiving sinners, Jesus doesn’t seek to free them from a guilty conscience, but rather offers “people who have made mistakes the hope of a new life, a life marked by love,” the pope said.

The church is a people formed “of sinners who have experienced the mercy and forgiveness of God,” Pope Francis said. Christians are “all poor sinners” who need God’s mercy, “which strengthens us and gives us hope.”

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Pope tells Belgian religious order to stop offering euthanasia to patients

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Catholic News Service

Pope Francis has given a Belgian religious order until the end of August to stop offering euthanasia to psychiatric patients.

Activists take part in an anti-euthanasia protest in 2014, in Brussels. Pope Francis has ordered the Brothers of Charity, who run psychiatric care centers in Belgium, to stop offering euthanasia to their patients. (CNS photo/Julien Warnand, EPA)

Activists take part in an anti-euthanasia protest in 2014, in Brussels. Pope Francis has ordered the Brothers of Charity, who run psychiatric care centers in Belgium, to stop offering euthanasia to their patients. (CNS photo/Julien Warnand, EPA)

Brother Rene Stockman, superior general of the order, said the pope gave his personal approval to a Vatican demand that the Brothers of Charity, which runs 15 centers for psychiatric patients across Belgium, must reverse its policy by the end of August.

Brothers who serve on the board of the Brothers of Charity Group, the organization that runs the centers, also must each sign a joint letter to their superior general declaring that they “fully support the vision of the magisterium of the Catholic Church, which has always confirmed that human life must be respected and protected in absolute terms, from the moment of conception till its natural end.”

Brothers who refuse to sign will face sanctions under canon law, while the group can expect to face legal action and even expulsion from the church if it fails to change its policy.

The group, he added, must no longer consider euthanasia as a solution to human suffering under any circumstances.

The order, issued at the beginning of August, follows repeated requests for the group to drop its new policy of permitting doctors to perform the euthanasia of “nonterminal” mentally ill patients on its premises.

It also follows a joint investigation by the Vatican’s congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith and for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Brother Stockman, who had opposed the group’s euthanasia policy, said the ultimatum was devised by the two congregations and has the support of the pope.

“The Holy Father was formally informed about it and was also informed about the steps to be taken,” he said in an Aug. 8 email.

The ultimatum, he said, meant the group’s policies must be underpinned by a belief that “repect for human life is absolute.”

Brother Stockman said that if the group refused to bow to the ultimatum “then we will take juridical steps in order to force them to amend the text (of the new policy) and, if that is not possible, then we have to start the procedure to exclude the hospitals from the Brothers of Charity family and take away their Catholic identity.”

He said if any of the brothers refused to sign the letter upholding Catholic teaching against euthanasia, “then also we will start the correct procedure foreseen in canon law.”

The Belgian bishops and the nuncio to Belgium have been informed about the ultimatum, he added.

Brother Stockman, a psychiatric care specialist, had turned to the Vatican in the spring after the Brothers of Charity group rejected a formal request from him to reverse the new policy.

The group also snubbed the Belgian bishops by formally implementing its euthanasia policy in June, just weeks after the bishops declared they would not accept euthanasia in Catholic institutions.

The group has also ignored a statement of church teaching forbidding euthanasia. The statement, written and signed by Cardinal Gerhard Muller, former head of the doctrinal congregation, was sent to the Brothers of Charity Group members. A copy of the document has been obtained Catholic News Service.

Father Peter Joseph Triest, whose cause for beatification was opened in 2001, founded the Brothers of Charity in Ghent, Belgium, in 1807. Their charism is to serve the elderly and mentally ill.

Today, the group is considered the most important provider of mental health care services in the Flanders region of Belgium, where they serve 5,000 patients a year.

About 12 psychiatric patients in the care of the Brothers are believed to have asked for euthanasia over the past year, with two transferred elsewhere to receive the injections to end their lives.

The group first announced its euthanasia policy in March, saying it wished to harmonize the practices of the centers with the Belgian law on euthanasia passed in 2003, the year after the Netherlands became the first country to permit the practice since Nazi Germany.

Technically, euthanasia in Belgium remains an offense, with the law protecting doctors from prosecution only if they abide by specific criteria, but increasingly lethal injections are given to the disabled and mentally ill. Since 2014 “emancipated children” have also qualified for euthanasia.

The group’s change in policy came about a year after a private Catholic rest home in Diest, Belgium, was fined $6,600 for refusing the euthanasia of a 74-year-old woman suffering from lung cancer.

Catholic News Service has approached the Brothers of Charity Group for a comment.

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