"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
|"Today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God and saying: 'Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace on those on whom His favor rests.' " (Lk 2:11-14)|
(Editor's note: While World Youth Day will be in July, 2016 in Krakow, Poland, we are printing this at the start of the extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. This should be helpful in preparing for World Youth Day.)
The Pope's message for The Day, dated August 15, 2015, follows:
"... We have come to the last stretch of our pilgrimage to Krakow, the place where we will celebrate the 31st World Youth Day next year in the month of July. We are being guided on this long and challenging path by Jesus' words taken from the Sermon on the Mount. We began this journey in 2014 by meditating together on the first Beatitude: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven' (Mt 5:3). The theme for 2015 was: 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God' (Mt 5:8). During the year ahead, let us allow ourselves to be inspired by the words: 'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy' (Mt 5:7).
"With this theme, the Krakow 2016 WYD forms part of the Holy Year of Mercy and so becomes a Youth Jubilee at world level. It is not the first time that an international youth gathering has coincided with a Jubilee Year. Indeed, it was during the Holy Year of the Redemption (1983/1984) that Saint John Paul II first called on young people from around the world to come together on Palm Sunday. Then, during the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, over two million young people from around 165 countries gathered in Rome for the 15th World Youth Day. I am sure that the Youth Jubilee in Krakow will be, as on those two previous occasions, one of the high points of this Holy Year!
"Perhaps some of you are asking: what is this Jubilee Year that is celebrated in the Church? The scriptural text of Leviticus 5 can help us to understand the meaning of a 'jubilee' for the people of Israel. Every fifty years they heard the sounding of a trumpet (jobel) calling them (jobil) to celebrate a holy year as a time of reconciliation (jobal) for everyone. During that time they had to renew their good relations with God, with their neighbors and with creation, all in a spirit of gratuitousness. This fostered, among other things, debt forgiveness, special help for those who had fallen into poverty, an improvement in interpersonal relations, and the freeing of slaves.
"Jesus Christ came to proclaim and bring about the Lord's everlasting time of grace. He brought good news to the poor, freedom to prisoners, sight to the blind, and freedom to the oppressed (cf. Lk 4:18-19). In Jesus, and particularly in His Paschal Mystery, the deeper meaning of the jubilee is fully realized. When the Church proclaims a jubilee in the name of Christ, we are all invited to experience a wonderful time of grace. The Church must offer abundant signs of God's presence and closeness, and reawaken in people's hearts the ability to look to the essentials. In particular, this Holy Year of Mercy is 'a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father's mercy' (Homily at First Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday, April 11, 2015).
"The motto for this Extraordinary Jubilee is 'Merciful like the Father' (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 13). This fits in with the theme of the next WYD, so let us try to better understand the meaning of divine mercy.
"The Old Testament uses various terms when it speaks about mercy. The most meaningful of these are hesed and rahamim. The first, when applied to God, expresses God's unfailing fidelity to the Covenant with His people whom He loves and forgives for ever. The second, rahamim, which literally means 'entrails,' can be translated as 'heartfelt mercy.' This particularly brings to mind the maternal womb and helps us understand that God's love for His people is like that of a mother for her child. That is how it is presented by the prophet Isaiah: 'Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you' (Is 49:15). Love of this kind involves making space for others within ourselves and being able to sympathize, suffer, and rejoice with our neighbors.
"The biblical concept of mercy also includes the tangible presence of love that is faithful, freely given and able to forgive. In the following passage from Hosea, we have a beautiful example of God's love, which the prophet compares to that of a father for his child: 'When Israel was a child I loved him; out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me... Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks... I stooped to feed my child' (Hos 11:1-4). Despite the child's wrong attitude that deserves punishment, a father's love is faithful. He always forgives his repentant children. We see here how forgiveness is always included in mercy. It is 'not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality with which he reveals his love as of that of a father or a mother, moved to the very depths out of love for their child... It gushes forth from the depths naturally, full of tenderness and compassion, indulgence and mercy' (Misericordiae Vultus, 6).
"The New Testament speaks to us of divine mercy (eleos) as a synthesis of the work that Jesus came to accomplish in the world in the name of the Father (cf. Mt 9:13). Our Lord's mercy can be seen especially when He bends down to human misery and shows His compassion for those in need of understanding, healing, and forgiveness. Everything in Jesus speaks of mercy. Indeed, He Himself is mercy.
"In Chapter 15 of Luke's Gospel we find the three parables of mercy: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the parable of the prodigal son. In these three parables we are struck by God's joy, the joy that God feels when He finds and forgives a sinner. Yes, it is God's joy to forgive! This sums up the whole of the Gospel. 'Each of us, each one of us, is that little lost lamb, the coin that was mislaid; each one of us is that son who has squandered his freedom on false idols, illusions of happiness, and has lost everything. But God does not forget us; the Father never abandons us. He is a patient Father, always waiting for us! He respects our freedom, but He remains faithful forever. And when we come back to Him, He welcomes us like children into His house, for He never ceases, not for one instant, to wait for us with love. And His heart rejoices over every child who returns. He is celebrating because He is joy. God has this joy, when one of us sinners goes to Him and asks His forgiveness' (Angelus, September 15, 2013).
"God's mercy is very real and we are all called to experience it firsthand. When I was seventeen years old, it happened one day that, as I was about to go out with friends, I decided to stop into a church first. I met a priest there who inspired great confidence, and I felt the desire to open my heart in Confession. That meeting changed my life! I discovered that when we open our hearts with humility and transparency, we can contemplate God's mercy in a very concrete way. I felt certain that, in the person of that priest, God was already waiting for me even before I took the step of entering that church. We keep looking for God, but God is there before us, always looking for us, and He finds us first. Maybe one of you feels something weighing on your heart. You are thinking: I did this, I did that.... Do not be afraid! God is waiting for you! God is a Father and He is always waiting for us! It is so wonderful to feel the merciful embrace of the Father in the sacrament of Reconciliation, to discover that the confessional is a place of mercy, and to allow ourselves to be touched by the merciful love of the Lord who always forgives us!
"You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope? Do you realize how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love? Saint Paul tells us that 'God proves His love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us' (Rom 5:8). Do we really understand the power of these words?
"I know how much the WYD cross means to all of you. It was a gift from Saint John Paul II and has been with you at all your World Meetings since 1984. So many changes and real conversions have taken place in the lives of young people who have encountered this simple bare cross! Perhaps you have asked yourselves the question: what is the origin of the extraordinary power of the cross? Here is the answer: the cross is the most eloquent sign of God's mercy! It tells us that the measure of God's love for humanity is to love without measure! Through the cross we can touch God's mercy and be touched by that mercy! Here I would recall the episode of the two thieves crucified beside Jesus. One of them is arrogant and does not admit that he is a sinner. He mocks the Lord. The other acknowledges that he has done wrong; he turns to the Lord saying: 'Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.' Jesus looks at him with infinite mercy and replies: 'Today you will be with me in Paradise' (cf. Lk 23:32, 39-43). With which of the two do we identify? Is it with the arrogant one who does not acknowledge his own mistakes? Or is it with the other, who accepts that he is in need of divine mercy and begs for it with all his heart? It is in the Lord, who gave His life for us on the cross, that we will always find that unconditional love which sees our lives as something good and always gives us the chance to start again.
O Come Let Us Adore Him!
"When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us; not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the baptism of new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit He lavished on us through Jesus Christ our Savior, that we might be justified by His grace and become heirs, in hope, of eternal life. You can depend on this to be true." (Titus 3:4-8)
"The Word of God teaches us that 'it is more blessed to give than to receive' (Acts 20:35). That is why the fifth Beatitude declares that the merciful are blessed. We know that the Lord loved us first. But we will be truly blessed and happy only when we enter into the divine 'logic" of gift and gracious love, when we discover that God has loved us infinitely in order to make us capable of loving like Him, without measure. Saint John says: 'Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love... In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another' (1 Jn 4:7-11).
"After this very brief summary of how the Lord bestows His mercy upon us, I would like to give you some suggestions on how we can be instruments of this mercy for others.
"I think of the example of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. He said, 'Jesus pays me a visit every morning in Holy Communion, and I return the visit in the meagre way I know how, visiting the poor.' Pier Giorgio was a young man who understood what it means to have a merciful heart that responds to those most in need. He gave them far more than material goods. He gave himself by giving his time, his words, and his capacity to listen. He served the poor very quietly and unassumingly. He truly did what the Gospel tells us: 'When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret' (Mt 6:3-4). Imagine that, on the day before his death when he was gravely ill, he was giving directions on how his friends in need should be helped. At his funeral, his family and friends were stunned by the presence of so many poor people unknown to them. They had been befriended and helped by the young Pier Giorgio.
"I always like to link the Gospel Beatitudes with Matthew 25, where Jesus presents us with the works of mercy and tells us that we will be judged on them. I ask you, then, to rediscover the corporal works of mercy: to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, assist the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. Nor should we overlook the spiritual works of mercy: to counsel the doubtful, teach the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the sorrowful, forgive offenses, patiently bear with troublesome people, and pray to God for the living and the dead. As you can see, mercy does not just imply being a 'good person' nor is it mere sentimentality. It is the measure of our authenticity as disciples of Jesus, and of our credibility as Christians in today's world.
"If you want me to be very specific, I would suggest that for the first seven months of 2016 you choose a corporal and a spiritual work of mercy to practice each month. Find inspiration in the prayer of Saint Faustina, a humble apostle of Divine Mercy in our times:
'Help me, O Lord,
... that my eyes may be merciful, so that I will never be suspicious or judge by appearances, but always look for what is beautiful in my neighbors' souls and be of help to them;
... that my ears may be merciful, so that I will be attentive to my neighbors' needs, and not indifferent to their pains and complaints;
... that my tongue may be merciful, so that I will never speak badly of others, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all;
... that my hands may be merciful and full of good deeds;
... that my feet may be merciful, so that I will hasten to help my neighbor, despite my own fatigue and weariness;
... that my heart may be merciful, so that I myself will share in all the sufferings of my neighbor' (Diary, 163).
The Divine Mercy message is a very specific life plan because it involves action. One of the most obvious works of mercy, and perhaps the most difficult to put into practice, is to forgive those who have offended us, who have done us wrong, or whom we consider to be enemies. 'At times how hard it seems to forgive! And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence, and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully' (Misericordiae Vultus, 9).
"I meet so many young people who say that they are tired of this world being so divided, with clashes between supporters of different factions and so many wars, in some of which religion is being used as justification for violence. We must ask the Lord to give us the grace to be merciful to those who do us wrong. Jesus on the cross prayed for those who had crucified Him: 'Father, forgive them, they know not what they do' (Lk 23:34). Mercy is the only way to overcome evil. Justice is necessary, very much so, but by itself it is not enough. Justice and mercy must go together. How I wish that we could join together in a chorus of prayer, from the depths of our hearts, to implore the Lord to have mercy on us and on the whole world!
"Only a few months are left before we meet in Poland. Krakow, the city of Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina Kowalska, is waiting for us with open arms and hearts. I believe that Divine Providence led us to the decision to celebrate the Youth Jubilee in that city which was home to those two great apostles of mercy in our times. John Paul II realized that this is the time of mercy. At the start of his pontificate, he wrote the encyclical Dives in Misericordia. In the Holy Year 2000 he canonized Sister Faustina and instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy, which now takes place on the Second Sunday of Easter. In 2002 he personally inaugurated the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow and entrusted the world to Divine Mercy, in the desire that this message would reach all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope: 'This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and mankind will find happiness!' (Homily at the Dedication of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow, August 17, 2002).
"... At the Shrine in Krakow dedicated to the merciful Jesus, where He is depicted in the image venerated by the people of God, Jesus is waiting for you. He has confidence in you and is counting on you! He has so many things to say to each of you... Do not be afraid to look into His eyes, full of infinite love for you. Open yourselves to His merciful gaze, so ready to forgive all your sins. A look from Him can change your lives and heal the wounds of your souls. His eyes can quench the thirst that dwells deep in your young hearts, a thirst for love, for peace, for joy, and for true happiness. Come to Him and do not be afraid! Come to him and say from the depths of your hearts: 'Jesus, I trust in You!' Let yourselves be touched by His boundless mercy, so that in turn you may become apostles of mercy by your actions, words, and prayers in our world, wounded by selfishness, hatred, and so much despair.
"Carry with you the flame of Christ's merciful love - as Saint John Paul II said - in every sphere of your daily life and to the very ends of the earth. In this mission, I am with you with my encouragement and prayers. I entrust all of you to Mary, Mother of Mercy, for this last stretch of the journey of spiritual preparation for the next WYD in Krakow. I bless all of you from my heart."
(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)
Vatican City (VIS) - The right to rest, a retirement pension, and maternity leave, among other workers' rights, "based on the very nature of the person and his or her transcendent dignity," were the key themes of Pope Francis' address in St. Peter's Square November 9 to 23,000 member of the Italian National Social Security Institute (INPS).
The Pope emphasized the meaning of safeguarding the right to rest. "I do not refer only to that rest that is supported by an legitimized by social policy (such as the weekly day of rest and annual leave, to which every worker is entitled), but also and above all to a dimension of the human being that does not lack spiritual roots."
God, Who instructs man to rest, also chose to rest on the seventh day. "Rest, in the language of faith, is therefore a human and divine dimension at the same time," commented Francis. "With a single prerogative, though: that of not being a simple abstention from ordinary labor and effort, but rather an opportunity to fully live one's condition as creatures elevated to filial dignity by God Himself. The need to 'sanctify' rest is therefore linked to that - offered each week on Sunday - of a time that enabled family, cultural, social, and religious life to be taken care of, making a space and time for God and for many in all these aspects."
The Pope then referred to the complex situations in the world of work nowadays, from unemployment to precarious guarantees for employees. "If you live like this, how can you ever rest? Rest is a right we all have when we work, but if the situation of unemployment, social injustice, illegal work, and precariousness is so serious, how can I rest? What can we say? We can say - it is shameful - 'But do you want to work?' 'Yes!' 'Very well, let's make a deal. You can start work in September, but until July, and then July, August, and part of September you will neither eat nor rest..." This happens these days! And it happens all over the world; it happens here in Rome, too! Rest, when there is work; otherwise there is no rest."
The Holy Father went on to note that until just a short while ago it was normal to associate retirement and pensions with reaching old age in which it was possible to enjoy a well-earned rest and offer wisdom and advice to the new generations. However, "the contemporary age has significantly altered these rhythms. On the one hand, the possibility of rest has been brought forward, at times diluted, and at times renegotiated to aberrant extremes, to the point of distorting the very idea of ceasing to work. On the other hand, existential needs have not diminished for those who have lost or never had a job, or for those who are obliged to stop working for the most varied reasons. If you stop working, you can find yourself without healthcare."
In this regard, the task of institutions such as INPS is to contribute to ensuring that the funds are not lacking for the subsistence of unemployed workers and their families. "Special attention for female work should not be missing from your priorities; nor should maternity assistance, which should always allow for the protection of a new life and those who serve this on a daily basis. There should be no lack of insurance for old age, sickness, and work-related accidents. The right to a pension must not be neglected, and I underline, the right, as this is what it is."
"In the final analysis, working means prolonging God's work in history, contributing in a personal, useful, and creative way. Supporting employment, you support this work too. Furthermore, by guaranteeing dignified income to those who have to leave work, you affirm the most profound reality: work must not be another cog in the perverse mechanisms that grinds resources to obtain ever greater profits; it cannot therefore be prolonged or reduced in relation to the earnings of the few or of forms of production that sacrifice values, relationships, and principles. This applies to the economy in general ... and also to all the social institution whose subject and aim is and must be the human person."
"Do not forget the person: this is imperative," he concluded. "Love and serve the person with awareness, responsibility, and willingness. Work for those who work, and not least for those would like to but cannot. Do this not as a work of solidarity but as a duty of justice and subsidiarity. Support the weakest, so that no-one lacks the dignity and freedom to live an authentically human life."
I attended a Bible study a few months ago and thought I would share with you some of the highlights of discussion concerning gifts that help people.
Preaching: 1 Corinthians 14:3
"But the one who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and constructive spiritual progress and encouragement and consolation."
The ability to publicly communicate God's word in an inspired way that convinces the unbeliever and challenges and comforts the believer.
"Now about this time, when the number of the disciples was greatly increasing, complaint was made by the Hellenists against the Hebrews because their widows were being overlooked and neglected in the daily ministration. So the Twelve convened the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not seemly or desirable or right that we should have to give up or neglect the Word of God in order to attend to serving at tables and superintending the distribution of food. Therefore, select out from among yourselves, brethren, seven men of good and attested character and repute, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may assign to look after this business and duty. But we will continue to devote ourselves steadfast to prayer and the ministry of the Word. And the suggestion pleased the whole assembly and they selected Stephen, a man full of faith and full of and controlled by the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte (convert) from Antioch. These they presented to the apostles, who after prayer laid their hands on them. And the message of God kept on spreading and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem and a large number of the priests were obedient to the faith."
The ability to recognize unmet needs in the church family and assist them without the need for recognition.
Jesus taking him up replied a certain man was going from Jerusalem down to Jericho and he fell among robbers who stripped him of his clothes and belongings and beat him and went their way, as it happened. Now, by coincidence, a certain priest was going down along that road and when he saw him he passed on the other side. A Levite likewise came down to the place and saw him and passed by on the other side of the road. But a certain Samaritan as he traveled along came down to where he was and when he saw him he was moved with pity and sympathy and went to him and dressed his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii (two day's wages) and gave to the innkeeper saying, "take care of him and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I return." Which of these three do you think proved himself a neighbor to him who fell among robbers? He answered the one who showed pity and mercy to him and Jesus said to him go and do likewise.
The ability to detect hurt and empathize with those who are suffering, providing compassion and comfort to those going through pain.
Practice hospitality to one another. And do it ungrudgingly and graciously without complaining but as representing Him. As each of you has received a gift (a particular spiritual talent, a gracious endowment) employ it for one another as good trustees of God's many-sided grace.
The ability to make others feel warm and welcomed, accepted and comfortable.
Tend the flock of God that is your responsibility not by coercion or constraint but willingly not dishonorably motivated by the advantages and profits but eagerly and cheerfully. Not domineering over those in your charge but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed you will win the conqueror's crown of glory.
The ability to nurture a small group in spiritual growth and care for their welfare.
giving: 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
We want to tell you further, brethren, about the grace of God which has been evident in the churches of Macedonia. For in the midst of an ordeal of severe tribulation, their abundance of joy and their depth of poverty have overflowed in wealth of lavish generosity on their part. For, as I can bear witness according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability and voluntarily. Begging us most insistently for the favor and the fellowship of contributing in this ministration for the saints. Nor that we expected, but first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. So much so that we have urged Titus that as he began it he should also complete this beneficent and gracious contribution among you. Now as you abound and excel and are at the front in everything - in faith, in expressing yourselves, in knowledge, in all zeal, and in your love for us - abound and excel in this gracious work also.
The ability to generously give resources/money beyond the 10% so that the church may grow and strengthen.
He who exhorts (encourages) to his exhortation; he who contributes let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.
The ability to set goals in line with God's purpose for the future and communicate these goals to others so the church functions in healthy unity.
In closing, I would like to quote Joyce Meyer's "putting the word to work" on page 1833 of "The Everyday Life Bible." She asks if you could imagine a church where everyone did the same thing and had the same gifts? It would not be very exciting or effective. The Word of God teaches us that there are different gifts and functions within the church and that we should graciously use the gifts we have been given. Ask God to reveal your gifts to you and teach you how you can make your unique contribution as a member of the body of Christ.
(Editor's note: Mr. Nyberg writes from NV. We welcome contributions from prisoners. We would like to hear from a variety of prisoners.)
While meditating on Psalm 56:8 the Woodsman of Anglia was moved to search for The Bottle of Tears. He reasoned that since God collects all of our tears, our tears are precious to God, that God would keep the bottle near Him. So the Woodsman set out searching around the throne for the bottle. Please allow me to paraphrase what the Woodsman wrote.
I came upon a large group of people, men and women and children of every nation I could name, we stood before a great pool and cried. The tears of all people of all time gathered there and fell drop by drop into the pool. In time we became greatly thirsty but the water of the pool was bitter and salty. The tears continued to flow, flow from us and those around us.
When I thought I could cry no more I suddenly found myself upon my knees on that hill before the cross. There in death hung the body of my Savior. Through my tears I watched as the centurion drove a spear into the side of His body. A torrent of water mingled with His blood, flowed upon Golgotha. Touching my lips I tasted the water and it was good, sweet.
Then I was before the throne of the Father-of-Lights. I sat under the wing of a Cherubim dazed in awe for the beauty I saw. There, at the foot of the throne, began a great river (Revelation 22:1). The waters of the river were smooth and clear like crystal, providing water for the greatest orchard I had ever seen (Revelation 22:2). My eyes looked upon the waters where the Cherubim pointed. I saw a drop of that water leap in joy and I knew that it was a tear I cried (Psalm 126:6). The tears having been drawn through the body of Christ now watered the Tree of Life.
Our tears are precious to God. Through Christ our tears become living waters.
(Editor's note: This report was provided by Vatican Information Service.)
O Jesus, come back into our society, our family life, our souls, and reign there as our peaceful Sovereign. Enlighten with the splendor of faith and the charity of Your tender heart the souls of those who work for the good of the people, for Your poor. Impart to them Your own spirit, a spirit of discipline, order, and gentleness, preserving the flame of enthusiasm ever alight in their hearts ... May that day come very soon, when we shall see You restored to the center of civic life, borne on the shoulders of Your joyful people. ~ Saint John XXIII
Vatican City (VIS) - On October 26 Pope Francis received in audience the members of the Synod of the Chaldean Church, led by His Beatitude Patriarch Raphael I Louis Sako, to whom he expressed his solidarity with all the inhabitants of Iraq and Syria, asking that God's mercy heal the wounds of a war that has afflicted the hearts of communities, so that "no one may feel discouragement in this time when the outcry of violence seems to drown out our heartfelt prayers for peace."
The bishop of Rome remarked that the current situation in their lands of origin "is gravely compromised by the fanatical hatred sown by terrorism, which continues to cause a great haemorrhage of faithful who leave the lands of their fathers, where they grew up firmly rooted in the furrow of tradition. This state of affairs clearly undermines the vital Christian presence in that land which witnessed the beginning of the journey of the Patriarch Abraham, heard the voice of the Prophets who called Israel to hope during the Exile, and saw the foundation of the first Churches upon the blood of many martyrs. There too Christians bore witness to the fullness of the Gospel, made their specific contribution to the growth of society over centuries of peaceful coexistence with our Islamic brothers and sisters. Sadly, these are times which are instead marked by countless examples of persecution, and even martyrdom."
"The Chaldean Church, which suffers from the war, is also conscious of the needs of the faithful in the diaspora, who are desirous to maintaining their solid roots while becoming part of new situations. So I confirm, today more than ever, the complete support and solidarity of the Apostolic See in favor of the common good of the entire Chaldean Church. I pray that Christians will not be forced to abandon Iraq and the Middle East - I think especially of the sons and daughters of your Church, and their rich traditions. I urge you to work tirelessly as builders of unity in all the provinces of Iraq, fostering dialogue and cooperation among all those engaged in public life, and contributing to healing existing divisions while preventing new ones from arising."
The visit of the Synod of the Chaldean Church offers the opportunity, said the Pope "to renew my heartfelt appeal to the international community to adopt every useful strategy aimed at bringing peace to countries terribly devastated by hatred, so that the life-giving breeze of love will once more be felt in places which have always been a crossroads for peoples, cultures, and nations. May the peace for which we all hope arise on the horizon of history, so that the grievous tragedies caused by violence may yield to a climate of mutual coexistence."
"The Synod which you are celebrating these days in Urbe, is a 'journeying together,' a favorable moment of exchange amid the diversities which enrich your fraternal communion under the gaze of Christ, the Good Shepherd ... who is concerned for the salvation of his sheep, and is especially concerned for those who have strayed. May you imitate him: zealous in seeking the salus animarum of priests as well as laity, realizing full well that the exercise of communion sometimes demands a genuine kenosis, a self-basement, and self-spoliation."
"In doing so", he concluded, "you will bridge distances and discern the response to be given to the pressing needs of the Chaldean Church today, in your native lands and in the diaspora. In this way the reflections which emerge from your discussions will be able to provide fruitful solutions to your current needs and points of convergence for resolving liturgical and more general issues."
(A Christian Perspective on World News)
Vatican City (VIS) - A message was published November 5 from the Holy Father to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, and all the participants in the meeting of the Global Christian Forum which took place in Tirana, Albania from November 2 to 4 on the theme "Discrimination, persecution, martyrdom: following Christ together."
The Pope extends special greeting to brothers and sisters of different Christian traditions who represent communities suffering for their profession of faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. "I think with great sadness of the escalating discrimination and persecution against Christians in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and elsewhere throughout the world. Your gathering shows that, as Christians, we are not indifferent to our suffering brothers and sisters."
"In various parts of the world, the witness to Christ, even to the shedding of blood, has become a shared experience of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Protestants, Evangelicals, and Pentecostals, which is deeper and stronger than the differences which still separate our Churches and Ecclesial Communities," the Pope observed. "The communio martyrum is the greatest sign of our journeying together. At the same time, your gathering will give voice to the victims of such injustice and violence, and seek to show the path that will lead the human family out of this tragic situation.
Francis concludes by assuring all those present of his spiritual closeness, and expressing his hope that the martyrs of today, belonging to many Christians traditions, "help us to understand that all the baptized are members of the same Body of Christ, His Church. Let us see this profound truth as a call to persevere on our ecumenical journey towards full and visible communion, growing more and more in love and mutual understanding."
The Forum urged persecutors to cease their violence, and exhorted governments to respect and protect religious freedom and especially to protect Christians and others persecuted for their religious beliefs and the media to reflect appropriately on violations of religious freedom and the discrimination and persecution of Christians.
During the three days of the meeting, the participants began the day with prayer in the orthodox cathedral of Tirana, dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ, the Center of the Evangelical Alliance of Albania, and the Catholic St. Paul's Cathedral, to pray for the 200 million Christians persecuted in the world. The Forum concluded on the day on which Albanese Catholics commemorate the 25th anniversary of the first Mass celebrated in the Catholic cemetery of Scutari by a priest who survived 50 years of atheist communism in Albania.
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
Vatican City (VIS) - "Communication and mercy: a fruitful encounter" is the theme chosen by the Holy Father for World Communications Day. The choice of theme this year has clearly been determined by the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and the Holy Father undoubtedly desired that World Communications Day would provide the appropriate occasion to reflect on the deep synergy between communica-tion and mercy.
In the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee Year, in paragraph 12, the Pope affirms that the Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person. He adds that her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father.
It is helpful, in this regard, that communication is a key element for the promotion of a culture of encounter. The Pope, on this occasion, refers to the language and gestures of the Church but the context makes it clear that all men and women in their own communications, in their reaching out to meet others, ought to be motivated by a deep expression of welcome, availability, and forgiveness.
The theme highlights the capacity of good communication to open up a space for dialogue, mutual understanding, and reconciliation, thereby allowing fruitful human encounters to flourish. At a time when our attention is often drawn to the polarized and judgemental nature of much commentary on the social networks, the theme invokes the power of words and gestures to overcome misunderstandings, to heal memories, and to build peace and harmony.
Once again, Pope Francis is reminding us that, in its essence, communication is a profoundly human achievement. Good communication is never merely the product of the latest or most developed technology, but is realized within the context of a deep interpersonal relationship.
World Communications Day, the only annual worldwide event called for by the Second Vatican Council, is celebrated in most countries, on the recommendation of the bishops of the world, on the Sunday before Pentecost (in 2016, May 8th).
The Holy Father's message for World Communications Day is traditionally published on January 24, in conjunction with the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers.
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
Vatican City (VIS) - The Holy Father appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace at midday on November 1 to pray the Angelus with the faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on the solemnity of All Saints. "Today we feel the reality of the communion of saints to be particularly alive - our great family, made up of all the members of the Church, both those of us who are still pilgrims on earth, and those - far more in number - who have already left and gone on to Heaven."
Francis recalled the characteristics of the saints, as they are presented in the Book of Revelation. "They are people who belong totally to God, ... a multitude of the 'chosen' clothed in white and marked with the 'seal of God,' " and explained the meaning of bearing this seal - that "in Jesus Christ we have truly become children of God." He asked, "Are we aware of this great gift? We are all children of God! Do we remember that in Baptism we have received the 'seal' of our Heavenly Father and became His children? ... Here is the root of the vocation to holiness. The saints we remember today are indeed those who lived in the grace of their Baptism, who kept the 'seal' intact, behaving as children of God, seeking to imitate Jesus; and now they have reached their goal because they finally 'see God as he really is.' "
Their second characteristic is that they are "examples to imitate. ... Not only those who are canonized, but, so to speak, the saints 'next door' who, with the grace of God, made the effort to practice the Gospel in the ordinariness of their life. ... To imitate their gestures of love and mercy is rather like perpetuating their presence in this world. Indeed, those evangelical gestures are the only ones that resist the destruction of death: an act of tenderness, a generous help, time spent listening, a visit, a good word, a smile. ... To our eyes these gestures might seem insignificant, but in God's eyes they are eternal, because love and compassion are stronger than death."
(Source: Vatican Information Service)
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