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Pope names new cardinals from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos, Salvador

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis announced he will create five new cardinals June 28; the new cardinals-designate come from Mali, Spain, Sweden, Laos and El Salvador.

Unusually, the group of prelates announced by the pope May 21 includes an auxiliary bishop whose archbishop is not a cardinal; he is Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez, 74, the current auxiliary bishop of San Salvador.

Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, pictured in a 2015 photo, is one of five new cardinals Pope Francis will create at a June 28 consistory. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

Cardinal-designate Gregorio Rosa Chavez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, pictured in a 2015 photo, is one of five new cardinals Pope Francis will create at a June 28 consistory. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

The other churchmen who will receive red hats are: Archbishop Jean Zerbo of Bamako, Mali, 73; Archbishop Juan Jose Omella of Barcelona, Spain, 71; Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, Sweden, 67; and Bishop Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun, apostolic vicar of Pakse, Laos, 73.

After briefly talking about the day’s Gospel reading, leading the crowd in St. Peter’s Square in reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer and greeting various groups present, instead of wishing everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch, the normal procedure at the noon prayer, Pope Francis made his announcement.

The five new cardinals coming from “different parts of the world demonstrates the catholicity of the church spread across the globe,” Pope Francis said. And the practice of assigning to each of them a church in Rome “expresses that the cardinals belong to the Diocese of Rome,” which, as St. Ignatius of Antioch explained, “presides in charity over all the churches.”

Pope Francis said that June 29, the day after the consistory and the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the new cardinals would concelebrate a Mass with him, the entire College of Cardinals and new archbishops from around the world.

“We entrust the new cardinals to the protection of Sts. Peter and Paul,” Pope Francis said, praying that with St. Peter they would be authentic servants of communion in the church and that with St. Paul they would be “joyful proclaimers of the Gospel.”

The pope also prayed that “with their witness and their counsel,” the new cardinals would “support me more intensely in my service as bishop of Rome, pastor of the universal church.”

With five new cardinals, the College of Cardinals will have 227 members, 121 of whom are under the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave. The number of electors exceeds by one the limit of 120 set by Blessed Paul VI. The next cardinal to turn 80 will be Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, who will celebrate his birthday Feb. 3.

The Vatican released brief biographical notes about the five who will be inducted into the college in June:

  • Cardinal-designate Zerbo was born Dec. 27, 1943, in Segou and was ordained to the priesthood there in 1971. He earned a license in Scripture studies from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and then returned to Mali as a pastor and professor at the seminary in Bamako.

Ordained a bishop in 1988, he served first as auxiliary bishop of Bamako and then was named bishop of Mopti. He has led the Archdiocese of Bamako since 1998.

According to the Vatican, “he played an active role in the Mali peace negotiations” and has worked for solidarity and reconciliation among the nation’s citizens.

  • Cardinal-designate Omella was born in the small town of Cretas April 21, 1946, and did his seminary studies in Zaragoza as well as Louvain, Belgium, and Jerusalem. He was ordained in 1970. In addition to parish work in Spain, he spent a year as a missionary in then-Zaire, now Congo.

Ordained a bishop in 1996, he served as auxiliary bishop of Zaragoza and later as bishop of Barbastro-Monzon, then bishop of Calahorra and La Calzada-Logrorio. Pope Francis named him archbishop of Barcelona in 2015.

He has long been a member of the Spanish bishops’ commission for social questions and served two terms as commission president. He is a member of the Vatican Congregation for Bishops.

  • Cardinal-designate Arborelius hosted Pope Francis’ visit to Sweden in October as part of an ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Born in Sweden Sept. 24, 1949, he joined the Catholic Church at the age of 20. A few years later, he entered the Discalced Carmelites, took vows in 1977 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1979.

Ordained bishop of Stockholm in 1998, he became the first native Swedish bishop in Sweden since the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, according to the Vatican.

  • Cardinal-designate Mangkhanekhoun was born April 8, 1944, in Laos. The Vatican did not say in what city, but did say he was educated and did seminary studies in Laos and Canada.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1972 by the apostolic vicar of Vientiane, he was instrumental in training catechists and was known for his pastoral visits to remote mountain villages.

In October 2000, he was named apostolic vicar of Pakse and was ordained a bishop six months later. Since February, he also has served as apostolic administrator of Vientiane, which currently is without a bishop.

  • Cardinal-designate Rosa Chavez was born Sept. 3, 1942, in Sociedad, El Salvador. He studied at San Jose de la Montana Seminary in San Salvador, earned a degree in social communications and studied at the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium.

He was ordained to the priesthood in 1970 in San Miguel and served overlapping and sometimes simultaneous terms as the bishop’s secretary, pastor of a parish and director of the diocesan radio station. From 1977 to 1982, he served as rector of San Jose de la Montafia Seminary in San Salvador, a position that brought him into regular contact and close collaboration with Blessed Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, who was assassinated in 1980.

He was named auxiliary bishop of San Salvador in 1982. Currently, in addition to his duties as auxiliary bishop, he serves as pastor of the Church of St. Francis in the capital, president of Caritas El Salvador and president of Caritas in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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Love Jesus in all who suffer, pope says on Palm Sunday

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Jesus does not ask that people only contemplate his image, but that they also recognize and love him concretely in all people who suffer like he did, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis carries a cross as he arrives to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican April 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis carries a cross as he arrives to celebrate Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 9. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Jesus is “present in our many brothers and sisters who today endure sufferings like his own. They suffer from slave labor, from family tragedies, from diseases. They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike,” the pope said April 9 as he celebrated the Palm Sunday Mass of the Lord’s Passion.

In his noon Angelus address, the pope also decried recent terrorist attacks in Sweden and Egypt, calling on “those who sow terror, violence and death,” including arms’ manufacturers and dealers, to change their ways.

In his prayers for those affected by the attacks, the pope also expressed his deepest condolences to “my dear brother, His Holiness Pope Tawadros, the Coptic church and the entire beloved Egyptian nation,” which the pope was scheduled to visit April 28-29.

At least 15 people were killed and dozens more injured April 9 in an Orthodox church north of Cairo as Coptic Christians gathered for Palm Sunday Mass; the attack in Sweden occurred two days earlier when a truck ran through a crowd outside a busy department store in central Stockholm, killing four and injuring 15 others.

The pope also prayed for all people affected by war, which he called, a “disgrace of humanity.”

Tens of thousands of people carrying palms and olive branches joined the pope during a solemn procession in St. Peter’s Square under a bright, warm sun for the beginning of Holy Week.

The pope, cardinal and bishops were dressed in red vestments, the color of the Passion, and carried large “palmurelli,” bleached and intricately woven and braided palm branches. Hundreds of young people led the procession into St. Peter’s Square and later, youths from Poland handed the World Youth Day cross to young representatives from Panama, where the next international gathering will be held in January in 2019.

In his homily, the pope said that the day’s celebration was “bittersweet.”

“It is joyful and sorrowful at the same time” because the Mass celebrates the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem as the people and disciples acclaim him as king, and yet, the Gospel gives the account of his passion and death on the cross.

Jesus accepts the hosannas coming from of the crowd, but he “knows full well that they will soon be followed by the cry, ‘Crucify him!’” the pope said.

Jesus “does not ask us to contemplate him only in pictures and photographs or in the videos that circulate on the internet,” but to recognize that he is present in those who suffer today, including “women and men who are cheated, violated in their dignity, discarded.”

“Jesus is in them, in each of them, and, with marred features and broken voice, he asks to be looked in the eye, to be acknowledged, to be loved,” the pope said.

We have no other Lord but him: Jesus, the humble King of justice, mercy and peace.

Jesus enters the city of Jerusalem as the true Messiah, who is a servant of God and humanity, the pope said. He is not a dreamer peddling illusions, a “new age” prophet or con man; he takes on the sins and sufferings of humanity with his passion.

Jesus never promised honor and success would come to those who follow him, rather, the path to final victory requires picking up the cross and carrying it every day, Pope Francis said.

“Let us ask for the grace to follow Jesus faithfully, not in words but in deeds. Let us also ask for the patience to carry our own cross, not to refuse it or set it aside, but rather, in looking to him, to take it up and to carry it daily,” he said.

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Catholics, Lutherans pledge to serve the poor and refugees together

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Catholic News Service

MALMO, Sweden — The ice rink and the penalty boxes were gone from Malmo Arena Oct. 31 as Catholics and Lutherans filled the stands and promised to work together for peace, particularly in Syria, and for justice, especially for refugees.

Pope Francis talks with the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, during an ecumenical event at the Malmo Arena in Malmo, Sweden, Oct. 31. The event opened a year marking the 2017 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis talks with the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, during an ecumenical event at the Malmo Arena in Malmo, Sweden, Oct. 31. The event opened a year marking the 2017 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis and leaders of the Lutheran World Federation continued their ecumenical commemoration of Reformation Day in an arena that usually hosts hockey games. But kicking off a year of events to culminate in the 2017 commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the arena was transformed into a venue for song and witness.

Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo, Syria, called on all Christians to join their voices in prayer and in pressuring their governments to stop the bloodshed and destruction in his homeland.

The bishop, who is president of Caritas Syria, announced that Christian humanitarian work in his country would follow the motto: “Become Christians Together,” focusing on how serving Christ must include serving others, especially the poorest and most needy.

A centerpiece of the Malmo event was the signing of a “declaration of intent” by the heads of Caritas Internationalis, the Vatican-based confederation of Catholic charities, and the Lutheran World Federation’s World Service. The two organizations promised to “witness and act together,” supporting one another, including by serving the victims of war in Syria and Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.

Religion, Bishop Audo said, “should encourage us to defend the human values of dignity, solidarity and seeking the common good.”

The stories told in Malmo include those of a young Indian woman working to educate people about climate change, the Sudanese refugee runner who carried the flag for the Olympic Refugee Team, the head of Caritas Colombia working for peace and a woman from Burundi who adopted and sheltered seven children during her country’s genocidal rampage in the 1990s.

Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation and bishop of Jordan and the Holy Land, co-hosting the event with the pope, also spoke as a refugee, the son of Palestinians from Beersheba. “All refugees are my brothers and sisters,” he said.

“I ask each of you to pray for my country and for the just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” he said. “Pray that God’s will of justice will be done. Pray that Jerusalem would be a city shared by three religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — and two peoples — Palestinians and Israelis.”

Praising the Caritas-World Service agreement, Bishop Younan said, “I am proud to answer God’s call with you so the world can see how Lutherans and Catholics love one another and serve their neighbors so the world may believe.”

Pope Francis told the crowd in the arena that the ecumenical agreement is a fruit of 50 years of Catholic-Lutheran dialogue and its affirmations of a common faith and a common baptism in Jesus. He prayed that it would unleash a “revolution of tenderness.”

Aleppo, he said, has been “brought to its knees by war” and is a place where “even the most fundamental rights are treated with contempt and trampled underfoot.”

Every person in Syria “is in our hearts and prayers,” the pope added. “Let us implore the grace of heartfelt conversion for those responsible for the fate of that region.”

Marguerite Barankitse, the woman from Burundi who spoke about adopting and sheltering children, had told the pope that everyone around her, including her family members, thinks she is crazy.

“Please,” she told the crowd in English, “do you accept to be crazy like me?”

Bishop Younan told her, “We want to be crazy like you, crazy in our love.”

In his response, Pope Francis encouraged her as well. “Of course,” he said, “it is the craziness of love for God and our neighbor. We need more of this craziness, illuminated by faith and confidence in God’s providence.”

 

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Pope joins Lutheran leaders in prayer marking 500th anniversary of Protestant Reformation

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Catholic News Service

LUND, Sweden — Urging Catholics and Lutherans to take decisive steps toward unity, Pope Francis nevertheless offered no new openings to the idea of sharing Communion before full unity is achieved.

Pope Francis and the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, attend an ecumenical prayer service at the Lutheran cathedral in Lund, Sweden, Oct. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis and the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, attend an ecumenical prayer service at the Lutheran cathedral in Lund, Sweden, Oct. 31. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“We Christians will be credible witnesses of mercy to the extent that forgiveness, renewal and reconciliation are daily experienced in our midst,” the pope said Oct. 31 during an ecumenical prayer service in the Lutherans’ Lund cathedral, which was built as a Catholic cathedral in the 11th century.

With the prayer service, Pope Francis and leaders of the Lutheran World Federation launched a year of activities to mark the 500th anniversary in 2017 of Martin Luther’s efforts to reform the church.

For Pope Francis and the Vatican, Catholics are called to commemorate the event by focusing on concrete ways to express and strengthen the doctrinal agreements reached by Catholic and Lutheran theologians over the past 50 years. The most appropriate way to mark the anniversary, they said, was with common prayer and renewed commitments to working together to help the poor and promote justice.

The Lutherans agree, but many also saw the joint commemoration as a moment to recognize that the joint agreements on issues of faith over the past 50 years mean it is appropriate now to expand occasions when eucharistic sharing is possible.

The Catholic Church has insisted that regular sharing of the Eucharist will be possible only when divided Christians have attained full unity.

In his homily at the Lund cathedral, the Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, expressed his hope for shared Communion sooner.

While in the past Catholics and Lutherans sometimes carried stones to throw at each other, he said, that is no longer possible
“now that we know who we are in Christ.” The stones cannot be used “to raise walls of separation and exclusion” either, he said.

“Jesus Christ calls us to be ambassadors of reconciliation,” he said, using stones for “building bridges so that we can draw closer to each other, houses where we can meet together and tables, yes, tables, where we can share the bread and the wine, the presence of Jesus Christ who has never left us and who calls us to abide in him so the world may believe.”

A joint statement signed in Lund by Pope Francis and Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, said, “Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table as the concrete expression of full unity.”

Particularly referring to Catholic-Lutheran married couples, the two leaders’ statement said, “We experience the pain of those who share their whole lives, but cannot share God’s redeeming presence at the eucharistic table. We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ.”

However, they did not authorize further opportunities for shared Communion, but expressed longing “for this wound in the body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavors, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue.”

Pope Francis began the service praying that the Holy Spirit would “help us to rejoice in the gifts that have come to the church through the Reformation.” In an interview released Oct 28, he said those gifts were greater appreciation of the Bible as God’s word and an acknowledgement that members of the church are called to a process of ongoing reform.

The service was punctuated with music from around the world, including a Kyrie or “Lord Have Mercy” in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. Catholic and Lutheran leaders took turns asking God’s forgiveness for maintaining divisions, “bearing false witness” against each other and allowing political and economic interests to exacerbate the wounds in the body of Christ.

Lutheran Archbishop Antje Jackelen of Uppsala, the first woman to serve as primate of Sweden, read the Gospel at the service.

In his homily, Pope Francis insisted that Catholics and Lutherans must “look with love and honesty at our past, recognizing error and seeking forgiveness.”

The division among Christians, he said, goes against Christ’s will for his disciples, weakens their ability to serve the world and often makes it difficult for others to believe Christianity is a religion of peace and fraternity.

The Gospel reading at the service, from John 15, was about Jesus being the vine and his disciples being the branches. In his homily, Rev. Junge said that too often over the past 499 years, Catholics and Lutherans saw each other “as branches separated from the true vine, Christ.”

Yet, he said, “Jesus never forgot us, even when we seemed to have forgotten him, losing ourselves in violent and hateful actions.”

After 50 years of Catholic-Lutheran dialogue, Rev. Junge said, “we acknowledge that there is much more that unites us than that which separates us. We are branches of the same vine. We are one in baptism.”

 

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Ecumenical papal trip: Touching the Christian heart of secular Sweden

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Catholic News Service

 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis’ recent insistence on “walking ecumenism,” the notion that Christians will draw closer to each other as they work together to help the poor, should resonate well with Lutherans and Catholics in Sweden.

“Swedes are known to be people of consensus, pragmatic, so people try to cooperate even if they have different views and backgrounds,” said Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm, the country’s only Catholic bishop and the first native Swede to hold the post since the Protestant Reformation. Read more »

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Christians who reject all refugees are ‘hypocrites,’ pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Meeting a pilgrimage of Catholics and Lutherans from Germany, Pope Francis said he does not like “the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.”

Pope Francis passes a statue of Martin Luther as he arrives for an Oct. 13 audience with a pilgrimage of Catholics and Lutherans from Germany in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Giorgio Onorati, EPA)

Pope Francis passes a statue of Martin Luther as he arrives for an Oct. 13 audience with a pilgrimage of Catholics and Lutherans from Germany in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Giorgio Onorati, EPA)

“This is not something I’ve read in books, but I see in the newspapers and on television every day,” Pope Francis said.

Answering questions from young people in the group Oct. 13, the pope said, “the sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy,” which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ.

“You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian,” he said. “You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25,” which is to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and welcome the stranger.

“It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,” he said. “If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”

Asked what he thought of the Reformation, Pope Francis said the Christian community is called to continual growth and maturity, and its entire history has been marked by reform movements “small and not so small,” some of which were healthy and holy, others which went awry because of human sin.

“The greatest reformers of the church are the saints, those men and women who follow the word of God and practice it,” he told the pilgrims, most of whom came from Martin Luther’s home region of Saxony-Anhalt.

In his formal talk to the group, Pope Francis said Christians must praise God that, in the past 50 years, Catholics and Lutherans have moved “from conflict to communion. We already have traveled an important part of the road together.”

Noting that he would go to Lund, Sweden, at the end of the month to participate with Lutheran leaders in opening commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Pope Francis said an important part of the commemoration would be a joint commitment to working together in a world “thirsting for God and his mercy.”

The world needs Christians to witness God’s mercy “through service to the poorest, the sick (and) those who have abandoned their homelands in search of a better future for themselves and their families,” he said.

“In putting ourselves at the service of the neediest,” Pope Francis said, “we will experience that we already are united; it is God’s mercy that unites us.”

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Pope’s voting advice: Study issues, pray, vote your conscience

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Catholic News Service

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM AZERBAIJAN — Catholics facing difficult political choices must study the issues, pray about the election and then vote according to their consciences, Pope Francis said.

A man exits a voting booth in Laconia, N.H., Feb. 9. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

A man exits a voting booth in Laconia, N.H., Feb. 9. (CNS photo/Michael Reynolds, EPA)

Flying back to Rome from Azerbaijan Oct. 2, the pope was asked by a reporter what U.S. Catholics should do in a presidential election where both candidates hold some positions contrary to church teaching.

Although he was in a relaxed mood and welcomed reporters’ questions for almost an hour, Pope Francis said he would never comment on a specific electoral campaign.

“The people are sovereign,” he said. “Study the proposals well, pray and choose in conscience.”

Pope Francis also was asked when he would name new members to the College of Cardinals and what criteria he would use to choose them.

He said he still had not decided precisely when to announce the names or hold the consistory to create the new cardinals, but it would likely be at the end of this year or the beginning of 2017.

As for the choices, Pope Francis said, the list of worthy candidates is long, “but there are only 13 places” to reach the limit of 120 cardinals under the age of 80.

The selection process will aim for a geographic mix, he said. “I like it when one can see in the College of Cardinals the universality of the church, not just the European center, shall we say.”

Although he and the reporters traveling with him had not yet returned to Rome and already were set to go to Sweden Oct. 31-Nov. 1, a journalist asked the pope where he would be traveling in 2017.

A trip to Fatima, Portugal, is definite, he said. He intends to go May 13 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

Also on the calendar, the pope said, is a trip to India and Bangladesh and another trip to Africa, although the specific nation or nations has not been decided.

Asked about his promise to visit Colombia after peace was established in the country, Pope Francis said the peace agreement signed in September between the government and rebels was important, but the people of Colombia still have to vote to ratify the agreement and begin the real work of living in peace.

In addition, Pope Francis confirmed that he had spoken with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes, about setting aside the usual five-year waiting period to allow the collection of eyewitness testimony regarding the murder in July of French Father Jacques Hamel as he celebrated Mass.

“It is very important not to lose the testimonies,” the pope said. “With time, someone may die, another forgets something.”

 

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Shameful that need for clean water is not a priority, Cardinal Turkson says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Allowing people to drink unsafe water or have no access to dependable, clean sources of water is shameful, Cardinal Peter Turkson told religious leaders.

Indian boys collect drinking water in early May from the main water supply line in Bhopa. Allowing people to drink unsafe water or have no access to dependable, clean sources of water is shameful, Cardinal Peter Turkson told religious leaders at an interfaith meeting Aug. 29 in Stockholm. (CNS photo/Sanjeev Gupta, EPA)

Indian boys collect drinking water in early May from the main water supply line in Bhopa. Allowing people to drink unsafe water or have no access to dependable, clean sources of water is shameful, Cardinal Peter Turkson told religious leaders at an interfaith meeting Aug. 29 in Stockholm. (CNS photo/Sanjeev Gupta, EPA)

“It is a continuing shame,” too, that people’s needs “are secondary to industries which take too much and that pollute what remains,” said the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

It’s also a shame “that governments pursue other priorities and ignore their parched cries,” he said in the keynote address to an interfaith meeting Aug. 29 in Stockholm, Sweden. The Vatican office sent Catholic News Service the cardinal’s written speech the same day.

The meeting on how faith-based organizations could contribute to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals dealing with water was part of Stockholm’s annual World Water Week gathering, which seeks to find concrete solutions to global water issues. The meeting also came in the run-up to the Sept. 1 World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

With speakers representing the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist communities, the Aug. 29 meeting looked at how religious communities could promote guaranteed access to sanitation and clean water for everyone. Some 660 million people are without adequate drinking water, and every year millions, mostly children, die from diseases linked to poor water supply and sanitation, according to the United Nations.

Religious faith and practices, Cardinal Turkson said, offer the needed “motivation to virtue” that inspires people to protect human dignity and rights.

Faith-based organizations can help youth embrace the values of “solidarity, altruism and responsibility” needed to become “honest administrators and politicians,” he said.

Religious leaders could also help organize “interreligious campaigns for cleaning rivers or lakes in order to foster mutual respect, peace and friendship among different groups,” as well as promote “a wise hierarchy of priorities for the use of water,” especially where there are competing demands, he said.

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Pope Francis to attend Lutheran meeting marking 500th anniversary of Protestant Reformation

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY— Pope Francis will visit Sweden in October to participate in an ecumenical service and the beginning of a year of activities to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

Pope Francis is flanked by Rev. Jens-Martin Kruse, during a visit to Christuskirche, a parish of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Rome in this Nov. 15, 2015, file photo. The Vatican announced Jan. 25 that the pope will visit Sweden Oct. 31 to participate in an ecumenical event marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)

Pope Francis is flanked by Rev. Jens-Martin Kruse, during a visit to Christuskirche, a parish of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Rome in this Nov. 15, 2015, file photo. The Vatican announced Jan. 25 that the pope will visit Sweden Oct. 31 to participate in an ecumenical event marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Massimiliano Migliorato, Catholic Press Photo)

Leaders from the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation had already been set to meet Oct. 31, 2016, for the ecumenical celebration in Lund, Sweden, where the LWF was founded in 1947.

Pope Francis “intends to participate” in the joint ceremony to commemorate next year’s anniversary, the Vatican press office said in a written communique. The announcement came Jan. 25, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, “an important day with regard to ecumenism,” said Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman. It is the last day of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Pope Francis will lead the ecumenical commemoration in Lund alongside Bishop Munib Younan, president of the Lutheran World Federation, and the Rev. Martin Junge, federation general secretary, said a joint press release by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the LWF.

“The event will include a common worship based on the recently published Catholic-Lutheran ‘Common Prayer’’liturgical guide,” and will highlight ecumenical developments between Catholics and Lutherans over the past 50 years, the press release said.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, council president, said in the press release, “By concentrating together on the centrality of the question of God and on a Christocentric approach, Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility of an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation, not simply in a pragmatic way, but in the deep sense of faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ.”

Rev. Junge said in the joint statement that the federation “is approaching the Reformation anniversary in a spirit of ecumenical accountability.”

“By working toward reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics, we are working toward justice, peace and reconciliation in a world torn apart by conflict and violence,” he added.

The common prayer document, released Jan. 11, is the first jointly developed liturgical material prepared by a task force made up of representatives of the official Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity.

Catholic bishops’ conferences and Lutheran churches around the world are invited to use the Common Prayer as part of local commemorations of the Reformation anniversary in 2017. The prayer includes materials to be adapted to the local liturgical and musical traditions of the Catholic Church and Lutheran communities.

Martin Luther posted his “95 Theses” on a church door Oct. 31, 1517, which is usually marked as the beginning of the Reformation. While the Reformation fractured Western Christianity, Catholics and Lutherans have been committed to dialogue the past 50 years in an effort to restore full unity.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Geneva-based Lutheran World Federation released a joint document in June 2013 titled, “From Conflict to Communion,” which outlined ideas for joint commemorations in 2017.

The document looks at the central points of Luther’s call for the reform of the church, the points addressed later by the Council of Trent and, especially, the Second Vatican Council and issues that still divide Catholics and Lutherans.

“Luther had no intention of establishing a new church but was part of a broad and many-faceted desire for reform,” the document said. “In 2017, when Lutheran Christians celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, they are not thereby celebrating the division of the Western church. No one who is theologically responsible can celebrate the division of Christians from one another.”

In a meeting in October 2013 with representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and members of the Catholic-Lutheran international theological dialogue, Pope Francis said commemorations of the beginning of the Reformation must take place in a spirit of dialogue and humility.

“Catholics and Lutherans can ask forgiveness for the harm they have caused one another and for their offenses committed in the sight of God,” he said.

“I believe that it is truly important for everyone to confront in dialogue the historical reality of the Reformation, its consequences and the responses it elicited,” the pope told the group.

While theological dialogue is important, he said, the key to unity lies in prayer and trying to follow more closely the teachings of Jesus.

In other news regarding papal travel, the president of Colombia’s Catholic bishops’ conference told reporters Jan. 23 that Pope Francis would visit their country early in 2017.

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