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  1. Pope Francis: Christians can unite in welcoming migrants, each other

    Vatican City, Jan 22, 2020 / 03:21 am (CNA).- Welcoming other Christians and showing hospitality to strangers, especially migrants, is an opportunity for unity and for sharing Christ’s love, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.

    “Hospitality is important; it is also an important ecumenical virtue,” the pope said in the Pope Paul VI hall Jan. 22. “First of all, it means recognizing that other Christians are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

    He explained that hospitality “it is not an act of one-way generosity, because when we host other Christians, we welcome them as a gift that is given to us.”

    The first step in welcoming Christians of other traditions is showing them God’s love and welcoming what God has accomplished in their lives, Francis said.

    According to the pope, “ecumenical hospitality requires willingness to listen to other Christians, paying attention to their personal stories of faith and the history of their community.” It also involves the desire to know other Christians’ experience of God.

    Pope Francis’ catechesis focused on the theme of hospitality as part of the Church’s celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

    The pope will mark the end of the week with the praying of vespers Jan. 25 for the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.

    The theme of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes from a line in the 28th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles: “They treated us kindly.”

    Acts 27 recounts the story of the storm and shipwreck of St. Paul and his companions as they attempted to travel to Italy by boat, eventually landing on the island of Malta.

    The pope told the story, explaining that “the ship on which Paul travels is at the mercy of the elements.”

    “For fourteen days, fourteen days, they have been at sea, drifting, and since neither the sun nor the stars are visible, the travelers feel disoriented, lost. Below them, the sea breaks violently against the ship and they fear that it will break under the force of the waves. From above they are lashed by the wind and rain,” he said.

    “But Paul knows it is not so. Faith tells him that his life is in the hands of God,” he continued. “Therefore, Paul addresses his traveling companions and, inspired by faith, announces to them that God will not allow a hair of their head to be lost.”

    The passengers all survive the ship’s rough landing on the coast of the island of Malta, where they are welcomed by the inhabitants.

    “These people, foreign to them, are attentive to their needs. They light a fire to warm up, offer them shelter from rain and food. Even if they have not yet received the Good News of Christ, they manifest the love of God in concrete acts of kindness,” the pope said.

    “The hospitality of the Maltese islanders is rewarded by the healing miracles God works through Paul,” he added, highlighting that if the Maltese people were a sign of God’s providence for St. Paul, he was also a witness of God’s merciful love for them.

    Francis went on to note that the sea which shipwrecked Paul and his companions is the same sea men and women from around the world risk crossing to “escape violence, war, and poverty.”

    Not only do migrants face the indifference and hostility of the desert or sea, he said, but they also risk exploitation by traffickers or being considered a threat by some government leaders: “Sometimes hospitality refuses them like a wave.”

    He urged Christians to “work together to show migrants the love of God revealed by Jesus Christ” and to testify “that every person is precious to God and loved by him.”

    The divisions among Christians “prevent us from being fully the sign of God’s love,” he stressed.

    “Working together to live hospitality, especially towards those whose life is more vulnerable, will make all of us Christians – Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, all Christians – it will make us better human beings, better disciples and a more united Christian people. It will bring us closer to unity, which is God’s will for us.”

  2. Pope Francis condemns clerics who engage in simony

    Vatican City, Jan 21, 2020 / 10:07 am (CNA).- In a homily Tuesday, Pope Francis condemned priests and bishops who use money to advance their careers.

    To be a priest or bishop, like being a Christian, is a free and undeserved gift of God, not something to be bought, he said Jan. 21 during Mass in the chapel of the Vatican’s Santa Marta guesthouse.

    “We have paid nothing to become Christians. We priests, bishops have paid nothing to become priests and bishops,” he continued, “at least I think so.”

    Francis went on to note there are those who try to move upward in their “so-called ecclesiastical career,” who “look for influences to get here, there...” as well as those “who behave in a simoniac manner.”

    He said that anyone who does that “is not a Christian. Being Christian, being baptized, being ordained priests and bishops is pure gratuitousness. The gifts of the Lord cannot be bought.”

    The same thing can happen in “ordinary life,” he said, such as in business, when people try to get ahead at their work by asking for favors.

    He recalled that it is by the Lord’s free anointing that someone is a Christian, rejecting the argument that one’s Christian identity comes from being from a Christian family or coming from a Christian culture.

    “Many people from a Christian family and Christian culture reject the Lord,” he noted. “But how come we are here, elected by the Lord? For free, without any merit, for free.”

    “What is the great gift of God?” he continued. “The Holy Spirit! When the Lord elected us, he gave us the Holy Spirit. And this is pure grace, it is pure grace. Without our merit.”

    We must have an attitude of humility in the face of this gift, Pope Francis urged. “This is holiness. The other things are not needed.”

    He said if bishops or priests forget their flock or feel they are more important than others, they are denying God’s gift, and the same goes for Christians who forget others, both believers and non-believers.

    “It is like saying to the Holy Spirit: ‘But you go, go, go quietly into the Trinity, take a rest, I will manage it by myself,’” he said.

    “And this is not Christian. This is not safeguarding the gift,” he argued. “We ask the Lord today, thinking of David, to give us the grace to give thanks for the gift he has given us, to be aware of this gift, so great, so beautiful, and to safeguard it – this gratuitousness, this gift – to safeguard it with our fidelity.”

  3. Put good of human person at center of public policy, Pope Francis says

    Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan 21, 2020 / 04:56 am (CNA).- In a message to the global delegates of the 2020 World Economic Forum, Pope Francis stressed the duty of governments and businesses to place the good of the human person above power or profit.

    “The overriding consideration, never to be forgotten, is that we are all members of the one human family,” he said in the Jan. 21 message.

    “The moral obligation to care for one another flows from this fact, as does the correlative principle of placing the human person, rather than the mere pursuit of power or profit, at the very centre of public policy,” he stated.

    The pope decried views which treat others as a means to an end and are lacking in solidarity and charity, resulting in injustice.

    Integral human development only flourishes, he argued, “when all members of the human family are included in, and contribute to, pursuing the common good.”

    He stressed that “all too often materialistic or utilitarian visions, sometimes hidden, sometimes celebrated, lead to practices and structures motivated largely, or even solely, by self-interest.”

    “In seeking genuine progress, let us not forget that to trample upon the dignity of another person is in fact to weaken one’s own worth.”

    The 2020 World Economic Forum takes place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland from Jan. 21-24.

    The annual meeting has 3,000 participants from around the world. The aim is “to give concrete meaning to ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress towards the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, and facilitate discussions on technology and trade governance,” according to the meeting’s website.

    Pope Francis’ message was addressed to Klaus Schwab, executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, and delivered by Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, who attended the meeting on behalf of the Vatican.

    In his message, the pope claimed that the meeting’s theme, “Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World,” points to the need to address the many issues facing humanity.

    Over the last 50 years there have been significant changes at the geopolitical level, he noted, adding that “many of these developments have benefitted humanity while others have had adverse effects and created significant development lacunae.”
     
    While today’s challenges are different than those half a century ago, a number of principles remain the same, such as the primacy of the human person,” he said.

    “As a result, it is necessary to move beyond short-term technological or economic approaches and to give full consideration to the ethical dimension in seeking resolutions to present problems or proposing initiatives for the future.”

     

  4. Pope Francis denounces ‘barbaric resurgence’ of anti-Semitism  

    Vatican City, Jan 20, 2020 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis Monday condemned the “barbaric resurgence” of cases of anti-Semitism in the world, and urged the need to respect each person’s human dignity.

    “It is troubling to see, in many parts of the world, an increase in selfishness and indifference, lack of concern for others and the attitude that says life is good as long as it is good for me, and when things go wrong, anger and malice are unleashed,” Pope Francis said Jan. 20.

    “This creates a fertile ground for the forms of factionalism and populism we see around us, where hatred quickly springs up,” he said. “Even recently, we have witnessed a barbaric resurgence of cases of anti-Semitism. Once more I firmly condemn every form of anti-Semitism.”

    Pope Francis met with a delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The pope recalled his visit to the Nazi concentration camp in Poland in 2016:

    “I went there to reflect and to pray in silence. In our world, with its whirlwind of activity, we find it hard to pause, to look within and to listen in silence to the plea of suffering humanity.”

    “If we lose our memory, we destroy our future. May the anniversary of the unspeakable cruelty that humanity learned of 75 years ago serve as a summons to pause, to be still and to remember. We need to do this, lest we become indifferent,” Pope Francis said.

    Between 1940 and 1945, the Nazi regime murdered 1.1 million people in Auschwitz concentration camp, many killed in the gas chambers immediately upon arrival at the camp. Six million Jews died in the Holocaust.

    The Simon Wiesenthal Center, headquartered in Los Angeles, is dedicated to Holocaust research and education, as well as combatting contemporary anti-Semitism. It was founded by Rabbi Marvin Hier in 1977.

    Named for Holocaust-survivor and famed Nazi-hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, the center operates musuems in California and Israel, and produces educational documentary films.

    “Your center, active throughout the world, seeks to combat all forms of anti-Semitism, racism and hatred towards minorities. For decades, you have maintained contacts with the Holy See, in a shared desire to make the world a better place in respect for human dignity,” Pope Francis said.

    “This dignity is due to every person in equal measure, regardless of his or her ethnic origin, religion or social status. It is essential to teach tolerance, mutual understanding and freedom of religion, and the promotion of peace within society,” he said.

    Pope Francis pointed to the Second Vatican Council declaration Nostra Aetate, which affirms the great spiritual patrimony shared among Christian and Jewish believers.

    “I feel that we, above all, are summoned, especially today, to such service: not to take the path of distance and exclusion, but that of proximity and inclusion; not to force solutions, but to initiate ways of drawing closer together,” the pope said, calling for cooperation among Catholics and Jews in defence of the most vulnerable.

    The pope said that in order to combat the root causes of anti-Semitism today “we must commit ourselves also to tilling the soil in which hatred grows and sowing peace instead.”

    Anti-Semitic violence and harassment has been on the rise in Europe, particularly in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.

    Pope Francis has frequently spoken out against anti-Semitism. In March 2019, he said it is important to be “vigilant” against anti-Semitic attitudes, to prevent another event like the Holocaust.

    “I stress that for a Christian any form of anti-Semitism is a rejection of one’s own origins, a complete contradiction,” Pope Francis said.

  5. Pope Francis: To know Christ better, contemplate his 'holy face'

    Vatican City, Jan 19, 2020 / 06:26 am (CNA).- Meditating on the Gospel and on Christ’s holy face is a good way to know Jesus better, especially as the Lamb of God who sacrificed himself for the sins of the world, Pope Francis said Sunday.

    Reflecting on John the Baptist’s testimony in the Gospel of John is an invitation “to start afresh on our journey of faith: to start afresh from Jesus Christ, the Lamb full of mercy that the Father has given for us,” he said Jan. 19.

    “We learn from the Baptist not to presume that we already know Jesus, that we already know everything about him,” he continued. “It is not so. Let’s stop on the Gospel, perhaps even contemplating an icon of Christ, a ‘holy face.’

    The Holy Face of Manoppello, held in a church in an Italian village, is believed to be an image of the face of Christ, perhaps from the Veil of Veronica.

    Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, celebrated Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Face in Manoppello Jan. 19. At the conclusion of the Mass, the cardinal led a procession with the image.

    The Mass and procession were to mark the feast of “Omnis Terra,” which recalls Pope Innocent III’s procession with the Holy Face in 1208, when the image was held at the Vatican.

    The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, the protectors of the Holy Face of Manoppello, were also present at the Mass and procession with Cardinal Koch.

    At his Angelus address, Pope Francis said we contemplate Christ with the eyes but even more so with the heart. We “let ourselves be instructed by the Holy Spirit, who tells us inside: It is He! He is the Son of God made lamb, immolated for love,” he said.

    “He alone suffered, atoned for sin, the sin of each of us, the sin of the world, and also my sins, all. He carried them all on himself and took them away from us, so that we could finally be free, no longer slaves to evil,” Francis stated. “Yes, we are still poor sinners, but not slaves, no, not slaves: children, children of God!”

    The pope explained that the Gospel for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time is a continuation of the feasts of Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord. It continues to speak about Jesus, who after his baptism was “consecrated by the Holy Spirit,” he said.

    He urged Catholics to “be surprised again by God’s choice to be on our side, to be in solidarity with us sinners, and to save the world from evil by taking charge of it totally.”

    After the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis reminded Catholics that 2020 has been designated the “Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” by the World Health Organization.

    “Nurses are the most numerous health workers, and midwives are perhaps the most noble of the professions,” he said. “Let us pray for all of them, so that they can do their best at the valuable work.”

    The pope also expressed his desire that a high-level summit in Berlin on the crisis in Libya “will be the start of a path towards the cessation of violence and a negotiated solution that will lead to peace and the much desired stability of the country.”