General audience: the Holy Door is the door of God’s mercy

As we approach the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis dedicated the catechesis of today’s Wednesday general audience to the meaning of the “Holy Door”, which he will open on 8 December in St. Peter’s Basilica. This great door is that of God’s mercy, which welcomes our repentance and offers us the grace of forgiveness; a door which is opened generously but whose threshold must be crossed with courage.

Francis referred to the recent Synod of Bishops, “which gave all families and all the Church as strong impetus to meet at the threshold of this open door. The Church was encouraged to open her doors, to go forth with the Lord towards His sons and daughters who walk together, at times uncertain, at times lost, in these difficult times. Christian families, in particular, have been encouraged to open the door to the Lord Who waits to enter, bringing His blessing. But the Lord never forces the door; He asks permission to enter through ours, although His doors are always open”.

“There are still places in the world where doors are not locked, but there are also many where reinforced doors have become normal. We must not accept the idea of having to apply this system to our whole life, to life within the family, in the city, in society, and far less so in the life of the Church. … An inhospitable Church, like a family closed in on itself, mortifies the Gospel and makes the world arid. No more reinforced doors in the Church!” he exclaimed.
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Lebanon: Archbishop calls for united action against Daesh/IS

A Lebanese Archbishop has called on Europe to rethink the conflict in Syria following the attacks in Paris. Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need, Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop Issam John Darwish of Zahle and Furzol in Lebanon said he believes the attacks in France were inevitable: “We have always known that ISIS is a danger to the whole world. But Europe hasn’t taken it seriously.”

Archbishop Darwish called for greater action, adding: “It’s time to fight Daesh (ISIS) together with the Syrian government. Only then will we be able to see how to move on in Syria.”

The day before the attacks in Paris where 130 people died, more than 40 people were killed and hundreds injured in the Lebanese capital of Beirut by Daesh militants. The Archbishop said: “We here in Lebanon feel the pain of the French people. But the French and the world must also feel our pain.”
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Tagle: Jubilee is the most powerful response to violence

The Archbishop of Manila, who today began preaching the spiritual exercises for Rome’s priests, told Vatican Radio: “Every act of violence shows a lack of mercy”

“Every act of violence shows a lack of mercy. This is the mystery that makes us all silent in the face of violence,” said Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in an interview with Vatican Radio about the attacks of recent weeks. From today until Friday, Tagle will be preaching the spiritual exercises for Rome’s priests, on the theme “God of Mercy”.

“I personally cannot comprehend how a man, a human being, could do something of the kind to other innocent people. I do not wish to condemn anyone but, for me, to imagine – just imagine – a heart that is capable of doing such things… what thoughts, what spirits have influenced this heart? One word comes to mind: mercy. Is there mercy in these hearts? This Jubilee is a response, a clear response to merciless violence, everywhere.”
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Francis in Uganda, a messenger of unity

Among religious communities, among the northern communities scarred by war, in the family: Being able to live alongside one another in peace is the main concern faced by the second country the Pope is due to visit on his African tour

“There will be religious, lay, young and elderly people coming to Kampala from all over Uganda; there is excitement and joy in the air and people are preparing both spiritually and materially for the Holy Father’s visit: all Ugandans are getting ready for his arrival.” This is how Mgr. Matthew Odong, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Gulu in Northern Uganda, sums up the atmosphere in the country just days before Pope Francis is due to embark on his visit on 27 November. The country in the Great Lake region will be the second stop along the Pope’s apostolic itinerary. He will be coming from neighbouring Kenya but the situation he will come across in Uganda is very different in many ways.

Just like Kenya, Uganda is now a peaceful nation too but this was achieved at a high cost. Since the early 80s there had been a never-ending series of clashed and civil conflicts : first, the one that brought Yoweri Museveni to power in 1986. He is still head of State today. Then the one which lasted until 2008 and saw the government fighting the northern rebels, especially the Lord’s Resistance Army led by fanatic warlord Joseph Kony. “We suffered a great deal, in many different ways,” Mgr. Odong recalled. His diocese was hit hard by rebel attacks and the reaction of the army. “This is why I’m expecting the Pope to put the emphasis on unity, on working together as children of God”. In this sense, the monsignor said, the Pope’s visit is a sort of ideal follow-on of the last papa visit to the country: “Uganda,” he said, “is expecting a message of reconciliation, after John Paul II’s message of hope in 1993. He came here as the Good Shepherd, to remind everyone that despite all the suffering, God has not forgotten us and is still with us.”
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Francis: Catholics can make Jesus present with tenderness, comprehension, mercy

Pope Francis said on Sunday that Jesus proposed a different logic than the world, based on humility and peace. The pontiff called on Catholics to make present the kingdom with gestures of tenderness and mercy

Pope Francis on Sunday called on Catholics to make present the reign of God on an Earth that he said has suffered “too many wounds” by making daily gestures of “tenderness, comprehension, and mercy.”

In his weekly Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square, the pontiff said Jesus proposed a different kind of logic than that of the world and that his reign is based on humility, peace, and justice.

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel story, which sees Jesus interrogated by Pontius Pilate before the crucifixion, Francis repeated Jesus’ words: “My kingdom does not belong to this world.”

“This does not mean that Christ is king of another world but that he is king in another way,” said the pope.
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Pope’s Africa Schedule

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

07:45 Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino airport for Nairobi, Kenya   

17:00 Arrival at “Jomo Kenyatta” International Airport of Nairobi   

  Welcoming ceremony at the State House  

18:00 Courtesy visit to the President of the Republic at the State House in Nairobi  

18:30 Meeting with the Public Authorities of Kenya and the Diplomatic Corps   

Thursday, 26 November 2015
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Christ the King

Reading I: Daniel 7:13-14
Responsorial Psalm 93:1, 1-2, 5
Reading II: Revelation 1:5-8
Gospel: John 18:33b-37

Jesus answered, “You say I am a king.
For this I was born and for this I came into the world,
to testify to the truth.” (Gospel)

Happiness and Meaning

“Are you happy?” How would you honestly answer that? My suspicion is that, for most of us, this would be a painful question which, given our fantasy of what happiness should be, we would tend to answer in the negative: “No, I don’t think I’m happy. I would like to be, but there are too many limitations and frustrations in my life which block happiness.”

“Are you happy?” To stare that question square in the face can make you more unhappy. A torturous self-scrutiny can result from it. What this suggests is that perhaps it is not a good question to ask in the first place. To ask myself: “Am I happy?” is to confuse things and to begin to demand things from life and from God that are not realistic.
For a Christian, there is a better question. The essential question should not be, “Am I happy”? but rather, “Is my life meaningful?” That is a different question, one which can help purify our perspective on things.

What God has promised us in Christ is not, as is unfortunately so often preached and believed, a life free from pain, sickness, loneliness, oppression, and death. The preacher who tells you that you will have less pain in life if you take Jesus seriously is not in touch with the gospel. What the incarnation promises is not that Christ will do away with our pain, but that God will be with us in that pain. That is something quite different. In fact, one can go further and say the opposite: If you take the gospel seriously, you will probably have more pain in your life because you will be a more sensitive person.
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Benedict XVI and those forgotten words from his first encyclical

Ten years ago (it bears the date 25 December 2005 although it was published a month later) Ratzinger issued the “Deus caritas est”, a document that is a long way away from the clichés used by some to create contrasts between the German Pope and his successor.

“Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, “Deus caritas est” was dated 25 December 2005, although it was published a month later, at the end of January 2006: this is partly why reflections and conferences have already begun for the ten-year anniversary celebrations. Benedict XVI had humbly decided to rework an old plan for an encyclical on charity put together by his predecessor and then shut away in a drawer, introducing a more theological text on love. Going over Ratzinger’s text, one notes the inconsistency of many calls and appeals which many so-called “Ratzingerians” have drawn attention to. Those, for example, who are irritated by Francis’ evangelical appeals in favour of the poor and mercy.
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Mother Teresa could be canonised in September 2016

According to news agency AGI, she may be canonised next year, the most likely date being 4 September. But the miracle attributed to her – confirmed by doctors from the medical council of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints – still needs to be approved by the dicastery’s cardinals and bishops

Mother Teresa will be proclaimed a saint next September: this is according to Italian news agency AGI, which also mentioned 5 September – the feast day of the Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta – as a possible date for the celebration. The date, which will fall on a Monday, marks the 106th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa, born Anjëzë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu. The nun was born in Skopje, Albania and became a symbol of love for the poor, living among them in the streets of Calcutta. It is far more likely, however, that the canonisation will take place a day earlier, on Sunday 4 December that is.
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Francis cries out for welcoming Church: ‘House of God refuge, not prison’

In his weekly Audience in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday, Francis focused on the upcoming opening of the Jubilee year of mercy to give an impassioned reflection on the need for the Church to be open to all and to not try and become master even over Jesus himself

Pope Francis has again forcefully repeated his call that the Catholic Church globally should open its doors to everyone, without exception, saying the Church sometimes even keeps Jesus “prisoner” in its own institutions and does not let him out into the world.

The pontiff has also said the Church must not give into a growing trend in society where “bulletproof doors have become normal” but must instead keep in mind the Holy Family, which “knows well what an open or closed door means … for whoever does not have refuge, for whoever must escape danger.”

In his weekly Audience in St. Peter’s Square Wednesday, Francis focused on the upcoming opening of the Jubilee year of mercy to give an impassioned, mostly off-the-cuff reflection on the need for the Church to be open to all and to not try and become master even over Jesus himself.
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The Holy See, a bulwark against the clash of civilisations

The magisterium of the last three pontificates, which grew out of the Second Vatican Council, staved off fundamentalist currents and those who wanted to put new walls up

In the last quarter century, since the fall of the Berlin Wall redrew the map of the world, the Holy See was the only global institution that firmly and clearly opposed the so-called clash of civilisations. Many in the West and the Middle East sought this clash of civilisations due to economic, territorial and political interests. The magisterium of three Popes – John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis – tried to halt the spread of conflict and above all the spread of mistrust, hatred, division between people and religions, identity and cultural clashes. This is why in recent decades the Roman Catholic Church and St. Peter’s Square itself have become the symbol of reason, champions of dialogue even when everything seemed lost, a reference point for believers and non-believers alike, who refused to succumb to violence.
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By vassallomalta Posted in Analysis

South Sudan Religious Leaders Cry Out for Help: ‘People Are Dying as We Speak’

Religious leaders of South Sudan have made an urgent appeal for help from the international community. The fledgling nation’s Catholic, Protestant and Muslim leaders spoke out on behalf of their people in Mundri region, who, fleeing heavy fighting, are now forced to live in devastating conditions. Thousands of human lives are at risk, the leaders said in a letter sent to international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“As we speak people are already dying, and in particular children and elderly people. During the past two months more than 80,000 people have been forced to live in the bush and the jungle. Children and women are those most affected. They will be exposed to a variety of epidemics and to starvation if they don’t get help soon,” said the leaders, who called for an immediate cessation of all military operations in the Mundri region so that humanitarian supplies can be brought in.

Local missionary Father David Kulandai Samy, MMI, reported: “Our people who have moved into bushes are facing untold misery; particularly children suffer without food, water and medical assistance. Community people’s standing crops have been destroyed and their assets were looted, including cattle,” said the priest, who himself only just managed to avoid getting shot. “With the grace of God we had a narrow escape from gunfire and we thank God for having survived,” he said.
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

Pope: Religious justification for Paris attacks ‘blasphemy,’ love of neighbor needed

Pope Francis on Sunday expressed closeness to the victims in Paris and said using the name of God to justify violence is “blasphemy.” The pontiff said the only “victorious power” in the world is love of neighbor

Pope Francis on Sunday again strongly condemned the recent horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, saying he wanted to express closeness to the families of the victims and calling any religious justification for such attacks “blasphemy.”

“I wish to express my pain for the terrorist attacks that on late Friday evening stained France with blood, causing numerous victims,” said the pontiff, speaking slowly at the end of his weekly Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square.

“To the president of the French Republic and to all its citizens, I extend an expression of my fraternal condolences,” said the pope. “I am close in particular to the families of all those that have lost their lives, and the wounded.”
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By vassallomalta Posted in Angelus

Children’s most touching letters to Francis to be published in a book

An anthology containing some of the most beautiful letters the Pope has received from children is on its way. The book is edited by Alessandra Buzzetti. “Remember, you and Totti are my heroes!” Raffaele writes. “I’m really sorry about the Christian couple who were burned alive… please forgive me and Pakistan,” writes Aziz, a little Muslim boy

“Dear Pope Francis, sometimes my mum doesn’t eat at night because she says she’s on a diet, but it’s not true, she eats our leftovers,” Matteo says. Another little boy, Raffaele, ends his letter by telling Francis: “Remember, you and Totti are my heroes”. “I’m really sorry about the Christian couple who were burned alive… please forgive me and Pakistan,” writes Aziz. These are just some of the thousands of letters written by children that reach the Vatican from all around the world every week. All addressed to Francis. An anthology titled “Letterine a Papa Francesco” (“Little letters to Pope Francis”) (published by Carlo Gallucci editore, pp. 156, €12,50/$13,88 approx.), edited by Italian Vatican correspondent Alessandra Buzzetti, will soon be available in bookstores. All copyright proceeds will go to the Santa Marta Dispensary, which provides medical assistance and other forms of help to children and families in need and is located right next to Francis’ residence in the Vatican.
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Reading I: Daniel 12:1-3
Responsorial Psalm 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11
Reading II: Hebrews 10:11-14, 18
Gospel: Mark 13:24-32

In those days after that tribulation
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light. (Gospel)

God’s Risk … Our Freedom

Why doesn’t God make things easier?

Perhaps the most vexing faith-question of all-time is the problem of God’s silence and his seeming indifference: Why does God allow evil? Why do bad things happen to good people? If there is an all-powerful and all-loving God, how do you explain that millions of innocent people can suffer and die under Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, in massacres in Rwanda, Algeria, and the recent terrorist killings in the USA? Where is God in all of this?

And the presence of evil in the world poses a deeper question: Why is God (seemingly) hidden? If God is so massively real, why do so many people not recognize, acknowledge, or care about his existence? Why do believers have to live, almost always it seems, on the edges of doubt? Why doesn’t God make his (her) existence clear, a fact beyond doubt? Why doesn’t God silence his critics?

There’s no satisfying answer to that question, not theoretically, and there never will be. No definitive faith textbook can ever be written that will soothe every doubt and answer every critical objection. Why not? Because making peace with this mystery, the mystery of God’s hiddenness, is a question of a relationship in love and trust and not simply a question of right theory. Faith, like love, matures through relationship not just theory. Understanding God’s hiddenness, God’s way, is like a child coming to understand his or her parents. You have to relate long enough, live in patience long enough, and develop enough maturity so that, at a point, understanding arises out of a certain co-empathy. Love is the eye, Hugo of St. Victor used to say. When we are loving enough we begin to understand.

However, theory is still important. An old philosophical axiom suggests that the heart follows the head, that love itself must be guided by intellectual vision. Thus some theological theory on the question of evil and God’s hiddenness can be helpful. What has classical, Christian theology taught on this?
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Francis on Paris attacks: “This is not human, there is no justification for it”

In a telephone conversation with Italian Catholic broadcasting network TV2000, the Pope said: “I am pained, saddened, I do not comprehend and I pray”. The attack is a “piece” of the third world war fought piecemeal

There is no justification, religious or human, for the Paris attacks, Francis said in an interview with TV 2000, the Italy-based broadcasting network of the Italian Episcopal Conference that carries Roman Catholic-themed programming. During the interview, Francis said he felt “pained and saddened” by what happened and stressed that the attacks in the French capital are “a piece” of the third world war fought piecemeal, which he has spoken about on a number of occasions.
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

Francis: Lay people not ‘second class’ members of Catholic church

The Pope has written a letter to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko on the role of lay people, ahead of a study day the Pontifical Council for the Laity is holding to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 council document Apostolicam actuositatem. Reflecting on the conciliar constitutions Lumen gentium and Gaudium et spes, Francis says these documents state that lay people “participate, in their own way, in the priestly, prophetic, and royal function of Christ himself”

Pope Francis has strikingly called for continued development of the role of lay people in the Catholic church, saying they cannot be considered “‘second class’ members” after priests and religious but instead participate in Christ’s priestly role through their own work in the world.

In a new letter to the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the pontiff states that the Second Vatican Council “brought, among its many fruits, a new way of looking at the vocation and the mission of lay people in the church and in the world.”
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

Statement by the Bishops of Malta on the Valletta Summit

On the occasion of the Valletta Summit, which is bringing together leaders of the European Union and countries from the African continent, we, the Bishops, would like to express our gratitude for the goodwill and commitment being shown with the hope of finding concrete solutions to address the situation concerning migration.

In these hours, our country is living up to its noble mission of being a bridge between the two continents, where we can put aside our differences and our exclusive national interests, and be strengthened by the spirit of hospitality and responsibility to work towards guaranteeing respect for everyone’s fundamental rights, especially the weakest and victims of violence, injustice and poverty.
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

Nativity story portrayed in this year’s UK Christmas stamps

The UK’s Christmas Special Stamps this year depict a series of scenes from the Biblical story of the Nativity from the Annunciation and the journey of the Magi to the birth of Christ. Illustrated by London-born artist, David Holmes, they show:

– A portrayal of the moment the Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary, telling her she would have a son, Jesus, who would be the Son of God.

– Mary and her husband, Joseph, travelling to the city of Bethlehem to register for a census ordered by the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus.

– Three wise men, or Magi, saw a star in the sky that signalled the birth of a new king. They followed the star to Bethlehem, to worship Jesus, carrying with them gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
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By vassallomalta Posted in News

Smartphones and television during dinner kill family time, says Francis

At today’s General Audience, Francis said this leads to selfishness; in the midst of so many walls and too much inwardness, conviviality and the Eucharist are crucial

“A family that hardly ever sits down to eat together or in which once at table no one speaks because the television’s on or some are engrossed in their smartphones, is not much of a family.” At today’s General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis, who dedicated his catechesis to the subject of “conviviality”, underlining that “in a time marked by so much inwardness and too many walls, conviviality, which begins in the family and is developed in the Eucharist, is crucial.”

“Today,” Francis said, “we will reflect on a quality that is typical to family life and is learnt right from the early stages of one’s life; conviviality, in other words the attitude of sharing what we have in life and being happy to do so. Sharing, knowing how to share, is a precious virtue! Its symbol, its icon, is the family table. The act of sharing a meal – and therefore not just food, but emotions, stories and news – is a crucial experience. When there is a celebration, a birthday, an anniversary, the family gathers around the table. In some cultures it is customary to do this during mourning, to be close to someone who has lost a loved one. Conviviality is an accurate thermometer for measuring the health of relationships: if there is a problem, a hidden wound, you can tell straight away during a family meal. A family that hardly ever sits down to eat together or in which once at table no one speaks because the television’s on or some are engrossed in their smartphones, is not much of a family. When children are glued to the computer or their smartphone at table and don’t listen to one another, that is not family, it’s a pensioner!”
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