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Day: July 12, 2015

Pope Francis in Latin America: a witness to joy

(Vatican Radio) Asked by a journalist, here in Asuncion, during the final press briefing, what he thinks is the main common denominator of Pope Francis’ three-nation Latin American tour, Papal spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi didn’t have to think too hard.
No, he didn’t say “the appeal for justice and equality,”  “closeness to the poor and the needy” or “the call to leaders to combat corruption”; he didn’t even talk about the strong Marian dimension of the journey or about Pope Francis’ embracing pastoral approach as he reached out to millions of faithful during massive Eucharistic celebrations, private moments of prayer, encounters with his fellow bishops and with representatives of civil society.
Click below to hear our report

Father Lombardi’s answer was simple: “the overwhelming participation and warmth of the people”.
This may sound rather quaint – perhaps banal – to some European ears, but here in Paraguay, from where I am reporting, the love of the people for their Pope really is overwhelming and joyous.
Perhaps that’s why  the word “Joy” was chosen as the common thread in the logos for his visit to all three countries with the one in Ecuador reading: “Evangelise with Joy”; in Bolivia: “With Francis, let us announce the Joy of the Gospel”; in Paraguay quite simply: “Pope Francis: Messenger of Joy and Peace”.
And judging by the reaction of the people here, that is exactly the message they need to receive.
All three of them poor countries ravaged by  histories of conquest, conflict and dictatorship,  all of them undergoing times of political uncertainty and in need of more equality and of environmental protection; all of them home to deeply religious people.
People whose daily struggle to provide for their children and offer them a better future speaks of hard work, energy and determination. But whose love for Christ and his life-giving message is quite evidently a source of unending hope, as one woman waiting to catch a glimpse of the Pope  passing by told me:  “I hope that he brings miracles here, because I know that he can.”
In Asuncion with Pope Francis, I’m Linda Bordoni
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis to youth: free hearts, great dreams, hard work

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with the young people of Paraguay on Sunday afternoon, in the final major public engagement of his week-long pilgrimage to Latin America. The gathering included a multimedia representation of the realities of young peoples’ lives in Paraguay, with choreography, music and a video montage, and the proclamation of a reading from the Gospel according to St. Matthew: chapter 5, verses 1-12, the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, in which the Lord teaches the Beatitudes.
Click below to hear our report

The encounter also included the testimony of two young people: a 25 year-old nurse named Liz Fretes, who has recently rediscovered her faith in the wake of personal and family struggle and is now active in youth ministry; and an 18 year-old campesino , Manuel de los Santos Aguiler, whose family was forced to abandon their rural life in order to search for a living in the capital – a choice that led to Manuel’s exploitation and experience of drug addiction and temptation to despair, before he too, through the ministry of other young people, discovered, “A God who can do all things,” and began to turn his life around with their help.
Putting aside his prepared text , Pope Francis responded directly to the witness of the two young people, focusing on three main points: the intimate connection between authentic liberty and responsibility and the necessity of a heart that is free in order truly to experience both; the nexus uniting hope and hard work; the spirit of gratitude that is the sign and seal of every life lived in and through the Gospel counsels of the Beatitudes.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis: prepared remarks to young people in Paraguay

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis wrapped up his journey to Latin America on Sunday (June 12th) by meeting young people, his final engagement in Paraguay before boarding his plane back to Rome. In his prepared remarks to the gathered youth, the Pope warned the young people to beware of the false promises of the devil and embrace instead the true path of Jesus who does not trick us or con us. The Pope concluded his prepared remarks by urging the young people to bring the excitement of Jesus’ friendship to the world, and to do so wherever they find themselves: whether at work, at school, or on social media.
Please find below an English translation of the Pope’s prepared remarks to the young people at the Costanera riverside park in Asuncion:
Dear Young People,
I am happy to be with you in this atmosphere of celebration.  Happy to listen to your witness and to share your enthusiasm and love for Jesus.
I thank Bishop Ricardo Valenzuela, who is charge of the youth apostolate, for his kind words.  I also thank Manuel and Liz for their courage in sharing their lives and their testimony at this meeting.  It is not easy to speak about personal things, and even less so in front of so many people.  You have shared the greatest treasure which you have: your stories, your lives and how Jesus became a part of them.
To answer your questions, I would like to speak about some of the things you shared.
                Manuel, you told us something like this: “Today I really want to serve others, I want to be more generous”.  You experienced hard times, and very painful situations, but today you really want to help others, to go out and share your love with others.
Liz, it is not easy to be a mother to your own parents, all the more when you are young, but what great wisdom and maturity your words showed, when you said: “Today I play with her, I change her diapers.  These are all things I hand over to God today, but I am barely making up for everything my mother did for me”.
You, young Paraguayans, you certainly show great goodness and courage. 
You also shared how you have tried to move forward.  Where you found strength.  Both of you said it was in your parish.  In your friends from the parish and the spiritual retreats organized there.  These two things are key: friends and spiritual retreats.
Friends:  Friendship is one of the greatest gifts which a person, a young person, can have and can offer.  It really is.  How hard it is to live without friends!  Think about it: isn’t that one of the most beautiful things that Jesus tells us?  He says: “I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (Jn 15:15).  One of the most precious things about our being Christians is that we are friends, friends of Jesus.  When you love someone, you spend time with them, you watch out for them and you help them, you tell them what you are thinking, but also you never abandon them.  That’s how Jesus is with us; he never abandons us.  Friends stand by one another, they help one another, they protect another.  The Lord is like that with us.  He is patient with us.
Spiritual retreats:  Saint Ignatius has a famous meditation on the two standards.  He describes the standard of the devil and then the standard of Christ.  It would be like the football jerseys of two different teams.  And he asks us which team we want to play for.
In this meditation, he has us imagine: What it would be like to belong to one or the other team.  As if he was saying to us: “In this life, which team do you want to play for?”
Saint Ignatius says that the devil, in order to recruit players, promises that those who play on his side will receive riches, honor, glory and power.  They will be famous.  Everyone will worship them.
Then, Ignatius tells us the way Jesus plays.  His game is not something fantastic.  Jesus doesn’t tell us that we will be stars, celebrities, in this life.  Instead, he tells us that playing with him is about humility, love, service to others.  Jesus does not lie to us; he takes us seriously.
In the Bible, the devil is called the father of lies.  What he promises, or better, what he makes you think, is that, if you do certain things, you will be happy.  And later, when you think about it, you realize that you weren’t happy at all.  That you were up against something which, far from giving you happiness, made you feel more empty, even sad.  Friends: the devil is a con artist.  He makes promises after promise, but he never delivers.  He’ll never really do anything he says.  He doesn’t make good on his promises.  He makes you want things which he can’t give, whether you get them or not.  He makes you put your hopes in things which will never make you happy.  That’s his game, his strategy.  He talks a lot, he offers a lot, but he doesn’t deliver.  He is a con artist because everything he promises us is divisive, it is about comparing ourselve to others, about stepping over them in order to get what we want.  He is a con artist because he tells us that we have to abandon our friends, and never to stand by anyone.  Everything is based on appearances.  He makes you think that your worth depends on how much you possess.
Then we have Jesus, who asks us to play on his team.  He doesn’t con us, nor does he promise us the world.  He doesn’t tell us that we will find happiness in wealth, power and pride.  Just the opposite.  He shows us a different way.  This coach tells his players: “Blessed, happy are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”.  And he ends up by telling them: “Rejoice on account of all this!”.
Why?  Because Jesus doesn’t lie to us.  He shows us a path which is life and truth.  He is the great proof of this.  His style, his way of living, is friendship, relationship with his Father.  And that is what he offers us.  He makes us realize that we are sons and daughters.  Beloved children.
He does not trick you.  Because he knows that happiness, true happiness, the happiness which can fill our hearts, is not found in designer clothing, or expensive brand-name shoes.  He knows that real happiness is found in drawing near to others, learning how to weep with those who weep, being close to those who are feeling low or in trouble, giving them a shoulder to cry on, a hug.  If we don’t know how to weep, we don’t know how to laugh either, we don’t know how to live. 
Jesus knows that in this world filled with competition, envy and aggressivity, true happiness comes from learning to be patient, from respecting others, from refusing to condemn or judge others.  As the saying goes: “When you get angry, you lose”.  Don’t let your heart give in to anger and resentment.  Happy are the merciful.  Happy are those who know how to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, those who are able to embrace, to forgive.  We have all experienced this at one time or another.  And how beautiful it is!  It is like getting our lives back, getting a new chance.  Nothing is more beautiful than to have a new chance.  It is as if life can start all over again.  
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope to poor of BaƱado Norte: faith and solidarity is the key

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday made a brief but poignant visit to one of the slum areas of the Paraguayan capital, Asuncion, Bañado Norte, to hear firsthand the problems facing the poorest people of the city.
Sean-Patrick Lovett reports……

“Bañados” means marshy wetlands. For half a century it was a swamp where the Paraguay River overflowed its banks in the rainy season. It was also Asunciòn’s garbage dump. Today it’s home to some 100,000 people, of whom only one in ten is formally employed. The rest make their living primarily by collecting, sorting and reselling garbage. 
The key to their survival has been solidarity: from the simplest kind of sharing meals and clothing with those in need, to complex forms of monetary redistribution that allow the sick to buy medicines and talented young people to further their studies. In short, Bañado Norte is a highly organized neighbourhood community.
And that’s the first thing Pope Francis acknowledged when he visited the area on Sunday, the last day of his 8-day, 3-nation pastoral visit to Latin America. “I want to be your neighbour”, he said. “I want to bless your faith, your hands and your community”. Praising the solidarity that holds the Bañado Norte community together, the Pope linked it with faith, stressing how “Faith awakens our commitment, our solidarity… A faith which does not draw us into solidarity is a faith which is dead”, he said. He even went off-script several times in order to reinforce the idea that “faith and solidarity” is the message the poor of Paraguay need to communicate to the world outside.
Now the poor of Bañado Norte are facing a new challenge: forced relocation at the hands of real estate speculators who have started showing keen interest in the area because of its strategic river-bank location. Both of the women who addressed the Pope at the event, referred to the very real threat of eviction for residents who have built up this community and lived here for over 30 years. “We are seen as a social liability”, said one of them, “a problem to be solved”. Both said they hoped the Pope’s presence would help draw attention to their cause which would see them consulted about their future and consider them a proactive “part of the solution”. 
Francis did not address the issue directly in his discourse, but when he told the people of Bañado Norte: “I could not come to Paraguay without spending some time with you, here on your land”, he did lay heavy vocal emphasis on the possessive pronoun, “your”.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis: Angelus address in Paraguay

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis said on Sunday (July 12th) that Mary is always with us, her children, especially the poor and the most needy.  He also prayed that Mary may strengthen the Church’s members in fraternal love and that with her help the Church may be a welcoming home for all. His words came during his Angelus address pronounced at the end of the open-air Mass celebrated at Nu Guazu outside Asuncion on the final day of his visit to Paraguay. 
Please find below an English translation of the Pope’s prepared remarks at his Angelus address following the Mass at Nu Guazu:  
“I thank the Archbishop of Asuncion, the Most Reverend Edmundo Ponziano Valenzuela Mellid, for his kind words.
At the end of this celebration we look with trust to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother.  She is the gift that Jesus gives to his people.  He gave her to us as our Mother at the hour of his cross and suffering.  She is the fruit of Christ’s sacrifice for us.  And from that moment, Mary has always been, and will always be, with her children, especially the poor and those most in need.
Mary has become part of the tapestry of human history, of our lands and peoples. As in so many other countries of Latin America, the faith of the Paraguayan people is imbued with  love of the Virgin Mary.  They approach their mother with confidence, they open their hearts and entrust to her their joys and sorrows, their aspirations and sufferings.  Our Lady consoles them and with tender love fills them with hope.  They never cease to turn with trust to Mary, mother of mercy for each and every one of her children.
                I also ask the Blessed Mother, who persevered in prayer with the Apostles as they waited for the Holy Spirit (Acts 1,13-14), to watch over the Church and strengthen her members in fraternal love.  With Mary’s help, may the Church be a home for all, a welcoming home, a mother for all peoples.
Dear brothers and sisters: I ask you please to pray also for me.  I know how much the Pope is loved in Paraguay.  I also keep you in my heart and I pray for you and your country.
Let us now join in praying the Angelus.”
(from Vatican Radio)…