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Where is Christ in Communications?


World Communications Day

Where is Christ in Communication?

Written by Dr. Jennifer Reid
Adjunct Professor, University of St. Michael’s College

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of World Communications Day by the Catholic Church. The past fifty years have brought radical changes in the way we communicate. Every change has created new challenges for everyone around the world as we adopt and adapt to new communications media, and not just on the functional level of technology. Every new medium of communication has intrinsic characteristics and dynamics that establish new modes and codes of behaviour and relationship that challenge our previous values.

In this jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has asked us to communicate in thought, word, and deed in a spirit of compassion that reflects the Christian reality of our connectedness to God and the loving, inclusive nature of Jesus Christ. The words of Pope Francis draw attention to a need for sensitivity towards our understanding of compassion and mercy, particularly in our digital media environments, like email, text, and social media. He suggests that we do not recognize them as human environments, as we would a “public square”. Reminding us that “as sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception”, he exhorts us to be “inspired by charity, by divine love” so that “our communication will be touched with God’s own power”, even in those media environments where our humanity may be obscured. In other words, Pope Francis asks us to consider the fundamental question, “where is Christ in communication?”

The Church has been meditating on this question since the beginning of Christianity itself. Communication is at the heart of Christianity. Our faith is founded upon a real-life, historical encounter with Jesus Christ. During his lifetime, Jesus communicated directly with our ancient brothers and sisters in distinctly human ways. He travelled by various means throughout their lands. He met them where they lived, worked, and worshipped. He spoke to them directly, using gestures, words, and images they could grasp. He used his own hands, spittle, breath, and words to heal the mentally, spiritually, and physically ill. He used prayer and contemplation to speak with his Father in heaven. At the Last Supper he offered bread and wine as his body and blood for his disciples to eat and drink as a sign of the sacrifice of his own human body and life that was to come. Even his arrest, imprisonment, torture, and execution were distinctly human forms of communication.

When Jesus died on the cross, his conversation with our ancient brothers and sisters was not over. After three days, he returned to them. For forty days he continued his teaching, but in a new and deeper way. He had been transformed. He appeared to his disciples so that they could understand the reality of the Resurrection, as well as the reality of all that he and the scriptures had promised them about God, heaven, and salvation. Even when Jesus finally ascended into heaven, he did not cease communicating with them. He gave his disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit so they could go out and bring the light of Christ to the world. The apostles then began the tradition of passing along the experience of Christ to others in thought, word, and deed. Like Jesus Christ during his human lifetime, they used the available media of their time to accomplish this task, but with the added dimension of the Holy Spirit. In this way, they were not limited by voice nor writing, nor language nor geography, but were able to interface with the world through the illimitable and transcendent power of the Spirit in the Risen Lord.

This tradition of communication, begun by our ancient brothers and sisters, continues today both inside and outside the Church. We continue to communicate directly with Christ in many ways, for example, through faith, prayer, revelation, scripture, baptism, reconciliation, and communion. As Christians we are in constant communication with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God has revealed to us that not everyone can be “reached” in the same way. At a certain point in human history, God felt it was time for a more intimate form of communication with his people: the birth of his son Jesus through Mary. At this event, Word was made flesh, and humanity was remade on the deepest levels of language and being. Pope Francis brings us back to this fundamental conversation we hold with God in Jesus Christ as the most radical form of language upon which our true humanity is based. It is we, as Christians, who are the Christ in communication for our brothers and sisters. Let us be “letters of Christ”, as St. Paul called us, bringing light to the world in our compassion for one another as we meet across time and space through all our media.

Photo: A statue of the crucified Christ is seen at Cure of Ars Church in Merrick, N.Y., Jan. 14. Good Friday, observed March 25 this year, commemorates the passion and death of Jesus. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz, Long Island Catholic)

Communication and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter


Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the 50th World Communications Day

Communications and Mercy: A Fruitful Encounter

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Holy Year of Mercy invites all of us to reflect on the relationship between communication and mercy. The Church, in union with Christ, the living incarnation of the Father of Mercies, is called to practise mercy as the distinctive trait of all that she is and does. What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God’s compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all. Love, by its nature, is communication; it leads to openness and sharing. If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity, by divine love, then our communication will be touched by God’s own power.

As sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception. In a particular way, the Church’s words and actions are all meant to convey mercy, to touch people’s hearts and to sustain them on their journey to that fullness of life which Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to bring to all. This means that we ourselves must be willing to accept the warmth of Mother Church and to share that warmth with others, so that Jesus may be known and loved. That warmth is what gives substance to the word of faith; by our preaching and witness, it ignites the “spark” which gives them life.

Communication has the power to build bridges, to enable encounter and inclusion, and thus to enrich society. How beautiful it is when people select their words and actions with care, in the effort to avoid misunderstandings, to heal wounded memories and to build peace and harmony. Words can build bridges between individuals and within families, social groups and peoples. This is possible both in the material world and the digital world. Our words and actions should be such as to help us all escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance which continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred. The words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil, they should never try to rupture relationships and communication.

For this reason, I would like to invite all people of good will to rediscover the power of mercy to heal wounded relationships and to restore peace and harmony to families and communities. All of us know how many ways ancient wounds and lingering resentments can entrap individuals and stand in the way of communication and reconciliation. The same holds true for relationships between peoples. In every case, mercy is able to create a new kind of speech and dialogue. Shakespeare put it eloquently when he said: “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: it blesseth him that gives and him that takes” (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I).

Our political and diplomatic language would do well to be inspired by mercy, which never loses hope. I ask those with institutional and political responsibility, and those charged with forming public opinion, to remain especially attentive to the way they speak of those who think or act differently or those who may have made mistakes. It is easy to yield to the temptation to exploit such situations to stoke the flames of mistrust, fear and hatred. Instead, courage is needed to guide people towards processes of reconciliation. It is precisely such positive and creative boldness which offers real solutions to ancient conflicts and the opportunity to build lasting peace. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:7-9)

How I wish that our own way of communicating, as well as our service as pastors of the Church, may never suggest a prideful and triumphant superiority over an enemy, or demean those whom the world considers lost and easily discarded. Mercy can help mitigate life’s troubles and offer warmth to those who have known only the coldness of judgment. May our way of communicating help to overcome the mindset that neatly separates sinners from the righteous. We can and we must judge situations of sin – such as violence, corruption and exploitation – but we may not judge individuals, since only God can see into the depths of their hearts. It is our task to admonish those who err and to denounce the evil and injustice of certain ways of acting, for the sake of setting victims free and raising up those who have fallen. The Gospel of John tells us that “the truth will make you free” (Jn 8:32). The truth is ultimately Christ himself, whose gentle mercy is the yardstick for measuring the way we proclaim the truth and condemn injustice. Our primary task is to uphold the truth with love (cf. Eph 4:15). Only words spoken with love and accompanied by meekness and mercy can touch our sinful hearts. Harsh and moralistic words and actions risk further alienating those whom we wish to lead to conversion and freedom, reinforcing their sense of rejection and defensiveness.

Some feel that a vision of society rooted in mercy is hopelessly idealistic or excessively indulgent. But let us try and recall our first experience of relationships, within our families. Our parents loved us and valued us for who we are more than for our abilities and achievements. Parents naturally want the best for their children, but that love is never dependent on their meeting certain conditions. The family home is one place where we are always welcome (cf. Lk 15:11-32). I would like to encourage everyone to see society not as a forum where strangers compete and try to come out on top, but above all as a home or a family, where the door is always open and where everyone feels welcome.

For this to happen, we must first listen. Communicating means sharing, and sharing demands listening and acceptance. Listening is much more than simply hearing. Hearing is about receiving information, while listening is about communication, and calls for closeness. Listening allows us to get things right, and not simply to be passive onlookers, users or consumers. Listening also means being able to share questions and doubts, to journey side by side, to banish all claims to absolute power and to put our abilities and gifts at the service of the common good.

Listening is never easy. Many times it is easier to play deaf. Listening means paying attention, wanting to understand, to value, to respect and to ponder what the other person says. It involves a sort of martyrdom or self-sacrifice, as we try to imitate Moses before the burning bush: we have to remove our sandals when standing on the “holy ground” of our encounter with the one who speaks to me (cf. Ex 3:5). Knowing how to listen is an immense grace, it is a gift which we need to ask for and then make every effort to practice.

Emails, text messages, social networks and chats can also be fully human forms of communication. It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal. Social networks can facilitate relationships and promote the good of society, but they can also lead to further polarization and division between individuals and groups. The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks. I pray that this Jubilee Year, lived in mercy, “may open us to even more fervent dialogue so that we might know and understand one another better; and that it may eliminate every form of closed-mindedness and disrespect, and drive out every form of violence and discrimination” (Misericordiae Vultus, 23). The internet can help us to be better citizens. Access to digital networks entails a responsibility for our neighbour whom we do not see but who is nonetheless real and has a dignity which must be respected. The internet can be used wisely to build a society which is healthy and open to sharing.

Communication, wherever and however it takes place, has opened up broader horizons for many people. This is a gift of God which involves a great responsibility. I like to refer to this power of communication as “closeness”. The encounter between communication and mercy will be fruitful to the degree that it generates a closeness which cares, comforts, heals, accompanies and celebrates. In a broken, fragmented and polarized world, to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family.

From the Vatican, 24 January 2016


Caption: Pope Francis speaks as he leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 27. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-AUDIENCE-SAMARITAN April 27, 2016.

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for May 2016


Join us in prayer for the intentions entrusted to us by Pope Francis. For March 2016, we join the Holy Father in praying for:

  • Respect for Women – That in every country of the world, women may be honored. 
  • Holy Rosary – That families, communities and groups may pray the Holy Rosary for evangelization and peace. 

Daily Offering Prayer
God, our Father, I offer You my day. I offer You my prayers, thoughts, words, actions, joys, and sufferings in union with the Heart of Jesus, who continues to offer Himself in the Eucharist for the salvation of the world. May the Holy Spirit, Who guided Jesus, be my guide and my strength today so that I may witness to your love. With Mary, the mother of our Lord and the Church, I pray for all Apostles of Prayer and for the prayer intentions proposed by the Holy Father this month. Amen.

Traditional Daily Offering of the Apostleship of Prayer
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, and the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all Apostles of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month. The Apostles of Prayer offer themselves to God each day for the good of the world, the Church, one another, and the Holy Father’s intentions.

Thank you for praying with us!

In a tradition that is centuries old, the Apostleship of Prayer publishes the Pope’s monthly prayer intentions. To become a member of the Apostleship of Prayer, you need only to offer yourself to God for his purposes each day. When you give God all the “prayers, works, joys and sufferings” of your day, you turn your entire day into a prayer for others. You are joining your will to God’s will. If you feel called to this simple, profound way of life, find out more at Apostleship of Prayer.

Caption: A woman prays in Cali, Colombia, in this April 13, 2014, file photo. (CNS photo/Christian Escobar Mora, EPA) See VATICAN-LETTER-WOMENS-DAY March 9, 2016.

Increase Dialogue, Decrease violence – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, an overview of the pope’s weekend activities and a priest known for his civil disobedience is remembered.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Archdiocese of Westminster (UK) Issues Pastoral Letter on Amoris Laetitia


Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster & President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has issued a Pastoral Letter that was read in all parishes on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 1, 2016, on the Pope’s Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the Joy of Love.

Nichols Cardinal GazaIn the letter, the Cardinal thanks God that ‘this great exhortation has come to us during the Year of Mercy when so many people are turning again to Confession, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That is a good place and a good time to start this discernment, accompanied by a priest.’

He explains that the ‘study of this exhortation will take time and effort. For all of us it will be a great source of joy and encouragement’ and he urges everyone to read it ‘together with loved ones’.

Cardinal Nichols echoes the Holy Father’s words that ‘love in the family is “a never-ending vocation” (325),”‘a shepherding in mercy” (322), across the generations’. He goes on to say that ‘it is the first way in which God’s love is made real in our world and by which the Gospel of Hope is proclaimed in situations that can be demanding and harsh’.

The full text of the letter can be read here.

Listen to the audio recording of the Cardinal delivering the letter below.


Cardinal Wuerl Interview on Amoris Laetitia #VisibleSign


Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and the Secretary for Pastoral Ministry and Social Concerns, Susan Timoney, STD, sit down to discuss Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (On Love in the Family). See the video below:

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Homily of Pope Francis at Mass for the Jubilee of Young People


On Sunday, April 24, 2016, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the Jubilee of Young People. Read below for the full text of his Homily:

St. Peter’s Square – Sunday April 24, 2016

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”

 Dear young friends, what an enormous responsibility the Lord gives us today! He tells us that the world will recognize the disciples of Jesus by the way they love one another. Love, in other words, is the Christian’s identity card, the only valid “document” identifying us as Christians. It is the only valid document. If this card expires and is not constantly renewed, we stop being witnesses of the Master. So I ask you: Do you wish to say yes to Jesus’ invitation to be his disciples? Do you wish to be his faithful friends? The true friends of Jesus stand out essentially by the genuine love; not some “pie in the sky” love; no, it is a genuine love that shines forth in their way of life. Love is always shown in real actions. Those who are not real and genuine and who speak of love are like characters is a soap opera, some fake love story. Do you want to experience his love? Do you want this love: yes or no? Let us learn from him, for his words are aschool of life, a school where we learn to love. This is a task which we must engage in every day: to learn how to love.

Before all else, love is beautiful, it is the path to happiness. But it is not an easy path. It is demanding and it requires effort. Think, for example, of when we receive a gift. It makes us happy, but receiving a gift means that someone generous has invested time and effort; by their gift they also give us a bit of themselves, a sacrifice they have made. Think too of the gift that your parents and group leaders have given you in allowing you to come to Rome for this Jubilee day dedicated to you. They planned, organized, and prepared everything for you, and this made them happy, even if it meant that they had to give up a trip for themselves. This is putting love into action. To love means to give, not only something material, but also something of one’s self: one’s own time, one’s friendship, one’s own abilities.

Look to the Lord, who is never outdone in generosity. We receive so many gifts from him, and every day we should thank him… Let me ask you something. Do you thank the Lord every day? Even if we forget to do so, he never forgets, each day, to give us some special gift. It is not something material and tangible that we can use, but something even greater, a life-long gift. What does the Lord give to us? He offers us his faithful friendship, which he will never take back. The Lord is a friend forever. Even if you disappoint him and walk away from him, Jesus continues to want the best for you and to remain close to you; he believes in you even more than you believe in yourself. This is an example of genuine love that Jesus teaches to us. This is very important! Because the biggest threat to growing up well comes from thinking that no one cares about us – and that is always a sadness – from feeling that we are all alone. The Lord, on the other hand, is always with you and he is happy to be with you. As he did with his first disciples, he looks you in the eye and he calls you to follow him, to “put out into the deep” and to “cast your nets wide” trusting in his words and using your talents in life, in union with him, without fear. Jesus is waiting patiently for you. He awaits your response. He is waiting for you to say “yes”.

Dear young friends, at this stage in your lives you have a growing desire to demonstrate and receive affection. The Lord, if you let him teach you, will show you how to make tenderness and affection even more beautiful. He will guide your hearts to “love without being possessive”, to love others without trying to own them but letting them be free. Because love is free! There is no true love that is not free! The freedom that the Lord gives to us is his love for us. He is always close to each one of us. There is always a temptation to let our affections be tainted by an instinctive desire to “have to have” what we find pleasing; this is selfishness. Our consumerist culture reinforces this tendency. Yet when we hold on too tightly to something, it fades, it dies, and then we feel confused, empty inside. The Lord, if you listen to his voice, will reveal to you the secret of love. It is caring for others, respecting them, protecting them and waiting for them. This is putting tenderness and love into action.

At this point in life you feel also a great longing for freedom. Many people will say to you that freedom means doing whatever you want. But here you have to be able to say no. If you do not know how to say “no”, you are not free. The person who is free is he or she who is able to say “yes” and who knows how to say “no”. Freedom is not the ability simply to do what I want. This makes us self-centred and aloof, and it prevents us from being open and sincere friends; it is not true to say “it is good enough if it serves me”. No, this is not true. Instead, freedom is the gift of being able to choose the good: this is true freedom. The free person is the one who chooses what is good, what is pleasing to God, even if it requires effort, even if it is not easy. I believe that you young men and women are not afraid to make the effort, that you are indeed courageous! Only by courageous and firm decisions do we realize our greatest dreams, the dreams which it is worth spending our entire lives to pursue. Courageous and noble choices. Do not be content with mediocrity, with “simply going with the flow”, with being comfortable and laid back. Don’t believe those who would distract you from the real treasure, which you are, by telling you that life is beautiful only if you have many possessions. Be sceptical about people who want to make you believe that you are only important if you act tough like the heroes in films or if you wear the latest fashions. Your happiness has no price. It cannot be bought: it is not an app that you can download on your phones nor will the latest update bring you freedom and grandeur in love. True freedom is something else altogether.

That is because love is a free gift which calls for an open heart; love is a responsibility, but a noble responsibility which is life-long; it is a daily task for those who can achieve great dreams! Woe to your people who do not know how to dream, who do not dare to dream! If a person of your age is not able to dream, if they have already gone into retirement… this is not good.Love is nurtured by trust, respect and forgiveness. Love does not happen because we talk about it, but when we live it: it is not a sweet poem to study and memorize, but is a life choice to put into practice! How can we grow in love? The secret, once again, is the Lord: Jesus gives us himself in the Mass, he offers us forgives and peace in Confession. There we learn to receive his love, to make it ours and to give it to the world. And when loving seems hard, when it is difficult to say no to something wrong, look up at Jesus on the cross, embrace the cross and don’t ever let go of his hand. He will point you ever higher, and pick you up whenever you fall. Throughout life we will fall many times, because we are sinners, we are weak. But there is always the hand of God who picks us up, who raises us up. Jesus wants us to be up on our feet! Think of the beautiful word Jesus said to the paralytic: “Arise!”. God has created us to be on our feet. There is a lovely song that mountain climbers sing as they climb. It goes like this: “In climbing, the important thing is not to not fall, but to not remain fallen!. To have the courage to pick oneself up, to allow oneself to be raised up by Jesus. And his hand is often given through the hand of a friend, through the hand of one’s parents, through the hand of those who accompany us throughout life. Jesus himself is present in them. So arise! God wants us up on our feet, ever on our feet!

I know that you are capable of acts of great friendship and goodness. With these you are called to build the future, together with others and for others, but never againstanyone! One never builds “against”; this is called “destruction”. You will do amazing things if you prepare well, starting now, by living your youth and all its gifts to the fullest and without fear of hard work. Be like sporting champions, who attain high goals by quiet daily effort and practice. Let your daily programme be the works of mercy. Enthusiastically practice them, so as to be champions in life, champions in love! In this way you will be recognized as disciples of Jesus. In this way, you will have the identification card of the Christian. And I promise you: your joy will be complete.

Behind Vatican Walls: Syrian Refugees


While Pope Francis has been personally helping Syrian refugees relocate to Europe, a joint Catholic – Russian Orthodox delegation visited Lebanon and Syria. The delegation identified ways the two churches can work together to help Syrians.

Officials from the Catholic aid agency Aid to the Church in Need and officials from the Moscow patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church visited Beirut, Damascus and Lebanon’s Bekka Valley. The group found two ways they can help Syrian Christians: compiling information about churches and shrines that have been destroyed, and providing aid to children.

Peter Humenik, the Russian expert for Aid to the Church in Need, was quoted in a press release from the organization as saying that Christians identified rebuilding of churches as one of the most pressing needs for their communities. According to Humenik they identified rebuilding churches as more urgent than rebuilding homes, because the life of the local Christian communities happened in those churches, shrines and parish buildings.

Christians in the communities visited told the joint delegation that recording testimonies about the martyrdom of Syrian Christians is also highly important to them.

The Moscow-based news agency Interfax quoted Humenik as saying that the joint delegation decided to hold “an action” at the end of the year ‘in favour of children of Syria in the city of Homs.”


This week – Friday April 22 –  the Jewish faithful celebrate Passover.

Pope Francis sent this telegram to the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni :

“In remembering with renewed gratitude our meeting on 17 January, when I was cordially welcomed by you and by the Jewish Community of the city in the Great Synagogue, I wish to express my most heartfelt wishes for the feast of Passover. It points out that the Almighty has released His beloved people from slavery and brought them to the Promised Land. May God also accompany you today with the abundance of His Blessings, protect your community and, in His mercy, bestow peace upon everyone. I ask you to pray for me, as I assure you of my prayers for you: may the Almighty allow us to be able to grow more and more in friendship”

We here at Salt + Light would like to wish a Happy Passover to all of our Jewish friends and supporters!

Watch this week’s episode of Vatican Connections below:


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.

Bishop Thornton: Amoris Laetitia

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This post originally appeared on Bishop Tim Thornton’s blog. 

Timothy Thornton was born in Leeds, England and educated at Devonport High School for Boys. He took an honours degree in Theology at Southampton University and trained for the priesthood at Oxford, later working in London, Wakefield and Cardiff. Timothy was Bishop of Sherborne for seven years before becoming the 15th Bishop of Truro in 2008. He is Trustee of a number of organizations as well as serving as Chairman of the Children’s Society which is a national charity working to help the most deprived children and disadvantaged young people. He was introduced to the House of Lords in April 2013.

Bishop Tim, as he is known to his flock, has not been afraid to voice his concerns on controversial matters of the day and has said that the greatest threat to Christianity is a lack of confidence in the faith saying: “My biggest concern is that Christians are not willing or able to bear witness to the faith that they believe. …If we believe what the gospel says then we ought to have the confidence in what we believe.”

Pope Francis appointed him as a fraternal delegate to the October 2015 Ordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. Bishop Thornton is married to Sian who is a teacher. They have two children and two grandchildren, twin girls.

Given I was at the Synod of Bishops last year and that is where my blog began I thought it was only right and proper that I write a blog now that Pope Francis has published the Post Synodical Exhortation.

As it happens I have one or two things to say about it and its reception so far.

The first thing to say is that it is well worth reading.  It is not a short document and it will not be necessarily easy reading for everyone but I do think Pope Francis has a fascinating style that is a good mix of being based in scripture and the tradition and a very immediate and straightforward way of putting things.  For example, “in the family three words need to be used.  I want to repeat this!  Three words, ‘Please’, ‘Thank you’, ‘Sorry’.  Three essential words! (p.100)”

The immediacy that comes through at various parts of this document is refreshing and challenging.

I would also commend to you the section on Our Daily Love in Chapter Four (pp. 71 ff.)  It is an exposition on I Corinthians chapter 13 and is rich and helpful.   It is well worth studying and again is a mix of scriptural explanation and to the point advice and wisdom.  “Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like.”  (p. 73).

Of course the Exhortation has been long awaited and is the result of a process that has taken place over a number of years.  Inevitably there are huge expectations on the part of many many people.  As the response to the document shows, and as we all know anyway, we cannot please all the people all the time.  Reactions to The Joy of Love have been that it is either too liberal or too conservative.  Depending on who you read and who you are it is either making too much change or is allowing no change at all.

You could say that a very good document is one that is open to such wide interpretation.  I think that the document is well worth reading and that is part of the problem.  Most people will not read the document and want someone to tell them what it says on certain issues; the ones they believe are the key issues.

The Pope begins with a significant statement, “Since, ‘time is greater than space’, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by the intervention on the magisterium.” (p. 4).  I am fascinated by the suggestion that time is greater than space which Pope Francis has said before but I don’t want to get unduly distracted by it.  Apart from this I am struck by the power of the Pope stating at the beginning of such an important report that the Magisterium is not to be used to solve all the problems.  He goes on to say, “Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it.” (p. 4).

I believe this is a thread that runs through this Exhortation and is not easy for any of us to grasp.  Pope Francis, while in no way denying his role or his proper sense of authority, is constantly helping every one of us to understand that under God, under His Son Jesus Christ who died and rose again for us, under the Holy Spirit who gives us power and strength, our life’s work is to accept who we are and become who God wants us to be.  That means we need to try and stop being dependent and grow through independence and aim towards interdependence.

So the report moves to look at the controversial issues faced by the Synod last year and no doubt frustratingly for many Pope Francis does not issue diktats or utter infallible statements other than that every one of us needs to grow in Christ.

Pope Francis shows he has a real understanding and empathy with the situation within families of all sorts and shapes and sizes (perhaps not quite all but almost all) today.  He also, in different ways throughout this report, keeps stressing there are no easy answers or solutions to the problems that beset family life.  He emphasises the importance of inclusion and that way exclusion is not a gospel option.  I can do no better than to quote at some length from the very end of The Joy of Love.

“As this Exhortation has often noted, no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love. There is a never ending vocation born of the full communion of the Trinity, the profound unity between Christ and his church, the loving community which is the holy family of Nazareth and the pure fraternity which exists among the saints of heaven. Our contemplation of the fulfilment we have yet to attain, also allows us to see, in a proper prospective, the historical journey which we make as families, and, in this way, to stop demanding of our interpersonal relationships a perfection, a purity of intentions and a consistency which we will only encounter in the Kingdom to come. It also keeps us from judging harshly those who live in situations of frailty. All of us are called to keep striving towards something greater than ourselves and our families and every family must feel this constant impulse. Let us make this journey as families, let us keep walking together.  What we have been promised is greater than we can imagine. May we never lost heart because of our limitations, or ever stop seeking that fullness of love and communion which God holds out before us.” (p.255)

We all have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others and we all put impossible burdens on to other people. The Joy of Love does not answer all the questions that are in peoples’ minds as a result of the Synod on the Family.  There are many who will feel this is not any answer to any of the questions.  Some, from a conservative perspective, will decide it is too liberal, and some liberals will decide it is far too conservative.  I think it is well worth reading and reflecting on, above all to consider how each and every one of us can take seriously the call ‘to grow and mature in the ability to love’.

At times during the Synod last year I did worry that there was an ideal family in the minds of some of the Cardinals and an unreality about some of the interventions and contributions.  The Joy of Love is not in any way guilty of seeing the family, any family, as ideal and I believe it is one more step on the way to encouraging us all to grow up and mature in the ability to love.

Synod 2015 Interview with Bishop Timothy Thornton (Anglican Communion)

WITNESS Interview with Bishop Timothy Thornton

This post originally appeared on Bishop Tim Thornton’s blog. 

Pope Francis in Lesbos: Meeting at the Port of Mytilene – Remembering the Victims of Migration


Prayer of Archbishop Ieronymos

O God of all spirits and flesh, Who has trodden down death, destroying the power of the devil, bestowing life on Your world to the soul of Your servants departed this life, do You Yourself, O Lord, give rest in a place of light, in a place of green pasture, in a place of refreshment, from where pain and sorrow and mourning are fled away. Every sin by them committed in thought, word, or deed, do You as our good and loving God forgive, seeing that there is no man that shall live and sin not, for You alone are without sin: Your righteousness, and Your law is truth.

For You are the Resurrection, the Life, and the Repose of Your servants, O Christ our God; and to You do we send up Glory, as to Your Eternal Father and Your All-Holy, Good, and Life- creating Spirit, both now and ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Prayer of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Lord of mercy, compassion and all comfort, we pray to You for our brothers in difficult circumstances and we offer to Your Goodness:

Nurture the infants; instruct the youth; strengthen the aged; give courage to the faint hearted; reunite those separated; sail with those who sail; travel with those who travel; defend the widows; protect the orphans; liberate the captives; heal the sick. Remember, O God, those who are in mines, in exile, in harsh labor, and those in every kind of affliction, necessity, or distress; and all those who entreat Your loving kindness; those who love us and those who hate us; and pour out upon all Your rich mercy, granting them their petitions for salvation

Again we pray, Lord of life and of death, grant eternal repose to the souls of Your departed servants, those who lost their lives during their exodus from war-torn regions and during their journeys to places of safety, peace and prosperity.

For You, Lord, are the helper of the helpless, the hope of the hopeless, the savior of the afflicted, the haven of the voyager, and the physician of the sick. Be all things to all, You who know each person, his requests, his household, and his need. Deliver this island, O Lord, and every city and country, from famine, plague, earthquake, flood, fire, sword, invasion of foreign enemies, and civil war. Amen.

Prayer of Pope Francis

Merciful God, we pray to you for all the men, women and children who have died after leaving their homelands in search of a better life. Though many of their graves bear no name, to you each one is known, loved and cherished. May we never forget them, but honour their sacrifice with deeds more than words.

We entrust to you all those who have made this journey, enduring fear, uncertainty and humiliation, in order to reach a place of safety and hope. Just as you never abandoned your Son as he was brought to a safe place by Mary and Joseph, so now be close to these, your sons and daughters, through our tenderness and protection.

In caring for them may we seek a world where none are forced to leave their home and where all can live in freedom, dignity and peace.

Merciful God and Father of all, wake us from the slumber of indifference, open our eyes to their suffering, and free us from the insensitivity born of worldly comfort and self-centredness. Inspire us, as nations, communities and individuals, to see that those who come to our shores are our brothers and sisters. May we share with them the blessings we have received from your hand, and recognize that together, as one human family, we are all migrants, journeying in hope to you, our true home, where every tear will be wiped away, where we will be at peace and safe in your embrace.