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Day: April 15, 2016

Pope Francis in Lesbos: island’s only Catholic parish priest ahead of visit

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis’s journey Saturday 16 April to the Greek island of Lesbos is a show of solidarity for migrants “who are people; they have a history, they have dreams, they have names.” That’s according to Fr. Leon Kiskinis, the only Catholic parish priest on the island.  He told Vatican Radio’s Francesca Sabatinelli that migrants need “to be treated with dignity, as human beings.”
The International Migration Organization estimates that since the beginning of this year, more than 170,000 migrants and refugees have made the treacherous journey by sea to Greece and Italy.
Since Pope Francis was elected to the papacy, Fr. Kiskinis says, he has always shown his closeness to “those on the margins, those deprived of their dignity.”  He recalls that the Pope’s first journey at the start of his pontificate was to the Italian island of Lampedusa in solidarity with the tens of thousands of refugees arriving on its shores. 
Saturday, Pope Francis will be visiting the Greek island of Lesbos at a time when many European countries are closing their borders to refugees.  It also comes amid growing criticism of the March 18 EU-Turkey deal, which stipulates anyone arriving clandestinely on Greek islands on or after March 20 will be returned to Turkey unless they successfully apply for asylum in Greece. 
Lesbos community did not “close doors or raise barriers”
Fr. Kiskinis says he thinks the Pope’s choice to visit Lesbos was not by chance. 
“Lesbos is an island of call for these people who come from the Turkish coast; I do not think that this decision is random. Because, despite the presence of the authorities, institutions, non-governmental organizations, the local people, simple people, have shown a brotherhood, a humanity never seen before in these parts.”
The citizens of Lesbos “did not close the door, did not close their hearts, did not create borders or barriers,” he continues.  Rather, they “welcomed these people in the hope that they can receive warmth and welcome in Europe, this Europe that it is the home of human rights.”
He expresses his conviction that migrants making the risky journey to Lesbos from Turkey are looking for a better future for themselves and their families and should “experience this European hospitality of human rights.”
Ecumenical dimension: unity of Churches to respond to migrant crisis
Fr Kiskinis explains that besides the humanitarian dimension of the papal visit, there is also the ecumenical aspect,  “I believe that to solve this…migration crisis we should not work alone – we must collaborate; we must work together.”  And that means not just European governments “but also the churches: the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Orthodox Church of Greece” should “collaborate and give witness to unity in the migration crisis.”
“We are here as Christians, without distinction of race, culture, language, religion, to give a little relief to these people, and also to raise awareness in the European community, among governments, that they need to work together…not separately, each on his own,” Fr. Kiskinis says.
“It’s not by constructing borders and barriers that one can stop these people escaping from war; they have no alternative but to get to Europe hoping for a better future . In this sense, the Pope’s visit has a great Christian ecumenical dimension.”
Small Catholic community sees Jesus in the faces of migrants
When he learned that the Pope was planning to visit the island, Fr. Kiskinis says he “was really surprised; I really didn’t believe it because I’m a parish priest, and I was not ready for a possible visit by the Pope. It’s true that the local Catholic Church is a small community, and perhaps that’s also why I am the only pastor on the island.  There is only one Catholic church on this island, but it’s a community of very committed believers in welcoming these people, because our faith is not abstract, it’s real. We think we see Jesus, who was hungry, naked, a stranger, in the faces of these people. Regardless of where they come from, we try to see Christ, giving them a glass of water or a shirt to cover themselves.  We want to believe that we are doing it for Jesus himself.”
Small community “on outskirts of Church” feels “pampered” by papal visit
For this reason too, the priest stresses, the Pope’s visit brings no small satisfaction to “this small community that is just on the outskirts of the Church.”   Pope Francis, he adds, “is very sensitive to this condition. We are in Europe, we are also close to Italy, but in these islands where the Catholic community is just a small minority, we feel ‘pampered,’ if I may say so, by the presence of the Pope. It means showing us his affection, his appreciation for this small community that strives not only to stay alive, but also to be useful, speaking as a Christian, to these people who come from the Turkish coast.”
He notes that up until “three or four years ago” there was no permanent presence of a Catholic priest on the island but “these faithful were able to get along virtually alone, without a continuous ministry.”   Four years ago, he notes, the bishop decided to place a permanent parish priest on the island “and then after four years comes the Pope! So we really feel pampered!”
People feel less involved since EU-Turkey accord
He says the islanders’ “fraternal welcoming” of the migrants has not faltered since the EU-Turkey accord. But there is some perceptible change …. A few months ago, he explains, people went out to help migrants who were arriving in small boats.  Now, he notes, ships from the EU’s border management agency, Frontex and the Turkish coast guard go out to meet the boats so “people feel less involved …in providing assistance.  It’s not that they don’t help, but they help less. But the relationship between the Islanders and migrants has not changed; the solidarity is still there though it’s less evident compared to some months ago.”
(from Vatican Radio)…

Card. Parolin celebrates 1050th anniv of Poland’s conversion

(Vatican Radio) The Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was in Poland on Friday to mark the 1050 th anniversary of the conversion of the nation to Christianity. “The Polish Church is aware of the new waves that unfailingly call us to find proper ways to be the ‘salt and light’ of the earth and the fire that warms the hearts and attracts people to the proclamation of salvation,” said Cardinal Parolin to the Polish bishops, who were gathered in plenary session on Friday morning to celebrate the recurrence.
Cardinal Parolin praised the historic faithfulness of the Polish people, saying, “[Your] faithfulness to God, to the Gospel and to the Holy See has garnered the respect and esteem of other nations, and  made the Church in Poland a bulwark of Christian faith and charity and a light in the darkness that has enshrouded Europe so many times.”
Also on Friday, Cardinal Parolin met with Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.
On Thursday, Cardinal Parolin celebrated Mass in the ancient Christian capital of Poland, Gniezno, during which he conveyed Pope Francis’ regards, “Who,” said Cardinal Parolin, “is here in spirit,” for the celebrations, and who is scheduled to visit Poland this summer for World Youth Day in Krakow.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Shedding light on ‘Centesimus Annus’

(Vatican Radio) The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is holding a symposium this week to mark twenty five years since the publication of Saint John Paul II’s social encyclical “ Centesimus Annus”. 
In an effort to find out more about this  social encyclical  Veronica Scarisbrick speaks to a Professor of Social Teaching at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas here in Rome. He’s Dominican Alejandro Crosthwaite: 

It was 1987 when Pope John Paul II promulgated his social encyclical “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis”. In this document he highlighted changing circumstances, both within the debtor nations and in the international financial market:”…At a time when  the instrument chosen to make a contribution to development had turned into a counterproductive mechanism. This because  debtor nations, in order to service their debt, found themselves obliged to export the capital needed for improving or at least maintaining their standard of living. And also because, for the same reason, they were unable to obtain new and equally essential financing.
Through this mechanism, the means intended for the development of peoples had turned into a brake upon development instead, and indeed in some cases even aggravated underdevelopment…”
So when John Paul II published his second social encyclical “Centesimus Annus “in 1991, as the title indicates a century after Leo XIII’s “Rerum Novarum”, he picked up on this same theme. Highlighting once again how the positive efforts which have been made along those lines are being affected by the still largely unsolved problem of the foreign debt of the poorer countries :”.. The principle that debts must be paid is certainly just. However, it is not right to demand or expect payment when the effect would be the imposition of political choices leading to hunger and despair for entire peoples. It cannot be expected that the debts which have been contracted should be paid at the price of unbearable sacrifices. In such cases it is necessary to find — as in fact is partly happening — ways to lighten, defer or even cancel the debt, compatible with the fundamental right of peoples to subsistence and progress…”
(from Vatican Radio)…

Cardinal Turkson: Sustainable Finance and Care in the light of Laudato si’.

(Vatican Radio) The initiative “transformative cooperation between value-based investors” promoted by the European Movement in Italy (CIME), the European Partners for Environment (EPE), and the Centre for Studies on Federalism (CSF), took place at the headquarters of the French Institute – Center Saint Louis in Rome on the morning of April 15th.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, gave the opening speech on “Sustainable Finance and Care in the light of Laudato si’.”
The Conference will be preceded, on April 14, by a meeting of European experts called upon to finalize the text of the draft “Declaration of Rome”, the 2016-2021 agenda and the basic document.
This initiative falls within the wider framework of the European Movement in Italy which intends to urge both the national and the European authorities to a change of course in the European integration process, to ensure dialogue and permanent consultation between the representative associations of the civil society and the institutional actors, to relaunch the project of a united Europe under the federal model, and to make the public opinion aware of the added value of a system based on the supranational democracy.
The full text of Cardinal Turkson’s intervention is below
Sustainable Finance and Care in the light of Laudato si’
Rome, 15 April 2016
Dear Minister, dear President, Excellences, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
            Let me start by thanking the President of the Italian Council of the European Movement, Mr. Pier Virgilio Dastoli, for his kind invitation to take part as a speaker in this morning’s Conference on the theme of Sustainable Development Goals, Value-based Investors and Catholic Social Teaching in the Light of Laudato si’. I particularly wish to greet the Very Reverend Simeone Catsinas, of the Greek Orthodox Church, and Reverend Henrik Grape, of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, also present next to me here today.
            To introduce my remarks, it is helpful to watch Pope Francis present Laudato si’ himself very briefly, in less than 90 seconds. The Pope speaks in Spanish in this video and the sub-titles are in English: http://thepopevideo.org/en/video/care-creation.html
Here are some key messages and take-aways from the video and Laudato si’ itself:
Our human nature is created by God and surrounded by the gifts of the natural, created world, our common heritage, the fruits of which should benefit everyone
Our failures are that we over-consume and that we do not share the gifts of creation. We have tilled too much and kept too little – with dire consequences for the poor and the planet.
It is urgent for us to change our sense of progress, to manage the economy responsibly, and to free our style of life from the slavery of consumerism.
We must take good care of creation – a gift freely given – cultivating and protecting it for future generations.
            On the 25 September 2015, in an atmosphere of great hope, the United Nations General Assembly adopted The Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development (Agenda 2030), a non-binding international plan of action, in the form of a Resolution. That same day Pope Francis addressed the members of the General Assembly of the United Nations, and he described the adoption of the 2030 Agenda in those terms, as “an important sign of hope”. This hope will come to concrete fruition only if the Agenda is truly, fairly and effectively realized.
            Pope Francis has warned the international community about the danger of declarationist nominalism. This characterizes the situation where, instead of struggling effectively against scourges, we assuage our consciences with words alone, proclaimed in solemn and agreeable declarations.[1] Now today I shall explore ideas about sustainable finance, in relation to the concept of care in Laudato si. With its theme On care of our common home, this Encyclical has substantially enriched the Social Teaching of the Church. Sustainable finance and care for our common home, and especially for its inhabitants, are two important ways of avoiding the danger of falling into the declarationist nominalism that his Holiness warned against.
Finance in Catholic Social Teaching
Let me begin with a Note published by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in November 2008, on the eve of a Conference sponsored by the United Nations General Assembly in Doha on “Finance and Development to Review the Implementation of the Monterrey Consensus”. This Note, titled “A New International Financial Pact”, declares that the “true” nature of finance consists in favouring the use of surplus resources to promote the real economy, which means the well-being and development of the whole person and of all people.[2]
Now one interpretation of the global financial and economic crisis that began in 2007-2008 attributes it to the loss of this “intrinsic” nature of finance. Finance had failed to fulfil its authentic function of a bridge between the present and the future because its operators’ timeframe had been reduced essentially to the present, to the search for the maximum achievable short-term profit.
In Laudato si’ Pope Francis underlines the fact that the lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated[3] since finance still engulfs the real economy. It follows that the antidote to similar scenarios in the future begins with giving the ethical dimension of the economy and of finance not an incidental but an essential status. This should be taken into consideration constantly if there is a desire for economic and financial approaches that are correct and far-sighted and produce progress[4]. Pope Benedict XVI pointed to this in his social encyclical Caritas in Veritate where he wrote that the economy – and by extension finance too – “needs ethics in order to function correctly — not any ethics whatsoever, but an ethics which is people-centered” (CiV §45).
Sustainable finance
Pope Francis calls in Laudato si’ for a renewed sense of responsibility on the part of all for the common good and for our brothers and sisters worldwide[5] and this in a spirit of fraternity. Indeed, fraternity is an essential human quality, for we are relational beings. A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and treat each person as a true sister or brother. Without fraternity, it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace.[6]
The world truly needs renewal of the sense of responsibility on the part of all. To achieve this, it is necessary to connect with people’s deepest moral being through education in responsibility. This can find its solid foundation in fraternity and other principles of the Social Teaching of the Church, such as the universal common good, the universal destiny of goods, and the priority of labour over capital.[7] The Church offers these the patrimony of all and the basis of all social life. In particular, in the effort of shifting finance towards the idea of a sustainable finance, education in the exercise of responsibility for the common good should be offered to all actors on all levels: financial agents, businesses, financial institutions, public authorities, and civil society – and even families.
There are important signs of hope in this regard. For instance, a new generation of value-based investors is arising in every part of the world; people who are willing to align their financial choices with their personal beliefs. Indeed, separating one’s moral values from one’s financial choices leads to living a divided life. This parallels the technocratic ideology which makes technology absolute and thus minimizes the value of the concrete human individual by reducing choices to merely technical or financial variables.[8] Only the reintegration of moral values in financial investments will avoid the risk of living a divided life and, hence, bring to all financial actors the peace to which they aspire as human beings.
Today the awareness of the huge impact of finance on the real economy, of its social and environmental impact, is growing rapidly. For instance, two years ago, in June 2014, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace held a meeting in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services (CRS) of the United States on Impact Investing. The purpose was to introduce people to this new way of using private capital in support of social and environmental programmes and trying so to make a difference for the environment and for the poor. Nowadays the concept of impact investing is more widely known at different levels and in different countries. The Pontifical Council and CRS are planning a second Conference on impact investing in late June. Its focus will be on evidence of the positive impact of such investments on the poor.
Furthermore, we are seeing an increase of investments in businesses focused on decarbonisation for the reduction of climate change. Laudato si’ has increased people’s understanding that an economy founded on fossil fuels is unsustainable for its destructive impacts, not only on the environment but especially on the most vulnerable.
From Stewardship to Care in Laudato si’
The great innovation of Pope Francis in Laudato si’ is centrality of the idea of care. It appears in the title, “Care for our common home”. The terminology of stewardship comes up only twice in the encyclical whereas care comes up dozens of times. Care goes further than “stewardship”: good stewards take responsibility and fulfil their obligations to manage and to render an account. But one can be a good steward without feeling connected, without feeling involved with an issue and touched by it.
If one cares, however, one is connected, one is involved and touched. To care is to allow oneself to be affected by another, so much that one’s path and priorities change.[9] Parents can understand this easily: they care about their children and for their children so much as to sacrifice enormously – even their lives – to ensure the safety and flourishing of their children. With caring, the hard line between self and other softens, blurs, even disappears.[10] So when we cast aside anything precious in the world, we destroy part of ourselves too because we are completely connected. This helps to explain why the Church promotes the greatest respect for human life, from conception to natural death. Destruction of human life at any stage violates the absolutely fundamental human dignity upon which all human rights and responsibilities rest.[11] Pope Francis recognizes in Saint Francis the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically: “to him each and every creature was a sister united to him by bonds of affection. That is why he felt called to care for all that exists.”[12]
Sustainable Finance, Care and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda
The challenge we face today is to move from stewardship to care even when dealing with finance. Consciousness of the importance of caring should promote value-based investing. It should also inspire the upcoming panel of this Conference, namely that of making finance responsible for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations. The Agenda 2030 is, indeed, a clear sign that the international community has come together and affirmed its commitment to eradicate poverty in all its forms and dimension and to ensure that all children, women and men throughout the world will have the conditions necessary to live in true freedom and dignity.
There is an urgent need for all actors (the business sector, including large public and private financial organizations, as well as civil society) to exercise an effective, practical and constant will. Concrete steps and immediate measures are needed for preserving and improving the natural environment, and for putting an end as quickly as possible to the phenomenon of social and economic exclusion, with its baneful consequences.[13] The rights of the most vulnerable categories must be forcefully defended, by working to put an end to exclusion and by protecting the environment. It is of utmost importance to invest, not only in businesses that reduce fossil fuels emissions, but also in social business that provide education, health and agriculture programs. Indeed, it is not enough just to prevent the misuse and destruction of the environment; we need to do more for enabling real men and women to escape from extreme poverty and allow them to become dignified agents of their own destiny.[14]
I wish to conclude these brief thoughts by expressing my appreciation once again for the presence in this Conference of Archimandrite Simeone Catsinas of the Greek Orthodox Church and Reverend Henrik Grape of the Lutheran Church of Sweden.
Your presence underlines, in a special way, the ecumenical dimension of Laudato si’ and of the importance of the ecological issue that Christians are called to face together. I wish to evoke the words of Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas at the Press Conference on the presentation of Laudato si’ in the Vatican, on 18 June 2015: “We live at a time when fundamental existential problems overwhelm our traditional divisions and relativize them almost to the point of extinction. Look, for example, at what is happening today in the Middle East: do those who persecute the Christians ask them to which Church or Confession they belong? Christian unity in such cases is de facto realized by persecution and blood – an ecumenism of martyrdom.”
Pope Francis’ encyclical is a call to unity – unity in prayer for the environment, in the same Gospel of creation, in the conversion of our hearts and our lifestyles to respect and love everyone and everything given to us by God.[15] And it is precisely in this search for unity that Pope Francis instituted, in 2015, in the Catholic Church the “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” which is to be celebrated on 1 September, as has been the custom in the Orthodox Church for some time.
The contemporary ecological, moral and material crisis affects not only the entire Christian community and the faithful of other religions but all the human family. A common effort to prevent the catastrophic consequences of the present situation is therefore required and we pray the all-powerful God, present in the whole universe and in the smallest of His creatures, to help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in His eyes.[16]
Thank you.
Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson
[1] Cfr. Address of Pope Francis to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 25.9.2015.
[2] Cfr. Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, n.14.
[3] Cfr. Pope Francis, Laudato si, n. 109.
[4] Cfr. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, A new International Financial Pact, November 2008.
[5] Cfr. Pope Francis, Laudato si, n. 25 and n.196.
[6] Cfr. Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Peace, 1.1.2014.
[7] Cfr. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, A new International Financial Pact, November 2008.
[8]Cfr. Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Towards reforming the international financial and monetary systems in the context of a global public authority, 2011.
[9] Cfr. Peter K. A. Turkson, Remarks on Laudato si to Child-focused agencies, UNICEF House, 30.6.2015.
[10] Cfr. Ibid.
[11] Cfr. Ibid.
[12] Pope Francis, Laudato si, n.10 and n.11.
[13] Cfr. Pope Francis, Meeting with the members of the General Assembly of United Nations Organization, Address of the Holy Father, 25.9.2015.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Cfr. Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas, Conference presenting Pope Francis’ Encyclical «Laudato si’, on the care of our common home», in the Vatican, 18.6.2015.
[16] Cfr. Pope Francis, Laudato si, n.246.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pontifical Academy appraises Centesimus annus

(Vatican Radio) A major international conference sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences is hosting a conference this weekend looking at the 25 th anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II’s landmark social encyclical letter Centesimus annus .
Centesimus annus was itself an anniversary marker: celebrating the 100 th anniversary of the seminal Papal piece of writing on social matters in the modern world, Rerum novarum , by Pope Leo XIII in 1891.
Centesimus annus was written at a moment of massive change and upheaval in politics and economics in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in the midst of an unprecedented increase in wealth and standards of living across the globe that were threatened by corrupt and exploitative interests. Its purpose was to welcome a vision of morally ordered liberty in the service of the human person. Now, scholars, policymakers and political leaders from around the world are  gathered in the Vatican to take stock of political, economic and cultural changes since the release of  Centesimus annus ​​, and offer a critical appraisal of Catholic social doctrine’s engagement with the world over the same period and into the future.
Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Rafael Correa​ of Ecuador are among the participants, as is US Senator Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Socialist independent from Vermont who is seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party as its candidate in the November presidential election in the United States.
An external advisor to Pope St. John Paul II on Centesimus annus who has worked closely with the the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences for many years, and a participant in the Centesimus annus , Jeffrey Sachs of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, told Vatican Radio the time is ripe for a new and vigorous dialogue. “The Church has always emphasized – especially since Rerum novarum in 1891 – that the market economy – the kind of economic system in which we live – must be operated within a moral framework,” Sachs said. “In 1991, when Centesimus annus was issued by Pope [St.] John Paul II, that was the moment of the revolutionary chenges in Eastern Europe – going from Communisim to market economies – and Pope John Paul II said very clearly, ‘Yes!’ [to the] market economy, but it must have a moral framework,” he continued. “Unfortunately,” Sachs continued, “his message was not heeded adequately.”
Click below to hear Prof. Jeffrey Sachs’ extended conversation with Vatican Radio’s Alessandro Gisotti

(from Vatican Radio)…