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Pope Francis sends letter for Romero beatification

Romero pilgrims
At 10:00 this morning, El Salvador time, in the Plaza del Divino Salvador del Mundo in San Salvador, the Mass of Beatification took place for Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez, born on August 15, 1917 Ciudad Barrios (El Salvador) and martyred for “odium fidei” (hatred of the faith) on March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass in a convent chapel in San Salvador. Below is the English translation of the Spanish letter sent by Pope Francis this morning to His Excellency José Luis Escobar Alas, Archbishop of San Salvador on the occasion of the beatification ceremony.

His Excellency José Luis Escobar Alas
Archbishop of San Salvador
President of the Episcopal Conference of El Salvador

Dear Brother:
The beatification of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámez, who was Pastor of that dear Archdiocese is a cause for great joy for the Salvadoran people and for those who rejoice by the example of the best children of the Church. Archbishop Romero, who built peace with the strength of love, gave witness to the faith with his life, given to the extreme.

The Lord never abandons his people in difficulties, and has always shown Himself solicitous with your needs. He sees oppression, He hears the cries of pain of His children, and comes to their aid to free them from oppression and bring them to a new land, fertile and spacious, that “flows with milk and honey” (cf. Ex 3, 7-8). Equally he chose Moses one day so that, in His name, he would guide His people, He continues to raise up pastors according to His heart, who feed their flocks with knowledge and prudence (cf Jer 3, 15).

In that beautiful Central American land, bathed by the Pacific Ocean, the Lord granted his Church a zealous Bishop who, loving God and serving the brothers and sisters, converted into an image of Christ the Good Shepherd. In times of difficult coexistence, Archbishop Romero knew how to lead, defend and protect his flock, remaining faithful to the Gospel and in communion with the whole Church. His ministry was distinguished by a particular attention to the most poor and marginalized. And in the moment of his death, while he celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of love and reconciliation, he received the grace to identify himself fully with He who gave his life for his sheep.

On this feast day for the Salvadoran nation, and also for neighboring Latin American countries, we give thanks to God because he granted the martyred Bishop, the ability to see and hear the suffering of his people, and molded his heart so that, in His name, he could direct them and illuminate them, even making of his work a full exercise of Christian charity.

The voice of the newly Blessed continues to resonate today to remind us that the Church, a convocation of brothers surrounding their Lord, is the family of God, in which there should be no division. Faith in Jesus Christ, when understood well and its final consequences assumed, generates communities of that are builders of peace and solidarity. This is what the Church in El Salvador is called to today, in America and in the whole world: to be rich in mercy and to convert into the leaven of reconciliation for society.

Archbishop Romero invites us to sanity and reflection, to respect for life and harmony. It is necessary to renounce “the violence of the sword, of hate” and to live “the violence of love, that left Christ nailed to the Cross, that makes each one of us overcome selfishness and so that there be no more such cruel inequality between us.” He knew how to see and experienced in his own flesh “the selfishness that hides itself in those who do not wish to give up what is theirs for the benefit of others.” And, with the heart of a father, he would worry about the “poor majority”, asking the powerful to convert “weapons into sickles for work.”

May those who have Archbishop Romero as a friend of faith, those who invoke him as protector and intercessor, those who admire his image, find in him the strength and courage to build the Kingdom of God, to commit to a more equal and dignified social order.

It is a favorable moment for a true national reconciliation in front of the challenges we are facing today. The Pope participates in your hopes, and unites Himself to your prayers so that the seed of martyrdom may flourish and become entrenched in the true paths of the sons and daughters of that nation, which proudly hears the name of the divine Saviour of the World.

Dear brother, I ask of you a favor: that you pray and that you may pray for me, while I impart my Apostolic Blessing to all who united in various ways to celebrate the newly Blessed

Fraternally yours,

Francis
Vatican, 23 Mary, 2015


Photo credit: Pilgrim carries poster of Archbishop Romero day before beatification ceremony in San Salvador (CNS photo/Jose Cabezas, Reuters)

The Vatican and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: peace trumps politics

Abbas

The enormous amount of media attention that Pope Francis attracts has highlighted the Church’s influence in the world of global politics. The Pope, whoever he is, is a spiritual leader, but one with a permanent seat at the political table. Hardly a week goes by in which Francis doesn’t meet with some head of state or foreign diplomat to discuss religion and politics in the respective country.

This past week it was the Palestinians’ turn. On May 13 the Vatican announced that the Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine had finalized the draft text of an agreement on essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine.

Then on May 16, on the eve of a canonization Mass in which two Palestinian nuns were proclaimed saints, Pope Francis met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The two men expressed their hope that peace talks would resume with Israel and that interreligious dialogue be promoted across the region.

Predictably, the three events—the bilateral agreement, the meeting with Abbas and the canonization of two Palestinians—reignited the discussion over the Vatican’s recognition of the “state of Palestine,” a recognition Israel categorically denies.

Israeli officials suggested that such recognition from third parties discourages the Palestinians from returning to the negotiating table, and some pro-Israeli voices even raised concern over what this could mean for Catholic-Jewish relations.

For the sake of clarification, it is helpful to review the Vatican’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reiterate the rationale behind it.

When last Wednesday’s announcement came from the Bilateral Commission, some credible voices in the media rightly pointed out that it wasn’t the first time the Vatican officially recognized the “state of Palestine.” It has been using this language since the 2012 United Nations vote to grant Palestine “non-member observer status,” a status shared by only one other state at the UN: the Holy See.

Far from going out-on-a-limb with its language, the Vatican simply recognizes what the vast majority of other nations recognize (the UN vote carried 138 in favor and 9 against with 41 abstentions).

And beyond this, it should be pointed out that the Vatican has long supported a “two-state” solution to the conflict. Upon his arrival in Tel Aviv last year, Pope Francis said:

“I renew the appeal made in this place by Pope Benedict XVI: the right of the State of Israel to exist and to flourish in peace and security within internationally recognized borders must be universally recognized.  At the same time, there must also be a recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to a sovereign homeland and their right to live with dignity and with freedom of movement. The “Two State Solution” must become reality and not remain merely a dream.” (Welcome Ceremony)

Pope Benedict said as much during his visit to the Holy Land in 2009, and John Paul II on many occasions insisted on a peaceful solution to the conflict. He also sought solidarity with the Palestinian people by fostering a relationship with then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Upon hearing of Arafat’s death in 2004, the Vatican issued a statement saying the Pope, “feels particularly close to the family of the departed, the Palestinian authorities and the Palestinian people,” and that he has “called upon the Prince of Peace to let the Star of Harmony shine over the Holy Land so that the two peoples who dwell in it may reconcile as two independent and sovereign states.”

Suffice it to say, no ground-breaking language was used over the past week by the Vatican regarding the Israeli-Palestinian situation. The Church’s position has been clear for years: a peaceful two-state solution whereby both parties respect the right and legitimacy of the other, with absolutely no recourse to violence. In recognizing the “state of Palestine” since 2012, the Vatican is adhering to the legitimate decision of the United Nations.

The Church always insists on peace over politics. Its support for a realized Palestinian state and a peaceful coexistence built on respect and mutuality is not exclusionary or one-sided, as some voices are suggesting. The Church equally supports the right and security of an Israeli state. But when it comes to conflict, especially violent conflict, the Church raises the bar beyond petty politics to the greater good, that is, justice and peace. As Pope Benedict XVI said in an address to the President of Israel in Jerusalem in 2009, “A nation’s true interest is always served by the pursuit of justice for all.”

SebastianGOn Further Reflection
In the complex world of the 21st century there are more questions than answers. The challenge for the Church is to find new and effective ways of bringing the Gospel message into the conversation.  For her part, the Church can act as a much needed voice of dialogue, reason and charity. On Further Reflection invites readers to go beyond the headlines to see the deeper realities affecting the church and society.  Sebastian Gomes is a producer and correspondent for S+L TV.

“The Pope’s economics message is hard to dismiss because the facts are so real,” says US economist

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Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect is an S+L series that goes deeper into the questions surrounding the person and pontificate of Pope Francis.  The series consists of a selection of the full interviews from S+L’s original documentary The Francis Effect. Find the full schedule for Season 2 of POV here.

All new tonight: Charles Clark, PhD

The highly anticipated visit of Pope Francis to the United States in September will help define his pontificate. He is one of the most popular and beloved global figures, but he will undoubtedly bring a challenging and potentially divisive message regarding economic ideologies and the Church’s resurging preferential option for the poor. Nowhere will his remarks on economics—whatever they entail—be felt more strongly than on North American soil.

The Pope has said just enough over the past two years to stir enormous controversy, not only in the economic world, but in the Church as well.  Disagreements among Catholic economists over the Pope’s statements in The Joy of the Gospel are common. Some critique his views as narrowly Latin American, while others see them as coming straight out of the Church’s long-standing social doctrine.

Charles Clark is a Catholic economist belonging to the latter group—he’s a professor of economics at St. John’s University, NY and an advisor to the Holy See Mission to the United Nations. He applauds Francis for pushing an evidence-based critique of the global economy, and says the Pope’s call to put human beings at the center of all economic activity has profound consequences for the way we think about money and wealth, and—more importantly—how we choose to use them.

Tonight for the first time on S+L TV, viewers can see the full interview I conducted with Charles Clark on the Pope’s economic ideas and vision for a Church that is inclusive; one that is of and for the poor.

Watch Episode 5 of Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect
Airs Wednesday, May 20, 2015
9:00pm ET / 6:00pm PT
Only on Salt and Light Television

Leadership Lessons of two Latin American Pastors: Oscar of San Salvador & Jorge of Buenos Aires (& Rome)

Oscar-Romero-headshot

In his message for the World Day of Peace on January 1, 1972, Blessed Paul VI wrote: “Convinced as we all are of this irrepressible cry, why do we waste time in giving peace any other foundation than Justice? …Is it just, for example, that there should be entire populations which are not granted free and normal expression of that most jealously guarded right of the human spirit, the religious right? What authority, what ideology, what historical or civil interest can arrogantly claim a right to repress and stifle the religious sentiment in its legitimate human expression?

…The problem is extremely serious and complex; it is not for us to make it worse, or to resolve it on the practical level. …But it is precisely from this place that the invitation we give to celebrate Peace resounds as an invitation to practice Justice: “Justice will bring about Peace” (Cf: Is 32:17). We repeat this today in a more incisive and dynamic formula: “If you want Peace, work for Justice”.

I would like to share with you some thoughts on two Latin American pastors and bishops who understand very well what the above words mean. The first Latin American pastor was an Archbishop – the chief Shepherd of San Salvador – Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Goldamez, born in 1917 in the town of Ciudad Barrios, in the mountains of El Salvador near the border with Honduras. After serving as a country pastor and rector of two seminaries, he became bishop then archbishop at time of great social unrest in his country. His pulpit became a source of truth when the government censored news. Romero walked among the people and listened. “I am a shepherd,” he said, “who, with his people, has begun to learn a beautiful and difficult truth: our Christian faith requires that we submerge ourselves in this world.”

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Through his life and ministry, Archbishop Romero taught us that thinking with the Church meant to be rooted in God, loving and defending the poor, and out of fidelity, paying the price for doing so. He risked his own life as he defended the poor and oppressed. He laid down his life for his friends.

The spirituality and faith behind his struggle for life flowed from his belief in the God of the living who enters into human history to destroy the forces of death and allow the forces of life to heal, reconcile, and lift up those who walk in the valley of death. Romero taught us that poverty and death go together.

Oscar Romero’s life also speaks to us today by virtue of his untiring call for dialogue and negotiation. In a society that was terribly polarized, a society in which the usual way to relate to persons with whom one disagreed was to assassinate them, Romero always tried to open a space for communication, conversation, and understanding. In 1980, Romero brought the opposing sides of the government of El Salvador together for hours of talks, urging that the junta be given another chance. His example of bridge-building can be of particular importance to any nation today where change is often seen as a process of the oppressed taking on the pinstripes of the oppressors.

Oscar Romero’s untiring efforts on behalf of the poor give flesh and blood to the words of Mary’s Magnificat in the New Testament. In making her own the words of Hannah of the Old Testament’s prayer of praise to God, Mary reminds us that “God has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.” But God has not put the lowly up on the thrones of their oppressors! The problem is the thrones themselves that serve as a constant temptation to power, distortion, violence, abuse and manipulation. Romero’s life offers a completely different model of societal transformation. His plea for forgiveness, reconciliation and mercy is of paramount significance. Oscar Romero modeled for us the opposite of what the world models. The world thrives on manipulative, exploitative, competitive power. Romero embodied nutritive and integrative power: power on behalf of the other and a power shared with others.

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Murdered in cold blood by an assassin’s bullet as he celebrated Mass in a hospital on March 24, 1980, his last words in the sermon just minutes before his death reminded his congregation of the parable of the wheat. “Those who surrender to the service of the poor through love of Christ, will live like the grain of wheat that dies. It only apparently dies. If it were not to die, it would remain a solitary grain. The harvest comes because of the grain that dies…”

Archbishop Romero defended the right of the poor to organize and he was very critical of popular organizations that became overly or one-sidedly political. His wariness of politicization is especially important to us today as many nations, groups and even elements of the Church struggle to move from being narrowly political societies to becoming civil communities and forming a civilization of love.

Oscar Romero testified that the church must be the voice of the voiceless and the incessant defender of life. The church must passionately pursue justice, but without identifying itself with any one particular party or any one particular ideology. This can be a very difficult and challenging struggle, a veritable mine field or high wire balancing act. To walk this tightrope was especially challenging in the El Salvador of the ‘70s, which was so highly politicized that people were often not seen as persons, but instead, were identified only on the basis of their belonging to political parties or organizations. 

Jesuit Fr. Rutilio Grande, Archbishop Oscar Romero, the Maryknoll Missionaries and the Jesuit Martyrs of El Salvador were pastors, university professors, teachers and lay missionaries who were brutally murdered because of the questions which they asked about justice and peace; because they sought the truth of very difficult situations of suffering and massive injustice; because they believed dearly in the value of a Catholic, critical education, which put into practice what the best elements of our Church stand for. Each person was disciple, missionary, educator and evangelist and each was killed because the education and evangelization which they shared with their students and flocks touched the enormity of human suffering and pain all around them in El Salvador.

What happened in El Salvador to these men and women and what continues to happen to similar people around the world who are authentic teachers, disciples and witnesses is not so much a barbarous and bizarre anomaly… because authentic Catholic Education, true Evangelization and missionary discipleship must educate and evangelize men and women into the disciplined sensitivity toward the suffering in the world whoever and wherever they may be. This is part of the education and evangelization called for by the Gospel. For without a specific Gospel-rooted effort to bring about such a religious and humane education and evangelization in our educational and pastoral milieus today, we will simply graduate and form people unaware of pain, suffering and the real cost of being Christian and being disciples.

Pope kisses infant during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro

The second is a Jesuit, the former Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires – Jorge Mario Bergoglio, now known to us as Pope Francis, the Bishop of Rome. As Cardinal Archbishop of Argentina’s capital – a diocese with more than three million inhabitants – Cardinal Bergoglio developed and implemented a pastoral missionary plan based on communion and evangelization. He had four main goals: open and brotherly communities, an informed laity playing a lead role, evangelization efforts addressed to every inhabitant of the city, and assistance to the poor and the sick. He asked priests and lay people to work closely together in the work of evangelization and education of the people. During many years of fruitful pastoral ministry, Cardinal Bergoglio insisted, “Teachers of the faith need to get out of their cave,” and the clergy “out of the sacristy.” He required parish priests to live with their people, and in the same conditions as their people, even in radical simplicity and poverty. Authentic pastors should have the “odor of the sheep” if they are to be effective and credible.

When Cardinal Bergoglio spoke of social justice, he called people first of all to pick up the Catechism and to rediscover the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes. His project was and remains very simple: if you follow Christ, you understand that “trampling upon a person’s dignity is a serious sin.”

“My people are poor and I am one of them”, Cardinal Bergoglio said so often, explaining his decision to live in an apartment above a school and cook his own meals. He frequented the Villas Miserias, advised his priests to show mercy and apostolic courage and to keep their doors open to everyone. One year before his election to the See of Peter, the Cardinal wrote a pastoral letter in which he reprimanded his own priests for refusing the Sacrament of Baptism to the children of single mothers.

His life was radically changed two years ago March 13 when “Padre Jorge,” as he was known by so many in Argentina, became Pope Francis. We have all witnessed and been recipients of his Petrine Ministry for the past two years. Since his election as Bishop of Rome, he has captured the mind and heart not only of the Church but also of the world. He has not changed a single doctrine of the Church but has ushered in a way of speaking, a new style of leadership that has shaken the Church and impacted the world.

Pope Francis kisses foot of inmate at Rome prison

Some call him a revolutionary. At the heart of his message is a transformative call to reconciliation and mercy. As leader of the Catholic Church, he asks us to let go of different forms of thinking and the desire to impose certain ideas at all costs. He proposes a humble way of committed people who base their lives on Gospel living. For Francis, compassion and mercy can truly change the world. This is the Christian revolution: namely a conversion to the origin of the Gospel message as a way to the future, a true revolution of tenderness and mercy.

Pope Francis’ electrifying homily to the new Cardinals in St. Peter’s Basilica on February 15, 2015, is one of the most significant addresses that he has given in his two-year pontificate. Centered on “the Gospel of the marginalized,” it provides a road map for Catholic Church leaders and educators. Commenting on Jesus’ cure of the leper in Mark’s Gospel, he said, “Compassion leads Jesus to concrete action: he reinstates the marginalized!” Jesus responds “immediately” to the leper’s plea “without waiting to study the situation and all its possible consequences” because “for Jesus, what matters above all is reaching out to save those far off, healing the wounds of the sick, restoring everyone to God’s family!”

“This is scandalous to some people! but Jesus is not afraid of this kind of scandal! He does not think of the closed-minded who are scandalized even by a work of healing, scandalized before any kind of openness, by any action outside of their mental and spiritual boxes, by any caress or sign of tenderness that does not fit into their usual thinking and their ritual purity. He wanted to reinstate the outcast, to save those outside the camp.”

Francis finds the contemporary Church at a crossroads: “There are two ways of thinking and of having faith: we can fear to lose the saved and we can want to save the lost.” There is “the thinking of the doctors of the law, which would remove the danger by casting out the diseased person,” and “the thinking of God, who in his mercy embraces and accepts by reinstating him and turning evil into good, condemnation into salvation and exclusion into proclamation.”

“These two ways of thinking are present throughout the church’s history: casting off and reinstating,” Francis said. He recalled that Sts. Peter and Paul caused scandal, faced criticism, resistance and even hostility for following the path of reinstatement. Francis, and many of those who have embraced his message and strive to follow his example are also being criticized today for the same things: for not casting off but striving to reinstate those who are on the peripheries for a variety of reasons. …In healing the leper, “Jesus does not harm the healthy. Rather, he frees them from fear. He does not endanger them, but gives them a brother.

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The Church of Francis is the Church of Jesus Christ

Francis wants the church to be an instrument of reconciliation and welcome, a church capable of warming hearts, a church that is not bent over on herself but always seeking those on the periphery and those who are lost, a church capable of leading people home.

Pope Francis is neither conservative nor liberal but a radical who wants to bring about a revolution of mercy. In Evangelii Gaudium, he invites and challenges all of us to move beyond our “comfort zones.” He wants us to be warm, welcoming and forgiving. He wants us to eat with tax collectors and sinners; he wants us to forgive the woman caught in adultery (while admonishing her to sin no more); he wants us to welcome and respect foreigners (even our enemies), and, above all, not to judge others. He has spoken simply, powerfully and beautifully about returning to lost unity, a desire to achieve a missing fullness, a disarming invitation to simply come together to witness to the beauty of the love of Christ. He wants to build bridges that everyone can cross. He is especially conscious of the poor and those who have been marginalized, social outcasts kept on the fringes of society.

For Pope Francis, authentic power is service: Power in the Church is not about who kisses one’s hand but how many feet one can wash in the service of Christ. Pope Francis made this clear when he visited a youth detention center on his first Holy Thursday in Rome in 2013 and chose to wash the feet of young offenders, including two young women and two Muslims. He continued that tradition last year by washing the feet of elderly women and men and those with severe handicaps. This year on Holy Thursday, he washed the feet of 12 prisoners at Rome’s Rebibbia prison – incarcerated women and men. If we do not learn this Christian rule, we will never be able to understand Jesus’ true message on power and be effective teachers, educators, pastoral workers, and agents of justice and peace.

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The Christian realism of the “Joy of the Gospel” is beyond reactionary ideology and pie-in-the sky spirituality. A little compassion can move the world, Francis says. That is the Christian revolution at the core of Francis’ Petrine ministry, a conversion to the origin of the Gospel message as a way to the future, a revolution of mercy.

Pope Francis has a passion for the poor, the immigrant, the forgotten, and the “throw-aways.” He is the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere, and the first from Latin America; these are the areas of the world where poverty is so great. Francis is inviting us to become witnesses, missionaries and disciples. That is our mission today. It is not new. Francis has brought new urgency, new passion, and I would suggest, new authenticity to this mission.

Francis of Buenos Aires (and Rome) and Blessed Oscar Romero of San Salvador are disciples, shepherds and missionaries, role models and Gospel witnesses, agents of reconciliation and builders of communities of faith. Francis leads the Church on earth, and Oscar watches over us from the heavenly Jerusalem. Their longing for reconciliation of the human family and their desire for justice and peace compel us to work for justice and peace in our time. Let us learn from the bold examples of these two Latin American pastors.

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB, is CEO of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation in Canada and English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office.

 

Pope Francis’ Regina Coeli Address: Appeal for Peace in Burundi

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Pope Francis appealed on Sunday (May 17th) for an end to the violence in Burundi and urged its people to act responsibly for the good of the nation. Burundi saw an attempted coup earlier this week and has been the scene of violent clashes between supporters and opponents of the president. The Pope’s appeal for peace in Burundi came during his address just before the recitation of the traditional Easter Marian prayer, the Regina Coeli. Below, please find Vatican Radio’s translation of Pope Francis’ remarks ahead of the Regina Coeli:

Dear brothers and sisters,

At the end of this celebration, I want to greet all of you who have come to pay homage to the new Saints, in a particular way the official Delegations from Palestine, France, Italy, Israel, and Jordan. I greet with affection the Cardinals, Bishops, priests, as well as the spiritual daughters of the four Saints. Through their intercession, may the Lord grant a new missionary impulse to their respective countries. Inspired by their example of mercy, charity, and reconciliation, may the Christians of these lands look to the future with hope, continuing in the journey of solidarity and fraternal coexistence.

I extend my greetings to the families, the parish groups, the associations, and the schools present, especially to those being confirmed from the Archdiocese of Genoa. I address a special though to the faithful of the Czech Republic, gathered in the sanctuary of Svatý Kope?ek, near Olomouc, who today are remembering the twentieth anniversary of the visit of Saint John Paul II.

Yesterday, in Venice was the beatification of the priest Luigi Caburlotto, pastor, educator, and founder of the Daughters of Saint Joseph. Let us give thanks to God for this exemplary pastor, who led an intense spiritual and apostolic life, totally dedicated to the good of souls.

I wish to invite all you to pray for the beloved people of Burundi which is living through a delicate moment: May the Lord help all people to flee the violence and to act responsibly for the good of the nation. With filial love let us turn now to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, Queen of the Saints, and model of all Christians:

Regina coeli…

Homily of Pope Francis at the Mass of Canonization of 4 New Saints – May 17, 2015

Palestinian Saints 2015

Pope Francis canonized four women religious on Sunday, all 19th century nuns who worked in education. St. Marie-Alphonsine and St. Mary of Jesus Crucified were from the territory that made up historical Palestine; St. Jeanne Emilie de Villeneuve was a French nun and foundress; and St. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception came from Italy. Below, please find the full English translation of Pope Francis’ homily for Holy Mass for the VII Sunday of Easter with the Rite of Canonization:

The Acts of the Apostles have set before us the early Church as she elects the man whom God called to take the place of Judas in the college of the Apostles. It is has to do not with a job, but with service. Indeed, Matthias, on whom the choice falls, receives a mission which Peter defines in these words: “One of these men… must become a witness with us to his resurrection,” the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:21-23). In this way Peter sums up what it means to be part of the Twelve: it means to be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection. The fact that he says “with us” brings us to realize that the mission of proclaiming the risen Christ is not an individual undertaking: it is to be carried out in common, with the apostolic college and with the community. The Apostles had a direct and overwhelming experience of the resurrection; they were eyewitnesses to that event. Thanks to their authoritative testimony, many people came to believe; from faith in the risen Lord, Christian communities were born and are born continually.  We too, today, base our faith in the risen Lord on the witness of the Apostles, which has come down to us through the mission of the Church.  Our faith is firmly linked to their testimony, as to a nun broken chain which spans the centuries, made up not only by the successors of the Apostles, but also by succeeding generations of Christians. Like the Apostles, each one of Christ’s followers is called to become a witness to his resurrection, above all in those human  settings  where  forgetfulness  of  God  and  human disorientation are most evident.

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If this is to happen, we need to remain in the risen Christ and in his love, as the First Letter of Saint John has reminded us: “He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 Jn4:16).  Jesus had repeated insistently to his disciples: “Abide in me… Abide in my love” (Jn 15:4, 9). This is the secret of the saints: abiding in Christ, joined to him like branches to the vine, in order to bear much fruit (cf. Jn 15:1-8). And this fruit is none other than love.  This love shines forth in the testimony of Sister Jeanne Émilie de Villeneuve, who consecrated her life to God and to the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and the exploited, becoming for them and for all a concrete sign of the Lord’s merciful love.

A relationship with the risen Jesus is – so to speak – the “atmosphere” in which Christians live, and in which they find the strength to remain faithful to the Gospel, even amid obstacles and misunderstandings. “Abiding in love”: this is what Sister Maria Cristina Brando also did.  She was completely given over to ardent love for the Lord.  From prayer and her intimate encounter with the risen Jesus present in the Eucharist, she received strength to endure suffering and to give herself, as bread which is broken, to many people who had wandered far from God and yet hungered for authentic love.

Relic Palestinian nun

An essential aspect of witness to the risen Lord is unity among ourselves, his disciples, in the image of his own unity with the Father.  Today too, in the Gospel, we heard Jesus’ prayer on the eve of his passion: “that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11). From this eternal love between the Father and the Son, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), our mission and our fraternal communion draw strength; this love is the ever-flowing source of our joy in following the Lord along the path of his poverty, his virginity and his obedience; and this same love calls us to cultivate contemplative prayer. Sister Mariam Baouardy experienced this in an outstanding way. Poor and uneducated, she was able to counsel others and provide theological explanations with extreme clarity, the fruit of her constant converse with the Holy Spirit.  Her docility to the Holy Spirit made her also a means of encounter and fellowship with the Muslim world. So too, Sister Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas came to understand clearly what it means to radiate the love of God in the apostolate, and to be a witness to meekness and unity. She shows us the importance of becoming responsible for one another, of living lives of service one to another.

To abide in God and in his love, and thus to proclaim by our words and our lives the resurrection of Jesus, to live in unity with one another and with charity towards all. This is what the four women Saints canonized today did. Their luminous example challenges us in our lives as Christians. How do I bear witness to the risen Christ?  This is a question we have to ask ourselves. How do I abide in him?  How do I dwell in his love?  Am I capable of “sowing” in my family, in my workplace and in my community, the seed of that unity which he has bestowed on us by giving us a share in the life of the Trinity?

When we return home today, let us take with us the joy of this encounter with the risen Lord. Let us cultivate in our hearts the commitment to abide in God’s love.  Let us remain united to him and among ourselves, and follow in the footsteps of these four women, models of sanctity whom the Church invites us to imitate.

Abbas Palestinian Canonization

 

The Church in the Digital Age

White smoke billows from chimney of Sistine Chapel after cardinals elected new pope

For an institution that still uses smoke signals to communicate the election of a new leader one wonders how the Church will respond to the challenges of the digital age? When I reflect on this topic, I can’t help but remember when the good old Pope Benedict launched News.va. That’s right, in case you’ve forgotten, it was Pope Benedict’s finger that launched NEWS.VA.

Isn’t there something incredible about an image of a Council Father, like Pope Benedict, launching a news portal via an ipad. Two worlds literally meeting at the tip of a finger. Reminds me of the scene of Adam and God in the Sistine chapel.

In light of the World Communications Day, I caught up with Professor Daniella Zsupan-Jerome, Author of Connected Toward Communion: The Church and Social Communication in the Digital Age to share some insights with us:

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Professor Daniella Zsupan-Jerome with iPad that Pope Benedict used to launch @Pontifex

Today we celebrate the 49th World Day for Social Communications. Any thoughts on the Pope’s Message?

I recommend praying with this beautiful document. It invites us into the family of Jesus to re-learn some of the beauty and richness of human communication. The meditation on the Annunciation and the Visitation are especially profound as Pope Francis leads us to recognize how communication itself was made sacred in the Word becoming flesh through the yes of Mary. True to form, Pope Francis guides us from meditation to recognition in our own lives: to the reality of our own families and how communication emerges and grows from this basic human experience. I love his reflection on the womb as “the first school of communication” where the encounter between mother and child, “so intimately related while still distinct from each other, an encounter so full of promise, is our first experience of communication.”

I also appreciate the challenge he names regarding digital culture: “The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information.” He is calling us back to encounter here, back to recognizing the person in front of us, back to the basic posture of relationship that we are made for in the image and likeness of God. He challenges us here I think to think creatively and faithfully about how to do this in and through digital communication.

The Church in many places seems to still prefer analogue communication like radio (or smoke signals), are we ready for the digital age?

One of the reasons I love the Roman Catholic Church is because of its long-history of being “multimedia” as well as its beautiful theology of communication. Our theology set us up to think in terms of mediation, sacramentality, and grace present in and through something that conveys or carries it. We think of God’s relationship with us as God’s self-communication. We consider Christ as the Word Incarnate. We live empowered by the Spirit who has given us the ability to speak. All of these are a solid foundation for thinking about communication today.
The Catholic tradition is a multimedia tradition: we honor the body as our primary medium, we embrace the stuff of the earth as our sacramental symbols, we have a long history of art, performance, music, manuscript, print and even electronic media to illuminate, educate and inspire. All this makes us not only ready for digital culture, but sets us in a position of thought-leadership in terms of how to do this well.

Ok, what are some of the practical implications for priestly and lay formation?

If we are living in a digital culture, then it is important to begin to think in cultural terms, rather than simply about specific tools, skills or platforms to use in ministry. For ministerial formation, this means thinking more broadly. For priestly formation, it raises questions about how to teach, govern and sanctify digital culture, or more specifically, the people we are called to serve in our digital culture. For the lay minister, it is about how to live a baptismal call to share the Gospel, to be a communicator of Good News in the digital age, whether at home, at work, in our social and professional contexts. For both lay and priestly formation, this brings an intentionality to communication, and engenders communication that is, at its core, an act of giving oneself in love. Even when it comes to a text or tweet, this is possible.

Pope Francis seems to be a pretty savvy communicator, judging from his twitter followers and famous selfies, anything we can learn from him?

Openness to learning and trying something new, courage to look “human” while doing it, and the commitment to seek encounter with people through the screen, especially those who need healing and reconciliation the most.

In your book you made an interesting observation about the location of the Media on the Council Father’s agenda. Mind letting us in on that ‘Conciliar joke’?

At the first session of the Second Vatican Council, the Council Fathers placed the discussion on Inter Mirifica (Decree on Mass Media) intentionally following the discussions on the liturgy and revelation, and preceding forthcoming discussions on Christian unity, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the church. Wedged between these heavier topics, the discussion on the topic of social communication was anticipated to be lighter, even called an “opportunity for relaxation” by Cardinal Cento, the president of the commission that oversaw the preparation of the schema on this topic. I am not sure how relaxing the discussion was, even if it dealt with the media. Over two and a half days, fifty-four Council Fathers gave a verbal address and an additional forty-three submitted written feedback. This sounds like work.

Stay tuned for an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus featuring an interview with Professor Daniella Zsupan-Jerome!

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

 

 

 

“A little bit of unpredictability is helpful at times”: Fr. Rosica reflects on Francis and the Media

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Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect is a S+L series that goes deeper into the questions surrounding the person and pontificate of Pope Francis.  The series consists of a selection of the full interviews from S+L’s original documentary The Francis EffectFind the full schedule for Season 2 of POV here.

Tonight: Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

I remember when Fr. Rosica, our CEO, called me into his office the morning of February 13th, 2013 to tell me that Fr. Lombardi (the Vatican Spokesperson) had asked the two of us to come to Rome immediately to work with the English speaking media, who had already begun to swarm the Vatican two days after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.  A lot has happened since that conversation.

In many ways, the weeks that followed were the beginning of a significant relationship between Fr. Rosica and the Holy See Press Office. Lombardi and Rosica have known each other for many years and worked closely together at three Synods of Bishops. But this was different. After Francis’ election Lombardi asked Rosica to continue to reach out to the English media around the world with important news and statements from the Vatican. The response of the media over the past two-plus years has been incredible. Francis is a newsmaker, and that means solid and timely Vatican information translated into English is a hot commodity.

Few people have the privilege and responsibility of standing with one foot in the media world and another in the Vatican. The unique and discrete nature of the work puts Fr. Rosica in an unparalleled position to reflect on the phenomenon that we call “the Francis effect.”

Tonight for the first time, S+L viewers can watch the full interview I conducted with Fr. Rosica about the strategy he and Fr. Lombardi employed for the sede vacante and the first days of Pope Francis’ pontificate. You will also hear of the developing relationship between the Vatican and the secular media, a powerful story about which many speculate but few know in detail. This is the man to hear it from firsthand.

Watch Episode 4 of Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect
Airs Wednesday, May 13, 2015
9:00pm ET / 6:00pm PT
Only on Salt and Light Television

Pope Francis’ Homily at Mass for the Opening of the General Assembly of Caritas Internationalis

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At 5:00 pm, during the sixth Tuesday of Easter, Pope Francis celebrated at St. Peter’s Basilica, a Holy Mass for the occassion of the 20th Caritas Internationalis General Assembly Opening on the theme: One Human Family, Caring for Creation, (Rome, 12-17 May 2015).Below you will find the Holy Father’s homily:

The reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 16: 22-34) that we have just heard presents us a somewhat special character. It is the jailer of the prison at Philippi, where Paul and Silas were imprisoned following an uproar of the crowd against them. The magistrates first had Paul and Silas beaten and then sent to prison, ordering the jailer to keep a good guard. So, during the night, when the man felt the earthquake and saw the prison doors open, he was full of despair and thought of killing himself. But Paul reassured him; and trembling and full of wonder, the man got down on his knees and pleaded for salvation.

The story tells us that the man immediately took the necessary steps on the path towards faith and salvation: together with his household, he listened to the Word of the Lord; washed the wounds of Paul and Silas; received Baptism with his entire family; and finally, full of joy, he welcomed Paul and Silas into his home, setting the table and offering them something to eat.

The Gospel, proclaimed and believed, urges us to wash the feet and the wounds of the suffering and to prepare the table for them. The simplicity of the gestures, where the acceptance of the Word and the sacrament of Baptism are accompanied by the welcome of the brother, as if these were indeed one single gesture: to welcome God and to welcome others; to welcome others with the grace of God; to welcome God and express this act in the service to our brothers and sisters. Word, Sacraments and service refer to and nourish each other, as can already be seen in these testimonies of the early Church.

We can see in this gesture the entire vocation of Caritas. Caritas is now a great Confederation, widely recognized throughout the world for its work and accomplishments. Caritas is a reality of the Church in many parts of the world and must still seek a greater expansion in the different parishes and communities, to renew what took place in the early days of the Church. In fact, the source of all your service lies in the simple and docile welcome of God and neighbor. This welcome is first personally experienced by you, so that you may then go out into the world, and there, to serve others in the name of Christ, whom you have met and whom you will continue to meet in every brother and sister that you will approach as your neighbor. Thanks to this, you will actually avoid the risk of being reduced to a mere humanitarian organization.

Whoever lives the mission of Caritas is not simple charitable worker, but is a true witness of Christ. He is a person who seeks Christ and allows Christ to seek him; people who love with the spirit of Christ, a spirit of gratuitousness and gift. All of our strategies and plans remain empty unless we carry this love in us. Not our love, but His. Or better yet: our love, purified and strengthened by His love.

In this way, we can serve everyone and set the table for all. This is also a beautiful image that the Word of God offers us today: setting the table. Even now, God sets the table of the Eucharist. Caritas sets many tables for the hungry. In recent months you launched the great campaign “One human family, food for all”. There are still so many people today who do not have enough to eat. The planet has enough food for all, but it seems that there is a lack of willingness to share it with everyone. We ought to set the table for all, and ask that there be a table for all. We must do what we can so that everyone has something to eat, but we must also remind the powerful of the Earth that God will call them to judgement one day and there it will be revealed if they really tried to provide food for Him in every person (cf. Matt.25: 35) and if they did what they could to preserve the environment so that it could produce this food.

And thinking about the table of the Eucharist, we cannot forget our Christian brothers and sisters who have been violently deprived of the food for the body and for the soul: they have been driven from their homes and their churches – at times destroyed. I renew the appeal not to forget these people and these intolerable injustices.

Together with many other charitable organizations of the Church, Caritas, therefore, reveals, the power of Christian love and the desire of the Church to reach out to Jesus in every person, especially the poor and suffering. This is the path that lies ahead of us. With this perspective, I hope that you will carry out your work during these. We entrust them to the Virgin Mary, who hasmade this welcome of God and neighbor as the fundamental criteria of her life. In fact, tomorrow we will celebrate Our Lady of Fatima, who appeared toannounce victory over evil. With such a great support, we are not afraid tocontinue our mission. Amen.

“With Pope Francis the Church isn’t just speaking, the Church is also listening,” says Scott Pelley

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Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect is a S+L series that goes deeper into the questions surrounding the person and pontificate of Pope Francis. The series consists of a selection of the full interviews from S+L’s original documentary The Francis Effect. Find the full schedule for Season 2 of POV here.

Tonight: Scott Pelley

When the question is raised about the number of Catholics living in a particular city, region or country, a distinction is typically made between those who practice the faith, i.e. attend Mass on Sundays, etc. and those who are “Catholic” in name only. Inevitably we are left with two very different numbers. This is primarily a North American and European phenomenon, and has raised questions about catechesis in the local churches.

Since the election of Pope Francis, a new phenomenon has taken shape. Significant numbers of non-Catholics are keeping a close eye on the Pope and the Church. The resuscitation of the Church’s global moral voice cannot be ignored, it seems, especially when the message comes directly from Francis.

In our work covering the Pope we have the opportunity to engage people of different backgrounds and get a sense of the response to what’s developing. It often happens in the course of our conversations that these non-Catholic folks reveal a substantial personal knowledge of Catholicism and a keen sense of the Church. I never cease to be pleasantly surprised by this. At times I walk away thinking, “if only more Catholics knew what these folks knew!”

This feeling was never more apparent to me than when I met Scott Pelley of CBS. He is known across North America and beyond for his acclaimed career in journalism. He is also a practicing Methodist, with a long history of working with and for those on the margins, especially refugees.

When I conducted the interview with Scott for The Francis Effect, I didn’t know what to expect. One never knows how much a person will open up when they’re in front of a camera, especially a reputable celebrity. But, as you will see, his depth of understanding of Catholicism and Pope Francis are evident. The interview, which took place just over one year ago, now conveys an element of the prophetic—insight into what is transpiring under Francis that removes some of the fog created by our own narrow and often predetermined lenses.

The result is that we learn something, not only about Scott Pelley, but also about Pope Francis. We realize the significance of things the Pope has said and done that we may have overlooked, ignored or dismissed. This dialogue with a person of a different perspective encourages us to go deeper into our own and ask the critical questions. It’s the living out of Pope Francis’ words on the work for Christian unity: “It is not just about being better informed about others, but rather about reaping what the Spirit has sown in them, which is also meant to be a gift for us.” (Evangelii Gaudium 246)

The Catholic Church, as I said, faces the serious pastoral challenge of catechesis; catechesis that makes sense to modern people in language they can understand. Might it be suggested that the kind of interpersonal dialogue Pope Francis is promoting be somehow incorporated into our understanding and practical application of catechesis? Could dialogue with informed and insightful individuals, like Scott Pelley, become a staple in our systems of formation and personal conversion? This interview would be a good place to start…

Watch Episode 3 of Point of View: Interpreting the Francis Effect
Airs Wednesday, May 6, 2015
9:00pm ET / 6:00pm PT
Only on Salt and Light Television