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Day: September 9, 2017

Pope in Colombia spells out priorities for the clergy

(Vatican Radio) Some 12,000 priests, men and women religious, consecrated laypeople and seminarians with their families crowded into Medellin’ s “La Macarena” event centre on Friday to listen to Pope Francis ’ thoughts, proposals and instructions regarding their ministry.
On the podium, the relics of Saint Mother Laura Montoya, a nun who was the first female Colombian Saint. Canonized by Pope Francis himself in 2013, Mother Laura was a teacher and prolific author who hosted classes in her own home when the 1895 civil war in Colombia forced schools to close.
And in the presence of the relics of this inspiring figure, the Pope put his long text of  prepared remarks  aside, and engaged with his audience who rose to the occasion reacting enthusiastically to his exhortations and comments.
In a town – Medellin – which used to be the reign of the powerful drug trafficker, Pablo Escobar, Pope Francis pointed his finger against the drug traffickers of today who, he said, continue to destroy the lives of so many young people.
He asked those present to pray for a conversion of the hearts of the traffickers, to ask forgiveness to the Lord for having ruined the lives of so many boys and girls, and to accompany the new generations on a path of rebirth and hope.
He touched on a theme that is dear to him warning the clergy that the devil too often finds its way into their hearts “through their wallets.”
“That’s how corruption spreads, he said, never be attached to material things.”
He told them it is not possible to serve both God and wealth and urged them never to take advantage of their condition as religious and of the generosity of the faithful in order to be served or to obtain material riches.
And in a powerful condemnation of clerical sex abuse, Pope Francis decried “the poison of lies and hidden things”,  the manipulation and abuse of God’s people, of the most fragile of God’s people, especially the elderly and children.
This poison, he said, “must find no space in our communities,” every dead branch must be severed.
Pope Francis concluded his animated address reminding all those who have received a spiritual vocation never to forget the joy with which they must live their mission.
In Colombia with Pope Francis, I’m Linda Bordoni.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis speaks to Colombia’s priests, religious, seminarians: Full Text

(Vatican Radio)   Pope Francis , who is currently on an Apostolic Visit to Colombia, spoke on Saturday to priests, religious, seminarians and their families in Medellin , some 200 kms northwest of the capital Bogota, where he was on a day-long trip. The Pope’s last event of the day at Medellin’s Macarena Entertainment Center, included listening to testimonies of a priest, a cloistered nun and a family, who contemplated on their vocation.   The Pope spoke of a “ contagious apostolic zeal ” that results from knowing and encountering Jesus, saying that “making him known by our word and deeds is our joy.” Comparing the Church of Colombia to “Jesus’ vine” , Pope Francis explained that the health of the vine is gauged by the harvest of genuine vocations despite today’s cultural crisis.   This vine, he said, needs to be pruned of its imperfections through an “intimate and fruitful union with Jesus.”  Pope Francis offered three ways in which their dwelling in Christ can be effective. Below, please find the official English translation of the Pope’s prepared speech: Meeting with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and their families. Medellín Saturday, 9 September 2017 Dear Brother Bishops, Dear Priests, Men and Women Religious, and Seminarians, Dear Families, Dear “Paisas”! The parable of the true vine which we have just heard from the Gospel of John is given within the context of Jesus’ Last Supper.  In that intimate moment, marked by a certain tension but full of love, the Lord washed the feet of his disciples, and wished to perpetuate his memory in the bread and wine, as he spoke from the depths of his heart to those he loved the most.  In this first “Eucharistic” night, in this first sunset after his example of service, Jesus opens his heart; he entrusts to them his testament.  Just as the Apostles, some women and Mary, the Mother of Jesus (cf. Acts 1: 13-14) continued to meet in that Upper Room, so too we are gathered here together to listen to him, to listen to one another.  Sister Leidy of Saint Joseph, María Isabel and Father Juan Felipe have offered us their testimonies… So also each of us here could share our own vocation story.  All these would converge in our experience of Jesus who comes to meet us, who chooses us first, thus seizing our hearts.  As Aparecida says: “Knowing Jesus is the best gift that any person can receive; that we have encountered him is the best thing that has happened in our lives, and making him known by our word and deeds is our joy” (Aparecida Document, 29). Many of you, young people, have discovered the living Jesus in your communities; communities with a contagious apostolic zeal, which inspire and attract others.  Where there is life, zeal, the desire to take Christ to others, geniune vocations arise; the fraternal and fervent life of the community awakens the yearning to devote oneself entirely to God and to evangelization (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 107).  Young people are naturally restless and, although there is a crisis of commitment and of communitarian relationships, many of them stand together against the evils of the world and become involved in various forms of political action and voluntary work.  When they do so for Jesus, feeling that they are a part of the community, they become “street preachers (callejeros de la fe)”, to bring Jesus Christ to every street, every town square and every corner of the earth (cf. ibid. 106).  This is the vine which Jesus refers to in the text we have just proclaimed: that vine which is the “people of the covenant”.  The prophets, such as Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel, refer to the people as a vine, as does Psalm 80, which says: “You brought a vine out of Egypt… Your cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land” (vv. 9-10).  At times they express the joy of God contemplating the vine, at other times his anger, bewilderment, and disappointment; yet he never forgets his people, he never ceases to feel their distance and go out to them, who, when they turn away from him, dry up, burn away and are destroyed. How is the land, the sustenance, the support where this vine is growing in Colombia?  Under what conditions are the vocational fruits of special consecration born?  No doubt in situations full of contradictions, of light and darkness, of complex relational realities.  We all would like to count on a world with straightforward families and relationships, but we are a part of this cultural crisis and, in the midst of it, in response to it, God continues to call.  It would be almost unrealistic to think that all of you heard the call of God in the midst of families sustained by a strong love and full of values such as generosity, compromise, fidelity and patience (cf. Amoris Laetitia, 5); some are like this, and I pray to God that they are many.  But keeping our feet firmly planted on the ground means recognizing that our vocational experiences, the awakening of God’s call, brings us closer to what God’s word already reveals and to what Colombia knows so well: “This thread of suffering and bloodshed runs through numerous pages of the Bible, beginning with Cain’s murder of his brother Abel.  We read of the disputes between the sons and the wives of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the tragedies and violence marking the family of David, the family problems reflected in the story of Tobias and the bitter complaint of Job” (ibid., 20).  It has been this way since the beginning: God manifests his closeness and his election; he changes the course of events to call men and women in the frailty of their personal and shared history.  Let us not be afraid, in that complex land, for God always brings about the miracle of producing good clusters on the vine, like arepas at breakfast.  May there be vocations in every community and in every family in Medellín!   This vine – which is Jesus’ vine – has the characteristic of being true.  He has used this term before on other occasions in the Gospel of John: true light, true bread from heaven, and true testimony.  Now, truth is not something that we receive – as bread or light – but rather what springs up from within.  We are a people chosen for the truth, and our call has to be in truth.  There can be no place for deceit, hypocrisy or small-mindedness if we are branches of this vine, if our vocation is grafted onto Jesus.   We must all be careful that every branch fulfils its purpose: to bear fruit.  From the start, those who accompany the vocational process need to encourage a right intention, a genuine desire to be configured to Jesus, the shepherd, the friend, the spouse.  When these processes are not nourished by this true sap that is the Spirit of Jesus, then we experience dryness and God learns with sadness that these branches are already dead.  Vocations associated with special consecrations die when they love to be sustained with honours, when they are driven by a search for personal reassurance and social advancement, when the motivation is “to climb the ladder”, to cleave to material interests and to strive shamefully for financial gain.  As I have said before on other occasions, the devil enters through the wallet.  This not only applies to the early stages of vocation; all of us have to be careful because the corrupting of men and women in the Church begins in this way, little by little, and then – as Jesus himself says – it takes root in the heart and it ends up dislodging God from our lives.  “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Mt 6:21, 24), we cannot take advantage of our religious state and the goodness of our people in order to be served and gain material benefits. There are some situations, customs and choices that evidence signs of dryness and death: they cannot keep hindering the flow of sap that nourishes and gives life!  The poison of lies, obfuscation, manipulation and the abuse of the People of God, the weak and especially the elderly and young, can have no place in our communities; they are branches that are determined to dry us out and that God tells us to cut off. And God does not only cut away; the allegory goes on to say that God purifies the vine of its imperfections.  The promise is that we will bear fruit, and abundantly, just like the grain of wheat, if we are able to give ourselves, to offer our lives freely.  In Colombia, there are examples that this is possible.  We remember Saint Laura Montoya, a remarkable religious whose relics are with us and who, going forth from this city, gave herself completely to a great missionary effort on behalf of indigenous people throughout the country.  How much we can learn from this consecrated woman of silent and selfless surrender, who had no greater desire than to transmit the maternal face of God.  So too we remember Blessed Mariano de Jesús Euse Hoyos, one of the first students of the Seminary of Medellín, and other Colombian priests and women religious, whose canonization processes have begun; as well as so many others, thousands of unknown Colombians who in the simplicity of their daily lives knew how to give of themselves for the Gospel, and whom you hold dear in your memory and who encourage you in your own commitment.  They all show us that it is possible to respond faithfully to the Lord’s call, that it is possible to bear much fruit. The good news is that the Lord is willing to cleanse us, that we will not be cut off, that as good disciples we are on the way.  How does Jesus eliminate those things which lead to death and which take hold of our lives and distort his call?  By inviting us to dwell in him.  Dwelling does not only signify being, but rather also indicates maintaining a relationship that is alive, existential and absolutely necessary; it means to live and grow in an intimate and fruitful union with Jesus, “the source of eternal life”.  Dwelling in Jesus cannot be a merely passive act or a simple abandonment without any consequences in our daily and concrete lives.  Allow me to propose three ways of making this “dwelling” effective:  Dwelling by touching Christ’s humanity: With the gaze and attitude of Jesus , who contemplates reality not as a judge, but rather as a good samaritan; who recognizes the value of the people who walk with him, as well as their wounds and sins; who discovers their silent suffering and who is moved by peoples’ needs, above all when they are overwhelmed by injustice, inhumane poverty, indifference or by the perverse actions of corruption and violence. With Jesus’ gestures and words , which express love for those nearby and search for those far away; tender and firm in denouncing sin and in announcing the Gospel, joyful and generous in surrendering and in service, especially for the smallest among us, steadfastly rejecting the temptation to believe that all is lost, to accomodate ourselves or to become mere administrators of misfortune. Dwelling by contemplating his divinity: Awakening and sustaining an admiration for the study which increases knowledge of Christ because, as Saint Augustine reminds us, we cannot love someone we do not know (cf. Saint Augustine, The Trinity, Book X, ch. I, 3). Giving priority, in this way of knowing, to the encounter with Sacred Scripture , especially the Gospel where Christ speaks to us, reveals his unconditional love for the Father, and instils the joy that comes from obedience to his will and from serving our brothers and sisters.  Whoever does not know the Scriptures, does not know Jesus.  Whoever does not love the Scriptures, does not love Jesus (cf. Saint Jerome, Preface to the Commentary on the Prophet Isaiah, PL 24, 17).  Let us spend time prayerfully reading the Word of God, listening to what God wishes for us and for our people. May all of our study help us to interpret reality with the eyes of God, that it may not be a way of avoiding what is happening to our people, nor be subject to the whim of fashions or ideologies.  May our study not be overcome by nostalgia or the tendency to confine the mystery, nor may it be unwilling to respond to questions that people no longer ask themselves, and may it not abandon those who find themselves in an existential void and who question us from their worlds and cultures.     Dwelling in and contemplating his divinity by making prayer a fundamental part of our lives and our apostolic service.  Prayer frees us from the burden of worldliness, and teaches us to live joyfully, to distance ourselves from what is superficial, in an exercise of true freedom.  Prayer draws us out of our self-centredness, from being reclusive in an empty religious experience; it leads us to place ourselves, with docility, in the hands of God in order to fulfil his will and to realize his plan of salvation.  And prayer teaches us to adore.  To learn to adore in silence.  Let us be men and women who have been reconciled in order to reconcile .  Being called does not give us a certificate of right conduct and sinlessness; we are not clothed in an aura of holiness.  We are all sinners and we need forgiveness and God’s mercy to rise each day.  He uproots whatever is not good in us, as well as the wrong we have done, casting it out of the vineyard to be burned up.  He cleanses us so that we may bear fruit.  This is the merciful fidelity that God shows his people, of which we are part.  He will never leave us at the side of the road.  God does everything to prevent sin from defeating us and clsoing the doors of our lives to a future of hope and joy.  Finally, dwelling in Christ in order to live joyfully : If we remain in him, his joy will be in us.  We will not be sad disciples and bitter apostles.  On the contrary, we will reflect and be heralds of true happiness, a complete joy that no one can take away.  We will spread the hope of a new life that Christ has given to us.  God’s call is not a heavy burden that robs us of joy.  He does not want us to be immersed in a sadness and weariness that comes from activities lived poorly, but rather wants a spirituality that brings joy to our lives and even to our weariness.  Our contagious joy must be our first testimony to the closeness and love of God.  We are true dispensers of God’s grace when we reflect the joy that comes from encountering him.  In the Book of Genesis, after the flood, Noah planted a vine as a sign of a new beginning; at the end of the Exodus, Moses sent scouts to inspect the promised land, who returned with a cluster of grapes, a sign that in the land flowed milk and honey.  God has looked upon us, our communities and families.  The Lord has cast his gaze on Colombia: you are a sign of this loving election.  It is now up to us to offer all our love and service while being united to Jesus, our vine.  To be the promise of a new beginning for Colombia, that leaves behind the floods of discord and violence, a Colombia that wants to bear abundant fruits of justice and peace, of encounter and solidarity.  May God bless you; may God bless the consecrated life in Colombia.  And, please, do not forget to pray for me. (from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Francis tells Colombia’s youngest victims that Jesus loves them

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis ’ apostolic visits always feature at least one event in a place of suffering, of solidarity, of rebirth.
He always makes sure he spends some precious time with the poorest and the weakest of the world, be they prisoners, disabled adolescents, elderly people, slum-dwellers… In Medellin on Friday he visited the community at Hogar San José : a Jesuit-run home for orphaned children victims of Colombia’s conflict .
The over 300 children cared for by the nuns, lay people and volunteers of the Home come from across the ravaged nation. All of them carry the wounds of violence and abuse.
One little girl, Claudia Yesenia, told the story of her own suffering when – aged two – she was wounded and lost all when a rebel attack in the San Carlos Antioquia area wiped out her entire community and most of her family.
But she also told of her rebirth at the San José Home for children where she was cherished and cared for and is being given an education so that she too can, one day, offer care and love to children in need.
Pope Francis listened with attention, smiled and embraced the children as he always does, and put everything else aside to be able to enjoy their songs, their joy, their presence.
He told them that Jesus loves them more than anyone else and that he protects them to make sure that they – who are the future of Colombian society – may grow and be strengthened in wisdom and grace.
In this nation where nature is so lush and generous, where the national flower is the sophisticated orchid, each child was holding a small bouquet of little white daisies: the simplest and most humble of blossoms. Just like those closest to Pope Francis’ heart.
In Colombia with Pope Francis, I’m Linda Bordoni
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope in Colombia greets children in Hogar San Jose Home: Full text

(Vatican Radio) “Saint Joseph can never be without Jesus and Mary”, Pope Francis assured Claudia Yesenia, who shared her courageous testimony, and the children of “St. Joseph’s Children’s Home” in Medellin on Saturday.
Responding to the testimony of Claudia, Pope Francis reflected on how Baby Jesus was also a victim of hatred and persecution but God protected him and Mary by inspiring St. Joseph to leave his country and his home.
Listening to her testimony, the Pope said he was reminded of the unjust suffering of so many boys and girls throughout the world, who have been and continue to be innocent victims of the evil that others commit.
Pope Francis affirmed that, just as Saint Joseph protected and defended the Holy Family from danger, so too he is defending them, caring for them, and accompanying them.
He also said that with Saint Joseph is Jesus and Mary, because Saint Joseph can never be without Jesus and Mary.
Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s prepared Greeting:
“Saint Joseph’s Children’s Home”
Saturday, 9 September 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Dear Boys and Girls,
          I am very happy to be with you here at “Saint Joseph’s Home”.  Thank you for the welcome you prepared for me.  I am grateful also to the director, Monsignor Armando Santamaría, for his words.
          I wish to express my thanks to you, Claudia Yesenia, for your courageous testimony.  Hearing all of the difficulties you experienced, I thought of the unjust suffering of so many boys and girls throughout the world, who have been and continue to be innocent victims of the evil that others commit.
          The Baby Jesus was also a victim of hatred and persecution; he too had to run away with his family, to leave his country and his home, in order to escape death.  To see children suffer, wounds our hearts because children are Jesus’ favourites.  We can never accept that they are mistreated, that they are denied the right to live out their childhood peacefully and joyfully, that they are denied a future of hope. 
          Jesus, however, never abandons those who suffer, much less you, boys and girls, who are his special ones.  Claudia Yesenia, in the midst of all the horrible things that happened, God gave you an aunt to watch out for you, a hospital to care for you, and finally a community to welcome you.  This “home” is a sign of Jesus’ love for you, and of his desire to be very close to you.  He does this through the loving care of all those good people who are with you, who love you and teach you.  I think of those who direct this house, the sisters, the staff and so many others who are already a part of your family.  For this is what you do here, you make this place a home: the warmth of a family where we feel loved, protected, accepted, cared for and accompanied. 
          I am happy that this place bears the name of Saint Joseph, and the other homes the names of “Jesus the Worker” and “Bethlehem”.   It means that you are in good hands.  Do you remember what Saint Matthew writes in his Gospel, when he tells us that Herod, in his foolishness, decided to kill the Infant Jesus?  How, in a dream, God spoke to Saint Joseph by means of an angel, and entrusted to his care and protection his most valuable treasures: Jesus and Mary?  Matthew tells us that, as soon as the angel spoke, Joseph immediately obeyed, and did all that God told him to do: “He rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt” ( Mt 2:14).  I am sure that, just as Saint Joseph protected and defended the Holy Family from danger, so too he is defending you, caring for you and accompanying you.  Alongside him are Jesus and Mary, because Saint Joseph can never be without Jesus and Mary.
          To you, brothers and sisters, religious and lay people, and to those in the other homes who welcome and lovingly care for these children that from infancy have experienced suffering and sorrow: I would like to remind you of two realities that you must never forget because they are part of the Christian identity – the love that knows how to see Jesus present in the smallest and weakest, and the sacred duty of bringing children to Jesus.  In this task, with your joys and hardships, I commend you also to Saint Joseph’s protection.  Learn from him, that his example may inspire you and help you in your loving care for these little ones, who are the future of Colombian society, of the world and of the Church, so that like Jesus, they may grow and be strengthened in wisdom and grace, before God and others (cf. Lk 2:52).  May Jesus and Mary, together with Saint Joseph, accompany and protect you, and fill you with their tenderness, joy and strength.
          I promise to pray for you, so that in this place of family love, you may grow in love, peace and happiness, and your wounds of body and heart may heal.  God will not abandon you, but protect you and help you.  And the Pope will keep you in his heart.  Please do not forget to pray for me. 
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope urges Colombian priests at Medellin Mass to ‘get involved’

(Vatican Radio) The theme of day four of Pope Francis’ visit to Colombia is “Vocations” and he travelled to the country’s most Catholic city – Medellin – on Saturday to celebrate Mass and to encourage his brother priests to be like Jesus who looked beyond rigid doctrine, cared for sinners and welcomed them in.
Reiterating a concept which is clearly a priority for Francis – in Colombia and across the globe – he  said to them: “the Church is not a customs post, it wants its doors to be open”.
The overwhelming majority of the some 1 million faithful present at the Mass were wearing white – the colour of peace – and injecting his message with the overreaching leitmotiv of the journey, Francis urged all Colombians to “get involved” in helping each other and to embrace “acts of non-violence, reconciliation and peace.”
“Get involved” was the call at the heart of his message to the clergy as he recalled the figure of Jesuit priest Saint Peter Claver and his motto – “Slave of the blacks forever” – because, the Pope said, “he understood as a disciple of Jesus, that he could not remain indifferent to the suffering of the most helpless and mistreated of his time, and that he had to do something to alleviate their suffering.”
“Brothers and sisters, the Church in Colombia is called to commit itself with greater boldness, to forming missionary disciples” whom, the Pope said, look at reality with eyes and heart of Jesus: “Disciples who risk, act, and commit themselves”.
His appeal is a poignant one in a country where so many hunger for food, dignity and justice, a country in which peace is only possible if the causes of social injustice, inequality and oppression are tackled.
Francis’ ‘brother priests’ – as he calls them – have always been committed and continue to be in the forefront in Colombia. Not only as advocates for peace and human rights, but as key figures in making sure the voices of the victims were heard during the recent peace negotiations, in providing demobilization spaces for former guerrillas and developing programmes for their eventual integration in society, as well as offering education and assistance to the poor, to the displaced and the traumatized of the conflict.
Colombian priests have an important and difficult responsibility and task as they guide their flocks on the rocky path to reconciliation. To them – Pope Francis said – “Remain steadfast in Christ, in such a way that you manifest him in everything you do.”
In Colombia with Pope Francis, I’m Linda Bordoni
(from Vatican Radio)…