Parishes grow only when people are welcomed, heard

By Cindy Wooden
ROME (CNS) – After months of study and discussion, the parishes of the Diocese of Rome have recognized “a general and healthy exhaustion” with doing the same things over and over, touching the lives of fewer and fewer people as time goes on, Pope Francis said.
Changing the way parishes – and their priests and involved laity – operate will not be easy, the pope said, but members of the diocese must set out to follow the Lord more closely, deal with the reality in their neighborhoods and learn how to show everyone living within the parish boundaries that they are recognized and loved.
Pope Francis addressed some 1,700 diocesan leaders, both clergy and laity, May 14 at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the diocese of Rome.
In the process of identifying the “spiritual illnesses” of the diocese, the pope said, the priests and parish leaders made it clear that they are tired of being content with what they have been doing for years.
A renewed outreach, the pope said, must begin by “learning to discern where God already is present in very ordinary forms of holiness and communion with him.”
There are people in the parishes, he said, who might not know their catechism, but they see the basic interactions in their lives through a lens of faith and hope. Calling for a “revolution of tenderness” in parishes and the diocese, Pope Francis said that while “guiding a Christian community is the specific task of the ordained minister – the pastor – pastoral care is based in baptism and blossoms from brotherhood and is not the task only of the pastor and priests, but of all the baptized.”
The pope’s speech marked his formal reception of a diocesan report on “spiritual illnesses” afflicting the city. Through a process that began in Lent, parishes identified the main challenges as “the economy of exclusion, selfish laziness, comfortable individualism, wars among us, sterile pessimism and spiritual worldliness,” according to a statement from the diocese.
The priest who summarized the findings at the evening meeting told the pope that a lack of education in the faith was identified by many of the groups; that lack was seen regarding basic church teachings but also regarding how the Gospel and its values could be brought to bear on modern problems.
Pope Francis told them the process of identifying the problems had two benefits: a recognition of “the truth about our condition as being in need, sick,” but, at the same time, a recognition that even if people have failed, God is still present and is calling his people to come together and to move forward.
“Our parishes,” he said, “must be capable of generating a people, that is, of offering and creating relationships where people feel that they are known, recognized, welcomed, listened to, loved – in other words, not anonymous parts of a whole.”
To move forward, he said, Catholic communities must look at “the slaveries – the illnesses – that have ended up making us sterile.”
Often, he said, parishes are slaves to doing things the ways they always have been done and to investing time and energy in projects and programs that no longer meet the needs of the people.
“We must listen without fear to the thirst for God and to the cry that rises from the people of Rome, asking ourselves how that cry expresses the need for salvation, for God,” he said. “How many of the things that emerged from your studies express that cry, the invocation that God show himself and help us escape the impression that our life is useless and almost robbed by the frenzy of things that must be done and by time that keeps slipping through out hands?”
Too often, he said, evangelization also is stifled by “faith understood only as things to do and not as a liberation that renews us at every step.”
Pope Francis asked the diocesan leaders to dedicate the next year to “a sort of preparation of your backpacks” for setting off on a multiyear process that would lead to a “new land,” a place marked by new pastoral action that is “more responsive to the mission and needs of Romans today, but also more creative and liberating for priests and those who directly collaborate in their mission and in the building up of the Christian community.”

Catholic media must not fall behind in digital age, pope says

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – In an age when technology is ever-evolving, Catholic news organizations must be willing to adapt to effectively proclaim the Gospel to all, Pope Francis said.
Speaking to directors and employees of Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, the pope said that the use of new digital platforms not only requires significant technological updates but also a willingness to accept that “the attachment to the past may prove to be a dangerous temptation.”
“Authentic servants of tradition are those who, while keeping memory alive, know how to discern the signs of the times and open new paths,” he said May 1.
Marking the feast of St. Joseph the Worker and International Workers’ Day, which is a public holiday in Italy and many other countries, Pope Francis noted that Jesus’ foster father was a “man of silence,” which at first “may seem the opposite of a communicator.”
But, he said, Catholic journalists and news organizations must realize that “only by shutting down the noise of the world and our own gossip will it be possible to listen, which remains the first condition of every communication.”
Particularly in today’s world where “the speed of information surpasses our capacity of reflection,” he said, church members are exposed “to the impact and influence of a culture of haste and superficiality” and risk reducing the church’s mission to a “pastoral ministry of applause, to a dumbing down of thought and to a widespread disorientation of opinions that are not in agreement.”
The example set forth by St. Joseph, he added, is a reminder for all Christians working in the field of communications to “recover a sense of healthy slowness, tranquility and patience.”
“With his silence, he reminds us that everything begins from listening, from transcending oneself in order to be open to another person’s word and history,” the pope said.
Recalling the words of Blessed Paul VI, Pope Francis said that Catholic newspapers shouldn’t just report news to “make an impression or gain clients” but rather to educate their readers “to think, to judge” for themselves.
“Catholic communicators avoid rigidities that stifle or imprison,” he said. “They do not cage the Holy Spirit, but seek to let it fly, to let it breathe within the soul. They never allow reality to give way to appearances, beauty to vulgarity, social friendship to conflict. They cultivate and strengthen every sprout of life and goodness.”
Pope Francis encouraged Avvenire’s directors, journalists and employees to be heralds of the Gospel and, like St. Joseph, be true guardians who protect society’s well-being and dignity.

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.)

Pope calls German cardinal to Rome to discuss eucharistic sharing

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis has asked the president of the German bishops’ conference to come to Rome to discuss pastoral guidelines for possibly allowing some non-Catholics married to Catholics to receive the Eucharist, the conference spokesman said.
Reports that “the document was rejected in the Vatican by the Holy Father or by the dicasteries are false,” said Matthias Kopp, the conference spokesman.
For one thing, Kopp said April 19, the guidelines still have not been finalized and, therefore, they have not been reviewed by the Vatican. Members of the German bishops’ conference were asked to submit proposed amendments to the draft document by Easter; the heads of the conference’s doctrinal and ecumenical committees and the president of the conference were to formulate a final draft and present it to the conference’s permanent council April 23.
Cardinal Reinhard Marx, conference president, had announced Feb. 22 at the end of their plenary meeting that three-quarters of the German bishops approved the development of pastoral guidelines for determining situations in which a non-Catholic spouse married to a Catholic could receive Communion.

Photo courtesy of Bigstock

The cardinal said that “the background is the high proportion of mixed marriages and families in Germany, where we recognize a challenging and urgent pastoral task” to determine if and under what circumstances couples of different denominations who regularly go to church together can receive the Eucharist together.
The possibility, he had said, would require a discussion with the pastor or a designated member of the parish staff to ensure that the non-Catholic receiving Communion “could confess the eucharistic faith of the Catholic Church.”
“This assistance will give help in concrete cases of mixed-denomination marriages and create a greater clarity and security for pastors and married people,” the cardinal had said.
About a month later, however, seven German bishops, including Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, sent a letter to Archbishop Luis Ladaria, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, asking for confirmation of their belief that a bishops’ conference does not have the authority to expand permissions for non-Catholics to receive Communion.
In general, Catholic teaching insists that sharing the sacrament of Communion will be a sign that Christian churches have reconciled fully with one another, although in some pastoral situations, guests may be invited to the Eucharist.
During Pope Francis’ visit to Sweden in 2016, Cardinal Koch, the Vatican’s chief ecumenist, was asked about the situations in which such sharing would be permitted. In reply, he said a distinction must be made between “eucharistic hospitality for individual people and eucharistic communion.”
The term hospitality is used to refer to welcoming guests to the Eucharist on special occasions or under special circumstances, as long as they recognize the sacrament as the real presence of Christ. Eucharistic communion, on the other hand, refers to a more regular situation of the reception of Communion by people recognized as belonging to the same church family, he had said.

Easter hope breaks routine, unleashes creativity, pope says

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Truly celebrating Easter means allowing Jesus to triumph over personal fears and give life to hope, creativity and care for others, Pope Francis said.
Easter is “an invitation to break out of our routines and to renew our lives, our decisions and our existence,” the pope said during the Easter Vigil March 31 in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“Do we want to share in this message of life,” he asked in his homily, “or do we prefer simply to continue standing speechless before events as they happen?”
During the liturgy, Pope Francis baptized eight adults, who were between the ages of 28 and 52. The Vatican said Nathan Potter, who was born in 1988 and comes from the United States, was one of the eight. Four of the other catechumens were from Italy and one each came from Albania, Peru and Nigeria.
The Nigerian, 31-year-old John Ogah, became a hero last year in Centocelle, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Rome. Ogah, who had been begging outside a grocery store, stopped a machete-wielding thief who had just robbed the store. Once the police arrived, Ogah left because he did not have legal permission to be in Italy.
Police tracked Ogah down to thank him and ended up helping him get his Italian residency permit. Capt. Nunzio Carbone, the officer in charge, was Ogah’s godfather and sponsor at the papal liturgy.
Pope Francis also confirmed the eight and give them their first Communion during the Mass.
The Mass, on a very rainy night, began in the atrium of St. Peter’s Basilica with the blessing of the fire and of the Easter candle. With most of the lights in the basilica turned off, Pope Francis and the concelebrating cardinals, bishops and priests processed in darkness toward the altar, stopping first to light the pope’s candle and then those of the concelebrants and faithful.
“We began this celebration outside, plunged in the darkness of the night and the cold,” the pope said in his homily. “We felt an oppressive silence at the death of the Lord, a silence with which each of us can identify, a silence that penetrates to the depths of the heart of every disciple, who stands wordless before the cross.”
Transitioning from the Good Friday commemoration of Jesus’ death and commenting on the silence of Holy Saturday, the pope spoke of the hours when Jesus’ followers are left speechless in pain at his death, but also speechless at the injustice of his condemnation and at their own cowardice in the face of the lies and false testimony he endure.
“It is the silent night of the disciples who remained numb, paralyzed and uncertain of what to do amid so many painful and disheartening situations,” the pope said. “It is also that of today’s disciples, speechless in the face of situations we cannot control, that make us feel and, even worse, believe that nothing can be done to reverse all the injustices that our brothers and sisters are experiencing in their flesh.”
But in the midst of silence, he said, the stone is rolled away from Jesus’ tomb and there comes “the greatest message that history has ever heard: ‘He is not here, for he has been raised.’”
Jesus’ empty tomb should fill Christians with trust in God and should assure them that God’s light “can shine in the least expected and most hidden corners of our lives.”
“’He is not here … he is risen!’ This is the message that sustains our hope and turns it into concrete gestures of charity,” the pope said. It is a call to revive faith, broaden one’s horizons and know that no one walks alone.
“To celebrate Easter is to believe once more that God constantly breaks into our personal histories, challenging our conventions, those fixed ways of thinking and acting that end up paralyzing us,” he said.

Jesus never abandons people in times of trial

By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – If people listen to Jesus and do as he urges them, they can be certain that he will see them through even the darkest times, Pope Francis told members of a Rome parish.
“Jesus always prepares us for our trials and he never leaves us alone. Never,” the pope said Feb. 25 during Mass in the Church of St. Gelasius on Rome’s northeast edge.
Following his usual pattern for Sunday parish visits, Pope Francis reached the church in the early afternoon. After shaking hundreds of hands, blessing dozens of babies and posing for a handful of selfies with young people, the pope went to the parish soccer field to meet the children and teens involved in the parish catechism and sports programs.
After morning sunshine, the skies turned gray and cold, and a heavy rain began to fall.
“You’re soaked!” the pope told the youngsters.
“Life is like this,” he said, explaining that some days will be sunny, some rainy and sometimes storms unexpectedly blow in.
“What’s a Christian to do? Go forward with courage,” knowing that Jesus always is near and is always willing to forgive, he told them.
Moving indoors, the pope met with the elderly members of the parish and greeted each of them individually. He asked couples how long they had been married and asked others how they were feeling. One woman told him that she had a cold she just could not shake. He suggested she try some grappa, a strong grape-based alcoholic drink.
Pope Francis thanked the group of elders for all they do for the church and the world. Even if they do not feel like they are accomplishing great things, he said, they have been charged with “keeping the embers of faith alive” with their prayers and their witness.
After hearing confessions, the pope celebrated Mass in the parish church and gave a brief, extemporaneous homily focused on the day’s Gospel account of the transfiguration of Jesus.
By allowing the disciples to see him transfigured, Jesus gave them a preview of the glory that would be his after the crucifixion and resurrection, the pope said. It was a way to fortify and prepare the disciples for the trials and tribulations that were about to begin.
Remembering that vision, he said, the disciples would be able to “bear the weight of the humiliation” of seeing Jesus condemned and crucified.
In the same way, the pope said, Jesus gives all believers the assurance that he will triumph in the end. And, even in the darkest times, “he is always with us. He never leaves us alone. Never.”
In the Gospel account, he said, after the disciples see Jesus transfigured, they hear God’s voice telling them, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Listening to Jesus is key, the pope said. “In our daily lives, maybe we have problems or have many things to resolve. Let’s ask ourselves this: ‘What is Jesus saying to me today?’ And let’s try to listen to Jesus’ voice, how he inspires us. And that way we will follow the advice of the Father: ‘This is my beloved son. Listen to him.’”
But listening is only the first step, the pope said. Christians then must do what Mary told the servants to do at the wedding feast of Cana when the wine ran out: Listen to Jesus, then “do what he tells you.”

Pope to religious: Your hearts must be open 24-7

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Lift up your eyes from your smartphones and see your brothers and sisters, those who share your journey of faith and those who are longing for the Word of life, Pope Francis told consecrated men and women.
“Today’s frantic pace leads us to close many doors to encounter, often for fear of others,” the pope said in his homily for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord and the World Day for Consecrated Life. “Only shopping malls and internet connections are always open.” Yet believers’ hearts must be open as well, because every believer receives the faith from someone and is called to share it with others, the pope said at the Mass Feb. 2 in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The feast day commemorates the 40th day after Jesus’ birth when, in accordance with ancient Jewish practice, Mary and Joseph took him to the temple and presented him to the Lord. The feast’s Gospel reading from St. Luke recounts how the aged Simeon and Anna, who were praying in the temple, recognized Jesus as the Messiah.
The Mass, attended by thousands of women and men belonging to religious orders, began with the traditional blessing of candles and a prayer that God would guide people toward his son, “the light that has no end.” In his homily, Pope Francis focused on a series of encounters: between people and Jesus; between the young Mary and Joseph and the elderly Simeon and Anna; and between individuals and members of their religious communities or their neighborhoods.
“In the Christian East,” the pope explained, “this feast is called the ‘feast of Encounter’: It is the encounter between God, who became a child to bring newness to our world, and an expectant humanity.”
The pope told the religious that their own journeys were “born of an encounter and a call” which, while highly personal, took place in the context of a family, a parish or a community.
Members of religious orders must realize that they need each other – young and old – to renew and strengthen their knowledge of the Lord, he said. They must never “toss aside” the elderly members because “if the young are called to open new doors, the elderly have the keys.”
One’s brothers or sisters in the community are a gift to be cherished, he said before adding a plea: “May we never look at the screen of our cellphone more than the eyes of our brothers or sisters, or focus more on our software than on the Lord.” Pope Francis said strengthening the intergenerational bonds in a religious community also is an antidote to “the barren rhetoric of ‘the good old days’” and the only way “to silence those who believe that ‘everything is going wrong here.’”
Religious life, with its vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, always has been countercultural, he said. And yet it is the source of true freedom because while “the life of this world pursues selfish pleasures and desires, the consecrated life frees our affections of every possession in order fully to love God and other people.”

Pope Francis calls for church with ‘Amazonian and indigenous’ face

By Barbara J. Fraser
PUERTO MALDONADO, Peru – Pope Francis called on indigenous people of the Amazon to work with missionaries and bishops to shape a church with an “Amazonian and indigenous” face.
The pope pledged the church’s “whole-hearted option for the defense of life, the defense of the earth and the defense of cultures” and called his audience to work together toward the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon, which he has called for 2019.
“The native Amazonian peoples have probably never been so threatened on their own lands as they are at present,” Pope Francis said. “Amazonia is not only a reserve of biodiversity, but also a cultural reserve that must be preserved in the face of the new forms of colonialism.”
He also called for a change in the consumer culture that extracts resources from the Amazon without regard for the people who live there, and he had harsh words for officials who consider indigenous people an obstacle to development.
“Your lives cry out against a style of life that is oblivious to its own real cost,” the pope told the audience of some 2,500 indigenous people from Peru, Brazil and Bolivia.
Upon his arrival in this Amazonian town, the pope was welcomed by children who chanted, “Pope Francis is Amazonian now.” Once in Madre de Dios stadium, dancers in feathered headdresses accompanied him as he greeted the crowd.
Members of various indigenous peoples presented the pope with gifts that reflected their culture, including a basket, painting, book and woven stole. The pope left the stadium wearing a feathered headdress and strings of beads typically worn by community chiefs, presented to him by Santiago Manuin Valera, an Awajun leader from northern Peru.
The pope said he had come to listen to the people of this Amazonian region, which is rich in natural resources and indigenous cultures but increasingly devastated by illegal mining, deforestation and social problems.
A Harakbut woman and man and an Awajun woman described the threats their peoples face from outsiders who take timber and other resources from their lands, as well as their fear that their cultures could disappear and their efforts to keep those cultures alive
The pope echoed their concerns, listing oil and gas, mining, logging, industrial agriculture and even conservation programs as activities that do not take indigenous peoples into account, but “strangle” them and force young people to migrate because of a lack of alternatives.
“We have to break with the historical paradigm that views Amazonia as an inexhaustible source of supplies for other countries without concern for its inhabitants,” he said.
The pope praised the church’s work among native peoples in the Amazon, although he acknowledged errors. In many parts of the Amazon, missionaries started the first schools for indigenous children.
While noting that education and building schools is the government’s job, Pope Francis urged the Amazonian bishops to continue to encourage intercultural and bilingual education in schools, universities and teacher training programs.
Echoing the Harakbut speakers who had greeted him, he emphasized that education for native people must “build bridges and create a culture of encounter,” in a way that “respects and integrates their ancestral wisdom as a treasure belonging to the whole nation.”
The pope praised young indigenous people who are “working to reinterpret the history of their peoples from their own perspective,” as well as those who “show the world your worldview and your cultural richness” through art, music, crafts and literature.
“Much has been written and spoken about you,” he said. “It is good that you are now the ones to define yourselves and show us your identity. We need to listen to you.”
The pope urged his listeners, many of whom are pastoral agents in remote rural communities and poor urban areas, not to let their people’s Catholic faith be uprooted. Each culture “enriches the church by showing a new aspect of Christ’s face,” he said.
Pope Francis encouraged them to draw on the wisdom of their peoples, especially elders, to counter the pressures they face and to dialogue with missionaries and bishops.
“We need the native peoples to shape the culture of the local churches in Amazonia,” he said.

Don’t confess other’s faults, own up to sins, pope says at audience

By Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Fear and the shame of admitting one’s own sins leads to pointing fingers and accusing others rather than recognizing one’s own faults, Pope Francis said.
“It’s difficult to admit being guilty, but it does so much good to confess with sincerity. But you must confess your own sins,” the pope said Jan. 3 at his first general audience of the new year.
“I remember a story an old missionary would tell about a woman who went to confession and she began by telling her husband’s faults, then went on to her mother-in-law’s faults and then the sins of her neighbors. At a certain point, the confessor told her, ‘But ma’am, tell me, are you done?’ ‘No… Yes.’ ‘Great, you have finished with other people’s sins, now start to tell me yours,’” he said.
The pope was continuing his series of audience talks on the Mass, reflecting on the penitential rite.

Pope Francis hears a confession in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Italy, Aug. 4. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

Recognizing one’s own sins prepares a person to make room in his or her heart for Christ, the pope said. But a person who has a heart “full of himself, of his own success” receives nothing because he is already satiated by his “presumed justice.”
“Listening to the voice of conscience in silence allows us to realize that our thoughts are far from divine thoughts, that our words and our actions are often worldly, guided by choices that are contrary to the Gospel,” the pope said.
Confessing one’s sins to God and the church helps people understand that sin not only “separates us from God but also from our brothers and sisters,” he added.
“Sin cuts. It cuts our relationship with God and with our brothers and sisters, in our family, in society, in the community,” the pope said. “Sin always cuts, separates, divides.”
The penitential rite at Mass also includes asking the intercession of Mary and all the angels and saints, which, he said, is an acknowledgement that Christians seek help from “friends and models of life” who will support them on their journey toward full communion with God.
Christians also can find the courage to “take off their masks” and seek pardon for their sins by following the example of biblical figures such as King David, Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman and St. Peter.
“To take measure of the fragility of the clay with which we have been formed is an experience that strengthens us,” Pope Francis said. “While making us realize our weakness, it opens our heart to call upon the divine mercy that transforms and converts. And this is what we do in the penitential act at the beginning of Mass.”

(Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju)

Helping refugees means converting hardened hearts

By Carol Glatz
ROME (CNS) – With so much suffering, poverty and exploitation in the world, missionary work must also include reaching out to people whose hearts are closed to receiving immigrants and refugees, Pope Francis told Jesuits in Myanmar.
“Unfortunately, in Europe there are countries that have chosen to close their borders. The most painful thing is that to take such a decision, they had to close their hearts,” he said during a private audience Nov. 29 in the chapel of the archbishop’s house in Yangon.
“Our missionary work must also reach those hearts that are closed to the reception of others,” he told 31 Jesuits from different parts of Asia and Australia, who are based in Myanmar.
The Rome-based Jesuit-run journal, La Civilta Cattolica, published a transcript Dec. 14 from the private meeting in Myanmar and the pope’s private meeting Dec. 1 at the apostolic nunciature in Dhaka with Jesuits based in Bangladesh.
In both meetings, the pope listened to and answered their comments, concerns and questions, and the journal provided an English translation of the original Spanish remarks.
A Jesuit’s mission is to be close to the people, especially those who are suffering and forgotten because “to see them is to see Christ suffering and crucified,” he said in his meeting in Myanmar.
His approach, he said, is to try to visit these places and to “speak clearly, especially with countries that have closed their borders.”
“It is a serious issue,” he said, commenting on how that evening, they all would be sitting down to a full meal, including dessert, while many refugees will “have a piece of bread for dinner.”
He recalled visiting the refugees in Lesbos, Greece, and how the children he greeded were torn between shaking his hand and reaching for candy that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople was pulling out of his pockets.
“With one hand, they greeted me with the other, they grabbed the candy. I thought maybe it was the only sweet they had eaten for days.”
The situation of many of the refugees and stories they have told him have “helped me to cry a lot before God,” he said, particularly when a Muslim man recounted how terrorists slit the throat of his Christian wife right before his eyes when she refused to take off the cross she wore.
“These things must be seen and must be told,” he said, because news of what is happening does not reach most people, and “we are obliged to report and make public these human tragedies that some try to silence.”
The Jesuits he met in Bangladesh thanked him for talking about the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority being pushed from Myanmar’s Rakhine state and seeking refuge in Bangladesh.
“Jesus Christ today is called Rohingya,” as these people are their brothers and sisters, the pope told the Jesuits.
Just as St. Peter Claver ministered in the 17th century to slaves subjected to horrible conditions, such shameful conditions people endure still persist, he said.
“Today, there is much discussion about how to save the banks. The problem is the salvation of the banks. But who saves the dignity of men and women today?”
“Nobody cares about people in ruins any longer. The devil manages to do this in today’s world. If we had a little sense of reality, this should scandalize us.”
“The impudence of our world is such that the only solution is to pray and ask for the grace of tears,” he said.
Meeting the Rohingya refugees that same day at the archbishop’s residence in Dhaka, he added, made him feel ashamed. “I felt ashamed of myself, for the whole world!”
When asked “why such attention” for the small Catholic community in Bangladesh when he elevated their archbishop in Dhaka to the rank of cardinal, Pope Francis said that in naming cardinals, he looks to the “small churches, those that grow in the peripheries, at the edges.”
It’s not meant to give them “consolation,” but is “to launch a clear message: the small churches that grow in the periphery and are without ancient Catholic traditions today must speak to the universal church, to the whole church. I clearly feel that they have something to teach us.”

Buddhists, Christians must reclaim values that lead to peace

By Cindy Wooden
YANGON, Myanmar (CNS) – Christians and Buddhists are called by faith to overcome evil with goodness and violence with peace, Pope Francis said during a meeting with leaders of Myanmar’s Buddhist community.
Quoting St. Francis of Assisi and Buddha, the pope insisted that in a land where the powerfully bonded pairing of religion and ethnicity have been used to prolong conflict, it was time for religious leaders to reclaim the greatest values and virtues of their faith traditions.
Pope Francis met Nov. 29 with members of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, a government-appointed group of senior Buddhist monks who oversee some 500,000 monks and novices in Myanmar, where close to 90 percent of the population follows Buddhism.
One of the strongest anti-Muslim and anti-Rohingya currents of Myanmar society is led by Buddhist nationalists. The meeting was hosted by the Buddhists at the Kaba Aye Pagoda and Center.
As is customary, Pope Francis took off his shoes before entering the hall and walked in his black socks to his place. The Buddhist committee members sat directly opposite Pope Francis and members of his entourage across a plush, bright blue rug.
The challenge of the Buddhist monks and of the Catholic clergy, the pope said, is to help their people see that patience, tolerance and respect for life are values essential to every relationship, whether with people of the same family or ethnic group or with fellow residents of a nation.
The approach, he said, is common to both faiths.
Pope Francis quoted Buddha: “Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth.”
And then he pointed out how the “Prayer of St. Francis” has a similar teaching: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, let me bring pardon. … Where there is darkness, let me bring light, and where there is sadness, joy.”
“May that wisdom continue to inspire every effort to foster patience and understanding and to heal the wounds of conflict that, through the years, have divided people of different cultures, ethnicity and religious convictions,” he said.
The pope did use the word “Rohingya,” whom the Myanmar government does not recognize as a separate ethnic group, but he insisted the meeting was an occasion “to affirm a commitment to peace, respect for human dignity and justice for every man and woman.”
Faith, he said, not only should lead adherents to an experience of “the transcendent,” but also should help them see “their interconnectedness with all people.”
Bhaddanta Kumarabhivamsa, president of the committee, told the pope Buddhists believe all religions can, “in some way,” bring peace and prosperity, otherwise they would cease to exist.
Religious leaders, he said, “must denounce any kind of expression that incites (people) to hatred, false propaganda, conflict and war with religious pretexts and condemn strongly those who support such activity.”
Pope Francis ended his day with the Catholic bishops of Myanmar, urging them to “foster unity, charity and healing in the life of this nation.”
As he had earlier in the trip, the pope again defined as an example of “ideological colonization” the idea that differences are a threat to peaceful coexistence.
“The unity we share and celebrate is born of diversity,” he said. Unity in the church and in a nation “values people’s differences as a source of mutual enrichment and growth. It invites people to come together in a culture of encounter and solidarity.”