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The story of an underground Catholic priest in China

Madrid, Spain, Nov 17, 2017 / 12:15 am (ACI Prensa).- Fr. Joseph of Jesus is a Chinese priest, faithful to the Catholic Church. Life is not easy for Catholics in China. Those who adhere to Rome are persecuted by the Chinese government, which only grants freedom of worship to those belonging to the state-controlled Patriotic Church.

Fr. Joseph recently shared his story on the “In the Footsteps of the Nazarene” program by the EUK Mamie Foundation, run by the Home of the Mother of Youth congregation of religious sisters.

His back faces the camera in the interview, and the precise details of his life in China, as well as his precise location – he is currently in Europe – are withheld for security reasons.

Fr. Joseph described what it was like growing up in a Catholic family in China. He is the third of five children, despite the rigid one-child policy instituted by the Chinese government.

“From time to time when the police would come into town, my parents had to go into hiding, away from us,” he said. “My older brother took care of us, we also had to hide everything we had in the house, because if the government discovered there was more than one child, they could take everything away from us.”

“Because they had more than one child, some Catholic parents had their houses destroyed and they were left with nothing,” the priest said.

“It was a test of faith, because as a child you don't understand why it is that because you're Catholic you have to live on less food and be separated from your parents,” he said.

However, he still persevered in his faith. His brother is also a Catholic priest.

The Catholic faith was maintained through “the domestic Church,” with families praying Lauds or Vespers secretly, and especially the Rosary.

“The Rosary is what gave us the strength for years because we didn't have the sacraments or priests; but the faithful prayed every day at least one Rosary in the early morning and another one at night,” and at the end they said a “prayer to Our Lady of Fatima who gave us the strength to live as true Christians,” he recounted.

At age 15, Fr. Joseph felt that he was being called to the priesthood.

“I was thinking that in China there are a lot of people who don't know Christ and the Catholic Church because we Christians are a minority,” he said. “So I thought that when I finished my studies I would go to the seminary and become a priest. That moment changed my life because I saw what the Lord wanted for me.”

He was inspired in his decision by the local pastor in the area, a dedicated priest responsible for 60 villages, who would celebrate Mass in the five largest villages, traveling from one to the next by bicycle.

“He's an example of faithfulness to Christ and the Church because he didn't want to be part of the official Chinese church and consequently he had to spend some time in prison or under house arrest,” Fr. Joseph said.

However, the priest accepted the sufferings that came to him, Fr. Joseph said, adding that at more than 80 years of age, that priest still wakes up at 3:30 every morning to pray and celebrate Mass.

“His exemplary life was decisive for me in finding my vocation. He is a priest for everyone, with such exemplary dedication.”

For more than 60 years, Catholics have faced persecution in China. The government-endorsed church, known as the “Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association” is loyal to Chinese communist authorities, who claim the right to decide whom to appoint as bishops, an authority that the Catholic Church reserves to the Pope.

Catholics who choose to remain loyal to Rome, particularly to the Pope’s juridical authority to appoint bishops autonomously, make up the “underground Church,” with its own bishops, priests, and lay faithful.

“There are…30 bishops of the underground Church who are not recognized by the state and so they cannot freely exercise their ministry,” Fr. Joseph said. “They are under house arrest and under surveillance, there are people who monitor their visits, whom they meet and their topics of conversation. Priestly ordinations are done in secret with no else knowing about it.”

Being part of the Catholic Patriotic Association would make life easier – with public Masses, a regular schedule, and the right to worship freely. But Fr. Joseph chooses to remain loyal to Rome despite the hardships.

“Fundamentally it's not the same because the Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic,” he said. “The Patriotic Church is independent from Rome and I can't accept that, because of my faith.”

Challenges abound, but the life of underground Christians in China is a witness of faith, Fr. Joseph said.

He asked for prayers that Chinese Christians may remain faithful, because “they teach us that the faith is much more precious than life, and that in living the faith we encounter Christ. We have to bear witness to those around us so those who don't know the faith can find it.”

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

Europe must be built on responsible freedom, EU religious freedom envoy says

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2017 / 09:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The European Union’s special envoy for religious freedom has called for “responsible freedom,” in the wake of the Vatican-based (Re)Thinking Europe conference, held Oct. 27 – 29 in the Vatican.
 
In an interview with CNA, EU Special Envoy Jan Figel stressed that “Christians should contribute to a free and one, reconciled and united Europe, by their active responsibility on all levels of public life.”
 
He underscored that “responsible freedom is what we all need. Without responsibility, freedom remains immature, or even ceases to exist, becoming an easy victim of populism extremism or even suffer for various ideology.”
 
A former EU Commissioner for School and Education, Jan Figel was appointed in May 2016 as the Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion and Belief outside the European Union. Figel is a native of Slovakia, and a well-known figure in Slovakian and European politics.

The appointment of an EU Special Envoy for Religious Freedom was announced in 2016, after Pope Francis was awarded the Charlemagne Prize by EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.  The Pope stressed the importance of protecting religious freedom when he received the prize.

As special envoy, Figel took part in last month’s (Re)Thinking Europe gathering, which brought European leaders together to reflect on the culture, heritage, and future of the continent.  Figel said the conference was an occasion to discuss religious freedom in Europe, and around the globe.
 
“Freedom is a great human gift and phenomenon, but without responsibility it is not sustainable,” Figel told CNA.
 
“Freedom needs maturity via active citizenship. We are free to choose, to decide, but only by seeking the common good will we strengthen our freedom. Decisions opposed to the freedoms and fundamental rights of others weaken or even eliminate overall freedom in society,” he added.
 
On the other hand, Figel said, “responsible freedom recognizes and respects duties and obligations together with rights. Our modern sense of unilateral, rights-only ‘freedom’ undermines and erodes the freedom of a whole society. My rights are possible and achievable only by respecting my obligations towards the others and towards the community I live in. This balanced attitude represents mature acting, and builds up responsible freedom”.
 
Figel emphasized that “Christians have been very active in the process of European integration. Their political contribution was unquestionable, even decisive through leaders like Schuman, Adenauer, De Gasperi, Monet and others.”
 
“Today Christians should not stay aside or lament over the situation, but the opposite, they should  bring again what is missing and needed for European renewal: fundamental values, personal commitment and spirit of unity. These contributions cannot be generated by the market, by the euro or by geography. They are fruits of responsible freedom, sense of solidarity and goodwill, and of reasonable, true solutions of problems,” he said.
 
“Europe knows very well two distinct lines of social evolution through the lessons of the twentieth century. And therefore Europe should embrace and promote the essential value of freedom of religion or belief much more actively.”
 
Figel explained that “freedom of religion is a litmus test of all human rights, because if this is disregarded, other political and civil rights are restricted as well. I can speak a lot about this lesson from experiences in communist Czechoslovakia and in the Soviet bloc countries.”
 
While Figel’s mandate concerns promoting religious liberty outside of Europe, he spoke with CNA about Europe’s own struggles to secure freedom of religion.  According to the 2016 Aid to the Church in Need Report for Religious Freedom in the World, religious liberty continues to be threatened in several European nations.   

Jan Figel noted that “internal and external EU policies are two parts of the same community agenda. Therefore more attention, fair engagement in favor of freedom of religion internationally can help to renew European commitment at home. This is one of the reasons why my mandate as special envoy is oriented outside the EU, but at the same time connected with the Lisbon Treaty.”
 
The Lisbon Treaty is an international agreement that is the legal basis for the European Union. The treaty calls for dialogue and respect between EU nations and churches, religious associations and philosophical and non-confessional organizations.
 
Figel told CNA that Pope Francis is an important figure for the protection of religious liberty in Europe. He said that the Pope “clearly understands the importance of freedom of religion for Europe, but for global development as well.”
 
Figel praised the Pope’s recognition of “dignity, justice, solidarity and dialogue” as pillars of European identity.

“I see how important these principles and pillars are becoming for Europe and for the world as well,” he said.
 
Figel said that “human dignity is the first and foundational value for people everywhere, especially after a century of genocides, starting in Armenia one hundred years ago, up to mass atrocities recently committed by ISIS. Peace is the fruit of justice. To work for justice, especially at the UN institutions, is the best war-preventive measure.”
 
He added that the Pope’s principles “are needed if contemporary Europe is to become true the holder of its destiny, leader of humanity, protector of democracy, and example of universal solidarity. And such a Europe will serve as a source of hope and integral humanism for both its people and for the world. This is message of Robert Schuman and of EU’s founding fathers to our generation. I share this dream and vision”.
 
As Europe begins to understand its identity, Figel said, “then reasonable reforms and policies must follow, responding to for today´s wave of frustration, populism and extremism.”

Figel said that now is the time for Europe to “shift from politics of identities to the ethics of responsibilities, without abandoning the importance of any identity, without questioning the diversity of our cultures, nations and religions. Unity, but not uniformity, based on equal dignity of all people is both a noble vision and a practical need. Christians and the Church historically offered a tremendous spiritual inspiration, a treasury of experience, and good tools to build and promote such a reconciled human community.”
 

 

House passes contentious tax plan despite bishops' warnings

Washington D.C., Nov 16, 2017 / 04:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The House of Representatives on Thursday passed a major tax reform bill, which had drawn caution from the U.S. bishops, who had warned that it could place additional burdens on the working poor.

With an official vote of 227-205, the bill was opposed by all House Democrats, as well as 13 Republicans.

It will next go to the Senate. It is uncertain whether it will have enough votes to pass there.

U.S. bishops had called parts of the tax legislation “unconscionable” in a Nov. 9 letter, signed by Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, who chairs the Committee on International Justice and Peace; and Bishop George V. Murry, S.J. of Youngstown, who chairs the Committee on Catholic Education.

“As written, this proposal appears to be the first federal income tax modification in American history that will raise income taxes on the working poor while simultaneously providing a large tax cut to the wealthy,” they said.

They also objected to provisions in the bill that would act as disincentives for charitable giving, affordable housing projects and community revitalization.

The bishops did highlight some positive aspects of the tax reform, including in the areas of education and child tax credits.

 

End of life care must acknowledge our mortality, Francis reminds physicians

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2017 / 03:05 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to medical professionals Thursday, Pope Francis said that when it comes to end-of-life care, treatments should always be based on human dignity and with the patient's best interests in mind.

He also stressed that the various medical options provided must avoid the temptation either to euthanize a patient or to pursue disproportionate treatments which do not serve the integral good of the person.

When it comes to caring for those at the end of their earthly life, “it could be said that the categorical imperative is to never abandon the sick,” the Pope said Nov. 16.

The anguish of being faced with our human mortality and the difficult decisions we have to make “may tempt us to step back from the patient,” he said, but cautioned that is the stage when we are most called to show love, closeness, and solidarity.

Each person – whether they are a parent, child, sibling, doctor or nurse – must give in their own way, he said, and even though there is not always a guarantee of healing or a cure, “we can and must always care for the living, without ourselves shortening their life, but also without futilely resisting their death.”

In this sense, he pointed to the importance of palliative care, “which is proving most important in our culture, as it opposes what makes death most terrifying and unwelcome – pain and loneliness.”

Pope Francis offered his words in a message sent to participants in the World Medical Association's Nov. 16-17 European Meeting on End-of-Life Questions, organized in collaboration with the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The Pope said “greater wisdom” is needed today when it comes to end-of-life care, “because of the temptation to insist on treatments that have powerful effects on the body, yet at times do not serve the integral good of the person.”

The increase in the “therapeutic capabilities of medical science” have made it possible to eliminate various diseases, improve health and prolong a person's life, he said, noting that while these are certainly positive developments, there is now also the danger “to extend life by means that were inconceivable in the past.”

“Surgery and other medical interventions have become ever more effective, but they are not always beneficial: they can sustain, or even replace, failing vital functions, but that is not the same as promoting health.”

Referencing a speech given by Venerable Pius XII to anaesthesiologists and intensive care specialists in 1957, Francis said that “there is no obligation to have recourse in all circumstances to every possible remedy” for an illness, and that in specific cases, “it is permissible to refrain from their use.”

“Consequently, it is morally licit to decide not to adopt therapeutic measures, or to discontinue them, when their use does not meet that ethical and humanistic standard that would later be called 'due proportion in the use of remedies,'” referencing the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's 1980 Declaration on Euthanasia.

The key element of this criterion, according to the CDF, is that it considers “the result that can be expected, taking into account the state of the sick person and his or her physical and moral resources.”

This “makes possible a decision that is morally qualified as withdrawal of 'overzealous treatment',” the Pope said.

“Such a decision responsibly acknowledges the limitations of our mortality, once it becomes clear that opposition to it is futile.” He quoted the Catechism in saying that “here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted.”

“This difference of perspective restores humanity to the accompaniment of the dying, while not attempting to justify the suppression of the living,” he said.

“It is clear that not adopting, or else suspending, disproportionate measures, means avoiding overzealous treatment; from an ethical standpoint, it is completely different from euthanasia, which is always wrong, in that the intent of euthanasia is to end life and cause death.”

When it comes to concrete clinical situations, Pope Francis noted that various factors come into play that are not always easy to evaluate, and to determine whether a medical intervention is proportionate or not, “the mechanical application of a general rule is not sufficient.”

“There needs to be a careful discernment of the moral object, the attending circumstances, and the intentions of those involved.”

Francis emphasized that when caring for any given patient, decisions must be made in light of human dignity. “In this process, the patient has the primary role,” he added.

“The patient, first and foremost, has the right, obviously in dialogue with medical professionals, to evaluate a proposed treatment and to judge its actual proportionality in his or her concrete case, and necessarily refusing it if such proportionality is judged lacking. That evaluation is not easy to make in today's medical context, where the doctor-patient relationship has become increasingly fragmented and medical care involves any number of technological and organizational aspects.

Compounding this difficulty, the Pope said, is the “growing gap” in healthcare opportunities, which he said is due to “the combination of technical and scientific capability and economic interests.”

What this means, then, is that sophisticated and costly treatments are increasingly available to “ever more limited and privileged segments” of the population. This then raises questions regarding sustainable healthcare delivery and “a systemic tendency toward growing inequality in health care.”

This tendency, Francis said, “is clearly visible” on a global level, especially when comparing different continents. However, he noted this is also seen within wealthier countries, where access to healthcare “risks being more dependent on individuals’ economic resources than on their actual need for treatment.”

In this context, as it relates to both clinical practice and medical culture in general, “the supreme commandment of responsible closeness must be kept uppermost in mind,” he said.

Given the complexity of issues surrounding end-of-life care and the moral and ethical questions they raise, the Pope said democratic societies must address them “calmly, seriously and thoughtfully,” in a way open to finding agreeable solutions whenever possible, including on the legal level.

“On the one hand, there is a need to take into account differing world views, ethical convictions and religious affiliations, in a climate of openness and dialogue. On the other hand, the state cannot renounce its duty to protect all those involved, defending the fundamental equality whereby everyone is recognized under law as a human being living with others in society.”

Special attention must be paid to the vulnerable, who need help when it comes to defending their own interests, he said, noting that if this “core of values essential to coexistence” is weakened, then “the possibility of agreeing on that recognition of the other which is the condition for all dialogue and the very life of society will also be lost.”

Healthcare legislation must adopt this “broad vision and a comprehensive view” of what will most effectively promote the common good in each concrete case, he said, and closed by offering his prayer for the discussion.

“I also trust that you will find the most appropriate ways of addressing these delicate issues with a view to the good of all those whom you meet and those with whom you work in your demanding profession.”

Climate change a problem we can't ignore, Pope Francis says

Vatican City, Nov 16, 2017 / 12:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent a message Thursday to a conference on climate change, telling participants the problem is something that can't be ignored, but must be met with a proactive desire to develop effective solutions.

“I would like to reiterate my urgent invitation to renew dialogue about the way in which we are building the future of the planet,” the Pope said Nov. 16.

“We need a solution that unites everyone, because the environmental challenge that we are living, and its human roots, involves and touches us all,” he said, noting that unfortunately many of the efforts to seek concrete solutions “are often frustrated by various motives that range from negating the problem to indifference, comfortable resignation or blind trust in technical solutions.”

Francis said we have to avoid falling into the “perverse attitudes” of denial, indifference, resignation, and trust in inadequate solutions, which “certainly do not help honest research and sincere dialogue on building the future of our planet.”

Pope Francis offered his words in a message to Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, for the U.N. COP-23 Climate Change conference taking place Nov. 6-17 in Bonn, Germany, and which is being presided over by the government of Fiji.

He noted how the gathering is taking place two years after the Paris Climate Agreement was reached, which reached a consensus on the need to develop “a shared strategy to counteract one of the most concerning phenomenons that our humanity is living: climate change.”

The Paris Agreement was an international climate accord reached in 2015 after representatives of more than 150 countries met for COP 21, or the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Signatories pledged on various levels to help reduce global carbon emissions and aim to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius, as compared to average temperatures from the pre-industrial age, by the end of the 21st century.

When the agreement was initially reached, Pope Francis hailed it as “historic” and said it would require “a concerted and generous commitment” from members of the international community. Over 190 countries have signed on to the agreement.

However, United States President Donald Trump decided earlier this year to pull out of the accord, arguing that the requirements would harm the U.S. economy and jobs.

In his message to the COP-23 conference, Pope Francis said the challenge of climate change requires the commitment of every country, some of whom “must try to assume a guiding role,” with due consideration for vulnerable populations.

He noted how in this year's conference participants are trying to implement a new phase of the Paris agreement, which is “the process of defining and building guidelines, rules and institutional mechanisms so that it can truly be effective and capable of contributing to the achievement of the complex objectives it proposes.”

In coming up with solutions, the Pope cautioned against limiting them only to the economic or technical dimensions, because “technical solutions are necessary but insufficient.”

Rather, he said “it's essential and desirable to also keep in attentive consideration the ethical and social aspects and impacts of the new paradigm of development and progress in short, medium and long-term.”

To this end, Francis emphasized the need to focus on an education and lifestyle that are based on an integral ecology capable of assuming “a vision of honest research and open dialogue” where the various aspects of the Paris Agreement are intertwined.  

The agreement, he said, calls for “serious responsibility to act without delay as freely as possible from political and economic pressures, overcoming particular interests and behaviors,” and requires a “responsible awareness” of our common home.

Pope Francis closed his message voicing his hope that the work done in the conference would be animated by the same “collaboration and proactive” spirit of the COP-21 conference in 2015.

“This will accelerate awareness-raising and the consolidation of the will to make effective decisions to counteract the phenomenon of climate change while at the same time fighting poverty and promoting a true integral human development.”

Pope Francis to lead Prayer for Peace in South Sudan and DRC

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis is to preside over a Prayer for Peace in South Sudan and in the Democratic Republic of Congo on November 23rd in St. Peter’s Basilica at 5.30pm Rome time.

Solidarity with South Sudan” in association with the Justice and Peace office of religious organizations worldwide, has organized the Prayer and confirmed that when Pope Francis heard of the initiative he made it known that he wanted to be personally involved. 

Christians across the world are invited to pray together on that day and time for Peace in the world, and above all in South Sudan and in DRC, two conflict ravaged nations in which millions of displaced people are suffering the effects of terrible humanitarian crises.

Sr. Yudith Pereira Rico, the Associate Executive Director of Solidarity in Rome, told journalists that the main thing people ask her to do when she travels to South Sudan, is to tell the world what is happening in their country.

The world’s newest country spiraled into civil war in late 2013, two years after gaining independence from Sudan, causing one fourth of the 15 million-strong population to flee their homes.

Sister Yudith described the continuing violence and abuse taking place in South Sudan as “Silent Genocide”.

She told Linda Bordoni what it means for the suffering people of South Sudan to know that the Pope and Christians across the world are praying for them:

Listen:

Sister Yudith said that for them, to know that people outside of South Sudan, in Rome, and in other places are praying for them, is to know that “we have the world with us”.

“For them it a source of strength and hope for the future to feel that they are not alone, and this is important because otherwise where can they find the courage to resist what they are enduring now as refugees, victims…” she said.

And highlighting the many abuses the most vulnerable people are enduring including the use of rape as a weapon of war, Sr Yudith said “to know that people are talking about this means that they too, as human beings count”.

“They feel they don’t count for anybody: for politicians they don’t count, they don’t exist – they are only fighting for power and for money.”

She says most people don’t even know where South Sudan is or the fact that it is the newt country.

To acknowledge and to pray for them, she said, is to give them dignity and saying “we are with you”.

She said that notwithstanding the terrible events that caused the new nation to disintegrate into conflict the people still want to be one.

She explained that they came from 20 years of war, they did not have a national identity, and while the warmongers are vying for power and control the new generations, the women and all ordinary people are convinced they can all live together peacefully.

Sr Yudith also spoke of Pope Francis’ interest in the nation and of how it has positively impacted the desire to set in motion some kind of peace process.

“He is waiting for them to begin something so he can come and lend his support, but they have to begin…” she said.
       

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis makes surprise visit field hospital in St. Peter's Square

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis made a surprise visit on Thursday afternoon to a small "field hospital" set up in front of St. Peter's Square to provide medical care for Rome's poor.

During the short visit, the Pope greeted volunteers and poor people waiting to receive care ahead of the first World Day of the Poor, taking place on Sunday, November 19.

He was accompanied by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation.

The healthcare structure is an initiative connected to that Day and announced by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation.

Pope Francis called for the celebration of the World Day of the Poor at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.

A statement from the Holy See Press Office said the tent hospital run by the Italian Red Cross offers "free medical visits for the poor and needy throughout the week from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM".

Red Cross medics staffing the field hospital are specialized in clinical analysis, cardiology, dermatology, gynecology, and andrology.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope meets with members of Apostolic Confederation for the Clergy

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis held an audience with international members of the Apostolic Confederation for the Clergy in the Vatican on Thursday.

He invited participants to reflect on the ordained ministry, "in, for and with the diocesan community". 

The Pope said, "One becomes an expert in spirituality of communion primarily thanks to conversion to Christ, to the docile opening to the action of the Spirit, and by welcoming one’s brothers."

The following is the Pope’s address to those present:

Dear priests,

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133,1). These verses of the psalm go well after the words of Msgr. Magrin, impassioned president of the International Confederation Apostolic Union of Clergy. It is truly a joy to meet and to feel the fraternity that arises among us, called to the service of the Gospel following the example of Christ, the Good Shepherd. To each one of you I address my cordial greeting, which I extend to the representatives of the Apostolic Union of the Laity.

In this Assembly you are reflecting on the ordained ministry, “in, for and with the diocesan community”. In continuity with previous meetings, you intend to focus on the role of pastors in the particular Church; and in this rereading, the hermeneutic key is the diocesan spirituality that is the spirituality of communion in the manner of the Trinitarian communion. Msgr. Magrin underlined that word, “diocesan”: it is a key word. Indeed, the mystery of the Trinitarian communion is the high model of reference for the ecclesial community. Saint John Paul, in his Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte, recalled that “the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning” is precisely this: “to make the Church the home and school of communion” (43). This involves, in the first instance, “[promoting] a spirituality of communion, making it the guiding principle of education wherever individuals and Christians are formed” (ibid). And today we have a great need for communion, in the Church and in the world.

One becomes an expert in spirituality of communion primarily thanks to conversion to Christ, to the docile opening to the action of the Spirit, and by welcoming one’s brothers. As we are well aware, the fruitfulness of the apostolate does not depend only on activity or on organizational efforts, although these are necessary, but firstly upon divine action. Today as in the past the saints are the most effective evangelizers, and all the baptized are called to reach towards the highest measure of Christian life, namely, holiness. This is even more applicable to ordained ministers. I think of worldliness, the temptation of spiritual worldliness, so often concealed in rigidity: one calls the other, they are “stepsisters”, one calls the other. The World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, which is celebrated every year on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, constitutes an ideal opportunity to implore of the Lord the gift of zealous and holy ministers for His Church. To achieve this ideal of holiness, every ordained minister is called to follow the example of the Good Shepherd, who gave His life for His sheep. And from where can we draw this pastoral charity, if not from the heart of Christ? In Him the celestial Father has filled us with the infinite treasures of mercy, tenderness and love: here we can always find the spiritual energy indispensable to be able to radiate His love and His joy in the world. And we are led to Christ every day also in the filial relation with our Mother, Mary Most Holy, especially in the contemplation of the mysteries of the Rosary.

Closely linked with the path of spirituality is commitment to pastoral action in the service of the people of God, visible today and in the concreteness of the local Church: pastors are called to be wise and faithful servants who imitate the Lord, who don the apron of service and bend to the lives of their communities, to understand their history and to live the joys and sufferings, expectations and hopes of the flock entrusted to them. Indeed, Vatican Council II taught that the right way for ordained ministers to achieve holiness is in “[performing] their duties sincerely and indefatigably in the Spirit of Christ”; “by the sacred actions which are theirs daily as well as by their entire ministry which they share with the bishop and their fellow priests, they are directed to perfection in their lives” (Decreto Presbyterorum Ordinis, 12).

You rightly highlight that ordained ministers acquire the right pastoral style also by cultivating fraternal relations and participating in the pastoral journey of the diocesan Church, in its appointments, its projects and its initiatives that translate the programmatic guidelines into practice. A particular Church has a concrete face, rhythms and decisions; it must be served with dedication every day, bearing witness to the harmony and unity that is lived and developed with the bishop. The pastoral journey of the local community has as an essential point of reference the pastoral plan of the diocese, which must take precedence over the programmes of associations, movements or any other particular group. And this pastoral unity, of everyone around the bishop, will bring unity to the Church. And it is very sad when, in a presbytery, we find that this unity does not exist, it is apparent. And there gossip reigns: gossip destroys the diocese, destroys the unity of presbyters, the unity among them and with the bishop. Brother priests, remember, please: we always see bad things in others – because cataracts don’t appear in this eye – eyes are always ready to see ugly things, but I urge you not to arrive at gossip. If I see bad things, I pray or, as a brother, I speak. I do not act as a “terrorist”, because gossip is a form of terrorism. Gossiping is like through a bomb: I destroy the other person and go away calmly. Please, no gossip, they are the like the woodworm that eat through the fabric of the Church, of the diocesan Church, of the unity among all of us.

Dedication to the particular Church must then be expressed more broadly, with attention to the life of all the Church. Communion and mission are correlated dynamics. One becomes a minister to serve one’s own particular Church, in obedience to the Holy Spirit and one’s own bishop and in collaboration with other priests, but with the awareness of being part of the universal Church, which crosses the boundaries of one’s own diocese and country. If the mission is an essential quality of the Church, it is especially so for he who, ordained, is called to exercise the ministry in a community that is missionary by nature, and to educate in having a world view – not worldliness, but a world view! Indeed, mission is not an individual choice, due to individual generosity or perhaps pastoral disillusionment, but rather it is a choice of the particular Church that becomes a protagonist in the communication of the Gospel to all peoples.

Dear brother bishops, I pray for each one of you and for your ministry, and for the service of the Apostolic Union of Clergy. And I pray also for you, dear brothers and sisters. May my blessing accompany you. And remember: do not forget to pray for me too, as I am in need of prayers! Thank you.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope Francis sends letter to COP23 climate conference in Bonn

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis has sent a letter to participants in the COP-23 UN Convention on climate change, taking place in Bonn, Germany on 6-17 November.

The letter was sent to Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of the Fiji Islands, which is officially hosting the event, and was read out to COP-23 participants.

Pope Francis congratulated the world leaders present at the COP-23 event and invited them "to maintain a high level of cooperation".

He renewed his "urgent call" for renewed dialogue "on how we are building the future of the planet."

"We need an exchange that unites us all," he said, "because the environmental challenge we are experiencing, and its human roots, regards us all, and affects us all."

The Pope warned participants not to fall into "four perverse attitudes" regarding the future of the planet: "denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions."

Finally, Pope Francis sent his well-wishes that the COP-23 would be "inspired by the same collaborative and prophetic spirit manifested during the COP-21" event at which the historic Paris agreement was signed.

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

Excellency,

Nearly two years ago, the international community gathered within this UNFCCC forum, with most of its highest government representatives, and after a long and complex debate arrived at the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement. It saw the achievement of consensus on the need to launch a shared strategy to counteract one of the most worrying phenomena our humanity is experiencing: climate change.

The will to follow this consensus was highlighted by the speed with which the Paris Agreement entered into force, less than a year after its adoption.

The Agreement indicates a clear path of transition to a low- or zero-carbon model of economic development, encouraging solidarity and leveraging the strong links between combating climate change and poverty. This transition is further solicited by the climatic urgency that requires greater commitment from the countries, some of which must endeavour to take a leading role in this transition, bearing in mind the needs of the most vulnerable populations.

These days you are gathered in Bonn to carry out another important phase of the Paris Agreement: the process of defining and constructing guidelines, rules and institutional mechanisms so that it may be truly effective and capable of contributing to the achievement of the complex objectives it proposes. In such a path, it is necessary to maintain a high level of cooperation.

From this perspective, I would like to reaffirm my urgent call to renew dialogue on how we are building the future of the planet. We need an exchange that unites us all, because the environmental challenge we are experiencing, and its human roots, regards us all, and affects us all. [...] Unfortunately, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis are often frustrated for various reasons ranging from denial of the problem to indifference, comfortable resignation, or blind trust in technical solutions (cf. Encyclical Laudato si’, 14).

We should avoid falling into the trap of these four perverse attitudes, which certainly do not help honest research or sincere and productive dialogue on building the future of our planet: denial, indifference, resignation and trust in inadequate solutions.

Moreover, we cannot limit ourselves only to the economic and technological dimension: technical solutions are necessary but not sufficient; it is essential and desirable to carefully consider the ethical and social impacts and impacts of the new paradigm of development and progress in the short, medium and long term.

From this perspective, it is increasingly necessary to pay attention to education and lifestyles based on an integral ecology, capable of taking on a vision of honest research and open dialogue where the various dimensions of the Paris Agreement are intertwined. It is useful to remember that the Agreement recalls the “grave … ethical and moral responsibility to act without delay, in a manner as free as possible from political and economic pressures, setting aside particular interests and behaviour” (cf. Message to COP-22). This means, in effect, propagating a “responsible awareness” towards our common home (cf. Encyclical Laudato si’, 202; 231) through the contribution of all, in explaining the different forms of action and partnership between the various stakeholders, some of whom do not lack to highlight the ingenuity of the human being in favour of the common good.

While I send my greetings to you, Mr President, and to all the participants in this Conference, I hope that, with your authoritative guidance and that of the Fiji Islands, the work of these days will be inspired by the same collaborative and prophetic spirit manifested during the COP-21. This will enable an acceleration of awareness-raising and consolidate the will to make effective decisions to counteract the phenomenon of climate change while at the same time fighting poverty and promoting true human development as a whole. This commitment is supported by the wise providence of God Most High.

(from Vatican Radio)

Pope at daily Mass: The Kingdom of God is within us

(Vatican Radio) The kingdom of God is not a show, much less a carnival; it does not go looking for publicity. Its growth comes from the Holy Spirit, rather than from “pastoral plans.” That was the message of Pope Francis in his daily homily at the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday.

The point of departure for the Pope’s homily was the Pharisees’ question in the day’s Gospel about when the Kingdom of God will come. It is a simple question, the Pope said, which can be asked in good faith, as appears in numerous passages in the Gospel. John the Baptist, for example, when he was imprisoned, sent his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He was the Messiah, or if they should look for another. Later, in another passage, the same question is turned around: during His Passion, the bystanders say to Jesus, “If you are he, come down from the Cross.” Pope Francis said there are always doubts, there is always curiosity about when the Kingdom of God will come.

“The Kingdom of God is in your midst”: That is the answer of Jesus. That is the “glad tidings” in the synagogue of Nazareth, when Jesus, after having read a passage from Isaiah, says that that Scripture is fulfilled “today,” in their midst.

Like a seed, when it is sown, grows from within, so the Kingdom of God grows “in hiding,” in the midst “of us,” the Pope repeated. Or it is like “the gem, or the treasure,” but always in humility:

“But who makes that seed grow? Who makes it sprout? God, the Holy Spirit, who is within us. And the Holy Spirit is the spirit of meekness, the spirit of humility, He is the spirit of obedience, the spirit of simplicity. It is He who makes the Kingdom of God grow with, not pastoral plans, the great things… No, it is the Spirit, in hiding. He makes it grow, and the moment arrives, and the fruit appears.”

In the case of the good thief, the Pope asked when the seed of the Kingdom of God was sown in his heart. Perhaps it was his mother, Pope Francis suggested, or perhaps a rabbi when he was explaining the law. And then, perhaps, it is forgotten – but at a certain point “in hiding,” the Spirit makes it grow. What this means, the Pope said, is that the Kingdom of God is always “a surprise,” because it is “a gift given by the Lord.”

Jesus explains that “the Kingdom of God does not come in such a way that it attracts attention, and no one will say, ‘Look, there it is,’ or ‘Look, here it is.’” “It is not a show, or, even worse, a carnival,” he said, although often times we think of it that way.”

“The Kingdom of God is not seen with haughtiness or pride; it does not love publicity. It is humble, hidden, and thus it grows. I think that when the people saw the Madonna, those who followed Jesus [said]: ‘That’s the mother, ah…’ The most holy woman, but in hiding. No one knew the mystery of the Kingdom of God, the holiness of the Kingdom of God. And when she was close by the Cross of her Son, the people said, ‘But the poor woman, with this criminal as a son, poor woman…’ Nothing, no one understood.”

The Kingdom of God, then, always grows in hiding, the Pope said, because it is there, in our midst, that the Holy Spirit “makes it sprout, until it bears fruit.”

“We are all called to take this road of the kingdom of God: It is a vocation, it is a grace, it is a gift, it is given freely, it is not purchased, it is a grace that God gives us. And all we who are baptized have the Holy Spirit within [us]. How is my relationship with the Holy Spirit, Who makes the Kingdom of God grow within me? A good question for all of us to ask ourselves today. Do I believe this? Do I truly believe that the Kingdom of God is in the midst of us, it is hidden? Or do I like spectacle even more?”

Pope Francis concluded his homily by asking the Holy Spirit for the grace to make “make the seed of the Kingdom of God” grow in us and in the Church, with strength, “so that it might become large, give refuge to many people, and give the fruits of sanctity.”

(from Vatican Radio)