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Mass is a time of silence and prayer, not idle chitchat, pope says

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Catholic News Service

 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Mass is the highest form of prayer and not an appropriate moment for small talk, Pope Francis said.

At church, Catholics should spend their time in silence before Mass, preparing “to meet with Jesus” instead of engaging in “chitchat,” the pope said Nov. 15 during his weekly general audience.

“Silence is so important,” he said. “Remember what I told you last time: we are not going to a show. Silence prepares us and accompanies us.” Read more »

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Forgive your aggressors, pope tells victims of Colombia’s civil war

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Catholic News Service

VILLAVICENCIO, Colombia — If just one victim of Colombia’s civil war forgives his or her aggressor, it can set off a chain reaction of hope for reconciliation and peace, Pope Francis said.

Celebrating Mass Sept. 8 in Villavicencio, a city filled with those who fled their homes during the war and with former fighters trying to start over, Pope Francis pleaded for honesty and courage.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass at Catama field in Villavicencio, Colombia, Sept. 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

At the beginning of the Mass, he held up two heroic examples of those who gave their lives to “rise up out of the swamp of violence and bitterness”: Bishop Jesus Emilio Jaramillo Monsalve of Arauca, who was murdered by Colombian Marxist guerrillas in 1989, and Father Pedro Maria Ramirez, who was killed at the start of the Colombian civil war in 1948.

Pope Francis beatified the two at the Mass, which was celebrated in the middle of a broad field, typical of the area’s cattle ranching terrain.

In his homily, the pope acknowledged that, during 52 years of war, many at the Mass suffered horrors.

“How many of you can tell of exiles and grief,” he said.

The Christian call to reconciliation is not something abstract, the pope said. “If it were, then it would only bring sterility and greater distance.” It requires acknowledging the truth and letting victims speak.

And “when victims overcome the understandable temptation to vengeance, they become the most credible protagonists for the process of building peace,” he said. “What is needed is for some to courageously take the first step in that direction, without waiting for others to do so. We need only one good person to have hope. And each of us can be that person.

“This does not mean ignoring or hiding differences and conflicts. This is not to legitimize personal and structural injustices,” Pope Francis insisted. Reconciliation must be accompanied by a firm commitment to change the inequalities and behaviors that fueled the war for decades.

Celebrating Mass in an area known as the gateway to the Amazon, the pope said he could not ignore the need for reconciliation with the natural environment.

“It is not by chance that even on nature we have unleashed our desire to possess and subjugate,” he said. To the delight of many in the crowd, he quoted the famous Colombian singer and peace activist, Juanes: “The trees are weeping, they are witnesses to so many years of violence. The sea is brown, a mixture of blood and earth.”

     Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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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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Catholic convocation: Combination pep rally, retreat inspires leaders

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Catholic News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. — From July 1-4 the main floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Orlando was transformed into a huge parish hall with places for worship, prayer, discussion, and even coffee and doughnuts during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.” Read more »

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Pope tells archbishops not to be ‘armchair Catholics,’ but apostles

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church’s new cardinals and new archbishops must be willing to risk everything, patiently endure evil and bear crosses like Jesus did, Pope Francis said.

“The Lord answers our prayers. He is faithful to the love we have professed for him, and he stands beside us at times of trial.” Just as he accompanied the apostles, “he will do the same for you,” the pope told five new cardinals and about 30 archbishops named during the past year.

Pope Francis presents a box containing a pallium to Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J., at the conclusion of Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican June 29. New archbishops from around the world received their palliums from the pope. The actual imposition of the pallium will take place in the archbishop's archdiocese. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis presents a box containing a pallium to Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, N.J., at the conclusion of Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 29. New archbishops from around the world received their palliums from the pope. The actual imposition of the pallium will take place in the archbishop’s archdiocese. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis addressed the new cardinals and archbishops during his homily at a Mass in St. Peter’s Square June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, who are the patron saints of the Vatican and the city of Rome.

The Mass was celebrated the day after Pope Francis created new cardinals from El Salvador, Mali, Laos, Sweden and Spain. Thirty-six archbishops appointed over the course of the past year were also invited to come to Rome to concelebrate the feast day Mass with Pope Francis. They came from 26 countries.

The concelebrants included Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, New Jersey; and Archbishops Paul D. Etienne of Anchorage, Alaska; and Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis. All three of the U.S. prelates have deep connections to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Archbishop Etienne was a priest of the archdiocese and Cardinal Tobin is the former archbishop.

In what has become the standard practice, the pope did not place the pallium on new archbishops during the liturgy. Rather, after the Mass, the pope handed each archbishop a pallium folded up in a small, simple wooden box tied with a brown ribbon as a soloist sang “You Got to Walk that Lonesome Valley,” a traditional American gospel song.

The actual imposition of the woolen band was to take place in the archbishop’s archdiocese in the presence of his faithful and bishops from neighboring dioceses. The pallium symbolizes an archbishop’s unity with the pope and his authority and responsibility to care for the flock the pope entrusted to him.

After the Mass, Cardinal Tobin told Catholic News Service that St. John XXIII had said “cardinals and bishops are the coat hangers on which the church hangs its tradition. Now I don’t like being a coat hanger, but the thing I like to wear the most is the pallium.”

Being made of lamb’s wool, the pallium is a reminder of “the need and really the obligation of the bishop to look for the one who is lost and then bring the lost one back on his shoulders,” the cardinal said. “I hope to do that in Newark.”

Archbishop Etienne noted that the pallium also is “symbolic of the unity of the metropolitan archbishops with the Holy Father and, through him, with the universal church.”

It tells an archbishop that his role is to be a good shepherd to his flock, “to help the people entrusted to my pastoral care to learn to live in unity and peace, to manifest that truth and love of Jesus Christ and the Gospel,” he said.

“The role of every priest, and particularly every bishop, is to be more and more transformed into Christ and that’s my prayer,” Archbishop Etienne said. “And then whatever burdens come and challenges, I’ll find my peace because I will be firmly convinced in experiencing his presence with me.”

Archbishop Thompson told CNS he received the pallium from Pope Francis as a gift for the sixth anniversary of his ordination as a bishop.

Pope Francis “has been such a great model, example and witness, and to receive this from him,” the archbishop said, is “a reminder to go forth. I think about Jesus at the Last Supper when he washed the feet of the disciples and said, ‘Now, go and do as I have done.’”

Archbishop Thompson said he kept watching Pope Francis during the Mass and looking at the pallium the pope wears as a symbol of the universality of his mission. “I watched him in his role of being the shepherd” and knew the pope was calling him “now to go forth and be that shepherd for the people entrusted to my care.”

In his homily at the Mass, the pope said the life of every apostle is built on: constant, edifying prayer; a firm, passionate profession of faith; and a willingness to patiently endure persecution.

People must ask themselves whether they are “armchair Catholics, who love to chat about how things are going in the church and the world,” he said, or if they are “apostles on the go,” who are on fire with love for God and ready to offer their lives for him.

Apostles of Christ “know that they cannot just tread water or take the easy way out, but have to risk putting out into the deep, daily renewing their self-offering,” he said.

Christians must follow the Lord completely and live according to his ways, not ways guided by personal self-interest, he said. Christ’s way “is that of new life, of joy and resurrection; it is also the way that passes through the cross and persecution.”

In different parts of the world, “often in complicit silence, great numbers of Christians are marginalized, vilified, discriminated against, subjected to violence and even death, not infrequently without due intervention on the part of those who could defend their sacrosanct rights,” the pope said.

However, there is no Christ and no Christian without the cross, he said. “Christian virtue is not only a matter of doing good, but of tolerating evil as well,” he said, quoting St. Augustine.

Enduring evil means “imitating Jesus, carrying our burden, shouldering it for his sake and that of others,” knowing that the Lord is by one’s side.

Finally, the pope said, prayer is another essential element of the life of an apostle as it “is the water needed to nurture hope and increase fidelity. Prayer makes us feel loved and it enables us to love in turn.”

As is customary, a delegation from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople attended the Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Before the Mass, Archbishop Job of Telmessos, head of the Orthodox delegation, joined the pope in prayer at the tomb of St. Peter inside St. Peter’s Basilica. The two also stopped before a bronze statue of St. Peter, which was adorned with a jeweled tiara, ring and red cope.

Contributing to this story were Cindy Wooden and Junno Arocho Esteves.

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Faith means loving others to the extreme, pope tells Egypt’s Catholics

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Catholic News Service

CAIRO — The only kind of fanaticism that is acceptable to God is being fanatical about loving and helping others, Pope Francis said on his final day in Egypt.

“True faith,” he told Catholics, “makes us more charitable, more merciful, more honest and more humane. It moves our hearts to love everyone without counting the cost.”

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo April 29. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to celebrate Mass at the Air Defense Stadium in Cairo April 29. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The pope celebrated an open-air Mass April 29 in Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium, built by the anti-aircraft branch of the Egyptian armed forces. The pope concelebrated with Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sedrak of Alexandria and leaders of the other Catholic rites in Egypt.

After spending the first day of his visit in meetings with Muslim leaders, government officials, diplomats and members of the Coptic Orthodox Church, the pope dedicated the second day of his trip to Egypt’s minority Catholic community.

Arriving at the stadium in a blue Fiat, the pope was slowly driven around the stadium’s red running track in a small and low golf cart, far from the estimated 15,000 people seated in the stands high above. Yellow balloons and a long chain of blue balloons tied together like a rosary were released into the sky as a military helicopter circled high above the venue.

Helicopter gunships circled the perimeter of the stadium, while military jeeps patrolled Cairo’s streets.

Surrounded by security, the pope managed to personally greet only one small group of children who were dressed as pharaohs and other traditional figures. They hugged the pope affectionately as security tightly closed in on the group.

In his homily, the pope used the day’s Gospel reading of the two disciples’ journey to Emmaus to highlight how easy it is to feel disappointment, despair and defeat when one is trapped by a false notion of who God really is.

The disciples could not believe that the one who could raise others from the dead and heal the sick could “end up on hanging on the cross of shame,” the pope said. Believing Jesus was dead, all their dreams died with him on the cross and were buried in the tomb.

“How often do we paralyze ourselves by refusing to transcend our own ideas about God, a god created in the image and likeness of man,” he said. “How often do we despair by refusing to believe that God’s omnipotence is not one of power and authority, but rather of love, forgiveness and life.”

Like the disciples, he said, Christians will never recognize the true face of God until they let their mistaken ideas die on the cross, rise up from the tomb of their limited understanding and shatter their hardened hearts like the “breaking of the bread” in the Eucharist.

“We cannot encounter God without first crucifying our narrow notions of a god who reflects only our own understanding of omnipotence and power,” the pope said.

True faith “makes us see the other not as an enemy to be overcome, but a brother or sister to be loved, served and helped,” he said, and it leads to dialogue and respect and the courage to defend the rights and dignity of everyone, not just oneself.

“God is pleased only by a faith that is proclaimed by our lives, for the only fanaticism believers can have is that of charity. Any other fanaticism does not come from God and is not pleasing to him,” he said.

At the end of the Mass, Patriarch Sedrak thanked the pope for his visit, which, though it was brief, “has overflowed our hearts with joy and our lives with blessing.”

The warm welcome Pope Francis received from so many political and religious components of Egyptian society “is a message to the world that confirms Egypt’s nature” as a lover of peace that seeks to affirm peace in the Middle East and the world, the patriarch said.

Later in the day, before his departure for Rome, the pope met with about 1,500 priests, seminarians and religious men and women for a prayer service on the sports field of a Coptic Catholic seminary in Cairo.

He thanked the church workers for their witness and for the good they do in the midst of “many challenges and often few consolations.”

“Although there are many reasons to be discouraged, amid many prophets of destruction and condemnation, and so many negative and despairing voices, may you be a positive force, salt and light for this society,” he told them.

But to be builders of hope, dialogue and harmony, he said, they must not give in to the many temptations that come each day, including the temptation to expect gratitude from those they must serve and lead.

A good shepherd, Pope Francis said, consoles even when he is broken-hearted and is always a father, even when his children are ungrateful.

Don’t become like Pharaoh either with a heart hardened by a sense of superiority, lording over others, expecting to be served and not serve, the pope said.

“The more we are rooted in Christ, the more we are alive and fruitful,” he said, and the more they will experience “renewed excitement and gratitude in our life with God and in our mission.”

 

Follow Glatz on Twitter: @CarolGlatz.

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Cardinal Dolan: If sanctuary of the womb is violated, no one is safe

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York warned that if the sanctuary of the womb is violated, then other sanctuaries are at risk.

“Can any of us be safe, can any of us claim a sanctuary anywhere when the first and most significant sanctuary of them all, the mother’s womb protecting a tiny life, can be raided and ravaged?” he asked in his homily during the Jan. 26 opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The vigil always precedes the annual March for Life, which takes place on the National Mall.

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities, waves as he arrives to concelebrate the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 26. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS/Bob Roller)

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, waves as he arrives to concelebrate the opening Mass of the National Prayer Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Jan. 26. The all-night vigil is held before the annual March for Life, which this year marked the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion across the nation. (CNS/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Dolan, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, called the womb “a sanctuary which beckons us, where we are safe and secure in our mother’s tender yet strong embrace, where the Creator himself assures us of protection and life itself, a sanctuary God has designed for us to protect our lives now and in eternity.”

He summoned up a montage of sanctuaries throughout human history, including those used by the Israelites, the sanctuary of the temple in Jerusalem where Mary and Joseph took Jesus each year, the use of cathedrals and churches as sanctuaries from violence, and the United States, first as a sanctuary for the Pilgrims fleeing religious violence in England, later for Catholics with little to their name but “clinging within to that pearl of great price, their faith,” and today’s immigrants and refugees.

When life in the womb is threatened, “should it shock us” that “such a society would begin to treat the sanctuary of the earth’s environment as a toxic waste dump; would begin to consider homes and neighborhoods as dangerous instead of as sanctuaries where families are protected and fostered; would commence to approach the poor as bothersome instead of brothers?” Cardinal Dolan asked.

Shrine officials estimated that 12,000 attended the Jan. 26 Mass, which was shown on three cable channels and broadcast on two radio networks. Among the faithful were 545 seminarians, 90 deacons, 320 priests, 40 bishops and five cardinals in a 20-minute entrance procession.

The faithful were squeezed more tightly than usual as pews in the left transept were blocked off so work crews could continue work on the shrine’s Trinity Dome, which should be completed by next year’s March for Life. The blockage resulted in the loss of “several hundred” seats, according to shrine spokeswoman Jacqueline Hayes.

Auxiliary Bishop Barry R. Knestout of Washington received applause when he announced near the end of the Mass that the starting times for three pre-March for Life Masses elsewhere in Washington the next morning would be moved up an hour to allow for longer lines in security checkpoints at the pre-march rally, as among those speaking at it now included “senior White House officials and a special guest.” No name was mentioned, but earlier in the day it was announced Vice President Mike Pence would address the March for Life rally in person. After a lineup of speakers, rally participants then march from the National Mall to Constitution Avenue, then up the avenue to the Supreme Court.

The weather changed overnight from the low 50s at the start of the Jan. 26 Mass to a more typical near-freezing temperature with stiff winds before a Jan. 27 morning Mass at the shrine celebrated by Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond of New Orleans, USCCB secretary.

Archbishop Aymond’s homily sounded a similar theme to Cardinal Dolan’s in terms how acceptance of abortion is “used to justify” other disrespect for life at various stages, citing assisted suicide, euthanasia, the death penalty and the rejection of immigrants. Quoting from that day’s Gospel, Archbishop Aymond said, “Jesus says, ‘Let them come to me, let them come to me.’”

He received applause from a Mass attendance estimated at 3,500 when he cited the results of a recent study that showed “the abortion rate in the United States has hit a historic low since Roe v. Wade.” Archbishop Aymond said the study speculated on various reasons for the decline, but one was not mentioned.

That reason was “the witness of so many people for life,” he said. “Youth and young adults are strongly pro-life in our world and in our church,” he added to applause. “You are making a difference in the United States. You are changing our culture from a culture of death into a culture of life,” the archbishop said to more applause.

During the March for Life, and afterward in the marchers’ parishes and neighborhoods, Archbishop Aymond said, “we will continue to witness, and with God’s help, we will continue to be strong voices for the respect and the dignity of human life.”

 

Follow Pattison on Twitter: @MeMarkPattison.

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

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pope: The kingdom of God grows through meekness, not rigidity

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — God’s kingdom is not a well-organized structure where only strict adherents of the law can enter but a path that is walked upon every day with meekness and docility, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis delivers his homily during Mass last month in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano handout via EPA)

Pope Francis delivers his homily during Mass last month in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta at the Vatican. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano handout via EPA)

Christians are called to walk that path of the kingdom and not fall victim to “a behavior of rigidity” that prevents the Holy Spirit from growing, the pope said in his homily Oct. 25 during his morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta.

“The kingdom does not grow in this way and neither do we grow. It is docility to the Holy Spirit that makes us grow and be transformed,” he said.

The pope reflected on the day’s Gospel from St. Luke, in which Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed that grows into a large bush and like yeast that is mixed with flour “until the whole batch of dough is leavened.”

Jesus’ comparison of the kingdom to a mustard seed and the yeast, the pope said, is a reminder that in order for the Holy Spirit to grow, it must first “die” and transform into something great in one’s life.

However, it can only grow “through docility to the strength of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“The flour ceases to be flour and becomes bread because it is docile to the strength of the yeast, and the yeast allows itself to be mixed in with the flour” and becomes bread for everyone, the pope said.

Men and women who are docile to the action of the spirit, he continued, also become like the mustard that, “although it loses its identity as a seed, becomes something else, something bigger, it transforms.”

Christians who do not walk this path of transformation, he warned, will instead become rigid and orphaned.

“A rigid person only has masters and no father. The kingdom of God is like a mother that grows and is fertile; she gives of herself so that her children have food and lodging, according to the example of the Lord,” Pope Francis said.

“It is docility to the Holy Spirit that makes us grow and be transformed like the yeast and the seed. May the Lord give us all the grace of this docility,” he said.

 

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Pope’s representative at U.S.-Mexico Mass: Borders should be bridges, not walls

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Catholic News Service

NOGALES, Ariz. — The apostolic nuncio to the United States celebrated Mass at the U.S.-Mexico border Oct. 23 offering prayers to break down the barriers that separate people.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre faced the immense steel border fence in Nogales as he and the bishop of Tucson and the bishop of Mexico’s Diocese of Nogales, Sonora, concelebrated the liturgy with people gathered on both sides of the border.

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, gives Communion during Mass at the international border in Nogales, Ariz., Oct. 23. Dioceses Without Borders,  an effort of Mexico's Nogales Diocese and the U.S. dioceses of Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., organized the liturgy celebrated on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, gives Communion during Mass at the international border in Nogales, Ariz., Oct. 23. Dioceses Without Borders, an effort of Mexico’s Nogales Diocese and the U.S. dioceses of Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., organized the liturgy celebrated on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

The nuncio began the prayer of the faithful with a plea for unity.

“Jesus, we come before you today as your disciples, sometimes filled with fear and doubt, even suspicion,” he said. “We pray to dismantle the barriers within our hearts and minds that separate us, who are all members of your body.”

Following his words, young people led the congregation in prayers for “needed immigration reform,” for humane treatment of migrants who don’t have documents, and for “security and justice for all.” They prayed especially for migrant children, “who are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse,” and for all who have died in border violence, including border patrol agents, immigrants and innocent victims.

The Mass was the third such one this year along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. The liturgies were organized by Dioceses Without Borders, an effort of the dioceses of Nogales, Tucson and Phoenix to work collaboratively on issues that affect the church and people in the border region.

During his homily and afterward in an interview with Catholic News Service, Archbishop Pierre echoed the sentiments of Pope Francis in regard to borders and the care of migrants and refugees, who the archbishop said all too often are looked upon as unwanted and as criminals.

“Borders exist all over the world, and borders are not bad, but borders should not be just a barrier, should not be a wall, but should be a bridge between people,” the nuncio said.

“Anything that goes in the direction of understanding, helping each other, discovering the beauty of the other is what is necessary to covert hearts and transform the world,” he said. “It’s time to break the obstacles that exist between people.”

To cheers from both sides of the border, Archbishop Pierre ended his homily with, “Viva Cristo Rey! Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! Viva la iglesia santa!” (“Long live Christ the King! Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe! Long live the holy church!”)

Archbishop Pierre is no stranger to the people of Mexico. He served as nuncio in Mexico for nine years before being appointed as the pope’s representative in the U.S. But he said this Mass was his first visit to Nogales, Arizona.

In what seemed to be a spontaneous moment during the service, five young people ducked under a barrier near the border fence to hold hands and pray the Our Father with those on the other side in Mexico.

They stayed at the border fence until the sign of peace, offering their hands to those on the other side.

Carlos Zapien, music director for the Diocese of Tucson, said the special Mass was a statement that “faith can unite people.”

Zapien’s original score “Misa de la Misericordia” “Mass of Mercy”) was used in the cross-border liturgy with choirs on both sides participating.

“Faith and music have no borders,” he said.

Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson said he was grateful for to Archbishop Pierre’s participation in the service.

“He represents Pope Francis, whose heart is along the borders of our world, caring for immigrants and refugees,” he told CNS.

“The nuncio’s presence is a reminder of our Holy Father’s great love for those who are suffering, for those who are in need. So this was a very special celebration here in ‘ambos Nogales’ (‘both Nogaleses’) as we pray together across walls united in our prayer for one another.”

Among the hundreds of people that gathered for the border Mass were those that serve the Kino Border Initiative, a bi-national migrant advocacy and service organization.

Bishop Kicanas expressed his pride in the group and in a group of young people, the Kino Teens, who work with the border initiative.

“Their enthusiasm, their spirit is a true blessing,” he said. “They believe in the Lord. They believe in the church, and to have these young people participating in our Mass here in ‘ambos Nogales’ was a true blessing.”

 

Follow Wiechec on Twitter: @nancywiechec.

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