Chaldean Abp: a Mideast without Christians?

(Vatican Radio) A Middle East without its Christians would be like a garden without flowers: that’s what Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Thomas Meram of Urmyā, Deputy President of the Iranian Bishops Conference, says about the persecution of Christians in the region.  Jihadi militants like Islamic State (also known as ISIS or Daesh) in recent months have violently purged cities in Iraq and Syria of their Christians and other minorities.

Archbishop Meram accompanied Patriarch Louis Sako to Jordan last week. The Chaldean Patriarch was one of six Orthodox and Catholic eastern rite Church leaders from neighboring countries to attend a meeting with King Abdullah and Prince Ghazi, King Abdullah’s personal envoy and adviser for religious and cultural affairs.

In an interview with Vatican Radio, Archbishop Meram observes, “The king was very open and accepting of Syrian and Iraqi refugees.”  The Hashemite kingdom is hosting 1.5 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees – only half of whom are officially registered. 

Jordanian King committed to protecting Christian identity and existence

The King expressed his solidarity with the region’s Christians, saying that said that the hatred, terrorism and fanaticism spread by extremist groups have nothing to do with the values the three monotheistic religions promote. He stressed the role of Christians in building Arab-Islamic identity throughout history and underlined Jordan's commitment to protecting the identity and existence of Arab Christians.

The Jordanian monarch has spearheaded numerous initiatives such as  the “Amman Message" and "Common Word," highlighting moderate and tolerant Islam. In September last year, he hosted another conference in Amman regarding the challenges facing Arab Christians.

During last week’s visit, Patriarch Sako appealed to Prince Ghazi to encourage peaceful and tolerant speeches in mosques.

Rethinking language and education

It is not helpful that Christians have been described as “kaafir” or infidels for the last fourteen hundred years, says Archbishop Meram. “That’s not good.”  Speaking of many in the Arab world, he adds “you have to change your teaching in the schools regarding the minorities, Christian or non-Christian – to respect the human being.”  He underscores that state must also be separate from religion. “And it’s very hard I think.  They cannot do it.”

Many young men are leaving their countries to fight with organizations like Islamic State or Al Nusra or Al Qaeda-linked organizations.  Where does the role of education come into play in this phenomenon?

“I think this is brain washing.  Or money.  Or as they say, for sexual relations in heaven: you will get 40 virgin women.  I can’t understand it.  How can they (do this)?  Or they are an instrument in the hands of others using them.”

The misery of refugees

Archbishop Meram says he visited Christian refugees in three camps in Jordan hosting some forty to fifty families in each camp.  Other families he says, have rented places to stay but their money won’t last forever. “It’s miserable.  There is no human dignity – it’s lost now.  It is very miserable.”

He fans his arms out across the small conference room where we are speaking – it would be barely big enough to accommodate two double beds. In Jordan, parents and five or six children are sharing the same tiny space, with a sheet drawn across the room for some semblance of privacy, he says.  Still, Jordan is doing what it can, he notes.  “Since the Iraqi-Iranian war, Jordan (has been) like this: welcoming all the refugees.”

Airstrikes are not enough against militants

Archbishop Meram dismisses the international coalition’s airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as fruitless: “I think there is no use for that. Because (the militants such as) Daesh or Isis or Al Nusra - when there are strikes- they will dress like other people, like civilians.  You (won’t) recognize them.” 

He admits he does not know what the solution to the region’s ills will be:  “I don’t know what’s going on; I’m not a politician but I pray for peace.  Like our Chaldean Church in Mosul for two thousand years – there were Christians (there).  We have a history there. But now it’s completely (wiped out) – no history.  Everything is destroyed.”

A place for Christians in the Middle East of tomorrow?

At their 2010 Synod, the Bishops of the Middle East reached out to Arab leaders, stressing that Christians want to be an integral part of their societies, contributing to their development and future.  To do so, they wish to be respected as full citizens with equal rights and with the freedom to practice their faith without prejudice or restrictions.  Since then, the region has erupted with the tumultuous uprisings of the Arab Spring and the rise of a new kind of ferocious Islamic extremism.  We asked Archbishop Meram if the bishops hold out hope for an equitable and just Middle East?

“It’s hard to answer this question.  I don’t think the Arab Spring – I would say Arab Winter – there’s no Spring.  Everything is fire, killing, bombarding, from Libya to Syria to Iraq to Yemen, to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain… it’s not a spring.  It’s going back one thousand four hundred years ago (to the origins of Islam).”

“We would like to be a part of these countries.  Because we (too) are the owners of the land over there,” says the Archbishop, recalling that the Christians were native to the land thousands of years even before Jesus Christ appeared. Christians want to stay in their homes and in their land, “but if by force or by fire they will kick us out, what can you do?  Just save your life and go out.  Save your life.  But we still have hope.  We are still in the country; we will never leave the country.  But if anybody would like to leave the country, we cannot oblige him to stay.  So he can choose to stay or leave.  But the Church will be over there I hope till the end of the world.”

A Middle East without its Christians, reflects Archbishop Meram, would be like “a garden without flowers. “

(from Vatican Radio)

Blessed Joseph Vaz will be proclaimed Saint Jan. 14‎

(Vatican)  Pope Francis announced on Monday that Blessed Joseph Vaz, the Apostle of Sri Lanka, will be declared saint on Jan. 14, 2015.  It will take place during his visit to the island nation Jan. 13-15‎.   He fixed the canonization date at the start of the consistory of cardinals in the Vatican convoked to update the prelates on the situation  of the Christians of the Middle East, especially in Iraq and Syria, and the commitment of the  Church for peace in the region.   Another canonization date - that of Italian Sr. Maria Cristina ‎of the Immaculate Conception - has not been decided. 

Known as the Apostle of Sri Lanka for his ingenious apostolic zeal in reviving ‎the Catholic faith in Sri ‎Lanka under the harsh persecution of Calvinist Dutch rule in the 17th century, Fr. ‎Vaz, an Oratorian ‎priest from what is today Goa, India, was declared Blessed by St. John Paul II in ‎January, 1995 in Sri ‎Lanka.  On Sept. 17, Pope Francis declared Blessed Vaz would be canonized, and the date was announced on Oct. 20. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Card. Parolin on ME: rights threatened, risk of genocide

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of saints – including that of Goa native and evangelizer of Sri Lanka, Blessed Joseph Vaz, CO, for whose canonization the Cardinals voted this morning, establishing the date of his canonization Mass for January 14th, 2015, during the Holy Father’s visit to Sri Lanka – the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

At a briefing following the morning session, the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, explained that the participants, among whom were counted the Patriarchs of the Oriental Catholic Churches present and based in the region, used the occasion to speak broadly of the challenges facing Christians throughout the entire Middle East, to express gratitude for the spiritual closeness of the Universal Church to their sorely tried communities, and to reiterate the need to foster dialogue, protect the rights of all people regardless of religious affiliation, and search for solutions that respect and further the common good.

In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the opening of the session, Pope Francis decried the spirit of indifference that seems to dominate, making the sacrifice of the human person to other interests a matter of course. “This unfair situation,” he said, “requires an adequate response by the international community, as well as and in addition to our constant prayer.” He concluded his remarks, saying, “I am sure that, with the help of the Lord, genuinely worthwhile reflection and suggestions will emerge, in order to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and also to face the drama of the reduction of the Christian presence in the land where He was born and from which Christianity spread.”

Click below to hear our report

The centerpiece of the discussion that followed was an address by the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, in which he presented a summary view of the meeting of Apostolic Nuncios to the countries of the region that took place at the beginning of October. Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable. “Fundamental principles, such as the value of [human] life, human dignity, religious liberty, and peaceful coexistence among peoples and individuals are at stake.”

Cardinal Parolin’s address went on to describe the general political situation throughout the region as an extremely complex and multifaceted one, with specific references to the urgent need to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, to the ongoing crises in Iraq and Syria (and to the roles of other regional powers in those conflicts, specifically Iran). It was in this context that Cardinal Parolin turned to the question of the use of force to halt aggression and to protect Christians and other groups who are victims of persecution. “In this regard,” said Cardinal Parolin, “It was stressed repeatedly that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor – always, however, in a manner consistent with international law [It. nel rispetto del diritto internazionale], as the Holy Father has also affirmed.” Cardinal Parolin went on to say, “In any case, we have seen clearly that the resolution of the problem cannot be entrusted only to a military response.” Speaking specifically of the threat posed by the self-styled Islamic State, Cardinal Parolin said, “Attention must be paid to the sources that sustain [the organization’s] terrorist activities through  more-or-less clear political support, as well as through illegal commerce in oil and the supply of weapons and technology.” Cardinal Parolin then repeated the Holy Father’s denunciation of the arms trade, saying, “In a moment of particular gravity, given the growing number of victims caused by the conflicts raging in the Middle East, the international community cannot close its eyes before this question, which has profound ethical relevance.”

The flight of Christians from the region was another major focus of Cardinal Parolin’s remarks, recalling the fundamental role that Christians in the region play as, “artificers of peace, reconciliation, and development,” especially through their schools, orphanages, hospitals and other works of mercy, which serve anyone and everyone, regardless of race or creed.

The role of the Church – of Christians and of Christianity – in the complex social and cultural milieu of the Middle East, and especially in majority-Muslim nations, was the next major focal point. Cardinal Parolin reported that the participants in the meeting of Nuncios observed a basic problem. “[There is a] lack of separation between religion and State,” he said, “between the religious sphere and the civil sphere – a tie that makes life difficult for non-Muslim minorities and in particular for the Christian minority. It would be important, therefore, to contribute to efforts to nurture the notion of the distinction of these two spheres in the Muslim world.”

Cardinal Parolin went on to call on the international community not to remain inert or indifferent before the present situation. “In the specific case of violations and abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State, the international community, through the United Nations and the structures that exist for [addressing] similar emergencies, must act to prevent possible new genocides and to assist the numerous refugees.” Cardinal Parolin continued to explain, “The defense of Christians and of all the other religious or ethnic minorities is to be situated in the context of the defense of the person and of the respect for human rights, in particular for those of religious liberty and the freedom of conscience. In any case, the need to promote and develop the concept of citizenship, as a reference point for social life, guaranteeing the rights of minorities through adequate juridical instruments, has become evident.”

Cardinal Parolin’s address concluded with a reminder and an appeal: the Church throughout the world, and all Christians everywhere, have the duty to sustain our brothers and sisters in Christ with prayer and with every possible means, and to encourage them to continue to be a meaningful presence for the good of the whole society in the Middle East. “We must not forget,” he concluded, “that everything depends upon God and His Grace – but we need to act as though everything depends on us, upon our prayer and upon our solidarity. We are all called, therefore, to work for peace in the world, for the continuity and development of the presence of the Christian communities in the Middle East and for the common good of humanity.”

(from Vatican Radio)

The Pope speaks to the Synod Fathers: we walk a path together

Vatican City, 20 October 2014 (VIS) – At the end of the fifteenth and final general congregation, and after the votes had been cast, Pope Francis addressed the Synod Fathers, affirming that during these two weeks the participants in the Third Extraordinary General Assembly have truly experienced synodality, a path of solidarity, a “journey together”.

However, Pope Francis observed, as in every journey there were moments of travelling smoothly and swiftly, as if wishing to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible, and moments of fatigue, of wanting to say “enough”, and at other times, moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and pains of the faithful; moments of consolation, grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and joy of married life. It is a journey during which the stronger are compelled to help those who are less strong, and the more experienced lend themselves to serve others, also through debate.

He continued by remarking that since it is a journey taken by human beings, there have also been moments of disappointment, tension and temptation, of which he gave five examples. The first is the temptation to hostile inflexibility, closing oneself within the written word, the letter of the law, rather than the spirit, not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, and cleaving to the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. This, he said, is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and the so-called “traditionalists and intellectuals.

Then there is the temptation of “do-goodism”, that in the name of deceptive mercy binds wounds without first treating and healing them; that addresses symptoms rather than causes and roots. It is the temptation of do-gooders, of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals”.

The third temptation is to transform stones into bread to break the long, hard, and painful fast; and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick; to transform it into unbearable burdens. The fourth is the temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, rather than remaining there in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and turning it to the Spirit of God. Finally, there is the temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei”, thinking of ourselves not as guardians but as its owners or masters; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous and pompous language to say much yet at the same time to say nothing.

However, the Holy Father commented these temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, as no disciple is greater than his master, so if Jesus Himself was tempted, and even called Beelzebul, then His disciples should not expect better treatment. He added that he would be worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions, this movement of the spirits, as it was called by St. Ignatius; if all were in a state of agreement or silent in false, quietist peace.

Instead, he expressed his joy at having heard speeches and interventions full of faith, pastoral and doctrinal zeal, wisdom, frankness, courage, and parrhesia, since what was set before the eyes of the Synod Fathers was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law”, the “salus animarum”. This occurred without ever calling into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage, its indissolubility, unity, faithfulness, fruitfulness, and openness to life.

Pope Francis went on to emphasise that the Church is the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on wounds; who does not regard humanity from a glass house, ready to judge or categorise people. The Church is one, holy, Catholic, apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God's mercy. The Church is the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine; she is not afraid to dine and drink with prostitutes and publicans. Her doors are wide open to receive the needy, the repentant, and not only those who consider themselves perfect. The Church is not ashamed of the brother who has fallen, pretending not to see him, but on the contrary is involved and obliged to lift him up and set him on the path again, accompanying him to the definitive encounter with her spouse, in heavenly Jerusalem.

This, he continued, is the Church, our Mother. And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. This should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators have imagined that they see a quarrelsome Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners. The Pope emphasised the need to live through all this calmly and with inner peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro, with the presence of the Pope as a guarantee for all.

The duty of the Pope, he remarked, is to guarantee the unity of the Church, to remind the faithful of their duty to faithfully follow Christ's Gospel and to remind the pastors that their first duty is to nurture the flock that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek the lost sheep with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears. His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, when he stated that the Church is called and commits herself to exercising this kind of authority which is service … not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ ... through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter … to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community.

As the Council stated, the Church's role is to ensure that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free. It is through us, Pope Benedict continues, that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord; this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant, gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope.

Therefore, said the Pontiff, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – “Il servus servorum Dei”, the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, setting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful and despite enjoying supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church.

Finally, Francis reminded those present that there remains a year before the next Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in which to develop, with true spiritual discernment, the ideas that have been proposed, and to find concrete solutions to many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families. There is a year to work on the “Relatio Synodi”, the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. He concluded by asking the Lord to accompany and guide all the participants in the Synod in their journey.

Pope Francis: Middle East without Christians unthinkable

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis convened a Consistory of Cardinals on Monday morning in the Vatican. Originally scheduled in order to proceed with the causes of candidates for beatification, the Holy Father expanded the agenda of the meeting to include discussion of the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. In remarks to the gathered Cardinals at the morning session of the gathering, the Holy Father focused on the need for constant prayer and effective advocacy in favor of peace, and for specific attention to the plight of Christians there. 

Describing the notion of a Mideast region devoid of Christians as literally unthinkable, Pope Francis went on to mention Iraq and Syria as two countries in which Christians – who have made their homes there since Apostolic times – are facing unprecedented threats. “We cannot resign ourselves to thinking about the Middle East without Christians, who for two thousand years have confessed the name of Jesus [there].”

“Recent events,” the Pope continued, “especially in Iraq and Syria, are very worrying. We are witnessing a phenomenon of terrorism of previously unimaginable dimensions. Many of our brothers and sisters are being persecuted and have [been constrained] leave their homes in a brutal way.” Saying that the situation appears to be one in which people no longer appreciate the value of human life, Pope Francis decried the spirit of indifference that seems to dominate, making the sacrifice of the human person to other interests a matter of course. “This unfair situation,” he said, “requires an adequate response by the international community, as well as and in addition to our constant prayer.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “I am sure that, with the help of the Lord, genuinely worthwhile reflection and suggestions will emerge, in order to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering, and also to face the drama of the reduction of the Christian presence in the land where He was born and from which Christianity spread.”

Card. Nichols: bridging divide between doctrine and practise

(Vatican Radio) Bishops from around the world wrapped up the work of their Synod on the Family on Sunday at the beatification Mass for Pope Paul VI who introduced the synodal process to the Church. On Saturday participants in the two week meeting voted on a concluding document and issued a message of encouragement to families, speaking of the miracle of married life, as well as the complexity of relationships where the Christian choice is not always an obvious one.

As head of the bishops conference of England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster was amongst the Synod Fathers taking part in this historic encounter. He sat down with Philippa Hitchen to discuss the focus for the two year Synod process, including the questions of care for homosexuals and for divorced and remarried Catholics….

Listen to the interview:

Cardinal Nichols says all participants at the Synod were very taken by the consistent and persuasive emphasis that Pope Francis has been giving to the whoole theme of God's mercy.

"I think that is something that has encouraged everyone in the Church: I think is a very first quality of God that we have to discover" he says.

"For me" - Cardinal Nichols continues - "it's like saying we have to remember that the air that we are to breathe is the mercy of God, and without that oxygen in our lungs we can't really have the energy and the encouragement to continue in the journey of discipleship".

And - he points out - it is also crucial to remember that mercy leads us to seek forgiveness and conversion in our lives.

"The two" - Nichols says - "aren't the same thing: the pathway we are to walk is a pathway of constant conversion and of seeking forgiveness; so while mercy is the oxygen, the pathway - the action - is seeking reconciliation and forgiveness".

He says taht it is the relationship between those two and the way the life of the Church can be reinvigorated with the oxygen of mercy that is very important.

A second thing, Cardinal Nichols says, is how we face up to the challenge of trying to present and refresh our understanding of marriage.

He says the very notion of marriage has been an area of great contestation in England over the last two years, "but what we in the Church have is a very deep sense that marriage is a Sacrament. By a Sacrament we mean a place in which God is at work; a place, a human reality, which is transformed through the power of grace".

So - he says - "a full understanding of marriage as a Sacrament tells us that this is a relationship, an intimacy, a creative coming together of a man and a woman in which Jesus is active, to which Jesus gives his name. So the Lord is committed to a marriage in as much as the husband and wife are".

"That sense of the true sacramentality of marriage is something we need to find and deepen and invite people to share".

 

        

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

Holy See to UN: Too many children denied "fundamental" right to life

(Vatican Radio) Eliminating violence against children demands that States, governments, civil society and religious communities support and enable the family to carry out its proper responsibility, according to the Holy See's Permanent Observer to the United Nations in New York.

Archbishop Bernardito Auza was speaking on Friday at a committee meeting on the Rights of the Child. He also reminded delegates of the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which he called a “prominent standard” in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child.

“It contains such fundamental principles as the protection of the rights of the child before as well as after birth, the family as the natural environment for the growth and education of children, and the right of the child to health care and education,” said Archbishop Auza.  

“Moreover, my delegation recalls that too many children are denied the most fundamental right to life; that prenatal selection eliminates babies suspected to have disabilities and female children simply because of their sex; that too many children still lack sufficient food and housing; that in many countries they have no access to medicines; that they are sold to traffickers, sexually exploited, recruited into irregular armies, uprooted by forced displacements, or compelled into debilitating work,” he said.

 

The full statement by Archbishop Auza is below

 

Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza

Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations

at the 69th Session of the General Assembly

Third Committee: Agenda Item 64 (a,b): Rights of Children

New York, 17 October 2014

 

Madam Chair,

Last month, while opening the second regular session of the UNICEF Executive Board, the Executive Director Ambassador Anthony Lake did not dwell on the improvement achieved last year of the living conditions of children in the areas in which UNICEF traditionally operates. Instead, he focused on the growing number of humanitarian crises afflicting our world today, to keep us on the alert about the enormous challenges the international community faces in providing children the protection they are entitled to.

It is an unfortunate reality that every conflict, every outbreak of an epidemic, every natural disaster has the potential to roll back the steady progress the world has made in recent decades in reducing child mortality and improving access to nutrition, safe water and education.

But more tragic still when such rollbacks are caused by tragedies perpetrated by humans, in which children are specifically targeted, victimized and instrumentalized. This is what the Special Representatives of the Secretary General on Children and armed conflicts and on Violence against children, and the Special Rapporteur on the Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography tell us in their Reports presented in this session. In recent years, almost three million children have been killed in armed conflicts; six million have been left disabled; tens of thousands mutilated by antipersonnel mines. In spite of the laudable efforts by many actors and governments, recruitment of child soldiers persists. Even more alarming are the facts that this has spread in some regions where this phenomenon was not rampant and that there have been recent cases of children forced to commit terrorist acts like suicide bombings.

Moreover, my delegation recalls that too many children are denied the most fundamental right to life; that prenatal selection eliminates babies suspected to have disabilities and female children simply because of their sex; that too many children still lack sufficient food and housing; that in many countries they have no access to medicines; that they are sold to traffickers, sexually exploited, recruited into irregular armies, uprooted by forced displacements, or compelled into debilitating work.

Eliminating violence against children demands that States, governments, civil society and religious communities support and enable the family to carry out its proper responsibility. Thus, my delegation attaches great importance to the commemoration of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family. It offers an opportunity to refocus on the role of the family in development and to reflect on what this primordial institution can do to face the multiple challenges threatening the holistic development of children in both developing and industrialised countries.

It is in the same vein that my delegation strongly concurs with the recommendation contained in the Report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on violence against children that informed and engaged parents and caregivers who support and advise children in their access to the internet and the use of ICTs open avenues for a safer online experience. The caring mediation of parents minimises risks without limiting the child’s skills and learning opportunities. To become parents is not simply a question of bringing children into the world, but also of educating them to become creative members of society and responsible citizens.

My delegation also welcomes the plan of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography to promote, facilitate and organise awareness-raising and advocacy activities, in order to enhance knowledge and visibility around these issues. Moreover, listening to the appeal of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on children and armed conflicts, the Catholic Church continues to commit itself to working for the release of child soldiers, in their education and reintegration into their families and societies.

In November, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which remains a prominent standard in the promotion and protection of the rights of the child. The Holy See regards it as a proper and laudable recognition of the fundamental rights and inherent dignity of every human person acknowledged by the United Nations in various other instruments. It contains such fundamental principles as the protection of the rights of the child before as well as after birth, the family as the natural environment for the growth and education of children, and the right of the child to health care and education. Moreover, my delegation calls on governments and civil society to encourage all initiatives and activities aimed at the promotion and protection of the rights of the child and, in this context, welcomes the selection of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners.

For its part, the Catholic Church, mainly through its more than 300,000 social and educational institutions around the world, especially in depressed and war-torn regions, will continue working daily to ensure both education and food for children, as well as the reintegration of the victims of violence into their families and into society.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis recalls missions, Mary, at Angelus address

(Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of Sunday’s Mass for the Closing of the Synod and the Beatification of Paul VI, Pope Francis led the faithful in the noonday Angelus.

Here is the complete text of Pope Francis’s remarks:

At the end of this solemn celebration, I want to greet the pilgrims from Italy and various countries, with a respectful thought for the official Delegations. In particular I greet the faithful from the dioceses of Brescia, Milan and Rome, joined in a significant way to the life and ministry of Pope Montini. I thank you all for [your] presence and exhort [you] to follow faithfully the teaching and example of the new Blessed.

He was a staunch supporter of the mission ad gentes; it is the witness above all of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi with which he intended to reawaken the enthusiasm and the commitment of the Church for the mission. And this Exhortation is still relevant, it has great relevance. It is significant to consider this aspect of the Pontificate of Paul VI, especially today, which is celebrated as World Missionary Day.

Before invoking together the Madonna with the prayer of the Angelus, I am pleased to emphasize the profound Marian devotion of Blessed Paul VI. The Christian people will always be grateful to this Pontiff for the Apostolic Exhortation Marialis cultus, and for having proclaimed Mary “Mother of the Church,” on the occasion of the close of the third session of the Second Vatican Council.

Mary, Queen of Saints and Mother of the Church, help us to faithfully realize the will of the Lord in our life, just as the new Blessed did.

Angleus Domini…

I wish all of you a good Sunday. I ask you to pray for me. Buon pranzo, and arrivederci!

(from Vatican Radio)

At closing Mass for the Synod Pope Francis beatifies Paul VI

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday celebrated the Closing Mass for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family.

During the Mass in Saint Peter’s Square, the Holy Father beatified his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, whom he described as a “great Pope,” a “courageous Christian” and a “tireless apostle.”

Listen to Christopher Wells' report: 

In his homily, Pope Francis focused on Christ’s words from the Gospel: Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” This, he said, “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.”

In particular, to “render to God the things that are God’s” calls for “acknowledging 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.” It means “being docile to His will, devoting our lives to Him and working for His Kingdom of mercy, love, and peace.”

This, the Pope said, is where our “true strength” and hope are found.

Pope Francis then recalled the experience of the Synod, a word which means “journeying together.” Indeed, he said, “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.” He gave thanks to God for the work of the Synod, and invoked the Holy Spirit to continue to guide the process as it moves toward the Ordinary Synod of Bishops set to take place in October next year.

The Holy Father noted that it was Pope Paul VI who established the Synod of Bishops. “When we look to this great Pope,” he said, “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!”

Paul VI, Pope Francis said as he concluded his homily, “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,’ 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.’”

Below, please find the complete English text of Pope Francis’s homily for the Mass:

Homily of His Holiness Pope Francis
Closing Mass of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family
and Beatification of the Servant of God Paul VI
Sunday, 19 October 2014

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!  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 notes, 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).

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis speech at the conclusion of the Synod

(Vatican Radio) At the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Pope Francis addressed the assembled Fathers, thanking them for their efforts and encouraging them to continue to journey. 

Below, please find Vatican Radio's provisional translation of Pope Francis' address to the Synod Fathers: 

Dear Eminences, Beatitudes, Excellencies, Brothers and Sisters,

With a heart full of appreciation and gratitude I want to thank, along with you, the Lord who has accompanied and guided us in the past days, with the light of the Holy Spirit.

From the heart I thank Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod, Bishop Fabio Fabene, under-secretary, and with them I thank the Relators, Cardinal Peter Erdo, who has worked so much in these days of family mourning, and the Special Secretary Bishop Bruno Forte, the three President delegates, the transcribers, the consultors, the translators and the unknown workers, all those who have worked with true fidelity and total dedication behind the scenes and without rest. Thank you so much from the heart.

I thank all of you as well, dear Synod fathers, Fraternal Delegates, Auditors, and Assessors, for your active and fruitful participation. I will keep you in prayer asking the Lord to reward you with the abundance of His gifts of grace!

I can happily say that – with a spirit of collegiality and of synodality – we have truly lived the experience of “Synod,” a path of solidarity, a “journey together.”

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

 - One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

 - The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

 - The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

 - The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

 - The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing! They call them “byzantinisms,” I think, these things…

Dear brothers and sisters, the temptations must not frighten or disconcert us, or even discourage us, because no disciple is greater than his master; so if Jesus Himself was tempted – and even called Beelzebul (cf. Mt 12:24) – His disciples should not expect better treatment.

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

And this is the Church, the vineyard of the Lord, the fertile Mother and the caring Teacher, who is not afraid to roll up her sleeves to pour oil and wine on people’s wound; who doesn’t see humanity as a house of glass to judge or categorize people. This is the Church, One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and composed of sinners, needful of God’s mercy. This is the Church, the true bride of Christ, who seeks to be faithful to her spouse and to her doctrine. It is the Church that is not afraid to eat and drink with prostitutes and publicans. The Church that has the doors wide open to receive the needy, the penitent, and not only the just or those who believe they are perfect! The Church that is not ashamed of the fallen brother and pretends not to see him, but on the contrary feels involved and almost obliged to lift him up and to encourage him to take up the journey again and accompany him toward a definitive encounter with her Spouse, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

The is the Church, our Mother! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, expresses herself in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of the faith which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit so that, together, we can all enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life. And this should never be seen as a source of confusion and discord.

Many commentators, or people who talk, have imagined that they see a disputatious Church where one part is against the other, doubting even the Holy Spirit, the true promoter and guarantor of the unity and harmony of the Church – the Holy Spirit who throughout history has always guided the barque, through her Ministers, even when the sea was rough and choppy, and the ministers unfaithful and sinners.

And, as I have dared to tell you , [as] I told you from the beginning of the Synod, it was necessary to live through all this with tranquillity, and with interior peace, so that the Synod would take place cum Petro and sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter), and the presence of the Pope is the guarantee of it all.

We will speak a little bit about the Pope, now, in relation to the Bishops [laughing]. So, the duty of the Pope is that of guaranteeing the unity of the Church; it is that of reminding the faithful of  their duty to faithfully follow the Gospel of Christ; it is that of reminding the pastors that their first duty is to nourish the flock – to nourish the flock – that the Lord has entrusted to them, and to seek to welcome – with fatherly care and mercy, and without false fears – the lost sheep. I made a mistake here. I said welcome: [rather] to go out and find them.

His duty is to remind everyone that authority in the Church is a service, as Pope Benedict XVI clearly explained, with words I cite verbatim: “The Church is called and commits herself to exercise this kind of authority which is service and exercises it not in her own name, but in the name of Jesus Christ… through the Pastors of the Church, in fact: it is he who guides, protects and corrects them, because he loves them deeply. But the Lord Jesus, the supreme Shepherd of our souls, has willed that the Apostolic College, today the Bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter… to participate in his mission of taking care of God's People, of educating them in the faith and of guiding, inspiring and sustaining the Christian community, or, as the Council puts it, ‘to see to it... that each member of the faithful shall be led in the Holy Spirit to the full development of his own vocation in accordance with Gospel preaching, and to sincere and active charity’ and to exercise that liberty with which Christ has set us free (cf. Presbyterorum Ordinis, 6)… and it is through us,” Pope Benedict continues, “that the Lord reaches souls, instructs, guards and guides them. St Augustine, in his Commentary on the Gospel of St John, says: ‘let it therefore be a commitment of love to feed the flock of the Lord’ (cf. 123, 5); this is the supreme rule of conduct for the ministers of God, an unconditional love, like that of the Good Shepherd, full of joy, given to all, attentive to those close to us and solicitous for those who are distant (cf. St Augustine, Discourse 340, 1; Discourse 46, 15), gentle towards the weakest, the little ones, the simple, the sinners, to manifest the infinite mercy of God with the reassuring words of hope (cf. ibid., Epistle, 95, 1).”

So, the Church is Christ’s – she is His bride – and all the bishops, in communion with the Successor of Peter, have the task and the duty of guarding her and serving her, not as masters but as servants. The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” (Can. 749) and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church” (cf. Cann. 331-334).

Dear brothers and sisters, now we still have one year to mature, with true spiritual discernment, the proposed ideas and to find concrete solutions to so many difficulties and innumerable challenges that families must confront; to give answers to the many discouragements that surround and suffocate families.

One year to work on the “Synodal Relatio” which is the faithful and clear summary of everything that has been said and discussed in this hall and in the small groups. It is presented to the Episcopal Conferences as “lineamenta” [guidelines].

May the Lord accompany us, and guide us in this journey for the glory of His Name, with the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of Saint Joseph. And please, do not forget to pray for me! Thank you!

[The hymn Te Deum was sung, and Benediction given.]

Thank you, and rest well, eh?

(from Vatican Radio)