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Today’s news dispatch: Nov. 26, 2015

Pope to Kenyans: ‘Stand Strong in Faith! Don’t Be Afraid’

At Mass at University of Nairobi, Pope Reminds Them They Belong to God and He’ll Always Be There for Us

Because all faithful belong to God, they should not be afraid and should stand strong in the faith. The Holy Father gave this advice this morning during his homily at the Mass held at the University of Nairobi, after having met with other faith leaders at the apostolic nunciature.
 
Pope Francis is making his first Apostolic Visit to Africa, Nov. 25-30. Tomorrow afternoon, he departs from Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, before moving on to the capitals of Uganda and Central African Republic. This marked Pope Francis’ first Mass in the Eastern African nation, which he celebrated in English. The Mass took place in a festive atmosphere with moments of dance and song. Even with umbrellas for the rain, the joy of the thousands gathered could not be diminished.
 
During his homily, the Pope praised the strong family life of Kenyan Catholics, characterized by deep respect for the wisdom of the elderly and love for children. He also reminded them that the health of a society depends on the health of its families. 
 
The Pontiff reflected on today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah, in which the Lord says, “Fear not … I have chosen you and I promise to give you my blessing.” The Holy Father expressed that God’s word here “speaks to us in the depths of our heart.”  Today, the Pontiff highlighted, “God tells us that we belong to him.  He made us, we are his family, and he will always be there for us.” 
 

Defending elderly and unborn

 
The Holy Father went on to say how Isaiah’s prophecy invites us to look to our own families, and to realize how important they are in God’s plan. For their sake, the Argentine Pope said, we are called to support families in their mission in society, to accept children as a blessing for our world, and to defend the dignity of each man and woman, for all of us are brothers and sisters in the one human family. 
 
“In obedience to God’s word, we are also called to resist practices which foster arrogance in men, hurt or demean women, do not look after the elderly and threaten the life of the innocent unborn,” the Pope exhorted.
 
After warning against such practices, he instructed the faithful to respect and encourage one another, and to reach out to all those in need. “Christian families have this special mission: to radiate God’s love, and to spread the life-giving waters of his Spirit,” he said. 
 
“This is especially important today, for we are seeing the growth of new deserts created by a culture of materialism selfishness and indifference to others.”
 
Acknowledging he was speaking in the heart of a university, where minds and hearts of new generations are being shaped, he issued an appeal to the young people: “Let the great values of Africa’s traditions, the wisdom and truth of God’s word, and the generous idealism of your youth guide you in working to shape a society which is ever more just, inclusive and respectful of human dignity. May you always be concerned for the needs of the poor, and reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things, we know, are not of God.”
 
The Lord, the Pope explained, wants us to build our lives on solid foundations. “He asks us to be missionary disciples, men and women who radiate the truth, beauty and life-changing power of the Gospel. Men and women who are channels of God’s grace, who enable his mercy, kindness and truth to become the building blocks of a house that stands firm. “
 
Pope Francis stressed the need to live in harmony and mutual respect, in obedience to God’s will, which will bring us the freedom and peace for which our hearts long.

 
“Stand strong in faith! Do not be afraid! For you belong to the Lord,” the Pope encouraged, before concluding with some words in Swahili.  “Mungu awabariki! [God bless you!] Mungu abariki Kenya! [God bless Kenya!]”
 
***
 
On ZENIT’s Web page:
 

‘His Holy Name Must Never Be Used to Justify Hatred, Violence,’ Says Pope 

At Interreligious, Ecumenical Meeting in Nairobi, Acknowledges Barberous Attacks on Westgate Mall, Garissa University College and Mandera Are Fresh in Nation’s Minds and Prays the Almighty Touches the Hearts of Those Who Engage in Violence

“His holy Name must never be used to justify hatred and violence,” Pope Francis has said, stressing how important it to realize that the God we seek to serve is a God of peace. 

Speaking to leaders of other Christian faiths and other religions at the apostolic nunciature in Nairobi, the Pope made this strong statement, acknowledging “that the barbarous attacks on Westgate Mall, Garissa University College and Mandera are fresh in your minds.”

The Pope was referencing the series of terrorist attacks that have occurred in Kenya. The Westgate Mall shooting happened in September 2013 and resulted in some 70 deaths; the Garissa College tragedy took the lives of nearly 150 people in April 2015; and Madera has been the site of various killings, especially late last year, with the deaths of close to 130 people coming from a spate of attacks.

Pope Francis is making his first Apostolic Visit to Africa, and will be on the continent through Monday. Tomorrow afternoon, he departs from Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, moving on to the capital of Uganda and later to Central African Republic. 

“All too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies,” he lamented. “How important it is that we be seen as prophets of peace, peacemakers who invite others to live in peace, harmony and mutual respect! May the Almighty touch the hearts of those who engage in this violence, and grant his peace to our families and communities.”

Ecumenism is essential, not a luxury

Reflecting on having the opportunity to meet the leaders of other Christian communities and religions, Francis expressed his hope that their time together may be a sign of the Church’s esteem for the followers of all religions and may strengthen the bonds of friendship already among them.

“To be honest, this relationship is challenging; it makes demands of us. Yet ecumenical and interreligious dialogue is not a luxury. It is not something extra or optional, but essential, something which our world, wounded by conflict and division, increasingly needs.”

Religious beliefs and practice, the Pope observed, condition who we are and how we understand the world around us. He also stressed that they are a source of enlightenment, wisdom and solidarity, and thus enrich the societies in which we live.

“By caring for the spiritual growth of our communities, by forming minds and hearts in the truths and values taught by our religious traditions, we become a blessing to the communities in which our people live. In democratic and pluralistic societies like Kenya, cooperation between religious leaders and communities becomes an important service to the common good.”

In this light, and in an increasingly interdependent world, we see ever more clearly the need for interreligious understanding, friendship and collaboration in defending the God-given dignity of individuals and peoples, and their right to live in freedom and happiness.

By upholding respect for human dignity and rights, Pope Francis said, religions play an essential role in “forming consciences, instilling in the young the profound spiritual values of our respective traditions, and training good citizens, capable of infusing civil society with honesty, integrity and a world view which values the human person over power and material gain.”

Recalling this year marks the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, at which the Catholic Church committed herself to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in the service of understanding and friendship, the Pontiff reaffirmed this commitment. The world, he observed, rightly expects believers to work together with people of good will in facing the many problems affecting our human family. 

“As we look to the future, let us pray that all men and women will see themselves as brothers and sisters, peacefully united in and through our differences,” the Pope said, “Let us pray for peace!”

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/full-text-pope-s-address-at-interreligious-ecumenical-meeting-in-kenya

 

 

Pope at UN in Africa: We Have a Choice: Either Improve or Destroy the Environment

Says It Will Be ‘Catastrophic’ If Individual Interests Prevail Over the Common Good in Paris Meeting, and Information Is Manipulated to Protect ‘Plans and Projects’ 

Pope Francis concluded his first full day in Kenya with an address at the UN headquarters in Africa, in which he emphasized the importance of caring for God’s gift of creation, saying that it would be “catastrophic” if individual interests were to prevail over the common good, leading to a manipulation of information so as to protect “their own plans and projects.”

The Pope was welcomed to the UNON with exuberance, as the audience was invited three times to shout and applaud at his arrival.

After brief welcome addresses from three UN officials, the Holy Father delivered in Spanish his discourse, which focused mainly on the themes of Laudato Si’, with mentions of specific issues such as diamond mining and elephant poaching.

The Pontiff explained that before entering the hall, he was asked to symbolically plant a tree: “first and foremost an invitation to continue the battle against phenomena like deforestation and desertification” as well as a reminder of the “importance of safeguarding and responsibly administering those ‘richly biodiverse lungs of our planet.’”

The Pope referred to the upcoming Paris Climate Conference, set to begin Nov. 30 and conclude Dec. 11

Also known as COP21, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference will, for the first time in more than 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

A choice

The Pope has mentioned this meeting on several occasions and he released his encyclical, Laudato Si’, before the event, with the hopes that it would contribute to the discussions.

Today, he said about the conference that, “It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good and lead to manipulating information in order to protect their own plans and projects.”

“In this international context, we are confronted with a choice which cannot be ignored: either to improve or to destroy the environment,” he declared.

“COP21 represents an important stage in the process of developing a new energy system which depends on a minimal use of fossil fuels, aims at energy efficiency and makes use of energy sources with little or no carbon content,” Francis added. “We are faced with a great political and economic obligation to rethink and correct the dysfunctions and distortions of the current model of development.”

3 goals

The Pope said that he hopes the agreement from Paris will be based on “principles of solidarity, justice, equality and participation” and that it will target three goals: “lessening the impact of climate change, fighting poverty and ensuring respect for human dignity.”

The Pope said “sincere and open dialogue” is needed to bring this about, “with responsible cooperation on the part of all: political authorities, the scientific community, the business world and civil society.”

Human beings are “capable of the worst,” he acknowledged, but they are also “capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good and making a new start.”

Thus, the 21st century can be remembered for having “generously shouldered its grave responsibilities” in contrast to the post-industrial period, which “may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history.”

Not a utopia

Pope Francis said that for this to come about, economy and politics “need to be placed at the service of peoples.”

This will result in human beings in harmony with nature, structuring “the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life.”

This isn’t an “idealistic utopia,” the Pope claimed. It’s a “realistic prospect which makes the human person and human dignity the point of departure and the goal of everything.”

To make it happen, he said, there needs to be a commitment to education: “an educational process which fosters in boys and girls, women and men, young people and adults, the adoption of a culture of care – care for oneself, care for others, care for the environment – in place of a culture of waste, a ‘throw-away culture’ where people use and discard themselves, others and the environment.”

“We still have time,” he promised.

Globalization of indifference

Pope Francis noted that this “culture of deterioration and waste” has sacrificed the lives of multitudes before the idols of “profits and consumption.”

And, he warned, “We need to be alert to one sad sign of the ‘globalization of indifference: the fact that we are gradually growing accustomed to the suffering of others, as if it were something normal, or even worse, becoming resigned to such extreme and scandalous kinds of ‘using and discarding’ and social exclusion as new forms of slavery, human trafficking, forced labour, prostitution and trafficking in organs.”

He mentioned specifically those migrants who “flee from the growing poverty aggravated by environmental degradation,” but who are not recognized as refugees.

“Many lives, many stories, many dreams have been shipwrecked in our day,” he said. “We cannot remain indifferent in the face of this. We have no right.”

Beyond commercial interests

The Pope also spoke of the problem of unruly urbanization, and encouraged those working on ensuring that urbanization is a means to development to be mindful of those in outlying neighborhoods. 

He further mentioned the issue of commercial relationships between states, referring to Paul VI’s reflection that these relationships could “prove a fundamental element for the development of peoples or, on the other hand, a cause of extreme poverty and exclusion.”

“While recognizing that much has been done in this area, it seems that we have yet to attain an international system of commerce which is equitable and completely at the service of the battle against poverty and exclusion,” he said. 

In this context, he spoke of the problem of development and health care, specifically agreements on intellectual property and access to medicines and essential health care. 

“Regional free trade treaties dealing with the protection of intellectual property, particularly in the areas of pharmaceutics and biotechnology, should not only maintain intact the powers already granted to States by multilateral agreements, but should also be a means for ensuring a minimum of health care and access to basic treatment for all,” he said.

Certain health issues, the Pope added, such as malaria and tuberculosis, among others, “require urgent political attention, above and beyond all other commercial or political interests.”

A cry from the earth

Turning specifically to the situation of the environment in Africa, Pope Francis lamented that the natural richness of the continent “is constantly exposed to the risk of destruction caused by human selfishness of every type and by the abuse of situations of poverty and exclusion.”

He decried illegal trafficking, which arises “in situations of poverty and in turn lead to greater poverty and exclusion.”

“Illegal trade in diamonds and precious stones, rare metals or those of great strategic value, wood, biological material and animal products, such as ivory trafficking and the relative killing of elephants, fuels political instability, organized crime and terrorism,” he said. “This situation too is a cry rising up from humanity and the earth itself, one which needs to be heard by the international community.”

The Pope concluded by promising the support of the Church and his own efforts in working for the common good.

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Full text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/full-text-pope-s-address-at-un-headquarters-in-africa

Pope to Religious: Follow Christ to the Cross, He’ll Take Care of the Resurrection

Setting Aside Prepared Text, Francis Tells Religious to Not Let Temptations Distract From Following the Lord

The Pope says that religious need to follow Christ to the Cross during their lives, but then need not fret, for He will take care of the rest.

Speaking to clergy, men and women religioius and seminarians at St. Mary’s School in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi this afternoon, the Pope set aside his prepared text and, in his native Spanish, reminded them how being faithful and serving the Gospel guarantees happiness and success in ministry and discipleship.

[A transcription and translation of the Pope’s delivered discourse will be made available soon.]

The Argentine Pontiff touched on various themes, but stressed that religious are called to follow Jesus until their final steps of this life to the Cross. He warned against ambition, riches, and trying to be an important person in the world. “There’s no room for that,” he said.

“All you have to worry about is going to the Cross,” the Pope pointed out, adding, “after, let Him worry about the Resurrection.”

 
“I now tell you this seriously because we know, in the Church, it is not a business, not an NGO. It is a mystery, a mystery of Christ’s gaze upon each one of us, who says follow me.”  Francis stressed that what precedes us is the love and tenderness of Jesus.

 
Another point the Pope stressed was the importance of prayer. Even if you find yourself dozing when you are committed to praying, the important thing is that you are praying, he said.
 
“It is clear that when Jesus calls us, He doesn’t canonize us. We are still the same sinners,” the Pope said. “I would ask if there is anyone here–any priests or religious–who doesn’t feel that he or she is a sinner: raise your hand. All of us are sinners,” he said, including himself.
 
The Pope also encouraged them to weep over the things which are perplexing in the world, such as the killing of innocent children. Francis recalled St. Peter’s tears, and noted that Christ made him the first pope.
 
You can watch the Pope’s address at the Vatican YouTube channel with simultaneous translation into English provided by Monsignor Mark Miles. It begins at about the 48:30 mark: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zF_H-TfklpQ
 

Missionary in Tunisia: This Is Not a Religious Clash; Victims Here Are All Muslims

This Is Inhumane Terrorism: ‘What Happens in Paris Happens in Tunisia, What Happens in Beirut Happens in Mali’

After Tuesday’s terrorist attack in Tunis, Tunisia, which resulted in the death of 13 people, the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of the nation emphasized that we “cannot speak of a clash among religions” as the victims are all Muslims. Rather, we are before “inhumane terrorism.”

Fr. Jawad Alamat offered this reflection to the Fides news agency, following the suicide bombing against a bus carrying officers of the presidential security.

This attack is aimed “to send a destabilizing message again,” the priest said. “After hitting tourism in Souse, inflicting a serious blow to the economy, and after attacking the Bardo Museum, which means not only hitting tourism but also an area of high political importance due to the vicinity of the Parliament, now the forces of presidential security are being attacked.”

ISIS took responsibility on social media for Tuesday’s violence.

Forty people were killed in the Sousse attacks in June and 22 were killed in March at the museum.

“We are in front of people who are willing to die in order to kill,” Fr. Alamat said. “We can not speak of a clash among religions. The victims of Tunis are all Muslims. We are having to deal with inhumane terrorism. What happens in Paris happens in Tunisia, what happens in Beirut happens in Mali.”

“I hope that after this new attack, politics will change and react,” the priest said. “Tunisians are disappointed and dismayed by what goes on among the parties, while the Country is in great difficulty. One has the feeling of wasting precious time to revive the fortunes of economy. I hope this attack pushes politicians to stop ‘playing,’ and be adults and to think about the well being of the Country, which is threatened by a determined enemy. It is a call for national unity, despite political differences, to provide security to the local population and all those living in this beloved Country.”

Tunisia was the country that set off the so-called Arab spring of 2010-2011, with the Jasmine Revolution, a campaign of civil resistance that led to the ousting of President Zine El Abiding Ben Ali. One of the catalysts was the self-immolation of Tarek el-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor mistreated by local authorities.

Last year, Tunisia held free and fair general and presidential elections, and adopted a constitution. In October, four civil society organizations of Tunisia were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

But the government is struggling to survive, corruption is widespread and many poor, disgruntled Tunisians  are thought to have joined ISIS or other militants even closer to home. (KN)

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