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Pope Francis: the poor are our 'passport to paradise'

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 02:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the first World Day for the Poor, Pope Francis said caring for the needy has a saving power, because in them we see the face of Christ, and urged Christians to overcome indifference and seek ways to actively love the poor that they meet.

“In the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor,” the Pope said Nov. 19. Because of this, “in their weakness, a saving power is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“They are our passport to paradise,” he said, explaining that it is an “evangelical duty” for Christians to care for the poor as our true wealth.

And to do this doesn't mean just giving them a piece of bread, but also “breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them,” Francis said, adding that to love the poor “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.”

Pope Francis spoke during Mass marking the first World Day of the Poor, which takes place every 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time and is being organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Established by Pope Francis at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, the World Day for the Poor this year has the theme “Love not in word, but in deed.”

In the week leading up to the event, the poor and needy had access to free medical exams at a makeshift center set up in front of St. Peter's Square.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for Evangelization, led a Nov. 18 prayer vigil at Rome's parish of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls the night before the big event. After Mass with Pope Francis, the poor will be offered a three-course lunch at different centers and organizations around Rome, including the Vatican's Paul VI Hall.

According to the Council for Evangelization, some 6-7,000 poor from around Europe, as well as some migrants from around the world, were estimated to attend the Mass along with the organizations that care for them.

In his homily, Pope Francis said no matter our social condition, everyone in life is a beggar when it comes to what is essential, which is God's love, and which “gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.”

Turning to the day's Gospel passage from Matthew recounting the parable of the talents, the Pope noted how in God's eyes, everyone has talents, and consequently, “no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others.”

“God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission,” he said, explaining that God also gives us a responsibility, as is seen in the day's Gospel.

Francis pointed to how in the day's passage only the first two servants make their talent profitable, whereas the third buries it, prompting the master to call him “wicket and lazy.”

Asking what sin the servant had committed that was so wrong, the Pope said above all “it was his omission.”

Many times we believe that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so are content with the presumption that we are good and righteous, he said, but cautioned that with this mentality, “we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground.”

However, “to do no wrong is not enough,” Francis said, adding that God is not “an inspector looking for unstamped tickets.” Rather, he is a Father that looks for children to whom he can entrust both his property and his plans.

“It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments,” he said, noting that someone who is only concerned with preserving the treasures of the past “is not being faithful to God.”

Instead, “the one who adds new talents is truly faithful...he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right omission.”

Omission, Francis said, is also a big sin where the poor are concerned, though it has a different name: indifference. This sin, he said, takes place when we feel that the brother in need is not our concern, but is society's problem.

The sin typically shows up in our lives when we choose to turn the other way, or “change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it.”

“God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good,” the Pope said.

Asking those present how we can please God, Pope Francis said when we want to give someone a gift, we first have to get to know them. And when we look to the Gospel, we hear Jesus say “when you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

These brothers, he said, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned.

In the poor, “Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love,” he said, adding that “when we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren,” only then are we being faithful.

An example of this attitude is seen in the woman who opens her hand to the poor in the day's first reading from Proverbs, he said. In her, “we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.”

Choosing to draw near to the poor among us “will touch our lives” and remind us of what really counts, Francis said, explaining that this is love of God and neighbor.

“Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away,” he said. “What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”

Pope Francis closed his homily saying the choice we all have before us is whether “to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven.”

“Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give,” he said. “So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us.”

Compassion is the heart of healthcare, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2017 / 05:59 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Saturday sent a message to health workers and organizations, saying compassion is the heart of what they do, and stressed the need for a more equitable distribution resources and services throughout the world.

“A healthcare organization that is efficient and capable of addressing inequalities cannot forget its raison d’être, which is compassion,” the Pope said Nov. 18.

This includes the compassion of doctors, nurses, support staff volunteers and all others able to “minimize the pain associated with loneliness and anxiety,” he said, and stressed the importance for healthcare workers to focus not just on good organization, but on listening, accompanying and supporting the people they care for.

Compassion, Francis said, is “a privileged way to promote justice,” since empathizing with what others are experiencing allows us to not only understand their struggles, hardships and fears, but also “to discover, in the frailness of every human being, his or her unique worth and dignity.”

“Indeed, human dignity is the basis of justice, while the recognition of every person’s inestimable worth is the force that impels us to work, with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, to overcome all disparities.”

Pope Francis sent his message to participants in the Nov. 16-18 conference “Addressing Global Health Inequalities,” organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in collaboration with the International Confederation of Catholic Healthcare Institutions.

The goal of the conference is to launch a network connecting all 116,000 Catholic health organizations around the world through a platform of collaboration and sharing aimed at exchanging information.

Another key goal of the conference is to raise awareness about global disparities in access to healthcare.

In his speech, he quoted from the Vatican's new Healthcare Charter, released in February, which states that “the fundamental right to the preservation of health pertains to the value of justice, whereby there are no distinctions between peoples and ethnic groups, taking into account their objective living situations and stages of development.”

The Church, he said, continuing the quote, “proposed that the right to health care and the right to justice ought to be reconciled by ensuring a fair distribution of healthcare facilities and financial resources, in accordance with the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.”

To this end, he praised the participants for establishing the new platform, which he said will concretely address the challenges faced in healthcare in different geographical and social settings.

Francis said this task is something that belongs in particular to healthcare workers and their organizations, since they are committed in a special way to raising awareness among institutions, welfare agencies and the healthcare industry as a whole, “for the sake of ensuring that every individual actually benefits from the right to health care.”

This not only depends on the services provided, but also on the economic, social and cultural factors in decision making processes.

He also stressed the need to eradicate the structural causes of poverty, “because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises.”

Welfare projects should only be considered temporary responses, he said, explaining that “as long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.”

Francis also offered a special word to representatives of pharmaceutical companies present, and who were invited to Rome  to address the topic of access to antiretroviral therapies by paediatric patients.

Again quoting from the Vatican's healthcare charter, he said that while scientific knowledge and research on their part have their own laws to abide to, “ways must be found to combine these adequately with the right of access to basic or necessary treatments, or both.”

He also advocated for healthcare strategies that pursue the common good and that are “economically and ethically sustainable.”

Pope Francis closed his message thanking participants for their “generous commitment,” and gave his blessing.

Pope: not everything technically possible is morally acceptable

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2017 / 05:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis praised the achievements of scientific and technological advancements, but cautioned that developments in the field have limits, and should be founded above all on the good of the human person.

“It remains always valid the principle that not everything that is technically possible or feasible is therefore ethically acceptable,” the Pope said in his prepared remarks Nov. 18.

“Science, like any other human activity, knows that there are limits to be observed for the good of humanity itself, and requires a sense of ethical responsibility,” he said, adding that in the words of Bl. Pope Paul VI, the true measure of progress “is that which is aimed at the good of every man and the whole man.”

Pope Francis spoke on the last day of the Pontifical Council for Culture's Nov. 15-18 plenary titled “The Future of Humanity: New Challenges to Anthropology,” and which took place inside the Vatican's old synod hall. Some 54 members and consultors of the council, including prelates and laity, participated.

Discussion touched on anthropological changes in three key areas: medicine and genetics, neuroscience, and the progress of autonomous and thinking machines.

In his speech, the Pope noted how each of these scientific and technical developments have prompted some to think humanity is on the cusp of a new age and level of being superior to what came before.

The questions these advancements raise are “great and serious,” he said, and the Church is paying close attention, but with the desire to put the human person and the issues surrounding it at the center of her own reflections.

In the bible the course of man's anthropological progress can be seen from Genesis to Revelation, he said, developing around the “fundamental elements” of relation and freedom.”

Relation consists of three dimensions: relation to material things such as land and animals, relation to the divine and relation to other beings, where as freedom is expressed in autonomy and in moral choices.

This understanding of anthropology is still valid today, Francis said, but at the same time, today we also realize that “the great fundamental principles and concepts of anthropology are not rarely put into question on the basis of a greater knowledge of the complexity of the human condition and the need for further investigation.”

Anthropology is the source of our self-understanding, but in modern times, it has become a “fluid and changing horizon” in light of increasing socioeconomic changes, population shifts, increasing intercultural interactions, globalization and the “incredible” discoveries of science and technology.”

Francis said that in response to this situation, we must first give thanks to the scientists who work in favor of humanity and all of creation through their research and discoveries.

Science and technology have helped to deepen in our understanding of the human person, he said, but cautioned that “this alone is not enough to give a response.”

In this regard, he said it's necessary to draw on the “treasures of wisdom” conserved in the various religions traditions, in “popular wisdom”  and in literature and the arts, while at the same time rediscovering the perspectives offered by philosophy and theology.

He stressed the need to overcome the “tragic division” between the humanistic-theological culture and the scientific culture, saying there must be greater dialogue between the Church and the scientific community.

The Church, he said, offers key talking points for this dialogue, the first of which is the centrality of the human person, “which is considered an end and not a means.” Secondly, the Church reminds the world of the principle of the “universal destination of goods,” which includes knowledge and technology.

“Scientific and technical progress serve to benefit all of humanity and their benefits can't go to the advantage of the few,” Francis said, adding that new inequalities based on knowledge that increase the divide between the rich and the poor must be avoided in the future.

Pope Francis closed his speech saying the major decisions on the direction of scientific research and investment “are assumed by the whole of society and not dictated solely by the market or by the interest of a few,” and thanked participants for the “precious service” to the Church and to humanity.

Pope to Ratzinger Prize-winners: a symphony of truth

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis received the recipients of the 2017 Ratzinger Prize in Theology on Saturday morning. Catholic Professor Karl-Heinz Menke of the Theological Faculty of the University of Bonn, Lutheran Professor Theodor Dieter of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, and Orthodox composer Arvo Pärt, share the Prize this year, which Benedict XVI established in 2010 as the leading international award for research in Sacred Scripture, patristics, and fundamental theology.

Broadening horizons of the Ratzinger Prize

This year, therefore, marks the first time in which the Prize is given to someone not engaged in strictly theological endeavor.

When the prize-winners were announced in September, the President of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation, Fr. Federico Lombardi SJ, said, “Benedict XVI’s appreciation for the art of music and the highly religious inspiration behind the musical art of Pärt, justified the attribution of the prize also outside of the strictly theological field.”

Click below to hear our report

In remarks to the roughly 200 guests, including the prize-winners and officials of the Ratzinger Foundation on Saturday morning in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis said, “I welcomed with joy the idea of ​broadening the horizon of the [Ratzinger] Prize to include the arts, in addition to the theology and sciences, which are naturally associated with it.” He went on to say, “It is an enlargement that corresponds well with the vision of [Pope emeritus] Benedict XVI, who so often spoke to us in a touching manner, of beauty as a privileged way of opening ourselves to transcendence and to meeting God.”

Ecumenical focus

The Prize this year also had an ecumenical element.

In addition to Pärt’s Orthodoxy, the year, 2017, is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Lutheran movement in Christianity, and Lutheran Professor Theodor Dieter one of the three recipients.  “The truth of Christ,” said Pope Francis, “is not for soloists, but is symphonic: it requires docile collaboration, harmonious sharing.” The Holy Father also said, “Seeking it, studying it, contemplating it, and transposing it in practice together, in charity, draws us strongly toward full union between us: truth becomes thus a living source of ever closer ties of love.”

Pope Francis concluded, saying, “[C]ongratulations, therefore, to the illustrious prize winners: Professor Theodor Dieter, Professor Karl-Heinz Menke and Maestro Arvo Pärt; and my encouragement to [the Ratzinger] Foundation,” so that, “we might continue to travel along new and broader ways to collaborate in research, dialogue and knowledge of the truth. – a truth that, as Pope Benedict has not tired of reminding us, is, in God, logos and agape, wisdom and love, incarnate in the person of Jesus.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope calls for common good, ethical responsibility in science, technology ‎

"Science, like any other human activity, has its limits which should be observed for the ‎good of ‎humanity itself, and requires a sense of ethical responsibility,” Pope Francis said on Saturday.  “The true measure of progress, as ‎Blessed ‎Paul VI recalled, is that which is aimed at the good of each man and the whole man,” the Pope told some 83 participants in the plenary assembly of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture.  The participants met the Pope at the conclusion of their Nov.15-18 assembly which discussed the theme, “The Future of Humanity: New Challenges to Anthropology.” 

Click below to listen to our report:

Incredible advances

The Pope said, the Church wants to give the correct direction to man at the dawn of a new era marked by incredible advances in medicine, genetics, neuroscience and “autonomous” machines.  Speaking about the incredible advances in genetics, he noted that diseases that were considered incurable until recently have been eradicated, and new possibilities have opened up to “programme” human beings with certain “qualities”. 

Not all the answers

The Pope said that "science and technology have helped us to further the boundaries of knowledge of nature, especially of the human being,” but they alone are not enough to give all the answers. ‎“Today,” he explained, “we ‎increasingly realize that it is necessary to draw from the treasures of wisdom of ‎religious ‎traditions, popular wisdom, literature and the arts that touch the depths of the mystery of ‎human ‎existence, without forgetting, but rather by rediscovering those contained in philosophy and ‎theology.‎”

Church teachings

In this regard, the Pope pointed to two principles of the Church’s  teaching. The first is the “centrality of the human person, which is to be considered an end and not a means.”  Man must be in harmony ‎with creation, not as a despot about God's inheritance, but as a loving guardian of the work ‎of the Creator.‎

The second principle is the universal destination of goods, including that of ‎knowledge and technology. Scientific and technological progress, the Pope explained, should serve the good of all humanity, and ‎not just a few, and this will help avoid new inequalities in the future based on knowledge, and prevent widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.  The Holy Father insisted that great decisions regarding the direction scientific research should take, and investment in it, should be taken together by the whole of society and should not be ‎dictated solely by market rules or by the interests of a few.‎  And finally, the Pope said, one must keep in mind that not everything that is technically possible or feasible is ethically acceptable. 

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope prays for sailors aboard missing submarine

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is offering his “fervent prayers” for 44 Argentinian sailors aboard a submarine that has been missing since Wednesday.

In a telegram sent addressed to the Bishop Santiago Olivera, the head Military Ordinariate of Argentina, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin noted the Pope’s concern for the sailors and expressed the Pope’s spiritual closeness to the families of the sailors, and to the military and civil authorities of the nation. He also noted the Holy Father’s encouragement for the efforts being made to find the vessel.

“His Holiness entrusts them to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin, “ Cardinal Parolin said, and “he asks the Lord to instill in them spiritual serenity and Christian hope in these circumstances, in pledge of which he cordially imparts the comforting Apostolic Blessing.”

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis: ‘Compassion’ is more effective in addressing inequalities

Pope Francis on Saturday sent a letter to the participants of the 32nd International Conference on the theme ‘Addressing Global Health Inequalities’.  The event  organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the International Confederation of Catholic Health Care Institutions is taking  place in the New Synod Hall of the Vatican from 16 to 18 November.

The  letter addressed to Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development,  the Holy Father stressed that apart from having well-structured organization for providing necessary services and the best possible attention to human needs,  the healthcare workers should be attuned to the importance of listening, accompanying and supporting the person for whom they care. For Pope Francis ‘compassion’ is  vital to be efficient and capable of addressing inequalities.  

The Pope concluded the letter exhorting the representatives of the pharmaceutical companies invited to address the issue of access to antiretroviral therapies by paediatric patients. Quoting a passage from the New Charter for Healthcare Workers, Pope Francis called them  to make available essential drugs in adequate quantities, in usable forms of guaranteed quality, along with correct information, and at costs that are affordable by individuals and communities.     

Please find below the official translation of the Pope's letter:

To My Venerable Brother

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson

Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

 

I offer a cordial welcome to the participants in the Thirty-second International Conference on the theme Addressing Global Health Inequalities.  I express my gratitude to all those who have worked to organize this event, in particular, to the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the International Confederation of Catholic Health Care Institutions.

Last year’s Conference took note of encouraging data on the average life expectancy and on the global fight against pathologies, while at the same time pointing out the widening gap between the richer and poorer countries with regard to access to medical products and health-care treatment.  Consequently, it was decided to address the specific issue of inequalities and the social, economic, environmental and cultural factors underlying them. The Church cannot remain indifferent to this issue.  Conscious of her mission at the service of human beings created in the image of God, she is bound to promote their dignity and fundamental rights.

To this end, the New Charter for Health Care Workers states that “the fundamental right to the preservation of health pertains to the value of justice, whereby there are no distinctions between peoples and ethnic groups, taking into account their objective living situations and stages of development, in pursuing the common good, which is at the same time the good of all and of each individual” (No. 141).  The Church proposed that the right to health care and the right to justice ought to be reconciled by ensuring a fair distribution of healthcare facilities and financial resources, in accordance with the principles of solidarity and subsidiarity.  As the Charter notes, “those responsible for healthcare activities must also allow themselves to be uniquely and forcefully challenged by the awareness that ‘while the poor of the world continue knocking on the doors of the rich, the world of affluence runs the risk of no longer hearing those knocks, on account of a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human’” (No. 91; Caritas in Veritate, 75).

I am pleased to learn that the Conference has drafted a project aimed at concretely addressing these challenges, namely, the establishment of an operational platform of sharing and cooperation between Catholic health care institutions in different geographical and social settings.  I willingly encourage those engaged in this project to persevere in this endeavour, with God’s help.  Healthcare workers and their professional associations in particular are called to this task, since they are committed to raising awareness among institutions, welfare agencies and the healthcare industry as a whole, for the sake of ensuring that every individual actually benefits from the right to health care.  Clearly, this depends not only on healthcare services, but also on complex economic, social, cultural and decision-making factors.  In effect, “the need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it, and which can only lead to new crises.  Welfare projects, which meet certain urgent needs, should be considered merely temporary responses.  As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.  Inequality is the root of social ills.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 202).

I would like to focus on one aspect that is fundamental, especially for those who serve the Lord by caring for the health of their brothers and sisters.  While a well-structured organization is essential for providing necessary services and the best possible attention to human needs, healthcare workers should also be attuned to the importance of listening, accompanying and supporting the persons for whom they care.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus shows us the practical approach required in caring for our suffering neighbour.  First, the Samaritan “sees”.  He notices and “is moved with compassion” at the sight of a person left stripped and wounded along the way.  This compassion is much more than mere pity or sorrow; it shows a readiness to become personally involved in the other’s situation.  Even if we can never equal God’s own compassion, which fills and renews the heart by its presence, nonetheless we can imitate that compassion by “drawing near”, “binding wounds”, “lifting up” and “caring for” our neighbour (cf. Lk 10:33-34).

A healthcare organization that is efficient and capable of addressing inequalities cannot forget that its raison d’être, which is compassion: the compassion of doctors, nurses, support staff, volunteers and all those who are thus able to minimize the pain associated with loneliness and anxiety.

Compassion is also a privileged way to promote justice, since empathizing with the others allows us not only to understand their struggles, difficulties and fears, but also to discover, in the frailness of every human being, his or her unique worth and dignity.  Indeed, human dignity is the basis of justice, while the recognition of every person’s inestimable worth is the force that impels us to work, with enthusiasm and self-sacrifice, to overcome all disparities.

Finally, I would like to address the representatives of the several pharmaceutical companies who have been invited to Rome to address the issue of access to antiretroviral therapies by paediatric patients.  I would like to offer for your consideration a passage of the New Charter for Healthcare Workers.  It states: “Although it cannot be denied that the scientific knowledge and research of pharmaceutical companies have their own laws by which they must abide – for example, the protection of intellectual property and a fair profit to support innovation – ways must be found to combine these adequately with the right of access to basic or necessary treatments, or both, especially in underdeveloped countries, and above all in the cases of so-called rare and neglected diseases, which are accompanied by the notion of orphan drugs.  Health care strategies aimed at pursuing justice and the common good must be economically and ethically sustainable.  Indeed, while they must safeguard the sustainability both of research and of health care systems, at the same time they ought to make available essential drugs in adequate quantities, in usable forms of guaranteed quality, along with correct information, and at costs that are affordable by individuals and communities” (No. 92).

I thank all of you for the generous commitment with which you exercise your valued mission. I give you my Apostolic Blessing, and I ask you to continue to remember me in your prayers.

From the Vatican, 18 November 2017

 

 

(from Vatican Radio)

What does the Church really teach about nuclear war?

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A Vatican conference discussing “A World Free From Nuclear Weapons,” held Nov. 10-11, is the latest step in a long-term commitment from the Holy See to work for nuclear disarmament, which itself is considered by the Vatican to be a step toward the goal of integral disarmament.
 
The conference was held after 120 nations voted this July to pass the UN’s Comprehensive Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  The treaty prohibits signatories from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, acquiring, possessing or stockpiling nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, and prevents them from using these weapons. To date, only three countries have ratified the treaty.
 
The Holy See actively took part in the treaty’s negotiations, and is among the three nations that have ratified the treaty
 
The Holy See has a “Permanent Observer” status at the United Nations, although with “enhanced powers.” That means that the Holy See can take part in the negotiations of treaties, but does not usually have the right to vote.
 
For the July 7 vote on the nuclear treaty, the Holy See was accepted by the UN to participate in negotiations as a full member, and was permitted to vote on the matter before the adoption of the treaty. This was the first time the Holy See has been afforded such a status at the UN, which Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s “foreign minister,” described as a milestone during the treaties ratification ceremony Sep. 20.
 
This diplomatic initiative shows the strength of the Holy See’s commitment to nuclear disarmament.
 
In fact, the Holy See has understood for decades the perilous potential of nuclear weaponry.
 
During the Second World War, Pius XII understood that new scientific developments could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction.
 
Pope Pius XII’s concerns were expressed in three different speeches delivered at the Pontifical Academy for Sciences between 1941 and 1948.
 
Talking on Nov. 30, 1941, Pius XII said in the hands of men, science can be a double edged weapon, able to heal and kill at the same time. The Pope also said that he was following “the incredible adventure of the men committed to research on nuclear energy and nuclear transformation” thanks to Max Planck, Nobel Prize Laureate in 1918, who served as member of the Pontifical Academy for Sciences.
 
Pope Pius XII warned about nuclear danger again, in a meeting with members of the Pontifical Academy that took place Feb. 21, 1943. On that occasion, the Pope warned that because of the development of nuclear weapons, “there could be a dangerous catastrophe for our planet as a whole.”
 
Finally, in a speech delivered to the Pontifical Academy for Science on Feb. 8, 1948, the Pope talked about the atomic bomb as one of the “most horrible weapons the human mind has ever conceived,” and asked: “What disaster should the humanity expect from a future conflict, if stopping or slowing the use of always more and more surprising scientific inventions would be proven impossible? We should distrust any science whose main goal is not love.”
 
Like Pius XII, St. John XXIII urged the need for an “integral disarmament” in his encyclical Pacem In Terris, and the Second Vatican Council’s Apostolic Constitution Gaudium et Spes stressed that “power of weapons does not legitimate their military and political use.”
 
Speaking at the UNESCO June 2, 1980, Pope St. John Paul II explicitly mentioned the “nuclear threat” on the world that could lead to “the destruction of fruits of culture, products of the civilization built in centuries by generation of men who believed in the primacy of the spirit and did not spare efforts nor fatigues.”
 
John Paul II noted the “fragile balance” of the world, caused by geopolitical reasons, economic problems and political misunderstandings along with wounded national prides. But, he said, this balance can be destroyed at any moment, following “a mistake in judging, informing, interpreting.”
 
He then asked: “Can we still be certain that breaking the balance would not lead to war and to a war that would not hesitate to use nuclear weapons?”
 
Benedict XVI also confronted the issue many times. It is especially noteworthy to recall what Benedict said in his May 31, 2009 Pentecost homily.
 
Benedict XVI stressed that “man does not want to be in the image of God any longer, but only in his own image: he declares himself autonomous, free.”
 
A man in such an “unauthentic relation” with God can become dangerous, and “can revolt against life and humanity,” as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedies showed, the Pope said.
 
Pope Francis has warned many times about the risks of the nuclear proliferation. In a message sent to the UN Conference for the Negotiation of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Pope Francis stressed that “International peace and stability cannot be based on a false sense of security, on the threat of mutual destruction or total annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power.”
 
“We need – he added - to go beyond nuclear deterrence: the international community is called upon to adopt forward-looking strategies to promote the goal of peace and stability and to avoid short-sighted approaches to the problems surrounding national and international security”.
 
The Holy See has followed a clear path on nuclear disarmament, which it continued with this month’s conference. The words of Pope Francis at the conference carry the legacy and tradition of the Church’s teachings on nuclear weaponry and its danger.

We can not “fail to be genuinely concerned by the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects of any employment of nuclear devices,” the Pope said.  

“If we also take into account the risk of an accidental detonation as a result of error of any kind, the threat of their use, as well as their very possession, is to be firmly condemned.  For they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict but the entire human race.  International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms.  Weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, create nothing but a false sense of security.  They cannot constitute the basis for peaceful coexistence between members of the human family."

 

 

Hannah Brockhaus contributed to this report.

 

Commentary: Don’t buy fake agendas; defend the pope!

London, England, Nov 17, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For years now, I have bemoaned the growing number of so-called progressive Catholic figures, in academia, the media and the outer curial orbit, who fancy themselves to be the Pope’s ideological vanguard, amidst what they have taken to calling their “intra-ecclesial battle.”

The agenda they push is an obvious rehash of seventies liberalism: a “progressive” approach to sexual ethics, acceptance of divorce and remarriage, recognition of same-sex relationships, “creating a space” for those who disagree with the Church on life issues. This rather tired agenda has been dressed up in the language of woke university students and twitter social justice warriors, but its core premise remains the same as it ever was - to push the fallacy that Vatican II was part of the cultural revolution of the sixties, rather than the Church’s answer to it. Their efforts are easy to spot, just look for the people endlessly invoking the council but never actually quoting a document from it.

Their main objective is to fracture the continuity and authority of the Church’s essential teaching on the dignity and nature of the human person, relationships with God and other people, and society. In this fight, they have identified the key battleground, their greatest enemy, and their biggest opportunity: Pope Francis.

Pope Francis, from the moment of his election, has been a gigantic figure on the global stage. Through a combination of his personal charisma and the age of viral social media, his every soundbite gets attention and circulation that his predecessors couldn’t have imagined. Being seen to be “with” the pope is more powerful than ever before.

Conversely, being painted as “anti-Francis” is now the fastest way to find yourself beyond the pale of acceptable Church discourse - a far cry from the days when the progressive ‘cool kids’ seemed to take a juvenile kind of pride in forcing St. John Paul II or Benedict XVI to discipline them. Many of those who previously wore dissent as a badge of distinction have become the first and fiercest to label those they dislike, whether journalists, academics, or even cardinals, as “disloyal” to the pope, and opposed to his teaching authority.

Yet those who cry the loudest against the pope’s supposed opponents are themselves at the sharp end of a campaign of double deception. They insist that they are with the pope, or rather he is with them, and so to oppose them, on anything, is to oppose the pope. This is a falsehood.

The list of subjects on which Pope Francis is at odds with his self-appointed enforcers has grown to a comical length. In the last few months alone, Pope Francis has sided with the parents of Charlie Gard in defense of life, contrary to statements from the remade Pontifical Academy of Life, headed by Archbishop Paglia, and he has publicly echoed Cardinal Sarah’s call for a rediscovery of reverential silence in the liturgy, even as the Pope’s supposed-supporters demanded that Sarah be sacked.

Just days ago, the election of Archbishop Joseph Naumann as chairman of the US Bishops’ Conference pro-life committee was railed against by prominent liberal Catholics, who shouted themselves hoarse arguing that this election was an explicit rejection of the pope, and of his entire vision for the Church.

Pope Francis has, of course, called abortion a “horrendous crime,” a “very grave sin,” and, just last month, part of a “eugenic tendency” against the disabled. None of this made it into liberal coverage of the vote, nor was it held to be a factor in the election of an archbishop with sterling pro-life credentials over another who once discouraged his priests from participating in the 40 Days for Life campaign.

This is a group doing everything they can to take the pope’s public image and message hostage, and replace it with their own. The extent to which these voices are trying to define a “Francis agenda” contrary to the clear teaching of the Pope himself would be laughable, if their spurious arguments didn’t seem to gain so much traction.

Their biggest success thus far has been the confected row over communion for the divorced and remarried, an idea the pope has repeatedly refused to endorse, even categorically refuting the claim that his call for “full integration into parish life” meant receiving communion. The motivating force behind this campaign has nothing to do with pastoral concern for the tiny minority of catholics in this situation, in fact many of them have been hurt by the confusion and speculation of this effort. Rather, the goal is to force a crack, in practice if not yet in theory, in the Church’s absolute adherence to the indissolubility of marriage. It has also served to successfully suppress any discussion of the actual content of Amoris Latitiae, a document which not only reaffirms the permanence of marriage, but actually endorses the teaching of Humanae Vitae, the great liberal bête noire of the last sixty years.  It also rejects, in stark terms, the great progressive causes of the moment: a softened stance on abortion and euthanasia, same-sex unions, and gender theory.

Successfully convincing huge swathes of the Church that the pope is in favor of the very things he has condemned, while the evidence to the contrary is there for all to see, is the result of an incredibly brazen slight of hand, unwittingly abetted by the pope’s indifference to television and the internet. It has sown division and discord across the Church. There needs to be an urgent and unflinching response, one which takes true filial pride in the real papal magisterium and uses it to confront those who knowingly abuse the name and authority of Pope Francis and Vatican Council II for their own ends.

 

 Ed Condon is a canon lawyer working for tribunals in a number of dioceses. On Twitter he is @canonlawyered. His opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Catholic News Agency.

Ahead of Burma visit, Pope says he's coming to promote peace

Vatican City, Nov 17, 2017 / 05:29 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Friday, Pope Francis sent a video greeting to the people of Burma – also known as Myanmar – ahead of his Nov. 27-30 trip, saying he is coming to proclaim the Gospel and promote peace in a country gripped by a heated humanitarian and political crisis surrounding the Rohingya Muslim minority.

In the video, published Nov. 17, the said he wants to “confirm the Catholic community of Myanmar in its faith in God and in its testimony of the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and demands (us) to open our hearts to others, especially to the poor and the needy.”

Above all, Francis said he is coming “to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ: a message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace.”

The visit to Burma is the first of two stops in a Nov. 27-Dec. 2 trip that will also take Pope Francis to Bangladesh.

It also takes place amid an uptick in state-supported violence against Burma's Rohingya Muslim community – an ethnic and religious minority – which in recent months has reached staggering levels, causing the United Nations to declare the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

With an increase in violent persecution in their home country, many of the Rohingya population has fled to neighboring Bangladesh, with millions camping along the border as refugees.

In his video message, the Pope thanked everyone working in preparation of his visit and asked for their prayers, that it would be “a source of hope and encouragement for everyone.” He said he also hopes to visit the country in a “spirit of respect and encouragement,” so the nation may endeavor to “build harmony and cooperation in serving the common good.”

Many people at this time, both believers and people of goodwill, feel an increasing need to grow in mutual understanding and respect as “members of the only human family,” he said, “because we are all children of God.”

The Pope’s pastoral visit to Burma and Bangladesh was officially announced by the Vatican in August and a first draft of his schedule was released Oct. 10. He will be in Burma Nov. 27-30 and in Bangladesh Nov. 30-Dec. 2.

Pope Francis will leave the Vatican in the evening on Nov. 26, landing the following day in Yangon, the largest city in Burma, where he will stay during the first portion of his trip. After the official welcoming, he will have time to rest before the full-schedule begins the next day.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28, he will fly to Nay Pyi Taw, where there will be another official welcoming and arrival ceremony and an official visit with President Htin Kyaw.

He will then meet with the state advisor and minister of foreign affairs, before an encounter with other government authorities, leaders of civil society and the diplomatic corps, where he will give his first official speech of the visit.

The following morning Francis will celebrate Mass at the Kyaikkasan Grounds park. In the afternoon he will give speeches at separate meeting with the Supreme Council of “Sangha,” a term referring to Buddhist clergy in the country, and in a meeting with the bishops of Burma.

He will conclude his visit to Burma with a Mass for young people at the Cathedral of St. Mary’s in the morning of Nov. 30 before departing for Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Catholics in Burma are a small minority, only making up approximately 1.3 percent of a population of nearly 52 million. There are also few priests - only one per every 742 Catholics.