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Pope Francis 'profoundly saddened' at image of drowned migrant father and daughter

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2019 / 08:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis expressed his "immense sadness" upon seeing the image of the migrant father and child who drowned in their attempt to cross the Rio Grande, a Vatican spokesman said Wednesday.

“The Pope is profoundly saddened by their deaths, and is praying for them and for all migrants who have lost their lives while seeking to flee war and misery,” Holy See Press Office interim director Alessandro Gissoti said June 26.

The graphic image of the bodies of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martinez and his 23-month-old daughter, Valeria, floating along the Rio Grande riverbank circulated across the world after they were discovered on June 24.

Martinez and his daughter died while attempting to swim across the Rio Grande along the U.S.-Mexico border after they were unable to make an official request to U.S. authorities for asylum from El Salvador, the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, reported.

At least 283 migrants died while attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border last year, according to U.S. border patrol.

President Donald Trump announced June 22 that he would delay scheduled immigration raids by two-weeks to allow Congress to modify U.S. asylum law.

The House of Representatives passed a bill June 4 that would provide a citizenship path for some brought to the U.S. illegally as children, as well as for qualified holders of Temporary Protected Status or Deferred Enforced Departure.

The bill, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, would grant qualifying childhood arrivals 10 years of legal residence, after which they could receive permanent legal residence with two years of higher education or military service, or three years of employment. Those with TPS or DED could apply for lawful permanent residence if they have been in the country for at least three years and have passed background checks. After five years of lawful permanent residence, they would apply for citizenship.

Earlier this month, Mexico agreed to take measures to reduce the number of migrants to the US, in order to avoid the imposition of tariffs.

Some 6,000 National Guard troops will be assigned to Mexico's southern border with Guatemala, and some asylum seekers in the US will be sent to Mexico to wait while their claims are processed.

Pope Francis has been an outspoken advocate for countries to accept migrants and refugees in recent years.

“Before the challenges of contemporary movements of migration, the only reasonable response is one of solidarity and mercy,” Pope Francis said at a Mass commemorating migrants who died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Africa to Europe.

“How many of the poor are trampled on in our day! . . .  Among them, I cannot fail to include the migrants and refugees who continue to knock at the door of nations that enjoy greater prosperity,” he said.

Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops echoed the pope’s grief and said the image of the drowned father and daughter demand action.

“This image cries to heaven for justice. This image silences politics. Who can look on this picture and not see the results of the failures of all of us to find a humane and just solution to the immigration crisis?” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Bishop Joe Vasquez of Austin.

DiNardo serves as president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and Vasquez chairs the migration committee.

“Sadly, this picture shows the daily plight of our brothers and sisters. Not only does their cry reach heaven. It reaches us. And it must now reach our federal government,” they said.

The bishops stressed the respect due to every human person, created in the image of God, no matter their legal status or country of origin.

“Recent reports of overcrowded and unsanitary conditions are appalling and unacceptable for any person in U.S. custody, but particularly for children, who are uniquely vulnerable,” they said. “Such conditions cannot be used as tools of deterrence. We can and must remain a country that provides refuge for children and families fleeing violence, persecution, and acute poverty.”

DiNardo and Vasquez called on Congress to authorize additional spending to meet the needs of children in custody, as well as to raise standards and oversight for facilities on the southern border.

“It is possible and necessary to care for the safety of migrant children and the security of our citizens. By putting aside partisan interests, a nation as great as ours is able to do both,” they said.

Pope Francis: There is no room for selfishness in Christian life

Vatican City, Jun 26, 2019 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that there is no room for selfishness in the Christian life, pointing to the example of the lives of the early Christians in the Acts of the Apostles.

“The community of believers banishes individualism in favor of sharing and solidarity. There is no place for selfishness if you are a Christian,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square June 26.

Looking at the Acts of the Apostles, one can see that they lived in a very specific way, Pope Francis explained, “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread, and to the prayers.”

Pope Francis said that this line from Scripture contains the four essential qualities in the Christian life:

“Christians listen constantly the didaché or apostolic teaching; they practice a high quality of interpersonal relationships through the communion of spiritual and material goods; they remember the Lord through the ‘breaking of bread,’ that is the Eucharist; and they dialogue with God in prayer,” he said.

The pope pointed out that this way of life contradicts the individualist tendency in human society to “pursue one’s own interests regardless or even to the detriment of others.”

“Baptismal grace therefore reveals the intimate bond between the brothers in Christ, who are called to share, to identify themselves with others, and to give according to the needs of each one,” he said.

“The fruit of Pentecost, the powerful outpouring of the Spirit of God on the first Christian community, was that many people felt their hearts pierced by the happy announcement - the kerygma - of salvation in Christ and adhered to Him freely, converting, receiving baptism in his name and in turn accepting the gift of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

The perseverance of believers in this covenant with God and with each other then became an attractive force guaranteeing the growth of the community, Francis explained.

“Let us pray to the Holy Spirit to make our communities places where we can welcome and practice the new life, works of solidarity and communion, places where liturgies are an encounter with God, which becomes communion with our brothers and sisters, places that are doors open to the heavenly Jerusalem,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: God’s love can do great things with our littleness

Rome, Italy, Jun 23, 2019 / 11:50 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Sunday that the Eucharist exemplifies how God’s love can accomplish great things with very little.

“Whatever we have can bear fruit if we give it away – that is what Jesus wants to tell us – and it does not matter whether it is great or small. The Lord does great things with our littleness,” Pope Francis said June 23.

“God’s omnipotence is lowly, made up of love alone. And love can accomplish great things with little. The Eucharist teaches us this: for there we find God himself contained in a piece of bread,” the pope said in his homily for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.

Pope Francis said that the Eucharist is “the antidote” to the mindset that says, “Sorry, that is not my problem,” or “I have no time, I can’t help you, it’s none of my business.”

“Being simple and essential, bread broken and shared, the Eucharist we receive allows us to see things as God does. It inspires us to give ourselves to others,” he said.

Pope Francis celebrated at outdoor evening Mass in Rome’s Casal Bertone neighborhood for the feast of the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, according to Italy’s liturgical calendar.

A Eucharistic procession through the Roman neighborhood followed the Mass, ending at a homeless shelter run by the Missionaries of Charity.

“In our city that hungers for love and care, that suffers from decay and neglect, that contains so many elderly people living alone, families in difficulty, young people struggling to earn their bread and to realize their dreams, the Lord says to each one of you: ‘You yourself give them something to eat,’ Pope Francis said.

“You may answer: ‘But I have so little; I am not up to it.’ That is not true; your ‘little’ has great value in the eyes of Jesus, provided that you don’t keep it to yourself,” he added.

“You are not alone, for you have the Eucharist, bread for the journey, the bread of Jesus,” he said.

The pope called the Eucharist “a school of blessing” and said that through the Mass Catholics are blessed by the Lord and can in turn be a blessing to others as “channels of goodness in the world.”

“It is sad to think of how easily people today speak words not of blessing but of contempt and insult,” Pope Francis said.

“Sadly, those who shout most and loudest, those angriest, often appeal to others and persuade them. Let us avoid being infected by that arrogance; let us not let ourselves be overcome by bitterness, for we eat the Bread that ‘contains all sweetness within it,’” he continued.

“In the presence of the Eucharist, Jesus who becomes bread, this simple bread that contains the entire reality of the Church, let us learn to bless all that we have, to praise God, to bless and not curse all that has led us to this moment, and to speak words of encouragement to others,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: The Eucharist is Jesus alive

Vatican City, Jun 23, 2019 / 05:12 am (CNA).- On the feast of Corpus Christi, Pope Francis said that Jesus gave the Church the Eucharist for the salvation of the world.

“Every year the feast of Corpus Christi invites us to renew the wonder and joy for this wonderful gift of the Lord, which is the Eucharist,” Pope Francis said at the Angelus prayer June 23.

“The Eucharist is the synthesis of the entire existence of Jesus, which was a single act of love for the Father and his brothers,” he said. It is “the sacrament of His Body and His Blood given for the salvation of the world.”

The Solemnity of Corpus Christi, meaning the “Body of Christ” in Latin, is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday or, in some countries including the United States and Italy, on the Sunday following that feast.

The feast provides an opportunity for the Church to focus on Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, which Pope Francis stressed should be welcomed “with gratitude, not in a passive, habitual way.”

“Whenever we approach the altar to receive the Eucharist, we must truly renew our ‘amen’ to the Body of Christ,” the pope said, urging that this “amen” should come from the heart.

“It is Jesus, it is Jesus who saved me, it is Jesus who comes to give me the strength to live. It is Jesus, Jesus alive,” Francis said of the Eucharist in a departure from his prepared remarks.

Pope Francis said that the processions with the Blessed Sacrament that take place around the world in celebration of the Corpus Christi feast are an “expression of the Eucharistic faith of the holy people of God.”

“I too will celebrate Mass this evening in the Roman quarter of Casal Bertone, followed by a procession. I invite everyone to participate, even spiritually, through radio and television,” he said.

“May Our Lady help us to follow Jesus with faith and love whom we adore in the Eucharist,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis announces Marian theme of World Youth Day 2022 in Lisbon

Vatican City, Jun 22, 2019 / 04:31 am (CNA).- At the conclusion of the International Youth Forum Saturday, Pope Francis announced the theme of World Youth Day 2022 to be held in Lisbon: “Mary arose and went with haste.”

“Do not tune out the voice of God, who urges you to arise and follow the paths that he has prepared for you. Like Mary, and in union with her, may you daily bring to others all your joy and love,” Pope Francis told the delegates of the International Youth Forum June 22.

Pope Francis said that he desires young people to reflect on this verse taken from St. Luke’s Biblical account of the Virgin Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth after the Annunciation, as well as two other Bible verses.

“In the two coming years, I would ask you to meditate on these two verses: ‘Young man, I say to you, arise!’ and ‘Stand up. I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen,’” the pope said in his meeting with the youth delegates at the Vatican’s apostolic palace.

The Portugese capital set to host World Youth Day 2022 is just 75 miles from Fatima, one of the most visited Marian pilgrimage sites in the world. In Fatima, the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children over the course of 1916 and 1917 with a message of peace and a request for prayer.

“We were called to bring the light of Christ into the darkness of the world. You, dear young people, are called to be light in the dark night experienced by so many of your friends who do not yet know the joy of new life in Jesus,” Pope Francis told the International Youth Forum.

Pope Francis urged the nearly 250 participants in the International Youth Forum that the more one brings Christ to others, the more one will feel His presence in their lives.

The International Youth Forum was organized by the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life June 19-22 to discuss how best to implement ideas from the 2018 Synod of Bishops in young people’s home dioceses around the world.

“You are young people in action in a synodal Church, and this is what you have been thinking about and reflecting on during these past days,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis told the young adults in the forum that he hopes to see “harmonious coordination between our journey towards the Lisbon World Youth Day and our post-synodal journey.”

“You need one another, if you are to make a difference in a world increasingly tempted to divisiveness. Only if we journey together, will we be truly strong," he said.

"With Christ, the Bread of Life who gives us strength for the journey, let us bring his fire to light up the darkness of this world!” Pope Francis said.

In Naples, Pope Francis calls for theological dialogue with Islam, Judaism

Naples, Italy, Jun 21, 2019 / 06:39 am (CNA).- In Naples Friday Pope Francis delivered a speech calling for theological dialogue with Islam and Judaism in pontifical universities as part of “a theology of dialogue and acceptance.”

“Theology students should be educated in dialogue with Judaism and Islam to understand the common roots and differences of our religious identities, and thus contribute more effectively to building a society that values ​​diversity and fosters respect, brotherhood and peaceful coexistence,” Pope Francis said June 21 in front of Naples’ Jesuit-run pontifical Catholic university.

“With Muslims we are called to dialogue to build the future of our societies and our cities; we are called to consider them partners to build a peaceful coexistence, even when there are shocking episodes by fanatical groups, who are enemies of dialogue, like the tragedy of last Easter in Sri Lanka,” he said.

Pope Francis’ 30-minute speech in Naples presented his vision of “theology in the context of the Mediterrarean,” an area, he said, of transit, exchange, and historic conflict that is now called to be a bridge between Europe, Africa, and Asia.

“The multicultural and multi-religious reality of the new Mediterranean is formed … in the dialogue that comes from listening to the people and texts of the great monotheistic religions, and especially in listening to young people,” Francis said.

The pope’s message focused on theological study within pontifical universities as outlined in the apostolic constitution Veritatis Gaudium published in January 2018. Veritatis Gaudium stipulated new norms of governance and education for all institutions that issue ecclesiastical degrees.

“In theological faculties and ecclesiastical universities, courses in Arabic and Hebrew language and culture are to be encouraged, as well as mutual understanding between Christian, Jewish and Muslim students,” he said.”

“I would say that theology, particularly in this context, is called to be a theology of acceptance,” Pope Francis said.

The pope’s one-day trip to Naples is his second visit to Italy’s third largest city as pope. On Francis’ first trip to Naples in March 2015, he denounced the city’s corruption and organized crime.

On this trip, Pope Francis praised Naples, as “a special laboratory” for a theology of discernment, mercy, and acceptance in dialogue with different cultures and religions.

Pope Francis said that the Church needs theologians open to the inexhaustible novelties of the Spirit, who can escape the self-referential and competitive environment of academia, and act as “men and women of compassion.”

The pope also said that the contribution that women are giving and can give to theology is indispensable and must be supported.

“Without communion and without compassion, constantly nourished by prayer, theology not only loses the soul, but loses … the ability to interpret reality in a Christian way,” he said.

“The first sources of theology, that is, the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, are inexhaustible and always fruitful,” Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis: The Holy Spirit unites the Church, despite sin and scandal

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2019 / 03:15 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Wednesday that the Holy Spirit unites and grows the Church despite human limitations, sins and scandal.

“The Holy Spirit is the creator of communion, the artist of reconciliation … He builds the community of believers by harmonizing the unity of the body and the multiplicity of its members,” Pope Francis said June 19 in St. Peter’s Square.

The Holy Spirit “makes the Church grow by helping it to go beyond human limits, sins and any scandal,” he said.

Dedicating his Wednesday catechesis to the Acts of the Apostles’ account of the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Pope Francis reflected on how the Holy Spirit transformed and strengthened St. Peter.

“On the feast of Pentecost, it is Peter who speaks, the rock on which Christ chose to build his Church,” he said. “His word, weak and even capable of denying the Lord, when crossed by the fire of the Spirit gains strength and becomes capable of piercing hearts and moving to conversion.”

“God in fact chooses what is weak in the world to confound the strong,” Pope Francis said, quoting St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

“The Church is thus born of the fire of love -- of a ‘fire’ that flares up at Pentecost, which manifests the strength of the Word of the Risen One imbued with the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Pope Francis explained that this fire symbolically expresses God’s work of warming, illuminating, and testing hearts, and His care in purifying and revitalizing human works.

“The Spirit of God moves hearts to welcome the salvation that passes through a person, Jesus Christ, the One whom men nailed to the wood of the cross and whom God raised from the dead,” the pope said.

“As Benedict XVI said, ‘This is Pentecost: Jesus, and through Him, God himself, comes to us and draws us into himself,” he added.

“Let us ask the Lord to let us experience a new Pentecost, which expands our hearts and tunes our feelings with those of Christ, so that we proudly proclaim His transforming word and bear witness to the power of love that calls to life all that it encounters,” Pope Francis said.

Vatican quashes rumors of Benedict XVI stroke

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2019 / 11:01 am (CNA).- Pope Benedict XVI is not dead and did not recently suffer a stroke, the Vatican confirmed on Tuesday.

On Monday, rumors circulated on Twitter and other social media platforms that the Pope Emeritus had suffered a “mild ischemia” - a kind of stroke.

“The rumours are false,” Alessandro Gisotti, director ad interim of the Press Office of the Holy See, confirmed to the Catholic Herald on Tuesday.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, Benedict’s personal secretary, called the rumors “fake news,” Edward Pentin reported on Twitter.

On multiple occasions over the past several years, Vatican officials have had to quash similar rumors that the small, white-haired nonagenarian is close to death.

Benedict XVI resigned from the papacy in 2013, citing advanced age and declining strength that made it difficult to carry out his ministry. He was the first pope to resign in nearly 600 years.

International Youth Forum meets to continue work of Synod

Vatican City, Jun 18, 2019 / 07:45 am (CNA).- Nearly 250 young adults will meet in Rome this week for the International Youth Forum to discuss how best to implement ideas from the 2018 Synod of Bishops in their home dioceses.

Citing Pope Francis’ urging in Christus Vivit that “young people themselves are agents of youth ministry,” the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life invited young adults from 109 countries to participate in the forum June 19-22.

Isabella McCafferty was selected by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference to participate in the International Youth Forum this week. She called Christus Vivit “a constant source of encouragement in my own faith journey and inspired me in my ministry.”

“The challenge of course now is how to enable its richness to reach those who need to hear the heart of the document,” McCafferty said June 18.

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ conference Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said he was “grateful” that Pope Francis was continuing the conversations begun at the synod last year and that the forum in Rome was part of an “important dialogue.”

Brian Rhude and Brenda Noriega are two of the young adult leaders who have been asked to represent the United State at the forum.  

Rhude, a student of Theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., studied at the Catholic University campus in Rome during the Fall 2018 semester, which coincided with the Synod on Young People. He attended the synod as a media correspondent for the Catholic Apostolate Center.

Noriega is the current coordinator of young adult ministry in the Diocese of San Bernardino, Ca, and also serves on the USCCB’s National Advisory Team on Young Adult Ministry.

Last year, Noriega was co-leader of the bishop and young adult encounter at the V Encuentro national event held in Texas.

All the “youth delegates,” who are between the ages of 18 to 29, will listen to talks and panels on synodality, pastoral ministry, and vocational discernment. They will also meet in groups to consider how to apply the post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit to their local youth ministries.

Pope Francis published Christus Vivit, a 50-page letter to “all Christian young people,” April 2 following the Synod of Bishops on young people, faith, and vocational discernment which took place Oct. 3-28.

In Christus Vivit Pope Francis addressed the obstacles to faith and personal fulfulment faced by young people today, such as isolation, over-consumption of media, and addiction to drugs and pornography. Do not let the world “rob you of hope and joy, or drug you into becoming a slave to their interests,” Francis said.

“You need to realize one basic truth: being young is not only about pursuing fleeting pleasures and superficial achievements. If the years of your youth are to serve their purpose in life, they must be a time of generous commitment, whole-hearted dedication, and sacrifices that are difficult but ultimately fruitful.”

On the final day of the International Youth Forum, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life will celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica with the young participants, after which they will meet Pope Francis.

“I think Pope Francis offers a very personal invitation to young people to return to what is most essential: an encounter daily with the love of God and the living person of Christ," McCafferty said.

Amazon Synod to consider possible ordination of married men

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2019 / 07:30 am (CNA).- The working document for the special assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region, released Monday, recommends study of the possibility of ordaining married men in remote areas for the priesthood.

“Stating that celibacy is a gift for the Church, we ask that, for more remote areas in the region, study of the possibility of priestly ordination of elders, preferably indigenous …  they can already have an established and stable family, in order to ensure the sacraments that they accompany and support the Christian life,” paragraph 129 of the document released June 17 states.

This opens the door for the discussion of the ordination of viri probati -- a term referring to mature, married men -- during the Special Synod of Bishops from the Pan-Amazonian region to be held at the Vatican Oct. 6-27.

Canon law for the Latin Catholic Church prohibits the ordination of married men to the priesthood, with limited exceptions regarding the ordination of formerly Anglican and Protestant ecclesial leaders who have converted to Catholicism.

The working document, which calls for “a Church with an indigenous face,” further recommends that the synod identify “an official ministry that can be conferred upon women, taking into account the central role they play in the Amazonian church.”

Monsignor Fabio Fabene, Under-Secretary for the Synod of Bishops highlighted the document’s call for new lay ministries.

“In this sense, one wonders what official ministry can be conferred to the woman,” Fabene said at a Vatican press conference June 17.

He continued, “the document does not speak of the female diaconate, since the pope has already expressed himself on the subject in the Assembly of the Superiors General, declaring that the topic needs further study. In fact, the study commission set up in 2016 did not reach a unanimous opinion on the issue.”

The synod working document, entitled “Amazonia: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology,” is divided into three sections on the Amazonian cultures, environmental and economic problems, and pastoral approaches for the Church in the region.

Calling for “an integral ecological conversion,” the document touches on the issues of migration, deforestation, urbanization, corruption, health, education, and Indigenous Peoples in Voluntary Isolation (PIAV).

The document stresses the importance of inculturation of indigenous cultures in the Catholic faith and the liturgy in the region, starting with engagement with indigenous spiritualities.

“It is necessary to grasp what the Spirit of the Lord has taught to these peoples over the centuries: faith in God the Father-Mother Creator, the sense of communion and harmony with the earth, the sense of solidarity with one's companions ...  the living relationship with nature and 'Mother Earth,’ the resilience of women,” paragraph 121 of the document states.

Recommending that the Church “recognize indigenous spirituality as a source of wealth for the Christian experience,” and the document calls for dialogue with “the Amazonian cosmovision” to be included in formation for religious life.

Monsignor Fabene described inculturation in the liturgy in the region as “a better integration of the symbols and celebratory styles of indigenous cultures … taking into account music and dance, languages ​​and native clothes.”

“Recognition and dialogue will be the best way to transform the ancient relations marked by exclusion and discrimination,” paragraph 35 states. In several places, the document refers to “the wounds caused during long periods of colonization.”

“For this Pope Francis asked ‘humbly for forgiveness, not only for the offenses of his own Church, but for crimes against indigenous peoples during the conquest of so-called America.’  In this past, the Church has sometimes been complicit in the colonization and this has stifled the prophetic voice of the Gospel,” paragraph 38 states.

The document also stresses the importance of having greater respect for the dignity and rights of indigenous populations in the area today.

“The Church cannot but worry about the integral salvation of the human person, which involves promoting the culture of indigenous peoples, talking about their vital needs, accompanying movements and joining forces to defend their rights,” paragraph 143 states.

The synod document therefore recommends that Catholics in the region, “join the basic social movements, to prophetically announce a program of agrarian justice that promotes a profound agrarian reform, supporting farming organic and agroforestry.”

Participants in the special synod of the Amazon will include residential bishops and ordinaries of the nine Pan-Amazonian ecclesiastical territories in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname; the presidents of the seven bishops’ conferences of the Pan-Amazonian Region; members for the Roman Curia; the president of the Pan-Amazonian Ecclesial Network (REPAM); and the members of the pre-Synodal Council.

Upon the working document’s publication June 17, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, said:

“The image of a Church with an Amazonian face, courageous in its prophetic proclamation of the Gospel in defense of Creation and of indigenous peoples, is the horizon towards which we are walking under the guidance of Pope Francis.”