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Day: July 11, 2015

Pope Francis in Paraguay: homily at Vespers on Saturday

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis presided over Vespers with the bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious, seminarians and representatives of Paraguay’s Catholic movements on Saturday evening in the cathedral of Asunciòn. Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks in their official English translation.
Vespers with Bishops, Priests, Deacons,  Men and Women Religious, Seminarians and Catholic Movements  Metropolitan Cathedral, Asunci ó n
How good it is for all of us to pray Vespers together!  How can we not dream of of a Church which reflects and echoes the harmony of voices and song in her daily life!  That is what we are doing in this Cathedral, rebuilt so many times over the years.  This Cathedral symbolizes the Church and each one of us.  At times, storms from without and within force us to tear down what had been built and to begin again, but always with the hope given us by God. When we look at this building, we can surely say that it has not disappointed the hopes of the Paraguayan people… because God never disappoints!  For this we give thankful praise.
Liturgical prayer, in its unhurried structure, is meant to be an expression of the whole Church, the Spouse of Christ, as she strives to be ever more conformed to her Lord.  Each one of us, in prayer, wants to become more like Jesus.
Prayer expresses what we experience and what we ought to experience in our daily lives.  At least that is true of prayer that is not self-centered or merely for show.  Prayer makes us put into practice, or examine our consciences about, what we have prayed for in the Psalms.  We are the hands of the God who “lifts up the poor from the dust”.  We work to turn what is dry and barren into fertile ground.  We cry out that “precious in the eyes of the Lord is the life of his faithful ones”.  We are those who fight, speak up and defend the dignity of every human life, from birth to old age, when our years are many and our strength fails.  Prayer is the reflection of our love for God, for others and for all creation.  The commandment of love is the greatest way for the missionary disciple to be conformed to Jesus.  Union with Jesus deepens our Christian vocation, which is concerned with what Jesus “does” – which is something much greater than mere “activities” – with becoming more like him in all that we do.  The beauty of the ecclesial community is born of this union of each of her members to the person of Jesus, creating an “ensemble of vocations” in the richness of harmonic diversity.
The antiphons of the Gospel canticles for this weekend evoke for us the sending of the Twelve by Jesus.  It is always good to grow in this awareness that apostolic work is carried out in communion!  It is admirable to see you cooperating pastorally, with respect for the nature and ecclesial role of each of the vocations and charisms.  I want to encourage all of you, priests, men and women religious, laity and seminarians to be committed to this ecclesial collaboration, especially with regard to diocesan pastoral plans and the continental mission, and to work together with complete availability in the service of the common good.  If our divisions lead to barrenness (cf. Evangelii Gaudium , 98-101), then there is no doubt that communion and harmony lead to fruitfulness, because they are deeply attuned to the Holy Spirit.
Each of us has his or her limitations, and no one is able to reproduce Jesus in all his fullness.  Although all vocations are associated with certain aspects of the life and work of Jesus, some vocations are more general and essential.  Just now we praised the Lord for “he did not regard equality God as something to be exploited”.  This is the case with every Christian vocation: a person called by God does not show off; he or she does not seek recognition or applause; he or she does claim to be better than others, standing apart as if on a pedestal.   
Christ’s supremacy is clearly described in the li turgy of the Letter to the Hebrews.  As we just read from the final part of that Letter, we are to become perfect like “the great Shepherd of the sheep”.  This means that all consecrated persons are to be conformed to Jesus, who in his earthly life, “with prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” achieved perfection when, through suffering, he learned the meaning of obedience.  This too is part of our calling.
 Let us conclude our celebration of Vespers.  The bell tower of this Cathedral was rebuilt a number of times.  The sound of its bells anticipates and accompanies our liturgical prayer on so many occasione.  Rebuilt for God whenever we pray, steadfast like a bell tower, joyful in ringing out the wonders of God, let us share the Magnificat and, through our consecrated life, allow the Lord to accomplish great things in Paraguay.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis: address to civil society representatives

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday (July 11th) urged representatives of civil society in Paraguay not to be closed in on themselves and but work together with others using dialogue to build a more inclusive society. He warned those listening to not just take their “own slice of the cake” but discuss, think, and discover together a better solution for everybody.   
Please find below the English translation of the Pope’s prepared remarks for his address to the representatives of civil society in Paraguay :
Dear Friends,
                I am pleased to be with you, the representatives of civil society, and to share our hopes and dreams for a better future.  I thank Bishop Adalberto Martínez Flores, Secretary of the Paraguay Bishops’ Conference, for his words of welcome in your name.
                Seeing all of you together, each coming from his or her own sector or organization within Paraguayan society, each bringing his or her own joys, concerns, struggles and hopes, makes me grateful to God.  A people unengaged and listless, passively accepting things as they are, is a dead people.  In you, however, I see great vitality and promise.  God always blesses this.  God is always on the side of those who help to uplift and improve the lives of his children.  To be sure, problems and situations of injustice exist.  But seeing you and listening to you helps to renew my hope in the Lord who continues to work in the midst of his people.  You represent many different backgrounds, situations and aspirations; all together, you make up Paraguayan culture.  All of you have a part to play in the pursuit of the common good.  “In the present condition of global society, where injustices abound and growing numbers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable” (Laudato Si’, 158), to see you before me is a real gift.
                I also want to thank those of you who prepared the questions.  These have enabled me to see above all your commitment to keep working together for the good of the nation.
1.            In the first question, I was pleased to hear a young person express concern that society be a place of fraternity, justice, peace and dignity for everyone.  Youth is a time of high ideals.  It is important that you, the young, realize that genuine happiness comes from working to make a more fraternal world!  It comes from realizing that happiness and pleasure are not synonymous.  Happiness is demanding, it requires commitment and effort.  You are too important to be satisfied with living life under a kind of anasthesia!  Paraguay has a large population of young people and this is a great source of enrichment for the nation.  So I think that the first thing to do is to make sure that all that energy, that light, does not grow dim in your hearts, and to resist the growing mentality which considers it useless and absurd to aspire to things that demand effort.  Be committed to something, be committed to someone.  Don’t be afraid to take a risk.  Don’t be afraid to give the best of yourselves!
                But don’t do this alone.  Try to talk about these things among yourselves, profit from the lives, the stories and the wisdom of your elders, of your grandparents.  “Waste” lots of time listening to all the good things they have to teach you.  They are the guardians of that spiritual legacy of faith and values which define a people and illumine its path.  Find comfort, too, in the power of prayer, in Jesus.  Keep praying to to him daily.  He will not disappoint you.  Jesus, in the memory of your people, is the secret to keeping a joyful heart in your quest for fraternity, justice, peace and dignity for everyone.
                I liked the poem of Carlos Miguel Giménez which Bishop Martínez quoted.  I think it sums up very nicely what I have been trying to say, “[I dream of] a paradise free of war between brothers and sisters, rich in men and women healthy in heart and soul… and a God who blesses its dawn”.  Yes, God is the guarantee of the dignity of man.
2.            The second question spoke about dialogue as a means to advance the project of a fully inclusive nation.  Dialogue, we know, is not easy.  There are many difficulties to be overcome, and sometimes it seems as if our efforts only make things even harder.  Dialogue must be built on something.  It presupposes and demands a culture of encounter.  An encounter which acknowledges that diversity is not only good, it is necessary.  So we cannot start off by thinking that the other person is wrong.  The common good is sought by starting from our differences, constantly leaving room for new alternatives.  In other words, look for something new.  Don’t just take “your own slice of the cake”, but discuss, think, and discover together a better solution for everybody.  Many times this culture of encounter can involve conflict.  This is logical and even desirable.  It is not something we should be afraid of or ignore.  Rather, we are called to resolve it.  This means that we have to “face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process” (Evangelii Gaudium 227), because “unity is greater than conflict” (ibid., 228).  A unity which does not cancel differences, but experiences them in communion through solidarity and understanding.  By trying to understand the thinking of others, their experiences, their hopes, we will be able to see more clearly our shared aspirations.  This is the basis of encounter: all of us are brothers and sisters, children of the same heavenly Father, and each of us, with our respective cultures, languages and traditions, has much to contribute to the community.  True cultures are not closed in on themselves, but called to meet other cultures and to create new realities.  Without this essential presupposition, without this basis of fraternity, it will be very difficult to arrive at dialogue.  If someone thinks that there are persons, cultures, or situations which are second, third or fourth class…  surely things will go badly, because the bare minimum, a recognition of the dignity of the other, is lacking.
3.            All this can serve as a way of approaching the concern expressed in the third question.  How do we hear the cry of the poor in order to build a more inclusive society?  A fundamental part of helping the poor involves the way we see them.  An ideological approach is useless: it ends up using the poor in the service of other political or personal interests (Evangelii Gaudium, 199).  To really help them, the first thing is for us to be truly concerned for their persons, valuing them for their goodness.  Valuing them, however, also means being ready to learn from them.  The poor have much to teach us about humanity, goodness and sacrifice.  As Christians, we have an additional reason to love and serve the poor; for in them we see the face and the flesh of Christ, who made himself poor so to enrich us with his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).
                Certainly every country needs economic growth and the creation of wealth, and the extension of these to each citizen, without exclusion.  But the creation of this wealth must always be at the service of the common good, and not only for the benefit of a few.  On this point we must be clear.  For “the worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose” (Evangelii Gaudium, 55).  Those charged with promoting economic development have the responsibility of ensuring that it always has a human face.  They have in their hands the possibility of providing employment for many persons and in this way of giving hope to many families.  Work is a right and it bestows dignity.  Putting bread on the table, putting a roof over the heads of one’s children, giving them health and an education – these are essential for human dignity, and business men and women, politicians, economists, must feel challenged in this regard.  I ask them not to yield to an economic model which is idolatrous, which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit.  In economics, in business and in politics, what counts first and foremost is the human person and the environment in which he or she lives.
                Paraguay is rightly known throughout the world for being the place where the Reductions began.  These were among the most significant experiences of evangelization and social organization in history.  There the Gospel was the soul and the life of communities which did not know hunger, unemployment, illiteracy or oppression.  This historical experience shows us that, today too, a more humane society is possible.  Where there is love of people and a willingness to serve them, it is possible to create the conditions necessary for everyone to have access to basic goods, so that no one goes without.
                Dear friends, it is a great pleasure to see the number and variety of associations sharing in the creation of an ever more prosperous Paraguay.  I see you as a great symphony, each one with his or her own specificity and richness, yet all working together towards a harmonious end.  That is what counts.
                Love your country, your fellow citizens, and, above all, love the poor.  In this way, you will bear witness before the world that another model of development is possible.  I am convinced that you possess the greatest strength of all: your humanity, your faith, your love.
                I ask Our Lady of Caacupé, our Mother, to watch over you and protect you, and to encourage you in all your efforts.  God bless you.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Paraguay: Corn and coconuts for an altar worthy of a Pope

(Vatican Radio) Linda Bordoni is currently in Paraguay’s capital Asunciòn reporting on the Apostolic visit of Pope Francis. She went to take a look at the unusal  altar that’s already in place at Nu Guazu where Pope Francis is scheduled to celebrate the last Holy Mass of his three country journey on Latin American soil.
Listen to Linda Bordoni’s report from Asunciòn on the unusual  maize and coconut altar prepared for Pope Francis’ Sunday mass at Nu Guazu :

Some 32.000 corn cobs, 200.000 baby coconuts, pumpkins, gourds, squashes and seeds of all shapes, sizes and colours are the proud protagonists of the amazing altar at which Pope Francis will celebrate Mass on Sunday.
The artist, Koki Ruiz, a much beloved personality in Paraguay, has used the fruits of his fertile land  where agriculture is the main pillar of the economy to create a veritable vegetable masterpiece.
To the left of a central column with the cross and the Papal symbols, a portrait of St. Francis with a dove; on the right, the austere face of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order. Both of them worthy – and highly symbolic – witnesses of Pope Francis’ last Mass before he wraps up his moving journey to three Latin American nations.
Witnesses and protagonists of the much awaited event at Nu Guazu are also the hundreds of ordinary Paraguayans who flocked to the altar as it was being set up to write a name and a prayer on the tiny coconut shells that make up the green coloured parts of the altar which is as fragile, diverse and beautiful as the land it was born from.
For Vatican Radio, in Asuncion, I’m Linda Bordoni.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis at Mass: Mary always stands by us

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Saturday (July 11th) at the Marian Shrine of Caacupé near Asuncion on the first full day of his pastoral visit to Paraguay, the third and final leg of his journey to Latin America. Caacupe is the most important pilgrimage site in Paraguay. Tens of thousands of people, including many from the Pope’s native Argentina, attended the mass held in the square outside the Basilica. In his homily, the Pope told those present that Mary’s life testifies that God never abandons us even in moments when it might seem he is not there. He also once again had special words of praise for the women of Paraguay whom he said were able to lift up a country defeated, devastated and laid low by war. Please find below an English translation of the Pope’s prepared remarks for the homily at the Mass:                 Being here with you makes me feel at home, at the feet of our Mother, the Virgin of Miracles of Caacupé.  In every shrine we, her children, encounter our Mother and are reminded that we are brothers and sisters.  Shrines are places of festival, of encounter, of family.  We come to present our needs.  We come to give thanks, to ask forgiveness and to begin again.  How many baptisms, priestly and religious vocations, engagements and marriages, have been born at the feet of our Mother!  How many tearful farewells!  We come bringing our lives, because here we are at home and it is wonderful to know there is someone waiting for us.                  As so often in the past, we now come because we want to renew our desire to live the joy of the Gospel.                 How can we forget that this shrine is a vital part of the Paraguayan people, of yourselves?  You feel it, it shapes your prayers, and you sing: “Here, in your Eden of Caacupé, are your people, Virgin most pure, who offer you their love and their faith”.  Today we gather as the People of God, at the feet of our Mother, to offer her our love and our faith.                  In the Gospel, we have just heard the greeting of the angel to Mary: Rejoice, full of grace.  The Lord is with you.  Rejoice, Mary, rejoice.  Upon hearing this greeting, Mary was confused and asked herself what it could mean.  She did not fully understand what was happening.  But she knew that the angel came from God and so she said yes.  Mary is the Mother of Yes.  Yes to God’s dream, yes to God’s care, yes to God’s will.                 It was a yes that, as we know, was not easy to live.  A yes that bestowed no privileges or distinctions.  Simeon told her in his prophecy: “a sword will pierce your heart” (Lk 2:35), and indeed it did.  That is why we love her so much.  We find in her a true Mother, one who helps us to keep faith and hope alive in the midst of complicated situations.  Pondering Simeon’s prophecy, we would do well to reflect briefly on three difficult moments in Mary’s life. 1.            The birth of Jesus.  There was no room for them.  They had no house, no dwelling to receive her Son.  There was no place where she could give birth.  They had no family close by; they were alone.  The only place available was a stall of animals.  Surely she remembered the words of the angel: “Rejoice, Mary, the Lord is with you”.  She might well have asked herself: “Where is he now?”. 2.            The flight to Egypt.  They had to leave, to go into exile.  Not only was there no room for them, no family nearby, but their lives were also in danger.  They had to depart and go to a foreign land.  They were migrants, on account of the envy and greed of the King.  There too she might well have asked: “What happened to all those things promised by the angel? 3.            Jesus’ death on the cross.  There can be no more difficult experience for a mother than to witness the death of her child.  It is heartrending.  We see Mary there, at the foot of the cross, like every mother, strong, faithful, staying with her child even to his death, death on the cross.   Then she encourages and supports the disciples.                 We look at her life, and we feel understood, we feel heard.  We can sit down to pray with her and use a common language in the face of the countless situations we encounter each day.  We can identify with many situations in her own life.  We can tell her what is happening in our lives, because she understands.                 Mary is the woman of faith; she is the Mother of the Church; she believed.  Her life testifies that God does not deceive us, or abandon his people, even in moments or situations when it might seem that he is not there.  Mary was the first of her Son’s disciples and in moments of difficulty she kept alive the hope of the apostles.  A woman attentive to the needs of others, she could say – when it seemed like the feast and joy were at an end – “they have no wine” (Jn 2:3).  She was the woman who went to stay with her cousin Elizabeth “about three months” (Lk 1:56), so that Elizabeth would not be alone as she prepared to give birth.                  We know all this from the Gospel, but we also know that in this land she is the Mother who has stood beside us in so many difficult situations.  This shrine preserves and treasures the memory of a people who know that Mary is their Mother, and that she has always been at the side of her children.                 Mary has always been in our hospitals, our schools and our homes.  She has always sat at table in every home.  She has always been part of the history of this country, making it a nation.  Hers has been a discreet and silent presence, making itself felt through a statue, a holy card or a medal.  Under the sign of the rosary, we know that we are never alone.                  Why?  Because Mary wanted to be in the midst of her people, with her children, with her family.  She followed Jesus always, from within the crowd.  As a good Mother, she did not want to abandon her children, rather, she would always show up wherever one of her children was in need.  For the simple reason that she is our Mother.               A Mother who learned, amid so many hardships, the meaning of the words: “Do not be afraid, the Lord is with you”.  A Mother who keeps saying to us: “Do whatever he tells you”.  This is what she constantly says to us: “Do whatever he tells you”.  She doesn’t have a plan of her own; she doesn’t come to tell us something new.  She simply accompanies our faith with her own.                 You know this from experience.  All of you, all Paraguayans, share in the living memory of a people who have made incarnate these words of the Gospel.  Here I would like especially to mention you, the women, wives and mothers of Paraguay, who at great cost and sacrifice were able to lift up a country defeated, devastated and laid low by war.  You are keepers of the memory, the lifeblood of those who rebuilt the life, faith and dignity of your people.  Like Mary, you lived through many difficult situations which, in the eyes of the world, would seem to discredit all faith.  Yet, like Mary, inspired and sustained by her example, you continued to believe, even “hoping against all hope” (Rom 4:18).  When all seemed to be falling apart, with Mary you said: “Let us not be afraid, the Lord is with us; he is with our people, with our families; let us do what he tells us”.  Then and now, you found the strength not to let this land lose its bearings.  God bless your perseverance, God bless and encourage your faith, God bless the women of Paraguay, the most glorious women of America.                 As a people, we have come home, to this house of all Paraguayans, to hear once more those words which are so comforting: “Rejoice, the Lord is with you”.  They are a summons to cherish your memory, your roots, and the many signs which you have received as a people of believers tested by trials and struggles.  Yours is a faith which has become life, a life which has become hope, and a hope which leads to eminent charity.  Yes, like Jesus, may you be outstanding in love.  May you be bearers of this faith, this life and this hope.  May you continue to build these up in Paraguay’s present and for its future.                 Gazing once more on Mary’s image, I invite you to join me in saying: “Here, in your Eden of Caacupé, are your people, Virgin most pure, who offer you their love and their faith”.  Pray for us, Holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy of the promises and graces of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen. (from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis condemns bomb attack against Italian consulate

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has expressed his strong condemnation of the car bomb attack against the Italian consulate in Cairo on Friday which killed one person. His condemnation came in a telegram sent on his behalf by the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin to the Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh Al Sisi.
In the telegram Cardinal Parolin wrote that the Pope was deeply concerned by this attack and urged “political and religious players at all levels to join together and redouble their efforts to fight the plague of terrorism and promote peace and solidarity.” He said Pope Francis also expressed “his sincere compassion to all the families and people affected by “these blind acts of violence” and assured them of his prayers.”   
(from Vatican Radio)…