Posts Tagged ‘vatican’

Faith is rooted in God – not human approval, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2014 / 10:32 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Faith is not founded upon human wisdom, but on the power of God, as made manifest in the Gospel. This was one of the main themes of Pope Francis’ homily on Monday morning, resuming daily Mass at the Santa Marta residence following the summer holidays.

Addressing the congregation, the Pope said that we do not read the Gospel simply to learn, but to find Jesus. This is “because Jesus is truly in His Word, in His Gospel.”

One ought to receive the Word “as one receives Christ: that is, with an open heart, with a humble heart, with the spirit of the Beatitudes, because Jesus came in this way, in humility. He came in poverty. He came with the anointing of the Holy Spirit.”

“The Word of God is Jesus,” the Pope said, adding that Jesus “is a source of scandal. The Cross of Christ scandalizes.”

“This is the strength of the Word of God: Jesus Christ, the Lord. And how must we receive the Word of God? As one receives Christ Jesus. The Church tells us that Jesus is present in Scripture, in His Word.”

Jesus is power, the Holy Father said. “He is the Word of God because He is anointed by the Holy Spirit. Also, if we want to listen to and receive the Word of God, we must pray to the Holy Spirit and ask for this anointing of the heart, which is the anointing of the Beatitudes. Such a heart is the heart of the Beatitudes.”

Reflecting on the first reading of the day, Pope Francis cited Saint Paul, saying: “But, I did come among you to persuade you with arguments, with words, or to make a good impression…No. I came in a different way, with a different style. I came to manifest the Spirit and His power.”

“Because your faith has not been founded upon human wisdom, but upon the power of God. So, the Word of God is something else, something that is not equal to a human word, to a wise word, to a scientific word, to a philosophical word…no: it is something else. It comes in a different way.”

This is what happens when Jesus comments on the Scriptures in the Synagogue at Nazareth, Pope Francis said. At first, the people of Nazareth admired him for his words, but then became angry and sought to kill him.

“They went from one side to the other,” he continued, “because the Word of God is something different from the human word.”

The Pope went on to encourage the faithful to read the word of God daily, even suggesting that they purchase a small pocket-sized Gospel to carry with them.

“We would do well today, throughout the day, to ask ourselves: ‘Yet, how do I receive the Word of God?” Do we receive the Word of God because the priest presents it in a way that is interesting, Pope Francis said, or “simply because it is the living Jesus, His Word?”

“We would do well (to ask) these two questions,” he said. “The Lord helps us.”

Pope Francis to Iraqi priest: I’ll never leave or forget you

Vatican City, Sep 1, 2014 / 09:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After sending a letter to Pope Francis on the plight Iraqi refugees fleeing ISIS violence, Fr. Behnam Benoka received a phone call from the pontiff who gave his blessing and assured of his prayers.
 
“’I read your letter,’ said the Pope. He said he was very sorry for everything that was happening to us and he said, ‘Know that I am with you in prayer always. I never forget you,’” Fr. Benoka told CNA Aug. 31.

Pope Francis told him, “I’ve personally sent Cardinal Filoni to check on the situation there for me. Tell everyone that Pope Francis called you. I never forget you and I’ll never leave you,” the priest added.

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, visited Erbil as Pope Francis’ personal envoy from Aug. 12-20.

Fr. Benoka is currently running a make-shift clinic in Ankawa, Iraq, near Erbil, which he formed following an influx of thousands of refugees who have fled the violence waged by the militant Islamic group ISIS in surrounding cities.

Erbil, where more than 70,000 Christians have fled from the Islamic State, is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan and is within 50 miles of territory held by the Islamic State.

To receive a call from the Pope, he said, felt like “when you’re a kid and you have a problem or an emergency and your Mom and Dad are the first to come to mind because you know they’ll defend and protect you.”

“It was like that, calling the person that could help us the most. I was able to get word through to him, and it felt like this, like a true father.”

When he received the Aug. 19 call, which lasted 3 minutes, the priest explained that he was on his way to the bank to deposit donations that were received to help with the needs of the clinic.

“I was in a taxi heading to the bank to get the money. It was 50 degrees Celsius and there was no air conditioning at 11:10 in the morning nearing the height of the heat,” he said, when he got a call from an unknown number.

“’Nam?’ I said. That’s the way we answer. There was a ‘Pronto?’ in Italian on the other end,” Fr. Benoka explained, stating that the voice then said in Italian “’I am Fr. Francis.’ ‘Who is it? Who?’ I asked. I couldn’t hear very well. ‘No! It’s Pope Francis!’”

“I was in shock for a few seconds. I looked at the taxi driver to see if it was something like candid camera. It didn’t look like it. Then, I thought it could be a friend playing a joke on me. But I had heard that voice before when I was in an audience with him. It was really the Pope. It was the same voice.”

Everyone in the area “are very happy” to hear about the conversation between the Pope and their priest, Fr. Benoka said, noting that “They were very struck and said that we really needed this.”

The Islamic State has forced more than 1.2 million Christians, Yazidis, and Shia Muslims from their homes in Iraq since June, under threat of death or heavy fines if they do not convert.

The city of Qaraqosh fell to forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – known as ISIS – last month. The town was one of Iraq’s largest Christian towns until the Kurdish military forces known as the Peshmerga withdrew from it.

Qaraqoush is located roughly 19 miles southeast of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, which Islamic State forces captured in June.

Thousands of Christians and other minorities fled Mosul following a July 18 ultimatum demanding they convert, pay the jizya tax or be killed. They scattered to other towns in the Nineveh province and in Iraqi Kurdistan.

After the fall of Qaraqosh, tens of thousands of refugees arrived to Erbil and Ankawa overnight, the priest explained, stating that right now the situation is very difficult, and many have gone missing, or been taken hostage with no knowledge of their well-being.

“There are numerous hostages about whom we don’t know much right now. Young girls, women, kids, men. They might be in Qaraqosh. We don’t know where they are. Most are Syro-Catholics,” the priest explained.

Both “A three-year old” and “a 30-some year old woman and others” were taken by ISIS while fleeing Qaraqosh, Fr. Benoka explained. “We don’t know what has happened to them.”

His clinic, which is referred to as the “Emergency tent,” is “the most used medical facility in all of Ankawa,” the priest noted, revealing how they currently assist an average of 500 people a day through both local doctors who have volunteered their time, as well as those who have arrived as refugees themselves and are working on a volunteer basis.

Fr. Benoka revealed that at least one person dies in the clinic per day, mostly of whom are elderly, and that many are suffering from over-exposure due to the intense heat and long hours spent in the sun as they fled.

Living in sub-par conditions, people suffer from both mental agitation and hysteria due to the trauma they have undergone, the priest explained, noting that one woman even attempted suicide, and that a case of leprosy has been found.

Funding for the clinic is currently being received through specific individuals in Spain, Sweden and Iraq, he said, however no other, larger organization, has volunteered to offer assistance.

Speaking of how often members of ISIS will enter houses or shops and either demand food or say that they are selling place, the priest said that because of this some locals are now helping ISIS.

“You can imagine that we’re not going to return now to our houses!” the priest lamented, “There are armies in our streets. What’s going to be left? What will they have done?”

“Even if they leave or are pushed out. Will they have poisoned the water? Put mines in our houses? If there is a liberation from ISIS, who will guarantee that they won’t come back? We have to begin our lives again from zero.”

“Many people want to leave,” however “they don’t have money or passports,” he said.

Explaining how many “are absolutely crushed by this situation,” Fr. Benoka stated that “the most needy are those in need of immigration. Those who can’t get out. They don’t know what will happen to them.”

“Whoever says that the people want to stay here is a liar. We want to leave, to live in peace.”

Please read below for the full text of Fr. Benoka’s letter to Pope Francis, which was published on his facebook page in Arabic and Italian:

To the Holy Father our merciful pastor: My name is Behnam Benoka, priest of Bartella, a small Christian city near Mosul. Vice rector of the Catholic seminary off Ankawa. Today I am in a tent that I founded with some medical staff and volunteers in order to give some medical relief to our brother refugees from persecution.

Holiness, the situation of your sheep is miserable, dying and hungry, your little ones are afraid and cannot go on. We, priests and religious, are few and are afraid of not being able to meet the physical and mental demands of your and our children.

I would like to thank you so much, in fact, very much because you always carry us in your heart, putting us there on the altar where the mass is celebrated so that God erases out sins and has mercy on us, and perhaps takes this up away from us

I write you with my tears, because here we are in a valley of darkness in the middle of a great pack of ferocious wolves.

Holiness, I am afraid of losing your little ones, especially the infants, who daily struggle and weaken more, I am afraid that death will kidnap some. Send us your blessing soas to have the strength to go on and perhaps we can still resist.

I love you,
Behnam Benoka

Alan Holdren contributed to this report

Pope: When we become worldly, we lose Christian flavor

Vatican City, Aug 31, 2014 / 09:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Christians must avoid the temptation to conform to the world, Pope Francis cautioned Aug. 31, stressing that they should instead allow their faith to transform the world around them.

“Christians live in the world, fully integrated into the social and cultural reality of our time, and rightly so,” the Pope said in his reflection at the Sunday Angelus. However, “this carries with it the risk that we might become ‘worldly’, that ‘the salt might lose its flavor’,” as the Gospel of Matthew warns.

Pope Francis spoke to those gathered in the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square at noon. As he does each week, the Holy Father offered a reflection on the Sunday Gospel before reciting the Angelus.

He pointed to the passage in the Gospel of Matthew in which Jesus predicts his coming passion, death and resurrection.

At this “critical moment” in Scripture, “the apparent contrast between Jesus’ way of thinking and that of the disciples emerges,” he said, pointing to Peter’s rebuke of Jesus.

“Jesus, in turn, severely rebukes Peter, because he does not think ‘according to God, but according to men’, and plays – without realizing it – the part of Satan, the tempter.”

The Pope explained that we should learn from this example, heeding the words of St. Paul, who says, “Be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God.”

Rather than becoming worldly, we should change the world, he said.

“When the power of the Gospel remains alive in Christians, it can transform ‘mankind’s criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life, which are in contrast with the Word of God and the plan of salvation’,” he exhorted, citing the 1975 apostolic exhortation of Pope Paul VI, Evangelii nuntiandi.

After the Angelus, Pope Francis greeted various groups of pilgrims present in the square.

Welcoming participants in an international gathering of Catholic lawmakers, he encouraged them “to live the delicate role of representatives of the people in conformity with Gospel values.”

He also noted that Monday marks a Day for the Safeguarding of Creation, sponsored by the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

“The theme this year is very important – Educating to care for creation, for the health of our country and our city,” the Pope remarked.  

“I hope that it will strengthen the commitment of all institutions, associations and citizens so as to safeguard the life and health of people also respect the environment and nature.”

 

Pakistani leader talks persecuted Christians with Pope Francis

Vatican City, Aug 29, 2014 / 02:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a brief encounter with Pope Francis following his general audience yesterday, former Pakistani minister Paul Bhatti discussed persecuted Christians and invited the pontiff to visit their countr…

Pope Francis’ Korea visit ignites movement toward unity

Vatican City, Aug 27, 2014 / 04:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A South Korea-based U.S. missionary who frequently crosses the border to North Korea to bring medicine and support says that Pope Francis’ visit advanced efforts to heal a divided country.
 
Father Gerard Hammond, an 81-year-old Maryknoll missionary, has lived in South Korea since 1960 and has made 51 trips to North Korea since 1995.

His mission: to stop deaths from Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis in North Korea.
 
“Due to do the security laws in South Korea, it is very difficult to send humanitarian aid to North Korea without the agreement of the Ministry of Reunification,” the priest told CNA.
 
Fr. Hammond can enter North Korea thanks to the Eugene Bell Foundation, a U.S.-based organization allowed admission to enter the country to give humanitarian aid, which includes a “slot” for Catholic missionaries. The latest trip took place this spring from Apr. 21-May 6.
 
Their work is well-known in the Vatican, and Pope Francis had been informed about them.
 
“He met each one of the 14 Maryknollers in our Seoul House. When Pope Francis met me, he spoke two words, ‘North Korea-tuberculosis’ and squeezed my arm,” Fr. Hammond recounted.
 
He stressed that “the visit of our Holy Father was a great blessing for all of us especially for the Korean people that have suffered so much. His visit left a tremendous impression on all Koreans, Catholic and non-Catholic.”
 
“Now we have to implement the challenge to heal a divided country, society and church,” he said.

“I hope the visit of the Holy Father to be the spark for the beginning a move toward Peace on the Peninsula and for Reconciliation for the peoples of North and South Korea.”
 
Fr. Hammond will return to North Korea for a trip this fall from Oct. 13-Nov. 4, saying that “there is no shortage of places and people that need help, whether it is through medicine, diagnostic machines, or other critical supplies.”
 
Until now, “we delivered medical supplies to patients in 12 treatment centers. Starting early in the morning, we work ceaselessly to make sure all the patients waiting at each center could be tested and we could enroll as many new people as possible.”
 
Fr. Hammond explained CNA that the missionaries are able to use six Gene X-perts – state-of-the-art medical devices “that allow us to diagnose Multi Drug Resistant Tuberculosis within 2 hours and deliver medicine to critically-ill patients without having to wait 6 months until our next trip.”

“On each trip we treat a 1,000 Multi Drug Resistant tubercolosis patients.”
 
Until now, the missionaries have cured more than 70 percent of their patients, compared with a worldwide cure rate of only 48 percent.
 
Fr. Hammond recounted that “for the past few years, we have been providing nutritional assistance to patients to supplement their diet and aid in their quick recovery.”
 
“Patients receiving nutritional assistance have gained weight, energy, and are better prepared to finish their difficult multi-drug resistant treatment.”
 
He said he has been “happy to see patients who once had difficulty just holding up their boxes of medicine now happily talking about how they had put on extra pounds.”

For the majority of patients in North Korea who have been “suffering for years” from the condition, “there is no option for treatment” and “reliable testing for MDR-TB is not yet widely available.”
 
“For the sake of the unreached people of North Korea, we must keep fighting to bring medicine,” Fr. Hammond said.

Pope: division is the greatest sin of Christian communities

Vatican City, Aug 27, 2014 / 05:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- During his weekly general audience Pope Francis spoke on the unity and holiness of the Church, stating that despite the fact we are sinners, we are called to live as a community centered on Christ.

“In a Christian community division is one of the most serious sins, because it does not allow God to act,” the Pope said in his Aug. 27 general audience address. “What God wants is that we be welcoming, that we forgive and love each other so as to become more and more like Him, who is communion and love.”

Addressing the thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the Roman Pontiff explained that as Catholics “we affirm in the Creed that the Church is one and that she is holy.”

“One because she has her origin in the Triune God, mystery of unity and full communion. Holy since she is founded by Jesus Christ, enlivened by his Holy Spirit, and filled with his love and salvation.”

We continue to refer to the Church as “one” and “holy” despite the fact that “we know by experience that it is also composed of sinners and that there is no shortage of divisions,” he said, recalling how the night before he was arrested Jesus “asked for the unity of his disciples: ‘that all be one.’”

“We trust in his desire that unity will be one of the characteristic features of our community,” the Pope continued, noting that “While we, the members of the Church, are sinners, the unity and holiness of the Church arise from God and call us daily to conversion.”

Observing how “We have an intercessor in Jesus, who prays…for our unity with him and the Father, and with each other,” the Bishop of Rome drew attention to the sins that often cause division.

“Sins against unity are not only schisms,” he said, “but also the most common weeds of our communities: envies, jealousies, antipathies…talking bad about others. This is human, but it is not Christian.”

These sins “which occur even in our parish communities,” Pope Francis continued, “come about when we place ourselves at the center.”

“God’s will, however, is that we grow in our capacity to welcome one another, to forgive and to love, and to resemble Jesus.”

Explaining how “It’s the devil who separates, destroys relationships, sows prejudices,” the Pope affirmed that “the holiness of the Church” is “to recognize the image of God in one another.”

“The holiness of the Church consists of this: reproducing the image of God, rich in mercy and grace.”

Concluding his address, the Roman Pontiff prayed that all might “examine our consciences and ask forgiveness for the times when we have given rise to division or misunderstanding in our communities, and may our relationships mirror more beautifully and joyfully the unity of Jesus and the Father.”

Following his reflections Pope Francis greeted groups of pilgrims present from around the world, giving special notice to several Cuban bishops who have come for the enthronement of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, patroness of Cuba, in the Vatican Gardens tomorrow.

“I greet with affection all of the bishops from Cuba, who came to Rome for this occasion,” he said, “while at the same time I ask you to convey my closeness and blessing to all of the Cuban faithful.”

Papal envoy: we must see humanity of each Iraqi refugee

Vatican City, Aug 27, 2014 / 04:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The international community must view suffering Iraqi refugees not as a collective group, but as individual persons, each with his or her own story and needs, the Pope’s envoy to the country…

A refreshed Benedict XVI captivates students with homily

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2014 / 12:31 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Participants in the annual Ratzinger “schulerkreis” study group were overjoyed at seeing the retired pontiff in good health, noting that they were deeply moved by his homily on the triumph of God’s love.

“The homily was very moving. It was the Gospel of the day about Cesarea of Philippi where Jesus asks the apostles, ‘Who do you say I am?’” Father Vincent Twomey recalled to CNA Aug. 25.

“Peter answered ‘you are Christ, son of the living God,’” to which Jesus responds: “you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church.”

Fr. Twomey was one of the participants of this year’s Ratzinger “schuelerkreis,” or “students’ circle,” which has met annually to discuss topics in theology and the life of the Church since 1978, when their professor Josef – later to become Pope Benedict XVI – was tapped to become a bishop.

This year’s encounter was held at Castel Gandolfo Aug. 21-24, with German theologian Karl-Heinz Menke serving as relator. During the main meetings he gave a presentation on the “Theology of the Cross.”

Following the normal discussions, Fr. Twomey explained that on Sunday the group traveled to the Campo Santo Teutonico chapel in the Vatican for Mass, where the main celebrant was retired pontiff Benedict XVI.

The main points of Benedict’s homily, the priest explained, were that “today people are always asking who is Jesus Christ.”

“They say he was a great man, a teacher, a revolutionary perhaps. People outside see him in different ways. And that’s not a bad thing; that means that Jesus image has spread throughout society and religions,” he went on, “But, to recognize him as the Son of God is a gift of faith.”

Noting how “Our Lord didn’t build his Church on a theory or a statement, but on a person, relationship with Jesus,” Fr. Twomey stated that Benedict’s words were “very moving because the Church where we celebrated was near the place where Peter himself gave his final witness.”

“Benedict XVI talked about how the gates of hell would never prevail. The Church is always the weak player, always under attack but the Church always survives because it is not a human, but a divine entity.”

“The cross is the way to the resurrection. The good news is God’s love triumphs over evil. Evil will never triumph over good,” the priest continued, explaining that after the Mass participants had a special reception with Fr. Stephan Horn, 80, who is the key organizer of the annual schuelerkreis.

“What struck us all is that despite being older each year,” Benedict XVI “looks much better, fresher. He’s very clear in his mind,” he noted, observing how the former pontiff stood for nearly an hour and a half during the mass even though a chair was provided for him.

“He was in good form. There was a good spirit about him.”

Echoing Fr. Twomey’s sentiments is Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture Mons. Barthélemy Adoukonou, who also participated in the study circle.

“It was extraordinary. As always, it amazed us that in spite of age, and without a prepared text, the Pope (emeritus) gave a homily at a great level, with an extraordinary clarity of mind for his age.”

Composed of about 50 people who studied for their doctorates under Ratzinger, the schuelerkreis usually takes place with the 25 to 30 who are able to make it to any given year’s meeting.

The circle has enlarged in recent years, establishing a “youth branch” composed of academics who had not studied with Ratzinger, yet who are studying and developing upon his theological work.

The topic of the meeting varies each year; last year was the question of God amid secularism, and the year prior to that, ecumenism was the subject chosen.

Vatican spokesman: ISIS threat to Pope Francis unfounded

Vatican City, Aug 26, 2014 / 08:42 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In response to rumors that the Islamic State may be targeting Pope Francis, Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. said there is no reason for concern.

“There is nothing serious to this. There is no …

Pope Francis’ interfaith soccer match shows desire for peace

Vatican City, Aug 25, 2014 / 08:03 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A priest and close friend of Pope Francis says the pontiff’s idea for an upcoming inter-religious soccer match for peace shows his keen interest in promoting the topic on all levels of society.

“The hope is that after this football match, this sports event, there will be an impact that raises awareness for peace,” Father Guillermo Karcher told CNA Aug. 25, explaining to other journalists that “the Pope’s concern for peace is very great.”

“He sees in this event, this punctual message of the match for peace, a very positive element that gives a contribution, because it’s necessary to try to build peace from all sides; from the political and diplomatic point of view,” he said.

Fr. Guillermo Karcher is a close friend of Pope Francis, and was present for the Aug. 25 launch of the Inter-religious Match for Peace.

Set to take place at 8:45 p.m. local time on Sept. 1 in Rome’s Olympic Stadium, the match will draw together past soccer players who represent different cultures and religions, including Buddhists, Christians – Catholic and Protestant – Jews, Hindus, Muslims and Shintos.

The game is being organized by retired Catholic soccer star Javier “Pupi” Zanetti, who was captain of the Argentinean national team and of Inter Milan in Italy. He was chosen to organize the symbolic game, which he has stated was the “explicit wish of Pope Francis,” in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences.

The Scholas Occurrentes initiative and Italy’s Fundazione PUPI are the two key organizations assisting in the organization of the match, which is being sponsored by organizations such as Fiat, Italian tire company Firelli, FIFA and various media outlets including Italian agencies Rai, Ansa and Vatican Radio.

Explaining how the idea was born, Fr. Kracher told journalists that it came from “the knowledge that Pope Francis already had when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, with Zanetti.”

The friendship that was generated between the two during that time “was consolidated,” and the two began to search for ways “to launch this message of building a world of peace.”

After a private meeting between Pope Francis and Zanetti earlier this summer “it was no longer between him and Bergoglio, but with the Holy Father, and this brought a universal dimension, more global,” the priest observed.

“The Holy Father continued to support it, and now comes this very beautiful nuance, which is to invite everyone to believe in peace.”

Also present for the launch of the match was Cristian Ledesma, a midfielder for the Serie A club in Italy’s Societa Sportiva Lazio, who is one of the players slated to participate in the match. He holds a dual citizen of Argentina and Italy, and has represented the latter in an international capacity since November 2010.

Ledesma explained to journalists that “it’s a great honor” to play for an Argentinian Pope, and that “this initiative is most important because putting together a game like this, with so many people from different religions, is a wonderful thing.”

Noting how soccer has a special power because “it is one of the most loved sports in the world,” the Ledesma drew attention to how many countries, including the poor children of Africa, feel its impact.

“For a child it’s enough to just give them a ball and they are able to have fun for even just a moment,” he said. “I believe that soccer is a very strong tool with which to give a good message. With this game I believe that we can help many children.”

Others among the 50 players participating in the inter-religious friendly match are Argentinian superstar Lionel Messi, Brazilian Marcos Senna Da Silva and Ethiopian captain Degu Gebreyes.

Captains will be Zanetti and Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who serves as captain for both the Serie A club Juventus and the Italy national team.

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