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Pope sends Message to World Humanitarian Summit

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to the World Humanitarian Summit taking place 23-24 May in Istanbul. The Summit was convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

In his message, addressed to Secretary General Ban, Pope Francis said, “I hope that your efforts may contribute in a real way to alleviating the sufferings of these millions of people” who need “protection, care and assistance, and who seek a dignified future.”

He also noted some of the difficulties in finding solutions to humanitarian crises, such as competing interests and “military, economic and geo-political strategies” that displace persons and “impose the god of money, the god of power.” And he warned about humanitarian efforts “conditioned by commercial and ideological constraints.

“For this reason,” he said, “what is needed today is a renewed commitment to protect each person in their daily life and to protect their dignity and human rights, their security and their comprehensive needs.” At the same time, he continued, “it is necessary to preserve freedom and the social and cultural identity of peoples.”

Aid for those in need must begin on a personal level, he said, but must also involve working together.

Pope Francis also said he hoped the Summit would be the occasion for recognizing the important work of many who “serve their neighbor and contribute to consoling” those who suffer.

He emphasized that love is not directed to ideas, but to persons.

Finally, Pope Francis offered a challenge to those taking part in the Summit: “let us hear the cry of the victims and those suffering.  Let us allow them to teach us a lesson in humanity.  Let us change our ways of life, politics, economic choices, behaviours and attitudes of cultural superiority. Learning from victims and those who suffer, we will be able to build a more humane world.”

Below, please find the full text of Pope Francis’ Message to the World Humanitarian Summit:

To His Excellency Ban Ki-moon Secretary-General of the United Nations

I wish to greet all those taking part in this first World Humanitarian Summit, the President of Turkey together with the organizers of this meeting, and you, Mr. Secretary-General, who have called for this occasion to be a turning point for the lives of millions of people who need protection, care and assistance, and who seek a dignified future.

I hope that your efforts may contribute in a real way to alleviating the sufferings of these millions of people, so that the fruits of the Summit may be demonstrated through a sincere solidarity and a true and profound respect for the rights and dignity of those suffering due to conflicts, violence, persecution and natural disasters.  In this context, the victims are those who are most vulnerable, those who live in conditions of misery and exploitation.

We cannot deny that many interests today prevent solutions to conflicts, and that military, economic and geopolitical strategies displace persons and peoples and impose the god of money, the god of power.  At the same time, humanitarian efforts are frequently conditioned by commercial and ideological constraints. 

For this reason, what is needed today is a renewed commitment to protect each person in their daily life and to protect their dignity and human rights, their security and their comprehensive needs.  At the same time, it is necessary to preserve freedom and the social and cultural identity of peoples; without this leading to instances of isolation, it should also favour cooperation, dialogue, and especially peace. 

“Leaving no one behind” and “doing one’s very best” demands that we do not give up and that we take responsibility for our decisions and actions regarding the victims themselves.  First of all, we must do this in a personal way, and then together, coordinating our strengths and initiatives, with mutual respect for our various skills and areas of expertise, not discriminating but rather welcoming.  In other words: there must be no family without a home, no refugee without a welcome, no person without dignity, no wounded person without care, no child without a childhood, no young man or woman without a future, no elderly person without a dignified old age. 

May this also be the occasion to recognize the work of those who serve their neighbour and contribute to consoling the sufferings of the victims of war and calamity, of the displaced and refugees, and who care for society, particularly through courageous choices in favour of peace, respect, healing and forgiveness.  This is the way in which human lives are saved.

No one loves a concept, no one loves an idea; we love persons.  Self-sacrifice, true self-giving, flows from love towards men and women, the children and elderly, peoples and communities… faces, those faces and names which fill our hearts. 

Today I offer a challenge to this Summit: let us hear the cry of the victims and those suffering.  Let us allow them to teach us a lesson in humanity.  Let us change our ways of life, politics, economic choices, behaviours and attitudes of cultural superiority. Learning from victims and those who suffer, we will be able to build a more humane world.           

I assure you my prayers, and I invoke upon all present the divine blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.

                                                                                    Franciscus PP.

From the Vatican, 21 May 2016


(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis receives Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in audience

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis received in audience in the Vatican on Monday the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheik Ahmed Muhammad Al-Tayyib.  

In a note, the Director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi sj. said the approximately 30 minute meeting was “very cordial” and that the Grand Imam of Egypt “was accompanied by an important delegation, which included: Dr. Abbas Shouman, Undersecretary of Al-Azhar; Dr. Mahmaoud Hamdi Zakzouk, member of the Council of Senior Scholars of Al-Azhar University and Director of the Center for Dialogue of Al-Azhar; Judge Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Salam, Advisor to the Great Imam; Dr. Mohie Afifi Afifi Ahmed, secretary-general of the Islamic Research Academy; Ambassador Mahmoud Abdel Gawad, Diplomatic Advisor to the Grand Imam; Mr. Tamer Tawfik, Advisor; and Mr Ahmad Alshourbagy, Second Secretary. The delegation was accompanied by the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Holy See, Mr. Hatem Seif Elnasr.

Upon his arrival in the Vatican, the Grand Imam was welcomed, and then accompanied to his audience with the Pope, by the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Card. Jean-Louis Tauran, and by the Secretary of the same dicastery, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot. 

Fr. Lombardi further states that the Pope and Grand Imam noted “the great significance of this new meeting in the framework of dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam.” The two then mainly “discussed the common commitment of the authorities and the faithful of the great religions for peace in the world, the rejection of violence and terrorism, the situation of Christians in the context of conflicts and tensions in the Middle East and their protection.”

During the meeting, Pope Francis gave the Grand Imam the Medallion of the olive tree of peace and a copy of his Encyclical Letter Laudato si'.

Following his audience with the Holy Father, the Grand Imam and his delegation met briefly with Cardinal Tauran and Bishop Guixot Ayuso in another audience hall in the Apostolic Palace.  

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Christians live God’s love with joy, astonishment

(Vatican Radio)  No Christian can exist without joy: that’s what Pope Francis said in his Homily at Mass Monday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta guesthouse.  The Pope stressed that even through life’s difficulties, the Christian knows he can trust in Jesus and find hope.  The Pope also reminded the faithful they should not allow riches to dominate their lives because they ultimately lead to sadness. 

Listen to our report:

Christians live in joy and amazement because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Commenting on the First Letter of St. Peter the Apostle, Francis pointed out that, even if we are plagued by trials, we can never lose the joy of knowing that God “regenerated us in Christ and gave us hope".

The identity card of the Christian is the joy of the Gospel

He noted that we can go towards that “hope” which "the early Christians depicted as an anchor in heaven."  We too, can “ take the rope and go up there," to "that hope" that brings joy:

"A Christian is a man, or a woman, of joy: a man and a woman with joy in their heart. There is no Christian without joy!”  You may be told that there are many such Christians, the Pope warned, but  “they are not Christians! They say they are, but they are not! They are missing something.”

“The Christian identity card is joy, the Gospel’s joy, the joy of having been chosen by Jesus, saved by Jesus, regenerated by Jesus; the joy of that hope that Jesus is waiting for us, the joy that - even with the crosses and sufferings we bear in this life - is expressed in another way, which is peace in the certainty that Jesus accompanies us, is with us. "

"The Christian,” he added,   “grows in joy through trusting in God. God always remembers his covenant." And in turn, "the Christian knows that God remembers him, that God loves him , that God accompanies him, that God is waiting for him. And this is joy."

Slavery to riches is an evil which leads to sadness

Turning to the day’s Gospel story regarding Jesus’s encounter with the wealthy man, the Pope observed the young man “was not able to open his heart to joy [and] chose sadness," "for he had many possessions."

"He was shackled  to his belongings! Jesus told us that one cannot serve two masters: either one must serve God or serve riches. Riches are not bad in themselves, but slavery to wealth – this, is wickedness. The poor young man went away sad ... 'He frowned and he went away sorrowful'. When in our parishes, in our communities, in our institutions we find people who say they are Christians and want to be Christian but are sad, something is wrong there. And we must help them to find Jesus, to take away that sadness, so that they may rejoice in the gospel, can have this joy which is truly of the Gospel. "

"Joy and amazement:" that’s what the Christian feels when faced with God’s revelation and love, and “the emotions stirred by the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis added.   And here, the Pope recalled Jesus’s disappointment  when he told the Apostles that the young man could not follow him, because he was too attached to his riches.  And when the Apostles asked the Lord, ‘who then, can be saved?’  The Lord answered, "Impossible for men," "but not for God."

Christian joy, then, and the ability to “be saved from worldly attachments” can “only come through the power of God, with the strength of the Holy Spirit."

Concluding, Pope Francis prayed that the Lord “graces us with amazement in his presence, in the presence of the many spiritual treasures he has given us; and with this amazement, may he give us joy, the joy of our lives - and of having our hearts at peace even when faced with many difficulties.  And may he protect us from seeking happiness in so many things that ultimately sadden us:  they promise much, but they will not give us anything! Remember well: a Christian is a man, and  a woman, of joy, joy in the Lord; a man and a woman of wonder ."

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Angelus: The Holy Trinity, where there is love there is God

(Vatican Radio) “The feast of the Holy Trinity invites us to engage in the daily events to be the leaven of communion, of consolation and of mercy.” Those were Pope Francis' words during his Angelus address on a sunny Trinity Sunday from his studio above St Peter’s Square.

Drawing inspiration from the  Gospel of St. John, the Pope said that Jesus knew how to be close to the realization of the Father's plan, which will be fulfilled by his death and resurrection; “for this, Pope Francis continued, he wants to ensure his followers that he will not abandon them because his mission will be prolonged by the Holy Spirit.”

The Holy Father explained that the Holy Spirit “guides us into new life situations with an eye to Jesus and, at the same time, open to events and to the future.” “He takes care of the wounded flesh of humanity from injustice, oppression, hatred and greed.”

Then the Pope described how the Trinity is a family of three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit which is not closed in on itself, but it is open,

The Trinitarian horizon of communion, said Pope Francis, “embraces us all, and encourages us to live in love and fraternal sharing, assured that where there is love, there is God.”

The Holy Father went on to say that, our being created in the image and likeness of God calls us to understand ourselves as beings living interpersonal relations in solidarity and love for one another.

Following the recitation of the Marian Prayer, the Pope recalled that May 23rd sees the start of the First World Humanitarian Summit, due to take place in Istanbul, Turkey. The Holy Father prayed that the participants would fully commit themselves to the main humanitarian goal, that is, “to save the life of every human being, without exception, especially the innocent and the defenseless.”

Pope Francis also noted that on Tuesday, May 24, the Catholic faithful in China, would be celebrating their particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary "Help of Christians", venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. Let us ask Mary, he said, “ to give his children in China the ability to discern at all times the signs of the loving presence of God, who always welcomes and forgives.”


(from Vatican Radio)

Pope to Italian footballers: display true sportsmanship

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Friday urged Italian football (soccer) players to not just be champions in their sport but above all champions in their lives, by displaying key moral values such as brotherhood, mutual respect, understanding and forgiveness. His remarks came during an audience at the Vatican with top representatives of Italy’s Seria A Football League as well as players from the Juventus and AC Milan teams. The two Seria A teams play each other at the weekend in the final of the Italian cup (Coppa Italia) in Rome’s Olympic Stadium.

A keen football fan himself, Pope Francis reminded the players, that as role models for many fans, especially the young, their behaviour should always reflect “the authentic values of sport.” He said the success of a team depends on a fusion of human and moral virtues such as “harmony, loyalty, friendship, dialogue and solidarity.” By being a witness of those moral virtues, he continued, you can emphasize even more the real purpose of the world of sport that is “sometimes marred by negative episodes.”   

The Pope reminded the players that they are not just footballers but first and foremost a human being, each with their own conscience, and urged them to always show “brotherhood, mutual respect, understanding and forgiveness.” “Be champions in sport but above all champions in your life,” he stressed.

Pope Francis concluded by encouraging the players to always highlight whatever is “truly good and beautiful” and to not be afraid to share and display with their fans “the moral and religious principles” on which they wish to base their life.

Listen to this report by Susy Hodges:  

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: Understanding for sinners, no negotiating the truth

(Vatican Radio) Announcing the word of God should never be dissociated from the understanding of human weakness. That was Pope Francis’ message during the daily Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. Commenting on the Gospel passage in which Christ speaks with the Pharisees about adultery, he said the Lord overcomes the human vision which would reduce the vision of God to a casuistic equation.

The Gospel, the Pope said, is full of examples of the Pharisees and the doctors of the law attempting to trap Jesus by catching Him off guard, seeking to undermine the authority and favour he enjoys with the people. One of those attempts is related in the day’s Gospel, in which the Pharisees tempt Him by asking if it is licit for a man to put away his wife.

Truth, not casuistry

Pope Francis speaks of the “trap” of “casuistry,” concocted by “a small group of enlightened theologians,” convinced that they “have all the knowledge and wisdom of the people of God.” It is a snare from which Jesus escapes, he says, by going “beyond,” “to the fullness of matrimony.” The Lord had already done so with the Sadducees, the Pope recalled, when they had questioned Him about the woman who had had seven husbands. At the resurrection, Jesus affirmed, she would not be the wife of any of them, because in heaven “they neither marry nor are given in marriage.”

In that case, the Pope said, Christ looked to the “eschatological fullness” of marriage. With the Pharisees, on the other hand, He referred to “the fullness of the harmony of creation.” “God created them male and female,” and “the two became one flesh.”

“They are no longer two, but one flesh,” and so “no human must separate what God has joined. Both in the case of the levirate marriage and in this case, Jesus responds with the overwhelming truth, with the blunt truth: This is the truth! Always from the fullness. And Jesus never negotiates with the truth. And these people, this small group of enlightened theologians, always negotiate with the truth, reducing it to casuistry. And Jesus never negotiates with the truth. And this is the truth about marriage, there is no other.

Truth and understanding

“But Jesus,” Pope Francis continued, “so merciful, He is so great, that he never, never, never, closes the door to sinners.” And so He does not limit Himself to proclaiming the truth of God, but goes on to ask the Pharisees what Moses had established in the Law. And when the Pharisees responded that Moses permitted a husband to write a bill of divorce, Jesus replied that this was permitted “because of the hardness of your hearts.” That is, the Pope explained, Jesus always distinguished between the truth and “human weakness” without “twisting words.”

In the world in which we live, with this culture of the provisional, this reality of sin is so strong. But Jesus, recalling Moses, tells us: “But there is hardness of heart, there is sin, something can be done: forgiveness, understanding, accompaniment, integration, discernment of these cases… But always… But the truth is never sold. And Jesus is capable of stating this very great truth, and at the same time being so understanding with sinners, with the weak.

Forgiveness is not an equation

And so, Pope Francis emphasized, these are “the two things that Jesus teaches us: truth and understanding.” This is what the “enlightened theologians” fail to do, because they are closed in the trap of “a mathematical equation” of “Can it be done? Can it not be done?” and so they are “incapable both of great horizons, and of love” for human weakness. It is enough to see, the Pope concluded, the “delicacy” with which Jesus treated the adulteress woman who was about to be stoned: “Neither do I condemn you: Go forth, and sin no more.”

May Jesus teach us to have at heart a great adhesion to the truth, and also at heart a great understanding and accompaniment for all our brothers who are in difficulty. And this is a gift, this is what the Holy Spirit teaches us, not these enlightened doctors, who to teach us need to reduce the fullness of God to a casuistic equation. May the Lord give us this grace.


(from Vatican Radio)

A new public appearance by Benedict XVI? Maybe so, his secretary reveals

Vatican City, May 23, 2016 / 11:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Former Pope Benedict XVI could appear in public once again on June 29, the 65th anniversary of his priestly ordination. Speaking after the May 20 presentation of a book dedicated to Benedict XVI’s pontificate, Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the Pontifical Household and private secretary to the retired Pope, said that “there will be another occasion to see the Pope emeritus in public.” “Benedict XVI will celebrate the 65th anniversary of priesthood June 29, and we will see what we will be able to manage…this may present an opportunity to show that Benedict XVI is well.” The Catholic Church celebrates the martyrdom of Peter and Paul on June 29, patron saints of the city of Rome. On this feast, newly created metropolitan archbishops celebrate Mass with the Pope in St. Peter’s Basilica and receive the pallium, the primary symbol of their office. Benedict XVI has appeared in public half a dozen times since he stepped down three years ago. He took part in both of Pope Francis’ first two cardinal-creating consistories, held Feb. 22, 2014 and Feb. 14, 2015. He was also present Sept. 27, 2014 at the Festival of Grandparents. He con-celebrated the canonization Mass of John XXIII and John Paul II Apr. 27, 2014, and he took part in Paul VI’s beatification Mass Oct. 19, 2015. He was also the first pilgrim to pass through the Holy Door after Pope Francis at the inauguration of the Jubilee of Mercy on Dec. 8, 2015. Pope Francis and Benedict XVI have also had several private meetings, some of them documented with pictures. Pope Francis visited Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo March 23, 2013, and he welcomed the retired pontiff back in the Vatican May 2 of that year. The two Popes together blessed the St. Michael the Archangel statue displayed in the Vatican Gardens July 5, 2013. Pope Francis also went to wish Benedict XVI Christmas greetings Dec. 23, 2013, and the retired Pope in turn had lunch with Pope Francis in Domus Sanctae Marthae Dec. 27, 2013. If Benedict does make a public appearance June 29, it would commemorate a very powerful moment in his life and ministry. Joseph Ratzinger – who would become Benedict XVI – was ordained a priest June 29, 1951, in the Cathedral of Saint Mary and Saint Corbinian in Freising, Germany. Later, in the same cathedral, he recalled the event, speaking off-the-cuff to priests and permanent deacons Sep. 14, 2006. On that occasion, a visibly moved Benedict XVI recounted: “Now that I am back in this cathedral, many memories come to me as I see before me my old companions, and also the young priests who are handing on the message, the torch of the faith. Memories of my ordination, of which Cardinal Wetter has spoken, come to mind.” Looking at the altar, the Pope went on: “Here I lay prostrate, enveloped by the litany of all the saints, by the intercession of all the saints. I realized that on this path we are not alone, that the great multitude of saints walk with us, and the living saints, the faithful of today and tomorrow, sustain us and walk with us. Then came the laying on of hands, and finally Cardinal Faulhaber proclaimed to us: ‘Iam non dico vos servos sed amicos’ –‘I do not call you servants, but friends’; at that moment, I experienced my priestly ordination as an initiation into the community of Jesus’ friends, called to be with him and to proclaim his message.”  

In seismic meeting, Pope Francis embraces top Sunni imam

Vatican City, May 23, 2016 / 10:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Monday embraced the grand imam Sheik Ahmed Muhammad Al-Tayyib during a meeting at the Vatican, a move which is being seen as a step toward reopening dialogue between Christians and Sunni Muslims. “Our meeting is the message,” the Pope was heard to have said to the imam during the meeting. The pontiff and Al-Tayyib, who is the grand imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque, observed the significance of the meeting “within the framework of dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam,” said Holy See press office director Fr. Federico Lombardi. They addressed the commitment on the part of authorities and the faithful of major religions alike to toward bringing world peace, “the rejection of violence and terrorism, and the situation of Christians in the context of conflicts and tensions in the Middle East and their protection.” Following their 30 minute “very cordial” meeting in the pontiff's private library, Pope Francis presented the iman with a medallion depicting an olive of peace, as well as a copy of his Encyclical “Laudato Si.” Al-Tayyib was joined by a large delegation, which was joined by the Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Holy See, Hatem Seif Elnasr. The imam also met with the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, and secretary of that council, Msgr. Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot. The meeting comes five years after Pope Benedict XVI denounced a New Year's Eve attack which killed 21 people at a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria, and called for better protection of Christian communities. According to the AP, the Al-Azhar in Cairo put a freeze on talks with the Holy See as a result of Benedict's remarks. However, while the persecution of Christians has increased in the region, steps had recently been taken toward reopening dialogue. In February, a Holy See delegation in Cairo extended an invitation for el-Tayyib to visit the Pope at the Vatican.

Holy Trinity calls us to solidarity with others, Pope says

Vatican City, May 22, 2016 / 08:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The feast of the Holy Trinity is an invitation for us to commit to enriching our everyday relationships by promoting communion, consolation, and mercy, Pope Francis said during his weekly Sunday Angelus address. "Our being created in the image and likeness of God-communion calls us to understand ourselves as beings-in-relation, and to live interpersonal relationships in solidarity and reciprocal love," the Pope told the pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. "In this mission, we are sustained by the strength which the Holy Spirit gives us: this cures the flesh of humanity wounded by injustice, oppression, hate, and greed." Pope Francis centered his May 22 Angelus address on the feast of the Holy Trinity, which is celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Delivering his address from the papal palace to a packed square, the pontiff said the "'Divine Family' is not closed in on itself, but is open, communicates in creation and in history, and has entered into the world of men to call everyone to take part." "The feast of the Most Holy Trinity invites us to commit ourselves in the everyday events in order to be the leaven of communion, of consolation, and of mercy." Pope Francis explained how these relationships play out in ecclesial communities, families, friends, work colleagues, and the like. These "are concrete occasions offered to us to build ever more humanly rich relationships, capable of reciprocal respect and selfless love." The day's Gospel reading from John, he explained, is taken from a portion of Jesus' discourse shortly before his Passion, in which Christ outlines the relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Knowing that he must fulfill the Father's plan through his own death and resurrection, Jesus assures the disciples that he will not abandon them, "because his mission will be continued by the Holy Spirit," the Pope said. He said that Jesus explains how the "Holy Spirit guides us in understanding the many things which Jesus himself still has to say." The Holy Spirit guides in new life situations, helping us to keep our gaze on Jesus, while being "open to events and to the future." "He helps us walk in history, firmly rooted in the Gospel, and with dynamic fidelity to our traditions and customs." "However, the mystery of the Trinity also speaks about us, our relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit," Pope Francis said. Through Baptism, "the Holy Spirit has placed in the heart and life of God, who is the communion of love," the pontiff said. "God is a 'family' of three Persons who love each other so much as to form into one." Finally, Pope Francis turned to Mary, "the mirror of the Trinity, to reenforce our faith in the Trinitarian Mystery, and to embody it with choices and attitudes of love and unity." After leading the crowds in the Angelus prayer, the Pope acknowledged the beatification of Francesco Maria Greco, diocesan priest, founder of the Sisters Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts. "We give thanks to God for this exemplary priest," he said, to rounds of applause from the crowd. "This applause is for many good priests who are here in Italy!" Pope Francis also mentioned the First World Humanitarian Summit, set to take commence in Istanbul on Monday. The aim of the gathering is to look at measures needed to address "the dramatic humanitarian situations caused by conflicts, environmental problems and extreme poverty," the pontiff said. "We accompany with prayer the participants at that meeting, in order that they may fully commit themselves to the principle humanitarian goal: saving the life of every human being, without exception, especially the innocent and the defenseless." Pope Francis observed that Tuesday, May 24, the Catholics of China celebrate the Mary Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai. Saying that "we will unite spiritually to the Catholic faithful in China," on that day, he asked Mary "to give to her children in China the ability to discern at all times the signs of the loving presence of God, who always welcomes always forgives." "In this Year of Mercy, Chinese Catholics, along with those who follow other noble religious traditions, can become a concrete sign of love and reconciliation," the pontiff said. "In this way, they may promote an authentic culture of encounter and harmony of the whole society, the harmony that so loves the Chinese spirit."

Vatican: recent stories about Benedict XVI and Fatima secrets are 'absolutely untrue'

Vatican City, May 21, 2016 / 09:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican announced today that recent articles claiming that Pope emeritus Benedict XVI said that the Third Secret of Fatima was not released in its entirety back in 2000 are “pure inventions” and “absolutely untrue.” The Holy See Press Office released a statement May 21 responding to recent blog posts that, during his time as Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger told someone the Third Secret of Fatima was not completely published. According to one article, Professor Ingo Dollinger was told by Cardinal Ratzinger that the Third Secret of Fatima, released in 2000 during the Jubilee Year by Pope John Paul II, was “incomplete.” “In this regard, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI declares ‘never to have spoken with Professor Dollinger about Fatima’, clearly affirming that the remarks attributed to Professor Dollinger on the matter ‘are pure inventions, absolutely untrue’, and he confirms decisively that ‘the publication of the Third Secret of Fatima is complete,’” the Vatican statement said. On May 13, 1917, brothers Francisco and Jacinta Marto – 9 and 7 years-old – and their cousin, 10-year-old Lucia dos Santos, were with their sheep grazing near the Portuguese town of Fatima when they saw a figure of a woman dressed in white and holding a rosary. After this first appearance, the Virgin Mary would come to the children on the 13th of the month from May until October. The message of the Fatima apparitions can be summarized primarily as a call to repentance and prayer. In 1930, the Catholic Church proclaimed the supernatural character of the apparitions and a shrine was erected at Fatima. Pope Paul VI visited Fatima in 1967, and later Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI visited during their pontificates. Pope Francis plans to visit Fatima in 2017 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions.

Pope Francis clarifies question on diocesan religious institutes

Vatican City, May 20, 2016 / 04:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis issued a binding clarification of a question regarding Canon Law and the establishment of new diocesan Institutes of Consecrated Life on Friday. Specifically, the Holy Father confirmed that a local Ordinary (diocesan bishop) who wishes to establish a new Institute of Consecrated Life within his own diocese under his own authority must first consult with the Holy See before deciding to establish the new Institute. The Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, told Vatican Radio that the local bishop does not have to obtain permission, per se, but must at least consult with and hear from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life before proceeding. “The bishop is always responsible in his diocese – but he has to evaluate the answer, the opinion, of the Congregation,” Bishop Arrieta told Vatican radio. “After (hearing) the opinion of the Congregation, he remains free to act in one sense or in the other; but he has to balance, to think about, the opinion...of the Congregation, and that is important – very important – even in diocesan governance.” The initial inquiry came from the Congregation for Consecrated Life, and was issued to the Holy Father through the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and asked Pope Francis to clarify the meaning of Canon 579 of the Code of Canon Law The clarification by the Holy Father was issued by way of Papal Rescript, which is an official written answer by the Roman Pontiff to a formal petition regarding the interpretation or administration of Roman canon law and any associated law directly subject to it. A Papal Rescript is technically equivalent to the highest form of “Judicial Appeal” in the Western Roman legal system, according to Canon 6555.

Pope Francis offers prayers following EgyptAir plane crash

Vatican City, May 20, 2016 / 09:58 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis has voiced his prayers and condolences to all those affected by the apparent crash of an EgyptAir plane in the Mediterranean Sea Thursday morning. “Having learned with sadness of the tragic crash of the Egyptian passenger airliner, Pope Francis wishes to assure you of his prayers and solidarity at this difficult time,” said a telegram from Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin to Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. It added that the Pope “commends the souls of the deceased of various nationalities to the mercy of the Almighty.” “Upon the relatives of the passengers and all those involved in the search and rescue efforts, His Holiness invokes the divine blessings of strength and peace,” the telegram said. Early Thursday morning, an Airbus A320 disappeared while traveling from Paris to Cairo. Flight MS804 have been carrying 66 passengers and crew. According to Greek authorities, radar showed it making two sharp, zig-zag and dropping some 25,000 feet before falling into the sea. International military units are searching the area, looking for wreckage and clues to what happened in the plane’s final hour. The cause of the crash remains unknown. Egyptian authorities say terrorism is more likely than a technical failure, although no terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the act. Investigations are also underway to determine whether a security breach occurred in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport.  

Exploiting workers is a form of trafficking, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, May 19, 2016 / 04:07 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During his Mass on Thursday, Pope Francis preached a warning to the rich who oppress the poor, focusing on employers who accumulate wealth by misusing those who work for them. “We consider this drama of today: the exploitation of the people, the blood of these people who become slaves, the traffickers of people – and not just those who deal in prostitutes and children for child labour,” Pope Francis said May 19 during his Mass in the chapel of Santa Marta House in the Vatican. In addition, he said, there is a “more – so to speak – 'civilized'” form of trafficking which happens when an employer says, “I’ll pay you this much, without vacation, without health care, … everything under the table… But I will become rich!” The Pope's homily was based on the Epistle of James, which told of woe for the rich who oppress the poor. Calling the passage “a little strong,” he said St. James clearly “understood the danger there is when a Christian allows himself to be controlled by wealth.” Riches, Pope Francis said, “in and of themselves are good things,” and noted that there are “many righteous rich men” in the Bible, including Job and Tobias. However, he added, riches are a “relative, not absolute” good, and the Lord commended Solomon “for asking not for wealth but for wisdom of heart.” In themselves, riches “are good; but if you prefer to serve God, riches come in second place – the right place,” he said. Pope Francis recalled the rich young man in the Gospel, saying that he “was good, but attached to riches, and these riches in the end became for him the chains that took away his freedom to follow Jesus.” He criticized the “theology of prosperity,” according to which “God shows you that you are just if he give you great riches,” calling it mistaken. The Pope offered these questions as a way to examine one's conscience with regard to wealth: “Is my heart set on riches or is it not? What is my relationship with wealth?” He said St. James' warning to the rich was aimed especially at those whose “wealth is made by exploiting people … those rich people who exploit [others], they take advantage of the work of the people, and those poor people become slaves.” Giving a contemporary example, he pointed to those who are given only seasonal work, “with no opportunity for a pension, without health insurance.” Employers who do this “are true leeches and they live by spilling the blood of the people whom they make slaves of labour.” He also pointed to a woman who was offered a job working 11-hour days for less than $730 a month, all under the table. When she balked, he said, she was told: “Look at the line behind you. If you want it, take it, if no, leave. There are others waiting.” Such employers “fatten themselves on wealth,” Pope Francis said, adding that contemporary exploitation of workers “is truly a form of slavery.” “We used to think that slaves no longer exist: they exist. It’s true, people are not going and taking them from Africa to sell them in America, no. But it is in our cities.” Such employers are traffickers and “do not realize it,” he said. “The blood you have sucked from of all these people … is a cry to the Lord, it is a cry for justice.” The Pope also referred to Christ's story of The Rich Man and Lazarus, saying the rich man “was in his own world; he did not notice that on the other side of the door to his house was someone who was starving. But this is worse. That rich man at least did not realize, and left the other man to die of hunger. But this is worse. This is starving the people with their work for my own profit! Living on the blood of the people. And this is a mortal sin. This is a mortal sin. It requires a great deal of penance, a great deal of restitution, in order to be converted from this sin.” Pope Francis concluded his homily by asking that that the Lord might “make us understand today the simplicity that Jesus speaks to us of in today's Gospel: a glass of water in the name of Christ is more important than all the riches accumulated through the exploitation of the people.”

Pope Francis to meet top Sunni imam at the Vatican

Vatican City, May 19, 2016 / 09:08 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An official meeting between Pope Francis and Imam Ahmed al Tayyeb will take place Monday at the Vatican, signaling a new step in Catholic-Muslim relations. “An audience between the Pope and the Great Imam of al Azhar is being prepared for Monday,” Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi told journalists May 19. He said the schedule for the visit “still has to be defined,” but confirmed that the meeting will take place Monday, May 23. The Imam of al Azhar, currently Ahmed al Tayyeb, is considered by some Muslims to be the highest authority in Sunni Islam and oversees Egypt’s al-Azhar Mosque and the prestigious al-Azhar University attached to it. Founded in the Fatimid dynasty in the late 10th century together with the adjoining mosque, the university is one of the most renowned study centers for the legal principals of Sunni Islam. According to Fr. Lombardi, the Egyptian university is also considered to be “the most authoritative theological-academic institution of Sunni Islam.” In 1961 Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser “secularized” the university by including a curriculum which isn’t exclusively religious. However, the underlying principles have remained the same. The meeting between Pope Francis and the Great Imam of al Azhar has been in the works since February, when Bishop Miguel Àngel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the apostolic nuncio in Egypt, Archbishop Bruno Musarò, visited the al-Azhar Mosque and University. During their visit, Bishop Ayuso gave Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, a letter expressing his willingness to meet with the Grand Imam and to accompany him for an official audience with the Pope. The meeting between the two is seen as a thawing of relations between the al-Azhar institution and the Holy See, which were strained in 2011 with claims that Pope Benedict XVI had “interfered” in Egypt’s internal affairs by condemning a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria during the time of Coptic Christmas. Relations under Francis have improved with his constant appeals for interfaith dialogue. Shortly after his 2013 election, Pope Francis sent a personal message to Muslims marking the end of the first month of Ramadan.

Your job is to give voice to the suffering, Pope tells new ambassadors

Vatican City, May 19, 2016 / 07:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- As six new ambassadors to the Holy See presented Pope Francis with their credentials, the pontiff stressed that as representatives of their people, they must be the voice of those suffering from tragedies. “For those suffering the tragedy of violence and forced migration, we must be resolute in making their plight known to the world community,” the Pope told a group of six new ambassadors to the Holy See, who presented him with their credentials May 19. He said that as diplomats, their efforts to advocate on behalf of those forced to leave their homes involuntarily is essential, so that “as they lack the strength or ability to cry out, their voice may be heard in our own.” The path of diplomacy helps to both “amplify and convey this cry” by pursuing effective solutions to the complex, underlying causes of the modern conflicts, he said. In particular, this applies to “our efforts to remove weapons from those perpetrating violence, and to end the scourge of human trafficking and the drug trade which often support this evil.” Pope Francis met with the new ambassadors inside the Sala Clementina of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace. Present alongside their families, they represent the countries of the Seychelles, Thailand, Estonia, Malawi, Zambia and Namibia. Just under two weeks ago the Pope outlined his “dream” for a renewed Europe based on fresh ideas and a revamped economy that promotes integration and respect for basic human rights and dignity, particularly for incoming migrants. The majority of the new ambassadors who presented their credentials today come African nations – where a large number of Europe’s migrant influx comes from – and so represent the other side of issue. In his speech to them, Francis told the diplomats that their presence serves as a reminder that while their nationalities, cultures and religions might differ, “we are united by our common humanity and a shared mission to care for society and creation.” With so many throughout the world suffering due to problems such as war, conflict, displacement, forced migration and the uncertainties brought on by economic hardship, a united service to humanity is increasingly necessary, he said. The Pope stressed that problems won’t be solved by discussion alone, but by “concrete signs of solidarity” with those most in need. However, for this solidarity to be effective, he said, global efforts must be directed to pursuing a peace in which “each individual’s natural rights and integral human development are nurtured and guaranteed.” Francis said the task of obtaining such a peace requires a coordinated effort encouraging members of local communities to become “artisans of peace” at home, and to promote social justice and respect for creation. But in an increasingly “fragmented and indifferent” world in which people choose to “isolate themselves from harsh realities” they’d rather not face, this task is becoming more and more difficult, he said. Many people are “afraid of terrorism and of a growing influx of migrants fundamentally changing their culture, economic stability and way of life,” the Pope said, explaining that these are understandable concerns which one can’t “dismiss lightly.” However, although the fears have a rational foundation, “they must be addressed in an intelligent and creative way, so that the rights and needs of all are respected and upheld.” Efforts toward peace ought to first help people to stay in their homelands, he said, but noted that the present migration crisis requires incoming peoples to be helped and cared for. “We must not allow misunderstanding and fear to weaken our resolve. Rather, we are called to build a culture of dialogue,” the Pope said, explaining that by doing so, a full integration can be reached that both preserves the culture of the host country, and respects the traditions of incoming migrants. “This is essential,” Francis said, adding that if a mentality of misunderstanding and fear prevails, “something of ourselves dies, our cultures, history and traditions are weakened, and our own peace is compromised.” But if we are able to foster dialogue and solidarity at both the individual and collective level, “it is then that we experience the best of humanity and secure an enduring peace for all, as intended by our Creator.” Pope Francis closed his speech by sending a personal greeting to the pastors and faithful of each country represented, encouraging them to be heralds of both hope and peace in their communities. He referred specifically to Christian and other minority communities who suffer persecution for their beliefs, assuring them of his “prayerful support and solidarity.”

This Saint Bernard just met Pope Francis

Vatican City, May 18, 2016 / 12:16 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While Pope Francis might have chastised animal-lovers who treat their pets better than people in last week’s general audience, that didn’t stop him from giving a good pat on the head to Magnum – the Saint Bernard with VIP access to today’s audience. Magnum is quite literally a “Great Saint Bernard.” Bred by an order of priests known as Augustinian Canons, he was born on the Great Saint Bernard Pass, one of the highest passes in the Alps connecting Switzerland and Italy.   He is also a descendant of Barry, one of the most famous St. Bernard rescue dogs known to history. Long before Beethoven drooled his way onto the big screen, Saint Bernard dogs had been made famous by the Augustinians for a more noble cause: saving lives. Since the early 18th century, the Augustinian monks who lived in the treacherous Great Saint Bernard Pass kept the dogs in order to help them on their rescue missions to save stranded travelers after bad snowstorms. Sitting just over 8,000 feet above sea level, the pass stretches 49 miles and in previous centuries was an extremely dangerous route to take. So in order to help travelers who met trouble along the way, Augustine monk St. Bernard de Menthon founded a refuge and monastery around the year 1050. It wasn’t until sometime between the years 1660-1670 that the monks at what become known as the “Great St. Bernard Hospice” acquired their first dogs, who for the next 150 years served as both companions, scouts and rescuers for travelers in trouble. A “hospice” at that time was a lodging for travelers. If the dogs found an injured traveler stuck in the snow, one would typically lay on top of the person to keep them warm, while another would return to the hospice to alert the monks that someone was stranded. Perhaps the most famous of the St. Bernard rescue dogs was Barry, who lived in the monastery from around 1800-1812, and saved the lives of more than 40 people. In total, the St. Bernard rescue dogs are credited with saving roughly 2,000 lives. Magnum was present at the Pope’s general audience through the help of UNESCO, who not only wanted to honor the memory of his the dog’s famous ancestor, but also garner support for their effort to declare the Great Saint Bernard Pass a World Heritage Site. Pioneering the effort is the “Barry Foundation,” which was established in 2005 to take over the breeding of the dogs and to ensure they have some social occupation. With the support of Pierre-Yves Fux, Switzerland’s Ambassador to the Holy See, the foundation was able to organize the visit to Rome. In addition to Magnum, others accompanying him to meet the Pope included a Swiss-Italian delegation composed of politicians and representatives of various organizations linked to the dogs and the Saint Bernard Pass.   Pope Francis met this St. Bernard today at the general audience. Read the story at CNA: — Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) May 18, 2016