Preserve Christian identity received at baptism, pope says

By Junno Arocho
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Before baptizing 16 babies in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis reminded parents and godparents of their responsibility to care for and preserve the Christian identity the infants were about to receive.
“This is your task throughout your lives: to guard the Christian identity of your children,” the pope said. “It is a daily commitment: help them grow with the light they receive today.”
The pope baptized the seven boys and nine girls – the children of Vatican employees – in the Sistine Chapel during the celebration of Mass Jan. 9, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
The annual tradition of baptizing infants on the feast day, which began in 1981 by St. John Paul II, was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

Pope Francis greets family members of a newly baptized baby after celebrating Mass marking the feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Jan. 9, 2022. The pope baptized 16 infants. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Although the baptisms resumed this year, the number of infants was significantly reduced. In January 2020, the pope had baptized 32 infants in the Sistine Chapel.
Delivering a brief, off-the-cuff homily, Pope Francis recalled a hymn for the feast day that said the people of Israel went to the Jordan River to be baptized “with bare feet and bare souls.”
“These children today also come here with ‘bare souls’ to receive God’s justification, Jesus’ strength, the strength to move forward in life,” he said. “Your children will receive their Christian identity today. And you, parents and godparents, must guard this identity.”
With the sounds of fussy children filling the frescoed chapel, the pope repeated his usual advice to mothers of infants, encouraging them to make their children comfortable, and to not worry if they start to cry in the chapel.
“This ceremony is a bit long, the children then feel uncomfortable here in an environment they do not know. Please, they are the protagonists: make sure that they are not too hot, that they feel comfortable,” Pope Francis said.
“If they are hungry, breast feed them here, in front of the Lord, no problem,” he added. “And if they cry out, let them cry out, because they have a community spirit, let’s say a ‘band spirit,’ a spirit of ensemble, and all it takes is for one to start – because everyone is musical – and immediately the orchestra comes! Let them cry, let them feel free.”

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Negar la dignidad de trabajo es una injusticia, dice el papa

Por Junno Arocho Esteves

Catholic News Service

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) — El trabajo de San José como humilde carpintero sirve como un ejemplo de la dignidad del trabajo duro que hoy en día a menudo se le niega a los necesitados, dijo el papa Francisco.

“Muchos jóvenes, muchos padres y madres viven el calvario de no tener un trabajo que les permita vivir tranquilos, solo viven el día a día. Y cuántas veces la búsqueda de trabajo se vuelve tan desesperada que los lleva al punto de perder toda esperanza y deseo de vivir”, dijo el papa el 12 de enero durante su audiencia general semanal.

El valor del trabajo pesado también se explota en el mundo actual, agregó, donde muchas personas, incluidos los trabajadores indocumentados, se ven obligados a realizar tareas agotadoras por salarios injustos y los niños, “que deberían estar jugando”, en cambio, se ven “obligados a trabajar como un adultos.”

Sofia, Bulgaria – 6 May, 2019: (Photo by BigStock)

“Son nuestros hermanos y hermanas, los que se ganan la vida así, con trabajos que no reconocen su dignidad. ¡Pensemos en esto, esto está pasando hoy en el mundo!” él dijo.

El papa Francisco continuaba su serie de charlas de audiencia sobre San José, reflexionando sobre su trabajo como carpintero.

El trabajo de un carpintero, o alguien que trabajaba la madera, en esos tiempos, explicó el papa, implicaba no solo fabricar herramientas o muebles, sino también construir casas. Desde el punto de vista económico, “no aseguraba grandes ganancias”.

El papa Francisco dijo que el hecho de que San José, al igual que Jesús, practicaran la carpintería le hacían pensar en “todos los trabajadores del mundo, especialmente a los que hacen trabajos arduos en las minas y fábricas”, así como a “los que son explotados a través del trabajo indocumentado” y las “víctimas del trabajo”, que se lesionan o mueren en el trabajo debido a condiciones de trabajo inseguras.

También llamó a los cristianos a recordar a aquellos que están sin trabajo y que regresan a casa todos los días, sin éxito en sus esfuerzos por “ganarse el pan”.

“Ganar el pan es lo que te da dignidad y si no le damos a nuestro pueblo, a nuestros hombres y mujeres, la capacidad de ganarse el pan, esto es una injusticia social en ese lugar, en esa nación, en ese continente”, dijo el papa. “Los líderes deben dar a todos la capacidad de ganarse el pan, porque ese ganarse les da dignidad”.

Partiendo de sus comentarios preparados, el papa pidió un momento de oración en silencio por aquellos que perdieron sus trabajos durante la pandemia y por aquellos que, “aplastados por una carga insoportable, llegaron al punto de quitarse la vida”.

“Me gustaría recordar a cada uno de ellos y sus familias hoy. Hagamos un momento de silencio, recordando a estos hombres, estas mujeres, que están desesperados porque no pueden encontrar trabajo”, dijo el papa antes de inclinar la cabeza en oración.

El papa Francisco invitó a las personas presentes a pensar qué pueden hacer “para recuperar el valor del trabajo” y qué puede hacer la Iglesia “para que el trabajo se redima de la lógica del mero lucro y se viva como un derecho y un deber fundamental de la persona, que expresa y aumenta su dignidad”.

Concluyó su intervención con una oración a San José recitada por San Pablo VI en 1969, pidiendo la intercesión del santo para “proteger a los trabajadores en su dura existencia diaria” y defenderlos “del desánimo”.

Christmas is time for sharing, not commercialism, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Christmas tree and Nativity crèche should evoke the joy and the peace of God’s love and not the selfish indulgence of consumerism and indifference, Pope Francis said.

Meeting Dec. 10 with delegations from Andalo in Italy’s Trentino-South Tyrol region and from Peru’s Huancavelica region – responsible, respectively, for the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square – the pope said the traditional Christmas symbols bring an atmosphere that is “rich in tenderness, sharing and family closeness.”

“Let us not live a fake, commercial Christmas! Let us allow ourselves to be enveloped by God’s closeness, by the Christmas atmosphere that art, music, songs and traditions bring to our heart,” he said.

The delegations were at the Vatican for the evening ceremony to light the Vatican Christmas tree and unveil the Nativity scene. However, the Vatican announced earlier that due to less-than-favorable weather predictions for the evening, the traditional outdoor ceremony would be held inside the Paul VI hall.

Figures of Joseph and Mary are seen in the Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square after a lighting ceremony at the Vatican Dec. 10, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In the evening, despite the rain and cold temperatures, dozens gathered in St. Peter’s Square to witness the lighting of the Christmas tree. In the audience hall, the sounds of festive holiday music in Quechua played as videos of a children’s choir from Huancavelica were shown to commemorate the Andean-inspired crèche.

The Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square featured 30 statues depicting Mary, Joseph, the Three Kings, shepherds and various flora and fauna from Huancavelica. The figures were dressed in the traditional bright, multicolored garments of the region’s Indigenous Chopcca people.
During the meeting with Pope Francis, the two delegations were joined by a group of young men and women from a parish in Padua who created the Nativity scene displayed in the audience hall.

Expressing his gratitude to the delegations for their gifts, the pope said the traditional garments worn by the figures in the Nativity scene “represent the people of the Andes and symbolize the universal call to salvation.”

“Jesus came to the world through the concreteness of a people to save every man and woman, of all cultures and nationalities. He made himself small so that we might welcome him and receive the gift of God’s tenderness,” he said.

He also said the spruce tree was a “sign of Christ” and a reminder of God’s gift of uniting “himself with humankind forever.”

As Christmas festivities draw near, Pope Francis said the créche remains a symbol of hope that God “never tires of us” and that he chose to dwell among men and women “not as one who stands on high to dominate, but as the one who stoops low, small and poor, to serve.”

“For it to be truly Christmas, let us not forget this,” the pope said. “God comes to be with us and asks us to take care of our brothers and sisters, especially the poorest, the weakest and the most fragile, those whom the pandemic risks marginalizing even more.”

Advent during pandemic remains a season of compassion, pope says

By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – With Advent coming during an ongoing pandemic, Christians are called to hold on to hope and foster a season of compassion and tenderness, Pope Francis said.

During Advent this year, too, “its lights will be dimmed by the consequences of the pandemic, which still weighs heavily on our time,” he said Nov. 22. “All the more reason why we are called to question ourselves and not to lose hope.”

“The feast of the birth of Christ is not out of tune with the trial we are going through because it is the quintessential feast of compassion, the feast of tenderness. Its beauty is humble and full of human warmth,” the pope said during an audience with organizers and participants in a Christmas music contest. The contest was proposed and promoted by the Pontifical Foundation Gravissimum Educationis and Don Bosco Valdocco Missions association, based in Turin.

The contest invited people between the ages of 16 and 35 to produce new songs inspired by Christmas and its values: life, love, peace and light, according to the initiative’s website, christmascontest.it/en/. Contestants were competing in three categories: lyrics, music and interpretation, and the best three pieces will be performed during the 2021 edition of the annual Christmas concert at the Vatican.

Pope Francis leaves after celebrating Mass for the feast of Christ the King in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican Nov. 21, 2021. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

The pope thanked the groups who came up with the idea for the contest, “which gives voice to the young, inviting them to create new songs inspired by Christmas and its values.”

“The beauty of Christmas shines through in the sharing of small gestures of genuine love. It is not alienating, it is not superficial, it is not evasive,” he said.

The beauty of Christmas “expands the heart, opening it up to gratuitousness – gratuitousness, a word artists understand well! – to the giving of self,” and it can also foster cultural, social and educational life and activities, he added.

Pope Francis quoted what St. Paul VI told artists during Advent in 1965: “This world in which we live needs beauty in order not to sink into despair.”

It must not be the false beauty “made of appearances and earthly riches, which are hollow and a generator of emptiness,” Pope Francis said. It must be the real beauty “of a God made flesh, the one of faces — the beauty of faces, the beauty of stories” and the beauty of “creatures that make up our common home.”

He thanked the young people, artists and other participants “for not forgetting to be custodians of this beauty that the nativity of the Lord makes shine in every daily gesture of love, sharing and service.

World needs people who are passionate about caring for others, pope says

By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – People need to be passionate about serving others and caring for those who suffer, Pope Francis said.

“Lord, we entrust to your heart the vocation of care – let us make every person who approaches us in need feel special,” he said in a homily to medical and teaching staff, students, patients and others at a Mass held outside the medical school connected to Rome’s Gemelli hospital, where he was a patient for 10 days in July.

The pope presided over the Mass at Rome’s University of the Sacred Heart, Nov. 5 – the first Friday of the month, which many devote to the sacred heart of Jesus. The university, which was founded in Milan and has four satellite campuses in Italy, is one of the largest Catholic universities in the world and is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The Mass marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of the university’s Agostino Gemelli Department of Medicine and Surgery in Rome, known informally as “the pope’s hospital” as it is where popes typically go for medical treatment. Pope Francis underwent colon surgery there in July.

Pope Francis holds the Eucharist as he celebrates Mass at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome Nov. 5, 2021. The Mass marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the university’s faculty of medicine. Also pictured is Msgr. Diego Giovanni Ravelli, the new master of papal liturgical ceremonies. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

In his homily, the pope recognized the fatigue and challenges medical staff face, not just in their day-to-day duties, but also when it comes to dealing with rare or undetected diseases and wanting to give everyone the same high-quality health care.

“We might get discouraged. This is why we need comfort,” he said. Comfort can be found in Jesus’ sacred heart, “which beats for us, always to the rhythm of those words, ‘Have courage, do not be afraid, I am here.’”

“Have courage brothers and sisters, do not give up, the Lord, your God, is greater than your ills, he takes you by the hand and caresses you, he is near, compassionate and gentle. He is your comfort,” the pope said.

People, particularly those in the field of health care, also need the strength of memory, he said. Reflecting on the sacred heart of Jesus reminds people of the boundless goodness and love he offers freely and unconditionally.

People are usually so busy each day that they forget to remember this love and to feel the same compassion for others, he said.

During “this time of pandemic, it would be good for us to also remember those more trying times, not to make us sad, but to not forget and to guide us in our choices with the light of a very recent past,” he said.

The “art of remembering” should be practiced by not letting the day end in exhaustion but rather by taking note of and appreciating all the faces, smiles and friendly exchanges that happened throughout the day, he said.

Remembering these small gestures are important for giving meaning to those who are ill, too, he said, explaining that the “therapy of remembering” restores and heals the heart.

Jesus’ sacred heart also reflects how important passion is, the pope said.

“If we want to truly love God, we have to become passionate about humanity, each person,” above all those who live in pain and who are abandoned or discarded, he said.

“Let us ask for the grace to become passionate about people who suffer, about service, so that the church, before saying anything, safeguards a heart that pulsates with love,” he said.

Papa: Justicia, paz y la ecología se basan en los valores del Evangelio

Por Catholic News Service

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) — El Evangelio lleva a los católicos a trabajar por la justicia y la paz y la protección del medio ambiente, pero los retos son tan grandes que trabajar con miembros de otras religiones y personas de buena voluntad es esencial, dijo el papa Francisco.

“El cuidado de nuestra casa común y de la fraternidad y la amistad social” son caminos que “tienen su origen en el Evangelio de Cristo, y sobre esta base podemos avanzar junto a muchos hombres y mujeres de otras denominaciones cristianas, de otras religiones e incluso con aquellos que no tengan una pertenencia religiosa particular”, dijo el papa.

El Papa Francisco toca la imagen de la Virgen Maria a la conclusión de la Misa por la Festividad de Cristo Rey en la Basílica de San Pedro en el Vaticano , noviembre 21,2021. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

El aliento del papa Francisco a la colaboración fue parte del discurso del 17 de noviembre a los oficiales de justicia y paz de las conferencias episcopales y órdenes religiosas nacionales y regionales.

El Dicasterio Vaticano para la Promoción del Desarrollo Humano Integral celebró una reunión en línea el 17 de noviembre con representantes de las comisiones de justicia y paz de Europa, Oceanía, África y Asia, y el 18 de noviembre con sus homólogos de América Latina, el Caribe, Canadá y Estados Unidos.

El dicasterio dijo que las reuniones estaban diseñadas para promover la colaboración entre las comisiones locales y la oficina del Vaticano, y encontrar un balance de los desafíos nacionales y regionales a la justicia, la paz y la integridad de la creación y para “fomentar la creación de una red de estas comisiones incluso mediante el intercambio de experiencias y buenas prácticas”.

El papa Francisco dijo que las comisiones “tienen la tarea de difundir y dar a conocer la doctrina social de la iglesia, trabajando activamente por la protección de la dignidad de la persona humana y sus derechos, con una opción preferencial por los pobres y los más necesitados”.

Abogando por “la justicia social, económica y ecológica, y por la construcción de la paz”, dijo, las comisiones pueden extraer de sus encíclicas “Laudato Si'” sobre ecología integral y de “Fratelli Tutti” sobre la fraternidad mientras buscan dirigirse a cuestiones que encuentra en las comunidades locales.

La pandemia de COVID-19, dijo, “ha puesto de manifiesto numerosas contradicciones en el sistema económico y político, al tiempo que persisten desafíos no resueltos que requieren el esfuerzo conjunto de muchos actores. Los exhorto, por tanto, a abordar estas cuestiones también en colaboración con otras realidades eclesiales y civiles —locales, regionales e internacionales— comprometidas con la promoción de la justicia y la paz”.

Church’s social teaching needed to combat greed, injustice, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – With many people around the world facing exclusion and inequality, the social teaching of the Catholic Church can inspire new economic systems that are more “people-centered,” Pope Francis said.

Christians must not “remain indifferent” to those affected by an “economic system that continues to discard people’s lives in the name of the god of money, fostering greed and destructive attitudes toward the resources of the earth and fueling various forms of injustice,” the pope said Oct. 23.

“Our response to injustice and exploitation must be more than mere condemnation,” he said. “First and foremost, it must be the active promotion of good: condemnation of what is wrong, yet promotion of what is good.”

The pope addressed participants of an international conference sponsored by the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation. The two-day conference reflected on “Solidarity, Cooperation and Responsibility: The antidotes to fight injustices, inequalities and exclusions.”

Established in 1993, the foundation seeks to promote the teaching of St. John Paul II’s 1991 encyclical on social and economic justice.

Pope Francis praised the foundation for its “commitment to financing study and research by young people on new models of economic and social development inspired by the church’s social doctrine.”

“This is important and greatly needed: in soil contaminated by the predominance of finance, we need to sow many small seeds that can bear fruit in an economy that is equitable and beneficial, humane and people-centered. We need possibilities able to become realities, and realities able to offer hope. This means putting into practice the social teaching of the church,” he said.

Reflecting on the conference’s theme, the pope said that solidarity, cooperation and responsibility represent the “three pillars of the church’s social teaching,” which places the human person at the center of “the social, economic and political order.”

Rather than an individualistic world view, the church’s teaching is based on the word of God that “seeks to promote integral human development on the basis of our faith in the God who became man.”

“In every sphere of life, today more than ever, we are bound to witness our concern for others, to think not only of ourselves, and to commit ourselves freely to the development of a more just and equitable society where forms of selfishness and partisan interests do not prevail,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said Christians must be inspired by the teachings of Jesus and care for others with a “love that transcends borders and limits,” giving witness that “it is possible to pass beyond the walls of selfishness and personal and national interest.”

“We can be ‘brothers and sisters all,’ and so we can and must think and work as ‘brothers and sisters of all,’” he said. “This may seem to be an unrealistic utopia. But we prefer to believe that it is a dream that can come true. For it is the dream of the triune God. With his help, it is a dream that can begin to become reality, also in our world.”

Pope Francis leads an audience with members of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation at the Vatican Oct. 23, 2021. The organization promotes the social teaching of the Catholic Church, in particular the teaching in St. John Paul II’s Encyclical Centesimus Annus. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Papa nombra a una mujer para dirigir secretaría en el Vaticano

Por Cindy Wooden

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) — El papa Francisco nombró a la hermana Raffaella Petrini, miembro italiana de las Hermanas Franciscanas de la Eucaristía con sede en Estados Unidos, como secretaria general de la oficina que gobierna el estado de la Ciudad del Vaticano.

El nombramiento, que incluye departamentos de supervisión tan diversos como los Museos Vaticanos, la oficina de correos y la fuerza policial, convierte a la romana de 52 años en la mujer de más alto rango en el Vaticano.

Anteriormente, el cargo lo ocupaba un sacerdote, que fue nombrado obispo poco después de convertirse en secretario general.

El papa Francisco saluda a la Hermana Raffaella Petrini, de las Hermanas Franciscanas de la Eucaristía con sede en Estados Unidos, en el Vaticano el 3 de diciembre de 2015. El papa nombró a la Hermana Petrini como secretaria general de la oficina que gobierna el Estado de la Ciudad del Vaticano. (Foto CNS/Vatican Media)

La hermana Petrini tiene un doctorado en ciencias sociales de la Pontificia Universidad de Santo Tomás de Aquino en Roma y una maestría en ciencias en comportamiento organizacional de la escuela de negocios Barney en la Universidad de Hartford, Connecticut. Además de trabajar en la Congregación para la Evangelización de los Pueblos desde 2005, imparte cursos de sociología y economía en la Universidad de Santo Tomás de Aquino.

Los nombramientos de la hermana Petrini y de un nuevo vicesecretario general, Giuseppe Puglisi-Alibrandi, ex jefe de la oficina legal de la gobernación, fueron anunciados por el Vaticano el 4 de noviembre.

La hermana Petrini sucede al arzobispo Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, quien fue nombrado arzobispo y presidente de la comisión que gobierna el estado de la Ciudad del Vaticano el 1 de octubre.

Otras mujeres nombradas por el papa Francisco sirven en el puesto número 2 de varios cargos, al igual que lo hará la hermana Petrini, pero comparten el cargo con un colega masculino o se les ha asignado el cargo de manera temporal, al menos inicialmente. Ninguna de las otras oficinas emplea a tantas personas como la oficina del gobernador del Vaticano.

En agosto, el papa Francisco nombró a la salesiana Sor Alessandra Smerilli secretaria interina del Dicasterio para la Promoción del Desarrollo Humano Integral, y en febrero nombró a la Hermana Misionera Xavière Nathalie Becquart como una de las dos subsecretarias del Sínodo de los Obispos. El otro subsecretario nombrado fue el padre agustino Luis Marín de San Martín, quien fue nombrado obispo.

By listening to Holy Spirit, synod can be process of healing, pope says

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A synod calls on everyone to become experts in “the art of encounter” in a way that is uplifting and transformative, Pope Francis said, formally opening the process leading up to the assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2023.

“Celebrating a synod means walking on the same road, together” just like Jesus did – encountering, listening and discerning with all who one meets, the pope said in his homily at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Oct. 10.

“Are we prepared for the adventure of this journey? Or are we fearful of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: ‘It’s useless’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way?’” he asked.

Some 3,000 people attended the Mass, including the 270 people – cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and laypeople – invited to the day of reflection in the Vatican Synod Hall Oct. 9.

The weekend of events began the “synodal journey,” which will explore the theme, “For a synodal church: communion, participation and mission.” Bishops around the world were to open the process in their dioceses Oct. 17. The diocesan phase, which runs until April, will focus on listening to and consulting the people of God.

In his homily, the pope said they should begin the synodal process “by asking ourselves – all of us, pope, bishops, priests, religious and laity – whether we, the Christian community, embody this ‘style’ of God, who travels the paths of history and shares in the life of humanity.”

The day’s Gospel reading (Mk 10:17-30) of Jesus setting out on a journey and encountering a rich man offers just one example of how Jesus “walks alongside people and listens to the questions and concerns lurking in their hearts,” he said. “He shows us that God is not found in neat and orderly places, distant from reality, but walks ever at our side.”

Celebrating a synod, he said, means walking on the same road as others and living out the “three verbs” that characterize a synod: to encounter, listen and discern.

“We too are called to become experts in the art of encounter. Not so much by organizing events or theorizing about problems as in taking time to encounter the Lord and one another,” to devote time to prayer and adoration, and to listen to what the Holy Spirit wants to say to the church, the pope said.

Jesus shows that an encounter has the power to change someone’s life – “the Gospel is full of such encounters with Christ, encounters that uplift and bring healing,” the pope said. In fact, Jesus was never in a hurry, and he would never have looked at a watch to signal it was time to wrap things up. “He was always at the service of people he met in order to listen to them.”

Pope Francis raises the Book of the Gospels as he celebrates a Mass to open the process that will lead up to the assembly of the world Synod of Bishops in 2023, in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

Each encounter requires “openness, courage and a willingness to let ourselves be challenged by the presence and the stories of others,” the pope said. It means not hiding behind a facade or stiff formalities indicative of a spirit of clericalism or of courtiers, but it means being a father.

To that end, the pope said he would be meeting a group of people who live on the streets later that day. He said they had already started meeting because another group of people had gone to listen to them and from there, “they have been able to begin the journey.”

Sincere listening involves the heart, not just the ears, Pope Francis said. The aim is not to be able to answer people’s questions, especially with pre-packaged or “artificial and shallow responses,” but to provide an opportunity to tell one’s story and speak freely.

“Whenever we listen with the heart, people feel that they are being heard, not judged; they feel free to recount their own experiences and their spiritual journey,” he said.

Listening to one another “is a slow and perhaps tiring exercise” but it must be done, including listening to “the questions, concerns and hopes of every church, people and nation,” and to the “challenges and changes” that world presents, he added.

Encountering and listening “are not ends in themselves” where everything stays the same, but must lead to discernment, he said.

“Whenever we enter into dialogue, we allow ourselves to be challenged, to advance on a journey. And in the end, we are no longer the same; we are changed,” he said.

The synod is “a journey of spiritual discernment that takes place in adoration, in prayer and in dialogue with the word of God,” the pope said.

Defend life, promote access to health care for all

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The fear, sickness, death, mourning and economic impacts of COVID-19 should make people who are relatively well off and have access to health care think about “what it means to be vulnerable and live in precariousness on a daily basis,” Pope Francis told members of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Acknowledging how people are “worn down” and tired of hearing or thinking about the coronavirus, the pope insisted the challenges and suffering of the past 18 months would make sense only if people learned from them.

Meeting members of the Pontifical Academy for Life Sept. 27, Pope Francis urged them to find new ways to collaborate with other physicians, researchers, scholars and theologians in defending human life at every stage of its development and in every condition of health or frailty.

The Catholic Church cannot “water down” the truth that the defense of life includes opposition to abortion and euthanasia – the clearest signs today of a “throwaway culture,” he said. But it also includes continuing the traditional Catholic advocacy for the right to health care for all people.

While disease is a natural occurrence, it often also is the result of human action or inaction, and responses to it are the result of social and political choices, Pope Francis said.

“Moreover, it is not enough for a problem to be serious for it to attract attention and be addressed” with the same kind of global commitment that is being seen in response to COVID, he said. In fact, “very serious problems are ignored because of a lack of adequate commitment.”

“Think of the devastating impact of certain diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis,” he said. “Every year, millions of avoidable deaths occur in the world. If we compare this reality with the concern that the COVID-19 pandemic has provoked, we see how the perception of the gravity of the problem and the corresponding mobilization of energy and resources is very different.”

Pope Francis speaks during a meeting with members of the Pontifical Academy for Life in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Sept. 27, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

And while global measures to stop the spread of COVID and to get people vaccinated are good, he said, one cannot ignore the fact that millions of people do not have access to clean water or adequate food.

“I do not know whether to laugh or cry, sometimes I weep, when we hear government or community leaders advising the inhabitants of the slums to wash several times a day with soap and water. My dear, you have never been in a slum: there is no water there and they don’t have soap,” he said.

Statistically “variables such as salary level, educational qualification and neighborhood of residence, even in the same city,” also make a huge difference, he said.

“We affirm that life and health are equally fundamental values for all, based on the inalienable dignity of the human person, but if this affirmation is not followed by an appropriate commitment to overcome the inequalities,” he said, “we in fact accept the painful reality that not all lives are equal, and health is not protected for all in the same way.”
“Here I would like to reiterate my concern that there will always be a free health care system,” he said. For countries that have a free health care system, “don’t lose it, because otherwise only those who can pay for it will have the right to health care and the others will not.”

Universal health care plans, he said, “help to overcome inequalities.”