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Five Easy Tips to Change the Way you Pray


Praying every day can seem an ambitious task to undertake. We think it’s a practice better suited to those who have “time” like sisters, religious, priests… or our grandmothers. However, the Church tells us it’s actually meant for everyone because we are all called to holiness.

Holiness is built on a continuous friendship with God. That’s why saints are most known for their intense prayer life. They have come to know the One whom they desire to resemble most. Dom Chautard, a Trappist monk, once said that in order to sanctify the world, we must first sanctify ourselves. According to him, this begins with personal prayer.

I certainly don’t know everything when it comes to prayer – and I know very little about what it means to be a saint! But I wanted to share with you what’s helped me when it came to personal prayer time. This blog is really just the fruit of many conversations with friends or friendly priests, since we all desire to draw closer to Christ and we have all been met, one day or another, with challenges in prayer.

Desire prayer

This probably seems self-explanatory. In order to take time to pray, you sort of have to want it. There must first be a desire to stop what we’re doing, speak to God and listen to Him. The practice is simple and yet it is often the first thing we remove from our busy schedules (mea culpa!) There’s a reason why in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are told that prayer is a “battle”. In order to win that battle, we can turn to the Holy Spirit for he “helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26). We can therefore ask him to give us the desire to pray even before we begin to pray.

Know who it is you encounter in prayer

“Mental prayer, in my opinion, is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us” – Saint Teresa of Avila. Prayer should never be laborious. It should be freely given in the same way we freely make time for our friends. Saint Augustine tells us that Christ is the first to “[seek] us and [ask] us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him”.

Choose a time

This is a big one. It’s easy to say “I will pray when I have time” but there are so many times I missed out on my prayer time because I failed to set aside a specific time in the day for it. A million different excuses arose to keep me from praying. Some people choose to pray at the same time every day, which is something I’ve tried to do myself. Waking up to pray each morning helps me prepare for the day even if it is such a struggle to get out of bed when the alarm goes off. That’s what saint Josemaria Escriva called the heroic minute.

“Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a fixed time, without yielding a single minute to laziness. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day… The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and… up! The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body.”

But let’s be real, some of us are not morning people so praying in the morning might not be for you! Ask yourself, then, if there is a time in the day when you would be the most alert for prayer. Is it in the evening? At lunch time? If you go to Mass regularly, you could arrive a little earlier or stay a little longer to have some alone time with God. If you cannot pray at the same hour every day, you could choose at the beginning of the day when you will do it. I have often been counselled to be consistent with the length of the prayer as well. If it is 10, 15, 30 minutes or more, stay faithful to the hour and the length you have committed to. “Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12). Again, think of it as a meeting set up with a friend!

Choose a place

Finding a good spot to pray is the easy part. Churches and chapels are not the only places where prayer can happen. I have prayed on a bus, on a plane, or even in the middle of the campus cafeteria. Some are lucky enough to find a nice chapel near their place of work or home but we don’t all have this luxury. So we do with what we have, where we are. Perhaps it is sitting on the couch or sitting at your desk in your bedroom or while sipping on a cup of coffee. I’m easily distracted so I try to find the quietest space in my apartment, which isn’t always easy when you live downtown and the windows are wide open in the summertime…

But I know I cannot wait for the perfect conditions before beginning to pray. They will never perfect. Even if there was absolute silence, distractions would surface anyway. What does the time and place you choose for prayer say about your relationship with God? A friend asked me this once and it changed my whole outlook on prayer.

Finding what works for you
And now, where to begin? Here’s a brief “how to”. Sometimes I feel somewhat useless when I first set out to pray. I have to remember that prayer should be simple and that I don’t have to be “useful” in order to have a conversation with God. The only condition required for prayer is to make ourselves available in humility. Even beginning with the Our Father can kickstart the conversation.

“[Jesus] said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:2-4).

The Church offers us thousands of ways to draw nearer to God. There are the Liturgy of the Hours, Scripture and the Sacraments (receiving the Eucharist at Mass or adoration of the Blessed Sacrament), the Rosary, Lectio Divina (divine reading of Scripture), or going through a Living with Christ missal. But we have to be careful not to fill up our time with a list of things to do.

Prayer is a conversation in which there is a time to speak, to listen and to remain in silence. There will be times when nothing happens at all, when prayer seems empty and Scripture doesn’t speak to us, as though God had just disappeared. But Saint Paul tells us to persevere. Our willingness to remain there and be available, no matter what we may “feel” or not, is enough.

“The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for [us] according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27)


Emilie Callan is a producer for Sel et Lumiere. Follow her on Twitter!

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)

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for May 2016


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

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

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

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

Thank you for praying with us!

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

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

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for April 2016


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

  • Small Farmers – That small farmers may receive a just reward for their precious labor. 

  • African Christians – That Christians in Africa may give witness to love and faith in Jesus Christ amid political-religious conflicts.

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

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

Thank you for praying with us!

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

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for March 2016


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

  • Families in Difficulty – That families in need may receive the necessary support and that children may grow up in a healthy and peaceful environments. 
  • Persecuted Christians – That those Christians who, on account of their faith, are discriminated against or are being persecuted, may remain strong and faithful to the Gospel, thanks to the incessant prayer of the Church. 

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

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

Thank you for praying with us!

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

Caption: Quinn Washington and her children pose for a family photo Feb. 16 in their new home in Lorain, Ohio. The family lives at what is considered the extreme poverty level. After Washington lost her job in 2014, they faced months of surviving on virtually no income and having to sleep in the family vehicle, shelters and later a motel. (CNS photo/William Rieter)

Pope In Mexico: Angelus Address in Ecatepec


Following the celebration of Mass at the Ecatepec Study Centre, Pope Francis gave the following Angelus Address:

Centro de Estudios de Ecatepec
Sunday 14 February 2016

My Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the first reading of this Sunday, Moses offers a directive to the people.  At harvest time, a the time of abundance and first fruits, do not forget your beginnings.  Thanksgiving is something which is born and grows among a people capable of remembering.  It is rooted in the past, and through good and bad times, it shapes the present.  In those moments when we can offer thanks to God for the earth giving us its fruits and thereby helping us make bread, Moses invites his people to remember by enumerating the difficult situations through which it has passed (cf. Deut 26:5-11).

On this festive day we can celebrate how good the Lord has been to us.  Let us give thanks for this opportunity to be together, to present to our Good Father the first fruits of our children, our grandchildren, of our dreams and our plans; the first fruits of our cultures, our languages and traditions, the first fruits of our concerns…  How much each one of you has suffered to reach this moment, how much you have “walked” to make this day a day of feasting, a time of thanksgiving.  How much others have walked, who have not arrived here and yet because of them we have been able to keep going.   Today, at the invitation of Moses, as a people we want to remember, we want to be the people that keeps alive the memory of God who passes among his People, in their midst.  We look upon our children knowing that they will inherit not only a land, a culture and a tradition, but also the living fruits of faith which recalls the certainty of God’s passing through this land.  It is a certainty of closeness and solidarity, a certainty which helps us lift up our heads and ardently hope for the dawn.

I too join you in this remembrance, in this living memory of God’s passing through your lives.  As I look upon your children I cannot but make my own the words which Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed to the Mexican people:

“A Christian cannot but show solidarity… to solve the situation of those who have not yet received the bread of culture or the opportunity of an honourable job… he cannot remain insensitive while the new generations have not found the way to bring into reality their legitimate aspirations”.  He continued offering this invitation to “always be on the front line of all efforts… to improve the situation of those who suffer need”, to see in every man a brother and, in every brother Christ” (Radio Message on the 75 Anniversary of the Crowning of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12 October 1970).

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

This land is filled with the perfume of laGuadalupana who has always gone before us in love. Let us say to her:

Blessed Virgin, “help us to bear radiant witness to communion, service, ardent and generous faith, justice and love of the poor, that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world. (EG 288).

Pope Francis’ Prayer Intentions for February 2016


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

  • Care for Creation – That we may take good care of creation–a gift freely given–cultivating and protecting it for future generations. 
  • Asia – That opportunities may increase for dialogue and encounter between the Christian faith and the peoples of Asia. 

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

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

Thank you for praying with us!

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

Pope Francis at Ecumenical Vespers Homily: Walk the way of unity


Pope Francis asked for ‘mercy and forgiveness’ for the way Christians have behaved towards each other, saying we cannot let the weight of past faults continue to contaminate our relationships. The Pope’s words came in his homily at an ecumenical celebration of Vespers on Monday evening in the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls marking the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. In his prepared remarks, the Holy Father focused on the need for divided Christian communities to walk together in the way of the Lord, in the knowledge that unity is a gift of heaven and in the understanding that all service rendered to the cause of the one Gospel builds up the one true Church and gives glory to the one Lord, Jesus Christ.

“While we journey together toward full communion,” said Pope Francis, “we can begin already to develop many forms of cooperation in order to favor the spread of the Gospel – and walking together, we become aware that we are already united in the name of the Lord.”

Pope Francis placed his reflections in the key of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, saying that as Bishop of Rome, he wanted “to ask for forgiveness for the behaviour of Catholics towards Christians of other Churches” which has not reflected Gospel values. At the same time, he said, “I invite all Catholics to forgive if they – today or in the past – have been offended by other Christians”. “In this extraordinary Jubilee year of mercy, we must always keep in mind that there cannot be an authentic search for Christian unity without trusting fully in the Father’s mercy,” he said. “God’s mercy,” the Pope said, “will renew our relationships.”

Pope Francis told representatives of the other Christian Churches and communities present in the Basilica that we can make progress on the path to full visible communion “not only when we come closer to each other, but above all as we convert ourselves to the Lord”. At the start of Vespers, the Pope invited Orthodox Metropolitan Gennadios, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and Anglican Archbishop David Moxon to walk with him through the Holy Door of the Basilica, while at the end of the celebration he invited them to join him in giving the final blessing.

Text courtesy of Vatican Radio.

Pope Francis’ Homily for Christian Unity Vespers

Pope Francis delivered the homily at the closing Vespers of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in the Basilica of St. Paul “Outside the Walls” in Rome on Monday evening. Below, please find Vatican Radio’s full English translation of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks.

“I am the least of the Apostles … because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace in me was not without effect.” That’s how the Apostle Paul sums up the significance of his conversion. Coming after his dramatic encounter with the Risen Christ on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, it is not primarily a moral conversion but rather an transforming experience of the grace of Christ, and at the same time, a call to the new mission of announcing to everyone the Jesus that he previously persecuted by persecuting the disciples of Christ. At that moment, in fact, Paul understands that there is a real and transcendent union between the eternally living Christ and his followers: Jesus lives and is present in them and they live in him. The vocation to be an Apostle is founded not on Paul’s human merits, which he considers to be ‘the least’ and ‘unworthy’, but rather on the infinite goodness of God who chose him and entrusted him with his ministry.

St Paul also bears witness to a similar understanding of what happened on the road to Damascus in his first letter to Timothy: I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” The overflowing mercy of God is the sole reason upon which Paul’s ministry is based and at the same time it is that which the Apostle must announce to the everyone.

The experience of St Paul is similar to that of the community to which the Apostle Peter writes his first letter. St Peter is writing to members of small and fragile communities, exposed to threats of persecution, and he applies to them the glorious titles attributed to the holy people of God: a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. For those first Christians, like today for all of us baptized Christians, it is a source of comfort and of constant amazement to know that we have been chosen to be part of God’s plan of salvation, put into effect through Jesus Christ and through the Church. “Why Lord? Why me? Why is it us?” Here we touch the mystery of mercy and of God’s choice. The Father loves us all and wants to save us all, and for this reason He calls some people conquering them through His grace, so that through them His love can reach all people. The mission of the whole people of God is to announce the marvelous works of the Lord, first and foremost the Pasqual mystery of Christ, through which we have passed from the darkness of sin and death to the splendor of His new and eternal life.

In light of the Word of God which we have been listening to, and which has guided us during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, we can truly affirm that all of us, believers in Christ, have been called to proclaim the mighty works of God. Beyond the differences which still separate us, we recognise with joy that at the origin of our Christian  life there is always a call from God Himself. We can make progress on the path to full visible communion between us Christians not only when we come closer to each other, but above all as we convert ourselves to the Lord, who through His grace, chooses and calls us to be His disciples. And converting ourselves means letting the Lord live and work in us. For this reason, when Christians of different Churches listen to the Word of God together and seek to put it into practice, they make important steps towards unity.it is not only the call which unites us, but we also share the same mission to proclaim to all the marvelous works of God. Like St Paul, and like the people to whom St Peter is writing, we too cannot fail to announce God’s merciful love which has conquered and transformed us. While we are moving towards full communion among Christians, we can already develop many forms of cooperation to aid the spread of the Gospel.  By walking and working together, we realise that we are already united in the name of the Lord.

In this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we must always keep in mind that there cannot be an authentic search for Christian unity without trusting fully in the Father’s mercy. We ask first of all for forgiveness for the sins of our divisions, which are an open wound in the Body of Christ. As Bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to ask for mercy and forgiveness for the behavior of Catholics towards Christians of other Churches which has not reflected Gospel values. At the same time, I invite all Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if they, today or in the past, have been offended by other Christians. We cannot cancel out what has happened, but we do not want to let the weight of past faults continue to contaminate our relationships. God’s mercy will renew our relationships.

In this atmosphere of intense prayer, I extend fraternal greetings to his Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios, representing the Ecumenical Patriarch, to His Grace David Moxon, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s personal representative in Rome, and all the representatives of the other Churches and ecclesial communities who are gathered here this evening. With them we walked through the Holy Door of this Basilica to remind ourselves that the only door which leads to salvation is Jesus Christ our Lord, the merciful face of the Father. I cordially greet also the young Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox students who are here in Rome with the support of the Committee for Cultural Collaboration with the orthodox churches, working through the Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, as well as the students from the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey who are visiting Rome to deepen their knowledge of the Catholic Church.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us unite ourselves with the prayer that Jesus Christ prayed to his Father: “May they be one, so that the world may believe”. Unity is the gift of mercy from God the Father. In front of the tomb of St Paul, the apostle and martyr, kept here in this splendid Basilica, we feel that our humble request is sustained by the intercession of the multitudes of Christian martyrs, past and present. They replied generously to the call of the Lord, they gave faithful witness with their lives to the wonderful works that God has done for us and they already enjoy full communion in the presence of God the Father. Sustained by their example and comforted by their intercessions, we make our humble prayer to God.

The Duty and Obligation of being Pro-Life


What does it mean to be pro-life?

To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. There can be no true peace unless life is defended and promoted. Remember the prophetic words of Pope Paul VI:

Every crime against life is an attack on peace, especially if it strikes at the moral conduct of people…But where human rights are truly professed and publicly recognized and defended, peace becomes the joyful and operative climate of life in society.

Abortion is without a doubt the most serious wound inflicted not only on individuals and their families who should provide the sanctuary for life, but inflicted as well on society and its culture, by the very people who ought to be society’s promoters and defenders. We must never lose sight of the atrocities against the unborn, the untold and too-seldom spoken of pain and lingering anguish experienced by those who have been involved in abortions.

I know about the tragedy of abortion and I know about the good work of many people involved in the pro-life Movement who work hard to prevent this tragedy. However a singular focus on abortion as the arbiter of what it means to be “pro-life” has severely narrowed our national discourse about moral values in the public square. People claiming to be fervently Catholic, always right, and blinded by their own zeal and goodness, have ended up defeating the very cause for which we must all defend with every ounce of energy in our flesh and bones. Their anger vitiates their efforts.

Could it be that some of us are turned off or even repelled by current definitions or behaviors of some of those people claiming to be pro-life, yet manifesting a tunnel vision? The Roman Catholic Church offers a consistent teaching on the inviolability, the sacredness and the dignity of the human person: a 20/20 vision for which we must strive each day if we claim to be pro-life. Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. We must strive to see the whole picture, not with tunnel vision.

What is also troubling are those who claim to be on the “left”, always championing human and civil rights, respecting and upholding the dignity and freedom of others. This of course has included the protection of individual rights, and the efforts of government to care for the weak, sick and disadvantaged. Why then are the extension to the unborn of the human right to life, and opposition to the culture of death, not central issues on the “left?” They must be, for they are clearly matters of justice and human rights.

A few years ago, Cardinal Séan O’Malley wrote to the people of Boston with these words:

If any cause is motivated by judgment, anger or vindictiveness, it will be doomed to marginalization and failure. Jesus’ words to us were that we must love one another as He loves us… Our ability to change people’s hearts and help them to grasp the dignity of each and every life, from the first moment of conception to the last moment of natural death, is directly related to our ability to increase love and unity in the church, for our proclamation of the Truth is hindered when we are divided and fighting with each other.

We cannot ignore the other great challenge faced by humanity today–the serious question of mercy killing, or euthanasia as it is sometimes called, no longer found in abstract cases and theories. It concerns ordinary people and is debated not only in Parliament but also around dinner tables and in classrooms. Aging populations, especially in the west, and resulting smaller workforces are now creating a market push towards euthanasia. As Pope John Paul II wrote: “a right to die will inevitably give way to the duty to die.” This issue strikes to the very core of who we are and what we believe. Even when not motivated by the refusal to be burdened with the life of someone who is suffering, euthanasia must be called a false and misguided mercy. True compassion leads to sharing another’s pain, not killing the person whose suffering we cannot bear.


Furthering the Common Good

Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the dignity of the human person such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself, whatever insults human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children, disgraceful working conditions where people are treated as instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons… all of these things and more poison human society.

It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. There can be no true peace unless life is defended and promoted.

In Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, (Truth in Charity), the Holy Father addresses clearly the dignity and respect for human life:

Openness to life is at the centre of true development… When a society moves toward the denial or suppression of life, it ends up no longer finding the necessary motivation and energy to strive for man’s true good. If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of a new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.

Engaging the Culture Around Us

Being pro-life does not give us the right and license to say and do whatever we wish, to malign, condemn and destroy other human beings who do not share our views. We must never forget the principles of civility, Gospel charity, ethics, and justice. Jesus came to engage the culture of his day, and we must engage the culture of our day. We must avoid the sight impairment and myopia that often afflict people of good will who are blinded by their own zeal and are unable to see the whole picture. Being pro-life is not an activity for a political party or a particular side of the spectrum. It is an obligation for everyone: left, right and centre! If we are pro-life, we must engage the culture around us, and not curse it. We must see others as Jesus does, and we must love them to life, even those who are opposed to us. Being pro-life in this day and age is truly prophetic, and it will bring about authentic development and enduring peace in our world.

We are all invited pray these words each day, especially during this week:

LupitaEternal Father, Source of Life, strengthen us with your Holy Spirit to receive the abundance of life you have promised.
Open our hearts to see and desire the beauty of your plan for life and love.
Make our love generous and self-giving so that we may be blessed with joy.
Grant us great trust in your mercy.
Forgive us for not receiving your gift of life and heal us from the effects of the culture of death.
Instill in us and all people reverence for every human life.
Inspire and protect our efforts on behalf of those most vulnerable especially the unborn, the sick and the elderly.
We ask this in the Name of Jesus, who by His Cross makes all things new. Amen.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Father Thomas Rosica, CSB
CEO Salt + Light Catholic Media Foundation

(CNS photo/Bob Roller)
(CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis’ Visit to Great Synagogue in Rome; Additional Addresses


Pope Francis on Sunday became the third pope to visit Rome’s synagogue in a sign of continuing Catholic-Jewish friendship. During the visit that featured welcome speeches by prominent members of Rome’s Jewish community and a speech by the Pope, Francis greeted a number of people including including several Holocaust survivors. Below you will find the full text of his address:

I’m happy to be here today with you in this Synagogue. I thank Dr. Di Segni, Mrs  Durighello and Mr Gattegna for their kind words. And  I thank you all for your warm welcome, thank you! Tada Toda Rabba, thank you!

During my first visit to this synagogue as Bishop of Rome, I wish to express to you and to extend to all Jewish communities, the fraternal greetings of peace of the whole Catholic Church.

Our relations are very close to my heart. When in Buenos Aires I used to go to the synagogues and meet the communities gathered there, I used to follow Jewish festivities and commemorations and give thanks to the Lord who gives us life and accompanies us on the path of history. Over time, a spiritual bond has been created which has favoured the birth of a genuine friendship and given life to a shared commitment. In interreligious dialogue it is essential that we meet as brothers and sisters before our Creator and to Him give praise, that we respect and appreciate each other and try to collaborate. In Jewish-Christian dialogue there is a unique and special bond thanks to the Jewish roots of Christianity: Jews and Christians must therefore feel as brothers, united by the same God and by a rich common spiritual patrimony (cf. Declaration. Nostra Aetate, 4 ), upon which to build the future.

With this visit I follow in the footsteps of my predecessors. Pope John Paul II came here thirty years ago, on 13 April 1986; and Pope Benedict XVI was amongt you six years ago. On that occasion John Paul II coined the beautiful description “elder brothers”, and in fact you are our brothers and sisters in the faith. We all belong to one family, the family of God, who accompanies and protects us, His people. Together, as Jews and as Catholics, we are called to take on our responsibilities towards this city, giving first of all a spiritual contribution, and favouring the resolution of various current problems. It is my hope that closeness, mutual understanding and respect between our two  communities continue to grow. Thus, it is significant that I have come among you today, on January 17, the day when the Italian Episcopal Conference celebrates the “Day of dialogue between Catholics and Jews.”

We have just commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration “Nostra Aetate” which made possible the systematic dialogue between the Catholic Church and Judaism. On 28 October last, in St. Peter’s Square, I was able to greet a large number of Jewish representatives to whom I said “Deserving of special gratitude to God is the veritable transformation of Christian-Jewish relations in these 50 years. Indifference and opposition have changed into cooperation and benevolence. From enemies and strangers we have become friends and brothers. The Council, with the Declaration Nostra Aetate, has indicated the way: “yes” to rediscovering Christianity’s Jewish roots; “no” to every form of anti-Semitism and blame for every wrong, discrimination and persecution deriving from it.” Nostra Aetate explicitly defined theologically for the first time the Catholic Church’s relations with Judaism. Of course it did not solve all the theological issues that affect us, but we it provided an important stimulus for further necessary reflections. In this regard, on 10 December 2015, the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews published a new document that addresses theological issues that have emerged in recent decades since the promulgation of “Nostra Aetate”. In fact, the theological dimension of Jewish-Catholic dialogue deserves to be more thorough, and I wish to encourage all those involved in this dialogue to continue in this direction, with discernment and perseverance. From a theological point of view, it is clear there is an inseparable bond between Christians and Jews. Christians, to be able to understand themselves, cannot not refer to their Jewish roots, and the Church, while professing salvation through faith in Christ, recognizes the irrevocability of the Covenant and God’s constant and faithful love for Israel.

Along with theological issues, we must not lose sight of the big challenges facing the world today.  That of an integral ecology is now a priority, and us Christians and Jews can and must offer humanity the message of the Bible regarding the care of creation. Conflicts, wars, violence and injustices open deep wounds in humanity and call us to strengthen a commitment for peace and justice. Violence by man against man is in contradiction with any religion worthy of that name, and in particular with the three great monotheistic religions. Life is sacred, a gift of God. The fifth commandment of the Decalogue says: “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). God is the God of life, and always wants to promote and defend it; and we, created in his image and likeness, are called upon to do the same. Every human being, as a creature of God, is our brother, regardless of his or her origin or religious affiliation. Each person must be viewed with favour, just as God does, who offers his merciful hand to all, regardless of their faith and of their belonging, and who cares for those who most need him: the poor, the sick, the marginalized , the helpless. Where life is in danger, we are called even more to protect it. Neither violence nor death will have the last word before God,  the God of love and life. We must pray with insistence to help us put into practice the logic of peace, of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of life, in Europe, in the Holy Land, in the Middle East, in Africa and elsewhere in the world.

In its history, the Jewish people has had to experience violence and persecution, to the point of  extermination of European Jews during the Holocaust. Six million people, just because they belonged to the Jewish people, were victims of the most inhumane barbarity perpetrated in the name of an ideology that wanted to replace God with man. On October 16, 1943, over a thousand men, women and children Rome’s Jewish community were deported to Auschwitz. Today I wish to remember them in a special way: their suffering, their fear, their tears must never be forgotten. And the past must serve as a lesson for the present and for the future. The Holocaust teaches us that utmost vigilance is always needed to be able to take prompt action in defense of human dignity and peace. I would like to express my closeness to every witness of the Holocaust who is still living; and I address a special greeting to those who are present here today.

Dear brothers, we really have to be thankful for all that has been realized in the last fifty years, because between us mutual understanding, mutual trust and friendship have grown and deepened. Let us pray together to the Lord, to lead the way to a better future. God has plans of salvation for us, as the prophet Jeremiah says: “I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the Lord – plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope” (Jer 29 , 11). “The LORD bless you and keep you! The LORD let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!  (cf. 6.24 to 26 Nm). Shalom Alechem!


Welcome Address by the President of the Jewish Community of Rome on the Occasion of Pope Francis’ Visit to the Great Synagogue

With the permission of Chief Rabbi, Riccardo Shemuel Di Segni, and of the Masters,

I would like to welcome the religious, civilian and military authorities present here, the representatives of the state of Israeli and all of you. I feel moved to welcome Pope Francis on behalf of the whole Jewish community of Rome, the third Pope to cross the threshold of our Great Synagogue, whose short distance from St. Peter’s has seemd almost impossible to travel for centuries. Today’s meeting shows that the dialogue between great religions is possible. It is a pledge to be open to others and to promote peace and freedom for each human being. This shared commitment became a reality for the first time on April 13, 1986 with the Pope’s historical visit to this Synagogue. We are here today thanks to two great champions of our time and especially to their courage: John Paul II and Elio Toaff zl. May their memory be a blessing for all of us. This historical event occurred again on January 17, 2010, thus giving a continuity to the friendly relationships between the two banks of the Tiber. This is the reason why I want to extend my warmest greetings to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Today we are again writing history. It would have been difficult to imagine having this kind of meeting more than fifty years ago. Vatican Council II, launched by John XXIII, conceived Nostra Aetate, thus paving the way to a new path based on dialogue. Fifty years later, this path is still open also thanks to the Vatican Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

Your visit is not in the sign of ritualism. It is an important landmark at a very sensitive time for religions, which have to claim their space in the public discussion so as to provide their contribution to the moral and civic growth of society.

I feel I can say that the Jews and the Catholics, starting from Rome, must find together shared solutions to fight against the evils of our time. We have the responsibility to make the world in which we live a better place for our children.

As we know, Rome has a universal role. The Jews have been here for over 22 centuries. Our Community has written an extraordinary story of identity survival notwithstanding discriminations and persecutions. It is a lively, active and complex community.

Today there are many expressions of Roman, Italian and international Judaism in this Synagogue, the symbol of the political emancipation of our Community after almost 400 years of segregation.

Jewish institutions have ancient roots and sound traditions and they represent highly committed of Jewish people who have provided support and care for the needy, the sick and the elderly over the centuries and, in particular, for the education of their children and for the new generations. In most cases, these people are volunteers who work every day behind the scenes, with or without official roles, so as to keep alive this Community, which is the greatest source of pride for me and for the whole city.

You, Pope Francis, have always been a friend of the Jewish world. You have taken with you from Argentina a sound relationship with the Jewish people, which you have strengthened since the beginning of your mandate. I want to recall two moments in which I felt particularly touched by your words. The first was during the visit of a delegation from this Community to the Vatican on October 11 2013, to which I had the honor to participate. You addressed our chief Rabbi stating “a Christian cannot be anti-Semitic. Let anti- Semitism be banned from the heart and the life of each man and woman”. The second was during themeeting You had a few weeks ago with the President of the World Jewish Congress, when you said that “attacking the Jews is anti-Semitism, but also a deliberate attack against Israel is anti-Semitism”. I want to reiterate this concept because this Community, like all the Jewish communities around the world, have an identity relationship with Israel. We are Italian and we are very proud of being Italian but, at the same time, we are part of the People of Israel.

It is through Your words that I repeat with determination that anti-Zionism is the most modern form of anti-Semitism. Your trip to Israel and to its capital Jerusalem was a very important event for us. On that occasion too, You used words of profound respect for the Jewish State, hoping that it will be able to live in peace and security.

In order to make this dream come true, we have to remember that peace cannot be conquered through stabbing and terror. It cannot be achieved through bloodshed in the streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Ytamar, Beth Shemesh and Sderot. It cannot be obtained by digging tunnels nor by launching missiles. Can we work on the peace process by counting the number of victims of terrorism? No, we can’t. We must all call for a stop to terrorism. Not only the terrorism in Madrid, London, Brussels and Paris, but also the daily terrorist attacks in Israel. Terrorism is never justified.

The hatred lesson which brings with it is far too evident. This is the lesson that comes from recent and less recent history. You saw its effects with your eyes in Buenos Aires with the anti-Semitic terrorist attack on July 18, 1994, which claimed 85 lives and wounded over 200 people.

Many wonder if Islamic terrorism is going to ever hit Rome. Ladies and gentelmen, Rome was already hit. Just one name: Stefano Gaj Taché z.l, two years of age, on October 9 1982, who was killed by a commando of Palestinian terrorists. I would like to thank the President of the Italian Republic, Sergio Mattarella, for his tribute to the memory of little Stefano during his swear-in speech before Parliament and President Giorgio Napolitano for having included him among the Italian victims of terrorism.

The hatred that comes from racism and bias or worse which uses God’s name or words to kill deserves our contempt and our firm condemnation.

Pope Francis, today we have a great responsibility vis-a-vis the world for the blood shed by terrorists in Europe and in the Middle East, for the blood of persecuted Christians and for the attacks against unarmed civilians even within the Arab world, for the heinous crimes against women. We cannot sit and look. We cannot remain indifferent. We cannot make the same mistakes of the past, when we remained silent and turned our backs. Men and women who did not do anything when train wagons stuffed with Jewish people were sent to the crematoriums. Here are in the first row our survivors of the Shoah, who remind us that Memory is not a self-comforting exercise to repair the horrors of the past. The memory of the greatest genocide in the history of mankind is kept alive so that nothing similar will happen again. This is our major commitment for the future and for the new generations.

On the occasion of this visit, today the Jews and the Catholics convey a new message with respect to the tragedies that have made the news in the last few months.

Faith does not generate hatred. Faith does not shed blood, faith calls for dialogue. Coexistence should be based on openness towards the others, on peace and freedom, where it is possible to learn the respect for each other’s identity. As we do today here in Rome and in any other place.

We are sure that this awareness, which does not only belong to our religion, will find a collaborative attitude in the world of Islam. Our hope is that this message will reach the many Muslim people who share with us the responsibility to improve the world in which we live. We can make it together.

Shalom Pope Francis, Shalom to all of you.


Address By Chief Rabbu Di Segni  

Welcome, Pope Francis, to the Great Synagogue in Rome; a place which was built as a sign of freedom after centuries of restrictions and humiliations; a place visited by kings, presidents, ministers; offended by the Nazis and stained with blood by Palestinian terrorists; but especially a house of prayer where the Jewish people in Rome have celebrated and still celebrate the most important moments of their private and collective life. Today the Temple is grateful to receive the third visit of the Pope and Bishop of Rome. According to the juridical rabbinic traditions, an act repeated three times becomes chazaqà, a habit. Clearly this is a concrete sign of the new era, after all that happened in the past. The breakthrough produced by the Vatican Council fifty years ago was confirmed by numerous and fundamental acts and declarations, the last one month ago, which opened up and established a new path to mutual knowledge, respect and collaboration.

Pope Francis is welcomed by the Jewish Community of Rome. We receive him in this community of faith with its ancient and sacred vocation which, as promised to Abraham, invokes a blessing on those who bless us. The people here today are the historical memory of this community, the unfortunately very few and last survivors of the horrors of the extermination camps, those wounded by terrorist attacks but also the witnesses and the protagonists of the intense organizational and religious life of this community. A community that resists the seductions of this time and invests its energy on its spiritual and social growth, in line with the ancient teachings. It is a positive and constructive testimony of its values in a society for which it difficult to find its own way.

Together with the Roman Jews, there are here many representatives of Jewish people from Italy and from the rest of the world, Italian Rabbis, Israeli and European rabbinic delegations and representatives from the Israeli government and state. And also many people who actively work to strengthen the friendly relations between the two faiths. In fact, this event is not restricted to the Jewish community that is geographically closest to Catholicism. It reaches out to the rest of the world with a benevolent message.

Pope Francis’ visit takes place at the beginning of a special year for Christians, that he announced. The Bible founded the Jubilee that the Jewish people were not able to celebrate in line with the prescribed rules because of particular historical and political conditions; but the original idea of the Torah is still valid, it is a model to reshape society on the basis of dignity, equality and freedom. In any case, the Jewish people keep counting the sabbatical years; when multiplied by seven they represent the foundation of the Jubilee; during the sabbatical year – the last one has just finished – the land of Israel must rest and debts must be redeemed. We will soon celebrate the New Year of the Trees, connected to the agricultural cycle of the land of Israel. Many signs of the essential and religious relationship that we have with our promised land. Understanding this link should not be difficult for those who respect to the Bible, but it is still difficult.

In these days in which the Christians are celebrating this special year devoted to mercy with its ancient references and new meanings, we have realized that, at the beginning of the door opening ceremony, an ancient liturgical formula was recited “open the doors of justice”. A Jew knows that these words are familiar; it is a quotation from Psalms (118:19) pitchù li sha’arè tzèdeq, that we recite in our festive liturgy. It is an interesting link. The event of Christianity devoted to mercy maintains a relationship with its biblical origins; it uses the verses from the Psalms, focusing in particular on the theme of justice which cannot be separated from mercy. It shows that these separate and very different routes of the two religions do share a common heritage considered to be sacred by both of them. This separation is rooted in ancient history. From many perspectives, this can be considered a tragedy, an enigma or a blessing. Of course this division has promoted the growth of great autonomous spiritual worlds, but it has also produced hostility, persecutions and suffering. We are all waiting for the time, we don’t know how far away, in which these divisions will disappear. Each one of us has a different view of how this may happen. However, in the meantime, we must find a way to relate to one another, remaining faithful to our tradition. In peace and with respect.

In the light of all of the above, I believe that there are two main signs to be highlighted today. The first is the sign of continuity. The third Pope who visits our Synagogue proves that the gesture made by the first Pope is still valid and meaningful, that is a break from the past characterized by contempt for Judaism;John Paul II’s intuition was to translate the Council’s difficult doctrinal interpretations in concrete gestures and essential and easily comprehensible messages. This was the aim of his visit to the Synagogue; this, in turn, paved the way to the recognition of the state of Israel. His successor, Pope Benedict, adopted the same approach; now Francis has established a habit. We interpret all this as a sign that the Catholic church does not want to ste back from the path of reconciliation. Pope Francis’ personal commitment confirms this intention, as indicated by the great attention he has always attached to Judaism, first in his quality as Archbishop in Buenos Aires and now as Pope in Rome. Now he is here with us.

The second sign of this visit is dictated by the urgency of the times. The Near East, Europe and many other parts of the world are besieged by wars and terrorism. Today the sad novelty is that after two centuries of disasters produced by nationalism and ideologies, violence has come back and it is fed and justified by fanatic visions inspired by religion. And again this triggers religious persecutions. In the absence of other references and excuses, this destructive drive finds it support and nourishment in religion. On the contrary, a meeting of peace between different religious communities, as the one that is taking place today here in Rome, is a very strong sign against the invasion and abuse of religious violence.

We do not receive the Pope to talk about theology. Each system is autonomous, faith is not a commodity to be exchanged or to be negotiated on a political level. We welcome the Pope to reiterate that the religious differences, to be maintained and respected, must not justify hatred and violence. Instead, these must be enthused with friendship and collaboration and the experiences, values, traditions and great ideas which characterize our identity must be used to serve our communities. Together, we must have our voice heard against any attack with a religious nature and for the defense all religions. However, we must be together not only to speak out against the horrors; we must work and cooperate on a daily basis. Our Jewish community invests all its resources to ensure its future and it carries out this commitments with a harmonious relationship with the society to the benefits all its members.

Yesterday, in all the Synagogues of the world, we read the chapters of the book of the Exodus that speak about the showdown between Moses, who asks the Pharaoh to free the Jews from slavery, and the Pharaoh, who opposes this request with all his means. We do not have a Moses guiding us, nor fortunately do we have a Pharaoh to fight. However, the very history of this Synagogue shows that a benevolent King can turn into persecutor. But this biblical story, the foundation of our faith, proves that the strength of the spirit is able to triumph and to crack even the strictest systems and the harshest regimes. We must be aware of our strength and trust our good values.

We have talked about doors opening. To conclude I would like to share with you a quotation, the words of the invocation we recite everyday at the end of the ‘amidà prayer, according to the Italian rite: “let the doors of the Torah, of wisdom, intelligence and knowledge, of nourishment and subsistence, of life, of grace, of love and of mercy and gratitude be open in front of You”. “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer”.

CNS photo/Paul Haring