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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Lessons from an encounter

Some reflections on the key to God's wisdom offered to us through the encounter Jesus had with a foreigner he met.  The story is recounted in the scriptures suggested for this weekend's gatherings of God's beloved children.


If only we could see as He sees

Last weekend, there were some horrific happenings in the city of Charlottesville, North Carolina.  The details and images of the car that plowed through crowds in that city were quickly broadcast across the continent and people reacted first with disbelief and then with varying levels of clarity as the details became more and more evident.  Throughout the rest of the week, we have also heard sensational reports of similar terrifying acts that have taken place in Barcelona and in Turku (Finland).  While these events capture our attention, I am not so convinced that we are as attentive to the actions of God in our lives, yet how different the world might be if we were to learn to see as He does: with mercy instead of judgment.

Today’s gospel passage places us with Jesus in the land of Tyre and Sidon (cf Mt 15:21).  Both these cities are located in present-day Lebanon, north of the border that is shared between Lebanon and Israel.  Jesus was in a foreign land.  That’s the reason why he did not answer the woman who approached him and asked for his help (cf Mt 15:22-23).  In contrast to our modern-day obsession for information – which seems to be bombarding us from all directions, and perhaps even blinding us to the presence of God – this woman had a gift which allowed her to recognize in Jesus a man of faith, a man with a merciful heart who could help to cure her daughter.  In fact, it was her enduring faith and her persistence that motivated her to kneel before Jesus and to plead with him even when he and his disciples had tried to brush her off (cf Mt 15:25-27).

What lessons can we learn from this woman?  Even when no one seemed to be listening, she continued her plea.  Perhaps we too have known times when our prayers seem to be answered only with God’s silence.  If God’s silence leads us to believe that he is no longer listening, we will also become more and more distant from Him.  We see signs of such distance from God all around us – in the ever-growing insistence of so many who seem to prefer the sensationalism of the media to the wonder and awe of God’s handiwork, yet God is constantly knocking at the doors of our hearts, looking for opportunities to show us the warmth and the mercy that lie within his heart.

The prophet Isaiah was aware of God’s wisdom.  He knew that God is always ready to welcome even foreigners ... who love the name of the Lord (Is 56:6).  Saint Paul was living proof of this truth.  He was a Roman, yet he came to believe in the power of God.  Emboldened by this belief, he encouraged his fellow Romans to turn from their disobedience to God’s invitation and to open their eyes to the merciful presence of God (cf Rom 11:32).

It is the gift of God’s mercy that the Canaanite woman was seeking.  We too must learn to seek this gift.  Perhaps if we can learn to recognize it, we will learn to rely on it: to call out to God, presenting our needs persistently until he replies: Great is your faith!  Let it be done for you as you wish! (Mt 15:28)


Si on pouvait voir ce qu’il voit

La fin de semaine dernière, il y a eu des événements dramatiques dans la ville de Charlottesville en Caroline du Nord.  Les détails et les images de la voiture qui a frappé des foules dans cette ville ont rapidement été diffusées à travers le continent et les gens ont réagi d’abord avec incrédulité, et ensuite avec divers niveaux de la clarté au fur et à mesure que la réalité de la situation est devenue de plus en plus évidente.  Tout au long de la semaine, nous avons également rencontré d’autres histoires concernant des actes terroristes qui ont été éffectués à Barcelone et à Turku (Finlande).  Bien que ces évenements attirent notre attention, je ne suis pas tellement convincu que nous sommes aussi attentifs à la présence de Dieu qui agit dans notre vie quotidienne.  Cepandant, le monde serait tellement différent si nous devions apprendre à le regarder comme il le fait: avec misericorde au lieu du jugement.

L’évangile d’aujourd’hui nous amène avec Jésus dans la région de Tyr et de Sidon (cf Mt 15,21).  De nos jours, ces deux villes se trouvent au Liban, au nord de la frontière entre le Liban et Israël.  Jésus se trouvait à l’étranger.  Voilà pourquoi il n’a pas répondu lorsque la femme l’a demandé de l’assistance (cf Mt 15:22-23).  Au contraire de notre soif inlassable pour des actualités – et elles nous arrivent constamment, même jusqu’au point de nous rendre inattentif à la présence de Dieu – cette femme avait la capacité de reconnaître en Jésus un homme de foi, un homme de coeur, un homme miséricordieux qui pourrait l’aider à guérir sa fille.  En fait, c’était sa foi solide et sa persistance qui l’avaient motivée à se prosterner devant Jésus et à implorer sa faveur même lorsque lui et ses disciples avaient essayer de la renvoyer (cf Mt 15,25-27).

Quelles leçons pouvons-nous apprendre de cette femme?  Même quand personne ne semblait l’écouter, elle continuait, elle a persisté.  Peut-être que nous aussi, nous avons connu des moments où nous pouvions croire que nos prières ne sont accueillies que par le silence de Dieu.  Si le silence de Dieu nous porte à croire qu’il ne nous écoute plus, nous deviendrons de plus en plus éloignés de lui.  Nous voyons des signes d’une telle distance tout autour de nous – dans l’insistance toujours croissante de tant de personnes qui semblent préférer le sensationnalisme des médias plutôt que l’émerveillement face à la grandeur des oeuvres de Dieu, mais il frappe constamment aux portes de nos coeurs.  Il cherche toujours des occasions de nous démontrer la chaleur et la miséricorde qui habitent son coeur.

Le prophète Isaïe était conscient de la sagesse de Dieu.  Il savait que Dieu est toujours prêt à accueillir même les étrangers ... qui se sont attachés au Seigneur (Is 56,6).  Saint Paul était la preuve vivante de cette vérité.  Il était citoyen romain, mais il est venu à croire au pouvoir de Dieu.  Comblé par cette croyance, il a encouragé ses camarades à passer de leur désobéissance à l’invitation de Dieu et à ouvrir leurs yeux à la présence miséricordieuse de Dieu (cf Rom 11,32).

C’est le don de la miséricorde de Dieu que la Cananéenne cherchait.  Nous devons aussi apprendre a chercher ce don.  Si nous pouvons apprendre à le reconnaître, nous apprendrons peut-être à faire confiance: à crier à Dieu et à le prier avec persistence jusqu’au moment où il nous répondra: Grande est ta foi, que tout ce passe pour toi comme tu le veux! (Mt 15,28)

Angelus about an encounter

At noon today (Rome time), the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter's Square.


Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today's gospel (Mt 15:21-28) presents a particular example of faith in the encounter Jesus had with a Canaanite woman, a stranger to Jews.  The scene takes place while He is travelling toward the cities of Tyre and Sidon, to the north-west of Galilee: in this place, the woman begs Jesus to heal her daughter who - according to the gospel - is very tormented by a demon (Mt 15:22).  At first, the Lord seems not to hear this cry of pain, but it continues so much so that it arouses the intervention of the disciples who intercede on her behalf.  Jesus' apparent disinterest does not stop the mother , who insists upon her invocation.

This woman's interior conviction, which permits her to overcome every obstacle, is rooted in her maternal love and in her trust that Jesus can fulfill her request.  This makes me think of the strength of women.  With their strength, they are able to obtain great things.  We have encountered many such cases!  We can say that it is love that motivates faith and faith, for its part, becomes the reward for love.  It is her love for her daughter that drives her to cry out: Have pity on me, Lord, son of David! (Mt 15:22).  Her persevering faith in Jesus allows her not to become discouraged, even when faced with the initial rejection; instead, the woman knelt before him saying: Lord, help me! (Mt 15:25).

In the end, as a result of her perseverance, Jesus admires, is almost astonished by the faith of a pagan woman.  Therefore, he agrees to say: Woman, great is your faith!  May it be done for you as you have asked. And at that instant her daughter was healed (Mt 15:28).  This humble woman is praised by Jesus as an example of unshakable faith.  Her insistence in begging for Jesus intervention is for us a source of motivation for us not to become discouraged, not to despair when we are oppressed by difficult trials in life.  The Lord does not turn his back on our needs, and if at times he seems insensitive to our prayers for help, it is in order to test and strengthen our faith.  We should continue calling out to him like this woman: Lord, help me!  Lord, help me!  Like that, with perseverance and courage.  That is the courage we all need in our prayer.

This gospel account helps us to understand that we all need to grow in our faith and to strengthen our trust in Jesus.  He can help us to find our way back when we have lost our way on our journey; when the path does not appear to be flat but rather hard and difficult; when we find it difficult to remain faithful to our commitments.  It is important that we take time to nourish our faith every day, with attentive listening to the Word of God, with the celebration of the Sacraments, with personal prayer that cries out to Him: Lord, help me!, and with an attitude of charity toward our neighbours.

Let us confide ourselves to the Holy Spirit, that He may help us to persevere in faith.  The Spirit infuses audacity into the hearts of believers: he gives our lives and our Christian witness the strength of conviction and persuasion; he encourages us to overcome the temptation to disbelief in God and indifference toward our brothers and sisters.

May the Virgin Mary make us always more aware of our need for the Lord and for his Spirit; may she obtain for us a strong faith, full of love, and a love that can intercede, intercede courageously to God.



After the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

In our hearts, we feel the pain of the terrorist attacks which, during these past few days, have claimed numerous victims in Burkina Faso, in Spain and in Finland.  Let us pray for all those who have died, for those who have been wounded and for their families; and let us implore the Lord, God of mercy and peace, to free the world from this inhuman violence.  Let us pray together in silence, then, we will pray to Our Lady.

Hail Mary ...

I extend a cordial greeting to all of you, dear Italian pilgrims and those who have come from various other countries.  In particular, I greet the members of the French Roulons pour l'Espoir Association, who have come here on bicycles from Besançon; the new seminarians and the Superiors from the North American College in Rome; the clerics from Rivoltella (Brescia) and the boys and girls from Zevio (Verona).

I wish you all a good Sunday.  Please, don't forget to pray for me.  Enjoy your lunch and good bye!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Condolences to Barcelona

Following the terrorist attack that took place yesterday in Barcelona (Spain), the Holy Father has sent a telegram of condolence, signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, to the Archbishop of Barcelona.


Telegram of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
expressing condolences for victims of the
attack that took place in Barcelona

His Eminence, the Most Reverend
Cardinal Juan José Omelia y Omella
Archbishop of Barcelona

Having received the news of the cruel terrorist attack that has resulted in death and suffering at Las Ramblas in Barcelona, Pope Francis wishes to express his most profound sympathy for the victims who have lost their lives in such an inhumane act and offers his prayers for their eternal repose.  In these moments of sadness and pain, he wishes to express his support and closeness to the many people who have been wounded, their families and the entire Catalonian and Spanish society.

The Holy Father condemns once again such blind violence, which is a grave offence to the Creator, and raises his prayers to the Most High, asking for his assistance to help us follow Him and to work with determination for peace and concord throughout the world.

With these thoughts, His Holiness imparts his Apostolic Blessing to all the victims, their families and the beloved people of Spain.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State of His Holiness
(Original text in Spanish)


Statement of the Episcopal Conference of Spain
relating to the terrorist attack in Barcelona

This afternoon in Barcelona, there was a serious terrorist attack which resulted in death and many injuries.

Faced with this deplorable and utterly detestable act, the Spanish Episcopal Conference wishes first of all to assure its closeness to and prayer for all the victims and their families.  We also express our support for the entire society which has been attacked by these actions: in this case, the citizens of Barcelona and the security personnel.

At the same time, we condemn each demonstration of terrorism, an intrinsically perverse practice which is completely incompatible with a moral outlook on life that is just and reasonable.  Not only do such actions seriously violate the right to life and liberty, they are also signs of the most hardened intolerance and totalitarianism.

We ask all believers to offer prayers asking god to grant eternal rest to those who have died, to restore health to the victims who are suffering, to grant consolation and comfort to their relatives, and to fill the hearts of persons of good will with peace so that such despicable actions may never again be repeated.

Madrid
17 August 2017
(Original text in Spanish)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Food for thought

In light of the clashes that took place this weekend in Charlottesville (NC, USA), and the developing comments that have been published up to yesterday by the US President, it may be worthwhile to bear in mind some thoughts which have been shared by Pope Francis on the topics of racism, bigotry, intolerance and xenophobia.


Address of His Holiness, Pope Francis 
at the Meeting for Religious Liberty 
with members of the Hispanic Community and other Immigrants
Independence Mall, Philadelphia

One of the highlights of my visit is to stand here, before Independence Hall, the birthplace of the United States of America. It was here that the freedoms which define this country were first proclaimed. The Declaration of Independence stated that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights. Those ringing words continue to inspire us today, even as they have inspired peoples throughout the world to fight for the freedom to live in accordance with their dignity.

History also shows that these or any truths must constantly be reaffirmed, re-appropriated and defended. The history of this nation is also the tale of a constant effort, lasting to our own day, to embody those lofty principles in social and political life. We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at further waves of new Americans. This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its principles, those founding principles based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed. When a country is mindful of its roots, it keeps growing, it is renewed and it continues to embrace newcomers, new individuals and new peoples.

All of us benefit from remembering our past. A people which remembers does not repeat past errors; instead, it looks with confidence to the challenges of the present and the future. Remembrance saves a people’s soul from whatever or whoever would attempt to dominate it or to use it for their own interests. When individuals and communities are guaranteed the effective exercise of their rights, they are not only free to realize their potential, they also, through their talents and their hard work, contribute to the welfare and enrichment of society as a whole.

In this place which is symbolic of the American way, I would like to reflect with you on the right to religious freedom. It is a fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbours whose religious views differ from our own. The ideal of inter-religious dialogue, where all men and women, from different religious traditions, can speak to one another without arguing. This is what religious freedom allows.

Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate. But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families. Because religion itself, the religious dimension, is not a subculture; it is part of the culture of every people and every nation.

Our various religious traditions serve society primarily by the message they proclaim. They call individuals and communities to worship God, the source of all life, liberty and happiness. They remind us of the transcendent dimension of human existence and our irreducible freedom in the face of any claim to absolute power. We need but look at history – we always benefit from looking at history – especially the history of the last century, to see the atrocities perpetrated by systems which claimed to build one or another earthly paradise by dominating peoples, subjecting them to apparently indisputable principles and denying them any kind of rights. Our rich religious traditions seek to offer meaning and direction, they have an enduring power to open new horizons, to stimulate thought, to expand the mind and heart (Evangelii Gaudium, 256). They call to conversion, reconciliation, concern for the future of society, self-sacrifice in the service of the common good, and compassion for those in need. At the heart of their spiritual mission is the proclamation of the truth and dignity of the human person and all human rights.

Our religious traditions remind us that, as human beings, we are called to acknowledge an Other, who reveals our relational identity in the face of every effort to impose “a uniformity which the egotism of the powerful, the conformism of the weak, or the ideology of the utopian would seek to impose on us” (M. de Certeau).

In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or, as I said earlier, to try to reduce it to a subculture without the right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that the followers of the various religious traditions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and the rights of others.

We live in an age subject to the globalization of the technocratic paradigm (Laudato Si’, 106), which consciously aims at a one-dimensional uniformity and seeks to eliminate all differences and traditions in a superficial quest for unity. The religions thus have the right and the duty to make clear that it is possible to build a society where a healthy pluralism which respects differences and values them as such (EG, 255) is a precious ally in the commitment to defending human dignity… and a path to peace in our world, wounded as it is by wars (EG, 257).

The Quakers who founded Philadelphia were inspired by a profound evangelical sense of the dignity of each individual and the ideal of a community united by brotherly love. This conviction led them to found a colony which would be a haven of religious freedom and tolerance. That sense of fraternal concern for the dignity of all, especially the weak and the vulnerable, became an essential part of the American spirit. During his visit to the United States in 1987, Saint John Paul II paid moving homage to this, reminding all Americans that: The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weak and most defenceless ones (Farewell Address, 19 September 1987, 3).

I take this opportunity to thank all those, of whatever religion, who have sought to serve God, the God of peace, by building cities of brotherly love, by caring for our neighbors in need, by defending the dignity of God’s gift, the gift of life in all its stages, and by defending the cause of the poor and the immigrant. All too often, those most in need of our help, everywhere, are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you – men and women – have faithfully made their cry heard. In this witness, which frequently encounters powerful resistance, you remind American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and that society is weakened whenever and wherever injustice prevails.

Just now I spoke of the trend towards globalization. Globalization is not evil. On the contrary, the tendency to become globalized is good; it brings us together. What can be evil is how it happens. If a certain kind of globalization claims to make everyone uniform, to level everyone out, that globalization destroys the rich gifts and uniqueness of each person and each people. But a globalization which attempts to bring everyone together while respecting the uniqueness and gifts of each person or people is a good globalization; it helps all of us to grow, and it brings peace. I like to use a geometrical image for this. If globalization is a sphere, where every point is equidistant from the centre, it cancels everything out; it is not good. But if globalization is like a polyhedron, where everything is united but each element keeps its own identity, then it is good; it causes a people to grow, it bestows dignity and it grants rights to all.

Among us today are members of America’s large Hispanic population, as well as representatives of recent immigrants to the United States. Many of you have emigrated (I greet you warmly!) to this country at great personal cost, in the hope of building a new life. Do not be discouraged by whatever hardships you face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this nation. Please, you should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land. I repeat, do not be ashamed of what is part of you, your life blood. You are also called to be responsible citizens, and to contribute fruitfully – as those who came before you did with such fortitude – to the life of the communities in which you live. I think in particular of the vibrant faith which so many of you possess, the deep sense of family life and all those other values which you have inherited. By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within. Do not forget what took place here over two centuries ago. Do not forget that Declaration which proclaimed that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights and that governments exist in order to protect and defend those rights.

Dear friends, I thank you for your warm welcome and for joining me here today. Let us preserve freedom. Let us cherish freedom. Freedom of conscience, religious freedom, the freedom of each person, each family, each people, which is what gives rise to rights. May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy. And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself. May he bless you all. I ask you, please, say a little prayer for me. Thank you.


Address of His Holiness, Pope Francis
to the delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre
Clementine Hall, Vatican City

Dear friends,

I welcome this Delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish organization for the defense of human rights. I am aware that this meeting had been planned some time ago by my predecessor Benedict XVI, whom you asked to visit and who remains in our affectionate thoughts and prayers.

These meetings are a concrete sign of the respect and esteem which you have for the Bishops of Rome, for which I am grateful. They are likewise an expression of the appreciation of the Pope for the task to which you have dedicated yourselves: to combat every form of racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism, to keep alive the memory of the Shoah, and to promote mutual understanding through education and commitment to the good of society.

In these last few weeks, I have reaffirmed on more than one occasion the Church’s condemnation of all forms of anti-Semitism. Today I wish to emphasize that the problem of intolerance must be confronted in all its forms: wherever any minority is persecuted and marginalized because of its religious convictions or ethnic identity, the wellbeing of society as a whole is endangered and each one of us must feel affected. With particular sadness I think of the sufferings, the marginalization and the very real persecutions which not a few Christians are undergoing in various countries. Let us combine our efforts in promoting a culture of encounter, respect, understanding and mutual forgiveness.

For the building of such a culture, I would like to highlight especially the importance of education, not only as the transmission of facts, but as the handing on of a living witness. This presupposes the establishment of a communion of life, a covenant with the coming generations, which is always open to truth. To the young, we must be able to convey not only a knowledge of the history of Jewish-Catholic dialogue about past difficulties, but also an awareness of the progress made in recent decades. Above all we must be able to transmit a passion for meeting and coming to know others, promoting an active and responsible involvement of our young people. It is here that commitment to the service of society and to those most in need acquires a special value. I encourage you to continue to pass on to the young the importance of working together to reject walls and build bridges between our cultures and our faith traditions. May we go forward with trust, courage and hope! Shalom!


Message of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
addressed to the Coloquium between Mexico and the Holy See
concerning human mobility and development

I would like to extend my greetings to the organizers, speakers, and participants in the Mexico Holy See colloquium on human migration and development.

Globalization is a phenomenon that challenges us, especially in one of its principal manifestations which is emigration. It is one of the signs of this time that we live in and that brings us back to the words of Jesus, Why do you not know how to interpret the present time? (Lk 12,57). Despite the large influx of migrants present in all continents and in almost all countries, migration is still seen as an emergency, or as a circumstantial and sporadic fact, while instead it has now become a hallmark of our society and a challenge.

It is a phenomenon that carries with it great promise and many challenges. Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often, die tragically; many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.

Faced with this situation, I repeat what I have affirmed in this year’s Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees: A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world.

I would also like to draw attention to the tens of thousands of children who migrate alone, unaccompanied, to escape poverty and violence: This is a category of migrants from Central America and Mexico itself who cross the border with the United States under extreme conditions and in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain. They are increasing day by day. This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected. These measures, however, will not be sufficient, unless they are accompanied by policies that inform people about the dangers of such a journey and, above all, that promote development in their countries of origin. Finally, this challenge demands the attention of the entire international community so that new forms of legal and secure migration may be adopted.

I wish every success to the laudable initiative of the Mexican government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in arranging a colloquium of study and reflection on the great challenge of migration and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing to all those present.

From the Vatican
July 11, 2014
Francis


Address of His Holiness, Pope Francis
to the delegates of the International Association of Penal Law
Hall of Popes, Vatican City

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

I warmly greet all of you and I would like to express my personal gratitude for your service to society and for your valuable contribution to the development of a legal process that respects the dignity and rights of the human person, without distinction.

I would like to share a few ideas with you on certain issues which, although debatable in part — in part! — touch directly upon the dignity of the human person and therefore concern the Church, in her mission of evangelization, of human advancement, of service to justice and to peace. I shall do so in summary form and under headings, in an expository and concise manner.

Introduction
First of all I should like to make two premises, sociological in nature, regarding incitement to revenge and penal populism.

a) Incitement to revenge

In mythology as in primitive societies, the crowd discovers the evil powers of its sacrificial victims, who are accused of the misfortunes that befall the community. This dynamic is not lacking in modern societies either. Reality shows that the existence of the legal and political instruments necessary to address and resolve conflicts is not a sufficient guarantee to prevent some individuals from being blamed for everyone’s problems.

Civic life, structured around an organized community, needs rules of coexistence, the wilful violation of which demands appropriate redress. However, we are living in times in which, as much as in some political sectors as by certain media, public and private violence and revenge are incited, not only against those responsible for committing crimes, but also against those suspected, whether proven or not, of breaking the law.

b) Penal populism

In this context, a widespread conviction has taken root in recent decades that public punishment can resolve the most disparate social problems, as if completely different diseases could be treated with the same medicine. This is not so much about trust in some social function traditionally attributed to public punishment, as about the belief that it is possible that such punishment can obtain those benefits that would demand the application of a different type of social and economic policy as well as social inclusion.

Scapegoats are not only sought to pay, with their freedom and with their life, for all social ills such as was typical in primitive societies, but over and beyond this, there is at times a tendency to deliberately fabricate enemies: stereotyped figures who represent all the characteristics that society perceives or interprets as threatening. The mechanisms that form these images are the same that allowed the spread of racist ideas in their time.

I. Criminal justice out of control and the mission of jurists

The guiding principle of cautela in poenam

As things stand, the criminal justice system oversteps its proper sanctioned function and places itself on the ground of the freedoms and rights of the people, especially of the most vulnerable, in the name of prevention whose effectiveness it has not yet been possible to ascertain, not even for the most severe punishments, such as the death penalty. There is a risk of failing to preserve even the proportionality of punishment, which historically reflects the scale of values protected by the State.

There has been an abatement of the ultima ratio concept of criminal law as the last resort to punishment, limited to the most serious cases against the individual and collective interests most worthy of protection. The debate over replacing prison with alternative punitive sanctions has also abated.

In this context, the mission of jurists cannot be other than that of limiting and containing these tendencies. It is a difficult task, in times when many judges and employees in the criminal justice system must perform their work under the pressure of the mass media, of certain unscrupulous politicians and of the vengeful trend which permeates society. Those charged with this great responsibility are called to fulfil their duty, since not to do so would endanger human lives, which need to be treated with greater commitment than what is sometimes done in carrying out one’s duties.

II. Regarding the primacy of life and the dignity of the human person

Primatus principii pro homine

a) Regarding the death penalty

It is impossible to imagine that States today fail to employ a means other than capital punishment to protect the lives of other people from the unjust aggressor.

St John Paul II condemned the death penalty (cf. Encyclical Letter Evangelium Vitae, n. 56), as does the Catechism of the Catholic Church (n. 2267) as well.

It can be established, however, that States take life not only through the death penalty and through war, but also when, in order to justify their crimes, public officials take refuge in the shadow of State prerogatives. So-called extra-judicial or extra-legal executions are homicides deliberately committed by certain States and by their agents, often passed off as clashes with criminals or presented as the unintended consequences of the reasonable, necessary and proportionate use of force in applying the law. In this way, although among the 60 Countries that sanction the death penalty, 35 have not applied it in the last 10 years, the death penalty is applied illegally and in varying degrees throughout the planet.

The same extra-judicial executions are performed in a systematic way not only by States in the international community, but also by entities not recognized as such, and they are genuine crimes.

There are many well known arguments against the death penalty. The Church has duly highlighted several, such as the possibility of judicial error and the use made by totalitarian and dictatorial regimes who use it as a means of suppressing political dissidence or of persecuting religious and cultural minorities, all victims who, in their respective legislation are termed “delinquents”.

All Christians and men of good will are thus called today to fight not only for the abolition of the death penalty, whether legal or illegal, and in all its forms, but also in order to improve prison conditions, with respect for the human dignity of the people deprived of their freedom. And I link this to life imprisonment. A short time ago the life sentence was taken out of the Vatican’s Criminal Code. A life sentence is just a death penalty in disguise.

b) Regarding conditions of detention, un-sentenced prisoners and those sentenced without trial

These are not tall stories: you know it well — pretrial detention — when an early sentence is procured in an abusive manner, without conviction, or as a measure applied in case of a suspicion more or less based on a crime committed — constitutes another contemporaneous form of unlawful and hidden punishment, beyond a veneer of legality.

This situation is particularly serious in certain countries and regions of the world, where the number of un-sentenced detainees surpasses 50 percent of the total. This phenomenon contributes to an even greater deterioration of the conditions of detention, a situation which the building of new prisons can never manage to resolve, since the capacity of every new prison is already exhausted before being opened. In additional it causes the misuse of police stations and military bases as places of detention. The issue of un-sentenced prisoners should be addressed with due caution since it runs the risk of creating another problem as serious as, if not worse than, the first: that of untried prisoners, convicted without applying the rules.

The deplorable conditions of detention which are observed in various parts of the planet, are often genuinely inhuman and degrading deficiencies, often the result of the penal system, at other times due to the lack of infrastructure and of planning, while in more than a few cases they represent the arbitrary and unscrupulous exercise of power over people deprived of freedom.

c) Regarding torture and other measures, and cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments

The adjective “cruel”; under these headings that I have mentioned, there is always that root: the human capacity for cruelty. This is a passion, a real vice! One form of torture is the one sometimes applied through confinement in high security prisons. With the pretext of offering greater security to society or special treatment for certain categories of prisoners, its main characteristic is none other than external isolation. As shown by studies carried out by various human rights organizations, the lack of sensory stimuli, the total impossibility of communication and the lack of contact with other human beings induce mental and physical suffering such as paranoia, anxiety, depression, weight loss, and significantly increase the suicidal tendency.

This phenomenon, a characteristic of high security prisons, also occurs in other types of penitentiaries, along with other forms of physical and mental torture, the practice of which has spread. Today torture is not inflicted only as a means of obtaining a specific objective, such as a confession or information — practices which are characteristic of national security doctrine — but is a genuine surplus of pain added to the actual suffering of imprisonment. In this way, torture occurs not only in clandestine detention centres or in modern day concentration camps, but also in prisons, institutes for juveniles, psychiatric hospitals, police stations and other centres and institutions of detention and punishment.

The very theory of criminal justice has great responsibility in this sphere, by the fact of having permitted, in certain cases, the legitimization of torture on certain grounds, opening the way to further and more extensive abuses.

Many States are also responsible for having committed or tolerated kidnapping within their territories, including that of citizens of their respective countries, or of having authorized the use of their air space for illegal transportation toward detention centres where torture takes place.

These abuses can only be stopped with the firm commitment of the international community to recognize the primacy of the pro homine principle, meaning the dignity of the human person above every thing else.

d) Regarding the application of criminal sanctions on children and the elderly and with regard to other particularly vulnerable people

States must abstain from the criminal beating of children, who have not fully developed to maturity and for this reason cannot be held responsible. They must instead benefit from all the privileges that the State is capable of offering, regarding policies of inclusion as much as practices directed at developing in them respect for life and for the rights of others.

The elderly, for their part, are those who, starting from their mistakes, can teach the rest of society. One does not learn solely from the virtues of saints, but also from the shortcomings and mistakes of sinners and, among them, from those who, for whatever reason, have fallen and have committed crimes. Moreover, humanitarian reasons dictate particular treatment for adults now advanced in age, as punishment must be excluded or limited for those who suffer from serious or terminal illness, for pregnant women, for disabled people, for mothers or fathers who are the only person responsible for minors or for disabled people.

III. Considerations regarding certain forms of criminality that gravely harm human dignity and the common good

Certain forms of criminality, perpetrated by private citizens, gravely harm human dignity and the common good. Many of these forms of criminality could never be committed without the complicity, active or passive, of public authorities.

a) Regarding the crime of human trafficking

Enslaving people, human trafficking and war crimes are recognized as crimes against humanity, both by international law and by many national laws. It is a crime against humanity. And since it is not possible to commit so complex a crime as human trafficking without the complicity, by action or omission, of States, it is evident that, when efforts to prevent and combat this phenomenon are insufficient, we are again facing a crime against humanity. Moreover, should it happen that person who is appointed to protect people and guarantee their freedom, instead becomes an accomplice of those who trade in human beings, then, in such cases, the States are responsible before their citizens and before the International Community.

Figures state that a billion people are trapped in absolute poverty. One-and-a-half billion people do not have access to sanitation services, to potable water, to electricity, to elementary education or to the healthcare system, and must endure economic hardship inconsistent with a dignified life (2014 Human Development Report, UNPD). Although the total number of people in this situation has decreased in recent years, their vulnerability has increased, due to the increased difficulties they have to face in order to emerge from that situation. This is the result of the ever growing number of people living in war stricken countries. In 2012 alone, 45 million people were forced to flee due to situations of violence or persecution; of these, 15 million are refugees, the highest figure in 18 years. Seventy percent of these people are women. Additionally, it is estimated that, worldwide, seven out of ten who die of starvation are women and children (United Nations Fund for Women, UNIFEM).

b) Regarding the crime of corruption

The scandalous concentration of global wealth is made possible by the connivance of public leaders with the powers that be. Corruption is in and of itself a death process: when a life is ended, there is corruption.

There are few things more difficult than breaching a corrupt heart: So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Lk 12:21). When a corrupt person’s private situation becomes complicated, he knows all the loopholes to escape, as did the dishonest steward of the Gospel (cf. Lk 16:1-8).

A corrupt person passes through life with shortcuts of opportunism, with an air of one who says: “It wasn’t me”, managing to internalize his ‘honest man’ mask. It is a process of internalization. The corrupt person cannot accept criticism; he discredits those who criticize; he seeks to diminish any moral authority that may call him into question; he does not value others and attacks with insults whomsoever may think in a different way. Should opportunity permit, he persecutes anyone who contradicts him.

Corruption is expressed in an atmosphere of triumphalism because the corrupt person considers himself a winner. He struts about in that environment in order to belittle others. The corrupt person knows neither brotherhood nor friendship, but complicity and enmity. The corrupt one does not perceive his corruption. It is somewhat like what happens with bad breath: the person who has it is seldom aware of it; it is the others who notice it and have to tell him about it. For this reason it is unlikely that the corrupt person will be able to recognize his state and change through inner remorse.

Corruption is a greater ill than sin. More than forgiveness, this ill must be treated. Corruption has become natural, to the point of becoming a personal and social statement tied to customs, common practice in commercial and financial transactions, in public contracting, in every negotiation that involves agents of the State. It is the victory of appearances over reality and of brazenness over honourable discretion.

The Lord, however, does not tire of knocking at the doors of the corrupt. Corruption is no match for hope.

What can criminal law do against corruption? There are now many conventions and international treaties on the subject and a proliferation of offences defined and directed at protecting not so much the citizenry, who are definitively the ultimate victims — especially the most vulnerable — as to protect the interests of those operating the economic and financial markets.

Criminal punishment is selective. It is like a net that catches only the little fish, while it leaves the big fish free in the ocean. The forms of corruption that most need to be addressed are those which cause severe social harm — such as, for example, serious fraud against the public administration or dishonest administrative practices — shown by any type of obstruction of justice intended to gain impunity for one’s own misdeeds or for those of third parties.

Conclusion
In the application of punishment, caution must be the underlying principle of criminal law systems, and the full operative force of the pro homine principle must guarantee that States are not allowed, juridically or in fact, to subordinate respect for the dignity of the human person to any other purpose, even should it serve some sort of social utility. Respect for human dignity must serve not only to limit arbitrariness and the excesses of the agents of the State, but act as a guiding criterion for the prosecution and punishment of those actions which represent the most serious attacks against the dignity and integrity of the human person.

Dear friends, I thank you again for this meeting, and I assure you that I will continue to be close to you in your demanding work in serving man in the field of justice. There is no doubt that, for those among you who are called to live the Christian vocation of your Baptism, this is a privileged and dynamic field of world evangelization. For all, even those of you who are not Christian, there is a need in every case for the assistance of God, who is the source of all reason and justice. Hence, I invoke, upon each one of you, through the intercession of the Virgin Mother, the light and the power of the Holy Spirit. I bless you from my heart and I ask you to please pray for me. Thank you.


Address of His Holiness, Pope Francis
to participants in the meeting sponsored by
the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies
on the 50th Anniversary of its establishment in Rome
Clementine Hall 

Your Eminences, Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to welcome you at the conclusion of the conference organized to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome. I thank Cardinal Grocholewski for the words he addressed to me on behalf of all, and Cardinal Tauran for his attendance.

In recent years, despite some misunderstandings and difficulties, progress has been made in inter-religious dialogue, and also with the Islamic faithful. Listening is essential for this. It is not only a necessary condition in a process of mutual comprehension and peaceful coexistence, but is also a pedagogical duty in order to be able to acknowledge the values of others, appreciate the concerns underlying their demands and shed light on shared beliefs (Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, 253). The basis of all this is the necessity of an adequate formation in order that, secure in one’s own identity, it is possible to grow in mutual understanding.

One needs to pay attention to avoid falling into the snare of a facile syncretism which would ultimately be an empty harbinger of a valueless totalitarianism (EG, 251, 253). A soft and accommodating approach, which says ‘yes’ to everything in order to avoid problems (EG, 251), ends up being a way of deceiving others and denying them the good which we have been given to share generously with others (EG, 251). This invites us, firstly, to return to the basics.

When we approach a person who professes his religion with conviction, his testimony and thoughts ask us and lead us to question our own spirituality. Dialogue, thus, begins with encounter. The first knowledge of the other is born from it. Indeed, if one begins from the premise of the common affiliation inhuman nature, one can go beyond prejudices and fallacies and begin to understand the other according to a new perspective.

The history of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies has gone in this very direction. It is not limited to accepting superficial statements, giving rise to stereotypes and preconceptions. Academic work, the fruit of daily effort, seeks to investigate sources, fill in the gaps, analyze etymology, propose a hermeneutics of dialogue and, through a scientific approach inspired by astonishment and wonder, is able to avoid losing the bearings of mutual respect and reciprocal esteem. With these premises, one tip-toes toward the other without stirring up the dust that clouds one’s vision.

The 50 years of PISAI in Rome — after its birth and first steps in Tunisia, thanks to the great work of Missionaries in Africa — show how much the Universal Church, in the climate of Post-Conciliar renewal, has understood the impending need for an institute dedicated explicitly to research and the formation of those who promote dialogue with Muslims. Perhaps there has never been a greater need, since the most effective antidote to violence is teaching the discovery and acceptance of difference as richness and fruitfulness.

This task is not simple, but is born and grows out of a strong sense of responsibility. Muslim-Christian dialogue requires, in a particular way, patience and humility along with extensive study, because approximation and improvisation can be counterproductive, or can even cause discomfort and embarrassment. A lasting and continuous commitment is needed in order not to be caught unprepared in various situations and in different contexts. For this reason, there is need for a specific preparation, not limited by sociological analysis, but having the characteristics of a journey among members of religions who, although in different ways, refer to the spiritual paternity of Abraham. Culture and education are in no way secondary to a true process of approaching the other which respects in each person “his life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices” (Message for the End of Ramadan, 10 July 2013).

This Institute is very precious among the academic institutions of the Holy See, and still needs to become better known. My desire is that it increasingly become a point of reference for the formation of Christians who work in the field of inter-religious dialogue, under the auspices of the Congregation for Catholic Education and in close cooperation with the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. On the journey of exploring truth, toward the full respect of the person and of his dignity, may the PISAI instil a fruitful collaboration with the other Pontifical Universities, with study and research centres, both Christian and Muslim, scattered throughout the world.


On the happy occasion of this Jubilee I wish the PISAI community may never betray its primary purpose of listening and dialogue, founded on distinct identities, on the passionate, patient and vigorous search for truth and beauty, sown by the Creator in the heart of every man and woman and truly visible in every authentic religious expression. I ask you to please pray for me and I wholeheartedly wish you all blessing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Condolences to Sierra Leone

Having received news of floods and landslides which took place in the capital city of Sierra Leone on Monday of this week, the Holy Father, Pope Francis has sent a telegram of condolence, signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State, His Eminence, Pietro Parolin, to the Archbishop of Freetown (Sierra Leone), His Excellency, Charles Edward Tamba.


Telegram sent by the Cardinal Secretary of State
for victims of flooding and landslides in Freetown

The Right Reverend Charles Edward Tamba
Archbishop of Freetown

        Deeply saddened by the devastating consequences of the mudslide on the outskirts of Freetown, His Holiness, Pope Francis assures those who have lost loved ones of his closeness at this difficult time. He prays for all who have died, and upon their grieving families and friends he invokes the divine blessings of strength and consolation. His Holiness likewise expresses his prayerful solidarity with the rescue workers and all involved in providing the much needed relief and support to the victims of this disaster.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Angelus for the Assumption

At noon today (in Rome), the liturgical Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter's Square.


Greetings of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the gospel presents the young maiden of Nazareth who, having received the news from the angel, leaves in a hurry to draw close to Elizabeth, in the final months of her prodigious pregnancy.  Upon her arrival, Mary hears from the mouth of Elizabeth the words that have become part of the prayer of the Hail Mary: Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb (Lk 1:42).  In effect, the greatest gift that Mary brought to Elizabeth - and to the entire world - was Jesus, who was already living within her; and he was living not only by faith but in anticipation, as was the case with many women in the Old Testament, Jesus took human flesh through the gift of the Virgin in order to carry out his mission of salvation.

In the house of Elizabeth and her husband Zachariah, where sadness was once prominent because of the lack of children, now there was joy at the prospect of a child who was to come: a baby who would become the great John the Baptist, the precursor of the Messiah.  And when Mary arrived, this joy overflowed and poured out of their hearts because the invisible but real presence of Jesus filled everyone with meaning: life, family, salvation of his people ... everyone and everything!  This abundant joy was expressed in Mary's voice in the wonderful prayer that Luke's gospel has passed on to us, a prayer which is known by the first of its words in Latin: Magnificat.  It is a song of praise to God who does great things through humble people, unknown to the rest of the world, like Mary was, like her spouse Joseph, and like even the place where they lived was: Nazareth.  God has done great things with humble people, God still does great things in the world through humble people because humility is like a face that leaves room for God.  A humble person is powerful because of his or her humility: not because he or she is strong.  This is the greatness of the humble and of humility.  I want to ask you - and also myself - but don't respond out loud: everyone reply in your hearts: Am I humble?

The Magnificat sings of a God who is merciful and faithful, who accomplishes his will for salvation through the small and the poor, through those who have faith in Him, who rely on his Word, like Mary did.  Remember Elizabeth's exclamation: Blessed are you because you believed (Lk 1:45).  In that house, the coming of Jesus through Mary created not only a climate of joy and fraternal communion, but also a climate of faith which led to hope, prayer and praise.

All of this we hope for today in our own homes.   Celebrating Blessed Mary Assumed into Heaven, our desire is that she will once again bring us, bring our families, bring our communities the immense gift of the grace that we must always ask for first and foremost above all other graces: the grace that is Jesus Christ!

Carrying Jesus, Our Lady also brings us new joy, filled with meaning; she brings us a new ability to live even the saddest and most difficult moments of our lives with faith; she brings us the ability for mercy, the ability to forgive, to understand, to support one another.

Mary is an example of virtue and faith.  Contemplating her assumption into Heaven today, after having accomplished her earthly mission, we thank her for always leading us along the pilgrimage of life and of faith - she is the first of the disciples.  And we ask her to care for us and to support us so that we may have strong, joyous and merciful faith; we ask her to help us to be saints, to meet with her one day in Paradise.



After the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

To Mary, the Queen of peace, who we contemplate today in the glory of Paradise, I wish once again to entrust all the worries and pains of people in many parts of the world who are suffering due to natural disasters, social tensions and conflicts!  May our heavenly Mother obtain for all of us consolation and a future of serenity and concord!

I greet all of you, Romans and pilgrims from various countries!  In particular, I greet the young people from Mira (Venice) and the Don Bosco Association from Noci.  I also greet ... I see the Spanish and the Polish flags.  Happy Feast Day!

Thank you all for coming; I wish you a good feast day of Our Lady's Assumption and, please, don't forget to pray for me.  Enjoy your lunch and good bye!

Why celebrate Mary's Assumption

The Church celebrates Mary's final journey into the fullness of God's Kingdom with the dogma of the Assumption promulgated by Pius XII in 1954.

As with her beginnings, so too, with the end of her life, God fulfilled in her all of the promises that he has given to us. We, too, shall be raised up into heaven as she was. In Mary we have an image of humanity and divinity at home.

God is indeed comfortable in our presence and we in God's. Through her Assumption, Mary was chosen to have a special place of honour in the Godhead.


Living Word - Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB Reflection 5 from Salt and Light Catholic Media on Vimeo.