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Day: September 27, 2015

Pope Francis concludes visit to USA, and leaves for Rome

Pope Francis concluded his visit to the United States of America with words of gratitude to the authorities and to the organisers of the World Meeting for Families, 2015, and a message of encouragement to families to strive for holiness.  

Please find below the Pope’s farewell speech delivered, Sunday September 27th,  at Philadelphia International Airport
My days with you have been brief. But they have been days of great grace for me and, I pray, for you too. Please know that as I prepare to leave, I do so with a heart full of gratitude and hope. I am grateful to all of you and to the many others who worked so hard to make my visit possible and to prepare for the World Meeting of Families. In a particular way I thank Archbishop Chaput and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the civil authorities, the organizers, and all the many volunteers and benefactors who assisted in ways large and small.
I also thank the families who shared their witness during the meeting. It is not so easy to speak openly of one’s life journey! But their honesty and humility before the Lord and each of us showed the beauty of family life in all its richness and diversity. I pray that our days of prayer and reflection on the importance of the family for a healthy society will inspire families to continue to strive for holiness and to see the Church as their constant companion, whatever the challenges they may face. At the end of my visit, I would also like to thank all those who prepared for my stay in the Archdioceses of Washington and New York.
It was particularly moving for me to canonize Saint Junípero Serra, who reminds us all of our call to be missionary disciples, and I was also very moved to stand with my brothers and sisters of other religions at Ground Zero, that place which speaks so powerfully of the mystery of evil. Yet we know with certainty that evil never has the last word, and that, in God’s merciful plan, love and peace triumph over all.  Mr. Vice-President, I ask you to renew my gratitude to President Obama and to the Members of Congress, together with the assurance of my prayers for the American people.
This land has been blessed with tremendous gifts and opportunities. I pray that you may all be good and generous stewards of the human and material resources entrusted to you. I thank the Lord that I was able to witness the faith of God’s people in this country, as manifested in our moments of prayer together and evidenced in so many works of charity.
Jesus says in the Scriptures: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”. Your care for me and your generous welcome are a sign of your love for Jesus and your faithfulness to him. So too is your care for the poor, the sick, the homeless and the immigrant, your defense of life at every stage, and your concern for family life. In all of this, you recognize that Jesus is in your midst and that your care for one another is care for Jesus himself.
As I leave, I ask all of you, especially the volunteers and benefactors who assisted with the World Meeting of Families: do not let your enthusiasm for Jesus, his Church, our families, and the broader family of society run dry. May our days together bear fruit that will last, generosity and care for others that will endure! Just as we have received so much from God – gifts freely given us, and not of our own making – so let us freely give to others in return.
Dear friends, I embrace all of you in the Lord and I entrust you to the maternal care of Mary Immaculate, Patroness of the United States. I will pray for you and your families, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. May God bless you all. God bless America!
(from Vatican Radio)…

Dublin to host 9th World Meeting of Families in 2018

The President of the Pontifical Council for Families, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, has announced that the next World Meeting of Families will be held in 2018 in Dublin, Ireland. He made the announcement on Sunday in Philadelphia, USA, at the end of the concluding Holy Mass of the World Meeting of Families 2015. The World Meeting of Families is an event that takes place every three years. It was started by St. Pope John Paul II in 1994 with the aim of celebrating the church’s role in building the family. The Dublin Meeting will be the ninth.
Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said he was “delighted” about the news.
“Three years ago the 50th International Eucharistic Congress was a great celebration of faith for Ireland, and it attracted pilgrims from all around the world,” he said. “I am confident that the World Meeting of Families in 2018 will also be an uplifting event for all of us.”
The Archbishop said the preparations for the 2018 World Meeting of Families will “inspire” the Church in Ireland as they implement, over the next few years, the recommendations which will emerge from the Synod on the Family in Rome next month.
“Despite many challenges, the family remains at the heart of faith and of so much that we hold important in this country,” Archbishop Martin said.  
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis closes World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia with a call to openness to miracles of love for the sake of families of the world

Pope Francis presided over an open air Holy Mass in Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia on Sunday to close the  World Meeting of Families 2015. The two-day meeting brought together thousands of delegates from different parts of the world who represented families in their countries. In his homily, Pope Francis encouraged families to build their lives on love, reminding them also that God’s love is for everyone, and warning against narrowing God’s love and works to a selected group of people.  Chris Altieri reports.   

Here below is a full text, in English, of the Homily delivered by Pope Francis
         Today the word of God surprises us with powerful and thought-provoking images.  Images which challenge us, but also stir our enthusiasm.
         In the first reading, Joshua tells Moses that two members of the people are prophesying, speaking God’s word, without a mandate.  In the Gospel, John tells Jesus that the disciples had stopped someone from casting out evil spirits in the name of Jesus.  Here is the surprise: Moses and Jesus both rebuke those closest to them for being so narrow!  Would that all could be prophets of God’s word!  Would that everyone could work miracles in the Lord’s name!
         Jesus encountered hostility from people who did not accept what he said and did.  For them, his openness to the honest and sincere faith of many men and women who were not part of God’s chosen people seemed intolerable.  The disciples, for their part, acted in good faith.  But the temptation to be scandalized by the freedom of God, who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous alike (Mt 5:45), bypassing bureaucracy, officialdom and inner circles, threatens the authenticity of faith.  Hence it must be vigorously rejected.
         Once we realize this, we can understand why Jesus’ words about causing “scandal” are so harsh.  For Jesus, the truly “intolerable” scandal consists in everything that breaks down and destroys our trust in the working of the Spirit!
         Our Father will not be outdone in generosity and he continues to scatter seeds.  He scatters the seeds of his presence in our world, for “love consists in this, not that we have loved God but that he loved us” first (1 Jn 4:10).  That love gives us a profound certainty: we are sought by God; he waits for us.  It is this confidence which makes disciples encourage, support and nurture the good things happening all around them.  God wants all his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel.  Jesus says, “Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!”  To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not “part of our group”, who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation.  Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith! 
         Faith opens a “window” to the presence and working of the Spirit.  It shows us that, like happiness, holiness is always tied to little gestures.  “Whoever gives you a cup of water in my name will not go unrewarded”, says Jesus (cf. Mk 9:41).  These little gestures are those we learn at home, in the family; they get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different.  They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children.  They are little signs of tenderness, affection and compassion.  Like the warm supper we look forward to at night, the early lunch awaiting someone who gets up early to go to work.  Homely gestures.  Like a blessing before we go to bed, or a hug after we return from a hard day’s work.  Love is shown by little things, by attention to small daily signs which make us feel at home.  Faith grows when it is lived and shaped by love.  That is why our families, our homes, are true domestic churches. They are the right place for faith to become life, and life to become faith.
         Jesus tells us not to hold back these little miracles.  Instead, he wants us to encourage them, to spread them.  He asks us to go through life, our everyday life, encouraging all these little signs of love as signs of his own living and active presence in our world.
         So we might ask ourselves: How are we trying to live this way in our homes, in our societies?  What kind of world do we want to leave to our children (cf. Laudato Si’, 160)?  We cannot answer these questions alone, by ourselves.  It is the Spirit who challenges us to respond as part of the great human family.  Our common house can no longer tolerate sterile divisions. The urgent challenge of protecting our home includes the effort to bring the entire human family together in the pursuit of a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change (cf. ibid., 13).  May our children find in us models and incentives to communion!  May our children find in us men and women capable of joining others in bringing to full flower all the good seeds which the Father has sown!
         Pointedly, yet affectionately, Jesus tells us: “If you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:13).  How much wisdom there is in these few words!  It is true that, as far as goodness and purity of heart are concerned, we human beings don’t have much to show!  But Jesus knows that, where children are concerned, we are capable of boundless generosity.  So he reassures us: if only we have faith, the Father will give us his Spirit.
         We Christians, the Lord’s disciples, ask the families of the world to help us!  How many of us are here at this celebration!  This is itself something prophetic, a kind of miracle in today’s world.  Would that we could all be prophets!  Would that all of us could be open to miracles of love for the sake of all the families of the world, and thus overcome the scandal of a narrow, petty love, closed in on itself, impatient of others!
         And how beautiful it would be if everywhere, even beyond our borders, we could appreciate and encourage this prophecy and this miracle!  We renew our faith in the word of the Lord which invites faithful families to this openness.  It invites all those who want to share the prophecy of the covenant of man and woman, which generates life and reveals God!
         Anyone who wants to bring into this world a family which teaches children to be excited by every gesture aimed at overcoming evil – a family which shows that the Spirit is alive and at work – will encounter our gratitude and our appreciation.  Whatever the family, people, region, or religion to which they belong!
         May God grant to all of us, as the Lord’s disciples, the grace to be worthy of this purity of heart which is not scandalized by the Gospel! 
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope deplores consumerism and running after the latest fad

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has spoken out against today’s “consumerism” and throw-away society saying “consumerism determines what is important,” “does not “favor bonding and has little to do with human relationships.” The result, he said, is that “we’ve turned our society into a huge multicultural showcase” tied only to the tastes of certain consumers while so many others only eat the crumbs falling from their master’s table. 
His comments came in an address on Sunday (27th September) to bishops attending the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia on the final day of his pastoral visit to the U.S.  He urged the bishops to show that the gospel of the family is truly “good news” in a world where “self-concern seems to reign supreme.”   
Please find below an English translation of the Pope’s prepared remarks to the visiting Bishops in the Seminary chapel of Saint Martin in Philadelphia:
Dear Brother Bishops,
                I am happy to be able to share these moments of pastoral reflection with you, amid the joyful celebrations for the World Meeting of Families. 
                For the Church, the family is not first and foremost a cause for concern, but rather the joyous confirmation of God’s blessing upon the masterpiece of creation.  Every day, all over the world, the Church can rejoice in the Lord’s gift of so many families who, even amid difficult trials, remain faithful to their promises and keep the faith!
                I would say that the foremost pastoral challenge of our changing times is to move decisively towards recognizing this gift.  For all the obstacles we see before us, gratitude and appreciation should prevail over concerns and complaints.  The family is the fundamental locus of the covenant between the Church and God’s creation.  Without the family, not even the Church would exist.  Nor could she be what she is called to be, namely “a sign and instrument of communion with God and of the unity of the entire human race” (Lumen Gentium, 1). 
                Needless to say, our understanding, shaped by the interplay of ecclesial faith and the conjugal experience of sacramental grace, must not lead us to disregard the unprecedented changes taking place in contemporary society, with their social, cultural – and now juridical – effects on family bonds.  These changes affect all of us, believers and non-believers alike.  Christians are not “immune” to the changes of their times.  This concrete world, with all its many problems and possibilities, is where we must live, believe and proclaim.
                Until recently, we lived in a social context where the similarities between the civil institution of marriage and the Christian sacrament were considerable and shared.  The two were interrelated and mutually supportive.  This is no longer the case.  To describe our situation today, I would use two familiar images: our neighborhood stores and our large supermarkets.
                There was a time when one neighborhood store had everything one needed for personal and family life.  The products may not have been cleverly displayed, or offered much choice, but there was a personal bond between the shopkeeper and his customers.  Business was done on the basis of trust, people knew one another, they were all neighbors.  They trusted one another.  They built up trust.  These stores were often simply known as “the local market”.
                Then a different kind of store grew up: the supermarket.  Huge spaces with a great selection of merchandise.  The world seems to have become one of these great supermarkets; our culture has become more and more competitive.  Business is no longer conducted on the basis of trust; others can no longer be trusted.  There are no longer close personal relationships.  Today’s culture seems to encourage people not to bond with anything or anyone, not to trust.  The most important thing nowadays seems to be follow the latest trend or activity.  This is even true of religion.  Today consumerism determines what is important.  Consuming relationships, consuming friendships, consuming religions, consuming, consuming…  Whatever the cost or consequences.  A consumption which does not favor bonding, a consumption which has little to do with human relationships.  Social bonds are a mere “means” for the satisfaction of “my needs”.  The important thing is no longer our neighbor, with his or her familiar face, story and personality.
                The result is a culture which discards everything that is no longer “useful” or “satisfying” for the tastes of the consumer.  We have turned our society into a huge multicultural showcase tied only to the tastes of certain “consumers”, while so many others only “eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Mt 15:27).
                This causes great harm.  I would say that at the root of so many contemporary situations is a kind of impoverishment born of a  widespread and radical sense of loneliness.  Running after the latest fad, accumulating “friends” on one of the social networks, we get caught up in what contemporary society has to offer.  Loneliness with fear of commitment in a limitless effort to feel recognized.
                Should we blame our young people for having grown up in this kind of society?  Should we condemn them for living in this kind of a world?  Should they hear their pastors saying that “it was all better back then”, “the world is falling apart and if things go on this way, who knows where we will end up?”  No, I do not think that this is the way.  As shepherds following in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd, we are asked to seek out, to accompany, to lift up, to bind up the wounds of our time.  To look at things realistically, with the eyes of one who feels called to action, to pastoral conversion.  The world today demands this conversion on our part.  “It is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear.  The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded” (Evangelii Gaudium, 23)
                We would be mistaken, however, to see this “culture” of the present world as mere indifference towards marriage and the family, as pure and simple selfishness.  Are today’s young people hopelessly timid, weak, inconsistent?  We must not fall into this trap.  Many young people, in the context of this culture of discouragement, have yielded to a form of unconscious acquiescence.  They are paralyzed when they encounter the beautiful, noble and truly necessary challenges which faith sets before them.  Many put off marriage while waiting for ideal conditions, when everything can be perfect.  Meanwhile, life goes on, without really being lived to the full.  For knowledge of life’s true pleasures only comes as the fruit of a long-term, generous investment of our intelligence, enthusiasm and passion. 
                As pastors, we bishops are called to collect our energies and to rebuild enthusiasm for making families correspond ever more fully to the blessing of God which they are!  We need to invest our energies not so much in rehearsing the problems of the world around us and the merits of Christianity, but in extending a sincere invitation to young people to be brave and to opt for marriage and the family.  Here too, we need a bit of holy parrhesia!  A Christianity which “does” little in practice, while incessantly “explaining” its teachings, is dangerously unbalanced.  I would even say that it is stuck in a vicious circle.  A pastor must show that the “Gospel of the family” is truly “good news” in a world where self-concern seems to reign supreme!  We are not speaking about some romantic dream: the perseverance which is called for in having a family and raising it transforms the world and human history.
                A pastor serenely yet passionately proclaims the word of God.  He encourages believers to aim high.  He will enable his brothers and sisters to hear and experience God’s promise, which can expand their experience of motherhood and fatherhood within the horizon of a new “familiarity” with God (Mk 3:31-35).
                A pastor watches over the dreams, the lives and the growth of his flock.  This “watchfulness” is not the result of talking but of shepherding.  Only one capable of standing “in the midst of” the flock can be watchful, not someone who is afraid of questions, contact, accompaniment.  A pastor keeps watch first and foremost with prayer, supporting the faith of his people and instilling confidence in the Lord, in his presence.  A pastor remains vigilant by helping people to lift their gaze at times of discouragement, frustration and failure.  We might well ask whether in our pastoral ministry we are ready to “waste” time with families.  Whether we are ready to be present to them, sharing their difficulties and joys.
                Naturally, experiencing the spirit of this joyful familiarity with God, and spreading its powerful evangelical fruitfulness, has to be the primary feature of our lifestyle as bishops: a lifestyle of prayer and preaching the Gospel (Acts 6:4).  By our own humble Christian apprenticeship in the familial virtues of God’s people, we will become more and more like fathers and mothers (as did Saint Paul: cf. 1 Th 2:7,11), and less like people who have simply learned to live without a family.  Our ideal is not to live without love!  A good pastor renounces the love of a family precisely in order to focus all his energies, and the grace of his particular vocation, on the evangelical blessing of the love of men and women who carry forward God’s plan of creation, beginning with those who are lost, abandoned, wounded, broken, downtrodden and deprived of their dignity.  This total surrender to God’s agape is certainly not a vocation lacking in tenderness and affection!  We need but look to Jesus to understand this (cf. Mt 19:12).  The mission of a good pastor, in the style of God – and only God can authorize this, not our own presumption! – imitates in every way and for all people the Son’s love for the Father.  This is reflected in the tenderness with which a pastor devotes himself to the loving care of the men and women of our human family.
                For the eyes of faith, this is a most valuable sign.  Our ministry needs to deepen the covenant between the Church and the family.  Otherwise it becomes arid, and the human family will grow irremediably distant, by our own fault, from God’s joyful good news.
                If we prove capable of the demanding task of reflecting God’s love, cultivating infinite patience and serenity as we strive to sow its seeds in the frequently crooked furrows in which we are called to plant, then even a Samaritan woman with five “non-husbands” will discover that she is capable of giving witness.  And for every rich young man who with sadness feels that he has to calmly keep considering the matter, an older publican will come down from the tree and give fourfold to the poor, to whom, before that moment, he had never even given a thought.
                 May God grant us this gift of a renewed closeness between the family and the Church.  The family is our ally, our window to the world, and the evidence of an irrevocable blessing of God destined for all the children who in every age are born into this difficult yet beautiful creation which God has asked us to serve!
(from Vatican Radio)…

Summary of Press Briefing by Director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Lombardi at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, USA

The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, held a press briefing at the World Meeting of Families Media Center on Sunday, the final day of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. Fr. Lombardi, SJ, was assisted once again, as he has been for Spanish-language questions, by Fr. Manuel Durante, and joined by Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt., and Bishop Edward Burns of Juneau, Alaska. The briefing was moderated by Helen Osman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB, who was serving for the last time in her capacity as Secretary for Communications. Bishop Coyne, the incoming chairman of the US Bishops’ communications directorate, took the opportunity to praise Osman’s “poise and professionalism,” as well as her strong work ethic and careful service to the USCCB, especially in planning for and assisting with the conduct of this Papal visit. The questions were at times pointed – especially regarding the sexual abuse victims with whom Pope Francis met earlier on Sunday. At other times the questions were light-hearted, as when one reporter asked whether Pope Francis has had the chance to sample a Philadelphia “cheese steak” sandwich? Fr. Lombardi, SJ, wasn’t sure. One thing Fr. Lombardi was able to tell journalists present regarded an unscheduled stop at Philadelphia’s St. Joseph’s  University run by the Jesuits. The Pope visited, with school leaders the university’s recently dedicated statue, “Synagoga and Ecclesia in Our Time”, unveiled in connection with the Papal visit and with the 50th anniversary of the promulgation of the Vatican II document Nostra aetate on the relationship of the Catholic Church to non-Christian religions, especially with Judaism. (from Vatican Radio)…