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Pope Francis in Sarajevo: Address to Interfaith Communities

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Pope Francis says interfaith dialogue is a duty for all in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Interreligious dialogue is “an indispensable condition for peace” and “a duty for all believers”. That was Pope Francis’ reminder to the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday afternoon as he met with leaders of the Muslim, Orthodox, Catholic and Jewish communities gathered in a Franciscan youth centre in Sarajevo.

Noting that the city of Sarajevo stands at a crossroads of cultures and peoples, the Pope said such diversity constitutes, on the one hand, a great resource which has contributed to the social, cultural and spiritual development of the region. On the other  hand, he said, it has also been the cause of painful rifts and bloody wars, most recently the conflict which devastated the country in the early 1990s.

The Pope praised the work of the local Council for Interreligious Dialogue, set up in 1997 to promote reconciliation, to coordinate common initiatives and to develop relations with Bosnia’s State Authorities. Interreligious dialogue, he said, should not be limited merely to leaders of religious communities, but must also extend as far as possible to all believers, since it is above all “a conversation about human existence”. Through dialogue, he told the religious leaders present, a spirit of fraternity is developed, which unites and favours the promotion of moral values, justice, freedom and peace.  But in order for dialogue to be authentic and effective, he stressed, it must be based on a solid sense of identity, without which it can be ineffective or even harmful.

Praising his hosts for all their efforts to promote peace in the country, Pope Francis urged them not to be discouraged by the ongling difficulties, but rather to continue with perseverance along the path of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Concluding with a prayer for peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Pope said may the city of Sarajevo, in the past a symbol of war and destruction, become again a sign of unity, where diversity does not represent a threat but rather a resource and an opportunity to grow together in peace and harmony.

Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ prepared speech to Ecumenical and Interreligious representatives at the Franciscan International Study Centre in Sarajevo.

Your Eminence, Distinguished Religious Authorities, Dear Friends,

I am pleased to take part in this meeting, which brings together representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s religious confessions.  I offer cordial greetings to each one of you and to your communities, and I thank each of those who offered the kind words and we have just heard.

Today’s meeting is a sign of our shared desire for fraternity and peace; it is a testimony to the friendship and cooperation that has been developing over the years and which you already experience daily.  To be present here today is already a “message” of that dialogue which everyone seeks and strives for.

I wish especially to recall one of the fruits of this desire for encounter and reconciliation, namely, the establishment in 1997 of a local Council for Interreligious Dialogue, which brings together Muslims, Christians and Jews.  I am pleased by the work which this Council does to promote dialogue, coordinate common initiatives and develop relations with State Authorities.  Your work in this region is immensely important, particularly in Sarajevo, which stands as the crossroads of peoples and cultures.  Here, on the one hand, diversity constitutes a great resource which has contributed to the social, cultural and spiritual development of this region, while, on the other, it has also been the cause of painful rifts and bloody wars.

It is not by chance that the birth of the Council for Interreligious Dialogue and other valuable initiatives in the area of interreligious and ecumenical work came about at the end of the war, in response to the need for reconciliation and rebuilding a society torn apart by conflict.  Interreligious dialogue here, as in every part of the world, is an indispensible condition for peace, and for this reason is a duty for all believers (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 250).

Interreligious dialogue, before being a discussion of the main themes of faith, is a “conversation about human existence” (ibid.).  This conversation shares the experiences of daily life in all its concreteness, with its joys and sufferings, its struggles and hopes; it takes on shared responsibilities; it plans a better future for all.  We learn to live together, respecting each other’s differences freely; we know and accept one another’s identity.  Through dialogue, a spirit of fraternity is recognized and developed, which unites and favours the promotion of moral values, justice, freedom and peace.  Dialogue is a school of humanity and a builder of unity, which helps to build a society founded on tolerance and mutual respect.

For this reason, interreligious dialogue cannot be limited merely to the few, to leaders of religious communities, but must also extend as far as possible to all believers, engaging the different sectors of civil society.  Particular attention must be paid to young men and women who are called to build the future of this country.  It is always worth remembering, however, that for dialogue to be authentic and effective, it presupposes a solid identity: without an established identity, dialogue is of no use or even harmful.  I say this with the young in mind, but it applies to everyone.

I sincerely appreciate all that you have managed to accomplish up to this point and I encourage each of you in your efforts for the cause of peace of which you, as religious leaders, are the first guardians here in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  I assure you that the Catholic Church will continue to offer her full support and willingness to help.

We are all aware that there is a long way yet to go.  Let us not be discouraged, however, by the difficulties, but rather continue with perseverance along the way of forgiveness and reconciliation.  While we seek to recall the past with honesty, thereby learning the lessons of history, we must also avoid lamentation and recrimination, letting ourselves instead be purified by God who gives us the present and the future: he is our future, he is the ultimate source of peace.

This city, which in the recent past sadly became a symbol of war and destruction, today, with its variety of peoples, cultures and religions, can become again a sign of unity, a place in which diversity does not represent a threat but rather a resource, an opportunity to grow together.  In a world unfortunately rent by conflicts, this land can become a message: attesting that it is possible to live together side by side, in diversity but rooted in a common humanity, building together a future of peace and brotherhood.

I am grateful to you all for your presence and for the prayers which you will, of your goodness, offer for my ministry.  For my part, I assure you that I will pray for you.  May the Lord bless us all.

PRAYER

Almighty and eternal God,
good and merciful Father;
Creator of heaven and earth, of all that is visible and invisible;
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,
King and Lord of the past, of the present and of the future;
sole judge of every man and woman,
who reward your faithful with eternal glory!

We, the descendents of Abraham according to our faith in you, the one God,
Jews, Christians and Muslims,
humbly stand before you and with trust we pray to you
for this country, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
that men and women, followers of different religions, nations and cultures
may live here in peace and harmony.

We pray to you, O Father, that it may be so in every country of the world!
Strengthen in each of us faith and hope,
mutual respect and sincere love for all of our brothers and sisters.

Grant that we may dedicate ourselves
courageously to building a just society,
to being men and women of good will,
filled with mutual understanding and forgiveness,
patient artisans of dialogue and peace.

May each of our thoughts, words and actions
be in harmony with your holy will.

May everything be to your glory and honour and for our salvation.
Praise and eternal glory to you, our God! Amen.

S+L on the road: the Cause for Henriette Delille

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From the left: Sr Laura, Sr Greta share with me about Venerable Henriette Delille’s story and her continuing significance.

During my time in New Orleans, I visited with Sr. Greta and Sr. Laura of the Sisters of the Holy Family to learn about the Cause for Venerable Henriette Delille, founder of The Sister’s of the Holy Family – the second oldest African-American congregation of religious women in America.

Opened in 1988, Henriette’s Cause took a major step forward in 2010 when Pope Benedict XVI declared her Venerable. And it looks like there’s much more to come.

To date, more than 300 favors and possible miracles, granted through her intercession, have been reported; and over 2,000 letters from 47 states and 15 countries have been received.

Even Hollywood has taken notice. In 2000, Hollywood actress Vanessa Williams starred as Henriette Delille in The Courage to Love  a movie inspired by Henriette’s story. Although, to hear the Sister’s tell it, the love story angle in the movie is highly improbable.

This gave me a good chuckle.

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Sr. Laura holds up a t-shirt, which promotes the Cause of Venerable Henriette Delille.  On the shirt is her only recorded writing,  penned on the inside cover of an 1836 prayer book: “I believe in God. I hope in God. I love God. I want to live and die for God.”

In the following clip, Sr. Greta speaks to me about a painting depicting Venerable Henriette Delille’s life.

It’s interesting to note that Henriette was not a slave. In fact, she came from a long line of free women.

By the time Henriette was born in 1812 she was a fourth generation descendant of an enslaved African women; a third generation Afro-Creole and a second generation free woman.

In other words, Henriette grew up in a society in which she was respected as a Creole with ties to prominent white and free coloured Creoles (Henriette Delille,Virginia Meacham Gould, 18).

According to Benedictine Father, Cyprian Davis who wrote a biography about Henriette called, Henriette Delille, Servant of Slaves, Witness to the Poor, the Delille family became free because Henriette’s great, great grandmother Nanette was brought to America as a slave, and freed after the death of her owner.

Apparently, Louisiana under French rule, had some provisions for slaves in their law, and it was possible for a slave to be bought out of slavery over the wishes of his or her owner.

According to Father Davis, a slave could demand an owner to name a price for the slave’s freedom and if the owner refused, the slave had recourse through the courts.

In the case of the Delille family, Nanette eventually amassed enough money to buy her daughter (and two of her grandchildren) out of slavery.  In time, Henriette’s family became relatively wealthy, even if they remained second-class citizens.

But Henriette’s early life was not without turmoil, and as I delve further into her story, I look forward to sharing these revelations with you.

Learn more about St. Augustine’s parish where Venerable Henriette Delille ministered in this post.

S+L On The Road: The Producer Diaries
In this blog series S+L producer, Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing an original S+L television series featuring seven women religious communities located in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States. The globe-trotting series invites viewers to delight in the spiritual gifts of each of community and witness the extraordinary work of: educating girls, ministering to outcasts, sheltering HIV orphans, preventing human trafficking, taking care of the elderly, and so much more. The time is now to show the world how magnificent our Sisters are. The new series is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

S+L on the road: Jesuit Church ‘a real head-turner’

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In an earlier post in which I wrote about Cafe Reconcile, a bustling, award-winning restaurant that helps at-risk youth develop employable skills, I mentioned that the founder of the program, Fr. Harry Tompson S.J. was the former pastor of Immaculate Conception parish (‘Jesuit Church’ to locals). It’s worth mentioning that Jesuit Church deserves its own accolades because it is a beauty. Its intriguing architecture is a vibrant mix of Neo-Venetian Gothic Revivalism ( yes, I had to look that up too). I’ve included some shots of the exterior for you, I would have taken some of the interior, but my ride was circling the block and I only had a few seconds!

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As you can see, its architectural style makes it a distinctive and intriguing landmark.

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Front entrance to Jesuit Church

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Close-up of the Church walls

Designed by Fr. John Cambiaso it was completed in 1857. However, after it suffered foundation damage it was disassembled, reassembled and rededicated in 1930.

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Detail of the Church doors.

The church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and continues to be an unmistakable fixture in the heart of New Orleans.

S+L On The Road: The Producer Diaries
In this blog series S+L producer, Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing an original S+L television series featuring seven women religious communities located in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States. The globe-trotting series invites viewers to delight in the spiritual gifts of each of community and witness the extraordinary work of: educating girls, ministering to outcasts, sheltering HIV orphans, preventing human trafficking, taking care of the elderly, and so much more. The time is now to show the world how magnificent our Sisters are. The new series is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

S+L on the road: let’s go to cemetery!

Its not uncommon in New Orleans to see buses with the destination “Cemeteries” and hoards of people getting onto them. As strange as that sight might seem, New Orleans does have grand cemeteries, which people flock to see. Some of them dating back to as early as the 1700’s. Since most of New Orleans is built on on a swamp the deceased have to be buried above ground, often in elaborate stone crypts and mausoleums. Over time, these tombs have come to resemble small villages and are called the Cities of the Dead (…cue spooky organ interlude)

Naturally I had to check out what all the fuss is about.

Aren’t they fabulous? My only question now, is how do I include these visuals in our new series!

S+L on the road: the producer diaries
In this blog series S+L producer, Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing a new S+L television series featuring seven women religious communities located in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States. The globe-trotting series invites viewers to delight in the spiritual gifts of each of community and witness the extraordinary work of: educating girls, ministering to outcasts, sheltering HIV orphans, preventing human trafficking, taking care of the elderly, and so much more. The time is now to show the world how magnificent our Sisters are. The new series is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

 

 

Discovering the saints of New Orleans

People walk past street sign dedicated to St. John Paul II

Over the next few days, I’ll share with you some behind-the-scenes images and impressions about my time in New Orleans as Salt + Light embarks on an exciting new collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry. As mentioned, in my previous post, we’ll be working to develop a series that highlights the charisms (and the extraordinary work) of seven women religious communities located in the United States and in Africa.

Now, we all know that the key to success in any undertaking is to prepare, prepare, prepare. To that end, the purpose of this trip is get myself acquainted with the location(s), the history, and most importantly, the people whose story I’ll be working to tell over the course of the next two years.  My time in New Orleans promises to be filled with lots of interesting people, stories and hope. So consider yourself invited, as we take you on the road with Salt + Light.

Photo credit: CNS

 

 

The most interesting man in the world

PAUL VI AND CARDINAL WOJTYLA CONVERSE AT VATICAN

Pope Paul VI and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla meet at the Vatican. Paul VI, who served in Poland during his early priesthood, held the future Pope John Paul II in high regard. (CNS file photo)

No doubt you’ve seen those cheesy beer ads about ‘the most interesting man in the world’. For the record, Pope John Paul II was the real deal.  He spoke between 8 and 11 languages fluently, and was so charismatic that he is credited with the fall of communism in his native Poland. Besides being an athlete, a poet and one of the leading thinkers in the Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council, he was also tremendously brave. For example, when the Nazi’s closed down the seminary in Krakow, he began studying in secret at a seminary run by the archbishop of Krakow.

He was an extraordinary man, and in many respects a pope of firsts: the first pope to visit the White House, the first pope to visit Cuba, and the most widely traveled Pope in history. And as one of the longest reigning popes in the history of the Church, his influence will be felt for generations. So today as we celebrate John Paul II Day across Canada, we give thanks for Saint Pope John Paul’s Christian witness as a fearless champion of human dignity and freedom (and give a nod to the most interesting man in the world).

Below some images celebrating his dynamic legacy.

FILE PHOTO OF SOVIET PRESIDENT GORBACHEV MEETING POPE JOHN PAUL II AT THE VATICAN

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev meets with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in this Dec. 1, 1989, file photo. Hours after the meeting, the Vatican told the United States in a confidential assessment that Gorbachev could be trusted as a genuine reformer. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

MOTHER TERESA, POPE JOHN PAUL II AT HOME FOR DYING IN 1986

Mother Teresa of Calcutta accompanies Pope John Paul II as he greets people at the Home For the Dying in Calcutta, India, in 1986. (CNS photo/Arturo Mari)

SCAN FROM NEGATIVE OF POPE JOHN PAUL II MEETING WOULD-BE-ASSASSIN

Pope John Paul II meeting his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, in a Rome prison Dec. 27, 1983.  (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

1989 FILE PHOTO OF POPE JOHN PAUL II ARRIVING IN INDONESIA

Pope John Paul II kisses a rain-soaked tarmac as he arrives in Jakarta, Indonesia, on a pastoral trip in 1989. (CNS file photo)

POPE JOHN PAUL II ADDRESSES UNITED NATIONS IN 1979

Pope John Paul II addresses the General Assembly at the United Nations in New York Oct. 2, 1979. (CNS file photo)

FILE PHOTO OF POPE JOHN PAUL II AT 1986 INTERRELIGIOUS ENCOUNTER IN ASSISI

Pope John Paul II attends an interreligious ecounter in Assisi, Italy, in 1986. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU PICTURED WITH POPE JOHN PAUL II AT THE VATICAN IN 1983

Pope John Paul II meets with Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, center right, in 1983 at the Vatican.  (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photos)

2002 photo of Blessed John Paul II during World Youth Day in Toronto

Pope John Paul II celebrated his final international World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. The Polish-born pontiff, then age 82, described himself as “old,” but looked and sounded better than he had in months, demonstrating once again his special chemistry with young people. (CNS file photo)

Want to learn more? Watch this episode of Catholic Focus with Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB as he shares his insights about the life and times of Saint Pope John Paul II. All images courtesy of our friends at Catholic News Service.

Okay one last pic –

POPE JOHN PAUL II HOLDS KOALA DURING 1986 VISIT TO AUSTRALIA

Pope John Paul II holds a koala during his 1986 visit to Australia. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano) 

Celebrating Pope Paul VI

Pope Paul VI carried on ceremonial throne during closing liturgy of Second Vatican Council in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Paul VI is carried on the “sedia gestatoria,” a ceremonial throne, during the closing liturgy of the Second Vatican Council in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Dec. 8,1965. Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul today on Oct. 19 during the closing Mass of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. The miracle needed for Pope Paul’s beatification involved the birth of a healthy baby to a mother in California after doctors had said both lives were at risk. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras attend prayer service in Jerusalem in January 1964

Pope Paul VI and Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras attend a prayer service in Jerusalem in January 1964. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo) 

Pope Paul VI gives blessing before leaving for Istanbul in 1967

Pope Paul VI offers a blessing at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport before boarding a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, in 1967. 

To learn more about the Second Vatican Council, religious liberty, and ecumenism watch The Church Alive.

Pope Paul VI visits the Church of St. Leo the Great, 1968

File photo of Pope Paul VI greeting girl during Rome parish visit in 1968

Pope Paul VI greets a girl as he visits the Church of St. Leo the Great in Rome March 31, 1968. Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul Oct. 19 during the closing Mass of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

To learn more about the Pope Paul VI and the Second Vatican Council, watch The Church Alive series.

Pope Paul VI waves starting flag for Tour of Italy, 1974

1974 PHOTO OF POPE PAUL VI SIGNALING START OF ITALIAN BIKE RACE

Pope Paul VI waves the starting flag for the Tour of Italy cycling race from the St. Damasus courtyard at the Vatican in this May 16, 1974, file photo. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano) 

To learn more about the Pope Paul VI and the documents he promulgated, watch The Church Alive series.

 

Pope Paul VI on the “sedia gestatoria”

Pope Paul VI carried on ceremonial throne during meeting of Second Vatican Council in 1964

Pope Paul VI is carried on the “sedia gestatoria,” a ceremonial throne, during a meeting of the Second Vatican Council in 1964. Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul Oct. 19 during the closing Mass of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. The miracle needed for Pope Paul’s beatification involved the birth of a healthy baby to a mother in California after doctors had said both lives were at risk. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)

To learn more about the Second Vatican Council, watch The Church Alive series, now available on DVD.