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War brings only death, cruelty, pope says at U.S. military cemetery

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Catholic News Service

 

NETTUNO, Italy (CNS) — “No more, Lord, no more (war)” that shatters dreams and destroys lives, bringing a cold, cruel winter instead of some sought-after spring, Pope Francis said looking out at the people gathered for an outdoor Mass at a U.S. war memorial and cemetery.

“This is the fruit of war: death,” he said, as the bright Italian sun lowered in the sky on the feast of All Souls, Nov. 2. Read more »

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Pope tells bishops in Colombia to work for peace as pastors, not politicians

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Catholic News Service

Quoting celebrated Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Pope Francis told the country’s bishops he knows “it is easier to begin a war than to end one” and that, to succeed, Colombia needs bishops who are pastors, not politicians.

“All of us know that peace calls for a distinct kind of moral courage,” the pope told the bishops Sept. 7. “War follows the basest instincts of our heart, whereas peace forces us to rise above ourselves.”

Pope Francis greets Colombian bishops at Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez’s residence in Bogota, Colombia, Sept. 7. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Welcoming Pope Francis to the meeting, Cardinal Ruben Salazar Gomez of Bogota told the pope, “Our homeland is struggling to put behind it a history of violence that has plunged it into death for decades,” but the process of building peace “has become a source of political polarization that every day sows division, confrontation and disorientation. We are a country marked by deep inequalities and inequities that demand radical changes in all fields of social life. But it does not seem we are willing to pay the price required.”

One temptation, the pope said, is for the bishops and priests to get involved in the country’s heated partisan political debate.

Resist, the pope told them. The country needs pastors. It needs ministers who know firsthand “how marred is the face of this country,” how deep are the wounds and how intensely it needs to experience healing and forgiveness.

“Colombia has need of you so that it can show its true face, filled with hope despite its imperfections,” he said. It needs the church’s help “so that it can engage in mutual forgiveness despite wounds not yet completely healed, so that it can believe that another path can be taken, even when force of habit causes the same mistakes to be constantly repeated.”

Finding a magic formula to fix problems is a temptation, Pope Francis said. But the church’s ministers “are not mechanics or politicians, but pastors.”

The church does not need special favors from politicians, he said. It only needs the freedom to speak and to minister.

But it also needs internal unity, the pope told the bishops. “So continue to seek communion among yourselves. Never tire of building it through frank and fraternal dialogue, avoiding hidden agendas like the plague.”

Although he said he had “no recipes” and would not “leave you a list of things to do,” Pope Francis made two specific requests of the bishops: Pay more attention to “the Afro-Colombian roots of your people,” and show more concern for the church, the people and the environment in southern Colombia’s Amazon region.

The region holds “an essential part of the remarkable biodiversity of this country,” and protecting it is “a decisive test of whether our society, all too often prey to materialism and pragmatism, is capable of preserving what it freely received, not to exploit it but to make it bear fruit.”

In a speech that included several references to the duty to defend human life, Pope Francis said he wondered if society could learn from the indigenous people of the Amazon “the sacredness of life, respect for nature and the recognition that technology alone is insufficient to bring fulfillment to our lives and to respond to our most troubling questions.”

“I am told that in some native Amazon languages the idea of ‘friend’ is translated by the words, ‘my other arm.’ May you be the other arm of the Amazon,” he said. “Colombia cannot amputate that arm without disfiguring its face and its soul.”

A few hours later, Pope Francis met with members of the executive committee of the Latin American bishops’ council, known as CELAM, and focused on the ongoing efforts to evangelize the continent by means of “closeness and encounter.”

To be evangelizing disciples, the pope said, Christians must be willing to journey like Jesus did. “When he meets people, he draws near to them. When he draws near to them, he talks to them. When he talks to them, he touches them with his power. When he touches them, he brings them healing and salvation. His aim in constantly setting out is to lead the people he meets to the Father.”

The church and its members must be concrete and unafraid of listening to and accompanying real people with real challenges.

Unlike the colonizers of old or exploiters of today, he said, “the church is not present in Latin America with her suitcases in hand, ready, like so many others over time, to abandon it after having plundered it.”

The colonizers looked with “superiority and scorn” on the “mestizo face” of the continent’s Catholics, the pope said, while Catholics themselves are called to celebrate that diversity of races and cultures the same way they honor Our Lady of Guadalupe and Our Lady of Aparecida, both of which have mixed-race features.

Insisting the bishops do more to support, educate and appreciate lay Catholics, Pope Francis spoke particularly of the contribution of women.

“Please, do not let them be reduced to servants of our ingrained clericalism,” he said.

     

Contributing to this story was David Agren.

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On feast of Assumption, pope entrusts victims of disasters, conflict, social tension to Mary

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In a week in which natural disasters, war and racial conflicts dominated the headlines, Pope Francis prayed that Mary would bring peace to a divided world.

After reciting the Angelus prayer on the feast of the Assumption, the pope asked Mary to obtain “for everyone consolation and a future of serenity and harmony.”

Pope Francis gives a blessing during his Angelus prayer on the feast of the Assumption, Aug. 15, at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

“To Mary, Queen of Peace, who we contemplate today in the glory of paradise, I entrust once again the anxieties and sorrows of the people who suffer in many parts of the world due to natural disasters, social tensions or conflicts,” the pope told thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 15.

Pope Francis did not name any specific location, but as he spoke, the search for survivors continued in Sierra Leone after a devastating mudslide engulfed the outskirts of the capital, Freetown, killing more than 300 people. Flooding and landslides also struck southern Nepal, killing at least 70 people.

In Charlottesville, Va., clashes between white nationalists and protesters resulted in the death of three people, including a 32-year-old paralegal, Heather D. Heyer, who was killed Aug. 12 when a car plowed into a group protesting the white nationalist rally.

In his main Angelus talk, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, which recalled Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth.

The joy felt by Elizabeth and the child in her womb reflects the interior joy Christians feel in Christ’s presence, the pope said. “When Mary arrives, joy overflows and bursts from their hearts because the invisible yet real presence of Jesus fills everything with meaning: life, family, the salvation of the people. Everything!”

In response, Mary proclaims the Magnificat, her hymn of praise to God for his great works. Pope Francis said it is the hymn of “humble people, unknown to the world, like Mary, like her husband Joseph as well as the town where they live, Nazareth.”

God accomplishes “great things with humble people,” the pope said, inviting people in St. Peter’s Square to reflect on the state of their own humility.

“Humility is like an empty space that leaves room for God. A humble person is powerful because he is humble, not because he is strong. This is the greatness of humility,” he said.

The joy Mary brings because she brings Jesus to the world gives all Christians “a new ability to pass through the most painful and difficult moments with faith” as well as the “ability to be merciful, to forgive, understand and support each other.”

“Mary is a model of virtue and faith,” Pope Francis said. “We ask her to protect and sustain us that we may have a faith that is strong, joyful and merciful. May she help us to become saints, to meet her one day in paradise.”

     

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World scarred by war, greed must welcome prince of peace, pope says at Christmas

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The song of the angels that heralded the birth of Christ urges men and women to seek peace in a world divided by war, terrorism and greed, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets children at the conclusion of Christmas Eve Mass in Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis greets children at the conclusion of Christmas Eve Mass in Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Today this message goes out to the ends of the earth to reach all peoples, especially those scarred by war and harsh conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace,” the pope said Dec. 25.

Migrants, refugees, children suffering due to hunger and war, victims of human trafficking as well as social and economic unrest were also remembered by the pope.

“Peace to the peoples who suffer because of the economic ambitions of the few, because of the sheer greed and the idolatry of money, which leads to slavery,” he said.

An estimated 40,000 people slowly made their way through security checkpoints into St. Peter’s Square to attend the pope’s solemn Christmas blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world). 

Heightened security following the Dec. 19 terrorist attack in Berlin, Germany was evident as police cordoned off streets and established multiple checkpoints throughout the area.

While police presence is standard for major events in St. Peter’s, the added security was a sign of the times where crowded areas have become a target for terrorists.

The pope prayed for “peace to those who have lost a person dear to them as a result of brutal acts of terrorism that has sown fear and death into the hearts of so many countries and cities.”

Countries ravaged by the scourge of war were also in the pope’s thoughts, particularly in “the war-torn land of Syria, where far too much blood has been spilled,” especially in the city Aleppo. The pope called on the world to support the people of Syria with humanitarian assistance and to put an end to the conflict.

“It is time for weapons to be silenced forever and the international community to actively seek a negotiated solution so that civil coexistence can be restored in the country,” he said.

      The pope appealed for peace for the people of Ukraine, “who to this day suffer the consequences of the conflict.”

The Vatican announced Dec. 23 that the first installment of 6 million euro ($6.3 million) would be distributed on Christmas Day to assist in relief efforts in Ukraine. Earlier this year, the pope called for a collection across churches in Europe to help the people of the war-torn country.  

Iraq, Libya and Yemen, “where their peoples suffer war and the brutality of terrorism,” were in the pope’s prayers so that they may “be able to once again find unity and harmony.”

The pope also remembered Africa, especially Nigeria where fundamentalist terrorism “exploits children in order to perpetrate horror and death” as well as South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, calling on their leaders to choose the path of dialogue rather than “the mindset of conflict.”

He also prayed for peace in the Holy Land and that Israelis and Palestinians turn away from hate and revenge while having “the courage and determination to write a new page of history.”

Praying for an end to current tensions, the pope also called for peace in Venezuela, Colombia, Myanmar and the Korean peninsula

Christ’s birth, he said, is a sign of joy and a call for the world to contemplate “the child Jesus who gives hope once again to every person on the face of the earth.”

“‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.’ He is the ‘prince of peace;’ let us welcome him.”

After his address, the bells of St. Peter’s rang loudly, pealing throughout the square as they did in the evening Dec. 24 following the proclamation of Jesus’ birth during Christmas Mass.  

The darkness of the night sky over St. Peter’s Basilica was broken by the bright lights emanating from the colonnade and the Christmas tree from the square.

Temperatures just above 40 degrees didn’t stop thousands of people unable to enter the packed basilica from participating in the Mass, sitting outside and watching the Mass on giant screens in St. Peter’s Square.

In his homily, the pope said the love of God is made visible at Christ’s birth on a night of glory, joy and light “which would illuminates those who walk in darkness.”

The shepherds are a witness to “the enduring sign” of finding Jesus when they discover him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger; a sign that is given to all Christians today, the pope said.

“If we want to celebrate Christmas authentically, we need to contemplate this sign: the fragile simplicity of a small newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender affection of the swaddling clothes. God is there,” he said.

This sign of humility, he added, also reveals a paradox: God who chose not to reveal himself through power, but rather through the “poverty of a stable” and “in the simplicity of life.”

“In order to discover him, we need to go there, where he is: we need to bow down, humble ourselves, make ourselves small,” the pope said.

The image of the child in the manger, he continued, is a challenge for all Christians to “leave behind fleeting illusions” and “renounce insatiable claims.”

It is also a calling for the world to respond to the sufferings of children in this age who “suffer the squalid mangers that devour dignity: hiding underground to escape bombardment, on the pavements of a large city, at the bottom of a boat overladen with immigrants,” the pope said.

“Let us allow ourselves to be challenged by the children who are not allowed to be born, by those who cry because no one satiates their hunger, by those who do not have toys in their hands, but rather weapons,” he said.

Christmas is not only a mystery of hope but also of sadness where “love is not received and life discarded” as seen by the indifference felt by Mary and Joseph “who found the doors closed and placed Jesus in a manger.”

That same indifference, he said, exists today when commercialism overshadows the light of God and “when we are concerned for gifts but cold towards those who are marginalized.”

“This worldliness has taken Christmas hostage. It needs to be freed,” the pope said departing from his prepared remarks.

However, the hope of Christmas is the light that outshines this darkness and “draws us to himself” through his humble birth in Bethlehem,” he said.

      Noting that Bethlehem means “house of bread,” the pope said that Jesus was born to nourish us, creating a “direct thread joining the manger and the cross.”

“In this way, he seems to tell us that he is born as bread for us; he enters life to give us his life; he comes into our world to give us his love. He does not come to devour or to command but to nourish and to serve,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said that like the shepherds, who although marginalized are chosen to witness the birth of Christ, Christians are reminded of God’s closeness and can enjoy the true spirit of Christmas: “the beauty of being loved by God.”

“Contemplating his humble and infinite love, let us say to him: thank you, thank you because you have done all this for me,” the pope said.

 

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World at war needs signs of brotherhood, friendship, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — In a world traumatized by war, young people gathered for World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, gave strong signs of hope and brotherhood, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis greets a bride during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 3.  (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Pope Francis greets a bride during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Aug. 3. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

World Youth Day was a “prophetic sign for Poland and Europe” and took on a “global dimension” in a world threatened by a war fought in pieces, the pope said Aug. 3 at his weekly general audience.

“Precisely in this world at war, we need brotherhood, we need closeness, we need dialogue, and we need friendship. And this is the sign of hope: when there is brotherhood,” he said.

The pope entered the Paul VI audience hall greeted by thousands of pilgrims reaching out to him, asking him to bless their religious articles, kiss their babies or receive their gifts. But one gift stopped the pope in his tracks: a pope doll.

Pope Francis pointed to the doll and to himself, not completely convinced of the similarity, and then laughed, thanking the pilgrim for her present.

Before taking his place on the stage, the pope greeted Rabbi Alejandro Avruj, an old friend from Argentina seated in the front row. Also present were bishops and pilgrims from Panama, the country Pope Francis announced would host World Youth Day 2019.

In addition, a group of 65 young refugees from Eritrea and Syria came to see the pope. According to the Vatican, the children are from the Center for Asylum Seekers at Castelnuovo di Porto, about 15 miles north of Rome. The pope greeted them and posed for a group photo after the audience.

In his main audience talk, Pope Francis reflected on his visit to Krakow July 27-31 to join hundreds of thousands of young people from across the globe who met to celebrate their faith and who answered the call to “go forth together, to build bridges of brotherhood,” he said.

“They also came with their wounds, with their questions but, above all, with the joy of meeting each other,” the pope said.

Despite language barriers, he said, the youths were able to understand each other, creating a “mosaic of brotherhood” that is “emblematic of World Youth Day.”

Recalling his visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp, the pope said the great silence there “was more eloquent than any spoken word.”

“In that silence I heard, I felt the presence of all the souls that have passed there; I felt the compassion, the mercy of God that several holy souls brought there to that great abyss,” Pope Francis said. “In that great silence, I prayed for all the victims of violence and war.”

At Auschwitz, he said, he learned the “value of memory” not only as a remembrance of past tragedies, but also as a warning and call to responsibility today “so that the seed of hate and violence does not take root in the furrows of history.”

“Looking at that cruelty, at that concentration camp, I immediately thought of today’s cruelty, which is very similar. Not as concentrated as in that place, but around the world. This world that is sick with cruelty, pain, war, hate and sadness. And for this I ask you to pray so that the Lord may give us peace,” he said.

 

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Working to end the madness, restore dignity in the Middle East

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Catholic Near East Welfare Association

 

Catholic Near East Welfare Association works with churches to aid the poor, create dialogue, inspire peace

 

“The situation on the ground [in Gaza] is horrific. The attack on the Shajaia neighborhood yesterday [July 20] was very ugly and left 50 dead (including 17 children, 14 women and 4 senior citizens) as well as 210 wounded and 70,000 displaced. … “Those who visited the neighborhood during the two-hour humanitarian ceasefire yesterday reported bodies of women and children scattered in the narrow streets. …

“The Latin and Greek Orthodox parishes have opened facilities to receive those displaced mostly from Shajaia. There has not been any human loss affecting Christians, and property damage is limited to broken glass and minor damage. Let’s hope it remains this way. The most serious damage to the community is clearly psychological.

“We are continuously assessing the situation and continue to pray for an end to this madness.” Read more »

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All is lost with war, especially children’s future, pope says

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — It’s time to stop war, fighting and conflicts, which do nothing but kill and maim, leaving children unexploded ordnance for toys and lives without happiness, Pope Francis said.

“Never war! Never war! I think most of all about children, whose hopes for a dignified life, a future are dashed, dead children, wounded children, mutilated children, orphans, children who have the leftovers of war for toys, children who don’t know how to smile. Stop it, please! I beg you with all my heart! It’s time to stop!”

The Basha family -- Shadi, 12; Hani, 9; Walid , 47; and Jamila, 44, pray during Mass July 27 in the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem, West Bank. Parishes throughout the West Bank celebrated special Masses for Gaza, Iraq and Syria. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

The Basha family — Shadi, 12; Hani, 9; Walid , 47; and Jamila, 44, pray during Mass July 27 in the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem, West Bank. Parishes throughout the West Bank celebrated special Masses for Gaza, Iraq and Syria. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

The pope made his appeal after praying the noon Angelus with people gathered in St. Peter’s Square July 27.

The pope’s plea came as he recalled the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, which, with more than 37 million causalities, was one of the deadliest conflicts in history.

Beginning July 28, 1914, the “Great War” left “millions of victims and immense destruction,” Pope Francis said.

The reigning pontiff at the time, Pope Benedict XV called it a “useless massacre,” which ended after four years in a fragile peace, Pope Francis said.

He said July 28 would be “a day of mourning” and a chance for people to remember the lessons of history.

“I hope people will not repeat the mistakes of the past,” he said, and will uphold “the rationale of peace through patient and courageous dialogue.”

Highlighting the crises in the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine, the pope called for continued prayers so that the leaders and the people there would have the wisdom and will needed to choose peace with determination and face problems with “the tenacity of dialogue and negotiations.”

“Let’s remember that everything is lost with war and nothing is lost with peace,” he said.

He urged that all decisions be based on respect for others and the common good, not personal interests.

 

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Pope denounces world’s’ indifference’ to war, suffering in Syria

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — A “globalization of indifference” has taken hold of too many of the world’s people, numbing them to the horrifying reality faced by the people of Syria and other innocent victims of war and violence around the world, Pope Francis said.

A medic treats a boy who was injured after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad at a hospital in Idlib, Syria, May 15. (CNS photo/Rasem Ghareeb, Reuters)

With the Syrian conflict continuing for more than three years, “there is a risk of becoming used to it” and forgetting that people are dying there each day, the pope said May 30 in a message to participants at a Vatican-hosted meeting for Catholic aid agencies.

The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which promotes and coordinates Catholic charitable activity, brought together two dozen Catholic relief and development agencies that are working in Syria or with Syrian refugees. The meeting was designed to help them work together more efficiently and reach more people in need.

Announcing the meeting, Cor Unum said that, according to the most recent data, about 160,000 people have died since fighting began in Syria in March 2011, some 6 million people are displaced within Syria and more than 2 million Syrians have fled the country, most finding refuge in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.

In his message to the Catholic charities, Pope Francis expressed his “great sadness” that the Syrian conflict continues, creating “unspeakable suffering and thousands of refugees, including the elderly and children, who suffer and sometimes die of hunger and war-related illnesses.”

The work of Catholic charities is “a faithful expression of God’s love for his children who find themselves in situations of oppression and anguish,” the pope said. “God hears their cries, knows the sufferings and wants to free them.”

Pope Francis praised the Catholic charities for lending God “your hands and your abilities” in order to help “all the victims of the war without distinction of ethnicity, religion or social group.”

Once again, Pope Francis pleaded with the warring parties to guarantee emergency humanitarian assistance, to put down their weapons and make a commitment to dialogue.

 

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