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Day: January 27, 2017

Wellbeing of society measured by response to migrants

(Vatican Radio) The way a country responds to the needs of migrants and refugees is a “thermometer” of the wellbeing of that society. That’s the view of Canadian Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, recently appointed as undersecretary of the Vatican’s new department for Integral Human Development .
Alongside Italian Scalabrini Father Fabio Baggio, Fr Michael took up his new post on January 1st, in charge of the section dealing with refugees, migrants and survivors of human trafficking. Answering directly to Pope Francis, he sees his “modest but ambitious mission” as helping the Church to accompany forced migrants at all stages of their often perilous journey.
As the child of a refugee family himself, Fr Michael believes that “with a little bit of sharing of the enormous resources available throughout the world”, countries can “very comfortably and very securely and very profitably” provide for the needs of all people on the move.
Philippa Hitchen talked to Fr Michael to find out more about the work and the vision of this new Vatican office….

Fr Michael explains that the concept of ‘Integral Human Development’ goes back to vision of the Second Vatican Council and its key document ‘ Gaudium et Spes ’ on the Church in the modern world. Over the years since then, he says, different Vatican offices have been set up to meet specific needs regarding human development. But Pope Francis’ recent documents ‘ Evangeli Gaudium ’ and ‘ Laudato Sii ’ have pioneered a new approach of ‘Integral Human Development’ and within that context the plight of those forced to leave their homes is an “area of real concern”.  
Top priority for Pope Francis
This topic, Fr Michael continues, is a “top priority” for the pope whose own family migrated from Italy and was “welcomed into Argentina about a century ago”. It’s also an urgent topic, he insists, because “it’s one of those thermometers, I think, of the health and wellbeing of a society”. If societies don’t respond to the needs of migrants “up to the mark of human dignity, there’s something seriously wrong” with that society.
Mission to accompany migrants  
The section for migrants and refugees, Fr Michael explains, is concerned with all people on the move whose “human rights and dignity and basic reasons for hope are under extreme duress”. “Our modest but ambitious mission” he adds, is for people “to feel and to experience the accompaniment of the Church”, in the places where migrants begin their journeys, in the transit countries and in the so-called ‘receiving’ nations. How can parishes or dioceses welcome migrants, he asks, just as “we would so much want to be warmly welcomed …. if we were forced to flee?”
Refugee family experience
Reflecting on the experience of his own parents, who fled from Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of World War II, Fr Michael says he has “some appreciation” of the anxieties and tensions facing families forced to leave their homelands. Such decisions, he says, are “never taken lightly”, but instead such people are “opting for the least worst solution for their very bad situation and… deserve all the help, support, sympathy and prayer that they can get”.
Sharing global resources
Through this new office, Fr Michael says, the pope is not seeking “to mount some huge programme to mobilise unheard-of resources” but rather “to help the hearts and minds, the hands and feet of people everywhere” to share what they can with those in need. With a little bit of sharing of “the enormous resources available throughout the world” he adds, “we can very comfortably and very securely and very profitably” accommodate all people on the move.
Focus on people, not fears
Asked about the challenges of the current climate of hostility towards migrants, Fr Michael says “maybe more of the truth is on the table” now and “maybe it’s worse if it were somehow repressed and unspoken”. He takes up his new job “at a moment when people are on a higher kind of alert”, he says, stressing the importance of focusing, not on fears or security concerns which “have nothing to do with refugees”, but on those who “need a place to settle down and restart their lives”. 
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis: ‘Remember Holocaust so never repeated’

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis met with a delegation from the European Jewish Congress Friday on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which occurs annually on 27 January.
The Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, Fr. Norbert Hofmann, was present at the meeting.
In an interview with Vatican Radio (in Italian), he said the Pope “began the dialogue by mentioning the importance of this Day for the Jews, but also for us, because remembering the victims of the Holocaust is important so that this human tragedy never happens again”.
The delegation, he said, represents more than 2 million Jews in Europe.
Fr. Hofmann said the President of the Congress, Moshe Kantor, spoke about “the importance of ethics, that is, of the values which Christians and Jews have in common. He said that in our world we see much progress but also a decline in moral and ethical values. Therefore, we need to strengthen these values which we share. And then he spoke about the importance of education and the family.”
Pope Francis, Fr. Hofmann said, agreed completely with these themes and shared a story from his childhood.
“The Pope said that, in his family, his father often received Jews… and thus, already as a child, our Pope learned to have several Jewish friends.”
Also on Friday, the Vatican’s permanent representative to the OSCE said the Holocaust teaches us that “utmost vigilance is always needed to be able to take prompt action in defense of human dignity and peace”.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope sends condolences to victims of bus crash in Italy

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has extended his condolences to victims a tragic bus crash that occurred in Italy earlier this week. The bus was carrying Hungarian students who were returning to Hungary from a skiing trip in France . The Holy Father’s prayers for the victims and their families, and his expressions of closeness and support, were conveyed in a telegramme addressed to the Hungarian Bishops’ Conference, which was sent on the Pope’s behalf, and signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State. The full text of the telegramme follows: His Eminence Cardinal Péter Erdő
Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest His Holiness Pope Francis was deeply saddened to learn of the bus accident in Verona, Italy, involving students of Szinyei Gimnázium, and he assures all those affected by this tragedy of his prayerful solidarity. Entrusting the deceased to the merciful love of Almighty God, he prays that their families and friends may be consoled in their grief and strengthened by God’s grace. So too His Holiness prays for the injured and all involved in this incident that they may know healing and comfort at this time of sorrow. Upon the entire community of Szinyei Gimnázium and upon all who are mourning, the Holy Father invokes the divine blessings of peace and strength. Card. Pietro Parolin (from Vatican Radio)…

Pope: Fear of everything, the sin that paralyzes Christians

(Vatican Radio) God frees us from the sin that paralyzes us as Christians: faintheartedness, being afraid of everything, which keep us from having memory, hope, courage, and patience. That was the message of Pope Francis during the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Friday.
Remembering the God’s work of salvation in my life
Pope Francis said the day’s Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us to live the Christian life with three points of reference: the past, the present, and the future. First, it invites us to remember, because “the Christian life does not begin today: it continues today.” Remembering is “to recall everything”: the good things, and those that are less good, and putting my own story “before the sight of God”: without covering up or hiding it:
“‘Brothers, call to mind those first days’: the days of enthusiasm, of going forward in the faith, when you began to live the faith, the anguished trials… You don’t understand the Christian life, even the spiritual life of each day, without memory. Not only do you not understand: You can’t live in a Christian way without memory. The memory of the salvation of God in my life, the memory of my troubles in my life; but how has the Lord saved me from these troubles? Memory is a grace: a grace to ask for. ‘Lord, may I not forget your step in my life, may I not forget the good moments, also the ugly; the joys and the crosses.’ The Christian is a man of memory.”
Living in the hope of encountering Jesus
The author of the Letter then makes us understand that “we are on the journey in expectation of something,” in expectation of “arriving at a point: an encounter; encountering the Lord.” “And he exhorts us to live by faith”:
“Hope: Looking to the future. Just as one cannot live a Christian life without memory of the steps taken, one cannot live a Christian life without looking to the future with hope… of the encounter with the Lord. And he uses a beautiful phrase: ‘just a brief moment…’ Eh, life is a breath, eh? It passes. When one is young, he thinks he has so much time before him, but then life teaches us that those words that we all say: ‘But how time passes! I knew this person as a child, now they’re getting married! How time passes!’ It comes soon. But the hope of encountering it is a life in tension, between memory and hope, the past and the future.”
Living in the present with courage and patience
Finally, the Letter invites us to live in the present, “often times painful and sad,” with “courage and patience”: that is, with frankness, without shame, and enduring the events of life. We are sinners, the Pope explained – all of us. “He who is first, and he who is later… if you want, we can make the list later, but we are all sinners. All of us. But we go forward with courage and patience. We don’t remain there, stopped, because this would not make us grow.”
The sin that paralyzes Christians: Faintheartedness
Finally, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews urges us not to commit the sin that takes away memory, hope, courage, and patience: faintheartedness (It.: pusillanimità, “pusillanimity”). “It is a sin that doesn’t allow us to go forward, through fear.” Jesus, though, says, “Don’t be afraid.” The fainthearted are those “who always go backward, who guard themselves too much, who are afraid of everything”:
“‘Not taking risks, please, no… prudence…’ All the commandments, all of them… Yes, it’s true, but this paralyzes you too, it makes you forget so many graces received, it takes away memory, it takes away hope, because it doesn’t allow you to go forward. And the present of a Christian, of such a Christian, is how when one goes along the street and an unexpected rain comes, and the garment is not so good and the fabric shrinks… Confined souls… This is faintheartedness: this is the sin against memory, courage, patience, and hope. May the Lord make us grow in memory, make us grow in hope, give us courage and patience each and free us from that which is faintheartedness, being afraid of everything…  Confined souls in order to save ourselves. And Jesus says: ‘He who wills to save his life will lose it.’”
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope calls Catholics and Oriental Orthodox to work for peace

(Vatican Radio) Wherever there is violence and conflict, Christians are called to work patiently to restore concord and hope. That was Pope Francis’ message on Friday to members of the Joint International Commission for theological dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
The group, which is meeting in the Vatican this week, includes representatives of the six ancient Churches of the East which have been separated from the rest of the Christian world since the middle of the fifth century.
Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report: 

In his words to the Catholic and Oriental Orthodox leaders, Pope Francis noted that many of them belong to Churches that witness daily the spread of violence and “brutality perpetrated by fundamentalist extremism”. We are aware, he said, “that situations of such tragic suffering more easily take root in the context of great poverty, injustice and social exclusion”
This is due to instability, often created by foreign interests, he said, or by earlier conflicts that have made it easier to manipulate and incite people to hatred. The Pope said Christians are called to draw near to those who suffer, to sow concord and to work patiently together to restore hope by offering the consoling peace that comes from the Lord.
Pope Francis said he joined with the Church leaders in praying for an end to conflict and for God’s closeness to those who have suffered so much, especially children, the sick and the elderly.  In a particular way, he said his “heart goes out to the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful who have been cruelly abducted, taken hostage or enslaved”.
The martyrs and saints of all traditions, the Pope said, can inspire us to hasten along the path to full unity. Wherever violence begets more violence, he said, there our response must be to shun strategies of power and bring the peace and reconciliation of the risen Christ.
Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’s address to the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches
Dear Brothers in Christ,
            In offering you a joyful welcome, I thank you for your presence and for the kind words that Metropolitan Bishoy addressed to me on your behalf.  Through you, I send cordial greetings to the Heads of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, my venerable brothers.
            I am grateful for the work of your Commission, which began in 2003 and is now holding its fourteenth meeting.  Last year you began an examination of the nature of the sacraments, especially baptism.  It is precisely in baptism that we rediscovered the basis of communion between Christians.  As Catholics and Oriental Orthodox, we can repeat the words of the Apostle Paul: “For in the one Spirit, we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13).  In the course of this week, you have further reflected on historical, theological and ecclesiological aspects of the Holy Eucharist, “the source and summit of the whole Christian life”, which admirably expresses and brings about the unity of God’s people (Lumen Gentium, 11).  I encourage you to persevere in your efforts and I trust that your work may point out helpful ways to advance on our journey.  It will thus facilitate the path towards that greatly desired day when we will have the grace of celebrating the Lord’s Sacrifice at the same altar, as a sign of fully restored ecclesial communion.
            Many of you belong to Churches that witness daily the spread of violence and acts of brutality perpetrated by fundamentalist extremism.  We are aware that situations of such tragic suffering more easily take root in the context of great poverty, injustice and social exclusion, due to instability created by partisan interests, often from elsewhere, and by earlier conflicts that have led to situations of dire need, cultural and spiritual deserts where it becomes easy to manipulate and incite people to hatred.  Each day your Churches, in drawing near to those who suffer, are called to sow concord and to work patiently to restore hope by offering the consoling peace that comes from the Lord, a peace we are obliged together to bring to a world wounded and in pain.
            Saint Paul also writes: “If one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor 12:26).  Your sufferings are our sufferings.  I join you in praying for an end to the conflict and for God’s closeness to those who have endured so much, especially children, the sick and the elderly.  In a particular way, my heart goes out to the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful who have been cruelly abducted, taken hostage or enslaved.
            May the Christian communities be sustained by the intercession and example of our many martyrs and saints who bore courageous witness to Christ.  They show us the heart of our faith, which does not consist in a generic message of peace and reconciliation but in Jesus himself, crucified and risen.  He is our peace and our reconciliation (cf. Eph 2:14; 2 Cor 5:18).   As his disciples, we are called to testify everywhere, with Christian fortitude, to his humble love that reconciles men and women in every age.  Wherever violence begets more violence and sows death, there our response must be the pure leaven of the Gospel, which, eschewing strategies of power, allows fruits of life to emerge from arid ground and hope to dawn after nights of terror.
            The centre of the Christian life, the mystery of Jesus who died and rose out of love, is also the point of reference for our journey towards full unity.  Once more the martyrs show us the way.  How many times has the sacrifice of their lives led Christians, otherwise divided in so many things, to unity!  The martyrs and saints of all ecclesial traditions are already one in Christ (cf. Jn 17:22); their names are written in the one common martyrology of God’s Church.  Having sacrificed themselves on earth out of love, they dwell in the one heavenly Jerusalem, gathered around the Lamb who was slain (cf. Rev 7:13-17).  Their lives, offered as a gift, call us to communion, to hasten along the path to full unity.  Just as in the early Church the blood of the martyrs was the seed of new Christians, so in our own day may the blood of so many martyrs be a seed of unity between believers, a sign and instrument of a future of communion and peace.
            Dear brothers, I am grateful for the efforts you make towards attaining this goal.  In thanking you for your visit, I invoke upon you and your ministry the blessing of the Lord and the loving protection of the Holy Mother of God.
(from Vatican Radio)…