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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

General Audience explaining why we go to Mass

This morning's General Audience began at 9:35am in the Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father, Pope Francis met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

In his speech, the Pope continued the new cycle of catecheses on the Mass, focusing on the theme: Why should we go to Mass on Sunday?

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father addressed particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Continuing with the journey of catecheses on the Mass, today let us ask ourselves: why should we go to Mass on Sunday?

The Sunday celebration of the Eucharist is at the centre of the life of the Church (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2177).  We Christians go to Mass on Sunday in order to meet the risen Lord, or better said, to allow ourselves to be encountered by Him, to listen to his word, to nourish ourselves at his table and in that way, we become a Church, his mystical body which is alive in the world.

From the very beginning, Jesus' disciples understood this as they celebrated the Eucharistic encounter with the Lord on the day which the Jews called the first of the week and the Romans called the day of the sun, for it was on that day that Jesus had risen rom the dead and had appeared to the disciples, speaking with them, eating with them, and the day on which he had sent the Holy Spirit (cf Mt 28:1; Mk 16:9, 14; Lk 24:1, 13; Jn 20:19), as we heard in the biblical reading this morning.

The great outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost took place on Sunday, the fiftieth day after the resurrection of Jesus.  For these reasons, Sunday is a holy day for us, made holy by the Eucharistic celebration, the living presence of the Lord among us and for us.  Therefore, the Mass makes Sunday a Christian! A Christian Sunday revolves around the Mass. What would Sunday be for a Christian if there were no encounter with the Lord?

There are some Christian communities that unfortunately cannot enjoy Mass every Sunday; who nonetheless, on these holy days, are called to gather in prayer in the name of the Lord, to listen to the Word of God and to keep alive their desire for the Eucharist.

Some secular societies have lost the Christian meaning of Sundays illuminated by the Eucharist.  This is a sin!  In such a context, we need to revive this awareness in order to re-capture the meaning of a feast, the significance of joy, of a parish community, of solidarity, of rest that restores the soul and the body (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 2177-2188).  Among all these values, the Eucharist is the best, Sunday after Sunday.  For this reason, the Second Vatican Council wished to reiterate the fact that Sunday is the day of the primordial feast which must be proposed and infused in the piety of the faithful, in order that it may also become a day of joy and of abstention from work (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 106).

Abstaining from work on Sunday did not exist in the first centuries: it is a specific addition adopted by Christianity.  According to biblical tradition, the Jews would rest on the Sabbath, while Roman society did not allow for a weekly day of abstention from servile work.  It was the Christian sense of living as children and not as slaves, animated by the Eucharist, that made Sunday - almost universally - the day of rest.

Without Christ, we are condemned to be ruled by daily tiredness, with its preoccupations, and fear of tomorrow.  Our Sunday encounters with the Lord give us the strength to live today with trust and courage and to keep going with hope.  This is the reason why we Christians go toward the encounter with the Lord on Sunday, in the Eucharistic celebration.

Eucharistic communion with Jesus, Risen and living for all eternity, anticipates the Sunday when there will be no sunset, when there will be no more tiredness or suffering or fighting or tears, but only the joy of living fully and forever with the Lord.  The Sunday Mass also speaks of this blessed repose, teaching us throughout the flow of the week to entrust ourselves into the hands of our Father in heaven.

How can we reply to those who say that it is useless to go to Mass, not even on Sunday, because what is important is to live well, to love our neighbour?  It is true that the quality of a Christian life is measured by our capacity to love, as Jesus said: By this, all will know that you are my disciples: if you love one another (Jn 13:35); but how can we practice the gospel without drawing the energy necessary to do so, one Sunday after another, from the inexhaustible font of the Eucharist?  We do not go to Mass in order to give something to God, but in order to receive from Him that which we truly need.  The Church's prayer reminds us of this when she says to God: You have no need of our praise, yet by the gift of your love, you call us to give you thanks; our hymns of praise do nothing to enhance your greatness, but obtain for us the grace that saves us (Roman Missal, Common Preface IV).

In conclusion, why do we go to Mass on Sunday?  It is not enough for us to reply by saying that it is a precept of the Church; this helps us to keep its value but it is not enough.  We Christians need to participate in Sunday Mass because only with the grace of Jesus, with his presence living within us and among us, can we put his commandment into practice, to be his witnesses in the world.

The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages and he offered greetings to each group of pilgrims in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I am pleased to greet the participants in the 2017 Forum of Catholic-inspired Non-Governmental Organizations meeting in Rome during these days. I express my deep appreciation for your efforts to bring the light of the Gospel to the various peripheries of our world, in order to defend human dignity, to promote the integral development of peoples, and to meet the material and spiritual needs of so many members of our human family. I encourage you to work always in a spirit of communion and cooperation with other Catholic NGOs and with the representatives of the Holy See, as an expression of the Church’s commitment to the building of a more just and fraternal world. With prayerful good wishes that these days of reflection and discussion will prove fruitful for your work, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.

I also greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from Australia, Indonesia, India, Japan and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Council of Cardinals at work

At 1:00pm local time today, the Director of the Holy See Press Centre, Greg Burke, held a briefing concerning the XXII meeting of the Council of Cardinals which took place this week.

The Council of Cardinals met for three days: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 11-13 December.  All the members of the Council were present except for His Eminence, Cardinal George Pell, and His Eminence, Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo Pasinya who only arrived on Monday night because his flight had been cancelled due to inclement weather.

The Holy Father was present at all the meetings, except for the one held this morning due to the fact that he was at the General Audience.

Yesterday afternoon's meeting was shorter than expected in order to allow the Cardinals to participate in the Mass presided over by the Pope on the occasion of the liturgical Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe.

The working sessions were held in the mornings from 9:00am to 12:30pm and in the afternoons from 4:30pm until 7:00pm and were partially dedicated once again to a reflection on the Curia as an instrument of evangelization and service for the Pope and for the local Churches.

Also, the Cardinals continued their reflection on questions pertaining to four of the Dicasteries: for Clergy, for the Evangelization of Peoples, for Catholic Education and for Culture.

A significant part of their work was dedicated to reports presented by the Superiors of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life; the Secretary for Communications and the Section of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development that is dedicated to Migrants and Refugees.

His Eminence, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life illustrated the composition of the new Dicastery, which was instituted on 1 September 2016, with special attention paid to the relationship of the Dicastery to youth.

Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, Prefect of the Secretariat for Communications presented the final steps of the changes that are being effected.  He outlined the organization of the Dicastery and of various Directors.  From these, an organizational chart of the new Dicastery will be developed with the approval of the Secretariat of State.  In addition, he spoke about the project which was presented at the beginning concerning reforms to the Vatican media, and demonstrated how the work has been done in regard to: timelines, reduction of personnel (whenever possible) and reduction of costs.  He then outlined the new procedures for multimedia productions and the new portal, which will be presented in the coming days in Beta version - not part of the reform but certainly a first visible and concrete expression of it.  Finally, he presented a few new logos, demonstrating unity in the midst of differences.

Monsignor reiterated the fact that the Secretariat for Communications is not an office but a Dicastery of the Holy See and some questions relating to economic-administrative matters were entertained.  He also confirmed that beginning on 1 January 2018, the Secretariat will be part of the SPC - the Vatican Press - which includes l'Osservatore Romano and the Vatican Photographic Service.

The Cardinals then heard reports from Father M. Czerny, SJ and Father Fabio Baggio, CC, the two under-secretaries from the Section concerned with Migrants nad Refugees within the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.  Father Czerny and Father Baggio explained the process of organizing the Section ad tempus under the guidance of the Holy Father.  The organization chart inclludes 21 persons on staff including full-time and volunteer positions.  All activities undertaken in 2017 are based on the mission of the Dicastery, which consists of assisting the local Churches in the design and implementation of an effective pastoral response adapted to the challenges of the contemporary world concerning migrants, refugees and victims of human trafficking.  Among the principal activities are: the collection and codification of information concerning migration issues directly from the affected areas, the implementation of various social media campaigns in favour of a positive narrative regarding migrants and refugees, the production of a document (20 Action Points) in view of Global Compacts concerning migrants and refugees in 2018 and the elaboration of a global strategy involving the principal Catholic actors (Secretary of State, Episcopal Conferences, Catholic NGOs and Religious Congregations), and the direct assistance of some Episcopal Conferences.

His Eminence, Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley, OFM Cap informed the other members of the Council concerning the work that is being undertaken by the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, especially in regard to the work of assisting local Churches.

The next meeting of the Council of Cardinals will be held on 26-28 February 2018.

Greetings for the 25th anniversary

The Holy Father, Pope Francis has sent a Message to His Eminence, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Services marking the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Populorum Progressio Foundation.

Message of His Holiness, Pope Francis
for the 25th anniversary of the
Populorum Progressio Foundation

To His Eminence, Peter K.A. Turkson
Prefect of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development Services
and President of the Populorum Progressio Foundation

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Populorum Progressio Foundation, I would like to convey my greetings to all the members of the Board of Directors of the institution, to its collaborators and to all those who will meet to celebrate this event in Rome.

On 13 November 1992, my predecessor, John Paul II, created the Populorum Progressio Foundation to help improve the conditions of the indigenous, mestizo and African-American peoples in Latin America, who are among the most marginalized groups in Latin American and Caribbean society. His wish was for this institution to express the Pope’s closeness to people who lack even the most essential goods to live, and whom society or its authorities often leave behind. The initiatives this organism carries out are intended as a manifestation of God’s love and of the maternal presence of the Church in the midst of all men, particularly the poorest of the poor (Lk 7: 22).

Since then, the Foundation has supported around 4,400 projects, thanks to the generosity of so many Catholics and men of good will who have generously given what they had so others could improve their living conditions.

It is important to mention that the particular Churches of Latin America participate in the realization of the projects and in the Managing Board, formed by six Ordinaries of the region, which studies the initiatives presented by bishops and pastoral leaders.

However, the situation in Latin America requires a stronger commitment, in order to improve the living conditions of all, without excluding anyone, also in the fight against injustice and corruption, so as to obtain the best results of the efforts deployed. Indeed, despite the potential of the Latin American countries – inhabited by people in solidarity with others and with great wealth from a historical and cultural point of view, as well as natural resources – the current economic and social crisis, worsened by the scourge of external debt that paralyzes development, has affected the population and increased poverty, unemployment and social inequality, also contributing to the exploitation and abuse of our common home, at a level we had never imagined before.

When an economic system places only the god of money at the centre, policies of exclusion are triggered and there is no longer any place for men or for women. The human being, then, creates that throwaway culture that leads to suffering, depriving so many of the right to live and to be happy (cf Encyclical Letter Laudato si’, 44).

The Foundation was established to be a sign of the closeness of the Pope and of the Church to all, especially those communities that are marginalized and considered disposable, deprived of basic human rights and sharing at the table of the common good, as happens unfortunately with the native peoples, mestizos and African-Americans in Latin America. The Church is called to be close and to touch in our neighbour the flesh of Christ, which is also the measure of Christ’s judgment (cf Mt 25).

The Foundation, despite the limited means available to it, embodies in its projects the preferential option for the poor, highlighting their dignity (cf Encyclical Letter Laudato si’, 158), through witness of Christ’s charity, that gives, reaching out a hand to our brothers and sisters so that they can rise up, have hope again, and living a dignified life. Only in this way can they become protagonists of their own integral human development, recovering their dignity as human beings loved and wanted by God, and contributing to the economic and social progress of their country with all the wealth that they conserve in their hearts and in their culture. And this human development will be everyone’s work, since it will be the fruit of a common effort that, through the means provided so generously by the ecclesial communities, turns rejection into an authentic resource, not only for a country but also for the benefit of all the humanity.

The Foundation, which finances many projects in support of native peoples, will find at the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, which will take place in Rome in October 2019, a source of inspiration for the future and for the evangelization of the Continent.

Allow me to thank the representatives of the Italian Episcopal Conference, who so generously and faithfully accompany the Foundation, as well as Catholic Organizations and donors who have offered an appreciated contribution for the financing of the projects. Sharing in the gratitude of those who benefited from this important help, I ask God to reward them with abundant spiritual blessings. Finally, I greet the Secretariat’s colleagues in Bogotá and the Dicastery, thanking them for their active commitment on behalf of their brothers and sisters in need. I encourage them in their work in support of integral human development and the common good in our American continent, so that the collaboration of all people may contribute to creating a world that is increasingly just and humane, that sees the face of Christ in every brother and sister of the most marginalized populations of Latin America, following the example of Saint Teresa of Calcutta. I commend the celebrations of this anniversary to the maternal intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, venerated throughout the American Continent, and may the Lord bless the members of the Foundation and their benefactors.

From the Vatican
20 November 2017

(Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Celebrating the Patroness of the Americas

At 6:00pm local time today, inside the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father, Pope Francis presided at the Eucharistic Celebration for the liturgical Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe.

Homily of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the Mass celebrated on the Feast of
Our Lady of Guadalupe

The gospel that has just been proclaimed is the preface to two great canticles: the canticle of Mary, known as the Magnificat and the canticle of Zechariah, the Benedictus, and I like to call this one the canticle of Elizabeth or the canticle of fecundity.  Thousands of Christians throughout the world begin each day singing: Blessed be the Lord and conclude the day proclaiming his greatness for he has looked with kindness upon the lowliness of his people.  In this way, believers among various peoples, day after day, seek to keep a memory; to remember that from generation to generation, the mercy of God is extended toward every people as it has been promised to our fathers.  And from this context of grateful memory comes Elizabeth's song, offered in the form of a question: Who am I that the mother of my Lord comes to visit me?  Elizabeth, a woman marked by the sign of sterility, we find singing beautifully as she is marked with the sign of fruitfulness and amazement.

This evening, I would like to point out two aspects.  Elizabeth, the woman marked by the sign of sterility and marked by the sign of fruitfulness.

1.  Elizabeth is a sterile woman, with all that that implies for the religious mentality of the time, those who considered sterility as a divine punishment, the result of her own sin and that of her husband.  A sign of shame for something committed in her own flesh or for which she considered herself to be guilty: a sin which she had not committed or because of which she felt very small because she had not lived up to that which was expected of her.  Let us imagine, for a moment, the looks she would have received from her family members, from the neighbours, even from herself ... sterility that reached down deep and ended up paralyzing her entire life.  Sterility that can take many names and forms each time that a person feels in his or her flesh the shame of being stigmatized or able to feel very little indeed.

We can perceive this sense of smallness in the little Indian Juan Diego, when he said to Mary”I, in fact, am not worth anything, I’m Mecapal, I’m Cacaxtle, I’m a tail, I’m a wing, feeling subservient to a foreign patron, these are not my whereabouts nor do I go there where you intend to send me (Nican Mopohua, 55).  So this sentiment can also be – as the Latin American Bishops pointed out – in our Indian and Afro-American communities which, on many occasions, aren’t treated with dignity and equality of conditions; or in many women, who are excluded because of their sex, race or socio-economic situation; young people who receive a low-quality education and have no opportunities to make progress in their studies or to enter the labor market to develop themselves and form a family; many poor , unemployed, migrants, displaced, landless peasants, who try to survive in the informal economy; boys and girls subjected to child prostitution often linked to sexual tourism (Aparecida, 65).

2.  And, together with Elizabeth, the sterile woman, we contemplate Elizabeth the fruitful-astonished woman. Elizabeth is the first to recognize and bless Mary. She it is who in her old age experienced in her life, in her flesh, the fulfillment of the promise made by God. She who could not have children bore in her womb the Precursor of salvation. We understand in her that God’s dream is not, nor will it be, sterility or stigmatizing His children or filling them with shame, but to make blossom in them and from them a song of blessing. We see this also in Juan Diego. It was in fact he, and no other, who bore in his tilma the image of the Virgin: the Virgin of dark skin and mestizo face, supported by an Angel with wings of quetzal, pelican and macaw; the Mother who is able to take on the features of her children to make them feel that they are part of her blessing.

It seems that again and again God is determined to show us the stone that the builders rejected, which becomes the cornerstone (cf Psalm 117:22).

Dear brothers, in the midst of this dialectic of fruitfulness-sterility let us look at the richness and cultural diversity of our peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean; this is a sign of the great richness that we are invited not only to cultivate but, especially in our time, to defend courageously against all attempts to homogenize, which ends by imposing – under attractive slogans – only one way of thinking, of being, of feeling, of living, which ends by invalidating or sterilizing all that we have inherited from our elders; which ends by making us feel, especially our young people, very small for belonging to this or that culture. In short, our fruitfulness calls us to defend our peoples from an ideological colonization that cancels the richest part of them, whether they are Indians, Afro-Americans, mestizos, peasants or suburbanites.

The Mother of God is the figure of the Church (Lumen Gentium, 63) and from her we want to learn to be a Church with a mestizo face, with an Indian, Afro-American, peasant face, or a boy or girl, old or young man, so that no one feels sterile or unfruitful, so that no one feels ashamed or small. But, on the contrary, so that each one, like Elizabeth and Juan Diego, feels him/herself to be the bearer of a promise, of a hope, and able to say from his/her innermost being: Abba!, namely, Father! (Galatians 4:6) from the mystery of that filiation that, without cancelling each one’s features, universalizes us constituting us a people.

Brothers, in this atmosphere of grateful memory for our being Latin Americans, let us sing Elizabeth’s canticle in our hearts, the song of fruitfulness, and let us say together to our peoples never tiring of repeating aloud: Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
(Original text in Spanish)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Celebrating the progress of peoples in Latin America

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Populorum Progressio Foundation for Latin America, there will be a special conference held tomorrow (12 December) in Rome at the Il Cantico Hotel.  The title of the conference is 25 years of service for integral human development, looking to the future.  Since it's creation on 13 February 1992 by Saint John Paul II, the Foundation has been entrusted to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum; the Foundation is now part of the pastoral mission of the new Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

In the first session of the conference, after introductory greetings offered by Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery and President of the Foundation, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops introduced some of the elements of the Synod dedicated to Amazonia and to its indigenous people.  He also spoke about the programme for 2019 and welcomed the reflections which will be offered by the Bishops of Latin America who were in attendance.  Among others who will speak is Professor Guzmán Carriquiry, who will present an outline of the Latin American reality today.

On 13 December, the annual meeting of the Foundation's Administrative Council will take place.  During that meeting, the members will discuss the financing of various projects for 2018 in favour of the indigenous, mestizo, Afro-american and peasant communities in Latin America and in the Caribbean.  The meeting will also be an occasion to reflect on a variety of ways to respond to the Foundation's mandate.  On the next day, the participants will meet in audience with the Holy Father.

The members of the Foundation's Administrative Council include: His Excellency, Luis Flavio Abastoflor Montero, Archbishop of La Paz (Bolivia), President of the Administrative Council; His Excellency, Antonio Arregui Yarza, Archbishop emeritus of Guayaquil (Ecuador), Vice-president; His Excellency, Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, Archbishop emeritus of Santo Domingo; His Excellency, Óscar Urbina Ortega, Archbishop of Villavicencio (Colombia); His Excellency, Murilo Sebastião Ramos Krieger, Archbishop of São Salvador da Bahia (Brazil); His Excellency, Javier Augusto del Río Alba, Archbishop of Arequipa (Perú); His Excellency, José Luis Azuaje, Bishop of Barinas (Venezuela); and Monsignor Segundo Tejado Muñoz, Under-secretary of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

During these 25 years, more than 4,300 projects have been accomplished with the help of the Foundation at a total allocated cost of more than $41 million.  The projects involve local communities and involve various sectors, including agriculture and livestock, crafts and micro-enterprises, infrastructure for potable water, training and educational facilities , health and construction.  Among the major supporters of the Populorum Progressio Foundation are individual participants and particular interest expressed by the Italian Episcopal Conference.

For the sick: behold your mother

Each year, the Church celebrates a special day dedicated to the sick.  It is called the World Day of Prayer for the Sick and takes place on 11 February.  This morning, the Holy See Press Centre released the text of a special Message which the Holy Father, Pope Francis has written in order to help us to be united in offering our prayers for those who are sick.

Message of His Holiness, Pope Francis
for the World Day of the Sick (2018)

Mater Ecclesiae: Behold, your son... Behold, your mother.
And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.
(Jn 19:26-27)

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Church’s service to the sick and those who care for them must continue with renewed vigour, in fidelity to the Lord’s command (cf Lk 9:2-6; Mt 10:1-8; Mk 6:7-13) and following the eloquent example of her Founder and Master.

The theme for this year’s Day of the Sick is provided by the words that Jesus spoke from the Cross to Mary, his Mother, and to John: Woman, behold your son ... Behold your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home (Jn 19:26-27).

1. The Lord’s words brilliantly illuminate the mystery of the Cross, which does not represent a hopeless tragedy, but rather the place where Jesus manifests his glory and shows his love to the end. That love in turn was to become the basis and rule for the Christian community and the life of each disciple.

Before all else, Jesus’ words are the source of Mary’s maternal vocation for all humanity. Mary was to be, in particular, the Mother of her Son’s disciples, caring for them and their journey through life. As we know, a mother’s care for her son or daughter includes both the material and spiritual dimensions of their upbringing.

The unspeakable pain of the Cross pierces Mary’s soul (cf Lk 2:35), but does not paralyze her. Quite the opposite. As the Lord’s Mother, a new path of self-giving opens up before her. On the Cross, Jesus showed his concern for the Church and all humanity, and Mary is called to share in that same concern. In describing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Acts of the Apostles show that Mary began to carry out this role in the earliest community of the Church. A role that never ceases.

2. John, the beloved disciple, is a figure of the Church, the messianic people. He must acknowledge Mary as his Mother. In doing so, he is called to take her into his home, to see in her the model of all discipleship, and to contemplate the maternal vocation that Jesus entrusted to her, with all that it entails: a loving Mother who gives birth to children capable of loving as Jesus commands. That is why Mary’s maternal vocation to care for her children is entrusted to John and to the Church as a whole. The entire community of disciples is included in Mary’s maternal vocation.

3. John, as a disciple who shared everything with Jesus, knows that the Master wants to lead all people to an encounter with the Father. He can testify to the fact that Jesus met many people suffering from spiritual sickness due to pride (cf Jn 8:31-39) and from physical ailments (cf Jn 5:6). He bestowed mercy and forgiveness upon all, and healed the sick as a sign of the abundant life of the Kingdom, where every tear will be wiped away. Like Mary, the disciples are called to care for one another, but not only that. They know that Jesus’ heart is open to all and excludes no one. The Gospel of the Kingdom must be proclaimed to all, and the charity of Christians must be directed to all, simply because they are persons, children of God.

4. The Church’s maternal vocation to the needy and to the sick has found concrete expression throughout the two thousand years of her history in an impressive series of initiatives on behalf of the sick. This history of dedication must not be forgotten. It continues to the present day throughout the world. In countries where adequate public health care systems exist, the work of Catholic religious congregations and dioceses and their hospitals is aimed not only at providing quality medical care, but also at putting the human person at the centre of the healing process, while carrying out scientific research with full respect for life and for Christian moral values. In countries where health care systems are inadequate or non-existent, the Church seeks to do what she can to improve health, eliminate infant mortality and combat widespread disease. Everywhere she tries to provide care, even when she is not in a position to offer a cure. The image of the Church as a field hospital that welcomes all those wounded by life is a very concrete reality, for in some parts of the world, missionary and diocesan hospitals are the only institutions providing necessary care to the population.

5. The memory of this long history of service to the sick is cause for rejoicing on the part of the Christian community, and especially those presently engaged in this ministry. Yet we must look to the past above all to let it enrich us. We should learn the lesson it teaches us about the self-sacrificing generosity of many founders of institutes in the service of the infirm, the creativity, prompted by charity, of many initiatives undertaken over the centuries, and the commitment to scientific research as a means of offering innovative and reliable treatments to the sick. This legacy of the past helps us to build a better future, for example, by shielding Catholic hospitals from the business mentality that is seeking worldwide to turn health care into a profit-making enterprise, which ends up discarding the poor. Wise organization and charity demand that the sick person be respected in his or her dignity, and constantly kept at the centre of the therapeutic process. This should likewise be the approach of Christians who work in public structures; through their service, they too are called to bear convincing witness to the Gospel.

6. Jesus bestowed upon the Church his healing power: These signs will accompany those who believe ... they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover (Mk 16:17-18). In the Acts of the Apostles, we read accounts of the healings worked by Peter (cf Acts 3:4-8) and Paul (cf Acts 14:8-11). The Church’s mission is a response to Jesus’ gift, for she knows that she must bring to the sick the Lord’s own gaze, full of tenderness and compassion. Health care ministry will always be a necessary and fundamental task, to be carried out with renewed enthusiasm by all, from parish communities to the largest healthcare institutions. We cannot forget the tender love and perseverance of many families in caring for their chronically sick or severely disabled children, parents and relatives. The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable policies. Doctors and nurses, priests, consecrated men and women, volunteers, families and all those who care for the sick, take part in this ecclesial mission. It is a shared responsibility that enriches the value of the daily service given by each.

7. To Mary, Mother of tender love, we wish to entrust all those who are ill in body and soul, that she may sustain them in hope. We ask her also to help us to be welcoming to our sick brothers and sisters. The Church knows that she requires a special grace to live up to her evangelical task of serving the sick. May our prayers to the Mother of God see us united in an incessant plea that every member of the Church may live with love the vocation to serve life and health. May the Virgin Mary intercede for this Twenty-sixth World Day of the Sick; may she help the sick to experience their suffering in communion with the Lord Jesus; and may she support all those who care for them. To all, the sick, to healthcare workers and to volunteers, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican
26 November 2017
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Preparing the way

Here is the text of the homily I shared with those who gathered around the Lord's table this weekend: the second Sunday of the Advent season.

Prepare the way

This second Sunday of the Advent season is known as the Sunday of peace.  Each of us has an idea in our heads about what a peaceful world might look like, but that vision differs from one person to the next, and sometimes God’s understanding of peace is also different from the portrait that we carry in our thoughts.

Two millennia ago, in search of peace, the Jewish people believed that the Saviour would appear, that he would be some kind of political leader, capable of bringing comfort to God’s people who had been subject to the most powerful of established rulers (cf Is 40:1), yet our God made himself known through some surprising messengers.

Saint Luke tells us that instead of speaking with a commanding voice, God’s messenger would be the voice of one crying out in the wilderness (Mk 1:3).  Words spoken by this herald seemed to resound over the hills and valleys as though no one were listening: Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.  What does it mean to prepare the way of the Lord?  How do we make his paths straight?  In the context of our modern day, we may easily say that society seems to be deaf to the voice of the Lord, but what about us?  Are we listening for his voice in our lives?  What are we doing to prepare his way ... in the communities where we live, in the parishes we call our places of worship, in our places of work, in our homes, in the places where we spend our leisure time?

People from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to meet John the Baptist (Mk 1:5).  Perhaps they had expectations about who he was and about what he had to offer.  What about us?  Our parish communities are experiencing very interesting times.  The transition team has been receiving lots of input from parishioners, suggestions about the format that the parish should take once we are all meeting under one roof.  On Wednesday of this week, there will be an opportunity for those who have not yet given their input to attend a face-to-face meeting which will take place at Ste-Marie beginning at 7:00pm.  After that meeting is complete, the transition team will review all of the input and then submit a recommendation as to which format should be adopted.

This is very important work that is being carried out for the good of the entire community.  Even as this work is being carried out, we can begin to live according to the plan God has for us.  Our ultimate goal is to lead lives of holiness and godliness (2 Pet 3:11) as we wait for the coming of the day of God.  How will we be holy and godly in the coming week so that we can seek out and sow seeds of peace in the world?  It’s all part of preparing the way.

Préparez le chemin

Ce deuxième dimanche du temps de l’Avent se dit le dimanche de la paix.  Chacun de nous a ses propres idées de ce à quoi pourrait ressembler un monde en paix, mais cette vision diffère d’une personne à l’autre, et parfois le projet de la paix selon le plan de Dieu n’est pas le portrait que nous portons dans nos pensées.

Il y a deux millénaires, en cherchant la paix, les juifs avaient l’idée que le Sauveur apparaîtrait, qu’il serait un chef politique, capable de réconforter le peuple de Dieu qui avait été soumis aux plus puissants des dirigeants établis (cf Is 40,1), pourtant notre Dieu s’est fait connaître à travers quelques messagers inattendus.

Saint Luc nous explique qu’au lieu de parler avec une voix dominante, le messager de Dieu aura la voix de celui qui crie dans le désert (Mk 1,3).  Des paroles prononcées par ce héraut semblaient résonner sur les collines et les vallées comme si personne n’était pas à l’écoute: Préparer le chemin du Seigneur.  Rendez droit ses sentiers.  Qu’est-ce que ça veut dire préparer le chemin du Seigneur?  Comment est-ce qu’on rend droit ses sentiers?  De nos jours, nous pouvons facilement dire que les gens semblent être sourds à la voix du Seigneur.  Mais qu’en est-il de nous?  Écoutons-nous sa voix dans nos vies?  Que faisons-nous afin de préparer le chemin ... dans les communautés que nous habitons, dans les paroisses que nous connaissons comme nos lieux de culte, dans nos lieux de travail, dans nos maisons, aux lieux où nous passons nos loisirs.

Toute la Judée, tous les habitants de Jérusalem se rendaient auprès de Jean (Mk 1:5).  Certains avaient des attentes à propos de qui il était et ce qu’il avait à leur offrir.  Et nous?  Actuellement, nos communautés paroissiales vivent des temps très intéressants.  À ce jour, l’équipe de transition a reçu beaucoup de commentaires et de suggestions des paroissiens et des paroissiennes au sujet du format que devait prendre la nouvelle paroisse une fois que nous nous réunirons tous sous le même toit.  Le mercredi de cette semaine, ceux et celles qui n’ont pas encore fourni leurs avis pourront assister à une rencontre qui aura lieu en l’église Ste-Marie à compter de 19h.  Une fois cette réunion terminée, l’équipe de transition examinera tous les commentaires et soumettra ensuite une recommandation quant au format à adopter.

Celle-ci est une étape très importante pour le bien-être de la communauté catholique.  Au fur et à mesure que ce travail est accompli, nous pouvons commencer dès maintenant à vivre selon le plan que Dieu a pour nous.  Notre but ultime c’est de vivre dans la sainteté et la piété (2 Pierre 3,11) en attendant l’arrivée du jour du Seigneur.  Comment pourrons-nous être saints et saintes aujourd’hui pour qu’on puisse chercher et semer la paix dans le monde?  Tout cela fait partie de la préparation du chemin.