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Washington D.C., Mar 26, 2017 / 09:01 am (EWTN News/CNA).- Bishop Patrick James Byrne was born in the United States, but he died on a forced march in the harsh Korean snows under the watch of communist soldiers. 18 hours 52 min
Vatican City, Mar 26, 2017 / 05:52 am (EWTN News/CNA).- On Sunday Pope Francis said Lent is a key time to open ourselves to the light of Christ and let go of all the "false lights" that lead us away from him, taking us instead down a path of darkness marked by our own selfishness. 22 hours 1 min
San Francisco, Calif., Mar 26, 2017 / 05:02 pm (EWTN News/CNA).- In 2013, Beyonce Knowles topped GQ's list of "The 100 Hottest Women of the 21st Century." 22 hours 51 min
Milan, Italy, Mar 25, 2017 / 07:31 am (EWTN News/CNA).- During his daytrip to Milan Saturday, Pope Francis told the diocese's priests and religious not to fear the challenges that come with their ministry nor the increasing number of empty convents, urging them instead to focus on the core of their mission: bringing Christ to his people. 1 day 20 hours
Austin, Texas, Mar 25, 2017 / 07:01 am (EWTN News/CNA).- Among the targets of Texas pro-life advocates are so-called 'wrongful birth' lawsuits and Planned Parenthood's alleged involvement in the sale of unborn baby parts. Both are finding some success in the State Senate. 1 day 20 hours
Milan, Italy, Mar 25, 2017 / 03:00 pm (EWTN News/CNA).- Pope Francis celebrated the Feast of the Annunciation in Milan, telling mass-goers that even today God is still searching for hearts like Mary's that are open to welcoming his invitation and providing hope, even when it's hard. 2 days 53 min
Milan, Italy, Mar 25, 2017 / 02:54 pm (EWTN News/CNA).- In last meeting during his daytrip to Milan, Pope Francis issued a harsh criticism of bullying in schools, asking youth to make a promise to him and to Jesus to never bully others, and telling teachers to be aware of the problem. 2 days 59 min
Vatican City, Mar 24, 2017 / 04:32 pm (EWTN News/CNA).- In a significant show of unity, officials from every Vatican department – including at least half a dozen cardinals who head various dicasteries – attended a recent Rome seminar on safeguarding minors. 2 days 23 hours

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(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday during the Angelus in a sunny St Peter’s Square took inspiration from the Gospel reading in which Jesus restores the sight of the blind man. Listen to Lydia O'Kane's report: With this miracle the Holy Father explained, “Jesus reveals himself as light of the world”. Each of us, the Pope said, is blind from birth, in that, “we were created to know God, but because of sin we are like the blind, we need a new light, that of faith, that Jesus has given us.” In fact, Pope Francis went on to say, “the blind man of the Gospel regaining his vision is opened up to the mystery of Christ.” This man represents us when we do not realize that Jesus is "the light of the world" and when we look elsewhere when we prefer to rely on small lights when fumbling in the dark,” the Pope said. We too, he continued, have been "enlightened" to Christ in baptism, and then we are called to behave as children of light.” Posing the question, “What does it mean to have true light and to walk in the light?, the Holy Father answered by saying, “it means first of all to abandon false lights.” Another false light, Pope Francis noted, is self-interest: “if we evaluate people and things based on the criterion of our profit, our pleasure, our prestige, we are not being truthful in relationships and situations.” Following the recitation of the Marian prayer the Pope remembered José Álvarez-Benavides y de la Torre, and one hundred and fourteen companion martyrs who were beatified on Saturday in Spain. He said, “these priests, religious and lay people have been heroic witnesses of Christ and his Gospel of peace and fraternal reconciliation. Their example and their intercession sustain the Church's involvement in building a civilization of love.” Pope Francis also recalled his one day pastoral visit to Milan on Saturday expressing his thanks to the organisers and those who took part, both believers and non-believers, adding, it felt home.       (from Vatican Radio)... 19 hours 46 min
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis wrapped up his one-day pastoral journey to the northern Italian city of Milan with an encounter with newly confirmed youngsters. At the end of his busy day in the city, the Pope travelled to the football stadium of San Siro where he was welcomed by almost 80,000 people, including parents, god-parents, catechists, teachers and volunteers. The Pope took questions from some of those present and in his off-cuff answers he focused on the importance of education and formation. A good teacher he said knows how to enhance and promote the qualities of his pupils without neglecting the person as a whole. “Education is “head-hands-heart” he said. He reminded teachers and trainers that “children also need to play, to have fun, to rest.” The Pope concluded the encounter with a strong appeal to defeat ‘bullying’: “Please be careful, be on the look-out for the phenomenon of bullying” he said and invited the tens of thousands of boys and girls to reflect in silence and ask themselves whether there is someone in their school or in their community that teases them for whatever reason or whether they themselves are mean and even aggressive towards others. “This is bullying” he said and asked them to promise the Lord never to be bullies or to allow others to be victims of bullies.   (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 12 hours
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass in Monza Park for the people of the Archdiocese of Milan, Italy on Saturday during a pastoral visit, reflecting on the annunciation of Jesus as a message of joy at the peripheries of society. The Holy Father invited them to be joyful members of God’s people and to avoid “speculating” on the future of others. Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:   Two were the questions Pope Francis put to the people gathered for Mass in Monza Park: “How can we live the joy of the Gospel today within our cities? Is Christian hope possible in this situation, here and now?” The Holy Father said these two questions “touch our identities” and “require of us a new way of seeing our place in history”. He was reflecting on the difference between the two annunciation stories in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel: that of John the Baptist (Lc 1,26-38), which took place in the inner sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem, and that of Jesus (Lc 1,5-10). He said the annunciation of Jesus’ birth to Mary by the Angel Gabriel took place in Galilee: “a peripheral city with a less-than-excellent reputation (Jn 1,46)”. The Pope said the contrast indicates that “God’s new encounter with His people will take place in places we would not normally expect: on the margins and peripheries”. He said, “It is God Himself who takes the initiative and chooses to enter – as Mary did – in our houses and daily struggles, full of anxiety and desires.” Pope Francis said finding joy in our daily lives can be a challenge due to the speculation or taking advantage of others. “Some people speculate on life, on work, and on the family. They speculate on the poor and migrants, on young people and their future. Everything seems to be reduced to numbers, on the other hand leaving the daily life of families to be discolored by precariousness and insecurity.” The keys to finding joy in our mission, the Pope said, are “memory, belonging, and seeing the possible in the impossible”. “The first thing the Angel [Gabriel] does is evoke her memory, in this way opening Mary’s present to the whole of Salvation History. He evokes the promises made to David as a fruit of the Covenant with Jacob. Mary is a daughter of the Covenant.” This memory, the Holy Father said, allows Mary to recognize her belonging to the People of God. He said the Archdiocese of Milan is inhabited by “a people called to welcome differences and integrate them with respect and creativity, celebrating the newness offered by others. It is a people unafraid of embracing borders.” Third, Pope Francis reminded Milan’s pilgrims that “Nothing is impossible for God” (Lc 1,37). “When we open to allowing ourselves to be helped or counseled and when we open ourselves to grace, it seems that the impossible begins to become reality.” In conclusion, the Pope said, “As before, God continues to seek allies and men and women capable of believing and capable of remembering, recognizing themselves as belonging to His people in order to cooperate with the creativity of the Holy Spirit.” (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 16 hours
(Vatican Radio) One of the highlights of Pope Francis ’ 1-day pastoral journey to the Italian city of Milan is his visit to the city’s main detention center, the San Vittore Prison . Shortly after midday and the recitation of the Angelus, the Pope travelled to the prison where he was welcomed by the director,Gloria Manzelli, and by the prison chaplain, don Marco Recalcati. San Vittore currently hosts over 900 inmates – both men and women – as well as a number of infants who live with their detained mothers in a special unit. The Pope met briefly with them before exchanging greetings with a large group of the San Vittore staff and volunteers. The building, designed by the engineer Francesco Lucca, takes inspiration from the 18th century Panopticon with 6 wings with three floors each. Moving through these wings, the Pope was given the opportunity to shake hands with some 80 people representing all the different categories of inmates, before going on to meet those who are detained in a “protected” environment. In the third wing, Pope Francis sat down for lunch with some 100 prisoners and treated to a typically Milanese cuisine, including rice with saffron and steaks “alla Milanese” prepared by some of  the inmates themselves. The visit concluded with an exchange of gifts and the blessing of cards with the prisoners’ names on them to be taken away by the Pope. Throughout his pontificate Pope Francis has highlighted the predicament of prisoners and urged political leaders across the world to respect the dignity of inmates and offer them amnesty whenever possible. In many occasions he has called for a criminal justice system that is not exclusively punitive, but is open to the hope and the possibility of re-inserting the offender into society. Pope Francis has also called for a world-wide abolition of the death penalty and said he opposes life in prison without parole. Underlining his deep concern for prisoners the Pope concluded the Holy Year of Mercy with a special Jubilee Mass for some 1,000 prisoners from 12 countries and their families, as well as prison chaplains and volunteers in St. Peter's Basilica.   (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 18 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday is making a one day pastoral visit to Milan. This morning he paid a call on Milan’s Duomo and traveled to the peripheries of the city to meet with immigrant families. Listen to our report:   For the curious pilgrim or tourist a trip to Milan is not complete without a visit the “Duomo” or Cathedral Church. And it was here in front of this iconic building that Pope Francis recited the Angelus on Saturday greeted by thousands of well- wishers. A short time earlier inside this magnificent building, the Pope met with priests and consecrated persons, listening to their questions and offering words of advice. During the question and answer session the Holy Father said that in a world that is multicultural, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic,  the Church, over its entire history, has had much to teach us and to help us towards a culture of diversity. The Holy Spirit, Pope Francis noted “is the master of diversity.” The Pope also underlined the importance of prayer and of service in the church; service by priests, religious and consecrated to the poor and to the Word of God. Responding to a question from a religious mother who asked how it was possible to continue to be a significant presence today despite being fewer and older, the Pope said, that it was most important not to become resigned to one’s fate. He said that realities today were a challenge, but religious orders who were in the minority were being invited to rise again like yeast with the help of the Holy Spirit, who also inspired the hearts of their founders. This one day pastoral visit began on Saturday morning with the Holy Father’s going out to Milan’s peripheries to meet with Rom, Islamic, and immigrant families of the ‘White Houses’ in the Forlanini quarter of the city. Greeting the crowds of people that had gathered to see him, he told them that the Church “always needs to be restored” because he added, it is made by us, who are sinners.” Let us be restored, he said by God’s mercy. (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 20 hours
(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Saturday greeted the Rom, Islamic, and immigrant families of the ‘White Houses’ in the Forlanini quarter of Milan at the beginning of his one-day pastoral visit to the city. Upon his arrival, residents gave the Holy Father two gifts: a priestly stole and a picture of a statuette of the Madonna. Pope Francis thanked them for their gifts and said it was important for him to be welcomed to Milan by a community of families. He said the stole was a reminder that he comes “as a priest: I come to Milan as a priest”. He also recognized that it had been handmade by several residents of the Forlanini quarter: “It’s a reminder that the Christian priest is chosen from among the people and at the service of the people. My priesthood…is a gift from Christ, but it is ‘woven’ by you, by our people with their faith, labours, prayers, and tears.” Pope Francis then said the statuette of Our Lady is a sign of his being welcomed to Milan by the Madonna. “It reminds me of Mary’s care, who ran to meet Elizabeth. This is the care and concern of the Church, which does not remain in the city centre waiting but comes to meet all at the peripheries; she goes also to meet non-Christians and non-believers…; and she brings Jesus to all, he who is the love of God made flesh and gives meaning to our lives and saves us from evil.” Afterwards, the Holy Father made his way to Milan’s Duomo Cathedral to meet with priests and consecrated men and women. (from Vatican Radio)... 1 day 21 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has arrived in Milan in Northern Italy for a one day pastoral visit. The Pope departed from Rome’s Fiumicino airport earlier this morning. Thousands of people turned out to meet the Holy Father as he travelled by "Pope Mobile" to meet with the Rom, Islamic, and immigrant families of the ‘White Houses’ in the Forlanini quarter of the city. Later this morning after speaking with priests and consecrated persons, he will visit the inmates of the San Vittore Prison for lunch and then celebrate Holy Mass in Monza Park. The final appointment of the day is a meeting with several recently confirmed young people in the Meazza-San Siro di Milano Stadium. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 3 min
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis addressed Heads of State and Heads of Government of European Union countries on Friday afternoon, the eve of the 60° anniversary of the signing of the treaties creating the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community – the first major structural steps toward creating the European Union. Below, please find the full text of the Holy Father’s prepared remarks, in their official English translation ********************************************** Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to European Heads of State and Government 24 March 2017 Distinguished Guests, I thank you for your presence here tonight, on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaties instituting the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community.  I convey to each of you the affection of the Holy See for your respective countries and for Europe itself, to whose future it is, in God’s providence, inseparably linked.  I am particularly grateful to the Honourable Paolo Gentiloni, President of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Italy, for his respectful words of greeting in your name and for the efforts that Italy has made in preparing for this meeting.  I also thank the Honourable Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, who has voiced the aspirations of the peoples of the Union on this anniversary. Returning to Rome, sixty years later, must not simply be a remembrance of things past, but the expression of a desire to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the present.  We need to immerse ourselves in the challenges of that time, so as to face those of today and tomorrow.  The Bible, with its rich historical narratives, can teach us a basic lesson.  We cannot understand our own times apart from the past, seen not as an assemblage of distant facts, but as the lymph that gives life to the present.  Without such an awareness, reality loses its unity, history loses its logical thread, and humanity loses a sense of the meaning of its activity and its progress towards the future. 25 March 1957 was a day full of hope and expectation, enthusiasm and apprehension.  Only an event of exceptional significance and historical consequences could make it unique in history.  The memory of that day is linked to today’s hopes and the expectations of the people of Europe, who call for discernment in the present, so that the journey that has begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence. This was very clear to the founding fathers and the leaders who, by signing the two Treaties, gave life to that political, economic, cultural and primarily human reality which today we call the European Union.  As P.H. Spaak, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, it was a matter “indeed, of the material prosperity of our peoples, the expansion of our economies, social progress and completely new industrial and commercial possibilities, but above all… a particular conception of life that is humane, fraternal and just”.[1] After the dark years and the bloodshed of the Second World War, the leaders of the time had faith in the possibility of a better future.  “They did not lack boldness, nor did they act too late.  The memory of recent tragedies and failures seems to have inspired them and given them the courage needed to leave behind their old disputes and to think and act in a truly new way, in order to bring about the greatest transformation… of Europe”.[2] The founding fathers remind us that Europe is not a conglomeration of rules to obey, or a manual of protocols and procedures to follow. It is a way of life, a way of understanding man based on his transcendent and inalienable dignity, as something more than simply a sum of rights to defend or claims to advance.  At the origin of the idea of Europe, we find “the nature and the responsibility of the human person, with his ferment of evangelical fraternity…, with his desire for truth and justice, honed by a thousand-year-old experience”.[3]  Rome, with its vocation to universality,[4] symbolizes that experience and was thus chosen as the place for the signing of the Treaties.  For here – as the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, J. Luns, observed – “were laid the political, juridical and social foundations of our civilization”.[5] It was clear, then, from the outset, that the heart of the European political project could only be man himself.  It was also clear that the Treaties could remain a dead letter; they needed to take on spirit and life.  The first element of European vitality must be solidarity.  As the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, J. Bech stated, “the European economic community will prove lasting and successful only if it remains constantly faithful to the spirit of European solidarity that created it, and if the common will of the Europe now being born proves more powerful than the will of individual nations”.[6]  That spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the Union to productive, economic and financial needs. Solidarity gives rise to openness towards others.  “Our plans are not inspired by self-interest”,[7] said the German Chancellor, K. Adenauer.  The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, C. Pineau, echoed this sentiment: “Surely the countries about to unite… do not have the intention of isolating themselves from the rest of the world and surrounding themselves with insurmountable barriers”.[8]  In a world that was all too familiar with the tragedy of walls and divisions, it was clearly important to work for a united and open Europe, and for the removal of the unnatural barrier that divided the continent from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic.  What efforts were made to tear down that wall!  Yet today the memory of those efforts has been lost.  Forgotten too is the tragedy of separated families, poverty and destitution born of that division.  Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the “dangers” of our time: beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones. In today’s lapse of memory, we often forget another great achievement of the solidarity ratified on 25 March 1957: the longest period of peace experienced in recent centuries.  “Peoples who over time often found themselves in opposed camps, fighting with one another… now find themselves united and enriched by their distinctive national identities”.[9]  Peace is always the fruit of a free and conscious contribution by all.  Nonetheless, “for many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted”,[10] one that can then easily come to be regarded as superfluous.  On the contrary, peace is a precious and essential good, for without it, we cannot build a future for anyone, and we end up “living from day to day”. United Europe was born of a clear, well-defined and carefully pondered project, however embryonic at first.  Every worthy project looks to the future, and the future are the young, who are called to realize its hopes and promises.[11]  The founding fathers had a clear sense of being part of a common effort that not only crossed national borders, but also the borders of time, so as to bind generations among themselves, all sharing equally in the building of the common home. Distinguished Guests, I have devoted this first part of my talk to the founding fathers of Europe, so that we can be challenged by their words, the timeliness of their thinking, their impassioned pursuit of the common good, their certainty of sharing in a work greater than themselves, and the breadth of the ideals that inspired them.  Their common denominator was the spirit of service, joined to passion for politics and the consciousness that “at the origin of European civilization there is Christianity”,[12] without which the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely incomprehensible.  As Saint John Paul II affirmed: “Today too, the soul of Europe remains united, because, in addition to its common origins, those same Christian and human values are still alive.  Respect for the dignity of the human person, a profound sense of justice, freedom, industriousness, the spirit of initiative, love of family, respect for life, tolerance, the desire for cooperation and peace: all these are its distinctive marks”.[13]  In our multicultural world, these values will continue to have their rightful place provided they maintain a vital connection to their deepest roots.  The fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically “lay” societies, free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and nonbelievers. The world has changed greatly in the last sixty years.  If the founding fathers, after surviving a devastating conflict, were inspired by the hope of a better future and were determined to pursue it by avoiding the rise of new conflicts, our time is dominated more by the concept of crisis.  There is the economic crisis that has marked the past decade; there is the crisis of the family and of established social models; there is a widespread “crisis of institutions” and the migration crisis.  So many crises that engender fear and profound confusion in our contemporaries, who look for a new way of envisioning the future. Yet the term “crisis” is not necessarily negative.  It does not simply indicate a painful moment to be endured.  The word “crisis” has its origin in the Greek verb kríno, which means to discern, to weigh, to assess.  Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it.  It is a time of challenge and opportunity. So what is the interpretative key for reading the difficulties of the present and finding answers for the future?  Returning to the thinking of the founding Fathers would be fruitless unless it could help to point out a path and provide an incentive for facing the future and a source of hope.  When a body loses its sense of direction and is no longer able to look ahead, it experiences a regression and, in the long run, risks dying.  What, then, is the legacy of the founding fathers?  What prospects do they indicate for surmounting the challenges that lie before us?  What hope do they offer for the Europe of today and of tomorrow? Their answers are to be found precisely in the pillars on which they determined to build the European economic community.  I have already mentioned these: the centrality of man, effective solidarity, openness to the world, the pursuit of peace and development, openness to the future.  Those who govern are charged with discerning the paths of hope, identifying specific ways forward to ensure that the significant steps taken thus far have not been wasted, but serve as the pledge of a long and fruitful journey. Europe finds new hope when man is the centre and the heart of her institutions.  I am convinced that this entails an attentive and trust-filled readiness to hear the expectations voiced by individuals, society and the peoples who make up the Union.  Sadly, one frequently has the sense that there is a growing “split” between the citizenry and the European institutions, which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the Union.  Affirming the centrality of man also means recovering the spirit of family, whereby each contributes freely to the common home in accordance with his or her own abilities and gifts.  It helps to keep in mind that Europe is a family of peoples[14] and that – as in every good family – there are different sensitivities, yet all can grow to the extent that all are united.  The European Union was born as a unity of differences and a unity in differences.  What is distinctive should not be a reason for fear, nor should it be thought that unity is preserved by uniformity.  Unity is instead harmony within a community.  The founding fathers chose that very term as the hallmark of the agencies born of the Treaties and they stressed that the resources and talents of each were now being pooled.  Today the European Union needs to recover the sense of being primarily a “community” of persons and peoples, to realize that “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts”,[15] and that therefore “we constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all”.[16]  The founding fathers sought that harmony in which the whole is present in every one of the parts, and the parts are – each in its own unique way – present in the whole. Europe finds new hope in solidarity, which is also the most effective antidote to modern forms of populism.  Solidarity entails the awareness of being part of a single body, while at the same time involving a capacity on the part of each member to “sympathize” with others and with the whole.  When one suffers, all suffer (cf. 1 Cor 12:26).  Today, with the United Kingdom, we mourn the victims of the attack that took place in London two days ago.  For solidarity is no mere ideal; it is expressed in concrete actions and steps that draw us closer to our neighbours, in whatever situation they find themselves.  Forms of populism are instead the fruit of an egotism that hems people in and prevents them from overcoming and “looking beyond” their own narrow vision.  There is a need to start thinking once again as Europeans, so as to avert the opposite dangers of a dreary uniformity or the triumph of particularisms.  Politics needs this kind of leadership, which avoids appealing to emotions to gain consent, but instead, in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity, devises policies that can make the Union as a whole develop harmoniously.  As a result, those who run faster can offer a hand to those who are slower, and those who find the going harder can aim at catching up to those at the head of the line. Europe finds new hope when she refuses to yield to fear or close herself off in false forms of security.  Quite the contrary, her history has been greatly determined by encounters with other peoples and cultures; hers “is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity”.[17]   The world looks to the European project with great interest.  This was the case from the first day, when crowds gathered in Rome’s Capitol Square and messages of congratulation poured in from other states.  It is even more the case today, if we think of those countries that have asked to become part of the Union and those states that receive the aid so generously offered them for battling the effects of poverty, disease and war.  Openness to the world implies the capacity for “dialogue as a form of encounter”[18] on all levels, beginning with dialogue between member states, between institutions and citizens, and with the numerous immigrants landing on the shores of the Union.  It is not enough to handle the grave crisis of immigration of recent years as if it were a mere numerical or economic problem, or a question of security. The immigration issue poses a deeper question, one that is primarily cultural.  What kind of culture does Europe propose today?  The fearfulness that is becoming more and more evident has its root cause in the loss of ideals.  Without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts, and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone.  Yet the richness of Europe has always been her spiritual openness and her capacity to raise basic questions about the meaning of life.  Openness to the sense of the eternal has also gone hand in hand, albeit not without tensions and errors, with a positive openness to this world.  Yet today’s prosperity seems to have clipped the continent’s wings and lowered its gaze.  Europe has a patrimony of ideals and spiritual values unique in the world, one that deserves to be proposed once more with passion and renewed vigour, for it is the best antidote against the vacuum of values of our time, which provides a fertile terrain for every form of extremism.  These are the ideals that shaped Europe, that “Peninsula of Asia” which stretches from the Urals to the Atlantic. Europe finds new hope when she invests in development and in peace.  Development is not the result of a combination of various systems of production.  It has to do with the whole human being: the dignity of labour, decent living conditions, access to education and necessary medical care.  “Development is the new name of peace”,[19]  said Pope Paul VI, for there is no true peace whenever people are cast aside or forced to live in dire poverty.  There is no peace without employment and the prospect of earning a dignified wage.  There is no peace in the peripheries of our cities, with their rampant drug abuse and violence. Europe finds new hope when she is open to the future.  When she is open to young people, offering them serious prospects for education and real possibilities for entering the work force.  When she invests in the family, which is the first and fundamental cell of society.  When she respects the consciences and the ideals of her citizens.  When she makes it possible to have children without the fear of being unable to support them.  When she defends life in all its sacredness. Distinguished Guests, Nowadays, with the general increase in people’s life span, sixty is considered the age of full maturity, a critical time when we are once again called to self-examination.  The European Union, too, is called today to examine itself, to care for the ailments that inevitably come with age, and to find new ways to steer its course.  Yet unlike human beings, the European Union does not face an inevitable old age, but the possibility of a new youthfulness.  Its success will depend on its readiness to work together once again, and by its willingness to wager on the future.  As leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a “new European humanism”[20] made up of ideals and concrete actions.  This will mean being unafraid to take practical decisions capable of meeting people’s real problems and of standing the test of time. For my part, I readily assure you of the closeness of the Holy See and the Church to Europe as a whole, to whose growth she has, and always will, continue to contribute.  Invoking upon Europe the Lord’s blessings, I ask him to protect her and grant her peace and progress.  I make my own the words that Joseph Bech proclaimed on Rome’s Capitoline Hill: Ceterum censeo Europam esse aedificandam – furthermore, I believe that Europe ought to be built. Thank you. [1] P.H. SPAAK, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [2] Ibid. [3] A. DE GASPERI. La nostra patria Europa.  Address to the European Parliamentary Conference, 21 April 1954, in Alcide De Gasperi e la politica internazionale, Cinque Lune, Rome, 1990, vol. III, 437-440. [4] Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit. [5] J. LUNS, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [6] J. BECH, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [7] K. ADENAUER, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [8] C. PINEAU, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957. [9] P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit. [10] Address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2017. [11] Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit. [12] A. DE GASPERI, loc. cit. [13] JOHN PAUL II, European Act, Santiago de Compostela, 9 November 1982: AAS 75/1 (1983), 329. [14] Cf. Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014: AAS 106 (2014), 1000. [15] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 235. [16] Ibid. [17] Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016: L’Osservatore Romano, 6-7 May 2016, p. 4. [18] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 239. [19] PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 26 March 1967, 87: AAS 59 (1967), 299. [20] Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, loc. cit., p. 5. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 14 hours
(Vatican Radio) The Press Office of the Holy See has released the following communiqué on Pope Francis' audience for the President of Fiji:  Today, Friday 24 March, the Holy Father Francis received in Audience, in the Vatican Apostolic Palace, the president of the Republic of Fiji, His Excellency Mr Jioji Konousi Konrote, who subsequently met with His Eminence Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, accompanied by His Excellency Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States. During the cordial discussions, the existing good relations between the Holy See and Fiji and the contribution of the Catholic Church to the life of the country were evoked. Attention then turned to the issue of climate change and, above all, to its ethical dimension, which demands solidarity with the most vulnerable social groups and countries, and with the new generations. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 16 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter of condolence to the Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, following the death of Cardinal William Keeler, who led the Archdiocese of Baltimore from 1989-2007.  The full text of the telegram can be found below:  To the Most Reverend William E. Lori Archbishop of Baltimore Deeply saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal William H. Keeler, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese.  With gratitude for Cardinal Keeler’s years of devoted episcopal ministry in the local Churches of Harrisburg and Baltimore, his years of leadership within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and his long-standing commitment to ecumenical and interreligious understanding, I join you in commending the soul of this wise and gentle pastor to the merciful love of God our heavenly Father.  To all who mourn the late Cardinal in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord. FRANCISCUS PP. (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 16 hours
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is set to receive 27 European Union heads of State and Government at a private audience in the Vatican’s Sala Regia on Friday evening. Britain’s Theresa May will not be amongst them as she prepares to trigger Brexit in just four days times. The encounter takes place on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome. The Treaties are considered to be the foundation acts of the European Community. Leaders will be joined at the audience by representatives of EU institutions. These include Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission and Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament. Tajani spoke with Vatican Radio about the significance of the EU leaders’ meeting with Pope Francis: “The meeting with the Pope is very important for everybody. The Pope is a very important man, not only for the Christian people, but also for everybody.” He said the Pope’s speech at the European parliament “was a very clear, very important message: We need to change Europe, but at the same time we need to strengthen Europe.” That is a message, he said, that is shared by the members of the European Union, and by the various European institutions. Listen:  (from Vatican Radio)... 2 days 20 hours

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From: The site of the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Posted

lentartEditor’s Note: The deacons of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati are offering daily reflections and prayer guidance for Lenten observance. These will appear each day during Lent until Holy Week.

March 26 – Sunday the Fourth Sunday of Lent

Thought for the Day: In today’s Gospel, Jesus spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on the eyes of the man born blind, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam” —which means Sent—. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.

Pray For: all to encounter Jesus as the blind man in the Gospel, so that they may have the strength and courage to go and be light to the world.

Today’s Action: When you wash your hands, pray: Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin in order that I may better encounter Jesus and live as a child of the Light.

Deacon Richard Hobbs
Saint Mary of the Assumption
Springboro, OH

March 27 – Monday of the Fourth Week in Lent

Thought for the Day: The prophet Isaiah tells us Thus says the LORD: Lo, I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; The things of the past shall not be remembered or come to mind. Instead, there shall always be rejoicing and happiness in what I create.

Pray for: Those struggling with past wounds and hurts that keep them from rejoicing with the Lord.

Action: Are there some past wounds that keep me from the Lord, or in a relationship? Write down those wounds and take them to the cross and pray for healing.

March 28 – Tuesday of the Fourth Week in Lent

Thought for the Day: “Do you want to be well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.

Pray for: Caregivers in their daily work helping others

Action: Think about something you are afraid to ask for help, or think about someone you know that needs help. Put yourself in the sick man at Bethesda’s shoe’s and ask for help, or take someone to the pool and help them in their struggle.

March 29 – Wednesday of the Fourth Week in Lent

Thought for the Day: Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life.

Pray for: A deepening friendship with Christ.

Action: Whatever your vocation, take Jesus Christ with you. Look to Christ when making decisions. Walk with Christ in every aspect of your life.

20 hours 53 min

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) — Pope Francis asked 45,000 children preparing for confirmation to promise Jesus they would never engage in bullying.

Turning stern during a lively and laughter-filled encounter March 25, Pope Francis told the youngsters he was very worried about the growing phenomenon of bullying.

He asked them to be silent and reflect on if there were times when they made fun of someone for how they looked or behaved. And, as a condition of their confirmation, he made them promise Jesus that they would never tease or bully anyone.

The pope ended his daylong visit to Milan by participating in an expanded version of the archdiocese’s annual encounter for pre-teens preparing for confirmation. An estimated 78,000 people filled the city’s famed San Siro soccer stadium; the archdiocese expects to confirm about 45,000 young people this year.

A boy named Davide asked the pope, “When you were our age, what helped your friendship with Jesus grow?”

First of all, the pope said, it was his grandparents. One of his grandfathers was a carpenter, who told him Jesus learned carpentry from St. Joseph, so whenever the pope saw his grandfather work, he thought of Jesus. The other grandfather taught him to always say something to Jesus before going to sleep, even if it was just, “Good night, Jesus.”

His grandmothers and his mother, the pope said, were the ones who taught him to pray. He told the kids that even if their grandparents “don’t know how to use a computer or have a smartphone,” they have a lot to teach them.

Playing with friends taught him joy and how to get along with others, which is part of faith, the pope said. And going to Mass and to the parish oratory also strengthened his faith because “being with others is important.”

A couple of parents, who introduced themselves as Monica and Alberto, asked the pope’s advice on educating their three children in the faith.

Pope Francis borrowed little Davide’s question and asked the parents to close their eyes and think of the people who transmitted the faith to them and helped it grow.

“Your children watch you continually,” the pope said. “Even if you don’t notice, they observe everything and learn from it,” especially in how parents handle tensions, joys and sorrows.

He also encouraged families to go to Mass together and then, if the weather is nice, to go to a park and play together. “This is beautiful and will help you live the commandment to keep the Lord’s day holy.”

An essential part of handing on the faith, he said, is teaching children the meaning of solidarity and engaging them in the parents’ acts of charity and solidarity with the poor. “Faith grows with charity and charity grows with faith,” he said.

Before going to the soccer stadium, Pope Francis celebrated an afternoon Mass for the feast of the Annunciation in Milan’s Monza Park.

The annunciation of Jesus’ birth to Mary took place in her home in a small town in the middle of no where, which is a sign that God desired to meet his people “in places we normally would not expect,” the pope said in his homily.

Just as “the joy of salvation began in the daily life of a young woman’s home in Nazareth,” he said, God wants to be welcomed into and given life in the homes of all people.

God is indifferent to no one, the pope said, and “no situation will be deprived of his presence.”

Tens of thousands of people gathered on a warm spring day for the Mass amid the new leaves and fragile buds on the trees of the park.

Pope Francis used Milan’s Ambrosian rite, a Mass that differs slightly from the Latin rite used in most parts of the world. Some of the differences included the pope blessing each of the readers and not only the deacon who proclaimed the Gospel, and the Creed being sung after the offertory, rather than after the homily.

In his homily, the pope said that like Mary at the Annunciation, people today naturally wonder how God’s promises could be fulfilled. “But how can this be?” Mary asked.

The same question arises “at a time so filled with speculation. There’s speculation on the poor and migrants, speculation on the young and their future,” the pope said. “While pain knocks on many doors, while young people are increasingly unsatisfied by the lack of real opportunities, speculation is abundant everywhere.”

Finding and living the joy of the Gospel, he said, is possible only following the path the Angel Gabriel led Mary on when he told her she would bear God’s son. People must remember the great things God has done and remember that they belong to the people of God, a community that “is not afraid to welcome those in need because they know the Lord is present in them.”

Finally, he said, they must have faith in the “possibility of the impossible,” demonstrating the same “audacious faith” that Mary showed.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

1 day 8 hours

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

ROME (CNS) — Visiting Milan, the center of Italian fashion and finance, Pope Francis spent the morning with the poor and those who minister to them.

He had lunch at the city’s historic San Vittore prison, where all 893 inmates — men and women — are awaiting trial.

But Pope Francis began his visit March 25 on the outskirts of the city, at the “White Houses,” a housing development for the poor built in the 1970s. Three families welcomed the pope into their apartments: Stefano Pasquale, 59, who is ill and cared for by his 57-year-old wife, Dorotee; a Muslim couple and their three children from Morocco; and the Onetes.

Nuccio Onete, 82, was home for the pope’s visit, but his wife, Adele, was hospitalized with pneumonia three days earlier, so the pope called her on the telephone.

The people of the neighborhood gave Pope Francis a handmade white stole, which he put on before addressing the crowd.

The fact that it was homemade, he said, “makes it much more precious and is a reminder that the Christian priest is chosen from the people and is at the service of the people. My priesthood, like that of your pastor and the other priests who work here, is a gift of Christ, but one sewn by you, by the people, with your faith, your struggles, your prayers and your tears.”

Arriving next at Milan’s massive Gothic cathedral, Pope Francis met with the archdiocese’s pastoral workers and responded to questions from a priest, a permanent deacon and a religious sister, urging them to trust in God, hold on to their joy and share the good news of Christ with everyone they meet.

“We should not fear challenges,” he said. “It is good that they exist” and Christians must “grab them, like a bull, by the horns.”

Challenges “are a sign of a living faith, of a living community that seeks the Lord and keeps its eyes and heart open.”

Asked by Father Gabriele Gioia about evangelization efforts that do not seem to result in “catching fish,” Pope Francis said the work of an evangelizer — of all Christians — is to set out and cast the nets. “It’s the Lord who catches the fish.”

Preoccupation with numbers is never a good thing, Pope Francis said.

Responding to Ursuline Sister Paola Paganoni, who spoke of the challenge of reaching out when so many orders are experiencing an aging and declining membership, the pope spoke as a Jesuit, saying, “The majority of our founding fathers and mothers never thought they’d be a multitude.”

Rather, he said, they were moved by the Holy Spirit to respond to the real needs of their time and “to build the church like leaven in the dough, like salt and light for the world.”

Just think, he said, a dish with too much salt would be inedible. And, “I’ve never seen a pizzamaker who took a half kilo of yeast and 100 grams of flour to make a pizza. No, it has to be the opposite” proportion. Christians must be concerned with being leaven in society more than with being a majority.

It is not up to the pope to tell religious orders what their focus should be, he said. They must look to their founding charisms and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But in all they do, he said, “ignite the hope that has been extinguished and weakened by a society that has become insensitive to the pain of others. Our fragility as congregations can make us more attentive to the many forms of fragility that surround us and transform them into spaces of blessing.”

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

1 day 14 hours

IMAGE: CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Sister Carol Keehan, a Daughter of Charity, who is president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, doesn’t mince words when it comes to the American Health Care Act, which was short of votes and withdrawn by House Republicans late March 24.

Two days before the GOP legislation was set for an initial vote in Congress and then delayed due to last-minute wrangling and efforts to gain support, she described the bill as a disgrace, a pro-life disaster, a huge step back, catastrophic for Catholic social teaching and something that would do incredible damage.

The woman religious, who heads an organization of more than 600 hospitals and 1,400 long-term care and other health facilities in the United States, has a vested interest in the nation’s health care and she also knows the ins and outs of health care legislation from working behind the scenes “forever” — as she describes it — on the Affordable Care Act.

At the time that the ACA was being drafted, some Catholic organizations opposed key elements of the measure. Once it became law, more than 40 lawsuits were filed to challenge the subsequent Department of Health and Human Service’s mandate requiring that insurance plans include coverage for artificial birth control, sterilization and drugs that lead to abortions.

Sister Keehan is quick to point out that the health care legislation signed into law seven years ago is far from perfect, but she says it was an “incredible step forward.”

“I do recognize the political conflict and the imperfections in the bill, but when you can make insurance that much better for people who have it and give 20 million Americans insurance, that is a huge step forward,” she told Catholic News Service March 21 in her Washington office.

At a 2015 Catholic Health Association gathering in Washington, President Barack Obama thanked Sister Keehan for her steadiness, strength and “steadfast voice.”

“We would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act done had it not been for her,” he said.

The immediate repeal and replacement of the ACA was a key promise of President Donald Trump’s campaign, but the GOP health care measure has faced opposition from both conservative and moderate Republicans. Trump told House Republicans that he will leave ACA in place and move on to tax reform if they do not support the new health care legislation.

Watching the GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA has been hard for Sister Keehan mainly because she and other health care leaders were not consulted in the process.

“We should never, ever throw together a bill that’s going to be such a profound impact on the people of this country in this short of time and without any input from those who care for them,” she said.

The work on these two health care bills couldn’t have been more different, she pointed out, noting that prior to the ACA launch she felt like she “lived in committee rooms” because she was constantly meeting with committees, groups and subgroups at the White House and Congress.

With the GOP health care plan, she said there wasn’t any opportunity for hospital groups or the American Medical Association to give any advice.

“We’ve just been dismissed,” she said, noting that she attended a few small group meetings on Capitol Hill but “they were not meetings to get our input on what ought to be done with the bill but meetings to tell us what was going to be done.”

“This has just been railroaded through Congress,” she added.

While the U.S. bishops have applauded pro-life elements of the American Health Care Act, they also have criticized other elements and expressed concern for its impact on the disadvantaged.

In a March 17 letter to House members about the GOP measure, Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said the inclusion of “critical life protections” in the House health care bill is laudable, but other provisions, including those related to Medicaid and tax credits are “troubling” and “must be addressed.”

He said the bill’s restriction of funds to providers that promote abortion and prohibiting federal funding for abortion or the purchase of plans that provide abortion “honors a key moral requirement for our nation’s health care policy.” But he also criticized the absence of “any changes” from the current law regarding conscience protections against mandates to provide certain coverage or services considered morally objectionable by employers and health care providers.

“The ACA is, by no means, a perfect law,” Bishop Dewane said. “The Catholic bishops of the United States registered serious objections at the time of its passage. However, in attempting to improve the deficiencies of the ACA, health care policy ought not create other unacceptable problems, particularly for those who struggle on the margins of our society.”

Main provisions of the new House bill include: eliminating the mandate that most individuals have health insurance and putting in its place a new system of tax credits; expanding Health Savings Accounts; repealing Medicaid expansion and transitioning to a “per capita allotment”; and prohibiting health insurers from denying coverage or charging more money to patients based on pre-existing conditions.

Sister Keehan said she thanked Bishop Dewane for his letter to Congress and said the bishops had carefully gone through the legislation measure by measure on a number of issues. She also noted that she knows people in the pro-life community either think the new bill is strong enough or not doing enough.

As she sees it, the bill is “a pro-life disaster in the fact that when you take health care away from people, you take life.”

“If you want to really, really strengthen the pro-life culture in this country, you make sure people know that their lives and the lives of their children are so valued by our country,” she said, which means providing quality maternity and pediatric care and offering programs like Head Start and food stamps.

Although she said under the ACA no federal funds could be spent on abortion, a nonpartisan government agency in an assessment of the law in 2014 said abortion coverage was available in some plans. Sister Keehan also said the law included help for pregnant mothers to get drug rehabilitation, housing and maternity care, which are not included in the new bill.

“I don’t find this a pro-life bill at all from every perspective,” she added about the new measure.

When asked if there was a silver lining with people at least talking about the need to provide insurance for all Americans, Sister Keehan said the health care crisis for so many people doesn’t give “the luxury of time.”

“To be the only industrialized nation in the world that does not guarantee all its citizens health care is a disgrace,” she said, adding: “We are at a real crossroads in our country’s sense of its responsibility to its people.”

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Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

– – –

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

2 days 7 hours

IMAGE: CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via EPA

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Europe must recover the memories and lessons of past tragedies in order to confront the challenges Europeans face today that seek to divide rather than unite humanity, Pope Francis said.

While the founding fathers of what is now the European Union worked toward a “united and open Europe,” free of the “walls and divisions” erected after World War II, the tragedy of poverty and violence affecting millions of innocent people lingers on, the pope told European leaders gathered at the Vatican March 24.

“Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the ‘dangers’ of our time, beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones,” he said.

Pope Francis welcomed the 27 European heads of state to the Vatican to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, which gave birth to European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community.

Signed March 25, 1957, the treaties sought to unite Europe following the devastation wrought by World War II. The agreements laid the groundwork for what eventually became the European Union.

Entering the “Sala Regia” of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis placed his hand above his heart and bowed slightly to the European leaders before taking his seat. At the end of the audience, he and the government leaders went into the Sistine Chapel and posed for a photograph in front of Michelangelo’s fresco, The Last Judgment.

In his speech, the pope said the commemoration of the treaty should not be reduced to “a remembrance of things past,” but should motivate a desire “to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the present.”

“The memory of that day is linked to today’s hopes and expectations of the people of Europe, who call for discernment in the present so that the journey that has begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence,” he said.

At the heart of the founding fathers’ creation of a united Europe, the pope continued, was concern for the human person, who after years of bloodshed held on “to faith in the possibility of a better future.”

“That spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the union to productive, economic and financial needs,” he said.

But despite achievements in forging unity and solidarity, Pope Francis said, Europe today suffers from a “lapse of memory” where peace is now “regarded as superfluous.”

To regain the peace attained in the past, he added, Europe must reconnect with its Christian roots otherwise “the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely incomprehensible.”

“The fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically secular societies, free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and nonbelievers,” the pope said.

The economic crisis of the past decade, the crisis of the family “and established social models” and the current migration crisis, he said, offer an opportunity for Europe’s leaders to discern and assess rather than “engender fear and profound confusion.”

“Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it,” the pope said. “It is a time of challenge and opportunity.”

Europe, he added, will find new hope “when man is at the center and the heart of her institutions” in order to stem “the growing ‘split’ between the citizenry and the European institutions which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the union.”

The migration crisis also offers an opportunity for Europe’s leaders to refuse to give in to fear and “false forms of security,” while posing a much deeper question to the continent’s citizens.

“What kind of culture does Europe propose today?” he asked, adding that the fear of migrants “has its root cause in the loss of ideals.”

“Without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone.”

By defending families, investing in development and peace and defending the family and life “in all its sacredness,” Europe can once again find new ways to steer its course, Pope Francis told the European heads of state.

“As leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a new European humanism made up of ideals and concrete actions,” the pope said. “This will mean being unafraid to make practical decisions capable of responding to people’s real problems and of standing the test of time.”

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

– – –

Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

2 days 9 hours

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

By Barb Fraze

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The railroad runs more than 550 miles through 27 communities in the Brazilian Amazon. It runs so close to people’s homes that the houses have cracked, and some people have hearing loss.

The trains carry minerals out of the rainforest to the coast. But the tracks separate families from their schools, health centers and fields and, sometimes, the trains stop on the tracks.

Sister Jakelyn Vasquez, a member of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who works with communities along the tracks in Maranhao and Para states, said the trains often sit for hours, sometimes an entire day.

In early March, a 336-car train stopped on the tracks in one of the villages. Sister Vasquez told Catholic News Service that the closest ramp to cross over the tracks was more than four miles away. So, as local residents sometimes do, a mother and her baby climbed under the train to cross — and the train began to move.

The mother lost her fingers; the baby lost an arm. It was not the first such accident, said Sister Vasquez. Many people have been run over by the train, she said, and they receive no financial compensation from the multinational company than runs the trains and mines — “just the coffin.”

Sister Vasquez was one of about a dozen members of the Pan-Amazonian Church Network that visited Washington in March. The group, which included indigenous leaders who testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, also met with church and government leaders and the public to help spread the word about what members describe as injustices and human rights abuses.

Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, president of the Pan-Amazonian Church Network, or REPAM, as it is known by its Spanish acronym, told CNS that the Amazon “is at the center of the many ecological issues that are debated in our time, and climate change is one of them.”

The cardinal said that Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,” made it clear that the church “must participate in the defense of the Amazon.”

“It is the poor who are going to be the most affected by climate and environmental problems,” he added.

The cardinal told an audience at The Catholic University of America March 23 that when Pope Francis met with the Brazilian bishops in 2013, the pope emphasized that the Amazon was at “a decisive moment for the future.”

“And that’s why the church can’t get it wrong in the Amazon,” Cardinal Hummes said. Although some people are looking to exploit the Amazon, others are looking to protect it.

“It’s one of the great lungs of the planet,” he said, noting that indigenous people and small-scale farmers who have been living in the region have the wisdom to help keep the planet breathing.

The church in the Amazon must “be very prophetic and very brave,” which means denouncing bad projects and finding ways for sustainable development, he said.

Part of that means teaching communities to stand for themselves. Mauricio Lopez, executive secretary of the Pan-Amazonian Church Network, said the organization has had workshops and seminars in which “Laudato Si'” was presented. He emphasized that the church is not looking to solve the problems for local communities, but to accompany them.

At one public meeting in Washington, indigenous community leaders from Colombia and Peru cited constitutions, peace agreements and international documents to illustrate government violations of their rights.

Rosildo da Silva, Chauwandawa leader from Brazil, said the government is always changing the laws and promising small-scale farmers that things will get better.

“This is a joke,” he said at a March 21 forum. “We cannot trust them,” because with one hand they offer something, but the other hand does something different.

Marco Martinez Quintana, who works with family farmers in southeastern Colombia, said one day a man showed up with papers from the National Agency of Land and claimed he had permission to use about 20 families’ land to produce palm oil. Already, he said, thousands of hectares in the region have been committed to palm oil.

These small farmers, on the edge of the Amazon, use a process he described as “the edible forest.”

“It’s kind of a supermarket in the jungle,” he said. The farmers plant diverse crops that produce food. Once they have fed their cattle, they trade with farmers who do not have room to grow animal feed. The process builds community, he said.

He also spoke of a Colombian government decree signed with the U.S. government that says the local farmers cannot use their own seeds, but must purchase genetically modified seeds — and all the chemicals that go along with them.

“Sovereignty is when we are able to sow our own seeds and grow our own food,” he said.

Cardinal Hummes said he understands the need for the country to grow economically, but he added that agribusiness has had a serious impact on the environment. For instance, new highways allow for goods to be moved and sold, but if they are overused, they can lead to destruction of the forest.

He also said there is a public perception that the rainforest does not produce anything, that “in order to produce and be productive, you need to remove the forest.”

The challenge “is to demonstrate that the forest as it is, the trees as they are — the forest, the water, the biodiversity, can offer more … wealth than the forest that is taken out,” or mined and farmed on a large scale, he said.

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Follow Fraze on Twitter: @BFraze.

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2 days 14 hours

Mother of Mercy Sophomore’s visited McAuley High School.

2 days 18 hours

Gonzaga heads to the Final Four

A note about Gonzaga. Gonzaga is a Jesuit University in Spokane Washington, founded in 1887. Gonzaga has approximately 7.500 students. The Church spires of St. Aloysius are a Spokane Landmark. The Gonzaga Bulldogs will face the winner of the Florida/South Carolina game.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s own Xavier Musketeers fell Gonzaga on Saturday March 25th, 83-59. Though a disappointing defeat, a great year for the Muskies.

Gonzaga and Xavier punch their ticket to the Sweet 16

On Thursday March 23rd

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s own Xavier Musketeers defeated Arizona 73-71

Gonzaga defeated West Virginia 61-58

In the East

Villanova 62 loses to Wisconsin 65

In the West

Gonzaga 79 defeated Northwest 73

Notre Dame 71 is defeated by West Virginia 71

St. Mary’s 65 loses to Butler 74

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s own Xavier Muskies 91 defeats Florida State University 66

It’s that time to fill out the brackets. Here’s a list of the Catholic Colleges and Universities in this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. There’s 11  Catholic Colleges or Universities and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati has 2 teams represented in this year’s tournament.

In the East, the number 1 Seed is Villanova at (31-3) from Pennsylvania. They will play the 16th seed Mount Saint Mary’s (20-15) from Maryland. Villinova 76 Mount Saint Mary’s 56

The number 10th seed is Marquette at (19-13) from Wisconsin. They meet the number 7 seed South Carolina (22-10) S0uth Carolina 93 Marquette 73

In the West, the number 1 seed is Gonzaga at (32-1) from Washington. They play the 16th seed South Dakota State (18-16) Gonzaga 66 – 46

The 5th seed in the west is Notre Dame at (25-9) from Indiana. They will meet the 12th seed Princeton (23-6) Notre Dame 60 Princeton 58

The number 7 seed in the west is St. Mary’s at (28-4) from California. They will face the number 10 seed Virginia Commonwealth at (26-8) St. Mary’s 85 Virginia Commonwealth 77

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s own Xavier University Musketeers (an 11th seed) whose record of (21-13) will go up against the number 6 seed Maryland at (24-8) Xavier 76 Maryland 55

In the Midwest, it’s the number 6 seed Creighton (25-9) from Nebraska meeting number 11 seed Rhode Island at (24-9) Rhode Island 84 Creighton 72

The number 14 seed Iona (24-12) from New York faces the number 3 seed Oregon at (29-5) Oregon 93 Iona 77

In the South it’s the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s own University of Dayton Flyer’s at (24-7) the 7th seed meeting the number 10 seed Wichita State at (30-4) Wichita State 64 Dayton 58

Finally in the south the number 9 seed Seton Hall (21-11) from New Jersey goes up against the 8th seed Arkansas at (25-9) Arkansas 77 Seton Hall 71

2 days 20 hours
Rev. J. Thomas Wray(Courtesy Photo)Rev. J. Thomas Wray(Courtesy Photo)

New online class format to engage media and culture, easier

Catechesis, the process of teaching the Catholic faith, will be breaking new ground in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati over the next three to five years as it uses new media to facilitate an encounter between Christ and culture, according to Father Tom Wray.

Director of the Office for Evangelization and Discipleship, Father Wray explained that the Catechetical Institute announced in February in a letter from Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr will being an online training program for those who teach religion in the parochial schools and parish religion programs for the archdiocese. Catechesis means to “echo” the voice of Jesus, he said. “Catechists must know the teachings of Christ and his Church. That’s phase one of the Institute — teaching and certifying the teachers.”

Phase two will “echo the voice and teachings of Christ to all the faithful,” he said. The effort will not only challenge several generations of Catholics “saturated in secular culture.” But it will also apply the principles of life-long learning and missionary discipleship to Catholic teachings.

“You want to know who and what you love,” Father Wray said. “You want your love to be made visible in acts of love.” He compared the study of the faith to the study of a family’s genealogy. As you never stop learning more about your family’s ancestry, stories, and traditions, he said, the encounter with Christ and His transformative message should be a continuous journey for all Catholics, from youth to senior adult.

Father Wray said the online, interactive classes will make catechetical certification flexible and accessible for teachers – and eventually for parents hoping to deepen their faith as well. He contrasted the new digital advances with the religious education programs of the sixties and seventies when, “frankly, we stopped telling our story on our terms. This will allow us to share the teachings of Christ and His Church in beautiful, relevant and faithful ways.”

“It has been difficult especially for parish religion program teachers and volunteers to have to drive to in-person workshops and classes because they often don’t have that kind of time or financial resources,” he explained. “Online certification classes will help them say ‘yes’ to the calling to teach the faith in their parishes and homes.”

Father Wray said Catholic teachers and parents should think of cyberspace as the early evangelists thought of the Roman system of roads. “Web sites are the new Roman roads,” he said. And while the Romans were persecutors and conquerors, that didn’t keep early Christians from using Roman roads to advance the message and teachings of Christ.

This Institute is similar to, but not the same as, FORMED, the Catholic digital adult faith formation library now being used by 140 parishes in the archdiocese. (See below for information.)

It is also related to, but not the same as, another catechetical project announced late last year by Archbishop Schnurr and also promulgated by Father Wray’s office: a religious education curriculum for grades K-4 . Created by Ruah Woods Theology of the Body Institute in Bridgetown, it weaves in St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body teachings into school and parish religious education curriculum and will eventually expand to all grades. Other dioceses throughout the country, Father Wray said, are expressing interest in doing the same.

The Catechetical Institute will launch in June, and the classes currently offered by the Archdiocese will end. While the new classes will be online, they are meant for small group use as well as use by individuals. “Online classes in the Institute will not be plug-and-play.” Father Wray said. “We’re not replacing the art and craft of real teachers teaching the Catholic faith. But the days are over when we could be one-dimensional in terms of media.”

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a continuing series of articles that will share the details of the innovative approach being taken for catechesis in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

For a printable, comprehensive list of frequently asked questions about the Catechetical Institute, go to CatholicCincinnati. org and search for “Catechetical Institute.”

About FORMED

An online library of Catholic books, videos, audio programs, and other materials from several leading publishers, FORMED includes feature films and documentaries, study programs and leader guides, and more. Materials include the Catholicism Series from Word On Fire, Hearts Afire programs, a growing number of programs in Spanish, children’s programs, the Truth and Life Audio Bible, and more from Lighthouse Catholic Media, the Augustine Institute, and other publishers. Materials can be usedfor enjoyment, study, or evangelization by individuals, families, small groups, and entire parishes. To find out if your parish is one of the 140 with a parish subscription in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, call your parish office to get your parish code to log in.. If your parish is not a subscriber, individual subscriptions are available for $9.99 a month. For information visit FORMED.org.

2 days 20 hours

NewsFeeds from Zenit, EWTN, CatholicCulture.org

From: The World Seen From Rome
Posted

Below is a ZENIT translation of Pope Francis’ Angelus address today at noon to the faithful in St. Peter’s Square:

****

Before the Angelus:

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

At the center of the Gospel, this Fourth Sunday of Lent, are Jesus and a man blind from birth (Jn 9: 1-41). Christ restores his sight and works this miracle with a kind of symbolic ritual: first, he mixes the earth with saliva and rubs it on his eyes; then, orders him to go and wash himself in the Pool of Siloam. The man goes, washes, and regains his sight. With this miracle, Jesus reveals himself as light of the world; and blind from birth is each of us, that we were created to know God, but because of sin, [we] are like the blind, we need a new light, that of faith, that Jesus has given us. In fact, the blind man of the Gospel regaining his vision opens to the mystery of Christ. “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered and said, “Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him and the one speaking with you is he.” He said, “I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.

This episode causes us to reflect on our faith in Christ, the Son of God, and at the same time, also refers to Baptism, which is the first sacrament of the faith, the sacrament that makes us “come to light” by the rebirth from ‘water and the Holy Spirit; as it happened to the man born blind, who opened his eyes after being washed in the Pool of Siloam. The man born blind and cured is when we do not realize that Jesus is “the light of the world,” when we look elsewhere when we prefer to rely on small lights when fumbling in the dark. We too have been “enlightened” to Christ in Baptism, and then we are called to behave as children of light. This requires a radical change in thinking, an ability to judge men and things according to a new scale of values, which comes from God. The sacrament of Baptism, in fact, demands a choice, firm and decided, to live as children of light, and to walk in the light.

What does it mean to walk in the light? It means first of all abandon the false ‘lights’: the cold and foolish light of prejudice against others, because the prejudice distorts reality and loads us with aversion towards those who we judge without mercy and condemn without cause. This is everyday life! When we talk of others, we don’t walk in the light, but walk in the shadows. Another false ‘light,’ so seductive and unclear, is self-interest: if we evaluate people and things based on the criterion of how they are useful to, our pleasure, our prestige, we make the truth in relationships and situations. If we walk this path of searching only personal interests, we walk in the shadow…

May the Blessed Virgin, who first welcomed Jesus, light of the world, grant us the grace to welcome again this Lent the light of faith and rediscover the inestimable gift of Baptism. And that this new enlightenment may transform us, in attitudes and actions, starting from our poverty and littleness, to be bearers of a ray of Christ’s light.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]

After the Angelus:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Yesterday in Almería (Spain), José Álvarez-Benavides y de la Torre, and 114 companions, martyrs, were beatified . These priests, religious and lay people have been heroic witnesses of Christ and his Gospel of peace and fraternal reconciliation. Their example and their intercession sustain the Church’s involvement in building the civilization of love.

I greet all of you, coming from Rome, Italy and other countries, in particular the pilgrims from Córdoba (Spain), the youth of Saint-Jean de Passy Paris College, the faithful of Loreto, the faithful of St. Helens Rende, Maiori, Poggiomarino and adolescents of the deanery “Roman-Vittoria” in Milan. And speaking of Milan, I would like to thank the Cardinal Archbishop of Milan [Cardinal Angelo Scola] and all the people for the warm welcome yesterday. Actually, I felt at home, and [felt] this [way] with everyone, believers and non-believers. Thank you so much, dear Milan, and I’ll tell you something: I’ve found that it’s true what they say: “In Milan, they welcome you with heart in hand!”.

I wish you all a good Sunday. Please do not forget to pray for me. Good lunch and goodbye!

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]

 

20 hours 56 min

“Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37): thus ends the Angel’s answer to Mary. When we believe that everything depends on our capacities, on our strengths, on our myopic horizons, when, instead, we are ready to allow ourselves to be helped, to let ourselves be counseled, when we open ourselves to grace, it seems that the impossible begins to become possible.”

Pope Francis said this while reflecting on how God can make the impossible, possible, during his homily in Monza Park today, March 25, 2017, when making a pastoral one-day visit to the northern Italian city of Milan.

Below is a Zenit working translation of the Holy Father’s homily:

***

The Holy Father’s Homily

We just heard the most important announcement of our history: the Annunciation to Mary (cf. Luke 1:26-38) – a dense passage, full of life, which I like to read in the light of another announcement: that of the birth of John the Baptist (cf. Luke 1:5-20). Two announcements that follow one another and that are united; two announcements that, when contrasted, show us what God gives us in His Son.

The annunciation of John the Baptist happened when Zechariah, the priest, ready to begin the liturgical ceremony enters the Sanctuary of the Temple, while all the assembly is outside waiting. The Annunciation of Jesus, instead, happened in a lost place of Galilee, in a peripheral city and without a particularly good reputation (cf. John 1:46), in the anonymity of the home of a girl called Mary.

A contrast, that doesn’t count for little, which indicates that the new Temple of God, the new encounter of God with His people will take place in places that we generally do not expect, in the margins, in the periphery. There, they will meet, there they will encounter one another, God will become flesh there to walk together with us from the womb of His Mother. Now He will no longer be in a place reserved for a few while the majority remains outside in expectation. Nothing and no one will be indifferent to him, no situation will be deprived of His presence: the joy of Salvation began in the daily life of the home of a girl of Nazareth.

God Himself is the one who takes the initiative and chooses to insert Himself, as He did with Mary, in our homes, in our daily struggles, full of anxieties together with desires. And it is in fact within our cities, our schools and universities, squares and hospitals that the most beautiful announcement we can hear is fulfilled: “Rejoice, the Lord is with thee!” It is a joy that generates life, that generates hope, that is made flesh in the way we look at the morrow, in the attitude with which we look at others. It is a joy that becomes solidarity, hospitality, and mercy towards all.

Like Mary, we can also be at a loss. “How will this come about” in times so full of speculation? There is speculation about life, about work, about the family. There is speculation about the poor and about migrants; there is speculation about young people and about their future. All seems to be reduced to numbers, forgetting, on the other hand, that the daily life of so many families is tinged with precariousness and insecurity. While grief knocks at many doors, while so many young people grow dissatisfied due to the lack of real opportunities, speculation abounds everywhere.

The dizzying rhythm to which we are subjected certainly seems to rob us of hope and of joy. The pressures and the impotence in face of so many situations seem to wither the mind and make us insensitive in face of the innumerable challenges. And, paradoxically, when everything is accelerated to build – in theory – a better society, in the end there is no time for anything or anyone. We lose time for the family, time for the community, we lose time for friendship, for solidarity and for remembering.

It will do us good to ask ourselves: How is it possible to live the joy of the Gospel today within our cities? Is Christian hope possible in this situation, here and now?

These two questions touch our identity, the life of our families, of our countries <and>of our cities. They touch the life of our children, of our young people and they exact on our part a new way of situating ourselves in history. If Christian joy and hope continue to be possible we cannot, we do not want to remain before so many painful situations as mere spectators who look at the sky hoping that “it will stop raining.” All that is happening exacts from us that we look at the present with audacity, with the audacity of one who knows that the joy of salvation takes shape in the daily life of the home of a girl of Nazareth.

In face of Mary’s bewilderment, in face of our bewilderment, there are three keys that the Angel offers us to help us to accept the mission that is entrusted to us.

  1. Evoke the memory. The first thing the Angel does is to evoke the memory, thus opening Mary’s present to the whole history of Salvation. He evokes the promise made to David as fruit of the Covenant with Jacob. Mary is daughter of the Covenant. We also are invited today to remember, to look at our past so as not to forget from where we came, so as not to forget our ancestors, our grandparents and all that they went through to come to where we are today. This land and its people have known the grief of two world wars and sometimes have seen their merited fame for industry and civilization polluted by unruly ambitions. The memory helps us not to remain prisoners of discourses that sow fractures and divisions as the only way to resolve conflicts. To evoke the memory is the best antidote to our disposition in face of the magical solutions of division and estrangement.
  1. Belonging to the People of God. Memory enables Mary to appropriate her belonging to the People of God. It does us good to remember that we are members of the People of God! Milanese, yes, Ambrosians, certainly, but part of the great People of God – a people made up of a thousand faces, histories, provenances, a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic people. This is one of our riches. It is a people called to welcome differences, to integrate them with respect and creativity and to celebrate the novelty that comes from others; it is a people that is not afraid to embrace the confines, the frontiers; it is a people that is not afraid to give hospitality to one in need because it knows that its Lord is present there.

3.The possibility of the impossible.

“Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37): thus ends the Angel’s answer to Mary. When we believe that everything depends on our capacities, on our strengths, on our myopic horizons, when, instead, we are ready to allow ourselves to be helped, to let ourselves be counseled, when we open ourselves to grace, it seems that the impossible begins to become possible. These lands know this well that, in the course of their history, have generated so many charisms, so many missionaries, so much richness for the life of the Church! The many times that, overcoming sterile and divisive pessimism, they opened themselves to God’s initiative and became signs of how fruitful a land can be that is not closed in its own ideas, in its limitations and in its capacities and opens to others.

As yesterday, God continues to seek allies, He continues to seek men and women capable of believing, capable of remembering, of feeling part of His people to cooperate with the Spirit’s creativity. God continues to tread our suburbs and streets. He pushes Himself in every place in search of hearts capable of listening to His invitation and make it become flesh here and now. Paraphrasing Saint Ambrose in his comment on this passage, we can say: God continues to seek hearts like Mary’s, willing to believe even in altogether extraordinary conditions (cf. Esposizione del Vangelo sec. Luca II: 17: PL 15, 1559). May the Lord make this faith and this hope grow in us.

[Original text: Italian]  [Translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

At 5:00 pm, at the end of the Holy Mass, the Holy Father went by car to the Meazza-San Siro Stadium for the meeting with recently confirmed young people.

***

One can watch here, via the Vatican YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/vatican?hl=it&gl=IT

 

1 day 10 hours

At 5:30 pm today, March 25, 2017, Pope Francis met with recently confirmed young people in the Meazza-San Siro Stadium of Milan. Roberto Ruozzi, President of the Stadium, received the Pope at the entrance of the establishment.

In the course of the meeting, the Pontiff answered some questions posed by a recently confirmed young man, a married couple and a catechist.

This was the last event on the Pope’s itinerary during his pastoral visit to the northern Italian city before returning to Rome.

Here is a working Zenit translation of the questions posed to the Holy Father and his prepared responses. However, the Holy Father spoke off-the-cuff. Therefore, Zenit will bring our readers his improvised responses to the questions posed once the text has been released and has been translated:

PHOTO.VA - L'OSSERVATORE ROMANO

@Servizio Fotografico – L’Osservatore Romano

***

The Holy Father’s answers to some questions asked by a boy

When you were our age, what helped you to have your friendship with Jesus grow?

1: Grandparents 

2: Friends

3: The Parish

Question of a Married Couple

How can we transmit the beauty of the faith to our children? Sometimes it seems truly difficult to be able to talk about this subject without being boring or banal in sharing the faith with them.

  1. I think this is one of the key questions that touches our life as parents, as Pastors, as educators. And I would like to address it to you. I invite you to recall who were the persons that left an imprint on your faith and which of them remained most imprinted. I invite you parents to become children again for a minute and to recall the persons that helped you to believe. Father, mother, grandparents, a catechist, an aunt, the parish priest, a neighbor, perhaps . . . We all have in our memory, but especially in our heart, someone who helped us to believe.

You will ask me for the reason for this little exercise. Our children look at us constantly, even if we don’t realize it, they observe us all the time and meanwhile they learn. “Children look at us,” I believe is the title of a film. They know our joys, our sadness and worries. They understand everything and, given that they are very intuitive, they draw their conclusions and their teachings. They know when we set traps for them and when we don’t. Therefore, one of the first things I’ll say to you is: take care of them, take care of their heart, of their joy and of their hope. Your children’s “little eyes” memorize and read gradually with the heart how the faith is one of the best legacies that you have received from your parents, from your ancestors.

Show them how the faith helps you to go on, to face the many dramas we have, not with a pessimistic but a confident attitude, this is the best witness we can give them. There is a saying: “The wind took the words,” but what is sown in the memory, in the heart, stays for ever.

  1. In different parts, many families have a very beautiful tradition, and it is to go to Mass together and afterwards they go to a park, <and> take their children to play together. So that faith becomes a exigency of the family with other families. This is good and it helps to live the Commandment to sanctify the feasts. Now that the good days are beginning, for instance, on Sunday after having gone to Mass as a family, it is a good thing if you can go to a park or square to play, to be together recovering a beautiful tradition that in Buenos Aires we call “dominguear,” namely, “enjoying Sunday,” — the best day to visit the family, to be more relaxed. I believe there is something good to rediscover in this and to appreciate. Faith is lived in a family environment that promotes gratuitousness, spending time together. This doesn’t require money; on the contrary, it is an invitation to bless out being together, which is something good. We can be lacking so many things, but we are united and this is a very good teaching we can give.
  2. The family’s education in solidarity. I like to put the accent on celebration, on gratuitousness, on seeking other families and living the faith as an area of family enjoyment. I believe it is also necessary to add another element. There is no celebration without solidarity – as there is no solidarity without celebration. I remember once, a mother at lunchtime heard someone knocking at the door: it was a child asking for something to eat. That day they were having “cutlets alla Milanese.” She had all her children eat and there was enough for that child. We must not give what is superfluous to us, but have others share in what we have. Children learn this at home. Faith grows with charity and charity increases with faith. One does not exist without the other and they are complementary. And this helps us to see that life with faith is good, with its difficulties, certainly, with its problems, but good.

A Catechist’s Question

Our Archbishop has been encouraging us for some time to build “educating communities,” where fraternal sharing between catechists, coaches, parents and teachers supports the common educational task. What advice can you give us to open ourselves to listening and to dialogue with all the educators who have something to do with our youngsters?

  1. Education based on thinking-doing-feeling (head-hands-heart) — knowledge is multi-form, it is never uniform. Many times professors — and it’s OK – believe that their subject is the most important of all. We are somewhat jealous of our things, and we don’t realize that we all “sharply draw” the same child or youngster. Therefore, it is essential to come to an agreement to show that all disciplines are important and that the more they are developed, the richer the education is.
  2. With reference to the previous point, I remember that once in a school there was a pupil who was a phenomenon in playing soccer and a disaster in his conduct in class. A rule that was given to him was that if he didn’t behave well he would have to leave soccer. Given that he continued to behave badly he stayed two months without playing, and this made things worse. One day the coach spoke with the Directress and he asked her if the boy could play again. He made him captain of the team. Then <the boy> felt considered, he felt he could give his best and he began not only to behave better but to improve in everything. This seems very important to me in education. Among our students there are some who come for sport and not so much for the sciences and others for philosophy more than for sport. A good teacher, educator or coach knows how to stimulate the good qualities of his pupils and not neglect the others, always seeking complementarity. No one can be good in everything, and we must say this to our pupils: we are complementary – we cannot forget this principle.
  3. Another aspect that I think is important is education for projects. To be able to teach to work in a polyhedral and not linear way – that they can study the same phenomenon from different perspectives and make proposals. Yes, make proposals for improvement, so that they feel participants of their education. 
  4. Sometimes I see educational programs that want to make supermen and superwomen of the students. From childhood they subject them to very intense agendas and pressures. It’s good to stimulate them but, be careful: children also need to play, to amuse themselves, to sleep. This is part of their growth. There are children’s agendas that seem more like those of a businessman. Pauses, rest, play and even frustration are an important part of growth.
  5. Recover wonder to balance determinism. Technology offers us many things and enables our youngsters to know a lot instantly. They have access to information that we would never have imagined. Often when speaking to some of them I am astounded by the things they know, or they look for it afterwards and with no problem, say to you: “I’ll look it up now . . .” This offers them many instruments and possibilities. However, there is something that technology can’t give: compassion. This is learnt only between humans, with others.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation of prepared Q & A by Virginia M. Forrester]

At the end of the meeting, the Holy Father went to the Milan-Linate airport from where, at 6:30 pm he took leave of the personalities that received him in the morning, to return to Rome. He is due to land in the Rome-Fiumicino airport at 7:30 pm. Then the Pope will return to the Vatican.

 

 

 

 

 

1 day 14 hours

In the “Forlanini” district of the “Case Bianche” – the “White Houses” – in the suburb of Milan, Pope Francis met three different family realities, shortly after 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 25, 2017. The popular suburb, marked by situations of social malaise, was the first stage of the Pope’s day in the capital of Lombardy.

The Holy See published information about the families visited by the Pontiff: one Italian family of which, the husband is bedridden, a Muslim family of Morocco and an Italian Catholic elderly and sick couple.

 

Suffering Husband

The Dorotea (Dori) Falcone and Stefano (Lino) Pasquale family, 56 and 59 respectively, who live on the 4th floor at no. 38, were married civilly in Savona 38 years ago; they have been living at the “Case Bianche” for a long time. Lino had problems with alcohol when he was young and it’s not known if because of that, he had a serious accident, which left him physical consequences and caused epileptic seizures. His physical and mental state regressed progressively and, since 2013, he is bedridden, with frequent loss of consciousness. His wife, Dori, has cared for him all these years with particular devotion, serving him as nurse and assistant each time he has been hospitalized. Since 2013, this assistance is day and night. For her, Pope Francis’ visit was of immense joy. It is difficult to know what this meeting meant for Lino, but he accepts calmly all that Dori suggests to him.

A Moroccan Family

The family of Mihoual Abdel Karim and his wife, Tardane Hanane, live on the second floor of no. 40 of ‘Case Bianche’ with their three children: Nada 17, Jinane 10 and Mahmoud 6. They come from Morocco and have been in Italy: Karim, since 1989 and his wife, Hanane, since 1997. They married in Marrakech in 1996. Since 1990, Karim has been working in a pharmaceutical company and both have been living in the suburb since 2008. There is good understanding between them  and, notably, they help the Muslim family of Mohamed and Samira, organizer of an Arab school established for the young people in the parish on Saturday mornings. They are Muslims and open, cooperative, happy to receive Pope Francis at their home.

An Elderly and Sick Catholic Couple

The third family lives on the 3rd floor at no. 32: Nuccio Oneta and Adele Agogini, 82 and 81 respectively. They were married religiously 61 years ago. They have a daughter, Giovanna, 51. He worked for a long time as a postman. They are a Catholic couple who take part in the Mass everyday on television and receive Communion often. Adele is almost completely blind and since 2006, Nuccio has been suffering from a tumor of the throat, which radiotherapy has partially reduced. However, he has serious problems with his lungs and there is fear of metastasis. With their simple and profound faith, they were happy to receive the Pope.

 

1 day 16 hours

 

“I enter Milan as priest.” With these words, Pope Francis started his pastoral visit in the Milanese Archdiocese on Saturday, March 25, 2017. It was from the periphery of a popular suburb, marked  by social malaise that he entered the capital of Lombardy.

After landing by helicopter around 8:15 a.m., the Pontiff was welcomed at the Milan-Linate airport by two children who gave him flowers, as well as by Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan; Roberto Maroni, President of the Lombardy Region; Luciana Lamorgese, Prefect of Milan; and Giuseppe Sala, Mayor of the city. Before leaving the airport, the Pope spontaneously approached the crowd held back by barriers, and greeted and exchanged words with the Milanese.

From there he went to the Forlanini-“Case Bianche” suburb, in the southeastern periphery of Milan, where he visited three families – two Italian and one Moroccan – in their apartments. During this stage, marked by walkabouts, the Pontiff also met representatives of the Roms, of Muslims, of immigrants, and of residents of the suburb.

A thousand people – more than 420 families – dwell in the “Case Bianche.” The popular suburb has suffered from marginalization for decades, with numerous situations of social malaise.

“I thank you for your very warm welcome. It is you who receive me at the entrance of Milan, and it is a great gift for me: to enter the city seeing faces, families, a community,” said the Pope to them.

The Holy Father also thanked them for the two gifts they gave him: “The first is a stole, a typically priestly sign, which touches me very especially because it reminds me that I come here in your midst as priest, I enter Milan as priest,” he said.

This stole, woven by residents ”in a craftsman-like way,” stressed the Pope who was wearing it, reminds that a priest is “at the service of the people”: “my priesthood, as that of your parish priest and of the other priests who work here, is a gift of Christ, but it is “woven” by you, by our people, with their faith, their sufferings, their prayers, their tears . . . I see that in the sign of the stole.”

Mary’s Haste and that of the Church

Then the Pope picked up the second gift, a restored picture of the Virgin Mary of the district: “I know that the Virgin welcomes me in Milan, above the Duomo, but thanks to your gift, the Virgin Mary welcomes me already here, at the entrance,” he continued.

“Mary’s haste” at the Visitation, “is the haste, the solicitude of the Church, who does not remain in the center, but goes to encounter all, in the peripheries; she also goes to encounter non-Christians and non-believers . . .  and brings everyone to Jesus, who is the love of God made flesh, who gives meaning to our life and saves us from evil,” added the Pope.

“The restoration is significant: your Holy Virgin was restored, as the Church is always in need of being “restored,” because she is made up of us, who are sinners.” And the Pontiff encouraged: “Let us allow ourselves be restored by God, by His mercy. Let us allow ourselves to be cleansed in our heart, especially in this Season of Lent,” he said. It is about “allowing oneself to be cleansed by God’s mercy to witness the holiness of Jesus.”

Inviting the faithful to a “good Confession” and the confessors to be “merciful,” the Holy Father concluded by praying a “Hail Mary” with the crowd.

At the end of the visit, during which he blessed many sick and handicapped persons, the Pope returned to the Duomo of Milan to meet with priests and consecrated persons.

1 day 16 hours

During his pastoral visit to the northern Italian city of Milan today, March 25, 2017, Pope Francis arrived at the San Vittore prison around noon. He is the first pope to visit the prison since its foundation in 1879. Its 893 inmates have available to them two priests, one deacon, 10 sisters and four seminarians.

Every Sunday, four Masses are celebrated in the facility. The rosary is also recited there during the week.

On the occasion of Pope Francis’ visit, the prisoners had prepared themselves, above all, by sending the Pontiff letters, in which they described their situation, their feelings of guilt, their relationship to God, their faith, and their joy about the Pope’s visit.

Arriving at the prison, the Pope was received by various representatives, including its director and chaplain.

Once inside, the Pope greeted the 80 prisoners, and had lunch with the detainees. Afterwards, Pope Francis went to Monza Park, where he celebrated Mass at 3 pm.

All photos courtesy of  L’Osservatore Romano – Photo.va

1 day 21 hours

“As pastors, we cannot avoid forming discernment in a very insidious scenario, in a culture of abundance, which presents many possibilities as valid and good, in which our young people are exposed to continuous ‘zapping,’ being able to navigate in two or three screens, various virtual scenarios, at the same time.”

Pope Francis made this appeal to religious who he met with this morning during his pastoral visit to the northern Italian city of Milan, with whom he met in the city’s Duomo.

“Whether we like it or not,” he encouraged, “it is the world in which they are inserted and it is our duty as pastors to help them to cross this world. Therefore, I think it is important to teach them to discern, so that they have the tools and elements that help them to walk the path of life, without the Holy Spirit that is in them being extinguished. ”

“When we are children,” said the Pontiff, “it is easy for the father and the mother to tell us what to do, and that is fine. But as we grow up amid a multitude of voices which all ‘seem’ to be right, the discernment of what brings us to the Resurrection, to life and not to a culture of death, is crucial. ”

The Holy Father shared these thoughts in the medieval Gothic cathedral during the encounter where he was asked questions by the city’s clergy. Diocesan priest, Gabriele Gioia, asked him how one is to face secularization and the evolution of plural, multiethnic, multicultural and multireligious society.

The Pope noted that “in every age since the early Christians has had multiple challenges” and recalled the episode of Peter in the house of Cornelius in Caesarea.

“We must not fear challenges and it is good that they exist. They are a sign of a living faith, of a community that seeks the Lord and has eyes and an open heart,” he said.

“Rather,” he warned, “let us fear a faith without challenges which is considered complete as if everything had been accomplished.” Because the challenges “help us to make our faith not become ideological.”

And for “multicultural, multireligious and multiethnic” societies, he pointed out that the Church’s history has much to teach us about the culture of diversity, because “the Holy Spirit is the master of diversity.”

Francis invited everyone to look at dioceses, religious communities, congregations, with so many charisms and ways of bringing to life the experience of believers.

“The Church,” said the Pope, “is an experience with many forms, one, but with many forms.”

The Holy Father also pointed out that the Gospel is enriched by its four versions. He therefore invited not to confuse unity with uniformity, plurality with pluralism.

“Everything that does not assume ‘human drama’ can be a very clear and distinguished theory, but not consistent with Revelation and therefore, ideological,” he said, speaking on the necessity of faith to be truly Christian and never illusory.

After speaking with priests and consecrated persons, the Pope recited the Angelus prayer outside the Duomo.

Before reciting the midday prayer, the Pontiff observed to those gathered in the square that the fog had cleared and that some had even predicted rain.

However, gesturing toward the clear blue sky, he pointed out, smiling: “I don’t see it.”

Afterward, he visited the inmates of the San Vittore Prison, joining them for lunch, and then celebrated Mass in Monza Park.

The Holy Father’s last event before returning to Rome was a meeting with recently confirmed young people in the Meazza-San Siro of Milan Stadium.

***

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full Text: to be made available soon as Vatican has released text and we can provide you with its full translation

1 day 21 hours

Pope Francis visited the northern Italian city of Milan today, March 25, 2017, and below is the Vatican-provided program of the Pontiff’s day trip:

***

07:10: Departure from Roma-Fiumicino airport

08:00: Arrival at Milano-Linate airport

08:30: Visit to the Forlanini quarter – “White Houses” of Milan
Meeting with two families in their respective apartments
Meeting with residents in the square of the “White Houses”
Greeting
Encounter with representatives of Rom, Islamic and immigrant families and inhabitants

10:00:   Meeting with priests and consecrated persons in the Duomo
Greetings from Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan
Answers to questions from priests

11:00:  Angelus prayer and blessing in the Duomo

11:30: Visit to the San Vittore Prison

12:30: Lunch with a hundred detainees in the Terzo Raggio of the San Vittore Prison

13:45:  Transfer by car to Monza Park

15:00:  Holy Mass in Monza Park
Homily
At the end, thanks to Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan

16:30:  Transfer by car to the Meazza-San Siro di Milano Stadium

17:30:  Meeting with recently confirmed young people at the Meazza-San Siro di Milano Stadium
Answers to questions from a recently confirmed person, a parent and a catechist

18:30:  Farewell and departure from Milano-Linate airport

19:30:  Arrival at Roma-Fiumicino airport

[Vatican-provided program]

***

On the NET:

One can watch here, via the Vatican YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/vatican?hl=it&gl=IT

 

2 days 1 hour

It is the fourth time in four years during his pontificate that Pope Francis offers a vision for Europe’s future, after having spoken at Strasbourg on November 25, 2014, at the Parliament and at the Council of Europe, where he addressed 900 million Europeans, and the Charlemagne Prize on May 6, 2017.

The pillars of the European community, 6o years ago, are what’s needed for it to construct its future and a path of peace, suggested Pope Francis, who highlighted “the centrality of man, effective solidarity, openness to the world, the pursuit of peace and of development and openness to the future.”

The Pope, in fact, received the European leaders in the Vatican at 6 p.m. today, Friday, March 24, 2017, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957.

The Holy Father recalled the “Fathers of Europe” and he invited Europeans to be inspired by their words, by the timeliness of their thought, by the passionate engagement for the common good that characterized them, by the certitude of being a part of an endeavor that is greater than their persons and by the grandeur of the ideal that animated them.”

“Their common denominator was a spirit of service, united to political passion and the awareness that ‘Christianity is found at the origin of [this] European civilization,’ without which the Western values of dignity, freedom, and justice become completely incomprehensible,” stated the Pontiff.

He posed the question of the future on the background of crisis: “What is (. . .) the key of interpretation with which we can read the difficulties of the present and find answers for the future? The remembrance of the Fathers’ thought would in fact be sterile if it did not serve to point out a path to us, if it is not a stimulation for the future and a source of hope.”

And he indicated a path “of hope” for Europe from the identified “pillars.”

The Holy Father received 27 Heads of State and Government of the European Union and their delegations in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Vatican Palace, in the presence of representatives of European Institutions: Antonio Tajani, President of the Parliament, Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Commission. The Pope took the floor after the addresses of the President of the Italian Council, Paolo Gentiloni and Tajani.

Below is the Vatican-provided text of Pope Francis address this evening, March 24, 2017, to European Heads of States in the Vatican’s Sala Regia:

***

Distinguished Guests,

I thank you for your presence here tonight, on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaties instituting the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. I convey to each of you the affection of the Holy See for your respective countries and for Europe itself, to whose future it is, in God’s providence, inseparably linked. I am particularly grateful to the Honourable Paolo Gentiloni, President of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Italy, for his respectful words of greeting in your name and for the efforts that Italy has made in preparing for this meeting. I also thank the Honourable Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, who has voiced the aspirations of the peoples of the Union on this anniversary.

Returning to Rome, sixty years later, must not simply be a remembrance of things past, but the expression of a desire to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the present. We need to immerse ourselves in the challenges of that time, so as to face those of today and tomorrow. The Bible, with its rich historical narratives, can teach us a basic lesson. We cannot understand our own times apart from the past, seen not as an assemblage of distant facts, but as the lymph that gives life to the present. Without such an awareness, reality loses its unity, history loses its logical thread, and humanity loses a sense of the meaning of its activity and its progress towards the future.

March 25, 1957, was a day full of hope and expectation, enthusiasm and apprehension. Only an event of exceptional significance and historical consequences could make it unique in history. The memory of that day is linked to today’s hopes and the expectations of the people of Europe, who call for discernment in the present, so that the journey that has begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence.

This was very clear to the founding fathers and the leaders who, by signing the two Treaties, gave life to that political, economic, cultural and primarily human reality which today we call the European Union. As P.H. Spaak, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, it was a matter “indeed, of the material prosperity of our peoples, the expansion of our economies, social progress and completely new industrial and commercial possibilities, but above all… a particular conception of life that is humane, fraternal and just”. [1]

After the dark years and the bloodshed of the Second World War, the leaders of the time had faith in the possibility of a better future. “They did not lack boldness, nor did they act too late. The memory of recent tragedies and failures seems to have inspired them and given them the courage needed to leave behind their old disputes and to think and act in a truly new way, in order to bring about the greatest transformation… of Europe”. [2]

The founding fathers remind us that Europe is not a conglomeration of rules to obey, or a manual of protocols and procedures to follow. It is a way of life, a way of understanding man based on his transcendent and inalienable dignity, as something more than simply a sum of rights to defend or claims to advance. At the origin of the idea of Europe, we find “the nature and the responsibility of the human person, with his ferment of evangelical fraternity…, with his desire for truth and justice, honed by a thousand-year-old experience”. [3] Rome, with its vocation to universality, [4] symbolizes that experience and was thus chosen as the place for the signing of the Treaties. For here – as the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, J. Luns, observed – “were laid the political, juridical and social foundations of our civilization”. [5]

It was clear, then, from the outset, that the heart of the European political project could only be man himself. It was also clear that the Treaties could remain a dead letter; they needed to take on spirit and life. The first element of European vitality must be solidarity. As the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, J. Bech stated, “the European economic community will prove lasting and successful only if it remains constantly faithful to the spirit of European solidarity that created it, and if the common will of the Europe now being born proves more powerful than the will of individual nations”. [6] That spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the Union to productive, economic and financial needs.

Solidarity gives rise to openness towards others. “Our plans are not inspired by self-interest”, [7] said the German Chancellor, K. Adenauer. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, C. Pineau, echoed this sentiment: “Surely the countries about to unite… do not have the intention of isolating themselves from the rest of the world and surrounding themselves with insurmountable barriers”. [8] In a world that was all too familiar with the tragedy of walls and divisions, it was clearly important to work for a united and open Europe, and for the removal of the unnatural barrier that divided the continent from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic. What efforts were made to tear down that wall! Yet today the memory of those efforts has been lost. Forgotten too is the tragedy of separated families, poverty and destitution born of that division. Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the “dangers” of our time: beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones.

In today’s lapse of memory, we often forget another great achievement of the solidarity ratified on 25 March 1957: the longest period of peace experienced in recent centuries. “Peoples who over time often found themselves in opposed camps, fighting with one another… now find themselves united and enriched by their distinctive national identities”. [9] Peace is always the fruit of a free and conscious contribution by all. Nonetheless, “for many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted”, [10] one that can then easily come to be regarded as superfluous. On the contrary, peace is a precious and essential good, for without it, we cannot build a future for anyone, and we end up “living from day to day”.

United Europe was born of a clear, well-defined and carefully pondered project, however embryonic at first. Every worthy project looks to the future, and the future are the young, who are called to realize its hopes and promises. [11] The founding fathers had a clear sense of being part of a common effort that not only crossed national borders, but also the borders of time, so as to bind generations among themselves, all sharing equally in the building of the common home.

Distinguished Guests,

I have devoted this first part of my talk to the founding fathers of Europe, so that we can be challenged by their words, the timeliness of their thinking, their impassioned pursuit of the common good, their certainty of sharing in a work greater than themselves, and the breadth of the ideals that inspired them. Their common denominator was the spirit of service, joined to passion for politics and the consciousness that “at the origin of European civilization there is Christianity”, [12] without which the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely incomprehensible. As Saint John Paul II affirmed: “Today too, the soul of Europe remains united, because, in addition to its common origins, those same Christian and human values are still alive. Respect for the dignity of the human person, a profound sense of justice, freedom, industriousness, the spirit of initiative, love of family, respect for life, tolerance, the desire for cooperation and peace: all these are its distinctive marks”. [13] In our multicultural world, these values will continue to have their rightful place provided they maintain a vital connection to their deepest roots. The fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically “lay” societies, free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and nonbelievers.

The world has changed greatly in the last sixty years. If the founding fathers, after surviving a devastating conflict, were inspired by the hope of a better future and were determined to pursue it by avoiding the rise of new conflicts, our time is dominated more by the concept of crisis. There is the economic crisis that has marked the past decade; there is the crisis of the family and of established social models; there is a widespread “crisis of institutions” and the migration crisis. So many crises that engender fear and profound confusion in our contemporaries, who look for a new way of envisioning the future. Yet the term “crisis” is not necessarily negative. It does not simply indicate a painful moment to be endured. The word “crisis” has its origin in the Greek verb kríno, which means to discern, to weigh, to assess. Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it. It is a time of challenge and opportunity.

So what is the interpretative key for reading the difficulties of the present and finding answers for the future? Returning to the thinking of the founding Fathers would be fruitless unless it could help to point out a path and provide an incentive for facing the future and a source of hope. When a body loses its sense of direction and is no longer able to look ahead, it experiences a regression and, in the long run, risks dying. What, then, is the legacy of the founding fathers? What prospects do they indicate for surmounting the challenges that lie before us? What hope do they offer for the Europe of today and of tomorrow?

Their answers are to be found precisely in the pillars on which they determined to build the European economic community. I have already mentioned these: the centrality of man, effective solidarity, openness to the world, the pursuit of peace and development, openness to the future. Those who govern are charged with discerning the paths of hope, identifying specific ways forward to ensure that the significant steps taken thus far have not been wasted, but serve as the pledge of a long and fruitful journey.

Europe finds new hope when man is the centre and the heart of her institutions. I am convinced that this entails an attentive and trust-filled readiness to hear the expectations voiced by individuals, society and the peoples who make up the Union. Sadly, one frequently has the sense that there is a growing “split” between the citizenry and the European institutions, which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the Union. Affirming the centrality of man also means recovering the spirit of family, whereby each contributes freely to the common home in accordance with his or her own abilities and gifts. It helps to keep in mind that Europe is a family of peoples [14] and that – as in every good family – there are different sensitivities, yet all can grow to the extent that all are united. The European Union was born as a unity of differences and a unity in differences. What is distinctive should not be a reason for fear, nor should it be thought that unity is preserved by uniformity. Unity is instead harmony within a community. The founding fathers chose that very term as the hallmark of the agencies born of the Treaties and they stressed that the resources and talents of each were now being pooled. Today the European Union needs to recover the sense of being primarily a “community” of persons and peoples, to realize that “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts”, [15] and that therefore “we constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all”. [16] The founding fathers sought that harmony in which the whole is present in every one of the parts, and the parts are – each in its own unique way – present in the whole.

Europe finds new hope in solidarity, which is also the most effective antidote to modern forms of populism. Solidarity entails the awareness of being part of a single body, while at the same time involving a capacity on the part of each member to “sympathize” with others and with the whole. When one suffers, all suffer (cf. 1 Cor 12:26). Today, with the United Kingdom, we mourn the victims of the attack that took place in London two days ago. For solidarity is no mere ideal; it is expressed in concrete actions and steps that draw us closer to our neighbours, in whatever situation they find themselves. Forms of populism are instead the fruit of an egotism that hems people in and prevents them from overcoming and “looking beyond” their own narrow vision. There is a need to start thinking once again as Europeans, so as to avert the opposite dangers of a dreary uniformity or the triumph of particularisms. Politics needs this kind of leadership, which avoids appealing to emotions to gain consent, but instead, in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity, devises policies that can make the Union as a whole develop harmoniously. As a result, those who run faster can offer a hand to those who are slower, and those who find the going harder can aim at catching up to those at the head of the line.

Europe finds new hope when she refuses to yield to fear or close herself off in false forms of security. Quite the contrary, her history has been greatly determined by encounters with other peoples and cultures; hers “is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity”. [17] The world looks to the European project with great interest. This was the case from the first day, when crowds gathered in Rome’s Capitol Square and messages of congratulation poured in from other states. It is even more the case today, if we think of those countries that have asked to become part of the Union and those states that receive the aid so generously offered them for battling the effects of poverty, disease and war. Openness to the world implies the capacity for “dialogue as a form of encounter” [18] on all levels, beginning with dialogue between member states, between institutions and citizens, and with the numerous immigrants landing on the shores of the Union. It is not enough to handle the grave crisis of immigration of recent years as if it were a mere numerical or economic problem, or a question of security. The immigration issue poses a deeper question, one that is primarily cultural. What kind of culture does Europe propose today? The fearfulness that is becoming more and more evident has its root cause in the loss of ideals. Without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts, and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone. Yet the richness of Europe has always been her spiritual openness and her capacity to raise basic questions about the meaning of life. Openness to the sense of the eternal has also gone hand in hand, albeit not without tensions and errors, with a positive openness to this world. Yet today’s prosperity seems to have clipped the continent’s wings and lowered its gaze. Europe has a patrimony of ideals and spiritual values unique in the world, one that deserves to be proposed once more with passion and renewed vigour, for it is the best antidote against the vacuum of values of our time, which provides a fertile terrain for every form of extremism. These are the ideals that shaped Europe, that “Peninsula of Asia” which stretches from the Urals to the Atlantic.

Europe finds new hope when she invests in development and in peace. Development is not the result of a combination of various systems of production. It has to do with the whole human being: the dignity of labour, decent living conditions, access to education and necessary medical care. “Development is the new name of peace”, [19] said Pope Paul VI, for there is no true peace whenever people are cast aside or forced to live in dire poverty. There is no peace without employment and the prospect of earning a dignified wage. There is no peace in the peripheries of our cities, with their rampant drug abuse and violence.

Europe finds new hope when she is open to the future. When she is open to young people, offering them serious prospects for education and real possibilities for entering the work force.When she invests in the family, which is the first and fundamental cell of society. When she respects the consciences and the ideals of her citizens. When she makes it possible to have children without the fear of being unable to support them. When she defends life in all its sacredness.

Distinguished Guests,

Nowadays, with the general increase in people’s life span, sixty is considered the age of full maturity, a critical time when we are once again called to self-examination. The European Union, too, is called today to examine itself, to care for the ailments that inevitably come with age, and to find new ways to steer its course. Yet unlike human beings, the European Union does not face an inevitable old age, but the possibility of a new youthfulness. Its success will depend on its readiness to work together once again, and by its willingness to wager on the future. As leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a “new European humanism” [20] made up of ideals and concrete actions. This will mean being unafraid to take practical decisions capable of meeting people’s real problems and of standing the test of time.

For my part, I readily assure you of the closeness of the Holy See and the Church to Europe as a whole, to whose growth she has, and always will, continue to contribute. Invoking upon Europe the Lord’s blessings, I ask him to protect her and grant her peace and progress. I make my own the words that Joseph Bech proclaimed on Rome’s Capitoline Hill: Ceterum censeo Europam esse aedificandam – furthermore, I believe that Europe ought to be built.

Thank you.

_____________________________________________________

[1] P.H. SPAAK, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.

[2] Ibid.

[3] A. DE GASPERI. La nostra patria Europa. Address to the European Parliamentary Conference, 21 April 1954, in Alcide De Gasperi e la politica internazionale, Cinque Lune, Rome, 1990, vol. III, 437-440.

[4] Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit.

[5] J. LUNS, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.

[6] J. BECH, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.

[7] K. ADENAUER, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.

[8] C. PINEAU, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.

[9] P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit.

[10] Address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2017.

[11] Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit.

[12] A. DE GASPERI, loc. cit.

[13] JOHN PAUL II, European Act, Santiago de Compostela, 9 November 1982: AAS 75/1 (1983), 329.

[14] Cf. Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014: AAS 106 (2014), 1000.

[15] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 235.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016: L’Osservatore Romano, 6-7 May 2016, p. 4.

[18] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 239.

[19] PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 26 March 1967, 87: AAS 59 (1967), 299.

[20] Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, loc. cit., p. 5.

[Original text: English] [Vatican-provided text]
2 days 14 hours

Roman Rite

1Sm 16,1B 6-7 10-13A; Ps 23; Eph5.8 to 14; Jn 9, 1-41

 

Ambrosian Rite

Ex 34.27 to 35.1; Ps 35; 2 Cor 3.7 to 18; Jn 9, 1-38b

Sunday of the Blind Man

 

1) Light for the eyes of the soul.

While last Sunday, through the Gospel of the Samaritan woman, Jesus promised also to us the gift of living water (Jn 4, 10.11), this fourth Sunday of Lent, called “Laetare” (= Rejoice) Sunday, presents Christ “light of world” who heals a” born blind man”(Jn 9, 1-41).

Who is a man born blind? It is a person who does not know the beauty of creation and creatures. It is one who lives without the power or the knowledge to put a face to the people next to him. It is one who lives without seeing the rainbow in the sky, the colors of the fields, the grandeur of the mountains, the sweetness of the fields, the colors of the flowers and of the trees.

This blind man is, above all, one who does not know the joy of being able to look with love in the eyes of a dear one. It is a great sadness to have eyes and not see, relying only on what the ear and touch let perceive, and to be forced to walk the streets with a stick in the hands guessing where the obstacles are.

However, there is a much worse blindness, the one of the man who has no faith, who does not know Jesus, the only Truth that enlightens the world and who gives meaning to the events, room to the intelligence, deep to love, taste to everything that we are and do, including suffering. This man is really blind: what does he know of the Light, or rather with what light does he walk and judge things and facts?

Providentially, Christ heals the eyes of the body and of the soul with the touch of his fingers. This is a fact that makes us remember what happened to us the day of our Baptism when our eyes were caressed and blessed by the priest so that they could be open to the Light that is Christ. This light of Christ is given to us to live as children of light after the healing of the eyes of our heart, that “being ill” were making our soul blind.

Let’s imagine the scene, especially when Jesus takes a fist of soil and mixes it with his saliva. He makes mud and smears it on the eyes of the blind man. This gesture alludes to the creation of man, which the Bible recounts with the symbol of the soil shaped and animated by the breath of God (see Gen 2.7). “Adam” means “earthy, kneaded earth” (Adam derives from the Hebrew word adamah which means soil) and the human body is indeed composed by elements of the earth. Healing the man, Jesus brings about a new creation. To give sight, in a sense, is equivalent to give life. Not by chance it is said that when a woman gives birth, she brings a child to light. To come to light is to enjoy the colors of the world, the freedom to move around without fear, to run in and to jump for joy. However, the deeper meaning of this miracle of light is that not only the body’s eyes can see, but also those of the soul. Then, we can look into the depths of the mystery of Christ, see his truth and his love and exclaim: “Lord, I believe” (Jn 9, 38), prostrating ourselves before Him in a gesture of worship, as did the man born blind as soon as he was healed. From that moment for this man a journey of faith has begun.

2) Walk in the light.

The Church today proposes to us the journey to which Jesus had invited the healed man.

It is a journey of growth in the knowledge of the Mystery of Christ, and in the experience of Him, who is light and leads us to the fullness of vision, even in the midst of the obstacles and the gray areas of life.

The greatest grace that the blind man – who represent each of us- receives from Christ, is not to see, but to know Him, to see Him as the “light of the world” (Jn 9, 5). The miracle is that Christ makes not only see the sunlight, but also the light of truth.

In the miracle of the blind man, we see that conversion is allowing our eyes to be open to a reality as it really is and not as we see it when we look without the eyes of faith.

Let’ s make our own the invitation of St. Bonaventure to a journey of the mind toward God: “Open your eyes, tend your spiritual ear, open your lips and make your heart available so that you may in all creatures see, hear , praise, love, worship, glorify, and honor your God “(Itinerarium mentis in Deum, I, 15).

It is a path that we can accomplish by following the exhortation of Saint Paul “ Brothers and sisters: You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention  the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” (Eph 5: 8 14 – Second Reading of this Sunday).

It is a journey in which we are called to be witnesses of the light and love that come from faith. “Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope that God holds the world in his hands and that, in spite of all darkness he ultimately triumphs in glory. Faith… gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God. “(Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 39).

To experience love, and in this way to let the light of God in the world, I would like to invite each and every one of us to this.

As taught by Pope Francis: “Our lives are sometimes similar to that of the blind man who opened himself to the light, who opened himself to God, who opened himself to his grace. Sometimes unfortunately they are similar to that of the doctors of the law: from the height of our pride we judge others, and even the Lord!…  The lengthy account opens with a blind man who begins to see and it closes with the alleged seers who remain blind in soul. In the end the blind man who was healed attains to faith, and this is the greatest grace that Jesus grants him: not only to see, but also to know Him, to see in Him “the light of the world”  “(Angelus, March 30, 2014).

3) Virginity for the Light

With his eyes closed but with good reason: the command of Christ, the blind man went to the pool of Siloam to wash his eyes smeared with mud. When the eyes became cloudless, he saw, believed and gave the news. His recovery was bodily and spiritually. For this reason, he saw not only people and things, but the truth of God and man. He saw that God is for man, that God is love that God gives everything, God gives himself, God gives freedom, and that freedom is love and service.

This miracle invites us to ask the Lord to heal the eyes of our soul, then to be converted to Him, to contemplate Him and to follow Him.

The consecrated virgins in the world are an example of this conversion made constant journey through a consecration that implies a complete offer of their lives to Christ. God “continually purifies and renews them to let them appear before him holy and immaculate, adorned as a bride for the wedding. In the mystery of the Church, virgin and mother, by thy Holy Spirit, you inspire the variety of gifts and charisms for the building of your kingdom. You speak, O Father, to the heart of your daughters and draw them with bonds of love so that, waiting ardent and vigilant, they may fill their lamps and go out to meet Christ, King of glory “(Preface of the Mass of the rite of consecration of Virgin).

 

Patristic Reading

Saint John Chrysostom (344/354407)

HOMILY LVI.

“And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”

[1.] “And as Jesus passed by, He saw a man which was blind from his birth.” Being full of love for man, and caring for our salvation, and desiring to stop the mouths of the foolish, He omitteth nothing of His own part, though there be none to give heed. And the Prophet knowing this saith, “That Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou art judged.” (Ps 51,4). Wherefore here, when they would not receive His sublime sayings, but said that He had a devil, and attempted to kill Him, He went forth from the Temple, and healed the blind, mitigating their rage by His absence, and by working the miracle softening their hardness and cruelty, and establishing His assertions. And He worketh a miracle which was no common one, but one which took place then for the first time. “Since the world began,” saith he who was healed, “was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.” (Jn 9,32). Some have, perhaps, opened the eyes of the blind, but of one born blind never. And that on going out of the Temple, He proceeded intentionally to the work, is clear from this; it was He who saw the blind man, not the blind man who came to Him; and so earnestly did He look upon him, that even His disciples perceived it. From this, at least, they came to question Him; for when they saw Him earnestly regarding the man, they asked Him, saying, “Who did sin, this man, or his parents?” A mistaken question, for how could he sin before he was born? and how, if his parents had sinned, would he have been punished? Whence then came they to put this question? Before, when He healed the paralytic, He said, “Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more.” (c. 5,14). They therefore, having understood that he was palsied on account of sin, said,“ Well, that other was palsied because of his sins; but concerning. this man, what wouldest Thou say? hath he sinned? It is not possible to say so, for he is blind from his birth. Have his parents sinned? Neither can one say this, for the child suffers not punishment for the father.” As therefore when we see a child evil entreated, we exclaim, “What can one say of this? what has the child done?”not as asking a question, but as being perplexed, so the disciples spake here, not so much asking for information, as being in perplexity. What then saith Christ?

Jn 9,3. “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents.”

This He saith not as acquitting them of sins, for He saith not simply, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents,” but addeth, “that he should have been born blind1 —but that the Son of God should be glorified in him.” “For both this man hath sinned and his parents, but his blindness proceedeth not from that.” And this He said, not signifying that though this man indeed was not in such case, yet that others had been made blind from such a cause, the sins of their parents, since it cannot be that when one sinneth another should be punished. For if we allow this, we must also allow that he sinned before his birth. As therefore when He declared, “neither hath this man sinned,” He said not that it is possible to sin from one’s very birth, and be punished for it; so when He said, “nor his parents,” He said not that one may be punished for his parents’ sake. This supposition He removeth by the mouth of Ezekiel; “As I live saith the Lord, this proverb shall not be, that is used, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” (Ez 18,3 Ez 18,2). And Moses saith, “The father shall not die for the child, neither shall the child die for the father.” (Dt 24,16). And of a certain king2 Scripture saith, that for this very reason he did not this thing,3 observing the law of Moses. But if any one argue, “How then is it said, ‘Who visiteth the sins of the parents upon the children unto the third and fourth generation’?” (Dt 5,9); we should make this answer, that the assertion is not universal, but that it is spoken with reference to certain who came out of Egypt. And its meaning is of this kind; “Since these who have come out of Egypt, after signs and wonders, have become worse than their forefathers who saw none of these things, they shall suffer,” It saith, “the same that those others suffered, since they have dared the same crimes.” And that it was spoken of those men, any one who will give attention to the passage will more certainly know. Wherefore then was he born blind?

“That the glory4 of God should be made manifest,”5 He saith.

Lo, here again is another difficulty, if without this man’s punishment, it was not possible that the glory of God should be shown. Certainly it is not said that it was impossible, for it was possible, but, “that it might be manifested even in this man.” “What,” saith some one, “did he suffer wrong for the glory of God?” What wrong, tell me? For what if God had never willed to produce him at all? But I assert that he even received benefit from his blindness: since he recovered the sight of the eyes within. What were the Jews profited by their eyes? They incurred the heavier punishment, being blinded even while they saw. And what injury had this man by his blindness? For by means of it he recovered sight. As then the evils of the present life are not evils, so neither are the good things good; sin alone is an evil, but blindness is not an evil. And He who had brought this man from not being into being, had also power to leave him as he was.

2 days 15 hours

Below is the Vatican-provided text of Pope Francis’ address this evening, March 24, 2017, to European Heads of States and Governments in the Sala Regia of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace:

***

Distinguished Guests,

I thank you for your presence here tonight, on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Treaties instituting the European Economic Community and the European Atomic Energy Community. I convey to each of you the affection of the Holy See for your respective countries and for Europe itself, to whose future it is, in God’s providence, inseparably linked. I am particularly grateful to the Honourable Paolo Gentiloni, President of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Italy, for his respectful words of greeting in your name and for the efforts that Italy has made in preparing for this meeting. I also thank the Honourable Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, who has voiced the aspirations of the peoples of the Union on this anniversary.

Returning to Rome, sixty years later, must not simply be a remembrance of things past, but the expression of a desire to relive that event in order to appreciate its significance for the present. We need to immerse ourselves in the challenges of that time, so as to face those of today and tomorrow. The Bible, with its rich historical narratives, can teach us a basic lesson. We cannot understand our own times apart from the past, seen not as an assemblage of distant facts, but as the lymph that gives life to the present. Without such an awareness, reality loses its unity, history loses its logical thread, and humanity loses a sense of the meaning of its activity and its progress towards the future.

25 March 1957 was a day full of hope and expectation, enthusiasm and apprehension. Only an event of exceptional significance and historical consequences could make it unique in history. The memory of that day is linked to today’s hopes and the expectations of the people of Europe, who call for discernment in the present, so that the journey that has begun can continue with renewed enthusiasm and confidence.

This was very clear to the founding fathers and the leaders who, by signing the two Treaties, gave life to that political, economic, cultural and primarily human reality which today we call the European Union. As P.H. Spaak, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, it was a matter “indeed, of the material prosperity of our peoples, the expansion of our economies, social progress and completely new industrial and commercial possibilities, but above all… a particular conception of life that is humane, fraternal and just”. [1]

After the dark years and the bloodshed of the Second World War, the leaders of the time had faith in the possibility of a better future. “They did not lack boldness, nor did they act too late. The memory of recent tragedies and failures seems to have inspired them and given them the courage needed to leave behind their old disputes and to think and act in a truly new way, in order to bring about the greatest transformation… of Europe”. [2]

The founding fathers remind us that Europe is not a conglomeration of rules to obey, or a manual of protocols and procedures to follow. It is a way of life, a way of understanding man based on his transcendent and inalienable dignity, as something more than simply a sum of rights to defend or claims to advance. At the origin of the idea of Europe, we find “the nature and the responsibility of the human person, with his ferment of evangelical fraternity…, with his desire for truth and justice, honed by a thousand-year-old experience”. [3] Rome, with its vocation to universality, [4] symbolizes that experience and was thus chosen as the place for the signing of the Treaties. For here – as the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, J. Luns, observed – “were laid the political, juridical and social foundations of our civilization”. [5]

It was clear, then, from the outset, that the heart of the European political project could only be man himself. It was also clear that the Treaties could remain a dead letter; they needed to take on spirit and life. The first element of European vitality must be solidarity. As the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, J. Bech stated, “the European economic community will prove lasting and successful only if it remains constantly faithful to the spirit of European solidarity that created it, and if the common will of the Europe now being born proves more powerful than the will of individual nations”. [6] That spirit remains as necessary as ever today, in the face of centrifugal impulses and the temptation to reduce the founding ideals of the Union to productive, economic and financial needs.

Solidarity gives rise to openness towards others. “Our plans are not inspired by self-interest”, [7] said the German Chancellor, K. Adenauer. The French Minister of Foreign Affairs, C. Pineau, echoed this sentiment: “Surely the countries about to unite… do not have the intention of isolating themselves from the rest of the world and surrounding themselves with insurmountable barriers”. [8] In a world that was all too familiar with the tragedy of walls and divisions, it was clearly important to work for a united and open Europe, and for the removal of the unnatural barrier that divided the continent from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic. What efforts were made to tear down that wall! Yet today the memory of those efforts has been lost. Forgotten too is the tragedy of separated families, poverty and destitution born of that division. Where generations longed to see the fall of those signs of forced hostility, these days we debate how to keep out the “dangers” of our time: beginning with the long file of women, men and children fleeing war and poverty, seeking only a future for themselves and their loved ones.

In today’s lapse of memory, we often forget another great achievement of the solidarity ratified on 25 March 1957: the longest period of peace experienced in recent centuries. “Peoples who over time often found themselves in opposed camps, fighting with one another… now find themselves united and enriched by their distinctive national identities”. [9] Peace is always the fruit of a free and conscious contribution by all. Nonetheless, “for many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted”, [10] one that can then easily come to be regarded as superfluous. On the contrary, peace is a precious and essential good, for without it, we cannot build a future for anyone, and we end up “living from day to day”.

United Europe was born of a clear, well-defined and carefully pondered project, however embryonic at first. Every worthy project looks to the future, and the future are the young, who are called to realize its hopes and promises. [11] The founding fathers had a clear sense of being part of a common effort that not only crossed national borders, but also the borders of time, so as to bind generations among themselves, all sharing equally in the building of the common home.

Distinguished Guests,

I have devoted this first part of my talk to the founding fathers of Europe, so that we can be challenged by their words, the timeliness of their thinking, their impassioned pursuit of the common good, their certainty of sharing in a work greater than themselves, and the breadth of the ideals that inspired them. Their common denominator was the spirit of service, joined to passion for politics and the consciousness that “at the origin of European civilization there is Christianity”, [12] without which the Western values of dignity, freedom and justice would prove largely incomprehensible. As Saint John Paul II affirmed: “Today too, the soul of Europe remains united, because, in addition to its common origins, those same Christian and human values are still alive. Respect for the dignity of the human person, a profound sense of justice, freedom, industriousness, the spirit of initiative, love of family, respect for life, tolerance, the desire for cooperation and peace: all these are its distinctive marks”. [13] In our multicultural world, these values will continue to have their rightful place provided they maintain a vital connection to their deepest roots. The fruitfulness of that connection will make it possible to build authentically “lay” societies, free of ideological conflicts, with equal room for the native and the immigrant, for believers and nonbelievers.

The world has changed greatly in the last sixty years. If the founding fathers, after surviving a devastating conflict, were inspired by the hope of a better future and were determined to pursue it by avoiding the rise of new conflicts, our time is dominated more by the concept of crisis. There is the economic crisis that has marked the past decade; there is the crisis of the family and of established social models; there is a widespread “crisis of institutions” and the migration crisis. So many crises that engender fear and profound confusion in our contemporaries, who look for a new way of envisioning the future. Yet the term “crisis” is not necessarily negative. It does not simply indicate a painful moment to be endured. The word “crisis” has its origin in the Greek verb kríno, which means to discern, to weigh, to assess. Ours is a time of discernment, one that invites us to determine what is essential and to build on it. It is a time of challenge and opportunity.

So what is the interpretative key for reading the difficulties of the present and finding answers for the future? Returning to the thinking of the founding Fathers would be fruitless unless it could help to point out a path and provide an incentive for facing the future and a source of hope. When a body loses its sense of direction and is no longer able to look ahead, it experiences a regression and, in the long run, risks dying. What, then, is the legacy of the founding fathers? What prospects do they indicate for surmounting the challenges that lie before us? What hope do they offer for the Europe of today and of tomorrow?

Their answers are to be found precisely in the pillars on which they determined to build the European economic community. I have already mentioned these: the centrality of man, effective solidarity, openness to the world, the pursuit of peace and development, openness to the future. Those who govern are charged with discerning the paths of hope, identifying specific ways forward to ensure that the significant steps taken thus far have not been wasted, but serve as the pledge of a long and fruitful journey.

Europe finds new hope when man is the centre and the heart of her institutions. I am convinced that this entails an attentive and trust-filled readiness to hear the expectations voiced by individuals, society and the peoples who make up the Union. Sadly, one frequently has the sense that there is a growing “split” between the citizenry and the European institutions, which are often perceived as distant and inattentive to the different sensibilities present in the Union. Affirming the centrality of man also means recovering the spirit of family, whereby each contributes freely to the common home in accordance with his or her own abilities and gifts. It helps to keep in mind that Europe is a family of peoples [14] and that – as in every good family – there are different sensitivities, yet all can grow to the extent that all are united. The European Union was born as a unity of differences and a unity in differences. What is distinctive should not be a reason for fear, nor should it be thought that unity is preserved by uniformity. Unity is instead harmony within a community. The founding fathers chose that very term as the hallmark of the agencies born of the Treaties and they stressed that the resources and talents of each were now being pooled. Today the European Union needs to recover the sense of being primarily a “community” of persons and peoples, to realize that “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts”, [15] and that therefore “we constantly have to broaden our horizons and see the greater good which will benefit us all”. [16] The founding fathers sought that harmony in which the whole is present in every one of the parts, and the parts are – each in its own unique way – present in the whole.

Europe finds new hope in solidarity, which is also the most effective antidote to modern forms of populism. Solidarity entails the awareness of being part of a single body, while at the same time involving a capacity on the part of each member to “sympathize” with others and with the whole. When one suffers, all suffer (cf. 1 Cor 12:26). Today, with the United Kingdom, we mourn the victims of the attack that took place in London two days ago. For solidarity is no mere ideal; it is expressed in concrete actions and steps that draw us closer to our neighbours, in whatever situation they find themselves. Forms of populism are instead the fruit of an egotism that hems people in and prevents them from overcoming and “looking beyond” their own narrow vision. There is a need to start thinking once again as Europeans, so as to avert the opposite dangers of a dreary uniformity or the triumph of particularisms. Politics needs this kind of leadership, which avoids appealing to emotions to gain consent, but instead, in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity, devises policies that can make the Union as a whole develop harmoniously. As a result, those who run faster can offer a hand to those who are slower, and those who find the going harder can aim at catching up to those at the head of the line.

Europe finds new hope when she refuses to yield to fear or close herself off in false forms of security. Quite the contrary, her history has been greatly determined by encounters with other peoples and cultures; hers “is, and always has been, a dynamic and multicultural identity”. [17] The world looks to the European project with great interest. This was the case from the first day, when crowds gathered in Rome’s Capitol Square and messages of congratulation poured in from other states. It is even more the case today, if we think of those countries that have asked to become part of the Union and those states that receive the aid so generously offered them for battling the effects of poverty, disease and war. Openness to the world implies the capacity for “dialogue as a form of encounter” [18] on all levels, beginning with dialogue between member states, between institutions and citizens, and with the numerous immigrants landing on the shores of the Union. It is not enough to handle the grave crisis of immigration of recent years as if it were a mere numerical or economic problem, or a question of security. The immigration issue poses a deeper question, one that is primarily cultural. What kind of culture does Europe propose today? The fearfulness that is becoming more and more evident has its root cause in the loss of ideals. Without an approach inspired by those ideals, we end up dominated by the fear that others will wrench us from our usual habits, deprive us of familiar comforts, and somehow call into question a lifestyle that all too often consists of material prosperity alone. Yet the richness of Europe has always been her spiritual openness and her capacity to raise basic questions about the meaning of life. Openness to the sense of the eternal has also gone hand in hand, albeit not without tensions and errors, with a positive openness to this world. Yet today’s prosperity seems to have clipped the continent’s wings and lowered its gaze. Europe has a patrimony of ideals and spiritual values unique in the world, one that deserves to be proposed once more with passion and renewed vigour, for it is the best antidote against the vacuum of values of our time, which provides a fertile terrain for every form of extremism. These are the ideals that shaped Europe, that “Peninsula of Asia” which stretches from the Urals to the Atlantic.

Europe finds new hope when she invests in development and in peace. Development is not the result of a combination of various systems of production. It has to do with the whole human being: the dignity of labour, decent living conditions, access to education and necessary medical care. “Development is the new name of peace”, [19] said Pope Paul VI, for there is no true peace whenever people are cast aside or forced to live in dire poverty. There is no peace without employment and the prospect of earning a dignified wage. There is no peace in the peripheries of our cities, with their rampant drug abuse and violence.

Europe finds new hope when she is open to the future. When she is open to young people, offering them serious prospects for education and real possibilities for entering the work force.When she invests in the family, which is the first and fundamental cell of society. When she respects the consciences and the ideals of her citizens. When she makes it possible to have children without the fear of being unable to support them. When she defends life in all its sacredness.

Distinguished Guests,

Nowadays, with the general increase in people’s life span, sixty is considered the age of full maturity, a critical time when we are once again called to self-examination. The European Union, too, is called today to examine itself, to care for the ailments that inevitably come with age, and to find new ways to steer its course. Yet unlike human beings, the European Union does not face an inevitable old age, but the possibility of a new youthfulness. Its success will depend on its readiness to work together once again, and by its willingness to wager on the future. As leaders, you are called to blaze the path of a “new European humanism” [20] made up of ideals and concrete actions. This will mean being unafraid to take practical decisions capable of meeting people’s real problems and of standing the test of time.

For my part, I readily assure you of the closeness of the Holy See and the Church to Europe as a whole, to whose growth she has, and always will, continue to contribute. Invoking upon Europe the Lord’s blessings, I ask him to protect her and grant her peace and progress. I make my own the words that Joseph Bech proclaimed on Rome’s Capitoline Hill: Ceterum censeo Europam esse aedificandam – furthermore, I believe that Europe ought to be built.

Thank you.

_____________________________________________________

[1] P.H. SPAAK, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.

[2] Ibid.

[3] A. DE GASPERI. La nostra patria Europa. Address to the European Parliamentary Conference, 21 April 1954, in Alcide De Gasperi e la politica internazionale, Cinque Lune, Rome, 1990, vol. III, 437-440.

[4] Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit.

[5] J. LUNS, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.

[6] J. BECH, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.

[7] K. ADENAUER, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.

[8] C. PINEAU, Address on the Signing of the Treaties of Rome, 25 March 1957.

[9] P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit.

[10] Address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, 9 January 2017.

[11] Cf. P.H. SPAAK, loc. cit.

[12] A. DE GASPERI, loc. cit.

[13] JOHN PAUL II, European Act, Santiago de Compostela, 9 November 1982: AAS 75/1 (1983), 329.

[14] Cf. Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014: AAS 106 (2014), 1000.

[15] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 235.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016: L’Osservatore Romano, 6-7 May 2016, p. 4.

[18] Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 239.

[19] PAUL VI, Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 26 March 1967, 87: AAS 59 (1967), 299.

[20] Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, loc. cit., p. 5.

[Original text: English] [Vatican-provided text]
2 days 15 hours

Pope Francis has sent his condolences for American Cardinal William Henry Keeler, who many consider to be a defender of life and interreligious dialogue. The Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore, died yesterday at 86.

In his telegram sent today to the current Archbishop of Baltimore, the Pope wrote, “Deeply saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal William H. Keeler, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the archdiocese.”

The Pope also recalled the late cardinal’s contributions to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and his leadership in the US Church.

“I join you,” Pope Francis’ telegram concluded, “in commending the soul of this wise and gentle pastor to the merciful love of God our heavenly Father. To all who mourn the late Cardinal in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.”

Ordained a priest on July 17, 1955 in the Church of the Holy Apostles in Rome, he took part as an expert in the works of Vatican Council II, reported Vatican Radio.

He was consecrated Bishop in 1979, as auxiliary of the Diocese of Harrisburg, which he then led from 1983. Six years later, he became Archbishop of Baltimore (1989-2007). In 1992, he was elected president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, an office he held until 1995.

Very active in the realm of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, in 1994 he was appointed member of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. He was committed in the field of evangelization and Catholic education. Strong, also, was his commitment in defense of life, of the family, and of the homeless. John Paul II elevated him to Cardinal in the Consistory of November 26, 1994, of the titular church, Santa Maria degli Angeli.

***

To the Most Reverend William E. Lori

Archbishop of Baltimore

Deeply saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal William H. Keeler, I offer heartfelt condolences to you and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese. With gratitude for Cardinal Keeler’s years of devoted episcopal ministry in the local Churches of Harrisburg and Baltimore, his years of leadership within the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and his long-standing commitment to ecumenical and interreligious understanding, I join you in commending the soul of this wise and gentle pastor to the merciful love of God our heavenly Father. To all who mourn the late Cardinal in the sure hope of the Resurrection, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and peace in the Lord.

FRANCISCUS PP.

2 days 19 hours

Pope Francis received in audience the president of the Republic of Fiji, Jioji Konous Konrote, this morning.

According to a statement released by the Holy See Press Office, the discussions were cordial, and highlighted the good existing relations between the Holy See and Fiji, evoking in particular, “the contribution of the Catholic Church to the life of the country.”

“Attention then turned,” the statement noted, “to the issue of climate change and, above all, to its ethical dimension, which demands solidarity with the most vulnerable social groups and countries, and with the new generations.”

Finally, the Pope and President Konrote discussed the collaboration of the Fijian armed forces in United Nations peace missions in various parts of the world.

After meeting with the Pope, the President of Fiji met with Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

 

2 days 19 hours

Here is the third Lenten homily given this year by the preacher of the Pontifical Household, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa.

* * *

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, ofmcap

Lent 2017

Third Sermon

THE HOLY SPIRIT LEADS US INTO THE MYSTERY

OF THE DEATH OF CHRIST

  1. The Holy Spirit in the Paschal Mystery of Christ

In the two preceding meditations we tried to show how the Holy Spirit leads us into the “fullness of truth” about the person of Christ, making him known as “Lord” and as “true God from true God.” In the remaining meditations our attention will shift from the person of Christ to the work of Christ, from his being to his acting. We will try to show how the Holy Spirit illuminates the paschal mystery.

Scarcely had the program for these Lenten sermons been made public when I was asked this question in an interview by L’Osservatore Romano: “How much time will you devote to current affairs in your meditations?” I responded that if “current affairs” referred to contemporary events and situations, I was afraid there would be very little of that in the upcoming Lenten sermons. But, in my opinion, “current” does not just mean “what is going on now,” and it is not a synonym for “recent.” The most “current” things are eternal things, those things that touch people in the most intimate core of their being in every age and in every culture. There is the same kind of distinction between “urgent” and “important.” We are always being tempted to put the urgent ahead of the important and to put the “recent” ahead of the “eternal.” This tendency has been increasing especially because of the rapid pace of communication and the media’s constant need for more news.

What is more important or timely for the believer, and for every man and every woman, than to know if life has meaning or not, if death is the end of everything or, on the contrary, if death is the beginning of real life? The paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ is the only answer to such questions. The difference between this relevant issue and those of the news media is the same as between someone who spends time looking at a design left by a wave on the shore (which the next wave erases!) and someone who lifts his or her gaze to contemplate the sea in its immensity.

With this in mind, let us meditate on the paschal mystery of Christ, beginning with his death on the cross. The Letter to the Hebrews says that Christ “through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God” (Heb 9:14). The “eternal Spirit” is another way of saying the Holy Spirit, which is confirmed by an ancient variation of the text. This means that Jesus, as man, received from the Holy Spirit dwelling in him the impulse to offer himself in sacrifice to the Father as well as the strength that sustained him during his passion. The liturgy expresses this very conviction when, in the prayer that precedes communion, the priest says, “O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who, by the will of the Father, with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit (cooperante Spiritu Sancto), [You] have by Your death given life to the world. . . .”

The same dynamic that occurred in the sacrifice also occurred in prayer. One day Jesus “rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth . . .’” (Lk 10:21). It was the Holy Spirit who made the prayer rise up in him, and it was the Holy Spirit who urged him to offer himself to the Father. The Holy Spirit, who is the eternal gift the Son makes of himself to the Father in eternity, is also the one who urged him to make a sacrificial gift of himself to the Father for our sake in time.

The connection between the Holy Spirit and the death of Jesus is highlighted primarily in the Gospel of John. “As yet the Spirit had not been given,” notes the Evangelist concerning the promise of living water, “because Jesus was not yet glorified” (Jn 7:39), that is—according to the meaning of “glorification” in John—Jesus had not yet been lifted on the cross. Jesus “yielded up his spirit” (Matt 27:50) on the cross, symbolized by the water and the blood; John in fact writes in his First Letter, “There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water, and the blood” (1 Jn 5:8).

The Holy Spirit brings Jesus to the cross, and from the cross Jesus gives the Holy Spirit. At the moment of his birth and then publicly in his baptism, the Holy Spirit is given to Jesus; at the moment of his death, Jesus gives the Holy Spirit. Peter says to the crowd gathered on the day of Pentecost, “Having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear” (Acts 2:33). The Fathers of the Church loved to highlight this reciprocity. “The Lord received ointment [myron] on his head,” says St. Ignatius of Antioch, “to breath incorruptibility on the church.”[1]

At this point we need to recall St. Augustine’s observation regarding the nature of the mysteries in Christ. According to him, there is a true celebration of a mystery, and not just of an anniversary, when “the commemoration of the event is so ordered that it is understood to be significant of something [for us] which is to be received with reverence as sacred.”[2] And this is what we would like to do in this meditation, guided by the Holy Spirit: to see what the death of Christ signifies for us, what it changed concerning our death.

  1. One Died for All

The Church’s creed ends with the words, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” It does not mention what will precede resurrection and eternal life, that is, death. Rightly so, because death is not the object of faith but of our experience. Death, however, touches all of us too closely to pass over it in silence.

In order to evaluate the change brought by Christ concerning death, let us see what remedies human beings have looked to in order to deal with the problem of death, especially since they are the ones with which people still try to “console themselves” today. Death is the number one human problem. St. Augustine anticipated contemporary philosophy’s reflection on death:

When a child is born there are so many speculations. Perhaps he will be handsome, perhaps ugly; perhaps he will be rich, perhaps poor; perhaps he will grow old, perhaps he will not. But no one says, “Perhaps he will die, perhaps he won’t.” Death is the only absolute certainty in life. When we know that someone has dropsy [this was an incurable disease at that time, but there are others today], we say, “Poor fellow, he is going to die; he is condemned to die; there is no cure.” Should we not say the same about anyone who is born? “Poor fellow, he has to die; there is no cure; he is condemned to die!” What difference does it make if he has a bit longer time or a bit shorter time to live? Death is the fatal disease we contract by being born.[3]

Perhaps better than thinking of our lives as “a mortal life,” we should think of it as “a living death,”[4] a life of dying. This thought by Augustine has been taken up from a secular standpoint by Martin Heidegger who made death, in its own right, a subject for philosophy. Defining life and a human being as a “being-toward-death,” he sees death not as an event that brings life to an end but as the very substance of life, that is, as the way life unfolds. To live is to die. Every instant that we live is something that get consumed, that is subtracted from life and handed over to death.[5] “Living-for-death” means that death is not only the end but also the purpose of life. One is born to die and for nothing else. We come from nothingness and we return to nothingness. Nothingness is then the only option for a human being.

This is the most radical reversal of the Christian vision, which sees a human being instead as a “being-for-eternity.” Nevertheless, the affirmation that philosophy arrived at after its long reflection on human beings is neither scandalous nor absurd. Philosophy is simply doing its job; it shows what human destiny would be like if left to itself. It helps us understand the difference that faith in Christ makes.

More than philosophy, it is perhaps the poets who speak the simplest and truest words of wisdom about death. One of them, Giuseppe Ungaretti, speaking of the frame of mind of the soldiers in the trenches during World War I, described the situation of every human being confronting the mystery of death:

They stand

like leaves

on the trees

in autumn.[6]

Scripture itself in the Old Testament does not have a clear answer on death. The Wisdom books speak about it but always from the standpoint of a question rather than of an answer. Job, the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, Wisdom—all these books dedicate considerable space to the theme of death. “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” one psalm says (Ps. 90:12). Why are we born? Why do we die? Where do we go when we die? These are all questions that are without any answers for the Old Testament sage except this one: God wills it to be so; there will be judgment for everyone.

The Bible refers to the disquieting opinions of unbelievers of that time: “Short and sorrowful is our life, and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end, and no one has been known to return from Hades. . . . We were born by mere chance, and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been” (Wis 2:1-2). Only in this book of Wisdom, which is the latest book of biblical wisdom literature, does death begin to be illuminated by the idea of some kind of recompense after death. The souls of the righteousness, they thought, are in God’s hands, even if they did not know exactly what that meant (see Wis 3:1). It is true that in one of the psalms we read, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Ps 116:15). But we cannot place too much weight on this verse that has been cited so often since its meaning seems to point to something else: God makes people pay dearly for the death of his faithful ones, that is, he is their avenger and holds people to account.

How have human beings reacted to the harsh necessity of death? One dismissive response has been not to think about it and to distract oneself. For Epicurus, for example, death is a non-issue: “So long as we are existent,” he said, “death is not present and whenever it is present we are nonexistent.”[7] Death, therefore, is not really a concern for us. This approach of exorcizing death is also found in the laws of the Napoleonic Code that placed cemeteries outside the city limits.

People also clung to positive remedies. The most universal one is having offspring and continuing to live through one’s descendants. Another was living on through fame: “I shall not wholly die (“non omnis moriar”),” said the Latin poet Horace, because “my reputation shall be green and growing.” “More durable than bronze . . . is the monument I have made.”[8] In Marxism, one survives through the society of the future, not as an individual but as a species.

Another one of these palliative remedies, which has been fabricated, is reincarnation. But this is foolishness. Those who profess this doctrine as an integral part of their culture and religion, and thus truly know what incarnation is, know that this is not a remedy or a consolation but a punishment. It is not an extension of life for pleasure but a purification. A soul is reincarnated because it still has something to atone for, and if one must do atonement, then one will have to suffer. The word of God cuts off all these delusive paths of escape: “It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb 9:27). Just once! The doctrine of reincarnation is thus incompatible with the faith of Christians.

Other remedies have appeared in our day. There is an international movement called “transhumanism.” It has many aspects, not all of which are negative, but at its core is the conviction that the human species, thanks to all the progress in technology, is on the path to surpassing itself radically, to the point of living for centuries or perhaps forever! According to one of its most famous representatives, Zoltan Istvan, the final goal will be “to become like God and conquer death.” A Jewish or Christian believer cannot help but immediately think of the identical words at the beginning of human history: “You will not die. . . . You will be like God” (Gen 3:4-5), with the result that we already know.

  1. Death Was Swallowed Up in Victory

There is only one true remedy to death, and we Christians are robbing the world if we do not proclaim it by our words and our lives. Let us hear how the Apostle Paul announces this change to the world:

If many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. . . . If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:15-17)

The triumph of Christ over death is described with great lyricism in the First Letter to the Corinthians:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15:54-57)

The decisive factor occurs at the moment of Christ’s death: “He died for all” (2 Cor 5:15). But what was so decisive at that moment to change the very nature of death? We can think of it visually this way. The Son of God descended into the tomb, like a dark prison, but he came out on the opposite side. He did not turn back to where he had entered, as Lazarus did and then had to die again. No, he opened a breach on the opposite side through which all those who believe in him can follow him.

An ancient Father writes, “He took upon himself the suffering of man, suffering in a body which could suffer, but through the Spirit that cannot die he slew death, which was slaying man.”[9] St. Augustine says, “By his passion our Lord passed from death to life and opened a way for us who believe in his resurrection that we too may pass over from death to life.”[10] Death becomes a passageway, and it is a passageway to what does not pass away! John Chrysostom says it well:

We do indeed die, but we do not continue in it: which is not to die at all. For the tyranny of death, and death indeed, is when he who dies is never more allowed to return to life. But when after dying is living, and that a better life, this is not death, but sleep.[11]

All these ways of explaining the meaning of the death of Christ are true, but they are not the most profound one. This one is found in what Christ, through his death, came to bring to the human condition, more so than what he came to remove from it: it is found in the love of God, not in the sin of human beings. If Jesus suffers and dies a violent death inflicted on him by hate, he does not do it merely to pay an insolvent debt owed by human beings (the debt of 10,000 talents in the parable is forgiven by the king!); he dies by crucifixion so that the suffering and death of human beings would be inhabited by love!

Human beings were condemned to die an absurd death all alone, but entering death they discover that it is now permeated by the love of God. Love could not dispense with death because of human freedom: the love of God cannot eliminate the tragic reality of evil and death by waving a magic wand. His love is constrained to allow suffering and death to have their say. But since love penetrated death and has filled it with the divine presence, love now has the last word.

  1. What Changed about Death

What has then changed about death because of Jesus? Nothing and everything! Nothing in terms of our reason, but everything in terms of faith. The necessity of entering the tomb has not changed, but now there is the possibility of exiting from it. This is what the Orthodox icon of the resurrection illustrates so powerfully, and we can see a modern interpretation of it on the left wall of this Redemptoris Mater Chapel. The Risen One descends into hell and brings Adam and Eve out with him and behind them all those who are clinging to him in the infernal regions of that world.

This explains the believer’s paradoxical attitude in the face of death, which is so similar to that of other people and yet so different. An attitude of sadness, fear, horror, since they know they must go down into the dark abyss, but also an attitude of hope since they know they are able to leave it. “Those saddened by the certainty of dying,” says Preface I for the Dead, are “consoled by the promise of immortality to come.” St. Paul wrote to the faithful in Thessalonica who were mourning the death of some among them,

We would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thess 4:13-14)

Paul does not ask them not to grieve for those deaths but tells them “not to grieve as others do,” as unbelievers do. Death is not the end of life for the believer but the beginning of real life; it is not a leap into the void but a leap into eternity. It is a birth and a baptism. It is a birth because only then does real life begin, the life that does not lead to death but lasts forever. For this reason the Church does not celebrate the feast of saints on the day of their physical birth but on the day of their birth in heaven, their “dies natalis.” The connection between the earthly life of faith and eternal life is analogous to the connection between the life of an embryo in a mother’s womb and the life of the baby once it is born. Nicholas Cabasilas writes,

It is this world which is in travail with that new inner man which is “created after the likeness of God.” When he has been shaped and formed here he is thus born perfect into that perfect world which grows not old. As nature prepares the foetus, while it is in its dark and fluid life, for that life which is in the light . . . , so likewise it happens to the saints.[12]

Death is also a baptism. That is how Jesus describes his own death: “I have a baptism to be baptized with” (Lk 12:50). St. Paul speaks of baptism as being “buried therefore with him by baptism into death” (Rom 6:4). In ancient times, at the moment of baptism a person was completely immersed in water; all of one’s sins and one’s fallen human nature were buried in the water, and that person came forth a new creature, symbolized by the white robe he or she was wearing. The same thing happens in death: the caterpillar dies, the butterfly is born. God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Rev 21:4). All those things are buried forever.

In various centuries, especially from the seventeenth century onward, one important aspect of Catholic ascesis consisted in the “preparation for death,”[13] that is, in meditation on death and on a visual description of its different stages and its inexorable progression from the periphery of the body to the heart. Almost all the depictions of saints during this period show them with a skull nearby, even Francis of Assisi who had called death “sister.”

One of the tourist attractions in Rome continues to be the Capuchin Crypt on Via Veneto. One cannot deny that all of this can serve as a reminder that is still useful for an age that is as secularized and as unthinking as ours. This is especially true if a person reads the admonition inscribed above one of the skeletons: “What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be.”

All of this, however, has given someone the pretext of saying that Christianity advances by means of the fear of death. But this is terrible error. Christianity, as we have seen, is not here to increase the fear of death but to remove it; Christ came, says the Letter to the Hebrews, to “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage” (Heb 2:15). Christianity does not advance because of the thought of our death but because of the thought of Christ’s death!

For this reason, it is much more effective to meditate on the passion and death of Jesus, rather than meditating on our own death, and we need to say—to give credit to the generations that preceded us—that such a meditation was the daily bread of spirituality during those past centuries.[14] It is a meditation that generates emotion and gratitude, not anxiety; it makes us exclaim, like the Apostle Paul, Christ “loved me and gave himself for me!” (Gal 2:20).

A “pious exercise” that I would like to recommend to everyone during Lent is to pick up a Gospel and read the entire account of the passion, slowly and on your own. It takes less than a half an hour. I knew an intellectual woman who claimed to be an atheist. One day she unexpectedly got the kind of news that leaves people stunned: her sixteen-year-old daughter had a bone tumor. They operated on her. The girl returned from the operating room with an IV drip and all kinds of tubes coming out of her. She was suffering horribly and groaning; she did not want to hear any words of comfort.

Her mother, knowing her daughter to be pious and religious and thinking it would please her, asked her, “Do you want me to read you something from the Gospel?” “Yes, Mamma.” “What do you want me to read?” “Read me the passion.” The mother, who had never read a Gospel, ran to buy one from chaplains; she sat next to her daughter’s bed and began to read. After a while the daughter fell asleep, but the mother continued reading silently in semi-darkness right to the end. “The daughter fell asleep,” she said in the book she wrote after her daughter’s death, “and the mother woke up!” She woke up from her atheism. Reading the passion of Christ had changed her life forever.[15]

Let us end with the simple but powerful prayer from the liturgy, “Adoramus te, Christe, et benedicimus tibi, quia per sanctam tuam redemisti mundum,” We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”

Translated from Italian by Marsha Daigle Williamson

[1] St. Ignatius of Antioch, “Letter to the Ephesians,”17, in Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna, trans. and comm. Kenneth J. Howell (Zanesville, OH: CHResources, 2009), p. 87.

[2] St. Augustine, “Letter 55,” 1, 2, The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustine , series 1, vol. 1, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff (New York: Cosimo, 2007), p. 303; see CSEL 34, 1, p. 170.

[3] See St. Augustine, “Sermon 47,” 3, Sermons on Selected Lessons of the New Testament, trans. R. G. MacMullen, series 1, vol. 6, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff (New York: Christian Literature Publishing, 1886), p. 413; see Sermo Guelf., 12, 3 (Misc. Ag. I, p. 482ff).

[4] St. Augustine, The Confessions of St. Augustine, 1, 6, 7, trans. John K Ryan (Garden City, NY: Image Books, 1960), p. 46.

[5] See Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, #51, trans. Joan Stambaugh (Albany: State University Press of New York, 2010), pp. 242ff.

[6] Giuseppe Ungaretti, “Soldiers” [“Soldati”], trans. Stuart Flynn, Modern Poetry in Translation, New Series no.18 (2001): 185.

[7] Epicurus, “Letter to Menoeceus,” trans. George K. Stodach (New York: Penguin Books, 2012), p. 157.

[8] Horace, , The Odes of Horace, 3, 30, trans. James Michie (New York: Washington Square Press, 1963), p. 203.

[9] See Melito of Sardis, On Pascha, 66, trans. Alistair Stewart-Sykes (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 2001), p. 54; see SCh 123, p. 96.

[10] St. Augustine, “Psalm 120,” 6, Expositions of the Psalms, trans. Maria Boulding, Part 3, vol. 19, The Works of Saint Augustine (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2003), p. 514.

[11] John Chrysostom, “Homily 17,” 4, Homilies on the Epistle to the Hebrews, vol. 14, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff (Reprinted by Veritatis Splendor, 2012), pp. 327-328; see PG 63, 129.

[12] Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, 1, 2 trans. Camino J. deCatanzaro (Crestwood NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1974), p. 44.

[13] See St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s 1758 book, Preparation for Death [Apparecchio alla morte] (Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 1982).

[14] See St. Alphonsus Ligouri’s 1760 book, Reflections and Affections on the Passion of Jesus Christ [Considerazioni sopra la passione di Gesù Cristo], trans. Eugene Grimm, vol. 5, The Ascetical Works (reprint of the 1887 edition by Kassock Brothers publishing, 2014).

[15] See Rosanna Garofalo, Sopra le ali dell’aquila (Milan: Ancora, 1993).

 

2 days 20 hours

In his message for the 70th anniversary of the International Catholic Center for Cooperation with UNESCO (ICCC), founded in 1947, Pope Francis encourages to reject fear, violence and closure and to choose “brotherhood.”

For this occasion, the ICCC organized on Thursday, March 23, 2017, an international Forum, entitled “What World Do We Want to Build Together?” at UNESCO’s House in Paris, France, in collaboration with the Holy See’s Permanent Observation Mission at UNESCO and under the patronage of UNESCO and the French National Commission for UNESCO.

Monsignor Francesco Follo, the Holy See’s Permanent Observer at UNESCO, read the Pontiff’s message.

In this message, addressed by the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Christine Roche, President of the ICCC, Pope Francis greets the participants and UNESCO’s action for the “renewal of humanity.”

His Holiness Pope Francis greeted warmly all the participants of the well-informed forum “What World Do We Want to Build Today?” organized by UNESCO, which this year is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

The Holy Father, in his message, wished to congratulate and thank the ICCC, which for 70 years has offered, in fidelity to the great Christian tradition, a great contribution to the works of UNESCO, to defend the dignity of the person, peace in the world, and thus foster the renewal of humanity.”

The Pope also encourages to reject fear, violence and closure and to choose “brotherhood.” “The theme you have reserved for this Forum joins one of the Pope’s concerns As he wrote in his Message for the World Day of Peace of January 1, 2017, “an ethic of fraternity and peaceful coexistence between persons and between peoples cannot be founded on the logic of fear, of violence and of closure, but on responsibility, on respect and on sincere dialogue” (n. 5).

Pope Francis encourages an initiative that contributes to the building of a “civilization of love”: “Therefore, the Pope rejoices over the organization of this Forum, whose objective is to foster a reflection on the universal values of freedom, justice and peace. So he encourages all the participants of this Forum to research and develop effective means to “build a civilization of love,” which is the fruit of an effective awareness of a universal community founded on respect, listening, attention to the needs of each one, justice, dialogue and sharing.”

“On entrusting your reflection to the Lord, who came to gather humanity in one unique family, the Holy Father calls upon you as well as upon all the participants in this Forum the Lord’s blessing,” concludes the message signed by Cardinal Parolin.

Christine Roche opened the day, and was followed by Monsignor Guy Real Thivierge, Honorary President of the ICCC who recalled the history of the ICCC that, since its creation in 1947, has intervened actively within UNESCO. He also mentioned Pope Paul VI’s message to Mr Rene Maheu, Director General of UNESCO at the time: at the center of this address was the human person.

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, quoted several times Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Populorum Progressio,w hich is always “timely.” He focused his address on the two words of the title “world” and “build,” addressing the questions of illiteracy and education.

2 days 20 hours

NewsFeeds from Zenit, EWTN, CatholicCulture.org

From: Reliable world news and analysis from a Catholic perspective.
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Addressing 27 European heads of state on March 24, Pope Francis said that the founders of the European Union rightly understood that “the heart of the European political project could only be man himself.

2 days 15 hours

An unusual exhibit featuring the Saints of Italy will be opening on March 25 in Milan, as the city prepares for a visit by Pope Francis.

2 days 16 hours

Journalists who cover the Vatican have lodged a protest against the high cost that is assessed on reporters who accompany the Pope on foreign trips.

2 days 17 hours

During their ad limina visit to Rome this week, the bishops of El Salvador inquired anxiously about the progress of the cause for canonization of Archbishop Oscar Romero.

2 days 18 hours

Speaking at a UN session on climate change and sustainable development, the Vatican’s representative said that international agreements require “a commitment to specific, coordinated, quantifiable, and meaningful steps forward.”

2 days 18 hours

While Christians in Jerusalem celebrated the re-opening of the Edicule—the shrine in side the basilica of the Holy Sepulchre on the site of Jesus’ tomb—experts cautioned that the entire building urgently needs structural work to prevent a “catastrophic” collapse.

2 days 18 hours

A Nigerian cardinal insisted that dialogue with Islam can be productive, in a speech to a Notre Dame conference on African theology.

2 days 18 hours

Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household, delivered the 3rd Lenten Sermon on March 24, continuing his series of meditations on the theme: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3).

2 days 23 hours