Pope: Religious Leaders Are Obliged to Denounce Rights Violations


On day one of his apostolic trip to Turkey today, the Pope called on religious leaders to do what’s expected of them.

Addressing religious leaders in Ankara this afternoon on this first day of his three-day visit to the primarily Muslim nation of Turkey, the Pope said, “The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences.”

Not only this, but as religious leaders, “we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights,” he said.

“Human life, a gift of God the Creator, possesses a sacred character. As such, any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace.”

More than just denounce violations, he stressed, religious leaders must work together to find adequate solutions. This, he added, requires the cooperation of all: governments, political and religious leaders, representatives of civil society, and all men and women of good will.
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Church leaders protest Sri Lankan political exploitation of Pope’s scheduled visit in January


Church officials in Sri Lanka have cautioned the government against using a January visit by Pope Francis to boost the re-election campaign of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

In October, when the government announced a surprise election to be held in January, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo questioned whether the papal visit already scheduled for that month should be postponed. Ordinarily the Vatican is careful not to schedule papal travel so that Pontiff’s visits do not occur close to national elections, in order to avoid potential political complications. But the government insisted that the visit should go ahead as planned.

Now supporters of President Rajapaksa, who is seeking an unprecedented 3rd term, have circulated campaign posters that show the president meeting with Pope Francis; the posters bear the caption: “Blessings of the Holy Father.” The organizing committee for the papal visit has protested the posters. “We earnestly request respective authorities and persons to remove those political posters and cut-outs immediately and urge all the political groups to refrain from using either the Holy Father or his visit to Sri Lanka for the political campaign of the presidential election,” the organizers wrote.

The Pope is due to visit Sri Lanka from January 12 to 15, then continue on to the Philippines before returning to Rome on January 19.

“Fanaticism and fundamentalism need to be countered with solidarity”


In his address to Turkey’s political leaders, Francis recalled the role and responsibility the country has in maintaining peace in the region and called for equal rights and duties for the country’s religious minorities. “We’re on the same page when it comes to the fight against terrorism,” Erdoğan stated

“Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers.” When the moment came to address Turkey’s political leaders in Ankara’s imposing presidential complex which cost more than 600 million dollars, Pope Francis had already paid homage to Atatürk’s Mausoleum and met the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
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Pope Makes First Stop at Mausoleum of Atatürk in Turkey


In his first stop on his Apostolic Visit to Turkey, Pope Francis visited the famed Anıtkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Upon his arrival, the Pope was welcomed by government and military authorities, as well as Archbishop Antonio Lucibello, Apostolic Nuncio. Shortly after landing, the Holy Father was whisked away to the memorial tomb of the founder of modern-day Turkey.

Atatürk served as a military officer during World War I and later on led the Turkish National Movement during the Turkish War of Independence, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. His political, economic and cultural reforms shaped Turkey after the fall of the empire.
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Istanbul bishop: Pope visiting an unseen Christian community


One unique aspect of Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey this weekend? That some in the overwhelmingly Muslim country may not even know there are Christians here for the pontiff to visit.

Illustrating that point in an interview Thursday, the bishop who leads Istanbul’s Latin Rite Roman Catholic community said a Turk stopped him a few days ago as he was heading to church to ask why the building had a bell that was ringing.

“I said it was to ask for prayer,” said Bishop Louis Pelâtre. “He said, ‘I am Muslim; we don’t do that.’ I said, ‘You are Muslim, I am Christian.”

“Not everybody can understand it,” said Pelâtre. “They think here, in Turkey, they think everybody is Muslim.”

“They know there are Christians, but they do not know they are here,” he continued. “For them it is something special, something outside the ordinary life.”
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Pope Francis Departs for Ankara, Turkey


Pope Francis departed this morning for his three day apostolic visit to Turkey at 9:00 a.m. from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport. He is expected to land at 1:00 p.m. (local time) in Esemboğa International Airport, Ankara.

As customary, Pope Francis sent telegrams to the heads of state of the countries the papal plane will pass over during the flight.

Addressing Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, Pope Francis explained that the purpose of his visit was “to promote the encounter and dialogue among diverse cultures, to strengthen the path of unity of Christians and to share moments of prayer with brothers and sisters in the faith.”

“I wish to address to you, Mr. President and the Italian nation my warm greetings, which I accompany with fervent hopes for the spiritual, civil and social progress of beloved Italy,” the Pope wrote.
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Cardinal Koch on Ecumenical Dialogue in Turkey, Russia, With Evangelicals


Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch has suggested ecumenical dialogue is reaching new heights under the pontificate of Jesuit Pope Francis.

In a wide-ranging interview at the Vatican last week, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity discusses Pope Francis’ trip to Turkey and what it means for ecumenical dialogue and how this Pope’s reaching out to Evangelicals has created a “new situation” for the Church.

Moreover, the prelate speaks on where the Church’s relationship with the Patriarchate of Moscow currently stands, the Pope’s recent reaching out to other Christians, and the increased number of Evangelicals converting to Catholicism under this pontificate.

In addition, Cardinal Koch shares about the commemoration of the 50-year anniversary of the promulgation of the decree of the Second Vatican Council for Ecumenism, “Unitatis Redintegratio.”

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If you could please speak about the situation now in Turkey, in terms of ecumenical dialogue? And how is Pope Francis’ trip there needed for this dialogue? Continue reading

The Pope’s journey to the edge of the Caliphate


Tomorrow Francis sets off for Turkey: day one of his visit he will meet political and Islamic leaders. Then, his embrace with Bartholomew, the next step on the path toward unity

Francis’ sixth international visit, this time to Ankara and Istanbul, is just hours away. This is the fourth time a Pope visits Turkey following the trips made by Paul VI (1967), John Paul II (1979) and Benedict XVI (2006). When Benedict XVI visited the country eight years ago, the controversy over Ratzinger’s Regensburg speech had not yet died down: Benedict XVI’s words communicated a deep friendship toward Islam but most significant of all for the world, was his gesture of pausing to pray with the Mufti in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. Francis’ visit to Turkey, on the other hand, takes place in the context of the emergency created by the self-proclaimed Caliphate which persecutes and kills religious minorities, especially Christians and Yazidis, but not only. A tragic conflict – which grew out of the Syrian war – in which radical and terrorist forces prevailed. Until a few months ago, these forces were financed by those who hoped to use them to topple Assad’s regime. This conflict is being played out just across the border from Turkey, where Francis will be flying to tomorrow, a country which could play a greater and more active role in finding feasible solutions.
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Patriarch Twal: Security Risks Can’t Stop Pope From His Mission


Speaking on Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey this weekend, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem says security risks cannot prevent the Jesuit Pontiff from doing his mission and reaching out to the “periphery.”

In an interview in the Vatican after the leader of the Italian bishops, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, returned from Gaza and spoke to his nation’s bishops in Assisi, His Beatitude Patriarch Fouad Twal not only spoke about the need to courageously confront situations facing Turkey and the Holy Land, but also shared how the January meeting of European bishops will not be held in Europe, but rather in Jerusalem, and why.

Speaking about the dramatic situation in the Holy Land, including Jerusalem’s recent upsurge in violence, the Jordanese-born Patriarch made an analogy to a mother and child to show what is to be understood about and done for the region.

Your Beatitude, the Pope visits Turkey this weekend, Nov 28-30. Could you speak on the importance of this visit? Continue reading

Prominent Muslims hope pope’s Turkey trip can show Islam’s peaceful side


Two prominent Muslim religious figures in Turkey welcomed the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to their country, saying they hoped it could shed light on the “peace” of Islam and help change bad images associated with that religion.

At Istanbul’s famed Sultan Ahmed Mosque — often referred to as the Blue Mosque because of the turquoise tiles that adorn the early 17th-century structure — Ishak Kizilaslan said Muslims welcomed “everyone coming to us in a good way.”

Pope Francis’ scheduled visit to the mosque is important because the pope will learn from mixing with those worshipping inside that “Islam is always peace,” Kizilaslan, the mosque’s head imam, or Muslim preacher, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview Nov. 19.

“I will tell him … that Islam is peace, the word means peace and submission,” Kizilaslan said of what he plans to relay to Pope Francis if he gets the chance during the pontiff’s Nov. 29 private stop at the mosque.

“People’s eyes all over the world are going to be here, so (Pope Francis) is an important figure to make (Islam) more understandable … to non-Muslims,” the majority of whom, Kizilaslan said, did not “understand Islam in the right way.”
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Pope’s Morning Homily: Even If Reality Is Ugly, Keep Heads Held High


Even at the worst of times, Christians cannot give into depression, but rather must live in hope.

During his daily morning Mass in Casa Santa Marta, the Holy Father said that in order to be at peace, we must allow room for God to rescue and convert us from our worldly ways, reported Vatican Radio. He said we must welcome, not “close the door,” to God.

“When we think of the end of time, with all of our sins, with our history,” he said, “let us think of the banquet which will be freely offered us and let us lift up our heads.”

“Do not give way to depression: Hope!” the 77-year-old Pontiff exclaimed.

Admitting “reality is ugly,” he noted that there are many people who are suffering, many wars, hatred, envy, spiritual worldliness and corruption.

Since “all of this will fall” he again urged faithful to ask the Lord “for the grace to be prepared for the banquet that awaits us, always with our heads held high.”
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Turkey Is Not a Welcoming Home for Christians, Neither Residents Nor Refugees


Since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, and especially since the eruption of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Turkey has become the destination—or passage way—for hundreds of thousands of refugees. Many of these are Christians from Iraq and Syria, and many are young, single people, prepared to take great risks. In early November, a boat carrying illegal migrants from Turkey to Bulgaria capsized just after coming through the Straits of the Bosporus, on their way to Bulgaria.

The bulk of refugees end up in Istanbul, the vast metropolis capable of absorbing so many peoples.

“It is difficult to know exactly how many Christians there are, since neither the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) or the Churches themselves keep any sort of head count according to religious affiliation. We welcome all those who are in need and come to us,” Bishop François Yakan, the patriarchal vicar for the Chaldeans of Turkey, told international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Most of the refugees are dreaming of a new start in Europe or the US. But that can take a very long time. Meanwhile, in Turkey refugees have no official right to work.
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Pope at Audience: What Lies Ahead Is Not ‘Annihilation,’ But Fulfillment


In the Christian perspective, the distinction is not between “those who are already dead and who are not, but between those who are in Christ and who are not.”

Pope Francis said these words during his weekly general audience this morning in a foggy St. Peter’s Square, adding, “This is the decisive factor, really decisive for our salvation and for our happiness.”

Before reflecting on fundamental questions people ask about the end of this world and the new one to come, the Argentine Pontiff observed the weather was a “bit ugly” and joked that those present were “brave” to be there.

Journey in history

“In presenting the Church to the people of our time,” he said, the Second Vatican Council had in mind a fundamental truth we must never forget.

The Church is not a “static, a still reality,” nor an “end in itself,” but rather a “continuous journey in history.”
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Ministry to Air ‘Santa’s Priority’ TV Commercial to ‘Keep Christ in Christmas’


A ministry for those fallen away from the Catholic Church has released a new “Keep Christ in Christmas”-themed TV commercial, called “Santa’s Priority,” to air nationally during Advent.

With the commercial, Catholics Come Home aims “to remind a commercial-driven, secular culture, which has waged a war on Christmas, what the holy day is all about: the birth of Jesus Christ.”

From Thanksgiving to Christmas, Catholics Come Home plans to run its “Santa’s Priority” commercial, reaching 64 million viewers nationwide, with 70 spots in prime-time, during the most popular Christmas movies on ABC Family (like The Grinch and The Santa Clause), Hallmark and Lifetime channels each night between the holidays. It will also air in prime-time on NBC in the classic movie, It’s A Wonderful Life and during the popular Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade airing on CBS.
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Pontifical Council Announces International Day of Prayer Against Trafficking Will Be Celebrated Feb. 8, Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita


The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Travelers announced today the launch of an International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, to be marked Feb. 8, 2015.

Pope Francis has strongly denounced many times the trafficking of human beings, defining it as «a crime against humanity» and calling on all to fight and looking after the victims.

Responding to the Holy Father’s plea, the Pontifical Council of Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the International Union of Superiors General (UISG and USG) will promote an “International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking”.

The First International Day will be celebrated in all dioceses and parishes in the world, in the groups and schools on 8 February 2015, the Feast Day of Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave, freed, who became a Canossian nun, and was declared a Saint in 2000.
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Cardinal urges transparency on Nicaragua Canal


Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes of Managua has called for greater transparency from the regime of Daniel Ortega about the Nicaragua Canal.

Construction on the $40-billion canal, which will connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, will begin in December.

The Fides news agency reported that the prelate asked, “How much will those who carry out the work earn? Neither they nor the government have said how much they will earn. There should be nothing to hide, but should be completely transparent.”

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Pope to Council of Europe: ‘Arms Race Is One of Greatest Curses on Human Race’


Addressing the Council of Europe, the Pope said, “The royal road to peace – and to avoiding a repetition of what occurred in the two World Wars of the last century – is to see others not as enemies to be opposed but as brothers and sisters to be embraced” and noted how the Church can contribute to rediscovering peace for Europe.

The Holy Father gave this discourse in the wake of his first address of the day to European Parliament during his short day trip to Strasbourg, France, to address the European institutions.

The Council of Europe, according to its website, is the continent’s leading human rights organization. It includes 47 member states, 28 of which are members of the European Union. It also adds that all Council of Europe member states have signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights, a treaty designed to protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

Building peace , Pope Francis explained, “entails an ongoing process which may never be considered fully completed” and understanding that peace “is a good which must continually be attained” and “calls for constant vigilance.”

“It is not enough to contain wars, to suspend conflicts,” he said quoting Pope Paul VI. “An imposed peace, a utilitarian and provisional peace, is not enough. Rather, “’Progress must be made towards a peace which is loved, free and fraternal, founded, that is, on a reconciliation of hearts; in other words, to encourage processes calmly, yet with clear convictions and tenacity.’” Continue reading

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Cardinal Sarah is new Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship


Francis has nominated the 69-year-old African cardinal as head of the Congregation that handles affairs relating to liturgical practices in the Catholic Church. He fills the position that was left vacant by Cañizares

Everyone was on tenterhooks waiting to see who would take over from Spanish cardinal Antonio Cañizares as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. The answer came at midday today: The man Francis has chosen to lead the dicastery that deals with liturgical affairs of the Church, is Cardinal Robert Sarah, currently President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, one of the Curia bodies that is eventually going to be merged as part of the Curia reform process.

Cardinal Sarah was born to Catholic family on 15 June 1945 in Ourous, Guinea. He was ordained priest on 20 July 1969 in Conakry and studied theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and a licentiate in Scripture at the “Studium Biblicum Franciscanum” in Jerusalem. In 1979, John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Conakry at the young age of 34. He was consecrated bishop by the Archbishop of Florence, Cardinal Giovanni Benelli, who was formerly Nuncio to Senegal. In 1985 he was appointed President of the Guinean Bishops’ Conference.

In October 2001 he moved to Rome after John Paul II nominated him Secretary of Propaganda Fide. Nine years later, on 7 October 2010, Benedict XVI chose him as President of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum and created him cardinal of the Deaconry of San Giovanni Bosco in Via Tuscolana (Saint John Bosco in Via Tuscolana) in the November Consistory. Sarah is Guinea-Bissau’s first cardinal.

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Pope urges a “lonely” “self-absorbed” Europe to recover its soul

Pope Francis called on a “haggard” and “lonely” Europe to recover its role as a world protagonist, its identity as a defender of the transcendent dignity of man, the poor, the migrant, the persecuted, the old and the young, to recover its soul: Christianity.

In a lengthy address– the first of two on his one day visit to the heart of Europe – he told members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg that a two-thousand-year-old history links Europe and Christianity, “not free of conflicts or errors, but driven by the desire to work for the good of all”. This “is our present and our future. It is our identity”, he said
The Pope also urged Europe’s 500 million citizens to see the Union’s problems – economic stagnation, unemployment, immigration, rising poverty levels and a growing polarization – as a “force for unity” to overcome fears and mutual mistrust.

“Dignity” he said was the pivotal concept in the process of rebuilding which followed the Second World War and led to the European project. Today it remains central to the commitment of the European Union. But Pope Francis warned, often the concept of human rights is misunderstood and misused.
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Pope’s Address to Syro-Malabar Rite Catholics from India


Here is the Vatican-provided translation of the Holy Father’s address to Syro-Malabar Rite Catholics who came to Rome for Sunday’s canonization of Saints Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Euphrasia Eluvathingal, who are both from Kerala, India.

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Dear brothers and sisters,

I am pleased to join you in giving thanks to the Lord for the canonization of two new Indian saints, both from the State of Kerala. I offer warm greetings to Cardinal George Alencherry, to the Bishops and priests, men and women religious, and to each of you, dear brothers and sisters of the Syro-Malabar Rite. You have come to Rome in great numbers on this very important occasion, and have been able to live days of faith and ecclesial communion, praying also at the tombs of the Apostles. May this time of celebration and intense spirituality help you to contemplate the marvelous works accomplished by the Lord in the lives and deeds of these new saints.
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