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Pope Francis: A family that remains open to life builds history

Pope Francis meets with deacons and their families at the Vatican on June 19, 2021 / Vatican Media/CNA

Vatican City, Sep 11, 2021 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis encouraged families to be united in prayer, open to life, and charitable to the poor in a message ahead of the 2022 World Meeting of Families in Rome.

“Dear friends, the family is alive if it finds itself united in prayer. The family is strong, if it rediscovers the Word of God and the providential value of all his promises,” the pope said in the message released Sept. 11.

“The family is generous and builds history if it remains open to life, if it does not discriminate and serves the most vulnerable and the most in need, if it does not stop offering the world the bread of charity and the wine of fraternity.”

The pope sent the message to Catholic families participating in a pilgrimage taking place this weekend in 20 Marian shrines around Italy and Switzerland.

“The thousands of families in prayer today show the luminous face of faith in Jesus Christ in a time crushed by so many difficulties, sufferings, and new poverty,” Pope Francis said.

He encouraged Catholic families to “go out to meet as many people as possible” and to become living witnesses of the “amoris laetitia,” or the “joy of love,” that flows from the Gospel.

The 14th National Pilgrimage of Families in Italy was organized by the Italian bishops’ conference, the National Forum of Family Associations, and the Renewal in the Holy Spirit movement in preparation for the 10th World Meeting of Families.

The World Meeting of Families is an international Catholic gathering that typically takes place every three years. It was originally scheduled for 2021, but was postponed to June 22-26, 2022 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

It will be the third time that Rome has hosted the event. The first World Meeting of Families took place in Rome in 1994 at the behest of St. John Paul II. It was also held in the Eternal City in the year 2000. The most recent gathering was in Dublin, Ireland in 2018.

In the papal message, which was signed Sept. 9, the pope asked Catholic families to pray the official prayer of the World Meeting of Families in the months ahead of the event.

“Heavenly Father, We come before You to praise You and to thank You for the great gift of the family,” the prayer begins.

“We pray to You for all families consecrated by the Sacrament of Matrimony. May they rediscover each day the grace they have received, and as small domestic Churches, may they know how to witness to Your presence and to the love with which Christ loves the Church.”

Vatican cardinal reassures Jewish leaders over Pope Francis’ comments on Torah

Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, in Rome on Oct. 23, 2019. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Sep 10, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A cardinal has written to Jewish leaders, assuring them that recent comments by Pope Francis did not devalue the Torah, the Vatican confirmed on Friday.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, which oversees the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, published two letters on Sept. 10, written by Cardinal Kurt Koch, who is president of both the council and the commission.

The letters, dated Sept. 3, were addressed respectively to Rabbi Rasson Arussi, chair of the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel for the Dialogue with the Holy See in Jerusalem, and Rabbi David Sandmel, chair of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations in New York.

The Pontifical Council said that Arussi had written to Koch on Aug. 12, concerning Pope Francis’ general audience address of Aug. 11, dedicated to the Mosaic Law, also known as the Law of Moses.

It added that Sandmel wrote “a similar letter” to the Swiss cardinal on Aug. 24.

The pope’s address was the fourth installment in his cycle of catechesis on the Epistle to the Galatians, in which St. Paul addresses a dispute in the early Christian community over how closely Christians should follow Jewish law.

The pope said: “The Torah, the Law, in fact, was not included in the promise made to Abraham.”

“Having said this, one should not think, however, that St. Paul was opposed to the Mosaic Law. No, he observed it. Several times in his Letters, he defends its divine origin and says that it possesses a well-defined role in the history of salvation.”

“The Law, however, does not give life, it does not offer the fulfillment of the promise because it is not capable of being able to fulfill it.”

The word Torah refers to the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, but can be used more broadly to signify Jewish law in its entirety.

Reuters reported on Aug. 25 that Arussi expressed concern that the pope’s comments implied that Jewish law was obsolete.

In his identically worded letters, Koch said that he had consulted with Pope Francis and was replying to the rabbi at the pope’s instruction.

“In the Holy Father's address, the Torah is not devalued, as he expressly affirms that Paul was not opposed to Mosaic law: indeed, Paul observed this Law, emphasized its divine origin, and attributed to it a role in salvation history,” he wrote.

“The phrase ‘The law does not give life, it does not offer the fulfillment of the promise’ should not be extrapolated from its context, but must be considered within the overall framework of Pauline theology.”

“The abiding Christian conviction is that Jesus Christ is the new way of salvation. However, this does not mean that the Torah is diminished or no longer recognized as the ‘way of salvation for Jews.’”

Koch cited a 2015 speech that the pope gave to the International Council of Christians and Jews.

On that occasion, the pope said: “The Christian confessions find their unity in Christ; Judaism finds its unity in the Torah. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the Word of God made flesh in the world; for Jews, the Word of God is present above all in the Torah. Both faith traditions find their foundation in the One God, the God of the Covenant, who reveals himself through his Word.”

Koch emphasized that in his general audience address, the pope was reflecting “on Pauline theology within the historical context of a given era” and not commenting on contemporary Judaism.

“The fact that the Torah is crucial for modern Judaism is not questioned in any way,” he wrote.

He continued: “Bearing in mind the positive affirmations constantly made by Pope Francis on Judaism, it cannot in any way be presumed that he is returning to a so-called ‘doctrine of contempt.’”

“Pope Francis fully respects the foundations of Judaism and always seeks to deepen the bonds of friendship between the two faith traditions.”

Koch underlined that the pope agreed with the description of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity in the 2017 document “Between Jerusalem and Rome,” which marked the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s seminal Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions, Nostra aetate.

The text, issued by the Conference of European Rabbis, the Rabbinical Council of America, and the Commission of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, said: “The doctrinal differences are essential and cannot be debated or negotiated; their meaning and importance belong to the international deliberations of the respective faith communities ... However, doctrinal differences do not and may not stand in the way of our peaceful collaboration for the betterment of our shared world and the lives of the children of Noah.”

The document was presented to Pope Francis at the Vatican on Aug. 31, 2017.

In an address, he said: “The statement ‘Between Jerusalem and Rome’ does not hide ... the theological differences that exist between our faith traditions. All the same, it expresses a firm resolve to collaborate more closely, now and in the future.”

Concluding his letter, Koch wrote: “I trust that this response clarifies the theological background of the Holy Father’s words.”

Pope Francis welcomes giant puppet to Vatican

Pope Francis greets children in the San Damaso Courtyard during the puppet Little Amal’s visit to the Vatican, Sept. 10, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 10, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis welcomed a giant puppet symbolizing unaccompanied refugee children to the Vatican on Friday.

The 11-foot-tall puppet, called Little Amal, arrived in St. Peter’s Square on the morning of Sept. 10 on a journey from Gaziantep, near the border between Turkey and Syria, to Manchester, England.

Cardinal Michael Czerny with the puppet Little Amal in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 10, 2021. Vatican Media.
Cardinal Michael Czerny with the puppet Little Amal in St. Peter’s Square, Sept. 10, 2021. Vatican Media.

The puppet, blinking and waving its arms, was greeted by the Vatican Cardinal Michael Czerny beside the bronze sculpture “Angels Unawares,” which depicts migrants huddled together on a raft and was unveiled in the square in 2019.

Czerny, under-secretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, was joined by Bishop Benoni Ambăruş, a Romania-born auxiliary bishop of Rome diocese responsible for the pastoral care of migrants.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Amal is big and beautiful, and meeting her is a pleasure,” Czerny told Vatican News. “But she immediately reminds us that meeting vulnerable migrants, insecure workers, and asylum seekers in our midst requires more than just a glance.”

“Each of them, with their own baggage of suffering and dreams, needs and talents, is waiting for us to open our ears, our minds, and our hearts, as well as our eyes, and stretch out our hands.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The puppet, whose journey is known as “The Walk,” proceeded to the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, where it encountered the pope and brightly dressed children.

The children are participants in an event known as the “March of Welcome,” marking the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which falls this year on Sept. 26.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In May, Pope Francis released his 2021 message marking the annual commemoration, which Pope Pius X instituted in 1914.

Photographs issued by the Vatican showed the pope waving to the children, greeting them individually, and giving them his blessing.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“The pope invited them to play and he spent some time in the courtyard watching them and asking them to pray for him too,” reported Vatican News, which said that the event also included a kite-building workshop.

The welfare of migrants and refugees has been one of Pope Francis’ top priorities since his election in 2013. His first trip outside Rome as pope, in July of that year, was to Italy’s migrant island of Lampedusa.

Earlier this week, the pope met with recent arrivals from Afghanistan after a documentary about his life and teaching was screened at the Vatican.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Evgeny Afineevsky, the film’s director, told the online news site Deadline: “When the movie finished [the pope] was downstairs waiting for them. He wanted to meet everybody and greet everybody…”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“He is a human being who cherishes being close to the people, cherishes the moment he can spread love, joy in their lives -- not easy lives. And he always remembers that he can be in their place [as a refugee]. He said it many, many times: ‘It can be you or me.’”

He added: “He’s somebody who is trying to bring light to their plight. He’s trying to bring the spotlight of the media towards them and to show to the world how important it is to help them, integrate them.”

After his Sunday Angelus on Sept. 5, Pope Francis urged countries to offer refuge to people fleeing Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover and withdrawal of U.S. and other forces.

“In these troubled times that see Afghans seeking refuge, I pray for the most vulnerable among them. I pray that many countries will welcome and protect those seeking a new life. I pray also for the internally displaced persons and that they may receive assistance and the necessary protection,” the pope said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“May young Afghans receive education, an essential good for human development. And may all Afghans, whether at home, in transit, or in host countries, live with dignity, in peace and fraternity with their neighbors.”

“The Walk” is a collaboration between the theater group Good Chance, founded in a refugee camp in Calais, France, in 2015, and the South African Handspring Puppet Company, which created the puppets for the acclaimed play “War Horse.”

Little Amal, made from cane and carbon fiber and operated by four puppeteers, is being taken on an almost 5,000-mile journey from Turkey to the U.K., via Greece, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium to raise awareness of the plight of young refugees.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

Amal, a nine-year-old Syrian refugee child, first featured as a character in Good Chance’s play “The Jungle,” representing the hundreds of unaccompanied minors in the Calais camp.

Pope Francis to missionaries: ‘If you want to be witnesses, you can’t cease being adorers’

Pope Francis greets Fr. Mathew Vattamattam, superior general of the Claretian Missionaries, at the Vatican, Sept. 9, 2021 / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 9, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis told Claretian Missionaries on Thursday that their work must always be rooted in contemplation.

Addressing participants in the community’s general chapter in Rome on Sept. 9, the pope underlined that prayer was the foundation of effective missionary work.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“You are missionaries: if you want your mission to be truly fruitful, you cannot separate your mission from contemplation and a life of intimacy with the Lord. If you want to be witnesses, you cannot cease being adorers,” he said, in a Spanish written text provided by the Holy See press office.

The XXVI General Chapter of the Claretian Missionaries -- officially known as the Missionaries, Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary -- is taking place from Aug. 15 to Sept. 12 with the motto “Rooted and audacious.”

On Aug. 30, the chapter re-elected Fr. Mathew Vattamattam as superior general of the religious community of priests and brothers founded in Spain in 1849 by St. Anthony Mary Claret.

The priest from the Indian state of Kerala was first elected head of the community in 2015.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

In his written text, the pope challenged the community’s roughly 3,000 members worldwide to imitate their founder, who traveled on foot from mission to mission through his native Catalonia.

“Following the example of Fr. Claret, you cannot be mere spectators of reality. Take part in it, to transform the realities of sin that you find on the way,” the pope said.

“Do not be passive in the face of the dramas that many of our contemporaries live, but rather play your part in the struggle for human dignity and respect for the fundamental rights of the person.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

“Let yourselves be touched by the Word of God and the signs of the times, and in the light of the Word and the signs of the times reread your own history, your own charism, remembering that consecrated life is like water, if it does not flow it rots.”

Francis, the first Jesuit pope, urged Claretians to be bold and courageous.

“I hope, dear brothers, that this Chapter that you are about to conclude will help you to focus on the essential: Jesus, to place your security in Him and only in Him who is all good, the supreme good, the true security,” he said.

“I believe that this could be one of the best fruits of this pandemic that has called into question so many of our false securities.”

“I also hope that the Chapter has led you to focus on the essential elements that define consecrated life today: consecration, which values the relationship with God; fraternal life in community, which gives priority to an authentic relationship with our brothers; and mission, which leads you to go out, to become less self-centered in order to go out to meet others, especially the poor, to bring Jesus to them.”

The Vatican issued a definitive version of Pope Francis’ address on Sept. 10. In it, the pope emphasized the importance of maintaining a sense of humor in consecrated life.

“Please do not lose your sense of humor,” he urged the Claretians. “Know how to laugh in community, know how to make jokes, and laugh at the jokes told by others. Do not lose your sense of humor. A sense of humor is a grace of joy, and joy is a dimension of holiness.”

This report was updated at 03:21 a.m. MDT on Sept. 10, 2021, with a quotation from the definitive version of Pope Francis’ address.

Pope Francis names Legionary bishop as president of Vatican City State governorate

Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, L.C. / via Wikimedia (CC0).

Vatican City, Sep 9, 2021 / 04:50 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday named the 76-year-old Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga as president of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

Vérgez, a member of the Legionaries of Christ, succeeds the 78-year-old Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello as head of government of Vatican City and president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, a legislative body.

The Holy See press office said on Sept. 8 that Vérgez would take up his new role on Oct. 1, the day of Bertello’s 79th birthday, and that the pope had conferred on him the personal title of archbishop.

Vérgez was born in Salamanca, Spain, in 1945. He made his perpetual profession with the Legionaries of Christ in 1965 and was ordained a priest in 1969.

He studied philosophy and theology at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University and obtained a diploma from the School of Archives at the Vatican’s Secret Archives.

He began working for the Vatican in 1972, at the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

He was then transferred to the Pontifical Council for the Laity in 1984, before becoming the head of the Holy See’s internet office 10 years later. He served there until becoming head of the telecommunications office in 2008.

He was appointed secretary general of the Governorate of Vatican City State in 2013, serving under Bertello, who was named president in 2011.

Pope Francis ordained Vérgez as a bishop on Nov. 15, 2013. In his homily at the ordination Mass, the pope entrusted Vérgez with “the pastoral care of Vatican employees,” asking him to be “a father and a brother ... with true love and tenderness.”

In October 2020, the pope selected Vérgez as a member of the Vatican’s Commission for Confidential Matters. The commission is led by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, a former Legionary of Christ who is prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life.

The commission oversees the process of awarding public contracts of the Holy See and Vatican City State that require a degree of confidentiality.

Pope Francis published new laws governing the administration of Vatican City State in 2018.

The Vatican also announced on Sept. 8 that the pope had chosen Fr. Andrés Gabriel Ferrada Moreira as secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy.

The Chilean priest, who will also become an archbishop, succeeds the French Archbishop Joël Mercier, who retired this month at the age of 76 after serving as secretary since 2015.

Before he began working at the Vatican in 2018, Ferrada testified in a civil court in support of victims of Fernando Karadima, an influential priest in Chile who was dismissed from the clerical state in 2018.

Vatican City, an enclave within Rome, is the world’s smallest state by area and population.

The head of state is the pope, who delegates legislative authority to the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, which drafts the state’s laws and regulations.

The pope delegates executive authority to the Governorate of Vatican City State, which oversees matters such as policing, personnel, and maintaining records.

Pope Francis: Mary teaches us to listen to the voice of the voiceless

Pope Francis blesses a statue of the Immaculate Virgin Mary of the Miraculous Medal Nov. 11, 2020. Credit: Vatican Media. / null

Vatican City, Sep 8, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

The Vatican released a message from Pope Francis on Wednesday as the Church celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“The true joy that comes from the Lord always gives space to the voices of the forgotten, so that together with them we can build a better future,” Pope Francis said in the message published Sept. 8.

“Mary, in the beauty of following the Gospel and in her service to the common good of humanity and the planet, always teaches us to listen to these voices, and she herself becomes the voice of the voiceless.”

The pope sent a message to participants in the 25th International Mariological Marian Congress, taking place online on Sept. 8-11.

“The mystery enclosed in the person of Mary is the very mystery of the Word of God incarnate,” he said.

Pope Francis quoted Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini, in which the pope emeritus encouraged scholars to study the relationship between Mariology and the theology of the Word.

“We see how at home Mary is with the Word of God, with ease she moves in and out of it. She speaks and thinks with the Word of God; the Word of God becomes her word, and her word issues from the Word of God. Here we see how her thoughts are attuned to the thoughts of God, how her will is one with the will of God,” he said, quoting Benedict.

“Since Mary is completely imbued with the word of God, she is able to become the Mother of the Word Incarnate.”

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, read the pope’s message aloud at the start of the Marian congress on Sept. 8.

Pope Francis signed the message on Aug. 22, the feast of the Queen of Heaven.

“The Mother of the Lord has her own special presence: she is the Mother of all, regardless of ethnicity or nationality,” the pope said.

“Thus, the figure of Mary becomes a point of reference for a culture capable of overcoming the barriers that can create division. Therefore, on the path of this culture of fraternity, the Spirit calls us to welcome once again the sign of consolation and sure hope that has the name, the face and the heart of Mary: woman, disciple, mother, and friend.”

Pope Francis sends 15,000 ice creams to Rome prisoners

An ice-cream stand near St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. / Motivarte via Shutterstock.

Vatican City, Sep 8, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis sent 15,000 ice creams to prisoners in Rome as the Eternal City sweltered in the summer heat, the Vatican announced on Tuesday.

The gelati were taken to the Regina Coeli and Rebibbia prisons by the papal almoner Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the Office of Papal Charities said in a Sept. 7 press release.

The Vatican department that performs charitable acts on behalf of the pope said that in the summer months it sought to make “small evangelical gestures to help and give hope to thousands of people in Rome’s prisons.”

The office explained that it focused on undertaking corporal works of mercy during the summer, when canteens and charities in Rome are forced to limit their activities.

“Therefore, as every year, small groups of homeless people, or those housed in dormitories, were taken to the sea or lake, near Castel Gandolfo, for an afternoon of relaxation and dinner in a pizzeria,” it noted.

The department added that it had also overseen the supply of medicines and medical equipment to developing countries.

“In August alone, for example, a tomograph was purchased for Madagascar, worth around $600,000, and the preparation of medical clinics, either renovated or newly built, was completed for almost two million euros [$2.4 million] in three of Africa’s poorest countries,” it said.

Cardinal Konrad Krajewski visits a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, May 8, 2019. .  Vatican Media
Cardinal Konrad Krajewski visits a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece, May 8, 2019. . Vatican Media

Pope Francis washed the feet of inmates at Rebibbia prison on Holy Thursday in 2015 and of prisoners at Regina Coeli prison three years later.

In June this year, the pope received a group of around 20 prisoners at his residence. The men were inmates of a low-security prison, part of the Rebibbia complex located in Rome’s east suburb.

They were accompanied by the prison director, chaplain, and officials. Afterward, they went to the Vatican Museums, which reopened to visitors in May.

In March 2020, at the start of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, the Italian government prohibited visits to inmates.

Some inmates at the Rebibbia prison complex rioted in protest of the decision. In other places in Italy, prisoners began setting fires, taking hostages, and raiding prison medical clinics. At least 12 inmates died in the country in three days as a result of the riots.

This summer is one of the hottest on record in Italy, with wildfires raging in the south of the country. The Mediterranean island of Sicily registered a temperature of 119.84 degrees Fahrenheit (48.8 degrees Celsius) on Aug. 11, believed to be the highest ever recorded in Europe.

Krajewski, 57, has served as papal almoner since 2013. The Polish national received the red hat from Pope Francis in 2018.

A year later, the cardinal nicknamed “the pope’s Robin Hood,” climbed down a manhole to restore power to a disused, Italian state-owned property in Rome where homeless people were living.

Pope Francis: ‘Rediscover the beauty of being children of God’

Pope Francis’ general audience in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican, Sept. 8, 2021. / Vatican Media.

Vatican City, Sep 8, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis on Wednesday urged Catholics to “rediscover the beauty of being children of God.”

Speaking at the general audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Sept. 8, the pope said that Christians often took this reality for granted.

Pablo Esparza/EWTN/ACI Group.
Pablo Esparza/EWTN/ACI Group.

“It is decisive even for all of us today to rediscover the beauty of being children of God, to be brothers and sisters among ourselves, because we have been united in Christ, who redeemed us,” he said.

“The differences and contrasts that separation creates should not exist among believers in Christ.”

The pope recalled that the Epistle of James warned Christians against discriminating between the rich and poor in their collective worship.

Pablo Esparza/EWTN/ACI Group.
Pablo Esparza/EWTN/ACI Group.

He said: “We create these differences, many times unconsciously so. No, we are equal! Rather, our vocation is that of making concrete and evident the call to unity of the entire human race. Everything that exacerbates the differences between people, often causing discrimination -- all of this, before God, no longer has any basis, thanks to the salvation effected in Christ.”

Pablo Esparza/EWTN/ACI Group.
Pablo Esparza/EWTN/ACI Group.

The pope’s live-streamed address, dedicated to the theme “We are children of God,” was the eighth in his cycle of catechesis on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

The pope reflected on Galatians 3:26-29, in which Paul proclaims that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.

Addressing pilgrims seated in the hall and wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the pope said that St. Paul sensed that the Galatians were in danger of forgetting the novelty of God’s revelation.

“We Christians often take for granted this reality of being God’s children. Instead, it is good to remember with gratitude the moment in which we became such, the moment of our baptism, so as to live the great gift we received with greater awareness,” he said, encouraging those present to find out and celebrate the date of their baptisms.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope said that St. Paul wanted the recipients of his letter to understand that Christ had brought about a “radically new condition” that led to “divine sonship.”

“The sonship of which Paul speaks is no longer a general one involving all men and women insofar as they are sons and daughters of the same Creator,” he said.

Pablo Esparza/EWTN/ACI Group.
Pablo Esparza/EWTN/ACI Group.

“No, in the passage we have heard, he affirms that faith allows us to be children of God ‘in Christ.’ This is what is new. This ‘in Christ’ is what makes the difference. Not just children of God, like everyone: all men and women are children of God, all of them, regardless of the religion we embrace. No. But ‘in Christ,’ this is what makes the difference for Christians, and this happens only by participating in Christ’s redemption, and in us in the sacrament of baptism: this is how it begins.”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

For Paul, the pope said, undergoing baptism was the same as taking part in the mystery of Jesus.

“For example, in the Letter to the Romans, he would even go so far as to say that in baptism we have died with Christ and have been buried with him so as to live with him. Dead with Christ, buried with him so as to live with him,” he commented.

“This is the grace of baptism: to participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism, therefore, is not merely an external rite. Those who receive it are transformed deep within, in their inmost being, and possess new life, which is precisely what allows them to turn to God and call on him with the name of ‘Abba,’ that is, ‘daddy.’”

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

That is why St. Paul asserted “audaciously” that the new identity given in baptism prevailed over all “ethnic-religious” differences, the pope explained.

“For Paul, to write to the Galatians that in Christ ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek’ was equivalent to an authentic subversion in the ethnic-religious sphere,” he said, observing that the notion sounded “a bit heretical” at the time.

Paul’s insistence on the equality between slave and free was also “shocking,” the pope said.

“The distinction between slaves and free citizens was vital in ancient society,” he noted. “By law, free citizens enjoyed all rights, while the human dignity of slaves was not even recognized.”

He suggested that this distinction was perpetuated today, with millions of people worldwide effectively enslaved.

“They are the new slaves. They are the ones who live on the margins, who are exploited by everyone. Slavery exists even today,” he said.

Vatican Media.
Vatican Media.

The pope described Paul’s emphasis on equality between men and women in Christ as revolutionary.

“This needs to be reaffirmed even today,” he said. “How many times we hear expressions that denigrate women! How often we hear: ‘But no, do not do anything, those are women’s concerns’?”

“But, look, men and women have the same dignity. And it has happened in history, even today, a type of slavery of women: women do not have the same opportunities as men. We have to read what Paul says: we are equal in Christ Jesus.”

Following his catechesis, the pope issued an appeal for peace in Ethiopia, where government soldiers are locked in conflict with the forces of the Tigray Region, the country’s northernmost regional state.

He said: “New Year’s Day will be celebrated in Ethiopia this coming Sept. 11. I extend to the Ethiopian people my most cordial and heartfelt greetings, particularly to those who are suffering due to the ongoing conflict and the serious humanitarian situation it has caused.”

“May this be a moment of fraternity and solidarity so that the common desire for peace can be heard.”

A precis of the pope’s catechesis was read out in seven languages. After each summary, he greeted members of each language group.

In his remarks to Spanish-speaking pilgrims, the pope highlighted the feast of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, which falls on Sept. 8.

“On this day, Cubans celebrate their Patroness and Mother, Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre. With a grateful memory of my pilgrimage to her shrine in September 2015, I want to present once again at the feet of the Virgin of Charity the life, dreams, hopes, and pains of the people of Cuba,” he said.

“Wherever there is a Cuban today, may he or she experience Mary’s tenderness, and may she lead them all to Christ, the Savior.”

Pope Francis preaches during Mass at the basilica shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Santiago de Cuba, Sept. 22, 2015. .  © L'Osservatore Romano
Pope Francis preaches during Mass at the basilica shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre in Santiago de Cuba, Sept. 22, 2015. . © L'Osservatore Romano

Greeting Catholics from Poland, the pope looked ahead to the beatification of two giants of 20th-century Catholicism in Warsaw on Sept. 12.

“I express my joy at the imminent beatification of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and Mother Elżbieta Róża Czacka. May the spiritual testament of the Primate of the Millennium, ‘I gambled everything on Mary,’ and the trust of Mother Elżbieta Róża placed in the Cross of Christ always be the strength of your nation.”

Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and Mother Elżbieta Róża Czacka. News Service.
Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and Mother Elżbieta Róża Czacka. News Service.

“About Cardinal Wyszyński, St. John Paul II said the historic words: ‘This Polish pope … would not be on Peter's chair were it not for your faith which did not retreat before prison and suffering. Were it not for your heroic hope, your unlimited trust in the Mother of the Church!’ May God bless Poland. May you be supported by your great saints and blesseds.”

The general audience ended with the recitation of the Our Father and the Apostolic Blessing.

Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican leaders call climate crisis a ‘devastating injustice’

Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Patriarch Bartholomew I at the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, Italy, Sept. 20, 2016. / Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images.

Vatican City, Sep 7, 2021 / 10:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Patriarch Bartholomew I released an unprecedented joint message on Tuesday, calling the climate crisis a “devastating injustice.”

The three Christian leaders said that there would be “catastrophic consequences” for future generations unless the world took responsibility for environmental damage.

“The current climate crisis speaks volumes about who we are and how we view and treat God’s creation. We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure,” their statement, issued on Sept. 7, said.

“But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them.”

“We serve a God of justice, who delights in creation and creates every person in God’s image, but also hears the cry of people who are poor. Accordingly, there is an innate call within us to respond with anguish when we see such devastating injustice.”

The pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Archbishop of Canterbury signed the joint text on Sept. 1. The message brought together the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion, respectively the world’s largest, second-largest, and third-largest Christian communions.

“As leaders of our Churches, we call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavor to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behavior and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” the three men wrote.

The joint statement highlighted the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 1-12.

“As world leaders prepare to meet in November at Glasgow to deliberate on the future of our planet, we pray for them and consider what the choices [sic] we must all make,” it said.

Pope Francis noted in an interview aired on Sept. 1 that he hoped to travel to Scotland to take part in the conference.

“It all depends on how I feel at the time. But in fact, my speech is already being prepared, and the plan is to be there,” he said.

In their joint message, the pope, the patriarch, and the archbishop said: “In our common Christian tradition, the Scriptures and the saints provide illuminating perspectives for comprehending both the realities of the present and the promise of something larger than what we see in the moment.”

“The concept of stewardship -- of individual and collective responsibility for our God-given endowment -- presents a vital starting point for social, economic, and environmental sustainability.”

They concluded: “All of us -- whoever and wherever we are -- can play a part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and environmental degradation. Caring for God’s creation is a spiritual commission requiring a response of commitment.”

“This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”

Vatican releases synod on synodality preparatory documents

Synod on the Family meeting in the Synod Hall in Vatican City on Oct. 21, 2015. / L’Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, Sep 7, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

The Vatican released Tuesday a preparatory document and handbook for the 2023 synod on synodality to be reviewed by all Catholic dioceses in the world over the next six months.

“It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium,” the new document states, quoting Pope Francis.

“This journey, which follows in the wake of the Church’s ‘renewal’ proposed by the Second Vatican Council, is both a gift and a task.”

The Vatican published on Sept. 7 the 22-page preparatory document, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” and the 42-page vademecum, or handbook, for the diocesan phase of the synod.

The handbook includes prayers, a description of synodality, the objectives of the synodal process, and the main questions to which the local Catholic communities are asked to give feedback. It underlines that dioceses should focus on “maximum inclusion and participation” among baptized Catholics in the diocesan synod process.

The preparatory document has been released for a period of “pre-synodal discernment” that will influence a second draft of the text to be published before June 2023.

According to the Vatican, the preparatory document is “a tool to facilitate the first phase of listening to and consulting the People of God in the particular Churches” for the diocesan phase of the synod.

The diocesan phase

During the diocesan phase, each bishop is asked to undertake a consultation process with the local Church from Oct. 17, 2021, to April 2022.

The handbook says that dioceses should organize local gatherings for “synodal consultation,” and also enable individuals to give their feedback directly to the diocese.

It recommends that multiple parishes come together for these “synodal consultation meetings” so that “a range of people from different socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, age groups” take part.

The preparatory document, handbook, and questionnaire are to be reviewed by dioceses, as well as superior generals, unions, and federations of consecrated life, international lay movements, and Catholic universities during this phase.

The diocesan synod process should “tap into the richness of the lived experience of the Church in their local context,” the handbook says.

Main questions to be considered

Questions are included at the end of handbook, which says that the “fundamental question” to be considered by the dioceses and the bishops over this multi-year process is as follows:

“A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together.’ How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’”

In considering this, dioceses will receive and report feedback on the following:

  • What are difficulties, obstacles, and wounds in the local Church?

  • What is the Holy Spirit asking of us?

  • In our local Church, who are those who “walk together”? Who are those who seem further apart?

  • How is God speaking to us through voices we sometimes ignore? How are the laity listened to, especially women and young people? What facilitates or inhibits our listening?

  • How does the relationship with the local media work (not only Catholic media)? Who speaks on behalf of the Christian community, and how are they chosen?

  • How do prayer and liturgical celebrations actually inspire and guide our common life and mission in our community?

  • What hinders the baptized from being active in mission? What areas of mission are we neglecting?

  • To what extent do diverse peoples in our community come together for dialogue? What are the places and means of dialogue within our local Church?

  • How are divergences of vision, or conflicts and difficulties addressed? What particular issues in the Church and society do we need to pay more attention to?

  • What relationships does our Church community have with members of other Christian traditions and denominations?

  • How does our Church community identify the goals to be pursued, the way to reach them, and the steps to be taken? How is authority or governance exercised within our local Church?

  • How do we promote participation in decision-making within hierarchical structures? Do our decision-making methods help us to listen to the whole People of God?

What is synodality?

The preparatory document describes synodality as “the form, the style, and the structure of the Church.”

“The Synodal Process is first and foremost a spiritual process. It is not a mechanical data-gathering exercise or a series of meetings and debates. Synodal listening is oriented towards discernment,” the handbook says.

The handbook describes the synodal journey as an experience of “authentic listening and discernment on the path of becoming the Church that God calls us to be.”

The synod on synodality will open with a “diocesan phase” in October 2021 and conclude with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023.

Pope Francis will “inaugurate the synodal path” over the weekend of Oct. 9-10 with an opening session and a Mass. All dioceses are invited also to offer an opening Mass on Sunday, Oct. 17.

One objective of the synod on synodality, according to the preparatory document, is to examine “how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing to light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel.”

“The purpose of the first phase of the synodal journey is to foster a broad consultation process in order to gather the wealth of the experiences of lived synodality, in its different articulations and facets, involving the pastors and the faithful of the particular Churches at all the different levels,” the preparatory document says.

“We recall that the purpose of the synod, and therefore of this consultation, is not to produce documents, but ‘to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands,’” it says, quoting from Pope Francis’ address at the opening of the youth synod in October 2018.

The Vatican held a press conference on Sept. 7 to discuss the newly released documents.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of Synod of Bishops, spoke on a panel, along with undersecretaries Sr. Nathalie Becquart and Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín. Myriam Wijlens and Fr. Dario Vitali, consultors for the synod, also answered questions as part of the panel.

At the press conference, Grech said that synodality is “the mature fruit” of the Second Vatican Council.

“The synod is not a parliament,” the cardinal said.

“A synod is an experience of everyone listening to the Holy Spirit,” he added.