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Deacon-structing Mexico – Part 4

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Over the last couple of days, I’ve been sharing with you what stood out most for me during Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico. First it was his focus on young people and the challenges they face. Next it had to do with how we respond to challenges that we all face in the light of sin. Yesterday we looked at what Pope Francis had to say to Marriages and Families. Today, let’s end with his message of Divine Mercy.

You Are My God; In You I Trust

Pope Francis’ message of Mercy during his Mexico trip was loud and clear. At the Sunday Mass in Ecatepec he said,

“He is the God who has a name: Mercy.  His name is our wealth, his name is what makes us famous, his name is our power and in his name we say once more with the Psalm: “You are my God and in you I trust”.  Let us repeat these words together: “You are my God and in you I trust”. (Homily at Ecatepec Study Center in Ecatepec, Sunday, Feb, 14, 2016)

To Mexican Bishops he said,

“Only a Church able to shelter the faces of men and women who knock on her doors will be able to speak to them of God.  If we do not know how to decipher their sufferings, if we do not come to understand their needs, then we can offer them nothing.  The richness we have flows only when we encounter the smallness of those who beg and this encounter occurs precisely in our hearts, the hearts of Pastors.(Address to Mexican Bishops at Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption, Mexico City, 13 February 2016)

With regards to the rich vastness of Mexican cultural and ethnic heritage he told indigenous people,

“I ask you to show singular tenderness in the way you regard indigenous peoples and their fascinating but not infrequently decimated cultures.  Mexico needs its American-Indian roots so as not to remain an unresolved enigma.  The indigenous people of Mexico still await true recognition of the richness of their contribution and the fruitfulness of their presence.  In this way they can inherit that identity which transforms them into a single nation and not only an identity among other identities.

He added,

“And yet, on many occasions, in a systematic and organized way, your people have been misunderstood and excluded from society.  Some have considered your values, culture and traditions to be inferior.  Others, intoxicated by power, money and market trends, have stolen your lands or contaminated them.  How sad this is!  How worthwhile it would be for each of us to examine our conscience and learn to say, “Forgive me!”  Today’s world, ravaged as it is by a throwaway culture, needs you!” (Homily during Mass with Indigenous Communities in Chiapas, Feb. 15, 2016)

And with young people, he used a rock-climbing metaphor:

“If you see a friend who slipped up in life and has fallen, go and offer him or her your hand, but do so with dignity. Put yourself on their level, listen to them and don’t say: “I have the solution for you”. No, as a friend, slowly give them strength by your words, give them strength by your listening, that medicine which sadly is being forgotten: “the therapy of listening”. Let them speak, let them share their experience, and then little by little, they will offer you their hand, and, in the name of Jesus Christ, you can help them. But if you go in suddenly and begin to give them a sermon, going on about the same thing, well then, he or she will be worse off than before.” (Address during Meeting with Youth in Morelia, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016)

Co-creators with God

Pope Francis traveled to Mexico as a missionary of mercy and peace. Ultimately his message was one of hope. He ended his address to representatives of the World of Labor by saying,

“What type of culture do we want for those who will come after us? What air will they breathe? An air tainted by corruption, violence, insecurity and suspicion, or, on the contrary, an air capable of generating – and the word is crucial – generating alternatives, renewal and change? To generate is to be co-creators with God.” (Address to World of Labor in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)

And if I can say so, it is Divine Mercy that allows us to be co-creators with God because it is this Divine Mercy that invites us to conversion:

“Let us together ask our God for the gift of conversion, the gift of tears, let us ask him to give us open hearts like the Ninevites, open to his call heard in the suffering faces of countless men and women. No more death! No more exploitation! There is always time to change, always a way out and always an opportunity, there is always the time to implore the mercy of God.” (Homily During Mass at Fair Grounds in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)

His last words in Mexico were:

“The night can seem vast and very dark, but in these days I have been able to observe that in this people there are many lights who proclaim hope; I have been able to see in many of their testimonies, in their faces, the presence of God who carries on walking in this land, guiding you, sustaining hope; many men and women, with their everyday efforts, make it possible for this Mexican society not to be left in darkness.” (Farewell Address in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)

Indeed, may the presence of God who continues walking in and guiding the land of Mexico, continue to sustain it with hope, mercy and peace.


photo credit: Pope Francis arrives to pray at a cross on the border with El Paso, Texas, before celebrating Mass at the fairgrounds in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


PedroHeadShot

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Mexico – Part 3

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Over the next couple of days, I’d like to share with you what stood out most for me during Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico. First it was his focus on young people and the challenges they face. Next it had to do with how we respond to challenges that we all face in the light of sin. Today let’s look at what Pope Francis had to say to Marriages and Families.

The Wrinkles of Conjugal Fidelity

As in every apostolic visit, Pope Francis continually invited us to defend and protect the family. This time, he even alluded to the fact that this is the way to solve many of Mexico’s problems. To Bishops he said,

“Only by starting with families, by drawing close and embracing the fringes of human existence in the ravaged areas of our cities and by seeking the involvement of parish communities, schools, community institutions, political communities and institutions responsible for security, will people finally escape the raging waters that drown so many, either victims of the drug trade or those who stand before God with their hands drenched in blood, though with pockets filled with sordid money and their consciences deadened.(Address to Mexican Bishops at Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption, Mexico City, 13 February 2016)

He told families in Chiapas that a perfect family does not exist, but,

“I prefer a wounded family that makes daily efforts to put love into play, to a [family or] society that is sick from isolationism and habitually afraid of love. I prefer a family that makes repeated efforts to begin again, to a [family or] society that is narcissistic and obsessed with luxury and comfort. I prefer a family with tired faces from generous giving, to faces with makeup that know nothing of tenderness and compassion.

He continued:

“I prefer wrinkled families, with wounds, with scars, but that continue going forward because these wounds, these scars, these wrinkles are the fruit of fidelity in a love that was not always easy. Love isn’t easy. It isn’t easy. No. But the most beautiful thing that a man and a woman can give each other is true love, for a lifetime.(Address during Meeting with Families in Chiapas, Feb. 15, 2016)

Put Your Heart Into It

A 14-year-old boy, Manuel with Muscular Dystrophy spoke at the Meeting with Families and used an expression, “echarle ganas” which is translated as “put your heart into it.” Pope Francis loved that. He said,

“I liked the expression you used ‘to put your heart into it’ describing the attitude you took after speaking with your parents. You began to put your heart into your life, your family, your friends; you put your heart into us gathered here. I believe that this is what the Holy Spirit always wants to do in our midst: to put a new heart into us, giving us reasons to keep on taking risks as a family, dreaming and building a life that has this sense of home, of family.”

He continued,

“When everything seemed lost that afternoon in the Garden of Eden, God the Father put a new heart into that young couple and told them that everything was not lost. When the people of Israel felt that they could not go on journeying through the desert, God the Father put his heart into it by giving them manna from heaven. When the fullness of time came, God the Father put his heart into it by giving humanity the eternal gift of his Son.(Address during Meeting with Families in Chiapas, Feb. 15, 2016)

This message of hope was perhaps most clear when he spoke to inmates at a prison in Ciudad Juarez: Someone said: ‘Don’t ask why you are here, but ‘for what purpose.’ And this ‘for what purpose’ must carry us forward, this ‘for what purpose’ must help us jump over the hurdle of this social ploy which believes that safety and order is only achieved by incarcerating people.” (Address at Juarez Prison, Feb. 17, 2016)

He continued: “You have known the power of sorrow and sin, and have not forgotten that within your reach is the power of the resurrection, the power of divine mercy which makes all things new.” (Address at Juarez Prison, Feb. 17, 2016)

Later on that day at Mass he said,

“To weep over injustice, to cry over corruption, to cry over oppression. These are tears that lead to transformation, that soften the heart; they are the tears that purify our gaze and enable us to see the cycle of sin into which very often we have sunk.” (Homily During Mass at Fair Grounds in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)

At the meeting with families he added,

God the Father has put his heart into it for us. We can ask ourselves: why? Because he cannot do otherwise. God, our Father does not know how to do anything other than love us, put his heart into things and carry us forward. He doesn’t know how to do any other thing. He knows how to put his best into us; why? Because his name is love, his name is gift, his name is self-giving, his name is mercy.” (Address during Meeting with Families in Chiapas, Feb. 15, 2016)

This is the hope that I was left with after every single Mexico event. Come back tomorrow to see how Pope Francis was indeed a missionary of mercy during this visit.


photo credit: Pope Francis accepts a crucifix from a prisoner as he visits Cereso prison in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Feb. 17. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 


PedroHeadShot

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Mexico – Part 2

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Over the next couple of days, I’d like to share with you what stood out most for me during Pope Francis’ visit to Mexico. First it was his focus on young people. Sadly, my next point is a bit more sobering.

Fertile Soil

Pope Francis could not have gone to Mexico and not spoken about the many challenges the country faces. In fact, these were some of the first words that came out of his mouth, on day one, while addressing government leaders:

“This reality inevitably leads us to think about one’s own responsibilities when it comes to constructing the kind of Mexico we want, the Mexico that we want to pass on to coming generations. It also leads us to the realization that a hope-filled future is forged in a present made up of men and women who are upright, honest, and capable of working for the common good, the “common good” which in this twenty-first century is not in such great demand.  Experience teaches us that each time we seek the path of privileges or benefits for a few to the detriment of the good of all, sooner or later the life of society becomes a fertile soil for corruption, drug trade, exclusion of different cultures, violence and also human trafficking, kidnapping and death, bringing suffering and slowing down development.” (Meeting with Authorities at National Palace in Mexico City, Feb. 13, 2016)

To Indigenous people he said, that “the violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life (…) The environmental challenge that we are experiencing and its human causes, affects us all and demands our response (…) In this regard, you have much to teach us.” (Homily during Mass with Indigenous Communities in Chiapas, Feb. 15, 2016)

All these issues are, of course, directly connected to the migrant issue. Referring to the journey that migrants face, he said,

“Each step, a journey laden with grave injustices: the enslaved, the imprisoned and extorted; so many of these brothers and sisters of ours are the consequence of a trade in human trafficking, the trafficking of persons. We cannot deny the humanitarian crisis which in recent years has meant migration for thousands of people, whether by train or highway or on foot, crossing hundreds of kilometres through mountains, deserts and inhospitable zones.” (Homily During Mass at Fair Grounds in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)

Perhaps the harshest words were for labor leaders to whom he said,

“God will hold us accountable for the slaves of our day, and we must do everything to make sure that these situations do not happen again. The flow of capital cannot decide the flow and life of people.” And, “When the common good is used only at the service of profit and capital, this has a name: it is called exclusion, and through it the throwaway culture gets stronger and stronger. Throwaway and exclusion.” (Address to World of Labor in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)

These situations make it harder to harbour hope. He warned the young people:

“The biggest threats to hope are those words which devalue you, words which suck out your value and you end up feeling down (…) The biggest threat to hope is when you feel that you do not matter to anybody or that that you have been left aside. This is the great obstacle to hope: when, in a family, society, school or a group of friends, you are made to feel unimportant to them.” (Address during Meeting with Youth in Morelia, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016)

During this trip, Pope Francis often had harsh words, but he always brought the message back to one of hope and mercy. On the first day of his visit, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe he had said,

“Do not let trials and pains overwhelm you, [Mary] tells us.  Today, she sends us out anew; today, she comes to tell us again: be my ambassador, the one I send to build many new shrines, accompany many lives, wipe away many tears.  Simply be my ambassador by walking along the paths of your neighbourhood, of your community, of your parish; we can build shrines by sharing the joy of knowing that we are not alone, that Mary accompanies us.”

This is how we can transform Mexico and our world: one day at a time; one family at a time; one step at a time. Not everyone will be the president or a labour leader; we are not all called to do great things, but, as Mother Teresa said, small things, daily, with great love. That is not one way to change the world; it is the only way.

Come back tomorrow to find out what Pope Francis had to say about Marriage and family.


Photo credit: Pope Francis makes the sign of the cross as he prays before the original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe after celebrating Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City Feb. 13. The Marian image was rotated for the pope to pray in the “camarin” (“little room”) behind the main altar. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


PedroHeadShot

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Deacon-structing Mexico – part 1

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Pope Francis went to Mexico, he said, as a “missionary of mercy and of peace but also as a son who wishes to pay homage to his mother, the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe, and place himself under her watchful care” (Meeting with Authorities at National Palace in Mexico City, Feb. 13, 2016) and that he did. His message – not just what he said, but more so, where he went, who he met with and what he did – was constantly one that reminded us of God’s mercy. He did not stay very long in Mexico City, but went to the peripheries – 5 different locations in 5 days – and made a point to spend time with the young, the old, families, indigenous people, labour leaders, those living in impoverished and drug and crime-ridden neighbourhoods, and those in prison. He spoke about corruption and about the dignity of work; he spoke about throwaway attitudes and wealth; he spoke about dreams and hope. His last words before he left were, “Thanks to Our Lord for having granted me this visit to Mexico, which always surprises, for Mexico is a surprise!” (Farewell Address in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)In many ways, this was a typical Francis apostolic visit, but there were some surprises.

I had the chance to cover this visit for Salt + Light with Alicia Ambrosio. It was a whirlwind 6 days. Over the next three days, I’d like to share with you what stood out most for me.

The Wealth of this Land

Pope Francis began his visit by telling Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto (who is 49 years-old) and other government leaders that “Mexico’s principal richness today has a young face; yes, this richness is your young people.” (Meeting with Authorities at National Palace in Mexico City, Feb. 13, 2016)

On Feb 16th, he had a special gathering – akin to an Olympic Opening Ceremony or perhaps a mini Mexican Youth Day – with young people in Morelia. He began by saying to them “you are the wealth of this land.” He did acknowledge that this wealth is not recognized, sometimes by the youth themselves. He asked everyone to answer in the quiet of their own hearts, “Is it true that not everything is lost?” “Am I lost?” “Do I have worth?” “Am I worth a little, a lot?”

The next day he told representatives of the World of Labor that,

“One of the greatest scourges for young people is the lack of opportunities for study and for sustainable and profitable work, which would permit them to work for the future. In many cases – many cases – this lack of opportunity leads to situations of poverty and rejection. This poverty and rejection then becomes the best breeding ground for the young to fall into the cycle of drug trafficking and violence.”

He finished by telling these labor leaders:

It is always good to think about what I would like to leave my children; it is also a good way to think of others’ children. Do you want to leave them the memory of exploitation, of insufficient pay, of workplace harassment, of trafficking in slave labour? Or do you want to leave them a culture which recalls dignified labour, proper lodging, and land to be worked?” (Address to World of Labor in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)

The Wonder of Walking Together

At the gathering with youth Pope Francis responded to Roberto, a young man who had spoken earlier in the program.

“You spoke about losing something and yet you did not say: ‘I lost my cell phone, I lost my wallet with money in it, I lost the train because I was late’. We have lost the wonder of walking together, we have lost the delight of dreaming together, so that this wealth, moved by hope, can take us forward; we need to walk together, we need to meet, and we need to dream. Do not lose the fascinating power of dreaming! Have the courage to dream” (Address during Meeting with Youth in Morelia, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016)

To the Indigenous communities in Chiapas, he said,

“In many ways there have been attempts to silence and dull this yearning, and in many ways there have been efforts to anaesthetize our soul, and in many ways there have been endeavours to subdue and lull our children and young people into a kind of lassitude by suggesting that nothing can change, that their dreams can never come true.” (Homily during Mass with Indigenous Communities in Chiapas, Feb. 15, 2016)

And to labour leaders he said, “This world does sometimes take away our ability to dream, our ability to be grateful. When a young boys or girls only see their parents at weekends because the latter set off very early to work and then return late at night during the week, this is what we mean by a throwaway culture. I want to invite you to dream, to dream of a Mexico where a father and mother can have time to play with their children (…) I invite you to dream in a Mexico that your children deserve; a Mexico where no one is first, second, or fourth; a Mexico where each sees in the other the dignity of a child of God.” (Address to World of Labor in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)

This is not the first time Pope Francis encourages us to dream. He said the same thing to young people in Cuba. But to priests, deacons, seminarians and men and women religious, he summed up the challenged in one word: resignation.

A resignation which paralyzes us and prevents us not only from walking, but also from making the journey; a resignation which not only terrifies us, but which also entrenches us in our “sacristies” and false securities; a resignation which not only prevents us from proclaiming, but also inhibits our giving praise.  A resignation which not only hinders our looking to the future, but also thwarts our desire to take risks and to change.” (Homily during Mass with Religious in Morelia, Feb. 16, 2016)

At the Angelus Address in Ecatepec he exhorted this change,

“I invite you once again today to be on the front line, to be first in all the initiatives which help make this blessed land of Mexico a land of opportunities, where there will be no need to emigrate in order to dream, no need to be exploited in order to work, no need to make the despair and poverty of many the opportunism of a few, a land that will not have to mourn men and women, young people and children who are destroyed at the hands of the dealers of death.(Angelus Address in Ecatepec, Feb. 14, 2016)

Indeed, youth are not only the wealth of Mexico but also the wealth of the Church; we must all recognize this. In his farewell address, Pope Francis said,

“Many men and women lining the streets as I went by, lifted up their children, showing them to me: they are the future of Mexico, let us look after them, let us love them. These children are tomorrow’s prophets, they are the sign of a new dawn.” (Farewell Address in Juarez, Feb. 17, 2016)

However, Mexico’s future faces many threats. Come back tomorrow and see what Pope Francis had to say about violence and corruption.


photo credit: Pope Francis greets girls in traditional dress during a meeting with young people at the Jose Maria Morelos Pavon Stadium in Morelia, Mexico, Feb. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)


PedroHeadShot

Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching:pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Interview with the Pope: seeking the richness of faith in Mexico

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Vatican City, 3 February 2016 (VIS) – Next week Pope Francis will begin his apostolic trip to Mexico. From 12 to 17 February he will visit Mexico City, Ecatepec, Tuxtla Gutierrez, San Cristobal de Las Casas, Morelia and Ciudad Juarez, and will pray before Our Lady of Guadalupe. For the occasion, the agency Notimex recorded a series of brief questions and expressions of hope for the Mexican people in four videos, presented to the Holy Father. The Pope responded with a video that will be broadcast today on the Notimex website. The following is a summary of the questions and answers. The images can be obtained from the Vatican Television Centre.

Question: Why are you coming to Mexico? What brings you to Mexico?

Pope Francis: “What moves me most is this: what are [we] coming to look for in Mexico? I will come to Mexico not like a Wise Man loaded with things to bring, messages, ideas, solutions to problems … I come to Mexico as a pilgrim, to look for something among the Mexican people. … I come to seek the wealth of faith you have, I come for that infectious wealth of faith. You have an idiosyncrasy, a way of being that is the fruit of a very long road, a history that has been forged slowly, with pain, with success, with failures, with searching, but with a common thread. You have great richness in your heart and, above all, you are not an orphaned people, as you are proud to have a Mother, and when a man or a woman or a people do not forget their Mother, this provides a wealth that cannot be described; it is received and transmitted. So, I will go in search of some of this in you. A people that does not forget its Mother, the Mother who forged her people in hope”.

WOMAN LAYS HAND ON IMAGE OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE ON DISPLAY AT NEW YORK CATHOLIC CHURCH

Question: What does Our Lady of Guadalupe represent for the Pope?

Pope Francis: “Security, tenderness. Sometimes I am afraid of certain problems or something unpleasant happens and I do not know how to react, and I pray to her. I like to repeat to myself, ‘Do not be afraid, am I not here, your Mother?’. They are her words: ‘Do not be afraid’. … I feel this, that she is our Mother, who cares, protects and leads a people, who leads a family, who gives the warmth of home, who caresses with tenderness and who banishes fear. … It is an eloquent image, that of a Mother like a blanket who covers and cares, in the midst of her people. … This is what I feel before Her. … What I would ask you, as a favour, is that this time, the third time I will be on Mexican soil, that you will let me spend a moment before the image. That is the favour I ask of you”.

Question: How would you help us to face the violence here?

Pope Francis: “Violence, corruption, war, children who cannot go to school because their country is at war, trafficking, arms manufacturers who sell weapons so that the wars of the world can continue … this is more or less the climate that we live in the world, and you are experiencing a part of it, a part of this ‘war’, this part of suffering, of violence, of organised trafficking. If I come to you, it is to receive the best of you and to pray with you, so that the problems … that you know exist may be resolved, because the Mexico of violence, the Mexico of corruption, the Mexico of drug trafficking, the Mexico of the cartels, is not the Mexico that our Mother loves, and of course I do not wish to cover up any of that; on the contrary, I would urge you to fight, day by day, against corruption, against trafficking, against war, against disunity, against organised crime, against human trafficking”.

“‘May you bring us a little peace’, one of you said. Peace is something that must be worked on every day, and – to use a phrase that sounds like a contradiction – it must be fought for, every day. It is necessary to combat every day for peace, not for war. It is necessary to sow gentleness, understanding, peace. St. Francis prayed, ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace’. I would like to be an instrument of peace in Mexico, but with all of you. … And how is peace formed? Peace is a craft, it is formed by hand. From the education of a child to the care for an elderly person: they are all seeds of peace. Peace is born of tenderness, peace is born of understanding, peace is born or is made in dialogue, not in rupture, and this is the key word: dialogue. Dialogue between leaders, dialogue with the people, and dialogue among all people. … Do not be afraid of listening to others, to seeing their motivations. And please, do not enter into any traps to make money; it enslaves life in an inner war and takes away freedom, because peace brings freedom. I come to ask the Virgin, along with you, to give us this peace, so that Our Lady of Guadalupe may give us peace in our heart, in the family, in the city, and in all the country”.

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Question: What do you wish for from us, and what are your hopes for us?

Pope Francis: “I come to serve, to be a servant of the faith for you … because I felt this vocation … to serve the faith of the people. But this faith must grow and go out into daily life; it must be a public faith. And faith becomes strong when it is public, above all … in moments of crisis. … It is true that there is a crisis of faith in the world. But it is also true that there is a great blessing and a desire … for faith to come forth, for faith to be missionary, for faith not to be closed up in a tin. Our faith is not a museum faith, and the Church is not a museum. Our faith is born of contact, of dialogue with Jesus Christ, our Saviour, with the Lord. … If faith does not go out into the street, it is no use; and taking faith out into the street does not mean merely a procession. That faith goes out into the street means that we show ourselves to be Christians in the workplace, in the family, at university, in college. … Faith wants to be on the streets, like Jesus. … Where did Jesus spend most of his time? On the street, preaching the Gospel, bearing witness. … Our faith demands that we too go forth, that we do not keep Jesus confined to ourselves without letting Him out, as Jesus goes out with us, so if we do not go forth, neither does He. … Renewing the faith means going out into the streets, not being afraid of conflict, seeking solutions to family, school, social and economic problems. Faith has to be my inspiration for my commitment to my people, and it has its risks and its dangers. I would like to end with some of our Mother’s words; through me, she is saying to you, ‘Do not be afraid of going forth, do not be afraid, my child, I am here and I am your Mother”.

Papal Highlights from 2015 – Perspectives Daily

Tonight on Perspectives – Pope Francis makes an appeal for Cuban migrants, sends condolences to families affected by religious violence in Philippines, and a look at Papal highlights from 2015.

Pope In Kenya: Address during Meeting with Authorities and Diplomatic Corps

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On Wednesday, November 25, 2015, Pope Francis arrived in Kenya for the first leg of his first Apostolic Visit to Africa. He was welcomed at “Jomo Kenyatta” International Airport of Nairobi and led to the State House of Nairobi for the official welcoming ceremony. Below you will find the full text of his welcoming address to the authorities of Kenya and Diplomatic Corps:

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
Meeting with Authorities and the Diplomatic Corps
Nairobi, State House
Wednesday 25 November 2015

Mr President,
Honourable Government and Civil Leaders,
Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
My Brother Bishops,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am most grateful for your warm welcome on this, my first visit to Africa. I thank you, Mr President, for your kind words in the name of the Kenyan people, and I look forward to my stay among you.  Kenya is a young and vibrant nation, a richly diverse society which plays a significant role in the region. In many ways your experience of shaping a democracy is one shared by many other African nations. Like Kenya, they too are working to build, on the solid foundations of mutual respect, dialogue and cooperation, a multiethnic society which is truly harmonious, just and inclusive.

Yours too is a nation of young people. In these days, I look forward to meeting many of them, speaking with them, and encouraging their hopes and aspirations for the future. The young are any nation’s most valuable resource. To protect them, to invest in them and to offer them a helping hand, is the best way we can ensure a future worthy of the wisdom and spiritual values dear to their elders, values which are the very heart and soul of a people.

Kenya has been blessed not only with immense beauty, in its mountains, rivers and lakes, its forests, savannahs and semi-deserts, but also by an abundance of natural resources. The Kenyan people have a strong appreciation of these God-given treasures and are known for a culture of conservation which does you honour. The grave environmental crisis facing our world demands an ever greater sensitivity to the relationship between human beings and nature. We have a responsibility to pass on the beauty of nature in its integrity to future generations, and an obligation to exercise a just stewardship of the gifts we have received. These values are deeply rooted in the African soul. In a world which continues to exploit rather than protect our common home, they must inspire the efforts of national leaders to promote responsible models of economic development.

In effect, there is a clear link between the protection of nature and the building of a just and equitable social order. There can be no renewal of our relationship with nature, without a renewal of humanity itself (cf. Laudato Si’, 118). To the extent that our societies experience divisions, whether ethnic, religious or economic, all men and women of good will are called to work for reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and healing. In the work of building a sound democratic order, strengthening cohesion and integration, tolerance and respect for others, the pursuit of the common good must be a primary goal. Experience shows that violence, conflict and terrorism feed on fear, mistrust, and the despair born of poverty and frustration. Ultimately, the struggle against these enemies of peace and prosperity must be carried on by men and women who fearlessly believe in, and bear honest witness to, the great spiritual and political values which inspired the birth of the nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the advancement and preservation of these great values is entrusted in a special way to you, the leaders of your country’s political, cultural and economic life. This is a great responsibility, a true calling, in the service of the entire Kenyan people. The Gospel tells us that from those to whom much has been given, much will be demanded (Lk 12:48). In that spirit, I encourage you to work with integrity and transparency for the common good, and to foster a spirit of solidarity at every level of society. I ask you in particular to show genuine concern for the needs of the poor, the aspirations of the young, and a just distribution of the natural and human resources with which the Creator has blessed your country. I assure you of the continued efforts of the Catholic community, through its educational and charitable works, to offer its specific contribution in these areas.

Dear friends, I am told that here in Kenya it is a tradition for young schoolchildren to plant trees for posterity. May this eloquent sign of hope in the future, and trust in the growth which God gives, sustain all of you in your efforts to cultivate a society of solidarity, justice and peace on the soil of this country and throughout the great African continent. I thank you once more for your warm welcome, and upon you and your families, and all the beloved Kenyan people, I invoke the Lord’s abundant blessings.

Mungu abariki Kenya!

God bless Kenya!

CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters

Behind Vatican Walls: Central African Republic

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Pope Francis is scheduled to make his first Apostolic Visit to Africa this month. His itinerary includes a stop in the Central African Republic where he will visit the capital, Bangui. For the first time the pope and Vatican officials have acknowledged that the visit to the war torn nation is less than certain.

Tumultuous past

The former French colony Ubangi – Shari was a region sought after by France, Germany, Belgium and Great Britain because of its natural resources. France gained control of the area in 1894 and held on to it until the 1960s. Post-colonial life brought economic and political instability and coup after coup.

Since August 13, 1960 when Ubangi-Shari became independent from France the Central African Republic has seen five coups. The most recent took place in 2013 when Seleka – a rebel group made up of fighters from previous rebel groups – seized the capital after they became unhappy with how president Francois Bozize was implementing a power-sharing agreement.

The leader of the rebel group, Michel Djotodia declared himself de-facto head of state. However the Economic Community of Central African States rejected his attempt to form government and he had to rework his plan of government. In the meantime the Christian population, by and large the majority, began to form their own militias which they called “anti-balaka” or “anti-machete” in response to the violence of Seleka rebels.

What had been violent reactions to ineffective government became a vicious cycle of violent attacks between Christians and Muslims.

Living in a failed state

When the most recent wave of violence began in 2013, CAR was already host to asylum seekers from neighbouring states. Since December 2013, one quarter of the population of Central African Republic has been internally displaced, according to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.The armed rebel groups have not just displaced the local population, the groups effectively prevent humanitarian aid from getting to the people who need it.

In 2014 the UNHCR said 930,000 people had been displaced as a result of the violence between Seleka and Anti-Balka fighters. Various camps for the displaced were created in Bangui and around the country. The most prominent being the M’poko camp close to the Bangui airport. There, people who have fled their homes and neighbourhoods in fear, sleep in abandoned airplanes or take shelter under the wings of old aircrafts. Basic health and sanitation are provided, but not without challenges.

In some cities and towns people have taken shelter in the nearest Catholic church. On one fact finding mission, officials from Human Rights Watch reported Catholic priests and nuns “seem to be the only force able to protect vulnerable muslim communities”.

Pre Papal Trip

An increase in violence in September displaced a new wave of people from their homes, ignited yet another cycle of attacks and retaliation and caused scheduled elections to be postponed again. In early November, armed men slit a man’s throat and set fire to homes in  his neighbourhood, setting off retaliatory attacks. Residents fled the mostly muslim PK5 neighbourhood as a result.

This new wave of violence has put Pope Francis’ visit to the country in jeopardy.

CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


Alicia

Every week brings new, exciting, and sometimes juicy headlines from behind Vatican walls and every week Alicia delves deeper into one of those headlines. For a full run down of what’s been happening behind Vatican walls, watch Vatican Connections. Already watch the program? Come back every Friday for an in-depth look at an issue, headline or person. Season 4 of Vatican Connections airs every Friday at 8:00 pm ET.

Wherever you go…

Pope

“You illustrate humility, you model service, and a hope we all are hoping and waiting for.”

On the morning of September 19th, you, Holy Father, flew to Havana, Cuba, where people raised their eyes to welcome you.  A path of faith was printed in the itinerary of your visit to Cuba, celebrating Mass, vespers, and paying tribute to Mother Mary in the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. I feel called to imitate your itinerary in my life, and this is not impossible. There is a church on my way to work to offer a prayer of thanksgiving, there is a rosary for me to pray on the train to bring me to our Mother, there are moments of silence to close my eyes and hear the Lord in my prayers. The eyes of the world follow you closely during your Apostolic Visit. The show us the Church is for everyone.

You are now in the United States, continuing your Apostolic Journey in Washington, New York and Philadelphia, where more people are eager to hear your message of peace and hope.  Your address to the American Congress in Washington, and to the United Nations Assembly in New York, reminds me of this moment in the Gospel: “and they were amazed at His teaching, for His message was with authority.” Wherever you go, the dazzling and flashing of lights does not alter your focus and attention. Your eyes reflect your compassion upon the suffering and lonely, the homeless, the migrant families, and prisoners.  You walk as Jesus walked, welcoming those who suffered, you heal them with hope and kindness.  The World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia is the peak and final stop of your visit in America. Your teaching in your General Audiences sharpens our understanding of the family as God created it. It restores hope and meaning to family. In early October, you will be meeting with the world’s bishops on the subject of the family – the Synod on the Family.  As our Holy Father, your message is that the family will bring the whole world together as one, in unity, peace and love.

So that everyone can have the opportunity to follow Pope Francis’ Apostolic Journey and the Synod on Family in October, Salt + Light is now available as a Free Preview on all major Canadian cable network. As “Your Catholic Channel of Hope”, it is our mission to bring you hope. In our media ministry, Our Hope Begins With You.

Wherever you go, Holy Father, you bring with you your message of joy and peace to the world.

madonna-lee-authorMadonna Lee is the Chinese Marketing Manager for Salt + Light, she writes content for the Chinese blog, spearheads Marketing projects for our Chinese department, and assists in Chinese productions. In the photo to left, Madonna at her work station.

Photo, top: Pope Francis, Catholic News Service

Pope in Cuba: Homily, Feast of St. Matthew, Holguín

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“Jesus’ love goes before us, his look anticipates our needs.”

Here is the official translation of Pope Francis’ homily at the Plaza de la Revolución “Calixto García Iñíguez” in Holguín, Cuba.

* * *

We are celebrating the feast of the apostle and evangelist Saint Matthew. We are celebrating the story of a conversion. Matthew himself, in his Gospel, tell us what it was like, this encounter which changed his life. He shows us an “exchange of glances” capable of changing history.

On a day like any other, as Matthew, the tax collector, was seated at his table, Jesus passed by, saw him, came up to him and said: “Follow me”. Matthew got up and followed him.

Jesus looked at him. How strong was the love in that look of Jesus, which moved Matthew to do what he did! What power must have been in his eyes to make Matthew get up from his table! We know that Matthew was a publican: he collected taxes from the Jews to give to the Romans. Publicans were looked down upon and considered sinners; as such, they lived apart and were despised by others. One could hardly eat, speak or pray with the likes of these. For the people, they were traitors: they extorted from their own to give to others. Publicans belonged to this social class.

Jesus, on the other hand, stopped; he did not quickly take his distance. He looked at Matthew calmly, peacefully. He looked at him with eyes of mercy; he looked at him as no one had ever looked at him before. And this look unlocked Matthew’s heart; it set him free, it healed him, it gave him hope, a new life, as it did to Zacchaeus, to Bartimaeus, to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, and to each of us. Even if we do not dare raise our eyes to the Lord, he looks at us first. This is our story, and it is like that of so many others. Each of us can say: “I, too, am a sinner, whom Jesus has looked upon”. I ask you, in your homes or in the Church, to be still for a moment and to recall with gratitude and happiness those situations, that moment, when the merciful gaze of God was felt in our lives.

Jesus’ love goes before us, his look anticipates our needs. He can see beyond appearances, beyond sin, beyond failures and unworthiness. He sees beyond our rank in society. He sees beyond this, to our dignity as sons and daughters, a dignity at times sullied by sin, but one which endures in the depth of our soul. He came precisely to seek out all those who feel unworthy of God, unworthy of others. Let us allow Jesus to look at us. Let us allow his gaze to run over our streets. Let us allow that look to become our joy, our hope.

After the Lord looked upon him with mercy, he said to Matthew: “Follow me.” Matthew got up and followed him. After the look, a word. After love, the mission. Matthew is no longer the same; he is changed inside. The encounter with Jesus and his loving mercy has transformed him. He leaves behind his table, his money, his exclusion. Before, he had sat waiting to collect his taxes, to take from others; now, with Jesus he must get up and give, give himself to others. Jesus looks at him and Matthew encounters the joy of service. For Matthew and for all who have felt the gaze of Jesus, other people are no longer to be “lived off”, used and abused. The gaze of Jesus gives rise to missionary activity, service, self-giving. Jesus’ love heals our short-sightedness and pushes us to look beyond, not to be satisfied with appearances or with what is politically correct.

Jesus goes before us, he precedes us; he opens the way and invites us to follow him. He invites us slowly to overcome our preconceptions and our reluctance to think that others, much less ourselves, can change. He challenges us daily with the question: “Do you believe? Do you believe it is possible that a tax collector can become a servant? Do you believe it is possible that a traitor can become a friend? Do you believe is possible that the son of a carpenter can be the Son of God?” His gaze transforms our way of seeing things, his heart transforms our hearts. God is a Father who seeks the salvation of each of his sons and daughters.

Let us gaze upon the Lord in prayer, in the Eucharist, in Confession, in our brothers and sisters, especially those who feel excluded or abandoned. May we learn to see them as Jesus sees us. Let us share his tenderness and mercy with the sick, prisoners, the elderly and families in difficulty. Again and again we are called to learn from Jesus, who always sees what is most authentic in every person, which is the image of his Father.

I know the efforts and the sacrifices being made by the Church in Cuba to bring Christ’s word and presence to all, even in the most remote areas. Here I would mention especially the “mission houses” which, given the shortage of churches and priests, provide for many people a place for prayer, for listening to the word of God, for catechesis and community life. They are small signs of God’s presence in our neighborhoods and a daily aid in our effort to respond to the plea of the apostle Paul: “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (cf. Eph 4:1-3).

I now turn my eyes to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, whom Cuba embraced and to whom it opened its doors forever. I ask Our Lady to look with maternal love on all her children in this noble country. May her “eyes of mercy” ever keep watch over each of you, your homes, your families, and all those who feel that they have no place. In her love, may she protect us all as she once cared for Jesus.