Pope to bishops: Defend children from abuse

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Stand up and protect children from exploitation, slaughter and abuse, which includes committing to a policy of “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse by clergy, Pope Francis told the world’s bishops.
Wake up to what is happening to so many of today’s innocents and be moved by their plight and the cries of their mothers to do everything to protect life, helping it “be born and grow,” he said in a letter sent to bishops commemorating the feast of the Holy Innocents, Dec. 28. The Vatican press office published the letter and translations from the original Italian Jan. 2.
Just as King Herod’s men slaughtered young children of Bethlehem in his “unbridled thirst for power,” there are plenty of new Herods today – gang members, criminal networks and “merchants of death” – “who devour the innocence of our children” through slave labor, prostitution and exploitation, he said. Wars and forced immigration also strip children of their innocence, joy and dignity, he added.
The prophet Jeremiah was aware of this “sobbing and loud lamentation” and knew that Rachel was “weeping for her children, and she would not be consoled since they were no more.”
“Today too, we hear this heart-rending cry of pain, which we neither desire nor are able to ignore or to silence,” Pope Francis said.
“Christmas is also accompanied, whether we like it or not, by tears,” and the Gospel writers “did not disguise reality to make it more credible or attractive.”
Christmas and the birth of the son of God aren’t about escaping reality, but are a way to help “contemplate this cry of pain, to open our eyes and ears to what is going on around us, and to let our hearts be attentive and open to the pain of our neighbors, especially where children are involved. It also means realizing that that sad chapter in history is still being written today.”
Given such challenges, Pope Francis told the world’s bishops to look to St. Joseph as a role model.
This obedient and loyal man was capable of recognizing and listening to God’s voice, which meant St. Joseph could let himself be guided by his will and be moved by “what was going on around him and was able to interpret these events realistically.”
“The same thing is asked of us pastors today: to be men attentive, and not deaf, to the voice of God, and hence more sensitive to what is happening all around us,” he said.
Like St. Joseph, “we are asked not to let ourselves be robbed of joy. We are asked to protect this joy from the Herods of our own time. Like Joseph, we need the courage to respond to this reality, to arise and take it firmly in hand.”
The church weeps not only for children suffering the pain of poverty, malnutrition, lack of education, forced displacement, slavery and sexual exploitation, the pope said, she weeps “because she recognizes the sins of some of her members: the sufferings, the experiences and the pain of minors who were abused sexually by priests.”
“It is a sin that shames us,” he said, that people who were responsible for caring for children, “destroyed their dignity.”
Deploring “the sin of what happened, the sin of failing to help, the sin of covering up and denial, the sin of the abuse of power,” the church also begs for forgiveness, he said.
“Today, as we commemorate the feast of the Holy Innocents, I would like us to renew our complete commitment to ensuring that these atrocities will no longer take place in our midst. Let us find the courage needed to take all necessary measures and to protect in every way the lives of our children, so that such crimes may never be repeated. In this area, let us adhere, clearly and faithfully, to ‘zero tolerance,’” he said.
The pope urged the bishops to remember that Christian joy doesn’t ignore or sugarcoat reality, but “is born from a call” to embrace and protect life, “especially that of the holy innocents.”
He asked they renew their commitment to be shepherds with the courage to acknowledge what so many children are experiencing today and to work to guarantee the kind of conditions needed so their dignity will be respected and defended.

Obispos pidieron oraciones por los migrantes

WASHINGTON (CNS) – La Iglesia Católica de Estados Unidos pidió que este año la fiesta del 12 de diciembre en honor a Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe fuera un día de oración enfocado en los inmigrantes y refugiados. Con este propósito se llevaron a cabo servicios de oración y misas especiales en diversas diócesis del país, ya que La Virgen de Guadalupe es la patrona de toda América.
“Cuando se acerca la Navidad y especialmente en esta fiesta a Nuestra Madre, estamos recordando cómo nuestro salvador Jesucristo no nació en la comodidad de su propio hogar, sino más bien en un pesebre desconocido”, expresó recientemente en un comunicado el cardenal Daniel DiNardo de Galveston-Houston, quien es presidente de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de Estados Unidos (USCCB).

A member of of Club Los Vaqueros Unidos (United Cowboy Club) of Wadsworth, Ill., carries a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe as he makes his  way to the the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Ill., as part of a pre-celebration for her Dec. 12 feast day. The feast celebrates the appearance of Mary to indigenous peasant St. Juan Diego in 1531 near present-day Mexico City. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World) See GUADALUPE-RIDERS-SHRINE Dec. 7, 2016.

A member of of Club Los Vaqueros Unidos (United Cowboy Club) of Wadsworth, Ill., carries a banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe as he makes his way to the the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, Ill., as part of a pre-celebration for her Dec. 12 feast day. The feast celebrates the appearance of Mary to indigenous peasant St. Juan Diego in 1531 near present-day Mexico City. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway, Catholic New World) See GUADALUPE-RIDERS-SHRINE Dec. 7, 2016.

La intención del día de oración fue de hacer tiempo para depositar ante un Dios misericordioso las esperanzas, miedos y necesidades de todas aquellas familias que han venido a los Estados Unidos buscando una vida mejor. “Muchas familias se preguntan cómo podrían afectarlas los cambios en la política migratoria”, dijo el arzobispo José Gómez de Los Ángeles, vicepresidente de la USCCB, en un reciente comunicado. “Queremos que sepan que la iglesia está con ellos, que ofrece oraciones en su nombre y que está monitoreando constantemente los acontecimientos a nivel diocesano, estatal y nacional para abogar eficazmente por ellos”.
La USCCB instó a los católicos que no pudieran asistir o no tuvieran cerca un servicio de oración o misa el 12 de diciembre, a que “ofrezcieran sus oraciones donde quiera que estuvieran”. La oficina de Servicios de Migración y Refugiados de la USCCB desarrolló un rosario bíblico titulado “Unidad en la Diversidad” que contiene oraciones para migrantes y refugiados. El mismo puede obtenerse en el portal de internet de la oficina de Justicia para los Inmigrantes: http://tinyurl.com/hldg3o9.
“A todas aquellas familias que están separadas y lejos de su hogar, viviendo tiempos de incertidumbre, nos unimos a ustedes en oración pidiendo consuelo y alegría en esta temporada de Adviento”, añadió el cardenal DiNardo.

National Migration Week – set for January – honors most vulnerable

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Children are the most vulnerable and hardest hit among the world’s migrants and require special protection, Pope Francis said.
“Children are the first among those to pay the heavy toll of emigration, almost always caused by violence, poverty, environmental conditions, as well as the negative aspects of globalization,” he said.
“The unrestrained competition for quick and easy profit brings with it the cultivation of perverse scourges such as child trafficking, the exploitation and abuse of minors and, generally, the depriving of rights intrinsic to childhood as sanctioned by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child,” he said.
The pope made the comments in a message on the theme of “Child Migrants, the Vulnerable and the Voiceless” for the World Day for Migrants and Refugees 2017; the text was released at the Vatican Oct. 13.

The World Day for Migrants and Refugees is observed Jan. 15. In the United States, National Migration Week will be celebrated Jan. 8-14. Click here for a listing of events celebrating the week in the Diocese of Jackson. migration week
In his message, the pope called for greater protection and integration of immigrants and refugees who are minors, especially those who are unaccompanied.
Minors are especially fragile, vulnerable and often invisible and voiceless – unable to claim or unaware of their rights and needs, he said.

A child sits on railroad tracks near a makeshift camp for migrants in late March at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of in Idomeni, Greece. Children are the most vulnerable and hardest hit among the world's migrants and require special protection, Pope Francis said. (CNS photo/Armando Babani, EPA) See POPE-MIGRANTS-MESSAGE Oct. 13, 2016.

A child sits on railroad tracks near a makeshift camp for migrants in late March at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of in Idomeni, Greece. Children are the most vulnerable and hardest hit among the world’s migrants and require special protection, Pope Francis said. (CNS photo/Armando Babani, EPA) See POPE-MIGRANTS-MESSAGE Oct. 13, 2016.

In particular, they have “the right to a healthy and secure family environment, where a child can grow under the guidance and example of a father and a mother; then there is the right and duty to receive adequate education, primarily in the family and also in the school,” the pope said. Unfortunately, “in many areas of the world, reading, writing and the most basic arithmetic is still the privilege of only a few.”
“Children, furthermore, have the right to recreation,” he added. “In a word, they have the right to be children.”
Christians must offer a dignified welcome to migrants because every human being is precious and “more important than things,” the pope said. “The worth of an institution is measured by the way it treats the life and dignity of human beings, particularly when they are vulnerable, as in the case of child migrants.”
He urged long-term solutions be found to tackle the root causes of migration such as war, human rights violations, corruption, poverty, environmental injustice and natural disasters.
In so many of these scenarios, Pope Francis said, “children are the first to suffer, at times suffering torture and other physical violence, in addition to moral and psychological aggression, which almost always leave indelible scars.”
Among the many factors that make migrants, especially children, more vulnerable, and need to be addressed are: poverty; limited access to the means to survive; “unrealistic expectations generated by the media”; poor literacy; and ignorance about the law, culture and language of host countries, he said.
“But the most powerful force driving the exploitation and abuse of children is demand. If more rigorous and effective action is not taken against those who profit from such abuse, we will not be able to stop the multiple forms of slavery where children are the victims,” he said.
Immigrant adults must cooperate more closely with host communities “for the good of their own children,” he said.
Countries need to work together and communities need to offer “authentic development” for all boys and girls “who are humanity’s hope,” he said.
Saying inadequate funding often “prevents the adoption of adequate policies aimed at assistance and inclusion,” the pope said that instead of programs that help children integrate or safely repatriate, “there is simply an attempt to curb the entrance of migrants, which in turn fosters illegal networks” or governments forcibly repatriate people without any concern “for their ‘best interests.'”
While nations have the right to control migration and protect and safeguard their citizens, Pope Francis said it must be done while carrying out “the duty to resolve and regularize the situation of child migrants,” and fully respecting the rights and needs of the children and their parents “for the good of the entire family.”
The pope praised the “generous service” of all those who work with minors who migrate, urging them to “not tire of courageously living the Gospel, which calls you to recognize and welcome the Lord Jesus among the smallest and most vulnerable.”
Speaking to reporters at the Vatican press office, Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, president of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, said Christians cannot be xenophobic and they cannot refuse to help welcome immigrants.
While it is impossible for one country “to receive everyone,” he said, that doesn’t mean the problem will be solved by telling immigrants to leave or saying that no one may come.
“It’s a problem that needs to be solved, seek a solution,” he said.
Unfortunately, the cardinal said, people tend to be self-centered and bothered by the presence of “the other.” People prefer to keep to their “ivory tower, their gilded cage and do not want any disturbance” or threats to “the beautiful things we have.”
“This is egoism. This is not human or Christian,” he said.
(Editor’s note: look in the next Mississippi Catholic for a story about what Catholic Charities is doing here in the Diocese of Jackson for migrants, refugees and immigrants.)


Pope: resistance to God is normal, but you must admit it

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Struggling against God is normal because following his way toward redemption always comes with some kind of cross to bear, Pope Francis said in a morning homily.
When feeling hesitant or unwilling, “don’t be afraid,” just plead with God – “Lord, with great strength come to my aid. May your grace conquer the resistance of sin,” he said Dec. 1.
During morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives, the pope examined the ways people are resistant to God’s will because of their own sinful nature and the work of the devil.
A “good” kind of resistance, he said, is the kind that is misguided but open to God’s grace of conversion. For example, he said, like Saul, who had believed he was doing God’s will by persecuting Christians, but eventually listened to Jesus and did as he told him.
However, the more dangerous forms of resistance, the pope said, are the kind that are “hidden” and mask people’s real intention of never embarking on the path of conversion or of not going all the way.
Everyone has experienced this kind of resistance, he said. “It’s stopping, it’s not fighting against. No. It’s to stand still; smile, maybe, but you don’t move. To resist passively, in hiding.”
Hiding behind “empty words” is a form of resistance, the pope said. This can be seen in the parable of the two sons sent to work in the vineyard, which showed that those who voice opposition, but eventually do as they are told, will be saved, not the “diplomatic” ones, who say, “Yes, yes,” but never do as they are told.
It’s the spiritual form, he said, of the falsity seen in the Italian novel, The Leopard, when a character pretends to go along with and promote change in order to keep the status quo alive.
Another bad kind of resistance, he said, is marked by constant justification where “there is always a reason to oppose” any change God indicates.
“A Christian has no need to justify himself,” the pope said, because “he has been justified by the Word of God.”
And finally, there is resistance marked by accusing others so you never have to look at yourself, your own sins and need for conversion, he said.
By pretending to not be in need of conversion, the person resists God’s grace, he said, like the Pharisee who thanked God he was so virtuous and not at all like the robbers, adulterers and tax collectors.
It’s important to recognize the resistance in one’s heart – not hide it – but let it melt away so that God’s grace can do its work, the pope said.
Resistance to grace can be a good sign, he said, “because it tells us that the Lord is working in us” and wherever the Lord is, “there will be a cross, big or small.”
“It’s resistance to the cross, the resistance to the Lord that brings us redemption,” when we turn to God for help, he added.

500 years from Reformation: Grace remains key issue

By Aaron Williams
For Lutherans across the world, this past October 31 was more than just your average Halloween. It was on Oct. 31, 1517, that Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Now, the countdown has begun leading up to the five-hundredth anniversary of Luther’s split with the Catholic Church and the start of modern-day Protestantism.



This year is a good opportunity for all Christians, both Protestant and Catholic, to join together in prayer for unification so that “all may be one” (John 17:21) as our Lord intended of his church from the beginning. But, this anniversary also provides for Catholics a moment to reflect on those differences which still cause separation. Especially for we who live in a overwhelmingly Protestant area, it can be helpful to know where the Catholic Church stands on significant issues which divide us from our protestant brothers and sisters.
One such issue is the matter of grace. Grace is not something most Christians often give much thought, but it is a word which we, perhaps deafly, hear preached, read in scripture, or sung in hymns. So, what is “grace”?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2003) states, “Grace is first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us.” Grace is that gratuitous gift of God which purifies us and assists us in living the Christian life. Understanding the role of grace requires us to ask why we need grace in the first place and to answer that question we have to consider the role of sin in our lives.
For Catholics, all sin has its root in the original sin of Adam and Eve. God commanded them, “You must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…lest you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:17). But, we know that Adam and Eve did eat of this fruit and so they and all their children died. The church teaches that the guilt of the same sin of our first parents has been passed down from generation to generation, so that all humanity shares in this guilt. This sin was so significant that it damaged the very nature of humankind so that we were no longer able to do good works.
But, God the Father, in his infinite mercy, gave up his only Son and by the sacrifice of Christ on calvary, grace entered the world — grace enough that for all who are baptized, the guilt of original sin is totally wiped away and human nature is restored to its justified state. Men and women are made sons and daughters of God and are therefore holy and able to freely choose to do good works with the help of God’s grace.
Luther, however, did not share this view. It was his argument that human nature was so harmed by Adam and Eve’s sin that Christ’s sacrifice only served to declare all of us “justified” — even though we remained guilty of sin and incapable of doing good works. For Luther, humankind is incapable of freely choosing to do good things and even though every man and woman is sinful and their nature is turned towards evil, those who have faith in Christ will still be saved on the last day.
His view is similar to that of a child who, instead of sweeping the house, pushes the dust under a rug. For Luther, God does not restore our nature to its previous state but simply declares us “justified” — so that we appear holy from the exterior, while are still guilty of original sin interiorly.
Catholics, however, are so confident that baptism regenerates us from our sinful state that we insist even the smallest among us (infants) be baptized, even though they may not understand what it means at the time. It is a sacrament which fundamentally heals our nature interiorly and not simply from an external appearance.
For Catholics, baptism gives us the gift of faith, by which we may be saved. And since we are all made a part of the Mystical Body of Christ in baptism, all of us are capable of doing good works because we are enabled by Christ. In the words of St. Paul, “It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Martin Luther, a German monk and key figure in the Protestant Reformation, is depicted in this painting at a church in Helsingor, Denmark. Pope Francis will visit Sweden Oct. 31-Nov. 1 for commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Crosiers) See VATICAN-LETTER-SWEDEN AND SWEDEN-TRIP-REFORMATION Oct. 20, 2016.

Martin Luther, a German monk and key figure in the Protestant Reformation, is depicted in this painting at a church in Helsingor, Denmark. Pope Francis will visit Sweden Oct. 31-Nov. 1 for commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. (CNS photo/Crosiers) See VATICAN-LETTER-SWEDEN AND SWEDEN-TRIP-REFORMATION Oct. 20, 2016.

Moreover, since Christ enables us to do good works and all Christ’s works are pleasing before the Father, our own works can merit us a greater capacity for grace. This is not to say that Catholics think of salvation as if it is “bought” by good works. Humankind is justified once and for all by Christ’s sacrifice through baptism, but after that initial grace of justification, each of us is able to merit more grace to assist us in living a virtuous life and to have a greater capacity to experience God in heaven. Thus, St. Paul writes, “God will render to each according to his works” (Romans 2:6). After baptism, God gives more grace to each person according to the works they do through Christ, because everything that Christ does is pleasing to the Father.
As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it would be good for each of us to reflect on those things which make us Catholic — our theology, our liturgy, our faith in the leadership of the church. There are so many blessings in our faith which so few of us understand. Maybe this year each of us can buy a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and commit to reading a little bit each day. And most importantly, we should each pray that “all may be one” once more.
(Aaron Williams is a third-year theologian studying at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans. He and his classmate, Nick Adam, will be ordained to the the transitional diaconate in the Spring.)

Papal commission steps up work to educate church about abuse

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Members of the pope’s commission for child protection, including an abuse survivor, have been speaking with new bishops and major Vatican offices as part of a mandate to develop and educate the church about best practices.
Pope Francis also approved the establishment of a day of prayer for survivors of abuse, but decided it will be up to each nation’s bishops’ conference to decide when the memorial should be held, according a press release Sept. 12 from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Members of the pontifical commission have spoken recently with officials at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, which trains priests for service in the Vatican’s diplomatic corps.
Pontifical commission members, who were in Rome in early September, were also set to address the Congregation for Clergy and to speak at seminars for recently appointed bishops; the training seminars are organized by the Congregation for Bishops and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Marie Collins, a commission member and survivor of lerical abuse, was scheduled to be one of a number of commission members to address the Sept. 11-18 session of what is commonly referred to as “new bishops school.”
Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, a psychologist and commission member, and Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna of Malta, a longtime abuse investigator, already delivered their talks on abuse by clergy and the importance of protecting minors and vulnerable adults during the early September seminar for bishops newly elected to dioceses in mission lands.
The commission has completed a template meant to help all church entities — from bishops’ conferences to Catholic associations — in formulating guidelines in preventing and responding appropriately to abuse.
Pope Francis was set to receive the template “shortly,” according to the commission press release.
At the request of a clerical abuse survivor from Canada, the commission developed a proposal for a universal Day of Prayer because “prayer is one part of the healing process for survivors and the community of believers” and public gatherings for prayer also help raise awareness about the issue, it said.
Pope Francis received the proposal and has asked “that national bishops’ conferences choose an appropriate day on which to pray for the survivors and victims of sexual abuse as part of a Universal Day of Prayer initiative,” it said.
The reason a universal date was not set is because a number of bishops’ conference around the world already have specific days set aside for penance and prayer for victims and their healing, Father Zollner told Catholic News Service.
For example, the church in Australia adopted the nation’s own Day for Child Protection — Sept. 11 — to mark its Day of Prayer.
The Southern African Bishops’ Conferences will dedicate Dec. 2-4 — days which fall during Advent this year — to penance, fasting and prayer, the press release said.
The commission said it has resources like prayers for Mass, liturgical texts and other materials available on request as part of the Day of Prayer initiative.

Homeless invited to jubilee dinner

By Jane Chambers
SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) – Outside the cathedral, Ricardo Reyes, dressed in a black tracksuit, waited with nearly 250 other homeless people to pass through white metal barriers for a special dinner to celebrate the Year of Mercy. Inside the nave, 10 tables were covered with red and white tablecloths, waiting for the food and guests.
“I have been homeless for the last three years. My family kicked me out because I have problems with alcohol and drugs. It’s tough living on the streets, because everyone thinks you are worthless and doesn’t care about you. They don’t want to give me work, so it is really hard to get by,” he told Catholic News Service as he waited.
People like Reyes had traveled from all over Santiago, invited by volunteers in different parishes around the city. At 5 p.m. Aug. 19, Santiago Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati greeted the guests and invited them into the cathedral. Many became emotional as they streamed into the church and took in their surroundings: ornate gold leafing; red-veined marble columns and high ceilings with frescoes illustrating biblical stories; freshly polished floors and altar arrangements of yellow lilies and red and white roses.
Some embraced the cardinal, their eyes filled with tears of joy and disbelief to be in such a place.
Reyes walked purposefully up to the front of the nave and made sure he was as close to the cardinal as possible. The heavy wooden pews were soon filled with all of the guests.
Reyes’ friend, Jorge Alfaro, was sitting beside him in a wheelchair, wearing a checked yellow scarf. He has been homeless for five years.
“Being homeless when you are in a wheelchair is very tough, because it makes it more difficult to find food and somewhere to stay, but my friends help me,” he said. While he was explaining what coming to the cathedral meant to him, his sunken face crumpled and he started to cry, saying: “It is a very special moment which touches me deeply. It really means something for me to know that people care about us and want to help us and invite us in. Finally, we feel like we are valued.”
In a little patio at the back of the cathedral, head chef Marcela Valdes had been busy preparing the Aug. 19 feast. Valdes knew that many of her guests would not have eaten all day and would be hungry. For hygiene reasons, the food was prepared off site, and she and other helpers packed dinner into white polystyrene boxes.
The menu included soup, Chile’s famous empanadas, roast chicken, rice and creamed vegetables. It was washed down with a Chilean favorite: endless quantities of red and orange fizzy drinks.
Valdes has spent 25 years working for the Home of Christ, a network of shelters for homeless children established by St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga, a Jesuit, who died in 1952. As well as cooking for the bishops, she cooks for the homeless.
“I really love my work because I know these people have nothing and I find working for them very fulfilling,” she said.
Reyes and Alfaro took two empanadas, saving one for later when they were back on the streets. But, as well as eating delicious food, the evening was about creating bonds and recognizing the work of volunteers in ministering to homeless people.
Cardinal Ezzati recognized their work in front of their peers and the people they help. Each person – volunteer and guest – received a wooden cross. People sang and waved their hands in the air as the atmosphere turned festive.
Cardinal Ezzati told CNS that the Chilean church was responding to Pope Francis’ call for the Year of Mercy.
“These people need to feel valued and loved and not like they are something that society has thrown aside,” he said. “They have much to teach us about the spirit of solidarity and charity, which is what this year is all about.”
The cathedral is in Plaza de Armas, in the heart of Santiago. It’s where Peruvian, Haitian and Colombian immigrants hang out.
Cardinal Ezzati said the homeless “are always welcome to come to the cathedral” and noted that they “often use it as a place to rest and escape the heat in summer or the cold in winter.”
“But for us the refuge they have in their own parishes is also very important; that is where they live and that is where they can create bonds with our volunteers and be helped,” he added.

Mercy isn’t an abstract word, it’s a way of life, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Mercy is not an abstract concept but a lifestyle that invites Christians to make an examination of conscience and ask themselves if they place the spiritual and material needs of others before their own, Pope Francis said.
A Christian who chooses to be merciful experiences true life and has “eyes to see, ears to listen, and hands to comfort,” the pope said June 30 during a Year of Mercy audience in St. Peter’s Square.
“That which makes mercy alive is its constant dynamism to go out searching for the needy and the needs of those who are in spiritual or material hardship,” he said.
By being indifferent to the plight of the poor and suffering, the pope said, Christians turn into “hypocrites” and move toward a “spiritual lethargy that numbs the mind and makes life barren.”
“People who go through life, who walk in life without being aware of the needs of others, without seeing the many spiritual and material needs are people who do not live,” he said. “They are people who do not serve others. And remember this well: One who does not live to serve, serves nothing in life.”
Instead, he continued, those who have experienced the mercy of God in their own lives do not remain insensitive to the needs of others. Far from theoretical issues, the works of mercy are a “concrete witness” that compel Christians to “roll up their sleeves in order to ease suffering.”
Pope Francis also called on the faithful to remain vigilant and to focus on Christ present, especially in those suffering due to a globalized “culture of well-being.”
“Look at Jesus; look at Jesus in the hungry, in the prisoner, in the sick, in the naked, in the person who does not have a job to support his family. Look at Jesus in these brothers and sisters of ours. Look at Jesus in those who are alone, sad, in those who make a mistake and need advice, in those who need to embark on the path with him in silence so they may feel accompanied,” he said. “These are the works that Jesus asks of us. To look at Jesus in them, in these people. Why? Because Jesus also looks at me, looks at you, in that way.”
Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis recalled his visit to Armenia June 24-26, thanking the people of Armenia who, throughout their history, “have given witness to the Christian faith through martyrdom.”
While thanking Armenian Apostolic Catholics Karekin II for his hospitality, the pope stressed that in making the visit alongside the patriarch, he was reminding Catholics of the importance of strengthening bonds with other Christians as another way “of giving witness to the Gospel and being leaven for a more just and united society.”
The late June audience was the last one the pope was scheduled to hold before a reduced summer schedule. (Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.)

Organizers’ advice to World Youth Day pilgrims: Pack good walking shoes

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) – Young people attending World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland, may have to walk up to nine miles to and from one of its key sites, event organizers said.
“They’ll have to be ready for a long foot journey of several hours, but this has always been a feature of World Youth Days,” said Anna Chmura, WYD’s communications coordinator.
“There’ll be several designated routes, mostly from Krakow, and they’ll all be used heavily. But we’re confident the logistics and security have now been carefully worked out,” she told Catholic News Service.
The event, which runs July 26-31, is expected to bring 2 million people from 187 countries to the southern Polish city. They will be accompanied by 47 cardinals, 800 bishops and 20,000 priests. The July 30-31 vigil and Mass, on the fourth and fifth days of Pope Francis’ visit, will require nearly all of the participants to make the nine-mile journey to Campus Misericordiae, near Poland’s Wieliczka salt mine, Chmura said.
Buses will be available only for the 2,000 handicapped people registered for the event, elderly pilgrims and those with special needs, she added.
“Although we don’t have a final number for the buses, there’ll certainly be dozens, but the foot pilgrimage theme is central to the WYD,” Chmura explained.
“All registered groups from the various sectors will have their paths precisely indicated, to keep people moving and avoid logjams or safety hazards.”
The closing events include an evening prayer vigil July 30 at the campus as pilgrims stay overnight at the site. World Youth Day concludes the morning of July 31 with Mass and recitation of the Angelus before Pope Francis departs for Rome.

Where silence should reign: Pope will pray, not speak, at Auschwitz

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Tears and not words. Prayers and not greetings.
During his trip to Poland for World Youth Day, Pope Francis will go to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp. He said he wants to go alone and say nothing.
When Pope Francis speaks, he can delight fans and frustrate critics. He can wax poetic or be bluntly funny about human quirks.
But in the face of great suffering and horror, his first and strongest inclinations are silence, a profoundly bowed head and hands clasped tightly in prayer.
Pope Francis had asked that there be no speeches during his visit to Armenia’s genocide memorial June 25. At times, even the prayer service there with the Armenian Apostolic patriarch seemed too wordy. An aide gently cupped his elbow when it was time to end the silent reflection and begin the service.
The Vatican’s schedule for the pope’s visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau July 29 had him giving a speech at the international monument at Birkenau, just as St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI did.
But on the flight back to Rome from Armenia, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told Pope Francis, “I heard that you want to live that moment more with silence than words.”
The pope responded by reminding reporters that in 2014 when he went to Redipuglia in northern Italy to mark the 100th anniversary of World War I, “I went in silence,” walking alone among the graves. “Then there was the Mass and I preached at Mass, but that was something else.”
Speaking about his planned visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, “I would like to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds – only the few people necessary,” he said. “Alone, enter, pray. And may the Lord give me the grace to cry.”
Father Lombardi confirmed June 30 that the official program had been changed and the pope would not give a speech at the death camp. But it is not that Pope Francis has nothing to say about the horror of the Shoah, the importance of remembering it and the need to continue fighting anti-Semitism.
“The past must be a lesson to us for the present and the future,” he said Jan. 17 during a visit to Rome’s synagogue. “The Shoah teaches us that maximum vigilance is always needed in order to intervene quickly in defense of human dignity and peace.”
In the book “On Heaven and Earth,” written in 2010 with Rabbi Abraham Skorka, the future pope and rabbi discussed the Holocaust at length.
While the question “Where was God” is an important theological and human question, the pope said, “Where was man?” is an even bigger question. “The Shoah is genocide, like the others of the 20th century, but it has a distinctive feature,” an “idolatrous construction” in which the Nazis claimed to be god and embracing true evil tried to eradicate Judaism.
“Each Jew that they killed was a slap in the face to the living God,” the future pope wrote.
In a very formal, very solemn commemoration, Pope Francis visited the Shoah memorial, Yad Vashem, in Israel in 2014. He laid a wreath of flowers in memory of the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis, clasped his hands and stood in silence before slowly walking back to his place. He met six survivors of Nazi camps, kissing their hands in a sign of deference and recognition of their suffering.
Protocol for the occasion required a speech and, led to the podium, Pope Francis spoke softly, reflecting on the question of “Where was man?” and how could human beings have sunk so horribly low.
In his speech, he prayed to God, “Grant us the grace to be ashamed of what we men have done, to be ashamed of this massive idolatry, of having despised and destroyed our own flesh which you formed from the earth, to which you gave life with your own breath of life. Never again, Lord, never again!”
“Here we are, Lord, shamed by what man, created in your own image and likeness, was capable of doing,” he said. “Remember us in your mercy.”
After finishing the speech, the pope stood in silence at the lectern for almost three minutes, writing in the Yad Vashem guestbook.
His message: “With shame for what man, who was created in the image of God, was able to do; with shame for the fact that man made himself the owner of evil; with shame that man made himself into god and sacrificed his brothers. Never again! Never again!”
(Editor’s note: Mississippi Catholic would like to hear from any pilgrims from the Diocese of Jackson who are planning to attend World Youth Day. Send photos and reflections to editor@mississippicatholic.com.)