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Pope Francis’ Homily for Corpus Christi


On Thursday, May 26, 2016, Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the Feast of Corpus Christi. Below, find the full text of his homily:

« Do this in remembrance of me » (1 Cor 11 :24-25).

Twice the Apostle Paul, writing to the community in Corinth, recalls this command of Jesus
in his account of the institution of the Eucharist. It is the oldest testimony we have to the words of Christ at the Last Supper.

“Do this”. That is, take bread, give thanks and break it; take the chalice, give thanks, and
share it. Jesus gives the command to repeat this action by which he instituted the memorial of his own Pasch, and in so doing gives us his Body and his Blood. This action reaches us today: it is the “doing” of the Eucharist which always has Jesus as its subject, but which is made real through our poor hands anointed by the Holy Spirit.

“Do this”. Jesus on a previous occasion asked his disciples to “do” what was so clear to
him, in obedience to the will of the Father. In the Gospel passage that we have just heard, Jesus
says to the disciples in front of the tired and hungry crowds: “Give them something to eat
yourselves” (Lk 9:13). Indeed, it is Jesus who blesses and breaks the loaves and provides sufficient food to satisfy the whole crowd, but it is the disciples who offer the five loaves and two fish. Jesus wanted it this way: that, instead of sending the crowd away, the disciples would put at his disposal what little they had. And there is another gesture: the pieces of bread, broken by the holy and venerable hands of Our Lord, pass into the poor hands of the disciples, who distribute these to the people. This too is the disciples “doing” with Jesus; with him they are able to “give them something to eat”. Clearly this miracle was not intended merely to satisfy hunger for a day, but rather it signals what Christ wants to accomplish for the salvation of all mankind, giving his own flesh and blood (cf. Jn 6:48-58). And yet this needs always to happen through those two small actions: offering the few loaves and fish which we have; receiving the bread broken by the hands of Jesus and giving it to all.

Breaking: this is the other word explaining the meaning of those words: “Do this in
remembrance of me”. Jesus was broken; he is broken for us. And he asks us to give ourselves, to
break ourselves, as it were, for others. This “breaking bread” became the icon, the sign for
recognizing Christ and Christians. We think of Emmaus: they knew him “in the breaking of the
bread” (Lk 24:35). We recall the first community of Jerusalem: “They held steadfastly… to the
breaking of the bread” (Acts 2:42). From the outset it is the Eucharist which becomes the centre
and pattern of the life of the Church. But we think also of all the saints – famous or anonymous –
who have “broken” themselves, their own life, in order to “give something to eat” to their brothers and sisters. How many mothers, how many fathers, together with the slices of bread they provide each day on the tables of their homes, have broken their hearts to let their children grow, and grow well! How many Christians, as responsible citizens, have broken their own lives to defend the dignity of all, especially the poorest, the marginalized and those discriminated! Where do they find the strength to do this? It is in the Eucharist: in the power of the Risen Lord’s love, who today too breaks bread for us and repeats: “Do this in remembrance of me”.

May this action of the Eucharistic procession, which we will carry out shortly, respond to
Jesus’ command. An action to commemorate him; an action to give food to the crowds of today; an act to break open our faith and our lives as a sign of Christ’s love for this city and for the whole world.

CNS photo/Paul Haring

Christ at the Heart of the Family: Chapter Three of Amoris Laetitia

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Reflecting on the Third Chapter of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family

Jesus Christ is at the heart of the family. Only in the light of his love can the love of the family be fully illuminated. This is the message of Pope Francis in the third chapter of Amoris Laetitia. He uses the chapter to “summarize the Church’s teachings on marriage and the family.” Beginning with “the gaze of Jesus,” Pope Francis calls the Church to see and follow the way of the Lord, who “looked upon the women and men whom he met with love and tenderness, accompanying their steps in truth, patience and mercy as he proclaimed the demands of the Kingdom of God” (Amoris Laetitia, 60).

Jesus in Marriage and the Family

Jesus is the key to understanding family life because, “The mystery of the Christian family can be fully understood only in the light of the Father’s infinite love revealed in Christ, who gave himself up for our sake and who continues to dwell in our midst” (59). From this Christ-centered perspective, the Pope examines the beauty of married life and the family that is born of its fruitfulness. In the person of Jesus Christ, God has entered the human reality and human drama. Human love and divine love have met like never before. God descends to transform human love and enables it to reach divine heights. God has taken on flesh. Love itself has become incarnate. We thus realize that, “The sacrament of marriage flows from the incarnation and the paschal mystery, whereby God showed the fullness of his love for humanity by becoming one of us. Neither of the spouses will be alone in facing whatever challenges may come their way” (74). For in the midst of Christian marriage God is always present, strengthening the love of each spouse for one another by the power of His love for each of them.

Because of God’s grace at work in the sacrament of marriage, the sexual union of man and woman becomes a path of sanctity for the spouses (74). This is because through the sacrament, Christ sanctifies the loving union of woman and man. “Only in contemplating Christ does a person come to know the deepest truth about human relationships. ‘Only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light…’” (77). Christian marriage thus consists of “mutual support on the path towards complete friendship with the Lord” (77).

The Approach of the Pastor

In the midst of this beautifully Christocentric vision, Pope Francis remains ever aware of the “imperfect” realities of modern families and marriages, Christian and non-Christian alike. Since “the light of Christ enlightens every person,” the Pope stresses that “seeing things with the eyes of Christ” means not only caring for those in good, happy, healthy family situations, but is also the basis of the Church’s pastoral care for those “who are living together, or are only married civilly, or are divorced and remarried” (78). In their pastoral care of those in “difficult situations and wounded families,” Pope Francis tells priests and bishops that “while clearly stating the Church’s teachings,” they are to “avoid judgments that do not take into account the complexity of various situations.” Moreover, pastors are “to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience and endure distress because of their condition” (79).

Pastors are not to be turned off by the smell of their sheep! Rather, they are to care for their lambs as they are, seeking especially those most lost and in danger. To help them in this effort, Pope Francis reasserts the principle that Saint John Paul II outlined by in Familiaris Consortio: “Pastors must know that, for the sake of the truth, they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations” (79; cf. FC 84). The typically Ignatian principle of discernment thus emerges as a key to Francis’ pastoral approach to the family.

The Unity of Life and Love

The Holy Father likewise addresses the questions of life that arise from love in the family, specifically contraception and artificial means of procreation. Affirming that “sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman,” the Pope underlines the reality that this conjugal union is ordered “by its very nature” to procreation (80). “The child who is born ‘does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving as its fruit and fulfilment’” (80). Here the Pope beautifully states that, “From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself” (80). Pope Francis concludes that the sexual embrace of husband and wife must always remain open to the possibility of life, “even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life” (80).

Accordingly, new life finds its proper birthplace in the context of love between a man and a woman. “A child deserves to be born of that love, and not by any other means, for ‘he or she is not something owed to one, but is a gift,’ which is ‘the fruit of the specific act of the conjugal love of the parents” through which “man and woman share in the work of [God’s] creation” (81). Closedness to life robs the sexual union of its profound meaning. Removing the origin of life from the cradle of human love estranges it from its truest identity. The love of man and woman is meant to mirror the love of God, which is never closed in on itself, but springs forth from its very heart the beauty of new life.

In this way, love – and especially love between a man and woman – can be compared to water that overflows from a cup. The very nature of love is to overflow. If it ceases to overflow, no matter how much water is in the cup, the water will stagnate and gradually evaporate, and the cup will become dry. It no longer teems with fresh, life-giving water that flows outward beyond itself. So it is even in the spiritual life: God’s love is poured into us in order to flow out of us.

God has intended the married couple to be a fount where love overflows and gives life. God Himself is the Source of this love and the Giver of the life that flows from it. With Jesus Christ, Love incarnate, at its centre, the family is the place where, despite many difficulties, love and life overflow in abundance.

(Image: CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Proposing the Positive and the Pastoral: Chapter Two of Amoris Laetitia

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Reflecting on the Second Chapter of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family

“We have long thought that simply by stressing doctrinal, bioethical and moral issues, without encouraging openness to grace, we were providing sufficient support to families, strengthening the marriage bond and giving meaning to marital life. We find it difficult to present marriage more as a dynamic path to personal development and fulfillment than as a lifelong burden… We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them… Yet we have often been on the defensive, wasting pastoral energy on denouncing a decadent world without being proactive in proposing ways of finding true happiness” (Amoris Laetitia 37-38).

With these powerful sentences, Pope Francis sets out an approach to the modern family that is at once positive and pastoral. In the second chapter of Amoris Laetitia, “The Experiences and Challenges of Families,” Pope Francis begins by noting that, “the welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and that of the Church” (31). He thus considers the concrete realities and current problems facing families, and exhorts the Church to contribute constructively to solutions rather than simply calling out shortcomings.

Pope Francis courageously admits that, “Many people feel that the Church’s message on marriage and the family does not clearly reflect the preaching and attitudes of Jesus, who sets forth a demanding ideal yet never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individuals like the Samaritan woman or the woman caught in adultery” (38). The modern technological age provides further challenges to the formation of families, proposing a “culture of the ephemeral” where we move rapidly from relationship to relationship, connecting and disconnecting in a way that “blocks,” “disposes,” and “uses” others, and rendering ourselves “incapable of looking beyond themselves” (39). Loneliness is also an obstacle to family life, “arising from the absence of God in a person’s life and the fragility of relationships” (43), exacerbating a culture of promiscuity and preventing people from the sense of encounter that leads to meaningful relationships. In such a cultural context, “We need to find the right language, arguments and forms of witness that can help us reach the hearts of young people, appealing to their capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism, and in this way inviting them to take up the challenge of marriage with enthusiasm and courage” (40).

The Pope is not blind to very real problems facing families across the globe. Unemployment and obsession with work, poverty and lack of affordable housing, polygamy and the mistreatment of women, addictions and substance abuse, migration caused by political conflicts and economic instability – all threaten the flourishing of the family, and can even lead families to break up through divorce or separation. “In such difficult situations of need, the Church must be particularly concerned to offer understanding, comfort and acceptance, rather than imposing straightaway a set of rules that only lead people to feel judged and abandoned by the very Mother called to show them God’s mercy. Rather than offering the healing power of grace and the light of the Gospel message, some would ‘indoctrinate’ that message, turning it into ‘dead stones to be hurled at others’” (49).

Here Pope Francis manifests his desire for a Church that is a field hospital in the middle of a battlefield, not an elite enclave of the pious and perfect. Healing wounds. Prescribing the medicine of mercy. Meeting people where they’re at and not simply pointing to where they “should be.” Leading people to God instead of lamenting a presumed godlessness. In a way, Pope Francis is proposing the approach that Jesus provides by giving us the Beatitudes: transcending commandments of negation (“Thou shall not…”) to provide a positive call to holiness and happiness that blesses without judging. With him, let us “seek new forms of missionary creativity” and “offer a word of truth and hope” (57). In so doing, may we transform with charity of Christ and the grace of the Gospel a world challenged in so many ways.

Julian Paparella is an intern with Salt and Light, currently working in the Montreal office.

(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis’ Homily during Pentecost Mass

Pope Francis celebrates Pentecost Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican May 24. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-PENTECOST May 24, 2015.

“I will not leave you orphans” (Jn 14:18)

The central purpose of Jesus mission, which culminated in the gift of the Holy Spirit, was to renew our relationship with the Father, a relationship severed by sin, to take us from our state of being orphaned children and to restore us as his sons and daughters. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Rome, says: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship, which enables us to cry out, ‘Abba, Father’”

(Rom 8:14-15). Here we see our relationship renewed: the paternity of God is re-established in us thanks to the redemptive work of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is given to us by the Father and leads us back to the Father. The entire work of salvation is one of “re-generation”, in which the fatherhood of God, through the gift of the Son and the Holy Spirit, frees us from the condition of being orphans into which we had fallen.

In our own day also, we see various signs of our being orphans: in the interior loneliness which we feel even when we are surrounded by people, a loneliness which can become an existential sadness; in the attempt to be free of God, even if accompanied by a desire for his presence; in the all-too-common spiritual illiteracy which renders us incapable of prayer; in the difficulty in grasping the truth and reality of eternal life as that fullness of communion which begins on earth and reaches full flower after death; in the effort to see others as “brothers” and “sisters”, since we are children of the same Father; and other such signs.

Being children of God runs contrary to all this and is our primordial vocation. We were made to be God’s children, it is in our DNA. But this filial relationship was ruined and required the sacrifice of God’s only-begotten Son in order to be restored. From the immense gift of love which is Jesus’ death on the cross, the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon humanity like a vast torrent of grace. Those who by faith are immersed into this mystery of regeneration are reborn to the fullness of filial life. “I will not leave you orphans”.

Today, on the feast of Pentecost, Jesus’ words remind us also of the maternal presence of Mary in the Upper Room. The Mother of Jesus is with the community of disciples gathered in prayer: she is the living remembrance of the Son and the living invocation of the Holy Spirit. She is the Mother of the Church. We entrust to her intercession, in a particular way, all Christians, families and communities that at this moment are most in need of the Spirit, the Paraclete, the Defender and Comforter, the Spirit of truth, freedom and peace.

The Spirit, as Saint Paul says, unites us to Christ: “Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom 8:9). Strengthening our relationship of belonging to the Lord Jesus, the Spirit enables us to enter into a new experience of fraternity. By means of our universal Brother – Jesus – we can relate to one another in a new way; no longer as orphans, but rather as children of the same good and merciful Father. And this changes everything! We can see each other as brothers and sisters whose differences can only increase our joy and wonder at sharing in this unique fatherhood and brotherhood.

Deacon-structing The diaconate: Part 1

That was the tweet I put out two days ago when I heard the news that Pope Francis had announced a commission to investigate the ordination of women deacons. I have to admit, I heard the news and my heart sank. That tweet, in my humble opinion summarizes the heart of my argument: If the Church has no authority to ordain women to the priesthood; the Church has no authority to ordain women to the diaconate. It’s the same ordination. So either the Church ordains women to everything, or we don’t ordain deacons. That’s where I was two days ago. There are two questions we have to answer: ‘What is Ordination?’ And ‘What is the Diaconate?’

First, let’s look at what really happened when Pope Francis met with representatives of the International Union of Superiors General on Friday. If you read the full transcript, you can’t conclude that the “pope made an announcement.” What he said was closer to, “I think that yes, that would be a good idea; to have commission to look at what women deacons have been in the tradition of the Church.”

Pope Francis’ comments regarding the diaconate were part of a response to the second question that, by the way, did not have to do specifically with including women among permanent deacons, but with the greater participation of women in the Church: “Can you give an example of where you see the possibility of better integration of women and consecrated women in the life of the Church?”

After sharing some thoughts about what the Pope knows about “deaconesses” in the early Church and saying that the role and meaning is obscure (“it is not clear how it was”), the Pope said,

“I think I will ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to refer me to some studies on this theme, because I have answered you only on the basis of what I heard from this priest, who was an erudite and able researcher, on the permanent diaconate. In addition, I would like to constitute an official commission to study the question: I think it will be good for the Church to clarify this point, I agree, and I will speak so as to do something of this type.”

The question that the commission would study is not the question of ordination of women to the diaconate; it is the question of what the role of deaconesses in the early Church was. The Pope said, “In the early times of the Church there were some “deaconesses”. But what were these deaconesses? Were they ordained or not? The Council of Chalcedon (451) speaks about this but it is somewhat obscure. What was the role of deaconesses in those times?”

After saying a few more things about better integration of women in the life of the Church he went back and said, “So, with regard to the diaconate, yes, I agree and it seems to me it would be useful to have a commission to clarify this well, especially with regard to the early times of the Church.”

In a statement the following day, Vatican spokesperson, Fr. Federico Lombardi clarified that “Pope Francis did not say in his remarks to the Heads of female religious orders and congregations that he intends to introduce the ordination of women.” In his statement, Fr. Lombardi said that the question of women deacons and deaconesses is not a new question and had arisen in the past (In fact under Bl. Paul VI, St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI as we will see in the following weeks). Fr. Lombardi said, “The Pope did not say he intends to introduce the ordination of female deacons and even less did he talk about the ordination of women as priests. In actual fact, the Pope made clear in his preaching during the course of the Eucharistic celebration that he was not considering this (question) at all.” (I’m still trying to get my hands on the transcript of that homily.)

He ended the statement by saying, that it was wrong to reduce all the many important things said by the Pope during his meeting with the religious sisters to this one question.

I would say that the real question has to do with a better integration of women in the life and decision-making of the Church. What prevents us from this is an attitude of clericalism that is prevalent in the Church: among clerics and among the laity. Pope Francis has spoken extensively about this. Why does one need to be a cleric in order to have a decision-making role in the Church? Pope Francis said that there was nothing stopping the Church from having a woman as a head of a Dicastery (Pontifical Council); that’s a place to start. I would add that it is also possible to have a woman as a rector of a seminary or even as Vatican Spokesperson. Wouldn’t that be great?! As to women preaching, it is already possible for a woman to lead a liturgy of the word and to preach at one. It is also possible, in the context of a Mass for the presider or homilist, after saying a few words, to introduce a woman (or anyone) to share a reflection. The reason why these don’t take place more often is clericalism.

At the above-mentioned meeting with the religious superiors the Pope said that “clericalism is a negative attitude. And it takes complicity: it is something that is done by two parties, just as it takes two to dance the tango. … That is: the priest seeks to clericalise the layman, the laywoman, the man or woman religious, and the layperson asks to be clericalised, because it is easier that way.” He then shared a story from his time as Archbishop in Buenos Aires. “I had this experience three or four times: a good priest came to me and said, “I have a very good layperson in my parish: he does this and that, he knows how to organise things, he gets things done. … Shall we make him a deacon?” Or rather: shall we “clericalise” him? “No! Let him remain a layperson. Don’t make him a deacon”. This is important. It often happens to you that clericalism obstructs the correct development of something.”  Point well made.

Which brings me back to the question of deacons.

The Pope begins his response to that second question by saying that this “touches on the problem of the permanent diaconate.” I am not sure what he meant by this statement, but I can tell you that I do believe that theologically, the diaconate presents us with a problem. The diaconate is not clear – it’s easy to explain it in terms of function, but not so easy to understand or explain it further and make a clear distinction between the diaconate and the laity, and the diaconate and other ministers of service. If you swing in the other direction, it’s hard to explain the theological distinction between the diaconate and the priesthood.

That’s why I’d like to dedicate the next couple of weeks to exploring the question of the diaconate. But before I do so, I would like to point out that on May 26 this year, I will have only been ordained four years. There are many deacons who can probably shed more light on this question than I. I encourage you to read Deacon Greg Kandra, Deacon William Ditewig and Deacon James Keating. I don’t know if they read my column, but if they do, I’d love for them to share their opinions with us.

On this Pentecost Sunday let’s remember that the Church is guided by the Holy Spirit and no matter where she goes, we have to trust that’s where the Spirit is leading.

Next week we’ll make a detour by explaining Holy Orders before we take a closer look at the diaconate. In the meantime, read this article by Fr. Dwight Longenecker.


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

UISG president issues statement on meeting with Pope Francis


The head of the International Union of Superiors General on Friday shared details of the organisation’s meeting with Pope Francis, including his comments on women in leadership and the possibility of their being readmitted to the diaconate. Sr Carmen Sammut, the president of the UISG and superior general of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, spoke one day after the group of some 900 leaders of women’s congregations had a closed door meeting with the Pope in the Paul VI audience hall

She said that ahead of the encounter the sisters had asked for a dialogue with the pontiff, rather than simply listening to a speech, as happened on their previous meeting three years ago. The UISG then asked for input from their sisters across the globe and received around thirty questions which they were able to put to Pope Francis.

“We were quite excited by the fact that Pope Francis did not leave any question out – he really wanted to answer each of our questions”

Sr Carmen spoke about two of the questions that have been generating news headlines, including the Pope’s words on the need for more women in positions of leadership in the Church.

“He was very strong about the fact that women should be in decision making processes and positions of the Church and that this should not be linked solely with the priesthood or sacramental status”.

The UISG president noted that Pope Francis warned about two attitudes which do harm to the Church: firstly, what he called a “feminist” position of wanting to be leaders simply because we are women, and secondly, she said, he spoke at length about the problem of “clericalism”. All Catholics, the Pope insisted, should be involved in decision making at parish level and at higher levels including in the Roman dicasteries.

Regarding the question of a commission to study the readmission of women to the diaconate, Sr Carmen said the Pope accepted their proposal and agreed to carry the suggestion forward.

“And I hope that one day there will be a real decision about this – this is my hope”.

Meeting with the International Union of Superiors General May 12, 2016
(Vatican Working Translation from Italian)

First question
For a better integration of women in the life of the Church

Pope Francis, you have said that “the feminine genius is necessary in all expressions of the life of the Church and of society”, and yet women are excluded from decision-making processes in the Church, especially at the highest levels, and from preaching in the Eucharist. An important obstacle to Church’s full embrace of the “feminine genius” is the bond that both decision-making processes and preaching have with priestly ordination. Do you see a way of separating from ordination both leadership roles and preaching in the Eucharist, so that our Church can be more open to receiving the genius of women in the very near future?

Pope Francis
We must distinguish between various things here. The question is linked to functionality, it is closely linked to functionality, while the role of women goes beyond this. But I will answer the question now, then we will speak … I have seen that there are other questions that go beyond this.

It is true that women are excluded from decision-making processes in the Church: excluded no, but the integration of women is very weak there, in decision-making processes. We must move forward. For example – truly I see no difficulties – I believe that in the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace the secretariat is managed by a woman religious. Another was proposed and I appointed her but she preferred not to accept as she would have had to go elsewhere and do other work in her Congregation. We must move forward, because in many aspects of decision-making processes ordination is not necessary. It is not necessary. In the reform of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus, on the dicasteries, when there is no competence deriving from ordination – that is, pastoral competence – I have not seen it in writing that it can be a woman, I don’t know about a head of a dicastery, but … For example, for migrants: at the dicastery for migrants there could be a woman. And when it is necessary – now that migrants enter into a dicastery, into its competence, it will be for the Prefect to give this permission. But ordinarily, in the execution of decision-making processes, it can be done. For me the influence on decisions is very important: not only the execution, but also the development, and therefore that women, both consecrated and laywomen, enter into reflection on the process, and in discussion. Because women look at life through their own eyes and we men cannot look at it in this way. The way of viewing a problem, of seeing things, is different in a woman compared to a man. They must be complementary, and in consultations it is important that there are women.

I experienced a problem in Buenos Aires: viewing it with the priests’ council – therefore all men – it was treated well, but then seeing it with a group of religious and lay women it was greatly enriched, and this helped the decision by offering a complementary vision. This is necessary! And I think that we must move forward on this, then in the decision-making process we will see.

Then there is the problem of preaching at the Eucharistic Celebration. There is no problem for a woman – religious or lay – to preach in the Liturgy of the Word. There is no problem. But at the Eucharistic Celebration there is a liturgical-dogmatic problem, because it is one celebration – the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic Liturgy, there is unity between them – and He Who presides is Jesus Christ. The priest or bishop who presides does so in the person of Jesus Christ. It is a theological- liturgical reality. In that situation, since women are not ordained, they cannot preside. But it is possible to study and explain further what I have very quickly and rather simply said just now.
In leadership, instead, there is no problem: in that respect we must go forward, with prudence, but seeking solutions. …

There are two temptations here, against which we must be on guard.

The first is feminism: the role of the woman in the Church is not feminism, it is a right! It is a right through baptism, with the charisms and the gifts that the Spirit has given. We must not fall into the trap of feminism, because this would reduce the importance of a woman. I do not see, at this moment, a great danger of this among women religious. I do not see it. Perhaps previously, but in general it is not present.

The other danger, a very strong temptation I have spoken about several times, is clericalism. And this is very strong. Let us consider that today more than 60 per cent of parishes – of dioceses I don’t know, but marginally fewer – do not have a council for economic affairs or a pastoral council.

What does this mean? It means that the parish or diocese is led with a clerical spirit, by the priest alone, and that it does not implement the synodality in the parish, in the diocese, which is not a novelty under this Pope. No! It is a matter of canon law: the parish priest is obliged to have a council of, for and with laymen, laywomen and women religious for pastoral ministry and for economic affairs. And they do not do this. This is the danger of clericalism in the Church today. We must go ahead and remove this danger, because the priest is a servant of the community, the bishop is a servant of the community, but he is not the head of a firm. No! This is important. In Latin America, for example, clericalism is very strong and pronounced. Laypeople do not know what to do, if they do not ask the priest. It is very strong. And for this reason an awareness of the role of the laity has been very delayed. It is saved in part only through popular piety, as the protagonist of this is the people, and the people have done things as they come to them, and priests in this regard have not been very interested; some have not seen this phenomenon of popular piety in a positive light. But clericalism is a negative attitude. And it takes complicity: it is something that is done by two parties, just as it takes two to dance the tango. … That is: the priest seeks to clericalise the layman, the laywoman, the man or woman religious, and the layperson asks to be clericalised, because it is easier that way. And this is curious. In Buenos Aires, I had this experience three or four times: a good priest came to me and said, “I have a very good layperson in my parish: he does this and that, he knows how to organise things, he gets things done. … Shall we make him a deacon?” Or rather: shall we “clericalise” him? “No! Let him remain a layperson. Don’t make him a deacon”. This is important. It often happens to you that clericalism obstructs the correct development of something.

I will ask – and perhaps the President will communicate this – for the Congregation for Divine Worship to explain well and in depth what I said rather briefly on preaching in the Eucharistic Celebration, as I do not have sufficient theology or clarity to explain it now. But it is necessary to differentiate clearly: one thing is the preaching in a Liturgy of the Word, and this can be done, but another thing is the Eucharistic Celebration; here there is another mystery. It is the mystery of Christ’s presence and the priest or the bishop who celebrate in persona Christi.

For leadership it is clear. … Yes, I think that in this there can be my general answer to the first question. We will see for the second.

Second question
The role of consecrated women in the Church

Consecrated women already do much work with the poor and the marginalised, they teach catechism, they accompany the sick and dying, they distribute the communion, in many countries they lead common prayers in the absence of priests and in those circumstances they pronounce the homily. In the Church there is the office of the permanent diaconate, but it is open only to men, married or not. What prevents the Church from including women among permanent deacons, as was the case in the primitive Church? Why not constitute an official commission to study the matter? Can you give an example of where you see the possibility of better integration of women and consecrated women in the life of the Church?

Pope Francis
This question goes in the direction of “doing”: consecrated women already do much work with the poor, they do many things … “doing”. And it touches on the problem of the permanent diaconate. Some might say that the “permanent deaconesses” in the life of the Church are mothers-in-law [laughter]. In effect this exists in antiquity: there was a beginning. …I remember that it was a theme I was quite interested in when I came to Rome for meetings, and I stayed at the Domus Paolo VI; there was a good Syrian theologian there, who had produced a critical edition and translation of the Hymns of Ephrem the Syrian. One day I asked him about this, and he explained to me that in the early times of the Church there were some “deaconesses”. But what were these deaconesses? Were they ordained or not? The Council of Chalcedon (451) speaks about this but it is somewhat obscure. What was the role of deaconesses in those times? It seems – I was told by this man, who is now dead but who was a good professor, wise and erudite – it seems that the role of the deaconesses was to help in the baptism of women, their immersion; they baptised them for the sake of decorum, and also to anoint the body of women, in baptism. And another curious thing: when there was a judgement on a marriage because a husband hit his wife and she went to the bishop to complain, deaconesses were responsible for inspecting the bruises left on the woman’s body from her husband’s blows, and for informing the bishop. This, I remember. There are various publications on the diaconate in the Church, but it is not clear how it was. I think I will ask the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to refer me to some studies on this theme, because I have answered you only on the basis of what I heard from this priest, who was an erudite and able researcher, on the permanent diaconate. In addition, I would like to constitute an official commission to study the question: I think it will be good for the Church to clarify this point, I agree, and I will speak so as to do something of this type.

Then you say: “We agree with you, Holy Father, that you have on several occasions raised the issue of the need for a more incisive role for women in decision-making roles in the Church”. This is clear. “Can you give me an example of where you see the possibility of better integration of women and consecrated women in the life of the Church?”. I will say something that comes after, because I have seen that there is a general question. In the consultations of the Congregation for men and women religious, in the assemblies, women religious must be present: this is certain. Another thing: better integration. At the moment concrete examples do not come to mind, but there is always what I said earlier: seeking the judgement of the consecrated women, because women see things with an originality that is different to that of men, and this enriches, both in consultation and decision-making, and in practice.

These works that you carry out with the poor, the marginalised, teaching catechesis, accompanying the sick and the dying, are very “maternal” tasks, where the maternity of the Church is expressed the most. But there are men who do the same, and well: consecrated men, hospital orders … and this is important.

So, with regard to the diaconate, yes, I agree and it seems to me it would be useful to have a commission to clarify this well, especially with regard to the early times of the Church.

With regard to better integration, I repeat what I said earlier.
If there is something to be made clear, please ask me now: are there any further questions on what I have said, that may help me to think? Go ahead.

Third Question
The role of the International Union of Superiors General

What role could the International Union of Superiors General play, in order to have a word in the thinking of the Church, a word that is listened to, from the moment that it carries with it the voice of 2,000 institutes of women religious? How is it possible that quite often we are forgotten and not included as participants, for example in the General Assembly of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life [CICLAVA], where consecrated life is discussed?

Can the Church afford to continue speaking about us, instead of speaking with us?

Pope Francis
Sr Teresina have a little patience because it just came to mind what had escaped regarding the other question, on “the role of consecrated women in the Church” It is a point that you must review, which the Church must also review. Your work, my work and that of all of us, is that of service. Very often I find women consecrated who perform a labour of servitude and not of service. It is somewhat difficult to explain, because I would not to suggest a concrete case, which might be a bad thought, because no one really knows the circumstances. Let us consider a parish priest, a priest who to be sure we might imagine: “No, no, my rectory is in the hands of two nuns” — “Are they the ones who run it?” — “Yes, yes!” — “What do they do as far as pastoral care, catechesis?” — “No, no, only that!”. No! This is servitude! Tell me, Mr Parish Priest, are there no good women in the city, who need work? Take on one or two who could perform that service. Let these two sisters go to the schools, the neighbourhoods, with the sick, with the poor. This is the criterion: a labour of service and not of servitude! When you Superiors are asked something that is more servitude than service, have the courage to say ‘no’. This is a rather helpful point, because when a consecrated woman is asked to perform work of servitude, it demeans the life and dignity of that woman. But no servitude!

Now then, [I’ll respond to] Teresina: “What, in your opinion, is the place of woman’s apostolic religious life within the Church? What would the Church be lacking if there were no longer women religious?”. [It would be as if] Mary were missing on the day of Pentecost! There is no Church without Mary! There is not Pentecost without Mary! But Mary was there, she may not have spoken…. I have said this, but I like to repeat it. The consecrated woman is an icon of the Church, an icon of Mary. The priest is not an icon of the Church; he is not the icon of Mary; he is an icon of the Apostles, of the disciples who were sent to preach. But not of the Church or of Mary. When I say this I want to make you reflect on the fact that “she” the Church is feminine; the Church is woman: it is not “he” the Church, it is “she” the Church. But she is a woman married to Jesus Christ, she has her Bridegroom, who id Jesus Christ. When a bishop is chosen for a diocese, the bishop — on behalf of Christ — marries that particular Church. The Church is woman! And a woman’s consecration makes her the very icon of the Church and icon of Our Lady. We men cannot do this. This will help you to deepen, from this theological root, a great role in the Church. I hope this does not elude you.

I completely agree [with the conclusion of the third question]. The Church: you are the Church, we all are. The hierarchy — as we say — of the Church must speak of you, but first and in the moment it must speak with you. This is certain. You must be present in the ciclava. Yes, yes! I shall tell this to the Prefect: you must be present in the Assembly! It is clear, because to speak about one who is absent is not even evangelical: one must be able to hear, to listen to what is thought, and then let us do so together. I agree. I did not imagine such separation, truly. Thank you for have said it so courageously and with that smile.

Allow me to joke. You did so with a smile, which in Piedmont is described as the smile of the miller’s facade [with a sincere expression]. Well done! Yes, you are right about this, I shall speak about it with the Prefect. “But this General Assembly will not speak about nuns, it will speak about something else…” — “It is important to hear the nuns because they have another way of looking at things”. That is what I was saying before: it is important that you always be included…. I thank you for the question.

Shall I clarify this further? Is something further needed? Is it clear?

Remember this well: what would the Church be lacking if women religious did not exist? Mary would be missing on the day of Pentecost. Women religious are the icon of the Church and of Mary.

The Church is woman, married to Jesus Christ.

Fourth Question
The obstacles we encounter within the Church as consecrated women

Beloved Holy Father, many institutes are facing the challenge of revising their Constitutions in order to innovate their way of life and their structures. This is proving to be difficult due to obstacles in canon law. Do you foresee any changes to canon law in order facilitate this process?

Moreover, young people today have difficulty thinking about a life commitment, be it matrimony or religious life. Can we be open somehow to trial commitments?
And another aspect: In carrying out our ministry of solidarity with the poor and marginalised, we are often mistaken for being social or political activists. Some ecclesial authorities would prefer that become more mystical and less apostolic. What value ought certain sectors Church hierarchy give to the consecrated life as apostolic and women in particular?

Pope Francis:
Firstly, the changes that need to happen to take on new challenges: You spoke about innovation, innovation in the positive sense if I understood correctly, new things on the way. In this the Church is an expert, for she has had to change so very much throughout history. Yet in every change discernment is needed, and discernment cannot be accomplished without prayer. How does one undertake discernment? Prayer, dialogue, then shared discernment. One must ask for the gift of discernment, to know how to discern. For example, an entrepreneur has to make changes in his business: he makes concrete assessments and that which his conscience tells him to do, he does. In our lives another character plays a role: the Holy Spirit. In order to make a change we must evaluate all concrete circumstances, this is all true, but in order to advance in discernment with the Holy Spirit what is needed is prayer, dialogue and shared discernment. I believe that on this point we––and by this I mean priests as well––are not well formed in the discernment of situations and we must try to experience those things and those people who can explain well what discernment means: a good spiritual father who knows these things well and explains them to us, that is not a simple “for and against” or summation and so forth. No, it is something more than this. And this will give you greater freedom, greater freedom! Regarding canon law: there is no issue here. Canon law in the last century was changed––if I am not mistaken––twice: in 1917 and then under John Paul II. Small changes that can be done, are done. But these two changes were instead of the entire Code. The Code is a disciplinary help, a help for the salvation of souls, for everything: it is the juridical help of the Church for all processes, so many things, but last century twice it was totally changed, remade. And just so, parts of it can be changed. Two months past a request arrived asking for a canon to be changed, I don’t remember exactly [the details]. I studied it and the Secretary of State made the proper consultations and everyone was in agreement that yes, this must be changed for the greater good, and it was changed.

The Code is an instrument, this is very important. But I insist: never make a change without a process of discernment, both personal and communal. And this will give you freedom, for you place the Holy Spirit there in the change. St. Paul did the same, as did St. Peter, when he felt the Lord urging him baptize the pagans. When we read the book of the Acts of the Apostles we wonder at such a change, such a change…it is the Holy Spirit! This is very interesting: in the book of the Acts of the Apostles the protagonists are not just the Apostles, but also the Spirit. “The Spirit moved him to do that”; “the Spirit said to Phillip to go here and there, find the minister of economic affairs and baptize him”; “the Spirit does”, “the Spirit says no, do not come here”––it is the Spirit. It is the Spirit who has given the Apostles courage to make this revolutionary change to baptize the pagans without taking the approach of Jewish catechism or Jewish praxis. It is also interesting: in the first chapters there is the Letter that the Apostles sent to the pagan converts after the Council of Jerusalem. It tells of all that has been accomplished: “The Holy Spirit and we have decided this.” This is an example of discernment, prayer and even the concrete evaluation of situations. And for the Code this is not an issue, for it is an instrument.

Regarding young people and life commitments. We live in a “culture of the provisional”. A bishop told me, some time ago a young university student came to him – he had just finished university, 23/24 years, and he said to him: “I would like to become a priest, but only for 10 years”. That is the culture of the provisional. In marriage it is the same thing. “ I will be married to you as long as love lasts and then it’s ‘goodbye’”. But that is love taken in the hedonistic sense, in the sense of today’s culture. Obviously, these marriages mean nothing; they are not valid. They have no awareness of the permanence of a commitment. Marriage is not like that. In the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia you read about the problem in the first chapters and you read about marriage preparation. A person said to me: “I don’t understand this: to become priests you have to study, prepare for eight years, more or less. And yet, if it doesn’t go well, or if you fall in love with a beautiful girl, the Church gives you a pass: go, get married, begin a new life. To get married – which is for life, which is “for” life – preparation in many dioceses are three or four meetings…. But this isn’t enough! How can a parish priest attest that these two are prepared for marriage, in this culture of the provisional, with just four conversations? This is a very serious problem. In consecrated life, was has always struck me – in a positive way – is the intuition of St Vincent de Paul: he saw that the Sisters of Charity had a job that was so demanding, so “dangerous”, on the front lines, that every year they should renew their vows. Just for one year. But he did this as a charism, not in the culture of the provisional: in order to give freedom. I believe that in consecrated life temporary vows facilitate this. And, I don’t know, you will see, but I would rather prolong temporary vows a little, because of this culture of the provisional that has young people in its grasp these days: it is like, prolonging the engagement before marriage! This is important.

[Now the Pope answers a part of the question that was written but not read]

Requests for money in our local Churches. The problem of money is a very important problem, both in consecrated life and in the diocesan Church. We must never forget that the devil enters through our pockets: the pockets of the bishop and the pockets of the Congregation. This touches on the problem of poverty, which we will speak about later. But greed for money is the first step towards corruption in a parish, in a diocese, in a Congregation of consecrated life: it is the first step. I think that in this respect there has been payment for sacraments. Look, if someone asks you for this, then report the incident. Salvation is free. God sent us freely. There is no salvation by payment, there are no sacraments by payment. Is this clear? I know, I have seen corruption in this during my life. I remember one case, when I had just been appointed as bishop. I had the poorest area of Buenos Aires, divided into four vicariates. There were many migrants from American countries there, and often when they came to get married the priests would say, “These people have no certificate of baptism”. And when they requested them from their countries they were told: “Yes, but first send a hundred dollars – I remember a case – and then I will send it to you”.

I spoke with the cardinal, and the cardinal spoke with the bishop of the place. … But in the meantime people were able to marry without their certificate of baptism, with guarantees from their parents or godparents. And this is payment, not only for the sacrament but also for certificates. I remember once in Buenos Aires that a young man came to ask for a nulla osta to marry in another parish, a simple matter. The secretary told him: “Yes, if you come by tomorrow it will be here, and it will cost a certain price”, a large sum. But it is a service: it is a question of ascertaining and compiling data. And he – he was a lawyer, young, good and a very devout and good Catholic – he came to me and said, “Now what shall I do?”. “Come tomorrow and say that you have sent the cheque to the archbishop, and that the archbishop will give her the cheque”. The trade in money.

But here we touch upon a serious problem, which is the problem of poverty. I will say something to you: when a religious institute – and this is also valid for other situations – but when a religious institute feels that it is dying, it feels that it no longer has the capacity to attract new elements, it feels that perhaps the time has passed for which the Lord had chosen that Congregation, there is the temptation of greed. Why? Because they think, “At least we have money for our old age”. This is serious. And what is the solution that the Church can give? To unite the various institutes with similar charisms, and to go ahead. But money is never, ever a solution for spiritual problems. It is a necessary aid, but just that. St. Ignatius used to say about poverty that it is the “mother” and “wall” of religious life. It enables us to grow in religious life like a mother, and protects. And when poverty is missing,

then decadence takes hold. I remember, in the other diocese, when a very important college of nuns had to renovate their house because it was old, and they did a good job. But in those times – I am talking about the years 1993, 1994 more or less – they said, “Let’s have all the comforts, the room with a private bathroom, and everything, and a television too…”. In that college, which was so important, from 2 to 4 in the afternoon you could never find a nun: they were all in their rooms watching a soap opera! Because there was a lack of poverty, and this leads to the comfortable life, to fantasies. … It is an example, maybe the only one in the world, but helps us understand the danger of too much comfort, of the lack of poverty or a certain austerity.

[Other part of the question, not read but written]

“Women religious do not receive a stipend for their services, as priests do. How can we show an attractive face of our subsistence? How can we find the financial resources necessary to fulfil our mission?”

Pope Francis
I will say to things to you. First: see how your charism is, the content of your charism – everyone has their own – and what the role of poverty is, because there are congregations that call for a very, very strict life of poverty, and others less so, and both types are approved by the Church. Live poverty according to the charism. Then: savings. It is prudent to have savings; it is prudent to have good administration, perhaps with some investment, that is prudent; for the houses of formation, to run works for the poor, to manage schools for the poor, for apostolic works. … A foundation for one’s own congregation: this is what should be done. And just as wealth can do harm to and corrupt a vocation, so can destitution. If poverty becomes destitution, this too causes harm. There you see the spiritual prudence of the community in common discernment: the bursar informs, everyone speaks about whether it is too much or not. That is motherly prudence. But please, do not let yourselves be fooled by friends of the congregation, who then fleece you and take everything from you. I have seen so many cases, or others have told me about cases in which nuns have lost everything because they trusted someone or other, a “great friend of the congregation”! There are many cunning people, so many. Prudence means never consulting only one person: when you need something, consult various different people. The administration of assets is a very serious responsibility, very serious, in consecrated life. If you do not have the means to live, tell the bishop. Tell God, “Give us this day our daily bread”, the true one. But speak with the bishop, with the Superior general, with the Congregation for Religious. For the necessary means, because religious life is a path of poverty, but it is not suicide! And this is healthy prudence. Is that clear?

And then, where there are conflicts for what the local Churches ask of you, you need to pray, to discern and to have the courage, when necessary, to say “no”; and to have the generosity, when you need to, to say “yes”. But you see how discernment is necessary in every case!

Question (resumed)
“While we carry out our ministry, we are in solidarity with the poor and the marginalised, and are often mistakenly considered as social activists, as if we were assuming political stances. Some Church authorities look on our ministry negatively, underlining that we should concentrate more on a kind of mystical life. In these circumstances, how can we live our prophetic vocation?”

Answer (resumed)
Yes. All religious women, all consecrated women should live mystically, because yours is a marriage: your is a vocation of maternity, it’s a vocation of being in the role of Mother Church and of Mother Mary. But those who tell you this, they think that being a mystic is being a mummy, always praying like that… No, no. You have to pray and to work according to your own charism, and when the charism brings you to work with refugees, to work with the poor, you should do it, and they will call you “communist,” that’s the least they will say about you. But you should do it. Because the charism brings you to this. In Argentina, I remember a nun, she was provincial of her congregation. A good woman, and she’s still working… she’s about half my age. And she works against those who traffic youngsters, who traffic people. I remember, with the military government in Argentina, they wanted to put her in jail, putting pressure on the archbishop, putting pressure on the provincial superior, before she became provincial, “because this woman is a communist.” And this woman saved so many girls, so many girls! And yes, it’s the cross. What did they say about Jesus? That he was Beelzebub, that he had the power of Beelzebub. Calumny, be prepared for it. If you do good, with prayer, before God, taking on all the consequences of your charism and you go ahead, prepare yourselves for defamation and calumny, because the Lord has chosen this way for himself! And we bishops, ought to watch over these women who are an icon of the Church, when they do difficult things, and are slandered and persecuted. To be persecuted is the last of the Beatitudes. The Lord said: “Blessed are you when you are persecuted, insulted” and all these things. But here the danger can be: “I do my thing” – no, no: hear this: they persecute you – speak. With your community, with your superior, speak with everyone, ask for advice, discern: once again this word. And this nun of whom I was speaking now, one day I found her crying, and she said, “Look at the letter that I received from Rome – I don’t know from where – what should I do?” – “Are you a daughter of the Church?” – “Yes!” – “Do you want to obey the Church?” – “Yes!” – “Answer that you will be obedient to the Church, then go to your superior, go to your community, go to your bishop – that was me – and the Church will tell you what to do. But not a letter that comes from 12,000 kilometres away.” Because there a friend of the enemies of the nun had written, and she was slandered. Be courageous, but with humility, discernment, prayer, dialogue.

“A word of encouragement for us leaders, who carry the weight of the day”.

Pope Francis
But take a breather! Rest, because so many sicknesses come from a lack of healthy rest, rest in the family… This is important to carry the weight of the day.
You also talk here about old and sick nuns. But these nuns are the memory of the institute, these nuns are those who have sowed, who have worked, and now are paralysed, or very sick, or left off to the side. These nuns pray for the institute. This is very important, that they feel involved in the prayer for the Institute. These nuns also have a very extensive experience: some more, some less. Listen to them! Go to them: “Tell me, sister, what do you think about this, about this?” That they feel consulted, and from their wisdom will come good advice. Be sure of it.

This is what I would like to tell you. I know that I always repeat myself and say the same things, but life is like that. … I like hearing questions, because they make me think and I feel like a goalkeeper who stands there, waiting for the ball from wherever it comes. … This is good, and you also do this in dialogue.

The things I have promised to do, I will do. And pray for me, I will pray for you. Let us go ahead. Our life is for the Lord, for the Church and for the people, who suffer greatly and need the caress of the Father, through you! Thank you.

I would like to suggest something: let us finish with the Mother. Each one of you, in your own language, pray the Hail Mary. I will pray in Spanish.
Hail Mary…

[Blessing] And pray for me, so that I might serve the Church well.

(CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

Between Two Trinities: Chapter One of Amoris Laetitia

Pope and Family cropped

Reflecting on the First Chapter of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on Love in the Family

Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation on love in the family, Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”), is a treasure trove reflecting the beauty of family life. In his introductory paragraphs the Holy Father uses the image of a “multifaceted gem” (4) to describe the two Synods of Bishops on the Family that preceded his exhortation, given the many dimensions, questions, and concerns raised by the Synod Fathers. Indeed, the Pope has given us a veritable gem in his most recent document! Over the coming weeks, let us take one chapter at a time and discover the beauty within, beginning with Chapter One.

Titled “In the Light of the Word,” Pope Francis begins Amoris Laetitia with “an opening chapter inspired by the Scriptures, to set a proper tone” (6). Pope Francis unearths the biblical wisdom that provides the roots for the Church’s understanding of the family. He reveals the profound connection between family life and the life of the Trinity. While God is utterly transcendent – beyond us in every respect – He has nevertheless created us to share in His life and work, indeed to reflect his very nature (10). As Saint John Paul II beautifully proclaimed in his Theology of the Body, we are not only created in the image and likeness of God individually, but in our communion with one another, and especially in the union of man and woman.

“The couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon… capable of revealing God the Creator and Saviour. For this reason, fruitful love becomes a symbol of God’s inner life” (11). Love cannot be experienced alone; we cannot love or be loved in a vacuum! Love is always shared among persons, in the case of the Trinity and in every human family. As Pope Francis writes, “the triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living icon.” God is revealed in the love of man and woman, and His life as a Trinity of three Persons is reflected in the community the couple forms around them: the family. The family is thus related to “God’s very being” (11).

What a revelatory understanding! We are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore made to share our lives with one another, just as His life is a life shared between the Father, Son, and Hoy Spirit. To be made in the image and likeness of God is to be made to be together and to live with one another. And this sharing of life reflects the shared life of God Himself!

Pope Francis contrasts this belonging for which we are made with the solitude experienced by Adam before the creation of Eve (12). He points to the “sombre” causes of this solitude in our world today – notably family problems and disputes, tragedies and violence, rivalries between siblings and between parents, and divorce (19, 20). Jesus is not blind to these very real struggles and challenges of family life, he “knows the anxieties and tensions experienced by families and he weaves them into his parables” (21). The solution offered by the Pope is a virtue so characteristic of the ministry and teaching of Christ, “one often overlooked in our world of frenetic and superficial relationships. It is tenderness” (28).

Holy FamilyHow evident this tenderness is in the family in which God himself dwelt. Here we see another “trinity” that each family is called to model: the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Father could have sent the Son by many different means. God could have entered humanity in many ways. Yet as Pope Francis powerfully said during the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, “And where did He send His Son – to a palace? To a city? No. He sent Him to a family. God sent Him amid a family.” The family is thus a place where the love of God can dwell. Where God Himself can dwell. Indeed, the family mirrors that communion of love that is God Himself – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

By this first chapter of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis is calling all families to be places where God can dwell, because the family images God. In the joy of loving and being loved by one another, we come to know the joy of loving and being loved by God.

Julian Paparella is an intern with Salt and Light, currently working in the Montreal office.

(CNS Photo/Paul Haring)

Behind Vatican Walls: I Have a Dream…


The Charlemagne Prize was created in 1949 by Dr. Kurt Pfeiffer in Aachen, Germany as a reminder and a call for European unity. The 2016 prize was awarded to Pope Francis this week.

In post-war Europe several new organizations and pacts were in development. These organizations and agreements would unify Europe economically and politically. However, in 1948 work suddenly stopped on a customs agreement between Britain and France. This stopped the development work being done for a Council of Europe.

A group of citizens of Aachen, Germany started looking for some way to inspire a renewed push for European unity. Dr. Pfeiffer came up with the idea of awarding a prize for “most valuable contribution to western European understanding.” The Charlemagne Prize Society was founded in March 1950 and the first prize awarded in May of that same year.

Why Charlemagne? The Frankish king, who was later crowned Roman Emperor, is considered the Father of Europe, politically and culturally.

Since 1950 recipients have included the Italian Prime Minister Alcide de Gasperi, who was also one of the founding fathers of the European Community, Konrad Adenauer, a former Chancellor of the Republic of Germany who campaigned for an office for European Unity, Robert Schumann, another founding father of the EU, Simone Veil, the first woman president of the European Parliament, Brother Roger, the founder of the Taize Community, Pope John Paul II, and Andrea Riccardi, the co-founder of the Sant’Egidio Community.

On ten occasions the prize was not awarded because the Charlemagne Prize Society felt no one deserved the it. In the 1960s and 70s when the European unification process was stagnating, the board of directors felt it was better not to award the prize than to pick a “second rate” candidate.

European Prize, Pope from the ends of the earth

The board of directors of the International Charlemagne Prize decides who will receive the award each year and publishes the reasoning behind their decision. The board said they decided to award the 2016 prize to Pope Francis because at a time when European citizens are looking for guidance he has a message of hope and encouragement. Specifically, he encourages European officials and citizens to “return to the firm convictions of the founding father of the European Union.” The board refers specifically to the pope’s 2014 address to the European Parliament in which he appealed to every Member of Parliament to support and uphold the dignity of man, and keep the human person at the centre of their political action.

This week the board of directors and past Charlemagne Prize Laureates traveled to the Vatican to confer the prize on Pope Francis. The Holy Father gave an uncharacteristically long ( 30 minute) speech that is being called his “I have a dream” speech. He pulled no punches, calling on Europeans to step up, open their hearts and borders, and be the people they always envisioned themselves as being.

His speech is well worth reading. The full text can be read here.

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.


Pope Francis’ call to help the victims of the war in Ukraine reaches Canadian Catholics


By Carl Hétu, Canadian National Director of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.

With ongoing hostilities in the Middle East, the war in eastern Ukraine that started over two years ago is being overlooked by Western media. Many Canadians that I have spoken with recently have shared their assumptions that things are back to normal and that the violence has stopped, but this is not the case. There are still over one million internally displaced people that cannot return to their homes because their territories fell under control of pro-Kremlin militants. The bomb shelling and killing of soldiers and civilians takes place on weekly basis. In addition, the country is suffering from a severe economic crisis; the war has been a huge burden to an economy that was very weak even before the militarized confrontations began in spring 2014.

This is why Pope Francis recently announced a special collection for the people of Ukraine. It took place in all parishes across Europe on April 24. In making this announcement, the Pope stated: “My thoughts go to all the populations that hunger and thirst for peace, and in particular, of the drama of those suffering the consequences of the violence in Ukraine, of how many remain affected by hostilities that have already taken thousands of lives, and of how many have been driven to leave by the grave situation that still continues.”

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association, of which I am the Canadian National Director, is a special papal charity that has been involved in Ukraine since 1993. From the beginning of the current crisis, we took the lead in providing assistance to the internally displaced and in bringing awareness among Canadians of the real needs and the situation on the ground.


When I visited Ukraine in November 2015, I had met many displaced families that were forced to leave their homes in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. They are presently helped by our local Catholic-faith based partners, in particular by Caritas Ukraine. These people told me that besides the need of material support they want to know that people around the world care about them, know their story and do whatever they can to bring peace to their homeland.

You might be pleasantly surprised that in Ukraine there are no refugee or displaced persons camps like I have seen in many countries in the Middle East. Instead, most people have been welcomed into homes, schools and churches, scattered all over Ukraine. It really shows you the great generosity of the Ukrainian people.

In Canada, two Ukrainian Catholic eparchies – the Archeparchy of Winnipeg and the Eparchy of New Westminster in Vancouver — will be holding special collections in their parishes. I am sure many other Canadian Catholics will be joining their example and will express their solidarity with people of Ukraine as Pope Francis did himself when he said, “This gesture of charity, in addition to relieving material suffering, is intended to express my personal closeness and solidarity, and that of the entire Church, for Ukraine.”


I encourage Canadians to remember people of Ukraine in their prayers and to continue supporting the peace-building and humanitarian relief works of Catholic charities in that Eastern European country.

To find out how you can help the victims of war in Ukraine, please visit www.cnewa.ca.

Photo Credits
1: Destruction in the Donetsk region. (Photo courtesy of Andriy Zelinkyy)

2: An artist collected these arms items and prayed to the Virgin Mary for peace. (Photo courtesy of CNEWA)

3: Displaced elderly people from Donetsk living in Kiev that just received their food packages. (Photo courtesy of CNEWA)

Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize to Pope Francis


On Friday, May 6, in the Sala Regia of the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the International Charlemagne Prize in 2016 was awarded to His Holiness Pope Francis. In the presence of numerous authorities, the ceremony was introduced by a speech by the Mayor of Aachen, Mr. Marcel Philipp. The Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Association for the award of the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen – For the Unity, Mr Jürgen Linden conferred the award of the certificate which reads: “On May 6, 2016, in the Vatican (Rome), the International Charlemagne Prize of Aachen was awarded to Pope Francis in tribute of his extraordinary commitment to peace, understanding and mercy in a European society of values. The ceremony continued with speeches by President of the European Parliament, Honorble Martin Schulz, the President of the European Commission, Honorable Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council, Honorable Donald Tusk. Finally Pope Francis pronounced the speech:  

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I offer you a cordial welcome and I thank you for your presence. I am particularly grateful to Messrs Marcel Philipp, Jürgen Linden, Martin Schulz, Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk for their kind words. I would like to reiterate my intention to offer this prestigious award for Europe. For ours is not so much a celebration as a moment to express our shared hope for a new and courageous step forward for this beloved continent.

Creativity, genius and a capacity for rebirth and renewal are part of the soul of Europe. In the last century, Europe bore witness to humanity that a new beginning was indeed possible. After years of tragic conflicts, culminating in the most horrific war ever known, there emerged, by God’s grace, something completely new in human history. The ashes of the ruins could not extinguish the ardent hope and the quest of solidarity that inspired the founders of the European project. They laid the foundations for a bastion of peace, an edifice made up of states united not by force but by free commitment to the common good and a definitive end to confrontation. Europe, so long divided, finally found its true self and began to build its house.

This “family of peoples”,1 which has commendably expanded in the meantime, seems of late to feel less at home within the walls of the common home. At times, those walls themselves have been built in a way varying from the insightful plans left by the original builders. Their new and exciting desire to create unity seems to be fading; we, the heirs of their dream, are tempted to yield to our own selfish interests and to consider putting up fences here and there. Nonetheless, I am convinced that resignation and weariness do not belong to the soul of Europe, and that even “our problems can become powerful forces for unity”.2

In addressing the European Parliament, I used the image of Europe as a grandmother. I noted that there is a growing impression that Europe is weary, aging, no longer fertile and vital, that the great ideals that inspired Europe seem to have lost their appeal. There is an impression that Europe is declining, that it has lost its ability to be innovative and creative, and that it is more concerned with preserving and dominating spaces than with generating processes of inclusion and change. There is an impression that Europe is tending to become increasingly “entrenched”, rather than open to initiating new social processes capable of engaging all individuals and groups in the search for new and productive solutions to current problems. Europe, rather than protecting spaces, is called to be a mother who generates processes (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 223).

What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom? What has happened to you, Europe, the home of poets, philosophers, artists, musicians, and men and women of letters? What has happened to you, Europe, the mother of peoples and nations, the mother of great men and women who upheld, and even sacrificed their lives for, the dignity of their brothers and sisters?

The writer Elie Wiesel, a survivor of the Nazi death camps, has said that what we need today is a “memory transfusion”. We need to “remember”, to take a step back from the present to listen to the voice of our forebears. Remembering will help us not to repeat our past mistakes (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 108), but also to re-appropriate those experiences that enabled our peoples to surmount the crises of the past. A memory transfusion can free us from today’s temptation to build hastily on the shifting sands of immediate results, which may produce “quick and easy short-term political gains, but do not enhance human fulfilment” (ibid., 224).

To this end, we would do well to turn to the founding fathers of Europe. They were prepared to pursue alternative and innovative paths in a world scarred by war. Not only did they boldly conceive the idea of Europe, but they dared to change radically the models that had led only to violence and destruction. They dared to seek multilateral solutions to increasingly shared problems.

Robert Schuman, at the very birth of the first European community, stated that “Europe will not be made all at once, or according to a single plan. It will be built through concrete achievements which first create a de facto solidarity”.3 Today, in our own world, marked by so much conflict and suffering, there is a need to return to the same de facto solidarity and concrete generosity that followed the Second World War, because, as Schuman noted, “world peace cannot be safeguarded without making creative efforts proportionate to the dangers threatening it”.4

The founding fathers were heralds of peace and prophets of the future. Today more than ever, their vision inspires us to build bridges and tear down walls. That vision urges us not to be content with cosmetic retouches or convoluted compromises aimed at correcting this or that treaty, but courageously to lay new and solid foundations. As Alcide De Gasperi stated, “equally inspired by concern for the common good of our European homeland”, all are called to embark fearlessly on a “construction project that demands our full quota of patience and our ongoing cooperation”.5

Such a “memory transfusion” can enable us to draw inspiration from the past in order to confront with courage the complex multipolar framework of our own day and to take up with determination the challenge of “updating” the idea of Europe. A Europe capable of giving birth to a new humanism based on three capacities: the capacity to integrate, the capacity for dialogue and the capacity to generate.

The capacity to integrate Erich Przywara, in his splendid work Idee Europa [The Idea of Europe], challenges us to think of the city as a place where various instances and levels coexist. He was familiar with the reductionist tendency inherent in every attempt to rethink the social fabric. Many of our cities are remarkably beautiful precisely because they have managed to preserve over time traces of different ages, nations, styles and visions. We need but look at the inestimable cultural patrimony of Rome to realize that the richness and worth of a people is grounded in its ability to combine all these levels in a healthy coexistence. Forms of reductionism and attempts at uniformity, far from generating value, condemn our peoples to a cruel poverty: the poverty of exclusion. Far from bestowing grandeur, riches and beauty, exclusion leads to vulgarity, narrowness, and cruelty. Far from bestowing nobility of spirit, it brings meanness.

The roots of our peoples, the roots of Europe, were consolidated down the centuries by the constant need to integrate in new syntheses the most varied and discrete cultures. The identity of Europe is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity.

Political activity cannot fail to see the urgency of this fundamental task. We know that “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of the parts”, and this requires that we work to “broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all” (Evangelii Gaudium, 235). We are asked to promote an integration that finds in solidarity a way of acting, a means of making history. Solidarity should never be confused with charitable assistance, but understood as a means of creating opportunities for all the inhabitants of our cities – and of so many other cities – to live with dignity. Time is teaching us that it is not enough simply to settle individuals geographically: the challenge is that of a profound cultural integration.

The community of European peoples will thus be able to overcome the temptation of falling back on unilateral paradigms and opting for forms of “ideological colonization”. Instead, it will rediscover the breadth of the European soul, born of the encounter of civilizations and peoples. The soul of Europe is in fact greater than the present borders of the Union and is called to become a model of new syntheses and of dialogue. The true face of Europe is seen not in confrontation, but in the richness of its various cultures and the beauty of its commitment to openness.

Without this capacity for integration, the words once spoken by Konrad Adenauer will prove prophetic: “the future of the West is not threatened as much by political tensions as by the danger of conformism, uniformity of thoughts and feelings: in a word, by the whole system of life, by flight from responsibility, with concern only for oneself.”6

The capacity for dialogue

If there is one word that we should never tire of repeating, it is this: dialogue. We are called to promote a culture of dialogue by every possible means and thus to rebuild the fabric of society. The culture of dialogue entails a true apprenticeship and a discipline that enables us to view others as valid dialogue partners, to respect the foreigner, the immigrant and people from different cultures as worthy of being listened to. Today we urgently need to engage all the members of society in building “a culture which privileges dialogue as a form of encounter” and in creating “a means for building consensus and agreement while seeking the goal of a just, responsive and inclusive society” (Evangelii Gaudium, 239). Peace will be lasting in the measure that we arm our children with the weapons of dialogue, that we teach them to fight the good fight of encounter and negotiation. In this way, we will bequeath to them a culture capable of devising strategies of life, not death, and of inclusion, not exclusion.

This culture of dialogue should be an integral part of the education imparted in our schools, cutting across disciplinary lines and helping to give young people the tools needed to settle conflicts differently than we are accustomed to do. Today we urgently need to build “coalitions” that are not only military and economic, but cultural, educational, philosophical and religious. Coalitions that can make clear that, behind many conflicts, there is often in play the power of economic groups. Coalitions capable of defending people from being exploited for improper ends. Let us arm our people with the culture of dialogue and encounter.

The capacity to generate

Dialogue, with all that it entails, reminds us that no one can remain a mere onlooker or bystander. Everyone, from the smallest to the greatest, has an active role to play in the creation of an integrated and reconciled society. This culture of dialogue can come about only if all of us take part in planning and building it. The present situation does not permit anyone to stand by and watch other people’s struggles. On the contrary, it is a forceful summons to personal and social responsibility.

In this sense, our young people have a critical role. They are not the future of our peoples; they are the present. Even now, with their dreams and their lives they are forging the spirit of Europe. We cannot look to the future without offering them the real possibility to be catalysts of change and transformation. We cannot envision Europe without letting them be participants and protagonists in this dream.

Lately I have given much thought to this. I ask myself: How we can involve our young people in this building project if we fail to offer them employment, dignified labour that lets them grow and develop through their handiwork, their intelligence and their abilities? How can we tell them that they are protagonists, when the levels of employment and underemployment of millions of young Europeans are continually rising? How can we avoid losing our young people, who end up going elsewhere in search of their dreams and a sense of belonging, because here, in their own countries, we don’t know how to offer them opportunities and values?

The just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labour is not mere philanthropy. It is a moral obligation.7 If we want to rethink our society, we need to create dignified and well-paying jobs, especially for our young people.

To do so requires coming up with new, more inclusive and equitable economic models, aimed not at serving the few, but at benefiting ordinary people and society as a whole. This calls for moving from a liquid economy to a social economy; I think for example of the social market economy encouraged by my predecessors (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, 8 November 1990). It would involve passing from an economy directed at revenue, profiting from speculation and lending at interest, to a social economy that invests in persons by creating jobs and providing training.

We need to move from a liquid economy prepared to use corruption as a means of obtaining profits to a social economy that guarantees access to land and lodging through labour. Labour is in fact the setting in which individuals and communities bring into play “many aspects of life: creativity, planning for the future, developing talents, living out values, relating to others, giving glory to God. It follows that, in the reality of today’s global society, it is essential that we ‘continue to prioritize the role of access to steady employment for everyone, no matter the limited interests of business and dubious economic reasoning’8” (Encyclical Laudato Si’, 127).

If we want a dignified future, a future of peace for our societies, we will only be able to achieve it by working for genuine inclusion, “an inclusion which provides worthy, free, creative, participatory and solidary work”.9 This passage (from a liquid economy to a social economy) will not only offer new prospects and concrete opportunities for integration and inclusion, but will makes us once more capable of envisaging that humanism of which Europe has been the cradle and wellspring.

To the rebirth of a Europe weary, yet still rich in energies and possibilities, the Church can and must play her part. Her task is one with her mission: the proclamation of the Gospel, which today more than ever finds expression in going forth to bind the wounds of humanity with the powerful yet simple presence of Jesus, and his mercy that consoles and encourages. God desires to dwell in our midst, but he can only do so through men and women who, like the great evangelizers of this continent, have been touched by him and live for the Gospel, seeking nothing else. Only a Church rich in witnesses will be able to bring back the pure water of the Gospel to the roots of Europe. In this enterprise, the path of Christians towards full unity is a great sign of the times and a response to the Lord’s prayer “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).

With mind and heart, with hope and without vain nostalgia, like a son who rediscovers in Mother Europe his roots of life and faith, I dream of a new European humanism, one that involves “a constant work of humanization” and calls for “memory, courage, [and] a sound and humane utopian vision”.10

I dream of a Europe that is young, still capable of being a mother: a mother who has life because she respects life and offers hope for life. I dream of a Europe that cares for children, that offers fraternal help to the poor and those newcomers seeking acceptance because they have lost everything and need shelter. I dream of a Europe that is attentive to and concerned for the infirm and the elderly, lest they be simply set aside as useless. I dream of a Europe where being a migrant is not a crime but a summons to greater commitment on behalf of the dignity of every human being. I dream of a Europe where young people breathe the pure air of honesty, where they love the beauty of a culture and a simple life undefiled by the insatiable needs of consumerism, where getting married and having children is a responsibility and a great joy, not a problem due to the lack of stable employment. I dream of a Europe of families, with truly effective policies concentrated on faces rather than numbers, on birth rates more than rates of consumption. I dream of a Europe that promotes and protects the rights of everyone, without neglecting its duties towards all. I dream of a Europe of which it will not be said that its commitment to human rights was its last utopia.


1 Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014.
2 Ibid.
3 Declaration of 9 May 1950, Salon de l’Horloge, Quai d’Orsay, Paris
4 Ibid.
5 Address to the European Parliamentary Conference, Paris, 21 April 1954.
6 Address to the Assembly of German Artesans, Düsseldorf, 27 April 1952.
7 Address to Popular Movements in Bolivia, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, 9 July 2015.
8 BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate (29 June 2009), 32: AAS 101 (2009), 666.
9 Address to Popular Movements in Bolivia, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, 9 July 2015.
10 Address to the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014.

Caption: Pope Francis is seated next to Archbishop Georg Ganswein, prefect of the papal household, and Marcel Philipp, mayor of Aachen, Germany, during a ceremony at which the pope received the Charlemagne Prize in the Sala Regia at the Vatican May 6. Auchen is the city where the prize is normally presented. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)