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Pope prays for dialogue, reconciliation in Jerusalem

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis called on Muslims and Jews in the Holy Land to “moderation and dialogue” as tensions continued around a key site in Jerusalem that is sacred to members of both faiths.

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli forces after prayer outside Jerusalem's Old City July 21. (CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

Palestinians run from tear gas fired by Israeli forces after prayer outside Jerusalem’s Old City July 21. (CNS photo/Ammar Awad, Reuters)

After reciting the Angelus July 23, the pope asked people gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the midday prayer to join him in asking the Lord to inspire reconciliation and peace in the region.

Tensions in Jerusalem have been high since July 14 when three Israeli Arabs armed with knives and guns killed two Israeli police officers at an entrance to the site the Jews call Temple Mount and the Muslims call Haram al-Sharif. The site includes the Western Wall and Al Aqsa mosque.

In his main Angelus talk, Pope Francis spoke about the parable of the weeds among the wheat from the Sunday Gospel reading.

The farmer in the parable from the Gospel of Matthew tells his workers not to pull up all the weeds because they might uproot the wheat, but to wait until the harvest when the wheat and weeds can be separated.

“With this image, Jesus tells us that in this world good and evil are so intertwined that it is impossible to separate them and eradicate all the evil, only God can do that,” the pope said.

Human beings are called to the “difficult exercise of discernment” in choosing between good and what is evil, he said, and when they fail, which all people do sometimes, the church stands ready to help with the grace of baptism and of confession.

Like the farmer in the parable, the pope said, God calls Christians to be patient as they await the harvest.

“Patience means preferring a church that is leaven in the dough, that is not afraid of getting its hands dirty washing the clothes of its children, rather than being a church of the ‘pure,’ who insist on judging beforehand who is in the kingdom of God and who isn’t.”

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Historic first: Pope Francis to meet with Russian Orthodox patriarch

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — After almost three decades of tense Catholic-Russian Orthodox relations, Pope Francis will meet Patriarch Kirill of Moscow Feb. 12 in Cuba on the pope’s way to Mexico.

It will be the first-ever meeting of a pope and Moscow patriarch, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters Feb. 5. Read more »

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Catholics join efforts to heal, move forward in Baltimore

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Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — As the city cleaned up after a night of riots, looting and fires following the funeral of Freddie Gray, Archbishop William E. Lori said the church’s place is to pray, be a voice for peace, and participate in a wider community dialogue to solve the systemic issues that led to the unrest.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori visits a riot-stricken section of  West Baltimore April 28. During a night of unrest that erupted in response to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody the archbishop called pastors to check on their safety and the situation in their neighborhoods. (CNS photo/Olivia Obineme, Catholic Review)

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori visits a riot-stricken section of West Baltimore April 28. During a night of unrest that erupted in response to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody the archbishop called pastors to check on their safety and the situation in their neighborhoods. (CNS photo/Olivia Obineme, Catholic Review)

Gray, 25, died April 19, one week after being arrested on a weapons charge and sustaining a severe spinal cord injury in West Baltimore while in police custody. After his funeral April 27, peaceful protests turned into unrest later in the day, leading to damage of buildings and cars, and looting and fires seen nonstop on national TV news networks.

The next morning, as Archbishop Lori, Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden and other archdiocesan leaders toured the West Baltimore neighborhoods affected, adults and children with brooms and trash bags were as numerous as the rioters the night before.

Ray Kelly stopped outside of St. Peter Claver Church to talk with the archbishop’s group and Josephite Father Ray P. Bomberger, pastor. “We’re going to do a cleanup and bring Sandtown leaders together. We want to make sure that residents are part of this effort.”

Kelly, who said he has lived in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood “forever, 44 years,” said, “They’ve got to start restructuring. Right now. Today.”

He said because he has lived here, he could feel it was going to happen. He and a friend were talking after the weekend unrest April 25, and he wondered if this was the calm after the storm, or the calm before it. He said he knew “there’s more to come.”

Archbishop Lori made stops at St. Peter, St. Gregory the Great and the senior center next door, and at St. Edward, before heading to North Avenue to survey looted buildings and the carcass of a burned car.

He said during the unrest he called as many West Baltimore pastors as he could, and spoke to many of them.

“We will continue to do a lot of work, especially through Bishop Madden and the city pastors, especially on the west side,” he said.

“First of all, let’s pray. … We need to strengthen our communities that they might be a force of peace. We need to participate vigorously in a citywide dialogue on the systemic issues that have really bubbled up to the surface here,” the archbishop said. “It seems that’s our role in this.”

Stephen Scott, who lives just around the corner from St. Gregory the Great, greeted Archbishop Lori when he visited the Harvey and Jeanette Weinberg Sandtown Winchester Senior Center April 28. “It’s sad, so sad when it comes down to this and it hurts everybody,” Scott said of the violence.

Shirley Washington, who works at the center, said she hopes those who participated in the violence will realize what they have done. “When it all settles down, you’ll think about what you did wrong then,” she said.

At St. Bernardine Parish, a previously scheduled three-night revival opened as the violence flared.

“I think we’re all heartbroken over what’s happening, but we’re going to keep our faith in God and keep praying, keep looking for truth and answers, and look for peace as well,” said Msgr. Richard Bozzelli, pastor.

He said the parish planned to go ahead with the youth night portion of the revival April 28 in partnership with St. Frances Academy.

At the opening, Deacon B. Curtis Turner, principal of St. Frances Academy, preached about the hapless disciples, terrified in a boat in a storm, as they witnessed Jesus walking on water, Msgr. Bozzelli said.

“Little did he know when he was preparing that what storm we would be dealing with,” the pastor said.

Deacon Turner described the irony of first learning of the mayhem while in Washington, D.C., on a field trip with his students.

“We were literally standing under the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial when we heard about it,” he said.

“It’s disturbing because the students see (the violence) on TV, and they know that that’s not the majority of Baltimore youths,” Deacon Turner added. “Sadly, that’s what gets all the media coverage.”

Willa and Brendan Walsh of the Baltimore Catholic Worker Viva House, located several blocks from the violence, said they received many phone calls and emails inquiring about their safety. They responded in a statement on what they saw as the roots of the destruction.

“The unrest and anger are the results of decades of unemployment (over 50 percent in our ZIP code), decades of miserable uninhabitable housing, decades of under-funded chaotic schools, decades of the drug trade, and, it goes without saying, centuries of racism,” the Walshes wrote.

“The most violent country in the world has produced citizens, unfortunately another generation of young people, who will believe that violence is the solution to all problems.”

Public schools across the city cancelled classes for April 28. The Archdiocese of Baltimore did the same, closing all schools except for the School of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, located in Homeland, north of the violence.

Erik Zygmont also contributed to this story.

 

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Vatican approves new statutes and bylaws for U.S. nuns’ leadership group, ends oversight

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican approved new statutes and bylaws for the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious, ending a seven-year process of investigating the group and engaging in dialogue with its officers to ensure greater harmony with church teaching. Read more »

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Commentary — Dialogue is essential for peaceful relationships

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According to the New York Times, during a White House luncheon in 1954 Winston Churchill said, “To jaw-jaw [talk-talk] always is better than to war-war.”

While clearly not a pacifist, the United Kingdom’s World War II prime minister had seen upfront the absolute horror of war, and became convinced that tirelessly striving to resolve disputes through respectful dialogue was always preferable to war. Read more »

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President, first lady to welcome Pope Francis to White House Sept. 23

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will welcome Pope Francis to the White House Sept. 23.

“During the visit, the president and the pope will continue the dialogue, which they began during the president’s visit to the Vatican in March 2014, on their shared values and commitments on a wide range of issues,” said a statement released March 26 by the Office of the Press Secretary at the White House.

Those issues, it said, include “caring for the marginalized and the poor; advancing economic opportunity for all; serving as good stewards of the environment; protecting religious minorities and promoting religious freedom around the world; and welcoming and integrating immigrants and refugees into our communities.”

U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican a year ago. Pope Francis will visit the White House on Sept. 23. (CNS photo/Stefano Spaziani, pool)

U.S. President Barack Obama walks with Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican a year ago. Pope Francis will visit the White House on Sept. 23. (CNS photo/Stefano Spaziani, pool)

The statement added, “The president looks forward to continuing this conversation with the Holy Father during his first visit to the United States as pope.”

Last year, in their first encounter, Pope Francis received the president at the Vatican for a discussion that touched on several areas of tension between the Catholic Church and the White House, including religious freedom and medical ethics.

During an unusually long 50-minute meeting, the two leaders discussed “questions of particular relevance for the church in (the U.S.), such as the exercise of the rights to religious freedom, life and conscientious objection as well as the issue of immigration reform,” the Vatican said in statement afterward.

While in Washington, Pope Francis will address a joint meeting of Congress Sept. 24, making him the first pope to do so.

The Archdiocese of Washington said it would host the pope for his visit, but did not announce dates. On his flight from the Philippines to Rome in January, Pope Francis said he would canonize Blessed Junipero Serra at Washington’s Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

On March 18, the United Nations announced Pope Francis will visit there the morning of Sept. 25 to address the U.N. General Assembly. The pope also will meet separately with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and with the president of the General Assembly. The pontiff also is scheduled to a town hall gathering with U.N. staff.

In a statement, Ban noted that the pope’s visit came during the United Nations’ 70th anniversary, in which its members would make decisions about sustainable development, climate change and peace. He said he was confident the pope’s visit would inspire the international community to redouble its efforts for social justice, tolerance and understanding.

The United Nations did not release the detailed itinerary for the meetings, part of a larger papal visit to Washington, New York and Philadelphia. The Vatican is expected to release the official itinerary about two months in advance of the trip, unless local officials release it earlier.

Pope Francis already had announced his participation Sept. 26 and 27 for the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

During his pontificate, St. John Paul II visited the United States seven times, two of which were fuel stopovers, making the country his most frequent foreign destination after his native Poland. He addressed the U.N. General Assembly in 1979 and 1995; Blessed Paul VI did so in 1965 and Pope Benedict XVI addressed the assembly in 2008, during his one U.S. visit as pope.

 

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Retired Pope Benedict says interreligious dialogue no substitute for mission

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.” He also said the true motivation for missionary work is not to increase the church’s size but to share the joy of knowing Christ.

Retired Pope Benedict XVI arrives for the beatification Mass of Blessed Paul VI celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 19. The retired pope said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as "lethal to faith." (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Retired Pope Benedict XVI arrives for the beatification Mass of Blessed Paul VI celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 19. The retired pope said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.” (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The retired pope’s words appeared in written remarks to faculty members and students at Rome’s Pontifical Urbanian University, which belongs to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household and personal secretary to retired Pope Benedict, read the 1,800-word message aloud Oct. 21, at a ceremony dedicating the university’s renovated main lecture hall to the retired pope.

The speech is one of a handful of public statements, including an interview and a published letter to a journalist, that Pope Benedict has made since he retired in February 2013.

“The risen Lord instructed his apostles, and through them his disciples in all ages, to take his word to the ends of the earth and to make disciples of all people,” retired Pope Benedict wrote. “’But does that still apply?’ many inside and outside the church ask themselves today. ‘’Is mission still something for today? Would it not be more appropriate to meet in dialogue among religions and serve together the cause of world peace?’ The counter-question is: ‘Can dialogue substitute for mission?’

“In fact, many today think religions should respect each other and, in their dialogue, become a common force for peace. According to this way of thinking, it is usually taken for granted that different religions are variants of one and the same reality,” the retired pope wrote. “The question of truth, that which originally motivated Christians more than any other, is here put inside parentheses. It is assumed that the authentic truth about God is in the last analysis unreachable and that at best one can represent the ineffable with a variety of symbols. This renunciation of truth seems realistic and useful for peace among religions in the world.

“It is nevertheless lethal to faith. In fact, faith loses its binding character and its seriousness, everything is reduced to interchangeable symbols, capable of referring only distantly to the inaccessible mystery of the divine,” he wrote.

Pope Benedict wrote that some religions, particularly “tribal religions,” are “waiting for the encounter with Jesus Christ,” but that this “encounter is always reciprocal. Christ is waiting for their history, their wisdom, their vision of the things.” This encounter can also give new life to Christianity, which has grown tired in its historical heartlands, he wrote.

“We proclaim Jesus Christ not to procure as many members as possible for our community, and still less in order to gain power,” the retired pope wrote. “We speak of him because we feel the duty to transmit that joy which has been given to us.”

 

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Head of Vatican office for religious says dialogue is best to improve relations with U.S. nuns’ group

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Anytime there are misunderstandings, errors or problems concerning religious orders, dialogue is the best way to deal with the situation, said the head of the Vatican office that oversees the world’s religious orders.

“At times there are things that either may not have been understood or are deviations, too, but which we haven’t talked about and we have to talk about again with trust,” said Brazilian Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

The cardinal’s remarks were in response to a question about the nature of the Vatican’s current rapport with religious sisters in light of recent “difficulties,” particularly in reference to the U.S.-based Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which is undergoing a major reform ordered by the Vatican in 2012.

Cardinal Aviz and Sister Carmen Sammut, president of the International Union of Superiors General, were speaking at a news conference May 20 to highlight how religious sisters around the world were mobilizing to prevent human trafficking and exploitation during the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil June 12-July13.

A reporter asked the cardinal and Sister Sammut, a member of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, whether the Vatican’s support of the sisters’ initiative was “a sign of coming together, perhaps a healing of the relationship.”

The cardinal said, “The Holy See has a very close relationship” with the vast numbers of religious congregations and orders around the world.

“There are positive aspects and less positive aspects just like in life,” he said. “There have been more sensitive moments in which, let’s say, we have had to clarify positions, but we see that there is complete collaboration, and the desire for dialogue and coming together is very great.”

“This great sensitivity,” Cardinal Aviz said, can also be seen in Pope Francis’ desire that “consecrated life recover all its strength for serving the church” and the world.

Whenever there are difficulties, “we have chosen the path of dialogue because it is the best thing there is,” and it has been producing results that are “always better,” he said.

Sister Sammut said that, as president of the superiors’ group she has “seen a lot of collaboration” with the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

“What is important is that we can dialogue together and that we can walk together,” she said. “Like any other organization we can have differences. But what is important is that we are true to each other.”

She said it was important “that we can mention what we see as questions, as challenges to each other and that we can try to find solutions together.”

Cardinal Gerhard Muller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, recently voiced “increasing concern” with positions being taken by the officers of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a Maryland-based umbrella group that claims about 1,500 leaders of U.S. women’s communities as members, representing about 80 percent of the country’s 57,000 women religious.

In an April 30 meeting with LCWR officials, Cardinal Muller rebuked the “concept of conscious evolution” in various LCWR publications and in “directional statements” of some member congregations. He also criticized the group’s plan to honor a Catholic theologian, St. Joseph Sister Elizabeth Johnson, whose work he said has been judged “seriously inadequate.”

In 2012, the Vatican announced a major reform of the LCWR to ensure its fidelity to Catholic teaching in areas including abortion, euthanasia, women’s ordination and homosexuality.

The group’s leaders said the cardinal’s recent address to them was “constructive in its frankness and lack of ambiguity. It was not an easy discussion, but its openness and spirit of inquiry created a space for authentic dialogue and discernment.”

The group also said in the same written statement May 8 that they have “experienced a culture of encounter, marked by dialogue and discernment” in all of their visits to Vatican offices as part of the reform process.

However, the LCWR leadership also expressed disappointment about how they continue to be perceived by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

“During the meeting, it became evident that despite maximum efforts through the years, communication has broken down and as a result, mistrust has developed,” the LCWR leaders said, adding that they did not “recognize ourselves” in the Vatican’s doctrinal assessment and that their attempts to “clarify misperceptions have led to deeper misunderstandings.”

 

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Don’t debate Satan, pope says, quote Scripture instead

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — When temptation comes your way, don’t try to dialogue or argue with the devil, Pope Francis said, but seek refuge and strength in the words of the Bible.

Addressing tens of thousands of people gathered for the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square March 9, Pope Francis spoke about the Gospel of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the

Pope Francis arrives for a weeklong Lenten retreat with senior members of the Roman Curia in Ariccia, near Rome, March 9. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

desert.

“The tempter tried to divert Jesus from the Father’s plan, which was the path of sacrifice and love, of offering himself in expiation, and instead convince him to take the easy way of success and power,” the pope said.

Each time the devil tempts Jesus, asking him to transform stones into bread, throw himself from the top of the temple and see if angels would rescue him, or worship Satan in exchange for earthly power, Jesus responds by reciting Scripture, the pope said.

“He doesn’t dialogue with Satan like Eve” did in the Garden of Eden, the pope said. “Jesus knows well that you can’t dialogue with Satan because he is so cunning.”

“Remember this,” Pope Francis told the crowd, “at times of temptation, in our temptations: No arguments with Satan; defend yourselves with the word of God.”

Pope Francis said Lent is a time for everyone to set out on the path of conversion and to prepare to renew their baptismal promises, including “renouncing Satan and all his works and his seductions, because he is a seducer, in order to walk the pathways of God.”

The pope also asked those gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray for him and his collaborators in the Roman Curia during their March 9-14 Lenten retreat.

With more than 80 cardinals, archbishops and other top officials of Vatican offices, Pope Francis boarded a bus in the late afternoon to travel the 20 miles to a retreat house in Ariccia for joint reflection, prayer and silent meditation.

 

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People must dialogue and respect other religions, cultures, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In societies increasingly made up of people of different cultures and religions, people must learn the art of dialogue and reach out to others with respect and friendship, Pope Francis said.

“Dialogue does not mean renouncing your identity” or “accepting compromises on faith and Catholic morals,” the pope told members of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Meeting council members Nov. 28 at the end of their plenary meeting, which focused on the role of religions in society, Pope Francis said true dialogue is not a negotiation, but requires participants to share who they really are and ask others to do likewise.

“Interreligious dialogue and evangelization are not mutually exclusive,” the pope said, but they actually strengthen each other. “We don’t impose anything, we don’t use some subtle strategy to attract the faithful, but rather we give witness to what we believe in and who we are with joy and simplicity.”

A relationship in which people put aside what they believe or pretend to believe differently would not be authentic and would help no one, the pope said.

Pope Francis said modern societies are demonstrating fear of other religions, but also fear of any religion, which is another reason why followers of different faiths should meet, dialogue and work together to promote the common good and show others that faith makes positive contributions to society.

Religion, he said, is often seen as “something useless or even dangerous,” and in some countries some Christians are asked to set aside their religious convictions if they want to exercise their professions.

“The idea that peaceful coexistence is possible only by hiding one’s religious affiliation is widespread,” Pope Francis said. There again, he said, what society is left with is something fake, which cannot benefit anyone.

“Certainly, it’s necessary that everything be done with respect for the convictions of others, including those who do not believe,” the pope said, “but we must have the courage and patience to encounter others, bringing who we are.”

A future of peace for everyone, he said, will require “a coexistence that is respectful of diversity, not the homogenization of a theoretically neutral” way of thinking.

Full religious freedom is an essential part of that respectful diversity, he said.

The Catholic Church will continue to press for religious freedom and it will continue to denounce the many situations of political and economic tension where the unscrupulous use religious or cultural differences to exacerbate fears, Pope Francis said.

“There is only one path for overcoming fear,” he said, “and it is that of dialogue, encounters marked by friendship and respect. This path is the human path.”

 

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