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  1. Pope Francis: ‘With the truth of the Gospel, one cannot negotiate’

    Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Aug. 3, 2021. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Aug 4, 2021 / 04:30 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis said on Wednesday that Christians must receive the truth of the Gospel “as it was announced,” without seeking to “negotiate” with it.

    Speaking at the general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Aug. 3, the pope said that there was no room for compromise regarding the Gospel.

    / Daniel Ibáñez/​CNA.
    / Daniel Ibáñez/​CNA.

    “With the truth of the Gospel, one cannot negotiate. Either you receive the Gospel as it is, as it was announced, or you receive any other thing. But you cannot negotiate with the Gospel,” he said.

    “One cannot compromise. Faith in Jesus is not a bargaining chip: it is salvation, it is encounter, it is redemption. It cannot be sold off cheaply.”

    / Daniel Ibáñez/​CNA.
    / Daniel Ibáñez/​CNA.

    The audience was held in the Paul VI Hall because it is cooler than the San Damaso Courtyard, where the pope has held the Wednesday gatherings since he resumed general audiences with members of the public on May 12.

    Pilgrims sat close together wearing face coverings, applauding frequently throughout the general audience -- the pope’s first since he underwent colon surgery on July 4. The pope walked into the hall, which has a capacity of 6,300 people, wearing a medical mask.

    / Daniel Ibáñez/​CNA.
    / Daniel Ibáñez/​CNA.

    Il Sismografo, an Italian Catholic news aggregator that closely watches the Vatican, commented that the pope appeared to be “in good condition, agile, attentive, and responsive” throughout the audience.

    “Exactly a month after the operation, Pope Francis appears to be in full and accelerated recovery,” it said.

    / Daniel Ibáñez/​CNA.
    / Daniel Ibáñez/​CNA.

    The pope’s live-streamed address, dedicated to the theme “There is just one Gospel,” was the third in a new cycle of catechesis on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

    The pope began his address by observing that St. Paul was completely devoted to his mission to evangelize.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    He said that this was why the Apostle’s letter to the community in Galatia, in modern-day Turkey, was marked by “sadness,” “disappointment,” and even “bitter irony.”

    Paul believed that the group’s members were taking the wrong path as they were convinced that when gentiles converted to Christianity, they needed to observe the Mosaic Law, including circumcision.

    The pope reflected on Paul’s opening warning (Galatians 1:6-8) that the community was going astray by embracing “a different gospel.”

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    “The pivot around which everything revolves is the Gospel,” the pope commented. “Paul does not think of the ‘four Gospels,’ as is natural for us. Indeed, while he is sending this Letter, none of the four Gospels had yet been written.”

    / Daniel Ibáñez/​CNA.
    / Daniel Ibáñez/​CNA.

    “For him, the Gospel is what he preaches, what is called the kerygma, that is, the proclamation. And what proclamation? That of the death and resurrection of Jesus as the source of salvation. A Gospel that is expressed in four verbs: ‘Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).”

    “This is Paul’s proclamation, the proclamation that gives life to all. This Gospel is the fulfillment of the promises and the salvation offered to all men. Whoever accepts it is reconciled to God, is welcomed as a true son, and receives the inheritance of eternal life.”

    The pope said that St. Paul could not fathom why the Galatians would prefer another “gospel” when offered such a great gift.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    “It should be noted, however, that these Christians have not yet abandoned the Gospel announced by Paul,” the pope said.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    “The Apostle knows that they are still in time not to take a false step, but he warns them strongly, very strongly. His first argument points directly to the fact that the preaching carried out by the new missionaries -- those who bring novelty, who preach -- cannot be the Gospel.”

    “On the contrary, it is a proclamation that distorts the true Gospel because it prevents them from attaining the freedom acquired by arriving at faith -- this is the key word, isn’t it? -- it prevents them from reaching the freedom acquired by coming to faith.”

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    Pope Francis said that as the Galatians were still “beginners” in the faith, their confusion was understandable.

    “However, the Apostle cannot risk compromises on such decisive ground. The Gospel is only one and that is what he proclaimed; there can be no other,” the pope observed.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    He underlined that Paul did not say that the true Gospel was his because he was the one who announced it.

    “Rather, he affirms that ‘his’ Gospel, the same one that the other Apostles were proclaiming elsewhere, is the only authentic one, because it is that of Jesus Christ,” he said.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    The Apostle spoke in “very harsh terms,” using the Greek word “anathema,” because the misunderstanding of the Gospel threatened the community’s very foundations, the pope explained.

    He noted that the situation was complex as all sides believed that they were acting in a way that was pleasing to God.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    “The Galatians who listen to the new missionaries think that by circumcision they will be even more devoted to the will of God and thus be even more pleasing to Paul,” he said.

    “Paul’s enemies seem to be inspired by fidelity to the tradition received from the fathers and believe that genuine faith consists in observing the Law.”

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    The pope said: “The Apostle himself is well aware that his mission is of a divine nature -- it was revealed by Christ Himself, to him -- and therefore he is moved by total enthusiasm for the novelty of the Gospel, which is a radical novelty, not a fleeting novelty: there are no ‘fashionable’ gospels, the Gospel is always new, it is newness. His pastoral anxiety leads him to be severe, because he sees the great risk facing young Christians.”

    “In short, in this labyrinth of good intentions, it is necessary to disentangle oneself in order to grasp the supreme truth that is most consistent with the Person and preaching of Jesus and His revelation of the Father’s love.”

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    Pope Francis said that just as in St. Paul’s time, discernment was also crucial in the Church today.

    “Very often we have seen throughout history, and we even see this today, some movements that preach the Gospel in their own way, sometimes with real and genuine charisms; but then they take it too far and reduce all the Gospel to a ‘movement,’” he observed.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    “And this is not Christ’s Gospel: this is the Gospel of the founder and yes, it may help at the beginning, but in the end, it does not bear fruit with deep roots.”

    “For this reason, Paul’s clear and decisive word was salutary for the Galatians and is salutary for us too. The Gospel is Christ’s gift to us, He Himself revealed it to us. It is what gives us life.”

    As the pope ended his address, pilgrims gave him an enthusiastic ovation.

    / Vatican Media.
    / Vatican Media.

    A precis of the pope’s catechesis was then read out in seven languages. After each summary, he greeted members of each language group.

    In his remarks to French-speaking pilgrims, the pope noted that Aug. 4 is the Feast of St. John Vianney, the Curé d’Ars, who was declared patron saint of parish priests in 1929.

    He said: “Brothers and sisters, let us pray for all pastors that, following the example of St. John Mary Vianney, they may bring to their brothers and sisters in difficulty the living Gospel of their witness of love, mercy, and solidarity.”

    Addressing Polish-speakers, the pope noted that the 15th World Youth Day took place in Kraków, Poland, five years ago on July 26-31, 2016.

    “With fond memories of the time of grace which, five years ago, during World Youth Day in Kraków, I encourage everyone -- especially young people -- that, in the power of the Holy Spirit, they may carry the Gospel of Christ with courage and enthusiasm to future generations,” he said.

    The next World Youth Day will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, in August 2023.

    The pope also noted that Aug. 4 marked the first anniversary of the port explosion in the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

    “In these days, I think especially of the beloved country of Lebanon a year after the terrible port explosion in its capital, Beirut, with its toll of death and destruction. I think above all of the victims and their families, the many injured, and those who lost their homes and livelihoods. So many people have lost the desire to go on,” he said.

    Recalling that he held a day of prayer for the country at the Vatican on July 1, he appealed to the international community to help Lebanon to follow “a journey of ‘resurrection,’” not only with words but also with tangible commitments.

    “Dear Lebanese friends, I greatly desire to visit you and I continue to pray for you, so that Lebanon will once more be a message of peace and fraternity for the entire Middle East,” he said.

    The general audience ended with the recitation of the Our Father and the Apostolic Blessing.

    After the audience, the pope stood to greet a handful of bishops, before being guided down the steps towards the pilgrims, who had massed at the barrier separating the seating from the stage,

  2. Pope Francis asks Catholics to pray in August for Church reform ‘in the light of the Gospel’

    Pope Francis waves during his Angelus address at the Vatican, Aug. 2, 2021. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Aug 3, 2021 / 09:00 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis is inviting Catholics around the world to pray this month that the Church receives the grace “to reform herself in the light of the Gospel.”

    He made the appeal in his prayer intention for August, released on Tuesday.

    “Let us pray for the Church, that she may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel,” reads the prayer intention, issued Aug. 3 by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

    The network also released an accompanying video, in which Pope Francis explained the rationale for the prayer intention.

    Speaking in Spanish, the pope said: “The specific vocation of the Church is evangelization, which isn’t proselytism, no. Its vocation is evangelization; even more, the Church’s identity is evangelization.”

    “We can only renew the Church by discerning God’s will in our daily life and embarking on a transformation guided by the Holy Spirit.”

    “Our own reform as persons is that transformation. Allowing the Holy Spirit, the gift of God in our hearts, to remind us what Jesus taught and help us put it into practice.”

    He continued: “Let us begin reforming the Church with a reform of ourselves, without prefabricated ideas, without ideological prejudices, without rigidity, but rather by moving forward based on spiritual experience -- an experience of prayer, an experience of charity, an experience of service.”

    “I dream of an even more missionary option: one that goes out to meet others without proselytism and that transforms all its structures for the evangelization of today’s world.”

    At the end of 2020, Pope Francis established the global network that promotes his monthly prayer intentions as a Vatican body.

    The pope decreed that the network, founded in France in 1844 and focused on the spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, would now be a papal institution based at the Vatican. It is now known as the “Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network” Vatican Foundation.

    Commenting on the pope’s August prayer intention, Fr. Fréderic Fornos, S.J., international director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, said: “At the end of last year, a few days before Christmas, Francis had already wanted to delve into the difference between conflict and crisis so as to make clear that the latter can always leave us with something positive.”

    “It’s a propitious time for the Gospel and for Church reform. As the Holy Father says, ‘we must have the courage to be completely open. We need to stop seeing the reform of the Church as putting a patch on an old garment.’”

    “In the face of a crisis, the first thing we can do is accept it, as a propitious time to seek and recognize God’s will. This means not tiring of prayer, as the Pope insists so much; not tiring of following Jesus’ example of service, of charity, of encounter with others, with those who suffer, with the most vulnerable, and with those who most need it.”

    Concluding his video address, the pope spoke of the challenges facing the Church. While he did not name any specific events, the Vatican is currently struggling with economic difficulties intensified by the pandemic and is conducting a trial of 10 people related to a financial scandal.

    Declining the resignation of Cardinal Reinhard Marx in June, Francis wrote that “the whole Church is in crisis because of the abuse issue” and the only fruitful path was “to assume the crisis, personally and communally.”

    Speaking in the new video, he said: “Let us remember that the Church always has difficulties, always is in crisis, because she’s alive. Living things go through crises. Only the dead don’t have crises.”

    “Let us pray for the Church, that she may receive from the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to reform herself in the light of the Gospel.”

  3. Pope Francis to Medjugorje youth festival: Christ frees us ‘from the seduction of idols’

    Pope Francis at World Youth Day in Poland, July 2016. / Marcin Kadziolka/Shutterstock.

    Vatican City, Aug 2, 2021 / 08:10 am (CNA).

    In a message to the Medjugorje Youth Festival on Monday, Pope Francis told young Catholics that Christ’s loving gaze can free them from attraction to idols.

    “Have the courage to live your youth by entrusting yourselves to the Lord and setting out on a journey with him,” the pope said Aug. 2.

    “Let yourself be conquered by his loving gaze that frees us from the seduction of idols, from false riches that promise life but cause death,” he continued. “Do not be afraid to welcome the Word of Christ and to accept his call.”

    Pope Francis’ message was sent on the second day of the 32nd Medjugorje Youth Festival taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina Aug. 1-8.

    In his reflection, the pope spoke about the Gospel’s rich young man, who, he said, set out to meet the Lord with enthusiasm and with a desire to know how he could reach eternal life.

    “The Gospel does not tell us the name of that young man, and this suggests that he can represent each of us,” Francis said.

    The pope noted that Jesus points the young man to the commandments, as the first step to take to inherit eternal life.

    When the young man says he already acts with charity toward his neighbors, Jesus tells him: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, give it to the poor and you will have a treasure in heaven.”

    “What Jesus proposes is not so much a man deprived of everything, as a man who is free and rich in relationships,” Pope Francis underlined. “If the heart is crowded with goods, the Lord and neighbor become only things among others. Our having too much and wanting too much will suffocate our hearts and make us unhappy and unable to love.”

    The pope said the third step Jesus proposes to the young man is to “come, follow me.”

    Quoting Benedict XVI’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, Francis said “following Christ is not an external imitation, because it touches man in the profound interiority of him. Being disciples of Jesus means being conformed to him.”

    “In return, we will receive a rich and happy life, full of the faces of so many brothers and sisters, and fathers and mothers and children… (cf. Mt 19:29),” the pope stated. “Following Christ is not a loss, but an incalculable gain, while renunciation concerns the obstacle that prevents the journey.”

    “Do not be discouraged like the rich young man of the Gospel; instead, fix your gaze on Mary, the great model of the imitation of Christ, and entrust yourselves to her who, with her ‘here I am,’ responded unreservedly to the call of the Lord,” he said, adding that “We look to Mary to find the strength and receive the grace that allows us to say our ‘here I am’ to the Lord.”

    The Medjugorje Youth Festival is focused on prayer, with Mass, Eucharistic adoration, the Rosary, and a Marian procession. The week also includes religious lessons, testimonies, and a musical show.

    “This event -- as the experience of so many says -- has the strength to set us on the path towards the Lord,” the pope said.

    Cardinal Robert Sarah, the retired prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments celebrated the youth festival’s opening Mass Aug. 1. Earlier this month, Sarah underwent a robot-assisted prostate surgery in south Italy.

    In his Aug. 1 homily, Cardinal Sarah said “we have come here, to Medjugorje, to renew our faith in Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, that is, to establish an authentic and vital relationship with Him, our Lord and our God, so that in prayer we can answer the crucial question: How to find Jesus and how to behave in His penetrating and sovereign Presence?”

    “Many of our contemporaries, I would even say the multitude of people so close to us, in our families, among our friends, where we study and work, seem insensitive, indifferent, even opposed and hostile to the question of the existence of God; they even claim that they no longer think of faith at all and that it is a sign that they are free,” Sarah said.

    The cardinal encouraged young people to remember their baptism and, as St. Paul says in Ephesians 4:24, “to put on a new man, created by God in righteousness and holiness of truth.”

    “Today Christ the Lord calls us to look up; it is really important to remind modern consumers to eat to live, not to live to eat,” he said.

    Cardinal Sarah said “Jesus, who knows the human heart, wants to respond to our deepest desires, to our most essential aspirations, to this hunger for Love and this thirst for the Absolute that torments us.”

    The Eucharist, he continued, is “a remedy that allows us to leave the shore of our comfort and our false security, which is marked by relativism, and to cross to the shore of the Gospel of Truth and the Salvation of our souls.”

  4. Pope Francis: ‘The Lord wants a loving relationship with us’

    Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address at the Vatican, Aug. 1, 2021. / Screenshot from Vatican News YouTube channel.

    Vatican City, Aug 1, 2021 / 05:05 am (CNA).

    Pope Francis said on Sunday that God wants us to move “beyond the logic of interest and calculation” and enter into a loving relationship with Him.

    In his Angelus address on Aug. 1, the pope said that Catholics were called to mature in faith, leaving behind self-interest.

    “We are not able to do this on our own. But the Lord wants a loving relationship with us: before the things we receive and do, there is Him to love. There is a relationship with Him that goes beyond the logic of interest and calculation,” he said.

    In his Angelus address, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, John 6:24-35, in which a crowd seeks out Jesus following the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.

    He noted that Jesus tells the people that they are looking for him “not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.”

    The pope said: “Here then is a first question we can ask ourselves: why do we seek the Lord? Why do we seek the Lord? What are the motivations for my faith, for our faith? We need to discern this because among the many temptations we have in life there is one that we might call idolatrous temptation.”

    “It is the one that drives us to seek God for our own use, to solve problems, to have, thanks to Him, what we cannot obtain on our own, out of self-interest.”

    Pope Francis gave his live-streamed address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square as he continues to recuperate from colon surgery. The 84-year-old began reading in a strong voice, pausing at one point to cough, then continuing with his reflection.

    The pope stressed that people with an “immature faith” prioritized their own needs ahead of their relationship with God.

    “It is right to present our needs to God’s heart,” he said, “but the Lord, who acts far beyond our expectations, wishes to live with us first of all in a relationship of love. And true love is disinterested, it is free: one does not love to receive a favor in return.”

    The pope recalled that in the Gospel reading the crowd ask Jesus: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” He said that it was as if the people were asking how to move beyond a self-interested faith to one that pleases God.

    “And Jesus shows the way: He answers that the work of God is to welcome the One whom the Father has sent, that is, Himself, Jesus,” he said.

    “It is not adding religious practices or observing special precepts; it is welcoming Jesus, it is welcoming Him into our lives, living a story of love with Him. It is He who will purify our faith.”

    The pope said that this applied not only to God but also to social relations.

    “When we seek first and foremost the satisfaction of our needs, we risk using people and exploiting situations for our own ends. How many times have we heard from a person, ‘But this one uses people and then forgets’? Using people for your own profit: that’s bad. And a society that puts interests instead of people at its center is a society that does not generate life,” he commented.

    “The Gospel’s invitation is this: rather than being concerned only with the material bread that feeds us, let us welcome Jesus as the bread of life and, starting out from our friendship with Him, learn to love each other. Freely and without calculation. Love given freely without calculation, without using people, with gratuitousness, with generosity, with magnanimity.”

    After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis greeted groups of young people gathered in the square from different parts of Italy.

    He also acknowledged pilgrims from Peru, noting that the Latin American country had a new president, Pedro Castillo.

    “I see some Peruvian flags and I greet you, Peruvians, who have a new president. May the Lord bless your country always,” he said.

    Finally, he wished pilgrims a peaceful August, observing that it was currently warm in Rome.

    “I wish everyone a good Sunday and a peaceful month of August... Too hot, but may it be peaceful. Please don’t forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!”

  5. Pope Francis thanks South Korea’s bishops for $1M COVID-19 vaccine donation

    Pope Francis waves during his Angelus address at the Vatican July 25, 2021. / Vatican Media.

    Vatican City, Jul 30, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

    Pope Francis sent a letter to South Korea’s bishops thanking them for a donation of $1 million to be used to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for the poor.

    “I would like to thank you for your gesture of Christian charity, which really touched me,” Pope Francis said in a July 21 letter published on the bishops’ conference website on Friday.

    At their spring general meeting in March, the Korean bishops agreed to join a Vaccine Sharing Campaign which had been launched by the Archdiocese of Seoul, the Dioceses of Suwon, Daejeon, and Chuncheon, and the Korean Catholic Lay Apostolic Organizations Association.

    The bishops launched the nationwide campaign on Easter Sunday. It will run until Nov. 27.

    According to the bishops, the collection of funds to help pay for COVID-19 vaccines in poor countries is part of the Church in South Korea’s activities for the 2021 jubilee year, which is being held to mark the 200th anniversary of the births of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Venerable Choe Yang-Eop Thomas.

    Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul noted in his Easter Sunday homily that Pope Francis had called for universal access to the COVID-19 vaccine more than once in his public speeches and prayers.

    “We are living through difficult times caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Cardinal Yeom said, according to Vatican News.

    Yeom said that “the social and economic crisis remains severe, especially for those who live in poverty,” adding that the Catholic Church in South Korea would like to “turn this crisis into an opportunity.”

    The campaign encouraged both Catholics and non-Catholics in South Korea to consider donating around 60,000 South Korean won, about $52, which would cover two doses of the coronavirus vaccine.

    “Your generosity and fraternity will allow the people suffering the most from the pandemic COVID-19 to receive the necessary aid,” Pope Francis said in his letter thanking the bishops for the donation of $1 million.

    He added that the Office of Papal Charities would be responsible for using the money to help poor countries.

    “I embrace you all and I kindly ask you to thank the priests, religious and faithful of your local Churches, granting them my sincere affection and my spiritual closeness,” the pope wrote.

    Francis closed his letter by invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Andrew Kim. He also imparted his apostolic blessing on the bishops and those entrusted to their pastoral care.

    “Please, continue to pray for me,” he said.