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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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God is with the defeated and dejected, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — If it seems hard to find God in this world, it is because he chooses to be with the defeated and dejected and in places where most people are loath to go, Pope Francis said.

“God does not like to be loved the way a warlord would like, dragging his people to victory, debasing them in the blood of his enemies,” the pope said May 24 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis greets a child as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican May 24. (CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pope Francis greets a child as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican May 24. (CNS/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

The audience began just after Pope Francis had met U.S. President Donald Trump.

“Our God is a dim flame that burns on a cold and windy day, and, for as fragile as his presence seems in this world, he has chosen the place everyone disdains,” Pope Francis told the crowd in the square.

Continuing his series of talks on Christian hope, the pope looked at the Gospel of Luke’s account of the two disciples traveling on the road to Emmaus after Jesus had been crucified and buried.

In the story, the pope said, the disciples, are struggling to understand how such a fate could have befallen the man they had faith in: the son of God.

Their hope was merely human, he said, and it easily shattered after such an unforeseen defeat of God, who appeared “defenseless at the hands of the violent, incapable of offering resistance to evil.”

“How much unhappiness, how many defeats, how many failures there are in the life of every person. In essence, we are all like those two disciples,” he said. Just when life seems to be going well, “we find ourselves struck down, disappointed.”

But just as Jesus was on the road with the disciples, the pope said, he is also walking with everyone on their journey through life.

“Jesus walks with all those who are discouraged, who walk with their head down,” so he can offer them renewed hope, he said.

But he does so discreetly, the pope said. “Our God is not an intrusive God.”

Even though he knows what is bothering the disciples, he asks them a question and listens patiently, letting them tap into the depths of their bitterness and sadness.

Whoever reads the Bible will not find stories of “easy heroism, blazing campaigns of conquest. True hope never comes cheap; it always comes through defeat.”

In fact, he added, the hope felt by those who have never suffered may not even be hope at all.

The disciples initially didn’t recognize God on the road because their hope had been in a victorious, conquering leader, the pope said. They only recognize him when he takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it and gives it to them, exactly like he did with his own life.

The church should be this way, too, Pope Francis said, by letting Jesus “take us, bless us, ‘break’ our lives, because there is no love without sacrifice, and offer it to others, offer it to everyone.”

The church needs to be just like Jesus, not staying in a “fortified fortress,” but out where everything is alive and happening, on the road.

“It is there (the church) meets people, with their hopes and disappointments,” listens patiently to what emerges from their “treasure chest of personal conscience” and offers the life-giving Word and witness to God’s love, he said.

This is how people’s hearts are rekindled with real hope, the pope said.

Just when the way seems blocked by “a wall ahead, Jesus is always next to us to give us hope and strengthen our hearts to go ahead, ‘I am with you. Go on.’”

Christ’s “therapy of hope” is that despite all appearances to the contrary, “we continue to be loved and God will never stop loving us,” the pope said. “He will walk with us always, always, even during the most painful times, even in the most terrible moments, moments of defeat. That is where the Lord is.”

At the end of the audience, the pope greeted pilgrims from Hong Kong on a day dedicated to Our Lady, Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sheshan in Shanghai.

Pope Benedict XVI established a world day of prayer for the church in China on the feast day.

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God dreams big and ‘calls us by name,’ Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God is right by the side of each person on earth, seeing each individual’s pain and wanting to bring hope and joy, Pope Francis said.

“He calls us by name and tells us, ‘Rise up, stop weeping, because I have come to free you,’” the pope said May 17 at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.

Pope Francis greets relatives of the victims of the avalanche that hit Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Italy, after his general audience in St. Peter's Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis greets relatives of the victims of the avalanche that hit Hotel Rigopiano in Farindola, Italy, after his general audience in St. Peter’s Square May 17 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

The pope continued his series of talks on Christian hope by looking at the Gospel of John’s account of St. Mary Magdalene visiting Jesus’ tomb.

She was the first to go to the tomb after his burial, he said, pointing out that the same love and loyalty can be seen today in the many women who head to the cemetery, visiting their dearly departed for years, showing how not even death can break the bonds of love.

In Mary Magdalene’s case, however, she experienced not only the sadness of Christ’s death, but also the discovery that his body had disappeared, the pope said.

Just as she is weeping near the tomb, “God surprises her in the most unexpected way,” the pope said, even though she is stubbornly “blind” to recognizing the two angels and the Risen Christ.

Eventually, he said, “she discovers the most earth-shattering event in human history when she is finally called by name.”

“How beautiful it is to think that the first appearance of the Risen One, according to the Gospels, happened in such a personal way. That there is someone who knows us, who sees our suffering and disappointment,” whose heart breaks “for us and who calls us by name,” he said.

Reading the Gospels, one can see how many people seek God, he said, “but the most extraordinary fact is that God was there in the first place,” long before, watching, worrying and wanting to bring relief.

Each and every person “is a story of love that God has written on this earth,” the pope said. “Each one of us is a story of God’s love” and he patiently waits and forgives each person.

Hearing God call her name revolutionized Mary Magdalene’s life just as it will revolutionize and transform the life of every man and woman, he said.

Christ’s resurrection brings a joy that does not come in dribs and drabs “with an eyedropper,” he said, but as “a waterfall” that will envelop one’s whole life.

The life of a Christian isn’t pervaded by “soft bliss, but by waves that knock everything over,” Pope Francis said. Think about it right now, he told the 15,000 pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. “With the baggage of disappointments and defeat that each one of us carries in our heart, there is a God near us, calling us by name,” he said.

This God is not “inert,” he doesn’t bend to the whims of the world, and he will not let death, sadness, hatred and the moral destruction of people have the last word.

“Our God,” the pope said, “is a dreamer, who dreams of the transformation of the world and achieved it with the mystery of the resurrection.”

The pope prayed that St. Mary Magdalene would help people listen to Jesus calling their name as they weep and mourn, and that they then venture forth with hearts filled with joy, proclaiming his living presence to others.

Having witnessed the Lord, “is our strength and our hope,” he said.

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Why be afraid when God always shows the way, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians always have hope, no matter how bleak, bad or uncertain the journey, because they know God is always by their side, Pope Francis said.

In fact, “even crossing parts of the world (that are) wounded, where things are not going well, we are among those who, even there, continue to hope,” he said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square April 26.

Pope Francis reaches for his zucchetto as a gust of wind lifts it off his head during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 26. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis reaches for his zucchetto as a gust of wind lifts it off his head during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 26. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Just a few days before his visit to Cairo April 28-29, the pope continued his series of talks on the nature of Christian hope, saying it is rooted in knowing God will always be present, even to the end of time.

The Gospel of St. Matthew, he said, begins with the birth of Jesus as Emmanuel, “God with us,” and ends with the risen Christ telling his doubtful disciples to go forth and teach all nations, assuring them that “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

The apostle shows how “ours is not an absent God, sequestered in a faraway heaven. Instead he is a God impassioned with mankind,” so tenderly in love that he is unable to stay away, the pope said.

Human beings are the ones who are really good at cutting off ties and destroying bridges, not God, he said.

“If our hearts get cold, his remains incandescent,” the pope said. “Our God always accompanies us even if, through misfortune, we were to forget about him.”

In fact, the decisive moment between skepticism and faith is “the discovery of being loved and accompanied by our Father,” the pope said.

Life is a pilgrimage, a journey in which “the seduction of the horizon” is always calling the human “wandering soul,” pushing people to go and explore the unknown, he said.

“You do not become mature men and women if you cannot perceive the allure of the horizon, that boundary between heaven and earth that asks to be reached” by those who are on the move, he said.

Christians never feel alone “because Jesus assures us he not only waits for us at the end of our long journey, but accompanies us every day,” even through dark and troubled times, he said.

God will always be concerned and take care of his children, even to the end of all time, he said. “And why does he do this? Quite simply because he loves us.”

The pope said the anchor is one of his favorite symbols of hope.

“Our life is anchored in heaven,” he said, which means “we move on because we are sure that our life has an anchor in heaven” and the rope “is always there” to grab onto.

So if God has promised “he will never abandon us, if the beginning of every vocation is a ‘Follow me,’ with which he assures us of always staying before us, why be afraid then?” the pope asked. “With this promise, Christians can walk everywhere,” even in the worst, darkest places.

“It’s precisely there where darkness has taken over that a light needs to stay lit.”

Those who believe only in themselves and their own powers will feel disappointed and defeated, he said, “because the world often proves itself to be resistant to the laws of love” and prefers “the laws of selfishness.”

Jesus promising “I am with you always” is what keeps the faithful standing tall with hope, believing that God is good and working to achieve what seems humanly impossible.

“There is no place in the world that can escape the victory of the risen Christ, the victory of love,” the pope said.

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World needs those who can bring God’s hope, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope is built on patiently enduring everything life brings and knowing how to see God’s presence and love everywhere, Pope Francis said.

An elderly woman reacts as she meets Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican March 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

An elderly woman reacts as she meets Pope Francis during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 22. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

God “never tires of loving us” as he “takes care of us, dressing our wounds with the caress of his goodness and his mercy, meaning, he consoles us and he never tires of consoling us,” the pope said during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square March 22.

The pope also invited all Catholics to “rediscover the sacrament of reconciliation” during the Lenten season. The pope asked people to make time for confession to “experience the joyful encounter with the mercy of the father,” who welcomes and forgives everyone.

During his main audience talk, the pope continued a series of reflections on how the Apostle Paul describes the nature of Christian hope. In the apostle’s Letter to the Romans (15:1-5), he said that it is “by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.”

This endurance or perseverance, the pope said, is the patient ability to remain faithful and steadfast even when dealing with the most unbearable burdens. It is persevering even when “we would be tempted to judge unfavorably and give up on everything and everyone.”

The encouragement or consolation St. Paul talks about, the pope said, is “the grace to know how to grasp and show the presence and compassionate action of God in every situation, even in one greatly marked by disappointment and suffering.”

When St. Paul says, “We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak,” he isn’t separating the Christian community into a special class of those who are “strong” and a group of “second-class citizens” who are weak, the pope said.

In actuality, the strong are those who experience and understand their fragility and know they need the support and comfort of others, he said. And when people are experiencing their fragility and vulnerability, they “can always offer a smile or hand to a brother or sister in need,” showing them strength.

It’s about people offering one another what they can and knowing that the truly strong one is Christ, who takes care of everyone. “In fact, we all need to be carried on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd and to feel surrounded by his tender and caring gaze,” Pope Francis said.

That strength to endure and find encouragement all comes from God and his sacred Scriptures, the pope said, not from one’s own efforts.

The closer people are to God with prayer and reading the Bible, the more they will have the energy and feel the responsibility to go to those in need, “to console them and give them strength.”

The aim of serving others then will not be to feel proud of oneself, he said, but to “please our neighbor for the good, for building up,” as the Apostle Paul says.

People will realize they are “a channel for broadcasting the Lord’s gifts and, in that way, concretely become a sower of hope,” the pope said.

Planting seeds of hope “is needed today. It’s not easy,” Pope Francis said. But with Christ at the center of one’s life, it will be him who “gives us the strength, the patience, the hope and the consolation” needed to live in harmony.

At the end of the general audience, the pope highlighted that the day also marked World Water Day, established by the United Nations 25 years ago.

The pope greeted participants attending the conference, “Watershed: Replenishing Water Values for a Thirsty World,” sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Club of Rome March 22.

He said he was “happy this meeting is taking place” as part of continued joint efforts to raise awareness about “the need to protect water as a treasure belonging to everyone.”

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

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Catholic News Service

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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Pope: Like expectant moms, live in joyful expectation of embracing God

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope isn’t about believing in something that may or may not come true, like hoping tomorrow’s weather will be pleasant, Pope Francis said.

“Christian hope is the expectation of something that already has been fulfilled and that certainly will be attained for each one of us,” that is, knowing Christ died and is truly risen so that all of humanity may gain salvation and live together with God, the pope said Feb. 1 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis puts his hand to his ear after asking for a response from the crowd during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis puts his hand to his ear after asking for a response from the crowd during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Feb. 1. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Continuing a series of talks on Christian hope, the pope looked at St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians (5:4-11) and what it teaches about the Christian belief in life after death.

The early Christian community at Thessaloniki was firm in its belief in Christ’s resurrection, but trusting in one’s own resurrection and the resurrection of loved ones was a bit harder to grasp, the pope said.

Such doubts and uncertainty still exist today as “we all are a little afraid of dying,” he told those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall.

St. Paul, he said, writes words of encouragement, telling Christians to arm themselves against the onslaught of doubt and difficulties by “putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet that is hope for salvation.”

This kind of hope, the pope said, has nothing to do with wishing for “something nice,” something “that may or may not happen.”

“For example, people say, ‘I hope it will be nice weather tomorrow,’ but we know that it might be terrible weather instead.”

Christian hope isn’t like that, he said. It is belief in “a sure reality” because it is rooted in the real event of Christ’s resurrection and his promise of eternal life with him.

It’s knowing and seeing that “there is a door over there,” he said, pointing to the entryway into the Paul VI audience hall.

“There is a door. I hope to get to the door. What do I have to do? Walk toward the door. I am sure I will make it to the door. That is what Christian hope is like. Being certain that I am walking” with that destination, he said.

Christian hope is living like an expectant mother, the pope said.

“When a woman realizes she is pregnant, she learns to live each day in expectation of seeing her child’s gaze,” he said.

Everyone needs to learn to live each day with this same joyful anticipation – “to live in expectation of gazing at the Lord, of finding the Lord,” he said.

Learning to live in “sure expectation” isn’t easy, but it can be learned, he said.

“A humble, poor heart” knows how to wait, but it is difficult for someone who is “full of himself and his possessions.”

The pope asked everyone to repeat aloud with him St. Paul’s words (1 Thes 4:17) as a way to find peace and consolation, knowing that one day the faithful will be united with God and their loved ones: “Thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

At the end of his main audience talk, the pope greeted members of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, which seeks to act upon the pope’s encyclical “Laudato Si’” and address climate change.

He thanked them for their dedication to “taking care of our common home during this time of serious social-environmental crisis.”

He encouraged them to continue to expand and strengthen their networks “so that local churches may respond with determination to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Hope teaches us to smile amid darkness, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope is not the same as being optimistic about the future, but is knowing that whatever dark or frightening things are going on in one’s life, God is there offering protection and light, Pope Francis said.

Holding his general audience in the Vatican audience hall decorated with Nativity scenes and Christmas ornaments from the state of Queretaro, Mexico, Pope Francis announced Dec. 7 that he was beginning a series of audience talks about hope.

Pope Francis passes a baby in a onesie as he arrives for his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 7. At his audience the pope began a new series of talks about hope. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis passes a baby in a onesie as he arrives for his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 7. At his audience the pope began a new series of talks about hope. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Especially during Advent and in preparation for Christmas, he urged people to read the second half of the Book of Isaiah, “the great prophet of Advent, the great messenger of hope.”

The audience began with a reading of Isaiah 40, which starts: “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.”

When the prophet was writing, the pope explained, the people of Israel were in exile, they had “lost everything — their homeland, freedom, dignity and even their trust in God. They felt abandoned and without hope.”

Isaiah not only proclaims God’s love and fidelity, but calls on those who still have faith to offer consolation to others and help them “reopen their hearts to faith.”

The desert, literally and figuratively, “is a difficult place to live, but it is precisely the place where one can walk to return not only to one’s homeland, but to God, return to hoping and smiling,” the pope said. “When we are in darkness and difficulty, it’s hard to smile.

“Hope teaches us to smile,” the pope said. “One of the first things that happens to people who withdraw from God is that they are people without smiles. They might be able to laugh out loud, tell one joke after another and laugh but their smile is missing.”

“When we are with a baby, a smile comes spontaneously because a baby is hope,” he said. “We smile even if it’s a bad day because we see hope.”

Hope does not come with power or wealth, but with trusting in God, the pope said. It is knowing that “God, with his love, walks with us. I hope because God is alongside me. And this is something all of us can say. I have hope because God walks with me, he walks alongside me and holds my hand.”

The key players in the Christmas story, he said, prove that “history is not made by the powerful, but by God together with his little ones, those small and simple people whom we find around Jesus, who is about to be born: Zachariah and Elizabeth, who are old and marked by sterility; Mary, the young virgin engaged to Joseph; the shepherds, who were despised and counted for nothing.”

They had hope, the pope said, and they turned the dark and twisted paths of life around them into “a highway on which to walk toward the glory of the Lord.”

“There’s no denying that there is a crisis of faith in the world today,” he said. “People say, ‘I believe in God. I’m Christian.’ ‘I belong to that faith.’ But their lives are far from being Christian, far from God. Religion, faith has turned into an expression.”

Those who believe must convert, constantly turning their hearts to God and “following that path toward him. He awaits us.”

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Pope Francis asks Europe’s parishes to take in refugee families

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Given the ongoing crisis of people fleeing from war and poverty, Pope Francis asked every parish and religious community in Europe to take in a family of refugees as a concrete sign of hope and God’s mercy.

Hundreds of migrants line up to catch a train near Gevgelija, Macedonia, Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Stoyan Nenov, Reuters) S

Hundreds of migrants line up to catch a train near Gevgelija, Macedonia, Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Stoyan Nenov, Reuters) S

“The Gospel calls us, asks us to be near the least and the abandoned. To give them concrete hope, not just say ‘Hang in there, have patience.’” he said in an appeal after praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square Sept. 6.

“Christian hope has a fighting spirit with the tenacity of someone who is heading toward a sure goal,” he said, while he encouraged all of his “brother bishops of Europe, true shepherds,” to support his appeal in their dioceses.

“In the face of the tragedy of tens of thousands of refugees, who are fleeing death because of war and hunger” and are seeking a new life, the pope called on “parishes, religious communities, monasteries and sanctuaries all across Europe to give concrete expression of the Gospel and receive a family of refugees.”

God’s mercy is expressed through the works of regular men and women, he said, reminding people that Christ taught that “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

He said the gesture would also be a concrete way to prepare for the Holy Year of Mercy, which begins Dec. 8.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, said St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican’s St. Anne Church would sponsored their first refugee families soon as well as seek employment for each head of the household.

The pope asked that two apartments near the Vatican be made available for the two families, said Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica.

“The pope wants the apartments to be near where he is, also to guarantee health care” and other services available in Vatican City State and not put a burden on the Italian government, the cardinal said.

Before the Angelus prayer, the pope said Christians must not be closed up inside themselves, as is often the case. “We create so many inaccessible and inhospitable islands” he said.

The most basic relationships sometimes can become incapable of openness and mutual exchange, such as families, associations, parishes, even nations, demonstrating yet another example of human sin, he said.

He reminded Christians they are called to open themselves up to God and his word, and to others, sharing the Word with those who “have never heard it or to those who have forgotten it,buried under the brambles of the worries and deceptions of the world.”

Meanwhile, people of all religious beliefs must never give up and give in to war, the pope said in a message to an international gathering for peace in Tirana, Albania.

“We must never resign ourselves to war, and we cannot remain indifferent before those who suffer because of war and violence,” he said in a written message to those gathered for the interreligious meeting sponsored by the Catholic lay movement, the Community of Sant’Egidio.

“Violence can also be building up walls and barriers to block people who are seeking a place of peace. It is violence to turn away people who flee inhumane conditions in their hopes of a better future,” the pope wrote.

Believing that peace is always possible is not a sign of naivete, he said, but an expression of one’s belief that “nothing is impossible” with God.

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Christian hope does not let sting of death poison your life, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christian hope and faith in the afterlife mean the sting of losing a loved one does not have to leave behind a poisonous venom in our lives, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican June 17. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 17. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

“Our loved ones have not disappeared into dark nothingness: Hope assures us that that they are in God’s good and strong hands. Love is stronger than death,” he said at his general audience June 17.

As part of a series of talks about the family and problems they face, the pope looked at death, particularly the loss of a close family member.

When a loved one dies, especially a child or a parent of young children, “death is never able to appear as something natural,” he said.

It is “heart-rending” when a mother and father lose a child: “It’s as if time has stopped. An abyss opens that swallows up the past and the future,” he said.

Losing a child seems to go against everything life is supposed to be about, he said. “It’s a slap in the face to all the promises, gifts, and sacrifices of love joyously given to the life we have given birth to,” he said.

Just as traumatic is when a child loses one or both parents, he said.

They ask, “‘Where is daddy? Where is mommy?’ or ‘When will mommy come back home?’ Oh, what do you say? The child suffers” and he or she lacks the experience or understanding “to give a name to what has happened,” the pope said.

These experiences of death are particularly distressing, “like a black hole that opens in the life of a family and for which we don’t know how to give any explanation.”

Sometimes family members will blame God. “I understand. They get mad at God, they curse him,” or begin to question or doubt his existence, the pope said.

“This anger is a bit of what comes from the heart of huge heartache” of losing a family member, he said.

Unfortunately, death has a number of evil “accomplices, who are even worse” and their names are hatred, envy, pride, greed, indifference, basically “the sin of the world that works for death and makes it even more painful and unjust.”

Death’s “auxiliary forces” render so many families helpless and, so often, such horror in some parts of the world starts to seem like an “absurd normality.”

“May the Lord free us from getting used to this” kind of loss of life, he said.

For the people of God, death never has the last word, the pope said. However, it still takes an enormous amount of love to face “the darkness of death.”

He asked that today’s priests and all Christians find ways to better express what the faith means when facing the death of a loved one.

People need to mourn, “you must never deny people the right to cry,” he said.

Christians must become “accomplices” of love, armed with the faith and able to help families navigate the “very difficult path of death as well as the sure path of the Lord, crucified and risen, with his irreversible promise of resurrection.”

The Lord will reunite everyone once again, and it is this Christian hope and faith that will “protect us from a nihilistic view of death as well as false worldly consolation,” myths or superstition, he said.

The pope reminded people that June 20 marked World Refugee Day, and he asked people pray for all those forced to flee as they search for a new home “where they can live without fear.”

He asked that the dignity of refugees always be respected and encouraged the international community to cooperate and work effectively to “prevent the causes of forced migrations.”

“I invite everyone to ask forgiveness for the people and institutions that close the doors to these people who are seeking a family, who want to be cared for,” he said to applause.

 

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