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.”

La Esquina del Papa

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) – Todos, pero especialmente los menos y más frágiles, son amados por Dios y tienen un lugar en la iglesia y en el mundo, dijo el Papa Francisco a un movimiento católico que trabaja con personas con discapacidad intelectual y sus familias. La existencia del movimiento, “Foi et Lumière” (Fe y Luz), es profética, dijo el Papa,

Pope Francis

porque “a menudo las personas más frágiles son descartadas, consideradas inútiles. Tu profecía es aún más importante hoy para combatir la cultura del descarte y para recordar a todos que la diversidad es una riqueza y nunca debe convertirse en un motivo de exclusión y discriminación”, dijo en su discurso al grupo en el Vaticano el 2 de octubre. Fundada hace 50 años durante una peregrinación de personas con discapacidad intelectual, sus amigos y familia a Lourdes, el movimiento “Fe y Luz” y sus comunidades están presentes en muchos países de los cinco continentes hoy, dijo el Papa. El movimiento lleva “un mensaje de amor y bienvenida”, que es el núcleo del mensaje del Evangelio, dijo. “Nos recuerda que todas las personas, incluso y especialmente las más pequeñas y frágiles, son amadas por Dios y tienen un lugar en la iglesia y en el mundo.”

Through baptism, all Christians are united and equal in Christ, pope says

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – There is no place for discrimination or divisive distinctions among people who believe in Christ, Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience.

That everyone is made new and equal in Christ overcomes all ethnic, economic and social differences, even between the two sexes, “establishing an equality between man and woman which was revolutionary at the time and which needs to be reaffirmed even today,” he said Sept. 8 to those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican.
“How many times we hear expressions that denigrate women,” he said, adding that even today women experience a kind of slavery in which “women do not have the same opportunities as men.”

The pope continued his series of talks on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians by looking at what faith in Christ brings.
With faith and baptism, people become new creatures, “clothed” with Christ and children of God in Christ, the apostle writes. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is no male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The pope said this shows how “baptism, therefore, is not merely an external rite. Those who receive it are transformed deep within, in their inmost being, and possess new life” with an identity that is so new “that it prevails over the differences that exist on the ethnic-religious level” and social and economic levels.

St. Paul’s teaching was “shocking” and “revolutionary” at a time when distinctions, for example, between slaves and free citizens “was vital in ancient society,” the pope said.

Pope Francis is pictured during his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Sept. 8, 2021. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“By law, free citizens enjoyed all rights, while the human dignity of slaves was not even recognized,” he said.
The same thing is happening to many people in the world today, “who do not have the right to eat, who do not have the right to education, who do not have the right to work. They are the new slaves. They are the ones who live on the margins, who are exploited by everyone” and whose human dignity is denied, he said.

“Equality in Christ overcomes the social differences between the two sexes, establishing an equality between man and woman,” he said, calling for a reaffirmation of this truth.

St. Paul “confirms the profound unity that exists between all the baptized, in whatever condition they are bound to, because every one of them is a new creature in Christ. Every distinction becomes secondary to the dignity of being children of God.”

Therefore, “it is decisive even for all of us today to rediscover the beauty of being children of God, to be brothers and sisters among ourselves, because we have been united in Christ, who redeemed us,” he said.

Differences and conflicts caused by separation “should not exist among believers in Christ,” he said, cautioning against creating differences between people, “many times unconsciously.”

“Rather, our vocation is that of making concrete and evident the call to unity of the entire human race.”

“Everything that exacerbates the differences between people, often causing discrimination – all of this, before God, no longer has any meaning, thanks to the salvation effected in Christ.”

Complaining, blaming others is a waste of time, pope says at Angelus

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Complaining is a poison that causes anger, resentment and sadness, and closes one’s heart to God, Pope Francis said.

“Let us ask in prayer for the grace not to waste time polluting the world with complaints, because this is not Christian,” the pope told those gathered in St. Peter’s Square Aug. 29 during his Sunday Angelus address.

“Jesus instead invites us to look at life and the world starting from our heart” because, by looking inside, people will find “almost all that we despise outside,” he said.

When people sincerely ask God “to purify our heart, that is when we will start making the world cleaner” because the best way to defeat evil is “by starting to conquer it within yourself,” the pope said.

The pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Mark in which Jesus explains why he does not follow some of the rituals of purification, saying God knows when people honor him “with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Jesus told the crowd that the things that defile people do not come from the outside world, but from within themselves, from their hearts and “evil thoughts.”

Pope Francis said, “this also pertains to us. We often think that evil comes mainly from the outside: from other people’s conduct, from those who think badly of us, from society.”

“How often we blame others, society, the world, for everything that happens to us! It is always the fault of ‘others,’” including those who govern, misfortune and so on, he said.

But all that time spent blaming others “is wasting time,” he said.

“We become angry, bitter and keep God away from our heart,” he said. “One cannot be truly religious in complaining: complaining poisons, it leads you to anger, to resentment and to sadness, that of the heart, which closes the door to God.”

The first step on the path of holiness, according to the first fathers of the church, was “to blame yourself,” the pope said.

“It is wisdom: learning to blame yourself. Try to do it, it will do you good. It does me good, when I manage to do so, but it is good for us,” he said. He prayed that Mary would help people purify their hearts by letting go of “the vice of blaming others and complaining about everything.”

After the Angelus, the pope greeted members of the Laudato Si’ movement.

He thanked them “for your commitment to our common home, particularly on the World Day of Prayer for Creation” Sept. 1 and the Season of Creation that runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4.

“The cry of the earth and the cry of the poor are becoming ever more serious and alarming, and they call for a decisive and urgent action to transform this crisis into an opportunity,” he said.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 29, 2021. The pope appealed for intensified prayers and fasting for the situation in Afghanistan. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Quejarse, culpar a los demás es una pérdida de tiempo, dice el Papa en el Ángelus

Por Carol Glatz

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) – Quejarse es un veneno que causa ira, resentimiento y tristeza, y cierra el corazón a Dios, dijo el Papa Francisco.

“Pidamos en oración la gracia de no perder el tiempo contaminando el mundo con quejas, porque esto no es cristiano”, dijo el Papa a los reunidos en la Plaza de San Pedro el 29 de agosto durante su discurso del Ángelus dominical.

“Jesús en cambio nos invita a mirar la vida y el mundo desde nuestro corazón” porque, al mirar hacia adentro, la gente encontrará “casi todo lo que despreciamos afuera”, dijo.

Cuando la gente le pide sinceramente a Dios “que purifique nuestro corazón, es cuando comenzaremos a hacer el mundo más limpio” porque la mejor manera de vencer el mal es “comenzando a conquistarlo dentro de uno mismo”, dijo el Papa.

El Papa reflexionó sobre la lectura dominical del Evangelio de San Marcos en la que Jesús explica por qué no sigue algunos de los rituales de purificación, diciendo que Dios sabe cuando la gente lo honra “con los labios, pero su corazón está lejos de mí”. Jesús le dijo a la multitud que las cosas que contaminan a las personas no provienen del mundo exterior, sino de dentro de ellos mismos, de sus corazones y de sus “malos pensamientos”.

El Papa Francisco dijo, “esto también nos atañe a nosotros. A menudo pensamos que el mal proviene principalmente del exterior: de la conducta de otras personas, de quienes piensan mal de nosotros, de la sociedad “.

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Aug. 29, 2021. The pope appealed for intensified prayers and fasting for the situation in Afghanistan. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“¡Cuán a menudo culpamos a los demás, a la sociedad, al mundo, por todo lo que nos pasa! Siempre es culpa de ‘otros’ ”, incluidos los que gobiernan, la desgracia, etc., dijo.

Pero todo ese tiempo dedicado a culpar a los demás “es una pérdida de tiempo”, dijo.

“Nos enojamos, nos amargamos y alejamos a Dios de nuestro corazón”, dijo. “No se puede ser verdaderamente religioso al quejarse: quejarse es veneno, te lleva a la ira, al resentimiento y a la tristeza, la del corazón, que cierra la puerta a Dios”.

El primer paso en el camino de la santidad, según los primeros padres de la iglesia, fue “culparse a sí mismo”, dijo el Papa.

“Es sabiduría: aprender a culparse a sí mismo. Intenta hacerlo, te hará bien. Me hace bien, cuando lo logro, pero es bueno para nosotros,” dijo. Rezó para que María ayudara a las personas a purificar sus corazones dejando de lado “el vicio de culpar a los demás y quejarse de todo”.

Después del Ángelus, el Papa saludó a los miembros del Movimiento Laudato Si ’. Les agradeció “por su compromiso con nuestra casa común, particularmente en el Día Mundial de Oración por la Creación” el 1 de septiembre y la Temporada de la Creación que va del 1 de septiembre al 4 de octubre.

“El grito de la tierra y el grito de los pobres son cada vez más graves y alarmantes, y exigen una acción decisiva y urgente para transformar esta crisis en una oportunidad”, dijo.

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) – Si bien las reformas financieras en el Vaticano avanzan de manera constante, los casos de corrupción y malversación en la Ciudad Eterna son “una enfermedad en la que recaemos”, dijo el Papa Francisco. En una amplia entrevista transmitida el 1 de septiembre por COPE, la estación de radio española propiedad de la conferencia episcopal española, el Papa Francisco dijo que los cambios realizados en las leyes financieras del Vaticano han permitido a los fiscales “volverse más independientes” en sus investigaciones. “Esperemos que estos pasos que estamos tomando … ayuden a que estos eventos sucedan cada vez menos”, dijo. Durante la entrevista, se le preguntó al Papa sobre el juicio del Vaticano contra 10 personas y entidades, incluido el cardenal Angelo Becciu, ex prefecto de la Congregación para las Causas de los Santos, por cargos que van desde malversación de fondos hasta lavado de dinero y abuso de poder. Los cargos se derivaron de una investigación del Vaticano sobre cómo la Secretaría de Estado usó 200 millones de dólares para financiar un proyecto de desarrollo inmobiliario en el elegante distrito londinense de Chelsea e incurrió en deudas de millones de dólares. En ese momento, el entonces arzobispo Becciu se desempeñaba como “sostituto”, el puesto número 3 en la Secretaría de Estado del Vaticano. El cardenal Becciu se vio obligado a ofrecer su renuncia al Papa en septiembre de 2020, después de que fuera acusado de malversar unos 100.000 euros de fondos del Vaticano y redirigirlos a Spes, una organización de Caritas dirigida por su hermano, Tonino Becciu, en su diócesis de origen. Ozieri, Cerdeña.

CIUDAD DEL VATICANO (CNS) – En su primera entrevista desde que se sometió a una cirugía en julio, el Papa Francisco criticó los intentos occidentales de imponer la democracia en otros países tras la retirada de Estados Unidos en Afganistán. En una entrevista de 90 minutos con COPE, la cadena de radio propiedad de la conferencia episcopal española, transmitida el 1 de septiembre, el Papa comentó sobre los “20 años de ocupación y luego salida” de Estados Unidos de Afganistán. Sin embargo, atribuyó erróneamente una cita a la canciller alemana, Angela Merkel, que criticaba los intentos de imponer la democracia en otros países; lo dijo el presidente ruso Vladimir Putin. “Es necesario detener la política irresponsable de imponer sus propios valores a los demás y los intentos de construir la democracia en otros países sobre la base de modelos externos sin tener en cuenta los problemas históricos, étnicos y religiosos e ignorando por completo las tradiciones de otras personas”, dijo Putin durante un agosto. 20 encuentro con Merkel en Moscú. “Conciso y concluyente”, dijo el Papa sobre la cita. “Creo que esto dice mucho; y todos pueden interpretarlo como quieran. Pero ahí sentí sabiduría en lo que dijo esta mujer”. El Papa dijo que la situación en Afganistán es una señal más de que “vivimos en un mundo de guerras” y “que como pastor, debo llamar a los cristianos a un momento especial de oración”. “Voy a intentar pedir lo que la iglesia siempre pide en tiempos de gran dificultad y crisis: más oración y ayuno”, dijo. “Oración, penitencia y ayuno, que es lo que se pide en los momentos de crisis”.

Look to Christ, not the law, to receive new life

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – What made Christian life radically new was the call for those who have faith in Jesus Christ to live in the Holy Spirit, who liberates from the law God handed down to Moses, Pope Francis said during his weekly general audience.

Mosaic law was necessary and important to follow at that time in history, but it served as a path to follow toward an eventual encounter with Christ and his commandment of love, he said Aug. 11 to those gathered in the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican.

The pope continued with his series of talks reflecting on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, focusing on the apostle answering the question, “Why, then, the law” if, after all, “there is the Holy Spirit and if there is Jesus who redeems us?”
“The law is a journey” and it acts like a teacher that takes people by the hand, leading them forward, toward an encounter with Jesus and having faith in Christ, he said.

God gave Moses the law to prepare his people on this journey during a time of rampant idolatry and to help his people guide their behavior in a way that showed and expressed their faith and covenant with God, he said.

However, he said, the law was not the covenant; the covenant came first with Abraham, hundreds of years before Moses, the pope said. The covenant was based not on the observance of the law, but on faith in the fulfilment of God’s promises, he said.

St. Paul needed to clarify the role of the law to the Galatians because there were “fundamentalist missionaries” among them who seemed almost “nostalgic” about observing Mosaic law, believing that adhering to the covenant also included observing the Mosaic law, he said.

The apostle explains that, “in reality, the covenant and the law are not linked indissolubly,” the pope said. “The first element he relies on is that the covenant established by God with Abraham was based on faith in the fulfillment of the promise and not on the observance of the law that did not yet exist.”

Pope Francis smiles as he arrives for his general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI hall Aug. 11, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“Having said this, one should not think, however, that St. Paul was opposed to the Mosaic law” because he does defend its divine origin and says it has “a well-defined role in the history of salvation,” the pope said.

“The law, however, does not give life, it does not offer the fulfillment of (God’s) promise, because it is not capable of being able to fulfill it. Those who seek life need to look to the promise and to its fulfillment in Christ,” he said.

This was the problem – when people put more importance on observing the law than with encountering Christ, he said.
This passage of St. Paul to the Galatians “presents the radical newness of the Christian life: All those who have faith in Jesus Christ are called to live in the Holy Spirit, who liberates from the law and, at the same time, brings it to fulfillment according to the commandment of love,” he said.

The law is a path and “may the Lord help people walk along the path of the Ten Commandments, however, by looking at Christ’s love, the encounter with Christ, knowing that the encounter with Jesus is more important than all the commandments,” he said.

Addressing people after the main audience talk, Pope Francis told French-speaking visitors that it was “with great sorrow” that he learned of the Aug. 6 murder of the 60-year-old Montfort Father Olivier Maire.

“I extend my condolences to the religious community of the Monfortians in Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvre in Vendée, to his family and to all Catholics in France,” he said, assuring everyone of his closeness.

At the end of the audience, right before the pope was set to greet visitors, an aide went to the pope, spoke to him for a few minutes and handed him a mobile phone. The pope spoke on the phone for a few minutes, then left the hall briefly before returning to greet visitors as usual.

Eucharist is bread of sinners, not reward of saints, pope says

By Carol Glatz
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – People’s hearts and the entire church must be wide open to wonder and devotion to Christ and ready to embrace everyone – sinner and saint alike, Pope Francis said.
“The church of the perfect and pure is a room where there isn’t a place for anyone; the church with open doors that celebrates around Christ is, on the other hand, a large hall where everyone – the righteous and sinners – can enter,” the pope said in his homily during Mass June 6, to mark the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.
“The Eucharist is meant to nourish those who are tired and hungry along the journey, let’s not forget this!” he said during the early evening Mass, which was celebrated at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica with about 200 people, who wore masks and maintained social distance.
It was the second year the Mass was held with a reduced congregation and without the traditional outdoor Corpus Christi procession afterward as part of the ongoing efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The ceremony instead concluded with a long moment of silent eucharistic adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ celebrates the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.
In his homily, Pope Francis looked at the meaning of the images presented in the reading from the Gospel of St. Mark which detailed Jesus’ instructions for preparing and finding a place for Passover and the Lord’s Supper.
Pope Francis said the image of a man carrying a jar of water reminds people that humanity is thirsty, “always seeking a source of water that satisfies and restores.”
“All of us journey through life with a jar in our hands” as “each one of us is thirsty for love, joy, a successful life in a more humane world,” he said, adding that only God can satisfy that real thirst for something more – that hope in an eternal life that sustains people in life.
Because that thirst is often not acknowledged, with fewer people seeking or asking about God, Christians must evangelize, the pope said.
It is not enough for the church to be a small group “of the usual people who gather to celebrate the Eucharist. We have to go into the city, encounter people, learn to recognize and reawaken the thirst for God and yearning for the Gospel,” he said. It will be that renewed thirst that brings people to the altar to encounter God in the Eucharist, he added.
The other important image is the grand upper room they find for the Passover meal, he said, a meal that will be significant because of a tiny morsel of bread.
“God makes himself small like a piece of bread,” so humble, hidden and sometimes invisible, that it is necessary that one’s heart be large, open and vigilant to recognize, welcome and adore him, the pope said.
“Instead, if our heart is less like a large room and more like storage closet where we regretfully keep old things, like an attic where we have long stored away our enthusiasm and dreams, like a cramped and dark room where we live alone, with ourselves, our problems and bitterness,” he said, “then it will be impossible to recognize this silent and humble presence of God.”
The church also must be a large, welcoming space, “not a small exclusive club, but a community with its arms wide open, welcoming to everyone,” and willing to lead to Christ the wounded, the wayward and those who have done wrong, he said.
“To celebrate and live the Eucharist,” he said, “we, too, are called to live this love, because you cannot break Sunday’s bread if your heart is closed to others, you cannot eat this bread if you do not give the bread to the hungry, you cannot share this bread if you do not share the sufferings of those in need.”
Earlier in the day, the pope greeted hundreds of people spread out in St. Peter’s Square for the noon recitation of the Angelus prayer.
The Eucharist, he said, shows “the strength to love those who make mistakes” because Jesus gave the world the bread of life on the night he was betrayed.
Jesus reacts to the evil of Judas’ betrayal with a greater good, responding to Judas’ “no” with the “yes” of mercy, he said. “He does not punish the sinner, but rather gives his life for him, he pays for him.”
“When we receive the Eucharist, Jesus does the same with us: he knows us; he knows we are sinners; he knows we make many mistakes, but he does not give up on joining his life to ours,” the pope said. “He knows that we need it, because the Eucharist is not the reward of saints, but the bread of sinners. This is why he exhorts us: ‘Do not be afraid! Take and eat.’”

Pope Francis leads Benediction of the Eucharist during Mass on the feast of Corpus Christi in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican June 6, 2021. (CNS photo/Giuseppe Lami, Reuters pool)

Pope appeals for peace in Holy Land, says death of children ‘unacceptable’

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The injury and death of so many innocent people, especially children, caused by escalating violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip is “terrible and unacceptable,” putting the area at risk of sinking into “a spiral of death and destruction,” Pope Francis said.
The pope launched an appeal for calm and asked leaders of both sides “to put a stop to the roar of weapons and to follow the paths of peace, even with the help of the international community,” he said May 16 after reciting the “Regina Coeli” prayer with hundreds of people in St. Peter’s Square.
“Many people have been injured and many innocent people have died. Among them are even children, and this is terrible and unacceptable. Their death is a sign that one does not want to build the future, but wants to destroy it,” he said.
The growing hatred and violence in different cities in Israel “is a serious wound to fraternity and to peaceful coexistence among citizens, which will be difficult to heal if we do not open immediately to dialogue,” the pope said, asking, “Where will hatred and vengeance lead? Do we really think we can build peace by destroying the other?”
The pope appealed for calm, a cease-fire and constant prayers so that “Israelis and Palestinians may find the path of dialogue and forgiveness, to be patient builders of peace and justice, opening up, step by step, to a common hope, to a coexistence among brothers and sisters.”

Palestinian Suzy Eshkuntana, 6, is treated by a medic at a hospital after being pulled from the rubble of a building during Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City May 16, 2021. (CNS photo/Mohammed Salem, Reuters)

He then led those gathered in the square in praying the Hail Mary for the victims, the children and for peace.
Meanwhile, the head of the Vatican’s press office, Matteo Bruni, confirmed that Pope Francis spoke over the telephone May 17 with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
While the Vatican did not comment on the content of the conversation, the Turkish communications department said the two leaders discussed the ongoing attacks.
According to a written statement reported by Andalou Agency, Erdogan said Israel’s attacks were an atrocity and that the latest violations were putting regional security in danger.  
Pope Francis’ appeal May 16 came as Israel escalated its assault on Gaza and it also faced growing civil unrest in its mixed Jewish-Arab cities.
Jewish mobs had destroyed Arab property, and Arab mobs attacked Jewish businesses and burned synagogues, with attempted lynchings on both sides over the past week.
The violence between Israel and Hamas was at its worst since the 2014 Gaza War with Israeli airstrikes and hundreds of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip killing at least 145 Palestinians and 10 Israelis, according to Reuters May 16. Efforts by the international community were underway to broker a cease-fire.

Welcoming migrants, refugees is opportunity for growth

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – As countries become more culturally and ethnically diverse, their Catholic communities become more “catholic” and their societies can increasingly reflect the fact that all people are brothers and sisters, Pope Francis said.
“In encountering the diversity of foreigners, migrants and refugees, and in the intercultural dialogue that can emerge from this encounter, we have an opportunity to grow as church and to enrich one another,” the pope wrote in his message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be marked Sept. 26 in most countries.
“All the baptized, wherever they find themselves, are by right members of both their local ecclesial community and the one church, dwellers in one home and part of one family,” the pope wrote in the message, which was released May 6 at the Vatican.
The message called on all Catholics to build up the church by welcoming and getting to know Catholic migrants and refugees and reaching out with a witness of charity to members of other religions, and it called on all people to enrich the diversity of their countries by accepting newcomers and ensuring they are not left languishing in poverty.
Cardinal Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section, was asked about people who fear, for example, that continuing migration will bring more Muslims to Europe, contributing to a further decline of Christianity on the continent.
“It is a real problem if one feels insecure or threatened or vulnerable in one’s faith life because of others,” he said. “We need to get beyond the ‘wall,’ beyond the barrier,” and a first step could be to ask, “Have I ever spoken with or even listened to someone from that other faith? Do I know what I am talking about or am I relying on images and slogans and hearsay?”
A Christian has an obligation to seek the truth, the cardinal said, “and not rely on these fear-mongering cliches which are not only baseless but are, in fact, serving other motives.”
The theme the pope chose for the day is “Toward an ever wider ‘we,’” and it builds on the teaching in his encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship.”
In the encyclical, his message said, “I expressed a concern and a hope that remain uppermost in my thoughts: ‘Once this health crisis passes, our worst response would be to plunge even more deeply into feverish consumerism and new forms of egotistic self-preservation.”
“God willing,” he said, “after all this, we will think no longer in terms of ‘them’ and ‘those,’ but only ‘us.’”
God created human beings different from one another but as members of one family, the pope said. “When, in disobedience we turned away from God, he in his mercy wished to offer us a path of reconciliation, not as individuals but as a people, a ‘we,’ meant to embrace the entire human family, without exception.”
In today’s world, though, “this ‘we’ willed by God is broken and fragmented, wounded and disfigured,” he said.
“Our ‘we,’ both in the wider world and within the church, is crumbling and cracking due to myopic and aggressive forms of nationalism and radical individualism,” Pope Francis said. “The highest price is being paid by those who most easily become viewed as others: foreigners, migrants, the marginalized, those living on the existential peripheries.”
For Catholics, he said, bucking the trend and welcoming others is part of “a commitment to becoming ever more faithful to our being ‘catholic,’” or universal.
Catholics, he said, are called to work together “to make the church become ever more inclusive as she carries out the mission entrusted to the Apostles by Jesus Christ” to proclaim the Gospel and care for those in need.
“In our day,” the pope said, “the church is called to go out into the streets of every existential periphery in order to heal wounds and to seek out the straying, without prejudice or fear, without proselytizing, but ready to widen her tent to embrace everyone.”
The global movement of people, he said, means “our societies will have a ‘colorful’ future, enriched by diversity and by cultural exchanges. Consequently, we must even now learn to live together in harmony and peace.”
“We must make every effort to break down the walls that separate us and, in acknowledging our profound interconnection, build bridges that foster a culture of encounter,” the pope insisted.
Joining the Vatican news conference from England, Auxiliary Bishop Paul McAleenan of Westminster said people in wealthy nations that extract resources from poorer countries and contribute heavily to climate change must recognize “that we are not blameless” in causing people to flee their homes.
In response, he said, “the aim of the church is to welcome, protect and promote all, knowing that human life and well-being are at risk, not national security.”

Pope calls for monthlong global prayer marathon for end of pandemic

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has called for a global prayer marathon for the entire month of May, praying for the end to the pandemic.
“The initiative will involve in a special way all shrines in the world” in promoting the initiative so that individuals, families and communities all take part in reciting the rosary, “to pray for the end of the pandemic,” said the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization in a press release April 21.
“It is the heartfelt desire of the Holy Father that the month of May be dedicated to a prayer marathon dedicated to the theme, ‘from the entire church an unceasing prayer rises to God,’” it said.
The theme refers to the miraculous event recounted in the Acts of the Apostles (12:1-12) when all the church prayed for Peter, who was imprisoned until God sent an angel to free him, illustrating how the Christian community comes together to pray in the face of danger and how the Lord listens and performs an unexpected miracle.
Each day in May, there will be a livestream from one of 30 chosen Marian shrines or sanctuaries to guide the prayer at 6 p.m. Rome time (11 a.m. CST) on all Vatican media platforms.
The pope will open the monthlong prayer May 1 and conclude it May 31, the council said.

Pope Francis prays as he leads his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican April 21, 2021. Continuing his series of talks on prayer, the pope reflected on the importance of speaking the words of prayers out loud rather than seeing prayer just as a mental exercise or form of meditation. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)