Posts Tagged ‘vatican’

Ecumenical dialogue in the spotlight as Pope’s Turkey trip approaches

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2014 / 01:57 pm (CNA).- The cardinal heading the Church’s council for Christian Unity has expressed his hope that Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Turkey will help strengthen existing Catholic-Orthodox relations.


Refugees, displaced take center stage at Middle East consistory

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2014 / 12:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At Monday’s consistory on the Middle East, patriarchs gathered to discuss the threats facing local Christians, and focused on the key task of returning displaced families to their homes.

“We are suffering … we feel that we are isolated and that we are forgotten,” Louis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon, told CNA after the Oct. 20 consistory.

“I asked the Pope to send a message to Christians, to encourage them to stay home, to keep their hope, and maybe also to visit displaced families to encourage them to stay and not to leave their homes, and to have patience to persevere.”

The Syrian civil war has forced 3 million Syrians, of all religions, to become refugees, with an additional 6.5 million internally displaced. And in Iraq, since the rise of the Islamic State, there are more than 1.8 million internally displaced persons.

Cardinals and patriarchs from the Middle East, together with top officials of the Secretariat of State and interested dicasteries attended the consistory with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

Initially set in order to advance the causes of canonization for two blesseds, the consistory’s schedule was expanded by Pope Francis who wanted to dedicate it to discussion surrounding the plight of Christians in the Middle East, taking advantage of the presence of Middle Eastern patriarchs in Rome on the heels of the synod.

Patriarch Sako said that what representatives from the Middle East most want from the international community is further aid in gaining back the Christian towns in Iraq’s Nineveh province from the Islamic State so that displaced families can go home and “continue their life as it was before.”

Although multiple countries have launched airstrikes against the Islamic State, Patriarch Sako explained that it is not enough, and would like to see “something on the ground” that will help regain the fallen cities.

“We know that just bombing and killing people is not a solution,” he said. “But also, when they are killing innocent people and destroying houses” there needs to be a military action.

In the long run, Patriarch Sako said, it is necessary “to destroy this kind of ideology with a new culture, new programs of religious instruction; and also, religious leaders should refuse this fundamentalism.”

He also extended a personal invitation to the Pope to visit Iraq in order to “encourage Christians and Muslims to live together, and also to push forward the culture of dialogue and peace, and to resolve problems with negotiations.”

Another participant in the consistory, Ignatius Joseph III Younan, Syriac Patriarch of Antioch, told CNA Oct. 20 that at this moment, Christian in the Middle East “are facing a very, very critical phase in their history.”

One of their great concerns, he said, is that Christians and other persecuted minorities have no means of defending themselves against Islamist militants, and so they are completely dependent upon military force exercised by their countries’ governments and by the international community.

Patriarch Younan said, “We are calling again on the powers of this world, international societies, to be faithful to the principles of the Charter of Human Rights from 1948: that we have the right to live as true citizens in dignity and freedom.”

Many families are scattered or lost, he said, and are living under “precarious conditions” in tents at makeshift camps, facing terrorism and the loss of their homes.

“These are our challenges,” Patriarch Younan explained, saying that in the consistory he and the other patriarchs made sure Pope Francis “understood the sum of all our drama,” particularly the fact that at this moment “we don’t know what to do to respond to (our people’s) questions – if they can return to their homes or not.”

Yostinos Boulos Safar, who is the Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Zahle and Bekaa, in Lebanon, attended both the Synod on the Family and the following consistory as an ecumenical observer.

Speaking to CNA Oct. 17, he expressed his hope that the consistory would result in concrete solutions for the challenges present in the Middle East.

His own nation — whose population in 2011 was slightly more than 4 million — has since then become home to well over 1 million Syrian refugees.

Although it’s not possible to expect anything immediate, he said, “just to meet is something important. Just to talk is starting to resolve the problems.”

The Pope’s advice on how to overcome jealousy and pride

Vatican City, Oct 22, 2014 / 10:37 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his weekly address for the Wednesday general audience, Pope Francis offered advice on fighting those tendencies which “dismember” the Body of Christ, such as jealousy and feelings of superiority.

“A jealous heart is a bitter heart, a heart that instead of blood seems to have vinegar, eh! It is a heart that is never happy, it is a heart that disrupts the community,” he told tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Oct. 22

“When I am jealous, I must say to the Lord: ‘Thank you, Lord, for you have given this to that person’.”

Pope Francis stressed the importance of “expressing gratitude for everything,” saying that we are sometimes “held back” from saying “thank you” because of jealousy.

He also warned against feelings of superiority over others. “This is bad, do not do that! When you are tempted to this, remember your sins, those no one knows, shame yourself before God and say, ‘You, Lord, you know who is superior, I close my mouth’.”

The Holy Father’s general audience address focused largely on how the Church, drawn together by the Holy Spirit, is truly the Body of Christ.

Beginning with St. Paul, the Pope said, the image of the body as “applied to the Church” has become “recognized as its deepest and most beautiful distinguishing feature.” The question we ask ourselves, then is: “in what sense does the Church form a body? And why is called the ‘body of Christ’?”

Turning to the Book of Ezekiel, Pope Francis highlighted the unique and “shocking” scene – one which, nonetheless, “instills confidence and hope in our hearts” – in which the prophet has a vision of a field of broken and dried-up bones.

“Imagine: an entire plain full of bones,” he said. “God asks [Ezekiel], then, to invoke the Spirit upon them. At that point, the bones move, they begin to draw closer to each other and join together, nerves begin to grow and then flesh and thus the body is formed, whole and full of life.”

The Holy Father advised the faithful to go home and read this passage from Ezekial 37, explaining: “This is the Church… the masterpiece of the Spirit, which instills in each of us new life of the Risen Christ and places us next to each other, to help and support each other, thus making all us one body, built in the communion and love.”

The Church is not merely a body which has been built by the Spirit, he continued. Rather, “the Church is the Body of Christ!” This is the “great gift” we received in Baptism, for in this Sacrament, “Christ makes us His, welcoming us into the heart of the mystery of the Cross, the supreme mystery of His love for us, to make us rise again with Him as new creatures.”

“Baptism is truly a rebirth,” the Holy Father continued, “which regenerates us in Christ, making us a part of Him, and unites us intimately among each other, as members of the same body, of which He is the head” (cf. Rom 12.5, 1 Cor 12, 12-13).

“What emerges from this, then, is a profound communion of love.”

Recalling the words of St. Paul, in which the Apostle exhorts husbands to ‘love their wives as their own bodies,’ as ‘Christ does the Church’, the Pope remarked how good it would be to remember that we are Jesus’ body which “nothing and no one can snatch from Him and which he covers with all His passion and all His love, just like a bridegroom with his bride.”

Pope Francis added that this “must give rise in us the desire to respond to the Lord Jesus and share His love among ourselves, as living members of His own body.”

In the time of Paul, the Pope said, the community of Corinth experienced “divisions, jealousies, misunderstandings and marginalization.” Instead of “building and helping the Church to grow as the Body of Christ,” he said, these difficulties “shatter it into many pieces, they dismember it. And this also happens in our day.”

These same divisions which exist in in our own neighborhoods, he said, work to dismember us. “It is the beginning of war. War does not begin on the battlefield: war, wars begin in the heart, with this misunderstanding, division, envy, with this fighting among each other.”

Citing Paul’s “practical advice” to the Corinthians, Pope Francis warned against jealousy, calling instead for an appreciation for “the gifts and the quality of our brothers and sisters in our communities.”

He concluded his address by imploring the Holy Spirit to “help us to really live as the Body of Christ, united as a family, but a family that is the body of Christ, and as a beautiful and visible sign of the love of Christ.”

Pope Francis: Christ restores peace by breaking walls of division

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2014 / 10:30 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Christ wants to see us reconciled rather than living as enemies, Pope Francis said in his homily at Mass on Tuesday, explaining that a true Christian lives with this hope.

“We all know th…

Vatican releases details for Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2014 / 07:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In response to an invitation sent by Patriarch Bartolomeo I of Constantinople, Pope Francis will make a three-day trip to Turkey, during which he will visit the cities of Ankara and Istanbul.

Announced in September following the reception of an official letter of invitation signed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the trip will take place Nov. 28-30, and falls just days after Pope Francis’ Nov. 25 address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The visit was largely made in response to an invitation sent to Pope Francis by Patriarch Bartolomeo I asking him to participate in the celebration of the feast of St. Andrew, who is the founder of the Eastern Church and patron of the Orthodox world.

In stark contrast with his previous trips, usually packed with various liturgies, audiences and meetings with diverse groups of people, Pope Francis is keeping his schedule light, and will only give 3 public speeches, one being a homily for Mass on the second day of his trip.

After departing from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 9a.m. on Friday, Nov. 28, the Roman Pontiff will fly directly to the Turkish capital of Ankara, where he will receive an official welcoming ceremony at the airport.

He will then make his way to the Atatürk Mausoleum, and afterwards will go to the presidential palace, where he pay a courtesy visit to the Turkish president and hold an audience with local authorities. He will also visit with Turkey’s Prime Minister and President of Religious Affairs that afternoon.

The following day the Bishop of Rome will travel by plane to Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, where he will visit the historic Hagia Sophia museum, which is a former Greek Orthodox patriarchal basilica that was later transformed into an imperial mosque.

He will then visit the historic Sultan Ahmet Mosque, also known as the “Blue Mosque” due to the blue tiles covering the inside.

After his visit to these two historically significant sites, the Pope will celebrate Mass in Istanbul’s Cathedral of the Holy Spirit. He will then participate in an ecumenical prayer at the Patriarchal church of St. George, after which he will have a private encounter with His Holiness Bartholomew I.

On his final day in Turkey Pope Francis will hold a private Mass in the morning before praying the Divine Liturgy at the Patriarchal church of St. George and signing a joint declaration with Bartolomeo I.

After having lunch with the patriarch, Pope Francis will head back to Istanbul’s Atatürk airport, and will land at Rome’s Ciampino airport at 6:40p.m.

Please see below for the full itinerary of Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey:

Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

9:00a.m. Depart by plane from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport
1:00p.m. Arrive to Ankara’s Esembo?a Airport
Official Welcome

Visit to Atatürk Mausoleum

Presidential Palace:
Welcoming Ceremony
Courtesy visit to the president of the Republic
Encounter with authorities

Audience with Prime Minister

Visit to the president of Religious Affairs at Diyanet

Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014

9:30a.m. Depart by plan from Ankara’s Esembo?a Airport
10:30a.m. Arrive to the international Atatürk Airport of Istanbul

Visit to the Saint Sofia Museum

Visit to the Sultan Ahmet Mosque

Holy Mass in the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit

Ecumenical Prayer in the Patriarchal church of St. George

Private Encounter with His Holiness Bartholomew I in the Patriarchal Palace

Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014

Holy Mass in private in the Apostolic Delegation

Diving Liturgy in the Patriarchal church of St. George

Ecumenical Blessing and signing of the Joint Declaration

Lunch between Pope Francis and His Holiness Bartolomeo I at the Ecumenical Patriarchate

4:45p.m. Leave for the Atatürk Airport of Istanbul

5:00p.m. Departure by plane from the international Atatürk Airport of Istanbul

6:40p.m. Arrive at Rome’s Ciampino Airport

The Passion of Blessed Paul VI – ‘Humanae vitae’

Vatican City, Oct 21, 2014 / 12:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Francesco di Felice worked at the Secretariat of State during the pontificate of Bl. Paul VI, and recently recounted the story behind the blessed Pope’s 1968 encyclical which was received with widespread dissent.

In drafting Humanae vitae, his encyclical on the regulation of birth, Bl. Paul VI studied the work began by St. John XXIII, who created a “commission for the study of population problems, the family, and births” in order to have a better understanding of the effects of contraceptives, Fr. di Felice told CNA.

Hormonal contraceptives having been introduced in 1960, in March 1963 – three months before his death – St. John XXIII established a Pontifical Commission on Birth Control to, as Bl. Paul VI wrote in his encyclical, “examine views and opinions concerning married life, and especially on the correct regulation of births” and “to provide the teaching authority of the Church with such evidence as would enable it to give an apt reply in this matter.”

St. John XXIII had appointed six persons to the commission, which Bl. Paul VI soon increased to 12. Then, in 1965, he further increased it to 75 members, plus a president, Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; and two deputies, Cardinals Julius Doepfner and John Heenan.

During that time there was much lobbying, even among Churchmen, to accept artificial means of contraception. Cardinal Leo Suenens asked on Oct. 29, 1964 for an opening to artificial birth control, and his opinion was backed by many participants of the Second Vatican Council.
In April 1967, a document favorable toward the birth control pill was published simultaneously in the French newspaper “Le Monde,” the English magazine “The Tablet,” and the American magazine “National Catholic Reporter.”

The leaked report stressed that 70 members of the Pontifical Commission were favorable to the pill; but the document was in fact “just one of the 12 reports presented to the Holy Father,” Bernardo Colombo, a professor of demographics and a member of the commission, revealed in an article he wrote in Teologia, the journal of the theological faculty of Milan and Northern Italy.

The same report which had been leaked to the media was sent to Bl. Paul VI, and it was divided into two parts: the opinion of the majority, supporting artificial contraception, and the minority report, arguing for the maintenance of traditional Catholic teaching.

Fr. di Felice told CNA that “Paul VI took these two documents, one from the majority and the other from the minority. He brought them to his private chapel, and spent the entire night in prayer asking what he should do for the good of souls.”
“Then, in the first light of dawn, a strong decision came to him like an illumination, as if the Holy Spirit was comforting him, and he said, ‘This is what I should choose!’”

“And it was a huge choice,” the priest recounted, “because if we had allowed the use of pills that alter the mystery of life, we would have altered the natural course, and that would have been a disaster.”

Bl. Paul VI himself recounted in the encyclical that “when the evidence of the experts had been received, as well as the opinions and advice of a considerable number of Our brethren in the episcopate … We were in a position to weigh with more precision all the aspects of this complex subject.”

Acknowledging that he was departing from the majority opinion of the commission, the blessed Pope wrote that “the conclusions arrived at by the commission could not be considered by Us as definitive and absolutely certain, dispensing Us from the duty of examining personally this serious question. This was all the more necessary because, within the commission itself, there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed, and especially because certain approaches and criteria for a solution to this question had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church.”

“Consequently, now that We have sifted carefully the evidence sent to Us and intently studied the whole matter, as well as prayed constantly to God, We, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to Us by Christ, intend to give Our reply to this series of grave questions,” he concluded the first chapter of Humanae vitae.
When Bl. Paul VI published these words, public opinion was already oriented against the Church’s principles which he had reaffirmed, and bitter disputes arose against the Church.

In an interview with Corriere della Serra in March, Pope Francis applauded Bl. Paul VI’s “prophetic genius,” saying that “he had the courage to take a stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a cultural restraint, to oppose present and future neo-Malthusianism.”

In his last address to the College of Cardinals, delivered June 23, 1978, Bl. Paul VI anticipated Humanae vitae‘s 10th anniversary, saying it suffered from “a certain climate of expectation that … engendered the idea of supposed concessions, or facilities, or liberalization in the Church’s teaching on morality and marriage.”

“It seems to us that a decade having passed since its promulgation, a sufficient perioed allows us to evaluate better – following the confirmations of serious science – the scope of the decisions made before the Lord, and it will be an occasion, also, to reiterate the importante princiople that, in the wake of the recently completed Council, we might enunciate with a more accurate formulation: the principle of respect for the laws of nature, which – in the words of Dante – ‘takes her course / from the divine intellect and his art’; the principle of a conscious and ethically responsible paternity.”

In fact, as a consequence of the contesting of the document worldwide, Bl. Paul VI never wrote another encyclical, though he remained Pope for another 10 years.

In the five years preceding Humanae vitae, he had written seven encyclicals.
Because of all this, Bl. Paul VI’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, would later say, “On the morning of July 25, 1968, Paul VI celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit, asked for light from on high and signed it. It was his most difficult signature, one of his most glorious signatures. He signed his own passion.”

A Middle East without Christians – cardinals consider sad prospect

Vatican City, Oct 20, 2014 / 10:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Monday’s consistory of cardinals focused on the plight of Christians in the Middle East, especially in light of the rise of the Islamic State, and it also decided on two causes for canonization.

Cardinals and patriarchs from the Middle East together with top officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State and interested dicasteries attended the Oct. 20 summit with the Pope, which was called a ‘public ordinary consistory’.

A consistory is a meeting of cardinals which can be public, semi-public or secret. During a consistory, new cardinals may be created, or it is possible to vote for cause of canonization, or to discuss of topics of general concern.

Initially set in order to proceed with the causes of canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz and Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception, the consistory schedule was enlarged by Pope Francis, who wanted it to be dedicated to the discussion of the plight of Christians, taking advantage of the presence of Middle Eastern patriarchs in Rome, on the heels of the synod.

In his opening address, Pope Francis stressed that “we are facing terrorism on a scale that was unimaginable,” and that “we cannot resign ourselves to think of a Middle East deprived of Christians, who have been settled there for 2,000 years.”

The Pope maintained that “so many of our brothers are persecuted and had to leave their homes,” adding that “it seems the value of human life is not considered anymore, that the person does not count and may be sacrificed to other interests.” He denounced that “many remain indifferent” while this happens.

After the Pope’s initial address, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, took the floor and reported to cardinals and patriarchs about the situation in Middle East and the outcomes of the Oct. 2-4 meeting among the top officials of the state secretariat, dicasteries, nuncios to the Middle East, and the Holy See Permanent Observers to the United Nations in New York and Geneva.

Articulated in six points, the speech stressed that the present situation – broadly speaking and in particular as it regards the Christian communities present in the region – is unacceptable.

“We have listened with commotion and great worry to the testimony of the atrocities perpetuated by many in the region, particularly by the fundamentalists of the self-proclaimed group Islamic-State, an entity that .. uses terroristic means in an attempt to expand its power,” Cardinal Parolin affirmed.

The Secretary of State reaffirmed the right of refugees to return to their homes, and reiterated that “it is licit to stop an unjust aggressor,” but that “the military response cannot be the only one” put into action.

“In the specific case of the violations and the abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State, the international community, through the United Nations and the appropriate bodies, will have to act in order to prevent possible and new genocide and to assist the numerous refugees.”

Cardinal Parolin made a quick summary of the political situation in the Middle East, urged for a durable political solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, praised Iran for its involvement in the resolution of the Iraq and Syria crisis and in combatting the Islamic State; and expressed concern about political instability in Lebanon, which the Holy See attentively watches because of the impact Christians have there in public life.

Regarding the humanitarian drama of refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East, Cardinal Parolin underscored that the Church urges the international community “to generously face this tragedy” and at the same time provides help through local relief services.

The Secretary of State once more asked religious leaders – both Christian and Muslim – for a mutual commitment in interreligious dialogue, and underscored that “of peculiar importance is the commitment of Muslim leaders” in order to address the Islamic State and condemn its acts.

In general, the international community is urged to commit in helping refugees and displaced persons and in defending Christians and other religious minority to defend human rights, especially that of religious freedom.

After Cardinal Parolin’s speech, there was a free discussion. According to Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See press office, all the Middle East patriarchs voiced their concerns.

Among them was Ignatius Joseph III Younan, the Syriac Patriarch of Antioch.

Patriarch Younan recounted to CNA Oct. 20 that participants in the consistory “spoke about the situation of Christians who are facing a very, very critical phase in their history after this event of the so-called ‘Islamic State,’ and after the crisis in Syria and that of Iraq, and tensions in Lebanon.”

The consistory also approved two causes of canonization.

The cardinals did not set a date for the canonization of Bl. Maria Cristina of the Immaculate Conception, an Italian religious who founded, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Congregation of the Sisters, Expiatory Victims of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The Pope himself will canonize Blessed Joseph Vaz, a native of Goa who evangelized Sri Lanka, whose Canonization Mass will take place Jan. 14, 2015, during the papal voyage to Sri Lanka.

Blessed Paul VI, the Pope who led the Church’s barque in troubled waters

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2014 / 07:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Bl. Paul VI was the first ‘modern man’ to be elected Bishop of Rome, and he put the Church in conversation with the world in order to build a dialogue of salvation, a cardinal who was one of Montini’s collaborators said.

Cardinal Paul Poupard, 84, had served for 12 years in the Secretariat of State during Bl. Paul VI’s pontificate. He later served, from 1979, as pro-president of the Secretariat for Non-Believers, renamed in 1988 the Pontifical Council for Culture.

“Paul VI was the first modern man to be elected Pope,” Cardinal Poupard told CNA Oct. 17.

Cardinal Poupard remembered that “during the homily of the Mass of the beginning of his Petrine ministery, he addressed the voices of the modern world, and asked if the Church would be able to listen to them.”

This question led to the publication of his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, on the Church.

“Paul VI was a very good friend with the French philosopher Jean Guitton. In a walk in the gardens of the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope asked Guitton which subject he would have chosen for an encyclical, if he had been Pope. Guitton said he would have chosen truth. And the Pope responded: ‘You are right on the final scope, since the papal Magisterium deals with transmitting truth. But, to partake truth with others, to transmit truth to the world, we have to dialogue.’”

“Paul VI’s Church is a Church that listens to people before speaking, makes conversation and dialogue with the world. But it is a dialogue of salvation, in order to bring the world to salvation,” Cardinal Poupard commented.

This dialogue was somehow broken, since Bl. Paul VI said in 1968 that “from some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church.”

Cardinal Poupard recounted: “I lived this very intense moment. Paul VI’s claim came by the fact that the Council had gone toward the modern world to convert it. But this missionary effort had turned into a general protest. In the name of the Council, a counter-Council was being held.”

This counter council led to a “haemorrhage in the big religious orders; many people left the Church. It was a horrible suffering for the Pope. Paul VI was in this sense a martyr of the Church, because he lived a suffering for the Church, coming from the Church herself.”

In 1968, Bl. Paul VI issued his last encyclical, Humanae vitae, which has been taken as a model for the Synod of Bishops on the family.

The encyclical reaffirmed the teaching of the Church on the regulation of birth, but received many protests, even from inside the Church.

After that, Bl. Paul VI did not promulgate any other encyclical, though he remained Pope for another 10 years.

Cardinal Poupard remembered the times of the preparation of Humanae vitae, the establishment of the commissions that had to study the issues at stake, the many expectations around the Pope’s decision.

“Paul VI told me: ‘Things are difficult, complex. The Pope must meditate before making a decision… since when a decision is made, it is irrevocable.”

After the issuance of the encyclical, “there was a sort of refusal of it by the western world, and even entire bishops’ conferences distanced themselves from it.”

Cardinal Poupard said: “I would read the decision this way: after the protests against Humanae vitae, the Pope did not want to expose the Church to this worrying and painful distance from the bishops’ conferences. So he continued his Magisterium through apostolic letters and other means.”

The cardinal also revealed that “the first telegram we received in the state secretariat after the publication of Humanae vitae was that of Bishop Helder Camara.”

Bishop of Recife, in Brazil, Helder Camara was well known for his commitment to and advocacy for the poor.

“He wrote to the Pope: ‘Thank you, Holy Father, for defending us in the third world, since the rich world is attacking its only richness: children’,” Cardinal Poupard remembered.

Interreligious marriage: a look at the synod from India’s perspective

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2014 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While some countries face family issues such as divorce and polygamy, the synod’s Indian participants have voiced concern for interreligious marriages, which pose pastoral concerns across Asia.

“We have got this whole thing of mixed marriages, there are many marriages in India which are between (a) Catholic and somebody who is not baptized, a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Buddhist, and that is what specifically came out of India,” Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Bombay told CNA Oct. 10.

While marriage between a Catholic and an unbaptized person would normally be invalid, the local ordinary can dispense from this impediment, and thus allow such a marriage to be validly contracted (canon 1086).

Cardinal Gracias, who is part of Pope Francis’ ‘council of cardinals’, explained that when faced with the difficult situations interreligious marriages can present, it’s always necessary to have a “positive pastoral approach” to the couples and families involved.

The cardinal was accompanied to the synod by Fr. Cajetan Menezes, who is director of the Bombay archdiocese’s Snehalaya Family Service Center.

Fr. Menezes has served as an auditor for the synod, and spoke to CNA Oct. 15 saying the topic of interreligious marriages was one of the three points he brought up when he addressed the synod fathers.

With the number of interreligious marriages on the rise across Asia, the priest said that it is an important issue, and one with which the Church needs to have a “very specific pastoral care.”

“We need to reach out to them rather than look at them as problems. (They are) an opportunity to evangelize, and we need to take them on board,” he said, explaining that interfaith couples are often “ostracized by their own families because they are going against family tradition.”

“That creates more problems for them in their marriage, and that is not conducive for their marriage to grow and do well,” he observed.

Although other countries might not share the pastoral difficulties caused by interreligious marriages, Fr. Menezes observed that “this is a big issue in Asia because we are a minority,” and cited  India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Japan as being countries with a high percentage of interreligious couples.

Thus there is a need to specifically address the issue and to give interreligious families more help and support, particularly in light of the challenges the couples face due to the differing traditions of their families, the priest explained.

Fr. Menezes said that the synod’s emphasis on welcoming and inviting those who are far from the Church or who find themselves in situations that could be problematic is also a way of embracing those who have been ostracized because of interreligious challenges.

“I think it’s the first time I noticed (them) speaking a different (kind of) language, and I think that’s a very positive influence of Pope Francis, (who) is reaching out, welcoming, and also looking at not only those who are at the center, but at the periphery,” the priest continued.

By reaching out to the marginalized, the synod fathers are making great progress in their attempt to “get everybody on board,” including members of the gay community and those who are divorced and remarried.

Cardinal Gracias, who has taken part in numerous synods before this, praised the free spirit in which discussion has taken place.

Even though each synod is free in its own way, the cardinal explained that when talking about the family “there is nothing which is taboo, nothing that you can’t speak about, no one is frightened to say ‘ok, this is a problem, we have got to face it.’”

To have differing opinions is important and essential, he said, and helps participants to reach more concrete, effective solutions.

“We have another synod next year which will be bigger (and) with more participation, and probably we will come to clearer conclusions at that particular moment of time,” the cardinal noted, but for now he is happy that “it is working well.”

Returning to the situation in India, Cardinal Gracias said that while Indians have traditionally maintained strong family ties, this is being influenced negatively by outside sources, including the film industry.

“I think that people are beginning to feel that this is not the best thing and we have got to try to reinforce the family,” he said, noting that although a zero percent breakdown rate is impossible, “it should not be 50 percent.”

However, he explained that much of a lasting family dynamic will depend on the preparation of the couple before marriage, as well as the process of accompanying them after the sacrament is contracted.


Pope beatifies Paul VI, ‘great helmsman’ of Vatican II

Vatican City, Oct 19, 2014 / 11:57 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Addressing those gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday for the beatification of Paul VI, Pope Francis reminded Christians who live out the Gospel message that they are “God’s newness” both “in the Church and in the world.”

In his Oct. 19 homily, the Pope said God is “continually surprising us, opening our hearts and guiding us in unexpected ways.”   In so doing, “he renews us: he constantly makes us ‘new’.   

“A Christian who lives the Gospel is ‘God’s newness’ in the Church and in the world. How much God loves this ‘newness’!”

An estimated 70,000 people, including Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, were present at the Mass to celebrate not only the closing of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, but also the life of Bl. Paul VI, who first established the Synod of Bishops as an institution of the Church designed to help the Pope with his magisterial office.

“When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle,” the Holy Father said, in reference to the new Blessed, “we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks!… “Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI!   Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!”

Referring to him has “the great helmsman of the Council,” Pope Francis cited Bl. Paul VI’s words at the closing of its final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour.”

“In this humility,” Pope Francis continued, “the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.”

Turning to the day’s Gospel reading, Pope Francis highlighted Christ’s “ironic and brilliant” response to the Pharisees who were trying to catch him in error: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

“It is a striking phrase which the Lord has bequeathed to all those who experience qualms of conscience,” the Pope said, “particularly when their comfort, their wealth, their prestige, their power and their reputation are in question.”

The second part of the phrase, “and (render)  to God the things that are God’s”,   Pope Francis said, “calls for acknowledging and professing – in the face of any sort of power – that God alone is the Lord of mankind, that there is no other.” Christians must discover this “perennial newness” every day, and to do so “requires mastering the fear which we often feel at God’s surprises.”

This “rendering to God the things that are God’s”, the Pope continued, “means being docile to his will, devoting our lives to him and working for his kingdom of mercy, love and peace.”

“Here is where our true strength is found… the leaven which makes it grow and the salt which gives flavour to all our efforts to combat the prevalent pessimism which the world proposes to us.”

“Here too is where our hope is found, for when we put our hope in God we are neither fleeing from reality nor seeking an alibi: instead, we are striving to render to God what is God’s.”

For this reason, the Pope said, we should turn our eyes to “the future, God’s future,” in order to “live this life to the fullest – with our feet firmly planted on the ground – and respond courageously to whatever new challenges come our way.”

Turning his attention to the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which concluded its two-week course with the beatification of Paul VI, Pope Francis described the experience as one of “synodality and collegiality,” in which was felt “the power of the Holy Spirit who constantly guides and renews the Church.” 

“The Church,” he said, “is called to waste no time in seeking to bind up open wounds and to rekindle hope in so many people who have lost hope.”

Citing the words of Saint Paul, Pope Francis gave thanks to God for the gift of the Synod, and the constructive spirit shown by its participants. He called on the Holy Spirit, who, over the course of the synod, “has enabled us to work generously, in true freedom and humble creativity,” to “continue to guide the journey” toward the Ordinary Synod of Bishops, which will take place in October, 2015.

“We have sown and we continued to sow,” he said, “patiently and perseveringly, in the certainty that it is the Lord who gives growth to what we have sown.”

At the conclusion of Mass, and before presiding over the weekly Angelus prayer, Pope Francis welcomed all the pilgrims who had travelled to Rome to take part in the beatification.

The Holy Father also noted that Bl. Paul VI “was a staunch supporter of the mission ad gentes,” adding that “it is the witness above all of the apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi  with which he intended to reawaken the enthusiasm and the commitment of the Church for the mission.”

Evangelii nuntiandi – ‘To proclaim the Gospel’ –  “is still relevant,” he said.  “It is significant to consider this aspect of the pontificate of Paul VI, especially today (Oct. 19), which is celebrated as World Missionary Day.”

Pope Francis also made mention of Bl. Paul VI’s “profound Marian devotion.” In particular, he noted the new blessed’s proclamation of Mary as “Mother of the Church” at the “close of the third session of the Second Vatican Council,” as well as his 1974 apostolic exhortation Marialis Cultus, for the right ordering and development of devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Before leading the Angelus in Latin, Pope Francis called on “Mary, Queen of Saints and Mother of the Church,” to “help us to faithfully realize the will of the Lord in our life, just as the new blessed did.”

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