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Today’s news dispatch: Nov. 19, 2015

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Pope’s Morning Mass: Jesus Weeps Today Too, Because We’ve Chosen the Way of War

At Casa Santa Marta, Says There Can Be No Justification for This Piecemeal War

Just as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, today too he is weeping over the world, because we have chosen the way of war, and have not understood peace.

This was the message Pope Francis gave this morning during his Mass at Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.

Drawing from the Gospel reading, which recounts how Jesus wept at seeing Jerusalem, the Pope said: “Today Jesus weeps as well: because we have chosen the way of war, the way of hatred, the way of enmities.”

“We are close to Christmas: There will be lights, there will be parties, bright trees, even Nativity scenes – all decked out – while the world continues to wage war,” the Holy Father reflected. “The world has not understood the way of peace.”

Pope Francis went on to recall the recent commemorations of the Second World War and the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as well as his visit to Redipuglia last year on the anniversary of the Great War.

These conflicts were “useless slaughters,” the Pontiff said, repeating the words of Pope Benedict XV. “Everywhere there is war today, there is hatred.”

“What shall remain in the wake of this war, in the midst of which we are living now?” Francis asked. “What shall remain? Ruins, thousands of children without education, so many innocent victims: and lots of money in the pockets of arms dealers.”

The Holy Father reiterated something he has said on other occasions: that war is waged to bring economic gain to a few.

“Jesus once said: ‘You can not serve two masters:  either God or riches.’ War is the right choice for him who would serve wealth: ‘Let us build weapons, so that the economy will right itself somewhat, and let us go forward in pursuit of our interests.’”

But those who choose money over human life face Jesus’ judgement, Francis warned. “There is an ugly word the Lord spoke: ‘Cursed!’ Because He said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers!.’ The men who work war, who make war, are cursed, they are criminals.”

Just war?

The Pope also remarked: “A war can be justified – so to speak – with many, many reasons, but when all the world is as it is today, at war – piecemeal though that war may be – a little here, a little there, and everywhere – there is no justification – and God weeps. Jesus weeps.”

The Holy Father went on to say that, while the arms dealers go about their business, there are poor peacemakers who, in order to help others, spend themselves utterly, and even give their lives – as did Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The cynical or worldly might ask, “But what did she ever accomplish? She wasted her life helping others on their way to death?” the Pope said, adding, “We do not understand the way of peace.” 

“It will do us well to ask the for the grace of tears, for this world that does not recognize the path of peace, this world that lives for war, and cynically says not to make it. Let us pray for conversion of heart. Here before the door of this Jubilee of Mercy, let us ask that our joy, our jubilation, be this grace: that the world discover the ability to weep for its crimes, for what the world does with war.”

[For a summary of some of the many occasions when Pope Francis has spoken of the world at war, and referred to it as a World War III, see here: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-a-pope-who-sees-a-wwiii-and-pleas-for-it-to-stop]

Readings provided by the US bishops’ conference:


Thursday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 500

Reading 1

1 MC 2:15-29

The officers of the king in charge of enforcing the apostasy

came to the city of Modein to organize the sacrifices.

Many of Israel joined them,

but Mattathias and his sons gathered in a group apart.

Then the officers of the king addressed Mattathias:

“You are a leader, an honorable and great man in this city,

supported by sons and kin.

Come now, be the first to obey the king’s command,

as all the Gentiles and the men of Judah

<p>and those who are left in Jerusalem have done.

Then you and your sons shall be numbered among the King’s Friends,

and shall be enriched with silver and gold and many gifts.”

But Mattathias answered in a loud voice:

“Although all the Gentiles in the king’s realm obey him,

so that each forsakes the religion of his fathers

and consents to the king’s orders,

yet I and my sons and my kin 

will keep to the covenant of our fathers.

God forbid that we should forsake the law and the commandments.

We will not obey the words of the king

nor depart from our religion in the slightest degree.”


As he finished saying these words,

a certain Jew came forward in the sight of all

to offer sacrifice on the altar in Modein

according to the king’s order.

When Mattathias saw him, he was filled with zeal;

his heart was moved and his just fury was aroused;

he sprang forward and killed him upon the altar.

At the same time, he also killed the messenger of the king

who was forcing them to sacrifice,

and he tore down the altar.

Thus he showed his zeal for the law,

just as Phinehas did with Zimri, son of Salu.


Then Mattathias went through the city shouting,

“Let everyone who is zealous for the law

and who stands by the covenant follow after me!”

Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons,

leaving behind in the city all their possessions.

Many who sought to live according to righteousness and religious custom

went out into the desert to settle there.

Responsorial Psalm

PS 50:1B-2, 5-6, 14-15

R. (23b) To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

God the LORD has spoken and summoned the earth,

from the rising of the sun to its setting.

From Zion, perfect in beauty,

God shines forth.

R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

“Gather my faithful ones before me,

those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”

And the heavens proclaim his justice;

for God himself is the judge.

R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

“Offer to God praise as your sacrifice

and fulfill your vows to the Most High;

Then call upon me in time of distress;

I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.”

R. To the upright I will show the saving power of God.


PS 95:8

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

If today you hear his voice,

harden not your hearts.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.


LK 19:41-44

As Jesus drew near Jerusalem,

he saw the city and wept over it, saying,

“If this day you only knew what makes for peace–

but now it is hidden from your eyes.

For the days are coming upon you

when your enemies will raise a palisade against you;

they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides.

They will smash you to the ground and your children within you,

and they will not leave one stone upon another within you

because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.”

Silencing the Church on Marriage: Australian Archbishop Under Threat

Is it that some people simply cannot tolerate Christian beliefs being held by anyone, spoken by anyone, influencing anyone?

Explaining the Catholic Church’s teachings on marriage is an action that now risks being categorized as against anti-discrimination legislation.

This is the experience of Hobart’s Archbishop Julian Porteous. Hobart, the capital city of the Australian state of Tasmania, was one of the places the Church in Australia distributed a pamphlet, titled “Don’t Mess With Marriage,” produced by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference. The pamphlet sets out the traditional teaching on marriage.

Archbishop Porteous was accused by transgender Greens political candidate Martine Delaney of breaching the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Act by circulating the pamphlet to parents of Catholic school students.

Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Robin Banks said the matter should be considered and that conciliation was “unlikely” to solve the issue because “it raises issues of public importance,” the Australian newspaper reported November 13.

Subsequently, however, Delaney asked for the matter to be conciliated. Moreover, in a statement issued this week Delaney said that: “I wholeheartedly support the Catholic Church’s right to oppose marriage equality, and its right to voice its opposition.”

The alternative to a conciliation process is an investigation, likely to last a number of months, involving written submissions and statements.

Archbishop Porteous said his aim in distributing the booklet in Tasmania was to assist the Catholic community in understanding the teaching of the Catholic Church “at a time when debate [on marriage] was widespread within the community.”

“It was never the intention of the document or myself to in any way cause any distress for people,” he said, in a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Hobart.

The move to conciliation follows strong protests against the initial action taken by Delaney.  Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney said the attempt to silence the Church on the marriage issue was “astonishing and truly alarming,” in a statement issued November 13.

«Fair-minded readers of the bishops’ statement on marriage would see it was a very carefully worded and indeed compassionate statement, not designed to provoke or hurt anyone. The concerted campaign that has followed its publication suggests that some people simply cannot tolerate Christian beliefs being held by anyone, spoken by anyone, influencing anyone,” Archbishop Fisher explained.

The Australian Christian Lobby also defended Archbishop Porteous. “Having achieved full practical equality with married couples some years ago, same-sex political activists in their quest to claim the word ‘marriage’ want to legally punish anyone who expresses a different opinion,” said Lyle Shelton, the lobby’s managing director.

INTERVIEW: What the Pope Will Find in Central African Republic

Missionary Considers Francis’ Safety and the Message of the Holy Door

Pope Francis will open the first Holy Door of the Jubilee of Mercy in Bangui on Nov. 29, during his pastoral visit to the Central African Republic.

Anticipating by some 10 days the jubilee’s official opening, the Year of Mercy will begin, therefore, in one of the most forgotten “peripheries” of the earth. A country in which, added to the ubiquitous misery, is the tragedy of a civil war and the complicity of the total indifference of the International Community.

In this disturbing scenario, the only true glimmer of hope is the Catholic Church and her courageous missionaries. One of them is Carmelite Father Aurelio Gazzera, 53, native of Cuneo.

Having worked in CAR for 24 years, Father Gazzera at present is the Director of Caritas of Bouar. The Piedmontese missionary described to ZENIT the country’s very delicate political situation, where, however, the Holy Father’s safety should not be at risk.

ZENIT: Father Aurelio, how is the Central African Republic preparing for Pope Francis’ visit? 

Father Gazzera: Central Africa received with surprise and much joy the news of the Pope’s desire to come and visit. We are a large country, twice the size of Italy, but with only 4.5 million inhabitants, and, above all, at war for almost three years — first, the arrival of the Seleka, an alliance of rebels, the majority Muslim, from the North of the country, but also from Chad and from Sudan. Then the reaction, with the anti-Balaka, and the guerrilla that still continues now: there are close to 830,000 refugees and evacuees abroad (a fifth of the population!).

The preparation is in full swing in the heart of the Catholic community, with various meetings and organizations, and moments of prayer that are attempting to prepare Christians to receive Peter, and especially to question themselves on the faith and on the history of the country. Non-Catholics are also very happy about this visit, which the whole population regards as very important and, at the same time, exacting. As for the rest — many preparations aren’t seen, taking into account the fact that, since the end of September, the situation at Bangui is far worse.

ZENIT: The newspaper accounts these days speak of a heated political situation in the country. Do you think the Pope’s visit is at risk? 

Father Gazzera: It certainly won’t be a stroll, and I imagine many are holding their breath … I don’t think the Pope is particularly exposed, because undoubtedly there will be a security force up to the situation. I am more concerned about the people that will come to see and hear him, who instead will be less protected and more vulnerable. Unfortunately, we have witnessed for a long time an escalation of violence and attacks; hence, nothing can be excluded. Moreover there is no coordination or unity within the various parties at war (Muslims and non-Muslims) and this is a further problem.

ZENIT: What significance do you attribute to the Holy Father’s decision to open the Holy Door in advance at Bangui? 

Father Gazzera: It is exceptional news, which the Pope had already anticipated to us almost two months ago, sign that it is a personal decision. It is a most beautiful sign, which brings to the fore an unknown country, which is in great need of allowing itself to be converted through the Father’s Mercy. It is also a lovely sign of recognition of the Catholic Church, which has always been on the front line in welcoming all, Christians and Muslims, and that, thanks to the voice of many Pastors – first among all the Archbishop of Bangui, Monsignor Dieudonne Nzapalainga – represents practically the only bulwark to the folly of the war and of destruction.

ZENIT: Muslims are close to 15% in the country. What type of Islam is that of the Central African Republic? 

Father Gazzera: Until the first arrival of the Seleka, coexistence was quite good. The Muslims were engaged in commerce, transport and a good part of stock farming, and in general the two communities complemented one another quite well. With the arrival of the Seleka, with rebels that almost only spoke Arabic, the situation was complicated: some Muslims benefited from the situation, others supported it openly, which, with the beginning of combats between Seleka and anti-Balaka, led to identifying the Seleka with the Muslims. Then one must not forget that a background of fear also existed, caused by historical events (the slave raids carried out by Muslim traders, here in the area; they lasted until 1930) and the recurring tensions, especially between farmers and breeders (the latter constituted rather by Peul, of Muslim religion.)

Father Gazzera: The religious question is very secondary. Although having talked to them for a long time, I have never heard the anti-Balaka take the religious factor as a pretext for the attacks against Muslims. Behind it, rather, is a sense of inferiority and a jealousy that has led to lootings and to the destruction of Muslims’ homes and goods. In addition, there is behind it the political factor (the hegemony of countries such as Chad, Sudan, and countries of the Arabian Gulf).

Differences of Nationality and Religion Must Be Overcome by Love for Life: Pope

In address to Health Care Council, Notes John Paul II’s Reflection on ‘Positive Requirements’ of Commandments

The closeness to one another taught by the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan overcomes the divisions of nationality, social class or religion.

Pope Francis said this this morning when he received in audience the participants in the international conference “The culture of salus and welcome in the service of man and the planet”, organised by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry (for Health Pastoral Care), currently being held in the Vatican. The conference coincides with the 30th anniversary of the dicastery and the 20th anniversary of the publication of St. John Paul II’s encyclical letter “Evangelium vitae”.

In this document, said the Holy Father, we find “the constitutive elements of the ‘culture of salus’: hospitality, compassion, understanding and forgiveness. They are Jesus’ habitual attitudes towards the many people in need He encounters every day: people suffering sicknesses of every type, public sinners, the possessed, the marginalised, the poor and outsiders. … These attitudes are those that the encyclical calls the ‘positive requirements’ of the commandment regarding the inviolability of life, which with Jesus are revealed in all their breadth and depth, and today can, or indeed must characterise pastoral care in relation to health: ‘they range from caring for the life of one’s brother (whether a blood brother, someone belonging to the same people, or a foreigner living in the land of Israel) to showing concern for the stranger, even to the point of loving one’s enemy’”.

“This closeness to the other, to the point of feeling that he is someone who belongs to me, overcomes every barrier of nationality, social extraction and religion … as the good Samaritan of the Gospel parable teaches us. It also overcomes that culture in a negative sense in which, both in rich and poor countries, human beings are accepted or refused according to utilitarian criteria, especially in terms of social or economic utility. This mentality is the parent of the so-called ‘medicine of desires’: an increasingly widespread custom in rich countries, characterised by the search for physical perfection at all costs, in the illusion of eternal youth; a custom that leads indeed to the rejection and marginalisation of all that is not ‘efficient’, that is seen as a burden or a hindrance, or is simply ugly”.

Similarly, being a neighbour to others, as Francis mentions in his encyclical “Laudato si’”, means also taking on binding responsibilities towards creation and our common home, which belongs to all and is entrusted to the care of all, also for generations to come. … This conversion … to the ‘Gospel of creation” requires us to “make our own and become interpreters of the cry for human dignity, raised above all by by poorest and the excluded, as those who are sick and who suffer so often are”.

“I hope that in these days of study and debate, in which you also consider the environmental aspect in its aspects most closely linked to physical, mental, spiritual and social health of the person, you may contribute to a new development of the culture of salus, understood in its fullest sense. I encourage you, in this regard, always to keep in mind, in your work, the real situations faced by those populations who suffer as a result of the damages caused by environmental degradation, whose impact on health is often serious and permanent”, concluded the Pope.

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-address-to-pontifical-council-for-health-care-ministry

Christians Uprooted by ISIS Find Fruitfulness in Suffering

«ISIS showed us the ugly face of Islam—but their killing and atrocities made us see how beautiful our faith is»

This report is contributed by Philip Abou Zeid of Aid to the Church in Need.

* * *

One of the Lebanese capital’s eastern suburbs is home to the Assyrian Christian quarter, with at its heart St. George’s Church, serving the faithful of the Assyrian Church of the East. A sign in front says “Martyrs’ Square,” in commemoration of a 1976 rocket attack on the church that killed 30 worshipers at the height of the country’s civil war. Today, St. George serves potential martyrs—Christians who have fled Iraq and Syria to escape ISIS terror.

On a recent afternoon, Reena stood in line outside the church, waiting to register her family and become eligible to receive food and other humanitarian assistance. Married and in her mid-30s, she is the mother of two daughters, ages 3 and 5. In the country for just a week, she was eager to tell the story of the family’s trek from Baghdad to northern Iraq, making it to Erbil, Kurdistan—after the ISIS onslaught of the summer of 2014— and subsequently to Lebanon.

Being on the run fit a pattern for Reena, who used to work for the Iraqi government as a topographer. Her bosses “were looking at us Christians differently than Muslim employees. We felt discrimination during the Saddam Hussein years and afterwards too,” she said. 

ISIS took away the passports of Reena and her husband, but their sense of being violated goes much deeper: “ISIS is changing the names of our cities; the history of the Assyrians is being erased; my home is gone and home is where all my traditions are, where I made my identity. But my home is no longer mine. They have taken it. It now belongs to strangers. I must find another one,” she said, adding that “the only solution left is emigration. We need to find a new country.” But that route is closed to most Christian refugees.

More than ever, Reena is clinging to her faith, saying: “Everything we are doing is to defend our Christian beliefs. We refused to stay in Iraq in order not to be vanquished by force and be made to convert to Islam. We were praying all the way to Lebanon. Jesus never let us go. He was with us—He sent us to Lebanon.”

Asked for a message to Christians in the West, Reena said that “they need to help us more. Life
in Lebanon is very expensive and very hard. The Church does what it can, but the state is helpless.” Yet, she also wants to tell Christians everywhere about the hidden blessing of her family’s suffering: “Stay strong in your faith. Never lose hope. Every day we pray and that is how we manage to survive. This experience made our faith stronger. ISIS showed us the ugly face of Islam—but their killing and atrocities made us see how beautiful our faith is.”

Aid to the Church in Need is an international Catholic charity under the guidance of the Holy See, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN) www.acnmalta.org (Malta)


FORUM: Secular Slums and the Francis Option

Pope Francis’ approach to carrying God’s mercy to our post-Christian culture maintains a dual focus on outward mission and an inward strengthening of local communities

This reflection is provided by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver, Colorado

* * *

In a few short weeks, we will celebrate the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which has great potential to bring many people back to the Lord, and to serve as a launching pad for bringing the Gospel to the spiritual slums created by secularism.

Bl. Mother Teresa frequently pointed out that the modern mission field for the West is not overseas but on our shores. The greatest poverty of the West, she would say, is not material poverty but the spiritual poverty that can be seen in the many people who hunger for love and have a desire to experience God’s presence. In fact, she would tell people who wanted to volunteer in India that the best way they could help was to bring love to their own homes, offices and factories.

During the Jubilee Year, we have the opportunity to carry mission territory to those who may not even realize that they are longing for mercy. When Pope Francis was asked who he is in an interview, he responded, “I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” Being able to say that requires an openness to the love and mercy of the Father, which brings with it the gift of humility and an awareness of how God is intimately involved in every aspect of life.

Acknowledging our need for mercy returns us to our true selves, just as when St. Luke described the Prodigal Son’s realization of how badly he had fallen as “coming to himself” (cf. Lk. 15: 17). Whether we are the younger brother who squandered everything or the older brother who was filled with resentment, all of us need the mercy of the Father.

But what does this look like for the Church and each of our families, especially as our society becomes less Christian? By way of an answer, I would like to share some thoughts with you that come from a talk I gave to the Orange County Prayer Breakfast last month.

Some scholars argue that Western society has become so intolerant of faith that Christians need to start considering the “Benedict Option.” This concept was inspired by the last paragraph of Alasdair MacIntyre’s 1981 book, After Virtue, in which he wrote about waiting “for another — doubtless very different — St. Benedict.” This new Benedict would help construct “local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages,” just as the founder of Western monasticism did during the final days of the Roman Empire.

Rod Dreher, one of the strongest advocates of the “Benedict Option,” asserts that in order for the Church to survive the present wave of secularism, it needs to focus its energy inward, rather than outward.

However, it seems to me that Pope Francis by his words and actions is presenting the Church with a different way to respond to the secular world, which could be called the “Francis Option.”

From Jesus sending forth the apostles to proclaim the Gospel to “the ends of the earth” at the end of Matthew’s Gospel (Mt. 28:19) to St. Paul telling the Corinthians “the love of Christ impels us” to bring the Gospel of reconciliation to all (2 Cor. 5:14-15), our faith has always been outwardly oriented, while drawing its strength from the power of the Holy Spirit’s action within local communities.

The “Francis Option” places the emphasis on bringing God’s forgiveness to those on the spiritual and material outer limits of society, while also strengthening the health of our local communities with the balm of God’s mercy. In other words, Pope Francis’ approach to carrying God’s mercy to our post-Christian culture maintains a dual focus on outward mission and an inward strengthening of local communities. The “Benedict Option,” on the other hand, is primarily concerned with building inner strength.

By allowing the mercy of God to enter our families, we strengthen the most important of local communities and equip ourselves for bringing Christ’s mercy into the despair-filled spiritual slums that are becoming more common in our society. But Pope Francis is calling us to do more than bring love to our local communities, he is reminding us of Jesus’ command to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19).

Christ showed us how to do this when he met the woman caught in adultery. First, he had mercy on her by protecting her from her accusers and the sentence of the Jewish law. Then, he spoke the truth to her, saying, “’Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.’” (Jn. 8:10-11). He does not condemn her but recognizes her sin and calls her out of it.

As we approach the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy on Dec. 8, I urge you to open yourself to God’s mercy through the sacrament of Reconciliation and strengthen yourself to serve as an instrument of true mercy, both in your families and in the world.

To read Archbishop Aquila’s full talk, please visit,http://archden.org/archbishops_writing/evangelizing-with-mercy-in-a-post-christian-culture/.

Pope Thanks Church in US for Aid to Churches in Latin America

Annual collection will mark 50th anniversary in January

Pope Francis expressed gratitude for the work of the Collection for the Church in Latin America (CLA) in a letter read at the Fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), in Baltimore this week. The 50th anniversary of the collection, which recently allocated over $3.3 million in grants, will be in January.

«It is both humbling and encouraging to have the work of the Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America recognized by Pope Francis,» said Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the subcommittee. «It is vital for the life of the Church that we continue to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in this r

At its meeting on November 14, the Subcommittee approved 191 grants totaling over $3.3 million. These grants assist with the pastoral work of the Church throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. For example, one project approved for funding is in the Diocese of Sonsonate in El Salvador. With the grant from the Subcommittee the diocese will be able to implement a program to care for single mothers and families in distress due to the violence in the region. The diocese will use CLA funds to conduct formation workshops for 145 lay persons. These leaders will then be able to form groups in the 29 parishes in the diocese for the support and care of these affected populations.

As part of the 50th anniversary presentation of the Subcommittee, a video highlighting the history of the collection was shown at the assembly. The first collection in 1966 brought in less than $800,000, but now the collection raises nearly $7 million annually and, due to the faithful’s generosity, has been able to award over $92.7 million since the year 2000 alone. The video featured some of the projects the collection has supported over the last 50 years and reiterated the importance of continuing to support the faithful of Latin America and the Caribbean. 

In 1965, the bishops of the United States approved the creation of what is now the Subcommittee on the Church on Latin America to provide support to the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean and forge relationships with those living in the region. 

The 50th Anniversary Collection for the Church in Latin America is scheduled for the weekend of January 23-24, but some dioceses take it up on other dates. The Subcommittee on the Church in Latin America oversees the Collection for the Church in Latin America as part of the USCCB Committee on National Collections. More information about the Collection for the Church in Latin America, including a link to the letter from Pope Francis can be found online: www.usccb.org/latin-america. The 50th Anniversary video can be viewed at www.usccb.org.

Pope’s Address to Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry

«In Evangelium Vitae we can trace the constitutive elements of the ‘culture of salus’: namely, hospitality, compassion, understanding and forgiveness»


Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today when he received in audience the participants in the 30th International Conference, organized by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry on the subject “The Culture of Salus and of Hospitality at the Service of Man and of the Planet” (Vatican, November 19-21, 2015).

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Thank you for your reception! I thank His Excellency Monsignor Zygmunt Zimowski for the courteous greeting he addressed to me on behalf of all those present, and I give my cordial welcome to you, organizers and participants of this 30th International Conference, dedicated to “The Culture of Salus and of Hospitality at the Service of Man and of the Planet.” A heartfelt thank you to all the collaborators of the Dicastery.

Many are the questions that will be addressed in this annual meeting, which marks the 30 years of activity of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry (for Health Pastoral Care), and which also coincides with the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae of Saint John Paul II.

In fact respect for the value of life and, even more so, love of it, finds irreplaceable accomplishment in making oneself close, in taking care of those that suffer in body and in spirit: all actions that characterize health care ministry. Actions and, even first, attitudes that the Church will highlight especially during the Jubilee of Mercy, which calls us all to be close to our most suffering brothers and sisters. In Evangelium Vitae we can trace the constitutive elements of the “culture of salus”: namely, hospitality, compassion, understanding and forgiveness. They are the habitual attitudes of Jesus in his relations with the multitude of needy persons that approached him every day: the sick of all sorts, public sinners, demoniacs, the marginalized, the poor, strangers … And, curiously, in our throwaway culture, they are rejected, they are left to one side. They don’t count.  It’s curious … what does this mean? That the throwaway culture is not of Jesus, it‘s not Christian.  

Such attitudes are those that the Encyclical calls “positive requirements” of the Commandment about the inviolability of life, which, with Jesus, are manifested in all their breadth and depth, and which again today can, better yet, must, distinguish health care ministry: they “range from caring for the life of one’s brother (whether a blood brother, someone belonging to the same people, or a foreigner living in the land of Israel) to showing concern for the stranger, even to the point of loving one’s enemy.” (n. 41).

This closeness to the other – true, not feigned closeness – to the point of regarding him as someone that belongs to me – an enemy also belongs to me as brother – surmounts every barrier of nationality, of social extraction, of religion … as the “Good Samaritan” of the Gospel parable teaches us. It also surpasses that culture in a negative sense, according to which, be it in rich countries or in poor ones, human beings are accepted or rejected according to utilitarian criteria, in particular, social or economic utility. This mentality is parent of the so-called “medicine of desires”: an ever more widespread custom in rich countries, characterized by the quest at any cost of physical perfection, in the illusion of eternal youthfulness; a custom that in fact induces to discard or marginalize those that are not “efficient,” those who are regarded as a burden, a disturbance, or are simply ugly.

Likewise, “making oneself close” – as I reminded in my recent Encyclical Laudato Si’ – also implies assuming unbreakable responsibilities towards Creation and the “common home,” which belongs to all and is entrusted to the care of all, also for the coming generations.

The anxiety that the Church nourishes, in fact, is for the fate of the human family and of the whole of creation. It is about educating everyone to “look after” and to “administer” Creation as a whole, as a gift entrusted to the responsibility of every generation, so that it is handed all the more whole and humanly liveable to the coming generations. This conversion of the heart to the “Gospel of Creation” implies making our own and rendering ourselves interpreters of the cry for human dignity, which is raised above all by the poorest and excluded, as sick and suffering persons often are. In the now imminent Jubilee of Mercy, may this cry find a sincere echo in our hearts, so that in the exercise of works of mercy, corporal and spiritual, according to the different responsibilities entrusted to each one, we can also receive the gift of God’s grace, while we ourselves render ourselves “channels” and witnesses of mercy.

I hope that in these days of reflection and debate, in w
hich you also consider the environmental factor in its aspects linked in the main to a person’s physical, psychic, spiritual and social health, you are able to contribute to a new development of the culture of salus, understood also in an integral sense. I encourage you, in this perspective, to always have present in your endeavors the reality of those populations, which in the main suffer the damages that stem from environmental degradation, grave damages, often permanent to health. And, speaking of these damages that stem form environmental degradation, it is a surprise for me to find – when I go to the Wednesday Audience or to parishes – so many sick people, especially children … The parents say to me: “He has a rare illness! They don’t know what it is.” These rare illnesses are the consequence of the sickness that we inflict on the environment. And this is grave!

Let us ask Mary Most Holy, Health of the Sick, to accompany the works of your conference. We entrust to her the commitment that, daily, the different professional figures of the world of health carry out in favor of the suffering. I bless you all from my heart, your families, your communities, as well as all those you meet in hospitals and in nursing homes. I pray for you and you, please, pray for me. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

FORUM: What We Should Really Be Thankful for This Thanksgiving: Grace, Salvation, Mercy and Holiness

«I encourage every family to ask themselves, and ask the Lord, what they can do this year so that by next Thanksgiving others will have experienced God’s blessings through their efforts»

Here is the latest column from Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, reprinted from the Southern Nebraska Register.

* * *

Next week, most of us will celebrate Thanksgiving around family tables, gathered with those we love, to give thanks to God for the blessings of our lives. We will share a festive meal together, celebrate the gift of family life, and enjoy the comforts of friendship.

But as we give thanks for the blessings of our own lives, we should also remember those who suffer tragedy around the world.  

As we give thanks this year, we might remember those who were victims of last week’s horrible terrorist attack in Paris. We might also think of the Christians who are persecuted now in the Middle East—Christians who have lost their homes, their jobs, their families—and who face the cross of martyrdom today. As we give thanks to the Lord, we should remember the homeless, the mentally ill, the elderly and disabled, and the unborn—those who suffer on the margins of our own communities, and even within our own families.

As we honor God for the blessings in our own lives, it seems to me that we might remember two things this Thanksgiving.  

The first is that God’s greatest blessings are grace, salvation, mercy, and holiness—not material comfort or prosperity. We should be careful to remember this Thanksgiving that the measure of a blessed life is not what we have, but who we have become, in and through Jesus Christ. We should remember that if we want to experience the blessings of the Lord in an abundant way, we should seek only to live according to the Gospel, with no fear, no limitations, and no reservations. The surest path to experiencing a blessed life in Jesus Christ is to “cast into the deep”—seeking to follow the Lord to a life of radical and blessed missionary discipleship.  

We should also remember that we are to bless others through the witness of our own family life. Our families are called to discipleship. The mission to bring grace, peace, mercy, and freedom to others depends on us. We are called to “make disciples of all nations,” and that the abundant grace of God is revealed through our witness. This past week, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz reminded the Church that “all families are called to be ministers of the Gospel.”  

During this Thanksgiving, I urge every family in the Diocese of Lincoln to reflect prayerfully on their own family life. I ask families to ask themselves how they are missionaries of the Gospel, what their apostolic call is, and how they can proclaim and witness to the Gospel in order to bring the Lord’s love to others. I encourage every family to ask themselves, and ask the Lord, what they can do this year so that by next Thanksgiving others will have experienced God’s blessings through their efforts. 

I am truly blessed by the priests, consecrated religious and lay faithful of the Diocese of Lincoln and I give thanks for your witness. I am blessed by your prayers, your friendship, your generosity—especially in the Joy of the Gospel campaign—and by your work as “missionary disciples” for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us give thanks to the Lord together this Thanksgiving. 

And let us commit ourselves to giving our lives to the mission of Jesus Christ and his Church, so that others might give thanks to God because of the mission, the work, and the charity in our lives.


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