Risen Christ calls all to follow him on path to life, pope says

By Cindy Wooden and Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Jesus is the risen shepherd who takes upon his shoulders “our brothers and sisters crushed by evil in all its varied forms,” Pope Francis said before giving his solemn Easter blessing.

With tens of thousands of people gathered in St. Peter’s Square April 16, the pope called on Christians to be instruments of Christ’s outreach to refugees and migrants, victims of war and exploitation, famine and loneliness.

For the 30th year in a row, Dutch farmers and florists blanketed the area around the altar with grass and 35,000 flowers and plants: lilies, roses, tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, birch and linden.

Preaching without a prepared text, Pope Francis began — as he did the night before at the Easter Vigil — imagining the disciples desolate because “the one they loved so much was executed. He died.”

While they are huddling in fear, the angel tells them, “He is risen.” And, the pope said, the church continues to proclaim that message always and everywhere, including to those whose lives are truly, unfairly difficult.

“It is the mystery of the cornerstone that was discarded, but has become the foundation of our existence,” he said. And those who follow Jesus, “we pebbles,” find meaning even in the midst of suffering because of sure hope in the resurrection.

Pope Francis suggested everyone find a quiet place on Easter to reflect on their problems and the problems of the world and then tell God, “I don’t know how this will end, but I know Christ has risen.”

Almost immediately after the homily, a brief but intense rain began to fall on the crowd, leading people to scramble to find umbrellas, jackets or plastic bags to keep themselves dry.

After celebrating the morning Easter Mass, Pope Francis gave his blessing “urbi et orbi,” to the city of Rome and the world.

Before reciting the blessing, he told the crowd that “in every age the risen shepherd tirelessly seeks us, his brothers and sisters, wandering in the deserts of this world. With the marks of the passion — the wounds of his merciful love — he draws us to follow him on his way, the way of life.”

Christ seeks out all those in need, he said. “He comes to meet them through our brothers and sisters who treat them with respect and kindness and help them to hear his voice, an unforgettable voice, a voice calling them back to friendship with God.”

Pope Francis mentioned a long list of those for whom the Lord gives special attention, including victims of human trafficking, abused children, victims of terrorism and people forced to flee their homes because of war, famine and poverty.

“In the complex and often dramatic situations of today’s world, may the risen Lord guide the steps of all those who work for justice and peace,” Pope Francis said. “May he grant the leaders of nations the courage they need to prevent the spread of conflicts and to put a halt to the arms trade.”

The pope also offered special prayers for peace in Syria, South Sudan, Somalia, Congo and Ukraine, and for a peaceful resolution of political tensions in Latin America.

The pope’s celebration of Easter got underway the night before in a packed St. Peter’s Basilica.

The Easter Vigil began with the lighting of the fire and Easter candle in the atrium of the basilica. Walking behind the Easter candle and carrying a candle of his own, Pope Francis entered the basilica in darkness.

The basilica was gently illuminated only by candlelight and the low light emanating from cellphones capturing the solemn procession.

The bells of St. Peter’s pealed in the night, the sound echoing through nearby Roman streets, announcing the joy of the Resurrection.

During the vigil, Pope Francis baptized 11 people: five women and six men from Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, the United States, Albania, Malta, Malaysia and China.

One by one, the catechumens approached the pope who asked them if they wished to receive baptism. After responding, “Yes, I do,” they lowered their heads as the pope poured water over their foreheads.

Among them was Ali Acacius Damavandy from the United States who smiled brightly as the baptismal waters streamed down his head.

In his homily, reflecting on the Easter account from the Gospel of St. Matthew, the pope recalled the women who went “with uncertain and weary steps” to Christ’s tomb.

The pope said the faces of those women, full of sorrow and despair, reflect the faces of mothers, grandmothers, children and young people who carry the “burden of injustice and brutality.”

The poor and the exploited, the lonely and the abandoned, and “immigrants deprived of country, house and family” suffer the heartbreak reflected on the faces of the women at the tomb who have seen “human dignity crucified,” he said.

However, the pope added, in the silence of death, Jesus’ heartbeat resounds and his resurrection comes as a gift and as “a transforming force” to a humanity broken by greed and war.

“In the Resurrection, Christ rolled back the stone of the tomb, but he wants also to break down all the walls that keep us locked in our sterile pessimism, in our carefully constructed ivory towers that isolate us from life, in our compulsive need for security and in boundless ambition that can make us compromise the dignity of others,” he said.

Pope Francis called on Christians to follow the example of the woman who, upon learning of Christ’s victory over death, ran to the city and proclaimed the good news in those places “where death seems the only way out.”

Presiding over the Stations of the Cross Good Friday, April 14, at Rome’s Colosseum, Pope Francis offered a prayer expressing both shame for the sins of humanity and hope in God’s mercy.

A crowd of about 20,000 people joined the pope at the Rome landmark. They had passed through two security checks and were watched over by a heavy police presence given recent terrorist attacks in Europe.

At the end of the service, Pope Francis recited a prayer to Jesus that he had composed. “Oh Christ, our only savior, we turn to you again this year with eyes lowered in shame and with hearts full of hope.”

The shame comes from all the “devastation, destruction and shipwrecks that have become normal in our lives,” he said, hours after some 2,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea. The shame comes from wars, discrimination and the failure to denounce injustice.

Turning to the sexual abuse crisis, Pope Francis expressed “shame for all the times we bishops, priests, consecrated men and women have scandalized and injured your body, the church.”

But the pope also prayed that Christians would be filled with the hope that comes from knowing that “you do not treat us according to our merits, but only according to the abundance of your mercy.”

Christian hope, he said, means trusting that Jesus’ cross can “transform our hardened hearts into hearts of flesh capable of dreaming, forgiving and loving.”

Pope Francis carries a candle as he arrives to celebrate the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 15. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See POPE-EASTER-ROUNDUP April 16, 2017.

Papal nuncio: Pay close attention to pope’s words, actions

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, gets plenty of questions about Pope Francis.

A March 27 discussion at Georgetown University, sponsored by the university’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, was no exception. The nuncio, who sat onstage with John Carr, the initiative’s director, was asked about the pope’s key issues and his impact in the four years since his election.

Instead of emphasizing the pope’s special qualities or accomplishments, Archbishop Pierre, who has been in the Vatican diplomatic corps for almost 40 years, stressed how Catholics are called to view the pope and essentially work with him in the mission of spreading the Gospel.

He told the audience, nearly filling a campus auditorium, that it is not a question of whether the pope is good or bad or if one agrees with him or not. The issue, for Catholics, is to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying through the pope.

“We have to pay a lot of attention to the person of the pope and to his message and to his testimony because the pope is not just words but he is also actions and actions that are powerful words,” the nuncio said.

Archbishop Pierre, who was appointed to the U.S. post by Pope Francis last April, would not comment on the pope’s approval ratings compared to politicians nor would he address the current political climate, but he stressed that one’s personal faith can’t be separated from daily life and that people need to use discernment even in civic duties like voting.

When asked about care for migrants in today’s world, he said Christians should be the “soul of this country” and Catholics should follow the example of Pope Francis who goes out to the borders and reaches out to those who are broken and those who suffer.

“The church is in the business of evangelization,” he added, saying this works best when the church “goes outside herself” to meet people where they are. And in a pointed statement to this country, he added: If America is the center of the world then it has “a huge responsibility to help others.”

When the nuncio was joined on stage by other panelists, they reiterated the importance of the pope’s message that has come across just as much from his actions as his words.

To sum up the pope’s message to Catholics today, Ken Hackett, former U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and former president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, looks to the example of the pope’s visit to the United States in 2015 where the pope’s presence, in front of Congress and with the poor, and his words at each stop made Catholics proud of their faith.

Kim Daniels, a member of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, said the pope’s message has resonated not just with Catholics but also with those who have heard him even through social media. She said he has made the call to live out one’s faith “something that’s concrete and not abstract” and something “we can do right here, right now, where we are.”

For Maria Teresa Gaston, managing director of the Foundations of Christian Leadership Program at the Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, the pope has been clearest on his message of community, telling people, including “those who are undocumented: You are loved and valued.”

She also points to his message to youths at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 as something that still resonates with her. He told the crowd “not to be afraid, to take risks and to be courageous” stressing they should prepare for “courageous and prophetic action in solidarity with the earth and with the poor.”

(Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.)

Bible, like cellphone, should be carried always

By Junno Arocho Estaves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Christians should care about reading God’s messages in the Bible as much as they care about checking messages on their cellphones, Pope Francis said.
As Christ did in the desert when tempted by Satan, men and women can defend themselves from temptation with the word of God if they “read it often, meditate on it and assimilate it” into their lives, he said before praying the Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square March 5.
“What would happen if we turned back when we forget it, if we opened it more times a day, if we read the messages of God contained in the Bible the way we read messages on our cellphones?” the pope asked the crowd.
The pope’s reflection centered on the day’s Gospel reading (Mt. 4:1-11) in which Jesus is tempted by the devil while fasting in the desert for 40 days and nights before beginning his ministry.
Satan, he said, attempts to dissuade Jesus from fulfilling his message and to undermine his divinity by tempting him twice to perform miracles like “a magician” and lastly, by adoring “the devil in order to have dominion over the world.”
“Through this triple temptation, Satan wants to divert Jesus from the path of obedience and humiliation – because he knows that through that path evil will be defeated – and take him on the false shortcut of success and glory,” the pope said.
However, Jesus deflects “the poisonous arrows of the devil” not with his own words but “only with the Word of God.”
Christians, the pope continued, are called to follow Jesus’ footsteps and “confront the spiritual combat against the evil one” through the power of God’s word which has the “strength to defeat Satan.”
“The Bible contains the word of God, which is always relevant and effective. Someone once said: What would happen if we treated the Bible like we treated our cellphones? What would happen if we always brought it with us, or at least a small pocket-sized Gospel?” he asked.
While the comparison between the Bible and a cellphone is “paradoxical,” he added, it is something that all Christians are called to reflect on during the Lenten season.
“If we have the Word of God always in our hearts, no temptation could separate us from God and no obstacle would deviate us from the path of good,” the pope said.
After praying the Angelus prayer with the faithful in the square, Pope Francis asked for prayers before departing for a weeklong Lenten retreat with members of the Roman Curia.
Lent, he said, “is the path of the people of God toward Easter, a path of conversion, of fighting evil with the weapons of prayer, fasting and works of charity,” Pope Francis said. “I wish everyone a fruitful Lenten journey,” he said.
(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.)

Pope, cardinal advisers discuss tribunals, Curia offices

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis and members of the international Council of Cardinals advising him on church governance discussed the functions of the Vatican tribunals that handle marriage, appeals and indulgences.
Meeting with Pope Francis Feb. 13-15, the Council of Cardinals also continued its discussion of the process of selecting bishops and received updates on economic and communication reform initiatives.
Paloma Garcia Ovejero, vice director of the Vatican press office, told reporters the tribunals studied by the council included: the Apostolic Penitentiary, a church court that deals with indulgences; the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature, the Catholic Church’s highest appeals court; and the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Vatican court that deals mainly with marriage cases.
Continuing their examination of individual offices, the cardinals also looked at the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Congregation for Eastern Churches and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
Garcia Ovejero also read the statement that the cardinals issued Feb. 13 assuring the pope of their “full support for his person and his magisterium.”
At a separate meeting with the press Feb. 15, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, a council member, said that while the council “didn’t want to make it a great thing,” the cardinals saw the need to express their support for the pope.
“I think it was the time to repeat from our group (that) we are supporting the pope, we are going together with him,” Cardinal Marx said.
“We have discussions in the church, normal discussions, tensions; it will (always be) like this. But in a time like this, it is also clear for us as Catholics that loyalty to the pope is substantial for the Catholic faith and for Catholic believers.”
Although the statement said the cardinals’ support was offered “in relation to recent events,” no specific events were mentioned.
The statement came just a few days after a fake version of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, was emailed to Vatican officials and a week after posters were put up around Rome questioning the pope’s mercy in dealing with the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and other groups over which the pope had placed special delegates.
“I will not add to it,” Cardinal Marx said when asked regarding the recent events. “We reflected (on) the sentence and so I will leave at that. We had the text and we said that’s enough. And I say today, it’s enough,” he told journalists.
The Council of Cardinals will meet again April 24-26.
In addition to Cardinal Marx, the council members are: Cardinals Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state; Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Sean P. O’Malley of Boston; Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, retired archbishop of Santiago, Chile; Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India; Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Congo; George Pell, head of the Secretariat for the Economy; and Giuseppe Bertello, president of the commission governing Vatican City State.

Pope: Dream, prophesy, don’t focus just on survival

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – When religious orders focus on survival rather than on sharing the joy and hope of faith in Jesus, they end up being “professionals of the sacred, but not fathers and mothers,” Pope Francis said.
“The temptation of survival turns what the Lord presents as an opportunity for mission into something dangerous, threatening, potentially disastrous,” the pope told consecrated men and women who joined him Feb. 2 for Mass on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life.
Speaking as a fellow member of a religious order, Pope Francis urged religious to keep alive the faith, hope and audacity of the men and women who founded the orders to which they belong.
“We are heirs to those who have gone before us and had the courage to dream,” he said during the Mass, which began with the blessing of candles celebrating the presentation of Christ as the light of the world.
The feast day Gospel reading from St. Luke tells the story of Mary and Joseph bringing the newborn Jesus to the temple in fulfillment of the law. The elderly and pious Simeon and Anna are in the temple and rejoice when they see Jesus, recognizing him as the Messiah.
Simeon and Anna, the pope said, testified that “life is worth living in hope because the Lord keeps his promise.”
The pope said religious have inherited Simeon and Anna’s hymn of hope from their founders and elders, who “had the courage to dream.”
Hope in the Lord and the prophetic announcement of his presence “will protect us from a temptation that can make our consecrated life barren: the temptation of survival” and of preserving institutions above all else, said the pope, a member of the Jesuit order.
“The mentality of survival makes us reactionaries, fearful, slowly and silently shutting ourselves up in our houses and in our own preconceived notions,” he said. “It makes us look back to the glory days – days that are past – and rather than rekindling the prophetic creativity born of our founders’ dreams, it looks for shortcuts in order to evade the challenges knocking on our doors today.
“A survival mentality robs our charisms of power, because it leads us to ‘domesticate’ them, to make them ‘user-friendly,’ robbing them of their original creative force,” Pope Francis continued. “It makes us want to protect spaces, buildings and structures, rather than to encourage new initiatives.”
The temptation of survival, he said, “turns us into professionals of the sacred but not fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters of that hope to which we are called to bear prophetic witness.”
Like Mary and Joseph, religious are called to bring Jesus into the midst of his people, the pope said. “Only this will make our lives fruitful and keep our hearts alive.”
All Christians, but especially those consecrated with the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, are called to be the leaven of the Gospel in the world, he said.
“Perhaps there are better brands of flour, but the Lord has called us to be leaven here and now, with the challenges we face. Not on the defensive or motivated by fear,” he said, “but with our hands on the plow, helping the wheat to grow, even though it has frequently been sown among weeds.”
“Putting Jesus in the midst of his people,” he said, “means taking up and carrying the crosses of our brothers and sisters. It means wanting to touch the wounds of Jesus in the wounds of a world in pain, which longs and cries out for healing.”

Pope: Lead people to certainty of Gospel

By Cindy Wooden
ROME (CNS) – In an age that often seems to be a “carnival of worldly curiosity,” Christians are called to lead people to the solid ground of the Gospel like St. Dominic did, Pope Francis said.
“We are moving in a so-called ‘liquid society,’ which is without fixed points, scattered, deprived of solid and stable reference points, a culture of the ephemeral, of the use-and-dispose,” the pope told members of the Dominican order.
At Rome’s Basilica of St. John Lateran, the pope celebrated Mass Jan. 21 with the Order of Preachers, founded 800 years ago, and with women religious and lay people who trace their spirituality to St. Dominic.
In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy and its description of proclaiming the Gospel at a time when people were “always seeking new teachers, myths, different doctrines and ideologies.”
The situation today is even more exaggerated, the pope said, because of “the seduction of subjective relativism.”
The response must be to attract people to the unchanging truth of faith in God and in the Gospel, he told the Dominicans.
When a Christian gives glory to God through his or her actions and words, Pope Francis said, people will notice and ask, “Why does that person act that way?”
The Gospel calls Christians to be salt of the earth and light for the world, he said. “Woe to a church that loses its flavor. Woe to a priest, a consecrated person, a congregation that loses its flavor.”
St. Dominic, he said, was “full of the light and salt of Christ” and preached the Gospel with “the word and his life,” helping many men and women “not become lost in the carnival of worldly curiosity,” but experience “the taste of sound doctrine, the taste of the Gospel and become, in turn, light and salt, artisans of good works.”
Closing the celebrations of the Dominicans’ 800th anniversary, the Mass came at the end of a five-day Congress on mission to examine the situations in which Dominicans are called to preach, to promote cooperation across the different Dominican branches and evaluate where the order’s missionary outreach needs strengthening.
Dominican Father Vivian Boland, vicar of the master of the order, told Catholic News Service Jan. 17 that in almost any situation of difficulty or challenge, “there are Dominicans somewhere in the world trying to respond to those questions.”
Pope Francis, he said, is an example for members of the order in helping others not just through their words, but also with concrete action.
(Contributing to this story was Junno Arocho Esteves at the Vatican.)

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.

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.)

Church leaders urge careful reading of exhortation

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Church leaders from around the world hailed the tone of mercy in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), but cautioned against a hurried reading of the document.
“What is new about this exhortation is its tone,” Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban, South Africa, told Catholic News Service after the document’s release April 8. He said it calls on all ministers “to be warm and caring in the way they deal with people in difficult circumstances.”

A mother comforts her infant daughter at home. In his apostolic exhortation "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love"), Pope Francis repeated his earlier reflection on motherhood: "Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism. ... It is they who testify to the beauty of life." Mother's Day is May 8 this year. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

A mother comforts her infant daughter at home. In his apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), Pope Francis repeated his earlier reflection on motherhood: “Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centered individualism. … It is they who testify to the beauty of life.” Mother’s Day is May 8 this year. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

“There is no one-size-fits-all” approach and “local churches are urged to adapt church teachings from the synod to their particular circumstances,” he said, noting, for example, that “different cultural understandings of marriage within South Africa would give the church here different challenges to those faced by churches in other parts of the world.”
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin called “Amoris Laetitia” an “encyclopedic document and, like all encyclopedic documents, much of its most valuable content runs the risk of being bypassed by a preoccupation with one or two of its aspects.”
“It is not just a collection of separated chapters,” Archbishop Martin said in a statement. “There is a unifying thread: The Gospel of the family is challenging and demanding, but … with the grace of God and his mercy, is attainable and fulfilling, enriching and worthwhile.”
The exhortation reflecting on the 2014 and 2015 synods of bishops on the family contains no new rules or norms. However, it encourages careful review of everything related to family ministry and, particularly, much greater attention to the language and attitude used when explaining church teaching and ministering to those who do not fully live that teaching.
“It is a long document. As Pope Francis says, you can’t whiz through it. It needs reflection,” said Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton, England, a synod participant and chairman of the English and Welsh bishops’ Committee for Marriage and Family Life.
“It has particular focus on the need to walk with those of us who feel excluded and to let everyone know that they are loved by God and that that love is a tender love, but also a love that challenges us all to change,” he said.

A same-sex couple exchange rings during their marriage ceremony in 2014 in Brighton, England. In his postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the family, "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love"), released April 8, Pope Francis repeated his and the synod's insistence that the church cannot consider same-sex unions to be a marriage, but also insisted, "every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity." (CNS photo/Will Oliver, EPA)

A same-sex couple exchange rings during their marriage ceremony in 2014 in Brighton, England. In his postsynodal apostolic exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), released April 8, Pope Francis repeated his and the synod’s insistence that the church cannot consider same-sex unions to be a marriage, but also insisted, “every person, regardless of sexual orientation, ought to be respected in his or her dignity.” (CNS photo/Will Oliver, EPA)

“Some people will be disappointed that it is not full of black-and-white solutions but, as Pope Francis says, every situation is different and needs to be approached with love, mercy and openness of heart,” Bishop Doyle said.
In the pope’s home country of Argentina, Bishop Pedro Maria Laxague of Zarate-Campana, president of the laity and families commission of the Argentine bishops’ conference and participant in the last synod, said the document embraced the papal vision of the church being a field hospital, treating the wounded and attending to those with needs.
“There is not a good family or a bad family,” he said. “All require pastoral attention.”
He said the exhortation “touches all the realities that a family might experience.”
“Today the church can say that it has woken up to the realities of the family,” he told CNS. “We will be able to accompany (all) types of families as a church, as a community, in all situations.”
The Archdiocese of Mexico City welcomed the document and praised it for incorporating of various points of views, including conservative ones, and allowing local Catholic leaders some “discernment” in deciding how to go about opening the church to those traditionally left on the outside.
The encyclical “reflects the many (diverse) viewpoints expressed at the synod,” said Father Hugo Valdemar Romero, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City.
“There is an opening, but within the church doctrine,” he added. “There is an inclusiveness … on a case-by-case basis and the discernment of the local bishop.”
Jesuit Father David Neuhaus, patriarchal vicar of the Hebrew-speaking community of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, said people looking for “juicy” headlines would be disappointed. He said the exhortation was meant for people to read and ponder and said the document could help priests and bishops realize that “nobody is beyond the care of the church.”
“No one is outside, no matter what the circumstances … you can’t just take out the law book and say ’You have gone out of the boundaries.’ Every person has to be treated with love and respect,” said Father Neuhaus.
He added that, in the Holy Land, families are meeting challenges such as poverty, tensions and the breakdown of the family, a reality he described as “true for us and the whole world.”
Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Quebec, who attended both synods, called the apostolic exhortation “a precious tool, a guide for pastoral workers accompanying couples. It’s an approach that many pastoral agents and priests have been promoting for a long time, but it now gives stronger theological foundations.”
“It invites us to take the teachings of the Bible and the church very seriously while welcoming in a true and realistic way couples experiencing hardships,” he said.
He said church leaders “have work ahead of us” regarding homosexuality. “This synod wasn’t the time to have this discussion, with its strong cultural impacts in our world.”
Australian Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, who attended the 2015 Synod of Bishops on the family, said the document “is full of contemplative vistas but also down-to-earth practical wisdom which could come only from long pastoral experience of spouses and their families. It moves constantly between the ideal and the real.”
In an article for The Weekend Australian, he said the exhortation “insists that we have to deal always with the facts, however messy they may be; we have to be in touch with the reality of marriage and the family, not clinging to some romanticized sense of what the family should be. A genuinely pastoral approach to marriage and the family begins with the facts.

Copies of Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation on the family, "Amoris Laetitia" ("The Joy of Love"), are seen during the document's release at the Vatican April 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Copies of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, “Amoris Laetitia” (“The Joy of Love”), are seen during the document’s release at the Vatican April 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“Francis doesn’t claim to be the final word settling every controversial question. Nor does he claim to offer a comprehensive pastoral plan to be implemented around the planet. His claims are more modest — and for that reason more compelling,” he said.
Many bishops said they did not receive the document ahead of time, as the Vatican seemed to want to prevent the media leaks that occurred with Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical.
The secretary-general’s office of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences did not have an advance copy, but received a link to the exhortation via the Vatican website, available for downloading only once it was announced at the media briefing. Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Philippines, told Catholic News Service in an email he did not have an early copy of “Amoris Laetitia.”
(Contributing to this story were Bronwen Dachs in South Africa, Simon Caldwell in England, David Agren in Mexico, Judith Sudilovsky in Israel, Simone Orendain in the Philippines and Philippe Vaillancourt in Canada).
(Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The CNS news services may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed, including but not limited to, such means as framing or any other digital copying or distribution method in whole or in part, without prior written authority of Catholic News Service.)