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Pope Francis: Cultural colonization ends in persecution



(Vatican Radio) Cultural and ideological colonization does not tolerate differences and makes everything the same, resulting in the persecution even of believers. Those were Pope Francis’ reflections in his homily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta, which centered on the martyrdom of Eleazar, narrated in the book of Maccabees from the First Reading (Maccabees 6: 18-31).

The Pope noted that there are three main types of persecution: a purely religious persecution; a “mixed” persecution that has both religious and political motivations, like the Thirty Years War or the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre”; and a kind of cultural persecution, when a new culture comes in wanting “to make everything new and to make a clean break with everything: the cultures, the laws and the religions of a people.” It is this last type of persecution that led to the martyrdom of Eleazar.

The account of this persecution began in the reading from Monday’s liturgy. Some of the Jewish people, seeing the power and the magnificent beauty of Antiochus Ephiphanes (a Greek king of the Seleucid Empire), wanted to make an alliance with him. They wanted to be up-to-date and modern, and so they approached the king and asked him to allow them “to introduce the pagan institutions of other nations” among their own people. Not necessarily the ideas or gods of those nations, the Pope noted, but the institutions. In this way, this people brought in a new culture, “new institutions” in order to make a clean break with everything: their “culture, religion, law.” This modernizing, this renewal of everything, the Pope emphasized, is a true ideological colonization that wanted to impose on the people of Israel “this unique practice,” according to which everything was done in a particular way, and there was no freedom for other things. Some people accepted it because it seemed good to be like the others; and so the traditions were left aside, and the people begin to live in a different way.

But to defend the “true traditions” of the people, a resistance rose up, like that of Eleazar, who was very dignified, and respected by all. The book of Maccabees, the Pope said, tells the story of these martyrs, these heroes. A persecution born of ideological colonization always proceeds in the same way: destroying, attempting to make everyone the same. Such persecutions are incapable of tolerating differences.

The key word highlighted by the Pope, beginning with Monday’s reading is “perverse root” – that is Antiochus Epifanes: the root that came to introduce into the people of God, “with power,” these new, pagan, worldly” customs:

“And this is the path of cultural colonization that ends up persecuting believers too. But we do not have to go too far to see some examples: we think of the genocides of the last century, which was a new cultural thing: [Trying to make] everyone equal; [so that] there is no place for differences, there is no place for others, there is no place for God. It is the perverse root. Faced with this cultural colonization, which arises from the perversity of an ideological root, Eleazar himself has become [a contrary] root.

In fact, Eleazar dies thinking of the young people, leaving them a noble example. “He gives [his] life; for love of God and of the law he is made a root for the future.” So, in the face of that perverse root that produces this ideological and cultural colonization, “there is this other root that gives [his] life for the future to grow.”

What had come from the kingdom of Antioch was a novelty. But not all new things are bad, the Pope said: just think of the Gospel of Jesus, which was a novelty. When it comes to novelties, the Pope said, one has to be able to make distinctions:

“There is a need to discern ‘the new things’: Is this new thing from the Lord, does it come from the Holy Spirit, is it rooted in God? Or does this newness come from a perverse root? But before, [for example] yes, it was a sin to kill children; but today it is not a problem, it is a perverse novelty. Yesterday, the differences were clear, as God made it, creation was respected; but today [people say] we are a little modern… you act… you understand … things are not so different … and things are mixed together.”

 The “new things” of God, on the other hand, never makes “a negotiation” but grows and looks at the future:

“Ideological and cultural colonizations only look to the present; they deny the past, and do not look to the future. They live in the moment, not in time, and so they can’t promise us anything. And with this attitude of making everyone equal and cancelling out differences, they commit, they make an particularly ugly blasphemy against God the Creator. Every time a cultural and ideological colonization comes along, it sins against God the Creator because it wants to change Creation as it was made by Him. And against this fact that has occurred so often in history, there is only one medicine: bearing witness; that is, martyrdom.

Eleazar, in fact, gives the witness by giving his life, considering the inheritance he will leave by his example: “I have lived thus. Yes, I dialogue with those who think otherwise, but my testimony is thus, according to the law of God.” Eleazar does not think about leaving behind money or anything of that kind, but looks to the future, “the legacy of his testimony,” to that testimony that would be “a promise of fruitfulness for the young.” It becomes, therefore, a root to give life to others. And the Pope concludes with the hope that that example “will help us in moments of confusion in the face of the cultural and spiritual colonization that is being proposed to us.”

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope addresses Italian road and railway police



While commending Italy’s police force for ensuring the safety and security of those travelling by road and train, Pope Francis on Monday called on them to also inculcate humanity, uprightness ‎and “mercy”.  ‎  The Pope met some 100 top leaders and officials of Italy’s road police that celebrating its 70th anniversary and railway police that is marking its 110 years. 

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Road safety

Talking about road safety, Pope Francis told the group it is necessary to deal with the low level of responsibility on the part of many drivers, who often do not even realize the serious consequences of their inattention (for example, with improper use of cell phones) or their disregard.  He said this is caused by a hurried and competitive lifestyle that regards other drivers as obstacles or opponents ‎to overcome, turning roads into “Formula One” tracks and the traffic lights as the starting line of a Grand Prix race.  In such a context, the Pope said, sanctions are not just enough to increase security, but there is a need for an ‎educative action, which creates greater awareness of one’s responsibilities for those traveling ‎alongside. ‎

Beyond professionalism

The Pope told the police men and women that the fruit of their experience on the road and the railway will help in raising awareness and increase civic sense. Their professionalism not only depends on their skills but also on their “profound uprightness” which never takes ‎advantage of the powers they possess, thus helping develop a “high degree of humanity.”  The Pope said that in surveillance and prevention, it is important to ensure never to let the use of force degenerate into ‎violence, especially when a policeman is regarded with suspicion or almost as an enemy instead of a guardian of the common good.

Mercy

In fulfilling their functions, the Holy Father suggested the police have a “sort of mercy”, which he said is not synonymous with ‎weakness.  Neither does it mean renunciation of the use of force.  It means not identifying the ‎offender with the offence he has committed, that ends up creating harm and generating revenge.  Their work requires them to use mercy even in the countless situations of weakness and pain that they face daily, ‎not only in various types of accidents but also in meeting needy or disadvantaged people.

Good vs evil

The Pope also asked the road and railway police to recognize the presence of the clash between good and evil in the world and within us, and to do everything possible to fight egoism, injustice and  ‎indifference and whatever offends man, creates ‎disorder and foments illegality, hindering the happiness and growth of people. 

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope on World Day of the Poor: they open for us the way to heaven



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Sunday – the XXXIII Sunday in Ordinary Time and the first-ever World Day of the Poor – in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Holy Father announced the World Day of the Poor during the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, and entrusted its organization and promotion to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

There were some 4 thousand needy people in the congregation for the Mass, after which Pope Francis offered Sunday lunch in the Paul VI Hall.

Speaking off the cuff to guests at the luncheon, the Holy Father said, “We pray that the Lord bless us, bless this meal, bless those who have prepared it, bless us all, bless our hearts, our families, our desires, our lives and give us health and strength.” The Holy Father went on to ask God‘s blessing on all those eating and serving in soup kitchens throughout the city. “Rome,” he said, “is full of this [charity and good will] today.”

Click below to hear our report



The World Day of the Poor is to be marked annually, on the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time.

In the homily he prepared for the occasion and delivered in St. Peter’s Basilica following the Gospel reading, Pope Francis said, “In the poor, Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love.” He went on to say, “When we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren, we are his good and faithful friends, with whom he loves to dwell.”

Reminding the faithful that it is precisely in the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor (cf. 2 Cor 8:9), and that there is therefore in each and every poor person, a “saving power” present, Pope Francis said, “[I]f in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“For us,” the Pope continued, “it is an evangelical duty to care for them, as our real riches, and to do so not only by giving them bread, but also by breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them.

“To love the poor,” Pope Francis said, “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material: and it will also do us good. Drawing near to the poor in our midst will touch our lives. It will remind us of what really counts: to love God and our neighbour. Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away.” 

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope to Ratzinger Prize-winners: a symphony of truth



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the recipients of the 2017 Ratzinger Prize in Theology on Saturday morning. Catholic Professor Karl-Heinz Menke of the Theological Faculty of the University of Bonn, Lutheran Professor Theodor Dieter of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, and Orthodox composer Arvo Pärt, share the Prize this year, which Benedict XVI established in 2010 as the leading international award for research in Sacred Scripture, patristics, and fundamental theology.

Broadening horizons of the Ratzinger Prize

This year, therefore, marks the first time in which the Prize is given to someone not engaged in strictly theological endeavor.

When the prize-winners were announced in September, the President of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation, Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, said, “Benedict XVI’s appreciation for the art of music and the highly religious inspiration behind the musical art of Pärt, justified the attribution of the prize also outside of the strictly theological field.”

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In remarks to the roughly 200 guests, including the prize-winners and officials of the Ratzinger Foundation on Saturday morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis said, “I welcomed with joy the idea of ​broadening the horizon of the [Ratzinger] Prize to include the arts, in addition to the theology and sciences, which are naturally associated with it.” He went on to say, “It is an enlargement that corresponds well with the vision of [Pope emeritus] Benedict XVI, who so often spoke to us in a touching manner, of beauty as a privileged way of opening ourselves to transcendence and to meeting God.”

Ecumenical focus

The Prize this year also had an ecumenical element.

In addition to Pärt’s Orthodoxy, the year, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Lutheran movement in Christianity, and Lutheran Professor Theodor Dieter one of the three recipients.  “The truth of Christ,” said Pope Francis, “is not for soloists, but is symphonic: it requires docile collaboration, harmonious sharing.” The Holy Father also said, “Seeking it, studying it, contemplating it, and transposing it in practice together, in charity, draws us strongly toward full union between us: truth becomes thus a living source of ever closer ties of love.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “[C]ongratulations, therefore, to the illustrious prize winners: Professor Theodor Dieter, Professor Karl-Heinz Menke and Maestro Arvo Pärt; and my encouragement to [the Ratzinger] Foundation,” so that, “we might continue to travel along new and broader ways to collaborate in research, dialogue and knowledge of the truth. – a truth that, as Pope Benedict has not tired of reminding us, is, in God, logos and agape, wisdom and love, incarnate in the person of Jesus.”

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope at Mass: Take time to think about death



(Vatican Radio) With today’s readings, the Church invites us to reflect on the end of the world, but also on the end of our own lives. Pope Francis based his homily on the Gospel reading, where the Lord speaks about the daily lives of men and women in the days before the great Flood, or in the days of Lot – they lived normal lives, eating and drinking, doing business, marrying. But the “day of the manifestation of the Lord” came – and things changed.

The Church, our Mother, wants us to take time to consider our own death, the Pope said. We are all used to the routine of daily life. We think things will never change. But, Pope Francis continued, the day will come when we will be called by the Lord. For some it will be unexpected; for others it might come after a long illness – but the call will come. And then, the Pope said, there will be another surprise from the Lord: eternal life.

This is why the Church asks us to “pause for a moment, take a moment to think about death.” We should not become accustomed to earthly life, as though it were eternity. “A day will come,” the Pope said, echoing the words of Jesus in the Gospel, “when you will be taken away” to go with the Lord. And so it is good to reflect upon the end of our life.

“Thinking about death is not a gruesome fantasy,” the Pope said. “Whether it is gruesome or not depends on me, and how I think about it – but what will be, will be.” When we die, we will meet the Lord – “this is the beauty of death, it will be an encounter with the Lord, it is Him coming to meet you, saying, “Come, come, [you who are] blessed by My Father, come with me.”

The Holy Father concluded his homily with a story about an elderly priest who was not feeling well. When he went to the doctor, the doctor told him he was sick. “Perhaps we’ve caught it in time to treat it,” the doctor told him. “We will try this treatment, and if this doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. And if that doesn’t work, we will begin to walk [together], and I will accompany you to the very end.”

Like the doctor, we too, the Pope said, must accompany one another on this journey. We must do everything we can in order to assist the sick; but always looking toward our final destiny, to the day when the Lord will come to take us with Himself to our heavenly home. 

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Francis to lead Prayer for Peace in South Sudan and DRC



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is to preside over a Prayer for Peace in South Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 23rd in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5.30pm Rome time.

Solidarity with South Sudan” in association with the Justice and Peace office of religious organizations worldwide, has organized the Prayer and confirmed that when Pope Francis heard of the initiative he made it known that he wanted to be personally involved. 

Christians across the world are invited to pray together on that day and time for Peace in the world, and above all in South Sudan and in DRC, two conflict ravaged nations in which millions of displaced people are suffering the effects of terrible humanitarian crises.

Sr. Yudith Pereira Rico, the Associate Executive Director of Solidarity in Rome, told journalists that the main thing people ask her to do when she travels to South Sudan, is to tell the world what is happening in their country.

The world’s newest country spiraled into civil war in late 2013, two years after gaining independence from Sudan, causing one fourth of the 15 million-strong population to flee their homes.

Sister Yudith described the continuing violence and abuse taking place in South Sudan as “Silent Genocide”.

She told Linda Bordoni what it means for the suffering people of South Sudan to know that the Pope and Christians across the world are praying for them:

Listen:

Sister Yudith said that for them, to know that people outside of South Sudan, in Rome, and in other places are praying for them, is to know that “we have the world with us”.

“For them it a source of strength and hope for the future to feel that they are not alone, and this is important because otherwise where can they find the courage to resist what they are enduring now as refugees, victims…” she said.

And highlighting the many abuses the most vulnerable people are enduring including the use of rape as a weapon of war, Sr Yudith said “to know that people are talking about this means that they too, as human beings count”.

“They feel they don’t count for anybody: for politicians they don’t count, they don’t exist – they are only fighting for power and for money.”

She says most people don’t even know where South Sudan is or the fact that it is the newt country.

To acknowledge and to pray for them, she said, is to give them dignity and saying “we are with you”.

She said that notwithstanding the terrible events that caused the new nation to disintegrate into conflict the people still want to be one.

She explained that they came from 20 years of war, they did not have a national identity, and while the warmongers are vying for power and control the new generations, the women and all ordinary people are convinced they can all live together peacefully.

Sr Yudith also spoke of Pope Francis’ interest in the nation and of how it has positively impacted the desire to set in motion some kind of peace process.

“He is waiting for them to begin something so he can come and lend his support, but they have to begin…” she said.
       

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope addresses Pacific Islands Forum leaders



(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Saturday shared the concerns of island, coastal and fishing communities, and called for global cooperation, solidarity and strategies to address issues such as the deterioration of the environment and the health of oceans.

Meeting some 46 members of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in the Vatican, the Pope shared the concerns of those exposed to frequent extreme environmental and climate events, and the impact of rising sea levels and the continuous deterioration of the barrier reef.

He blamed many of the causes of this “environmental decay” on the short-sighted human activity… connected with certain ways ‎of exploiting natural and human resources.



Earth without borders

The Pope however expressed satisfaction that the problem of global warming and rising sea levels that mainly affect  impoverished coastal populations, are being discussed in international forums, such as the on-going United Nations COP-23 Climate Change Conference in Bonn.

He evoked the vision of an “earth without borders” that calls for the need for a global outlook, international cooperation and solidarity, and a shared strategy, to address environmental problems.

He lamented that since the appeal by the Filipino bishops nearly 30 years ago, the situation of the oceans and the marine ecosystem, especially the barrier reef, has not really improved.  We still face problems, including pollution caused by the accumulation ‎of plastics and micro-plastics in oceans, the Pope said. 

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope Francis sends message to conference on Paul VI



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a message to participants at a conference taking place in Rome on the theme ‘Pope Paul VI, the pope of modernity”.

In the message Pope Francis notes that the conference is taking place 50 years after the publication of his predecessor’s encyclical ‘Popolorum Progressio’, often described as one of the key Catholic Social Teaching documents.

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That encyclical, he said, sought to be a “solemn appeal for concerted action in favour of integral human development”. The appeal remains just as urgent today, Pope Francis said, as poverty increases and peace is threatened on a daily basis in different parts of the world.

In order to build peace, he continued,Pope we must eliminate the causes of discord, starting with injustice, since peace is the work of justice. Thus, he said, the conference reflections focused on ‘justice among peoples’ is particularly topical,  inspired by a sense of ‘The Gospel in motion’, bringing Christian faith, hope and charity to the men and women of today.

Finally, Pope Francis noted that the conference is also exploring the theme of Paul VI’s love for Italy. He emphasized the fact that the soul of the Italian people bears witness to a genuine solidarity which is at the basis of all our human communities. We must never tire of promoting this witness of authentic humanism, he said, without which our dignity is at risk.

(from Vatican Radio)



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The Pope urges Ukrainian seminarians to sow culture of peace



(Vatican Radio) Celebrating 85 years since the foundation of Saint Josaphat’s Ukrainian Pontifical College in Rome, Pope Francis encouraged Ukrainian seminarians to become shepherds of communities in which love and respect for others will flourish.

The Saint Josaphat College was founded upon the wish of Pope Pius XI and is currently run by the Basilian monastic order.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:



In his message to future Ukrainian priests, Pope Francis recalled that the institution was built with the intent of conveying a message of love and closeness to those faithful “who live in areas of suffering and persecution”.

He invited them to prepare for their apostolic mission as deacons and priests studying the Church’s Social Doctrine and recalling the example of Pope Pius XI whom, he said, “always and firmly raised his voice in defending the faith, the freedom of the Church and the transcendent dignity of every human person” while condemning the atheistic and inhumane ideologies that bloodied the 20th century.

“Also today the world is world is wounded by wars and violence” the Pope said with a particular reference to the beloved Ukrainian nation “from which you came and to where you will return” after having completed your studies in Rome.

Backing his encouragement to spread a culture of peace and acceptance with words from the Gospel, the Pope said “to you, seminarians and priests of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, these challenges may seem out of your reach; but let us remember the words of the Apostle John: I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.”

The Pope said that by loving and proclaiming the Word they will become true shepherds of the communities that will be entrusted to them.

“It [the Word] will be the lamp that illuminates your heart and your home, whether you prepare for celibacy or for married priesthood, according to tradition of your Church” he said.

Francis invited them to love and to guard their traditions avoiding all forms of sectarianism and he urged them to ask their flocks “to learn to love and respect each other, to abandon their weapons, to reject war and all kinds of abuse”.

“Never forget the Covenant between God and mankind” he said.

The Pope invoked the intercession of the Holy Mother of God who is venerated in the Ukrainian National Shrine of Zarvanytsya.

“She wants the priests of her Son to be like the torches lit at night in front of her Shrine reminding everyone, especially the poor and the suffering, and even those who perpetrate evil and sow violence and destruction, that the people who walked in the darkness saw a great light; that a light shone upon those who lived in a land of shadows” he said.

Pope Francis concluded revealing a personal devotion to the Ukrainian icon of Our Lady of Tenderness, a gift of the Major Archbishop from when they were together in Buenos Aires, and sharing his memory of a Ukrainian priest, Father Stepan Chmil, whom he knew when he was a young boy back in 1949 and from whom he learnt how to be an altar boy for the Ukrainian Mass: “He spoke of the persecutions, of the suffering, of the ideologies that persecuted Christians. And he taught me to be open to a different liturgy, something I always keep in my heart”.

The Pope also said that last time he was in Buenos Aires, Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church had asked him for testimonies with which to open the canonization process of Father Chmil who was ordained bishop in secrecy: “I wanted to remember him today because it is an act of justice to thank him before you for the good that he did to me”.

(from Vatican Radio)



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Pope meets Egypt’s Muslim leader Ahmed al-Tayeb



(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met on Tuesday with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Muhammad al-Tayeb who is in Rome to attend a conference organised by the St Egidio community.

No details of the private encounter were released, but the meeting marked the second trip to the Vatican in two years by Egypt’s top Muslim leader. His first meeting with the pope in May 2016 marked an important step forward after five years of suspended dialogue between the Holy See and the prestigious Al-Azhar university.

Pope’s visit to Cairo

In April this year, Pope Francis travelled to Cairo to visit the headquarters of Sunni Muslim scholarship and attend an international peace conference there. During his two day visit to Egypt, the pope urged religious leaders to denounce violations of human rights and expose attempts to justify violence and hatred in the name of God.

Respecful interreligious dialogue

He appealed for respectful interreligious dialogue, saying the only alternative to a culture of civilized encounter is “the incivility of conflict”. Recalling the visit of St Francis to the Sultan in Egypt eight centuries ago, he called for dialogue based on sincerity and the courage to accept differences.

(from Vatican Radio)



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