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Order of Malta disputes legality of investigation panel established by pope

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The leadership of the Order of Malta denied the legality of a Vatican investigation into the forced resignation of the group’s former grand chancellor, but the commission established by Pope Francis said it “is completely legitimate and authorized” to investigate the matter and inform the pope.

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Fra Matthew Festing, prince and grand master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, during a private audience last June at the Vatican. The order has denying the Vatican has authority to investigate its internal affairs. (CNS/Reuters)

Pope Francis exchanges gifts with Fra Matthew Festing, prince and grand master of the Sovereign Order of Malta, during a private audience last June at the Vatican. The order is denying the Vatican has authority to investigate its internal affairs. (CNS/Reuters)

According to one of the legal notes prepared for the commission, the pope’s right to be informed of the circumstances surrounding the removal of Albrecht Freiherr von Boeselager relates “to the authority he exercises directly and immediately over all baptized faithful, whether lay or clerical.”

“This is not about interfering in the internal affairs of the order because the purpose of the commission, as is evident, is to give an account to the Holy Father on the procedures (used to remove von Boeselager) and nothing else,” said the note, which was dated Jan. 11 and shown to Catholic News Service.

The Grand Magistry of the order had released a statement Jan. 10 stating its refusal to cooperate with the Vatican commission, citing what it termed the “legal irrelevance” of the commission and claiming that the members were “appointed by the Secretary of State of the Vatican.”

The grand master of the order, Fra Matthew Festing, also insisted that the former chancellor’s removal was an act of internal governance that falls exclusively within the order’s power.

Meeting with members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the order Jan. 10, Festing told the international representatives that von Boeselager’s removal will not affect the order’s charitable operations.

“Our decentralized nature ensures that our activities assisting people in difficulty and need, continues unaffected in the 120 countries where the Order of Malta operates,” Festing said.

According to its website, the order has bilateral diplomatic relations with 106 countries and the European Union, as well as permanent observer status at the United Nations and international Cooperation Agreements with over 50 states “to facilitate its humanitarian activities and allow unrestricted and protected access, especially in crisis regions.”

Von Boeselager, a German nobleman, was removed due to “severe problems” during his tenure as grand hospitaller of the Order of Malta and “his subsequent concealment of these problems from the Grand Magistry,” the order said. Numerous media reports have said the problems specifically regarded the distribution of condoms by aid agencies working with the order’s Malteser International.

Festing, in the presence of U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, patron of the order, requested that von Boeselager resign. His refusal to resign resulted in his removal in early December. John E. Critien was elected grand chancellor ad interim Dec. 14.

Pope Francis established the commission Dec. 22 to gather the facts and “completely inform” the Holy See about the situation and circumstances leading to von Boeselager’s removal as well as to foster dialogue and a peaceful resolution, according to a Vatican statement.

The order’s sovereignty is at the heart of its argument against the legality of the commission, which is led by Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, former Vatican representative to U.N. agencies in Geneva.

Other members of the commission are: Jesuit Father Gianfranco Ghirlanda, a canon lawyer and former rector of the Pontifical Gregorian University; Jacques de Liedekerke, former chancellor of the Order of Malta; Marc Odendall, counselor of the order; and Marwan Sehnaoui, president of the Order of Malta in Lebanon.

The order said its refusal to cooperate with the commission aims to protect its independence “against initiatives which claim to be directed at objectively (and, therefore –- quite apart from its intentions -– reveals it to be legally irrelevant) questioning or even limiting said sovereignty.”

However, the commission’s legal note directly addresses the order’s concern, stating that the group was established by Pope Francis, who yields authority over the laity and clergy “as well as immediate authority over religious orders.”

“This does not in any way put into question the sovereignty of the order exercised by the sovereign Grand Master,” the note stated.

The commission also cited the order’s constitutional charter in explaining its legitimacy, specifically citing the order’s vow of obedience. According to article 62, “professed knights and chaplains bind themselves to obey the Holy Father.”

The commission’s legal note said that both the order’s constitution and the Code of Canon Law “indicate the obedience due to the Holy Father.”

“Therefore, the Holy Father has full authority to ask his commission to respond to him and him alone about an investigation to clarify the procedure that led to the suspension of the Grand Chancellor from office,” the note stated.

The commission met Jan. 5-6 and was to begin hearing witnesses Jan. 16. Additionally, a member said, the commission has received written testimonies, mainly from members of the order, especially presidents of the national associations of the Knights of Malta.

Contributing to this story was Cindy Wooden at the Vatican.

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Pope: Jesus’ service to others gave him authority

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus astonished people with the way he taught and interacted with others because he wasn’t aloof, domineering or hypocritical, Pope Francis said in a homily.

“Jesus wasn’t allergic to people. Touching lepers, the sick did not disgust him,” whereas the Pharisees, who strolled around in fine clothes, looked down on the people and considered them ignorant, he said at the Mass Jan. 10 in the chapel of his residence.

Pope Francis (CNS photo/Alberto Pizzoli, pool)

Pope Francis (CNS photo/Alberto Pizzoli, pool)

“They were removed from the people, they weren’t close,” the pope said of the Pharisees. “Jesus was very close to the people and this gave him authority.”

The pope’s homily centered on the day’s Gospel reading (Mark 1:21-28) in which people gathered at the synagogue in Capernaum “were astonished” at Jesus’ teaching because he displayed an authority that differed so greatly from that of the scribes.

The people would listen to and be respectful toward the doctors of the law and the scribes, but the people didn’t take what they said “to heart,” he said.

These teachers felt themselves superior, as if to say: “We are the teachers, the princes and we teach you. No service. We command, you obey,” the pope said. But Jesus “never passed himself off as a prince. He was always the servant of everyone and this is what gave him authority.”

The traditional teachers were hypocrites, declaring the truth, but not doing what they preached, Pope Francis said.

Jesus “lived what he preached,” he said, representing the harmonious union of “what he thought, felt and did.”

“Jesus, who is humble, who is at the service (of others), who is near, who doesn’t despise people and who is consistent, has authority,” the pope said. “This is the authority that the people of God sense.”

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Doctrinal chief dismisses idea of a ‘fraternal correction’ of pope

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church is “very far” from a situation in which the pope is in need of “fraternal correction” because he has not put the faith and church teaching in danger, said Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Interviewed Jan. 9 on the Italian all-news channel, TGCom24, Cardinal Muller said Pope Francis’ document on the family, “Amoris Laetitia,” was “very clear” in its teaching.

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, arrives for a news conference at the Vatican in this June 14, 2016, file photo. Cardinal Muller said the Catholic Church is "very far" from a situation in which Pope Francis is in need of "fraternal correction." He made his comment in an interview about the pope's apostolic exhortation, "Amoris Laetitia," with Italian news channel TGCom24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, arrives for a news conference at the Vatican in this June 14, 2016, file photo. Cardinal Muller said the Catholic Church is “very far” from a situation in which Pope Francis is in need of “fraternal correction.” He made his comment in an interview about the pope’s apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia,” with Italian news channel TGCom24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In the document, the cardinal said, Pope Francis asks priests “to discern the situation of these persons living in an irregular union — that is, not in accordance with the doctrine of the church on marriage — and asks for help for these people to find a path for a new integration into the church according to the condition of the sacraments (and) the Christian message on matrimony.”

In the papal document, he said, “I do not see any opposition: On one side we have the clear doctrine on matrimony, and on the other the obligation of the church to care for these people in difficulty.”

The cardinal was interviewed about a formal request to Pope Francis for clarification about “Amoris Laetitia” and particularly its call for the pastoral accompaniment of people who are divorced and civilly remarried or who are living together without marriage.

The request, called a “dubia,” was written in September by U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, patron of the Knights of Malta, and three other cardinals. They published the letter in November after Pope Francis did not respond.

In an interview later, Cardinal Burke said the pope must respond to the “dubia” because they directly impact the faith and the teaching of the church. If there is no response, he said, a formal “correction of the pope” would be in order.

Cardinal Muller told the Italian television that “a possible fraternal correction of the pope seems very remote at this time because it does not concern a danger for the faith,” which is the situation St. Thomas Aquinas described for fraternal correction. “It harms the church” for cardinals to so publicly challenge the pope, he said.

In his letter on the family, Pope Francis affirmed church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, but he also urged pastors to provide spiritual guidance and assistance with discernment to Catholics who have married civilly without an annulment of their church marriage. A process of discernment, he has said, might eventually lead to a determination that access to the sacraments is possible.

The possibility reflects a change in church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage and the sinfulness of sexual relations outside a valid marriage, in the view of the document written by Cardinals Burke; Walter Brandmuller, a German and former president of the Pontifical Commission for Historical Sciences; Carlo Caffarra, retired archbishop of Bologna, Italy; and Joachim Meisner, retired archbishop of Cologne, Germany.

In the TGCom24 interview, Cardinal Muller said, “everyone, especially cardinals of the Roman church, have the right to write a letter to the pope. However, I was astonished that this became public, almost forcing the pope to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’” to the cardinals’ questions about what exactly the pope meant in “Amoris Laetitia.”

“This, I don’t like,” Cardinal Muller said.

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Kick the habit of war with social justice, end of arms trade, pope tells diplomats

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — At the start of a new year, Pope Francis laid out a laundry list of suggested resolutions for religious and political leaders for making a joint commitment toward building peace.

No conflict exists that is “a habit impossible to break,” the pope said, but he underlined that kicking such a habit requires greater efforts to rectify social injustice, protect religious freedom, jump-start peace talks, end the arms trade and cooperate in responding to climate change and the immigration and refugee crises.

Pope Francis arrives for a photo in the Sistine Chapel with the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See during the traditional exchange of new year's greetings at the Vatican Jan. 9. The pope said that religions are "called to promote peace" and appealed to "all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God's name." (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis arrives for a photo in the Sistine Chapel with the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See during the traditional exchange of new year’s greetings at the Vatican Jan. 9. The pope said that religions are “called to promote peace” and appealed to “all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.” (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

In a 45-minute speech Jan. 9 to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, the pope underlined what he saw as the real “enemies of peace” and the best responses that could be made by today’s religious and political leaders.

“One enemy of peace,” he said, is seeing the human person as a means to an end, which “opens the way to the spread of injustice, social inequality and corruption.”

The waste, “greedy exploitation” and inequitable distribution of the world’s resources provoke conflict, he said, and human trafficking, especially the abuse and exploitation of children, cannot be overlooked.

Another enemy of peace, the pope said, are ideologies that exploit “social unrest in order to foment contempt and hate” and target others as enemies to be eliminated.

“Under the guise of promising great benefits, (such ideologies) instead leave a trail of poverty, division, social tensions, suffering and, not infrequently, death,” he said.

What peace requires, he said, is “a vision of human beings capable of promoting an integral development respectful of their transcendent dignity” as well as the courage and commitment to seek to build peace together every day.

Religions are “called to promote peace,” he said, appealing to “all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.”

“The fundamentalist-inspired terrorism” that has been killing so many innocent people the past year is “a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death in a play for domination and power.”

Fundamentalist terrorism is the fruit of deep “spiritual poverty” that does not connect a pious fear of God with the mandate to love one’s neighbor. Often it also is linked to deep social poverty, which demands action including on the part of government leaders.

Political leaders must guarantee “in the public forum the right to religious freedom” and recognize the positive contribution religious values make in society, he said. They must promote social policies aimed at fighting poverty and promoting the family as well as invest heavily in education and culture so as to eliminate the sort of “terrain” that spreads fundamentalism.

Christians, whose divisions have endured too long, also must heal past wounds and journey forward together with common goals since many of those conflicts have threatened social harmony and peace, the pope said.

Peace, he said, entails greater justice and mercy in the world, especially toward foreigners, migrants and refugees.

“A common commitment is needed, one focused on offering them a dignified welcome,” he said. It means recognizing people have a right to emigrate and take up a new residence without feeling their security and cultural identity are being threatened. Immigrants, however, also must respect local laws and cultures, he added.

Handling today’s waves of migration demands global responsibility and cooperation so that the “burden of humanitarian assistance” is not left to just a few nations at enormous cost and hardship.

Peace also demands an end to the “deplorable arms trade” and a ban on nuclear weapons, he said. Easy access to firearms “not only aggravates various conflicts, but also generates a widespread sense of insecurity and fear.”

He called on the world community to do everything to encourage “serious negotiations” for an end to the war in Syria, the protection of civilians and delivery of the aid needed to address the “genuine human catastrophe” unfolding there.

He urgently appealed for the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians in order to guarantee “the peaceful coexistence of two states within internationally recognized borders.”

“No conflict can become a habit impossible to break,” he said, underlining the urgent need for peace in the whole Middle East.

The pope praised the church’s efforts — inspired by “mercy and solidarity” — to avert conflict through negotiated solutions. He thanked the many individuals who followed this path of actively working for peace, resulting in the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, and the end to conflict in Colombia.

Lastly, peace also requires a common commitment to care for creation, he said.

Pope Francis said he hoped that after the recent Paris Agreement, there would be increased cooperation by everyone in response to climate change. Because, he said, “the earth is our common home and we need to realize that the choices of each have consequences for all.”

 

The pope’s speech in English is online at: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2017/january/documents/papa-francesco_20170109_corpo-diplomatico.html

 

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Guard the faith, make it grow, pope tells parents at baptism

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Parents are charged with guarding the faith given to their children at baptism and helping them become true witnesses by example rather than just rules, Pope Francis said.

By asking the church for faith for their children through the sacrament of baptism, Christian parents have the task of helping their children to grow so that they “may be witnesses for all of us: also for us priests, bishops, everyone,” the pope said during a Mass in the Sistine Chapel.

Pope Francis baptizes one of 28 babies in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Jan. 8. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis baptizes one of 28 babies in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Jan. 8. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

During the Mass Jan. 8, the feast of the baptism of the Lord, Pope Francis baptized 28 infants, 15 boys and 13 girls.

“Faith is not reciting the Creed on Sunday when we go to Mass: It is not only this,” the pope said. “Faith is believing that which is the truth: God the father who has sent his son and the Spirit which gives us life.”

The pope’s brief homily centered on the meaning of faith, which he described as a lifelong journey that “is lived” and leads to becoming a witness of Christ.

Parents, he continued, must also teach through their example that faith “means trusting in God.”

While the pope spoke, the faint cries of a child echoed throughout the Sistine Chapel, causing a chain reaction of crying infants.

“The concert has begun!” the pope said jokingly. “It is because the children are in a place they do not know; they woke up earlier than usual. One begins with one note and then the others mimic. Some cry simply because another one cried.”

Acknowledging that some babies might be crying because they are hungry, the pope urged the mothers to not be ashamed to breast-feed their children in the chapel.

“Mothers, nurse them without fear, with all normality, like Our Lady nursed Jesus,” he told them.

Later, before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said the feast of the Lord’s baptism helps “us to the rediscover the beauty of being a baptized people.”

The baptized, he said, are “sinners saved by the grace of Christ, truly inserted by the power of the Holy Spirit in the filial relationship of Jesus with the father and welcomed into the womb of mother church” where Christians are capable of being brothers and sisters with everyone.

Noting John the Baptist’s feelings of unworthiness in baptizing Jesus, Pope Francis said John was aware “of the great distance between him and Jesus.”

However, Jesus came into the world to bridge the gap between God and man and “to reunite that which was divided,” he said.

After his baptism, Jesus begins his mission of salvation, which is characterized “by the style of a humble and meek servant, armed only with the strength of truth,” he said.

All Christians, the pope added, are called to follow Jesus’ style of proclaiming the Gospel without “shouting or scolding someone.”

“True mission is never proselytism but rather attraction to Christ. But how? How is attraction to Christ done? With one’s own witness that comes from a strong union with him through prayer, adoration and concrete charity, which is service to Jesus present in the least of our brothers,” he said.

After reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis prayed for the parents and for the children he baptized, as well as for a “young catechumen” he baptized Jan. 7 in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, where he lives.

The Vatican provided no further details about the young person.

“I invoke the Holy Spirit upon them and their children so that this sacrament, which is so simple yet at the same time so important, may be lived with faith and joy,” the pope said.

 

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Magi’s hearts were open to something new, pope says on Epiphany

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Magi had the courage to set out on a journey in the hope of finding something new, unlike Herod who was full of himself and unwilling to change his ways, Pope Francis said.

The Wise Men who set out from the East in search of Jesus personify all those who long for God and reflect “all those who in their lives have let their hearts be anesthetized,” the pope said Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany.

People in traditional attire endure cold weather during the annual parade marking the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS/Paul Haring)

People in traditional attire endure cold weather during the annual parade marking the feast of the Epiphany in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 6. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare. They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day. But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuity,” he said.

Thousands of people were gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica as the pope entered to the sounds of the choir singing “Angels we have heard on high” in Latin. Before taking his place in front of the altar, the pope stood in front of a statue of baby Jesus, spending several minutes in veneration before kissing it.

The pope said that the Magi adoring the newborn king highlight two specific actions: seeing and worshipping.

Seeing the star of Bethlehem did not prompt them to embark on their journey but rather, “they saw the star because they had already set out,” he said.

“Their hearts were open to the horizon and they could see what the heavens were showing them, for they were guided by an inner restlessness. They were open to something new,” the pope said.

This restlessness, he continued, awakens a longing for God that exists in the hearts of all believers who know “that the Gospel is not an event of the past but of the present.”

It is holy longing for God “that helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life. A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom,” the pope said.

Recalling the biblical figures of Simeon, the prodigal son, and Mary Magdalene, the pope said this longing for God “draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change,” and helps us seek Christ.

However, the figure of King Herod presents a different attitude of bewilderment and fear that, when confronted with something new, “closes in on itself and its own achievements, its knowledge, its successes.”

The quest of the Magi led them first to Herod’s palace that, although it befits the birth of king, is only a sign of “power, outward appearances and superiority. Idols that promise only sorrow and enslavement,” he said.

“There, in the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be loved. For only under the banner of freedom, not tyranny, is it possible to realize that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us,” the pope said.

Unlike the Magi, the pope added, Herod is unable to worship the newborn king because he was unwilling to change his way of thinking and “did not want to stop worshiping himself, believing that everything revolved around him.”

Christians are called to imitate the wise men who, “weary of the Herods of their own day,” set out in search of the promise of something new.

“The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out. And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable infant, the unexpected and unknown child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God,” the pope said.

After the Mass, Pope Francis greeted tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square to celebrate the feast of the Epiphany.

A colorful parade led by the sounds of trumpets and drums, people dressed in traditional and festive clothing contributed to the cheerful atmosphere despite the chilly weather.

Explaining the significance of the Wise Men who presented their gifts to Christ after adoring him, the pope gave the crowds a gift: a small booklet of reflections on mercy.

The book, entitled “Icons of Mercy,” presents “six Gospel episodes that recall the experience of people transformed by Jesus’ love: the sinful woman, Zacchaeus, Matthew, the publican, the Samaritan, the good thief and the apostle Peter. Six icons of mercy,” the papal almoner’s office said.

Together with the homeless, poor men and women and refugees, religious men and women distributed the books to the crowd. As a thank you, Pope also offered more than 300 homeless men and women sandwiches and drinks.

 

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Overcrowed prisons unfit for human life, pope says after riot in Brazil

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VATICAN CITY — In the wake of a deadly riot in a Brazilian jail, Pope Francis called for all prisons to offer dignified living conditions and be places for true rehabilitation.

A woman is seen crying outside the Medical Legal Institute in Manaus, Brazil, Jan. 3 after receiving the information that her brother was one of the inmates who died during a prison riot at the Manaus detention facility. In the wake of the deadly riot, Pope Francis called for all prisons to offer dignified living conditions and be places for true rehabilitation. (CNS photo/Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters)

A woman is seen crying outside the Medical Legal Institute in Manaus, Brazil, Jan. 3 after receiving the information that her brother was one of the inmates who died during a prison riot at the Manaus detention facility. In the wake of the deadly riot, Pope Francis called for all prisons to offer dignified living conditions and be places for true rehabilitation. (CNS photo/Ueslei Marcelino, Reuters)

He expressed his sorrow and concern over the “massacre” in the Amazon city of Manaus, “where a very violent clash between rival gangs” resulted in at least 56 deaths.

The riot began Jan. 1 and authorities regained control early Jan. 2. Prison gang members took other prisoners and some guards hostage, decapitated or mutilated some of their victims and shot at police, according to early reports.

During his weekly general audience at the Vatican Jan. 4, the pope asked people to pray for those who were killed, for their families and for all inmates and employees at the Manaus detention facility.

“I renew my appeal that penitential institutions be places of re-education and social reintegration and living conditions for inmates be fit for the human person,” he said.

He invited everyone to pray for all prisoners in the world, and that prisons not be overcrowded, but about rehabilitation.

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When a mother loses a child, reach out with tears, not words, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In the depths of despair, when no words or gestures will help, then cry with those who suffer, because tears are the seeds of hope, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets young people during his weekly audience Jan. 4 in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNS /Tony Gentile/Reuters)

Pope Francis greets young people during his weekly audience Jan. 4 in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNS /Tony Gentile/Reuters)

When people are hurting, “it is necessary to share in their desperation. In order to dry the tears from the face of those who suffer, we must join our weeping with theirs. This is the only way our words may truly be able to offer a bit of hope,” he said Jan. 4 during his weekly general audience.

“If I can’t offer words like this, with tears, with sorrow, then silence is better, a caress, a gesture and no words,” he said.

In his first general audience of the new year, the pope continued his series of talks on Christian hope by reflecting on Rachel’s inconsolable sorrow and mourning for her children who “are no more,” as written by the prophet Jeremiah.

Rachel’s refusal to be consoled “expresses the depth of her pain and the bitterness of her weeping,” the pope told those gathered in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall.

“Facing the tragedy of the loss of her children, a mother cannot bear words or gestures of consolation, which are always inadequate, always unable to alleviate the pain of a wound that cannot and doesn’t want to heal,” he said. The amount of pain, he said, is proportional to the amount of love in her heart.

Rachel and her weeping, he said, represent every mother and every person throughout history who cry over an “irreparable loss.”

Rachel’s refusal to be consoled also “teaches us how much sensitivity is asked of us” and how delicately one must approach a person in pain, the pope said.

Jeremiah shows how God responded to Rachel in a loving and gentle way, with words that are “genuine, not fake.”

The pope said God answers with a promise that her tears are not in vain and her children shall return from exile and there will be new life and hope.

“Tears generated hope. This isn’t easy to understand, but it is true,” he said.

“So often in our life, tears sow hope, they are seeds of hope,” he said, emphasizing how Mary’s tears at the foot of the cross generated new life and hope for those who, through their faith, became her children in the body of Christ, the church.

This innocent “lamb of God” died for all of humanity, which is always important to remember, especially when struggling with the question of why children are allowed to suffer in this world, he said.

The pope said when people ask him why such suffering happens, he said he has no answer. “I just say, ‘Look at the crucifix. God gave us his son, he suffered, and perhaps there you will find an answer.’”

No appropriate words or replies will ever come from the head, he said, one can only look at the love God showed by offering his son, who offered his life; this may point the way to some consolation.

God’s word is the definitive word of consolation “because it is born of weeping.”

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New Year calls for courage, hope; no more hatred, selfishness, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Whether the new year will be good or not depends on us choosing to do good each day, Pope Francis said.

“That is how one builds peace, saying ‘no’ to hatred and violence, with action, and ‘yes’ to fraternity and reconciliation,” he said Jan. 1, which the church marks as the feast of Mary, Mother of God and as World Peace Day.

Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus at the start of a Mass marking the feast of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis kisses a figurine of the baby Jesus at the start of a Mass marking the feast of Mary, Mother of God, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Jan. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Speaking to the some 50,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the first noon Angelus of 2017, the pope referred to his peace day message in which he asked people to adopt the style of nonviolence for building a politics for peace.

Lamenting the brutal act of terrorism that struck during a night of “well-wishes and hope” in Istanbul, the pope offered his prayers for the entire nation of Turkey as well as those hurt and killed. A gunman opened fire during a New Year’s Eve celebration at a popular nightclub early Jan. 1, killing at least 39 people and wounding at least 70 more.

“I ask the Lord to support all people of good will who courageously roll up their sleeves in order to confront the scourge of terrorism and this bloodstain that is enveloping the world with the shadow of fear and confusion,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the pope spoke of how maternal tenderness, hope and self-sacrifice were the “strongest antidote” to the selfishness, indifference and “lack of openness” in the world today.

Celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, which was decorated with bright red anthuriums, evergreen boughs, white flowers and pinecones brushed with gold paint, the pope said that a community without mothers would be cold and heartless with “room only for calculation and speculation.”

The pope said he learned so much about unconditional love, hope and belonging from seeing mothers who never stop embracing, supporting and fighting for what is best for their children incarcerated in prisons, ill in hospitals, enslaved by drugs or suffering from war.

“Where there is a mother, there is unity, there is belonging, belonging as children,” he said.

Just like all mothers of the world, Mary, Mother of God, “protects us from the corrosive disease of being ‘spiritual orphans,’” that is when the soul feels “motherless and lacking the tenderness of God, when the sense of belonging to a family, a people, a land, to our God, grows dim.”

“This attitude of spiritual orphanhood is a cancer that silently eats away at and debases the soul,” which soon “forgets that life is a gift we have received and owe to others a gift we are called to share in this common home,” he said.

A “fragmented and divided culture” makes things worse, he said, leading to feelings of emptiness and loneliness.

“The lack of physical and not virtual contact is cauterizing our hearts and making us lose the capacity for tenderness and wonder, for pity and compassion,” he said, as well as making us “forget the importance of playing, of singing, of a smile, of rest, of gratitude.”

Remembering that Jesus handed his mother over to us “makes us smile once more as we realize that we are a people, that we belong” and can grow, that we are not just mere objects to “consume and be consumed,” that we are not “merchandise” to be exchanged or inert receptacles for information. “We are children, we are family, we are God’s people.”

Mary shows that humility and tenderness aren’t virtues of the weak, but of the strong, and that we don’t have to mistreat others in order to feel important, he said.

The pope also presided over an evening prayer service with eucharistic adoration and the singing of a special hymn of thanksgiving to God Dec. 31 in St. Peter’s Basilica.

As the year ends, he said in his homily, he asked people to reflect on how God has been present in their lives and to thank the Lord for all signs of his generosity, “seen in countless way through the witness of those people who quietly took a risk.”

Gazing upon the manger, we remember how Jesus “wanted to be close to all those who felt lost, demeaned, hurt, discouraged, inconsolable and frightened. Close to all those who in their bodies carry the burden of separation and loneliness, so that sin, shame, hurt, despair and exclusion would not have the final word in the lives of his sons and daughters.”

His sacrifice and love challenges people “not to give up on anything or anyone,” and to find the strength to forge ahead “without complaining or being resentful, without closing in on ourselves or seeking a means of escape, looking for shortcuts in our own interest.”

“Looking at the manger means recognizing that the times ahead call for bold and hope-filled initiatives, as well as the renunciation of vain self-promotion and endless concern with appearances.”

He urged everyone to help make room for young people, who are often marginalized and forced to migrate or beg for undignified jobs. Everyone has a duty to help them grow and fulfill “the dreams of their ancestors” in their own nation and community.

After the prayer service, the pope walked into St. Peter’s Square instead of using the popemobile. He walked the entire periphery of the square, stopping to shake hands, receive cards and notes, offer happy New Year’s greetings, bless babies and chat with people lining the barricades.

In the center of the square, the pope prayed silently before the Vatican Nativity scene, which was created by a Maltese artist. He also stood before the twisted and crumbled spire from the St. Benedict Basilica in Norcia, which like dozens of villages and towns, was damaged in a series of earthquakes in central Italy.

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Even complaining to God is a prayer, Pope Francis says

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — To complain to God in moments of doubt and fear like Abraham did is not something bad but rather is a form of prayer that requires the courage to hope beyond all hope, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis receives a parrot from a performer with the Golden Circus during his Dec. 28 weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNSAlessandro Bianchi/ Reuters)

Pope Francis receives a parrot from a performer with the Golden Circus during his Dec. 28 weekly audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNSAlessandro Bianchi/ Reuters)

While in life there may be times of frustration and darkness, “hope is still there and it moves us forward,” the pope said Dec. 28 during his weekly general audience.

“I won’t say that Abraham loses patience, but he complains to the Lord. This is what we learn from our father Abraham: complaining to the Lord is a form of prayer. Sometimes I hear confessions where people say, ‘I complained to the Lord.’ But no. (Continue) to complain; he is a father and this is a form of prayer. Complain to the Lord, this is good,” he said.

Entering the Paul VI audience hall, the pope greeted thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. Among those present was a group of performers from Italy’s Golden Circus, who performed several acrobatic feats and entertaining performances at the end of the general audience.

The pope even participated in one of the performances. As he and an illusionist grabbed the ends of a tablecloth, they seemingly made a small nightstand levitate to the amazement and applause of the pilgrims.

During the audience, the pope continued his series of talks on Christian hope and reflected on the life of Abraham who, along with his wife, Sarah, left his homeland with hope in God’s promise of a son.

This hope, he said, gave Abraham the ability to “go beyond human reason, and worldly wisdom and prudence” to believe in the impossible.

“Hope opens new horizons; it makes us able to dream that which isn’t imaginable. Hope makes us enter into the darkness of an uncertain future to walk in the light,” the pope said.

However, this path is not without its difficulties, even for Abraham, who, after months of travel, began to doubt God’s promise of a son borne by his wife, Sarah.

It is in this moment, the pope said, that Abraham prays to God in the dark of night, a darkness that mirrored his “disappointment, discouragement and the difficulty of continuing to hope in something impossible.”

Faith is not just silent acceptance or a “certainty that secures us from doubt and perplexity,” but it also means “to argue with God and show him our bitterness without pious pretenses.”

“‘I became angry with God, I told him this, this, and that.’ But he is a father and he understands you; go in peace. You must have this courage. This is hope,” the pope said.

It is in the darkness of night and in the darkness of his own doubts that Abraham once again receives, believes and hopes in God’s promise of descendants as numerous as the stars, Pope Francis said.

“To believe, it is necessary to know how to see with the eyes of faith; we all may (look up and) only see stars, but for Abraham, they become a sign of God’s faithfulness,” the pope said. “Hope never disappoints.”

 

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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