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Francis: Christians fight evil with love, sacrifice, not with violence

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians are called to detach themselves from power, reject violence and sacrifice themselves for God and others out of love, Pope Francis said.

Christians must live the way Christ chose to: not as “persecutors, but persecuted; not arrogant, but meek; not as snake-oil salesmen, but subservient to the truth; not impostors, but honest,” he said June 28 during his weekly general audience.

Pope Francis greets a baby during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican June 28. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets a baby during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican June 28. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In fact, “Christians find repugnant the idea that suicide attackers might be called martyrs because there is nothing in their purpose that can come close to the behavior of children of God,” who are called always to act out of love, he told the estimated 12,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.

High temperatures and scattered sprinkles prompted the pope to tell guests in the Vatican audience hall that he was about to head outside to a “Turkish bath.”

In his weekly catechesis, the pope continued his series on Christian hope by focusing on what gives Christians strength and perseverance in the face of opposition, hatred and persecution.

Jesus dispelled all “mirages of easy success,” the pope said, and he warned his disciples that proclaiming the kingdom of God would come at a high price as “you will be hated by all because of my name.”

“Christians love, but they are not always loved,” the pope said.

Because the world is marked by sin, selfishness, injustice and hostility, he said, it is normal that Christians are expected to go against the current and live the way Christ lived and taught.

The Christian lifestyle must be marked by “poverty,” he said, noting how Jesus talks to his disciples more about “stripping” themselves than about “getting dressed.”

“Indeed, a Christian who is not humble and poor, detached from wealth and power and, above all, detached from him- or herself, does not resemble Jesus,” he said.

Christians journey forth into the world with the bare essentials, except their heart, which should be overflowing with love, he added.

In the Gospel of Matthew (10:16-22), Jesus warned his disciples that he was sending them “like sheep in the midst of wolves.” They could be shrewd and prudent, the pope said, but never violent because evil can never be defeated with evil.

That is why Jesus sent his people into the world like himself, as sheep — without sharp teeth, without claws, without weapons — Pope Francis said. In fact, “true defeat” for a Christian is to succumb to the temptation of responding to the world’s resistance and hatred with violence, revenge and evil.

The only weapons Christians possess are the Gospel and the hopeful assurance that God is always by their side, especially in the worst of times.

Persecution, then, doesn’t contradict the Gospel, it is part of its very nature, because if the Lord was hated and persecuted, the pope said, “how can we ever hope that we should be spared this battle?”

Yet, “in the great midst of the maelstrom, Christians must not lose hope, believing they have been abandoned,” he said.

Christians know that in their midst, there is always a divine power greater than all evil, “stronger than the Mafia, murky conspiracies, (stronger) than those who profit off the lives of the desperate, those who crush others with arrogance,” he said.

On the eve of the feast of the martyred Sts. Peter and Paul and just a few hours before he was to create new cardinals whose red robes symbolize martyrdom, Pope Francis underlined the real meaning of martyrdom in his catechesis.

“Martyrs do not live for themselves, they do not fight to assert their own ideas, and they accept having to die only out of fidelity to the Gospel” and with love, which is the highest ideal in Christian life, he said.

This, the pope said, is the strength that animates and sustains people facing so much hardship: knowing that “nothing and no one can separate them from God’s love given to us in Jesus Christ.”

Vatican Letter: No church for old men: Cardinals are grandfathers, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The Catholic Church is not a “gerontocracy” ruled by old men, 80-year-old Pope Francis said; “we aren’t old men, we are grandfathers.”

“We are grandfathers called to dream and to give our dreams to the young people of today. They need it so that from our dreams, they can draw the strength to prophesy and carry out their task,” the pope told about 50 members of the College of Cardinals.

Pope Francis, center, arrives to celebrate Mass with about 50 cardinals in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican June 27. The Mass marked the pope's 25th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano)

Pope Francis, center, arrives to celebrate Mass with about 50 cardinals in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican June 27. The Mass marked the pope’s 25th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination as a bishop June 27, Pope Francis concelebrated Mass in the Pauline Chapel of the Apostolic Palace.

Most of the cardinals present were officials of the Roman Curia or retired curial officials living in Rome. Many of them needed assistance up and down the small steps to the altar at Communion time.

The Mass was celebrated the day before Pope Francis was to create five new cardinals: Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, 67; Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73; and Auxiliary Bishop Gregorio Rosa Chavez of San Salvador, El Salvador, 74.

With an average age of 71.6 years, the new cardinals would lower by two months the average age of the entire College of Cardinals. However, the new members would increase slightly the average age of the cardinal electors, the group of those under the age of 80 and eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope.

On the day of the pope’s anniversary Mass, the average age of the 116 cardinal electors was 71 years, four months and 15 days; the five new members would raise the average by 11 days.

Before the new members were added, the entire College of Cardinals had 220 members and an average age of 78 years, five months and 23 days. The five new members would lower the average to 78 years, three months and one day.

None of the new cardinals, though, are as old as the patriarch Abraham was when God called him to leave his home and set out for a new land.

The Bible says Abraham was 75 years old when he got the call, the pope noted at his anniversary Mass. “He was more or less our age. He was about to retire.”

At 75, “with the weight of old age, that old age that brings aches, illness,” Abraham heard God call him “as if he were a scout,” the pope said. God tells him, “Go. Look. And hope.”

God says the same thing to the pope and the cardinals, he said. “He tells us that now is not the time to shut down our lives or to end our stories.”

Instead, the pope told the cardinals, God continues to call each of them to keep moving forward and continues to give each of them a mission.

And every mission, he said, involves the three imperatives God gave Abraham: “Get up. Look. Hope.”

God tells Abraham, “Get up. Walk. Don’t stay still. You have a task, a mission, and you must carry it out walking. Don’t stay seated,” the pope said.

Abraham’s tent is a key symbol in the story, he said. The only thing Abraham built solidly was an altar “to adore the one who ordered him to get up and to set out.” His tent was his mobile shelter.

“Someone who does not like us would say that we are the gerontocracy of the church,” the pope told the cardinals. “He doesn’t understand what he is saying.”

The cardinals are not just old men, but are grandfathers in the church, the pope said. “If we don’t feel like we are, we must ask for that grace.”

As grandfathers, the cardinals should know that their grandchildren are watching them and looking to them, he continued. They must help young people find meaning in their lives by sharing their experiences.

For that to happen, the pope said, the cardinals cannot be focused on “the melancholy of our story,” but must be dreamers who continue to look to the future with hope, knowing that God continues to act in human history.

 

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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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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Living the Gospel is risky, embrace challenges with courage, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Better to take risk of carrying the freshness of the Gospel to others than to be a “museum Christian” afraid of change, Pope Francis told Serra International.

“When Christians go about their daily lives without fear, they can discover God’s constant surprises,” he said June 23. Read more »

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Sesquicentennial Pilgrimage April 16-26, 2018

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Dialog Editor

 

Diocesan pilgrims will stop at Annecy, Rome, Assisi

 

Frankly speaking, the Diocese of Wilmington’s 150th Anniversary Pilgrimage to Annecy and Rome next spring will be all about Francis. Four leaders of the church named Francis, that is, will highlight the journey — Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Pope Francis, St. Francis de Sales and St. Francis of Assisi.

Bishop Malooly will lead the diocesan pilgrimage from April 16-26 next year starting in Annecy, France, where Francis de Sales, the patron saint of the diocese, ministered. Read more »

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Pope: Don’t pretend to be teens; help youths see blessings of adulthood

June 21st, 2017 Posted in Featured, International News Tags: ,

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Catholic News Service

 

ROME — Instead of “pretending to be adolescents,” parents must help young people see the blessing of growing into adulthood, Pope Francis told priests, religious, catechists and parish council members from the Diocese of Rome.

The belief that youthfulness is a model of success “is one of the most dangerous ‘unwitting’ menaces in the education of our adolescents” that hinders their personal growth because “adults have taken their place,” the pope said June 19, opening the Rome Diocese’s annual convention.

This “can increase a natural tendency young people have to isolate themselves or to curb their process of growth” because they have no role models, the pope said. Read more »

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Pope accepts early resignation of Vatican’s first independent auditor

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Catholic News Service

 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Just two years after being hired to help with the Vatican’s efforts in finance reform, Libero Milone — the Vatican’s first independent auditor who answered only to the pope — handed a request for his resignation to Pope Francis.

The pope accepted Milone’s request, the Vatican announced June 20, after Milone personally presented it to the pope a day earlier.

“While wishing Milone the best in his future endeavors, the Holy See wishes to inform (everyone) that the process of naming a new director of the auditor-general’s office will be underway as soon as possible,” the Vatican’s written statement said. Read more »

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Eucharist is reminder of God’s love, pope says

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Catholic News Service

ROME — The Eucharist is a tangible reminder of God’s love, and receiving Communion is a call to work to build the body of Christ by loving others and shunning all that sows division within a community, Pope Francis said.

The Eucharist should “heal our ambition to lord it over others, to greedily hoard things for ourselves, to foment discord and criticism,” he said June 18, celebrating the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. “May it awaken in us the joy of living in love, without rivalry, jealousy or mean-spirited gossip.”

Pope Francis holds a monstrance on the feast of Corpus Christi June 18 at Rome's Basilica of St. John Lateran. (CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis holds a monstrance on the feast of Corpus Christi June 18 at Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran. (CNS/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis celebrated the Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. With an almost constant breeze cooling the warm Rome day, thousands of people, including children who made their first Communion this spring, gathered outside the basilica for the evening Mass and for the Corpus Christi procession later from St. John Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major, about a mile away.

The 2017 feast day included two major changes from past practices. First, although Italian dioceses, like many around the world, moved the feast from a Thursday to a Sunday in the late 1970s, the Mass and procession with the pope at St. John Lateran remained on the Thursday until this year.

Second, instead of transporting the Blessed Sacrament on a truck in the Corpus Christi procession this year, it was carried on a platform held aloft on the shoulders of four men. Eight other men carried tall poles holding a canopy over the platform, a task made more difficult by the breeze.

The truck had made its first appearance in 1994 when St. John Paul II began having difficulty walking. He and now-retired Pope Benedict XVI would ride on the truck, kneeling or sitting before the monstrance.

Elected at the age of 76, Pope Francis walked behind the truck for the 1-mile procession in 2013. But beginning in 2014, because of his difficulty walking long distances and in order to avoid drawing attention away from the Eucharist, he met the procession at St. Mary Major instead of participating in it.

In his homily at the Mass, the pope said the Eucharist “is the sacrament of memory, reminding us, in a real and tangible way, of the story of God’s love for us.”

Just as the Israelites were called to remember how God led them safely through the desert, he said, “remembering all that the Lord has done for us is the foundation of our own personal history of salvation.”

“Remembrance is essential for faith, as water is for a plant,” Pope Francis said.

Remembering, he said, keeps people “mindful, never forgetting who it is who loves us and whom we are called to love in return.”

Pope Francis said it seems that today people’s ability to remember and be mindful is weakening.

“Amid so much frantic activity, many people and events seem to pass in a whirl,” he said. “We quickly turn the page, looking for novelty while unable to retain memories.”

But the focus on living for the moment, he said, often means living superficially and without a focus on “who we are and where we are going.”

The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, the pope said, reaches people even in their “fragmented lives,” reminding them how Christ was broken for their salvation and continues to offer himself in the “loving fragility” of the Eucharist.

“In the Bread of Life, the Lord comes to us, making himself a humble meal that lovingly heals our memory, wounded by life’s frantic pace of life,” he said.

“The Eucharist is flavored with Jesus’ words and deeds, the taste of his passion, the fragrance of his Spirit,” he said. “When we receive it, our hearts are overcome with the certainty of Jesus’ love.”

At the same time, the pope said, the Eucharist is a reminder that Christians are not isolated individuals but are called to receive Christ’s body together and to build up the body of the church.

“In experiencing this Eucharist,” he told those at the Mass, “let us adore and thank the Lord for this greatest of gifts: the living memorial of his love that makes us one body and leads us to unity.”

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Pope and cardinals study ‘healthy decentralization’ proposals

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis and members of his international Council of Cardinals discussed the possibility of allowing local bishops rather than the Vatican decide on certain matters, including the marriage or priestly ordination of permanent deacons.

It is “what the pope calls a ‘’healthy decentralization,” said Greg Burke, director of the Vatican press office. Read more »

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Vatican supports new elections to solve Venezuelan crisis

By

Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Negotiations between government and opposition groups in Venezuela, followed by free and fair elections, are needed to put an end to violence and bring relief to the suffering people, a Vatican official said.

In a letter June 13 to six former Latin American heads of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said the Holy See continues to follow Pope Francis’ directives and is “trying to help find a solution to the current serious difficulties.”

An opposition supporter holds a rosary as she prays with others during a June 14 rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas. (CNS photo/Christian Veron, Reuters)

An opposition supporter holds a rosary as she prays with others during a June 14 rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas. (CNS photo/Christian Veron, Reuters)

“The Holy See continues to consider that a serious and sincere negotiation between the parties, based on very clear conditions, beginning with the celebration of constitutionally scheduled elections, can solve the serious situation in Venezuela and the suffering to which the population is subjected,” said Cardinal Parolin’s letter.

The Vatican did not release the cardinal’s letter, but it was posted on the blog Sismografo.

Pope Francis had met June 8 with the leadership of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference, which requested the meeting as the country’s political and economic crisis became increasingly violent. Since April, anti-government protests have led to the death of some 70 people, both government and opposition supporters.

Cardinal Parolin’s letter came one day after the pope received a letter from Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The letter was posted on Twitter June 12 by the Venezuelan government’s press secretary, Ernesto Villegas Poljak.

Although his government’s violent tactics against protesters have been denounced by the Catholic Church in Venezuela, Maduro has tried to claim he had the support of Pope Francis.

In his letter, Maduro defended the government’s handling of the protests, claiming that the violence was caused by an “extreme right-wing” opposition that was “increasingly smaller and, therefore, more and more insane.”

“The forces of darkness have carried out all kinds of vandalism under the sign of the most abject and brutal terrorism, trying to impose a climate of widespread violence on Venezuela,” he said.

Maduro’s accusations contradict statements by Cardinal Jorge Urosa Savino of Caracas, who told Vatican Radio that “the repression” exercised by Maduro’s government “has been increasingly cruel.”

In addition to official security forces, there are pro-government, armed civilian groups, “which is absolutely criminal, so that the situation is extremely serious and that is why we are here,” he said at the Vatican June 7.

However, the Venezuelan president said his government’s crackdown against protesters was justified following the death of a 17-year-old boy.

Citing Pope Francis’ own words in his letter, Maduro said children should not “be robbed of joy,” and he was certain the pope’s “active and guiding counsel would open a new stage in national dialogue.”

Asking for the pope’s blessing, Maduro said he would follow the example of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in dealing with the opposition.

“There are those who have diverted toward the field of destabilization, terrorism and coup. My task is to bring them toward the field of the constitution and political debate. In this, I am rigorously following the example of Commander Chavez,” Maduro said.

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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