By Carol Glatz ROME (CNS) – In asking to be baptized, Jesus exemplifies the Christian calling to follow along the path of humility and meekness rather than strutting about and being a showoff, Pope Francis said. Addressing pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square Jan. 12, the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, the pope said that Christ’s humble act shows “the attitude of simplicity, respect, moderation and concealment required of the Lord’s disciples today.” “How many – it’s sad to say – of the Lord’s disciples show off about being disciples of the Lord. A person who shows off isn’t a good disciple. A good disciple is humble, meek, one who does good without letting himself or herself be seen,” Pope Francis said during his midday Angelus address. The pope began the day celebrating Mass and baptizing 32 babies –17 boys and 15 girls – in the Sistine Chapel. In his brief homily before baptizing the infants, the pope told parents that the sacrament is a treasure that gives children “the strength of the Spirit.”
“That is why it’s so important to baptize children, so that they grow with the strength of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “This is the message that I would like to give you today. You have brought your children here today so that they may have the Holy Spirit within them. Take care that they grow with the light, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, through catechesis, through helping them, through teaching them, through the examples that you will give them at home,” he said. As the sounds of fussy children filled 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. “Don’t get upset; let the children cry and scream. But, if your child cries and complains, perhaps it’s because they feel too hot,” he said. “Take something off them, or if they are hungry, breastfeed them; here, yes, always in peace.” Later, before praying the Angelus with pilgrims, Pope Francis said that the feast of the Lord’s baptism “reminds us of our own baptism,” and he asked the pilgrims to find out the date they were baptized. “Celebrate the date of your baptism every year in your heart. Do it. It is also a duty of justice to the Lord who has been so good to us,” the pope said.
By Cindy Wooden VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has abolished the obligation of secrecy for those who report having been sexually abused by a priest and for those who testify in a church trial or process having to do with clerical sexual abuse. “The person who files the report, the person who alleges to have been harmed and the witnesses shall not be bound by any obligation of silence with regard to matters involving the case,” the pope ordered in a new “Instruction On the Confidentiality of Legal Proceedings,” published Dec. 17. In an accompanying note, Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, said the change regarding the “pontifical secret” has nothing to do with the seal of the sacrament of confession. “The absolute obligation to observe the sacramental seal,” he said, “is an obligation imposed on the priest by reason of the position he holds in administering the sacrament of confession and not even the penitent can free him of it.”
The instruction was published by the Vatican along with changes to the already-updated “Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela” (“Safeguarding the Sanctity of the Sacraments”), the 2001 document issued by St. John Paul II outlining procedures for the investigation and trial of any member of the clergy accused of sexually abusing a child or vulnerable adult or accused of acquiring, possessing or distributing child pornography. In the first of the amendments, Pope Francis changed the definition of child pornography. Previously the subject was a person under the age of 14. The new description of the crime says, “The acquisition, possession or distribution by a cleric of pornographic images of minors under the age of 18, for purposes of sexual gratification, by whatever means or using whatever technology.” In describing the procedural norms for how the tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is to be composed and conducted, Pope Francis has removed the requirement that the legal representative of the accused be a priest. The law now reads: “The role of advocate or procurator is carried out by a member of the faithful possessing a doctorate in canon law, who is approved by the presiding judge of the college.” But the abolition of the pontifical secret over the entire Vatican process is the greatest change made. And, not only are victims and witnesses free to discuss the case, the amended law specifies that the still-in-effect obligation of Vatican officials to maintain confidentiality “shall not prevent the fulfillment of the obligations laid down in all places by civil laws, including any reporting obligations, and the execution of enforceable requests of civil judicial authorities.” Archbishop Charles Scicluna, adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Vatican’s chief abuse investigator, told America Magazine the new law makes clear that “anybody who discloses misconduct or a crime and anybody who is impacted by the misconduct or the crime, and the witnesses, should never be subject to a vow or a promise of silence on the fact that they have reported.” The new law, he said, explicitly states people’s “moral duty” to cooperate with civil authorities in reporting and investigating the crime of abuse. “Moreover, there is an obligation not to bind people who disclose misconduct or crimes by any promise or vow of silence,” he explained. In a separate interview with Vatican News, Archbishop Scicluna described as an “epochal change” the pope’s decision to drop the “pontifical secret” – the highest level of confidentiality. “That means, of course, the question of transparency now is being implemented at the highest level,” he said. The new rules do not mean that documents from Vatican abuse investigations and trials will be made public, he said, but “they are available for authorities, or people who are interested parties, and authorities who have a statutory jurisdiction over the matter.” In the past, when a government or court asked the Vatican for information on a case, the response usually was that the material was covered by “pontifical secret.” Now, Archbishop Scicluna said, once “all the formalities of international law” are fulfilled, communication with other authorities “and the sharing of information and documentation are facilitated.” In September 2017, members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors asked Pope Francis to reconsider Vatican norms maintaining the imposition of “pontifical secret” in the church’s judicial handling of clerical sex abuse and other grave crimes. The secret ensures cases are dealt with in strict confidentiality. Vatican experts have said it was designed to protect the dignity of everyone involved, including the victim, the accused, their families and their communities. But when Pope Francis called the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences to the Vatican for a summit on the abuse crisis in February, victims and experts alike urged a revision of the policy. Linda Ghisoni, a canon lawyer and undersecretary for laity at the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, told the summit removing the pontifical secret from abuse cases would reverse a situation or the impression of a situation where secrecy “is used to hide problems rather than protect the values at stake,” including the confidentiality of the victims and the right of an accused to a fair trial. Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich and Freising, Germany, told the summit that removing the pontifical secret would promote transparency in a scandal where the lack of transparency has meant “the rights of victims were effectively trampled underfoot and left to the whims of individuals.” In his commentary, Bishop Arrieta noted that already in May with the publication of “Vos Estis Lux Mundi” (“You are the light of the world”) on procedures for handling allegations of abuse or of the cover-up of abuse, Pope Francis already banned imposing confidentiality agreements on victims. The bishop also took pains to note that the abolition of absolute secrecy – the “pontifical secret,” which is invoked with an oath – was not the same thing as removing all obligations for confidentiality. The “secrecy of the office” still applies to Vatican officials and others involved in an investigation or trial of a cleric accused of abuse or of a bishop or religious superior accused of cover-up. Except for sharing information with civil authorities, the basic professional secrecy serves, as the new law says, to protect “the good name, image and privacy of all persons involved.”
By Cindy Wooden ROME (CNS) – As part of the celebrations for his 50th anniversary of priesthood, Pope Francis chose to personally present a multi-volume collection of writings by his longtime spiritual director, the late Jesuit Father Miguel Angel Fiorito. In addition to presenting the Spanish-language collection, “Escritos” (“Writings”), at a conference at the Jesuit headquarters Dec. 13, Pope Francis wrote an introduction to it, saying the publication is “a consolation for those of us who, for many years, were nourished by his teachings. These writings will be a great good for the whole church.”
But he started the celebrations much earlier in the day, inviting cardinals living in Rome to join him in the chapel of his residence for morning Mass. The Vatican did not release the text of a homily or photographs, but the Vatican newspaper printed the greetings of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals. “On this happy occasion of your 50th anniversary of priesthood, in the name of all my brother cardinals, I wish you all the best with the deepest thanks for your generous daily service to the holy church of God,” the cardinal said. At the evening book presentation, Pope Francis said he had suggested having one of Father Fiorito’s “disciples” as the main speaker. The editor of La Civilta Cattolica, which published the books, asked the pope who he had in mind. “‘Me,’ I said. And here we are.” Presenting the book at the Jesuit headquarters, he said, “is a way for me to express my gratitude for all that the Society of Jesus has given me and has done for me,” and it is a way to encourage all the men and women around the world who offer spiritual direction to others following the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The collection was curated by Argentine Jesuit Father Jose Luis Narvaja, the pope’s nephew, whom the pope described as another of Father Fiorito’s disciples in a “school” of thought where general principles were held in common, but “the disciples could develop it, following the spirit – not just the letter – of the master with freedom and creativity.” The collection, the pope wrote in the introduction, is a “distillation” of “spiritual mercy: teaching for those who do not know, good counsel for those who need it, correction for those who err, consolation for those who are sad and help in being patient for those in desolation.” Spiritual mercy, he continued, is summed up in teaching people discernment in the tradition of St. Ignatius of Loyola, a process of “curing spiritual blindness, a sad illness that prevents us from recognizing God’s time, the time of his coming.” While Father Fioriti gave hundreds of conferences and talks, he wrote only two books. Pope Francis said that “around 1985” he was asked to write the prologue to Father Fiorito’s book on discernment and spiritual warfare. He described discernment has “having the courage to see divine footprints in our human tracks.” Father Fiorito, who became his spiritual director in 1961, the pope wrote, “had a special nose for sniffing out the evil spirit; he could identify his action, recognize his tics, unmask him because of his bad fruits and the bad aftertaste and trail of desolation he left in his passing.” Father Fiorito “was fundamentally a man of dialogue and listening,” the pope said. “He taught many to pray – to dialogue in friendship with God – and to discern ‘the signs of the times,’ dialoguing with other people and with the reality of every culture. His school of spirituality is a school of dialogue and listening, open to listening to and dialoguing with anyone ‘with a good spirit,’ testing everything and retaining only that which is good.” Introducing the collection in La Civilta Cattolica, Father Narvaja wrote that the “theological and pastoral nucleus” of Father Fiorito’s teaching can clearly be seen in the teaching and actions of Pope Francis.
By Cindy Wooden HIROSHIMA, Japan (CNS) – Saying it is “perverse” to think the threat of nuclear weapons makes the world safer, Pope Francis urged a renewed commitment to disarmament and to the international treaties designed to limit or eliminate nuclear weapons. Pope Francis began his first full day in Japan Nov. 24 with a somber visit in the pouring rain to Nagasaki’s Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park, a memorial to the tens of thousands who died when the United States dropped a bomb on the city in 1945. In the evening, he visited the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima, honoring the tens of thousands killed by an atomic bomb there, too. “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is today, more than ever, a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home,” Pope Francis told several hundred people gathered with him in Hiroshima. “The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral, as I already said two years ago.” he said. “We will be judged on this.”
“Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act to bring it about among the peoples of the earth,” the pope said. “How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war? How can we speak about peace even as we justify illegitimate actions by speeches filled with discrimination and hate?” A policy of nuclear deterrence – counting on mutually assured destruction – to keep the peace makes no sense, the pope said. “How can we propose peace if we constantly invoke the threat of nuclear war as a legitimate recourse for the resolution of conflicts?” The pope spoke in Hiroshima after listening to the horrifying stories of two survivors of the blast: Yoshiko Kajimoto, who was 14 in 1945; and Kojí Hosokawa, who was 17. Almost everyone they knew then is gone. Kajimoto was working in a factory when the bomb was dropped. She was buried under timber and tiles, but eventually managed to get free. “When I went outside, all the surrounding buildings were destroyed,” she told the pope. “It was as dark as evening and smelled like rotten fish. Helping evacuate the injured, she saw “people walking side by side like ghosts, people whose whole body was so burnt that I could not tell the difference between men and women, their hair standing on end, their faces swollen to double size, their lips hanging loose, with both hands held out with burnt skin hanging from them.” “No one in this world can imagine such a scene of hell,” she said. Hosokawa, was not able to attend the ceremony with the pope, but his testimony was read: “I think everyone should realize that the atomic bombs were dropped, not on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but on all humanity.” “War,” he wrote, “makes people crazy, and the ultimate craziness is the atomic bomb that negated human existence.” The pope began the day honoring victims of the Nagasaki bombing, laying a wreath of flowers at a memorial to the 27,000 people killed instantly the day the bomb was dropped and the tens of thousands who died over the next five months from burns and radiation sickness, the pope prayed silently. Then he lit a peace candle. The Atomic Hypocenter Park is near the ruins of the city’s Catholic cathedral, which was the largest church in east Asia until the bomb destroyed it. The ruins, including a damaged wooden statue of Mary, are reminders, the pope said, of “the unspeakable horror suffered in the flesh by the victims of the bombing and their families.” Thinking that developing, stockpiling and modernizing nuclear weapons is a deterrent to war provides only a “false sense of security,” the pope said. What is more, it feeds fear and mistrust, which hinder dialogue. “Convinced as I am that a world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary,” the pope said, “I ask political leaders not to forget that these weapons cannot protect us from current threats to national and international security.” Pope Francis warned of the risk that the international arms control framework is being dismantled. The Vatican has expressed increasing concern about U.S. President Donald Trump’s continuing delay in beginning talks with Russia on extending or renewing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and for allowing the U.S.-Russian treaty on intermediate-range weapons to expire. “A world of peace, free from nuclear weapons, is the aspiration of millions of men and women everywhere,” the pope said in Nagasaki. The use of nuclear weapons is not the only threat the arms pose, he said, pointing to the billions of dollars spent each year on maintaining nuclear stockpiles and developing new weapons when millions of people are starving and dying in poverty.
By Junno Arocho Esteves VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Liturgical musicians have the unique calling to interpret God’s will and love through song and praise, Pope Francis said. “Every Christian, in fact, is an interpreter of the will of God in his or her own life, and by his or her life sings a joyful hymn of praise and thanksgiving to God,” the pope said Nov. 9 during a meeting with participants at a Vatican conference on interpreting sacred music. The conference, titled “Church, Music, Interpreters: A Necessary Dialogue,” was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Culture, the Pontifical Institute for Sacred Music and the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm. Reflecting on the conference theme, the pope said most people think of interpreters as a kind of translator who conveys what “he or she has received in such a way that another person can understand it.” Although good interpreters in the field of music essentially “translate” what a composer has written, they also should feel “great humility before a work of art that is not their property,” and to “bring out the beauty of the music.”
Within the context of the liturgy, he added, music is a way for Christians “to serve others through the works they perform.” “Every interpreter is called to develop a distinctive sensibility and genius in the service of art which refreshes the human spirit and in service to the community,” the pope said. “This is especially the case if the interpreter carries out a liturgical ministry.” Pope Francis thanked the participants for their commitment and – citing the words of his predecessor St. Paul VI – said that music ministers have the great task of “grasping treasures from the heavenly realm of the spirit and clothing them in words, colors and forms, thus making them accessible.” “The artist, the interpreter and – in the case of music – the listener, all have the same desire,” the pope said: “To understand what beauty, music and art allow us to know of God’s grandeur. Now perhaps more than ever, men and women have need of this. Interpreting that reality is essential for today’s world.”
Por Dennis Sadowski BALTIMORE (CNS) – El arzobispo José H. Gómez de Los Ángeles fue elegido para un mandato de tres años como presidente de la Conferencia de Obispos Católicos de los Estados Unidos (USCCB) durante la asamblea general de otoño de los obispos en Baltimore. El nativo de México fue elegido el 12 de noviembre con 176 votos de una lista de 10 nominados.
El arzobispo Gómez, de 67 años, es el primer latino en ser elegido presidente. Se ha desempeñado como vicepresidente de la conferencia durante los últimos tres años, trabajando junto al cardenal Daniel N. DiNardo de Galveston-Houston, el presidente saliente. Su mandato como presidente comienza cuando termina la asamblea. El prelado de Los Ángeles ha sido uno de los principales defensores de los derechos de los inmigrantes, y a menudo ha expresado su apoyo a los recién llegados a medida que enfrentan las crecientes restricciones implementadas por el Departamento de Seguridad Nacional y otras agencias federales.
By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – After listening to indigenous people and church leaders at the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, the Catholic Church cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of the region’s people, Pope Francis said.
“The cry of the poor, together with that of the earth, came to us from the Amazon,” the pope said during his Sunday Angelus address. “After these three weeks, we cannot pretend that we have not heard it.”
The pope shared his thoughts about the synod Oct. 27 as he greeted pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square; he had just finished celebrating the synod’s final Mass.
The synod, he said, was a time of “a walking together,” engaging in sincere dialogue “without hiding difficulties and “experiencing the beauty of going forward united.”
Pope Francis told the crowd that in the second reading at the day’s Mass, St. Paul, aware of his imminent death, expressed hope that “through me the proclamation might be completed.”
St. Paul’s last wish, the pope said, was not for himself but that the Gospel “be proclaimed to all nations.”
During the synod, he continued, participants reflected on how to open new paths of evangelization.
“We felt spurred on to go out to sea, to leave the comfortable shores of our safe harbors to enter deep waters,” the pope said. “Not into the marshy waters of ideologies, but into the open sea in which the Spirit invites us to throw our nets.”
Before leading pilgrims in reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis prayed for the intercession of Mary, “Queen of the Amazon,” who “became that not by conquering, but by inculturating herself.”
“With the humble courage of a mother, she became the protector of her children, the defense of the oppressed; always going to the culture of the people,” the pope said.
Pope Francis did not specifically mention the statues of the naked pregnant woman that some people referred to as Our Lady of the Amazon, but which Vatican officials repeatedly described as an image signifying life. Others described it as “Pachamama” and condemned it as an idol. Some copies of the statue were thrown in the Tiber River, but recovered by police.
“There is not a standard culture, there is not a pure culture, which purifies the others,” Pope Francis said. “There is the pure Gospel, which is inculturated. To her, who in the poor house of Nazareth took care of Jesus, we entrust the poorest children and our common home.”
By Cindy Wooden VATICAN CITY – Saints are people who recognized their need for God’s help, who took risks to discover God’s will and to help others and who nurtured a habit of thanksgiving, Pope Francis said. “The culmination of the journey of faith is to live a life of continual thanksgiving. Let us ask ourselves: Do we, as people of faith, live each day as a burden, or as an act of praise?” the pope said in his homily Oct. 13 after formally declaring five new saints for the Catholic Church. Those canonized at the Mass were: St. John Henry Newman, the British theologian, poet and cardinal who died in 1890; Brazilian St. Maria Rita Lopes Pontes, popularly known as Sister Dulce, who died in 1992; Indian St. Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family, who died in 1926; St. Marguerite Bays, a Swiss laywoman and mystic, who died in 1879; and St. Josephine Vannini, the Italian co-founder of the Daughters of St. Camillus, who died in 1911. “Three of them were religious women,” the pope noted in his homily. “They show us that the consecrated life is a journey of love at the existential peripheries of the world.”
“St. Marguerite Bays, on the other hand, was a seamstress; she speaks to us of the power of simple prayer, enduring patience and silent self-giving,” he said. Rather than describing St. Newman, Pope Francis quoted from him to illustrate the meaning of “the holiness of daily life:” “The Christian has a deep, silent, hidden peace, which the world sees not …. The Christian is cheerful, easy, kind, gentle, courteous, candid, unassuming; has no pretense … with so little that is unusual or striking in his bearing that he may easily be taken at first sight for an ordinary man.” And, referencing St. Newman’s famous hymn, “Lead, Kindly Light,” the pope prayed that all Christians would be “‘kindly lights’ amid the encircling gloom.” Tens of thousands of people filled a sunny St. Peter’s Square for the canonization ceremony and Mass. Among them were Britain’s Prince Charles, Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Martins Mourao, a member of Switzerland’s federal council and the deputy foreign minister of India. Melissa Villalobos from Chicago also was there with her husband and children, and they brought up the offertory gifts at the Mass. Villalobos’ healing, which saved her life and the life of her unborn child, was accepted as the miracle needed for St. Newman’s canonization. Hours before the Mass began, Holy Family Sisters Manjula and Aruna stood just outside the security checkpoint, handing out Indian flags, rosaries and prayer cards, caps and scarves with the image of their order’s founder, St. Thresia. The new saint’s focus, and that of her order today, is assisting families, said Sister Manjula, whose ministry is “counseling and visiting houses and helping solve problems. We help all families – non-Christian, non-Catholic, anyone.” Gregory K. Hillis, a professor of theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, was representing his university at the Mass, but his presence was very personal, too. “Newman is important to me theologically and for my spirituality,” he said. “And I like his conversion story” of how, as an Anglican priest, he became a Catholic at the age of 44. “I became a Catholic 13 years ago, and Newman was an important guide. He converted, but maintained his friendships, his respect and love for the tradition that he left.” “I’m an ecumenical convert as well,” Hillis said. “I’m tired of converts who hate the tradition they left.” An official delegation of Anglican bishops and priests also attended the Mass, and Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England, recorded a message for the occasion. “His legacy is far broader than one church or two churches,” the archbishop said. “It is a global legacy, a legacy of hope and truth, of the search for God, of devotion to being part of the people of God.” St. Newman’s role in founding the Oxford Movement in the Church of England, a push to rediscover the early Christian writers and to recover the Catholic roots of Anglicanism, “had a fundamental, lasting, beneficial and important influence on Anglicanism,” Archbishop Welby said. As is his custom at Mass, including at canonizations, Pope Francis used his homily to reflect on the day’s Scripture readings and only made passing reference to the people being declared saints. The day’s short Gospel reading from Luke recounted the story of 10 lepers who, seeing Jesus approach, cry out to him for healing. He tells them to go show themselves to the priests and, as they go, they are healed. But only one returns to thank Jesus. “Like those lepers,” Pope Francis said, “we, too, need healing, each one of us. We need to be healed of our lack of confidence in ourselves, in life, in the future; we need to be healed of our fears and the vices that enslave us, of our introversion, our addictions and our attachment to games, money, television, mobile phones, to what other people think.” The story also illustrates how, “on the journey of life, purification takes place along the way, a way that is often uphill since it leads to the heights,” he said. “Faith calls for a journey, a ‘going out’ from ourselves, and it can work wonders if we abandon our comforting certainties, if we leave our safe harbors and our cozy nests.” And, finally, he said, the story teaches that returning to Jesus with a heart full of gratitude is the culmination of the journey of faith. “To give thanks is not a question of good manners or etiquette; it is a question of faith,” the pope said. “To say ‘Thank you, Lord’ when we wake up, throughout the day and before going to bed, that is the best way to keep our hearts young. “This also holds true for families, and between spouses,” he added. “Remember to say thank you. Those words are the simplest and most effective of all.”
By Junno Arocho Esteves VATICAN CITY (CNS) – A hashtag mix-up caused a papal tweet meant to give thanks for the Catholic Church’s newest saints to be read as Pope Francis showing support for the New Orleans Saints’ football team. After the Oct. 13 canonization of five new saints, the pope’s official Twitter account, @Pontifex, tweeted: “Today we give thanks to the Lord for our new #Saints. They walked by faith and now we invoke their intercession.” However, the Twitter hashtag automatically uploaded a fleur-de-lis, the official logo of the National Football League team. Needless to say, the tweet caught the attention of many Saints’ fans, who interpreted the tweet as invoking divine intervention for their team’s game that day against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“Big Guy telling you something for this afternoon,” a Twitter user said, sharing the pope’s tweet. “Adjust your bets accordingly, Vegas.” Other fans were elated that Christ’s vicar on earth was in their corner. “Pope Francis told 18 million followers that he was #WhoDatNation. I love it,” another Twitter follower wrote, referring to the New Orleans football team’s “Who Dat” chant. But the reaction of the day came from the New Orleans Saints’ own Twitter account after their 13-6 victory over the Jaguars. “Couldn’t lose after this,” the Saints’ account tweeted after sharing the papal tweet. “#Blessed and highly favored.” A Vatican official confirmed Oct. 14 that use of the hashtag to trigger the “hashflag” – the fleur-de-lis – was a case of “accidental evangelization,” but hoped that “maybe someone who didn’t know will become aware that there are other ‘saints’ to pay attention to.”
By Cindy Wooden VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Too many Christians today are “as long as” Christians, obeying God “as long as” God and the church meet their conditions and criteria for what is acceptable, just and righteous, Pope Francis said. The “conditions Christian,” Pope Francis said, says things like: “‘I am a Christian as long as things are done this way.’ ‘No, no, these changes aren’t Christian.’ ‘This is heresy.’ ‘This won’t do.’ Christians who place conditions on God, who place conditions on the faith and the action of God.” Celebrating an early morning Mass Oct. 8 in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pope focused on the day’s first reading from Jonah, noting how the prophet first refused to do God’s bidding, was swallowed by a whale, obeyed God when given a second chance and ended up angry with God because God did not destroy the city of Ninevah. Jonah was “stubborn” about what he thought faith was, the pope said. But “the Lord was stubborn in his mercy. He never leaves us. He knocks at the door of our hearts until the end.” Jonah, the pope said, “is the model of those ‘as long as’ Christians, those Christians with conditions.” Placing conditions on God and on the church, he said, encloses Christians “in their own ideas and ends up in ideology. It’s the awful journey from faith to ideology. And today there are many people like this.” Such Christians, he said, are afraid “of growth, of the challenges of life, the challenges of the Lord, the challenges of history” and instead stick to “their first convictions.”
“They prefer the ideology to faith,” he said, and they move away from the community because “they are afraid to put themselves in God’s hands and prefer to judge everything from the smallness of their hearts.” The Vatican News report on the pope’s homily included no mention of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon or the controversy surrounding it, including accusations that some of the statements in the synod working document are heretical. Pope Francis said God’s decision not to carry out his threatened punishment of Ninevah reveals “the Lord who draws near to all realities, who is not disgusted. Things don’t disgust the Lord. Our sins don’t disgust him. He draws near just as he drew near to the lepers and the sick because he came to heal and to save, not to condemn.”