Vatican Connections: August 2, 2015

Last summer Pope Francis was sending millions of young people into a frenzy at World Youth Day Rio. This summer he will be attending the Asian Youth Day in Daejon, Korea, It will be the first time a pope has attended this Asian youth event.

In truth, Asian Youth Day will be one part of a packed itinerary. Only two of the pope’s 11 scheduled public events are related to the youth event. His other activities include a beatification Mass in Seoul, and visits to two shrines dedicated to Korean Martyrs.

Upon arrival in Seoul, Pope Francis will have the usual protocol visits, meeting with Korean President Park Geunhye and civil authorities, as well as the Korean bishops

His first full day in Korea will have him celebrating Mass at the World Cup stadium in Daejeon and meet with Asian youth at Solmoe Sanctuary, the shrine dedicated to St. Andrew Kim. The shrine marks the site where St. Andrew Kim was born lived until he was seven years old. His remains are buried in the nearby Cathedral.

On August 16 the pope will celebrate a Mass at Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Gate where he will beatify Paul Yun Ji Chung.

Chung was a young man from a noble Korean family who discovered Catholicism around 1783 and catechized his family. In 1790 the bishop of Beijing banned Asian Catholics from using Confucian ancestral rites. Chung and his cousin burned the family’s ancestral tablets so they could not be used again. When Chung’s mother died, he gave her a Catholic funeral.

News of the Catholic funeral reached the Royal Court. Chung and his cousin were arrested and interrogated but refused to renounce their faith. They were sentenced to death and beheaded. It was nine days before the family received the bodies for burial, but the blood stains were still fresh and there was no decomposition. The faithful soaked handkerchiefs in the still-fresh blood. Reportedly, people who came into contact with these handkerchiefs were miraculously healed.

Chung and 123 companions will be beatified by the pope.

To close Asian Youth Day, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Haemi Castle which was the backdrop of the 1864 Donghak Rebellion.

On the final day of the visit Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass for Peace and Reconciliation at Seoul’s Meyongdong Cathedral.

 

Why in the devil does Pope Francis speak so much about the prince of this world?

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Many of us have been very surprised that in the preaching of Pope Francis, one subject returns so frequently: the devil. For Francis, the devil is not a myth, but a real person. In one of his morning homilies in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, he said that not only is there a hatred of the world for Jesus and the Church, but that behind this spirit of the world is “the prince of this world”:

Public opinion, both Catholic and secular, has met the Pope’s insistence on the devil with a dismissive, cultural affectation, indifference, or at the most indulgent curiosity.

Yet Francis refers to the devil continually. He does not believe him to be a myth, but a real person, the most insidious enemy of the Church. We may be tempted to ask, why in the devil is Pope Francis so involved with the prince of demons?

In the book “On Heaven and Earth,” originally published in Spanish in 2010, the then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, said, “I believe that the devil exists” and “his greatest achievement in these times has been to make us believe he doesn’t exist.”

In the first months of his Pontificate in 2013, the evil one appeared frequently in the Pope’s teachings.

At a meeting with cardinals March 15, the pope spoke about how the Holy Spirit unifies and harmonizes the church. “Let us never yield to pessimism, to that bitterness that the devil offers us every day,” the pope said. Rather, be certain that the Spirit gives the church “the courage to persevere.”

At his weekly general audience April 17, Pope Francis spoke about Jesus being always near, ready to defend and forgive. “He defends us from the insidiousness of the devil, he defends us from ourselves, from our sins,” the pope said. “He always forgives us, he is our advocate. … We must never forget this.”

In his homily on Palm Sunday, Pope Francis said: “A Christian can never be sad. Never give way to discouragement.” Christian joy comes from knowing Jesus is near, even in times of trial when problems seem insurmountable. “In this moment, the enemy — the devil — comes, often disguised as an angel and slyly speaks his word to us.”

The life of every Christian is a constant battle against evil just as Jesus during his life had to struggle against the devil and his many temptations. Since the beginning of his Petrine Ministry, the Bishop of Rome has been warning that whoever wants to follow Jesus must be aware of this reality.

Listen to the pope’s own words about the devil:
“We too are tempted, we too are the target of attacks by the devil because the spirit of Evil does not want our holiness, he does not want our Christian witness, he does not want us to be disciples of Christ. And what does the Spirit of Evil do, through his temptations, to distance us from the path of Jesus? The temptation of the devil has three characteristics and we need to learn about them in order not to fall into the trap.”

“What does Satan do to distance us from the path of Jesus? Firstly, his temptation begins gradually but grows and is always growing. Secondly, it grows and infects another person, it spreads to another and seeks to be part of the community. And in the end, in order to calm the soul, it justifies itself. It grows, it spreads and it justifies itself.”

Turning to the bible, the Pope recalled how Jesus’s first temptation by Satan was almost ‘like a seduction.’ Satan told Jesus to throw himself down from the Temple so that all the people will see that he is the Messiah! And when the devil is rejected, he grows and comes back stronger than before. Jesus himself noted this in the gospel when the devil went around looking for companions and with them returned to Jesus. Satan got involved with Jesus’ enemies and what seemed at first like a calm trickle of water turned into a flood of water. In this way, the temptation grows, infects others and justifies itself.

Pope Francis illustrates his point with very concrete, everyday examples of diabolical activity. For example, let’s look at gossip: I’m a bit envious of this or that person and at first I’m just envious inside and I need to share it and go to another person and say: “But have you seen that person?’.. and this gossip tries to grow and infects another and another… This is the way gossip works and all of us have been tempted to gossip! …It’s a daily temptation. And it begins in this way, discreetly, like a trickle of water. It grows by infecting others and in the end it justifies itself.”

Each time he speaks about the devil, Pope Francis urges us to be vigilant and not to give in to that initial temptation and thus allow it to spread to others and justify itself.

In speaking of the devil, Francis demonstrates that he clearly has in mind solid biblical and theological foundations. In the New Testament there are frequent references to that serpent. Jesus refers to him declaring that the devil is “a murderer from the beginning”; in him “there is no truth”; “when he speaks falsehood, he speaks from what is his own, because he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). And again Jesus calls him “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; 16:11).

The evil one throws everything into confusion, and at the same time is hostile to men and women, whom he intends to seduce and induce to rebel against the divine plan. The devil cannot tolerate Jesus Christ and seeks in every way to disrupt the divine plan conceived concerning him.

But Jesus proclaims himself victor over this prince: “The prince of this world is coming,” he says, “against me he can do nothing” (John 14:30); specifically, it is at the arrival of the hour of Jesus, that of his being lifted up on the cross and at the right hand of the Father, that that prince is struck down: “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world will be cast down.” With the pouring out of the Spirit by the glorified Lord, that prince meets his condemnation (John 16:11). Paul in particular remarks upon the lordship of the Risen One: in him the Father “has freed us from the power of darkness” (Colossians 1:13) and “has deprived of their strength the principalities and powers,” and “has made them a public spectacle, triumphing over them in Christ” (2:15).

St. Paul urges the taking up of the shield of faith, in order to quench the “fiery arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). And Jesus himself had taught his followers to pray by asking the Father to deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 5:13).

But there is also a Jesuit connection to the devil for Pope Francis! Pope Francis, people must discern where God is calling them, and following that call requires courage and “a willingness to accept suffering and rejection.”

St. Ignatius believed making progress in following Christ gives birth to a sense peace and harmony, even in the face of challenges, he said. The enemy doesn’t like that and tries to disrupt it, particularly by tempting Christians to focus all their attention on themselves and their problems – real or perceived – and to doubt whether they really are or even can be capable of following the Lord.

In homilies that Pope Francis has given in which he’s warning people to avoid discouragement, to seize hope, to move on with courage and not to fall prey to negativity or cynicism, he’s drawing on this fundamental insight of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, the Pope’s own religious family.

Papa Francesco parts ways with the current preaching in the Church, which is silent about the devil or reduces him to a mere metaphor. The minimization of the devil is so widespread that it casts its shadow over the very words of the pope.

We must react to the devil – the pope says – as did Jesus, who replied with the word of God. With the prince of this world one cannot dialogue. “Dialogue is necessary among us, it is necessary for peace, it is an attitude that we must have among ourselves in order to hear each other, to understand each other. And it must always be maintained. Dialogue is born from charity, from love. But with that prince one cannot dialogue; one can only respond with the word of God that defends us.”

Francis teaches us: “With his death and resurrection, Jesus has ransomed us from the power of the world, from the power of the devil, from the power of the prince of this world. The origin of the hatred is this: we are saved and that prince of the world, who does not want us to be saved, hates us and gives rise to the persecution that from the earliest times of Jesus continues until today.”

Several friends of mine recently said: “Francis is not a real Jesuit. My Jesuit friends never speak about the devil! They are too intelligent to do that!” Well, maybe they are not! Let’s face it: the devil is indeed playing an important role in Francis’ Petrine ministry. It’s not that Pope Francis has been focusing on the evil one’s power, but temptations are the shadow side to the heart of the pope’s message about “the world that is replete with the mercy and presence and fidelity of God.” Francis’ references to the devil are not to be taken lightly. When Pope Francis speaks so frequently about the devil, we could say that it’s a Jesuit connection: Francis, Jesus, Ignatius, Satan and us. Che combinazione!

Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB

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KofC Production Team: On Location in Buenos Aires, Home of Francis

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Filming on location The Knights of Columbus Production team for Francis: The Pope from the New World gather in front of the childhood home of Pope Francis. The site is now a designated “Historic Site” in Buenos Aires.

Vatican Connections: July 25, 2014

Several weeks ago Pope Francis, while giving a homily in Cassano allo Ionio, declared that members of the Mafia are not in communion with God, “they are excommunicated”.

Outside of Italy the homily got attention because it was so unexpected and didn’t really make sense. For Italians in the south, the declaration was long overdue. Priests have been killed in the southern Italy for standing up to parishioners who are involved in organized crime, for not giving in to their “requests”, for preaching forcefully against everything the mafia represents, and for working to keep youth from being sucked into the mob by community pressure and promise of wealth.

This week’s “Vatican Letter” from Catholic News Service’s Cindy Wooden looks at the complicated relationship between the Church and the Mafia in southern Italy. :

Catholic mask: Italian bishops try to reveal truth behind mafia’s faith

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The godfather who stands up for a child’s baptism one day and spends the rest of the week running a brutal crime ring unfortunately is not the stuff of movies.

In southern Italy, the Mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta and other organized criminal gangs still cloak themselves in symbols of Catholicism, and the region’s bishops have had enough.

It’s not that the bishops have just begun to act — they have been coordinating their anti-mafia work since the 1970s — but they have seen just how deeply tied the mafia is to local Catholic cultural expressions and how essential those fake religious ties are to the continued thriving of mafia relationships.

The bishops of Calabria met in late July to discuss ways to cut those ties and make it clear to people in their region that hanging onto a holy card or applauding when a statue of Mary is carried past does not make a criminal Catholic.

One possibility they are considering is petitioning the Vatican for an exemption from canon law that would allow them to ban godfathers, godmothers and confirmation sponsors completely.

It was not a coincidence that the blockbuster film series based on the book by Mario Puzo and directed by Francis Ford Coppola was called “The Godfather.”

Archbishop Giuseppe Fiorini Morosini of Reggio Calabria asked the Vatican months ago if he could suspend for 10 years the naming of godfathers in his archdiocese.

“There are two problems,” he told Vatican Radio July 1. “There is the use of religious symbols and even a sacrament to present a ‘clean’ face to society, but there is also the concrete fact that being a godfather at a baptism or sponsor at confirmation forms a bond between families.”

While that can be a good thing, the archbishop said that “the ‘Ndrangheta is built on the foundation of collaboration and strict bonds between families,” and serving as a godfather “extends the family’s bonds, allowing them to better dominate more territory.”

In an interview a week later with SIR, the Italian bishops’ news agency, he said some parents “put off baptism for years — even until adolescence or beyond — because they are waiting for the godfather to get out of prison.”

Father Enzo Gabrieli, spokesman for the president of the Calabrian bishops’ conference, said the bishops of the 12 dioceses in the region all agree on the need for “re-evangelization” about the role of godparents and sponsors, but the situation varies so much from one diocese to another that concrete measures also should vary.

The choice, he said, is to “either suspend the naming of godfathers for a time or concentrate completely on education.”

In his Archdiocese of Cosenza-Bisignano, Father Gabrieli told Catholic News Service, the biggest problem with godparents and sponsors is that friends and relatives tend to be chosen as a sign of affection with little or no awareness that their role is to assist the growth in faith of the baptized or confirmed.

For Father Gabrieli, like for the region’s bishops, the solution lies not simply in condemning gangsters, but in helping Christians live their faith seriously and coherently.

Pope Francis made headlines June 21 when he visited Calabria and said, “Those who follow the path of evil, like the mafiosi do, are not in communion with God; they are excommunicated!”

Using the term “excommunicated” got people’s attention, but it was not Pope Francis’ first condemnation of the mafia and organized crime.

In March, almost exactly a year after the solemn inauguration of his ministry, Pope Francis met in a Rome church with mafia victims. In addition to listening to them and praying for them, he used the occasion to address mafiosi: “Men and women of the mafia, please change your lives, convert, stop doing evil. We pray for you. Convert, I ask on my knees! It is for your own good.”

“Convert,” he said. “There is still time not to end up in hell, which is what awaits you if you continue on this path.”

The need for local bishops to take concrete steps to educate their people and purify church practices became evident soon after Pope Francis visited Calabria: In what media described as a threat to boycott Mass, mafia members jailed in Locri asked their chaplain why they should bother going to Mass if they are excommunicated; and scandal erupted in early July when participants in a Marian procession bowed — with a statue of Mary — in front of the house of a presumed mafia boss.

The bishop of Oppido Mamertina-Palmi, where the bowing incident took place, banned all religious processions for the time being. The bishop of Mileto-Nicotera-Tropea banned a procession scheduled for July 16 in Vibo Valentia after local law enforcement officials notified the parish that men suspected of having mafia ties were among those scheduled to carry the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Archbishop Salvatore Nunnari of Cosenza-Bisignano, president of the Calabrian bishops’ conference, suggested a two-year stop to all processions to give church leaders time to ensure future processions would be strictly Catholic.

The bishops’ conference of Calabria, led by Archbishop Nunnari, will publish joint pastoral guidelines in October, Father Gabrieli said, but each bishop also is expected to issue his own rules for ending the mafia’s access to public expressions of faith. Unless, of course, they are ready to repent.


Photo courtesy of CNS

Pope Francis Film Production Team in Argentina

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Executive Producer Alejandro Bermudez, Producers Michèle Nuzzo-Naglieri and David Naglieri, Director of Photography Wally Tello, Senator Liliana Negre de Alonso, a close friend and collaborator with Cardinal Bergoglio, and Executive Producer Andrew Walther– in Buenos Aires for filming of Francis: The Pope From the New World. 

#WeAreN and the Importance of Christian Solidarity

 WeIt’s always interesting to see what’s “going viral.”  Oftentimes it’s a hit pop song or music video, or some other video giving a quick dose of ridiculous comic relief.  But sometimes the world of social media provides a sudden and real opportunity for all people of good will to unite behind a cause for justice on behalf of an individual or a particular group.  In the case of the hashtag “#WeAreN,” that recently spread rapidly through the Twittersphere, it is a cause for solidarity.

The trending hashtag is a response to the official announcement that the radical Islamist group known as ISIS (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has successfully ridded the city of Mosul, located in northern Iraq in the biblical region of Nineveh, of its Christian population.  The 2,000 year old faith community had little choice than to leave when the radicals threatened to kill them if they refused to convert, pay a tax or leave the city without their belongings.

The letter “N” in the hashtag stands for “Nazarene,” i.e. a Christian, which the Islamists have been branding on the houses of Christians in Arabic for identification purposes.  The derogatory tone in using such symbolic lettering blatantly resembles the Nazi tactic of identifying German Jews prior to and during WWII. Speaking to Pope Francis via telephone last Sunday, the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church Ignatius Youssef III Younan called the ISIS efforts a “massive religious cleansing campaign.”

In response, a global outcry has arisen on behalf of Mosul’s Christians including some Muslim communities.  Pictures are being shared over the internet, for example, of Christians and Muslims standing side-by-side in Baghdad protesting the extremism in the north.

Along with countless others, the Church of England changed its Twitter profile photo to the Arabic symbol for “N” in order to “stand with those showing solidarity for those Christians being persecuted in Mosul.” (@c_of_e)

Pope Francis has been no less outspoken, and his frequent references to an emerging “ecumenism of blood” over the past year seems to have found concrete expression as a result of the crisis in Mosel.

To see such widespread support for the suffering Christians is an incredible and inspiring thing and it reminds us of the amazing possibility of unity and reconciliation that is born of chaos.  But it is also an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of solidarity, how it shines forth from the heart of the Gospel, and why therefore it is one of the fundamental principles of the Church’s social teachings.

We have to say firstly that most people and most Catholics today are uninformed about what the Church means by solidarity.  It should also be said that the participation of so many well-intentioned and genuinely outraged individuals in the #WeAreN movement is not necessarily the full expression of what the Church means by solidarity.

As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states quite clearly, “Solidarity is… not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good.” (CSDCC, 193)

In other words, solidarity is not a fleeting emotion or a popular reaction to a particular event.  For the Church there’s no such thing as a kind of ‘solidarity à la carte,’ as Pope Francis might call it (Evangelii Gaudium, 180).  Solidarity means being in it for the long-run; it is recognizing in the great pain and suffering of other human beings the unacceptable lack of justice, inclusiveness and unity that are essential for every human society and our collective progress.  Solidarity is “a commitment to the good of one’s neighbor with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to ‘lose oneself’ for the sake of the other instead of exploiting him, and to ‘serve him’ instead of oppress him for one’s own advantage.” (CSDCC, 193)

In a recent CNS article, Chaldean Archbishop Amel Shamon Nona of Mosul said that “Words do nothing,” and that his community expects “all Christians to show solidarity with concrete action” and “without being afraid to talk about this tragedy.”

In the same article, Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad said, “We need action first. The world is not bothering with what is happening to Christians in Mosul.”

Through a few creative minds and the power of social media, millions of people are becoming aware of the crisis in Mosul and throughout Iraq.  The trending hashtag #WeAreN has united Christians, Muslims and many people of good will.  The common motivation to participate undoubtedly stems from some form of belief in the fundamental rights and equality of human beings.  It is a hopeful sign.

As Christians it is important to go deeper.  Solidarity, like being a Christian, is a way of life; it is about action.  In fact, it is through the lenses of faith that solidarity transforms into an even more powerful force, ultimately inspiring a person “to take on the specifically Christian dimensions of total gratuity, forgiveness and reconciliation.  One’s neighbor is then not only a human being with his or her own rights and a fundamental equality with everyone else, but becomes the living image of God the Father… One’s neighbor must therefore be loved, even if an enemy, with the same love with which the Lord loves him or her.” (CSDCC, 196)  Let us pray for our brothers and sisters from Mosul, and that we may have the strength to stand in solidarity with them.

Meriam is Free: Perspectives Daily

Italy’s prime minister declared “today is a day for celebration” after an Italian diplomat escorted Meriam Ibrahim and her family safely from Sudan to Italy. Hours after landing, Meridam met with Pope Francis. Find out more about that special encounter. Also, we look back on the factors that led to WWI.

Perspectives Daily – Pope Speaks as Last Christians Expelled from Iraqi City

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis and others speak out against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria expelling the last of Mosul’s Christian population.

Perspectives Daily – Brief Relief in Gaza

Today on Perspectives, brief cease fire brings temporary relief in Gaza, the Holy See Press Office announces two trips for the pope to the city of Caserta and a look ahead at a pair upcoming events.

Perspectives Daily – Nuns and Orphans Freed in Iraq as Country Destabilizes

Today on Perspectives, nuns and orphans are freed by their hostage takers in Iraq as the country’s stability continually comes into question. Cardinal George addresses the child migrant situation along the US-Mexico border and a look at the launch of the website for Pope Francis’ visit to Korea next month.