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Day: November 24, 2017

Pope meets dialogue Commission with Assyrian Church of the East

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Friday received in audience the members of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.
In greetings to the Commission, the Pope thanked God “for today’s signing of the Joint Declaration.”
“We can now look to the future with even greater confidence and I ask the Lord that your continuing work may help bring about that blessed and long-awaited day when we will have the joy of celebrating, at the same altar, our full communion in Christ’s Church,” he said.
The full text of the Pope’s address is below:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I extend a warm welcome to all of you. I thank you for your visit and Metropolitan Meelis Zaia for his kind words on your behalf. Through you I convey my fraternal greeting in the Lord to His Holiness Mar Gewargis III, recalling with joy our cordial meeting a year ago, which marked a further step on our journey towards deeper growth in mutual solidarity and communion.
Our meeting today offers us the opportunity to look with gratitude upon the progress made by the Joint Commission, established following the historic signing of the Common Christological Declaration here in Rome in 1994. After professing the same faith in the mystery of the Incarnation, the Commission planned two phases of dialogue: one on sacramental theology and one on the constitution of the Church. I join you in thanking the Lord for today’s signing of the Joint Declaration which brings to a happy conclusion the phase regarding sacramental life. We can now look to the future with even greater confidence and I ask the Lord that your continuing work may help bring about that blessed and long-awaited day when we will have the joy of celebrating, at the same altar, our full communion in Christ’s Church.
I would like to emphasize one aspect of the new Joint Declaration, where the sign of the cross is referred to as “an explicit symbol of unity among all sacramental celebrations”. Some authors of the Assyrian Church of the East have included the sign of the cross among the sacred mysteries, convinced that every sacramental celebration depends precisely on the Pasch of the Lord’s death and resurrection. This is a beautiful insight, because the Crucified and Risen One is our salvation and our life. Hope and peace come from his glorious cross, and from the cross flows the unity of the sacred mysteries we celebrate, as well as our own unity, for we were baptized into the same death and resurrection of the Lord (cf. Rom 6:4).
When we look at the cross, or make the sign of the cross, we are also invited to remember sacrifices endured in union with Jesus and to remain close to those who today bear a heavy cross upon their shoulders. The Assyrian Church of the East, along with other Churches and many of our brothers and sisters in the region, is afflicted by persecution, and is a witness to brutal acts of violence perpetrated in the name of fundamentalist extremism. Situations of such tragic suffering take root more easily in contexts of great poverty, injustice and social exclusion, largely caused by instability, often fuelled by external interests, and by conflicts that have also led in recent times to situations of dire need, giving rise to real cultural and spiritual deserts, within which it becomes easy to manipulate people and incite them to hatred. Such suffering has recently been exacerbated by the tragedy of the violent earthquake on the border between Iraq, the homeland of your Church, and Iran, where your communities have also long been established, as well as in Syria, Lebanon and India.
As a result, particularly during periods of greater suffering and deprivation, large numbers of the faithful have had to leave their lands and emigrate to other countries, thus increasing the diaspora community, with the many trials it faces. Arriving in some societies, émigrés encounter challenges stemming from an often difficult integration, and a marked secularization, which can hinder their efforts to preserve the spiritual riches of their traditions, and even prevent their witness of faith.
In all of this, the constant repetition of the sign of the cross is a reminder that the Lord of mercy never abandons his brothers and sisters, but embraces their wounds within his own. By making the sign of the cross we recall Christ’s wounds, which the Resurrection did not eliminate but rather filled with light. So too the wounds of Christians, including those still open, become radiant when they are filled with the living presence of Jesus and his love, and thus become signs of Easter light in a world enveloped by so much darkness.
With these sentiments, both heartfelt and hope-filled, I invite you to keep journeying, trusting in the help of many of our brothers and sisters who gave their lives in following the Crucified Christ. They, who are already fully united in heaven, are the heralds and patrons of our visible communion on earth. Through their intercession, I also pray to the Lord that the Christians of your lands may continue to labour in peace and in full respect for all, in the patient work of reconstruction after so much devastation.
In the Syriac tradition, Christ on the cross is represented as the Good Physician and Medicine of life. I pray that He will completely heal our wounds of the past as well as the many wounds that continue to be caused by the havoc of violence and war. Dear brothers and sisters, let us continue together on the pilgrimage of reconciliation and peace, on which the Lord Himself has set us! With gratitude for your commitment, I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon all of you, along with the loving protection of His Mother and ours. And I ask you, please, also to remember to pray for me.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope: Change, in fidelity to God and man, is always healthy ?

Change is healthy, and one needs to change in order to be faithful both to God and to man, Pope Francis said in a video message to a 4-day Italian workshop on the social doctrine of the Church.  The Pope’s message inaugurated the 5th Social Doctrine Festival , Thursday evening in the northern city of Verona .  The event is discussing the theme of “ Fidelity and Change ” with regard to issues such as labour, justice, economy and culture. 
Word of God helps change
The Pope pointed out that the Word of God helps us in distinguishing the two faces of change .  The first is fidelity, hope in and openness to new things ; the second is the difficulty of leaving a secure place for something unknown.  He noted we feel more secure within our fence, preserving and repeating our usual words and gestures.  But this prevents us from going out and starting new processes.  
“In order to be faithful one must have the capacity to change” and launch out, the Pope said, holding out the figure of Abraham, who in his old age heeded the Lord’s command and left his homeland for a new land.  The Lord’s call radically changed Abraham’s life, made him enter a new history and opened unexpected horizons for him with new heavens and new earths.  Likewise, when one responds to God, the Pope pointed out, a process begins that leads to something unexpected we never imagined before. 
Going out
Fidelity to man, the Pope explained, means going out of ourselves to meet a concrete person, to open our eyes and heart to the poor, the sick, the jobless, the refugees fleeing violence and war, and the many who are wounded by indifference and by an economy that discards and kills.  Fidelity to man, he stressed,  means overcoming the centripetal force of one’s interests and egoism and giving way to the passion for others. 
In this way, the Pope said,  fidelity to God and fidelity to man converge into a dynamic movement that changes us and the reality, overcoming “immobilism and convenience”, creating space and work for young people and their future.  Hence change is healthy not only when things go badly but also when everything goes well and we are tempted to sit back over results achieved. 
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope Mass: Our churches should be for service, not supermarkets

Pope Francis on Friday suggested watchfulness, service and gratuitousness as three attitudes that can help us keep clean the temple of the Holy Spirit.  He made the exhortation in his homily at the morning Mass in the chapel of the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta residence. 
Listen to our report:

The Pope was reflecting on the first reading from the Book of the Maccabees where Judas and his brothers were re-consacrating the temple desecrated by the pagans, and the Gospel reading where Jesus was driving out merchants from the temple, that was transformed into a den of thieves. 
Temple of God – our heart
The Pope pointed out that the most important temple of God is our heart, where the Holy Spirit dwells. 
The Holy Father asked whether we keep watch over this interior temple, and are careful about what happens in the heart, who comes in and who goes out, the feelings, the ideas…  “Do we talk to the Holy Spirit and listen to Him?” the Pope asked and urged all to keep watch over what happens within.
The Pope then explained how this temple can be safeguarded and cared for through service .  The Pope urged Christians to examine their conscience, whether they come forward to help, to clothe and console those in need .  In this regard, he recalled St. John Chrysostom reprimanding those who were making many offerings to decorate the church but were not caring for the needy saying, “This is not good.  First service, then decoration.”  “Purifying the temple means caring for others, the Pope said, adding, “ when we come forward to serve, to help, we resemble Jesus who is inside us.”
The Pope then spoke about how gratuitousness , the third attitude, helps in keeping the temple clean. He wondered, “How many times we sadly enter a temple – a parish, a bishop’s house and so on, not knowing whether were are in the house of God or in a supermarket .”  “There we have business, including the price list for the sacraments – nothing is free!”  But the Pope argued that God saved us freely, without making us pay.
God’s providence
In this regard, he asked whether money is needed to maintain building, priests and so on…  And the Pope answered, “ You give freely and God will do the rest .”  “God will provide what is lacking,” the Pope said wishing our churches be “churches of service, free churches.”
(from Vatican Radio)…

2018 Peace Msge: Migration an opportunity to build peace

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has placed the plight of migrants and refugees at the centre of his 2018 World Day of Peace Message.
Entitled  Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace , the Holy Father encourages the faithful and all people of good will to welcome and support these brothers and sisters. He also underlines migration should be viewed as an opportunity to build peace.
One of those presenting this year’s message at the Holy See Press Office on Friday was Jesuit  Fr Ismael-Jose Chan Honzaga, an advisor and law Professor at the Atheneum University in Manila.
He spoke to Vatican Radio’s Lydia O’Kane about the message.
Listen to the interview:

Speaking about the choice of this year’s theme Fr Chan Honzaga said, “we all know what’s happening globally and how migration or human movement has always been historically a global phenomenon. But, unfortunately especially in recent years, we’ve also seen how these migrations have become forced migrations.”
Supporting Migrants and Refugees
He goes on to say that the Pope invites people with this message to look at migration and the people “in this particular situation not as threats but as people who need our support, who need also our embracing.”
Fr Chan Honzaga points out that in the last few years migration has been seen as something negative adding “we have become more afraid rather than welcoming” and that’s why the Holy Father has asked in this message that we welcome these brothers and sisters.
The Pope in the early days of his pontificate went to see for himself the plight of those migrants who had made the perilous journey by boat to the island of Lampedusa off the Italian coast and the Jesuit Professor commented that this visit along with others, “awakened his (the Pope’s) heart all the more to how it is actually a crisis on the global stage.”
“ The Pope giving this message and issuing this stance I think is a wake-up call , especially to the Catholics and to all people of good will for that matter that our world is a common home and our humanity is a common family…”, he says.
The 2018 World Day of Peace is celebrated on January 1st.
(from Vatican Radio)…

Pope’s message for 2018 World Day of Peace is released

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the celebration of the 2018 World Day of Peace was released on Friday during a press conference at the Holy See Press Office.
The message entitled Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace is divided into six sections with the first offering heartfelt good wishes for peace and inviting people of good will to embrace those fleeing war, hunger and persecution.
The message also poses the question, why so many migrants and refugees? Pope Francis answers this by considering the many conflicts forcing people to leave their homelands, but he notes also the desire for a better life.
The Holy Father notes that some people consider the growth in migration as a threat..  But, “for my part, he says, I ask you to view it with confidence, as an opportunity to build peace.”
Peace points
Contained in the 4th section of the message under the theme, “four mileposts for action”, the Pope points out what is needed in order for migrants and refugees to find the peace they seek is a strategy combining four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.
Looking at the situation from an international perspective, Pope Francis expresses the hope that this spirit of welcome and integration, “will guide the process that in the course of 2018 will lead the United Nations to draft and approve two Global Compacts, one for safe, orderly and regular migration and the other for refugees.”
Common Home
Finally, the Holy Father draws inspiration from Saint John Paul II  with these words. “If the ‘dream’ of a peaceful world is shared by all, if the refugees’ and migrants’ contribution is properly evaluated, then humanity can become more and more a universal family and our earth a true ‘common home’.”
Please find below the message of  Pope Francis for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2018
1.      Heartfelt good wishes for peace
         Peace to all people and to all nations on earth!  Peace, which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night,[1] is a profound aspiration for everyone, for each individual and all peoples, and especially for those who most keenly suffer its absence.  Among these whom I constantly keep in my thoughts and prayers, I would once again mention the over 250 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees.  Pope Benedict XVI, my beloved predecessor, spoke of them as “men and women, children, young and elderly people, who are searching for somewhere to live in peace.”[2]  In order to find that peace, they are willing to risk their lives on a journey that is often long and perilous, to endure hardships and suffering, and to encounter fences and walls built to keep them far from their goal.
         In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.
         We know that it is not enough to open our hearts to the suffering of others.  Much more remains to be done before our brothers and sisters can once again live peacefully in a safe home.  Welcoming others requires concrete commitment, a network of assistance and goodwill, vigilant and sympathetic attention, the responsible management of new and complex situations that at times compound numerous existing problems, to say nothing of resources, which are always limited.  By practising the virtue of prudence, government leaders should take practical measures to welcome, promote, protect, integrate and, “within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good, to permit [them] to become part of a new society.”[3]  Leaders have a clear responsibility towards their own communities, whose legitimate rights and harmonious development they must ensure, lest they become like the rash builder who miscalculated and failed to complete the tower he had begun to construct.[4]
2.      Why so many refugees and migrants?
         As he looked to the Great Jubilee marking the passage of two thousand years since the proclamation of peace by the angels in Bethlehem, Saint John Paul II pointed to the increased numbers of displaced persons as one of the consequences of the “endless and horrifying sequence of wars, conflicts, genocides and ethnic cleansings”[5] that had characterized the twentieth century.  To this date, the new century has registered no real breakthrough: armed conflicts and other forms of organized violence continue to trigger the movement of peoples within national borders and beyond.
         Yet people migrate for other reasons as well, principally because they “desire a better life, and not infrequently try to leave behind the ‘hopelessness’ of an unpromising future.”[6]  They set out to join their families or to seek professional or educational opportunities, for those who cannot enjoy these rights do not live in peace. Furthermore, as I noted in the Encyclical Laudato Si’, there has been “a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation”.[7]
         Most people migrate through regular channels.  Some, however, take different routes, mainly out of desperation, when their own countries offer neither safety nor opportunity, and every legal pathway appears impractical, blocked or too slow.
         Many destination countries have seen the spread of rhetoric decrying the risks posed to national security or the high cost of welcoming new arrivals, and by doing so demeans the human dignity due to all as sons and daughters of God.  Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great concern for all those concerned for the safety of every human being.[8]
         All indicators available to the international community suggest that global migration will continue for the future.  Some consider this a threat.  For my part, I ask you to view it with confidence as an opportunity to build peace.
3.      With a contemplative gaze
         The wisdom of faith fosters a contemplative gaze that recognizes that all of us “belong to one family, migrants and the local populations that welcome them, and all have the same right to enjoy the goods of the earth, whose destination is universal, as the social doctrine of the Church teaches.  It is here that solidarity and sharing are founded.”[9]  These words evoke the biblical image of the new Jerusalem.  The book of the prophet Isaiah (chapter 60) and that of Revelation (chapter 21) describe the city with its gates always open to people of every nation, who marvel at it and fill it with riches.  Peace is the sovereign that guides it and justice the principle that governs coexistence within it.
         We must also turn this contemplative gaze to the cities where we live, “a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their houses, in their streets and squares, […] fostering solidarity, fraternity, and the desire for goodness, truth and justice”[10] – in other words, fulfilling the promise of peace.
         When we turn that gaze to migrants and refugees, we discover that they do not arrive empty-handed.  They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them.  We also come to see the creativity, tenacity and spirit of sacrifice of the countless individuals, families and communities around the world who open their doors and hearts to migrants and refugees, even where resources are scarce.
         A contemplative gaze should also guide the discernment of those responsible for the public good, and encourage them to pursue policies of welcome, “within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good”[11] – bearing in mind, that is, the needs of all members of the human family and the welfare of each.
         Those who see things in this way will be able to recognize the seeds of peace that are already sprouting and nurture their growth.  Our cities, often divided and polarized by conflicts regarding the presence of migrants and refugees, will thus turn into workshops of peace.
4.      Four mileposts for action
         Offering asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek requires a strategy combining four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.[12]
         “Welcoming” calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people towards countries where they face persecution and violence.  It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights.  Scripture reminds us: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”[13]
         “Protecting” has to do with our duty to recognize and defend the inviolable dignity of those who flee real dangers in search of asylum and security, and to prevent their being exploited.  I think in particular of women and children who find themselves in situations that expose them to risks and abuses that can even amount to enslavement.  God does not discriminate: “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the orphan and the widow.”[14]
         “Promoting” entails supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees.  Among many possible means of doing so, I would stress the importance of ensuring access to all levels of education for children and young people.  This will enable them not only to cultivate and realize their potential, but also better equip them to encounter others and to foster a spirit of dialogue rather than rejection or confrontation.  The Bible teaches that God “loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.  And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”[15]
         “Integrating”, lastly, means allowing refugees and migrants to participate fully in the life of the society that welcomes them, as part of a process of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation in service of the integral human development of the local community.  Saint Paul expresses it in these words: “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people.”[16]
5.      A proposal for two international compacts
         It is my heartfelt hope this spirit will guide the process that in the course of 2018 will lead the United Nations to draft and approve two Global Compacts, one for safe, orderly and regular migration and the other for refugees.  As shared agreements at a global level, these compacts will provide a framework for policy proposals and practical measures.  For this reason, they need to be inspired by compassion, foresight and courage, so as to take advantage of every opportunity to advance the peace-building process.  Only in this way can the realism required of international politics avoid surrendering to cynicism and to the globalization of indifference.
         Dialogue and coordination are a necessity and a specific duty for the international community.  Beyond national borders, higher numbers of refugees may be welcomed – or better welcomed – also by less wealthy countries, if international cooperation guarantees them the necessary funding.
         The Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has published a set of twenty action points that provide concrete leads for implementing these four verbs in public policy and in the attitudes and activities of Christian communities.[17]  The aim of this and other contributions is to express the interest of the Catholic Church in the process leading to the adoption of the two U.N. Global Compacts.  This interest is the sign of a more general pastoral concern that goes back to very origins of Church and has continued in her many works up to the present time.
6.      For our common home
         Let us draw inspiration from the words of Saint John Paul II: “If the ‘dream’ of a peaceful world is shared by all, if the refugees’ and migrants’ contribution is properly evaluated, then humanity can become more and more a universal family and our earth a true ‘common home’.”[18]  Throughout history, many have believed in this “dream”, and their achievements are a testament to the fact that it is no mere utopia.
         Among these, we remember Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini in this year that marks the hundredth anniversary of her death.  On this thirteenth day of November, many ecclesial communities celebrate her memory.  This remarkable woman, who devoted her life to the service of migrants and became their patron saint, taught us to welcome, protect, promote and integrate our brothers and sisters.  Through her intercession, may the Lord enable all of us to experience that “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”[19]
From the Vatican, 13 November 2017
Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Patroness of Migrants
(from Vatican Radio)…