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Presentation of Gifts of Pope Francis at Ecumenical Patriarchate

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Pope Francis has presented these gifts during his visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Phanar:

Gift of the Holy Father to the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

The two sheets reproduced in facsimile belong to the Greek Barberinian manuscript 372 of the Vatican Apostolic Library. The original (mm. 223 x 168), in parchment, composed of 273 sheets, dates back to approximately 1060 and contains the Psalter, in addition to some liturgical readings taken from the Book of the Gospels, odes from the Old and New Testament, and texts of poetry added later, that attest to a later use of the manuscript for private devotion or liturgical celebration.

It is written in ‘Perlschrift’ calligraphy by the scribe and chrysographer Theodore of Caesarea, protopresbyter of the Monastery of Study in Constantinople, to whom the text in brown ink and the titles in gold can be attributed, while the miniatures that appear in the text can be attributed to various miniaturists and were in part successively retouched or restored. It is one of the most renown Byzantine Psalters with marginal illustrations.

The text of Psalm 18 [The heavens declare the glory of God] (ff. 32r-33r) appears on the two duplicate sheets, and the Incipit of the successive psalm (f. 33v); the fifth verse [Their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world] of Psalm 18 is illustrated by the series of the Apostles, each one of whom is depicted seated while speaking to a group of people. The choice of such iconography refers to a Pauline quotation of this verse (Rm 10,18). The following psalm instead features David.

In the 17th Century the manuscript was given to Cardinal Francesco Boncompagni; it later belonged to the Barberini family, from whom it was bought, together with the rest of the library, by the Vatican Library in 1902.

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Gift of the Holy Father ‘Christ in the Niche of the Pallio’ presented to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 

The mosaic is taken from the image of Christ depicted in the Confession of St. Peter, that is of his tomb, where the Sacred Pallia are kept, under the papal altar of St. Peter‚s Basilica. The mosaic is originally attributed to the Ninth Century and some parts of it are retraceable to this period, for example the face, while other parts prove to have been successively altered. This image is certainly a representative element of the Constantinian Basilica, which has since remained in its original place. It is the Christ, blessing and Teacher, while holding out the Book of the Gospel open at the words:

“Ego Sum Via Veritas Et Vita Qui Credit in Me Vivet”

The picture, 60 X 40 cm, was made by the mosaicists of the Vatican Mosaic Workshop from January to March 2014 with polychrome enamels and gilded tesserae, applied with soft stucco on a metallic base. The stucco is of the same composition as that utilized in the past centuries to apply mosaics in St. Peter’s Basilica. In crafting the mosaic, the traditional technique of cut mosaics was implemented.

Pope Francis in Turkey: Homily during Ecumenical Prayer Service in St. George’s Patriarchal Church in Phanar (Istanbul)

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Below you will find the full text of Pope Francis’ Homily during the Ecumenical Prayer Service in St. George’s Church in Istanbul:

Your Holiness, my dear Brother Bartholomew,

Each evening brings a mixed feeling of gratitude for the day which is ending and of hope-filled trust as night falls. This evening my heart is full of gratitude to God who allows me to be here in prayer with Your Holiness and with this sister Church after an eventful day during my Apostolic Visit. At the same time my heart awaits the day which we have already begun liturgically: the Feast of the Apostle Saint Andrew, Patron of this Church.

In the words of the prophet Zechariah, the Lord gives us anew in this evening prayer, the foundation that sustains our moving forward from one day to the next, the solid rock upon which we advance together in joy and hope. The foundation rock is the Lord’s promise: “Behold, I will save my people from the countries of the east and from the countries of the west… in faithfulness and in righteousness” (8:7.8).

Yes, my venerable and dear Brother Bartholomew, as I express my heartfelt “thank you” for your fraternal welcome, I sense that our joy is greater because its source is from beyond; it is not in us, not in our commitment, not in our efforts – that are certainly necessary – but in our shared trust in God’s faithfulness which lays the foundation for the reconstruction of his temple that is the Church (cf. Zech 8:9). “For there shall be a sowing of peace” (Zech 8:12); truly, a sowing of joy. It is the joy and the peace that the world cannot give, but which the Lord Jesus promised to his disciples and, as the Risen One, bestowed upon them in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Andrew and Peter heard this promise; they received this gift. They were blood brothers, yet their encounter with Christ transformed them into brothers in faith and charity. In this joyful evening, at this prayer vigil, I want to emphasize this; they became brothers in hope. What a grace, Your Holiness, to be brothers in the hope of the Risen Lord! What a grace, and what a responsibility, to walk together in this hope, sustained by the intercession of the holy Apostles and brothers, Andrew and Peter! And to know that this shared hope does non deceive us because it is founded, not upon us or our poor efforts, but rather upon God’s faithfulness.

With this joyful hope, filled with gratitude and eager expectation, I extend to Your Holiness and to all present, and to the Church of Constantinople, my warm and fraternal best wishes on the Feast of your holy Patron.

Pope Francis in Turkey: Homily at Holy Spirit Cathedral of Istanbul

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Below you will find the full text of Pope Francis’ homily during Mass at the Cathedral of Istanbul:

In the Gospel, Jesus shows himself to be the font from which those who thirst for salvation draw upon, as the Rock from whom the Father brings forth living waters for all who believe in him (cf. Jn 7:38). In openly proclaiming this prophecy in Jerusalem, Jesus heralds the gift of the Holy Spirit whom the disciples will receive after his glorification, that is, after his death and resurrection (cf. v. 39).

The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. He gives life, he brings forth different charisms which enrich the people of God and, above all, he creates unity among believers: from the many he makes one body, the Body of Christ. The Church’s whole life and mission depend on the Holy Spirit; he fulfils all things.

The profession of faith itself, as Saint Paul reminds us in today’s first reading, is only possible because it is prompted by the Holy Spirit: “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3b). When we pray, it is because the Holy Spirit inspires prayer in our heart. When we break the cycle of our self-centredness, and move beyond ourselves and go out to encounter others, to listen to them and help them, it is the Spirit of God who impels us to do so. When we find within a hitherto unknown ability to forgive, to love someone who doesn’t love us in return, it is the Spirit who has taken hold of us. When we move beyond mere self-serving words and turn to our brothers and sisters with that tenderness which warms the heart, we have indeed been touched by the Holy Spirit.

It is true that the Holy Spirit brings forth different charisms in the Church, which at first glance, may seem to create disorder. Under his guidance, however, they constitute an immense richness, because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity, which is not the same thing as uniformity. Only the Holy Spirit is able to kindle diversity, multiplicity and, at the same time, bring about unity. When we try to create diversity, but are closed within our own particular and exclusive ways of seeing things, we create division. When we try to create unity through our own human designs, we end up with uniformity and homogenization. If we let ourselves be led by the Spirit, however, richness, variety and diversity will never create conflict, because the Spirit spurs us to experience variety in the communion of the Church.

The diversity of members and charisms is harmonized in the Spirit of Christ, whom the Father sent and whom he continues to send, in order to achieveunity among believers. The Holy Spirit brings unity to the Church: unity in faith, unity in love, unity in interior life. The Church and other Churches and ecclesial communities are called to let themselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, and to remain always open, docile and obedient.

Ours is a hopeful perspective, but one which is also demanding. The temptation is always within us to resist the Holy Spirit, because he takes us out of our comfort zone and unsettles us; he makes us get up and drives the Church forward. It is always easier and more comfortable to settle in our sedentary and unchanging ways. In truth, the Church shows her fidelity to the Holy Spirit in as much as she does not try to control or tame him. We Christians become true missionary disciples, able to challenge consciences, when we throw off our defensiveness and allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit. He is freshness, imagination and newness.

Our defensiveness is evident when we are entrenched within our ideas and our own strengths – in which case we slip into Pelagianism – or when we are ambitious or vain. These defensive mechanisms prevent us from truly understanding other people and from opening ourselves to a sincere dialogue with them. But the Church, flowing from Pentecost, is given the fire of the Holy Spirit, which does not so much fill the mind with ideas, but enflames the heart; she is moved by the breath of the Spirit which does not transmit a power, but rather an ability to serve in love, a language which everyone is able to understand.

In our journey of faith and fraternal living, the more we allow ourselves to be humbly guided by the Spirit of the Lord, the more we will overcome misunderstandings, divisions, and disagreements and be a credible sign of unity and peace.

With this joyful conviction, I embrace all of you, dear brothers and sisters: the Syro-Catholic Patriarch, the President of the Bishops’ Conference, the Apostolic Vicar Monsignor Pel?tre, the Bishops and Eparchs, the priests and deacons, religious, lay faithful, and believers from other communities and various rites of the Catholic Church. I wish to greet with fraternal affection the Patriarch of Constantinople, His Holiness Bartholomew I, the Syro-Orthodox Metropolitan and the Armenian Apostolic Patriarchal Vicar, as well as the representatives of the Protestant communities, who have joined us in prayer for this celebration. I extend to them my gratitude for this fraternal gesture. I wish also to express my affection to the Armenian Patriarch, His Beatitude Mesrob II, assuring him of my prayers.

Brothers and sisters, let us turn our thoughts to the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. With her, who prayed with the Apostles in the Upper Room as they awaited Pentecost, let us pray to the Lord asking him to send his Holy Spirit into our hearts and to make us witnesses of his Gospel in all the world. Amen!

Archbishop Blase Cupich Homily’s During Installation Mass

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Below you find the full text of Archbishop Blase Cupich’s homily during the Installation Mass as Archbishop of Chicago:

Bienvenido, Witam, Mabuhay, Dobro dosli, Welcome

I am delighted and honoured to be your archbishop.

So many of you in this cathedral today have come – from near and so very far – friends and family, brother bishops and priests, religious, lay women and men. Former parishioners and pastors from Omaha, Rapid City, Spokane have joined us as well. Your being here consoles me with the hope that our friendships will continue to endure in the years ahead. Last night, I had a chance to welcome my brother bishops, and now I am pleased to greet our papal nuncio, Archbishop Vigano. We all know how demanding your schedule is, Archbishop, and so we offer our thanks to you, not only for being with us today, but for all you do to so ably represent Pope Francis, our Holy Father, who is well-loved and who makes us proud.

When it came to selecting a date for the installation, November 18 seemed to be a great fit. The Commemoration of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Saints Peter and Paul gives me a chance to recognize all immigrants, as I recall my own immigrant grandparents who helped establish my home parish of Saints Peter and Paul in Omaha. Additionally, the Church’s calendar today celebrates St. Philippine Duchesne, someone the Native People honored with the name Woman Who Prays Always. She reminds us of the extraordinary contribution women religious have made and continue to make to the church and society. I intend to honor and give thanks for all these people today, especially for family and immigrants, Native Americans and religious sisters – all of whom have shaped so much of our faith, our lives and our Church ministries.

But I have to admit, I had a bit of a panic attack when I saw the Gospel provided in the Lectionary for this day, which we have just heard. I realize this new responsibility is going to be demanding, but seriously folks, I don’t do “walking on water.” I can barely swim. So I hope this image in today’s Gospel is not reflective of anyone’s expectations.

In all honesty, what intrigues me about the readings for today, is how the Gospel and the first reading from Acts complement each other in the language and symbolism they share in common. The Gospel recounts Jesus, during his earthly life, walking on water, inviting Peter to join him, and Acts witnesses to how Paul and the Church, animated by the Spirit, following the resurrection, now cross the seas to evangelize and invite the Gentiles, all people, to encounter and to walk with the Risen Christ. That interplay of the two texts is so rich and captures something St. Leo the Great wrote centuries ago (cf., Catechism of the Catholic Church 1114- 1115).

Pope Leo remarked that everything which was visible in Jesus’ words and actions during his hidden life and public ministry has passed over after Christ’s resurrection into the sacraments and the life of the Church. That truth is on full display in the readings today, to the point that the Gospel is more than an account of Jesus walking on water, more than a story of Jesus revealing his divinity to the disciples by a stunning show of power. Read alongside the story of Paul’s missionary journey, this Gospel text becomes a point of reference to understand the meaning of the resurrection, how the Risen Lord is working in our midst today, and how disciples in all ages, how the Church in our time, should view its mission.

Simply put, we are to join Christ in seeking out, inviting, and accompanying, by abiding with those to whom he sends us. Each one of those aspects of our mission, seeking out, inviting and accompanying deserves a closer look.

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Seeking Out

Jesus’ walk across the waters is intentional. He has come to seek out and to save the troubled, those who are lost. But, this scene from Matthew’s Gospel offers us a new insight; it gives us a glimpse into what compels him to take up this mission. Jesus, we are told, has been on the mountain, in the quiet intimacy of prayer with his Father. That experience of sharing life with the Father is what moves him, prompts him to go out and seek others, so that they too may have this life. He is so driven in this mission that nothing stands in his way, not even the obstacle of crossing over water on his own. Sharing his life in the Father with us is the source of his enthusiasm and determination, is his motivation for seeking out the disciples and is the reason why he has come into the world.

We see a similar kind of drive and enthusiasm in people from time to time, where something so transformative and life giving happens to them, leaving them with no alternative but to spend their life sharing their experience with others. I have seen this kind of enthusiasm in great teachers. Their drive and incentive goes way beyond getting through the curriculum or earning a paycheck. What inspires the really good teacher is the transformative experience of insight that comes in learning. Really good teachers delight in seeing the light of discovery go on in their students’ eyes and they never pass up the chance to make that happen.

Marie Walsh was such a person. I brought her communion on First Fridays during my first years as a priest. A retired English teacher, she never passed up a chance to share her knowledge of literature and language. Marie suffered from diverticulitis, and could only take a small part of the host. One day, after giving her the Eucharist and a sip of water, she began to cough and so I said “Marie would you like to lay down.” She sharply muttered something, which I didn’t catch, and so I asked her, “Marie, what did you say?” She held the back of my neck, and with a laugh in her voice scolded me: “I said ‘chickens lay eggs; people lie down.’” She was correcting my grammar! It didn’t matter if she was in great pain or frail, she was going to make sure I spoke proper English.

We face in our day the formidable task of passing on the faith to the next generation, of evangelizing a modern and sometimes skeptical culture, not to mention inspiring young people to serve the Church as priests and religious. It all seems so daunting, as daunting as walking on water. We are at sea, unsteady in our approach faced with these concerns. Catechists and educators are on the front line of this struggle. So, too, parents and grandparents wonder if they are going to be the last Catholics in their family. Likewise bishops and priests find that the Good News is increasingly difficult to proclaim in the midst of great polarization in church and society.

Jesus tells all of us today to go back to where our journey of faith began, to be in touch with the joyful experience of being transformed by the intimacy God offers us, to be willing to share it with the next generation. Young people have always been attracted to authenticity of life, where words match deeds. Let’s not be afraid to let our young people know about our life with God and how it began. Like Marie Walsh, let’s stay close to them, so close that we can hold them by the neck, and tell them what it means for us to believe, and share with them how the Gospel has brought joy and meaning to us and transformed our lives. Such witness of personal faith many times has made the skeptic take a second look, has inspired vocations, and in my experience, animates our advocacy on behalf of human dignity with joy and compassion, purifying it of anger, harshness and fear.

The authenticity that comes in making our own baptismal calling the starting point for all we do is also demanded of me as your archbishop, particularly as I reach out to those who have been sexually abused by Church leaders. That starting point will always be needed for me and my brother bishops to keep fresh the serious duty to honor and keep the promises we made in 2002. Working together to protect children, to bring healing to victim survivors and to rebuild the trust that has been shattered in our communities by our mishandling is our sacred duty, as is holding each other accountable, for that is what we pledge to do.

Inviting

Jesus seeks out, but then he invites. “Come,” he says to Peter, “walk on the stormy waters with me.” Peter’s response is a brave act for an experienced fisherman. But, it is the kind of daring and boldness required today, the courage to leave our comfort zone and take an entirely new step in our faith journey, both personally and as a community. There is resistance in each of us to take that risk. We can be self-satisfied where we are. Pope Francis tells us that the temptation is to think and say “I’m religious enough, I’m Catholic enough, or for Church leaders to resist needed reform by claiming “we haven’t done that before” or “you cannot say that.”

We all have some anxiety and hesitancy to change, and I’ve noticed that many times in life we deal with the tension by joking about our resistance to change, to grow, to become more, beyond the minimum and enter more deeply into life with God. A friend who is a baseball fan tells me that when he thinks about getting into heaven, he is counting on being able “to slide in to home plate on a steal.”

One hot sultry day, I was boarding a plane and was struggling to put my carry-on bag into the overhead bin. The people behind me weren’t happy with me holding up the line as the air- conditioning wasn’t on. Finally, the man next to me, put his bag down, took mine in hand and effortlessly shoved it in the compartment, leaving me somewhat embarrassed. Then, to my surprise he said at the top of his voice for all to hear, “Well Father, will that get me to heaven?” I was so flustered, all I could think to say was, “Gee, I hope not on this flight!”

Jesus invites us, not only to take the risk of leaving our comfort zone, but also to deal with the tension involved in change, not dismissively but in a creative way, and to challenge each other to do so. Maybe, we hear that challenge today as a call to leave behind our comforting convictions that episodic Sunday Mass attendance is good enough, that we don’t really have to change our habitual bad behavior, our unhealthy dependencies, our inordinate attachments, because we can get by as we are, because they have not gotten us into any serious trouble yet, or just because we are afraid of the unknown.

Pope Francis is giving voice to this invitation in our day, by inviting the Church to come and walk with Christ, as he is always doing something new. It is an invitation to leave behind the comfort of going the familiar way. He is challenging us to recognize that Christ is always inviting us to more, to greater things. It is the kind of invitation our bishops’ conference is making to our nation to be what it has always promised to be, to protect the vulnerable, poor and weak, to treat immigrants with justice and dignity, to respect life and to be good stewards of creation. It is the invitation of Jesus, “Come, take the risk of being more.”

Accompanying

Finally, Jesus gets into the boat. I have always thought that it took more courage for Jesus to get into that boat with those disciples than for Peter to get out of it to walk on water. There was fear, doubt, jealousy even anger in that boat – a lot of unresolved conflicts as a therapist might say.

But, it is in the incomplete, the in-between and in the brokenness of our lives where Jesus comes to share his life in the Father with us. His coming to be with us, his communion with us is not for the perfect, but is for the salvation of souls, for the lost, the forlorn, and those who are adrift. His communion is not just a quick visit, but he wants to be with us to the point of making our lives the dwelling place, the home where he and the Father abide. After going to the mountain to pray, to be with his Father, he comes into our messy lives with his Father in hand, to share our lives where we are.

It is that grace of the indwelling of the Spirit, the love of the Father and the Son, which has always been the source of real, ongoing and sustainable conversion. It is the grace of mercy, totally undeserved and unearned, that brings about real lasting change and transformation and gives life.

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Conclusion

So, we as a Church should not fear leaving the security of familiar shores, the peacefulness of the mountaintop of our self-assuredness and walk into the mess. A military chaplain recently told me that soldiers easily know where to find him in the battle encampment because the chaplain’s tent is most often next to the medical tent.

While Pope Francis is famous for urging the Church to be a field hospital and pastors to know the smell of the sheep, Blessed Pope Paul VI expressed a similar sentiment with an inspiring message to my classmates nearly forty years ago on their day of ordination. This is what he said:

“Know how to accept as an invitation the very reproach which perhaps, and often unjustly, the world hurls against the Messenger of the Gospel. Know how to listen to the groan of the poor, the candid voice of the child, the thoughtful cry of youth, the complaint of the tired worker, the sigh of the suffering and the criticism of the thinker. But, ‘Never be afraid.’ The Lord has repeated it.” (Homily, June 29, 1975)

Of course as our papal nuncio reminded the bishops just last week, St. John Paul II began his pontificate with Christ’s comforting words to the disciples, “Do not fear.” Archbishop Vigano? then added: “we must not be afraid to walk with our Holy Father (Pope Francis) and to trust in the infinite value of following the Holy Spirit as our First Teacher in guiding the Church.”

That is the urging of the Word of God today. Just as Jesus left the peacefulness of his mountain top prayer to embrace the disciples in all their too human and fallible journey, so now the Church in our day is called to be faithful to its mission, the mission taken up by Paul and Peter, by putting aside her fears and the allure of false securities, and leap into the turbulent but creative waters of life in the world with the guidance of God and the charge of the Gospel.

Not being afraid is the gift that separates the disciple before and after the resurrection as we see in the responses of Peter and Paul through the readings today. Yet, it is providential that Peter experienced the terror that stormy night, for he could then uniquely witness for the Church in all ages through his successors, the power of the resurrection to vanquish all fears, disappointments, hesitations and doubts.

Peter could then witness how the resurrection is not just a past event, but an ongoing reality. He could remind us that what Jesus did in crossing the sea, he did again, by crossing from death to life, from eternity to our time, as he continues to make that crossing with us in our day. He could tell us that Jesus came back from the dead for us, to be with us. That is the reason we are not afraid – because we are not alone.

That is why now in our day Peter in his successor, Pope Francis, urges us to take up the task of crossing the seas to seek out, to invite and to accompany others, because the Risen Christ is in the boat with us.

Photo Credit:

(CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World)

(CNS photo/Jeff Haynes, Reuters)

(CNS photo/John Smerciak, Catholic New World)

Chicago welcomes Archbishop Blase Cupich at Prayer Vigil

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Below you will find Archbishop Blase Cupich’s homily in Holy Name Cathedral at Monday evening’s prayer service on the vigil of his installation as the Ninth Archbishop of Chicago:

The Windy City’s ablaze with gratitude & hope
Chicago welcomes Archbishop Blase Cupich at Prayer Vigil

It is only polite to begin with an expression of gratitude for the warm welcome I have just received in such a personal way from various representative officials of church and state. But before I do that, I ask your kind understanding as I attend to the important and happy task of publicly recognizing the dedicated service to the Church and to this City, of a native son of Chicago, who has distinguished himself both here and abroad as our Bishop’s Conference President, who always responded with a generosity that motivates and inspires and who has been unfailingly gracious and cordial to me, especially in these days. The Provincial of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate put it well in a recent letter to his confreres, “we are grateful for Cardinal George’s prophetic ministry in favor of the sanctity of life and dignity of the poor and marginalized. He has faced a broad spectrum of issues…and in doing so he has always brought great intelligence, insight, strong conviction and a pastoral heart to every issue and situation.” And so, on behalf of all of us, all those whose faith and lives have been enriched by your witness and your ministry, I want my first words on this occasion to be “thank you Cardinal Francis George.”

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All of you have warmly greeted me, elected officials, public servants, community leaders and diplomats, ecumenical and interfaith representatives, archdiocesan brothers and sisters representing ethnic groups, various offices and committees, religious women and men, and my own brother bishops and brother priests of Chicago. I am grateful for your welcome to this city and to this cathedral. In fact, I feel so much at home here that now I in turn welcome you not only to this cathedral, but into my heart. That is the kind of greeting I have learned from the Lakota people in South Dakota, whose welcome always comes as an exchange from one heart to another.

We are honored to have our Holy Father Pope Francis with us in the person of our Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò. Welcome Archbishop and thank you for taking time from your demanding schedule to be with us. He is joined by other brother bishops from across this country and the world. All of your obligations are terribly exacting, especially at this time of the year, and my welcome to you comes with a sincere thanks for the heartwarming gift of fraternal support your presence means to all of us.

Finally, I welcome my family, my eight brothers and sisters and spouses, nephews and nieces, and extended family members, who for the most part are occupying this entire right side of the Cathedral!

The Agenda

On Saturday, September 20, the day my appointment by Pope Francis was announced, the first question at the news conference was: “What’s your agenda? What are your priorities? What’s the first thing you want to accomplish?”

I really wanted to respond: “Getting through this news conference!”

But, as for my agenda, if I have learned anything over these past four decades as a pastor, I know it is a disaster for me to have my own agenda. That is not because I don’t have dreams and hopes, or that I want to ignore the challenges and trials of life. Rather it is because I have learned that my agenda is always too small; it’s prone to be self-serving, and ultimately unworthy of the people I am called to serve. No, the agenda has to be God’s, which is beyond our imagining and our abilities. And unlike our priorities, God’s agenda has staying power, it endures.

We see that kind of divine agenda occupying the attention of Ezekiel, a prophet who oftentimes addresses the leaders of the people, pressing them to be attentive to how God is working in the world, so that they can also join in the restoration, the building up and bringing life to the people they serve.

This night, Ezekiel speaks of God’s work in the dryness that not infrequently afflicts human existence. His immediate concern is to inspire new life in the people living in exile, by offering a vision of the new city to be built by God. They have suffered the humiliating defeat by Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The people are scattered and disconnected, with hopes broken and barren. They are like dry bones strewn carelessly to rot in an abandoned field under the scorching sun of oppression.

While the circumstances may be different, this kind of dryness is present in our modern times, a dryness that eats away at our hopes and leaves us disoriented. It is the dryness elderly and sick persons can experience when their strength gives way and their bones become unsteady, to the point that they begin to question their worth, their sense of purpose and even the faith that has heretofore directed their lives. We see that dryness caked on the faces of the homeless street people, in the fatigue of the underemployed worker cobbling together three or four low paying jobs to make ends meet, but also in the hectic pace of the successful business owner whose long hours in the office leave little time for family meals and sharing, for rest and recreation.

T. S. Elliot captures all of this so well in his epic poem, The Wasteland, where he describes how our modern lives easily become:

“A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water.”

All that’s left is “Fear in a handful of dust,”and a life in rats’ alley / where the dead men lost their bones.”

We, who are public servants, pastors, leaders know well this kind of dryness that ails the human soul and fatigues both body and spirit. We come face to face with it in the service to our citizens and the ministry to our parishioners.

But, we who serve in public life as leaders also experience our own dryness, in the tedium of attending to administrative details, which most often go unnoticed or unappreciated, in the frustration we feel as we are called upon to face enormous challenges with limited energies and shrinking resources, and whenever opportunities for real improvement are squandered by petty squabbles and divisive discourse. We both as church and civic leaders know that kind of dryness. Like Ezekiel we can look over the landscape of our life and service and lament, “how dry these bones are.”

But, the prophet draws our attention to this rather bleak scene, not to chastise or criticize, to dishearten or discourage. Rather, by crisscrossing, north and south, east and west through the vast field of dry and scattered bones, this representative, this voice of God, is consoling us with the message that the Lord of Creation, is with us, is walking through this dryness with us, the dryness we face each and every day as leaders.

And so, let us for a moment walk together with Ezekiel tonight and listen attentively as he encourages us with the three words he speaks: Spirit, People and Land – three words of comfort, words to encourage, words to help us keep our focus on all that God is doing, so that our ways may be God’s ways.

Spirit

What should not go unnoticed as Ezekiel speaks in the Spirit over the dry bones is that there is still a responsiveness, a receptivity, a sensitivity in this lifeless heap of bones. There is still something that remains, beyond the dryness and death that has smothered these dismembered skeletons. All that is needed is for the prophet, the leader in their midst, to speak in a way that inspires, to speak to the deep yearnings of the people we serve, because it is God who is keeping alive their legitimate aspirations, even when there seems to be no hope. That is why it should be beneath our dignity as leaders to speak in ways that appeal to the fears and anxieties of people rather than the hopes and yearnings God has planted in their hearts.

And when it comes to speaking to each other in moments of deep disagreement, this does not mean that we should shy away from stating our position or making our point. “We cannot engage in real dialogue unless we are conscious of our own identity,” as Pope Francis reminds us. But then he adds: “Nor can there be authentic dialogue unless we are capable of opening our minds and hearts, in empathy and sincere receptivity, to those with whom we speak….We are challenged to listen not only to the words which others speak, but to the unspoken communication of their experiences, their hopes and aspirations, their struggles and their deepest concerns…If our communication is not to be a monologue, there has to be openness of heart and mind to accepting individuals and cultures.”

That is a message for all of us, for me, for my brother priests working in parishes and other ministries, and for elected officials and public servants.

But, civil discourse is needed not just so we can get something done for the common good, but because of the impact that failing to do so has on society.

Recent studies on the involvement of young people in religion and public life bear out a common factor that discourages their participation – the harsh rhetoric and lack of comity and civility within each group and in the way leaders in both groups treat each other. A good friend of mine, who is with us tonight, advised me when I became a seminary rector, to place a high priority on developing a faculty, a team that modeled to students how adults should act. As Msgr. Lawrence Purcell, former rector of the North American College put it, “you will teach them more about a collaborative model of ministry in this way than anything you say.”

It is not surprising that parishioners, citizens and the public become uneasy and disaffected with community and public life when they see leaders speak in ways that incite fears rather than inspire hope. There is collateral damage in such tactics. But, there is an even greater promise of really accomplishing something that lasts, done by God’s grace, when we speak with the deliberate and unified aim of bringing dry bones to life. Such a commitment to civil and respectful discourse is about meeting God half way as He keeps the aspirations of those we serve alive in the struggles they face in life.

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People

Ezekiel also invites us to look for where God is working to build up the people. Notice that the spirit evoked brings about a rattling of the bones, not to assemble skeletons as individuals, but as a vast army. There is a dryness in many people’s lives because they have little experience of being connected in society. For them, the only economy that counts is one that depends on connections they never had and never will. So many are left unconnected because of poverty spread across generations, racism or not having mentors to guide and inspire them about the value of education, hard work, and the self-discipline needed for personal stability.

Already in the short time I have been here, I have been edified by the great work so many of you are doing through various charities, apostolates, labor unions, the business community, government programs, schools, volunteer and civic groups and you should be encouraged to know that helping people get connected, experience being a part of society, is where God is active, working and gracing you in your dedicated ministry and labors. You are using your connections to help those disconnected and that is the work of God.

Our aim should be to make sure that everyone has a place at the table of life, the mother needing prenatal and postnatal care and protection for herself and her child, the former inmate seeking a fresh start, the drug addict who needs someone to help her take one day at a time, the father and mother who want their children to have the educational opportunities other families have – this is the vast army God is inviting us to raise up with him.

Central governments in the Church and the state have enormous power to create bonds, stimulate cooperation and motivate people to work together on the local level. That has always been my approach, seeing the diocesan offices as being at the service of our parishes, to animate them while uniting and building bonds among ourselves as one local Church.

Land

The Hebrew term Ha Aretz, is not just about real estate, turf, or dirt, but it refers to the land on which God’s people live with stability, and a sense of belonging. God’s desire to bring about this sense of belonging is present in the aspirations of every migrant and immigrant, and that is why they need to be respected, treated with justice and welcomed. God is at work in giving people a life of stability, a feeling of being at home, and of living in an environment that satisfies the desires God has placed in their hearts. The work of comprehensive immigration reform is not important because it is on my agenda, but because it is on God’s.

But, there are others who feel little sense of belonging and stability. Many youth have no dreams, no real aspirations, no sustaining hope. And so they turn to a destructive world of drugs, gangs, and lethal violence.

There are no easy answers to this, but I am aware that good people within our parishes and in the city are working imaginatively to address this issue. I admire the creativity of bringing gang members together for sports and in other venues to ease growing tensions. I believe that shoring up and strengthening family life and education are also essential ingredients.

You will find in me a ready partner, but also one who believes that this work is not inconsequential, is not an option, because again, it too is on God’s agenda.

Conclusion

For me it is quite humbling as I come to offer servant leadership to this local Church to be associated with lay women and men, clergy, religious and bishops who continue to have an enormous impact in society. That is especially so as I now follow two great predecessors, Cardinal Bernardin and Cardinal George, both intellectual and spiritual leaders, but most of all pastoral men who both have been models of faith and trust in God in having to deal with serious illness as they valiantly continued to shepherd the people of God.

But, it is also true that United States has benefitted from the talents and leadership of many Chicagoans over our nation’s history, contributing common sense Midwestern values in touch with the real lives of people. We are a city that is unafraid to walk through the dry bones.

Tonight Ezekiel encourages us to continue doing so because that is where God is and where God’s agenda begins. It is an agenda that encourages me as I begin my service to welcome new friendships with other leaders in our parishes, in the business community, labor and government, because I recognize the enormous opportunity and promise that God is putting before us as we use our connections to help the disconnected, all the while respecting each other’s challenges.

It is an agenda that has its origins in the very creation of the world, for God’s plan all along has been to make this tiny speck of cosmic dust in the vast universe a land, a home for us all.Spirit, People and Land – these are God’s words to comfort and encourage, words to help us in this graced time and blessed city to keep our focus on all that God is doing, so that our ways may be God’s ways.

And, the promise tonight is that if we keep these three words close to our hearts, all the while remembering our proud heritage of contributing to the good of the nation, then not only will we get things done, but we will probably end up rattling some bones.

 

Pope Francis’ Homily During Synod Opening Mass

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On October 5, 2014, Pope Francis presided over the Opening Mass for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. Below you will find the full text of his address:

Today the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel employ the image of the Lord’s vineyard.  The Lord’s vineyard is his “dream”, the plan which he nurtures with all his love, like a farmer who cares for his vineyard.  Vines are plants which need much care!

God’s “dream” is his people.  He planted it and nurtured it with patient and faithful love, so that it can become a holy people, a people which brings forth abundant fruits of justice.

But in both the ancient prophecy and in Jesus’ parable, God’s dream is thwarted.  Isaiah says that the vine which he so loved and nurtured has yielded “wild grapes” (5:2,4); God “expected justice but saw bloodshed, righteousness, but only a cry of distress” (v. 7).  In the Gospel, it is the farmers themselves who ruin the Lord’s plan: they fail to do their job but think only of their own interests.

In Jesus’ parable, he is addressing the chief priests and the elders of the people, in other words the “experts”, the managers.  To them in a particular way God entrusted his “dream”, his people, for them to nurture, tend and protect from the animals of the field. This is the job of leaders: to nuture the vineyard with freedom, creativity and hard work.

But Jesus tells us that those farmers took over the vineyard.  Out of greed and pride they want to do with it as they will, and so they prevent God from realizing his dream for the people he has chosen.

The temptation to greed is ever present.  We encounter it also in the great prophecy of Ezekiel on the shepherds (cf. ch. 34), which Saint Augustine commented upon in one his celebrated sermons which we have just reread in the Liturgy of the Hours.  Greed for money and power.  And to satisfy this greed, evil pastors lay intolerable burdens on the shoulders of others, which they themselves do not lift a finger to move (cf. Mt 23:4)

We too, in the Synod of Bishops, are called to work for the Lord’s vineyard.  Synod Assemblies are not meant to discuss beautiful and clever ideas, or to see who is more intelligent…  They are meant to better nuture and tend the Lord’s vineyard, to help realize his dream, his loving plan for his people.  In this case the Lord is asking us to care for the family, which has been from the beginning an integral part of his loving plan for humanity.

We are all sinners and can also be tempted to “take over” the vineyard, because of that greed which is always present in us human beings.  God’s dream always clashes with the hypocrisy of some of his servants.  We can “thwart” God’s dream if we fail to let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit gives us that wisdom which surpasses knowledge, and enables us to work generously with authentic freedom and humble creativity.

My Synod brothers, to do a good job of nurturing and tending the vineyard, our hearts and our minds must be kept in Jesus Christ by “the peace of God which passes all understanding” (Phil 4:7).  In this way our thoughts and plans will correspond to God’s dream: to form a holy people who are his own and produce the fruits of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 21:43).

Francis during Paul VI Beatification: Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness

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Below you will find the full text of Pope Francis’ homily during the closing mass of the Synod and the beatification of Pope Paul VI.

We have just heard one of the most famous phrases in the entire Gospel: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt 22:21).

Goaded by the Pharisees who wanted, as it were, to give him an exam in religion and catch him in error, Jesus gives this ironic and brilliant reply. It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience, particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question. This happens all the time; it always has.

Certainly Jesus puts the stress on the second part of the phrase: “and [render] to God the things that are God’s”. This calls for acknowledging and professing ‘in the face of any sort of power’ that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other. This is the perennial newness to be discovered each day, and it requires mastering the fear which we often feel at God’s surprises.

God is not afraid of new things! That is why he is continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways. He renews us: he constantly makes us “new”. A Christian who lives the Gospel is “God’s newness” in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this “newness!”

“Rendering to God the things that are God’s” means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace.

Here is where our true strength is found; here is the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavour to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us. Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s. That is why we Christians look to the future, God’s future. It is so that we can live this life to the fullest ‘with our feet firmly planted on the ground’ and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.

In these days, during the extraordinary Synod of Bishops, we have seen how true this is. “Synod” means “journeying together.” And indeed pastors and lay people from every part of the world have come to Rome, bringing the voice of their particular Churches in order to help today’s families walk the path the Gospel with their gaze fixed on Jesus. It has been a great experience, in which we have lived synodality and collegiality, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church. For the Church is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.

For the gift of this Synod and for the constructive spirit which everyone has shown, in union with the Apostle Paul “we give thanks to God always for you all, constantly mentioning you in our prayers” (1 Th 1:2). May the Holy Spirit, who during these busy days has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity, continue to guide the journey which, in the Churches throughout the world, is bringing us to the Ordinary Synod of Bishops in October 2015. We have sown and we continued to sow, patiently and perseveringly, in the certainty that it is the Lord who gives growth to what we have sown (cf. 1 Cor 3:6).

On this day of the Beatification of Pope Paul VI, I think of the words with which he established the Synod of Bishops: “by carefully surveying the signs of the times, we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods to the growing needs of our time and the changing conditions of society” (Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio Apostolica Sollicitudo).

When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!

In his personal journal, the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour” (P. Macchi, Paolo VI nella sua parola, Brescia, 2001, pp. 120-121). In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom ‘and at times alone’ to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.

Paul VI truly “rendered to God what is God’s” by devoting his whole life to the “sacred, solemn and grave task of continuing in history and extending on earth the mission of Christ” (Homily for the Rite of Coronation: Insegnamenti I, 1963, p. 26), loving the Church and leading her so that she might be “a loving mother of the whole human family and at the same time the minister of its salvation” (Encyclical Letter Ecclesiam Suam, Prologue).

Photo Credit: CNS

Pope Francis’ Homily for Thanksgiving Mass of Canadian Saints

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Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Mass of Thanksgiving for the Equivalent Canonizationof Saints François de Laval and Marie de l’Incarnation
Sunday, 12 October 2014

We have heard Isaiah’s prophecy: “The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces…” (Is 25:8).  These words, full of hope in God, point us to the goal, they show the future towards which we are journeying.  Along this path the Saints go before us and guide us.  These words also describe the vocation of men and women missionaries.

Missionaries are those who, in docility to the Holy Spirit, have the courage to live the Gospel.  Even this Gospel which we have just heard: “Go, therefore, into the byways…”, the king tells his servants (Mt 22:9).  The servants then go out and assemble all those they find, “both good and bad”, and bring them to the King’s wedding feast (cf. v. 10).

Missionaries have received this call: they have gone out to call everyone, in the highways and byways of the world.  In this way they have done immense good for the Church, for once the Church stops moving, once she becomes closed in on herself, she falls ill, she can be corrupted, whether by sins or by that false knowledge cut off from God which is worldly secularism.

Missionaries have turned their gaze to Christ crucified; they have received his grace and they have not kept it for themselves.  Like Saint Paul, they have become all things to all people; they have been able to live in poverty and abundance, in plenty and hunger; they have been able to do all things in him who strengthens them (cf. Phil 4:12-13).  And with this God-given strength, they have the courage to “go forth” into the highways of the world with confidence in the Lord who has called them. This is the life of a missionary. And then to end up far from home, far from their homeland; many times killed, assassinated! As has happened, in these days, to many of our brothers and sisters.

The Church’s mission of evangelization is essentially a proclamation of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness, revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Missionaries have served the Church’s mission by breaking the bread of God’s word for the poor and those far off, and by bringing to all the gift of the unfathomable love welling up from the heart of the Saviour.

Such was the case with Saint François de Laval and Saint Marie de l’Incarnation.  Dear pilgrims from Canada, today I would like to leave you with two words of advice; they are drawn from the Letter to the Hebrews, but thinking about the missionaries, they will be of great benefit for your communities.
The first is this, this is what the Word of God says: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (13:7).  The memory of the missionaries sustains us at a time when we are experiencing a scarcity of labourers in the service of the Gospel.  Their example attracts us, they inspire us to imitate their faith.  They are fruitful witnesses who bring forth life!

The second is this: “Recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings… Do not therefore abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward.  For you need endurance…” (10:32,35-36).  Honouring those who endured suffering to bring us the Gospel means being ready ourselves to fight the good fight of faith with humility, meekness, and mercy, in our daily lives.  And this bears fruit. Remembering those who preceded us, who founded our Church. The Church of Quebec is prolific! Prolific in many missionaries, who went everywhere. The world was filled with Canadian missionaries, like these two. Now the advice: that this memory does not lead us to abandon forthrightness.

Do not abandon courage! Perhaps… no, not perhaps. It is true. The devil is envious and does not tolerate a land that is so prolific in missionaries. Our prayer to the Lord is that Quebec returns to this path of fruitfulness, to giving the world many missionaries. And that these two who—so to speak–founded the Church in Quebec assist us as intercessors; that the seed which they sowed may grow and give fruit of new men and women with courage,  with foresight, with a heart open to the call of the Lord. Today we must ask this for your homeland! And they from heaven will be our intercessors. May Quebec to being that source of brave and holy missionaries.

This, then, is the joy and the challenge of this pilgrimage of yours: to commemorate the witnesses, the missionaries of the faith in your country.  Their memory sustains us always in our journey towards the future, towards the goal, when “the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces…”.
“Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Is 25:9).

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis: Mass For Peace And Reconciliation

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Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Mass For Peace And Reconciliation
Seoul, Myeong-dong Cathedral
18 August 2014

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As my stay in Korea draws to a close, I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon this beloved country, and in a special way, upon the Church in Korea.  Among those blessings I especially treasure the experience we have all had in these recent days of the presence of so many young pilgrims from throughout Asia.  Their love of Jesus and their enthusiasm for the spread of his Kingdom have been an inspiration to us all.

My visit now culminates in this celebration of Mass, in which we implore from God the grace of peace and reconciliation.  This prayer has a particular resonance on the Korean peninsula.  Today’s Mass is first and foremost a prayer for reconciliation in this Korean family.  In the Gospel, Jesus tells us how powerful is our prayer when two or three of us join in asking for something (cf. Mt 18:19-20).  How much more when an entire people raises its heartfelt plea to heaven!

The first reading presents God’s promise to restore to unity and prosperity a people dispersed by disaster and division.  For us, as for the people of Israel, this is a promise full of hope: it points to a future which God is even now preparing for us.  Yet this promise is inseparably tied to a command: the command to return to God and wholeheartedly obey his law (cf. Dt 30:2-3).  God’s gifts of reconciliation, unity and peace are inseparably linked to the grace of conversion, a change of heart which can alter the course of our lives and our history, as individuals and as a people.

At this Mass, we naturally hear this promise in the context of the historical experience of the Korean people, an experience of division and conflict which has lasted for well over sixty years.  But God’s urgent summons to conversion also challenges Christ’s followers in Korea to examine the quality of their own contribution to the building of a truly just and humane society.  It challenges each of you to reflect on the extent to which you, as individuals and communities, show evangelical concern for the less fortunate, the marginalized, those without work and those who do not share in the prosperity of the many.  And it challenges you, as Christians and Koreans, firmly to reject a mindset shaped by suspicion, confrontation and competition, and instead to shape a culture formed by the teaching of the Gospel and the noblest traditional values of the Korean people.

In today’s Gospel, Peter asks the Lord: “If my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?  As many as seven times?”  To which the Lord replies: “Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy times seven” (Mt 18:21-22).  These words go to the very heart of Jesus’ message of reconciliation and peace.  In obedience to his command, we ask our heavenly Father daily to forgive us our sins, “as we forgive those who sin against us”.  Unless we are prepared to do this, how can we honestly pray for peace and reconciliation?

Jesus asks us to believe that forgiveness is the door which leads to reconciliation.  In telling us to forgive our brothers unreservedly, he is asking us to do something utterly radical, but he also gives us the grace to do it.  What appears, from a human perspective, to be impossible, impractical and even at times repugnant, he makes possible and fruitful through the infinite power of his cross.  The cross of Christ reveals the power of God to bridge every division, to heal every wound, and to reestablish the original bonds of brotherly love.

This, then, is the message which I leave you as I conclude my visit to Korea.  Trust in the power of Christ’s cross!  Welcome its reconciling grace into your own hearts and share that grace with others!  I ask you to bear convincing witness to Christ’s message of forgiveness in your homes, in your communities and at every level of national life.  I am confident that, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation with other Christians, with the followers of other religions, and with all men and women of good will concerned for the future of Korean society, you will be a leaven of the Kingdom of God in this land.  Thus our prayers for peace and reconciliation will rise to God from ever more pure hearts and, by his gracious gift, obtain that precious good for which we all long.

Let us pray, then, for the emergence of new opportunities for dialogue, encounter and the resolution of differences, for continued generosity in providing humanitarian assistance to those in need, and for an ever greater recognition that all Koreans are brothers and sisters, members of one family, one people.

Before leaving Korea, I wish to thank the President of Republic, the civil and ecclesiastical authorities and all those who in any way helped to make this visit possible.  I especially wish to address a word of personal appreciation to the priests of Korea, who daily labor in the service of the Gospel and the building up of God’s people in faith, hope and love.  I ask you, as ambassadors of Christ and ministers of his reconciling love (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-20), to continue to build bridges of respect, trust and harmonious cooperation in your parishes, among yourselves, and with your bishops.  Your example of unreserved love for the Lord, your faithfulness and dedication to your ministry, and your charitable concern for those in need, contribute greatly to the work of reconciliation and peace in this country.

Dear brothers and sisters, God calls us to return to him and to hearken to his voice, and he promises to establish us on the land in even greater peace and prosperity than our ancestors knew.  May Christ’s followers in Korea prepare for the dawning of that new day, when this land of the morning calm will rejoice in God’s richest blessings of harmony and peace!  Amen.

Pope Francis’ Homily for Korean Martyrs Beatification Mass


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Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis

Mass for the Beatification of the Korean Martyrs Seoul,

Gwanghwamun Gate August 16, 2014

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom 8:35).  With these words, Saint Paul speaks of the glory of our faith in Jesus: not only has Christ risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, but he has united us to himself and he grants us a share in his eternal life.  Christ is victorious and his victory is ours!

Today we celebrate this victory in Paul Yun Ji-chung and his 123 companions.  Their names now stand alongside those of the holy martyrs Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and companions, to whom I just paid homage.  All of them lived and died for Christ, and now they reign with him in joy and in glory.  With Saint Paul, they tell us that, in the death and resurrection of his Son, God has granted us the greatest victory of all.  For “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).

The victory of the martyrs, their witness to the power of God’s love, continues to bear fruit today in Korea, in the Church which received growth from their sacrifice.  Our celebration of Blessed Paul and Companions provides us with the opportunity to return to the first moments, the infancy as it were, of the Church in Korea.  It invites you, the Catholics of Korea, to remember the great things which God has wrought in this land and to treasure the legacy of faith and charity entrusted to you by your forebears.

In God’s mysterious providence, the Christian faith was not brought to the shores of Korea through missionaries; rather, it entered through the hearts and minds of the Korean people themselves.  It was prompted by intellectual curiosity, the search for religious truth.  Through an initial encounter with the Gospel, the first Korean Christians opened their minds to Jesus.  They wanted to know more about this Christ who suffered, died, and rose from the dead.  Learning about Jesus soon led to an encounter with the Lord, the first baptisms, the yearning for a full sacramental and ecclesial life, and the beginnings of missionary outreach.  It also bore fruit in communities inspired by the early Church, in which the believers were truly one in mind and heart, regardless of traditional social differences, and held all things in common (cf. Acts 4:32).

This history tells us much about the importance, the dignity and the beauty of the vocation of the laity.  I greet the many lay faithful present, and in particular the Christian families who daily by their example teach the faith and the reconciling love of Christ to our young.  In a special way, too, I greet the many priests present; by their dedicated ministry they pass on the rich patrimony of faith cultivated by past generations of Korean Catholics.

Today’s Gospel contains an important message for all of us.  Jesus asks the Father to consecrate us in truth, and to protect us from the world.

First of all, it is significant that, while Jesus asks the Father to consecrate and protect us, he does not ask him to take us out of the world.  We know that he sends his disciples forth to be a leaven of holiness and truth in the world: the salt of the earth, the light of the world.  In this, the martyrs show us the way.

Soon after the first seeds of faith were planted in this land, the martyrs and the Christian community had to choose between following Jesus or the world.  They had heard the Lord’s warning that the world would hate them because of him (Jn 17:14); they knew the cost of discipleship.  For many, this meant persecution, and later flight to the mountains, where they formed Catholic villages.  They were willing to make great sacrifices and let themselves be stripped of whatever kept them from Christ – possessions and land, prestige and honor – for they knew that Christ alone was their true treasure.

So often we today can find our faith challenged by the world, and in countless ways we are asked to compromise our faith, to water down the radical demands of the Gospel and to conform to the spirit of this age.  Yet the martyrs call out to us to put Christ first and to see all else in this world in relation to him and his eternal Kingdom.  They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for.

The example of the martyrs also teaches us the importance of charity in the life of faith.  It was the purity of their witness to Christ, expressed in an acceptance of the equal dignity of all the baptized, which led them to a form of fraternal life that challenged the rigid social structures of their day.  It was their refusal to separate the twin commandment of love of God and love of neighbor which impelled them to such great solicitude for the needs of the brethren.  Their example has much to say to us who live in societies where, alongside immense wealth, dire poverty is silently growing; where the cry of the poor is seldom heeded; and where Christ continues to call out to us, asking us to love and serve him by tending to our brothers and sisters in need.

If we follow the lead of the martyrs and take the Lord at his word, then we will understand the sublime freedom and joy with which they went to their death.  We will also see today’s celebration as embracing the countless anonymous martyrs, in this country and throughout the world, who, especially in the last century, gave their lives for Christ or suffered grave persecution for his name.

Today is a day of great rejoicing for all Koreans.  The heritage of Blessed Paul Yun Ji-chung and his companions – their integrity in the search for truth, their fidelity to the highest principles of the religion which they chose to embrace, and their testimony of charity and solidarity with all – these are part of the rich history of the Korean people.  The legacy of the martyrs can inspire all men and women of good will to work in harmony for a more just, free and reconciled society, thus contributing to peace and the protection of authentically human values in this country and in our world.

May the prayers of all the Korean martyrs, in union with those of Our Lady, Mother of the Church, obtain for us the grace of perseverance in faith and in every good work, holiness and purity of heart, and apostolic zeal in bearing witness to Jesus in this beloved country, throughout Asia, and to the ends of the earth.  Amen.

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