From the Vatican

Pope Urges Latvian Christians to Pursue Unity and Keep the Faith Alive

Pope 092418By Linda Bordoni

September 24, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis warned Latvians to keep the Christian faith alive and to continue to nurture the bonds of Christian unity resisting the danger of turning the faith into “a museum piece”.

Addressing an Ecumenical Meeting in Riga Monday on the first day of his apostolic visit to Latvia, Pope Francis expressed his appreciation for what he called one of Latvia’s special traits: a “lived ecumenism” which has succeeded in building unity while preserving the unique and rich identity of the different Christian Churches.

The Meeting took place in the city’s Lutheran Cathedral, a place – the Pope said – that has been home to the Christian life of the city: “a faithful witness to all those brothers and sisters of ours who have come here to worship and pray, to sustain their hope in moments of trial and to find the courage to face times of great injustice and suffering”.

He remarked how the cathedral is also home to one of the oldest organs in Europe describing it as the “the instrument of God and of men for lifting eyes and hearts to heaven”.

Faith must not become a 'museum piece'

Using the metaphor of the organ throughout his speech, Francis said that like the faith, it is part of our identity and he warned Christians against the risk of turning their identity – and their faith - into “a museum piece that recalls the achievements of earlier ages, an object of great historical value, but no longer one that is capable of moving the hearts of those who hear it”.

The Gospel, he said, tells us that our faith “is not to be hidden away, but to be made known so that it can resound in the various sectors of society and all can contemplate its beauty and be illumined by its light”.

The Gospel must resonate in all sectors of life

“If the music of the Gospel is no longer heard in our lives, or becomes a mere period piece, it will no longer be capable of breaking through the monotony that stifles hope and makes all our activity fruitless” he said. 

“If the music of the Gospel, he continued, ceases to resonate in our very being, we will lose the joy born of compassion, the tender love born of trust, the capacity for reconciliation that has its source in our knowledge that we have been forgiven and sent forth”.

“If the music of the Gospel ceases to sound in our homes, our public squares, our workplaces, our political and financial life, then – Pope Francis said - we will no longer hear the strains that challenge us to defend the dignity of every man and woman, whatever his or her origin.  We will become caught up in what is ‘mine’, neglecting what is ‘ours’: our common home, which is also our common responsibility”.

“If the music of the Gospel is no longer heard, we will lose the sounds that guide our lives to heaven and become locked into one of the worst ills of our day: loneliness and isolation” he said.

The mission of Christian Unity

Pope Francis reminded those present that Christian unity is something that our mission continues to demand of us. Acknowledging that we live in times that are complex and difficult, he mentioned in particular those Christians “who are experiencing exile and even martyrdom for their faith” saying that mission also demands that we ensure that the music of the Gospel continues to be heard in the public square and to resound in our midst never ceasing to inspire us and calling us to live life to the full.

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Pope’s Angelus in Lithuania: Fight Temptation to Dominate by Serving Others

Pope 092318By Robin Gomes

September 23, 2019 (Vatican Media) In his “Angelus” message at the end of the Mass at Santakos Park in Kaunas, Pope Francis urged  Lituhuanians to fight the ungodly temptation of dominating others with the antidote offered by Jesus – by being the last of all and the servant of all.

Pope Francis explained that the ungodly who claim to believe that “power is the norm of justice”, dominate the weak, use their power to impose a way of thinking, an ideology, a prevailing mindset.  Recalling the 1943 destruction of the ghetto of Vilnius, that was the climax of 2 years of the killing of the Jews.   The Holy Father lamented that in the ungodly, evil is always trying to destroy good.

Antidote against temptation to dominate

He urged Lithuanians to watch out against the resurgence of that “ pernicious attitude” of dominating others, saying any trace of it can taint the heart of generations that have not gone through those times.

The Pope said, Jesus offers us an antidote against the temptation of the desire for primacy and domination over others, which can dwell in our heart or in the heart of any society or country.   Jesus asks us “to be the last of all and the servant of all; to go to the place where no one else wants to go, where no one travels, the furthest peripheries; to serve and come to know the lowly and the rejected.”  “We could allow the Gospel of Jesus Christ to reach the depths of our lives, then the 'globalization of solidarity' would be a reality."

Hill of Crosses

Recalling Lithuania’s famous Hill of Crosses, where thousands have planted their crosses, the Pope asked the faithful to implore the Blessed Virgin to help them all plant their own crosses of service and commitment to the needs of others, on that hill where the poor dwell, where care and concern are needed for the outcast and for minorities.  In this way, he said, “we can keep far from our lives and our cultures the possibility of destroying one another, of marginalizing, of continuing to discard whatever we find troublesome or uncomfortable.”

At the end, the Pope said that in the afternoon he would stop at the monument of the Vilnius Ghetto to pray on the 75th anniversary of its destruction.  He invoked God’s blessing on dialogue and common commitment for justice and peace.

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Pope at Mass: ‘Take the Road of Mercy to God’s Heart’

Pope 092118By Linda Bordoni

September 21, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis on Friday told Christians the memory of their origins and of their sins must accompany them throughout their lives.

Speaking to those gathered at the Casa Santa Marta for Holy Mass, the Pope reflected on the liturgical reading that tells of how Jesus invited Matthew, the tax collector, and other sinners to join him at his table.

“One may think that Jesus lacked the good sense to choose the right people as his followers” Francis said, but then he remarked on how in the life of the Church, so many Christians, so many saints have been chosen by Jesus from the ‘lowest ranks’.

Thus, the Pope said, Christians should always be aware of where they come from and they should never forget their sins; they must cherish the memory of the Lord “who had mercy of their sins and chose them to be a Christian, an apostle”.

Matthew never forgot his origins  

Describing the tax collector Matthew’s reaction to the Lord’s call, the Pope said he did not dress in luxury, he did not begin to tell others “I am the prince of the apostles, I issue orders… No! He lived the rest of his life for the Gospel”.

When an apostle forgets his origins and starts off on a career path, the Pope explained, he distances himself from the Lord and become an ‘official’. An official who perhaps does a good job, but he is not an apostle. He is incapable of ‘transmitting’ Jesus; he is someone who organizes pastoral projects and plans and many other things; he is what he called an “affarista” - a “wheeler-dealer” - of the Kingdom of God because he has forgotten from where he was chosen.

That’s why, Francis continued, it is important to preserve the memory of our origins: “this memory must accompany the life of the apostle and of every Christian”. 

We lack generosity, the Lord does not

Instead of looking at ourselves, Pope Francis said, we tend to look at others, at their sins, and to talk about them. This, he said, is a harmful habit.  It’s better to accuse oneself, the Pope suggested, and keep in mind from where the Lord chose us from.

“When the Lord chooses it is for something great. To be a Christian is a great thing, a beautiful thing” he said.

It is us, the Pope said, who distance ourselves: “we lack generosity and we negotiate with the Lord, but He awaits us”.

The doctors of the Law were scandalized

When Matthew was called by Jesus he renounced all to follow Him, the Pope said, noting that he invited his friends to sit with Jesus to celebrate the Master.  At that table, he said, sat “the very worst of society.  And Jesus with them".

The doctors of the Law, Francis continued, were scandalized. They called the disciples and said: "Why does your teacher eat with these people? Eating with some who is unclean contaminates you”. But, Jesus heard this and said “Go and learn the words:  ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’.

“God's mercy seeks everyone, forgives everyone. The only thing he asks of you is to say: ‘Yes, help me’. That’s all” he said.

The mystery of mercy

To those who were scandalized, Pope Francis concluded, Jesus said that “those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do”.

"The Lord's mercy is a mystery; God’s heart is the greatest and most beautiful mystery.  If you want to make your way to God’s heart, take the road of mercy, and allow yourself be treated with mercy”.

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Pope at Mass: Jesus Teaches True Love

Pope 092018By Giada Aquilino

September 20, 2018 (Vatican Media) In the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis calls us to be merciful like Jesus, and to not condemn others.

Let us ask Jesus, “with His mercy and His forgiveness,” always to protect our Church which “like a mother, is holy,” but is also “full of sinful children, like us.” This was the prayer of Pope Francis this morning. The Holy Father was reflecting on the day’s readings, focusing on the words of Jesus: “her many sins have been forgiven; for she has shown great love.”

Jesus sees small acts of love

The Pope described three types of people in the day’s readings: Jesus and his disciples; Paul and the woman whose sins were forgiven; and the doctors of the law.

The woman in the Gospel is described as having “so much love towards Jesus,” while not hiding the fact that she is a sinner. Saint Paul, the Pope said, is similar in recognizing, and handing on to us, that “Christ died for our sins.” Both were seeking God “with love,” but their love was a kind of “half-love.” The Pope explained that when Paul was persecuting the Church, he thought that love was a law and his heart was closed to the revelation of Jesus Christ. He persecuted Christians out of zeal for the law; and this, the Pope said, was a love that was immature.

The woman, too, was seeking love, the “little love.” The Pharisees commented on the fact that she was a sinner, but Jesus explains: “This woman was forgiven much because she loved much.” The Pope puts a question in the mouth of the Pharisees:

“But how can she love? These people [sinners] do not know how to love.” [But] they seek love. And Jesus, speaking about these people, says – he once said – that they are before us, in the Kingdom of Heaven. “But what a scandal!” – the Pharisees [say] – “But these people!” Jesus looks upon the small gesture of love, the small gesture of good will, and takes it, and carries it forward. This is the mercy of Jesus: He always forgives, He always receives.

The scandal of the hypocrites

With regard to the “doctors of the law,” Pope Francis says that “they have an attitude that only the hypocrites use often: they are scandalized.” And they say:

“But look, what a scandal! You can’t live like that! We have lost our values. Now everyone has the right to enter into the church, even the divorced, everyone. But where are we?” The scandal of the hypocrites. This is the dialogue between the great love that forgives all, [the love of] Jesus; [and] the love “by halves” of Paul and of this woman, and also our [love], which is an incomplete love because none of us is a canonized saint. Let’s be honest. It is hypocrisy: the hypocrisy of the “just,” of the “pure,” of those who believe they are saved by their own proper external merits.

The Church historically persecuted by hypocrites

Jesus recognizes how such people show exteriorly that “all is well” – He speaks of “whitened sepulchers” – but within there is rot and decay. The Pope continued:

And the Church, when it journeys through history, is persecuted by hypocrites: hypocrites within and without. The devil has nothing to do with repentant sinners, because they look upon God and say, “Lord, I am a sinner, help me!” And the devil is impotent; but he is strong with hypocrites. He is strong, and he uses them to destroy, to destroy the people, to destroy society, to destroy the Church. The workhorse of the devil is hypocrisy, because he is a liar. He makes himself out to be a powerful prince, beautiful, and from behind he is an assassin.

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Pope Audience: Honor Parents Even With Their Imperfections

Pope 091918September 19, 2018 (Vatican Media)Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of his general audience of Wednesday to the fourth commandment: "Honor your father and mother".

“Honoring parents leads to a long happy life,” said Pope Francis during Wednesday’s general audience, pointing out that the word “happiness” in the Ten Commandments appears only in relation to parents.  In fact, the fourth commandment a promise – “so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

Through the help of human sciences, the Pope said, we are able to understand whether someone has grown up in a healthy and balanced environment or has experienced abandonment or violence in childhood.

Imperfect parents

The Holy Father said that the fourth commandment does not require mothers and fathers to be perfect, and speaks about the children’s duty regardless of their parents’ merits.  Even if not all parents are good and not every childhood is happy, all children can be happy, because the achievement of a full and happy life depends on being grateful to those who have given birth.

Model saints

Regarding this, the Pope pointed to several examples of saints and Christians who despite a painful childhood have lived a “luminous life”, thanks to Jesus Christ, they have reconciled with life. One such example is the 19-year old Italian Nunzio Sulprizio, who will be declared a saint next month.  He died reconciled with much pain and many things, because his heart was serene and he never denied his parents. 

Saint Camillus de Lellis who built a life of love and service from a disorderly childhood; Saint Josephine Bakhita was raised in horrible slavery; Blessed Carlo Gnocchi was orphaned and poor; and Saint John Paul II lost his mother at an early age.

Born again

Whatever be a man’s past, the Pope said, the fourth commandment gives us the orientation that leads to Christ in whom the true Father is manifested who invites us to "be born again from on high".  Hence the “enigmas of our lives are enlightened when we discover that God has always prepared us for a life as His children, where every act is a mission received from Him."

Through grace our wounds gain power to discover that the true enigma is no longer "why", but "for whom?"  Thus everything is reversed and becomes precious and constructive.

In the light of love, our sad and painful experience becomes a source of health for others.  Hence we can begin honoring our parents with the freedom of adult children and with a merciful acceptance of their limits.

Insult, never

In conclusion, Pope Francis urged Christians to visit their parents in their old age, and never insult them with ugly and abusive words, including the parents of others, because they have given life.

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Pope at Angelus: ‘Faith Reduced to Formulas is Short-Sighted’

Pope 091618By Devin Watkins

September 16, 2018 (Vatican Media) Addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis says Jesus invites us to a personal relationship with him, and not to a short-sighted faith reduced to formulas.  The Pope reflected on the day’s Gospel (Mk 8:27-35).

Jesus, the Holy Father said, asks his disciples the question that runs through the whole of Mark’s Gospel: “Who is Jesus?”. Pope Francis said Jesus helps his disciples gradually to come to grips with this basic question about his identity.

Short-sightedness vs. personal relationship

First, Jesus asks them who others say he is.

The Pope said Jesus considers the disciples’ responses inadequate. “He does not even accept his disciples’ answers using pre-packaged formulas, citing famous people from Sacred Scripture,” the Pope said, “because a faith that is reduced to formulas is a short-sighted faith.”

Pope Francis said the Lord is inviting his disciples, now as then, “to establish a personal relationship with him, and thus welcome him as the center of their lives.”

He said Jesus speaks to us at the depth of our being, and urges us to ask ourselves in all truth: “Who am I for you?”

“Each one of us,” said Pope Francis, “is called to respond, in his or her own heart, letting ourselves be illuminated by the light that the Father gives us to know his Son Jesus.”

‘You are the Christ’

The Pope said that, at times, we may respond enthusiastically like Peter, “You are the Christ”. But, like him, we may also wish to avoid the “arduous path of the suffering, humiliated, rejected, and crucified Servant”, which the Holy Father said is the only path by which Jesus’ mission can be fulfilled.

Pope Francis said our lives must bear witness to our faith

“The profession of faith in Jesus Christ cannot stop at words,” he said, “but must be authenticated by concrete choices and gestures, by a life sealed with the love of God and neighbor.” Denying ourselves, as faith in Jesus requires, rids us of “the pretensions of selfish pride”, the Pope said.

Finally, Pope Francis said we may sometimes take the wrong path in life, especially when we look for happiness in things.

“But we only find happiness when love – true love – encounters us, surprises us, and changes us.”

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Pope at Mass: The Cross Teaches Us Not to Fear Defeat

Pope 091418By Alessandro Di Bussolo

September 14, 2018 (Vatican Media) “The cross of Jesus teaches us that in life there is failure and there is victory”, it teaches us not to fear the “dark times” which can be illuminated by the cross, which is a sign of God's victory over evil.

This was the message at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily on Friday morning during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Describing Satan as evil who is demolished and chained, he warned those present that he “still barks” and that, if you approach him to caress him, “he will destroy you.” 

Jesus’ defeat lights up the darkness in our lives

The Pope explained that when we contemplate the cross, the mark of Christians, we contemplate a sign of defeat but also a sign of victory:  “All that Jesus did during his life” failed on the cross - he said - and all the hope of his followers came to an end.

“We must not be afraid to contemplate the cross as a moment of defeat, of failure. When Paul reflects on the mystery of Jesus Christ, he says some powerful things. He tells us that Jesus emptied himself, annihilated himself, was made sin to the end and took all our sins upon himself, all the sins of the world: he was a ‘rag’, a condemned man. Paul was not afraid to show this defeat and even this can enlighten our moments of darkness, our moments of defeat. But the cross is also a sign of victory for us Christians”.

Good Friday

The Pope recalled that in the first Reading, the Book of Numbers tells of the moment during the Exodus when the people who complained “were punished by serpents”. This, he said, refers to the ancient serpent, Satan, the “Great Accuser”. But, the Pope continued, the Lord told Moses that the serpent that brought death would be raised and would bring salvation. Francis explained that this  “is a prophecy”. In fact, he said, “having been made sin, Jesus defeated the author of sin, he defeated the serpent”. And Satan, the Pope commented, was so happy on Good Friday “that he did not notice” the great trap “of history in which he was to fall.

Satan swallowed up Jesus and his divinity

As the Fathers of the Church say, Pope Francis continued, Satan saw Jesus in such a bad state, and like a hungry fish that goes after the bait attached to the hook, he swallowed Him. “But in that moment, the Pope said, he also swallowed His divinity because that was the bait attached to the hook. “At that moment, the Pope said, Satan was destroyed forever. He has no strength. In that moment the cross became a sign of victory”.

The serpent is chained, but you must not approach it

“Our victory is the cross of Jesus, victory over our enemy, the ancient serpent, the Great Accuser” the Pope said. “We have been saved” by the cross, by the fact that Jesus chose to sink to the very lowest point, but with the power of divinity”.

“Jesus said to Nicodemus: When I am lifted up I will draw all people to myself”. Jesus was lifted up and Satan was destroyed. We must be attracted to the cross of Jesus: we must look at it because it gives us the strength to go forward. And the ancient serpent that was destroyed still barks, still threatens but, as the Fathers of the Church say, he is a chained dog:  do not approach him and he will not bite you; but if you try to caress him because you attracted to him as if he were a puppy, prepare yourself, he will destroy you”.

The crucifix: a sign of defeat and of victory

Our life goes on, Pope Francis concluded, with Christ victorious and risen, and who sends us the Holy Spirit; but also with that chained dog, the devil, “whom I must not draw close to because he will bite me”.

“The cross teaches us that in life there is failure and victory. We must be capable of tolerating defeat, of bearing our failures patiently, even those of our sins because He paid for us. We must tolerate them in Him, asking forgiveness in Him, but never allowing ourselves to be seduced by this chained dog. It will be good if today, when we go home, we would take 5, 10, 15 minutes in front of the crucifix, either the one we have in our house or on the rosary: look at it, it is our sign of defeat, it provokes persecutions, it destroys us; it is also our sign of victory because it is where God was victorious”.

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Pope Francis: Mercy is the Christian "Style"

Pope 091318By Barbara Castelli

September 13, 2018 (Vatican Media) In the chapel at the Casa Santa Marta, the Pope celebrates the Mass and recalls that Christians do not follow the “spirit of the world,” but live the “folly of the Cross.”

“Being Christian is not easy,” but makes us “happy”: the path pointed out to us by the heavenly Father is that of “mercy” and of “interior peace.” Beginning from the day’s Gospel from St Luke (6:27-38), Pope Francis once again clarified the distinctive traits of the “Christian style.” The Pope said that the Lord always indicates to us what the “life of the disciple” must be. He does so, for example, through the Beatitudes or the Works of Mercy.

Going against the logic of the world

In a particular way, the day’s liturgy focuses on “four details for living the Christian life”: “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” In his homily, Pope Francis said that Christians should never enter “into gossiping,” or “into the logic of insults,” which only cause “war,” but to always find time “to pray for annoying people”:

This is the Christian style, this is the manner of Christian living. But if I do not do these four things? Loving enemies, doing good to those who hate me, blessing those who curse me, and praying for those who mistreat me, am I not a Christian? Yes, you are a Christian because you have received Baptism, but you are not living like a Christian. You are living like a pagan, with the spirit of worldliness.

The folly of the Cross

It is certainly easy to “badmouth enemies or those who are of a different party,” but Christian logic goes against the current, and follows the “folly of the Cross.” The ultimate goal, Pope Francis added, “is to get to the point where we behave ourselves like children of our Father”:

Only the merciful are like God the Father. ‘Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.’ This is the path, the path that goes against the spirit of the world, that thinks differently, that does not accuse others. Because among us is the “Great Accuser,” the one who is always going about to accuse us before God, to destroy. Satan: he is the “Great Accuser.” And when I enter into this logic of accusing, of cursing, seeking to do evil to others, I enter into the logic of the “Great Accuser” who is the “Destroyer,” who does not know the word mercy, does not know, has never lived it.  We must display mercy because we are children of the Father who is merciful.

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Pope at Audience: The Worst Kind of Slavery is that of One's Ego

Pope 091218By Linda Bordoni

September 12, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis on Wednesday continued his series of catechesis dedicated to the Commandments. Speaking during the General Audience he reflected on the Third Commandment which reminds us to keep holy the Lord’s Day.

"God’s love renders us free” Pope Francis said to the crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square, even when in prison, even when we are weak or limited by circumstances.

Only the love given to us by Jesus can break the chains of slavery to sin, especially that of “one's own ego”.

Reflecting on the third Commandment that is dedicated to the day of rest, the Pope quoted from the Book of Deuteronomy in which the Third Word “commemorates the end of slavery” and said “it is a day in which the slave must rest like the master, to celebrate the memory of Israel’s liberation from the slavery of Egypt”.

Many forms of slavery

But, Pope Francis, explained there are in fact various “forms of slavery, both external and internal”.

He mentioned external constraints such as “oppression, lives seized by violence and other types of injustice” as well as “psychological bonds, complexes, personal limitations” as well as a series of existential realities from which it is apparently impossible to distance ourselves.

Yet, he continued, history offers us examples of men whom – like St. Maximilian Kolbe and Cardinal Van Thuan for example - although subjected to imprisonment and oppression, have managed to experience profound freedom and repose.

“God's mercy frees us. And when you encounter God's mercy, you have great inner freedom and you are able to transmit it” he said.

The slavery of the ego

The Pope warned those present in particular against “the slavery of the ego” which, he said, has the power to enslave one more than a prison does.

“Those people who spend the day checking the mirror are slaves of their egos” he said.

And describing the ego as something that can be more oppressive more than a torturer or a jail-keeper, the Pope said that kind of slavery is a sin.

Elaborating further, he pointed out that true freedom is more than choice: it is liberation from the bondage of selfishness, sin and lovelessness; from such slavery there can be no rest.

Sins that deprive us of freedom

The Pope went on to list a number of sins that deprive man of true freedom and love. He said there is no respite for the greedy because gluttony is the hypocrisy of the stomach, which is full but makes us believe that it is empty” while “the need for possessions destroys the miser” and “the fire of anger and the worm of envy ruin relationships”.

Jesus’ redeeming love

Thus a “real slave” Pope Francis explained, is he who is incapable of repose and of loving. All these vices and sins, he said, “render us slaves to ourselves and make us unable to love because love is towards the other”.

So, “true love is true freedom: it detaches us from possession, it rebuilds relationships, it knows how to welcome and how to value one's neighbor, it transforms every effort into a joyful gift and makes us capable of communion”.

The love we receive from the Lord, Francis concluded, gives us freedom even when in prison, even when we are weak and limited”.

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Pope at Mass: Gospel Newness Does Not Permit a Double Life

Pope 091018By Adriana Masotti

September 10, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis preaches on the difference between the “novelties” of the world and the “newness” of Christ during the morning Mass on Monday at the Casa Santa Marta.  In his homily, Pope Francis pointed out that the Apostle was very angry with those who boasted of being “open Christians,” but in whom “the confession of Jesus Christ went hand in hand with a tolerated immorality”: “Brothers and sisters, it is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans.” Those were the harsh words of rebuke, taken from the First Letter to the Corinthians, that St Paul addressed to the Christians there, noting that many of them were leading a double life. Paul recalled that “the yeast leavens all the dough,” and that it takes new leaven for new dough.

The Gospel completely transforms us

Jesus had recommended to His disciples “new wine, new wineskins,” Pope Francis said.  The newness of the Gospel, the newness of Christ is not only transforming our soul; it is transforming our whole being: soul, spirit and body, all of it, everything: that is, transforming the vine – the leaven – into new wineskins, also everything. The newness of the Gospel is absolute, is total; it takes all of us, because it transforms from the inside out: the spirit, the body, and everyday life.

The newness of the Gospel and the novelties of the world

Pope Francis noted that the Christians of Corinth had not understood the all-encompassing newness of the Gospel, which is not an ideology or a means of social living that coexists with the pagan inhabitants. The newness of the Gospel is the Resurrection of Christ, and the Spirit that He has sent “so that He might accompany us in life.” We Christians are men and women of newness, the Pope affirmed, not of novelties. 

And so many people seek to live their Christianity “on novelties”: [They say,] “But today, it can be done this way; no today we can live like this.” And these people who live out the novelties that are proposed by the world are worldly; they don’t accept all the newness [of the Gospel]. There is a distinction between the “newness” of Jesus Christ, and the “novelties” that the world proposes to us as a way of living.

Weakness, not hypocrisy

The people that Paul condemns, the Pope said, “are lukewarm people, immoral people… people who dissemble, formal people, hypocritical people.” And he repeated, “The call of Jesus is a call to newness”:

Someone could say, “But Father, we are weak, we are sinners…” “Ah, this is another thing.” If you accept that you are a sinner and weak, He forgives you, because part of the newness of the Gospel is confessing that Jesus Christ has come for the forgiveness of sins. But if you who say that you are a Christian live with these worldly novelties – no, this is hypocrisy. That is the difference. And Jesus has told us in the Gospel: “Be careful when they tell you: ‘Christ is here, He’s there, He’s there… The novelties are these: “No, salvation is with this, with this…” Christ is the only one. And Christ is clear in His message.

The path of Christ is the path of martyrdom

But Jesus does not deceive those who want to follow him. Pope Francis asks the question, “But what is the path of those who live out ‘the newness,’ and do not want to live out ‘novelties’?” He recalls how the day’s Gospel ends, that is, with the decision of the scribes and the doctors of the law to kill Jesus, “to do away with Him.”

“The path of those who take up the newness of Jesus Christ is the same as that of Jesus: the path towards martyrdom,” the Pope warned. Martyrdom is not always bloody, but a daily martyrdom. “We are on a path, and we are watched by the great accuser who raises up the accusers of today to catch us in contradiction.” But, he concludes, there is no need to negotiate with “novelties”; there is no need to “water down the proclamation of the Gospel.”

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Pope at Angelus: ‘Do Not Be Deaf or Silent in the Face of Suffering'

Pope 090918By Linda Bordoni

September 9, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis on Sunday invited the faithful not to “remain deaf and dumb” in the face of the suffering of people marked by disease, anguish and difficulties. He was addressing the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus Prayer.  The Pope drew inspiration on Sunday from the Gospel reading of the day to invite all Christians not to turn away from the suffering of their brothers and sisters.

Speaking during the Sunday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope reflected on the episode that tells of Jesus’ miraculous healing of a deaf and dumb man.

Do good without ostentation

Pointing out that Jesus always “acts with discretion” as he “does not want to impress people, he is not looking for popularity or success, he just wants to do good to people” the Pope said that “with this attitude, He teaches us that good must be done without clamor and without ostentation”.

But above all, he explained, Jesus – who is fully integrated and part of man’s earthly humanity - makes it clear that the miracle happens thanks to his union with the Father.

“For this reason, he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said “Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!” And immediately the man was healed: his ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed. Healing was for him an "opening" to others and to the world”.

This story, Pope Francis said, highlights the need for a double healing: healing from illness and physical suffering, and healing from fear that pushes us to marginalize the sick, the suffering, the disabled.

Be open to the needs of our brothers and sisters in need

And urging believers not to “remain deaf and dumb in the face of the suffering of people marked by disease, anguish and difficulty”, the Pope said in today’s world too often the sick and the suffering are seen as a problem, “while they should be an opportunity to show the concern and solidarity of society towards the weakest”.

The Pope said that we too can repeat that miracle by becoming protagonists of that special word: “Ephphatha” - “Be open” with which He restored speech and hearing to the deaf and dumb man.

It is a question, he continued, of opening ourselves up to the needs of our brothers and sisters who are suffering and in need of help, of avoiding selfishness and of closing our hearts.

Jesus, Francis said, came to “open” our hearts, to free us and to make us capable of fully living our relationship with God and with others.

“He became man so that man, whose heart was rendered deaf and dumb by sin, may hear the voice of God, the voice of Love that speaks to his heart, and thus learn to speak the language of love, and in turn translate it into gestures of generosity and self-giving” he said.

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Pope to Parents: Work Together with Schools

Pope 090718September 7, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis in the Paul VI hall on Friday greets members of the Italian Parents Association which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  The Italian Parents Association works to support parents in their commitment to family and education according to the principles of Christian ethics.

Parents and education

Praising the Association’s work with reference to the education of children at school, Pope Francis noted the alliance between families and the school system. But he also highlighted that at times this partnership is talked about as being under threat, such as, the family not appreciating the work of teachers, and schools feeling the invasive influence of parents.

To change this situation, the Pope said, “someone must take the first step”, so that trust can be nurtured.

He stressed that without schools and teachers, parents ran the risk of being alone in their “educational activity and being less able to face the new educational challenges that come from contemporary culture, from society, from mass media, from new technologies.”

Communication and collaboration

Referring to his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, the Pope pointed out, "school is not a substitute for parents but is complementary to them.” Therefore, he continued, in school education, collaboration between the various components of the educational community must never be lacking. Without frequent communication and without mutual trust, a community is not built and without a community it is not possible to educate.”

Reinforcing the aspect of collaboration between parents and educators, Pope Francis, recounted a story from his childhood, telling those present that after talking back to his teacher, his mother was called and arrived at the school. Then in front of the teacher his mother told him to apologize, which he did. Pope Francis said, he thought the episode was finished and done with, but his mother had other ideas when he got home.

Pope Francis also commented that it was the task of the Church to help eliminate the educational isolation that families can feel, adding that the Church community was a place where parents could come to receive trust and support.

Concluding his words, Pope Francis told the parents gathered that children “are the most precious gift you have received,” noting that it was their commitment and generosity that would help their children grow in faith and character.

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Pope Audience: Discern True Rest from False Rest

Pope 090518September 5, 2018 (Vatican Media) Joining tourists and faithful in St Peter’s Square on Wednesday, Pope Francis during his General Audience focuses on the Commandment, "Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day."

The Pope told those gathered that resting on Sunday was not “a mere escape or diversion, but a command to imitate God himself, who on the seventh day rested from his works and contemplated the goodness of his creation.”

False rest and true rest

He pointed out that there was “false rest and true rest”.  Society, he said, was thirsty for entertainment and holidays. The image-model, the Pope continued, was “that of a successful person who can afford different kinds of pleasure. But this mentality, he noted, slips towards the dissatisfaction of an anesthetized existence of entertainment that is not rest, but alienation and escape from reality.  Man has never rested as much as today, yet man has never experienced as much emptiness as today.”

Rest and contemplation

On the other hand, explained Pope Francis, true rest “is a moment of contemplation, of praise.” It is a time to look at reality and say: how beautiful life is. It is the day, he continued, to say to God: thank you for your life, for your mercy, for all your gifts.” Sunday, the Pontiff stressed, was not the day to cancel the other days but to recall them, bless them and make peace with life because it is life is precious. Peace is chosen, he said, it “cannot be imposed and cannot be found by chance.“

In God alone do our souls find rest

The Pope concluded by saying, “when, on our weekly day of rest, we contemplate our lives and the world around us, let us be conscious of God’s provident care and conform ourselves, like Jesus, to the Father’s will, knowing that, in the end, “all is grace”. For, as the Psalmist assures us, in God alone do our souls find rest.”

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Pope at Mass: Make an Examination of Conscience Every Day

Pope 090418By Barbara Castelli

September 4, 2018 (Vatican Media) At the Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday, Pope Francis said that in the heart of each person “the spirit of the world” and the “Spirit of God” confront one another every day.

A person’s heart is like a “battlefield” where two different “spirits” confront one another: one, the Spirit of God, leads us “to good works, to charity, to fraternity”; the other, that of the world, pushes us “towards vanity, pride, sufficiency, gossiping.” That was Pope Francis’ message in the homily during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday.

The Pope was reflecting on the first reading, in which “the Apostle Paul teaches the Corinthians the way to think like Christ” – a path that is characterized by abandonment to the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit, in fact, that leads us to “know Jesus,” to share His “sentiments,” to understand His heart.

The eternal struggle between good and evil

“Man left to his own strength does not understand the things of the Spirit,” the Pope explained in the homily.

"There are two spirits, two ways of thinking, of feeling, of acting: that which leads me to the Spirit of God, and that which leads me to the spirit of the world. And this happens in our life: We all have these two ‘spirits,’ we might say. The Spirit of God, which leads us to good works, to charity, to fraternity, to adore God, to know Jesus, to do many good works of charity, to pray: this one. And [there is] the other spirit, of the world, which leads us to vanity, pride, sufficiency, gossip – a completely different path. Our heart, a saint once said, is like a battlefield, a field of war where these two spirits struggle."

Overcoming temptations as Jesus did

“In the life of the Christian,” then, “we must fight in order to make room for the Spirit of God,” and “drive away the spirit of the world.” And, the Pope suggested, a daily “examination of conscience” can help to “identify temptations, to clarify how these opposing forces work."

"It is very simple: We have this great gift, which is the Spirit of God, but we are weak, we are sinners, and we still have the temptation of the spirit of the world. In this spiritual combat, in this war of the spirit, we need to be victors like Jesus."

Not animals, but children of God

Every night, Pope Francis concluded, a Christian should think over the events of the past day, to determine whether “vanity” and “pride” prevailed, or whether he or she has succeeded in imitating the Son of God:

"To recognize the things that occur in the heart. If we do not do this, if we do not know what happens in our heart – and I don’t say this, the Bible does – we are like ‘animals that understand nothing,’ that move along through instinct. But we are not animals, we are children of God, baptized with the gift of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, it is important to understand what has happened each day in my heart. May the Lord teach us always, every day, to make an examination of conscience."

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Pope at Mass: ‘The Truth is Humble, The Truth is Silent’

Pope 090318By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp

September 3, 2018 (Vatican Media) On Monday, Pope Francis resumed the celebration of daily Mass at Casa Santa Marta, commenting on the Gospel of the day saying that “the truth is humble, the truth is silent”.

Pope Francis focused his homily on Monday at Casa Santa Marta on the Gospel of the day from Luke (4:16-30) when Jesus returns to Nazareth and meets opposition in the synagogue after commenting on a passage from the prophet Isaiah. The Pope highlights Jesus’ silent composure not only in this scene but also during the passion.

No prophet is accepted….

The Pope said that when Jesus arrived at the synagogue, he aroused curiosity. Everyone wanted to see the person they had heard was working miracles in other places. Instead of satisfying their curiosity, the Pope said, the Son of the Heavenly Father uses only “the Word of God”. This is the attitude Jesus adopted when confronting the devil. The Pope then said that Jesus’ humility opens the door to his first words meant to construct a bridge but instead sow doubt immediately changing the atmosphere “from peace to war”, from “amazement to fury”.

Jesus’ silence

Jesus responds with silence before those “who wanted to throw him out of the city”, the Pope said.  They were not thinking, they were shouting. Jesus stayed silent… The Gospel passage ends with: ‘But he passed through the midst of them and went away’.

Jesus’ dignity

Pope Francis said that Jesus’ dignity shines through this “silence that triumphs over” his attackers. The same thing would happen again on Good Friday, the Pope said.

The people who were saying ‘crucify him’ had praised Jesus on Palm Sunday saying, ‘Blessed are You, Son of David’. They had changed.

Our dignity

The Pope continued saying the truth is humble and silent and is not noisy, acknowledging that what Jesus did is not easy. However, “the dignity of the Christian is anchored in the power of God”. Even in a family, he said, there are times when division occurs because of “discussions on politics, sports, money”. Pope Francis recommends silence and prayer in these cases:

With people lacking good will, with people who only seek scandal, who seek only division, who seek only destruction, even within the family: silence, prayer.

Pope Francis concluded praying: “May the Lord give us the grace to discern when we should speak and when we should stay silent. This applies to every part of life: to work, at home, in society…. Thus we will be closer imitators of Jesus.”

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Pope Angelus: Vigilance Against Hypocrisy, Worldly Contamination

Pope 090218September 2, 2018 (Vatican Media)  Pope Francis during his Angelus on Sunday tells the faithful to look to the true meaning of religion which is, remaining faithful to the Word of God and being vigilant against the pollution of hypocrisy, vanity and greed.

Before the recitation of the Marian Prayer, Pope Francis reflected on Sunday’s Gospel reading from Mark in which Jesus addresses the objections of scribes and Pharisees who accuse his disciples of not following traditional ritual precepts. The Pope explained that, Our Lord knows he is being tested, but he wants to draw these men away from the error in which they have fallen, that is, “to overthrow the will of God by neglecting his commandments to observe human traditions.”

Charity and vigilance

The Pope went on to say, the message of Sunday’s Gospel is also reinforced by the voice of the Apostle James, who tells us how true religion must be: that being, "to visit orphans and widows who are suffering and not to be contaminated by this world".  "Visiting orphans and widows" underlined the Pope, “means practicing charity towards others, starting from the neediest, the most fragile, the most marginal. They are the people of whom God takes special care, and asks us to do the same."

He also explained that the phrase "do not let yourself be contaminated by this world" does not mean isolating oneself and closing oneself off to reality…it means to be vigilant so that our way of thinking and acting is not polluted…by vanity, greed, pride.”

The Pontiff then invited the faithful to welcome the Word with an open mind and heart”, adding that it, purifies our heart, our actions and our relationship with God and with others and is freed from hypocrisy.

Remaining steadfast to the Gospel

At the end of this Angelus address, Pope Francis recalled the Beatification on Saturday of Anna Kolesárová.  She was killed, he said, “for resisting those who wanted to violate her dignity and her chastity.” This courageous girl, the Pope continued, helps young Christians to remain steadfast in fidelity to the Gospel, even when it requires going against the tide and paying the ultimate price.

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Pope Francis: Care for Water is Urgent Imperative

Pope 090118By Lydia O’Kane

September 1, 2018 (Vatican Media) At the heart of Pope Francis' message for the IV annual World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (Sept. 1st), which the Church now celebrates in union with the Orthodox Church, is the vital resource that is water.

Describing it as a precious element, the Pope underlines that “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.” He also draws attention to the fact that access for many people is either difficult or impossible.

Noting the fundamental role of water in creation and human development, the Pontiff stresses that it is precisely for this reason that “care for water sources and water basins is an urgent imperative.”

He goes on to say, there is an urgent need for “shared projects and concrete gestures that recognize that every privatization of the natural good of water, at the expense of the human right to have access to this good, is unacceptable.”

Water a Christian perspective

Dwelling on water from a Christian perspective, Pope Francis says this fundamental resource “represents an essential element of purification and of life and comments that “Jesus, in the course of his mission, promised a water capable of quenching human thirst for ever”.

Threats to Seas and Oceans

In his message, the Pope also focuses on seas and oceans saying that “constant care for this inestimable treasure represents today an ineluctable duty and a genuine challenge. He goes on to say that, “we cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic. We need to pray as if everything depended on God’s providence, and work as if everything depended on us.”

Pope Francis then invites those in positions of authority, to look with a farsighted approach at, what he calls “the more sensitive questions of our day, such as those linked to movements of migration, climate change”.

Safeguarding

On the issue of protection and preservation, the Pope prays for all those who are involved in safeguarding the seas and for those “who contribute to the development and application of international regulations on the seas in order to safeguard individuals, countries, goods, natural resources”.

Concluding his message Pope Francis expresses the hope that Christian communities, and young people too, “may contribute more and more concretely helping everyone to enjoy this indispensable resource, in respectful care for the gifts received from the Creator, and in particular rivers, seas and oceans.”

This is the full message from Pope Francis:

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Dear brothers and sisters!

            On this Day of Prayer, I wish first to thank the Lord for the gift of our common home and for all those men and women of good will committed to protecting it. I am likewise grateful for the many projects aimed at promoting the study and the safeguarding of ecosystems, for the efforts being made to develop more sustainable agriculture and more responsible nutrition, and for the various educational, spiritual and liturgical initiatives that involve Christians throughout the world in the care of creation.

            It must be acknowledged that we have not succeeded in responsibly protecting creation. The environmental situation, both on the global level and in many specific places, cannot be considered satisfactory. Rightly, there is a growing sense of the need for a renewed and sound relationship between humanity and creation, and the conviction that only an authentic and integral vision of humanity will permit us to take better care of our planet for the benefit of present and future generations. For “there is no ecology without an adequate anthropology” (Laudato Si’, 118).

            On this World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, which the Catholic Church for several years now has celebrated in union with our Orthodox brothers and sisters and with participation of other Churches and Christian communities, I would like to draw attention to the question of water. It is a very simple and precious element, yet access to it is, sadly, for many people difficult if not impossible. Nonetheless, “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world owes a great social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity” (ibid., 30).

            Water invites us to reflect on our origins. The human body is mostly composed of water, and many civilizations throughout history arose near great rivers that marked their identity. In an evocative image, the beginning of the book of Genesis states that, in the beginning, the spirit of the Creator “swept over the face of the waters (1:2)”.

            In considering the fundamental role of water in creation and in human development, I feel the need to give thanks to God for “Sister Water”, simple and useful for life like nothing else on our planet.  Precisely for this reason, care for water sources and water basins is an urgent imperative. Today, more than ever, we need to look beyond immediate concerns (cf. Laudato Si’, 36) and beyond a purely utilitarian view of reality, “in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit” (ibid., 159). We urgently need shared projects and concrete gestures that recognize that every privatization of the natural good of water, at the expense of the human right to have access to this good, is unacceptable.

            For us Christians, water represents an essential element of purification and of life.  We think immediately of baptism, the sacrament of our rebirth. Water made holy by the Spirit is the matter by which God has given us life and renewed us; it is the blessed source of undying life. For Christians of different confessions, baptism also represents the real and irreplaceable point of departure for experiencing an ever more authentic fraternity on the way to full unity. Jesus, in the course of his mission, promised a water capable of quenching human thirst for ever (cf. Jn 4:14).  He prophesied, “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink (Jn 7:37). To drink from Jesus means to encounter him personally as the Lord, drawing from his words the meaning of life. May the words he spoke from the cross – “I thirst” (Jn 19:28) – echo constantly in our hearts. The Lord continues to ask that his thirst be quenched; he thirsts for love.  He asks us to give him to drink in all those who thirst in our own day, and to say to them, “I was thirsty and you gave me to drink” (Mt 25:35). To give to drink, in the global village, does not only entail personal gestures of charity, but also concrete choices and a constant commitment to ensure to all the primary good of water.

            I would like also to mention the issue of the seas and oceans. It is our duty to thank the Creator for the impressive and marvellous gift of the great waters and all that they contain (cf. Gen 1:20-21; Ps 146:6), and to praise him for covering the earth with the oceans (cf. Ps 104:6). To ponder the immense open seas and their incessant movement can also represent an opportunity to turn our thoughts to God, who constantly accompanies his creation, guiding its course and sustaining its existence (cf. St. John Paul II, Catechesis of 7 May 1986).

            Constant care for this inestimable treasure represents today an ineluctable duty and a genuine challenge. There is need for an effective cooperation between men and women of good will in assisting the ongoing work of the Creator. Sadly, all too many efforts fail due to the lack of effective regulation and means of control, particularly with regard to the protection of marine areas beyond national confines (cf. Laudato Si’, 174). We cannot allow our seas and oceans to be littered by endless fields of floating plastic. Here too, our active commitment is needed to confront this emergency. We need to pray as if everything depended on God’s providence, and work as if everything depended on us.

            Let us pray that waters may not be a sign of separation between peoples, but of encounter for the human community. Let us pray that those who risk their lives at sea in search of a better future may be kept safe. Let us ask the Lord and all those engaged in the noble service of politics that the more sensitive questions of our day, such as those linked to movements of migration, climate change and the right of everyone to enjoy primary goods, may be faced with generous and farsighted responsibility and in a spirit of cooperation, especially among those countries most able to help. 

            Let us pray too, for all those who devote themselves to the apostolate of the sea, for those who help reflect on the issues involving maritime ecosystems, for those who contribute to the development and application of international regulations on the seas in order to safeguard individuals, countries, goods, natural resources – I think, for example, of marine fauna and flora, and coral reefs (cf. ibid., 41) or sea beds – and to guarantee an integral development in view of the common good of the entire human family and not particular interests. Let us remember, too, all those who work to protect maritime areas and to safeguard the oceans and their bi