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General Audience: love of family combats city desertification

(Vatican Radio) An estimated 15 thousand people were in St Peter’s Square for the Pope’s General audience on Wednesday, as he continued his catechesis on the family, which this week focused on the importance of families in spreading the faith. The Holy Father underlined that by creating the foundations of a solid faith in the home, the fruits are revealed in a more humane society.

Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report

The Pope said that the alliance of the family with God is called today to combat, what he called, the communal desertification of the modern city. He continued by saying that no political and economic policy can replace the contribution that families make to society, adding that we need to open up the love and warmth of the family to the city.

The Pope also explained that “Jesus, while affirming the primacy of faith in God, describes his disciples as brothers, sisters and mothers to him.”  In the Christian life, he said,  these family ties are transformed and enlarged; as spiritual fathers and mothers, as brothers and sisters to one another, and particularly to those in need, we bring the Father’s love to our world.

Within families, the Holy Father went on to say, faith becomes a powerful force for unity and love, and inspires a convincing witness to the Gospel. 

Pope Francis prayed that like the wine of the wedding feast at Cana, may our families bring happiness, joy and the warmth of God’s love to our world.

 

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis tells single mother "you respected life...don't be ashamed"

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis congratulated a single mother on her decision to give birth to two daughters, telling her “Don’t be ashamed.”

The exchange took place during a video link-up on Monday with three different U.S. cities: Chicago, Los Angeles and McAllen, Texas arranged by ABC News.

A clip of Pope Francis’ conversation with single-mother Rosemary Farfan was released on Tuesday.

“It hasn't been easy for me. I've made some mistakes as a person, as a mother,” she told the Pope.

"I've felt guilty at times and ashamed. ... But every day, I try and I hope and I pray.”

Pope Francis told her he knew “it’s not easy” to be a single mother.

“I know that people can sometimes look askance at you,” the pope said. “You're a brave woman because you're capable of bringing these two daughters into the world. ... You respected the life you were carrying inside you and God is going to reward you for that and he does reward for you for that. Don't be ashamed. ... I congratulate you.”

ABC News has said different parts of Pope Francis’ video-link up will be released each day until Friday, when the full encounter will air on a one-hour special edition of ABC News’ "20/20" at 10 p.m. Eastern Time.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope leads liturgy for Day of Prayer for Care of Creation

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday marked his first World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in Saint Peter’s Basilica with the celebration of a Liturgy of the Word.

Listen to Christopher Wells' report: 

The liturgical celebration for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation began with the canticle from the Book of Daniel, where all of creation is called upon to praise the Lord. In addition to readings from  Genesis and the Gospel of Saint Matthew, there was a reading from Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Laudato si’, which concluded with a passage from St Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of the Sun.

The homily during the liturgy was proclaimed by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher of the Pontifical Household. Father Cantalamessa focused three themes taken from the readings: “Fill the earth and subdue it”; “Whether or not to be concerned for tomorrow”; and “What Saint Francis can teach us.”

Caring for creation does not mean “dominating” the world we live in, but caring for it as God the Father cares for His creation. Jesus words from the Gospel – “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself” – do not imply a lack of concern for the future. They say, he said, do not worry about your future, but worry about the future of those who come after you. Finally, Saint Francis of Assisi gives us “living proof of the contribution that faith in God can give to the common effort to care for and protect the environment.”

Pope Francis concluded the Liturgy with a blessing: May your blessing act in us, O Lord, and transform us with your renewing power, so that we might be wholly disposed to the service of what is good.

(from Vatican Radio)

Cardinal Turkson: Peace is a fruit of justice

(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Peter Turkson, the President of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, on Tuesday said “peace is a fruit of justice” during an international symposium on Promoting a Culture of Peace in a World of Conflict being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Since peace is inconceivable without justice, a culture of peace requires a culture of justice; and both must begin with a commitment to respect radically the basic demands of all relationships in which we live, to live non-violently in the world and to care for the earth,” said Cardinal Turkson. “Such conduct is strengthened when different groups in society resolve conflict and differences with this approach.”

Cardinal Turkson also said for the Christian, faith is of paramount importance.

“For a Christian, the beginning and the goal of all building is Christ, the Alpha and the Omega,” he said.

“Our vision is entirely shaped by God’s salvific plan for the world – as set out in Scriptures and definitively expressed in the life and mission of Christ, continued through time in the Church – and at its centre is the human person,” continued Cardinal Turkson. “This is the foundation of our life and work.”

The full text of Cardinal Turkson’s interventions is below

 

INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM

PROMOÇÃO DA CULTURA DA PAZ NUM MUNDO EM CONFLITO

“Building-Blocks for a More Just and Peaceful Society”

Rio de Janeiro, 1 September 2015

PART ONE

Your Eminence, my Lord Bishops, Great Chancellor, Rectors and Deans, Very Rev. Monsignors, Rev. Fathers, Religious Brothers and Sisters, Esteemed Professors and Dear Students, Ladies and Gentlemen:

INTRODUCTION OF BIBLICAL JUSTICE:

With deep gratitude for the hospitable welcome extended to me, I bring warm greetings from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace to this important International Symposium seeking to promote a culture of peace in a tragically conflictual world. I am especially honoured to contribute to the impressive inter-disciplinary effort, and to the international cooperation undertaken by the sponsoring Catholic or Pontifical Universities here in Rio de Janeiro, in Lisbon and in Rome. May I congratulate the Authorities, the Faculties and the Students of the Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-RIO), the Universidade Católica Portuguesa (UCP) and the Pontifícia Universidade Gregoriana de Roma (PUG-Roma). May God generously bless all your reflections and interchanges with great success and, indeed, even more: with the transforming grace of justice and peace for all God’s people everywhere.

On this first day of the Symposium, my assignment is to suggest and explore some components for building peace in a more just society, and these I will derive from Catholic Social Teaching, which it is our Council’s task “to deepen” and “attempt to make … widely known and applied”.[1] Our discussions today will hopefully give rise to new and deeper questions which can be posed to the very rich biblical, philosophical and theological contributions to be made by Profa. Luísa Almendra and Rev. Prof. João Vila-Chã S.J. during the next two days.

Let me plunge right into my address (conferência), drawing not only on my studies in Sacred Scripture but also on my 18 years of experience as Archbishop in Ghana. For peace has a sister, and that sister’s name is justice.

Peace is the fruit of justice, and justice is a relational term. As ascribed to both God and man, justice primarily denotes “respect for the demands of the relationship in which one stands”. Thus the just or the righteous person of the Scriptures is one who respects the demands of the relationship in which he/she stands, be they the demands of relationship with the God of the covenants or the demands of relationships with brothers and sisters of the covenant community and even with the foreigner. The tsadiq/just/righteous of the Scriptures is one who respects the demands of relationships and builds communion, harmony and peace. This is how “justice and peace embrace, kiss” in the words of Psalm 85 (v. 11). The opposite, the rasha’/wicked, is one who disregards the demands of relationships, thus wrecking relationships, communion and peace.

Since peace is inconceivable without justice, a culture of peace requires a culture of justice; and both must begin with a commitment to respect radically the basic demands of all relationships in which we live, to live non-violently in the world and to care for the earth. Such conduct is strengthened when different groups in society resolve conflict and differences with this approach. Such are the conclusions of the Second Synod on “the Church in Africa in service to reconciliation, justice and peace” (October 2009),[2]

Commitment to justice and nonviolence is intrinsically connected to conversion. For some, it is motivated by a realization that violent solutions do not restore or facilitate long-lasting peaceful integration in societies, but often serve to magnify violence. Others become advocates of peaceful and nonviolent solutions when they are exposed to the human suffering caused by violence. Peacemakers tend to emerge from situations of suffering, not academic settings. Those who promote a peaceful transformation of the world have usually worked first to transform violent and oppressive tendencies in themselves and have become advocates for those who suffer the violent consequences of unjust structures.

The whole of life unfolds in relationships or in their absence or distortion. When we live in a manner that respects the demands of relationships, we are just, and we act with justice.[3] And the fruit of justice is peace. Peace is directly related to the quality of personal and communal relationships. To build a more peaceful world, we need just relationships at the personal level, between individuals, communities and nations, with creation, and ultimately with God. All of us contribute to a more just and less violent society by cultivating right and just relations at every level of our lives. If we are not actively contributing to the solution, then we are surely part of the problem. The question is simple: are we moving towards more just relations or in the opposite direction?

Half-a-century ago, the question was very dramatic and nearly tragic: we seemed to be moving inexorably towards the first (and last!) nuclear world war. In October 1962, during the pontificate of St John XXIII, the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world perilously to nuclear confrontation. The tensions of the Cold War between the USA and the USSR came close to a breaking point. The peace of the world was ominously threatened, and commitment to peace was sorely tried. It was in the tense aftermath of the crisis that Good Pope John wrote his encyclical letter, Pacem in Terris,[4] with its opening line: “Peace on Earth—which man throughout the ages has so longed for and sought after—can never be established, never guaranteed, except by the diligent observance of the divinely established order.”

In those moments of darkness and despair, the dying Pope gave tangible hope to the world, as he gently but persuasively proposed a solution of a practical politics of mediation, justice and political friendship. This was the first encyclical directed not only to Catholics but also “to all men of good will” who are called to a great task: “to establish with truth, justice, love and freedom new methods of relationships in human society”. For political friendship across differences is a foundational practice for social justice and peace.[5]

Thus the saintly Pope John provides two impeccable gold-standards for any work of just peace-building: deep respect for the “the divinely established order” and the courageous willingness to risk “political friendship across differences”. These are keepers as we now go forward towards our own time and face its challenges. It is our hope to assemble reliable building-blocks for greater justice and enduring peace. For this, we will now find extraordinarily helpful and complementary resources in the teaching of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and of Pope Francis.

INTRODUCTION OF PEACE-BUILDING:

Let us turn first to Pope Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate.[6] Issued over six years ago, this great social encyclical applies the deep resources of Catholic social tradition to the crucial social questions of the early 21st century. In Laudato si’. Pope Francis cites Caritas in Veritate more than a dozen times. It articulates – and properly situates – our concern about building-blocks of a just and peaceful society as follows: How are we “to shape the earthly city in unity and peace, rendering it to some degree an anticipation and a prefiguration of the undivided city of God”? (CiV § 7). Let me clarify, should anyone take this expression in a narrow sectarian manner: building the “earthly city” is a task for all people of all faiths working together in mutual respect.

How then do men and women, as citizens of the here-and-now, contribute to the building of an earthly city that is more reflective of the heavenly one? To this great question, Caritas in Veritate provides a summary answer: “The earthly city is promoted not merely by relationships of rights and duties, but to an even greater and more fundamental extent by relationships of gratuitousness (gratuitous love = charity), mercy and communion” (Civ § 6). Building the city is a matter of healing relationships broken by violations and violence, and of promoting healthy constructive relationships of justice, love and peace.

In one brief paragraph, only about 130 words long, the Holy Father emeritus details the qualities and virtues needed for such work of building. Let me read the passage slowly:

The complexity and gravity of the present economic situation rightly cause us concern, but we must adopt a realistic attitude as we take up with confidence and hope the new responsibilities to which we are called by the prospect of a world in need of profound cultural renewal, a world that needs to rediscover fundamental values on which to build a better future. The current crisis obliges us to re-plan our journey, to set ourselves new rules and to discover new forms of commitment, to build on positive experiences and to reject negative ones. The crisis thus becomes an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future. In this spirit, with confidence rather than resignation, it is appropriate to address the difficulties of the present time (CiV § 21).

Looking carefully at this richly suggestive paragraph, we can distil five ways suggested by the former Pontiff to build up the city of man with qualities closer to the undivided city of God:

1 – Begin with a realistic attitude, approaching the difficulties of the present time with discernment

2 – Ground the work in fundamental values, a new vision for the future

3 – With confidence rather than resignation, take up the new responsibilities

4 – Be open to profound cultural renewal, with confidence and hope

5 – Commit to new rules, new forms of commitment, with coherence and consistency

These are five profound competences of peace-builders. Within the same tradition, Pope Francis presents his own guidelines for addressing “tensions present in every social reality” and derives, from the pillars of the Church’s social doctrine, “a genuine path to peace within each nation and in the entire world” (EG § 221). The four principles come in Evangelii Gaudium under the heading “The common good and peace in society”. Situating peace in society within the common good solidly grounds our conference task, “To promote the culture of peace”. The four principles are:

1 – “Realities are more important than ideas” (EG §§ 231-33)

2 – “Time is greater than space” (EG §§ 222-25)

3 – “The whole is greater than the part(s)” (EG §§ 234-37)

4 – “Unity prevails over conflict” (EG §§ 226-30)

 

Let us briefly explore each competence of Pope Benedict, together with each guideline of Pope Francis, and thus assemble the building-blocks of the just peace we want to build.

BUILDING-BLOCKS OF PEACE:

1. Discernment and reality

The first step is surely to face the difficulties of the present time, not with ready-made answers or simplistic ideologies, but with a realistic attitude and with discernment.

To confront the problems of our world we must first study them—we must learn to SEE them clearly. The well-known pastoral method popularly known as “see-judge-act” was created by Fr. Joseph-Léon Cardijn, later Cardinal. St John XXIII adopted the method and gave it formal recognition in Mater et Magistra: “There are three stages which should normally be followed in the reduction of social principles into practice. First, one reviews the concrete situation; secondly, one forms a judgment on it in the light of these same principles; thirdly, one decides what in the circumstances can and should be done to implement these principles. These are the three stages that are usually expressed in the three terms: look, judge, act.”[7]

Properly to see, Pope Francis explains, . “calls for rejecting the various means of masking reality: angelic forms of purity, dictatorships of relativism, empty rhetoric, objectives more ideal than real, brands of ahistorical fundamentalism, ethical systems bereft of kindness, intellectual discourse bereft of wisdom” (EG § 231). Thus “seeing” demands more than a mere glance that can so easily be biased by ideology or prejudice. Rather, using the available scientific tools, we must conduct a rigorous analysis of social conditions, their causes and interconnections, and their effects, especially on the poor and marginalized. As well as this empirical analysis, we make use of biblical insight, the tradition of our Church’s social teaching, and theological reflection to “judge” the situation described. And out of this effort – which sometimes entails solitary research but often is a collaborative task – emerges a way forward and proposals of what to do and how to “act”.

A closely-related pastoral approach is known as “signs of the times”. In 1967, Blessed Paul VI stressed in Populorum Progressio that the Church has the duty “of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in light of the Gospel.”[8] Reading the signs of the times is not something that happens automatically, but needs to be learned and practiced. Genuine signs are the result of the past with all its efforts and mistakes, providing the basis and challenges for what we must do now in order to build – hopefully according to a vision for the future.

Here are some of the signs “seen and judged” or identified by Pope Benedict in Caritas in Veritate: the economic crisis (§§ 40-41), globalization (§ 42), population (§ 44), business and ethics (§§ 46-47), environment (§§ 48-51), education (§ 61), international tourism (§ 61), migration (§ 62), poverty and unemployment (§§ 63-64), media (§ 73) and bioethics (§ 74). To these we can add the recurring themes and signs which Pope Francis identifies in Laudato si’: “the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet, the conviction that everything in the world is connected, the critique of new paradigms and forms of power derived from technology, the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress, the value proper to each creature, the human meaning of ecology, the need for forthright and honest debate, the serious responsibility of international and local policy, the throwaway culture and the proposal of a new lifestyle” (LS § 16).

Let us take the crying example of world-wide hunger and mal-nutrition. “Since 1990 there has been a 17% decrease in the number of people suffering from chronic hunger. While this fall indicates a measure of effectiveness of the efforts over more than two decades in reducing chronic hunger, it also means that we still have almost 850 million people suffering from acute hunger.” At the same time, there is more than enough surplus and wasted food to meet everyone’s needs. The problem lies “in the lack of conservation technologies among smallholder producers, in weak or absent government support to incentivize the commercialization of products, or in the lack of infrastructure for better food distribution and marketing. Sadder still, this paradox is also due to a throwaway culture in affluent societies, to deliberate large-scale destruction of food products to keep prices and profit margins high, as well as to other policies that override the common objective of food security for all.”[9]

 

In response to this acute challenge, Caritas Internationalis currently has a campaign entitled “One human Family, Food for all”. The title is an affirmation and a moral imperative. Simply by comprehending the first part of the phrase as a pre-condition or a prior step, the title points prophetically towards the global goal of an effective remedy for world hunger. If and when we live as one family, there is food for all.[10] To truly overcome hunger, we must address injustices related to control of seeds and land as well as issues of distribution at the structural level. Is the human family ready to do so?

Another example can be the popular movements that our Pontifical Council has recently helped to convene: 150 delegates at the Vatican in October 2014, and 1,500 delegates in Santa Cruz de la Sierra Bolivia in July 2015. They represent organizations of the excluded, the marginalized, and the poor. They organize themselves to struggle for objectives which can be summed up under the three great T’s “Trabajo, Techo, y Tierra” (work, housing, land and food).

To explain the interesting background, let me quote from the letter of invitation sent out by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: “The Church wants to make its own the needs of those who participate in popular movements, and to join with those who, by means of different initiatives, hope to stimulate social change that will allow a more just world to be built. At the same time, different popular organizations have shown a great desire to meet with the Church and join in this quest for a global change that will lead to support for the goal of peace, justice and brotherhood for which we all yearn.”[11]

At both meetings, Pope Francis spent a good hour speaking with the delegates. “The poor not only suffer injustice, they also struggle against it!” he said to them in the Old Synod Hall. Rather than passively waiting for a solution from on high, “you want to be protagonists. You get organised, study, work, issue demands and, above all, practise that very special solidarity that exists among those who suffer, among the poor.”[12] In Bolivia, the Holy Father elaborated further: “You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands, through your ability to organize and carry out creative alternatives, through your daily efforts to ensure the three T’s (work, housing, land and food) and through your proactive participation in the great processes of change on the national, regional and global levels.”[13] In effect, there will be no enduring solutions to the inter-related social-and-environmental crises (inequity, violence, and ecological degradation), unless the excluded and the poor are included and empowered.

So our first step is reading the signs of the times with a realistic attitude, with suitable research and with discernment, to uncover the threats to peace—namely, the injustices at every level of society—and to shape the needed remedies.

2. Vision of the whole

The next step is to ground the work in fundamental values, a new vision for the future, recognizing that “the whole is greater than the part, and also greater than the sum of its parts.” As Pope Francis explains, “We constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all... We need to sink our roots deeper into the fertile soil and history of our native place, which is a gift of God. We can work on a small scale, in our own neighbourhood, but with a larger perspective” (EG § 235).

So this second competence can rightly be called conversion, metanoia[14] (change of mentality and heart). To know and accept oneself is the beginning of wisdom. And this attitude must be accompanied by a willingness to change, to work on oneself.

Pope emeritus Benedict explains clearly the spiritual roots of the required new vision. “When he is far away from God, man is unsettled and ill at ease” (CiV § 76). “Reason, by itself, is capable of grasping the equality between men and of giving stability to their civic coexistence, but it cannot establish fraternity. This originates in a transcendent vocation from God the Father, who loved us first, teaching us through the Son what fraternal charity is” (CiV § 19).

The crux is this: if justice and peace are absent from the ‘inner ecology’ of individuals, communities or organizations, they will also be absent from the ‘outer ecology’ of the structures of our family, our community and our society. Individuals who refuse to change contribute to unjust and conflictive societies. Are we producers, carriers, distributors of inner toxic waste – of “practical materialism, combined with relativist and nihilistic thought”? Benedict XVI referred to the latter as “sickness of the spirit” and “spiritual toxic refuse” which the so-called first world was exporting to other continents, thereby contaminating their peoples.

This is how Pope Francis puts it:

Economic growth, for its part, tends to produce predictable reactions and a certain standardization with the aim of simplifying procedures and reducing costs. This suggests the need for an “economic ecology” capable of appealing to a broader vision of reality. The protection of the environment is in fact “an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it”.[15] We urgently need a humanism capable of bringing together the different fields of knowledge, including economics, in the service of a more integral and integrating vision. Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment (LS § 141).

A culture of peace is developed by those who practice peace in their everyday lives. There can be no justice among men when there is no justice towards God. As Pope Benedict put it, “Without God, man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is” (CiV § 78). We must give to Cesar what belongs to Cesar; but we must also give to God what belongs to God (cf Lk 20:21-25). Indeed, we must first learn to give to God what belongs to God in order to see clearly how to give to Cesar and to one another what belongs to each.

Thus Pope Francis reiterates our second basic building-block of values, vision and conversion: “The Gospel has an intrinsic principle of totality: it will always remain good news until it has been proclaimed to all people, until it has healed and strengthened every aspect of humanity, until it has brought all men and women together at table in God’s kingdom. The whole is greater than the part” (EG § 237).

INTERIM CONCLUSION:

And now, out of the five building-blocks that I would like to propose, we have considered the first two. These I might sum up provisionally as follows: First, with deep respect for “the divinely established order,” let us “see” with a realism and discernment learned from those in need; and second, let our patience be grounded in fundamental values and hopeful vision.

Before opening up the discussion, let us pull back the curtain and ask, “What would a more just and peaceful world actually look like?” Pope Francis, speaking on 9 July to so many enthusiastic popular leaders in Bolivia, described a just economy and a peaceful society like this:

A just economy must create the conditions for everyone to be able to enjoy a childhood without want, to develop their talents when young, to work with full rights during their active years and to enjoy a dignified retirement as they grow older. It is an economy where human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life.[16]

With the same respect and care for each and every one of God’s children, St. Francis prayed: “Make me a channel of your peace. St Francis considered himself a brother not only to every man, woman and child, but to all creatures, who have a common Creator and Father in heaven and are therefore related. The Universe is God’s created gift and our common home. All things are created by Him, and thus they are good, indeed they are family. Family members are responsible for one another, especially for the vulnerable.

Accordingly, we are invited to become the justice and peace that we want to promote in the wider world. “Man's earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family…” (CiV § 7).

Thank you for your kind attention, I now very much look forward to our exchange (diálogo com o conferencista).

 

“Building-Blocks for a More Just and Peaceful Society” (2nd Intervention)

PART TWO

Your Eminence, my Lord Bishops, Great Chancellor, Rectors and Deans, Very Rev. Monsignors, Rev. Fathers, Religious Brothers and Sisters, Esteemed Professors and Dear Students, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Our excellent discussion (diálogo), before the delicious coffee-break (intervalo), surely serves as the best introduction to the second part of my address (conferência). But before presenting the three remaining building-blocks for a more just and peaceful society, it may help to bring us back into our undertaking if, in your name, I ask, “Why are we doing this? Why are we holding a high-level international and interdisciplinary symposium co-sponsored by three great universities and hosted by the Church in a great city of a great country?” The answer I will give is the one formulated by Pope Francis in response to a similar question, “Why bother to ask troubling questions about what is happening to our planet?” And this is the answer he gives: “Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it” (LS § 19). Such, I believe, should be our answer, too.

In this spirit – and I would dare say, only in this spirit and for this purpose – let us ask what further components we can bring to our ambitious mission of promoting the culture of peace.

3. With confidence and patience

The third building-block is clarity of vision, which prioritizes confidence and patience over resignation. Once again, Pope Francis puts this really well: “Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity” (EG § 223), let us take up the new responsibilities that go with a new vocation and mission. The principle of time greater than space “enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results” (EG § 223).

For a Christian, the beginning and the goal of all building is Christ, the Alpha and the Omega. Our vision is entirely shaped by God’s salvific plan for the world – as set out in Scriptures and definitively expressed in the life and mission of Christ, continued through time in the Church – and at its centre is the human person. This is the foundation of our life and work.

This kind of vision or mission is crucial for building a more just and peaceful society. How do we understand the place of human beings in the world? What kind of world do we want to live in, and to leave for future generations? Do we see ourselves as autonomous and self-sufficient, or do we accept that we are creatures, dependent and inter-connected? The acquisition of this third competence – clarity of vision – may well entail the grace of healing, as when Jesus used his own hands and saliva to restore a blind man’s sight (Mk 8:22-26).

At a fundamental level, how we treat the earth and its vulnerable creatures is a reflection of what we truly believe. When we delve into root causes of inequality, violence and war, what we find is a grave alienation from ourselves, from others, from creation and ultimately from God, the source of all life. If the other is not recognized as equal in dignity and worthy of respect, then something else moves in to fill the vacuum and this something is the ego, preoccupation with self, with one’s own interests and plans, in isolation from others. “Never has humanity had such power over itself, yet nothing ensures that it will be used wisely, particularly when we consider how it is currently being used” for “our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience” (LS §§ 104-5).

The environmental crisis serves as a case study. In the past, humankind could overcome perplexing problems through technological innovation. In the present, facile confidence trusts that technology will once again come to our rescue – thus, business continues ‘as usual’. Some continue to maintain that “current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth.” (LS § 109) People who think this way show “no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behaviour shows that for them maximizing profits is enough. Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.” (LS § 109 with reference to CiV § 35)

But today, technology simply cannot compensate for the excesses of the developed world, with their negative impact on the earth’s ecosystems. Nor can technology address the injustices that underlie environmental problems. Our vision, therefore, is more than simply technological or merely humanistic.

“The vocation to development on the part of individuals and peoples is not based simply on human choice, but is an intrinsic part of a plan that is prior to us and constitutes for all of us a duty to be freely accepted” (CiV § 52). If we are followers of Jesus, then we have a responsibility to collaborate in bringing about the kind of world he envisioned. When he stood up in the Synagogue at Nazareth, unrolled the scroll and read from the Prophet Isaiah, he announced his mission to “give sight to the blind, liberty to captives and to announce the good news to the poor” (Lk 4). The good news, according to Jesus, was that the Kingdom of God is very near at hand (Mk 1:15). This was not the kingdom expected by the Jews, whereby a warrior-king would expel the Romans and re-establish the monarchy. Rather, Jesus proclaimed that a true Messiah would bring justice, and defend the poor and the exploited.[17] Jesus himself showed the way to build the Kingdom in our midst: he not only preached it tirelessly, but performed actions that embodied its coming. The preferential recipients of his saving action were the poor and the marginalized. And Jesus understood the coming of the Kingdom as his Father’s initiative inviting human conversion and involvement.

Over and over, Pope Francis warns against the cult of individualism and instant gratification. “Sometimes I wonder if there are people in today’s world who are really concerned with building up people, as opposed to obtaining immediate results which yield easy, quick short-term political gains, but do not enhance human fullness” (EG § 224). By contrast, true statecraft is manifest when, in difficult times, we uphold high principles and think of the long-term common good. Political powers do not find it easy to assume this duty in the service of nation-building (LS § 178) and peace-building. We need to pray for world leaders as they struggle with the issues of sustainable development and climate change this year.

4. The culture of peace

The fourth building-block affirms how to build peace. This competence or principle would open us to profound cultural renewal and show confidence and hope. Yes, it is fashionable to be negative, nihilistic, pessimistic. Quite counter-culturally, though, we Christians firmly believe that a more just and peaceful world is possible, as Pope Francis insists that “Unity prevails over conflict”. Indeed, he says, “the best way to deal with conflict … is the willingness to face conflict head on, to resolve it and to make it a link in the chain of a new process. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers!’” (Mt 5:9) (EG § 227)

Let us consider military spending. The organization Global Day of Action on Military Spending notes that, in 2015, the world is spending about $1.8 trillion dollars on the military. That is an almost inconceivable sum. Were we to take just 10% of what is employed for arms and apply it to humanitarian needs, “the financing of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Green climate fund could be achieved.” Neither intellectual nor material resources are lacking. Rather, the various instances of national and international decision-making seem to lack the conviction and political will to bring about such vital and life-giving change.[18]

Further, it makes no sense to argue that, because these problems have been with us since time began, they must always be with us. Where is our passion for justice? Where is our faith in the power of nonviolence and our conviction that faith can move mountains? Where is our commitment to solve problems if we have the capacity to do so? Do we depend fundamentally on our own power and means to improve the world? Or do we recognize our dependence on God who can make us worthy instruments for bringing about His kingdom on earth?

This is the true path to peace. As Pope Francis says, “The message of peace is not about a negotiated settlement but rather the conviction that the unity brought by the Spirit can harmonize every diversity. It overcomes every conflict by creating a new and promising synthesis. Diversity is a beautiful thing when it can constantly enter into a process of reconciliation and seal a sort of cultural covenant resulting in a ‘reconciled diversity’[19]” (LS § 230).

Let us take the concrete example of climate change. As Laudato si’ articulates today’s very solid scientific consensus, “We are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. In recent decades, this warming has been accompanied by a constant rise in the sea level and, it would appear, by an increase of extreme weather events, even if a scientifically determinable cause cannot be assigned to each particular phenomenon. Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it” (LS § 23).

Everyone knows that we have the economic resources to wipe the tears from the eyes of those who are in danger from the ravages of climate change and who lack the basics of a dignified life. Let us be champions in solidarity who believe that injustice can be overcome, that harmonious relationships can be fostered, that our planetary ecology can be made sustainable, that a world of greater communion is possible. Then the poor and everyone else too will benefit.

Every Christian can affirm that Peace is possible! because, as Christians, we believe that “the Lord has overcome the world and its constant conflict ‘by making peace through the blood of his cross’ (Col 1:20)” (EG § 229). A culture of peace is built up when people act accordingly. As the number of people who adhere to this belief grows, the greater is the likelihood that environmental and social change for the better will actually take place. For example, on 18 August 2015, “Muslim leaders and scholars from 20 countries issued a joint declaration underlining the severity of the problem and urging governments to commit to 100 percent renewable energy or a zero emissions strategy… Hindu leaders will release their own statement later this year, and the Buddhist community plans to step up engagement this year building on a Buddhist Declaration on climate change. Hundreds of rabbis released a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis.”[20] And so unity – a diversified and life-giving unity – patiently prevails over conflict (cf. EG § 228).

5. Commitment to dialogue

In his 2011 Message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Benedict said that: “Today too, in an increasingly globalized world, Christians are called, not only through their responsible involvement in civic, economic and political life but also through the witness of their charity and faith, to offer a valuable contribution to the laborious and stimulating pursuit of justice, integral human development and the right ordering of human affairs.”[21] How? By means of dialogue – a term that appears 30 times in Laudato si’. Dialogue “would involve each of us as individuals, and also affect international policy” (LS § 15).

Gathering the wisdom of the previous four competences, the fifth building-block would have us adopt new rules, new forms of commitment, with coherence and consistency. Appreciating God’s plan and our place in it, according to Pope emeritus Benedict, “is what gives rise to the duty of believers to unite their efforts with those of all men and women of good will, with the followers of other religions and with non-believers, so that this world of ours may effectively correspond to the divine plan: living as a family under the Creator's watchful eye” (CiV § 57).

Pope Francis, having presented his four principles, dedicates the whole subsequent section of Evangelii Gaudium to “Social dialogue as a contribution to peace” (EG §§ 238-258), while the entire fifth chapter of Laudato si’, “Lines of Approach and Action” (LS §§ 163-201), spells out a whole series of needed dialogues on the environment: at the local, national and international levels, with transparency in decision-making, and involving the economy, politics and policy, religions and science. All these dialogues need to respect one another’s identities and differences, and not see others as threats or competitors.

The fifth building-block, therefore, is dialogue underlying cooperation, collaboration, networking and solidarity. Groups, organizations, institutions and movements of different persuasions – whether Catholic, Christian, inter-religious or non-confessional – need to come together. We must cooperate, coordinate, and make our multiple efforts converge towards the same goals: greater justice, greater security, greater transparency, and greater peace. Human pluralism and diversity, like biodiversity, is natural to humanity and one of our strengths. It can make dialogue challenging, but dialogue is always possible among parties that share overriding principles. As Benedict XVI put it: “This universal moral law provides a sound basis for all cultural, religious and political dialogue, and it ensures that the multi-faceted pluralism of cultural diversity does not detach itself from the common quest for truth, goodness and God” (CiV § 59).

This year of 2015 presents a great opportunity for such an effort. At the end of September, the 193 members of the United Nations will embrace a transformative agenda in human development – the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the 169 related targets. These goals will link economic growth with social inclusion and respect for the environment. They call for an end to extreme poverty in all its forms; access to healthcare, education, and energy for all; gender equality; a reduction in income inequality, a move to inclusive economic growth, and the promotion of full and productive employment and decent work; a move toward sustainable consumption and production patterns; and action to halt climate change and to protect our oceans and terrestrial ecosystems. One of the goals calls for the promotion of “peaceful and inclusive societies”.

If the nations of the world turn this rhetoric into reality and make a serious effort to implement these goals, then we will indeed be moving towards a more just—and therefore more peaceful—society. Keeping the human person as the centre of our concern will help and orient us to build a city of man more worthy of ourselves and our descendants for generations to come.

Five years ago, in September 2010, this was exactly the position of the Holy See Delegation, which I was honoured to head, at the U.N. Summit on the Millennium Development Goals: “The human person must be at the centre of concern in our quest for development. If everyone’s political, religious and economic rights and freedoms are respected, we will shift the paradigm from merely trying to manage poverty, to creating wealth; from viewing the poor as a burden, to welcoming them as part of the solution.”[22]

Today’s highly fragmented and specialized fields of knowledge make it “hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today’s world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests” (LS § 110). Complex social and economic patterns – such as those underlying hunger and malnutrition, lack of work and housing, inaccessible land – must be addressed systemically and structurally, both globally and locally. To do so is, indeed, the blessed work of promoting justice and building peace.

IN CONCLUSION, PRAY FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE:

The Holy Fathers Benedict and Francis do not minimize the challenges to our mission of restoring justice and promoting the culture of peace. Pope Francis spells them out:

Peace in society cannot be understood as pacification or the mere absence of violence resulting from the domination of one part of society over others. Nor does true peace act as a pretext for justifying a social structure which silences or appeases the poor, so that the more affluent can placidly support their lifestyle while others have to make do as they can. Demands involving the distribution of wealth, concern for the poor and human rights cannot be suppressed under the guise of creating a consensus on paper or a transient peace for a contented minority. The dignity of the human person and the common good rank higher than the comfort of those who refuse to renounce their privileges. When these values are threatened, a prophetic voice must be raised (EG § 218).

“As we contemplate the vast amount of work to be done,” Pope emeritus Benedict said earlier, “we are sustained by our faith that God is present alongside those who come together in his name to work for justice” and peace (CiV § 78). Such integral development, to use yet another synonym, such “development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that truth-filled love, caritas in Veritate, from which authentic development proceeds, is not produced by us, but given to us. For this reason, even in the most difficult and complex times, besides recognizing what is happening, we must above all else turn to God’s love” (CiV § 79).

For taking up this noble human calling, we have identified five promising building-blocks in recent Papal teaching: 1) Realism and discernment; 2) A fundamental vision of the whole; 3) Confidence, patience and responsibility; 4) A renewed and hopeful culture of peace; and 5) A constant commitment to dialogue. These are five profound competences, five complementary principles founded upon Catholic Social Teaching and inspired by the spirituality and ethos of the Holy Fathers Benedict and Francis. They are reliable building-blocks for a more just and peaceful society.

Since 1989, Orthodox Christians have been marking 1 September as a day of prayer for the environment. At their suggestion, Pope Francis has declared it to also be the Catholic “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” to be celebrated annually on this day.[23] Just now, as we are ending this morning’s session, in St. Peter’s Basilica the Holy Father and the Roman Curia are celebrating a Holy Hour of adoration, thanksgiving and petition.[24] Let us conclude our reflection by associating our prayer with theirs, in these words of Laudato si’:

God, who calls us to generous commitment and to give him our all, offers us the light and the strength needed to continue on our way. In the heart of this world, the Lord of life, who loves us so much, is always present. He does not abandon us, he does not leave us alone, for he has united himself definitively to our earth, and his love constantly impels us to find new ways forward. Praise be to him! (LS § 245).

Let us pray:

O Lord, seize us with your power and light,

help us to protect all life,

to prepare for a better future,

for the coming of your Kingdom

of justice, peace, love and beauty.

Praise be to you!

Amen. (LS § 246)

 

                                                                                                              Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson

(President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace)

 

[1] Pastor Bonus, art. 142, § 1

[2] Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Exhortation Africae Munus, 2011.

[3] In the Bible, the “wicked” (שע ר) is one who does not respect the demands of the relationships in which he stands.

[4] St John XXIII signed his last encyclical, Pacem in Terris, on 11 April 1963 before a television camera for the whole world to see, as if he was leaving the world his parting legacy. Cf. Pope Francis, Laudato si’, § 3.

[5] Cf. Ann Rowland, "What does CST have to offer to politicians: Some introductory reflections", Seminar Papers: 50th Anniversary of Pacem in Terris, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Rome 2013.

[6] Caritas in Veritate (2009) has as its central theme the integral development of the human person, body, soul and his environment. Initially it was meant to celebrate the anniversaries of two previous social encyclicals that treated the subject of human development: the 40th anniversary of Populorum Progressio of Blessed Paul VI and the 20th anniversary of Solicitudo Rei Socialis of St John Paul II. Its final text was further adapted to reflect deeply on the financial crisis that began in 2007-2008. Henceforth CiV.

[7] John XXIII, , Mater et Magistra, 15.05.1961, § 236.

[8] See http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_26031967_populorum_en.html .

[9] Mons. Bernardito Auza, Second Committee of the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Agenda Item 25: Agriculture development, food security and nutrition, New York, 30.10.2014.

[10] Peter Turkson, 10 December 2013. http://food.caritas.org/

[11] Letter of Invitation, May 2014. Cf. http://www.revistadefomentosocial.es/index.php/numeros-publicados/231/12768-encuentro-mundial-de-los-movimientos-populares-en-el-vaticano-27-al-29x2014-presentacion-la-fuerza-de-los-excluidos

[12] http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2014/october/documents/papa-francesco_20141028_incontro-mondiale-movimenti-popolari.html

[13] http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2015/july/documents/papa-francesco_20150709_bolivia-movimenti-popolari.html, § 2:

[14] See http://www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0219/__PA.HTM. In Redemptoris Missio §§ 87-91, St John Paul II speaks of the need to live the Beatitudes and to have the spirituality of missionaries in today’s world.

[15] Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (14 June 1992), Principle 4.

[16] Bolivia § 3.1

[17] For example, Ps 72: 1-4, 12-14; Is 42: 1-4, 49: 9-13.

[18] Global Campaign on Military Spending, http://demilitarize.org/

[19] As the bishops of the Congo have put it: “Our ethnic diversity is our wealth… It is only in unity, through conversion of hearts and reconciliation, that we will be able to help our country to develop on all levels” (Comité permanent de la conférence épiscopale nationale du Congo, Message sur la situation sécuritaire dans le pays, 5 December 2012, 11).

[20] http://www.other-news.info/2015/08/islamic-declaration-turns-up-heat-ahead-of-paris-climate-talks/

[21] See http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/messages/peace/documents/hf_ben-xvi_mes_20101208_xliv-world-day-peace_en.html , § 7.

[22] Peter K.A. Turkson, Statement, Summit of Heads of State and Government on the Millennium Development Goals, New York, 20 September 2010.

[23] Pope Francis, Letter for the Establishment of the "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation - 1st September", http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/letters/2015/documents/papa-francesco_20150806_lettera-giornata-cura-creato.html

[24] On 1 September 2015, in Rome at 17:00-18.00 -- Rio de Janeiro 12.00-13.00

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope listens to what Francis of Assisi can teach us about creation

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2015 / 02:46 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On the first World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, the preacher to the papal household said that St. Francis of Assisi is a key model in showing the link between faith in God and care for our common home.

Saint Francis “is living proof of the contribution that faith in God can give to the common effort for the protection of creation,” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap., said Sept. 1 during his homily for a Liturgy of the Word presided over by Pope Francis, which was celebrated at St. Peter's Basilica.

“His love for creatures is a direct consequence of his faith in the universal paternity of God.”

The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation was instituted by Pope Francis last month to coincide with the Eastern Orthodox Church’s day of celebration for creation, which has taken place this day since since 1989.

Although Pope Francis presided over the celebration, Fr. Cantalamessa (who has been preacher to the Papal Household since he was appointed by St. John Paul II in 1980) gave the homily.

The liturgy began with the Canticle of the Three Young Men from the book of Daniel, and the Christian prayer in union with creation found at the conclusion of Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical Laudato Si'.

There was then a first reading, from Genesis 1; a responsorial, Psalm 148; a second reading, from Laudato Si'; an Alleluia; and a Gospel reading, from Matthew 6.

Fr. Cantalamessa delivered his homily following the proclamation of the Gospel.

One of the greatest sins against creation, the Capuchin Franciscan priest said, is not listening to God’s voice, but “condemning it irretrievably, Saint Paul would say, to vanity, to insignificance.”

The priest turned to God’s first commandment to man and woman, do “fill the earth and subdue it,” as well as his charge that man would have dominion over the earth.

Often these passages are interpreted with a secular mindset in which the word “dominate” is taken out of the biblical context, he said, portraying a “political sovereign exploiting his subjects” rather than a father who guards and preserves his creatures.

“There is an evident parallel: as God is dominant over man, so man should be dominant over the rest of creation, that is, responsible for it and guarding it,” the priest said.

“Faith in God the creator and in man made in God's image is therefore not a threat, but rather a guarantee for creation, and the strongest of all. He says that man is not absolute master of other creatures: he must account for what he received.”

A demonstratation that man's abuse of creation does not follow the biblical vision is that today’s pollution map doesn't coincide with the spread of the biblical region, but rather that “of a wild industrialization, turned only to profit, and with that the corruption that closes the mouth of all protests and resists all powers.”

Instead, the Bible brings to light a natural hierarchy which can be seen throughout nature, the priest observed.

This is a hierarchy, he said, is “for life, not against it,” and can be violated in various ways, such as when some spend ostentatious amounts on their pets and allow millions of children to “die of hunger and disease underneath their eyes.”

What St. Francis of Assisi shows us is a way to radically change our relationship with creation, in which we replace possession with contemplation, the preacher said.

Saint Francis, Fr. Cantalamessa noted, “found a different way to praise things, which is to contemplate, rather than owning them. He can rejoice in all things, because he has given up on owning any.”

“Possession excludes, contemplation includes; possession divides, contemplation multiplies,” he said, explaining that while only one person can own a lake or park, thus excluding others, when these things are left for contemplation, thousands can enjoy them without taking away from anyone else.

He also spoke pointed to the Gospel passage which was read, in which Christ says not to worry about what we will eat or drink, or what tomorrow will bring.

This passage, the priest observed, might seem contradictory to Laudato Si', in which Pope Francis encouraged others to be concerned about the future of the planet.

Rather than being in contradiction, the Gospel passage “puts the axe to the root - the same axe to the very same root at which Pope Francis puts his encyclical,” when it states at the beginning that “you cannot serve both man and wealth,” Fr. Cantalamessa said.

The preacher added that no-one can truly serve the cause of protecting creation without having the courage “of pointing the finger against the exaggerated accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few and against the money that measures them.”

Although Christ never condemned wealth in itself, what he did condemn was dishonest wealth, gained at the expense of others as a result of corruption and which is deaf to the needs of the poor.

What the Gospel passage says and what Pope Francis says in Laudato Si' have the same undertone, namely, not to be concerned with our own tomorrow, but with the tomorrow “of those who will come after” us.

The example of St. Francis of Assisi, he said, shows that a religious attitude toward creation is not something far-fetched, but is based on something concrete.

He noted how the saint at one point said, “I don't want to be a thief of alms,” meaning he was receiving more than he needed, and was thus taking away from others.

“Today this rule could have a very useful application for the future of the earth,” Fr. Cantalamessa said, explaining that while St. Francis didn’t have the global, planetary vision of the world’s ecological problem, he had a local, immediate vision.

St. Francis of Assisi “thought about what he could do and possibly his brother friars. Also in this he teaches us something,” the priest said, pointing to the popular slogan, “Think globally, act locally.”

“What sense does it have, for example, to pick on those who pollute the atmosphere, oceans, and forests, if I don't hesitate to throw a plastic bag in the bank of a riverbed that will remain there for centuries unless someone retrieves it?” he asked.

Like peace, protecting creation is something “handcrafted” that begins with ourselves, he said, quoting a phrase of Pope Francis.

He concluded by saying that if St. Francis of Assisi were alive today, he might add another verse to his famous prayer, this time praising God “for all those who work to protect our sister mother Earth, scientists, politicians, heads of all religious and men of good will.”

“Praise be, my Lord, for him who, together in my name, has also taken my message and today is bringing it to the whole world!”

All priests will be able to forgive sin of abortion during Jubilee for Mercy

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2015 / 06:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new set of pastoral guidelines for the upcoming Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has made some significant moves, allowing all priests to forgive the sin of abortion and granting SSPX priests the faculty to forgive sins.

“One of the serious problems of our time is clearly the changed relationship with respect to life,” the Pope said in a Sept. 1 letter addressed to Archbishop Rino Fisichela, president of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, charged with organizing the jubilee.

In today’s society, “a widespread and insensitive mentality” has become an obstacle to welcoming new life, with many who don’t fully understand the deep harm done by the “tragedy of abortion,” he said.

However, Francis also noted that there are many women who, despite thinking abortion is wrong, feel that they have no other choice.

“I am well aware of the pressure that has led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral ordeal. I have met so many women who bear in their heart the scar of this agonizing and painful decision,” he said.

A woman who obtains an abortion automatically incurs a "latae sententiae" excommunication, along with those who assisted her in the process. Because of this excommunication, the sin of abortion can normally only be absolved by a bishop, or certain priests appointed by him.

For specific occasions such as Advent or Lent, some bishops extend this faculty to all priests within their diocese. In the U.S., the faculty to absolve abortion has already been delegated to all priests.

However, Pope Francis is taking it to a universal level. He said that the forgiveness of God can’t be denied to a person who has sincerely repented, especially when the person comes to the Sacrament of Confession in order to be genuinely reconciled with the Father.

Because of this, Francis said, he has allowed all priests for the Jubilee of Mercy “to absolve of the sin of abortion those who have procured it and who, with contrite heart, seek forgiveness for it.”

In another significant move, Francis has also allowed priests from the Society of St Pius X to “validly and licitly” hear confessions during the Holy Year.

“This Jubilee Year of Mercy excludes no one,” the Pope said in his letter, explaining several bishops have informed him of the society’s “good faith and sacramental practice,” albeit combined with an “uneasy situation from the pastoral standpoint.”

The Society of St. Pius X was founded by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1970 to form priests, as a response to what he described as errors that had crept into the Church following the Second Vatican Council. Its relations with the Holy See became strained in 1988 when Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops without the permission of Pope John Paul II.

The illicit consecration resulted in the excommunication of the five bishops; the excommunications were lifted in 2009 by Benedict XVI, and since then, negotiations between the Society and the Vatican to re-establish full communion have continued.

In his letter, Francis expressed his confidence that solutions to recovering full communion with the priests and superiors of the Society could be found in the near future.

In the meantime, “motivated by the need to respond to the good of these faithful, through my own disposition,” he declared that those who approach priests of the Society for confession during the jubilee “shall validly and licitly receive the absolution of their sins.”

Pope Francis also turned to those who, due to reasons of age, illness or incarceration, will not be able to walk through the Holy Door in order to obtain the plenary indulgence connected with the jubilee.

Each of the four major basilicas in Rome has a holy door, which are normally sealed shut from the inside so that they cannot be opened. The doors are only opened during jubilee years so that pilgrims can enter through them in order to gain the indulgence.

In May, it was announced that as part of the Holy Year for Mercy, holy doors will for the first time be designated in dioceses, and will be located either in the cathedral or in a church of special significance or a shrine of particular importance for pilgrimages.

For the elderly and sick, often confined to their homes, the Pope said that living their illness and suffering with “joyful hope” and attending Mass, receiving communion and participating in community prayer, “even through the various means of communication,” is a way that they can receive the jubilee indulgence.

In regards to prisoners, Francis said that they will be able to obtain the indulgence in the chapels of the prisons.

He said that directing their thoughts and prayers to God each time they cross the door of their cell would signify their passage through the Holy Door, “because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.”

The Pope also pointed to how a jubilee indulgence can be obtained for the deceased, and encouraged faithful to pray to the Saints for them during Mass, that “the merciful Face of the Father” free them of the remainder of every fault.

Francis then turned to the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, explaining that the experience of mercy “becomes visible in the witness of concrete signs as Jesus himself taught us.”

Therefore, each time that someone personally performs one or more of the 13 works of mercy, such as feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, burying the dead, willingly forgiving offenses, comforting the afflicted or praying for the living and dead, that person will “surely obtain the Jubilee Indulgence.”

For all those who will celebrate and experience the grace of the jubilee either as pilgrims in Rome or in their individual dioceses, Francis prayed that the indulgence would be “a genuine experience of God’s mercy” for each one.

He affirmed that in order to receive the indulgence one must make a pilgrimage to the Holy Door, either in Rome or in their diocese, “as a sign of the deep desire for true conversion.”

In addition to the cathedrals and shrines where the Holy Door of Mercy will be opened, the Pope also designated that the indulgence could be attained in the churches traditionally identified as Jubilee Churches.

He stressed the importance of remembering that the reception of the indulgence must be linked “first and foremost to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist with a reflection on mercy.”

It will be necessary, he said, “to accompany these celebrations with the profession of faith and with prayer for me and for the intentions that I bear in my heart for the good of the Church and of the entire world.”

Benedict XVI: God's truth, love, and goodness are what make us pure

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2015 / 03:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- When Benedict XVI said Mass on Sunday for the annual meeting of his former students, his homily focused on how God's Word frees us from the forgetfulness of a world that no longer even thinks about God.

“The truth, love, and goodness which come from God render man pure; and truth, love, and goodness are encountered in the Word, which frees us from 'forgetfulness' in a world which no longer thinks of God,” the emeritus Pope said Aug. 30 while saying Mass for the Ratzinger Schuelerkreis at the chapel of the Teutonic Cemetery in the Vatican.

The Ratzinger Schuelerkreis has gathered annually to discuss topics in theology and the life of the Church since 1978, shortly after their mentor was pulled from academia to become a bishop.

Ratzinger participated in the Schuelerkreis until his abdication as Bishop of Rome; since then, he has come only for the concluding day of the meeting to say Mass for the group.

In his homily, which was delivered in German, Benedict recalled that three years ago the group had heard the same passage from the Gospel of Mark which was proclaimed in the Mass, and that Cardinal Christoph Schonborn had asked, “Shouldn’t we be purified from the outside and not only from the inside? Does evil come solely from the inside, or from outside as well?”

Calling it a very interesting question, Benedict replied to it in his homily, saying the answer must draw from the whole of the Gospel.

He asked whether the evil that attacks the Church comes from the world, and suggested: “We could say that we should respond with an exterior hygiene to the many maladies and, at times, epidemics which threaten us.”

Such an attitude is necessary, he said, so that death cannot prevail; yet he also maintained that it is insufficient, because the “epidemic of heart” is interior, and it is this interior disease which “leads to corruption and to other dirty things, those that lead man to think only of himself and not of the good.”

“What makes man pure?” Benedict asked. “What is the true strength for purification? How do we reach a cleanness of the heart?”

He then explained that Christ told his followers they are pure because of the word he announced to them, and so it is the truth, love, and goodness of God which make man pure.

“The Word is much more than words, because it is through words that we encounter the Word himself,” Benedict explained. “The Word is Jesus Christ himself, and we encounter the Word in those who reflect him, who show the face of God and who reflect his mildness, his humility of heart, his simplicity, his affection, his sincerity.”

“May the Lord grant us this ‘cleanness of heart’ though the Truth, which comes from God: this is the strength of purification,” Benedict concluded.

The emeritus Pope was speaking to a group of some 70 persons: both the original Schuelerkreis of his former students, and a younger group of scholars who studied his work after he was consecrated a bishop.

This year's theme for discussion at the Schuelerkreis was “speaking about God in the contemporary world.”

Though Benedict was not present at the discussions, he is, in a sense, “always present among us, as we are in his footsteps, and as he always chooses the topic of discussion of our annual gathering,” Fr. Stephan Horn, who organizes the annual meetings, told CNA. He added that the former Bishop of Rome “was very lucid, and spoke for some time with each of us.”

The Schuelerkreis met this year at Castel Gandolfo Aug. 28-29, and was addressed by Msgr. Tomas Halik, a Czech priest and philosopher who has contributed to dialogue with non-believers. The group moved to the Vatican Aug. 30 for the Mass with Benedict.

Msgr. Halik told CNA he was “particularly impressed by the members of the Young Schuelerkreis: in them I saw the spirit of the young Ratzinger.”

In his lectures, Msgr. Halik said that “many say that Christianity is living a decay, while others say that it is completely dead … in my view, we are living the afternoon of Christianity; that is, Christianity is now having a siesta, a little rest.”

Following this afternoon, Msgr. Halik believes there will be a new day: recounting the traditional understanding of the day as beginning in the evening, he said that the stars which appear while Vespers are said “are the beginning of a new day; so, there will be a new day for Christianity.”

He added that many non-believers “are in fact seekers, and the Church’s task is now that of accompanying these seekers.”

The priest's understanding was shared by the Schuelerkreis. Fr. Horn recounted that the group considered the crisis of current society, but found that there are reasons for optimism even within the crisis.

Following the Mass with Benedict, there was a ceremony to inaugurate the Pope Benedict Hall. It was announced that the Teutonic College will in November open a library dedicated to the former Roman Pontiff, cared for by the Ratzinger Foundation.


Pope Francis holds virtual audience with Americans in Chicago, Texas, LA

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2015 / 07:37 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis on Monday took part in a virtual audience with a group of Americans, less than a month before his historic trip to the United States.

The event was hosted by ABC News, which made the announcement of the audience Aug. 31. It will air on ABC News’ "20/20" at 10:00 p.m. ET Sept. 4 and will be posted online in English and Spanish.

Next month, the Pope will travel to Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia. He will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama, address the United States Congress and the United Nations, and attend the World Meeting of Families, among other events.

The virtual audience allowed the Pope to talk via satellite with people from parts of the country that he will not physically visit on his trip – students at a Chicago inner city school, parishioners from a border town in Texas, and homeless men and women in Los Angeles, according to ABC.

The network released a preview clip of the Pope addressing Americans.

“For me, it is very important to meet with all of you, the citizens of the United States, who have your history, your culture, your virtues, your joys, your sadness, your problems, like everyone else,” the Holy Father said, adding that “this trip is important for me to draw close to you in your path, your history.”


Pope to Catholic lawmakers: Be strong. Protect life.

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2015 / 05:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday, Pope Francis urged Catholic legislators to be protectors of human life, calling them to “be strong” against a throw-away culture marked by Christian persecution, and the rejection of the unborn and migrants.

The pontiff made these remarks during an audience with the International Catholic Legislators Network. During the meeting, members of the Network presented the Holy Father with a document outlining their commitment to promoting life in their respective nations, especially in areas of abortion, Christian persecution, and migration.

U.S. Representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), a member of the Network present at the August 30 audience, told EWTN News Nightly how the Pope concluded the audience with off-the-cuff remarks about the “throw-away culture where the unborn child, the migrant is not wanted.”

“He also told us to be strong,” Fortenberry said.

The working document presented to Pope Francis outlines their commitment “to go deeper on the issues of protecting human life,” the Nebraska lawmaker later told CNA.

Among these issues are the persecution and “genocide” of Christians, along with its implications in international law. Another issue raised was the migration crisis, and Europe's inability to coordinate efforts to help those escaping persecution and poverty, while addressing those who enter the continent seeking to recolonize it “in the name of Islam.”

The African voice, in particular, has gained significance in the fight to defend life and family values, Fortenberry said. He explained that the working document presented to the Pope articulates the Network's intent to organize a conference on life issues in Africa.

“The African experience of Church and community has its own dynamics and culture,” the congressman said. “The particular situation they find themselves in is more trying to fight the assaults on human dignity and human family that are being imposed upon them by the West.”

“Values from the West,” he continued, “which are undermining family life, and attacking marriage,” by means including population control through abortion.

The people of Africa, however, are largely resisting these efforts, Fortenberry said.

“It’s not part of their culture. It’s not natural to them. And, of course, the faith re-enforces that.”

As part of the developing world, African countries have long endured the effects of colonization, neo-colonization, and globalization.

“There are benefits to that in terms of smart development... empowering people to move out of poverty, he said. “But, there is also strong baggage with that: And that means values from the West which are undermining family life, and attacking marriage.”

After presenting the document to Pope Francis, the African delegation broke into an African version of the Hallelujah, Fortenberry recounted.

“There’s a vibrancy of the faith there, there’s a strong set of vocations coming from there, which is a sign of healthiness in the Church, there is a commitment by – I hope – a growing number of public officials to stand strong, and it’s encouraging to me.”

“That’s one of the real joys,” he said: “to see African brothers and sisters coming there to be strengthened, to tell us their perspective, and help us rebuild a better just and good society.”

The International Catholic Legislators Network is a group founded by Archbishop of Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schnborn, and member of the British House of Lords David Alton, which meets annually in Rome.



What to learn at the World Meeting of Families: The family is a gift from God.

Vatican City, Aug 30, 2015 / 10:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The World Meeting of Families event next month in Philadelphia aims to lead families to know their importance as a gift from God and to help them open their hearts to Jesus Christ, a priest involved in the event has said.

The family “is the place where we feel most loved, most protected, most safe, valued,” Father William Donovan, one of the meeting’s main organizers, told CNA. “In the natural economy of things, one could say after the gift of life itself, the second greatest gift God has given us is family.”

“The reason is because, once God gives us life, he also wants us to have a full life. He wants us to be loved, to be protected, to be safe, to be secure, to be valued,” said the Archdiocese of Philadelphia priest who also serves as Archbishop Charles Chaput’s liaison to the Pontifical Council for the Family.

This year's World Meeting of Families will take place from September 22-27 with the theme “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” Its closing Mass with Pope Francis will mark the end of his first visit to the United States. The meeting also includes presentations, testimonies, and other events.

“The idea is that we want to try to bring as many resources and assistance to the human family so that they can understand and execute its role as a place of love,” said Fr. Donovan.

Pope John Paul II founded the international event in 1994 to encourage families and to strengthen familial bonds. The event takes place every three years in a different city around the world.

Fr. Donovan said the event is a celebration of “the importance, the nature, the dignity, (and) the beauty of the family.” He added that the international gathering brings together pastoral resources on the family that participants can bring back to their respective countries and dioceses.

One of the tasks involved in promoting the World Meeting of Families was in spreading awareness, Fr. Donovan said. Although the event has been taking place for more than twenty years, many Americans were unaware of it.

“Of course, with the Holy Father`s coming, and that brings a great attention to it,” he said. “And, of course, the Holy Father is part of a long tradition. He represents Jesus Christ as the vicar of Christ, so his message will be full of hope, and joy.”

Observing the particular care which Pope Francis has shown to the family since the beginning of his papacy, Fr. Donovan recalled in particular the image of the family being the first school, the first Church, and – especially – the first hospital.

“This image is particularly captivating because when we talk about the families as being the first hospital, we talked about wounds, or weakness,” he said. “The Holy Father is interested in attending particularly to the wounds and weaknesses of the human family.”

The weeklong World Meeting of Families will be divided into three parts: an international congress from September 22-25, consisting of presentations by experts on the family; an artistic festival with Pope Francis, which will include testimonies by one family from each continent; and finally, outdoor Mass on Sunday in Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

“Perhaps one can say that the human mind is nourished by the Congress, the human heart will be nurtured by the cultural celebration and the spirit will be nurtured by the Mass,” Fr. Donovan said.

The priest said meeting organizers wanted the selection of speakers to showcase both the uniqueness of individuals and the shared experience which being part of a family brings.

“Just like each person is a unique gift of God -- but there is something common in the human experience that we can all share about the dignity of a human person -- the same thing is with the family,” he said.

Fr. Donovan added that organizers wanted the speakers to convey how “every family is a unique and irreproducible gift of God, but there’s something common to all families.”

Any man and woman of goodwill, both from within and outside the Church, “can participate in the importance and the dignity of the family,” he said.

However, the primary aim of the organizers is to lead families closer to Christ.

“It would be wonderful if each person can take away something that makes him or her a better person, and improves their family: opening their minds and hearts to Christ will improve themselves and their families,” the priest said.

“This is our hope: to bring greater happiness, greater peace, greater security, and salvation, to our families.”

This year's World Meeting of Families will be the eighth of its kind, and the first to take place in the United States. The last World Meeting of Families was held in Milan in 2012.

The event takes place just weeks ahead of the Synod on the Family on Oct. 4-25. Its focus will be the theme: “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and the modern world.”

Pope Francis: conversion isn't just an appearance – it's a matter of the heart

Vatican City, Aug 30, 2015 / 07:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his Sunday Angelus address Pope Francis said that merely obeying the rules isn’t enough to make us holy, but that if we truly want to serve God our conversion has to be deeper, changing the heart.

“It's not exterior things which make us holy or not holy, but it's the heart that expresses our intentions, our choices and the desire to do everything out of love for God,” the Pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 30.

“External attitudes are the consequence of what we have decided in the heart, not the contrary: with external attitudes, if the heart doesn't change, we aren't true Christians.”

Pope Francis based his reflections on the day’s Gospel reading from Mark, in which the scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus and his disciples for not following the tradition of “purifying” themselves by washing their hands before meals or when coming from the market.

Jesus’ response that “you disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition” has a strong prophetic tone that fills us with admiration for him, the Pope said.

“We feel that in him there is truth and that his wisdom frees us from prejudice,” he noted, but cautioned that Jesus’ words aren’t aimed for just the Pharisees, but are also meant to put us on guard.

With these words Jesus warns against the belief that a simple external observance of the law is enough to be considered a good Christian, he said.

“As then with the Pharisees, there is also the danger for us to consider ourselves good, or better than others based on the simple fact that we obey the rules, the customs, even if we don't love our neighbor, we are hard of heart, superior and proud,” Francis observed.

The literal observance of the rules is “sterile” unless the heart also changes in a visible way, seen through concrete attitudes such as being open to an encounter with God and his word, pursuing justice and peace, and helping the poor, the weak and the oppressed, he continued.

Francis said that that the harm done to the Church by “those people who say they are very Catholic and go to church often, but after, in their daily lives, within the family, talk badly about others,” is well-known within our communities, parishes and neighborhoods.

This, he said, “is what Jesus condemns, because this is a counter-Christian witness.”

Pope Francis then pointed to Jesus’ declaration in the Gospel passage that “nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile,” saying his words signal a deeper aspect of Christian life.

What Jesus underlines is the “primacy of interiority, of the heart,” the Pope noted, adding that the line between good and evil doesn't pass outside of us, “but within us.”

Francis then encouraged attendees to question themselves on their own internal state by asking where their heart is at.

Jesus, he noted, “said that your treasure is where your heart is. What is my treasure? Is it Jesus and his doctrine?”

“The heart must be purified and converted,” the Pope continued, adding that without a pure heart, “you can't truly have clean hands and lips which speak sincere words of love, mercy and forgiveness. Only a sincere and pure heart is able to do this.”

Pope Francis concluded his speech by praying that Mary would intercede in helping to obtain for them “a clean heart, free from every hypocrisy.”

After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, the Pope drew attention to the beatification of Syro-Catholic bishop Flavien-Michel Malk, who was killed in 1915 amid the Ottoman Empire's genocide against its Christian minorities.

The bishop was declared “Blessed” yesterday during a special liturgy celebrated by Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, at the convent of Our Lady of Deliverance in Harissa, Lebanon.

In the context of a brutal persecution against Christians, the bishop “was a tireless defender of the rights of his people, urging all to remain firm in the faith,” the Pope said, noting how even today Christians are still persecuted worldwide.

Bishop Malk’s beatification inspired “consolation, courage and hope” in those who suffer because of their faith, he said. He expressed his desire that the beatification would serve as “a stimulus for legislators and government leaders, so that religious freedom is ensured everywhere, and for the international community, that it put an end to violence and abuse.”

Pope Francis officially approved of Bishop Malk’s martyrdom during an Aug. 8 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. His beatification fell on the 100th anniversary of his martyrdom.

Pope Francis mourns death of 71 migrants who suffocated in abandoned truck

Vatican City, Aug 30, 2015 / 04:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his Sunday Angelus address Pope Francis lamented the death of 71 migrants – mostly from war-torn Syria – whose bodies were found in an abandoned truck on an Austrian highway. He offered prayers for the victims.

“Unfortunately in the past few days many migrants have lost their lives in their terrible journeys. For all of these brothers and sisters, I pray and invite you to pray,” the Pope said Aug. 30.

He spoke to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, offering his closeness to the archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Cristoph Schnborn – who was also present – as well as the entire Church in Austria.

“We entrust each of (the deceased) to the mercy of God; and we ask him to help us cooperate effectively to prevent these crimes, which offend the entire human family.”

On Thursday the bodies of the 71 migrants – most of them refugees fleeing Syria – were found inside of an abandoned truck parked off Austria’s A4 near the Austrian village of Parndorf, close to the Hungarian border.

A roadside employee called police after he noticed that the truck had been sitting motionless on the shoulder for “a while,” the Catholic Herald reports.

Since autopsies are still being done on the corpses, police say that it’s still too early to determine the exact cause of death.

However, authorities have noted that the truck’s cargo hold had no openings for ventilation on its sides, suggesting the migrants suffocated. Among the dead were 59 men, eight women and four children.

According to the Wall Street Journal, when found many of the corpses were so decomposed that officials said they likely had died up to two days earlier, before crossing into Western Europe.

Police noted that several cell phones had been recovered from the truck, and said they are being examined in order to determine if migrants had attempted to call for help, as well as to identify victims through the phone’s details and contacts. Police are also trying to trace the victims’ relatives.

Although various toiletries and clothes were also recovered from the truck, so far no identity cards have been found apart from one Syrian travel document.

The incident marks the latest in Europe’s widespread migrant crisis, and points to the fact that many migrants from parts of the Middle East and North Africa ravaged by war are now heading from Turkey to Greece, then crossing the Balkans into Hungary, in a course believed to be less risky than the often deadly route across the Mediterranean.

The Wall Street Journal reports that four men have been arrested in relation to the incident, and that a Hungarian court on Saturday said they could face up to 16 years in prison for alleged trafficking in connection with the deaths.

Cardinal Schnborn said in an article published in the Catholic Herald Aug. 28 that he was “deeply shaken” by the deaths.

He said the “terrible deed” makes the plight of the increasing number of refugees clearer than ever.

In addition to expressing his horror at the “indescribable inhumanity” of the act, the cardinal said that “courageous decisions” need to be made in order to help those who find themselves in similar situations.

He called for Europe to be united and to use the law to bring those responsible to justice, and offered his sympathy to those who suffered the “unimaginably agonizing death” as well as their families.

The cardinal will preside over an Aug. 31 Memorial Service in St. Stephen’s Cathedral for the victims of the disaster, as well as for all refugees who have died.

Former nuncio awaiting Vatican trial died of natural causes, autopsy says

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2015 / 10:48 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Initial autopsy findings indicate that disgraced former apostolic nuncio Jozef Wesolowski died of natural causes from a “cardiac event,” the Vatican announced Saturday.

The laicized archbishop was awaiting trial by the Vatican court for possessing child pornography and sexual abuse of minors when he died late Thursday evening at the age of 67.

Wesolowski's death prompted the Office of the Vatican’s Promoter of Justice, also known as the Vatican prosecutor, to order an autopsy..

According to a Vatican statement released Aug. 29, the autopsy was conducted Friday afternoon. Based on “preliminary conclusions from the macroscopic exam,” the autopsy “confirmed the natural cause of death, attributable to a cardiac event,” the statement said.

The Office of the Promoter of Justice anticipates receiving additional results from laboratory examinations.

Prof. Giovanni Arcudi, Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, was appointed to coordinate the three experts conducting the autopsy.

Wesoleski was awaiting a criminal trial in Vatican City on charges of pornography and pedophilic acts.

In 2013 the then-archbishop faced allegations of sexual misconduct and he resigned as apostolic nuncio to the Dominican Republic. A 13-year-old boy alleged that Wesolowski had solicited him for sexual favors in exchange for money.

The archbishop faced a canonical trial in a tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In 2014, the tribunal found him guilty of sexual abuse and subjected him to laicization, which meant he was unable to celebrate the sacraments.


Seminar speakers advocate change on Communion for the divorced-and-remarried

Vatican City, Aug 28, 2015 / 04:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Earlier this year the Pontifical Council for the Family organized three seminars which gathered scholars to discuss marriage and family life in the run-up to the Synod on the Family being held in October.

The lectures at these seminars were published June 2 by Libreria Editrice Vaticana in Italian as Famiglia e Chiesa, un legame indissolubile (Family and Church, an indissoluble bond), and feature a preface written by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Council for the Family.

On the whole, the book suggests a “penitential path” that would allow the divorced-and-remarried to receive sacramental Communion while still engaging in sexual relations.

In a June 15 statement, the pontifical council said that “In view of the forthcoming Synod, we wanted to focus on some theoretical issues, identified as paradigmatic nuclei, crucial for the anthropological and theological reflection on marriage and family.”

The three seminars, held Jan. 17, Feb. 21, and March 14, gathered 29 scholars to discuss “Marriage: Faith, Sacrament, Discipline”; "Family, Conjugal Love and Generation”; and "The Wounded Family and Irregular Unions: What Pastoral Attitude."

The seminars were attended by Archbishop Paglia; his deputy, Bishop Jean Laffitte; and Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, though none of them took part in the discussion.

The Pontifical Council for the Family noted that the “new, interesting book” includes, at its end, three brief summaries “that, building upon the issues raised during the debate, provide guidelines and prospects for reflection” on the topics of the three seminars.

Notable among the experts invited to the seminars is Fr. Eberhard Schockenhoff, who teaches moral theology at the University of Freiburg and who also participated in the May 25 “shadow council”, which pushed for acceptance of contraception, homosexual acts, and Communion for the divorced-and-remarried.

In one of his interventions at the seminars sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Family, Fr. Schockenhoff stressed that “the possibility of an evolution of ecclesiastical doctrine on marriage is greater” than what can be suggested by “a statement that the Church cannot modify her praxis without betraying her traditions.”

To this end, Fr. Schockenhoff asked for an updating of Familiaris consortio, the 1981 apostolic exhortation of St. John Paul II which was the fruit of the Synod on the Family held in 1980.

The widest-ranging discussion was on the notion of sin and “unforgiveable sin.” Fr. Eduardo Scognamiglio, OFM Conv, a professor at the Southern Italy Theological Faculty, voiced hope that the Synod would “honestly discuss whether it is possible to deprive a member of the faithful of the Eucharist for all of his existence.”

Given this, the seminars articulated a proposal for a “penitential path” that would eventually allow the divorced-and-remarried to receive Communion – even though the penitence would not necessarily include foregoing sexual relations with one's second “spouse.”

In Familiaris consortio, St. John Paul II taught that “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the Covenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage. This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons, such as for example the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they 'take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples.'”

But Fr. Giampaolo Dianin, a professor of moral theology at the Theological Faculty of Triveneto, underscored that the 2014 synod's final report does not explicitly refer to the commitment not to engage in sexual relations with one's second “spouse”.

He outlined a “penitential path” under the responsibility of the bishop – or his delegates – which would result in either full or “partial” admission to the sacraments.

For Fr. Dianin, “partial” admission to Confession and Communion would occur only during the Easter season (and on special occasions).

He grounded this proposal for “partial” admission to the sacraments in the precepts of the Church that Confession be made at least once a year, and that one receive Communion at least once a year, during the Easter season. These precepts are rooted in the Fourth Lateran Council, held in 1215.

Fr. Dianin used the “Easter precept” to conclude that annual admission to Communion “cannot be denied to the divorced-and-remarried.”

The same logic was used by Archbishop Paglia, who told Famiglia Cristiana Aug. 12 that “one must not forget what the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) established with its so-called 'Easter precept', that Communion and Confession at leat once a year are necessary in the economy of salvation. There is room to reorder in a more logical way both the discipline and the doctrine for a pastoral path that can find broad consensus.”

Fr. Eugenio Zanetti proposed what he called a “path of conversion to love,” rather than a “penitential path”. This proposal would include a year of group prayer and reflection, intensified during Lent.

At a Confession made during Holy Week, the divorced-and-remarried would be granted absolution so long as they intend to abstain from sexual relations with their second “spouse” during the Easter Octave; they would then be admitted to Communion on the Octave day, which is Divine Mercy Sunday.

In stark contrast to majority of the group invited by the Pontifical Council for the Family stood Fr. Jos Granados, DCJM, who is vice-president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at the Lateran University.

Fr. Granados emphasized that any penitential path must conclude in a separation from a new union, or, when that is impossible, in the choice not to engage in sexual relations.

The group also discussed the issue of contraception, asking that the synod clarify the Church’s teaching on sexuality, overcoming what Fr. Gianluigi Brena, S.J. (a retired professor of the phenomenology of religion at the Aloisianum Philosophical Institute) called “an excessive severity and authoritarian regulations.”

Fr. Scognamiglio said that natural methods for the regulation of birth “must not be absolutized” and that “at the upcoming synod a mature reflection on faith and moral issues should emerge. We cannot replace the choices of couples; we can only educate them to choose with wisdom and maturity in faith.”

In general, the participants expressed a preference for natural means of the regulation of birth, but at the same time most showed an openness to discussing the issue of contraception.

The assembled group agreed that the Church should commit to presenting more clearly her teaching on marriage, especially during marriage preparation; that she should counsel and assist troubled couples; and that she should show the divorced-and-remarried that they are still welcome.

In the preface of the book, Archbishop Paglia wrote that “The Pontifical Council for the Family, in keeping with its statutory mandate, has responded to Pope Francis' call also through the promotion of an International Research Seminar on some issues mentioned in the Lineamenta for the next Synod of Bishops."

This comes in contrast to Cardinal Ennio Antonelli (who preceded Archbishop Paglia as president of the Pontifical Council for the Family and is now retired) who published, in several languages, The Marriage Crisis and the Eucharist, a short book arguing that the divorced-and-remarried need the Church's support in conversion and spiritual growth – not a change in the practice on reception of Communion.