ZENIT – English https://zenit.org/ The World Seen From Rome Tue, 16 Apr 2024 00:11:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.5.2 https://zenit.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/8049a698-cropped-dc1b6d35-favicon_1.png ZENIT – English https://zenit.org/ 32 32 Pope’s Ghost Writer is undersecretary of Dicastery for Oriental Churches https://zenit.org/2024/04/15/popes-ghost-writer-is-undersecretary-of-dicastery-for-oriental-churches/ Mon, 15 Apr 2024 00:09:26 +0000 https://zenit.org/?p=214507 Since 2015, he has worked in the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State.

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 04.15.2024).- Pope Francis appointed Monsignor Filippo Ciampanelli as Undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Eastern Churches, who until now served as Counselor of the Nunciature in the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State.

Monsignor Ciampanelli is one of the individuals who drafted speeches for the Pope and became known worldwide during the last period of the Pope’s illness as he was one of the two persons responsible for reading the speeches on behalf of Francis.

Monsignor Ciampanelli was born on July 30, 1978, in Novara, Italy. He was ordained a priest on June 21, 2003, incardinated in the Diocese of Novara. He obtained a doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. On July 1, 2009, after attending courses at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See. He has served in the Pontifical Representations in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Belarus. Since 2015, he has worked in the Section for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State.

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Beijing issues 10-point handbook on the death and succession of the Dalai Lama https://zenit.org/2024/04/15/beijing-issues-10-point-handbook-on-the-death-and-succession-of-the-dalai-lama/ Mon, 15 Apr 2024 00:05:56 +0000 https://zenit.org/?p=214504 Pictures, images, and activities that undermine national unity or promote a "separatist ideology" are banned. The Chinese government has long sought to control the choice of Tibet’s next spiritual leader. For his part, 88-year-old Tenzin Gyatso says he is in good health and wants to “live for more than 100 years.” Meanwhile, the fate of the Panchen Lama remains an unsolved mystery.

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(ZENIT News – Asia News / Beijing, 04.15.2024).- China has released 10-point handbook in the event of the death of the Dalai Lama. The country’s communist leaders have set a list of 10 rules for the people and monks of Tibet in anticipation of the death of their foremost spiritual guide (a sworn foe of China).

The rules are in a training handbook that is starting to appear on Chinese social media, including chat platforms. The manual contains mainly “things not to do” and is aimed at nipping in the bud any dissent. In the recent past, self-immolation by Tibetan monks and ordinary Tibetans have not been uncommon, not to mention large-scale protests in favour of democracy, human rights, and religious freedom.

In the event of the Dalai Lama’s death, Buddhist monks will not be allowed to display pictures of their spiritual leader, nor perform any vaguely defined “illegal religious activities or rituals”.

To this end, Chinese authorities have distributed the handbook to monasteries in Gansu province, in the northwest of the country, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reports.

For Golok Jigme, a former political prisoner now in exile, the handbook goes beyond Tibet’s current religious leadership, aiming at disrupting the process of recognising the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation.

The Dalai Lama and China

China annexed Tibet in 1951, and has ruled the autonomous region with an iron fist. Chinese authorities claim that only the Chinese government can choose the successor and next spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, in accordance with the country’s own laws.

Conversely, Tibetans believe that it is the Dalai Lama himself who chooses the body in which to reincarnate, a process that has occurred 13 times since 1391 when the first Dalai Lama was born.

Earlier this month, the current leader, 88-year-old Tenzin Gyatso, addressed hundreds of co-religionists who offered him a prayer for a long life. In his speech, he said that he was in good health and was “determined to live for more than 100 years.”

On several occasions he stressed that his successor – whom Tibetans want to choose via reincarnation, as their faith dictates, while China wants to select – would come from a free country, without Chinese interference.

The Dalai Lama had to flee Tibet after the failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule; since then, he has lived in exile in Dharamsala, India, becoming the longest-serving spiritual leader in Tibetan history.

This month the Panchen Lama, the second-highest office holder in Tibetan Buddhism, will mark his 35th birthday. Together with his family, he was seized by Chinese authorities on 17 May 1995 when he was a child, three days after he was recognised as a Panchen Lama by the current Dalai Lama.

For Tibetan Buddhism, the Panchen Lama is important because he is tasked with recognising the Dalai Lama’s new rebirth after his death.

With the abduction, China clearly signalled its intention that it would pick the next Dalai Lama.

Responding to Beijing’s meddling, Tenzin Gyatso in the past had suggested that he could be the last Dalai Lama or that the reincarnation could be done by a sort of conclave composed of the leading Buddhist abbots in the diaspora.

Charges of separatism

Human rights groups say the handbook, distributed in the Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in the historical region of Amdo, is just Beijing’s latest effort to crack down on the religious freedom of the Tibetan people.

For Bhuchung Tsering, head of the research and monitoring unit of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet, this is part of systematic attempts to make Tibetan Buddhists more loyal to the Chinese Communist Party and its political agenda rather than to their religious doctrine.

“This goes against all tenets of universally accepted freedom of religion of the Tibetan people that China purports to uphold,” he told RFA.

China has imposed several measures on monasteries to force monks to undergo political re-education and has strictly forbidden clerics and ordinary people from having contact with the Dalai Lama or other Tibetans in exile, who are openly accused of “separatism”.

In recent years, Beijing has intensified its repression in Tibet and other parts of the country inhabited by Tibetans, repeating what it has been doing in Xinjiang, home to ethnic Uyghur Muslims.

“The latest government campaigns against the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhists’ religious practices in Gansu province represent another attempt by the Chinese government to interfere in the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation process,” said Nury Turkel, a member of the bipartisan US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Chinese repression

Specifically, the handbook warns monks to avoid any activity that could undermine national unity, damage social stability in the name of religion, or involve working with separatist groups outside the country.

No illegal organisation or institution can enter monasteries, while the monks’ educational system must avoid welcoming or promoting elements that support a “separatist ideology.”

Lastly, the rules also prohibit the dissemination of “separatist propaganda” via radio, internet, television, or any other means; any deception or fraud, open or covert, will be punished.

“While the Chinese government implements various political education and activities targeting Tibetans, the primary focus seems to be eradicating Tibetan identity through the dismantling of Tibetan religion and culture,” said Golog Jigme, a respected activist involved in raising awareness about the violation of Tibetan’s human rights and religious freedom.

Golog, who now lives in Switzerland, was jailed and tortured by Chinese authorities in 2008 for co-producing a documentary on the injustices faced by Tibetans under Chinese rule.

Within China, many ethnic Tibetans live in 10 autonomous Tibetan prefectures inside several Chinese provinces that border Tibet, most notably Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Yunnan.

In the Kanlho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Gansu), home to about 415,000 Tibetans who speak the Amdo dialect, the authorities distributed the handbook. The province has some 200 monasteries in varying sizes under its jurisdiction.

During a visit to two counties in Kanlho, last month, He Moubao, secretary of China’s State Party Committee, stressed the need for Tibetans to sinicise religion and implement party policy, warning that monks must be guided in this regard to maintain national unity and social stability.

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Sudan: signs of growth despite year of war https://zenit.org/2024/04/15/sudan-signs-of-growth-despite-year-of-war/ Mon, 15 Apr 2024 00:02:30 +0000 https://zenit.org/?p=214501 Despite more than 13,900 deaths and 8.1 million having suffered displacement since the conflict broke out a year ago on 15th April 2023, local Church sources expressed hope for the survival of a Christian presence in the country.

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John Newton y Amy Balog

(ZENIT News / Sudan, 04.15.2024).- CIVIL war has caused Sudan’s small Christian minority to decline drastically – but there are signs of new life in the Church.

Despite more than 13,900 deaths and 8.1 million having suffered displacement since the conflict broke out a year ago on 15th April 2023, local Church sources expressed hope for the survival of a Christian presence in the country.

The source said: “Although it is true that the war continues, it cannot quench life.

“Sixteen new Christians were baptised in Port Sudan during the Easter Vigil and 34 adults were confirmed at Kosti.”

Kinga Schierstaedt, head of the Sudan section at Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) said that although many people have sought refuge in churches, this option is fast disappearing, as missionaries and religious communities have been forced to leave the country.

Mrs Schierstaedt said that the Church’s future in Sudan is increasingly uncertain, with many Christians living in displacement camps where survival is a daily battle.

She added: “Coming back from South Sudan, a country neighbouring Sudan and which shares the same bishops’ conference, I was amazed to see to what extent certain priests, who are refugees themselves, are using their energy to catechise in their new parish and to support other refugees.”

She concluded: “The Church in South Sudan is getting ready for the future by helping the Sudanese Christians to prepare for tomorrow’s peace.”

ACN has supported the Church’s work in South Sudan helping Sudanese refugees.

Sudan was plunged into chaos by heavy fighting between the RSF (Rapid Support Forces) – acting under the orders of Vice-President Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, alias Hemedti – and the Sudanese army, loyal to President General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.

A source in the country told ACN: “It is one year since this senseless war started in the Sudan. It is still dragging on.

“We cannot still get out of the house due to sniper-fire and bombings. But again, God is protecting us always.

“Thanks a million for your prayers and loving concern about us here, in the Sudan. Of course, the war here has become a forgotten war for the world.

“You are all in my humble prayers and thoughts. May God bless us all. May his will and glory always prevail.”

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Witnesses of an event to remember. https://zenit.org/2024/04/12/witnesses-of-an-event-to-remember/ Fri, 12 Apr 2024 00:31:05 +0000 https://zenit.org/?p=214498 Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, April 14, 2024. Third Sunday of Lent. 

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Mons. Francesco Follo

(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 04.12.2024).- Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, April 14, 2024. Third Sunday of Lent.

In the sea of ​the same old life there is a continuous novelty.

Easter was fifteen days ago. Work and school have started again at full speed and everyday life has started to flow as usual. The routine of everyday life leads to a vague recollection of the announcement that the Lord is risen. The unheard news that the risen Christ has definitively defeated death risks being reduced to an information on an important event far back in time. This happens because we forget that it is a news that not only informs us that our life does not end here but forms us as people who already on this Earth participate in the resurrection of Christ.

How can we intensely live the memory of Christ without letting ourselves be tossed by the waves of life?

How can we be mindful of the Risen One in daily life?

Living the memory of the Lord in the work and not despite work, in the family and not despite the family, in the Church and not despite the Church that with its rites defines what is true.

It is precisely the Church with its liturgy that helps us to remember Christ. Let us consider, for example, Holy Week. During this great and holy period, the Church has awakened in us the living memory of the sufferings that the Lord has endured for us and has prepared us to celebrate with joy “the true Easter that the Blood of Christ has covered with glory, the Easter in which the Church celebrates the Feast that is the origin of all the feasts“. (Ambrosian Preface of the Easter Mass).

On Holy Thursday, the Church recalled the Last Supper where the Lord, on the eve of his passion and death, instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist in which Christ gives himself to all of us as food of salvation and as a medicine of immortality.

Good Friday is the day when the Church recalls the passion, crucifixion, and death of Jesus. On this day, the liturgy brings us together to meditate on the great mystery of evil and sin which oppress humanity and to make us retrace the sufferings of the Lord which expiate this evil.

Remembrance needs silence, so Holy Saturday is marked by a profound silence. There is a need of a day of silence to meditate on the reality of human life, on the forces of evil and on the great power of good arising from the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.

This Saturday of silence and sorrowful memory leads to the Easter Vigil, which introduces the most important Sunday in the history of the world: the Easter Sunday of Christ.

Remembering the mysteries of the dead and risen Christ means living in deep and supportive adherence to the present, convinced that what we celebrate is a living reality.

Remembering Christ does not mean simply remembering him as a person from the past who has left us a profound teaching, but it means making him present by letting us be drawn by his loving presence forever alive.

Remembering means to be in communion with Christ. The communion with Jesus is not a mystery that is celebrated simply in the liturgy with gestures and words. The commandment: “Do this in memory of me” has a double meaning: to remember the sacrament and to remember in life, to make Jesus present in the sacrament and to make him present in charity.

Remembrance and presence.

On this third Sunday of Easter, the liturgy helps us to remember by putting Christ’s presence before the eyes of the heart. It does this by proposing as a reading of the Gospel the account that St. Luke makes of the third meeting of the Risen Lord with his Apostles in the Upper Room.

On this Sunday the Church wants to make us understand how, after his resurrection, Christ is truly alive among us, in our days and in our daily life. Faith in Christ is precisely this: to believe that Christ is truly risen and lives every day with us as a faithful friend forever.

Remembering does not mean recalling the memory of a loved person but giving back to the eyes of the heart the true presence of the Beloved.

The evangelist Luke proposes almost an itinerary of the apparitions of Christ to make us better understand that the Crucified Christ is truly the Risen One.

After having on the previous Sundays presented, as evidence of the resurrection of Jesus, the empty tomb, the testimony of the angels, the apparition to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, today St. Luke tells of Jesus offering even more tangible evidence: He appears to the assembled Apostles, shows his wounds, and sits at the table with them. Jesus has a real body. The Risen One is not a ghost, but a real being who becomes a presence among his own to whom he asks to remember him and to bear witness to him.

This presence remains available to us in a sublime way in the Eucharistic bread, which is kept in every church in the world. Let us go and stand before the tabernacle to worship and visit the Risen Lord. Eucharistic adoration and the visit to the Blessed Sacrament must be done precisely because they have in themselves an orientation to Christ present under the species of bread.

In Greek “adoration” is called proskynesis. It means the gesture of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure, whose norm we accept to follow. It means that freedom does not mean enjoying life and considering oneself to be autonomous but orienting oneself according to the measure of truth and goodness to become real and good.

In Latin “adoration” is ad-oratio, that is mouth-to-mouth contact, kiss, hug and, therefore, love. Submission becomes union, because the one to whom we submit is Love. Submission acquires a meaning because it does not impose foreign things upon us but frees us in function of the innermost truth of our being, makes us permanently convert to Christ and have a relationship of friendship, sharing, love, confidence with Him and with our brothers and sisters: communion.

The union with Christ through the Eucharist eaten and adored, allows us to give, as Christians, a true testimony of a life lived with Him.

An example of how to live this remembrance and this presence of Christ comes to us from the consecrated Virgins. Their vocation is not identified in a specific task or in a particular function, but in “remembering” and in testifying that the essential in the Church is the love of Christ for each one and for all. It is a faithful and personal love that the Scripture and the word of the Church have translated with the image of the “Bridegroom”.

It is also useful to remember that “the eucharistic mystery also has an intrinsic relationship to consecrated virginity, inasmuch as the latter is an expression of the Church’s exclusive devotion to Christ, whom she accepts as her Bridegroom with a radical and fruitful fidelity. In the Eucharist, consecrated virginity finds inspiration and nourishment for its complete dedication to Christ.”(Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis, n. 81). “In the Eucharist, Christ always implements the gift of himself that he made on the Cross. His whole life is an act of total sharing of self for love”(Pope Francis).

The consecrated virgin is passionate in her love for the Eucharist, receiving Christ as her inspiration and her food. She is a woman always ready to receive the intimate love of the Lord and to repay him with prayer and service. Strengthened by this food, she dares to present herself publicly as a virgin amid a hostile society, humbly recognizing that she is not only a consecrated woman but a consecrated virgin.

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Easter massacre: extremists kill 10 people, including a pregnant woman and her baby in the womb https://zenit.org/2024/04/11/easter-massacre-extremists-kill-10-people-including-a-pregnant-woman-and-her-baby-in-the-womb/ Thu, 11 Apr 2024 23:32:10 +0000 https://zenit.org/?p=214486 Ten people were killed and a pregnant woman had her stomach slit open. The baby was not spared.

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(ZENIT News / Pankshin, Nigeria, 04.11.2024).- Suspected Fulani militants in Nigeria’s Middle Belt struck on Easter Monday (1st April), massacring 10 Christians including a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.

The attack took place across three communities in St Thomas the Apostle Parish in Bokkos, Plateau State.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the Catholic charity for persecuted Christians, Father Andrew Dewan, director of communications in Pankshin Diocese where the violence took place, gave details of the atrocity.

He said: “Last week there were violent attacks in [three communities in the parish]. Ten people were killed and a pregnant woman had her stomach slit open. The baby was not spared.

“There is a pattern to these attacks, and they’re an ongoing feature of living in the region. They might be linked to the attacks over Christmas.”

In a four-day killing spree beginning on 23rd December, suspected Fulani militants attacked 26 villages in Bokkos claiming the lives of more than 300 Christians.

Citing an eyewitness, Father Dewan stated that the Easter Monday killings may have been revenge attacks: “In [one community], two Fulani youths were killed, and it was suspected the killers were from Tangur. One of the youths had his head removed.

“So they went hunting for the killers, and they killed 10 people in return.

“It’s a cycle of violence. Locals are looking for ways to defend themselves against the barrage of violence.

“The security response of the Government is inadequate. In times of crisis, communities don’t have confidence in governments to protect them. They take shelter in churches, which aren’t used to dealing with such a deluge of IDPs.”

Following the Christmas massacre, 16 camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) were set up in Bokkos, mostly by the Church, to provide shelter for those affected by the attacks.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates there to be 3.1 million IDPs across  Nigeria, fuelled by insurgency in the North-East and extremist Fulani herdsmen in the Middle Belt.

Father Andrew explained the pastoral response of his parish in the face of the IDP crisis: “It’s for us to sustain our preaching on the Gospel values, and exhort the government to safeguard the lives of the people.

“The primary function of government is the protection of life and property, so our government needs to play their part in that.

“Faith plays an important part, if not for the faith that has sustained the IDPs so far we would witness large scale conversion to other religions. In the face of these challenges, the IDPs have remained strong.”

He went on to stress the importance of the Church and aid agencies in addressing the needs of the IDPs and victims of extremist attacks:

The priest said: “Imagine cooking for thousands of people per month. We haven’t planned or stocked up for these emergencies, so we’re often caught unprepared.

“We often need to make appeals to organisations to help the diocese at the receiving end of these brutal attacks.

“It’s tough and challenging, so our response to these humanitarian emergencies has reinforced our faith in the Gospel. We see a church which is responsive, and which doesn’t forget their people or people of other faiths.

“The Church is there through thick and thin. [The IDPs’] faith in Christ and the Christian religion has sustained them up to this point.”

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Pope Francis Makes a Surprise Visit to a Roman Parish, to Impart a Catechesis to the Children https://zenit.org/2024/04/11/pope-francis-makes-a-surprise-visit-to-a-roman-parish-to-impart-a-catechesis-to-the-children/ Thu, 11 Apr 2024 11:28:11 +0000 https://zenit.org/?p=214495 Responding to their questions, he gave a brief catechesis on thanksgiving prayer, stressing that it is one of the most important in Christian life.

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 11.04.2024).- On Thursday afternoon, April 11, 2024, Pope Francis met with some 200 children of the Saint John Mary Vianney parish on the outskirts of Rome. It was the first appointment of the “School of Prayer” desired by the Holy Father, on the occasion of the Year of Prayer. The meeting was held following the experience of the “Fridays of Mercy,” in which the Pontiff met with specific categories of people without prior notice.

The children, who were part of the group of catechesis preparing for their First Communion, welcomed the Pope joyfully, who came by surprise to the community. The children were astonished when they saw the Pope come into the parish hall, together with the catechists who taught them every week.

The Holy Father catechized the children for about an hour. Responding to their questions, he gave a brief catechesis on thanksgiving prayer, stressing that it is one of the most important in Christian life. “It’s important to give thanks for everything. For instance, if you enter a person’s home and don’t say thank you, you don’t greet him, is that good? The first word is ‘thank you’; instead, the second is ‘permission,’” he said to the children of the Borghesiana suburb, in the diocese’s eastern sector.

“The third word is ‘sorry,’ continued the Holy Father. Is a person good who never says I’m sorry? It’s difficult to apologize. Sometimes shame and pride arise. But it’s important when one slips to say sorry. Three words: thanks, permission, sorry.”

Then the Pope asked the children: But, do you pray? How do you pray? What can you say to the Lord?” One of the children mentioned that his family prays before eating. “He said something important,” said the Pope, “but do you know that many children have no food? Do I thank God for giving me food? Do I thank Him for giving me a family?”

The last question touched upon the subject of faith. “But, are you Christians? Do you have faith? Let’s say it together,” said the Pope: “Thank you, Lord, for giving me faith.”

One of the most emotive questions in the conversation was that of Alice, 10 years old. “How can I thank the Lord in sickness?” The Pope answered: “Even in dark moments we must thank the Lord, because He gives us the patience to endure the difficulties. Let’s say together: ‘Thank you, Lord, for giving us the strength to endure pain.’” Other little ones asked why there is death and loneliness.

Sophia, instead, who will receive her First Communion in a few days, is very shocked by the news of the wars, and she asked the Pope how one can say “thank you” in such a tragic time. ”We must always give thanks at all times. I’ll give you some advice,” said the Pontiff by way of conclusion: “Before going to bed, think: what can I thank the Lord for today? Give thanks.”

At the end of the meeting, the children recited a “Payer of Thanksgiving” with the Pope, composed for the occasion, which will remain as a memory of an extraordinary moment in their lives.

Before leaving, the Holy Father greeted and joked with the children and gave each of them a chocolate egg. He gave the priests and some twenty catechists the first six small volumes, published in the series “Notes on Prayer,” which are aids conceived by the First Section of the Dicastery for Evangelization, to support communities’ pastoral life, in the journey of rediscovery of  the centrality of prayer, in preparation for  the 2025 Jubilee.

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5 ideas of the Pope on people with disabilities: building a culture of full inclusion https://zenit.org/2024/04/11/5-ideas-of-the-pope-on-people-with-disabilities-building-a-culture-of-full-inclusion/ Thu, 11 Apr 2024 00:07:13 +0000 https://zenit.org/?p=214492 Address to the members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on the occasion of their Plenary Assembly

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 04.11.2024).- On the morning of Thursday, April 11, Pope Francis received in a private audience, at the Apostolic Palace, the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. The assembly focused on the theme “Disability and the Human Condition: Changing the Social Determinants of Disability and Building a New Culture of Inclusion.” Below is the translation into English of the Pope’s speech:

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I am pleased to welcome you, the members of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which was founded thirty years ago. Our thoughts go to the President, who has gone home because her mother is dying; let us say a prayer for her and for her mother. I greet the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor and their staff, and I thank them for their work.

I appreciate the fact that you have chosen as the theme of this Plenary Assembly the human experience of disability, the social factors that determine it, and the need to foster a culture of care and inclusion. The Academy of Social Sciences is called to face, in accordance with a transdisciplinary model, some of the most urgent challenges of the present time. I am thinking, for example, of technology and its implications for research and for fields such as medicine and ecological transition. I also have in mind communications and the development of artificial intelligence (a great challenge indeed!), as well as the need to devise new economic models.

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In recent years, the international community has made significant progress in acknowledging the rights of persons with disabilities. Many countries are moving forward in this direction. Yet in others, this acknowledgment is still partial and uncertain. Nonetheless, where progress has been made, we have seen, between lights and shadows, how individuals can flourish and the seeds can be sown for a more just and solidary society.

By listening to the voices of men and women with disabilities, we have come to realize better how their life is conditioned not only by functional limitations but also by cultural, legal, financial and social factors that stand in the way of their activities and their participation in the life of society.

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Naturally, the basis for any discussion of this issue must be the recognition of the dignity of persons with disabilities, with its varied anthropological, philosophical and theological implications. Without this solid foundation, it can happen that, even as we uphold the principle of human dignity, we act concretely in ways contrary to it. The Church’s social teaching is very clear in this regard: “Persons with disabilities are fully human subjects, with rights and duties” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 148). Every human being has the right to live with dignity and to develop integrally: “Even if they are unproductive, or were born with or develop limitations, this does not detract from their great dignity as human persons, a dignity based not on circumstances but on the intrinsic worth of their being.  Unless this basic principle is upheld, there will be no future either for fraternity or for the survival of humanity” (Fratelli Tutti, 107).

Vulnerability and frailty are part of the human condition, and not something proper only to persons with disabilities. Some of them reminded us of this in the context of the recent Synod: “Our presence may help to transform the actual situations in which we live, making them more human and more welcoming. Without vulnerability, without limits, without obstacles to overcome, there would be no true humanity” (The Church is Our Home, 2).

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The Church’s care and concern for those with one or more disabilities concretely reflects the many encounters of Jesus with such persons, as described in the Gospels. In these accounts, we can find a number of timely points for our reflection.

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First, Jesus enters into direct contact with those with disabilities, since, like every form of infirmity, disabilities must not be ignored or denied. Yet Jesus not only relates to disabled persons; he also changes the meaning of their experience. In fact, he showed a new approach to the condition of persons with disabilities, both in society and before God.  In Jesus’ eyes, every human condition, including those marked by grave limitations, is an invitation to a unique relationship with God that enables people to flourish. We can think, for example, of the Gospel account of the blind Bartimaeus (cf. Mk 10:46-52).

Sadly, in various parts of the world, many persons and families continue to be isolated and forced to the margins of social life because of disabilities. And this not only in poorer countries, where the majority of disabled persons live and where their condition often condemns them to extreme poverty, but also in situations of greater prosperity, where, at times, handicaps are considered a “personal tragedy” and the disabled “hidden exiles”, treated as foreign bodies in society (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 98).

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The throwaway culture, in effect, has no borders. There are those who presume to be able to establish, on the basis of utilitarian and functional criteria, when a life has value and is worth being lived. Such a mentality can lead to grave violations of the rights of the most vulnerable, to serious injustices and situations of inequality, resulting for the most part from the mindset of profit, efficiency and success.

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Yet there is also present, in today’s throwaway culture, a less visible but extremely insidious factor that erodes the value of the disabled in the eyes of society and in their own eyes. It is the tendency to make individuals view their life as a burden both for themselves and for their loved ones.

The spread of this mentality turns the throwaway culture into a culture of death. In the end, “persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when they are poor and disabled, ‘not yet useful’ – like the unborn, or ‘no longer needed’ – like the elderly” (ibid., 18).

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This is so important: the two extremes of life: the unborn with disabilities are aborted, and the elderly close to the end are administered an “easy death”, euthanasia, a euthanasia in disguise, but euthanasia all the same.

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Combating the throwaway culture calls for promoting the culture of inclusion – the two things go together – by forging and consolidating the bonds of belonging within society. The primary agents of such solidarity are those who, out of a sense of responsibility for the good of each individual, work for greater social justice and for the removal of the barriers that prevent many people from exercising their basic rights and freedoms. The fruits of these activities are mostly visible in economically more developed countries, where persons with disabilities generally enjoy the right to health care and social assistance, and, even if difficulties are not lacking, are included in many spheres of social life, such as education, culture, the workplace and sports. In poorer countries, this remains, for the most part, a goal to be achieved.

Governments that are committed in this regard must thus be encouraged and supported by the international community. It is likewise necessary to support the organizations of civil society, since, without their networks of solidarity, in many places people would be left to themselves.

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What is needed, then, is the development of a culture of integral inclusion. The bonds of belonging become even stronger when persons with disabilities are not simply passive receivers, but take an active part in the life of society as agents of change. Subsidiarity and participation are the two pillars of effective inclusion. In this regard, we can appreciate the importance of associations and movements of disabled persons that work to promote their participation in society.

Dear friends, “recognizing that all people are our brothers and sisters, and seeking forms of social friendship that include everyone, is not merely utopian. It demands a decisive commitment to devising effective means to this end. Any effort along these lines becomes a noble exercise of charity. For whereas individuals can help others in need, when they join together in initiating social processes of fraternity and justice for all, they enter the field of charity at its most vast, namely political charity” (ibid., 180).

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Brothers and sisters, I thank you because part of this commitment is your own work of research and discussion within the scientific community, as well as your efforts to raise consciousness in different social and ecclesial circles. In a special way, I am grateful for your concrete concern for our sisters and brothers with disabilities. I cordially bless you and your work, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.

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Pope Francis on pain, illness and true healing https://zenit.org/2024/04/11/pope-francis-on-pain-illness-and-true-healing/ Thu, 11 Apr 2024 00:03:09 +0000 https://zenit.org/?p=214489 Address to the members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the occasion of their Plenary Assembly

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 04.11.2024).- At the conclusion of the Annual Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, Pope Francis received the participants at the Vatican. The Pontifical Biblical Commission is an entity of the Holy See that deals with three things: 1) effectively promoting among Catholics the study of the Bible; 2) countering erroneous opinions on matters relating to Sacred Scripture through scientific means; and 3) studying and shedding light on the debated issues and problems arising in the biblical field. Below is the translation into English of the Pope’s speech.

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I am pleased to welcome you at the end of your annual Plenary Assembly, in which you proposed to explore an existential, strongly existential theme: sickness and suffering in the Bible. It is a pursuit that concerns every human being, inasmuch as they are subject to infirmity, fragility, and death. Our wounded nature, in fact, also carries inscribed within itself the realities of limitation and finitude, and suffers the contradictions of evil and pain.

The theme is very close to my heart: suffering and sickness are adversaries to be confronted, but it is important to do so in a way worthy of mankind, in a human way, so to speak: to remove them, to reduce them to taboos of which it is best not to speak, perhaps because they damage that image of efficiency at all costs, useful to sell and to earn, is certainly not the solution. We all falter under the weight of these experiences, and we must help ourselves to go through them by living them in relations, without turning in on ourselves and without legitimate rebellion turning into isolation, abandonment or despair.

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We know, also from the testimony of so many of our brothers and sisters, that pain and infirmity, in the light of faith, can become decisive factors in a process of maturation: the crucible of suffering allows us to discern what is essential and what is not. But it is above all the example of Jesus that shows us the way. He urges us to take care of those who live in situations of infirmity, with the determination to defeat the illness; at the same time, He delicately invites us to join our sufferings to His offer of salvation, as a seed that bears fruit. In a practical sense, our vision of has faith prompted me to propose some food for thought around two decisive words: compassion and inclusion.

Compassion

The first, compassion, indicates the recurrent and characteristic attitude of the Lord with regard to the frail and needy people He encounters. When He sees the faces of so many people, sheep without a shepherd struggling to find their way in life (cf. Mk 6:34), Jesus is moved. He has compassion towards the hungry and exhausted crowd (cf. Mk 8:2) and tirelessly welcomes the sick (cf. Mk 1:32), whose requests He hears; think of the blind people who plead with Him and the many such who ask for healing (cf. Lk 17:11-19); He is moved with “compassion” – the Gospel says – for the widow who accompanies her only son to the tomb (cf. Lk 7:13). Great compassion. This compassion manifests itself as closeness and leads Jesus to identify with the suffering: “I was sick and you visited me” (Mt 25:36). Compassion that leads to closeness.

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All this reveals an important aspect: Jesus does not explain suffering, but He leans to those who suffer. He does not approach pain with generic encouragement and sterile consolation, but welcomes their plight, letting himself be touched by it. Sacred Scripture is enlightening in this sense: it does not leave us a handbook of good words or a recipe book of sentiments, but shows us faces, encounters, and concrete stories.

Think of Job, with the temptation of his friends to articulate religious theories linking suffering with divine punishment, but they collide with the reality of pain, witnessed by Job’s own life. Thus, Jesus’ response is vital, it is one of compassion that assumes and, by assuming, saves man and transfigures his pain. Yes, Christ transformed our pain by making it his own to the core: by inhabiting it, suffering it and offering it as a gift of love. He did not give easy answers to our “why”, but on the cross he made our great “why” his own (cf. Mk 15:34). Thus, those who assimilate Sacred Scripture purify their religious imagery of mistaken attitudes, learning to follow the path indicated by Jesus: to touch human suffering with one’s own hand, with humility, meekness and, seriousness, in order to bring, in the name of the incarnate God, the proximity of a saving and concrete support. To touch, not theoretically, but with the hand.

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Inclusion

And this leads us to the second word: inclusion. Even if it is not a biblical word, it expresses well a salient feature of Jesus’ style: His going in search of the sinner, the lost, the marginalized, the stigmatized, so that they may be welcomed in the house of the Father (cf. Lk 15). Think of the lepers: for Jesus, no-one must be excluded from God’s salvation (cf. Mk 1:40-42). But inclusion also embraces another aspect: the Lord wants the full person to be healed, in spirit, soul and body (cf. Thess 5:23). For a physical healing from evil would be of little use without a healing of the heart from sin (cf. Mk 2:17; Mt 10:28-29). There is a total healing: body, soul and spirit.

This perspective of inclusion leads us to attitudes of sharing: Christ, who went among the people doing good and healing the sick, commanded His disciples to care for the sick and bless them in His name (cf. Mt 10:8; Lk 10:9), sharing with them His mission of consolation (cf. Lk 4:18-19). Therefore, through the experience of suffering and illness, we, as the Church, are called to walk together with all, in Christian and human solidarity, opening up opportunities for dialogue and hope in the name of our common frailty. The parable of the Good Samaritan “shows us how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbours, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good” (Encyclical Letter Fratelli tutti, 67).

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Dear brothers and sisters – the sermon is ending, eh! – in leaving you these insights, I thank you for your service and I encourage you to explore in depth, with critical rigor and fraternal spirit, the themes you are studying, in order to shine the light of Scripture on sensitive issues that concern everyone. The Word of God is a powerful antidote to any narrowness, abstraction and ideologization of the faith: read in the Spirit in which it was written, it increases passion for God and man, fosters charity and revives apostolic zeal. Hence, the Church has a constant need to drink from the wellspring of the Word. I bless you and your mission to quench the thirst of the holy People of God with the fresh waters of the Spirit. And I ask you, please, to pray for me. For me, not against! Thank you.

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The cardinal virtue of fortitude explained by Pope Francis https://zenit.org/2024/04/10/the-cardinal-virtue-of-fortitude-explained-by-pope-francis/ Wed, 10 Apr 2024 23:54:43 +0000 https://zenit.org/?p=214479 Pope's General Audience, April 10, 2024 on the fortress

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(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 04.10.2024).- On the morning of Wednesday, April 10, the Pope held the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, where he delivered the thirteenth catechesis on vices and virtues, this time dedicated to the cardinal virtue of fortitude. Below is the translation into English of the Pope’s catechesis.

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Today’s catechesis is dedicated to the third of the cardinal virtues, namely fortitude. Let us begin with the description given in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Fortitude is the moral virtue that ensures firmness in difficulties and constancy in the pursuit of the good. It strengthens the resolve to resist temptations and to overcome obstacles in the moral life. The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions” (1808). This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about the virtue of fortitude.

Here, then, is the most “combative” of the virtues. If the first of the moral virtues, that is, prudence, was primarily associated with man’s reason; and while justice found its abode in the will, this third virtue, fortitude, is often linked by scholastic authors to what the ancients called the “irascible appetite”.

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Ancient thought did not imagine a man without passions: he would be a stone. And the passions are not necessarily the residue of a sin; but they must be educated, they must be channelled, they must be purified with the water of Baptism, or better with the fire of the Holy Spirit. A Christian without courage, who does not turn his own strength to good, who does not bother anyone, is a useless Christian. Let us think about this! Jesus is not a diaphanous, ascetic God, who does not know human emotions. Quite the contrary. Faced with the death of His friend Lazarus, He breaks down in tears, and His impassioned spirit is apparent in some of His expressions, such as when He says: “I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12:49); and confronted with the trade in the temple, He reacted with force (cf. Mt. 21: 12-13). Jesus had passion.

But let us now look for an existential description of this important virtue that helps us be fruitful in life. The ancients – both the Greek philosophers and Christian theologians – recognized a twofold development in the virtue of fortitude: one passive, the other active.

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The first is directed within ourselves. There are internal enemies we must defeat, which go by the name of anxiety, anguish, fear, guilt: all forces that stir in our innermost selves and in some situations paralyse us. How many fighters succumb before they even begin the challenge! Because they are not aware of these internal enemies. Fortitude is first and foremost a victory against ourselves. Most of the fears that arise within us are unrealistic, and do not come true at all. It is better, then, to invoke the Holy Spirit and face everything with patient fortitude: one problem at a time, as we are able, but not alone! The Lord is with us, if we trust in Him and sincerely seek the good. Then in every situation we can count on God’s providence to shield and armour us.

And then there is the second movement of the virtue of fortitude, this time of a more active nature. As well as internal trials, there are external enemies, which are the trials of life, persecutions, difficulties that we did not expect and that surprise us. Indeed, we can try to predict what will happen to us, but to a large extent reality is made up of imponderable events, and in this sea sometimes our boat is tossed about by the waves. Fortitude then makes us resilient sailors, who are not frightened or discouraged.

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Fortitude is a fundamental virtue because it takes the challenge of evil in the world seriously. Some pretend it does not exist, that everything is going fine, that human will is not sometimes blind, that dark forces that bring death do not lurk in history. But it suffices to leaf through a history book, or unfortunately even the newspapers, to discover the nefarious deeds of which we are partly victims and partly perpetrators: wars, violence, slavery, oppression of the poor, wounds that have never healed and continue to bleed. The virtue of fortitude makes us react and cry out “no”, an emphatic “no” to all of this. In our comfortable Western world, which has watered everything down somewhat, which has transformed the pursuit of perfection into a simple organic development, which has no need for struggle because everything looks the same, we sometimes feel a healthy nostalgia for prophets. But disruptive, visionary people are very rare. There is a need for someone who can rouse us from the soft place in which we have lain down and make us resolutely repeat our “no” to evil and to everything that leads to indifference. “No” to evil and “no” to indifference; “yes” to progress, to the path that moves us forward, and for this we must fight.

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Let us therefore rediscover in the Gospel the fortitude of Jesus, and learn it from the witness of the saints. Thank you.

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Following Research, British Government Makes Known Frightening Results of “Gender Change” in Minors https://zenit.org/2024/04/10/following-research-british-government-makes-known-frightening-results-of-gender-change-in-minors/ Wed, 10 Apr 2024 23:54:42 +0000 https://zenit.org/?p=214483 : The conclusion of an expert is “failure.” Clinics and experts were mistaken in their approach because ‘There are no scientific reasons to proceed to sex change when we are talking about a youth younger than 25 years.’ The conclusions of the 388-page study also point out that: “Medicine concerned with sex change is built on an insecure foundation.”

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(ZENIT News – SIR / Rome, 10.04.2024).- The news was on the front pages of British newspapers, from the progressive “The Guardian” to the conservative “The Telegraph,” and online sites, from the BBC to the “Daily Mail” tabloid. After four years, the renowned paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass, former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, concluded her research on how the United Kingdom’s Health Service  and, in particular, London’s Tavistock Clinic, treated children with doubts about their sexual identity, often allowing them to change their sex too easily.

The expert’s conclusion is “failure.” The clinics and experts were mistaken in their approach because: ‘There are no scientific reasons to proceed to sex change when we are talking about a youth younger than 25 years.’ The conclusions of the 388-page study also point out that: “Medicine concerned with sex change is built on an insecure foundation.”

The Report on sex change, signed by paediatrician Dr Hilary Cass, has 32 recommendations, the most important of which are addressed to doctors and specialists who are urged to proceed with “extreme caution” to a request for sex change, as the brain as well as sexual identity continue developing up to 25 years of age.

“It used to be thought that brain maturation finished in adolescence, but it is now understood that this remodelling continues into the mid-20s as different parts become more interconnected and specialised,” the Report notes.

The research included interviews with hundreds of young people, both those that completed the process of gender reassignment (through hormonal therapies , aesthetic surgery, psychological support) as well as those that, once the process of gender affirmation was initiated or completed, decided to interrupt or reverse it to return to their original gender. Among the former, many regretted their choice when it was already too late.

According to Dr Cass, thousands of children didn’t have access to proper advice and changed their gender without due awareness. In her Report she urges, in the first place to “go more slowly and with caution” and asks that hormones not be given to children younger than 18 because there is no evidence that the drugs “buy time to think” or “reduce suicide risks.” In short, although drugs can suppress puberty, the research carried out found that the drugs have no effect on the person’s body satisfaction or their experience of gender dysphoria.

Dr Cass also advised parents and teachers to exercise great caution with primary school children that express a sexual identity different from that which corresponds to them. Moreover, she points out that, often, parents feel pressured and, hence, let their children change their identity for fear of being labelled transphobic.

The Report was welcomed by, among others, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who highlighted the impacting data it contained, beginning by the number of those that have decided to change their sex, which has gone from 250 ten years ago (almost all men) to 5,000 at present, more than double than in 2022 (the majority women). “We don’t know the long-term impact  of the medical treatment that leads to sex reassignment and, for this reason, we must act with great caution,” said Prime Minister Sunak.

The response of the British National Health System (NHS) to the “Cass Report” was immediate. A letter, addressed to the renowned paediatrician and signed by John Stewart, one of the NHS Directors, includes the commitment to opt for a new focus, based on the conclusions of the research, and to suspend for the time being, all appointments to children under 18, which British clinics offer in which sex reassignment can be obtained. In addition, the text continues, the distribution of hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, will be reconsidered, as already happened with hormonal blockers some weeks ago.

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