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ZENIT News in Text Format

Today’s news dispatch: Nov. 17, 2015

Pope’s Morning Mass: “Lord, Keep Me From Pretending to Be a Christian”

At Casa Santa Marta, Reiterates the Importance of Christian Identity in the Midst of Worldly Temptations

Here is Vatican Radio’s report of Pope Francis’ homily from his morning Mass today:

The importance of safeguarding our Christian identity and not living double lives: that was the theme at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily at the Santa Marta Mass on Tuesday morning. The Pope based his words on the daily readings which focus on the need for coherence between our spiritual and our temporal lives.

Pope Francis began by reflecting on the elderly Jewish Rabbi Eleazar who chose to be martyred rather than submit to the unjust laws that we read about in the second book of Maccabees. The 90-year-old Eleazar refused to eat pork meat and rejected the offer of his “worldly” friends to compromise his integrity, choosing instead to die a martyr’s death.

Spiritual worldliness, Pope Francis said, tempts us towards an inconsistent lifestyle, in which we pretend to be one thing but live in another way. It may be difficult to recognize, he said, but just as woodworm slowly destroys things, so worldliness slowly leads us to lose our Christian identity.

Worldliness, he went on, leads to inconsistency between the things we say – “Oh, I’m a good Catholic Father, I go to Mass every Sunday” – and the things we do at work, such as offering or receiving bribes for example. This is not being consistent, the Pope said, rather it leads to a double life which distances us from God and destroys our Christian identity.

For this reason, Pope Francis continued, Jesus strongly pleads with his Father to save his disciples from such a worldly spirit. The Christian spirit, on the other hand, the Christian identity, he said, is never egoistic, but always tries to be consistent, avoiding scandal, helping others and showing a good example.

The Pope responded to objections such as, “It’s not easy Father, to live in this world where there are so many temptations and we are lured by the attractions of a double life every single day!” For us it is impossible, he said, and only God can help us avoid such worldliness, which is why we pray in the Psalms, “The Lord, upholds me.” He is our support against that spirit which destroys our Christian identity.

That is why we pray with humility, saying “Lord, I am a sinner — all of us are sinners — but I ask You to uphold me so that I don’t pretend to be a Christian while living like a pagan, worldly person.”

Pope Francis concluded by urging his listeners to pick up a Bible and read the story of Eleazar in chapter six of the book of Maccabees. It will do you good, he said, and give you courage to be an example to others. It will give you strength and support to uphold your Christian identity, without compromise and without leading a double life.

Readings provided by the US bishops’ conference:

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious
Lectionary: 498

Reading 1 2 MC 6:18-31

Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes,
a man of advanced age and noble appearance,
was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork. 
But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement,
he spat out the meat,
and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture,
as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food
which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life. 
Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately,
because of their long acquaintance with him,
and urged him to bring meat of his own providing,
such as he could legitimately eat,
and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice
prescribed by the king;
in this way he would escape the death penalty,
and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him.
But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner,
worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age,
the merited distinction of his gray hair,
and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood;
and so he declared that above all
he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God.

He told them to send him at once
to the abode of the dead, explaining:
“At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense;
many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar
had gone over to an alien religion.
Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life,
they would be led astray by me,
while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age.
Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men,
I shall never, whether alive or dead,
escape the hands of the Almighty.
Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, 
I will prove myself worthy of my old age,
and I will leave to the young a noble example
of how to die willingly and generously
for the revered and holy laws.”

Eleazar spoke thus,
and went immediately to the instrument of torture.
Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed,
now became hostile toward him because what he had said
seemed to them utter madness.
When he was about to die under the blows,
he groaned and said:
“The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that,
although I could have escaped death,
I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging,
but also suffering it with joy in my soul
because of my devotion to him.”
This is how he died,
leaving in his death a model of courage
and an unforgettable example of virtue
not only for the young but for the whole nation.

Responsorial Psalm PS 3:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (6b) The Lord upholds me.
O LORD, how many are my adversaries!
Many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“There is no salvation for him in God.”
R. The Lord upholds me.
But you, O LORD, are my shield;
my glory, you lift up my head!
When I call out to the LORD,
he answers me from his holy mountain.
R. The Lord upholds me.
When I lie down in sleep,
I wake again, for the LORD sustains me.
I fear not the myriads of people
arrayed against me on every side.
R. The Lord upholds me.

Alleluia 1 JN 4:10B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God loved us, and sent his Son
as expiation for our sins.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 19:1-10

At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, 
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature. 
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, 
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.” 
And he came down quickly and received him with joy. 
When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying, 
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” 
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. 
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”
 
 

INTERVIEW: Irish Priest in Kenya Describes What the Pope Will Find

A Nation ‘Pulsating With Potential’ and the Church at the Forefront of Its Development

When Pope Francis arrives in Kenya later this month (Nov. 25-27), he will find himself in the midst of a young, vibrant Church, rooted in the deeply religious African psyche. A Church at the forefront of development and a leader in the battle against corruption.

This is some of the picture painted by Fr. Conor Donnelly, an Irish priest of Opus Dei who has been working in Nairobi for 10 years.

ZENIT asked Fr. Donnelly to give us a look at Kenya and preparations for the Pope’s arrival.

Here’s what he said:

ZENIT: As an Irish priest working in Kenya for 10 years now, could you describe the Church and society there for readers in the Western world?

Fr. Donnelly: Kenya is pulsating with potential. Almost 50% of the population is under 20 years of age. In Uganda it is almost 60%. Education is treasured. Children long to go to school. Unfortunately not everyone can afford school fees. You see rapid development before your eyes. Nairobi has always been an important city in East Africa and that is so even more now. Many multinational organizations have moved their headquarters here from Johannesburg. The climate is one of the best in the world.

It is generally acknowledged that the most serious problems hindering the development of the country are corruption and tribalism. The Kenyan bishops have frequently referred to them in their collective declarations. In a statement issued a few days ago, concerning the Holy Father’s visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops said the following: “We also must tackle the ‘festering wound’ of corruption, the heightened looting from public coffers by those entrusted with public resources. We must guard against reckless and irresponsible utterances that can incite communities to violence; and promote respect for the laws of the Country.” The good news is that a new society is growing, of well educated, professionally qualified, articulate people of integrity, so there is much hope for the future.

The Church runs 30% of the hospitals of the country and many of the top schools. All are synonymous with quality and the highest standards. In this way the Catholic Church, along with other churches, has played major role in the development of the country. It is interesting to see this close up, because it is the same story for many European countries although this part of their history sometimes seems to have been conveniently forgotten.

The seminaries are full, the bishops are young. Mass attendance is high. There is a strong respect for the sacred. Holy Communion for remarried divorcees is not an issue. People value their faith. The family as an institution is strong although subject to all the winds that are blowing in the Western world. The deeply religious sense of the African psyche is expressed in a repugnance  felt for a justification of an aberration like ‘gay marriage’.

Women could be valued more. Although Christianity has penetrated deeply, there are still areas where more could be done. The Catholic population is about 40%.

There were approximately 100,000 Catholics in Africa in 1900, that number is now approaching 200 million. Since 1980 alone the Catholic Church in Africa has grown by 238%. Today missionaries are going from Kenya to Europe and other parts of the world.

Many of the stories of the beginnings are only now being written. Elderly missionaries now have the time and inclination to write. It is a glorious history.

ZENIT: So, is Nairobi a “nice” place to live, say, by the standards of your friends from back home in Ireland?

Fr. Donnelly: An accountant friend of mine from Dublin lived here for four years. He said those four years were probably the happiest of the growing years of his children. I think that answers the question.

So many places to go, so many things to see, flora, fauna, etc.

ZENIT: Pope Francis will probably speak of the problem he’s called “ideological colonization” in Africa. Is this something affecting Kenyan society?

Fr. Donnelly: Absolutely.  In Kenya we need a paradigm shift not just for Catholics but for all health care workers. We need to change the culture of death programs and change them for culture of life alternatives.

Maternal mortality is rising in Sub Saharan Africa. The rate for the developed world is about 1 in 15,000. The rate in rural Kenya, as in the rest of Africa, is 1 in 15. It is one of the scandals of modern medicine. We need to promote the scientific truth from the obstetrical community that this can only be solved by dealing with one mother at a time.

Governments and aid agencies have focused their attention on HIV Aids; they have forgotten women and mothers. This is reflected in their budgets. Only 7.9% of the UN budget is allocated to maternal and child health, which is where the people are dying.

Contraception and abortion are counter cultural to African values and have been proven to be ineffective in lowering maternal mortality.

Marriage, fertility and motherhood in Africa are a status symbol. It is a family based culture. Motherhood is celebrated. Infertility is an abomination. To put in place strategies that will make you infertile is not African.

The approach of some is to eliminate motherhood, not to eliminate maternal mortality.

We need to confront the new global ethical agenda which is a result of moral relativism and which is targeting Africa at present.

There tends to be no mention of sex with responsibility. The UN proposes every form of abortion as a means to lower maternal mortality. What happens to women’s rights and doctors’ rights?

ZENIT: Drawing from your medical background, can you explain some of the reasons that the maternal mortality rate is so high and what actually needs to be done, since the UN isn’t getting it right?

Fr. Donnelly: There are many reasons. Lack of rural hospitals and trained health care workers. Lack of funds. Mothers have no political representation. No incentives for doctors to work in rural areas. Governments are not interested. Mothers don’t matter. Prof Robert Walley of Matercare International has all the answers ([email protected]). He has single handedly built a maternity hospital in rural Kenya.

From a medical perspective not much is needed. Prof Walley has trained traditional birth attendants (rural midwives) — some of whom can neither read nor write — to recognize emergencies from a chart, call the ambulance and get the mother to hospital. The ambulance is a motor bike with a stretcher and the hospital is 3 hours away. With this system, lives have been saved. There are some great stories.

To give her her due, Mrs Margaret Kenyatta, wife of the President, has organized a mobile maternity unity for each county in the form of a truck. It is a nice idea but expensive:  Will they reach distant villages where roads are bad, and what will they be like in 5 years time? These are unanswered questions.

In the rural areas. contraceptives abound but antibiotics and other basic medicines are often lacking.

ZENIT: What do you do as a priest in Kenya?

Fr. Donnelly: I spend a lot of my day in the confessional box. I am chaplain to Kianda School for Girls in Nairobi and have spent most of the past 10 years as chaplain to what is now Eastlands College of Technology. 

Eastlands is a depressed area of Nairobi with a huge number of unskilled youth. It was a black area during the apartheid, colonial era. Many people think that apartheid was something associated only with South Africa but it should not be forgotten that in those days apartheid was everywhere. 

Technical training as a preparation for employment in the local industries is the key to lifting the youth of the nearby slum areas out of the cycle of poverty. The spiritual direction of these schools is entrusted to the care of priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei.

ZENIT: You said earlier that in Kenya, “women could be valued more.” How do you see that play out in your work at the girls’ school?

Fr. Donnelly: Schools with a Catholic ethos have been the great uplifters of women in many countries. Polygamy is endemic in African culture. The first wife is often left to fend for herself. She has no legal redress. Infertile wives or those who don’t produce a male offspring are often left for other women. This gives rise to inheritance headaches when the husband dies. Education and empowerment of women is one of the solutions to this problem, as well as greater legal protection.

ZENIT: What do you expect from the Pope’s trip?

Fr. Donnelly: The country is excited. The litany of media coverage that will be relayed around the world would take your breath away. President Obama was here earlier this year but the buzz for the Papal trip is on an entirely different level. People are aware that the Pope is the greatest spiritual and moral leader of the world. Wonderful anecdotes from non-Catholics are emerging from the last Papal trip here of St John Paul II in 1995. 

We hope for more peace and harmony in the country, particularly from politicians. 

The goal for everyone with this visit is to deepen our faith. We need a greater faith practice, allowing our faith to percolate into our life, affect our personal choices, so that we make the right professional decisions.

We should let our faith engage more in social choices. Our faith should direct society’s choices according to what builds. Chesterton once said:  “to admire mere choice, is to refuse to choose.”

We should lose our fears of taking a Catholic stand. This approach concerns everyone in society from the boda boda (public transport) operators to the legislators and is particularly relevant at present in health care.

We have a wealth of criteria coming from the Church in her documents. We need to know these criteria and know the why of the criteria, deepening in the theological underpinnings. Every Catholic health worker should be conversant with Humanae Vitae, Donum Vitae, and other great Church statements.

This is the 11th international trip of the Pope, we see him spending himself at almost 80 years of age. He is also going to the Central African Republic. He’s not afraid of going where the trouble is. What greater example do we need?

Pope Francis is out in front, blazing a trail. Any young person worth their salt would want to give him a hand and give themselves completely to the great ideals he is placing before us.

(Fr Conor Donnelly is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei, a medical graduate from University College Dublin and has a doctorate in theology from the University of Navarre. He has lived for 10 years in Manila, 12 in Singapore and has been 10 in Nairobi.)

 

Criteria for Weekday Readings in Ordinary Time

Aims to present in a two-year cycle a broad selection of most parts of the Bible

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Q: Would you please talk about the order for the readings for the weekdays in ordinary time? What are the theological criteria and motivations behind the readings assigned? For instance, from Monday of the First Week through the Fourth Week in odd number years, we read from the Letter to the Hebrews, then follows the Book of Genesis and so on. However, during even number years it is Samuel I and II, then Kings, etc. I would highly appreciate it if you could address this topic. — D.Z., Beijing

A: The introduction to the lectionary gives ample explanations as to the criteria used in making the selection. The overall idea is to present to the faithful, over the two-year cycle, a broad selection of most parts of the Bible. The two-year cycle is independent of the Sunday three-year cycle, which is why occasionally the same readings occur on Sunday and during the week. As the introduction says:

“59. The decision on revising the Lectionary for Mass was to draw up and edit a single, rich, and full Order of Readings that would be in complete accord with the intent and prescriptions of the Second Vatican Council. At the same time, however, the Order was meant to be of a kind that would meet the requirements and usages of particular Churches and celebrating congregations. For this reason, those responsible for the revision took pains to safeguard the liturgical tradition of the Roman Rite, but valued highly the merits of all the systems of selecting, arranging, and using the biblical readings in other liturgical families and in certain particular Churches. The revisers made use of those elements that experience has confirmed, but with an effort to avoid certain shortcomings found in the preceding form of the tradition.

“60. The present Order of Readings for Mass, then, is an arrangement of biblical readings that provides the faithful with a knowledge of the whole of God’s word, in a pattern suited to the purpose. Throughout the liturgical year, but above all during the seasons of Easter, Lent, and Advent, the choice and sequence of readings are aimed at giving Christ’s faithful an ever-deepening perception of the faith they profess and of the history of salvation. Accordingly, the Order of Readings corresponds to the requirements and interests of the Christian people.” 

With respect to the order for weekdays it continues:

“69. The weekday readings have been arranged in the following way. 

“1. Each Mass has two readings: the first is from the Old Testament or from an Apostle (that is, either from a Letter or from the Book of Revelation), and during the Easter season from the Acts of the Apostles; the second, from the Gospels.

“2. The yearly cycle for Lent has its own principles of arrangement, which take into account the baptismal and penitential character of this season.

“3. The cycle for the weekdays of Advent, the Christmas season, and the Easter season is also yearly and the readings thus remain the same each year.

“4. For the thirty-four weeks of Ordinary Time, the weekday Gospel readings are arranged in a single cycle, repeated each year. But the first reading is arranged in a two-year cycle and is thus read every other year. Year I is used during odd-numbered years; Year II, during even-numbered years.

“Like the Order for Sundays and festive days, then, the weekday Order of Readings is governed by similar application of the principles of harmony and of semicontinuous reading, especially in the case of seasons with their own distinctive character.”

Among the criteria used was one to maintain certain traditions regarding the readings during special seasons: 

“74. In this Order of Readings, some biblical books are set aside for particular liturgical seasons on the basis both of the intrinsic importance of subject matter and of liturgical tradition. For example, the Western (Ambrosian and Hispanic) and Eastern tradition of reading the Acts of the Apostles during the Easter season is maintained. This usage results in a clear presentation of how the Church’s entire life derives its beginning from the paschal mystery. The tradition of both West and East is also retained, namely the reading of the Gospel of John in the latter weeks of Lent and in the Easter season.

“Tradition assigns the reading of Isaiah, especially the first part, to Advent. Some texts of this book, however, are read during the Christmas season, to which the First Letter of John is also assigned.”

With this criterion in Mind we offer a summary of the criteria offered for the daily readings:

“Advent

“94. There are two series of readings: one to be used from the beginning of Advent until 16 December; the other from 17 to 24 December.

“In the first part of Advent there are readings from the Book of Isaiah, distributed in accord with the sequence of the book itself and including the more important texts that are also read on the Sundays. For the choice of the weekday Gospel the first reading has been taken into consideration. On Thursday of the second week the readings from the Gospel concerning John the Baptist begin. The first reading is either a continuation of Isaiah or a text chosen in view of the Gospel. In the last week before Christmas the events that immediately prepared for the Lord’s birth are presented from the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 1) and Luke (chapter 1). The texts in the first reading, chosen in view of the Gospel reading, are from different Old Testament books and include important Messianic prophecies. 

“The Christmas Season:

“96. From 29 December on, there is a continuous reading of the whole of the First Letter of John, which actually begins earlier, on 27 December, the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, and on 28 December, the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The Gospels relate manifestations of the Lord: events of Jesus’ childhood from the Gospel of Luke (29-30 December); passages from the first chapter of the Gospel of John (31 December-5 January); other manifestations of the Lord from the four Gospels (7-12 January).

“Lent 

“98. The readings from the Gospels and the Old Testament were selected because they are related to each other. They treat various themes of the Lenten catechesis that are suited to the spiritual significance of this season. Beginning with Monday of the Fourth Week of Lent, there is a semicontinuous reading of the Gospel of John, made up of texts that correspond more closely to the themes proper to Lent. Because the readings about the Samaritan woman, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus are now assigned to Sundays, but only for Year A (in Year B and Year C they are optional), provision has been made for their use on weekdays. Thus at the beginning of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Weeks of Lent optional Masses with these texts for the Gospel have been inserted and may be used in place of the readings of the day on any weekday of the respective week. In the first days of Holy Week the readings are about the mystery of Christ’s passion. For the Chrism Mass the readings bring out both Christ’s Messianic mission and its continuation in the Church by means of the sacraments.

“The Easter Season 

“101. As on the Sundays, the first reading is a semicontinuous reading from the Acts of the Apostles. The Gospel readings during the Easter octave are accounts of the Lord’s appearances. After that there is a semicontinuous reading of the Gospel of John, but with texts that have a paschal character, in order to complete the reading from John during Lent. This paschal reading is made up in large part of the Lord’s discourse and prayer at the end of the Last Supper.

“Ordinary Time

“103. Ordinary Time begins on the Monday after the Sunday following 6 January; it lasts until the Tuesday before Lent inclusive. It begins again on the Monday after Pentecost Sunday and finishes before evening prayer I of the first Sunday of Advent. The Order of Readings provides readings for thirty-four Sundays and the weeks following them. In some years, however, there are only thirty-three weeks of Ordinary Time. Further, some Sundays either belong to another season (the Sunday on which the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord falls and Pentecost Sunday) or else are impeded by a solemnity that coincides with Sunday (e.g. The Most Holy Trinity or Christ the King).

“109. The Gospels are so arranged that Mark is read first (First to Ninth Week), then Matthew (Tenth to Twenty-First Week), then Luke (Twenty-Second to Thirty-Fourth Week). Mark chapters 1-12 are read in their entirety, with the exception only of the two passages of Mark chapter 6 that are read on weekdays in other seasons. From Matthew and Luke the readings comprise all the material not contained in Mark. All the passages that either are distinctively presented in each Gospel or are needed for a proper understanding of its progression are read two or three times. Jesus’ eschatological discourse as contained in its entirety in Luke is read at the end of the liturgical year.

“110. The First Reading is taken in periods of several weeks at a time first from one then from the other Testament; the number of weeks depends on the length of the biblical books read. Rather large sections are read from the New Testament books in order to give the substance, as it were, of each of the Letters. From the Old Testament there is room only for select passages that, as far as possible, bring out the character of the individual books. The historical texts have been chosen in such a way as to provide an overall view of the history of salvation before the Incarnation of the Lord. But lengthy narratives could hardly be presented; sometimes verses have been selected that make for a reading of moderate length. In addition, the religious significance of the historical events is sometimes brought out by means of certain texts from the wisdom books that are placed as prologues or conclusions to a series of historical readings.

“Nearly all the Old Testament books have found a place in the Order of Readings for weekdays in the Proper of Seasons. The only omissions are the shortest of the prophetic books (Obadiah and Zephaniah) and a poetic book (the Song of Songs). Of those narratives of edification requiring a lengthy reading if they are to be understood, Tobit and Ruth are included, but the others (Esther and Judith) are omitted. Texts from these latter two books are assigned, however, to Sundays and weekdays at other times of the year…. At the end of the liturgical year the readings are from the books that correspond to the eschatological character of this period, Daniel and the Book of Revelation.”

* * *

Readers may send questions to [email protected]. Please put the word “Liturgy” in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

US Bishops: Refugees Are Fleeing Terror Themselves

“We can look at strengthening the already stringent screening program, but we should continue to welcome those in desperate need”

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, issued a statement on Syrian refugees during the Bishops’ annual General Assembly in Baltimore today.
Full text of the statement follows: 

Statement on Syrian Refugees and the Attacks in Paris

On behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration, I offer my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the November 13 attacks in Paris, France and to the French people. I add my voice to all those condemning these attacks and my support to all who are working to ensure such attacks do not occur again—both in France and around the world.

I am disturbed, however, by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.

Moreover, refugees to this country must pass security checks and multiple interviews before entering the United States—more than any arrival to the United States. It can take up to two years for a refugee to pass through the whole vetting process. We can look at strengthening the already stringent screening program, but we should continue to welcome those in desperate need.

Instead of using this tragedy to scapegoat all refugees, I call upon our public officials to work together to end the Syrian conflict peacefully so the close to 4 million Syrian refugees can return to their country and rebuild their homes. Until that goal is achieved, we must work with the world community to provide safe haven to vulnerable and deserving refugees who are simply attempting to survive. As a great nation, the United States must show leadership during this crisis and bring nations together to protect those in danger and bring an end to the conflicts in the Middle East.  

Vatican Christmas Tree to Be Unveiled at Start of Jubilee of Mercy

Decorations to Come From Children Suffering From Cancer

Since the Jubilee of Mercy starts on Dec. 8, the Vatican Christmas tree will be unveiled early, to coincide with the beginning of the special year.

Vatican Radio reported that the Governorate of the Holy See decided to move the unveiling earlier. 

This year’s tree, donated by the German region of Bavaria, is a two pointed Spruce, which stands 32 meters (105 ft) tall. The tree will arrive on the 18th of November and will be erected overnight by the staff of the Vatican Gardens.

The crib scene and figures will be donated by the Archdiocese of Trento, collaborating with the Friends of the Crib of Tesero group. The 24 life-sized figures will make up the various scenes at the base of the tree. Apart from the figures of Mary, Joseph, the Child and the three Magi, other figures will represent the various Trentino nations, complete with accurate representations of rural buildings and typical Trentino clothing from the mid-20th century.  

The Vatican has joined forces with the Countess Lene Thun Foundation and recreated designs made by children suffering from cancer. The Countess Lene Thun Foundation offers recreational therapy to children in oncology wards across Italy. The children were asked to come up with designs that represent their dreams and desires.

Some of the children who designed the decorations will meet Pope Francis on Dec. 8. They will present him with some of the decorations they made and accompany him to the unveiling of the Tree. The Christmas tree lights will be illuminated on 18th December.

Health Care Council’s Annual Conference Draws From Laudato Si’

“few risks affect health as much as air contamination”

The Vatican’s health care council opens its 30th international conference this week, with the theme this year drawn from Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’.

This morning, in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present the 30th International Conference organised by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Ministry on the theme “The culture of Salus and welcome at the service of man and the planet” (Vatican City, 19-21 November).

The speakers at the conference were Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (for Health Pastoral Care); Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu and Fr. Augusto Chendi, M.I., respectively secretary and under-secretary of the same dicastery; Dr. Antonio Maria Pasciuto, president of the Italian Association for Environmental Medicine and Health, Italy; and Dr. Lilian Corra, president of the Argentine Association of Doctors for the Environment, Argentina.

Archbishop Zimowski explained that the Conference is inspired by Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato si’”, and seeks to identify methods and indications for a pastoral response to the needs, in many cases urgent, expressed in the document. He also noted the event’s proximity to the climate conference in Paris and the opening of the Jubilee Year, which will offer an opportunity to reflect on love for others and for the Lord’s work. In addition, this year the Pontifical Council celebrates the 30th anniversary of its establishment and the 20th anniversary of John Paul II’s encyclical Evangelium Vitae.

The profound bond between the world of sickness and healthcare with the Mother of Jesus, as shown in the celebration of World Day of the Sick on 11 February, the liturgical memory of Our Lady of Lourdes, also inspires the theme of this Day in 2016, to be celebrated in Nazareth on the theme “Entrusting oneself to the merciful Jesus like Mary: do whatever he tells you”.

The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers (Health Pastoral Care) reported that the 30th International Conference will be attended by 500 people from around 60 countries of the five continents. The event will also involve contributions from theologians, biblical scholars, doctors, scientists, diplomats and legal experts of international standing.

The conference will begin with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, presided by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace”, and on the same morning Pope Francis will receive in audience all the participants.

Msgr. Jean-Marie Mate Musivi Mupendawatu explained that the Conference, taking as its starting point the encyclical “Laudato si’”, will consider climate change and the defence of biodiversity, information and technological pollution, animal experimentation and genetic modification, environmental stress and working medicine, pathologies linked to climate change and international legislation on environmental issues.

He continued, “Special attention will be dedicated to the theme of the challenges to be faced nowadays at world summits: the right of access to clean drinking water, denied to many; sanitation problems in urban areas and especially on the outskirts of cities. Projects for development and business initiatives, particularly in poor countries, have an impact on the environment that is not infrequently neglected or underestimated. It is therefore urgent to ensure that development plans respect life and the environment, and are therefore far from the devastating aims of mere profit”.

“Finally”, he added, “reflection on the anthropological roots of the ecological crisis would be timely in view of a hoped-for ecological conversion, deriving from an increased awareness of the responsibilities of each person, in order to inspire change in the direction of a rediscovered harmony between man and the environment”.

Dr. Corra commented that a recent press release from the World Health Organisation indicates that “few risks affect health as much as air contamination, which poses by far the most serious danger to health. It is responsible for one in every eight deaths, is the cause of more than 80% of mortality in countries with medium to low income, and has particularly worrying effects on fertility and neurological development, which can manifest themselves as behavioural disorders and impaired intellectual performance”.

Pope Francis to Visit Great Synagogue of Rome

Jan. 17 Visit to Mark 3rd by a Pope

The Holy See Press Office today announced that, following an invitation from the Chief Rabbi and Jewish Community of Rome, Pope Francis will pay a visit to the Great Synagogue in the afternoon of Sunday 17 January 2016. It will be the third visit by a Pope to the Great Synagogue of Rome, following John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The visit will take the form of a personal encounter between the Pope and the representatives of Judaism and the members of the Community. A more detailed programme of the visit will be published in due course.

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