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Defend life, equality, unity, pope tells Colombians at Mass in Bogota

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Catholic News Service

BOGOTA, Colombia — Consolidating peace in Colombia will mean overcoming “the darkness” of inequality and a lack of respect for human life, Pope Francis said.

“Here, as in other places, there is a thick darkness which threatens and destroys life,” the pope said in his homily at a late-afternoon Mass Sept. 7 in Bogota’s Simon Bolivar Park.

Pope Francis passes Colombia’s flag with a rosary on it as he greets the crowd before celebrating Mass at Simon Bolivar Park in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Colombian authorities said more than 1.1 million people gathered in the park for the Mass. Many of them were soaked in a rainstorm before the pope arrived, but as Mass began, bits of blue sky began to appear.

Still, preaching about the Gospel story of Jesus’ first encountering Simon Peter after the fishermen had fished all night without luck, Pope Francis spoke about the “turmoil and darkness” of the sea as a symbol for “everything that threatens human existence and that has the power to destroy it.”

For Colombia, just starting to recover from more than 50 years of civil war, and for many other nations as well, the pope said, the threats come from “the darkness of injustice and social inequality; (and) the corrupting darkness of personal and group interests that consume in a selfish and uncontrolled way what is destined for the good of all.”

The threats include “the darkness of disrespect for human life which daily destroys the life of many innocents, whose blood cries out to heaven; the darkness of thirst for vengeance and the hatred which stains the hands of those who would right wrongs on their own authority; the darkness of those who become numb to the pain of so many victims,” he said. But “Jesus scatters and destroys all this darkness.”

In society, in politics and in the church, Pope Francis said, people can get “tangled up in endless discussions” about what went wrong and whose fault it is. But the only way forward is to follow Jesus, obeying his command to cast out the nets, which means taking responsibility for personal conversion and changing the world.

“Jesus invites us to put out into the deep, he prompts us to take shared risks, to leave behind our selfishness and to follow him,” Pope Francis told the crowd, which included Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos and his wife.

Jesus wants people to leave behind their fears, “which paralyze us and prevent us (from) becoming artisans of peace, promoters of life.”

The people of Colombia, he said, are called to continue their conversion to peace and respect for all the nation’s people. That can happen only by promoting unity, “working for the defense and care of human life, especially when it is most fragile and vulnerable: in a mother’s womb, in infancy, in old age, in conditions of incapacity and in situations of social marginalization.”

Jesus calls people “out of darkness and bring us to light and to life,” the pope said. “He calls everyone, so that no one is left to the mercy of the storms,” asking the strong “to carry the most fragile and promote their rights.”

After the Mass, Pope Francis was scheduled to greet bishops from neighboring countries, including from Venezuela, which is in the midst of a social, political and economic crisis.

Venezuelan Cardinals Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas and Baltazar Porras Cardozo of Merida told reporters Pope Francis also invited them to discuss the crisis with him.

“We have the highest inflation in the world, an inflation of 700,000-800,000 percent,” Cardinal Urosa said. It is “a truly desperate situation. There are people who eat the garbage; yes, there are people who eat garbage, and there are people who die because there is no medicine.”

He said the bishops also wanted to tell the pope more about “the serious political situation, because the government is doing everything possible to establish a state system, totalitarian and Marxist.”

Cardinal Porras added, “I think that this meeting is a real gift that the pope is giving to all of the Venezuelan people through the bishops who are here.”

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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Nuncio: Evangelization, mercy, encounter mark pope’s first four years

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Catholic News Service

NEW YORK — Evangelization, mercy, encounter and accompaniment are the hallmarks of the first four years of Pope Francis’ papacy, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, said March 15.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addresses the audience during a discussion March 15 in New York City on the first four years of Pope Francis' papacy. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addresses the audience during a discussion March 15 in New York City on the first four years of Pope Francis’ papacy. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

“First and foremost, Pope Francis is committed to the work of evangelization. The main role of the church is to evangelize, to receive the gospel and offer it to the world,” he said in a conversation in New York with Jesuit Father Matthew F. Malone, president and editor-in-chief of America Media.

“The raison d’etre of the church is evangelization. It’s not a business, it’s not an organization or an association for the defense of Jesus, but a group called to announce God’s presence to humanity,” Archbishop Pierre said.

At a meeting of cardinals before the conclave that elected him pope, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio reflected on the challenges Pope Benedict’s successor should address. Archbishop Pierre said Pope Francis’ handwritten notes from his talk were a blueprint for his papacy.

In them, Pope Francis underscored the importance of evangelizing with apostolic zeal and going to the peripheries of sin, pain, injustice and misery to reach people. He warned that when the church does not come out of herself to evangelize, she becomes self-referential and sick. He wrote, “The evils that, over time, happen in ecclesiastical institutions have their root in self-reference and a kind of theological narcissism.”

Cardinal Bergoglio said the next pope, “must be a man who, from the contemplation and adoration of Jesus Christ, helps the church go out to the existential peripheries, that helps her be the fruitful mother, who gains life from the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”

“The church is a continuation of Christ in the world,” Archbishop Pierre said. And the pope continues to insist it is time not to rest, but to go to the many peripheries to be God’s presence to the people who suffer, he said.

He expanded on the pope’s familiar description of the church as a field hospital. “It’s very simple. It’s a tent where you attend people. Be there. Don’t waste time. That’s where you meet wounded people.”

Father Malone said Jesus, the source of joy in the Gospels, is the medication in the field hospital. Pope Francis pictures himself as a patient in the hospital, not the doctor, he said.

People have rediscovered the sacrament of penance during this papacy because Pope Francis identifies himself as a sinner and is seen going to confession, Archbishop Pierre said. “Many had abandoned the sacrament of reconciliation, but have rediscovered the necessity of receiving the forgiveness of God and giving it to others,” he said.

When the pope speaks of mercy, it is not only a human virtue, but a gift from God, and people are the first target of God’s mercy, Archbishop Pierre said. “Our church is a merciful church. We present truth in a respectful way. Mercy means dialogue and walking along the path of the other,” he said.

“I’m impressed to see the capacity Pope Francis has to meet people,” Archbishop Pierre said. “Politicians want to see the pope, not just for the photo, but for the encounter. I have seen politicians transformed.”

He recounted the pope’s visit to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of Lutheranism. “We’ve had the idea that Luther is the enemy,” the nuncio said. But Pope Francis had an encounter with Lutheran leaders there and said Luther is part of the history of the Catholic Church. The pope speaks with his actions, Archbishop Pierre said.

The nuncio said Pope Francis approaches dialogue as an important ingredient of public life. People who dialogue successfully must be rooted in their own convictions and faith. In this way, dialogue is “two rooted persons looking for the truth,” he said.

The pope is hard on bishops and priests because he wants them to be masters of discernment and help people develop the capacity to choose between good and bad, Archbishop Pierre said. It is not enough to identify right from wrong, he said. If the understanding is not applied to personal actions, life will be a dichotomy.

Archbishop Pierre said Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) is based on the closing document of the 2007 meeting of the Latin American bishops’ council in Aparecida, Brazil. Then-Archbishop Bergoglio led the editing committee for the document. A document intended for the Latin American bishops “became the patrimony of the whole church,” Archbishop Pierre said.

He said Pope Francis’ experience living in a “peripheral” country helped him elaborate a different kind of option for the poor than the one envisioned three decades earlier at the Medellin, Colombia, meeting of the Latin American bishops. “The reality is the people had been evangelized so deeply that the culture was filled with the Gospel,” he said.

Because the church does not play the same role in people’s lives it once did, the church today is challenged to help people encounter Christ and rediscover the presence of God in their own lives. It must be missionary and not self-referential, the nuncio said.

In his introductory remarks, Archbishop Bernardito Auza, apostolic nuncio to the United Nations, said Archbishop Pierre is an intrepid adventurer who “enfleshes Pope Francis’ desire to go to the peripheries.”

Archbishop Pierre entered the papal diplomatic corps in 1977 and served in New Zealand, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Cuba, Brazil, Geneva, Haiti, Uganda and Mexico. Pope Francis named him apostolic nuncio to the United States April 12, 2016.

The event was co-sponsored by America Media and the American Bible Society and held at the New York Athletic Club.

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Hunger is a ‘true scandal’ in a world where food goes to waste, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Hunger is a “true scandal” that threatens the life and dignity of millions of people while tons of food go to waste, Pope Francis said.

A homeless man sits on a sidewalk in Philadelphia Sept. 26. Pope Francis says hunger is a "true scandal" that threatens the life and dignity of millions of people. (CNS photo/CJ Gunther, EPA)

A homeless man sits on a sidewalk in Philadelphia Sept. 26. Pope Francis says hunger is a “true scandal” that threatens the life and dignity of millions of people. (CNS photo/CJ Gunther, EPA)

“We must face this injustice, this sin,” the pope told more than 7,000 volunteers and coordinators of Italian food banks, along with representatives from food banks in other countries.

Pope Francis met the volunteers and coordinators Oct. 3 in the Vatican at a meeting sponsored by the Italian Food Bank Foundation, which assists the local food-distribution outlets and has a special focus on encouraging large-scale food producers to donate their excess or imperfect products to local food banks rather than destroy the products.

The pope praised their efforts “to fight the waste of food, recover it and distribute it to families in difficulty and to the poor.”

Developing nations are not the only countries with a hunger problem, he said. Even the richest countries seem to struggle to feed their poor despite the world being able to produce enough food to feed everyone.

In the Gospel, the pope said, Jesus makes clear that people will be judged on how they responded to the hunger of others.

“We see in the Gospel that the Lord, when he realizes that the crowd who came to listen to him is hungry, does not ignore the problem and he doesn’t give a nice speech about fighting poverty,” the pope said, “but he does something that leaves them all in awe: He takes the little that the disciples have, blesses it and multiplies the bread and fish.”

While “we cannot do a miracle like Jesus,” every person and every food bank, even those that struggle, can do at least a little something to fight hunger and to educate their families and communities about the need for solidarity, the pope said.

Pope Francis pleaded with the volunteers and coordinators to remember always that the people who come to them “are persons, not numbers, each with their burden of pain that sometimes seems impossible to carry.”

“Look at their faces, look them in the eye, shake their hand, see in them the flesh of Christ and help them regain their dignity and get back on their feet,” the pope said. “Be brothers and friends of the poor; let them know they are important in God’s eyes.”

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Students need values from teachers, teachers need better pay, Pope Francis says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY —Teaching is about giving young people, especially troublemakers, values and hope, and it is “an injustice” that today’s educators are paid so poorly, Pope Francis said.

In a world where it is already difficult for kids to find a decent point of reference, they must find positive guidance from teachers, who “are able to give meaning to school, studying and culture, without reducing it all just to passing on practical knowledge,” he said March 14.

Fourth-grade teacher Jessica Jones works with her class Oct. 20, 2014, at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Chicago.(CNS photo/Karen Callaway)

Fourth-grade teacher Jessica Jones works with her class Oct. 20, 2014, at Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Chicago.(CNS photo/Karen Callaway)

“You have to teach not just about a subject, but also life’s values and habits” because when it comes to learning about a subject, “a computer is sufficient, but to understand how to love, to understand what the values and habits are that create harmony in the world, you need a good teacher,” he said.

The pope’s remarks came during a meeting with members of an Italian association of Catholic teachers, educators and school administrators in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall.

Addressing those in the audience as “colleagues,” the pope recalled his own experience as a teacher, saying teaching “is a really beautiful job” because it lets educators see their students “grow day after day.”

However, he said, it was “an injustice” and a “shame that teachers are poorly paid.”

“Teaching is a serious commitment that only a mature and well-balanced” person should take on, he added.

Young people expect a teacher to be “a guide, a compass, an answer” as well as someone who asks them “good questions,” he said.

The pope called on teachers to reach out to and “love with greater intensity” the kids on “the peripheries” of their school: those who do not like studying, who are labeled as “difficult,” who have disabilities, come other countries or face other problems and disadvantages.

“Jesus would say: If you love only those who study or who are well-educated, what merit does that have? There are those who try your patience, but we have to love them even more,” the pope said.

In addition to teaching “the contents” of a particular subject, teachers need to build an edifying relationship with all students, “who must feel welcomed and loved for who they are, with all their limits and potential.”

The pope encouraged teachers to renew their love for humanity because “you can’t teach without passion” and he asked they be “witnesses of life and hope. Never, ever close the door, open all of them wide so that students will have hope.”

 

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