Christians have ‘moral duty’ to help migrants, refugees

By Paige Hanley
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis will highlight the important role of memory and storytelling across generations as a way to bring people together in a world marked by discord and division, the Vatican said.
The pope believes that memory – far from being a static, inflexible recollection of the past – has dynamic and transformative power that can influence and foster unity, a Vatican press release said Sept. 29 when it announced the theme of World Communication Day 2020.
The Vatican and many dioceses mark World Communication Day on the Sunday before Pentecost; in 2020 that will be May 24. The Vatican publishes the full message Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists.

Family members from different generations attend an encounter and Mass for the elderly led by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this Sept. 28, 2014, file photo. The pope will highlight the role of memory and storytelling across generations in his message for World Communications Day 2020. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

For next year’s message, the pope chose the theme, “So that you can tell your children and grandchildren. Life creates history.”
The passage, based on the Book of Exodus, highlights the importance of sharing meaningful memories, stories and experiences, so that they may live on and transform the present, the Vatican statement said.
The theme “reminds us that every story is born out of life, from interacting with others,” it said.
Stories are valuable resources which offer “great riches” to their listeners, it said. The insight, knowledge and human connection fostered through effective storytelling is an invaluable asset to the audience.
“Communications is, therefore, called to connect memory with life through stories,” it said, explaining how Jesus used parables to convey “the vital power of the Kingdom of God, leaving his audience free to welcome these narratives and apply them to themselves.”
“These stories are not only alive in the past but continue to guide the lives and beliefs of Catholics today,” it said, adding, “The ability to generate change expresses how powerful a story is.”
The Vatican announcement said the message will call for ongoing dialogue with each other and with the past and will ask everyone to make communications be “an instrument to build bridges, to unite and to share the beauty of being brothers and sisters in a moment of history marked by discord and division.”

Despite human sinfulness, God’s projects will endure

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Catholic Church will endure, despite the frailty and sins of its members, because it is God’s project, Pope Francis said.
Continuing his series of audience talks about the Acts of the Apostles and the early Christian community Sept. 18, Pope Francis looked at the story of Gamaliel, a Pharisee who tried to teach members of the Sanhedrin a key aspect of “discernment,” which is not to rush to judgment, but rather to allow time for something to show itself as worthy or not.
As recounted in Acts 5, Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin not to execute the apostles for preaching Christ, “for if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”
“Every human project can initially drum up consensus, but then go down in flames,” the pope said. But “everything that comes from on high and bears God’s signature is destined to endure.”
“Human projects always fail, they have a (limited) time, like we do,” he said. “Think of the great empires. Think of the dictatorships of the past century; they thought they were so powerful and dominated the world, and then they all crumbled.”

Pope Francis greets pilgrims as he arrives for his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Sept. 18, 2019. The Catholic Church will endure, despite the frailty and sins of its members, because it is God’s project, Pope Francis said during the audience. (CNS photo/Yara Nardi, Reuters)

The most powerful governments and forces today also “will crumble if God is not with them because the strength human beings have on their own is not lasting,” the pope said. “Only the strength of God endures.”
The history of Christianity and of the Catholic Church, even “with so many sins and so many scandals, with so many ugly things,” illustrates the same point, the pope said. “Why hasn’t it crumbled? Because God is there. We are sinners and often, often, we give scandal,” but “the Lord always saves. The strength is God with us.”
The story also shows just how much courage the presence of the Holy Spirit brings, the pope said. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples “all ran away, they fled,” but after the Resurrection, when he sent the Spirit upon them, they became courageous.
Pointing to the 21 Coptic Orthodox beheaded on a beach in Libya in 2015, Pope Francis said the same courage is still seen today in martyrs, who continued to repeat the name of Jesus even as their fate becomes clear. “They did not sell out their faith because the Holy Spirit was with them.”
In the Acts of the Apostles, Gamaliel tells the Sanhedrin that if Jesus was an imposter, his followers eventually would “disappear,” the pope said, but “if, on the other hand, they were following one who was sent by God, then it would be better not to fight them.”
The “wait and see” attitude of Gamaliel is a key part of discernment, Pope Francis said.
“His are calm and farsighted words,” part of a process that urges people to “judge a tree by its fruits” rather than acting hastily, the pope said.
Pope Francis asked people at the audience to join him in praying that the Holy Spirit would “act in us so that, both personally and as a community, we can acquire the habit of discernment” and learn to notice God acting in history and in our brothers and sisters.

Climbers exist inside the church

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – People who race to get top positions often feel superior to others, an attitude that destroys the possibility for fellowship and communion, Pope Francis said.
“We all know these people: climbers, always trying to climb up, up. They hurt brotherhood, they damage brotherhood,” the pope said Sept. 1 during his Sunday Angelus address.
Thousands of pilgrims waited outside St. Peter’s Square to listen to and pray with the pope. However, the pope was late, which is unusual for his Angelus appointment.
Excusing himself for the delay, the pope explained that he was stuck in an elevator for almost a half-hour.
“Thank God the firefighters came – I thank them very much – and after 25 minutes of work they were able to get (the elevator) working. An applause to the firefighters,” he said.
In his address, the pope focused on the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus recounts two parables while dining at the house of a leading Pharisee.
Noticing how many guests rushed to take the place of honor at the table, Jesus exhorted them to be humble and take the last place because “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The pope said that the desire to rise to the top in both “civil and ecclesial” circles happens even today “and not just when someone is invited to lunch.”
Instead of seeking to be first, the pope added, Christians are called to follow Christ who “always shows us the way of humility” because it is “the most authentic one that also allows us to have authentic relationships.”
In the Gospel reading, Jesus also encourages his host to invite the poor, the lame and the blind to his banquet so that he may receive “a divine reward that is much greater” than giving and receiving favors from others, which “usually distorts relationships and commercializes them,” the pope said.
“Humble generosity is Christian,” Pope Francis said. “Jesus invites us to selfless generosity, to open the way for a much greater joy, the joy of being part of the very love of God that awaits us, all of us, in the heavenly banquet.”
After praying the Angelus prayer, the pope announced that he will create 13 new cardinals from around the world Oct. 5, including Canadian Jesuit Father Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Section for Migrants and Refugees at the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
Pope Francis also commemorated the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, an observance begun by the Orthodox Church and now celebrated by many Christians.
The ecumenical day of prayer, he said, “is a favorable time to praise God for all his creatures and the assumption of responsibility in front of the cry of the earth.”

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Pope calls on nations to protect lives, dignity of war victims

By Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY – Marking the anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, Pope Francis urged nations to recall the need to protect the life and dignity of the victims of war and armed conflict.
“Everyone is required to observe the limits imposed by international humanitarian law, protecting unarmed populations and civil structures, especially hospitals, schools, places of worship, refugee camps,” he said, after praying the Angelus with visitors gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 11.
The pope reminded people that Aug. 12 marked the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, which, he said, were “important international legal instruments that impose limits on the use of force and are aimed at protecting civilians and prisoners in time of war.”
“May this anniversary make states increasingly aware of the indispensable need to protect the life and dignity of victims of armed conflicts,” he said.
“And let us not forget that war and terrorism are always a serious loss for all of humanity. They are the great human defeat!”
The Geneva Conventions of 1949 expanded previous international agreements for the humane treatment of military personnel who were wounded or captured, medical personnel and civilians, by including rules protecting prisoners of war from torture and mistreatment, and providing them with suitable housing, sustenance and oversight by the International Red Cross.
New articles also called for protecting wounded, sick and pregnant civilians as well as mothers and children. Civilians should have access to adequate medical care and must not be collectively deported or made to work by occupying forces without pay.

Pope Francis joins prayers for victims of bloody weekend in U.S.

By Rhina Guidos
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Pope Francis joined Catholic Church leaders expressing sorrow after back-to-back mass shootings in the United States left at least 29 dead and dozens injured in Texas and Ohio Aug. 3 and 4.
After the prayer called the Angelus in St Peter’s Square on Aug. 4, the pope said he wanted to convey his spiritual closeness to the victims, the wounded and the families affected by the attacks. He also included those who died a weekend earlier during a shooting at a festival in Gilroy, California.
“I am spiritually close to the victims of the episodes of violence that these days have bloodied Texas, California and Ohio, in the United States, affecting defenseless people,” he said.
He joined bishops in Texas as well as national Catholic organizations and leaders reacting to a bloody first weekend of August, which produced the eighth deadliest gun violence attack in the country after a gunman opened fire in the morning of Aug. 3 at a mall in El Paso, Texas, killing 20 and injuring more than a dozen people.

Shoppers exit with their hands up after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 3, 2019. In Aug 3 tweets, the Catholic dioceses of El Paso, Texas and neighboring Las Cruces, New Mexico asked for prayers for everyone involved at this difficult time. (CNS photo/Jorge Salgado, Reuters)

Less than 24 hours after the El Paso shooting, authorities in Dayton, Ohio, reported at least nine dead and more than a dozen injured after a gunman opened fire on a crowd at or near a bar in the early hours of Aug. 4. The suspected gunman was fatally wounded and police later identified him as 24-year-old Connor Betts, of Bellbrook, Ohio.
On Aug. 4, after the second shooting become public, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of the bishops’ domestic policy committee offered prayers, condolences and urged action.
“The lives lost this weekend confront us with a terrible truth. We can never again believe that mass shootings are an isolated exception. They are an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, in a statement issued jointly with Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“God’s mercy and wisdom compel us to move toward preventative action. We encourage all Catholics to increased prayer and sacrifice for healing and the end of these shootings. We encourage Catholics to pray and raise their voices for needed changes to our national policy and national culture as well,” the statement continued.
In the shooting in El Paso, police arrested 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, of Allen, Texas. Several news organizations said local and federal authorities are investigating whether the shooting was a possible hate crime since the suspected gunman may be linked to a manifesto that speaks of the “Hispanic invasion” of Texas.
On its website, the Diocese of El Paso announced Aug. 4 that Masses would take place as scheduled on Sunday but canceled “out of an abundance of caution” a festival-like celebration called a “kermess,” which is popular among Catholic Latino populations, that was scheduled to take place at Our Lady of the Light Church.
The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas posted a prayer on their website called “Let the shooting end.” They called on lawmakers to enact guns laws “to protect all in our society.”
Immediately after the news of the El Paso shooting, they tweeted: “Our hearts break for the families of those killed and wounded in today’s mass shooting in El Paso. A school, a movie theater, a church, a shopping mall: All places where we should feel safe, all places that have experienced senseless tragedy because of guns.”
Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Dewane said in their Aug. 4 statement that the bishops’ conference has long advocated for responsible gun laws and increased resources for addressing the root causes of violence and called upon the president and congress to set aside political interests “and find ways to better protect innocent life.”

Love of God, love of neighbor are tied together

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Praying that Catholics would understand and act on “the inseparable bond” between love of God and love of neighbor, Pope Francis again appealed for a solution to the crisis in Venezuela.
“We pray that the Lord will inspire and enlighten the parties in conflict so that as soon as possible they arrive at an agreement that puts an end to the suffering of the people for the good of the country and the entire region,” the pope said July 14 after reciting the Angelus prayer.
In early June, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that the number of Venezuelans who had fled the violence, extreme poverty and lack of medicines in their country had reached 4 million since 2015.
In his main Angelus talk, commenting on the Sunday Gospel reading of the story of the good Samaritan, Pope Francis said it teaches that “compassion is the benchmark” of Christianity.

Venezuelan children in La Paz, Bolivia, play with toys next to the Chilean consulate July 1, 2019, while their parents wait for migration documents. Praying that Catholics would understand and act on “the inseparable bond” between love of God and love of neighbor, Pope Francis again appealed for a solution to the crisis in Venezuela after reciting the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican July 14. (CNS photo/David Mercado, Reuters)


Jesus’ story about the Samaritan stopping to help a man who had been robbed and beaten after a priest and Levite just walked by, “makes us understand that we, without our criteria, are not the ones who decide who is our neighbor and who isn’t,” the pope said.
Rather, he said, it is the person in need who identifies the neighbor, finding it in the person who has compassion and stops to help.
“Being able to have compassion; this is the key,” the pope said. “If you stand before a person in need and don’t feel compassion, if your heart is not moved, that means something is wrong. Be attentive.”
“If you are walking down the street and see a homeless person lying there and you pass without looking at him or you think, ‘That’s the wine. He’s a drunk,’ ask yourself if your heart has not become rigid, if your heart has not become ice,” the pope said.
Jesus’ command to be like the good Samaritan, he said, “indicates that mercy toward a human being in need is the true face of love. And that is how you become true disciples of Jesus and show others the Father’s face.”