Pope Urges German Bishops to Guard Against Resigning Themselves to Problems
Discusses Refugees, Vocation Crisis, ‘Disappearence’ of Confession, Empty Churches and More in Ad Limina Address
INTERVIEW: In Syria, We Need the Help of the World’s Christians
Greek-Catholic Syrian Refugee in Spain Tells His Story
Abbud (fictitious name) is a Greek-Catholic Syrian refugee living in a Castilian city.. When he remembers his homeland, his countenance changes and his gestures are sad, because the memory of what he has left there weighs very much on his heart. When he speaks of his father, recently deceased, his eyes reflect his emotion, as he cannot return to his country.
His participation in the 2011 World Youth Day (WYD) enabled him to meet a family that has now helped him to establish himself in Spain. Thanks to Caritas’ aid he can now face a new life.
ZENIT: How did you live in Syria?
Abbud: I am a native of Aleppo; I lived there with my wife and my two children. I have a Law degree and I worked as a lawyer in my city. My home is in the western part of the city. We were able to travel and live well. When the war broke out, the military control of Aleppo was divided in two: armed groups took one part and the Government controls the other part.
The harshest situation is endured by those living in the area of Aleppo controlled by the Government, because daily there are rockets, mortars, bombs, rocket-bombs, abductions, blockages, electricity and water cuts, and also road cuts between Aleppo and other cities. We lived like this for three and a half years.
ZENIT: When the war began in Aleppo, how did you react?
Abbud: War broke out in Syria in March of 2011. It began in Aleppo when the eastern area of Aleppo was taken by armed groups. At that moment we saw that our life was in danger. We were afraid because we didn’t know if, when we went out in the morning we would be able to return in the afternoon. However, we decided to wait.
ZENIT: When did you decide to flee Aleppo with your family?
Abbud: The situation worsened notably in 2013. The eastern area of Aleppo was blocked. Many citizens of Aleppo were thinking of fleeing to Europe. Then we decided to leave Aleppo.
There were two ways: one was illegal, as is happening now to a great extent, and the other was through a visa. I tried this second option through two Embassies, one was of France and the other of Spain.
ZENIT: Why did you decide to choose Spain?
Abbud: I came to Spain in August of 2011 to take part in the WYD, together with my wife. We met a family here that received us and we established friendship with this family. After the WYD, we were able to return to Aleppo, whose airport was still functioning then. At that moment, everyone was wondering what was happening. We finally thought of Spain because the family that received us during the past WYD invited us and put out feelers to facilitate the transactions.
ZENIT: How did your family react when you suggested leaving Syria?
Abbud: They were in agreement because the situation was critical. My children went to school and we didn’t know if they could come back because armed groups were carrying out abductions, there were car-bombs … it was a daily occurrence. Given the fear, we all decided to flee. Both my wife as well as my children thought it was best. My children were then 15 and 10 years old respectively.
ZENIT: How was your exit from the country?
Abbud: We couldn’t leave immediately because the armed groups blocked the exits from Aleppo to other cities and many Christians were kidnapped or disappeared. Up to now nothing is known of their whereabouts. We couldn’t leave until 2014. Then the Government opened roads that are very long but safe. This was better than other routes.
In May of 2014 we decided to travel by car from Aleppo to the border with Lebanon. On arriving at the border we were able to enter the neighboring country with our passports. We went to the Embassy of Spain where we asked for a visa. We were told we would have to wait a month to know the decision. We had to return again to Aleppo because we couldn’t live in Lebanon. It was expensive.
After a month the Spanish Embassy notified us that we would be given visas and then we left Syria for the last time. We went again by car to the border with Lebanon. We entered the country and went to the Beirut airport where we caught a flight to Spain.
ZENIT: How was your arrival in Spain sand how have you been able to find a home?
Abbud: Our WYD friends opened their home to us and helped us, along with the parish to which they belong. They helped us find a house and also through Caritas we are able to meet expenses. When we arrived in Spain my children said that they needed strength to keep going because we didn’t have a house or work. But we needed to begin a new life because we were in danger in Aleppo.
We have experienced the help and closeness of the Church so that we wouldn’t feel alone. From Caritas we are not lacking help to face our new situation.
ZENIT: Would you like to return?
Abbud: Yes, but we don’t know when the war will end. While there is war in Syria our life is not safe there. For the time being, we are not thinking of returning. Our greatest problem here is the economic situation, but life is peaceful and I hope to find work. We want to have a new life.
ZENIT: What is the hardest thing you have had to live up to now?
Abbud: My father’s death in Aleppo three months ago. My parents lived there and it was very hard for me not to be able to support my mother in these very difficult moments.
ZENIT: Do you know Christians who have disappeared?
Abbud: One hears a lot that there are many persons that die during the journey of flight to Lebanon. There is talk of kidnappings of priests, bishops, etc. On the other hand, Christians live in concrete areas and the area where there is a majority of Christians in Aleppo is known. And these areas are bombed and many people die daily there.
ZENIT: Are you afraid of radical groups?
Abbud: Yes. We have experience with radical Muslim groups. They attack all those who don’t think as they do, whether Christians or Muslims. There are many radical groups in Syria, such as ISIS and Al-Nusra and others that come from Chechnya or Europe. Their objective is that the whole world must think as they do. Christians in Syria can’t act freely; they can’t profess their faith publicly. There is no freedom.
ZENIT: Do you think European society is more sensitized now given the war in Syria?
Abbud: What I’m going to say is very sad, but I think that if the refugees had not left Syria as they did a couple of months ago, the majority of Europeans would not have known what is happening in Syria.
ZENIT: What do you ask God for Syria?
Abbud: I ask for peace and an end to this war. Before the war my people lived well. I think that in the Bible there are words that indicate that we Christians make up one body; if an organ of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. We need the help of the world’s Christians for Syria. Before the war there were one million Christians in Syria. We need the help of other Christians.[Translation by ZENIT]
Pope’s Morning Homily: ‘Worldly’ People Can’t Truly Celebrate
At Casa Santa Marta, Says Money and Power of the World Can Give Excitement or Amusement, But True Joy Comes Only From Covenant
Just as we ready for a season of celebrations, Pope Francis is reminding that those who indulge in worldliness are unable to truly celebrate, since the best the spirit of the world can offer is mere amusement.
True joy comes from the Covenant, the Holy Father said this morning at Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican Radio.
The Holy Father reflected on the reading from Maccabees (below), which tells of the people’s joy following the reconsecration of the Holy Temple, and the rekindling of their identity as a people.
In contrast, those “who indulge in worldliness do not know how to celebrate – they can’t celebrate!” the Pope said.
“At most, the worldly spirit can provide amusement; it can provoke excitement, but true joy can only come from faith in the Covenant,” he explained.
The Gospel reading from today (below) recounts the cleansing of the temple, with the attitudes of the money-changers in stark opposition to the rejoicing of the Maccabees.
“The Gospel says the chief priests and scribes had changed things,” the Pontiff said. “They had dishonored and compromised the Temple. They had dishonored the Temple!”
The Temple is a symbol of the Church, the Holy Father said, and the Church “will always – always! – be subject to the temptation of worldliness and power. Jesus did not say ‘No, do not do this inside. Go outside instead.’ He said ‘You have made it a den of thieves!’ And when the Church enters into such a state of decline, the end is bad. Very bad indeed.”
Pope Francis said the danger of corruption within the Church arises when “the Church, instead of being devoted to faith in Our Lord, in the Prince of Peace, in joy, in salvation, becomes dominated by money and power. This is exactly what happens here, in this Gospel reading. These
priests, chief priests and scribes were driven by money, power and they ignored the Holy Spirit. And in order to be able to justify their actions, they poisoned the free spirit of the Lord with hypocrisy.”
The Pope said that in the 23rd chapter of St. Matthew, Jesus speaks of their hypocrisy: “These were people who had lost their sense of godliness, and even the ability to rejoice, to praise God. They did not know how to worship the Lord because they were too distracted by money and power, and by a form of worldiness.”
“Jesus did not chase the priests and scribes away from the Temple; he chased away those who were doing business there, the businessmen of the Temple. The chief priests and scribes were involved in their dealings: this is ‘holy bribery’! The Gospel is very clear. It says ‘The chief priests and scribes wanted to kill Jesus, along with the elders of the people’. The same thing happened under the rule of Judas Maccabeus.”
But where Jesus is, there is no room for worldliness, the Pope said.
“There is no room for corruption! This is a challenge for each and every one of us; this is the struggle the Church has to face every day. We must always heed Jesus’ words; we must never seek comfort from another master. Jesus told us that we cannot serve two masters. God or riches; God or power.”
The Pope concluded, saying “We ought to pray for the Church. We must hold in our hearts today’s martyrs, who suffer and die, so as not to be ensnared by worldly desires, by obsession, by apostasy. Today! Today, there are more martyrs of the Church than there ever were before. Let’s think about that. It does us good to think about them. And also to pray that we may never fall into the trap of worldliness, where we will be obsessed only by money and power.”
Readings provided by the US bishops’ conference:
Friday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Judas and his brothers said,
“Now that our enemies have been crushed,
let us go up to purify the sanctuary and rededicate it.”
So the whole army assembled, and went up to Mount Zion.
Early in the morning on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month,
that is, the month of Chislev,
in the year one hundred and forty-eight,
they arose and offered sacrifice according to the law
on the new altar of burnt offerings that they had made.
On the anniversary of the day on which the Gentiles had defiled it,
on that very day it was reconsecrated
with songs, harps, flutes, and cymbals.
All the people prostrated themselves and adored and praised Heaven,
who had given them success.
For eight days they celebrated the dedication of the altar
and joyfully offered burnt offerings and sacrifices
of deliverance and praise.
They ornamented the facade of the temple with gold crowns and shields;
they repaired the gates and the priests’ chambers
and furnished them with doors.
There was great joy among the people
now that the disgrace of the Gentiles was removed.
Then Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel
decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar
should be observed with joy and gladness
on the anniversary every year for eight days,
from the twenty-fifth day of the month Chislev.
R. (13b) We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.
“Blessed may you be, O LORD,
God of Israel our father,
from eternity to eternity.”
R. We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.
“Yours, O LORD, are grandeur and power,
majesty, splendor, and glory.
For all in heaven and on earth is yours.”
R. We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.
“Yours, O LORD, is the sovereignty;
you are exalted as head over all.
Riches and honor are from you.”
R. We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.
“You have dominion over all,
In your hand are power and might;
it is yours to give grandeur and strength to all.”
R. We praise your glorious name, O mighty God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out
those who were selling things, saying to them,
“It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer,
but you have made it a den of thieves.”
And every day he was teaching in the temple area.
The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile,
were seeking to put him to death,
but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose
because all the people were hanging on his words.
Pope Has Never Been to Africa Before; Set to Bring Message of Peace
In war-torn Central African Republic, scheduled to visit a mosque and open Holy Door for Jubilee
Pope Francis is to set off for his first apostolic journey to Africa on Wednesday. At the heart of his 6-day journey, taking him to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, is his desire to bring a message of peace, reconciliation, dialogue and the impetus to overcome internal divisions.
Speaking on Thursday morning at a Press Conference in the Vatican, Press Office Director Fr Federico Lombardi said for Jorge Mario Bergoglio it will be a first time in Africa, and not only as Pope.
This apostolic visit will be Francis’ 11th journey abroad, but Father Lombardi pointed out: two Popes have been to these very countries before him. The first was Blessed Paul VI who visited Uganda in 1969. Then it was the turn of Saint John Paul II who visited some 42 African nations during his pontificate including Kenya in 1980, in 1985 and in 1995; Uganda in 1993; and Central African Republic in 1975.
During his three-nation trip Pope Francis will be accompanied by Cardinal Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, his deputy Angelo Becciu and the Cardinals Filoni and Turkson, respectively prefect the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, as well as by masters of ceremonies, other Vatican staff, some 75 journalists and of course, security personnel.
Pope Francis is scheduled to spend one and a half days in each country; in Nairobi, Kampala and Bangui he will celebrate Mass with the faithful, hold meetings with political and religious authorities, exchange views with the bishops, spend time with the poor and the needy, meet with the youth, participate in ecumenical encounters.
In Kenya he will also address leaders and staff of the United Nations; in Uganda he will celebrate
the Ugandan martyrs; in war-torn CAR he will open Bangui Cathedral’s Holy Door in a powerful gesture leading up to the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
One of Pope Francis’ last commitments before he boards the Papal plane bringing him back to Rome on November 30, will be a visit to Bangui’s Central Mosque for a meeting with the Muslim community.
This overview provided by Vatican Radio.
Pope’s Address to German Bishops
“What can we do? First of all it is necessary to overcome the resignation that paralyzes. Certainly it is not possible to reconstruct from the wreckage the ‘good old days’ that were yesterday. However, we can let ourselves be inspired by the life of the first Christians”
Here is a translation of the address Pope Francis gave today to the German bishops, in Rome for their five-yearly ad limina visits.
* * *
Dear Fellow Brothers,
I am happy to be able to greet you here in the Vatican, on the occasion of your Visit ad Limina. The pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles is an important moment in the life of every Bishop. It means a renewal of the bond with the universal Church, which proceeds through space and time as pilgrimaging People of God, bringing faithfully, in the course of the centuries, the patrimony of the faith to all peoples. My heartfelt thanks to the President of the German Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, for his courteous words of greeting. I express my gratitude to you all, because you help me to carry forward the Ministry of Peter through your prayer and your work in the particular Churches. I thank you especially for the great support that the Church in Germany offers to men in the whole world through many charitable works.
At present, we are living in an exceptional time. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have come to Europe or have begun to walk in search of refuge from war and persecution. The Christian Churches and many individual citizens of your country give enormous help to receive these persons, giving them assistance and human closeness. In the spirit of Christ, we wish to continue to address the challenge of the great number of needy. At the same time, we support all the humanitarian initiatives, so that the conditions of life in the countries of origin become more bearable.
The Catholic communities in Germany are very different between the East and West, but also between the North and South. Everywhere the Church is committed with professionalism in the social and charitable realms, and is also very active in the scholastic field. It is necessary to ensure that in these institutions the Catholic profile is looked after; in this way they are a positive factor, not to be undervalued, for the building of a liveable society. On the other hand, noted particularly in the regions of Catholic tradition is a very strong drop in participation at Sunday Mass, as well as in the sacramental life. Whereas in the 60s everywhere almost every member of the faithful still participated every Sunday in the Holy Mass, today it is often less than 10%. The Sacraments are increasingly less frequented. The Sacrament of Penance has often disappeared. Ever fewer Catholics receive Confirmation or contract a Catholic marriage. The number of vocations to the priestly ministry and to consecrated life is clearly diminished. Considering these facts, one can truly speak of an erosion of the Catholic faith in Germany.
What can we do? First of all it is necessary to overcome the resignation that paralyzes. Certainly it is not possible to reconstruct from the wreckage the “good old days” that were yesterday. However, we can let ourselves be inspired by the life of the first Christians. Suffice it to think of Priscilla and Aquila, those faithful collaborators of Saint Paul. As a married couple they witnessed, with convincing words (cf. Acts 18:26), but especially with their life, that the truth, founded on the love of Christ for His Church, is truly worthy of faith. They opened their home for the proclamation of the Gospel and drew strength from the Word of God for their mission. The example of these “volunteers” can make us reflect, given the tendency to growing institutionalization. Ever new structures are inaugurated, for which in the end faithful are lacking. It is a sort of new Pelagianism, which leads us to put faith in administrative structures, in perfect organizations. Excessive centralization, rather than helping, complicates the life of the Church and her missionary dynamic (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 32). The Church is not a closed system that revolves around the same questions and interrogatives. The Church is alive, she presents herself to men in their reality, she is able to disquiet, she is able to encourage. She does not have a rigid face; she has a body that moves, grows and has feelings: she is the Body of Jesus Christ.
The present imperative is pastoral conversion, that is, to make all the structures of the Church become “more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself” (Evangelii Gaudium, 27). The conditions in society today are certainly not altogether favorable. A certain worldliness prevails. This worldliness deforms souls, suffocates the consciousness of the reality: a worldly person lives in an artificial world, which he himself builds. He is surrounded as though by dark glass so as not to see outside. This certainly leads us, first of all, to prayer. Let us pray for the men and women of our cities, of our dioceses, and let us pray also for ourselves, that God will send us a ray of divine charity through our dark glass, touching hearts, so that they understand His message. We must be among people with the ardor of those who first received the Gospel. And “whenever we make the effort to return to the source and to recover the original freshness of the Gospel, new avenues arise, new paths of creativity open up, with different forms of expression, more eloquent signs and words with new meaning for today’s world. Every form of authentic evangelization is always ‘new’” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11). Thus new ways and forms of catechesis can open to help young people and families to a genuine and joyous rediscovery of the common faith of the Church.
In the context of the New Evangelization it is indispensable that the Bishop carry out diligently his task as teacher of the faith – of the faith transmitted and lived in the living communion of the universal Church – in the multiple fields of his pastoral ministry. As a solicitous father, the Prelate will support the Theological Faculties helping the docents to rediscover the great ecclesial importance of their mission. Fidelity to the Church and to the Magisterium does not contradict academic freedom, but exacts a humble attitude of service to God’s gifts. Sentire cum Ecclesia should distinguish, in a particular way, those that educate and form the new generations. Moreover, the presence of the Theological Faculties in State institutes of education is a great opportunity to have the dialogue with society advance. Also use well the Catholic University of Eichstatt with its Theological Faculty and its various scientific departments. Being the only Catholic University of your country, this Institute is of great value for the whole of Germany; therefore, an appropriate commitment of the whole Episcopal Conference would be desirable to reinforce its super-regional importance and to promote inter-disciplinary exchange on current and future questions according to the spirit of the Gospel.
Turning one’s look then on the parish communities, in which in the main the faith is experienced and lived, the sacramental life sho
uld be at the Bishop’s heart in a particular way. I would like to stress only two points: Confession and the Eucharist. The imminent Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy offers the opportunity to have the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation rediscovered. Confession is the place where one receives the gift of God’s forgiveness and mercy. In Confession the transformation begins of every single faithful and the reform of the Church. I trust that greater attention will be given to this Sacrament, so important for a spiritual renewal in the diocesan and parish pastoral plans during the Holy Year and also after. It is necessary, moreover, to evidence the profound nexus between the Eucharist and the Priesthood. Pastoral plans that do not attribute proper importance to priests in their ministry of governing, teaching and sanctifying with regard to the structure and the sacramental life of the Church, on the basis of experience, are destined to failure. The precious collaboration of the lay faithful, especially where vocations are lacking, cannot become a surrogate of the priestly ministry or make it seem, in fact, a simple “optional.” There is no Eucharist without a priest. And vocational pastoral ministry begins with the ardent desire in the hearts of the faithful to have priests. Finally, a task of the Bishop, which is never sufficiently appreciated, is the commitment to life. The Church must never tire of being the advocate of life and she must not take steps backwards in the proclamation that human life be protected unconditionally from the moment of conception to natural death. We can make no compromises here, without ourselves becoming guilty of the throwaway culture, unfortunately widespread. How great are the wounds that our society must suffer because of the discarding of the weakest and the most vulnerable. – unborn life as well as the elderly and the sick! In the end all of us will suffer the painful consequences.
Dear fellow brothers, I hope that the meetings with the Roman Curia in these days will illumine the way of your particular Churches in the coming years, helping you to rediscover ever better your great spiritual and pastoral patrimony. Thus you will be able to carry forward with trust your appreciated work in the mission of the universal Church. I ask you to continue to pray for me, so that with God’s help I can carry out my Petrine ministry. Likewise, I entrust you to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, of the Apostles Peter and Paul, as well as of all the Blesseds and Saints of your land. I impart my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing to you and to the faithful of your dioceses.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]
INTERVIEW: 10 Years at the Head of the Communion and Liberation Movement
<h3>Don Julián Carrón Tells How Beauty and Freedom Are What World Needs for a New Beginning
The leader of the Communion and Liberation Movement is marking 10 years in his role.
He has recently released a book, which was presented this month in the Vatican by the author together with Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, and the President Emeritus of the Chamber of Deputies, Luciano Violante.
At the event, ZENIT met with Don Carron who spoke about his latest editorial effort, evaluating his 10 years at the head of the Movement and of filling the shoes of Don Luigi Giussani.
* * *
ZENIT: Don Carron, can your book be considered a sort of summa of your 10 years as President of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation?
Don Carron: Indeed. It is an attempt to share our experience with many other persons that are facing the same challenges. And perhaps the path we have followed might be useful to others.
ZENIT: What do you mean when in the first chapter, you speak of a “new beginning”?
Don Carron: I mean a new beginning given the collapse of so many realities that are failing before us: the economic crisis, the educational emergency, etc. In face of the exhaustion that authoritative exponents of culture recognize, it is possible to begin again from this situation. I am convinced that this new beginning is possible, that it is possible to find what will make us begin again.
It is an expression that I took from a text of Benedict XVI, in which the Pope Emeritus recalled how in the period of the Enlightenment, after the wars of religion, the great European unity was in pieces. It was thought that those values shared by all Europeans, the values of the Christian tradition, would be able to remain as foundation of that “new beginning” but outside religious conflicts. It was thought that in this way, separating them from the religious elements, these values could last. After a few centuries, we see that, as Pope Benedict himself recognized, this attempt to preserve forever values shared by all, failed.
ZENIT: Instead, what is intended by “truth in freedom”?
Don Carron: It is a notable step forward in the Church’s self-awareness. In a famous address to the Roman Curia in 2005, Benedict XVI addressed some of the fundamental issues of Vatican II, among which was religious freedom. In that session the Church reflected on the relation between truth and freedom. The claim of freedom is a very modern question and the Church did not arrive at religious freedom simply because she was unable to convince people of the truth of Christianity but because there is not relation with truth, unless there is religious freedom. This is an aspect of how we Christians can offer truth, which is crucial. Therefore, the title of my book makes this suggestion for an age such as ours. Only if man finds disarmed truth, without any external power that is not truth itself, the attraction of truth can be adapted to modern sensibility and to the only authentic relation with truth, which is freedom.
ZENIT: What evaluation do you make of your ten years at the head of Communion and Liberation?
Don Carron: These ten years have been a fascinating adventure for me and a grace for all of us, because of all the challenges that we have had to face, which in fact are everyone’s challenges. There was for us the possibility to verify how precious was what we received from Don Giussani to address these situations and it gives us the ability to understand the phenomenons we are witnessing, without succumbing to confusion, suggesting to us how to address them, to the point that we ourselves are astonished.
ZENIT: Is Don Giussani’s legacy a weight?
Don Carron: Don Giussani was always a father for me, although I did not meet with him often, because I live in Spain. However, his writings were decisive for me for a way of being in reality, which was marked by the relation with him and with all that he proposed, especially as a way of conceiving Christianity, as Christian proposal, as possibility of verification of the faith. All aspects that are crucial, at a time such as this.
ZENIT: The media has often talked about an alleged “religious turn” of the Movement under your leadership, after many years of political and social commitment. How much truth is there in this?
Don Carron: When we were in an audience with Pope Francis last March 7, we asked him this question. And we received an answer that is in the same line of what we always tried to do. Because of the condition we received, we do not intend to give up our commitment. Christianity has to do with all the aspects of the real: from work, to the family, to culture, to politics. We have no other way of conceiving the fai
th. As Saint Paul says: “whether we wake or sleep we might live with Him” (1 Thessalonians 5:10). Therefore, God has to do with everything. We don’t want to give up our commitment in society. However, to be able to do so, the Pope said, we must be certain of Christ, or — to say it in Don Giussani’s words — there must be “personalization of the faith.” Therefore, Communion and Liberation is moving towards this personalization of the faith, which enables it to be in the real with the novelty that Christ introduces in life.
ZENIT: In particular, how should the challenges of the family be lived by Christians today?
Don Carron: If the faith is truly lived seriously, it is able to meet all the desire of fullness that a person desires when not finding another. If love is able to be something more than an explosive and brilliant beginning, then that love can last forever. This is the contribution that Christianity can give the family as to so many
[Translation by ZENIT]
King of Truth and Love
Lectio Divina: 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Solemnity of Christ the King, Year B
Dn 7, 13-14; Ps 93; Rev 1, 5-8; Jn 18, 33b-37
Is 19.18 to 24; Ps 86; F 3.8 to 13; Mk 1, 1-8?
The children of the Kingdom
A King crowned with thorns, a witness (martyr) of the truth of love.
On this last Sunday of the liturgical year we are invited to celebrate Christ the King of a “kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace” (Preface of the Mass of Christ the King). To Pilate, who asked him if he was a king, Jesus replied that the royalty claimed by him is not political, but completely different. It is a royalty of truth and love, which is exercised as a witness to the truth and not as an imposition of a domain. In fact, in today’s Gospel Jesus concludes: “I am the king, for this I was born and for this I came into the world to bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18, 37). I think that it is fair to say that in his reply to Pilate Christ not only speaks about what truth is, but answers to the question “Who is the truth?”.
The kingship of Christ reveals Him who is the Truth of love of which he is a witness, namely a martyr.
In his brief and intense dialogue with Pilate, Jesus also says another important thing: “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” In order to understand the kingship of Jesus and become his subjects in his kingdom, which is a kingdom of the other world but not a kingdom of the dead, it is necessary to have chosen truth. It is a kingdom of the other world because there the power of love will “reign”. It is a king who does not condemn to death his fragile subjects but gives his life so that they may have life.
There are people who are “on the side of the truth” and others that instead are “on the side of falsehood.” It is not simply a matter of lies but a basic attitude, a choice of values. In the narration of the trial these two opposing possibilities are embodied by two characters facing each other: Jesus and Pilate.
On the one hand Jesus, who is the Truth, gives himself fully in the hands of the Father without hesitating to give his life. On the other hand there is Pilate who instead represents a political power that serves the truth but not beyond a certain price. A power that believes to have more important values to save. Three times Pilate recognizes the innocence of Jesus and declares it publicly, and three times he tries to save him. However at the end he condemns him to the cross.
This Prosecutor of the human kingdom sentences to death an innocent and denies justice and truth to save himself.
Christ, however, is a king who does not kill anyone, on the contrary he dies for everyone. He does not spill the blood of anyone, He sheds his blood for all. He does not sacrifice anyone, he sacrifices himself for his servants that he calls friends. The Redeemer manifests the truth of God who is Father and the Father is the one who gives life and freedom to his children, not the one who takes away life and freedom from his children.
Christ the King “uses” power according with truth, according with justice, namely according with the truth of love. It is a power exercised by the Savior who takes a cross as throne and thorns as crown. It is the same power of humble love that at the Last Supper had driven Jesus to exercise his kingship by washing the feet of the apostles. Jesus is a chief and a king who really puts himself at the service of his subjects. A king who knows how to give bread instead of taking it, who knows how to give life rather than taking it, who knows how to free form the law instead of imposing it.
A special subject: the good thief.
One man that understood the truth of Jesus was the good thief who, hanging on the cross next to Christ, asked “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23, 42). In response the King on the cross said to him “Today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). For this thief the way of the cross became, infallibly, the way to heaven, the way of truth and life and the way of the kingdom.
Let’s make ours the openness of heart and the prayer of this thug whom the Christian tradition calls “the good thief”. Although he was on the cross, this wrongdoer had a heart and an intelligence of such an openness that he has been able to recognize a dying man as a King. He has been able to seize the kingship of Christ that manifested himself on a paradoxical throne, the Cross, so to ask “Remember me in your kingdom”. He recognized this kingdom to be a real, happy and everlasting one. The closeness to Christ is not enough, because in the moment of passion others were close, but they despised and blasphemed him. The good-hearted thief, animated by a holy desire, asked salvation and he was the first to enter with Christ into heaven.
Let each of us pray “Jesus, remember me, remember my fellow human beings to whom I want to give daily the bread of your true and living Gospel”. If we persevere in the prayer “Thy kingdom come”, we will see Christ’s promise come true. If we are firmly beside him letting us be drawn by Him on the cross, we will become like Him witnesses (= martyrs) of Truth.
In addition to the way of the good thief, there is another way to stand beside Christ, King of the Cross, and this is the one of the Virgin Mary, who was so associated in the kingship of Christ that we rightly sing in the sacred liturgy “Holy Mary, Queen of heaven and mistress of the world, stricken with grief, stood by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ “(Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows). Francis Suarez wrote” Like Christ, who for the particular title of the redemption, is our lord and king, so the Blessed Virgin (is Our Lady) for the singular participation to our redemption, by giving her being and offering it to us voluntarily wishing, wondering and funding in a unique way our salvation “(De mysteriis vitae Christi, disp. XXII, sect. II and. Vives, XIX, 327).
Even the consecrated Virgins in the world are called to participate in the kingship of Christ and of the Virgin Mary, giving their testimony to the truth of Love.
The character of martyrdom (= witness) is also rightly attributed to virginity. Virginity is indeed considered a form of martyrdom, being a life totally given to Christ, Bridegroom and King. As a result, a royal dignity is recognized to virginity and virginity is crowned by her groom, the king of the universe. For this reason, during the Rite of Consecration, a veil that has the meaning of a royal crown is placed on the head of the virgin.
It is true that the first meaning of the veil is to indicate that the consecrated virgin is the bride only of Christ subtracted from t
he eyes of men to be always under the gaze of God and to please him for the purity and the intensity of love. But it is equally true that the veil is a sign of consecration to Christ and consequently it is a sign of a high nobility, that of the bride of Christ the King. Could there be a higher dignity for a woman? I think not, but the veil keeps her in humility.
Veiled, but present- like the Virgin Mary – the woman is totally dedicated to the Lord in prayer. The virgin is not a disembodied and indifferent being, distant from ordinary people, but a woman able to give love and a gift unselfish, chaste, universal, and free because virginal. This is the mystical meaning of the veil on the head of the consecrated women, hidden in the world to be in the heart of the world and bring all people in the heart of Christ, the only spouse of the Church.
 The solemnity of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI on December 11, 1925 with the encyclical Quas Primas. It is, therefore, a relatively recent liturgical feast. However the idea of royalty attributed to Christ is already in the Holy Scriptures, in the Fathers of the Church, in the theologians, and even in the sacred and in the common sense of the faithful who all agree on this royalty. When asked “What is this kingship of Christ?” the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said “It is not that of the kings and of the great of this world; it is the divine power to give eternal life, to liberate from evil, to defeat the dominion of death. It is the power of Love that can draw good from evil, soften a hardened heart, bring peace to the bitterest conflict, turn the thickest darkness into hope. This Kingdom of Grace is never imposed and always respects our freedom. ” (Address at the Angelus, November 22, 2009)
Saint Augustine of Hyppo
On Jn 18,33-40.
1). What Pilate said to Christ, or what He replied to Pilate, has to be considered and handled in the present discourse. For after the words had been addressed to the Jews, “Take ye him, and judge him according to your law,” and the Jews had replied, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death, Pilate entered again into the judgment hall, and called Jesus, and said unto Him, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus answered, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me?” The Lord indeed knew both what He Himself asked, and what reply the other was to give; but yet He wished it to be spoken, not for the sake of information to Himself, but that what He wished us to know might be recorded in Scripture. “Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation, and the chief priests, have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” This is what the good Master wished us to know; but first there had to be shown us the vain notion that men had regarding His kingdom, whether Gentiles or Jews, from whom Pilate had heard it; as if He ought to have been punished with death on the ground of aspiring to an unlawful kingdom; or as those in the possession of royal power usually manifest their ill-will to such as are yet to attain it, as if, for example, precautions were to be used lest His kingdom should prove adverse either to the Romans or to the Jews. But the Lord was able to reply to the first question of the governor, when he asked Him, “Art thou the King of the Jews?” with the words, “My kingdom is not of this world,” etc.; but by questioning him in turn, whether he said this thing of himself, or heard it from others, He wished by his answer to show that He had been charged with this as a crime before him by the Jews: laying open to us the thoughts of men, which were all known to Himself, that they are but vain;1 and now, after Pilate’s answer, giving them, both Jews and Gentiles, all the more reasonable and fitting a reply, “My kingdom is not of this world.” But had He made an immediate answer to Pilate’s question, His reply would have appeared to refer to the Gentiles only, without including the Jews, as entertaining such an opinion regarding Him. But now when Pilate replied, “Am I a Jew? Thine own nation, and the chief priests, have delivered thee to me;” he removed from himself the suspicion of being possibly supposed to have spoken of his own accord, in saying that Jesus was the king of the Jews, by showing that such a statement had been communicated to him by the Jews. And then by saying, “What hast thou done?” he made it sufficiently clear that this was charged against Him as a crime: as if he had said, If thou deniest such kingly claims, what hast thou done to cause thy being delivered unto me? As if there would be no ground for wonder that one should be delivered up to a judge for punishment, who proclaimed himself a king; but if no such assertion were made, it became needful to inquire of Him, what else, if anything, He had done, that He should thus deserve to be delivered unto the judge.
2. Hear then, ye Jews and Gentiles; hear, O circumcision; hear, O uncircumcision; hear, all ye kingdoms of the earth: I interfere not with your government in this world, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Cherish ye not the utterly vain terror that threw Herod the elder into consternation when the birth of Christ was announced, and led him to the murder of so many infants in the hope of including Christ in the fatal number,2 made more cruel by his fear than by his anger: “My kingdom,” He said, “is not of this world.” What would you more? Come to the kingdom that is not of this world; come, believing, and fall not into the madness of anger through fear. He says, indeed, prophetically of God the Father, “Yet have I been appointed king by Him upon His holy hill of Zion;”3 but that hill of Zion is not of this world. For what is His kingdom, save those who believe in Him, to whom He says, “Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world”? And yet He wished them to be in the world: on that very account saying of them to the Father, “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”4 Hence also He says not here, “My kingdom is not” in this world; but, “is not of this world.” And when He proved this by saying, “If my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews,” He saith not, “But now is my kingdom not” here, but, “is not from hence.” For His kingdom is here until the end of the world, having tares intermingled therewith until the harvest; for the harvest is the end of the world, when the reapers, that is to say, the angels, shall come and gather out of His kingdom everything that offendeth;5 which certainly would not be done, were it not that His kingdom is here. But still it is not from hence; for it only sojourns as a stranger in the world: because He says to His kingdom, “Ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.”6 They were therefore of the world, so long as they were not His kingdom, but belonged to the prince of this world. Of the world therefore are all mankind, created indeed by the true God, but generated from Adam as a vitiated and condemned stock; and there are made into a kingdom no longer of the world, all from thence that have been regenerated in Christ. For so did God rescue us from the power of darkness, and translate us into the kingdom of the Son of His love:7 and of this kingdom it is that He saith, “My kingdom is not of this world;” or, “My kingdom is not from hence.”
3. “Pilate therefore said unto Him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king.” Not that He was afraid to confess Himself a king, but “Thou sayest” has been so balanced that He neither denies Himself to be a king (for He is a king whose kingdom is not of this world), nor does He confess that He is such a king as to warrant the supposition that His kingdom is of this world. For as this was the very idea in Pilate’s mind when he said, ’“Art thou a king then?” so the answer he got was, “Thou sayest that I am a king.” For it was said, “Thou sayest,” as if it had been said, Carnal thyself, thou sayest it carnally.
4. Thereafter He adds, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” * *8 Whence it is evident that He here referred to His own temporal nativity, when by becoming incarnate He came into the world, and not to that which had no beginning, whereby He was God through whom the Father created the world. For this, then, that is, on this account, He declared that He was born, and to this end He came into the world, to wit, by being born of the Virgin, that He might bear witness unto the truth. But because all men have not faith,9 He still further said, “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” He heareth, that is to say, with the ears of the inward man, or, in other words, He obeyeth my voice, which is equivalent to saying, He believeth me. When Christ, therefore, beareth witness unto the truth, He beareth witness, of course, unto Himself; for from His own lips are the words, “I am the truth;”10 as He said also in another place, “I bear witness of myself.”11 But when He said, “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice,” He commendeth the grace whereby He calleth according to His own purpose. Of which purpose the apostle says, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are called according to the purpose of God,”12 to wit, the purpose of Him that calleth, not of those who are called; which is put still. more clearly in another place in this way, “Labor together in the gospel according to the power of God, who saveth us and calleth us with His holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace.”13 For if our thoughts turn to the nature wherein we have been created, inasmuch as we were all created by the Truth, who is there that is not of the truth? But it is not all to whom it is given of the truth to hear, that is, to obey the truth, and to believe in the truth; while in no case certainly is there any preceding of merit, lest grace should cease to be grace. For had He said, Every one that heareth my voice is of the truth, then it would be supposed that he was declared to be of the truth because he conforms to the truth; it is not this, however, that He says, but, “Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.” And in this way he is not of the truth simply because he heareth His voice; but only on this account he heareth, because he is of the truth, that is, because this is a gift bestowed on him of the truth. And what else is this, but that by Christ’s gracious bestowal he believeth on Christ?
5. “Pilate said unto Him, What is truth?” Nor did he wait to hear the answer; but “when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and said unto them, I find in him no fault. But ye have a custom that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” I believe when Pilate said, “What is truth?” there immediately occurred to his mind the custom of the Jews, according to which he was wont to release unto them one at the passover; and therefore he did not wait to hear Jesus’ answer to his question, What is truth? to avoid delay on recollecting the custom whereby He might be released unto them during the passover-a thing which it is clear he greatly desired. It could not, however, be torn from his heart that Jesus was the King of the Jews, but was fixed there, as in the superscription, by the truth itself, whereof he had just inquired what it was. “But on hearing this, they all cried again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber.” We blame you not, O jews, for liberating the guilty during the passover, but for slaying the innocent; and yet unless that were done, the true passover would not take place. But a shadowy of the truth was retained by the erring Jews, and by a marvellous dispensation of divine wisdom the truth of that same shadow was fulfilled by deluded men; because in order that the true passover might be kept, Christ was led as a sheep to the sacrificial slaughter. Hence there follows the account of the injurious treatment received by Christ at the hands of Pilate and his cohort; but this must be taken up in another discourse.
1 (Ps 94,11,
2 (Mt 2,3 Mt 2,16.
3 (Ps 2,6).
4 Chap. 17,16, 15.
5 (Mt 13,38-41.
6 Chap. 15,19.
7 (Col 1,13,
8 The verse quoted reads in Latin, “Ego in hoc natus sum, et ad hoc veni,” etc.; and in reference to the words, in hoc, Augustin goes on to say, in the passage marked * * . “We are not to lengthen the syllable [vowel] of this pronoun when He says, In hoc natus sum, as if He meant to say, In this thing was I born; but to shorten it, as if He had said, Ad hanc rem natus sum, vel ad hoc natus sum (for this thing was I born), just as He says, Ad hoc veni in mundum (for this came I into the world). For in the Greek Gospel there is no ambiguity in this expression,” the Greek having eij” tou`to. This passage is interesting only to Latin scholars, as showing that in ordinary parlance they marked, in Augustin’s time, the distinction between hoc of the abl. and hoc of the nom. or acc.-Tr.
9 (2Th 3,2,
10 Chap. 14,6.
11 Chap. 8,18.
12 (Rm 8,28,
13 (2Tm 1,8-9,
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