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Pope's Egypt trip a sign of solidarity with suffering Christians

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis’ meeting with the Coptic Orthodox leader, Pope Tawadros in Cairo on Friday will be an important sign of solidarity with Christians who suffer and die for their faith in Egypt and throughout the Middle East.

That’s the view of Msgr Gabriel Quicke who heads the office for dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox Churches at the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity.

Last week he accompanied Cardinal Kurt Koch and Pope Francis’ private secretary to Egypt with a personal message of condolences in the wake of two bomb attacks on churches in Alexandria and Tanta, north of Cairo. The twin attacks on Palm Sunday, claimed by so-called Islamic State militants, left at least 45 people dead and dozens of others injured.

Msgr Quicke says the Coptic Pope was deeply “touched by that sign of spiritual attention” and closeness to the suffering Christian communities. Speaking to Philippa Hitchen, he says Pope Francis’ encounter with Tawadros will be an important “continuation of the ecumenical path towards full and visible unity” of the Churches.

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Msgr Quicke recalls that in 2015, following the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya, the Coptic bishop in Italy, Msgr Barnaba asked if Pope Francis could send a message of solidarity with the Coptic community. On Palm Sunday, he said, following the latest attacks, the Holy Father asked him to accompany Cardinal Kurt Koch, together with his own private secretary, to Egypt with a message of condolences.

It was a very brief visit, with an overnight stay at the Apostolic nunciature in Cairo, followed by an early morning journey to Alexandria to the residence of Pope Tawadros there.

Spiritual closeness to victims

The Catholic delegation brought a message of condolences and solidarity, expressing Pope Francis “spiritual closeness in prayer, in heart and mind” to all those affected by the attacks. Msgr Quicke says the Coptic leader was “very touched emotionally, by that sign of spiritual attention” and  asked “to express his closeness as well” recalling that during their meeting in Rome in 2013, “they promised one another to pray for one another every day”.

Ecumenism of blood

During that encounter in the Vatican, shortly after both men were elected, Msgr Quicke notes that Pope Francis spoke forcefully about “the ecumenism of blood” of the Coptic martyrs. He repeated the phrase following the beheadings in 2015, stressing that “they are not persecuted because they are Orthodox” or Copts, but “because they are Christian”. Citing the early Christian author from Carthage, Tertullian, he said “as the blood of the [first] martyrs became the seed for the growing of the Christian Church, [so] the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed nowadays for the unity of Christians”.

Strengthen solidarity among Christians

During the brief visit to Cairo, Msgr Quicke says he sensed that “not only the Coptic Orthodox Church, but all Christians, the whole Muslim community and all Egypt is waiting for the visit of the pope”. Although the encounter between two popes will be an important “continuation of the ecumenical path” towards Christian unity, the papal trip will also be an opportunity for the Holy Father to meet with the small Catholic community “ to strengthen the bonds of solidarity and fraternity between all Christians”. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis sends video message ahead of Egypt visit

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a video message to the people of Egypt ahead of his Apostolic Journey to the country, saying the “world needs peace, love and mercy”.

Listen to Devin Watkins’ report:

Pope Francis began his video message to the people of Egypt with the traditional greeting in Arabic: “As-salamu alaykum! (Peace be with you!)”

He said he is “coming as a friend, as a messenger of peace, and a pilgrim to the country that, over two thousand years ago, gave refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family as they fled the threats of King Herod.”

The Pope thanked those who invited him, including the President, Patriarch Tawadros II, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and the Coptic-Catholic Patriarch, as well as all those people preparing for his arrival.

He said he would like his visit to “be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East”.

He called his interreligious and ecumenical visit “a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place.”

Speaking about recent “blind violence” in the country, Pope Francis said, “Our world needs peace, love and mercy. It needs peacemakers, people who are free and who set others free, men and women of courage who can learn from the past in order to build the future, free of every form of prejudice.”

He went on to say “Our world needs people who can build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice and humanity.”

Finally, Pope Francis extended a warm embrace to the Egyptian people of all religions, age, and means.

Shukran wa Tahiaì Misr! (Thank you and may Egypt flourish!)”

Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s video message:

Dear People of Egypt,

As-salamu alaykum!

Peace be with you!

With a heart full of joy and gratitude I will soon visit your beloved country, the cradle of civilization, the gift of the Nile, the land of sun and hospitality, the land where Patriarchs and Prophets lived, and where God, Benevolent and Merciful, the Almighty and One God, made his voice heard.

I am truly happy to be coming as a friend, as a messenger of peace, and a pilgrim to the country that, over two thousand years ago, gave refuge and hospitality to the Holy Family as they fled the threats of King Herod (cf. Mt 2:10-16).  I am honoured to visit the land visited by the Holy Family!

I greet all of you warmly and I thank you for your invitation to visit Egypt, which you call ‘Umm il Dugna – Mother of the universe!

I offer heartfelt thanks to the President of the Republic, to His Holiness Patriarch Tawadros II, to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and to the Coptic-Catholic Patriarch, all of whom invited me.  I also thank each of you for opening your hearts to me, and in particular all those who worked so hard to make this journey possible.

I would like this visit to be a witness of my affection, comfort and encouragement for all the Christians of the Middle East, a message of friendship and respect for all the inhabitants of Egypt and the region, and a message of brotherhood and reconciliation with all the children of Abraham, particularly the Muslim world, in which Egypt holds so important a place.  I would also hope that my visit will make a fruitful contribution to interreligious dialogue with the followers of Islam and to ecumenical dialogue with the venerable and beloved Coptic Orthodox Church.

Our world is torn by blind violence, a violence that has also struck the heart of your beloved land.  Our world needs peace, love and mercy.  It needs peacemakers, people who are free and who set others free, men and women of courage who can learn from the past in order to build the future, free of every form of prejudice.  Our world needs people who can build bridges of peace, dialogue, fraternity, justice and humanity.

Dear Egyptian brothers and sisters, young and old, women and men, Muslims and Christians, rich and poor…  I embrace you warmly and I ask Almighty God to bless you and protect your country from every evil.

Please pray for me!  Shukran wa Tahiaì Misr! (Thank you and may Egypt flourish!). 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: Gospel must be proclaimed with humility

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Tuesday for the intentions of his “brother,” Coptic Patriarch Pope Tawadros II, whom he will be meeting in three days’ time as he makes an Apostolic Voyage to Egypt.

The day’s Mass commemorates Saint Mark the Evangelist, who is recognized as the founder of the patriarchate of Alexandria. “I offer this Mass for my brother, Pope Tawadros II, Patriarch of Alexandria of the Copts,” Pope Francis said. He prayed for “the grace that the Lord might bless our two churches with the abundance of the Holy Spirit.

The Cardinal counsellors who make up the C-9 advisory group were among the faithful taking part in the Pope’s daily Mass.

In his homily during the liturgy, Pope Francis said the Gospel must be proclaimed with humility, overcoming the temptation of pride. The Holy Father spoke about the necessity for Christians of “going out to proclaim” the Good News. A preacher, he said, must always be on a journey, and not seek “an insurance policy,” seeking safety by remaining in one place. 

Listen: 

Jesus gave His disciples a mission: to proclaim the Gospel, “to not remain in Jerusalem, but to go out to proclaim the Good News to all. In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on passage from the Gospel of St Mark, which relates the story of the Great Commission. He said “the Gospel is always proclaimed on the journey, never seated, always on the journey.”

Going out to proclaim the Good News, never remaining stopped but always on the journey

Christians, the Pope said, need “to go out where Jesus is not known, or where Jesus is persecuted, or where Jesus is disfigured, to proclaim the true Gospel”:

“To go out in order to proclaim. And, also, in this going out there is life, the life of the preacher is played out. He is not safe; there are no life insurance policies for preachers. And if a preacher seeks a life insurance policy, he is not a true preacher of the Gospel: He doesn’t go out, he stays in place, safe. So, first of all: Go, go out. The Gospel, the proclamation of Jesus Christ, goes forth, always; on a journey, always. On a physical journey, on a spiritual journey, on a journey of suffering: we think of the proclamation of the Gospel that leads to so many wounded people – so many wounded people! – who offer their sufferings for the Church, for the Christians. But they always go out of themselves.”

But what is “the style of this proclamation?” the Pope asked. “Saint Peter, who was St Mark’s teacher, was perfectly clear in his description of this style”: “The Gospel must be announced in humility, because the Son of God humbled Himself, annihilated Himself.” This, the Pope said, “is the style of God”; there is no other. “The proclamation of the Gospel,” he said, “is not a carnival, a party.” This is “not the proclamation of the Gospel.”

The Gospel must be announced with humility, overcoming the temptation of worldliness

The Gospel, the Pope said, “cannot be announced with human power, cannot be proclaimed with human power, cannot be proclaimed with the spirit of climbing and advancement.” “This is not the Gospel.” All of us, then, are called to vest themselves with “humility, one towards another,” because “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”:

“And why is this humility necessary? Precisely because we carry forward a proclamation of humiliation – of glory, but through humility. And the proclamation of the Gospel undergoes temptation: the temptation of power, the temptation of pride, the temptation of worldliness, of so many kinds of worldliness that they bring preaching or to speaking; because he does not preach a watered down Gospel, without strength, a Gospel without Christ crucified and risen. And for this reason St Peter says: ‘Be vigilant, be vigilant, be vigilant… Your enemy the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your brothers and sisters throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.’ The proclamation of the Gospel, if it is true, undergoes temptation."

Pope Francis said that if a Christian says he is proclaiming the Gospel “but is never tempted,” it means that “the devil is not worried,” because “we are preaching something useless.”

Let us ask the Lord that we might go out of ourselves in order to evangelize

For this reason, the Pope continued, “in true preaching there is always some temptation, and also some persecution.” He said that when we are suffering, the Lord is there “to restore us, to give us strength, because that is what Jesus promised when He sent the Apostles”:

“The Lord will be there to comfort us, to give us the strength to go forward, because He works with us if we are faithful to the proclamation of the Gospel, if we go out of ourselves to preach Christ crucified, a scandal and a folly, and if we do this with a style of humility, of true humility. May the Lord grant us this grace, as baptized people, all of us, to take the path of evangelization with humility, with confidence in Him, announcing the true Gospel: ‘The Word is come in the flesh.’ The Word of God is come in the flesh. And this is a folly, it is a scandal; but doing it with the understanding that the Lord is at our side, He works with us, and He confirms our work.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope sends letter to Cardinal Rodé for Madonna of Scutari anniversary

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a letter to Cardinal Franc Rodé, CM, his special envoy at the celebration of the 550th anniversary of the Madonna of Shkodra’s arrival in the Church of Genazzano near Rome, Italy.

The celebration takes place on 26 April at the National Shrine of Shkodra in Albania.

It commemorates the arrival of the Madonna of Shkodra at the Madonna of Good Council Church in Genazzano after the Albanian sanctuary was destroyed by the Ottomans in 1467.

Cardinal Franc Rodé is the Prefect-emeritus of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Please find below the Latin text of the Pope’s letter:

Venerabili Fratri Nostro

FRANCISCO S.R.E. Cardinali RODÉ, C.M.

Praefecto olim Congregationis pro Institutis vitae consecratae

et Societatibus vitae apostolicae 

Quingentesima et quinquagesima anniversaria memoria appropinquante adventus praeclarae imaginis Dominae Scodrensis in sacram aedem Genatiani, prope Romam, Matri Boni Consilii dicatam, fideles dilectae terrae Albaniae Beatam Mariam Virginem singulari cultu prosequuntur eaque intercedente Salvatori gratias agunt pro omnibus beneficiis saeculorum decursu acceptis. In archidioecesi potissimum Scodrensi-Pulatensi varia incepta suscipiuntur in praeparanda praecipua festivitate die XXVI mensis Aprilis celebranda. Mater Dei enim, cuius memorata icona peculiari splendore eminet, christifideles Albanienses difficilibus temporibus auxiliis est prosecuta apud Filium suum et Dominum nostrum divina dona efflagitans. De hac re sanctus Ioannes Paulus II clare est locutus qui in visitatione apostolica in Albaniam die XXV mensis Aprilis anno MCMXCIII in cathedrali Scodrensi lapidem benedixit novi sanctuarii aedificandi atque totum Albaniensem populum Matri Boni Consilii concredidit.

His rerum adiunctis diligenter consideratis Venerabilis Frater Angelus Massafra, O.F.M., Archiepiscopus Metropolita Scodrensis-Pulatensis atque Conferentiae Episcopalis Albaniensis Praeses, humanissime rogavit ut eminentem virum mitteremus, qui Nostras vices memorato die gereret Nostramque erga istum populum dilectionem manifestaret. Ad Te autem, Venerabilis Frater Noster, qui, Sloveniae clarus filius, olim pergrave munus Praefecti Congregationis pro Institutis vitae consecratae et Societatibus vitae apostolicae diligenter exercuisti, mentem Nostram vertimus atque Te hisce Litteris MISSUM EXTRAORDINARIUM NOSTRUM nominamus ad celebrationem quae die XXVI huius mensis Aprilis apud Sanctuarium Nationale Scodrense agetur.  

Sollemni ibidem praesidebis Eucharistiae atque Archiepiscopum Metropolitam aliosque sacros Praesules, sacerdotes, religiosos viros mulieresque, publicas auctoritates atque universos christifideles Nostro salutabis nomine. Optamus etiam ut de pondere Marialis cultus in historia Ecclesiae quae est in Albania loquens, omnes adstantes sermone tuo ad diligentiore usque modo viam per Mariam ad Iesum prosequendam cohortaberis.

Nos autem Te, Venerabilis Frater Noster, in tua missione implenda precibus comitabimur intercessionem ipsius Dominae Scodrensis invocantes atque beatorum martyrum Albaniensium Vincentii Prennushi et XXXVII Sociorum. Denique Benedictionem Nostram Apostolicam libentes Tibi impertimur, signum Nostrae erga Te benevolentiae et caelestium donorum pignus, quam omnibus celebrationis participibus rite transmittes.

Ex Aedibus Vaticanis, die XXII mensis Aprilis, anno MMXVII, Pontificatus Nostri quinto.

FRANCISCUS

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis to visit Italian cities of Bozzolo, Barbiana in June

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis will make a private visit to the northern Italian towns of Bozzolo and Barbiana on 20 June 2017 to pray at the tombs of Don Primo Mazzolari and Don Lorenzo Milani.

Bozzolo is in the Diocese of Cremona and Barbiana is in the Diocese of Florence.

A communique from the Holy See Press Office says the visit "will take place in a private rather than an official form".

The Holy Father recently dedicated a video message to Don Lorenzo Milani

Please find below the full programme of the Pope's visit:

Tuesday, 20 June

7.30   Departure by helicopter from the Vatican heliport

9.00   Arrival at the sports field of Bozzolo, Mantua

The Holy Father is welcomed by:

His Excellency Msgr. Antonio Napolioni, bishop of Cremona and the Mayor of Bozzolo

Parish of San Pietro: prayer at the tomb of Don Primo Mazzolari (1890-1959)

The Holy Father will give a commemorative address to the faithful present in the Church

10.30   Departure from the sports field of Bozzolo

11.15   Arrival at the forecourt in front of the Church of Barbiana

The Holy Father is welcomed by:

His Eminence Cardinal Giuseppe Betori, archbishop of Florence and the Mayor of Vicchio, Florence

Private visit to the cemetery, and prayer at the tomb of Don Lorenzo Milani (1923-1967), on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of his death

In the Church: encounter with the living disciples of Don Milani and brief visit to the vicarage in the adjacent garden: the Holy Father gives a commemorative address, in the presence of the disciples, to a group of priests from the diocese and some young people housed in family residences (a total of around 200 people)

12.30   Departure from Barbiana

13.15   Return to the Vatican

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope: The Spirit makes us free, without compromise, rigidity

(Vatican Radio) Never forget that our faith is concrete, and rejects compromises and idealizations. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta.

Among those present at the Mass were the Cardinal counselors of the C-9, who are meeting with the Holy Father on Monday. The Pope reflected on the liberty the Holy Spirit gives us, which brings about the proclamation of the Gospel without compromises or rigidity.

Listen to our report: 

Following the Easter break, Pope Francis on Monday resumed his regular morning Masses, focusing his homily on the Gospel account of Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus. The Holy Father said that Jesus, with love and patience, explained to Nicodemus that he must be “born from above… born of the Holy Spirit.”

To understand this better, the Pope said, one can consider the first Reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles. Peter and John have healed a crippled man, and the doctors of the Law don’t know what to do, how “to hide” what happened, “because the event was public.” When they were questioned, Peter and John “answered with simplicity”; and when they were ordered not to speak about what happened, Peter responded, “No! We cannot remain silent about what we have seen and heard. And we will continue to do as we have been doing.”

The Word became flesh; our faith is concrete

See, then, the Pope said, “the concreteness of a fact, the concreteness of the faith” in contrast to the position of the doctors of the law who “wanted to enter into negotiations, to come to a compromise”: Peter and John “have courage, they have frankness, the frankness of the Spirit,” “which means speaking the truth openly, with courage, without compromises.” This is “the point,” “the concreteness of the faith”:

“At times we forget that our faith is concrete: the Word was made flesh; it is not made an idea. And when we recite the Creed, everything we say is concrete: ‘I believe in God the Father, Who made heaven and earth; I believe in Jesus Christ Who was born, Who died…’ These are all concrete things. Our Creed does not say, ‘I have to do this, I have to do that, I have to do something else, or that some things are for these ends.’ No! They are concrete things. [This is] the concreteness of the faith that leads to frankness, to bearing witness even to the point of martyrdom, which is against compromises or the idealization of the faith.”

At times, even the Church has fallen into “a theology of ‘yes you can,’ ‘no you can’t”

For these doctors of the law, he continued, the Word “was not made flesh: it was made law: and you must do this up to this point, and no further”; “you must do this, and nothing else”:

“And so they were imprisoned in this rationalistic mentality, which did not end with them. Because in the history of the Church – although often the Church Herself has condemned rationalism, illuminism – later it often happened that it fell into a theology of ‘yes, you can, no you can’t; up to this point, thus far.’ And it forgot the strength, the liberty of the Spirit, this rebirth of the Spirit that gives you liberty, the frankness of preaching, the proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord.”

The Lord gives us the Spirit in order to proclaim the Gospel without rigidity

“Let us ask the Lord,” the Pope said, for “this experience of the Spirit Who comes and goes and bears us onward; of the Spirit Who gives us the anointing of the faith, the anointing of the concreteness of the faith”:

“The wind blows where it will and you hear the voice, but you don’t know where it is coming from or where it is going. So it is for anyone who is born of the Spirit: He hears the voice, he follows the voice, he follows the voice of the Spirit without knowing where it will end. Because he has made an option for the concreteness of the faith and the rebirth of the Spirit. May the Lord grand to all of us this paschal Spirit, of going forward along the path of the Spirit without compromises, without rigidity, with the liberty of proclaiming Jesus Christ as He Who has come: in the flesh.”

(from Vatican Radio)