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Day: November 6, 2017

Pope Francis meets ‘The Elders’ to discuss global concerns

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis had a private meeting at Santa Marta on Monday afternoon with members of The Elders, an independent group of global leaders working for peace and human rights around the world.
The Elders was established 10 years ago by former South African President Nelson Mandela and is currently marking the group’s 10th anniversary with a campaign called “Walk Together”  – continuing Mandela’s long walk to freedom.
Just after the audience, Philippa Hitchen spoke to two of the founding members of The Elders, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson, former Irish President , former UN high commissioner for human rights and, more recently, UN envoy on climate change. Philippa began by asking Kofi Annan about the issues they were able to discuss during their papal audience…

The former UN leader says it was important for four representatives of the group to come to the Vatican because they share many common interests and values. He says they wanted to engage with Pope Francis and “discuss how we can work together, how we can pool our efforts on some of these issues”.
Peace, migration, climate change, gender equality
Among the areas of discussion, he continues, were the questions of migration, nuclear weapons peace, mediation and conflicts, as well as climate change and gender equality, that is “the importance of giving women a voice and respecting their role”. He adds “I hope this will be the first of many meetings”.
Shared efforts to be a voice for marginalised
Former Irish President Mary Robinson says the group came to express “an appreciation for the role he is playing and the fact that he, like The Elders, is trying to be a voice for the voiceless and the marginalized, trying to deal with the most difficult areas of conflict.
She says they also spoke about countries including Venezuela and Congo, as well as focusing on climate change, all issues, she notes, where “the pope has given leadership”.
Common values, common sense of purpose
Robinson says she was also struck by the “warmth and affection and humour” in their meeting. “I was very struck by how relaxed the pope was with us, how much he joked”, she says, adding that Pope Francis seemed to “feel at home” as they discussed “common values, a common moral purpose, common problems”
I think he could be a future ‘Elder’, Annan says and Robinson quips, “I think he’s a Super Elder”.
Over the coming days we will be featuring further excerpts from this interview, as Kofi Annan and Mary Robinson discuss the COP23 climate conference, gender equality in politics, the role of diplomacy and peacemaking, migration and refugees, as well as the situation in Myanmar as Pope Francis prepares to travel there at the end of November.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope at Mass: God’s gifts are irrevocable

(Vatican Radio) When God gives a gift, it is irrevocable: He does not give something one day, and take it away the next. When God calls us, that call remains our whole life. Pope Francis began his homily with this reflection, inspired by the theme of our “election by God,” God’s choice of each of us, which is taken from the day’s reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Romans.
In the history of salvation, the Pope said, there are three “gifts and calls of God to His people”: “the gift of election, of the promise, and of the covenant.” All are irrevocable, because God is faithful. This was the case for Abraham, and it is true for all of us as well:
“Each one of us is elect, chosen by God. Each one of us bears a promise that the Lord has made: ‘Walk in my presence, be irreproachable, and I will do this for you.’ And each one of us makes some covenant with the Lord. You can do it, you can’t will it – it is free. But this is a fact. And also, there must be a question: How do I experience ‘election’? Or do I consider myself a Christian ‘by accident’ [It.: ‘per caso’]? How do I live the promise, a promise of salvation of my path, and how am I faithful to the covenant? Like He is faithful?”
Then, in the face of the constant “faithfulness” of God, it remains for us to ask ourselves: Do we feel His “caress,” His care for us, and His “seeking after” us when we have distanced ourselves from Him?
And yet, Pope Francis continued, St Paul, when speaking about the “election of God” returns again and again to two words: “disobedience” and “mercy.” Where there is one, there is the other, and this is our path of salvation:
“That is to say that on the path of election, to the promise, and the covenant, there will be sins, there will be disobedience, but in the face of this disobedience there is always mercy. It is like the dynamic of our walking journeying toward maturity: there is always mercy, because He is faithful, He never revokes His gifts. It is linked; this is linked, that the gifts are irrevocable; [but] why? Because in the face of our weaknesses, our sins, there is always mercy. And when Paul comes to this reflection, he goes one step further: but not in explanation for us, but of adoration.”
In the face of “this mystery of disobedience and mercy that sets us free,” there is adoration and silent praise. And in the face of “this beauty of irrevocable gifts such as election, the promise, and the covenant,” there is this final invitation from the Pope:
“I think it would do us good, all of us, to think today about our election; about the promises that the Lord has made to us; and about how I live out the covenant with the Lord. And how I allow myself – permit me the word – to receive mercy from the Lord [It. ‘misericordiare’ dal Signore] in the face of my sins, of my disobedience. And finally, whether I am capable – like Paul – of praising the Lord for what He has given to me, to each one of us: to offer praise, and to make that act of adoration. But never forgetting: the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”
Listen to our report: 

(from Vatican Radio)…

AFRICA/EGYPT – Al Azhar on the massacre in the US church: all religions forbid to shed innocent blood

Cairo – Violence acts “which desecrate the holiness of places of worship and destroy innocent lives threaten the people’s stability and security”. And the shedding of innocent blood, irrespective of race and the religion of the victims, “is forbidden by all religions”. With these words, the University of Al Azhar, the main academic and theological center of Sunni Islam, expressed in a formal statement the condolences to the victims of the massacre carried out on Sunday November 5 by a former military in a Baptist church in SutherlandSprings, Texas, causing the deaths of at least 26 people and dozens of injured. Al Azhar condemned the criminal act, expressing condolences to the government and the people of the United States of America, starting with the families of the victims. …

AFRICA/CONGO RD – Presidential elections on 23 December 2018; the opposition protests: "so Kabila remains in power until January 2019"

Kinshasa – Presidential, legislative, provincial and local elections will be held on December 23, 2018 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “At 6pm, yesterday, Sunday, November 5, 2017, the election calendar was finally published in the don Apollinaire Malumalu room, at the headquarters of the Independent National Election Commission in Kinshasa”, says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Mbumba Prosper, Congolese missionary of the Immaculate Heart of the Congregation of Mary. “Presidential, national and provincial elections will take place on Sunday, December 23, 2018, according to what Corneille Nangaa, President of CENI, announced in front of a crowd of politicians, diplomats, deputies, senators and journalists”. The opposition complained that, according to the new electoral calendar, outgoing President Joseph Kabila, whose term expired on 20 December 2016, will be able to remain in office until early January 2019. The new president will hold office on January 12. “The new electoral calendar was presented due to the pressure from the United States, the European Union and the African Union”, Prosper writes. In particular, the United States, through UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, threatened that if elections had not taken place in 2018, they would cut financial support to the DRC . “The fact remains that the San Silvestro Agreement, which guarantees the legitimacy of the government in office, provided for the elections to be held by December 2017”, recalls Fr. Prosper, The San Silvestro agreement was concluded through the mediation of the local Episcopal Conference. It provided for Kabila to remain in power and the formation of a national unity government with the participation of all political forces in order to hold elections by 2017. The government was formed but did not include the representatives of the Grouping of Opposition Armed Forces. CENI also announced on October 10 that elections could only take place in the spring of 2019 . Meanwhile, as Peace Network for Congo denounces to Fides, there are strong violations of the right to expression and demonstration in the DRC. “For several months – says a note – mayors and governors have not allowed, especially the opposition, the organization of any kind of political demonstration, including committees and meetings. Security forces immediately intervene to disperse any group with more than 5 to 10 people, often resorting to disproportionate use of force, using tear gas or even firing directly on demonstrators”. “On the other hand, some demonstrators do not hesitate to place stones or burn tires in the streets, in order to prevent the circulation of vehicles” continues the note which stresses that by doing so protesters offer the pretext for the repressive intervention of police forces. “What was thought to be a tool of protest against power risks becoming a boomerang against the demonstrators themselves”, he concludes. …

ASIA/LEBANON – Maronite Patriarch on Hariri’s resignation: vigilance over "any sabotage scheme aimed at undermining Lebanon’s stability"

Beirut – Following the sudden resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, “there must be vigilance and full awareness against any sabotage plot or scheme aimed at undermining stability in the country”. This is how Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai voiced regret over Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s shock resignation while on a visit to Saudi Arabia, warning of the destabilizing effects that this choice might have on the fragile national balance. In his homily during Mass celebrated on Sunday November 5, the Primate of the Maronite Church invoked everyone to support the appeal launched by Lebanese President Michel Aoun to protect and strengthen national unity, showing patience and discernment in the choices to prevent that the Country of Cedars sinks in the spiral of conflict which continues to torment the Middle Eastern scenarios. Lebanon – added Patriarch Rai during the homily – should not be dragged into “regional or international axes that do not befit its nature, values and role as an element of cooperation, stability and coexistence in its Middle Eastern region”. Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri announced his surprising resignation on Saturday November 4, while on a visit – for the second time in five days – to Saudi Arabia. The resignation announcement was given by the same Lebanese Sunni leader with a speech broadcast from al-Arabiya satellite TV. In his speech, Hariri harshly attacked the Lebanese Hezbollah Shiite movement -linked to Iran – accusing him of “targeting his weapons” against the inhabitants of Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, and highlighted the fear of threats to his life. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah responded to allegations claiming that the resignation of Sunni Hariri was an “imposed” decision by Saudi Arabia, and that the resigning Premier’s speech “was written by the Saudis”. A few days before the new Lebanese crisis, the official invitation to visit Saudi Arabia was delivered to Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai by Walid Bukhari, Saudi Chargé d’affaires. The visit to Saudi Arabia – said Bukhari himself – should have taken place in the coming weeks, and Patriarch Rai would have also met King Salman and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. But now – said to Agenzia Fides Maronite priest Rouphael Zgheib, National President of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Lebanon, new developments make it very unlikely that the visit will take place. “A Patriarch’s trip to Saudi Arabia, at the moment”, explained Father Zgheib, “risks looking like a field choice, and this was certainly not the intention of the Patriarch who had already stated that he was willing to visit Arabia Saudi Arabia to open new bridges to all”. …