Mon, 22 Jan 2018
ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM PERU (CNS) -- Pope Francis apologized to victims of clergy sex abuse, saying he unknowingly wounded them by the way he defended a Chilean bishop accused of covering up abuse by his mentor. Speaking with journalists on his flight to Rome from Lima, Peru, Jan. 21, the pope said he only realized later that his words erroneously implied that victims' accusations are credible only with concrete proof. "To hear that the pope says to their face, 'Bring me a letter with proof,' is a slap in the face," the pope said. Pope Francis was referring to a response he gave in Iquique, Chile, Jan. 18 when local reporters asked about his support for Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno, given accusations that the bishop may have been aware of abuse perpetrated by his former mentor, Father Fernando Karadima. The priest was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys. "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?" the pope had told the reporters in Iquique. His response provoked further outrage, especially from Father Karadima's victims who said the pope's response made his earlier apologies for the church's failure to protect sex abuse victims seem hollow. Asked about the incident during the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis said he meant to use the word "evidence," not "proof." The way he phrased his response, he said, caused confusion and was "not the best word to use to approach a wounded heart." "Of course, I know that there are many abused people who cannot bring proof (or) they don't have it," he said. "Or at times they have it but they are ashamed and cover it up and suffer in silence. The tragedy of the abused is tremendous." However, the pope told reporters on the papal flight he still stood firmly behind his defense of Bishop Barros, because he was "personally convinced" of the bishop's innocence after the case was investigated twice with no evidence emerging. Pope Francis said that while "covering up abuse is an abuse in itself," if he punished Bishop Barros without moral certainty, "I would be committing the crime of a bad judge." During the inflight news conference, Pope Francis answered eight questions over the course of an hour, although the conference was interrupted by turbulence, which forced the pope to sit for about five minutes. As he did in November on his return from Bangladesh, he said he only wanted to respond to questions related to the trip. Pope Francis told reporters he appreciated the statement made Jan. 20 by Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, acknowledging the pain survivors of abuse felt because of the pope's statement about Bishop Barros. "Words that convey the message 'If you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile," the cardinal wrote. He also said, "Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones." The pope said he was grateful for Cardinal O'Malley's statement because it struck the right balance between listing what he has done to show his support for sex abuse victims and the pain experienced by victims because of the pope's remarks. Pope Francis also spoke about the scandal-plagued Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic movement based in Peru. The movement's founder, Luis Fernando Figari, has been accused of the sexual and psychological abuse of members; he has been ordered by the Vatican to remain in Rome and not have any contact with the movement. "He declared himself innocent of the charges against him," Pope Francis told reporters, and he has appealed his cause to the ...
Mon, 22 Jan 2018
LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Pope Francis took his message of hope to this sprawling, dusty capital of Peru, celebrating Mass within view of the rocky, waterless Andean slopes where most of the city's poorest residents live. The day's Scripture readings, in which Jonah was sent to Nineveh and Jesus set out toward Galilee, "reveal a God who turns his gaze toward cities, past and present," the pope said in his homily. Crowds lined the pope's route to the Las Palmas military base, where thousands of people arrived during the night and throughout the morning to participate in the Mass. Lima's heat and blazing sun did not wither the spirits of the estimated 1.3 million Mass attendees, who chanted and sang as they waited for the liturgy to begin. Mariana Costa of Lima felt fortunate. She had missed a chance to see Pope Francis in Poland, she said, "and now I have the opportunity to see him in my own country." As a young adult, she was touched by his words to youth. "Ultimately, we're the ones who have to work to make sure this faith is not lost," she said. Sister Maria Lucero of Lima was struck by three messages the pope had for the priests, religious and seminarians with whom he met in Trujillo the day before. "He said to remember what we are (and spoke of) joy and gratitude to God for everything we have and do not deserve," she said. His words kindled a desire to renew her efforts, "because the people here need it," she said. The scores of concelebrants included Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, who was in Lima to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Boston-based Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle, whose priests have worked in many Latin American countries, including Peru. Cardinal O'Malley had spoken out Jan. 20 about Pope Francis' defense of a Chilean bishop accused of covering up sexual abuse. The cardinal said he understood why victims were hurt by the pope's words. The place where Pope Francis presided at the liturgy is not far from the vast neighborhood of Villa El Salvador, where Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass in 1985, when it was a dusty shantytown in which community leaders, many of whom were active in parishes, were threatened by terrorist violence. The poorest neighborhoods form rings around Lima and other Latin American cities, as people migrate from other parts of the country in search of opportunities. Most build their own houses bit by bit, sometimes in hazardous areas vulnerable to disasters, like the unusual rains in early 2017 that left thousands homeless on the east side of Lima and in cities such as Trujillo, which the pope visited Jan. 20. The majority also work in the informal economy, eking out a living with day labor, selling goods in markets or working in small, family-run businesses with no health insurance, pension or vacation time. The pope spoke to them when he talked of "our cities, with their daily situations of pain and injustice," which "can leave us tempted to flee, to hide, to run away." While some people can to build their lives, others are left "living on the fringes of our cities and lacking the conditions needed for a dignified existence," he said. "It is painful to realize that among these 'urban remnants' all too often we see the faces of children and adolescents. We look at the face of the future." Seeing those things, people may be tempted to become "indifferent, anonymous and deaf to others, cold and hard of heart," he said. Jesus, who entered Galilee upon hearing of John the Baptist's arrest, and shows a different way to respond, he said. Jesus "began to sow the seed of a great hope," and the rippling effect of that joy and good news has been passed down through the apostles and saints, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin of Porres, whose relics he venerated in the morning, Pope Francis said. "It has come to us as a timely antidote to the globalization of indifference," he said. "In the face of that love, one cannot remain indifferent." Walking through the ...
Mon, 22 Jan 2018
TRUJILLO, Peru (CNS) -- Encouraging the people of one of Peru's most battered cities, Pope Francis said the Gospel message can give Christians strength and hope to navigate amid life's storms. Celebrating Mass Jan. 20 in the northern coastal city of Trujillo, Pope Francis said he knew the tragic consequences the people have suffered because of an unusual weather pattern that meteorologists dubbed a "coastal El Nino." "Like the apostles, you know the power of nature, you have experienced its force," the pope said in his homily at the Mass on Huanchaco beach. "Just as the apostles faced the storm on the sea, you had to face the brunt of the coastal El Nino, whose painful consequences are still present in so many families, especially those who are not yet able to rebuild their homes." In early 2017, Trujillo suffered torrential rains that triggered a series of landslides from the Andean foothills to the east, sending water and mud cascading into the city. The areas most affected were poor neighborhoods, especially Buenos Aires, the neighborhood the pope was to tour in his popemobile after the Mass. The Peruvian regions of Piura, Lambayeque and La Libertad, whose capital is Trujillo, were all hit. At least 100 people died, more than 140,000 lost their homes and nearly 1 million suffered property damage. Total damage estimates range from $3 billion to more than $6 billion. However, Pope Francis said he also was aware of the "other storms" that "can hit these coasts with devastating effects on the lives of the children of these lands" and test the spirit of Trujillo's citizens. "Among these are organized violence, like 'contract killings,' and the insecurity that they breed. Or the lack of educational and employment opportunities, especially among young people, which prevents them from building a future with dignity. Or the lack of secure housing for so many families forced to live in highly unstable areas without safe access," the pope said. According to local government statistics, Trujillo is the second most violent city in Peru after Lima, with 2,435 people murdered in 2016 due to gang-related contract killings. The city has seen an increasing rate of organized crime, with extortion being a common practice in the construction and transportation industries. Peru is one of the world's top cocaine producers and Trujillo, like other port cities, it suffers from drug-related crime because much of the cocaine is shipped out by sea. The organized crime gangs have hired minors as assassins because they assume the youngsters will get lighter sentences if caught -- and because they are considered expendable. Yet the pope assured the people that Jesus "knows our pain and our trials" and wants to "be close to us in every painful situation to give us a hand and help lift us up." "These times of being 'buffeted' call into question and challenge our strength of spirit and our deepest convictions," he said. "They make us realize how important it is to stand united, not alone, and to be filled with that unity which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit." Pope Francis encouraged the people of Trujillo to remain close to Jesus and rely on the Holy Spirit, "who keeps us united so that we can support one another and take a stand against whatever would take away all that is best in our families." "Fill your lives always with the Gospel," the pope said. "With Jesus, the soul of this town of Trujillo can continue to be called 'the city of eternal spring,' because with him, everything is an opportunity for hope."
Fri, 19 Jan 2018
ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO IQUIQUE, Chile (CNS) -- Love was literally in the air as Pope Francis performed an impromptu wedding ceremony at 36,000 feet aboard his flight in Chile. During his flight to Iquique Jan. 18, the pope was approached by LatAm flight steward Carlos Ciuffardi Elorriaga and asked for a blessing for him and his wife, stewardess Paula Podest Ruiz. The couple were supposed to be married in their home parish in Santiago Feb. 27, 2010. However, tragedy struck when an earthquake destroyed the church. Eight years later, they remained only civilly married. Ciuffardi told journalists aboard the flight that, after he explained their story, he asked the pope for their blessing. At that moment, the pope surprised the couple with offering to marry them right there on the plane. Ciuffardi said the pope asked the couple, "Well, do you want to get married?" "I said, 'Well, yes. Are you sure?' Then the pope said, "Are YOU sure?' I told him, 'Yes! Let's get married,'" Ciuffardi recalled excitedly. The newlywed said he asked his boss and president of LatAm airline, Ignacio Cueto, to be his best man and one of the Vatican prelates drew up a handwritten marriage certificate. "The pope said it was historic! Never has a pope performed a wedding on a plane!" Ciuffardi said. The pope was on his way from Santiago, Chile, to Iquique before heading to Peru later in the day.
Fri, 19 Jan 2018
LIMA, Peru (CNS) -- Pope Francis was greeted by the Peruvian president, the country's bishops, a military honor guard and a children's orchestra on his arrival in Peru on Jan. 18. During his visit, he will meet with Amazonian indigenous people from three countries, visit a neighborhood devastated by flooding early last year, and pray in the place of Peru's greatest popular religious devotion. Accompanied by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynsky, the pope heard the "Hallelujah Chorus" sung by a choir accompanied by a children's orchestra. The bishops filed past, greeting the president, and the Cabinet ministers then greeted the pope, who blessed a religious item for one. Helicopters buzzed overhead and security was heavy along the motorcade route from the airport to the nuncio's residence, where he will stay, while onlookers waved and some chanted "Pope Francis, we want your blessing." In Peru, he is likely to return to several themes that marked his visit to Chile. In the southeastern town of Puerto Maldonado, members of various Amazonian indigenous peoples will ask for his support in defense of their rights to territory, health, education and their indigenous identity. Those demands echo sentiments expressed by Mapuche people in southern Chile. Visiting the Amazonian area where forests have been obliterated by unregulated gold mining, the pope will call on Christians to care for "our common home," as he did in the encyclical, "Laudato Si'." Pope Francis also is expected to mention migration and human trafficking. Thousands of migrants, mainly from Venezuela, have arrived in Peru in recent years in search of better opportunities. The gold-mining area around Puerto Maldonado is a destination for human traffickers, who force women into prostitution. As he did in Chile, he is likely to raise the issue of sexual abuse by church workers, in the wake of accusations against leaders of Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, a Catholic movement founded in Lima in the 1970s. The Vatican recently named a Colombian bishop to oversee the group because of concerns about formation and financial management. The trip will highlight the deep faith that Peruvian Catholics express through popular religious devotions in various parts of the country. On Jan. 19, the pope will meet with indigenous people from the Amazonian regions of Peru, Brazil and Bolivia. The event will mark the first step toward the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, which Pope Francis has called for 2019. He also will meet with civil society representatives and visit a children's home founded by a Swiss missionary priest. After returning to Lima in the afternoon, he will address government officials, civil society representatives and members of the diplomatic corps and speak with Kuczynski. He also will meet with fellow Jesuits at the ornate colonial San Pedro Church in downtown Lima. On the second day of his trip, Pope Francis will travel to Trujillo, on Peru's northern coast. He will visit the neighborhood of Buenos Aires, where houses were inundated with 3-5 feet of water and mud during unseasonable flooding in March 2016. Father Hipolito Puricaza Sernaque, secretary-general of the diocesan Caritas office, said people hope the pope's words during his trip will "soften the hearts of those responsible for the (post-flood) reconstruction, bring hope and renew our faith in God." He also will celebrate an open-air Mass on the beach. Pilgrims from various parts of northern Peru will greet the pope with images of Jesus and Mary that are central to popular devotions in their regions. The pope will pray before the Marian images, particularly the one known as the Virgen de la Puerta, or Our Lady of the Gate, before returning to Lima. On Jan. 21, Pope Francis will visit the shrine of Our Lord of the Miracles, Peru's largest popular devotion, and pray before the relics of Peruvian saints, including St. Rose of Lima and St. Martin of Porres. He also will meet with the country's bishops and pray the ...
Thu, 18 Jan 2018
SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Pope Francis challenged young Chileans, telling them to always ask themselves, "What would Christ do in my place?" "At school, at university, when outdoors, when at home, among friends, at work, when taunted: 'What would Christ do in my place?'" he told thousands of young people who came from all over Latin America and Chile to a youth rally at Santiago's Maipu shrine. "When you go dancing, when you are playing or watching sports: 'What would Christ do in my place?' He is the password, the power source that charges our hearts, ignites our faith and makes our eyes sparkle." Pope Francis told young people they are the protagonists who will change the church, and the young people responded. Throughout the service they frequently shouted, "This is the pope's young people." He spoke of the inspiration of St. Alberto Hurtado, founder of the Hogar de Cristo movement, which provides vocational training and other services for young people. The saint "had a golden rule, a rule for setting his heart ablaze with the fire that keeps joy alive. For Jesus is that fire; everyone who draws near to it is set ablaze. Hurtado's password was quite simple -- if your phones are turned on, I would like you to key this in. He asks: 'What would Christ do in my place?'" Several young people were chosen to tell Pope Francis about their dreams and hopes. Ariel Rojas told him, "We recognize in you a way of being, a way of love." Rojas got a loud cheer when he told Pope Francis, "We want to help you and support you with your faith, and we want you to know that we will help you when you are tired, because of all the many things you have to do." Many of the pilgrims were wearing purple T-shirts that showed they were affiliated with the Jesuits. One of them, Natalia Tomas, had traveled more than 500 miles from Puerto Montt. She told Catholic News Service she is following Pope Francis' advice to "stir things up and get out and help people." Many of the young people signed up to be volunteers, like Rodrigo Opazo, 16, from Colina. He told CNS: "I want to help the pope; it makes me happy. And when I am older I can tell my family I helped the pope." "It's been an incredible experience," said Nicolas Merino, another papal volunteer. "We had to help 40,000 people get into the Mass at O'Higgins Park. ... And today I am a pilgrim here in Maipu, and I am very interested in what he says to the young people." "I want to take the pope's advice and not just treat this as a one-off event, but a catalyst for going out and inspiring others and breathing new life into the church. That is our responsibility as young people," he told CNS. The meeting was filled with symbolism because Maipu shrine, formally the Basilica of Our Lady of Carmel, honors Chile's patron saint. There was a huge statue of her on the stage, which the pope blessed at the end of the ceremony. Pope Francis told the crowd, "If you don't love your country, you don't love God." Participants responded by shouting "chi chi chi che che che viva Chile," a popular chant often used at soccer matches showing a love for Chile. The young people presented Pope Francis with a miniature Chilean-blue cross with a red ribbon to symbolize the blood of Christ and an alliance that all of Chile is together. They also presented a white star. Red, white and blue are the colors of the Chilean flag. Later, the pope met with professors, staff and students at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. He told them they can contribute to fostering peaceful coexistence in the country through education. "Peaceful coexistence as a nation is possible, not least to the extent that we can generate educational processes that are also transformative, inclusive and meant to favor such coexistence," he said. He also emphasized the need for the university to "progress as a community," and praised the evangelization efforts of the university's chaplaincy, which "is a sign of a young, lively church that goes forth." "The ...
Wed, 17 Jan 2018
SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Pope Francis met in private Jan. 16 with survivors of sexual abuse by Chilean clergy, a Vatican spokesman said, but his actions threatened to be overshadowed by controversy over a Chilean bishop. Greg Burke, the spokesman, said the pope met with "a small group of victims of sexual abuse by priests" at the apostolic nunciature in Santiago, Chile. "The meeting took place in a strictly private way, and no one else was present: only the pope and the victims," Burke told journalists that evening. The private setting, he added, allowed the group to speak freely with the pope "and recount their sufferings. Pope Francis "listened, prayed and cried with them," Burke said. Also present at the press conference was Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary-general of the Chilean bishops' conference. Bishop Ramos addressed criticism regarding the presence of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno at several papal events, including the pope's meetings with the country's clergy as well as the bishops of Chile. Bishop Barros' appointment as bishop by the pope in 2015 drew outrage and protests due to his connection to Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor. Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys. "Bishop Barros is bishop of Osorno and was named by the pope. All bishops have the right and responsibility to participate at the events. That was the only reason why" he was present, Bishop Ramos said. Arriving in Iquique Jan. 18 at the site of his final Mass in Chile, Pope Francis was asked by local journalists about his support for Bishop Barros. The pope reiterated that he has yet to see any evidence that Bishop Barros knew or witnessed the abuses committed by his former mentor. "The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I will speak. There is not one piece of evidence against him. It is calumny. Is that clear?" the pope told the journalists. On Jan. 20, Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, "It is understandable that Pope Francis' statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile, were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator. Words that convey the message 'If you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed' abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile. "Not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday's interview, I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time. What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones," Cardinal O'Malley said. Cardinal O'Malley was traveling to Peru on a previously scheduled trip. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston said the trip was not related to his statement on Bishop Barros, but that he expected the cardinal would "be with the Holy Father at some point, as he normally is when he accompanies him on a papal trip." Pope Francis named Cardinal O'Malley president of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors when he established the body in 2014. The initial members' terms of office expired in December and, as of mid-January, the Vatican had not announced new members. Earlier Jan. 16, the pope asked forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse during an address to government authorities and members of Chile's diplomatic corps, expressing his "pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church." Burke said it was significant the pope addressed the issue of clergy sex abuse during his meeting with government authorities "because normally he speaks about it when meeting with bishops or priests." "The fact that he spoke there means that it is an evil not only for ...
Tue, 16 Jan 2018
SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Pope Francis arrived in Santiago, the first stop on a seven-day, six-city visit to Peru and Chile, where he will take his message of hope to people on the margins of society. Arriving in Santiago after more than 15 hours in the air, Pope Francis was greeted by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and a young Chilean girl. He told the crowd he was happy to be in Chile, and he blessed the workers at the airport before being transported to the papal nunciature, where he will stay the three nights he is in Chile. On Jan. 17, the pope will travel to Temuco and meet with residents of the Mapuche indigenous community. Members of the Mapuche have called for the government to return lands confiscated prior to the country's return to democracy in the late 1980s. "Chile won't be too difficult for me because I studied there for a year and I have many friends there and I know it well, or rather, well enough. Peru, however, I know less. I have gone maybe two, three times for conferences and meetings," the pope told journalists aboard the papal flight. There was no mention of increased security for the Chilean visit. Three days earlier, several Chilean churches were firebombed, and police found other, unexploded devices at two other churches in Santiago. Some of the pamphlets included the phrase, "The next bombs will be in your cassock" and spoke of the Mapuche cause. Before flying to Peru Jan. 18, Pope Francis will visit Iquique, where he will celebrate Mass on Lobito beach. In Peru Jan. 18-21, will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo. He will also meet with the indigenous people of the Amazon during his visit to Puerto Maldonado. The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity. In both countries, he will work to restore trust and encourage healing after scandals left many wounded and angry at the Catholic Church. Shortly after take-off from Rome, Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, distributed a photo card the pope wished to share with journalists aboard his flight from Rome. The photo depicted a young Japanese boy shortly after the bombing in Nagasaki, waiting in line, carrying his dead baby brother on his back to the crematorium. On the back of the card, the words "The fruit of war" were written along with Pope Francis' signature. Before greeting each of the 70 journalists, the pope said that he found the photo "by chance" and "was very moved when I saw this." "I could only write 'the fruit of war.' I wanted to print it and give it to you because such an image is more moving than a thousand words," he said. Responding to a journalist's question about nuclear war, Pope Francis said: "I think we are at the very limit. I am really afraid of this. One accident is enough to precipitate things." The Peru-Chile trip is Pope Francis' fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. His trip to Colombia in September was his third visit to the continent as pope.
Tue, 16 Jan 2018
SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) -- Pope Francis, in his first formal speech in Chile, asked forgiveness from those who were sexually abused by priests. Addressing government authorities and members of the country's diplomatic corps Jan. 16, the pope expressed his "pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church." "I am one with my brother bishops, for it is right to ask for forgiveness and make every effort to support the victims, even as we commit ourselves to ensure that such things do not happen again," he said. Preparations for Pope Francis' visit to Chile Jan. 15-18 were overshadowed by continuing controversy over the pope's decision in 2015 to give a diocese to a bishop accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse perpetrated by a notorious priest. The pope's appointment of Bishop Juan Barros as head of the Diocese of Osorno sparked several protests -- most notably at the bishop's installation Mass -- due to the bishop's connection to Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor. Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys. The protests against the pope's appointment of Bishop Barros gained steam when a video of Pope Francis defending the appointment was published in September 2015 by the Chilean news channel, Ahora Noticias. Filmed during a general audience a few months earlier, the video showed the pope telling a group of Chilean pilgrims that Catholics protesting the appointment were "judging a bishop without any proof." "Think with your head; don't let yourself be led by all the lefties who are the ones that started all of this," the pope said. "Yes, Osorno is suffering but for being foolish because it doesn't open its heart to what God says and allows itself to be led by all this silliness that all those people say." Survivors of abuse and their supporters planned a conference and protests around the pope's arrival. But Pope Francis made his way to La Moneda, the presidential palace, and was welcomed by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. Thousands were gathered in the square outside the palace, chanting "Francisco, amigo, Chile esta contigo" ("Francis, friend, Chile is with you"). Despite the jovial atmosphere at outside La Moneda, there were serious signs of protest in Santiago. Chilean media reported vandalism at Divine Providence Parish, not far from O'Higgins Park, where the pope was to celebrate Mass later in the morning. Vandals spray painted the words "complice" ("accomplice") and "papa arde" ("burn, pope") on the facade of the church below a banner welcoming Pope Francis. Three days earlier, several Chilean churches were firebombed, and police found other, unexploded devices at two other churches in Santiago. Some of the pamphlets included the phrase, "The next bombs will be in your cassock" and spoke of the cause of the Mapuche indigenous group. "How are you? Where you able to rest?" Bachelet asked the pope when he arrived at the palace. "Perfectly," he responded. The two leaders stood as the national anthems of Chile and Vatican City State were played before entering the courtyard of the palace where about 700 members of the country's government authorities and of the diplomatic corps welcomed the pope with a standing ovation. In his speech to the country's political leaders, Pope Francis emphasized the need for officials to listen to the people and to value their experiences, cultures, sufferings and hopes. Included in the pope's list were "children who look out on the world with eyes full of amazement and innocence and expect from us concrete answers for a dignified future." At that point he told the officials, "I feel bound to express my pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the church." The pope's acknowledgement of the crimes of sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy was met with a loud applause from the government authorities ...
Mon, 15 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Being afraid and concerned about the impact of migration is not a sin, Pope Francis said, but it is a sin to let those fears lead to a refusal to help people in need. "The sin is to allow these fears to determine our responses, to limit our choices, to compromise respect and generosity, to feed hostility and rejection," the pope said Jan. 14, celebrating Mass for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. While fear is a natural human reaction, he said, "the sin is to refuse to encounter the other, the different, the neighbor, when this is in fact a privileged opportunity to encounter the Lord." Thousands of migrants and refugees now living in Rome, but coming from more than 60 countries, joined Pope Francis and an international group of cardinals, bishops and priests for the Mass in St. Peter's Basilica. Sixty of the migrants and refugees carried their homeland's national flags into the basilica before the Mass and hundreds wore the national dress of their countries, including many of the people who read the prayers of the faithful and brought up the gifts at the offertory during the multilingual Mass. While care for migrants and refugees has been a priority for Pope Francis, the World Day for Migrants and Refugees has been an annual celebration of the Catholic Church for more than 100 years. St. Pius X began the observance in 1914. After reciting the Angelus in St. Peter's Square after the Mass, Pope Francis announced that "for pastoral reasons" the date of the annual celebration was being moved to the second Sunday of September. The next World Day of Migrants and Refugees, he said, would be marked Sept. 8, 2019. According to the United Nations, an estimated 258 million people are living outside the country of their birth. The number includes 26 million refugees and asylum seekers, who were forced to flee their homelands because of war or persecution. In his homily at the Mass, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus' response to the disciples who asked him where he lived. "Come and you will see," Jesus tells them, inviting them into a relationship where they would welcome and get to know each other. "His invitation 'Come and see!' is addressed today to all of us, to local communities and to new arrivals," the pope said. "It is an invitation to overcome our fears so as to encounter the other, to welcome, to know and to acknowledge him or her." For the migrants and refugees, he said, that includes learning about and respecting the laws and customs of their host countries. "It even includes understanding their fears and apprehensions for the future," he added. For people in the host countries, he said, it means welcoming newcomers, opening oneself "without prejudices to their rich diversity," understanding their hopes, fears and vulnerabilities and recognizing their potential. 'In the true encounter with the neighbor, are we capable of recognizing Jesus Christ who is asking to be welcomed, protected, promoted and integrated?" Pope Francis asked. "It is not easy to enter into another culture, to put oneself in the shoes of people so different from us, to understand their thoughts and their experiences," the pope said. That is one reason why "we often refuse to encounter the other and raise barriers to defend ourselves." People in host countries may be afraid that newcomers "will disturb the established order (or) will 'steal' something they have long labored to build up," he said. And the newcomers have their own fears "of confrontation, judgment, discrimination, failure." Both set of fears, the pope said, "are legitimate, based on doubts that are fully comprehensible from a human point of view." Sin, he said, enters the equation only when people refuse to try to understand, to welcome and to see Jesus present in the other, especially "the poor, the rejected, the refugee, the asylum seeker."
Wed, 10 Jan 2018
From hosting an international symposium on disarmament to ratifying a United Nations treaty on banning nuclear weapons, the Holy See under Pope Francis is reenergizing the Catholic Church’s long-standing opposition to nuclear arms. “Everyone, however, must realize that, unless this process of disarmament be thoroughgoing and complete, and reach men’s very souls, it is impossible to stop the arms race, or to reduce armaments, or — and this is the main thing — ultimately to abolish them entirely. Everyone must sincerely cooperate in the effort to banish fear and the anxious expectation of war from men’s minds.” — Pope St. John XXIII , Pacem in Terris , 1963. “The Church’s position has been pretty straightforward. The pope is reemphasizing the tradition calling for the world to get rid of nuclear weapons, that these weapons are a violation of Church teaching,” said Maryann Cusimano Love, associate professor of international relations at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Love, who attended a November conference on disarmament at the Vatican and worked with the Holy See last year to negotiate the U.N. treaty on the prohibition of nuclear arms, told Our Sunday Visitor that Pope Francis is trying to help people to understand those weapons’ destructive nature and why they should be banned. Addressing the international symposium on Nov. 10, Pope Francis did not just condemn the threat of using nuclear weapons. He categorically declared their very possession is immoral. “They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family, which must rather be inspired by an ethics of solidarity,” Pope Francis said. Conditions not met At first glance, the pope’s words can be seen as a development, even a departure, from Pope St. John Paul II’s 1982 statement that possessing nuclear weapons for the purpose of deterrence can be morally permissible. However, that ethic of deterrence was always based on the condition that the nations in possession of nuclear arms intended to move forward from deterrence to disarmament. “We do not perceive any situation in which the deliberate initiation of nuclear war, on however restricted a scale, can be morally justified. Non-nuclear attacks by another state must be resisted by other than nuclear means.” — U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops , “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response,” 1983 More than three decades later, the world’s nuclear powers, including the United States, have not disarmed themselves. In fact, the U.S. is spending more than $1 trillion to modernize its nuclear stockpile. “Billions have been spent on these weapons of mass destruction, which must never be used,” said Stephen Colecchi, director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of International Justice and Peace. Colecchi, who attended the Vatican symposium with Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego, told OSV that the Catholic Church under Pope Francis is rearticulating its position on nuclear weapons with a renewed sense of urgency and to move past the conditional ethic of deterrence articulated by John Paul II. “The Holy See is trying to move the needle, to pressure the nuclear powers to take their responsibility seriously to get rid of such weapons,” Colecchi said. Gerard F. Powers, coordinator of the Catholic Peacebuilding Network at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, told OSV that the Holy See has sought to delegitimize nuclear weapons, with the aim toward total disarmament, since the dawn of the nuclear age. “Pope Francis’ statement was significant because it’s the clearest statement by a pope that explicitly condemns not only nuclear use but also the mere possession of those weapons,” Powers said. Analyzing nuclear arms through the lens of the Church’s “just war” tradition, analysts told OSV that the use of those arms is immoral because they are so catastrophic. The “just war” tradition holds that the ...
Tue, 09 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Less than a week before embarking on a seven-day visit to South America, Pope Francis said he would go to Chile and Peru as a pilgrim and share the Gospel's message of hope and joy. "I want to meet with you, look into your eyes, see your faces and experience God's closeness, his tenderness and mercy that embraces and consoles us," the pope said in a video message released by the Vatican Jan. 9. The pope will be in Chile Jan. 15-18, visiting the cities of Santiago, Temuco and Iquique. He then will fly to Peru and from Jan. 18-21, he will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo. In his message, Pope Francis said he was familiar with the history of both countries and was grateful for the people's faith and love for God, particularly in caring for those "discarded by society." "The throwaway culture has invaded us more and more," he said. "I want to share in your joys, your sorrows, your difficulties and hopes and tell you that you are not alone, that the pope is with you (and) that the whole church embraces you." Pope Francis also said he hoped to share with the people the experience of the peace that comes from God through Christ's resurrection, which is the foundation of peaceful coexistence in society and "heals our miseries." "To feel God's closeness makes us a living community that is capable of moving with those who are at our side and take firm steps toward friendship and brotherhood. We are brothers and sisters who go out to meet others to confirm one another in the same faith and hope," the pope said. The Peru-Chile trip will be Pope Francis' fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, and in September 2017, he visited Colombia.
Mon, 08 Jan 2018
The Pope's Monthly Prayer Intentions January 2018 Evangelization: Religious Minorities in Asia That Christians, and other religious minorities in Asian countries, may be able to practise their faith in full freedom. Reflection Religious liberty is a hallmark of our American system. In Canada and the United States, such liberty is enshrined in law. It is protected legally, if not always in practice. The situation we enjoy here in the United States and in Canada is not the case universally. In places across Asia, as we sometimes see in our own societies, violations of religious freedom by individuals, groups, and institutions are of great concern to all humanity. The Second Vatican Council, in its Declaration on Religious Liberty, insisted that all people have the right to religious freedom. This includes immunity from coercion on the part of individuals, groups and any other influence: no one is to be forced to act in a manner against his beliefs, in private or public, within reasonable limits. A Catholic vision of the right to religious freedom is grounded in the dignity of the human person, that dignity being known through reason and the revealed word of God. As it is enshrined in law, it is a civil right, but it is firstly a God given right. Cf. Dignitatis Humanae para 1. This vision of the human person, made in the image of God, our Catholic “anthropology,” is one of the most important contributions Catholics and other believers can bring to public dialogue and discourse, to the debate in the public square. In this month’s intention, the Holy Father asks us to pray for the freedom of those in Asia to exercise this fundamental freedom, one which many of us here in Canada and the United States might take for granted. Points for Meditation Am I free to exercise my own religion as I see best? Do I restrict the rights of others to practice their religion in my personal, social, or work life? How do I bring the values of my faith to private and public discourse? What is the difference between the two? Scripture Ex 20:2-3 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. cf. Dt 6:13 “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” Courtesy of Apostleship of Prayer
Mon, 08 Jan 2018
FIUMICINO, Italy (CNS) -- On the eve of Epiphany, when most Italian children wake up to find gifts and candy, Pope Francis visited a pediatric hospital outside Rome. The pope arrived at the Palidoro Bambino Gesu Hospital at about 3 p.m. Jan. 5 and visited the various wards where about 120 children are receiving treatment, according to the Vatican press office. The pope greeted the children and "exchanged some words of comfort with the parents who are caring for their children in their tiring and painful trials," the statement said. Visiting the hospital, Pope Francis was "continuing the experience of the Mercy Fridays," visits he made to hospitals, orphanages and other care facilities during the 2015-16 Year of Mercy.
Mon, 08 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Just as the influence of the Holy Spirit is recognized when one does an act of charity, Christians also must recognize the presence of the devil when bullying occurs, Pope Francis said. "When we realize that we harbor within ourselves the desire to attack someone because they are weak, we have no doubt: It is the devil. Because attacking the weak is the work of Satan," the pope said in his homily Jan. 8 at morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The pope centered his homily on the day's reading from the First Book of Samuel, which recounts the verbal abuse Hannah endured because she was unable to conceive a child. Similar accounts in other Bible stories -- from Abraham's wife Sarah ridiculed by her servant to Job who was rejected by his wife after his misfortune -- are stories that Christians should take time to reflect on, the pope said. "I ask myself: What is within these people? What is it within us that pushes us to mock and mistreat others weaker than we are?" the pope asked. "It is understandable when a person resents someone stronger than them, perhaps because of envy … but toward the weak? What makes us do that? It is something habitual, as if I need to ridicule another person to feel confident; as if it were a necessity," he said. Pope Francis said that as a child there was a woman named Angelina in his neighborhood and she was constantly ridiculed by others, especially children, because of her mental illness. While people would generously give her food and clothes, local children would make fun of the woman and say, "Let's find Angelina and have some fun," the pope said. "Today we see it constantly in our schools -- the phenomenon of bullying, attacking the weak because 'you're fat or foreign or because you're black,'" he said. "This means there is something within us that makes us act aggressively toward the weak." Although psychologists may give a different reason as to why some are inclined to bully the weak, Pope Francis said he believed it was "a consequence of original sin" and the work of Satan who "has no compassion." "Let us ask the Lord to give us the grace of God's compassion," the pope said. "He is the one who has compassion on us and helps us to move forward."
Fri, 05 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A bishop, seven Trappist monks and 11 other religious men and women killed by extremists in Algeria in the 1990s will soon be recognized as martyrs, the postulator for their causes said. The decree for their beatification should be published sometime in January, Trappist Father Thomas Georgeon said Jan. 1 in an interview with Mondo e Missione (World and Mission), a monthly magazine and website run by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. A 10-year-long armed conflict between government forces and extremist Islamic rebel groups left tens of thousands of people dead, making the deaths of the 19 religious "a martyrdom in the midst of a sea of violence that devastated Algeria," he said. "To pay homage to these 19 Christian martyrs means also paying homage to the memory of all those who gave their life in Algeria those dark years" as they were killed "for their country and for their faith," the priest said. The conflict began in 1992 when the army canceled the general election that fundamentalist politicians looked ready to win and cracked down on the Islamic Salvation Front political movement. Human rights groups said at least 44,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the war between extremist rebels and Algerian government forces. The 19 Catholic priests and religious proposed for sainthood died between 1993 and 1996, and include Bishop Pierre Lucien Claverie of Oran, Algeria, who was killed with his driver by a remote-controlled bomb left by the bishop's residence, and seven Trappist monks, who had been kidnapped from the monastery of Tibhirine and beheaded by a group of Islamic terrorists trained by the al-Qaida network. The monks' story was treated in the film "Of Gods and Men," which won the grand prize at its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. The monks of Tibhirine knew that they were in danger and would likely be killed if they remained in Algeria. French Father Christian de Cherge, the slain prior of the monastery, had written in a letter nearly three years before his death that he and the other monks would willingly offer themselves as a sacrifice for the people of Algeria. Father de Cherge wrote, "When the time comes, I would like to be able to have that stroke of lucidity which would permit me to ask forgiveness of God and of my brothers in humanity, forgiving wholeheartedly, at the same time, whoever my killer might be.'' "May we meet each other again, happy thieves, in paradise, should it please God,'' he added. While different extremist Islamic revolutionaries were held responsible for the deaths of many of the religious, Catholic missionaries were largely respected by their Muslim neighbors. Bishop Claverie in particular was praised for his personal courage and long-standing efforts to promote dialogue between Muslims and Christians in the North African country. The bishop, who was born in Algeria to third-generation French settlers, contributed to the formation of the first human rights league in Algeria. He was a well-known advocate for peace and a critic of the Islamic rebels killing in the name of God. He told Vatican Radio in 1992 that Algeria's Christians, who are mostly foreigners, had good relations with Muslim moderates and intellectuals. He said the problem was among Muslims who were divided between fundamentalists and moderates. The violence escalating at the time arose from economic and political upheaval, and a cultural and "identity crisis" on the part of the Algerian people, he said after the murders of the Trappist monks. The church's mission in Algeria was to promote a peaceful meeting of Christians and Muslims, he said. Following Bishop Claverie's murder, St. John Paul II said that "his martyrdom must become the seed of love and the reason of hope." "In the face of violence that respects no one and nothing, Algeria more than ever needs peacemakers and brotherhood,'' the pope had said at his Sunday Angelus. "May God move the Christians and Muslims ...
Thu, 04 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In his ministry as archbishop of Manila and in his travels for Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said he is reminded of the true meaning of hope by people living in situations the world would see as hopeless. "The poor know the frustration of dreaming and working hard with not much result," Cardinal Tagle said. "They are betrayed by persons and institutions. But in their raw poverty, what is left for them is their humanity. They remind all of us that being human is our true and only wealth." While anyone can be tempted to see the fulfillment of hope in accomplishments, improved numbers and bigger bank balances, the poor celebrate the gift of life and praise the giver of life, the cardinal said in a written interview in early January. "This is the secret of their enduring and persistent hope, which those who enjoy comfortable living, yet complain unceasingly, should discover," he said. Cardinal Tagle, 60, will talk and preach about hope with parish, school and diocesan leaders at the opening session and Mass of the Mid-Atlantic Congress in Baltimore Feb. 15-17. Pride and self-sufficiency lie on the opposite end from the hope the poor witness to, he said. "Of the many challenges to hope, I consider pride the most dangerous. Pride weakens faith that gives assurance to hope. Pride makes me think I can do better than God. Pride makes me place my hope in myself. Pride makes me a pseudo-savior." "Whether personal or institutional, pride depletes hope," the cardinal said. In addition to serving as archbishop of Manila and president of Caritas Internationals, Cardinal Tagle also is president of the Catholic Biblical Federation. Of course, the Bible is the book of hope, and "there are many Scripture verses or prayers that rekindle hope in me," he said. "But one that I 'run to' regularly is John 21:1-14," which tells the story of the disciples' miraculous catch of fish. The cardinal said he often turns to the story, and "when I have labored hard and long but still end up not catching anything, I know the risen Lord is close by, watching compassionately and calling my attention so that he could direct my action." The story also brings consolation, he said, because it is a reminder that mission and ministry are Jesus' work, and "my role is to work hard under his direction. The catch will be his, but I must be there with other collaborators to see the miracle, to haul the net to shore and to declare, 'It is the Lord!'" In that way, he said, "a seemingly hopeless situation becomes a space to return to my humble role and to witness to the true Lord." Cardinal Tagle's Bible probably falls open to that Gospel story on its own. His episcopal motto, "Dominus Est" -- "It is the Lord" -- is taken from that passage. The Gospel account was the focus of a retreat he facilitated as a priest. And it was the subject of his homily in 2011 when he was installed as the archbishop of Manila. Moving to Manila after 10 years as bishop of his home diocese, Imus, he said in the installation homily that the lesson of the passage -- that the Lord directs the catch -- is a message of hope for the church community as well as for individuals. "The Lord guards his church. He keeps watch with us on those long nights of confusion and helplessness in mission," the new archbishop said in 2011. "When, in spite of our good intentions and efforts, there are still the multitude of hungry people we cannot feed, homeless people we cannot shelter, battered women and children we cannot protect, cases of corruption and injustice that we cannot remedy, the long night of the disciples in the middle of the sea continues in us." The experience of the long night should make Christians "grow in compassion toward our neighbors whose lives seem to be a never ending dark night," he said, and it should remind Christians that even when things are not working out as planned, the Lord is near. The Gospel passage also is a call "to follow the Lord in ...
Wed, 03 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Fear and the shame of admitting one's own sins leads to pointing fingers and accusing others rather than recognizing one's own faults, Pope Francis said. "It's difficult to admit being guilty, but it does so much good to confess with sincerity. But you must confess your own sins," the pope said Jan. 3 at his first general audience of the new year. "I remember a story an old missionary would tell about a woman who went to confession and she began by telling her husband's faults, then went on to her mother-in-law's faults and then the sins of her neighbors. At a certain point, the confessor told her, 'But ma'am, tell me, are you done?' 'No... Yes.' 'Great, you have finished with other people's sins, now start to tell me yours,'" he said. The pope was continuing his series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on the penitential rite. Recognizing one's own sins prepares a person to make room in his or her heart for Christ, the pope said. But a person who has a heart "full of himself, of his own success" receives nothing because he is already satiated by his "presumed justice." "Listening to the voice of conscience in silence allows us to realize that our thoughts are far from divine thoughts, that our words and our actions are often worldly, guided by choices that are contrary to the Gospel," the pope said. Confessing one's sins to God and the church helps people understand that sin not only "separates us from God but also from our brothers and sisters," he added. "Sin cuts, it cuts our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters, in our family, in society, in the community," the pope said. "Sin always cuts, separates, divides." The penitential rite at Mass also includes asking the intercession of Mary and all the angels and saints, which, he said, is an acknowledgement that Christians seek help from "friends and models of life" who will support them on their journey toward full communion with God. Christians also can find the courage to "take off their masks" and seek pardon for their sins by following the example of biblical figures such as King David, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman and St. Peter. "To take measure of the fragility of the clay with which we have been formed is an experience that strengthens us," Pope Francis said. "While making us realize our weakness, it opens our heart to call upon the divine mercy that transforms and converts. And this is what we do in the penitential act at the beginning of Mass."
Wed, 03 Jan 2018
This July will bring the 50th anniversary of one of the most controversial Church documents in modern times — Humanae Vitae (“On Human Life”), Blessed Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical reaffirming the Church’s condemnation of contraception. Its defenders see its issuance as an act of courage by the pope in the face of rampant sexual permissiveness. Pope Francis three years ago designated Paul VI “Blessed,” a step toward his possible future recognition as a saint. Critics dismiss the encyclical as a relic of outdated morality that Catholics can safely ignore. According to the polls, a large majority of U.S. Catholics do exactly that where contraception is concerned. One thing the defenders and the critics agree on: Humanae Vitae was a turning point, a watershed event in the life of the Church. To understand why, it’s necessary to understand some of the background that led up to its issuance. Traditional teaching Pope Paul’s encyclical was by no means the first time a pope had spoken against artificial birth control. Particularly noteworthy was Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Casti Connubii (“On Christian Marriage”), dated Dec. 31, 1930. The document is a comprehensive presentation of Church teaching on marriage, but what it says about contraception was widely seen as an implicit response to a high-level Anglican Church statement from earlier that year giving limited approval to birth control. Pius XI said: “Any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.” In the years that followed, Pope Pius XII repeated the condemnation of contraception a number of times. In an address in 1951, he said the teaching “is in full force today, as it was in the past, as it will be in the future also and always, because it is not a simple human whim but the expression of a natural and divine law.” Catholic theologians also uniformly upheld the teaching. There was no visible dissent within the Church. In his 1979 book “The Battle for the American Church,” Msgr. George A. Kelly quotes a report prepared in 1965 for the U.S. bishops saying Catholic theologians in the United States “have unanimously condemned contraception.” 'Humanae Vitae' on Christian Compassion “Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. For when He came, not to judge, but to save the world, was He not bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners? “Husbands and wives, therefore, when deeply distressed by reason of the difficulties of their life, must find stamped in the heart and voice of their priest the likeness of the voice and the love of our Redeemer. “So speak with full confidence, beloved sons, convinced that while the Holy Spirit of God is present to the magisterium proclaiming sound doctrine, He also illumines from within the hearts of the faithful and invites their assent. Teach married couples the necessary way of prayer and prepare them to approach more often with great faith the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance. Let them never lose heart because of their weakness.” — Humanae Vitae , No. 29 “Nor is there any tendency in their published writings to defend the idea that the Church will or can change her substantial teaching on birth control,” added this document, which had been prepared in response to a Vatican inquiry. By the early 1960s, nonetheless, pressure for change was gradually growing, fed by widespread acceptance of birth control, a shift in government policy that saw public funds starting to flow to birth control at home and abroad, propaganda about an alleged “population explosion” and the appearance on the scene of oral ...
Tue, 02 Jan 2018
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis began the New Year praying the world would demonstrate a marked increase in solidarity and welcome for migrants and refugees. "Let's not extinguish the hope in their hearts; let's not suffocate their hopes for peace," the pope said Jan. 1 before reciting the Angelus with a crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square. For the New Year's celebration of World Peace Day and the feast of Mary, Mother of God, Pope Francis had chosen to focus on migrants and refugees and their yearning for peace. "For this peace, which is the right of all, many of them are willing to risk their lives in a journey that, in most cases, is long and dangerous and to face trials and suffering," the pope told an estimated 40,000 people gathered in the square around the Christmas tree and Nativity scene. Pope Francis said it is important that everyone, including individuals, governments, schools, churches and church agencies, make a commitment to "ensuring refugees, migrants -- everyone -- a future of peace." Entrusting the needs of migrants and refugees to the maternal concern of Mary, the pope led the crowd in reciting a traditional Marian prayer: "Under thy protection we seek refuge, holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our needs, but from all dangers deliver us always, Virgin, Glorious and Blessed." Pope Francis had begun the day celebrating Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the Marian feast, which he said was a celebration of "a magnificent truth about God and about ourselves: From the moment that our Lord became incarnate in Mary, and for all time, he took on our humanity." "To call Mary the mother of God reminds us," he said, that "God is close to humanity, even as a child is close to the mother who bears him in her womb." God becoming human in the baby Jesus, the pope said, is an affirmation that human life "is precious and sacred to the Lord," so "to serve human life is to serve God." "All life, from life in the mother's womb to that of the elderly, the suffering and the sick, and to that of the troublesome and even repellent, is to be welcomed, loved and helped," he said. Pope Francis also drew people's attention to the fact that in the Gospel stories of Jesus' birth, Mary is silent. And the newborn Jesus, obviously, cannot speak. "We need to remain silent as we gaze upon the crib," he said. "Pondering the crib, we discover anew that we are loved; we savor the real meaning of life. As we look on in silence, we let Jesus speak to our heart. "May his lowliness lay low our pride; his poverty challenge our pomp; his tender love touch our hardened hearts," the pope prayed. Celebrating evening prayer Dec. 31 and offering thanks to God for the year that was ending, Pope Francis gave a special acknowledgement to people -- especially parents and teachers -- who are "artisans of the common good," working to help their families, neighbors and communities each day without fanfare. But, he said, people also must acknowledge that God gave humanity the year 2017 "whole and sound," yet "we human beings have in many ways wasted and wounded it with works of death, with lies and injustices. Wars are the flagrant sign of this backsliding and absurd pride. But so are all the small and great offenses against life, truth and solidarity, which cause multiple forms of human, social and environmental degradation." The pope also led the midday Angelus prayer Dec. 31, the feast of the Holy Family. The Sunday Gospel reading recounted Mary and Joseph taking the baby Jesus to the temple "to certify that the child belongs to God and that they are the guardians of his life and not the owners," the pope said. Mary and Joseph experience the joy of seeing their son grow in wisdom, grace and strength, the pope said. "This is mission to which the family is called: to create the best conditions that will allow for the harmonious and full growth of children, so that they can live a life that is good, worthy of God and constructive for the world." ...
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