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Pope meets Brazilian student priests of Rome

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Saturday reminded Brazilian priests studying in Rome that they were first of all priests and pastors of the people of God before being teachers and doctors.  While many Brazilians back home seem to have “lost hope in a better future because of enormous social problems and scandalous corruption,” the Pope said, the nation “needs its priests be a sign of hope.” 

The Holy Father made the remarks to some 100 Brazilian student priests and staff of the Pontifical Pio Brazilian College of Rome who met him in the Vatican. Most Pontifical Colleges in Rome are hostels where priests from various nations reside while pursuing ecclesiastical studies in various pontifical universities in the city.

Four pillars of priest's life

Pope Francis advised Brazilian student priests to watch out against the dangers caused by an imbalance among their spiritual, academic, human and pastoral dimensions - the four pillars of a priest’s life.  As students, he said, they should not disregard the other three dimensions.

Spiritual life, he said, must be nurtured through daily Mass, prayer, ‘lectio divina’, personal encounter with the Lord and the rosary.  The pastoral dimension must be maintained, if possible through some apostolic activity.  With regard to the human dimension, the Pope noted that amid a certain void created by solitude, being away from the people of God of their diocese, one  could lose the ecclesial and missionary perspective of studies. 

“Diseases”

Neglecting these dimensions as student priests, can lead to “diseases” such as “academicism” and the temptation to use studies only as a means to assert oneself, both of which, the Pope said, suffocate the faith instead of safeguarding the mission.  “Please don't forget that before being teachers and doctors you are and must remain priests and pastors f the people of God,” the Pope urged.

Priestly fraternity

Insisting on the importance of maintaining priestly fraternity, the Holy Father said, it is derived from and based on the ‎one priesthood of Christ that creates a true family, elevating our ‎human, psychological and affective relations.  These relations take concrete forms such as praying together, sharing the joys and challenges of academic ‎life, helping those suffering nostalgia, taking a walk together, being brothers in a ‎family without however leaving aside no one, even those with unpleasant ‎attitudes.

“Brazilians,” he said, “need to see a clergy that is united, fraternal and mutually supportive, where priests face obstacles together, without giving in to the temptations of attracting attention or making a career.” With Brazil facing religious and social challenges, the Pope said, their people back home want and need to see them love one another and live like brothers.  

Pope Francis to participants in conference on disabled persons

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday received participants in a major international conference organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization. Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: a necessary engagement in the pastoral life of the Church was the title of the conference, which was held in the Vatican.

Time for persons with disabilities to become catechists

Pope Francis met the conference participants on Saturday morning and told them it is time that people with disabilities themselves became catechists, helping to communicate the Faith more effectively “through their own witness”.

Click below to hear our report

Following an introduction by the President of the Vatican Dicastery, Archibishop Rino Fischella, the Pope spoke of the great developments in the field of stimulating awareness and promoting the dignity of persons with disabilities, but he also criticized what he called an often “narcissistic and utilitarian” view that fails to recognize the “human and spiritual wealth” that people with disabilities possess and are ready to offer.

Below is our translation from Italian of the full text of the Pope’s discourse.

Awareness and inclusion

We know the great developments that have taken place in the field of disability over the last decades. The growth in awareness of the dignity of every person, especially the weakest, and how they have led to taking courageous positions to ensure the inclusion of those who live with different forms of handicap, so that no one should feel a stranger in their own home.

Enduring marginalization

Still, at a cultural level there are still expressions that offend the dignity of the person and that maintain a false concept of life. An often narcissistic and utilitarian view, unfortunately, leads several to consider people with disabilities as marginal, without seeing in them the multifaceted human and spiritual wealth that they possess. There is still a strong attitude of rejection of this condition in the collective mentality, as though it prevented the individual from being happy and self-fulfilled.

Proof of this is the eugenic tendency to eliminate the unborn child that shows some form of imperfection. In fact, we all know many people who, even in their fragility and with great effort, have found the way to live a good life and richly meaningful life. On the other hand, we know people who are apparently perfect, yet desperate! It is dangerously deceptive to think we are invulnerable. As a girl I met on my recent trip to Colombia said: vulnerability is part of what it means to be human.

The role of respectful love

The response is love: not the false, deceitful and pious kind, but true, concrete, and respectful love. To the extent that we are welcomed and loved, included in the community and accompanied to look to the future with confidence, the true path of life develops and we experience lasting happiness. This – as we know - applies to everyone, but those who are most fragile people are the proof of it. Faith is a great companion of life when it allows us to experience the presence of a Father who never abandons his creatures, whatever their condition of their life.

A vocal Church and a courageous Community

The Church cannot be "voiceless" or "tone-deaf" in defending and promoting people with disabilities. Being close to families helps them overcome the solitude into which they risk closing themselves because of lack of attention and support. This is even more true in terms of the responsibility of the Church to inspire and form a Christian life. The community cannot be lacking in words and gestures, especially, in reaching out and welcoming people with disabilities.

The Sunday Liturgy, in particular, must include them, because the encounter with the Risen Lord and with the Community itself can be a source of hope and courage along life’s difficult journey.

Grace and Encounter

In a special way, catechesis needs to discover and develop coherent ways to ensure that every person, with his or her gifts, limitations and disabilities, however serious, may encounter Jesus on their life’s journey and abandon themselves to him in faith. No physical or mental limitation can ever hinder this encounter, because Christ's face shines in the intimacy of every person. We need to also pay special attention to the ministers of Christ’s Grace and not fall into the neo-Pelagian error of failing to recognize the need for the power of the Grace that comes from the sacraments of Christian initiation.

Catechists through example

Let us learn to overcome the embarrassment and fear we sometimes experience when we meet people with disabilities. Let us learn to seek, and even to create with intelligence, adequate means to ensure no one lacks the support of Grace. Let us train catechists - first and foremost through example! - who are more and more able to accompany these people so that they may grow in faith and offer their genuine and original contribution to the life of the Church. Finally, I hope that more and more people with disabilities can become catechists themselves in their communities, offering their own witness and helping to communicate the faith more effectively.

Pope’s condolence for assassination of Maltese reporter

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has expressed his condolence for the killing of a Maltese journalist, who was investigating corruption among leading politicians in the tiny Mediterranean island nation.  “Saddened by the tragic death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, His Holiness Pope Francis offers prayers for her eternal rest, and asks you kindly to convey his condolences to her family,” Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote in a telegram sent on the Pope’s behalf to Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta.  “The Holy Father also assures you of his spiritual closeness to the Maltese people at this difficult moment, and implores God’s blessings upon the nation,” the cardinal wrote.

Investigating corruption

A well-known blogger and fierce critic of the government and the opposition, Caruana Galizia was killed on Monday in a powerful blast that wrecked her car as she was leaving her house in the rural north of the overwhelmingly Catholic nation. Maltese police said on Thursday they believe Caruana Galizia was killed by a remotely-controlled bomb attached under her car.

The assassination of the 53-year-old journalist has shocked the nation and her three sons have called for the resignation of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.  Caruana Galizia was one of Muscat's harshest critics, revealing connections by his wife and members of his government to shell companies in Panama, allegations which the Muscats have denied.

The European Union, of which Malta is a member, as well a group of U.N. human rights experts have demanded a prompt, independent investigation into the murder. 

Pope urges for ethics in the service of man and environment

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday urged for an ethics that is friendly to man and the environment, where fundamental values are not “sacrificed on the altar of efficiency”.  The Pope was speaking to participants in a workshop organized in the Vatican by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in collaboration with the Organization of Catholic Universities in Latin America and the Caribbean (ODUCAL).  The Oct. 19-21 workshop is discussing “Changing relations among market, state and civil society.” 

Inequalities and exploitation of planet

In line with their discussions, the Pope stressed on two specific causes that fuel “exclusion and existential peripheries”.  The first is the “endemic and systemic increase in inequalities and the exploitation of the planet.”  Besides depending on individual behavior, inequality and exploitation also depend on economic rules that society adopts, the Pope pointed out.  The way sectors such as energy, labor, banking, welfare, tax and school are designed, depends on how income and wealth are shared among those who have contributed to producing them.  But “if profit prevails, democracy tends to become a ‎plutocracy in which inequalities and the exploitation of the planet grow,” the Pope warned.

Labour

The other cause of exclusion the Pope pointed out is work that is unworthy of the human person.   Besides providing a just wage to the worker, he said, the entire production process should be adapted “to the needs of the person and to his way of life,” while at the same time respect “creation, our common home”.  This calls for the need to “get rid of the pressures of the public and private lobbyists who defend sectoral ‎interests.”  “Political action must be placed ‎in the service of the human person, the common good, and respect for nature,” the Pope stressed. 

Civilizing the market

The market must not only be efficient in creating wealth and ensuring sustainable growth, ‎but it must also be at the service of integral human development, the Pope said. “We cannot sacrifice on the altar of ‎efficiency - the "golden calf" of our times - fundamental values such as democracy, justice, freedom, ‎family, creation.”  In essence, we must aim at "civilizing the market" in the perspective of a friendly ‎ethics of man and his environment.‎

Reminding the workshop participants about the principles of subsidiarity and solidarity of the Church’s social doctrine, Pope said the state cannot conceive itself as the sole and exclusive holder of the common good but by not allowing ‎the intermediate bodies of civil society to freely express their full potential.  The challenge here is how to connect individual rights with the common good.‎

Pope at Mass: hypocrisy and trickery are bad for us

(Vatican Radio) May God grant us the grace of interior truth, rather than living a life of hypocrisy and trickery. That was Pope Francis’ message on Friday to those gathered for morning Mass in the Casa Santa Marta chapel.

Listen to our report: 

Reflecting on the first reading of the day from St Paul’s letter to the Romans, the pope explained that God’s pardon is always freely given and not earned by what we do.

The work we do, he continued, is our response to this gratuitous love and forgiveness of God, who took away original sin and who pardons our sins every time we turn to Him.

Hypocrities try to appear virtuous

In the passage from St Luke’s Gospel, Pope Francis said, we read about another way that people seek justification, by trying to appear righteous and saintly. They are the hypocrites, he said, whose lives are filthy inside, but on the outside they try to appear virtuous and holy by showing how they fast and pray or give to charity.

Jesus asks us to be truthful

In their hearts, the pope said, there is no substance, but they live by deception and theirs is a life of trickery. Jesus always asks us to be truthful in our hearts: that’s why he tells us to pray out of sight, to hide the weakness we feel when we fast, and to conceal our almsgiving, so that the left hand does not know what the right one is doing.

Falsehood is very bad for us

Jesus asks us to live coherently, Pope Francis insisted, because falsehood and hypocrisy are very bad for us. In today’s psalm, he said, we ask the Lord for the grace of truth, saying “Then I acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not”. We confess our faults to the Lord  and He takes away the our sin and guilt.

Truth is always before God

We must always be truthful with God, the pope concluded, so let us learn not to accuse others, but rather to accuse ourselves, without trying to hide our sins from the Lord.

Pope Francis marks 50 years of Methodist-Catholic dialogue

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with leaders of the World Methodist Council on Thursday, celebrating fifty years of dialogue between the two Churches.

Noting that in the Old Testament, a golden jubilee was a moment to set slaves free, the pope said “we too have been freed from the slavery of estrangement and mutual suspicion”.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s report: 

After fifty years of patient dialogue, he said, “we are no longer strangers” but rather, through our shared Baptism, “members of the  household of God”.

True dialogue, the pope continued, gives us courage to encounter one another in humility and sincerity” as we seek to learn from each other.

Wesley's example of holiness

Speaking about the 18th century preacher John Wesley, who, with his brother Charles founded the Methodist movement, Pope Francis said his words and his example of holiness brought many people to Christ. When we recognize the working of the Holy Spirit in other Christian confessions, he said, “we cannot fail to rejoice”, as they can “also help us grow closer to the Lord”.

Serving the poor together

The pope also noted how our faith becomes tangible when it takes the concrete form of love and service to the poor and marginalized. As Methodists and Catholics together, when we assist those who are alienated or in need, he said, we are responding to the Lord’s summons.

Become ministers of reconciliation

We cannot grow in holiness without growing in communion, Pope Francis concluded. As you begin a new phase of dialogue devoted to reconciliation, may your discussions be a gift for Christians everywhere to become ministers of reconciliation. Let us prepare ourselves with humble hope and concrete efforts, he said, for that full recognition which will enable us to join one another in the breaking of bread together.

Vatican Weekend for October 22nd, 2017

Vatican Weekend for October 22nd, 2017 features our weekly reflection on the Sunday Gospel reading, “There’s more in the Sunday Gospel than Meets the Eye,” plus we find out more about a special Church-sponsored program that helps couples whose marriage is heading for the rocks.

Listen to this program produced and presented by Susy Hodges: 

 

World Methodist Council: dialogue must reach local level

(Vatican Radio) Methodist and Catholic theologians are meeting just outside Rome this week, marking the 50th anniversary of the first ecumenical dialogue group following the Second Vatican Council. That first session of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission was held in the hill town of Ariccia in October 1967.

Pope Francis met with members of the current Commission on Thursday, together with leaders of the World Methodist Council, saying that half a century of dialogue has set us free from estrangement and suspicion and helped us to recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

South African Bishop Ivan Abrahams is General Secretary of the World Methodist Council. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the concrete fruits of this ecumenical journey….

Listen:

He says two of the key ingredients that have marked this “50 year pilgrimage or journey” are the love and trust that has been built up and that are reflected in the seven joint reports that have been produced thus far.

One of the great challenges, he says, is to let the fruits of this dialogue “percolate to the local level and we need to see how we can do that much more effectively”.

'That they may be one'

He notes that the latest dialogue report entitled ‘A Call to Holiness: from glory to glory’ stresses that working for unity is “a fundamental part of our mission and our witness to the world, to see that Jesus’ high priestly prayer is made reality”.

Speaking about the situation in his native South Africa, Abrahams says that as he saw the demise of apartheid in his lifetime, “I’d hoped to see the reality of “that they may be one” in my lifetime”.

Autonomy in mission and witness

Talking about the Methodist model of governance, he says there’s no compromise on key issues of faith, but “we don’t apply the ‘one size fits all’ model”, leaving the various conferences autonomy to make their own decisions about mission and witness.

Asked about Pope Francis’ efforts to give local Catholic bishops’ conferences with more autonomy over pastoral decision making, Abrahams says “I think that it is really the only way to go, if we speak about the integrity of the Gospel, because every cultural context is uniquely different”.

Pope Francis embodies unity

While practical cooperation on issues like migration, refugees or climate change are important, he says, consensus in the theological dialogue remains crucial because “we need to clarify so we can walk together”.

Finally Bishop Abrahams praises Pope Francis’ way of reaching out to young generations, saying he is “a beacon of hope” and “somebody who embodies the unity that we’re seeking to live”.

Vatican Weekend for October 21st, 2017

Vatican Weekend for October 21st, 2017 features a report on Pope Francis’ Wednesday general audience where he deplored the terrorist attack in Somalia, we remember the figure of Pope Saint John Paul II on his liturgical feast day with the help of his biographer George Weigel and leading Vatican expert John Allen, an insight into the Polish Pope's intense prayer life from one of his closest advisors, plus a leading Church historian takes us back to 1870 when Italian reunification forces captured Rome and put an end to the Papal States.

Listen to this program produced and presented by Susy Hodges:

JRS looks at the problem of ME refugees

(Vatican Radio) Fr. Cedric Prakash who is currently based in Beirut and working as Regional Advocacy and Communications Officer, is a human rights activist and a Jesuit priest of the Gujrat province in India. He was the director of ‘Prashant’, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, which he founded in 2001.  He has been at the forefront on issues related to human ‎rights, justice, peace and other advocacy matters for which he has been honoured both in India and ‎abroad. 

He was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, one of the highest French civilian awards, acknowledging his commitment to the defence and the promotion of Human Rights in India.  Other than this, Fr. Cedric Prakash has also been awarded numerous other awards - the Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award presented for Humanitarian Work by the Indian Muslim Council, USA in 2003, the Kabir Puraskar conferred on him by the President of India for his work in the promotion of Communal Harmony and Peace in 1995, and the Minorities Rights Award by the National Commission for Minorities of the Government of India in 2006.  He was one of the recipients of Mother Teresa Awards for Social Justice in 2013.

On his visit to Rome this week for a  JRS Meet he spoke to Vatican Radio about the plight of the refugees today and how we can help them to live a life of greater stability and security.  

Listen Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ