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Don’t fear ridicule for sharing the Gospel, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Bringing the Gospel to the world isn’t a walk in the park; it will lead to ridicule and contempt, even persecution, Pope Francis said.

But Christians must never be afraid and must keep on going since “Jesus never leaves us on our own because we are precious to him,” the pope said before praying the Angelus June 25 with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

Pilgrims are seen through the spray from a fountain as Pope Francis leads his Angelus in St. Peter's Square June 25 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

Pilgrims are seen through the spray from a fountain as Pope Francis leads his Angelus in St. Peter’s Square June 25 at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

The pope’s reflection centered on the day’s readings (Jeremiah 20:10-13 and Matthew 10:26-33), which speak about God always being with his people no matter what. In fact, in the Gospel reading Jesus tells his disciples three times to not be afraid and to “proclaim on the housetops” what has been revealed to them in a whisper.

The Lord still tells people today to never be afraid, the pope said. Christians must never forget that; especially “when we have some ordeal, persecution, something that makes us suffer, let us listen to Jesus’ voice in our heart.”

Going on mission is not a form of “tourism” or a vacation where life will be carefree, he said; there may be failure and pain as people may refuse the Gospel message or persecute the messenger.

“This is a bit frightening, but it’s the truth,” the pope said.

The pope reminded everyone that persecution against Christians was still happening today. He asked people to pray for those who endure persecution and “continue to give witness to the faith with courage and fidelity.”

He asked that their example be an inspiration to those who live where hostility and adversity may not be so apparent, but the challenges are still great.

“There are many who smile to our face, but behind our backs, fight the Gospel,” he said.

Also, instead of being a sheep among wolves, a disciple may have to be like a sentinel, trying to wake up people “who do not want to snapped out of a worldly stupor, who ignore the words of truth of the Gospel and fabricate their own ephemeral truths.”

“If we go to or live in these contexts and we proclaim the words of the Gospel, this will bother people and they will not look at us well,” the pope said.

Each disciple is called to conform his or her life to Christ and since Christ was refused, abandoned, persecuted and killed, disciples be prepared for the same, he said.

“There is no such thing as Christian mission marked by tranquility,” the pope said. “Difficulties and tribulation are part of the work of evangelization and we are called to find in these things an occasion to ensure the authenticity of our faith and our relationship with Jesus.”

      Enduring trouble in Christ’s name is an opportunity to grow in trusting in God, who “does not abandon his children” in the midst of the storm, he said.

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

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Catholic News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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U.S. bishops call for solidarity with Middle East victims of violence, refugees

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WASHINGTON — Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board.

The damaged entrance of St. Mary's Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

The damaged entrance of St. Mary’s Church is seen in 2016 in Damascus, Syria. Christians and all people in the Middle East need the solidarity of the U.S. Catholic Church, said the chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the head of the Catholic Relief Services board. (CNS photo/Mohammed Badra, EPA)

“A concern for our Christian brethren is inclusive and does not exclude a concern for all the peoples of the region who suffer violence and persecution, both minorities and majorities, both Muslims and Christians,” said a Feb. 10 statement from four bishops.

“To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others,” the statement said. “Rather, by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all.”

The group included Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty; Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the Committee on Migration; and Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, New York, chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services.

The group pointed to the findings of a recent USCCB delegation to Iraq, which confirmed that Christians, Yezidis, Shiite Muslims and other minorities had experienced genocide at the hands of the Islamic State group.

“It is important for Syrians and Iraqis of all faiths to recognize this as genocide, for that recognition is a way to help everyone come to grips with what is happening and to form future generations that will reject any ideology that leads to genocidal acts and other atrocities,” the bishops said in their statement.

The bishops called on Americans to accept “our nation’s fair share” of vulnerable families, regardless of religion and ethnicity, for resettlement as refugees. They called for special consideration of the victims of genocide and other violence.

They urged the U.S. to encourage the Iraqi government and the regional government in Irbil, Iraq, to “strengthen the rule of law based on equal citizenship and ensure the protection of all.”

U.S. aid should assist local and national efforts to improve policing and the court system and encourage local self-governance, the bishops said. Similar efforts are needed in Syria as well, they said.

The U.S. also can provide “generous” humanitarian and development assistance to refugees, displaced people and Iraqi and Syrian communities as they rebuild, the statement said. Such funding can be directed in part to “trusted faith-based nongovernmental agencies” such as Catholic Relief Services and local Caritas agencies, the bishops said.

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