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  1. Witnesses better than initiatives in parish-based evangelization, Pope Francis says

    Vatican City, Nov 18, 2019 / 09:57 am (CNA).- Having a lot of parish initiatives is not the best way to reach people on a deeper level, Pope Francis said Monday, adding that evangelization is about giving a witness to personal encounter with Christ.

    “Our parishes are invaded by many initiatives, where often, however, it does not affect the lives of people in depth,” he said Nov. 18 in the Vatican’s Pope Paul VI hall.

    Speaking to Catholics who take part in “parish cells,” small, neighborhood-based prayer and study groups in Italy, he said, “you too are entrusted with the task of reviving, especially in this period, the life of our parish communities.”

    “This will be possible insofar as [parishes] become, above all, a place to listen to the Word of God and celebrate the mystery of his death and resurrection,” he explained. “Only from here can we think that the work of evangelization becomes effective and fruitful, capable of bearing fruit.”

    He noted that many people, for different reasons, are no longer attending their parish, arguing that “it is therefore urgent that we recover the need for the encounter to reach people where they live and work.”

    “If we have encountered Christ in our lives, then we cannot just keep it for ourselves. It is crucial that we share this experience also with others; this is the main road to evangelization,” he said. “When the encounter is the fruit of Christian love, it changes lives because it reaches the hearts of people and touches them in depth.”

    Parish cells are a ministry begun by Msgr. Michael Eivers, an Irish priest who served as a missionary in Nigeria before becoming a parish priest in Miami. Eivers died in 2017 at the age of 87. Parish cells can now be found around the world.

    The pope urged Catholics to “never tire of following the paths that the Spirit of the Risen Lord” puts before them, including initiatives which allow for a deep witness of Christian discipleship, but he warned against expecting to always see the fruits of one’s evangelical labors.

    Though it is human to want to see positive outcomes and results, he reminded Catholics that there is no promise from the Lord they will see them.

    “Jesus did not tell the disciples that they would see the fruits of their work. He only assured that the fruits would endure. This promise also applies to us,” he stated.

    “Do not hold back any fear of the new, and do not slow down your steps [among] the difficulties that are inevitable in the way of evangelization,” he added.

    “When one is a missionary disciple, then enthusiasm can never fail!”

  2. Pope Francis calls use of nuclear weapons 'immoral' ahead of Japan trip

    Vatican City, Nov 18, 2019 / 05:01 am (CNA).- In a video message to the country of Japan Nov. 18, Pope Francis said he prays that the power of nuclear weapons will never again be used in the world.

    Japan “is very aware of the suffering caused by war,” the pope said in his native Spanish. “Together with you, I pray that the destructive power of nuclear weapons will never be unleashed again in human history. Using nuclear weapons is immoral.”

    Pope Francis will be in Japan Nov. 23-26, part of a six-day trip which will begin in Bangkok, Thailand.

    In addition to Tokyo, the pope will travel to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where he is expected to speak about peace and against the use of nuclear weapons at memorials to the victims of the 1946 atomic bombings.

    He will also meet with victims of Japan’s “triple disaster,” when a major earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011 triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

    The theme of the visit to Japan is “protect all life.”

    In his video message, Francis said “this strong instinct, which resonates in our hearts, to defend the value and dignity of every human person, acquires particular importance in the face of threats to the peaceful coexistence that the world has to face today, especially in armed conflicts.”

    Pope Francis has been vocal in his opposition to nuclear arms throughout his pontificate. In a message to the United Nations in March 2017, he said their total elimination is both “a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative.”

    Catholics make up less than .5% of people in Japan, a largely secular country where most of the population identifies as Buddhist or Shinto.

    The pope said cooperation between religions is important for peace, and he hopes his visit will encourage people “on the path of mutual respect and encounter that leads to a safe and lasting peace that does not go back in time.”

    “Peace is that beautiful, that when it is real, it does not recede: it is defended with teeth,” he said.

    Francis is also expected to speak about care for the environment while in Japan. He said he wants to promote a protection of life “which includes the earth, our common home,” symbolized in the beauty of Japanese cherry blossoms.

    He will be the second pope to visit both Japan and Thailand. St. John Paul II visited Thailand in 1984 and Japan in 1981.

    This will be Francis’ 32nd international trip in his over six years as pope. Japan and Thailand will be his seventh foreign trip of 2019, and 10th and 11th countries visited this year.

     

  3. President of Vatican's financial watchdog authority ends term

    Vatican City, Nov 18, 2019 / 04:48 am (CNA).- The Vatican announced Monday that René Brüelhart, president of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority (AIF) has ended a five-year term and Pope Francis has chosen his successor.

    Brüelhart told Reuters Nov. 18, that he resigned from the position, which has no official term limits.

    According to the statement from the Holy See press office Nov. 18, Brüelhart’s successor will be announced after the conclusion of Pope Francis’ trip to Thailand and Japan Nov. 20-26.

    The delay in the nomination is “necessary for the respect of previous official commitments of the person concerned and the resolution of some internal procedures of the Holy See,” Holy See press office director, Matteo Bruni, said in a separate statement.

    The AIF was established by Benedict XVI in 2010 to oversee suspicious financial transactions; it is charged with ensuring that Vatican banking policies comply with international financial standards.

    Brüelhart, 47, is a Swiss lawyer. Pope Francis named him the first lay president of the board of directors of the AIF on Nov. 19, 2014. He had served as director of the AIF since 2012.

    The person designated by Pope Francis to be the next president of AIF is “a figure of high professional profile and accredited competence at an international level,” the Vatican statement reports.

    “In this way the continuity of the institutional action of the AIF is ensured in this moment of particular commitments at an internal and international level,” it continued.

    The AIF works alongside other financial entities in the Vatican, including the Secretariat for the Economy and the Council for the Economy, both of which were established by Pope Francis as part of his ongoing reform of the Roman Curia.

    The authority’s 2019 report, released May 21, stated that they continue to catch cases of fraud involving the Vatican City State’s financial institutions, including a case of money laundering.

    The report showed that there were 56 Suspicious Activity Reports filed with the AIF in 2018, down from 150 in 2017. SARs filed over the last three years have led the AIF to investigate cases of money laundering and financial fraud within Vatican financial entities.

    The AIF’s director, Tomasso Di Ruzza, was cleared of any wrongdoing and reinstated to his position Oct. 23, after he had been among five Vatican employees suspended after an Oct. 1 raid of offices within the Vatican’s Secretariat of State and AIF.

    The Vatican’s Secretary of State is currently at the center of a financial scandal involving a Vatican bank, the U.S.-based Papal Foundation, and millions of euros from misallocated government grants.

     

    This story was updated at 5:30am MST.

  4. Pope Francis: The poor, unborn, and elderly are neglected in the frenzy of modern life

    Vatican City, Nov 17, 2019 / 04:30 am (CNA).- On the World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis said that the poor and most vulnerable can be left behind in the frenetic haste and self-centeredness of the modern world.

    “How beautiful it would be if the poor could occupy in our hearts the place they have in the heart of God,” Pope Francis said in his homily Nov. 17.

    “In the frenzy of running, of achieving everything right now, anyone left behind is viewed as a nuisance. And considered disposable. How many elderly, unborn, disabled and poor persons are considered useless,” he said in St. Peter’s Basilica.

    Pope Francis celebrated Mass for the 3rd annual World Day of the Poor with the theme “the hope of the poor will never be disappointed.”

    “Amid so many penultimate and passing realities, the Lord wants to remind us today of what is ultimate, what will remain forever. It is love, for ‘God is love,’” he said.

    Pope Francis warned that there is a great temptation in today’s world to try to know and to do everything “right now” that can cause one to lose sight of what is most important: “We no longer find time for God or for our brother and sister living next door.”

    “How often do we let ourselves be seduced by a frantic desire to know everything right now, by the itch of curiosity, by the latest sensational or scandalous news, by lurid stories, by the screaming those who shout loudest and angriest, by those who tell us it is ‘now or never,’” Pope Francis said.

    “To us, these are front page news, but the Lord puts them on the second page,” he said. “That which will never pass away remains on the front page: the living God, infinitely greater than any temple we build for him, and the human person, our neighbor, who is worth more than all the news reports of the world.”

    The pope explained that the antidote to frantic haste is the Christian virtue of perseverance.

    “Perseverance entails moving forward each day with our eyes fixed on what does not pass away: the Lord and our neighbor,” he said. “Let us ask that each of us, and all of us as Church, may persevere in the good and not lose sight of what really counts.”

    Following the Mass and Angelus prayer, Pope Francis will share a free lunch with nearly 1,500 poor people invited to dine in the Paul VI Hall and nearby colleges. A medical clinic set up in St. Peter’s Square also offered free medical services to those in need in the week preceding the World Day of the Poor.

    Pope Francis made a surprise visit to the medical clinic Nov. 15 and announced the creation of a new 4-story homeless shelter right off the St. Peter’s Square colonnade, which he called “the Palace of the Poor.”

    The homeless shelter, staffed by the Sant'Egidio community, will have two floors of dormitories that can sleep 50 men and women, a kitchen to provide breakfast and dinner, and a recreation area for fellowship, educational programs, and psychological counseling.

    “The poor person who begs for my love leads me straight to God,” Pope Francis said.

    In his Angelus address, the pope thanked Catholics in dioceses and parishes around the world for their work in solidarity with the poor, which he said gives hope to the most disadvantaged.

    “The Lord calls us to collaborate in the construction of history, becoming, together with Him, peacemakers and witnesses of hope in a future of salvation and resurrection,” he said.

    Pope Francis established  the World Day of the Poor at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in 2016. It is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, one week before the Feast of Christ the King.

    “The poor facilitate our access to heaven: this is why the sense of the faith of God’s People has viewed them as the gatekeepers of heaven,” Pope Francis said in his homily.

    “Even now, they are our treasure, the treasure of the Church,” he said. “For the poor reveal to us the riches that never grow old, that unite heaven and earth, the riches for which life is truly worth living: the riches of love.”

  5. Pope Francis: Women’s voices are needed in Vatican leadership

    Vatican City, Nov 16, 2019 / 07:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Saturday that more women are needed in positions of leadership in the Vatican.

    “We must move forward to include women in advisory positions, also in government, without fear,” Pope Francis said Nov. 16 in a meeting with the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.

    “Yes, of course, also as heads of dicasteries,” the pope said, adding that he had considered two women for the appointment last week of the new prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy for which Francis ultimately selected Spanish Jesuit Fr. Juan Antonio Guerrero Alves.

    Pope Francis said that it is important to always remember: “The place of women in the Church is not just as functionaries.”

    “Women’s advice is very important,” he said. “The role of women in ecclesial organization, in the Church, goes further and we must work on this as well because a woman is the image of ‘Mother Church.’”

    Pope Francis commended the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life for having two women under-secretaries in their leadership. Both women are married with children.

    The pope told the Vatican dicastery -- created in 2016 to promote the pastoral care of the family and the mission of the lay faithful -- not to “clericize the laity.”

    He reflected: “So many times it happened in the other diocese [Buenos Aires], a parish priest came and told me: ‘I have a wonderful lay person, he knows how to do everything, everything. Do we make him a deacon?’”

    Francis lamented that too often he sees permanent deacons become “first-class altar boys or second-class priests” rather than “custodians of service.”

    “This, on clericalization, is an important point,” he said.

    With the papal audience, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life headed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell concluded its first Plenary Assembly Nov. 13-16 on the identity and mission of the laity in the world.

    The pope told the dicastery staff to “feel with the heart of the Church,” and to move from thinking from a local perspective to a universal perspective.

    “The dicastery of which you are a part should, above all else, help the many disciples of Christ to live in daily life in conformity with the baptismal grace they have received,” he said.

    “There are so many lay faithful in the world who, living their faith with humility and sincerity, become great lights for those who live next to them,” Pope Francis said.