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Greed corrupts beauty of God’s creation, pope says at audience

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VATICAN CITY — Humanity’s greed and selfishness can turn creation into a sad and desolate world instead of the sign of God’s love that it was meant to be, Pope Francis said.

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, the Democratic nominee for U.S. vice president in the 2016 election, talks with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York during Pope Francis' general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 22. (CNS/Paul Haring)

U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, the Democratic nominee for U.S. vice president in the 2016 election, talks with Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York during Pope Francis’ general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 22. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Human beings are often tempted to view creation as “a possession we can exploit as we please and for which we do not have to answer to anyone,” the pope said Feb. 22 at his weekly general audience.

“When carried away by selfishness, human beings end up ruining even the most beautiful things that have been entrusted to them,” the pope said.

As an early sign of spring, the audience was held in St. Peter’s Square for the first time since November. Despite the chilly morning temperatures, the pope made the rounds in his popemobile, greeting pilgrims and kissing bundled-up infants.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, which expresses the hope “that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption.”

St. Paul, the pope said, reminds Christians that creation is a “marvelous gift that God has placed in our hands.”

Through this gift, he said, “we can enter into a relationship with him and recognize the imprint of his loving plan, which we are all called to achieve together.”

Sin, however, breaks communion not only with God but with his creation, “thus making it a slave, submissive to our frailty,” the pope said.  

“Think about water. Water is a beautiful thing; it is so important. Water gives us life and it helps us in everything. But when minerals are exploited, water is contaminated and creation is destroyed and dirtied. This is just one example; there are many,” he said, departing from his prepared remarks.

When people break their relationship with creation, they not only lose their original beauty, he said, but they also “disfigure everything surrounding them,” causing a reminder of God’s love to become a bleak sign of pride and greed.

St. Paul tells believers that hope comes from knowing that God in his mercy wants to heal the “wounded and humbled hearts” of all men and women and, through them, “regenerate a new world and a new humanity, reconciled in his love,” Pope Francis said.

“The Holy Spirit sees beyond the negative appearances for us and reveals to us the new heavens and the new earth that the Lord is preparing for humanity,” the pope said.

“This is the content of our hope. A Christian does not live outside of the world; he knows how to recognize the signs of evil, selfishness and sin in his own life and in what surrounds him,” he said. “But at the same time, a Christian has learned to read all of this with the eyes of Easter, with the eyes of the risen Christ.”

 

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Populist demagoguery in the world fuels rejection of migrants, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Indifference, fueled by populist rhetoric in today’s world, fans the flames of rejection that threaten the rights and dignity of migrants, Pope Francis said.

Refugees from Eritrea tell Pope Francis about their journey to safety during a meeting Feb. 21 at the Vatican with participants in the VI International Forum on Migration and Peace. (CNS LíOsservatore Romano)

Refugees from Eritrea tell Pope Francis about their journey to safety during a meeting Feb. 21 at the Vatican with participants in the VI International Forum on Migration and Peace. (CNS LíOsservatore Romano)

Refugees escaping persecution, violence and poverty are often shunned and deemed as “unworthy of our attention, a rival or someone to be bent to our will,” the pope told participants of the VI International Forum on Migration and Peace.

“Faced with this kind of rejection, rooted ultimately in self-centeredness and amplified by populist demagoguery, what is needed is a change of attitude to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors,” he said Feb. 21.

The Feb. 21-22 conference, “Integration and Development: From Reaction to Action,” was organized by the Scalabrini International Migration Network and sponsored by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

According to the forum’s website, the conference focused on refugee crisis management while aiming to “influence migration policies and practices in Europe.”

In his speech, the pope said millions of people are being forced to flee their homelands due to “conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence, extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions.”

To confront this challenge, he said, the church and civil society must have a “shared response” of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees.

Providing access to “secure humanitarian channels,” legal paths to safety, is crucial in helping people who are “fleeing conflicts and terrible persecutions,” but are often met with rejection and indifference.

“A responsible and dignified welcome of our brothers and sisters begins by offering them decent and appropriate shelter,” the pope said.

Citing Pope Benedict XVI, the pope said the need to defend the “inalienable rights” of exiled and exploited men and women is a duty “from which no one can be exempted.”

“Protecting these brothers and sisters is a moral imperative which translates into adopting juridical instruments, both international and national, that must be clear and relevant,” the pope said.

Protection, he added, can only be guaranteed by ensuring “necessary conditions,” such as fair access to fundamental goods, that offer “the possibility of choice and growth.”

Pope Francis also highlighted the need for integration, which is a “two-way process rooted essentially in the joint recognition of the other’s cultural richness.”

Integration is different from assimilation, he said, warning that superimposing one culture over another has the “insidious and dangerous risk of creating ghettos.”

At the same time, he said, migrants are “duty bound not to close themselves off from the culture and traditions of the receiving country” while “respecting above all its laws.”

Helping migrants, exiles and refugees “is today a responsibility, a duty we have toward our brothers and sisters who, for various reasons, have been forced to leave their homeland: a duty of justice, civility and solidarity,” the pope said.

Responding to the migration crisis also involves addressing the root causes of the situations that force people to flee, he said, pointing particularly to “unacceptable economic inequality,” which violates “the principle of the universal destination of the earth’s goods.”

“One group of individuals cannot control half of the world’s resources,” Pope Francis said. “We cannot allow for persons and entire peoples to have a right only to gather the remaining crumbs.”

Recognizing each person as a member of the same human family, brother or sister created in God’s image, is key to ensuring a proper response to the crisis, the pope insisted. “Fraternity is the most civil way of relating to the reality of another person, which does not threaten us but engages, reaffirms and enriches our individual identity.”

Pope Francis called for “a change of attitude” in understanding the needs of migrants and refugees, a change that moves away from fear and indifference to a “culture of encounter” that builds “a better, more just and fraternal world.”

“The duty of solidarity is to the counter the throwaway culture and give greater attention to those who are weakest, poorest and most vulnerable,” he said.

 

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Pope’s tip for becoming a saint: Pray for someone who doesn’t like you

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Catholic News Service

ROME — A practical first step toward holiness, as well as for assuring peace in one’s family and in the world, is to pray for a person who has caused offense or harm, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis poses for a selfie as he greets the crowd outside St. Mary Josefa Church as he arrives to celebrate Mass at the parish in Rome Feb. 19. (CNS /Paul Haring)

Pope Francis poses for a selfie as he greets the crowd outside St. Mary Josefa Church as he arrives to celebrate Mass at the parish in Rome Feb. 19. (CNS /Paul Haring)

“Are you merciful toward the people who have harmed you or don’t like you? If God is merciful, if he is holy, if he is perfect, then we must be merciful, holy and perfect as he is. This is holiness. A man or woman who does this deserves to be canonized,” the pope said Feb. 19 during an evening parish Mass.

“I suggest you start small,” Pope Francis told members of the parish of St. Mary Josefa on the extreme eastern edge of the Diocese of Rome. “We all have enemies. We all know that so-and-so speaks ill of us. We all know. And we all know that this person or that person hates us.”

When that happens, the pope said, “I suggest you take a minute, look at God (and say), ‘This person is your son or your daughter, change his or her heart, bless him or her.’ This is praying for those who don’t like us, for our enemies. Perhaps the rancor will remain in us, but we are making an effort to follow the path of this God who is so good, merciful, holy, perfect, who makes the sun rise on the evil and the good.”

The day’s first reading included the line, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy,” and in the Gospel reading, Jesus said, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

“You might ask me, ‘But, father, what is the path to holiness?’ ‘What is the journey needed to become holy?’ Jesus explains it well in the Gospel. He explains it with concrete examples,” the pope said.

The first example, he said, is “not taking revenge. If I have some rancor in my heart for something someone has done, I want vengeance, but this moves me off the path of holiness. No revenge. ‘But he did this and he will pay.’ Is this Christian? No. ‘He will pay’ is not in the Christian’s vocabulary. No revenge.”

In people’s everyday lives, he said, their squabbles with their relatives or neighbors may seem a little thing, but they are not. “These big wars we read about in the papers and see on the news, these massacres of people, of children, how much hatred! It’s the same hatred you have in your heart for this person, that person, that relative, your mother-in-law. It’s bigger, but it’s the same hatred.”

Forgiveness, the pope said, is the path toward holiness and toward peace. “If everyone in the world learned this, there would be no wars.”

Wars begin “with bitterness, rancor, the desire for vengeance, to make them pay,” he said. It’s an attitude that destroys families and neighborhoods and peaceful relations between nations.

“I’m not telling you what to do, Jesus is: Love your enemies. ‘You mean I have to love that person?’ Yes.”

“‘I have to pray for someone who has harmed me?’ Yes, that he will change his life, that the Lord will forgive him,” the pope said. “This is the magnanimity of God, of God who has a big heart, who forgives all.”

“Prayer is an antidote for hatred, for wars, these wars that begin at home, in families,” he said. “Think of how many wars there have been in families because of an inheritance.”

“Prayer is powerful. Prayer defeats evil. Prayer brings peace,” the pope said.

As is his custom for parish visits, Pope Francis began this three-hour visit to St. Mary Josefa by meeting different parish groups, including children, who were invited to ask him questions.

One asked how he became pope and Pope Francis said when a pope is elected “maybe he is not the most intelligent, perhaps not the most astute or the quickest at doing what must be done, but he is the one who God wants for the church at that moment.”

Pope Francis explained that when a pope dies or resigns, like Pope Benedict XVI did, the cardinals gather for a conclave. “They speak among themselves, discuss what profile would be best, who has this advantage and who has that one. But, above all, they pray.”

They use their reason to try to figure out what the church needs and who could provide it, he said, but mostly they rely on the Holy Spirit to inspire them in their choice.

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When there’s no listening, there’s violence, pope says at university

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Catholic News Service

ROME — Addressing the fear of immigrants, dissatisfaction with a “fluid economy” and the impatience and vitriol seen in politics and society, Pope Francis told Rome university students to practice a kind of “intellectual charity” that promotes dialogue and sees value in diversity.

Pope Francis greets people as he arrives for a Feb. 17 meeting at Roma Tre University. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano, handout)

Pope Francis greets people as he arrives for a Feb. 17 meeting at Roma Tre University. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)

“There are lots of remedies against violence,” but they must start first with one’s heart being open to hearing other people’s opinions and then talking things out with patience, he said in a 45-minute off-the-cuff talk.

“It necessary to tone it down a bit, to talk less and listen more,” he told hundreds of students, staff and their family members and friends during a visit Feb. 17 to Roma Tre University.

Arriving at the university, the pope slowly made his way along a long snaking pathway of metal barricades throughout the campus, smiling, shaking hands and posing for numerous selfies with smiling members of the crowd. When handed a small baby cocooned in a bright red snowsuit for a papal kiss, the pope joked whether the child was attending the university, too.

Seated on a platform facing an open courtyard, the pope listened to questions from four students, including Nour Essa, who was one of the 12 Syrian refugees the pope had brought to Rome on a papal flight from Lesbos, Greece, in 2016.

The pope said he had received the questions beforehand and wrote a prepared text, but he preferred to answer “from the heart” and be “more spontaneous because I like it better that way.”

Asked what remedy could counteract the world’s violence and how to live well in such a fast-paced, globalized world of social networks, the pope said today’s frenetic pace “makes us violent at home.”

Family members don’t bother saying “good morning” to each other, they absentmindedly say “hi” or eat together in silence, each absorbed with a smartphone, he said.

The faster the pace in life, the more people become “nameless” because no one takes the time to get to know the other, ending up with a situation where “I greet you as if you were an object.”

The tendency to de-personalize others, which starts in one’s own heart, at home and with relationships, “grows and grows and it will become violence worldwide,” he said.

“In a society where politics has sunk very low, and I’m talking about society around the world, not here, one loses the sense” of building up civic life and social harmony, which is done through dialogue.

Pope Francis commented on the way many electoral campaigns and debates feature people interrupting each other. “Wait! Listen carefully to what the other thinks and then respond,” he said, and ask for clarification when the point isn’t understood.

“Where there is no dialogue, there is violence,” he said.

The pope said universities must be places dedicated to this kind of openness, dialogue and respect for a diversity of opinions and ideas.

An institution cannot claim it is offering higher education if there is no “dialogue, discussion, listening, where there is no respect for how others think, where there is no friendship, joy of play,” he said.

People go to university to learn and listen, but not passively, the pope said. It is a place to actively seek the good, the beautiful and the true, as a journey done together over time.

He also critiqued the so-called “fluid economy,” which leads to a lack of stable, solid employment.

Networked trades and transactions in which a person can make, like a business friend of his did, $10,000 in 10 minutes trading commodities is an example of this “fluid” economy, he said.

This “liquidity” erases “the culture of work” and everything that is concrete about labor “because you cannot work and young people don’t know what to do,” which can lead them to addictions or suicide.

“Or the lack of work leads me to join a terrorist militia. ‘At least I have something to do and have meaning in my life.’ It’s horrible,” he said.

Essa, the 31-year-old Syrian woman, told the pope she, her husband and small boy were living in a refugee camp in Lesbos until “our life changed in one day, thanks to you.” Already possessing degrees from her studies in Syria and France, Essa was finishing a degree in biology at Roma Tre.

She asked the pope to address the fear of immigrants, saying she remembered a journalist on the papal flight a year ago asking about people’s fear of those coming from Syria and Iraq and whether they threatened Europe’s Christian culture.

“How many invasions has Europe had?” during its long history, the pope asked.

Europe has been built upon invasions and movements of peoples, he said. “Migration is not a danger, it is a challenge to grow,” he said.

It is only logical that people migrate to escape from conflict, exploitation, hunger and lack of development, he said.

“Don’t exploit. Don’t be the bullies that go to exploit” these nations already suffering so much, he said.

Asking his audience to reflect on how the Mediterranean Sea has become “a cemetery” with the drowning of so many immigrants, he said those fleeing their homelands first must be seen as one’s own “human brothers and sisters. They are men and women like us.”

Each country must determine how many refugees and migrants it can properly welcome and integrate with structures and resources in place so the newcomers can become contributing members of the community and not isolated or “ghetto-ized.””

While trying to grapple with the way times change, he said, it’s also true some things just stay the same. “If we don’t learn to understand life as it comes, we will never ever learn to live it.”

Life is like being a “goalie” where people have to be alert and ready to grab the ball from whatever direction it comes, Pope Francis said. Today “is a different age, that is coming from somewhere I didn’t expect, but I have to take it, I have to take it as it comes without fear.”

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God will ask an account for blood spilled in today’s wars, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Humankind will have to answer to God for the bloodshed of the innocent victims of war, and the blood spilled by greed and arms trafficking, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis watches as children release doves from the window of his studio at the Vatican in this Jan. 26, 2014, file photo. In his Feb. 16 morning Mass homily, the pope recalled the dove release and how a seagull and crow swooped down to attack the doves. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis watches as children release doves from the window of his studio at the Vatican in this Jan. 26, 2014, file photo. In his Feb. 16 morning Mass homily, the pope recalled the dove release and how a seagull and crow swooped down to attack the doves. (CNS/Paul Haring)

While God has given peace to the world, inside all human beings “there is still that seed, that original sin, the spirit of Cain who out of envy, jealousy, greed and the desire for domination, makes war,” the pope said Feb. 16 during his early morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

“Today in the world, blood is being spilled. Today the world is at war. So many brothers and sisters die, even innocents, because the great, the powerful want a bigger piece of the earth; they want a little bit more power or want to gain a bit more through arms trafficking,” he said.

The pope centered his homily on the day’s first reading in which God makes a covenant with Noah and all of humanity after the flood and warns that he “will demand an account for human life.”

This covenant, along with the rainbow and the dove holding an olive branch, are signs of “what God wanted after the flood: peace; that all men and women would be in peace,” the pope explained.

The rainbow and the dove are symbolic of peace not only because of their beauty, but also because of their fragility, he said. “The rainbow is beautiful after a storm, but when a cloud comes, it disappears,” and doves are easy prey for predators.

The pope recalled the unfortunate incident when, after delivering his Sunday Angelus address Jan. 26, 2014, he and two children released two doves as a gesture of peace. A seagull and a crow swooped down and attacked the two doves.

“The covenant God makes is strong, but how we receive it, how we accept it is with weakness,” the pope said. “God makes peace with us, but it isn’t easy to keep the peace.”

The seed of war that creates jealousy, envy and greed in people’s hearts, the pope continued, “has grown into a tree,” causing “bombs that fall on hospitals, on a school and kills children.”

“The blood of Christ is what makes peace, not my brothers’ blood that is spilled by me, or arms traffickers or the powers of the earth in the great wars,” he said.

Pope Francis said that all men and women are called not only to protect peace, but to “handcraft” it every day, beginning in their hearts and in their homes.

He recalled a childhood memory when, after hearing the sounds of sirens and alarm bells ringing throughout his neighborhood, a neighbor tearfully exclaimed to his mother: “The war is over.”

“May the Lord give us the grace of being able to say: ‘The war is over’ and weep. ‘The war is over in my heart, the war is over in my family, the war is over in my neighborhood, the war is over in my workplace, the war is over in the world’ so that the dove, the rainbow and the covenant will be stronger,” the pope said.

 

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Special Olympians demonstrate that ‘every person is a gift,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The athletes of the Special Olympics witness to the world the beauty and value of every human life and the joy that comes from reaching a goal with the encouragement and support of others, Pope Francis said.

Pope receives a stuffed animal from a participant in the Special Olympics during a meeting Feb. 16 at the Vatican. The athletes and organizers were at the Vatican to promote the Special Olympics World Winter Games, which will be held in Austria March 14-25. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope receives a stuffed animal from a participant in the Special Olympics during a meeting Feb. 16 at the Vatican. The athletes and organizers were at the Vatican to promote the Special Olympics World Winter Games, which will be held in Austria March 14-25. (CNS/L’Osservatore Romano)

“Together, athletes and helpers show us that there are no obstacles or barriers which cannot be overcome,” the pope told representatives of the Special Olympics World Winter Games, which will take place in Austria March 14-25.

“You are a sign of hope for all who commit themselves to a more inclusive society,” the pope told the group Feb. 16. “Every life is precious, every person is a gift, and inclusion enriches every community and society. This is your message for the world, for a world without borders, which excludes no one.”

Pope Francis praised the passion and dedication of the Special Olympians as they train for their events, and said sports are good for everyone, physically and mentally.

“The constant training, which also requires effort and sacrifice, helps you to grow in patience and perseverance, gives you strength and courage and lets you acquire and develop talents which would otherwise remain hidden,” the pope told the athletes.

“In a way,” he said, “at the heart of all sporting activity is joy: the joy of exercising, of being together, of being alive and rejoicing in the gifts the Creator gives us each day. Seeing the smile on your faces and the great happiness in your eyes when you have done well in an event, for the sweetest victory is when we surpass ourselves. We realize what true and well-deserved joy feels like!”

Watching the Special Olympians, he said, everyone should learn “to enjoy small and simple pleasures, and to enjoy them together.”

Sporting events, especially international events like the Special Olympics World Winter Games, help “spread a culture of encounter and solidarity,” the pope said, wishing the athletes “joyful days together and time with friends from around the world.”

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Never lose hope in God’s love, pope says at audience

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians must never lose hope and should remind themselves that God loves them even at their worst, Pope Francis said.

God’s love provides “security” both in difficult moments and even when “I have done something terrible and evil,” the pope said Feb. 15 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis waves during his general audience in Paul VI hall  at the Vatican Feb. 15. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

Pope Francis waves during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 15. (CNS photo/Claudio Peri, EPA)

“No one can take this security from us. We must repeat it like a prayer: God loves me. I am sure that God loves me!” he said.

Among the thousands of pilgrims present at the Paul VI audience hall were numerous student groups from Europe, including several children’s choirs from Italy and Spain.

When greeting the Italian-speaking pilgrims, the pope was interrupted by each choir that broke out in song to greet him.

Despite several ovations, one choir continued singing to the amusement of Pope Francis. He laughed heartily while praising them for their persistence in finishing the entire song.

“When you want something, that’s how you do it. That’s what we should do with prayer; when asking something from the Lord: insist, insist, insist. That is a beautiful example, a beautiful example of prayer,” the pope said off-the-cuff, following his praise of the determined choir group.

Continuing a series of talks on Christian hope, the pope reflected on a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans in which the apostle says Christians “should boast in hope of the glory of God.”

“Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope,” St. Paul writes.

The pope said boasting is “surprising” since from a young age, people are taught that boasting reflects “a certain pride” and reveals “a lack of respect for others, especially toward those less fortunate than us.”

“How is it possible to do this without offending, without excluding anyone?” the pope asked.

He explained that Christians are called first to “boast of the abundance of grace we have received in Jesus Christ” by “learning to read everything with the light of the Holy Spirit.”

“If we pay attention, acting, in our history, in our lives, we are not alone, but above all with God. It is he who is the absolute protagonist, who creates everything as a gift of love, who weaves the storyline of his plan of salvation and who fulfills it in us through his son,” the pope said.

By seeing one’s life illuminated by the Holy Spirit, he added, “we are at peace with God and experience freedom.”

However, the pope continued, St. Paul’s second invitation to boast in times of tribulation “is not easy to understand.”

While it may seem to be unrelated with the peace that comes from “boasting of the abundance of grace,” Pope Francis said that peace does not mean the absence of difficulties, but that “God loves us and he is always close to us.”

“It’s easy to say: ‘God loves us,’” the pope said, departing from his prepared remarks. “But think a little; is each one of us capable of saying: ‘I am sure that God loves me?’ It is not so easy to say, but it is true. This is a good exercise, to tell yourselves, ‘God loves me.’ This is the root of our security, the root of our hope.”

God’s love, he said, nourishes Christian hope that “doesn’t separate us from others, nor does it lead us to discredit or marginalize others.”

“Our greatest boast is having, as a father, a God who does not make preferences, who excludes no one, but rather opens his home to all human beings, beginning from the last ones to the far away so that as his children, we learn to console and support one another,” Pope Francis said.

 

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Council of Cardinals publicly expresses support of pope ‘in relation to recent events’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — After a handful of public challenges to Pope Francis’ teaching and authority, the members of the pope’s international Council of Cardinals began their February meeting expressing their “full support” for his work.

Pope Francis leads the 18th meeting of his Council of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 13. Seated to the left of the pope are: Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, secretary of the council; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the council; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy. Seated at right are: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley of Boston; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis leads the 18th meeting of his Council of Cardinals at the Vatican Feb. 13. Seated to the left of the pope are: Bishop Marcello Semeraro of Albano, Italy, secretary of the council; Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the council; Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Cardinal George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy. Seated at right are: Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the council, began the meeting Feb. 13 assuring the pope of the cardinals’ “full support for his person and his magisterium,” according to a statement published by the Vatican press office.

The statement said the cardinals’ support was offered “in relation to recent events.”

No specific events were mentioned, but the statement came just a few days after a fake version of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, was emailed to Vatican officials and a week after posters were put up around Rome questioning the pope’s mercy in dealing with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and other groups over which the pope had placed special delegates. It also came several months after U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke and three retired cardinals publicly questioned Pope Francis on the teaching in his document on the family, “Amoris Laetitia.”

Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, speaking on behalf of the Council of Cardinals, also thanked Pope Francis for the way he explained the council’s work on the reform of the Roman Curia to Vatican officials.

Meeting with members of the Curia just before Christmas, Pope Francis said the reform was motivated by a desire to ensure the central offices of the church are focused on sharing the Gospel, better meet people’s needs and assist the pope in his ministry of service to the church and the world.

“We cannot be content simply with changing personnel; we need to encourage spiritual, human and professional renewal among the members of the Curia,” the pope had said. “The reform of the Curia is in no way implemented with a change of personnel, something that certainly is happening and will continue to happen, but with a conversion in persons. Continuing formation is not enough; what we need also and above all is continuing conversion and purification. Without a change of mentality, efforts at practical improvement will be in vain.”

In addition to Cardinal Rodriguez Maradiaga, the council members are: Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; George Pell, head of the Secretariat of the Economy; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

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Pope sends envoy to study pastoral care of faithful in Medjugorje

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Without commenting on the authenticity of alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Pope Francis has appointed a Polish archbishop to study the pastoral needs of the townspeople and the thousands of pilgrims who flock to the town each year.

A statue of Mary is seen outside St. James Church in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this file photo. Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga, Poland, as his special envoy to Medjugorje, the site of alleged Marian apparitions. A Vatican statement said his role would be to study the pastoral situation in Medjugorje. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A statue of Mary is seen outside St. James Church in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in this file photo. Pope Francis has appointed Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga, Poland, as his special envoy to Medjugorje, the site of alleged Marian apparitions. A Vatican statement said his role would be to study the pastoral situation in Medjugorje. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope chose Archbishop Henryk Hoser of Warsaw-Praga as his special envoy to Medjugorje, the Vatican announced Feb. 11.

“The mission has the aim of acquiring a deeper knowledge of the pastoral situation there and, above all, of the needs of the faithful who go there in pilgrimage, and on the basis of this, to suggest possible pastoral initiatives for the future,” the Vatican announcement said.

Archbishop Hoser’s assignment has “an exclusively pastoral character,” the Vatican said, making it clear his task is separate from the work of a commission set up in 2010 by now-retired Pope Benedict XVI to investigate the claims of six young people who said Mary had appeared to them daily beginning in 1981. Some of the six say Mary still appears to them and gives them messages each day, while others say they see her only once a year now.

Pope Benedict had named retired Italian Cardinal Camillo Ruini to chair the group studying the apparitions. In June 2015, Pope Francis told reporters that Cardinal Ruini had given him the group’s report and that it would be studied by the cardinals and bishops who are members of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. At the time, Pope Francis said, “We’re close to making decisions,” although nothing was announced until the appointment of Archbishop Hoser about 20 months later.

Thousands of pilgrims travel to the small town each month to meet the alleged seers and to pray. Because the apparitions have not been approved, the Vatican has said dioceses should not organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje. However, it also has said Catholics are free to visit the town and pray there, and that the Diocese of Mostar-Duvno and the Franciscans who minister in the town should organize pastoral care for them.

The Vatican’s February announcement said that Archbishop Hoser “is expected to finish his mandate as special envoy by summer of this year.”

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Church needs the courage and witness of religious orders, pope tells superiors

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Catholic religious orders must have the courage to start new forms of outreach, knowing that the only people who “never make mistakes are those who never do anything,” Pope Francis said.

Marianist Brother Stephen Balletta, left, prays during a Mass marking World Day for Consecrated Life Feb. 5 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, N.Y. Catholic religious orders must have the courage to start new forms of outreach, knowing that the only people who "never make mistakes are those who never do anything," Pope Francis said during a Feb. 9 meeting with 140 superiors general of men's religious orders. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Marianist Brother Stephen Balletta, left, prays during a Mass marking World Day for Consecrated Life Feb. 5 at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, N.Y. Catholic religious orders must have the courage to start new forms of outreach, knowing that the only people who “never make mistakes are those who never do anything,” Pope Francis said during a Feb. 9 meeting with 140 superiors general of men’s religious orders. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

“We will get things wrong sometimes, yes, but there is always the mercy of God on our side,” Pope Francis told 140 superiors general of men’s religious orders.

A transcript of questions and answers from the pope’s three-hour meeting with members of the Union of Superiors General last November was published Feb. 9 by the Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica.

Running through Pope Francis’ responses to the questions on youth ministry, religious life, his personal approach to the papacy and evangelization was an emphasis on prayer, courage and, especially, discernment.

A lack of expertise in discernment, he said, “is one of the greatest problems that we have in priestly formation,” which focuses too much on “black and white” answers rather than on “the gray areas of life.”

“You look for the will of God following the true doctrine of the Gospel and not in the fixations of an abstract doctrine,” the pope told the superiors.

Vocational discernment

By choosing “Young people, faith and vocational discernment” as the theme for the Synod of Bishops in 2018, the pope said he hopes to draw universal attention to the importance of helping young people discover God’s call.

The decreasing number of priests and religious in the West, he said, is worrying, but some of the newer religious communities that are attracting many youths are also a concern.

Some small, new religious orders “are really good and do things seriously,” usually with close support and guidance from a bishop, he said. “But there are others that are born not from a charism of the Holy Spirt, but human charisma, from charismatic people who attract others by their alluring human skills.

“Some are, I could say, ‘restorationists’: they seem to provide safety and instead they offer only rigidity,” the pope continued. “When I am told that there is a congregation that attracts many vocations, I confess, I am worried. The Spirit does not work with the logic of human success.”

In the end, the life of the community members will prove whether or not it is the Lord at work, he said. Unfortunately, some already have ended with scandal, he said, although he did not name particular orders.

Prophetic impulse

One of the tasks of religious orders in the church, he said, is to provide the charismatic and prophetic impulse that can keep the church, a diocese or parish from being totally absorbed with worldly concerns and keep its ministers from thinking they are “little princes.”

“You don’t need to become a cardinal to think of yourself as a prince,” Pope Francis said.

Clericalism is a danger to the church, as is the gulf sometimes existing between religious orders in a diocese and the local bishop and clergy, he said. “From a position of isolation, you cannot help one another.”

The task of the church is not to shore up its institutions, but to set out to help those who are materially or spiritually poor, the pope said.

One of the superiors present asked Pope Francis why he chose a series of Marian themes for the local celebrations of World Youth Day in 2017 and 2018, as well as for the international gathering in Panama in 2019.

“I did not choose them,” he said; the bishops of Latin America did, “and it seemed a very good thing.”

‘The true Mary’

The focus, the pope said, will be on the Mary of Catholic faith, “not the postmistress who sends out a letter every day saying, ‘My child, do this and then the next day do that.’”

The true Mary “is the one who generates Jesus in our hearts,” he said. “The trend of the Madonna superstar, who puts herself at the center as a protagonist, is not Catholic.”

When he opened the session to questions, Pope Francis told the superiors they even could offer criticisms because “misunderstandings and tensions are part of life. And when they are criticisms that make us grow, I accept them, I respond.”

Asked later about how he maintains his serenity, the pope assured the superiors, “I do not take tranquilizers.” He said the Italians may be on the right track when they suggest that to be at peace, “you need a healthy dose” of “couldn’t care less.”

But, Pope Francis said, he was “more anxious,” tense and worried as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina. From the moment he was elected pope in March 2013, he said, he has had an experience of peace “and it has not left me.”

When a problem arises, he said, he writes it on a piece of paper and slips it under a statue of a sleeping St. Joseph and lets the saint sleep on it. At this point, he said, the saint is sleeping on “a mattress of notes!”

Six hours of sleep every night and prayer are the daily routine, the pope said. “The breviary is very dear to me and I never leave it. Mass every day. The rosary. When I pray, I always take the Bible. And peace grows. I do not know if this is the secret. My peace is a gift from the Lord. Let it not be taken away!”

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