(Vatican Radio) The first Synod of Bishops of Pope Francis' pontificate, which opens here in the Vatican on Sunday, will model a more open and vibrant discussion on family matters that reflects the practical realities of men and women around the world today. That’s the view of Cardinal Walter Kasper, who was asked by the Pope to open the discussion through a speech to the world’s cardinals at a consistory last February. Entitled ‘the Gospel of Life,’ that speech caused controversy by raising the possibility of changes to pastoral practice, including allowing some people in second marriages to be able to receive Holy Communion.
Cardinal Kasper, who formerly headed the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, compares the heated debate prior to the Synod with the atmosphere in the Church ahead of the Second Vatican Council. Just as there were sharply conflicting views ahead of the Council, the cardinal says he believes the two year Synod process will result in “a very large consensus” over changes in Church practices to support people facing difficulties in their family lives.
Philippa Hitchen sat down with Cardinal Kasper to talk to him about the Synod process and about the Pope’s desire to listen more closely to the views of ordinary Catholics in the pews….
Listen to the first part of our interview with Cardinal Walter Kasper:
Q: Pope Francis has already made changes in the way discussions will take place, using a questionnaire to listen to a wider pool of people - how different do you expect this synod to be?
A: I think there’s a new style on the part of Pope Francis….he wants a listening magisterium, so listening to people through the questionnaire beforehand, and now he wants an open debate. There can also be a controversial debate….but I think it doesn’t damage the Church, it helps the Church…..we had the same during the (Second Vatican) Council and this was a positive effect…everyone has the right to express his or her opinion (but) there will not be a war of theologians, bishops and cardinals….A synod is a gathering of pastors of the Church coming together for an exchange of pastoral experience, problems and perspectives, it’s a listening gathering, listening to what the Spirit says to the Church and in this exchange I’m convinced there will come out a large agreement on a solution of the burning problems – but it’s not only one problem that people think now…..we have to see the larger scale of pastoral challenges of family life in the context of new evangelisation…
Q: Reform of the synod process is an important part of the Pope’s agenda – yet the list of those he appointed to take part in this Synod don’t seem to reflect the struggles of so many families today – no divorcees, single parents - isn’t it important for the bishops to hear their voices as well?
A: It’s the first part of a Synodical process – then we have a whole year to discuss the problems at local level…then the bishops, having listened to the people, come back to the Ordinary Synod which will decide, together with the Pope, about the pastoral solutions. So I think people are to a high degree involved in this Synod….
Q: The family was also the focus of the first synod that Pope John Paul called in 1980 and the two English delegates there were also calling for a re-evaluation of the Church’s pastoral practice on contraception and divorce. It seems to many that nothing has changed, except for more and more Catholics ignoring the Church’s teachings?
A: There’s a real problem and I think bishops should be honest to discuss this gulf between the doctrine of the Church and the practise of many practising Catholics – the Church will not and cannot change the teachings, the doctrine, but it’s a question of the adaption of the doctrine, which all want to remain in the truth, in complex human situations. I think there’s a difference between doctrine and discipline, how to apply it and this is the pastoral level….Christian life is a pilgrimage and so we have to accompany people on their way…..we have to start where people are now, listening to their problems and that’s also the new style of Pope Francis…
Q: Was Pope Paul VI wrong not to listen to the majority of lay couples on the commission discussing contraception back in the 1960s?
A: I have a high esteem for Paul VI, he was a prophetic pope in a very difficult situation of the church after 1968 and so on. He was concerned to remain in the truth and not give up something, but I think it’s also a question of the interpretation of this encyclical Humanae Vitae because he was the first pope who spoke in ‘personalistic’ terminology about marriage – it was new! So in the light of this general approach we have to interpret what he said about contraception and so on, and I think what he said is true, but it’s not a casuistic we can deduce from it, it’s an ideal and we have to tell people, but then we have also to respect the conscience of the couples.
(Vatican Radio) Cardinal Peter Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has called for a fairer system of international trade that puts service ahead of mastery. In an address to participants at the Forum of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Cardinal Turkson noted that international trade has often led to widespread social exclusion and said trade can only matter to everyone when it benefits everyone and when no one is discarded or “thrown away.”
Please find below the full text of Cardinal Turkson’s address to the WTO Forum:
PONTIFICIUM CONSILIUM DE IUSTITIA ET PACE
Vatican City, 29 September 2014
Why Trade Matters to Everyone
Trade is nearly as ancient as humanity and plays a central role in the development and flourishing of peoples. Like music, it is one of the great international languages!
In our globalizing world, benefits surely flow from a more open trading environment - economic growth, innovation, employment opportunities, cultural enrichment. Trade can be an agent of development. The erection of tariff barriers contributed to the economic and political catastrophes between the two world wars of the last century. By contrast, dismantling protectionist measures and outlawing unfair preferences can help to create a more level playing field, including for the world's poorest countries. Still, the successes of modern business activity, including international trade, "even if they have reduced poverty for a great number of people - this is the great concern of Pope Francis - have often led to widespread social exclusion".'
For all freedom comes with responsibility. All liberty comes with a corresponding duty of justice. This is certainly true of the free movement of goods and services that underpins our system of international trade. "Free trade," said Pope Paul VI, "can be called just only when it conforms to the demands of social justice."' And justice is not served when trading partners are in unequal positions-in such a case, the "virtue" of competition deteriorates into the "vices" of economic manipulation and dictatorship.
Trade is unbalanced and unjust when it adds to the landscape of social exclusion - when it transgresses anyone's dignity anywhere in the world; when it neglects the common good of the whole of humanity; when it worsens the distribution of income; when it fails to create sustainable employment; when, worse, it takes advantage of human trafficking and modern slavery; and when in effect it bars the poor, the weak, and the vulnerable from participating in economic life.
Such a trading system cannot be justified when it protects or even enhances the ability of large corporations to cut corners, avoid paying taxes, and cavalierly discard workers rather than supporting the ability of the poor and marginalized to earn a decent living and live in dignity. It cannot be defended when it runs roughshod over basic human rights, refusing to hear the cries of the poor who toil long hours for scandalously low pay in unsafe working conditions. It cannot be defended when it treats the natural environment as yet another resource to be plundered, rather than a precious gift to be stewarded prudently and wisely, including with self-restraint.
In short, trade can only matter to everyone when it benefits everyone, and when no one is discarded or "thrown away". For this, we need a wide sense of responsibility on the part of all. Business must fulfill its true role as a noble vocation, prioritizing the global common good ahead of narrow self-interest. The WTO has an important role to play in forging a fairer system of international trade one that puts service ahead of mastery.
In conclusion, may I extend to this year's WTO Public Forum the same prayerful wish that Pope Francis offered to the WEF in Davos: "From such openness to the transcendent, a new political and business reality can take shape, one capable of guiding all economic and financial activity within the horizon of an ethical approach that is truly humane."
Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson
President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – Before the catechesis of this Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square, the Pope received in the Paul VI Hall the participants in the pilgrimage organised by the Secular Institute of the Little Apostles of Charity, founded sixty years ago by Blessed Luigi Monza who worked “with skill and love” in the care of the disabled. Pope Francis mentioned the Institute in his catechesis as an example of the charism of care for the most vulnerable, recalling that the work of Luigi Monza was supported by Pope Paul VI when he was archbishop of Milan, Italy, and urged them to be held as an example “for families and for those who hold public responsibilities”.
After the catechesis and during his greetings in various languages, the Holy Father addressed German and Polish pilgrims, reminding them that October is the month of the Holy Rosary, and invited them to meditate on the path and work of Christ through the eyes of Mary, and to pray the rosary to accompany the work of the Synod of Bishops on the family.
He also addressed the Portuguese-speaking faithful, including members of the “Associacao Crista de Empresarios e Gestores” (Christian Association of Businesspeople and Managers), encouraging them to persevere in their testimony in society and to allow themselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit “to understand the true path of history”.
“Keep the flame of faith burning, ignited on the day of your baptism and sustained by the example of the holy martyrs, so that others may see the joy of your life in Christ”, he said to pilgrims from Croatia.
“I also greet Bishop Javier Echevarria, prelate of Opus Dei, as well as the faithful of the prelature present here to give thanks for the beatification of Bishop Alvaro del Portillo”, he concluded, in Spanish. “May the intercession and the example of the new blessed help them to respond generously to God's call to holiness and to the apostolate in ordinary life, in the service of the Church and of the whole of humanity. Many thanks, and may God bless you”.
Vatican City, 2014 (VIS) – The charisms that build the Church and make her fruitful constituted the subject of Pope Francis' catechesis during today's general audience in St. Peter's Square, attended by over 35,000 people.
“Ever since the beginning, the Lord has filled his Church with the gifts of His Spirit, making her forever alive ... and among these gifts, we find some that are particularly valuable for the edification and the progress of the Christian community: these are charisms”, said the bishop of Rome, explaining that in everyday language we often refer to “charisma” in relation to a talent or natural ability. However, from a Christian point of view, a charism is far more than a personal quality, a predisposition or a gift: it is a grace, a gift from God the Father, by the action of the Holy Spirit … so that with the same gratuitous love it may be placed at the service of the entire community, for the good of all”.
On the other hand, Pope Francis emphasised that alone it is impossible to understand whether or not one has received a charism or what form it takes, as it is within a community that we learn to recognise them as a sign of the Father's love for all of His sons and daughters. It is therefore good for us to ask ourselves, 'Has the Lord made a charism issue forth in me, in the grace of His Spirit, that my brothers in the Christian community have recognised and encouraged? And how do I act, in relation to this gift: do I experience it with generosity, placing it at the service of all, or do I neglect it and end up forgetting about it? Or does it perhaps become a pretext for pride, so that I expect the community to do things my way?”.
“The most beautiful experience, however, is discovering how many different charisms there are, and with how many gifts of the Spirit the Father fills His Church. This must not be regarded as a cause for confusion or unease: they are all gifts that God gives to the Christian community, so that it might grow harmoniously, in faith and in His love, like one body, the body of Christ. The same Spirit that grants this diversity of charisms also constructs the unity of the Church”. He warned, “Beware, lest these gifts become a cause for envy, division or jealousy! As the apostle Paul recalls in his First Letter to the Corinthians, all charisms are important in the eyes of God, and at the same time, no-one is indispensable. This means that in the Christian community everyone needs the other, and every gift received is fully realised when it is shared with brothers, for the good of all. This is the Church! And when the Church, in the variety of her charisms, is expressed in communion, she cannot err: it is the beauty and the strength of the sensus fidei, of that supernatural sense of faith, that is given by the Holy Spirit so that together we can enter into the heart of the Gospel and learn to follow Jesus in our life”.
Pope Francis went on to recall that today the Church commemorates St. Therese of Lisieux, who died at the age of 24 and “loved the Church so much that she wanted to be a missionary; she wanted to have every sort of charism. And in prayer she realised that her charism was love. She said, 'In the heart of the Church, I will be love', a beautiful phrase. And we all have this charism: the capacity to love. Today let us ask St. Therese of the Child Jesus for this capacity to love the Church, to love her dearly, and to accept all these charisms with this filial love for the Church, for our hierarchical holy mother Church”.
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis asked the faithful to pray for the extraordinary general session of the Synod of Bishops on the Family due to open on Sunday.
Around 150 Synod fathers from across the globe will take place in the meeting to discuss the pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization. The Synod will last two weeks, ending with a conclusive Mass on Oct 19.
Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:
Speaking to the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience the Pope asked for prayers and focused his catechesis on the many gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Among these gifts – he said – there are the charisms, which are particularly precious graces which the Spirit bestows upon the faithful for the benefit of the whole community.
These gifts which are rich and varied – Pope Francis pointed out – are granted to individuals who are called to share them generously for the good of all, they must never – he said – become a source of division.
Today let us ask the Lord – the Pope urged those present - to help us recognize with gratitude this great outpouring of spiritual gifts which enables the Church to persevere in faith, to grow in grace and to be an ever more credible sign and witness of God’s infinite love. In a particular way, may each of us consider the special gifts he or she has received, and how we choose to use those gifts to advance the Church’s unity, life and mission in the world.
"I want to send my best wishes to our Muslim brothers," asking God "to protect and preserve our country from every form of evil." This is the wish that his Beatitude Mar Louis Raphael I Sako sends to the Muslim community in Iraq to mark Eid al-Adha, a holiday that commemorates the total submission of man to God. In the message, sent to AsiaNews, the Chaldean patriarch repeats his invitation to condemn "violent, sectarian extremism, because it distorts religion".
Mar Sako traces a "road map for salvation" that starts from education and respect for "religious, cultural differences" while keeping "our national identity and unity." He also remembers the love of Christians for "everyone", even in difficulties and sufferings. He appeals to the national government and the authorities of Kurdistan, so that- together - the liberate Mosul and the Nineveh Plain from the oppressive yoke of the Islamic State.
Below the letter of the Chaldean Patriarch to the Muslim community in Iraq and the world:
I send to the Muslim Brothers my sincere congratulations and best wishes on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, asking God to protect them and preserve our country from all evil.
There is no freedom and no dignity without a real honest relationship recognizes and accepts the other as a brother and a partner in the land and home. Our citizens have suffered greatly from a variety of conflicts and wars, there must be genuine reconciliation, a brave dialogue, and an effective political approach to restore peace, security and stability.
By awareness and education that incubates the religious, cultural, and national diversity and spread the culture of peace, tolerance respect, justice and dialogue we will maintain our national identity and unity, and raise barriers and promote trust and co-existence and eliminate all extremist ideology and everyone who urges to hatred and violence. This is the road map for the salvation of the disturbing situation.
We Iraqi Christians are a genuine and essential component in Iraq, we would like to stay with you as partners and work together as a team for the progress of our country and the good of our people. ISIS has displaced us of our towns and even in Baghdad the pressures are exerted on us, but we tell you that we love you because Jesus Christ commanded us to love everyone. We believe that all Muslims DO NOT approve the actions of ISIS and there are some of Muslims who are good and considered as a blessing like Dr. Mohammed Al-Asali, who was killed in defence of Christians in Mosul. We hope that you openly declare your reject and condemnation of violent religious extremism because it distorts the religion.
On this occasion, we call on our national government to unite and cooperation with the Kurdistan Regional Government quickly to liberate Mosul and the towns of Nineveh Plain and other cities so that the million and half of million displaced people can go back to their homes as fast as could especially schools will open their doors after the Eid al-Adha holiday and winter is coming.
We wish you happy Eid Adha , that returns the values of sacrifice for the respect of human rights and dignity, not sacrificing people.
(Vatican Radio) With the Synod of Bishops on the family about to open on Sunday, the Vatican has revealed that the message for next year’s World Communications Day is also focused on the theme of the family as ‘a privileged place of encounter with the gift of love’. ‘Communicating the Family’ is the title of the message which is traditionally published in full on January 24th, feast day of St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and journalists.
While the media often tends to portray the problems facing families today, the message urges all those in the communications business to highlight the positive side of the family too, as a unique place where we first learn to love, accept and be open to the needs of others.
To find out more, Philippa Hitchen spoke to Archbishop Claudio Celli, head of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications which helps the Pope prepare the World Communications Day message…
Listen to the interview:
Archbishop Celli says the theme is connected to last year’s message, that of communications in promoting a culture of encounter and the family, he says, is a particularly privileged place of encounter. We all know that life in a family is challenging, he says, but it also offers opportunities as we learn how to encounter and give ourselves to others……
Q: You point out that the media often paint a negative picture of the problems facing families today – yet the church often paints an idealised one doesn’t reflect the reality of most peoples’ lives?
“Today people are talking about the Gospel of the Family and the Gospel is an ideal….but I like to think how our Lord is walking with us also in the life of the family….it’s where you learn and perceive you are loved, not through declarations but in the experience of daily life….”
Q: You’re talking about the challenge of communication within families, between generations, yet digital technology has in some ways created even greater differences and isolation between parents and children?
“The great majority of our kids are in internet alone and I think this is a major task of parents, not just to buy a very nice computer, but to educate kids how to be present in social networks….when we talk about pastoral for the family, we need to prepare parents for this responsibility for their children..”
(Vatican Radio) In moments of darkness, our lament becomes a prayer, but we must guard ourselves against overdramatizing our complaints and remember that there are people experiencing “great tragedies” who have good reason to lament, like the Christians driven from their homes for the faith, said Pope Francis Tuesday during Mass at Casa Santa Marta.
Emer McCarthy reports Listen:
Reflecting on the First Reading of the day, in which Job curses the day he was born, the Pope noted that his prayer at first appears to us like a curse. Pope Francis recalled how Job was “put to the test”, how he “lost his entire family, everything he possessed”, how he lost his health and “his body had become a plague, a disgusting plague". The Pope said in that moment "he had lost all patience and he says these things. They are ugly! But he was always accustomed to speak the truth and this is the truth that he feels at that moment”. Pope Francis recalled how even Jeremiah, "uses almost the same words: 'Cursed be the day I was born!'", and then he asked: "But is this man blaspheming? This is my question: Is this man who is so very alone, blaspheming?”.
"Is it blasphemy when Jesus complains - 'Father, why have You forsaken me’? This is the mystery. I have often listened to people who are experiencing difficult and painful situations, who have lost a great deal or feel lonely and abandoned and they come to complain and ask these questions: Why? Why? They rebel against God. And I say, 'Continue to pray just like this, because this is a prayer'. It was a prayer when Jesus said to his father: 'Why have You forsaken me!'".
The Pope continued that what Job is doing in the First Reading is praying, because prayer means being truthful before God. This was the only way Job could pray. "We should pray with reality - he added - true prayer comes from the heart, from the moment that we are living in". "It is prayer in times of darkness, in those moments of life that seem hopeless, where we cannot see the horizon". "And so many people, so many today, are in the same situation as Job. So many good people, just like Job, do not understand what has happened to them, or why. Many brothers and sisters who have no hope. Just think of the tragedies, the great tragedies, for example, of these brothers and sisters of ours who because they are Christians were driven out of their homes and left with nothing: 'But, Lord, I have believed in you. Why? Is believing in you a curse, Lord? '".
"Just think of the elderly who are sidelined - he continued - think of the sick, of the many lonely people in hospitals". The Pope assured that the Church prays for all of these people and for those of us when we walk in darkness. “The Church prays! She takes this pain upon herself and prays". And those of us who “are not sick, or hungry, who have no pressing needs, when we suffer a little darkness of soul, act like martyrs and stop praying”.
The Pope continued that there are even those who say: "I am angry with God, I will not go to Mass". "But why? Over some trifling thing” is the answer. Pope Francis recalled that St. Therese of the Child Jesus, in the last months of her life, "tried to think of heaven, but heard a voice within herself, telling her not to be silly, not to be led astray by fantasies. Do you know what awaits you? Nothing!”.
"We all go through this situation, we experience this situation. There are so many people who think it all ends in nothing. Yet Saint Teresa, prayed and asked for strength to persevere in the dark. This is called entering into patience. Our life is too easy, our complaints are overdramatized. Faced with the complaints of so many people, of so many brothers and sisters who are in the dark, who have almost lost all memory, almost lost all hope – who are experiencing this exile from themselves, who are exiled, even from themselves - nothing! Jesus walked this path: from sunset on the Mount of Olives to the last word from the Cross: 'Father, why have you forsaken me!”.
Pope Francis concluded that there are two things that can help in such situations: “First, to prepare ourselves for when the darkness comes” which perhaps, will not be as hard as that of Job, “but which will come. Prepare your heart for that moment". Second: "Pray, pray as the Church prays, pray with the Church for so many brothers and sisters who suffer exile from themselves, who are in darkness and suffering, without hope at hand." It is the prayer of the Church for these ‘Suffering Jesus’ who are everywhere".
(Vatican Radio) The conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine demand a revitalized United Nations where member states put their responsibility to protect persecuted peoples above personal interests and thoroughly apply international law.
This is according to the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was speaking on Monday at the 69th session of the UN General Assembly.
Emer McCarthy reports Listen :
Cardinal Parolin, said the blood of the many Christians and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria, demands the international community assume its responsibility to protect populations under threat.
He said the world is in need of a UN capable of deploying the appropriate action and force.
“It is both licit and urgent to stop aggression through multilateral and a proportionate use of force. The Holy See hopes that the international community will assume a responsibility in considering the best means to stop all aggression and avoid the perpetration of new and even greater injustice.”
The Cardinal added it is disappointing, that up to now, “the international community has been characterized by contradictory voices and even by silence with regard to the conflicts in Syria, the Middle East and Ukraine. It is paramount that there be a unity of action for the common good, avoiding the cross-fire of vetoes".
He reminded all those present of the "responsibility to protect" principle adopted almost 10 years ago at a UN World Summit, which calls to protect civilians when a country is unable or unwilling to do so:
“It asserts… the responsibility of the entire international community, in a spirit of solidarity, to confront heinous crimes such as genocide, ethnic cleansing and religiously motivated persecution”.
What is needed, concluded the Cardinal, is “a far-sighted political approach” and “a genuine willingness to apply” the law which if “expressed in new juridical formulations, will certainly bring fresh vitality to the United Nations”.
Below the full text of the address of His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Francis 69th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations New York, Monday 29 September 2014
In extending to you the Holy See’s congratulations on your election to the presidency of the sixty-ninth Session of the General Assembly, I wish to convey the cordial greetings of His Holiness Pope Francis to you and to all the participating delegations. He assures you of his closeness and prayers for the work of this session of the General Assembly, with the hope that it will be carried out in an atmosphere of productive collaboration, working for a more fraternal and united world by identifying ways to resolve the serious problems which beset the whole human family today.
In continuity with his predecessors, Pope Francis recently reiterated the Holy See’s esteem and appreciation for the United Nations as an indispensable means of building an authentic family of peoples. The Holy See values the efforts of this distinguished institution “to ensure world peace, respect for human dignity, the protection of persons, especially the poorest and most vulnerable, and harmonious economic and social development” (Address to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, 9 May 2014). Along these lines and on numerous occasions, His Holiness has encouraged men and women of good will to place their talents effectively at the service of all by working together, in tandem with the political community and each sector of civil society (cf. Letter to the World Economic Forum, 17 January 2014).
Though mindful of the human person’s gifts and abilities, Pope Francis observes that today there is the danger of widespread indifference. As much as this indifference concerns the field of politics, it also affects economic and social sectors, “since an important part of humanity does not share in the benefits of progress and is in fact relegated to the status of second-class citizens” (Address of Pope Francis to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, 9 May 2014). At times, such apathy is synonymous with irresponsibility. This is the case today, when a union of States, which was created with the fundamental goal of saving generations from the horror of war that brings untold sorrow to humanity (cf. Preamble of the Charter of the United Nations, 1), remains passive in the face of hostilities suffered by defenceless populations.
I recall the words of His Holiness addressed to the Secretary General at the beginning of August: “It is with a heavy and anguished heart that I have been following the dramatic events in northern Iraq”, thinking of “the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of [that] beloved land”. In that same letter the Pope renewed his urgent appeal to the international community to “take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway”. He further encouraged “all the competent organs of the United Nations, in particular those responsible for security, peace, humanitarian law and assistance to refugees, to continue their efforts in accordance with the Preamble and relevant Articles of the United Nations Charter” (Letter of the Holy Father to the Secretary General of the United Nations Organization concerning the situation in Northern Iraq, 9 August 2014).
Today I am compelled to repeat the heartfelt appeal of His Holiness and to propose to the General Assembly, as well as to the other competent organs of the United Nations, that this body deepen its understanding of the difficult and complex moment that we are now living.
With the dramatic situation in northern Iraq and some parts of Syria, we are seeing a totally new phenomenon: the existence of a terrorist organization which threatens all States, vowing to dissolve them and to replace them with a pseudo-religious world government. Unfortunately, as the Holy Father recently said, even today there are those who would presume to wield power by coercing consciences and taking lives, persecuting and murdering in the name of God (cf. L’Osservatore Romano, 3 May 2014). These actions bring injury to entire ethnic groups, populations and ancient cultures. It must be remembered that such violence is born out of a disregard for God and falsifies “religion itself, since religion aims instead at reconciling men and women with God, at illuminating and purifying consciences, and at making it clear that each human being is the image of the Creator” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 7 January 2013).
In a world of global communications, this new phenomenon has found followers in numerous places, and has succeeded in attracting from around the world young people who are often disillusioned by a widespread indifference and a dearth of values in wealthier societies. This challenge, in all its tragic aspects, should compel the international community to promote a unified response, based on solid juridical criteria and a collective willingness to cooperate for the common good. To this end, the Holy See considers it useful to focus attention on two major areas. The first is to address the cultural and political origins of contemporary challenges, acknowledging the need for innovative strategies to confront these international problems in which cultural factors play a fundamental role. The second area for consideration is a further study of the effectiveness of international law today, namely its successful implementation by those mechanisms used by the United Nations to prevent war, stop aggressors, protect populations and help victims.
Following the attacks of 11 September 2001, when the world woke up to the reality of a new form of terrorism, some media and “think tanks” oversimplified that tragic moment by interpreting all subsequent and problematic situations in terms of a clash of civilizations. This view ignored longstanding and profound experiences of good relations between cultures, ethnic groups and religions, and interpreted through this lens other complex situations such as the Middle Eastern question and those civil conflicts presently occurring elsewhere. Likewise, there have been attempts to find so-called legal remedies to counter and prevent the surge of this new form of terrorism. At times, unilateral solutions have been favoured over those grounded in international law. The methods adopted, likewise, have not always respected the established order or particular cultural circumstances of peoples who often found themselves unwillingly at the centre of this new form of global conflict. These mistakes, and the fact that they were at least tacitly approved, should lead us to a serious and profound examination of conscience. The challenges that these new forms of terrorism pose should not make us succumb to exaggerated views and cultural extrapolations. The reductionism of interpreting situations in terms of a clash of civilizations, playing on existing fears and prejudices, only leads to reactions of a xenophobic nature that, paradoxically, then serve to reinforce the very sentiments at the heart of terrorism itself. The challenges we face ought to spur a renewed call for religious and intercultural dialogue and for new developments in international law, to promote just and courageous peace initiatives.
What, then, are the paths open to us? First and foremost, there is the path of promoting dialogue and understanding among cultures which is already implicitly contained in the Preamble and First Article of the Charter of the United Nations. This path must become an ever more explicit objective of the international community and of governments if we are truly committed to peace in the world. At the same time we must recall that it is not the role of international organizations or states to invent culture, nor is it possible to do so. Similarly, it is not the place of governments to establish themselves as spokespersons of cultures, nor are they the primary actors responsible for cultural and interreligious dialogue. The natural growth and enrichment of culture is, instead, the fruit of all components of civil society working together. International organizations and states do have the task of promoting and supporting, in a decisive way, and with the necessary financial means, those initiatives and movements which promote dialogue and understanding among cultures, religions and peoples. Peace, after all, is not the fruit of a balance of powers, but rather the result of justice at every level, and most importantly, the shared responsibility of individuals, civil institutions and governments. In effect, this means understanding one other and valuing the other’s culture and circumstances. It also entails having concern for each other by sharing spiritual and cultural patrimonies and offering opportunities for human enrichment.
And yet, we do not face the challenges of terrorism and violence with cultural openness alone. The important path of international law is also available to us. The situation today requires a more incisive understanding of this law, giving particular attention to the “responsibility to protect”. In fact, one of the characteristics of the recent terrorist phenomenon is that it disregards the existence of the state and, in fact, the entire international order. Terrorism aims not only to bring change to governments, to damage economic structures or simply to commit common crimes. It seeks to directly control areas within one or various states, to impose its own laws, which are distinct and opposed to those of the sovereign State. It also undermines and rejects all existing juridical systems, attempting to impose dominion over consciences and complete control over persons.
The global nature of this phenomenon, which knows no borders, is precisely why the framework of international law offers the only viable way of dealing with this urgent challenge. This reality requires a renewed United Nations that undertakes to foster and preserve peace. At present, the active and passive participants of such a system are all the states, which place themselves under the authority of the Security Council and who are committed not to engage in acts of war without the approval of the same Council. Within this framework, military action carried out by one state in response to another state is possible only in the event of self-defence when under direct armed attack and only up until such time as the Security Council successfully takes the necessary steps to restore international peace and security (cf. Charter of the United Nations, Art. 51). New forms of terrorism engage in military actions on a vast scale. They are not able to be contained by any one state and explicitly intend to wage war against the international Community. In this sense we are dealing with criminal behaviour that is not envisaged by the juridical configuration of the United Nations Charter. This notwithstanding, it must be recognized that the norms in place for the prevention of war and the intervention of the Security Council are equally applicable, on varying grounds, in the case of a war provoked by a “non-State actor”.
In the first place, this is because the fundamental objective of the Charter is to avoid the scourge of war for future generations. The juridical structure of the Security Council, for all its limits and defects, was established for this very reason. Moreover, Article 39 of the Charter of the United Nations assigns the Security Council the task of determining threats or aggressions to international peace, without specifying the type of actors carrying out the threats or aggressions. Finally, the states themselves, by virtue of membership to the UN, have renounced any use of force which is inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations (cf. Charter of the United Nations, Art.2, 4).
Given that the new forms of terrorism are “transnational”, they no longer fall under the competence of the security forces of any one state: the territories of several states are involved. Thus the combined forces of a number of nations will be required to guarantee the defence of unarmed citizens. Since there is no juridical norm which justifies unilateral policing actions beyond one’s own borders, there is no doubt that the area of competence lies with the Security Council. This is because, without the consent and supervision of the state in which the use of force is exercised, such force would result in regional or international instability, and therefore enter within the scenarios foreseen by the Charter of the United Nations.
My Delegation wishes to recall that it is both licit and urgent to stop aggression through multilateral action and a proportionate use of force. As a representative body of a worldwide religious community embracing different nations, cultures and ethnicities, the Holy See earnestly hopes that the international community will assume responsibility in considering the best means to stop all aggression and avoid the perpetration of new and even graver injustices. The present situation, therefore, though indeed quite serious, is an occasion for the member states of the United Nations Organization to honour the very spirit of the Charter of the United Nations by speaking out on the tragic conflicts which are tearing apart entire peoples and nations. It is disappointing, that up to now, the international community has been characterized by contradictory voices and even by silence with regard to the conflicts in Syria, the Middle East and Ukraine. It is paramount that there be a unity of action for the common good, avoiding the cross-fire of vetoes. As His Holiness wrote to the Secretary General on 9 August last, “the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities”.
While the concept of “the responsibility to protect” is implicit in the constitutional principles of the Charter of the United Nations and of Humanitarian Law, it does not specifically favour a recourse to arms. It asserts, rather, the responsibility of the entire international community, in a spirit of solidarity, to confront heinous crimes such as genocide, ethnic cleansing and religiously motivated persecution. Here with you today, I cannot fail to mention the many Christians and ethnic minorities who in recent months have endured atrocious persecution and suffering in Iraq and Syria. Their blood demands of us all an unwavering commitment to respect and promote the dignity of every single person as willed and created by God. This means also respect for religious freedom, which the Holy See considers a fundamental right, since no one can be forced “to act against his or her conscience”, and everyone “has the duty and consequently the right to seek the truth in religious matters” (Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae, 3).
In summary, the promotion of a culture of peace calls for renewed efforts in favour of dialogue, cultural appreciation and cooperation, while respecting the variety of sensibilities. What is needed is a far-sighted political approach that does not rigidly impose a priori political models which undervalue the sensibilities of individual peoples. Ultimately, there must be a genuine willingness to apply thoroughly the current mechanisms of law, while at the same time remaining open to the implications of this crucial moment. This will ensure a multilateral approach that will better serve human dignity, and protect and advance integral human development throughout the world. Such a willingness, when concretely expressed in new juridical formulations, will certainly bring fresh vitality to the United Nations. It will also help resolve serious conflicts, be they active or dormant, which still affect some parts of Europe, Africa and Asia, and whose ultimate resolution requires the commitment of all.
With Resolution A/68/6 of the 68th Session of the General Assembly, it was decided that this present Session would discuss the Post-2015 Development Agenda, to be then formally adopted in the 70th Session in September 2015. You yourself, Mr President, aptly chose the main theme of this present Session: Delivering and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda.
During your recent meeting with all the Chief Executives of Agencies, Funds and Programs of the United Nations (cf. Address to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination, 9 May 2014), His Holiness requested that future objectives for sustainable development be formulated “with generosity and courage, so that they can have a real impact on the structural causes of poverty and hunger, attain more substantial results in protecting the environment, ensure dignified and productive labour for all, and provide an appropriate protection for the family, which is an essential element in sustainable human and social development. Specifically, this involves challenging all forms of injustice and resisting the ‘economy of exclusion’, the ‘throwaway culture’ and the ‘culture of death’”. Pope Francis encouraged the Chief Executives to promote “a true, worldwide ethical mobilization which, beyond all differences of religious or political convictions, will spread and put into practice a shared ideal of fraternity and solidarity, especially with regard to the poorest and those most excluded” (ibid).
In this regard, the Holy See welcomes the 17 “Sustainable Development Goals” proposed by the Working Group (Open Working Group for Sustainable Goals), which seek to address the structural causes of poverty by promoting dignified labour for everyone. Equally, the Holy See appreciates that the goals and targets, for most part, do not echo wealthy populations’ fears regarding population growth in poorer countries. It also welcomes the fact that the goals and targets do not impose on poorer states lifestyles which are typically associated with advanced economies and which tend to show a disregard for human dignity. Furthermore, with regard to the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the incorporation of the results of the OWG [Open Working Group for Sustainable Goals], alongside the indications given in the Report of the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing and those arising out of the interagency consultation, would seem indispensable for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the efforts of the United Nations and of many people of good will, the number of the poor and excluded is increasing not only in developing nations but also in developed ones. The “Responsibility to protect”, as stated earlier, refers to extreme aggressions against human rights, cases of serious contempt of humanitarian law or grave natural catastrophes. In a similar way there is a need to make legal provision for protecting people against other forms of aggression, which are less evident but just as serious and real. For example, a financial system governed only by speculation and the maximization of profits, or one in which individual persons are regarded as disposable items in a culture of waste, could be tantamount, in certain circumstances, to an offence against human dignity. It follows, therefore, that the UN and its member states have an urgent and grave responsibility for the poor and excluded, mindful always that social and economic justice is an essential condition for peace.
Each day of the 69th Session of the General Assembly, and indeed of the next four Sessions, up until November 2018, will bear the sad and painful memory of the futile and inhumane tragedy of the First World War (a senseless slaughter, as Pope Benedict XV referred to it), with its millions of victims and untold destruction. Marking the centenary of the start of the conflict, His Holiness Pope Francis expressed his desire that “the mistakes of the past are not repeated, that the lessons of history are acknowledged, and that the causes for peace may always prevail through patient and courageous dialogue” (Angelus, 27 July 2014). On that occasion, the thoughts of His Holiness focused particularly on three areas of crisis: the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine. He urged all Christians and people of faith to pray to the Lord to “grant to these peoples and to the Leaders of those regions the wisdom and strength needed to move forward with determination on the path toward peace, to address every dispute with the tenacity of dialogue and negotiation and with the power of reconciliation. May the common good and respect for every person, rather than specific interests, be at the centre of every decision. Let us remember that in war all is lost and in peace nothing” (ibid).
In making my own the sentiments of the Holy Father, I fervently hope that they may be shared by all present here. I offer to each of you my best wishes for your work, while trusting that this Session will spare no effort to put to an end the clamour of weapons that marks existing conflicts and that it will continue to foster the development of the entire human race, and in particular, the poorest among us.
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday thanked members of the United Bible Societies for their “patient, attentive, fraternal, competent and faithful” work.
The Pope was receiving them in audience in the Vatican after having been presented with the new Italian version of the Bible, an inter-confessional translation in current Italian, fruit of the collaboration between the United Bible Societies Italian branch, and the ELLEDICI Publishing House.
In his discourse, the Pope expressed his desire that “all Christians be able to get to know ‘Jesus Christ’s sublime science’ through the reading of the Word of God, because the sacred text is the nutrient of the soul and the pure and eternal source of our spiritual life”.
The United Bible Societies is made up of 146 Bible Societies operating in over 200 countries and territories. Together, they are the biggest translator, publisher and distributor of the Bible in the world. They are also active in areas such as literacy training, HIV and AIDS prevention and disaster relief. Bible Societies work with all Christian Churches and many international non-governmental organisations.
Please find below Vatican Radio’s translation of the Pope’s discourse:
Dear Brothers in Christ,
I thank you for having come here to present me with the new Italian version of the Bible Word of God, an inter-confessional translation in current Italian, fruit of the collaboration between the United Bible Societies and the ELLEDICI Publishing House.
The preparation of an inter-confessional version is a particularly significant effort, if one thinks of how many debates on the Scriptures have influenced division, especially in the West. This inter-confessional project, that has given you the opportunity to walk together over a couple of decades, has allowed you to entrust your hearts to your companions on this journey, overcoming suspicion and diffidence, with the trust that is born from common love for the Word of God.
Your work is the fruit of patience, attentiveness, fraternity, competency and, above all, faith. If you do not believe you do not understand; “unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm” (Is 7, 9). I hope that this text, that we receive with the blessing of the Conference of Italian Bishops and the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, may incite all Christians of Italian language to meditate, to live, to bear witness and to celebrate God’s message.
It is my wish that all Christians be able to get to know ‘Jesus Christ’s sublime science’ (Phil 3, 8) through the reading of the Word of God, because the sacred text is the nutrient of the soul and the pure and eternal source of our spiritual life. So we must make every effort so that each believer may read God’s Word, because as Saint Jerome says “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”.
I offer all of you my heartfelt thanks, because what you have done together is precious in realizing this objective and I encourage you to continue in the journey you have undertaken, so as to allow for the better and deeper comprehension of the Word of the living God.
May my blessing accompany you, a blessing I impart also on your collaborators.