Pope urges Myanmar Bishops to continue to provide prophetic voice

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday met with the 22 Catholic Bishops of Myanmar and reflected with them on the joys and challenges of their ministry in the nation.

The meeting took place in Yangon’s Cathedral Complex. After addressing those present he was introduced personally to each Bishop and symbolically blessed the corner stones of 16 Churches, of the Major Seminary and of the Apostolic Nunciature.

The Catholic Church in Myanmar includes 3 Archdioceses and 13 Dioceses. The President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar is Archbishop Felix Lian Khen Thang.

The Pope focussed his discourse to the Bishops on the concepts of healing, accompaniment and prophecy.

He spoke of the need for healing and reconciliation in a country that is working to overcome deeply-rooted divisions and build national unity and he highlighted the precious value provided by cultural and religious diversity and the bishops’ responsibility to help foster healing and communion at every level.

Regarding his focus on ‘accompaniment’, Pope Francis reminded the bishops that a good shepherd must constantly be present to his flock. He said that the Church is called to ‘go forth’ bringing the light of the Gospel to every periphery and he urged them to make a special effort to accompany the young and to be “concerned for their formation in the sound moral principles that will guide them in confronting the challenges of a rapidly changing world.”

Finally, the Pope spoke of the prophetic voice of the Church that “witnesses daily to the Gospel through its works of education and charity, its defence of human rights, its support for democratic rule”. He encouraged the bishops – and Catholic communities – to continue to play a constructive part in the life of society and to stand by the poorest and the most vulnerable as well as helping to protect the environment.

Please find below the Pope’s prepared speech to Myanmar Bishops:

Your Eminence,
My Brother Bishops,

            For all of us, this has been a busy day, but also a day of great joy!  This morning we celebrated the Eucharist together with the faithful from throughout Myanmar, while this afternoon we met with leaders of the majority Buddhist community.  I would like our encounter this evening to be a moment of quiet gratitude for these blessings and for peaceful reflection on the joys and challenges of your ministry as shepherds of Christ’s flock in this country.  I thank Bishop Felix [Lian Khen Thang] for his words of greeting in your name and I embrace all of you with great affection in the Lord.

            I would like to group my own thoughts around three words: healing, accompaniment and prophecy.

            First, healing.  The Gospel we preach is above all a message of healing, reconciliation and peace.  Through the blood of Christ’s cross, God has reconciled the world to himself, and has sent us to be messengers of that healing grace.  Here in Myanmar, that message has a particular resonance, as this country works to overcome deeply-rooted divisions and to build national unity.  For you, whose flocks bear the scars of this conflict and have borne valiant witness to their faith and their ancient traditions, the preaching of the Gospel must not only be a source of consolation and strength, but also a summons to foster unity, charity and healing in the life of this nation.  For the unity we share and celebrate is born of diversity.  It values people’s differences as a source of mutual enrichment and growth.  It invites people to come together in a culture of encounter and solidarity. 

            In your episcopal ministry, may you constantly experience the Lord’s guidance and help in your efforts to foster healing and communion at every level of the Church’s life, so that by their example of forgiveness and reconciling love, God’s holy people can be salt and light for hearts longing for that peace the world cannot give.  The Catholic community in Myanmar can be proud of its prophetic witness to love of God and neighbour, as expressed in its outreach to the poor, the disenfranchised, and above all in these days, to the many displaced persons who lie wounded, as it were, by the roadside.  I ask you to offer my thanks to all who, like the Good Samaritan, work so generously to bring the balm of healing to these, their neighbours in need, without regard for religion or ethnicity.

            Your ministry of healing finds particular expression in your commitment to ecumenical dialogue and interreligious cooperation.  I pray that your continuing efforts to build bridges of dialogue and to join with the followers of other religions in weaving peaceful relations will bear rich fruit for reconciliation in the life of the nation.  The interfaith peace conference held in Yangon last spring was a powerful testimony before the world of the determination of the religions to live in peace and to reject every act of violence and hatred perpetrated in the name of religion.

            My second word to you this evening is accompaniment.  A good shepherd is constantly present to his flock, guiding them as he walks at their side.  As I like to say, the shepherd should bear the smell of the sheep.  In our time, we are called to be “a Church which goes forth” to bring the light of Christ to every periphery (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 20).  As bishops, your lives and ministry are called to model this spirit of missionary outreach, above all through your regular pastoral visitation of the parishes and communities that make up your local Churches.  This is a privileged means for you, as loving fathers, to accompany your priests in their daily efforts to build up the flock in holiness, fidelity and a spirit of service. 

            By God’s grace, the Church in Myanmar has inherited a solid faith and a fervent missionary spirit from the labours of those who brought the Gospel to this land.  On this firm foundation, and in a spirit of communion with your priests and religious, continue to imbue the laity with a spirit of true missionary discipleship and seek a wise inculturation of the Gospel message in the daily life and traditions of your local communities.  The contribution of catechists is essential in this regard; their formation and enrichment must remain among your chief priorities.

            Above all, I would ask you to make a special effort to accompany the young.  Be concerned for their formation in the sound moral principles that will guide them in confronting the challenges of a rapidly changing world.  The next Synod of Bishops will not only address these issues but also directly engage young people, listening to their stories and enlisting them in our common discernment on how best to proclaim the Gospel in the years to come.  One of the great blessings of the Church in Myanmar is its young people and, in particular, the number of seminarians and young religious.  In the spirit of the Synod, please engage them and support them in their journey of faith, for by their idealism and enthusiasm they are called to be joyful and convincing evangelizers of their contemporaries. 

            My third word to you is prophecy.  The Church in Myanmar witnesses daily to the Gospel through its works of education and charity, its defence of human rights, its support for democratic rule.  May you enable the Catholic community to continue to play a constructive part in the life of society by making your voices heard on issues of national interest, particularly by insisting on respect for the dignity and rights of all, especially the poorest and the most vulnerable.  I am confident that the five-year pastoral strategy that the Church has developed within the larger context of nationbuilding will bear rich fruit for the future not only of your local communities but also of the country as a whole.  Here I think in a special way of the need to protect the environment and to ensure a just use of the nation’s rich natural resources for the benefit of future generations.  The protection of God’s gift of creation cannot be separated from a sound human and social ecology.  Indeed, “genuine care for our relationship with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and keeping faith with others” (Laudato Si’, 70).

            Dear brother bishops, I thank God for this moment of communion and I pray that our presence together will strengthen us in our commitment to be faithful shepherds and servants of the flock that Christ has entrusted to our care.  I know that your ministry is demanding and that, together with your priests, you often labour under the heat and the burden of the day (cf. Mt 20:12).  I urge you to maintain a balance between your spiritual and physical health, and to show paternal concern for the health of your priests.  Above all, I encourage you to grow daily in prayer and in the experience of God’s reconciling love, for that is the basis of your priestly identity, the guarantee of the soundness of your preaching, and the source of the pastoral charity by which you guide God’s people on the path of holiness and truth.  With great affection I invoke the Lord’s grace upon you, the clergy and religious, and all the lay faithful of your local Churches.  And I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me.

 

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis addresses Myanmar’s leaders: Full text

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Tuesday addressed Myanmar’s government authorities, civil societies, and the diplomatic corps in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, while on his Apostolic Visit to Myanmar.

Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s speech:

Address to Government Authorities, Civil Societies and the Diplomatic Corps

Naw Pyi Taw, Convention Center

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Madam State Counsellor,

Honourable Government and Civil Authorities,

Your Eminence, My Brother Bishops,

Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful for the kind invitation to visit Myanmar and I thank you, Madam State Counsellor, for your kind words.  I am very grateful to all who have worked so hard to make this visit possible.  I have come, above all, to pray with the nation’s small but fervent Catholic community, to confirm them in their faith, and to encourage them in their efforts to contribute to the good of the nation.  I am most grateful that my visit comes soon after the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Myanmar and the Holy See.  I would like to see this decision as a sign of the nation’s commitment to pursuing dialogue and constructive cooperation within the greater international community, even as it strives to renew the fabric of civil society.

I would also like my visit to embrace the entire population of Myanmar and to offer a word of encouragement to all those who are working to build a just, reconciled and inclusive social order.  Myanmar has been blessed with great natural beauty and resources, yet its greatest treasure is its people, who have suffered greatly, and continue to suffer, from civil conflict and hostilities that have lasted all too long and created deep divisions.  As the nation now works to restore peace, the healing of those wounds must be a paramount political and spiritual priority.  I can only express appreciation for the efforts of the Government to take up this challenge, especially through the Panglong Peace Conference, which brings together representatives of the various groups in an attempt to end violence, to build trust and to ensure respect for the rights of all who call this land their home. 

Indeed, the arduous process of peacebuilding and national reconciliation can only advance through a commitment to justice and respect for human rights.  The wisdom of the ancients defined justice precisely as a steadfast will to give each person his due, while the prophets of old saw justice as the basis of all true and lasting peace.  These insights, confirmed by the tragic experience of two world wars, led to the establishment of the United Nations and the universal declaration of human rights as the basis for the international community’s efforts to promote justice, peace and human development worldwide, and to resolve conflicts through dialogue, not the use of force.  In this sense, the presence of the diplomatic corps in our midst testifies not only to Myanmar’s place in the concert of nations, but also to the country’s commitment to uphold and pursue those foundational principles.  The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group – none excluded – to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good.

In the great work of national reconciliation and integration, Myanmar’s religious communities have a privileged role to play.  Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nationbuilding.  The religions can play a significant role in repairing the emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds of those who have suffered in the years of conflict.  Drawing on deeply-held values, they can help to uproot the causes of conflict, build bridges of dialogue, seek justice and be a prophetic voice for all who suffer.  It is a great sign of hope that leaders of the various religious traditions in this country are making efforts to work together, in a spirit of harmony and mutual respect, for peace, for helping the poor and for educating in authentic religious and human values.  In seeking to build a culture of encounter and solidarity, they contribute to the common good and to laying the indispensable moral foundations for a future of hope and prosperity for coming generations.

That future is even now in the hands of the nation’s young people.  The young are a gift to be cherished and encouraged, an investment that will yield a rich return if only they are given real opportunities for employment and quality education.  This is an urgent requirement of intergenerational justice.  The future of Myanmar in a rapidly changing and interconnected world will depend on the training of its young, not only in technical fields, but above all in the ethical values of honesty, integrity and human solidarity that can ensure the consolidation of democracy and the growth of unity and peace at every level of society.  Intergenerational justice likewise demands that future generations inherit a natural environment unspoilt by human greed and depredation.  It is essential that our young not be robbed of hope and of the chance to employ their idealism and talents in shaping the future of their country and, indeed, our entire human family.

Madam State Counsellor, dear friends:

In these days, I wish to encourage my Catholic brothers and sisters to persevere in their faith and to continue to express its message of reconciliation and brotherhood through charitable and humanitarian works that benefit society as a whole.  It is my hope that, in respectful cooperation with the followers of other religions, and all men and women of good will, they will help to open a new era of concord and progress for the people of this beloved nation.  “Long live Myanmar!”   I thank you for your attention, and with prayerful good wishes for your service to the common good, I invoke upon all of you the divine blessings of wisdom, strength and peace.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope urges Myanmar’s religions to build peace and unity amidst differences ‎

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met with 17 leaders of Myanmar’s religious communities Tuesday morning, exhorting them that peace consists in unity in diversity, not in uniformity.  The Pope met leaders of Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Catholic and other Christian communities at the Archbishop’s House in Yangon, at the start of his first full day of his Nov. 27-30 apostolic visit to Myanmar.

The Holy See’s spokesman, Greg Burke said that the during his 40-minute meeting with them, the Pope urged them to work together to rebuild the country and that if they argue, they should argue like brothers, who reconcile afterwards.  

Unity is not uniformity

After various leaders spoke, Pope Francis spoke off-hand in Spanish helped by an interpreter.  Alluding to the Psalms, he said, “ How beautiful it is to see brothers united!”   He explained that being united does not mean being equal.  “Unity is not uniformity, even within a religious community.  Each one has his values, his riches as also shortcomings,” the Pope said, adding, “we are all different.”  Each confession has its riches and traditions to give and share.  And this can happen only if all live in peace.  “Peace,” the Pope stressed, “consists in a chorus of differences.”  “Unity comes about in differences.”

Uniformity kills

“Peace is harmony,” the Pope said, noting that there is a trend in the world towards uniformity to make everybody equal.  But he denounced this as a “cultural colonization” that “kills humanity.”   He said religious leaders should understand the richness of our differences – ethnic, religious or popular – and what results from these differences is dialogue.  “As brothers, we can learn from these differences,” the Pope stressed, exhorting the religious leaders to “build the country, which is so rich and diverse even geographically.” 

Nature in Myanmar is very rich in differences, the Pope said, urging them not be afraid of differences. “Since we have one Father and we are all brothers, let us be brothers,” the Pope urged.  And if they have to debate among themselves, let it be as brothers, which will soon bring about reconciliation and peace.   “Build peace without allowing yourselves be made uniform by the colonization of cultures,” the Pope appealed.  “One builds true divine harmony through differences.  Differences are a richness for peace,” the Pope added. 

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope’s message for 2018 World Day of Peace is released

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ message for the celebration of the 2018 World Day of Peace was released on Friday during a press conference at the Holy See Press Office.

The message entitled Migrants and Refugees: Men and Women in search of Peace is divided into six sections with the first offering heartfelt good wishes for peace and inviting people of good will to embrace those fleeing war, hunger and persecution.

The message also poses the question, why so many migrants and refugees? Pope Francis answers this by considering the many conflicts forcing people to leave their homelands, but he notes also the desire for a better life.

The Holy Father notes that some people consider the growth in migration as a threat..  But, “for my part, he says, I ask you to view it with confidence, as an opportunity to build peace.”

Peace points

Contained in the 4th section of the message under the theme, “four mileposts for action”, the Pope points out what is needed in order for migrants and refugees to find the peace they seek is a strategy combining four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.

Looking at the situation from an international perspective, Pope Francis expresses the hope that this spirit of welcome and integration, “will guide the process that in the course of 2018 will lead the United Nations to draft and approve two Global Compacts, one for safe, orderly and regular migration and the other for refugees.”

Common Home

Finally, the Holy Father draws inspiration from Saint John Paul II  with these words. “If the ‘dream’ of a peaceful world is shared by all, if the refugees’ and migrants’ contribution is properly evaluated, then humanity can become more and more a universal family and our earth a true ‘common home’.”

Please find below the message of  Pope Francis for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, 1 January 2018

MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES: MEN AND WOMEN IN SEARCH OF PEACE

1.      Heartfelt good wishes for peace

         Peace to all people and to all nations on earth!  Peace, which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night,[1] is a profound aspiration for everyone, for each individual and all peoples, and especially for those who most keenly suffer its absence.  Among these whom I constantly keep in my thoughts and prayers, I would once again mention the over 250 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees.  Pope Benedict XVI, my beloved predecessor, spoke of them as “men and women, children, young and elderly people, who are searching for somewhere to live in peace.”[2]  In order to find that peace, they are willing to risk their lives on a journey that is often long and perilous, to endure hardships and suffering, and to encounter fences and walls built to keep them far from their goal.

         In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.

         We know that it is not enough to open our hearts to the suffering of others.  Much more remains to be done before our brothers and sisters can once again live peacefully in a safe home.  Welcoming others requires concrete commitment, a network of assistance and goodwill, vigilant and sympathetic attention, the responsible management of new and complex situations that at times compound numerous existing problems, to say nothing of resources, which are always limited.  By practising the virtue of prudence, government leaders should take practical measures to welcome, promote, protect, integrate and, “within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good, to permit [them] to become part of a new society.”[3]  Leaders have a clear responsibility towards their own communities, whose legitimate rights and harmonious development they must ensure, lest they become like the rash builder who miscalculated and failed to complete the tower he had begun to construct.[4]

2.      Why so many refugees and migrants?

         As he looked to the Great Jubilee marking the passage of two thousand years since the proclamation of peace by the angels in Bethlehem, Saint John Paul II pointed to the increased numbers of displaced persons as one of the consequences of the “endless and horrifying sequence of wars, conflicts, genocides and ethnic cleansings”[5] that had characterized the twentieth century.  To this date, the new century has registered no real breakthrough: armed conflicts and other forms of organized violence continue to trigger the movement of peoples within national borders and beyond.

         Yet people migrate for other reasons as well, principally because they “desire a better life, and not infrequently try to leave behind the ‘hopelessness’ of an unpromising future.”[6]  They set out to join their families or to seek professional or educational opportunities, for those who cannot enjoy these rights do not live in peace. Furthermore, as I noted in the Encyclical Laudato Si’, there has been “a tragic rise in the number of migrants seeking to flee from the growing poverty caused by environmental degradation”.[7]

         Most people migrate through regular channels.  Some, however, take different routes, mainly out of desperation, when their own countries offer neither safety nor opportunity, and every legal pathway appears impractical, blocked or too slow.

         Many destination countries have seen the spread of rhetoric decrying the risks posed to national security or the high cost of welcoming new arrivals, and by doing so demeans the human dignity due to all as sons and daughters of God.  Those who, for what may be political reasons, foment fear of migrants instead of building peace are sowing violence, racial discrimination and xenophobia, which are matters of great concern for all those concerned for the safety of every human being.[8]

         All indicators available to the international community suggest that global migration will continue for the future.  Some consider this a threat.  For my part, I ask you to view it with confidence as an opportunity to build peace.

3.      With a contemplative gaze

         The wisdom of faith fosters a contemplative gaze that recognizes that all of us “belong to one family, migrants and the local populations that welcome them, and all have the same right to enjoy the goods of the earth, whose destination is universal, as the social doctrine of the Church teaches.  It is here that solidarity and sharing are founded.”[9]  These words evoke the biblical image of the new Jerusalem.  The book of the prophet Isaiah (chapter 60) and that of Revelation (chapter 21) describe the city with its gates always open to people of every nation, who marvel at it and fill it with riches.  Peace is the sovereign that guides it and justice the principle that governs coexistence within it.

         We must also turn this contemplative gaze to the cities where we live, “a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their houses, in their streets and squares, […] fostering solidarity, fraternity, and the desire for goodness, truth and justice”[10] – in other words, fulfilling the promise of peace.

         When we turn that gaze to migrants and refugees, we discover that they do not arrive empty-handed.  They bring their courage, skills, energy and aspirations, as well as the treasures of their own cultures; and in this way, they enrich the lives of the nations that receive them.  We also come to see the creativity, tenacity and spirit of sacrifice of the countless individuals, families and communities around the world who open their doors and hearts to migrants and refugees, even where resources are scarce.

         A contemplative gaze should also guide the discernment of those responsible for the public good, and encourage them to pursue policies of welcome, “within the limits allowed by a correct understanding of the common good”[11] – bearing in mind, that is, the needs of all members of the human family and the welfare of each.

         Those who see things in this way will be able to recognize the seeds of peace that are already sprouting and nurture their growth.  Our cities, often divided and polarized by conflicts regarding the presence of migrants and refugees, will thus turn into workshops of peace.

4.      Four mileposts for action

         Offering asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and victims of human trafficking an opportunity to find the peace they seek requires a strategy combining four actions: welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating.[12]

         “Welcoming” calls for expanding legal pathways for entry and no longer pushing migrants and displaced people towards countries where they face persecution and violence.  It also demands balancing our concerns about national security with concern for fundamental human rights.  Scripture reminds us: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”[13]

         “Protecting” has to do with our duty to recognize and defend the inviolable dignity of those who flee real dangers in search of asylum and security, and to prevent their being exploited.  I think in particular of women and children who find themselves in situations that expose them to risks and abuses that can even amount to enslavement.  God does not discriminate: “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the orphan and the widow.”[14]

         “Promoting” entails supporting the integral human development of migrants and refugees.  Among many possible means of doing so, I would stress the importance of ensuring access to all levels of education for children and young people.  This will enable them not only to cultivate and realize their potential, but also better equip them to encounter others and to foster a spirit of dialogue rather than rejection or confrontation.  The Bible teaches that God “loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.  And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”[15]

         “Integrating”, lastly, means allowing refugees and migrants to participate fully in the life of the society that welcomes them, as part of a process of mutual enrichment and fruitful cooperation in service of the integral human development of the local community.  Saint Paul expresses it in these words: “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people.”[16]

5.      A proposal for two international compacts

         It is my heartfelt hope this spirit will guide the process that in the course of 2018 will lead the United Nations to draft and approve two Global Compacts, one for safe, orderly and regular migration and the other for refugees.  As shared agreements at a global level, these compacts will provide a framework for policy proposals and practical measures.  For this reason, they need to be inspired by compassion, foresight and courage, so as to take advantage of every opportunity to advance the peace-building process.  Only in this way can the realism required of international politics avoid surrendering to cynicism and to the globalization of indifference.

         Dialogue and coordination are a necessity and a specific duty for the international community.  Beyond national borders, higher numbers of refugees may be welcomed – or better welcomed – also by less wealthy countries, if international cooperation guarantees them the necessary funding.

         The Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has published a set of twenty action points that provide concrete leads for implementing these four verbs in public policy and in the attitudes and activities of Christian communities.[17]  The aim of this and other contributions is to express the interest of the Catholic Church in the process leading to the adoption of the two U.N. Global Compacts.  This interest is the sign of a more general pastoral concern that goes back to very origins of Church and has continued in her many works up to the present time.

6.      For our common home

         Let us draw inspiration from the words of Saint John Paul II: “If the ‘dream’ of a peaceful world is shared by all, if the refugees’ and migrants’ contribution is properly evaluated, then humanity can become more and more a universal family and our earth a true ‘common home’.”[18]  Throughout history, many have believed in this “dream”, and their achievements are a testament to the fact that it is no mere utopia.

         Among these, we remember Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini in this year that marks the hundredth anniversary of her death.  On this thirteenth day of November, many ecclesial communities celebrate her memory.  This remarkable woman, who devoted her life to the service of migrants and became their patron saint, taught us to welcome, protect, promote and integrate our brothers and sisters.  Through her intercession, may the Lord enable all of us to experience that “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”[19]

From the Vatican, 13 November 2017

Memorial of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, Patroness of Migrants

                                                                 

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope sends telegramme of condolence following terror attacks in Egypt

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a telegramme of condolence for Friday’s attack on a mosque in Egypt, saying he was “profoundly grieved to learn of the great loss of life caused by the terrorist attacks on Rawda mosque in North Sinai”.

At least 235 people were killed as they gathered for Friday prayers at the al-Rawda mosque in the town of Bir al-Abed.​

​Witnesses said dozens of gunmen arrived in off-road vehicles and bombed the mosque before opening fire on people as they attempted to flee.

Signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, the telegramme says, “In expressing his solidarity with the Egyptian people at this hour of national mourning, [Pope Francis] commends the victims to the mercy of the Most High God and invokes divine blessings of consolation and peace upon their families.”

The Pope ​also ​ renewed “his firm condemnation of this wanton act of brutality directed at innocent civilians gathered in prayer”.

Finally, Pope Francis said he joins “all people of good will in imploring that hearts hardened by hatred will learn to renounce the way of violence that leads to such great suffering, and embrace the way of peace.”

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope meets dialogue Commission with Assyrian Church of the East

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Friday received in audience the members of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.

In greetings to the Commission, the Pope thanked God “for today’s signing of the Joint Declaration.”

“We can now look to the future with even greater confidence and I ask the Lord that your continuing work may help bring about that blessed and long-awaited day when we will have the joy of celebrating, at the same altar, our full communion in Christ’s Church,” he said.

The full text of the Pope’s address is below:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to all of you. I thank you for your visit and Metropolitan Meelis Zaia for his kind words on your behalf. Through you I convey my fraternal greeting in the Lord to His Holiness Mar Gewargis III, recalling with joy our cordial meeting a year ago, which marked a further step on our journey towards deeper growth in mutual solidarity and communion.

Our meeting today offers us the opportunity to look with gratitude upon the progress made by the Joint Commission, established following the historic signing of the Common Christological Declaration here in Rome in 1994. After professing the same faith in the mystery of the Incarnation, the Commission planned two phases of dialogue: one on sacramental theology and one on the constitution of the Church. I join you in thanking the Lord for today’s signing of the Joint Declaration which brings to a happy conclusion the phase regarding sacramental life. We can now look to the future with even greater confidence and I ask the Lord that your continuing work may help bring about that blessed and long-awaited day when we will have the joy of celebrating, at the same altar, our full communion in Christ’s Church.

I would like to emphasize one aspect of the new Joint Declaration, where the sign of the cross is referred to as “an explicit symbol of unity among all sacramental celebrations”. Some authors of the Assyrian Church of the East have included the sign of the cross among the sacred mysteries, convinced that every sacramental celebration depends precisely on the Pasch of the Lord’s death and resurrection. This is a beautiful insight, because the Crucified and Risen One is our salvation and our life. Hope and peace come from his glorious cross, and from the cross flows the unity of the sacred mysteries we celebrate, as well as our own unity, for we were baptized into the same death and resurrection of the Lord (cf. Rom 6:4).

When we look at the cross, or make the sign of the cross, we are also invited to remember sacrifices endured in union with Jesus and to remain close to those who today bear a heavy cross upon their shoulders. The Assyrian Church of the East, along with other Churches and many of our brothers and sisters in the region, is afflicted by persecution, and is a witness to brutal acts of violence perpetrated in the name of fundamentalist extremism. Situations of such tragic suffering take root more easily in contexts of great poverty, injustice and social exclusion, largely caused by instability, often fuelled by external interests, and by conflicts that have also led in recent times to situations of dire need, giving rise to real cultural and spiritual deserts, within which it becomes easy to manipulate people and incite them to hatred. Such suffering has recently been exacerbated by the tragedy of the violent earthquake on the border between Iraq, the homeland of your Church, and Iran, where your communities have also long been established, as well as in Syria, Lebanon and India.

As a result, particularly during periods of greater suffering and deprivation, large numbers of the faithful have had to leave their lands and emigrate to other countries, thus increasing the diaspora community, with the many trials it faces. Arriving in some societies, émigrés encounter challenges stemming from an often difficult integration, and a marked secularization, which can hinder their efforts to preserve the spiritual riches of their traditions, and even prevent their witness of faith.

In all of this, the constant repetition of the sign of the cross is a reminder that the Lord of mercy never abandons his brothers and sisters, but embraces their wounds within his own. By making the sign of the cross we recall Christ’s wounds, which the Resurrection did not eliminate but rather filled with light. So too the wounds of Christians, including those still open, become radiant when they are filled with the living presence of Jesus and his love, and thus become signs of Easter light in a world enveloped by so much darkness.

With these sentiments, both heartfelt and hope-filled, I invite you to keep journeying, trusting in the help of many of our brothers and sisters who gave their lives in following the Crucified Christ. They, who are already fully united in heaven, are the heralds and patrons of our visible communion on earth. Through their intercession, I also pray to the Lord that the Christians of your lands may continue to labour in peace and in full respect for all, in the patient work of reconstruction after so much devastation.

In the Syriac tradition, Christ on the cross is represented as the Good Physician and Medicine of life. I pray that He will completely heal our wounds of the past as well as the many wounds that continue to be caused by the havoc of violence and war. Dear brothers and sisters, let us continue together on the pilgrimage of reconciliation and peace, on which the Lord Himself has set us! With gratitude for your commitment, I invoke the Lord’s blessing upon all of you, along with the loving protection of His Mother and ours. And I ask you, please, also to remember to pray for me.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope: Change, in fidelity to God and man, is always healthy ‎

Change is healthy, and one needs to change in order to be faithful both to God and to man, Pope Francis said in a video message to a 4-day Italian workshop on the social doctrine of the Church.  The Pope’s message inaugurated the 5th Social Doctrine Festival, Thursday evening in the northern city of Verona.  The event is discussing the theme of “Fidelity and Change” with regard to issues such as labour, justice, economy and culture. 

Word of God helps change

The Pope pointed out that the Word of God helps us in distinguishing the two faces of change.  The first is fidelity, hope in and openness to new things; the second is the difficulty of leaving a secure place for something unknown.  He noted we feel more secure within our fence, preserving and repeating our usual words and gestures.  But this prevents us from going out and starting new processes.  

Abraham

“In order to be faithful one must have the capacity to change” and launch out, the Pope said, holding out the figure of Abraham, who in his old age heeded the Lord’s command and left his homeland for a new land.  The Lord’s call radically changed Abraham’s life, made him enter a new history and opened unexpected horizons for him with new heavens and new earths.  Likewise, when one responds to God, the Pope pointed out, a process begins that leads to something unexpected we never imagined before. 

Going out

Fidelity to man, the Pope explained, means going out of ourselves to meet a concrete person, to open our eyes and heart to the poor, the sick, the jobless, the refugees fleeing violence and war, and the many who are wounded by indifference and by an economy that discards and kills.  Fidelity to man, he stressed,  means overcoming the centripetal force of one’s interests and egoism and giving way to the passion for others. 

In this way, the Pope said,  fidelity to God and fidelity to man converge into a dynamic movement that changes us and the reality, overcoming “immobilism and convenience”, creating space and work for young people and their future.  Hence change is healthy not only when things go badly but also when everything goes well and we are tempted to sit back over results achieved. 

(from Vatican Radio)

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