Catholic World News

Seeking peace and mercy, Pope Francis opens the Holy Door of Bangui

Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov 29, 2015 / 09:20 pm (CNA).- “Bangui is today the spiritual capital of the world,” Pope Francis said as he opened the Holy Door of Bangui’s cathedral on Sunday–the first time a Pope has opened a Holy Door outside Rome.

Pope Francis proclaimed: “We all pray for peace, mercy, reconciliation, pardon, love. Throughout the Central African Republic and in all the nations of the world which suffer war, let us pray for peace. And together we all pray for love and peace. We pray together.”

For the first time in history Pope Francis opens a Holy Door outside of Rome–at Bangui’s Cathedral #PopeInCAR

— Catholic News Agency (@cnalive) November 30, 2015

The Pope opened the Holy Door in the Central African Republic’s capital before the beginning of Sunday Mass Nov. 29.

The Jubilee of Mercy does not begin until Dec. 8, but Pope Francis decided to open the Holy Door in the cathedral of Bangui as a sign of prayer and solidarity with the country.

The Central African Republic is an active warzone following the December 2012 uprising which led to the overthrow of the president. About 6,000 people have died in the conflict, with several thousands more displaced.

The rite of the opening of the Holy Door is intended to symbolize that the Church’s faithful are offered an “extraordinary path” toward salvation during the time of jubilee.

As part of the Holy Year for Mercy, holy doors for the first time will be designated in dioceses. These will be located either in the cathedral, in a church of special significance or a shrine of particular importance for pilgrimages.

Each of the four major basilicas in Rome has a holy door. These are normally sealed shut from the inside so that they cannot be opened. The doors are only opened during jubilee years so that pilgrims can enter through them in order to gain the plenary indulgence that is connected with the jubilee.

Pope Francis’ Sunday homily emphasized that the power of God’s love can overcome “unprecedented devastation.” He called on Christians to be leaders in showing mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. He also called on those involved in unjust conflict  to lay down their weapons.

“Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace,” he said.

Pope Francis will open the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome when the Holy Year officially begins Dec. 8.

Catholic US News

Struggle with porn? The Church can help you, US bishops say

Washington D.C., Nov 29, 2015 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the first time, U.S. bishops have issued a historical pastoral letter specifically addressing the global crisis of pornography, looking at how the industry is affecting the parishioners in their pews and what the Church can do to offer mercy, healing, and hope to recovering pornography users.

“We offer this statement to give a word of hope and healing to those who have been harmed by pornography and to raise awareness of its pervasiveness and harms,” the statement reads, saying the Church wants to offer healing to the families destroyed by pornography and to the individuals who have been exploited by it.

The USCCB officially approved the pastoral letter created by the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth called “Create in Me a Clean Heart” on Nov. 17. The letter addresses the crisis of porn and how the Church is reaching out with mercy to those who fall prey to the thriving billion-dollar pornography industry, which creates an increasing slew of victims and perpetrators every year.

Pornography’s wide acceptance and even at times promotion in today’s global culture has prompted the U.S. bishops to address the crux of the issue: the failure to recognize every human’s innate call to love.

According to the pastoral letter, “every man and woman, whether called to marriage or not, has a fundamental vocation of self-giving, fruitful love in imitation of the Lord.”

The bishops describe pornography, however, as the opposite of love – the love for which every individual is created. Instead, pornography creates “a disordered view of the person, because it is ordered toward use, as of a thing, rather than love, which pertains to persons.”

Pornography also “rejects the equal dignity and complementarity between man and woman and strikes at the heart of God’s plan for communion between persons,” the letter stated.

The bishops also linked pornography as a gateway to other problems, such as: masturbation, addiction, adultery, prostitution, domestic violence, abuse, and sex trafficking. It also leads to a distorted view of human sexuality, and in some cases, damages the capacity for healthy, human intimacy.

Engaging in pornography might appear to some like a harmless, private affair, but the bishops pointed to multiple victims who are involved in the making. Many individuals and children portrayed in pornography are victims of human trafficking and also forced into prostitution, the bishops wrote, citing a study by former litigation attorney and anti-porn advocacy leader Noel Bouche.

The crisis of pornography inflicts deep wounds on many individuals, spouses, and families – including faithful Catholics, they said. Recognizing this danger and the reach of pornography within their own pastoral corners, the U.S. bishops were quick to point out that the Church is waiting to welcome those who are hurting.

“No wound is so deep, however, as to be out of the reach of Christ’s redeeming grace. The Church as a field hospital is called to proclaim the truth of the human person in love,” the letter stated.

“You are beloved sons and daughters of the Father. Be not afraid to approach the altar of mercy and ask for forgiveness. Many good people struggle with this sin. You are not alone,” the bishops said.

For many, use of pornography has become an addiction, or at the very least, desensitizing. Because of this, many individuals will have to seek other help in addition to confession or spiritual direction.

“We wish to specifically address Catholics in a range of circumstances and present opportunities for guidance, healing and grace,” the statement continued.

The bishops recommended counseling, coaching, accountability groups, conferences, and retreats as good options for recovering pornography users. Other tools like online monitoring software, couples therapy, and chastity education are also good resources.

“Freedom from pornography is a daily choice and calls for ongoing formation,” the pastoral letter noted.

Parents also have a responsibility to protect their sons and daughters from the modern-day scourge of pornography. The bishops noted that the average age of children who are exposed to pornography is age eleven, meaning that there are many children who are even younger.

“Parents and guardians, protect your home! Be vigilant about the technology you allow into your home and be sensitive to the prevalence of sexual content in even mainstream television and film and ease by which it comes through the Internet and mobile devices,” the letter stated.

In addition, the bishops encouraged intensified seminary and priestly formation on pastoral care to treat those involved with pornography. Priests, they noted, have a crucial role to play in creating authentic relationships and fraternal support with individuals who want to defeat their struggle with porn.

“God’s grace and concrete help are always available. Healing is always possible,” the bishops noted.

“Trust in and be led by the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s mercy and forgiveness are abundant!”

A full list of USCCB-approved resources on recovering from pornography is available at:

Catholic World News

‘Can I go’ to them? Pope Francis’ stunning response to alleged murders

Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov 29, 2015 / 02:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Reported violence near a mosque Pope Francis is slated to visit in Central African Republic caused the pontiff to reply with an immediate “can I go (be with them)?” according to a bishop who was standing close by.

After hearing of the alleged death of three youth this morning in a neighborhood of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, Pope Francis voiced his desire to go the area, though it wasn’t in the schedule.

However, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Franco Coppola, advised him against going, since it’s a dangerous area.

This is what the Bishop Juan José Aguirre of Bangassou told Spanish agency COPE during the lunch between Pope Francis and the country’s bishops.

Bishop Aguirre asked for prayers for the nation following the tragic reports that a number of people in the Fatima neighborhood of the capitol had been killed.

He explained that “this morning with all of the joy that there was in Bangui, with all of this overflowing joy… at 1.5 kilometers (from the place where Pope Francis ate with the bishops) three people were killed in the Fatima neighborhood.”

“I was with the Holy Father and I told him: Holiness, this morning three people were killed in this barrio (neighborhood) where there is a parish nearby, where there are three Comboni missionaries and 500 displaced persons.”

After hearing this, “the Pope immediately asked the Nuncio: ‘can I go, can I go?’ and the Nuncio replied: ‘no, Holiness, it is very dangerous.’”

In a Nov. 29 report for Vatican Insider, Italian Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli reported that the youth had been killed with machine guns as they tried to leave Our Lady of Fatima parish in Bangui.

The church is run by the Comboni missionaries, and is located in a Muslim area where Pope Francis is scheduled to go tomorrow morning to visit the city’s most important mosque.

“They would be people hiding in the parish to avoid the Seleka militants,” Tornielli said.

In his report, Tornielli said the act occurred at 8:00a.m. local time Nov. 29. According to Notre Dame Radio of Bangui, the youth were Christians who were trying to return to their houses, which had been burned by the Seleka militants who control the area.

Details of the incident, however, are still unclear. Tornielli reported that the head of the Vatican Gendarmerie, Domenico Giani, said later that only two had died instead of three. UN sources said the event was an episode of common crime, and that “there is no relation to the papal visit.”

Additionally, sources from the Comboni missionaries themselves later said it’s possible that no one died at all.

Tornielli said the ambiguity surrounding the details of the event is “a sign of the confusion that reigns in the city and, above all, in the Muslim neighborhood, where the Fatima parish is located.”

Until now, he said, “the only thing certain is the story of the Spanish bishop (Juan José Aguirre of Bangassou) and the reaction of the Pope, who would have immediately wanted to go to where the events took place.

On Nov. 30, his last day in Africa, Pope Francis is scheduled for a meeting with CAR’s Muslim community at the central Mosque of Koudoukou. Though many have advised against the decision, as of now it’s still on the Pope’s slate.

Catholic World News

Be like a banana – Pope Francis off-the-cuff to Central African youth

Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov 29, 2015 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During his meeting with the youth of the Central African Republic, Pope Francis gave spontaneous comments in response to a young local who asked the Holy Father’s advice about living in a war-torn country.

“We have been taken by heavy winds and violence…these challenges remain numerous,” the young man told the Holy Father, pointing out that the symbol of their country was the banana tree because it is resistant and life-giving.

The young man expressed that he and many of his friends are tempted to leave the violence and difficulties of their homeland in the Central African Republic. Since 2012, over 6,000 people in the CAR have died from violence spread by Muslim rebel groups challenging the country’s presidential power.

Pope Francis’ visit to the CAR is the most dangerous yet, as the country is considered to be an active war zone.

The pontiff held his encounter with the youth outside of Bangui’s Notre-Dame Cathedral on Nov. 29. It included a short, unprepared address and was followed by the administration of the sacrament of confession and a prayer vigil.

Below is CNA’s full transcript of Pope Francis’ remarks to Central African youth:

This friend who spoke in all of your name said that your symbol is the banana tree, because the banana is the symbol of life, it always grows, always produces, gives life, nutrients, energy.

The banana plant is very resistant. I think that this tells us very clearly the way that’s proposed to us during this difficult time of war: the way of resistance.

Dear friends, some of you want to go away, some of you want to leave. But escaping from the challenges that life presents is never a resolution.

We need to resist, to have the courage to resist, to fight so that good can come. Those who flee do not have the courage to give life.

The banana gives life and continues to reproduce, giving more and more life because it resists, because it remains, because it’s there.

Some of you might ask me ‘but father, what can we do? how do we resist?’ I’m going to say to or three things that may be helpful for you in order to resist.

First of all, prayer! Prayer is powerful, prayer conquers evil, prayer brings us nearer to God who is all powerful. I’m going to ask you a question: Do you pray? I don’t hear you! (cheers). Don’t forget.

The second thing I’d like to say is work for peace. Peace is not found in a document you sign. That just remains there. Peace is found every day and peace is something that is done by hand, it’s something that artisans do, it’s done with one’s own life.

But some of you might ask: ‘how can I be an artisan of peace?’

First, Never hate! And if someone does evil toward you, try to forgive – never hate. A lot of forgiveness. (Say together) ‘no hate, a lot of forgiveness.’

And if you don’t have hate in your heart, if you will be a victor. And then you will be a victor of the most important battle of life: victors of love, and out of love comes peace.

Do you want to be conquered or do you want to be victors: what do you want?

The path of love – and can one love an enemy? Yes. Can we pardon those who’ve done us wrong? Yes. Thus with love and with forgiveness, you will be conquerors. With love you will be victorious in life, love always wins, love will never allow you to be conquered.

I wish you all the best – think of the banana. Think of resisting before difficulty. Escaping, going far away, is not a solution. You need to be courageous. Have you understood what it means to be courageous? Courageous and forgiving, courageous and loving, courageous and being peaceful.

Are we agreed? (cheers). Let’s say together: courage, love, reconciliation, peace!

Dear friends, I am very happy to meet with you. Today we opened this door, this means the door of the mercy of God. Entrust yourselves to God, because he is merciful, he is love. He is able to give you peace.

And so I told you at the beginning to pray: in order to resist, to love, and to be artisans of peace. Thank you so much for your presence. Now I will go inside to hear some of your confessions. Are you ready to resist? Yes or no? (cheers). Are you ready to fight for peace? Are you ready in your heart? Is your heart ready to forgive? Is your heart ready to be reconciled? Is your heart ready to love this beautiful country?

And now I go back to what I said in the beginning: is your heart ready to pray? And now, I ask you, to pray for me! So that I might be a good bishop. So that I might be a good Pope. Will you promise to pray for me? Now I give you my blessing. To you and to your families, a blessing, asking the Lord to give you love and peace.

Good evening, and pray for me!

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