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Month: October 2014

Pope: Seek the unity which is the work of the Holy Spirit

(Vatican Radio) On Friday Pope Francis met with members of the “Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowship.” The group is in Rome for its Sixteenth International Conference, which has for its theme “Praise and charismatic worship for a New Evangelization.”
Listen to Christopher Wells’ report: 

The Holy Father touched on several themes in his address to the group, beginning with the idea of “unity in diversity.” “Unity does not imply uniformity,” the Pope said. “It does not necessarily mean doing everything together or thinking in the same way. Nor does it signify a loss of identity. Unity in diversity is actually the opposite: it involves the joyful recognition and acceptance of the various gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to each one and the placing of these gifts at the service of all members of the Church.”
Pope Francis also spoke about the Church’s need for the Holy Spirit. “Every Christian in his or her life requires a heart open to the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit.” He encouraged his listeners to share their experience of the Holy Spirit with others.
The theme of the Conference, “Praise and charismatic worship for a New Evangelization,” prompted the Pope to speak about prayer and praise. Using the image of breathing, the Holy Father said, “Breathing is made up of two stages: inhaling, the intake of air, and exhaling, the letting out of this air. The spiritual life is fed, nourished, by prayer and is expressed outwardly through mission: inhaling and exhaling. When we inhale, by prayer, we receive the fresh air of the Holy Spirit. When exhaling this air, we announce Jesus Christ risen by the same Spirit. No one can live without breathing. It is the same for the Christian: without praise and mission there is no Christian life.”
Finally, Pope Francis reminded his audience that “the Charismatic Renewal is, by its very nature, ecumenical.” Spiritual ecumenism, he said, “is praying and proclaiming together that Jesus is Lord, and coming together to help the poor in all their poverty. Today the blood of Jesus, poured out by many Christian martyrs in various parts of the world, calls us and compels us towards the goal of unity.”
Read the full text of Pope Francis’ message below:
Dear brothers and sisters, welcome.
I thank you for your warm welcome and I greet you all with affection.  I know that the Catholic Fraternity has already met with the executive and the council and that this afternoon you will open the Sixteenth International Conference with our beloved Father Raniero. You have been kind enough to provide me with a programme and I see that each meeting begins with the words which I addressed to the Charismatic Renewal on the occasion of our meeting at the Olympic Stadium last June.
I wish first of all to congratulate each of you for having embarked upon something, which was expressed as a desire at that meeting.  For the last two months the Catholic Fraternity and the ICCRS (International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services) have worked together and shared office space in the Palazzo San Calisto, in the “Ark of Noah”.  I am aware that it may not have been easy to make this decision and I thank you sincerely for this witness to unity and grace, which you offer to the entire world. 
I would like now to reflect upon some themes which I consider important. 
The first is unity in diversity.  Uniformity is not Catholic; it is not Christian. Unity in diversity. Catholic unity is diverse but it is one. It’s curious, eh? The same one who creates diversity, all these problems of diversity, is the same one who then creates unity: the Holy Spirit. He does both things: unity in diversity. Unity does not imply uniformity; it does not necessarily mean doing everything together or thinking in the same way.  Nor does it signify a loss of identity.  Unity in diversity is actually the opposite: it involves the joyful recognition and acceptance of the various gifts which the Holy Spirit gives to each one and the placing of these gifts at the service of all members of the Church. 
Today, in the passage of the Gospel that we read at Mass, there was this uniformity of those men attached to the letter: “You must not do it like that…”, to the point that the Lord had to ask: “Tell me, can we do good on the Sabbath or not?” This is the danger of uniformity. Unity is knowing how to listen, to accept differences, and having the freedom to think differently and express oneself with complete respect towards the other, who is my brother or sister.  Do not be afraid of differences!  As I wrote in Evangelii Gaudium: “Our model is not the sphere, which is no greater than its parts, where every point is equidistant from the centre, and there are no differences between them. Instead, it is the polyhedron, which reflects the convergence of all its parts, each of which preserves its distinctiveness” but creates unity (236).
I saw in the programme, where the names of the Communities are mentioned, that at the introduction you have inserted the phrase, “to share the Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the whole Church”.  The Church needs the Holy Spirit! How could we do without it! Every Christian in his or her life requires a heart open to the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit, promised by the Father, is he who reveals Jesus Christ to us, but who makes us…gives us the possibility to say: Jesus! Without the Spirit, we could not say this. He reveals Jesus Christ, who leads us to a personal encounter with him, and who, in so doing, changes our life.  A question: Is this your experience?   Share it with others!   In order to share this experience, you must live it and witness to it!
The theme which you have chosen for the Congress is “Praise and Worship for a New Evangelization”.  Fr Raniero, a masterful guide in the ways of prayer, will speak on this theme.  Praise is the “breath” which gives us life, because it is intimacy with God, an intimacy that grows through daily praise.  Some time ago I heard an example of this which seems very appropriate: the way that people breathe.  Breathing is made up of two stages: inhaling, the intake of air, and exhaling, the letting out of this air.  The spiritual life is fed, nourished, by prayer and is expressed outwardly through mission: inhaling—prayer—and exhaling. When we inhale, by prayer, we receive the fresh air of the Holy Spirit.  When exhaling this air, we announce Jesus Christ risen by the same Spirit.  No one can live without breathing.  It is the same for the Christian: without praise and mission there is no Christian life. And with praise, adoration. But we speak little of adoration. “But what do you do in prayer?” “I ask things of God, I give thanks, I make intercessory prayers…” But adoration, adoring God. This forms part of this inhaling: praise and adoration.
The Charismatic Renewal has reminded the Church of the necessity and importance of the prayer of praise.  When we speak of the prayer of praise in the Church, Charismatics come to mind.  When I spoke of the prayer of praise during a homily at Mass in Santa Marta, I said it is not only the prayer of Charismatics but of the entire Church!  It is the recognition of the Lordship of God over us and over all creation expressed through dance, music and song.
I would like to revisit with you a few passages from that homily: “The prayer of praise is a Christian prayer, for all of us.  In the Mass, every day, when we sing the  ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’, this is a prayer of praise: we praise God for his greatness because he is great. And we address him with beautiful words because it pleases us to do this.  The prayer of praise bears fruit in us. Sarah danced as she celebrated her fertility – at the age of ninety!  This fruitfulness gives praise to God.  Men and women who praise the Lord, who pray praising the Lord – and who are happy to do so – rejoice in singing the Sanctus at Mass and they bear fruit.  Let us consider how beautiful it is to offer the prayer of praise to God.   This should be our prayer and, as we offer it up to God, we ought to say to ourselves, “Arise, O heart, because you are standing before the King of Glory” (Holy Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae, 28 January 2014).
Together with the prayer of praise, the prayer of intercession is, in these days, a cry to the Father for our Christian brothers and sisters who are persecuted and murdered, and for the cause of peace in our turbulent world.  Praise the Lord at all times, never cease to do so, praise him more and more, unceasingly. I have been told of Charismatic prayer groups in which they pray the Rosary. Prayer to the Mother of God must never be excluded, never!  But when you assemble for prayer, praise the Lord!
I see that you have among you a very dear friend, Pastor Giovanni Traettino, whom I visited recently.  Catholic Fraternity, do not forget your origins, do not forget that the Charismatic Renewal is, by its very nature, ecumenical.  Blessed Paul VI commented on this in the magnificent Apostolic Exhortation on evangelization which is highly relevant in our own day: “The power of evangelization will find itself considerably diminished if those who proclaim the Gospel are divided among themselves in all sorts of ways.  Is this not perhaps one of the great sicknesses of evangelization today?  The Lord’s spiritual testament tells us that unity among his followers is not only the proof that we are his but also the proof that he is sent by the Father. It is the test of the credibility of Christians and of Christ himself.  Yes, the destiny of evangelization is certainly bound up with the witness of unity given by the Church.  This is a source of responsibility and also of comfort” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 77). That was Blessed Paul VI.
Spiritual ecumenism is praying and proclaiming together that Jesus is Lord, and coming together to help the poor in all their poverty.  This must be done and not forgetting that today the blood of Jesus, poured out by many Christian martyrs in various parts of the world, calls us and compels us towards the goal of unity.  For the persecutors, we are not divided. We are not Lutherans, Orthodox, Evangelicals, Catholics… No! We are all one!  For the persecutors, we are Christians! They are not interested in anything else. This is the ecumenism of blood that we live today. 
Remember: seek the unity which is the work of the Holy Spirit and do not be afraid of diversity.  The breathing of Christians draws in the new air of the Holy Spirit and then exhales it upon the world: it is the prayer of praise and missionary outreach.  Share baptism in the Holy Spirit with everyone in the Church.  Spiritual ecumenism and the ecumenism of blood.  The unity of the Body of Christ.  Prepare the Bride for the Bridegroom who comes!  One Bride only! All of us. (Rev 22:17).
Finally, in addition to my thanks, I would especially like to mention these young musicians from northern Brazil, who played at the beginning. I hope they continue to play a bit, no? They have welcomed me with much affection, singing “Long live Jesus my Saviour”.  I know that you have prepared something more.  I invite you all to listen to them before I say farewell. Thank you.
 
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope at Mass: Love and justice are more important than attachment to the laws

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis lamented the case of Christians who are so attached to the laws that they neglect the concepts of love and justice. His words came on Friday during his homily at the morning Mass celebrated in the Santa Marta residence.   Taking his cue from the day’s gospel reading where Jesus asked…
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Pope at Mass: Love and justice are more important than attachment to the laws

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis lamented the case of Christians who are so attached to the laws that they neglect the concepts of love and justice. His words came on Friday during his homily at the morning Mass celebrated in the Santa Marta residence.  
Listen to this report by Susy Hodges : 

Taking his cue from the day’s gospel reading where Jesus asked the Pharisees whether it was lawful to heal a sick person on the Sabbath, the Pope reflected on how love and justice are the path to Christ rather than an excessive attachment to the laws.  He reminded how Jesus described the Pharisees as hypocrites for criticizing him behind his back after he healed a sick man on the Sabbath.   

“This way of living attached to the laws, distanced them from love and from justice.  They followed the laws and they neglected justice.  They followed the laws and they neglected love.  They were the models.  And for these people Jesus had only one word (to describe them): hypocrites. On one hand, you travel across the world looking for proselytes: you’re looking for them.  And then?   You close the door.  Closed-minded men, men who are so attached to the laws, to the letter of the law that they were always closing the doorway to hope, love and salvation… Men who only knew how to close (doors).”
Quoting from St Paul, Pope Francis said that the path towards being faithful to the laws, without neglecting justice and love is the opposite one:  from love to integrity, from love to discernment, from love to the laws.
“This is the path that Jesus teaches us, totally opposite to that of the doctors of law. And it’s this path from love and justice that leads to God.  Instead, the other path, of being attached only to the laws, to the letter of the laws, leads to closure, leads to egoism.  The path that leads from love to knowledge and discernment, to total fulfilment, leads to holiness, salvation and the encounter with Jesus.   Instead, the other path leads to egoism, the arrogance of considering oneself to be in the right, to that so-called holiness of appearances, right?   Jesus said to these people: You like to be seen by the people as men of prayer and of fasting…:’ To be seen, right?  And it’s for this reason that Jesus tells the people: “do what they tell you but do not do what they do.’”
The Pope said these are the two different paths and Jesus shows us the right one. 
“Jesus draws close to us: his closeness is the real proof that we are proceeding along the true path.  That’s because it’s the path which God has chosen to save us: through his closeness.  He draws close to us and was made man.  His flesh, the flesh of God is the sign; God’s flesh is the sign of true justice.  God was made man like one of us and we must make ourselves like the others, like the needy, like those who need our help.”
Pope Francis said Jesus’ flesh is the bridge that brings us closer to God and not the letter of the law.   I hope, he concluded, that these examples of Jesus’s love and closeness can help us from sliding into hypocrisy because a hypocritical Christian is a really bad thing.  
(from Vatican Radio)…

Sistine Chapel conference: Restoration and beyond

(Vatican Radio) A international conference marking the 20 th anniversary of the restoration of Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel is into its final day.
The two day event organised by the Vatican Museums is entitled “The Sistine Chapel 20 years later: New breath, new light.”
Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s interview with Arnold Nesselrath of the Vatican Museums.

The conference is focusing its attention Friday on the new air conditioning and purification system and the new state of the art lighting which have been installed in the Chapel and were unveiled earlier this week.
One of the participants at the gathering is Arnold Nesselrath, Delegate for the Scientific Department and Laboratories at the Vatican Museums, speaking about the philosophy of the lighting project.
He told Vatican Radio that “It (the lighting system) was something that was due after the restoration of the frescos of the 15 th century from the pontificate of Sixtus the 5 th because they are a great symphony with the frescos of Michelangelo. They are telling the history of salvation and to bring this out you need to support this with a fairly unique lighting system…”
Mr Nesselrath adds that the installation of the new OSRAM  lighting system was done in collaboration with the art historians and technicians of the Vatican Musuems. He also said there was no intervention on the frescos. “They remained as they were at the end of 1999…”
The conference concludes October 31 st at Rome’s Auditorium Conciliazione.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Rediscovery of synodal process at the Synod on the Family

(Vatican Radio) On Thursday the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldissseri, met with a group of British parliamentarians at the Vatican.
Addressing the group, Cardinal Baldisseri spoke about Pope Francis’ efforts to renew the Synod of Bishops. “Pope Francis wished to reform the synodal structure so that it could better discuss and consult on major questions facing the Church, just as it did in the early centuries of Christianity.” He stressed the “rediscovery of the synodal process” as one of the most important contributions of the recent Synod. “A very important aspect of the Church’s life is based on our understanding that the Spirit of the Risen Christ is given to all the baptized,” he said. “Synods are not about taking a poll or voting in a democratic way on Church teaching and practice but they embody a humble openness to the fact that the Lord is leading the pilgrim church through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Below, please find the complete text of Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri’s address:
Mr. Ambassador,
Distinguished Members of the British Parliament,
Dear Friends,
It is an honor and privilege for me to address you today on the theme of the recent Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization that we just concluded in the Vatican one week ago. I am very grateful for your kind invitation.
First allow me to offer you some background on the meaning of “synod.” The very word “synod” comes from a Greek word formed by combining roots meaning “together” and “going” or “way;” literally, journeying forward on the way together. The word “Synod” has been used over the centuries to refer to an assembly of bishops, as in the Oriental Church, at which Church leaders would elect the patriarch and establish church law.
In September 1965 at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed Pope Paul VI, the Council’s helmsman, desired to build upon the tremendous fraternal spirit that reigned during the Council’s sessions and to strengthen the bonds that united the Bishop of Rome with the bishops of the world. He created the Synod of Bishops to give the world’s bishops a voice – a sounding board that would advise the pope on various aspects of the Church’s life. From the beginning, synodal assemblies would be consultative, not legislative.
Since Blessed Paul VI established the format in 1965, the global gatherings have certainly not produced new dogma or overturned Church teachings. The majority of Synods took place during the long pontificate of St. John Paul II. The final documents of these meetings are called “Apostolic Exhortations” and clearly bear the mark of the reigning Pontiff.
No one can deny that the synodal process and structure had grown tired with the passage of time, and there seemed little opportunity for evaluation or renewal. Pope Francis mentioned this in an interview last year. He said, “Synodality should be lived at various levels. Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic. This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality” (Civiltà Cattolica, Sept. 19, 2013).
Within months of his election as Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis appointed me as the new General Secretary to head the Vatican’s Synod office. The Synod of Bishops is a body outside the Curia itself, accountable to the Pope but also to the bishops. The Holy Father’s desire was clear: he wished to give new life to this important body and allow it to become once again a sounding board, a place for authentic dialogue, debate and fraternal sharing – all for the good of the Church. Pope Francis wished to reform the synodal structure so that it could better discuss and consult on major questions facing the Church, just as it did in the early centuries of Christianity.
The most recent Synod, from October 5-19, did not come in the normal sequence of every four years. It was an Extraordinary Synod bringing together the presidents of national bishops’ conferences, heads of Eastern Catholic churches and members of the Roman Curia. Although the number of participants in the extraordinary synod was smaller, it also included twenty-six voting members named by the Pope, three priests chosen by the Union of Superiors General, sixteen expert advisers, eight representatives of other Christian communities and thirty-six observers, more than half comprised of married couples who addressed our assembly.
The “Ordinary” Synod of Bishops, which will include a larger assembly of Church leaders, will meet at the Vatican from October 4-25, 2015, to continue the discussion on pastoral approaches to the challenges facing families today. The most recent Extraordinary Synod prepared the agenda for discussion for that Ordinary Synod which will have as its theme: The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and in the Contemporary World.
Many of you undoubtedly followed the recent Extraordinary Synod in the mainstream media, and you may have received indications or impressions that the Synod was a time of great tension, revealing differing opinions within the Church. This morning I would like to share with you what this experience was for us – a journeying together – and how the results of this Extraordinary Synod have an impact not only on the Church but on the world.
I wish to stress one of the most important contributions of the recent Synod, and hopefully a constitutive part of future Synods – the rediscovery of the synodal process. A very important aspect of the Church’s life is based on our understanding that the Spirit of the Risen Christ is given to all the baptized. Synods are not about taking a poll or voting in a democratic way on Church teaching and practice but they embody a humble openness to the fact that the Lord is leading the pilgrim church through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Last fall, in preparation for the recent Synod, Pope Francis had the Synod office send out a questionnaire to the whole Church, raising very important topics that included the problems facing the family today: the extensive practice of divorce, cohabitation, contraception, procedures of artificial procreation, same-sex unions and polygamy (cf. Instrumentum Laboris, n. 27). We received responses to the consultation from 101 bishops’ conferences (an almost 89% response rate) and nine-hundred and eighty-three Catholic organizations and individuals. Though the timing of the questionnaire was somewhat problematic given the short turnaround for responses, the process nevertheless ensured that the Synod did not begin with abstractions and hypotheses but from a real, direct knowledge of the many challenges sweeping across the globe.
Some responses questioned the Church’s teaching or encouraged greater understanding of people who cannot always live up to that teaching. I stressed on several occasions over the past year that we must recognize that the faithful perceive the truth about the Gospel and its values and their input cannot be ignored. But the bishops have the responsibility and authority to discern ways to apply the constant teaching of the Church.
Synodal Members who took part in the recent Extraordinary Synod described an honest and prayerful attempt to discern answers to complex pastoral challenges across many cultures and ways of thinking. They said the discussions allowed for a genuinely dynamic synod, and that its overall purpose was achieved: to find ways of preaching the Gospel of the family in contemporary society and to find pastoral solutions for families facing difficult situations. The Synod’s purpose was to highlight the Church’s teaching on the family, which always reveals the missionary and pastoral dimension of that teaching, and the Church as merciful, healing, loving and welcoming.
During the first week of the Synod, instead of reading their presentations, the bishops had three or four minutes to summarize their texts – focusing only on one theme – and included ideas or clarifications that had come from listening to their brother bishops.
The second week of the synod was taken up mainly by work in small groups, organized according to language, that treated every theme that had been raised during the prior week. Instead of brainstorming propositions for the Pope, the small groups worked, theme by theme, on amending the summary report, which will be used as the working document for the 2015 Synod.
The recent Synod ended with a ‘Synod Report’, each paragraph of which Synod Members were able to vote for or against. The votes, which were published with the final text, indicated where there was or was not a two-thirds majority. This Report or “Relatio” now forms the starting point for the next Synod on the family, to take place in a year’s time.
We spoke together about the beauty, dignity and sacredness of marriage – as a vital institution for the Church and for the world. We recalled the words of St. John Paul II, that “the future of humanity passes through the family.” The pastoral mission of the Church is to preach the Gospel of the family clearly and with humility, accompanying people in difficult or exceptional situations. That is what comes first. From this point, we learn to move together towards conversion and towards the goodness of life that God has for us and that Jesus opens for us all. This positive approach flows right through the “Relatio” or Synod Report.
Pope Francis spoke about his duty to guarantee the unity of the Church and to remind the faithful to follow the Gospel of Christ. He also stressed that pastors must see it as their duty to nourish the flock that the Lord has entrusted to them, not only welcoming the lost sheep with fatherly care, but also going out and finding them.
It was hardly surprising that there was such a huge media interest in the recent Synod, unlike many previous Synods. Our Synodal experience together in Rome focused on important issues pertaining to marriage, family, and sexual morality – including those that are controversial both within and outside the Church. For this reason, it generated increased interest in certain areas of Church teaching. The themes we addressed touched on the reality facing the majority of Catholics in their every day life.
The Synod was an attempt to “lend an ear to the rhythm of our time,” as Pope Francis put it. Across the Western world, the collapse of the cultural narrative of marriage means fewer marrying and more and more children born into families lacking necessary stability. This is a serious challenge, because the family is the “school of humanity” according to Gaudium et Spes, the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World” (n. 52), and also the “domestic church,” the locus of spiritual life for most ordinary people, as well as the primary vehicle for learning and handing on faith down the generations.
The recovery of the Gospel of the family is key to a more missionary Church that can walk with contemporary people, binding their wounds and guiding them into the spiritual life. The Church is called to live in the harmony of mercy and justice, the pastoral and doctrinal, working out how to be both compassionate mother and clear teacher.
His Eminence, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, participated as a Member of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops and recently published a very timely Pastoral Letter to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Westminster, which sums up beautifully the experience of the Synod. He wrote that it was an opportunity to strengthen and reinvigorate the pastoral practice of the Church. Allow me to quote from that Letter: “This Synod … was about the pastoral care that we try to offer each other, the ‘motherly love of the Church’, especially when facing difficult moments and experiences in family life … At the end of our meeting Pope Francis spoke at length about his joy and satisfaction at its work. He told us to look deeply into our hearts to see how God had touched us during the Synod, and to see how we may have been tempted away from the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The Synod, he insisted, has been a spiritual journey, not a debating chamber” (Pastoral Letter on the Synod on the Family, October 26, 2014).
I would like to conclude with the words of Pope Francis himself at the closing of the Synod, with which he summarized the synodal experience as a “journey” moving towards the next stage of the Synod to take place in 2015. The Holy Father said, “I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of ‘Synod,’ a path of solidarity, a ‘journey together.’ And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say ‘enough’; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour (…). A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations (…). This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy(…). It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.”
Thank you very much for your attention and interest. Let us continue our journey together.
+Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri
Secretary General, Synod of Bishops
Vatican City
 
(from Vatican Radio)…