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The World Seen From Rome
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Pope Francis: Year Opens in the Name of the Mother

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 10:47 AM

“The year opens in the name of the Mother,” Pope Francis said in his homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on January 1, 2018, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. “Mother of God is the most important title of Our Lady”

The Holy Father reminded the congregation that the Church has declared that Mary is not only the Mother of Jesus but the Mother of God. That shows “a magnificent truth” that God “took on our humanity.”

“The word mother (mater) is related to the word matter,” the Pope continued. “In his Mother, the God of heaven, the infinite God, made himself small, he became matter, not only to be with us but also to be like us.”

Devotion to Mary is “a requirement of the Christian life…not spiritual etiquette,” Francis concluded.  He noted that it is important to “leave behind all sorts of useless baggage” and look to Mary to find what really matters.

The Homily of the Holy Father

The year opens in the name of the Mother.  Mother of God is the most important title of Our Lady.  But we might ask why we say Mother of God and not Mother of Jesus.  In the past, some wanted to be content simply with the latter, but the Church has declared that Mary is the Mother of God.  We should be grateful because these words contain a magnificent truth about God and about ourselves.  From the moment that our Lord became incarnate in Mary, and for all time, he took on our humanity.  There is no longer God without man; the flesh Jesus took from his Mother is our own, now and for all eternity.  To call Mary the Mother of God reminds us of this: God is close to humanity, even as a child is close to the mother who bears him in her womb.

The word mother (mater) is related to the word matter.  In his Mother, the God of heaven, the infinite God, made himself small, he became matter, not only to be with us but also to be like us.  This is the miracle, the great novelty!  Man is no longer alone; no more an orphan, but forever a child.  The year opens with this novelty.  And we proclaim it by saying: Mother of God!  Ours is the joy of knowing that our solitude has ended.  It is the beauty of knowing that we are beloved children, of knowing that this childhood of ours can never be taken away from us.  It is to see a reflection of ourselves in the frail and infant God resting in his mother’s arms and to realize that humanity is precious and sacred to the Lord.  Henceforth, to serve human life is to serve God.  All life, from life in the mother’s womb to that of the elderly, the suffering and the sick, and to that of the troublesome and even repellent, is to be welcomed, loved and helped.

Let us now be guided by today’s Gospel.  Only one thing is said about the Mother of God: “Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19).  She kept them.  She simply kept; Mary does not speak.  The Gospel does not report a single word of hers in the entire account of Christmas.  Here too, the Mother is one with her Son: Jesus is an “infant”, a child “unable to speak”.  The Word of God, who “long ago spoke in many and various ways” (Heb 1:1), now, in the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4), is silent.  The God before whom all fall silent is himself a speechless child.  His Majesty is without words; his mystery of love is revealed in lowliness. This silence and lowliness is the language of his kingship.  His Mother joins her Son and keeps these things in silence.

That silence tells us that, if we would “keep” ourselves, we need silence.  We need to remain silent as we gaze upon the crib.  Pondering the crib, we discover anew that we are loved; we savor the real meaning of life.  As we look on in silence, we let Jesus speak to our heart.  His lowliness lays low our pride; his poverty challenges our outward display; his tender love touches our hardened hearts.  To set aside a moment of silence each day to be with God is to “keep” our soul; it is to “keep” our freedom from being corroded by the banality of consumerism, the blare of commercials, the stream of empty words and the overpowering waves of empty chatter and loud shouting.

The Gospel goes on to say that Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.  What were these things?  They were joys and sorrows.  On the one hand, the birth of Jesus, the love of Joseph, the visit of the shepherds, that radiant night.  But on the other, an uncertain future, homelessness “because there was no place for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7), the desolation of rejection, the disappointment of having to give birth to Jesus in a stable.  Hopes and worries, light and darkness: all these things dwelt in the heart of Mary.  What did she do?  She pondered them, that is to say she dwelt on them, with God, in her heart.  She held nothing back; she locked nothing within out of self-pity or resentment.  Instead, she gave everything over to God.  That is how she “kept” those things.  We “keep” things when we hand them over: by not letting our lives become prey to fear, distress or superstition, by not closing our hearts or trying to forget, but by turning everything into a dialogue with God.  God, who keeps us in his heart, then comes to dwell in our lives.

These, then, are the secrets of the Mother of God: silently treasuring all things and bringing them to God.  And this took place, the Gospel concludes, in her heart.  The heart makes us look to the core of the person, his or her affections, and life.  At the beginning of the year, we too, as Christians on our pilgrim way, feel the need to set out anew from the center, to leave behind the burdens of the past and to start over from the things that really matter.  Today, we have before us the point of departure: the Mother of God.  For Mary is exactly what God wants us to be, what he wants his Church to be: a Mother who is tender and lowly, poor in material goods and rich in love, free of sin and united to Jesus, keeping God in our hearts and our neighbor in our lives.  To set out anew, let us look to our Mother.  In her heart beats the heart of the Church.  Today’s feast tells us that if we want to go forward, we need to turn back: to begin anew from the crib, from the Mother who holds God in her arms.

Devotion to Mary is not spiritual etiquette; it is a requirement of the Christian life.  Looking to the Mother, we are asked to leave behind all sorts of useless baggage and to rediscover what really matters. The gift of the Mother, the gift of every mother and every woman, is most precious for the Church, for she too is mother and woman.  While a man often abstracts, affirms and imposes ideas, a woman, a mother, knows how to “keep”, to put things together in her heart, to give life.  If our faith is not to be reduced merely to an idea or a doctrine, all of us need a mother’s heart, one which knows how to keep the tender love of God and to feel the heartbeat of all around us.  May the Mother, God’s finest human creation, guard and keep this year, and bring the peace of her Son to our hearts and to our world.

 

[00001-EN.01] [Original text: Italian]

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

Pope Francis Observes First Vespers and Te Deum in Thanksgiving for the Past Year

Sun, 12/31/2017 - 5:28 PM

Pope Francis celebrated First Vespers and Te Deum in thanksgiving for the past year on December 31, 2017, in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“Even this time of the year 2017, which God had given us whole and healthy, we humans have in many ways wasted and wounded with works of death, with lies and injustices,” the Pope said.  “Wars are the flagrant sign of this recidivist and absurd pride. But so are all the small and great offenses to life, to truth, to fraternity, which cause multiple forms of human, social and environmental degradation. We want everything and we must assume, before God, our brothers and our creation, our responsibility.

“But tonight the grace of Jesus prevails and his reflection in Mary. Therefore gratitude prevails, which, as Bishop of Rome, I feel in my soul, thinking of people who live with an open heart in this city.

I feel a sense of sympathy and gratitude for all those people who every day contribute with small but precious concrete actions to the good of Rome: they try to fulfill their duty to the best, they move in traffic with criteria and prudence, respect public places and they point out things that are wrong, they pay attention to the elderly or in difficulty, and so on. These and a thousand other behaviors express concretely the love for the city. Without speeches, without advertising, but with a style of civic education practiced in everyday life. And so they silently cooperate in the common good.

“I also feel a great esteem for parents, teachers and all educators who, with this same style, try to train children and young people in a civic sense, an ethic of responsibility, educating them to feel part of, to take care of themselves. , to take an interest in the reality that surrounds them.

“These people, even if they do not make news, are the majority of the people who live in Rome. And among them, many are in conditions of economic straits; yet they do not cry on each other, nor do they harbor resentments and grudges, but they strive to do their part every day to improve things a little.”

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

Working Translation

 

JF

Coptic Christians: Pope Expresses Closeness to Attack Victims in Egypt

Sun, 12/31/2017 - 9:10 AM

Pope Francis expressed his closeness to victims of the December 29, 2019, attacks in Egypt in his remarks following the praying the Angelus at noon on December 31, 2017, with the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“I express my closeness to the Coptic Orthodox brothers of Egypt, affected two days ago by two attacks on a church and a shop on the outskirts of Cairo. May the Lord receive the souls of the deceased; sustain the wounded, the families and the whole community, and convert the hearts of the violent.”

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

JF

Pope: Parents Help Children to Mature

Sun, 12/31/2017 - 9:00 AM

Parents must help their children to mature, Pope Francis said on December 31, 2017, in his address before praying the Angelus with the crowd gathered at noon in St. Peter’s Square. He noted that the growth of children is a great joy of the family.

“The Gospel invites us to reflect on the experience lived by Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, while they grow together as a family in mutual love and trust in God,” according to the Holy Father.  He went on to explain that the Holy Family fulfilled the law by offering their son to God in the temple, recognizing that “God alone is Lord of individual and family history.”

 “Every family is called to acknowledge this primacy, protecting and educating the children to open themselves to God who is the very source of life,” Francis continued. “Every family is called to acknowledge this primacy, protecting and educating the children to open themselves to God who is the very source of life”

 The Pope concluded by reminding the faithful gathered in the square that Christ is “truly one of us: the Son of God makes himself a child, accepts to grow, is strengthened, is full of wisdom and the grace of God is upon Him.”

* * *

Before the Angelus:

 Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In this first Sunday after Christmas, we celebrate the Holy Family of Nazareth, and the Gospel invites us to reflect on the experience lived by Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, while they grow together as a family in mutual love and trust in God. Expression of this trust is the rite fulfilled by Mary and Joseph with the offering of their son Jesus to God. The Gospel says: “They brought the babe up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22), as the Mosaic Law required. Jesus’ parents go to the Temple to attest that their son belongs to God and that they are the custodians of his life, not the proprietors. And this makes us reflect. All parents are custodians of their children’s life, not proprietors, and they must help them to grow, to mature.

This gesture underlines that God alone is Lord of individual and family history; everything comes to us from Him. Every family is called to acknowledge this primacy, protecting and educating the children to open themselves to God who is the very source of life. The secret of interior youth passes by here, witnessed paradoxically in the Gospel by a couple of elderly <persons>, Simeon and Anna. Old Simeon, in particular, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says about the child Jesus: “This child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against [. . .] that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (vv. 34-35).

These prophetic words reveal that Jesus came to have the false images fall that we make of God and also of ourselves; to “contradict” the worldly securities on which we attempt to lean; to make us “rise again” to a genuine human and Christian way, founded on values of the Gospel. There is no family situation that is precluded from this new way of rebirth and resurrection. And every time families, including those wounded and marked by frailty, failures and difficulties, turn to the source of Christian experience, new ways and unimaginable possibilities open.

Today’s evangelical account says that Mary and Joseph “when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the child grew — says the Gospel — and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him” (vv. 39-40). We all know that the growth of children is a great joy of the family. They are destined to develop and to grow strong, to acquire wisdom and receive God’s grace, precisely as happened to Jesus. He is truly one of us: the Son of God makes himself a child, accepts to grow, is strengthened, is full of wisdom and the grace of God is upon Him. Mary and Joseph have the joy to see all this in their son; and this is the mission to which the family is oriented: to create the favorable conditions for the harmonious and full growth of their children so that they can live a good life, worthy of God and constructive for the world.

This is my wish for all families, accompanying it with the invocation to Mary, Queen of the Family.

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

 

 

Angelus Address: On the Feast of the Holy Family

Sun, 12/31/2017 - 8:38 AM

VATICAN CITY, DECEMBER 31, 2017 (Zenit.org).- Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

* * *

Before the Angelus:

 Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

In this first Sunday after Christmas, we celebrate the Holy Family of Nazareth, and the Gospel invites us to reflect on the experience lived by Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, while they grow together as a family in mutual love and trust in God. Expression of this trust is the rite fulfilled by Mary and Joseph with the offering of their son Jesus to God. The Gospel says: “They brought the babe up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22), as the Mosaic Law required. Jesus’ parents go to the Temple to attest that their son belongs to God and that they are the custodians of his life, not the proprietors. And this makes us reflect. All parents are custodians of their children’s life, not proprietors, and they must help them to grow, to mature.

This gesture underlines that God alone is Lord of individual and family history; everything comes to us from Him. Every family is called to acknowledge this primacy, protecting and educating the children to open themselves to God who is the very source of life. The secret of interior youth passes by here, witnessed paradoxically in the Gospel by a couple of elderly <persons>, Simeon and Anna. Old Simeon, in particular, inspired by the Holy Spirit, says about the child Jesus: “This child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is spoken against [. . .] that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed” (vv. 34-35).

These prophetic words reveal that Jesus came to have the false images fall that we make of God and also of ourselves; to “contradict” the worldly securities on which we attempt to lean; to make us “rise again” to a genuine human and Christian way, founded on values of the Gospel. There is no family situation that is precluded from this new way of rebirth and resurrection. And every time families, including those wounded and marked by frailty, failures and difficulties, turn to the source of Christian experience, new ways and unimaginable possibilities open.

Today’s evangelical account says that Mary and Joseph “when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the child grew — says the Gospel — and became strong, filled with wisdom, and the favor of God was upon him” (vv. 39-40). We all know that the growth of children is a great joy of the family. They are destined to develop and to grow strong, to acquire wisdom and receive God’s grace, precisely as happened to Jesus. He is truly one of us: the Son of God makes himself a child, accepts to grow, is strengthened, is full of wisdom and the grace of God is upon Him. Mary and Joseph have the joy to see all this in their son; and this is the mission to which the family is oriented: to create the favorable conditions for the harmonious and full growth of their children so that they can live a good life, worthy of God and constructive for the world.

This is my wish for all families, accompanying it with the invocation to Mary, Queen of the Family.

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

  After the Angelus:

 Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I express my closeness to the Coptic Orthodox brothers of Egypt, affected two days ago by two attacks on a church and a shop on the outskirts of Cairo. May the Lord receive the souls of the deceased; sustain the wounded, the families and the whole community, and convert the hearts of the violent.

A special greeting goes today to the families present here, and also to those taking part from home. May the Holy Family bless you and guide you on your way.

I greet all of you, Romans and pilgrims, in particular, the parish groups, the Associations and the young people. On this day, let us not forget to thank God for the past year and for every good received. And it will do each one of us good to take some time to think how many good things we have received from the Lord this year and to be grateful. And we should also be grateful if there were trials and difficulties because He helped us to overcome those moments. Today is a day of thanksgiving.

I wish you all a happy Sunday and a serene end of the year. I thank you again for your good wishes and your prayers: and please continue to pray for me. Have a good lunch and goodbye!

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

JF

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help for Children

Sat, 12/30/2017 - 5:34 PM
Angelus Address: On the Feast of the Holy Family

The Mission of the Family Is “To Create the Favourable Conditions for the Growth of the Children, so that They Can Live a Good Life Worthy of God and Constructive for the World

Pope: Parents Help Children to Mature

The Growth of Children is a Great Joy of the Family

Coptic Christians: Pope Expresses Closeness to Attack Victims in Egypt Pope Francis Observes First Vespers and Te Deum in Thanksgiving for the Past Year

“But tonight the grace of Jesus prevails and his reflection in Mary.”

“Mystical Poetry Begins Where Religious Poetry Ends” (Fernando Rielo), Part II

Interview with Carmen Gonzalez Huguet, Winner of the 37th Fernando Rielo World Prize of Mystical Poetry

“Mystical Poetry Begins Where Religious Poetry Ends” (Fernando Rielo), Part II

Sat, 12/30/2017 - 4:51 AM

Poetry can be current, modern, comprehensible and profound at the same time: a distinguished witness of it is poetess and professor Carmen Gonzalez Huguet, recently awarded the 37th Fernando Rielo World Prize of Mystical Poetry, for her collection of ninety sonnets “El Alma Herida”[“The Wounded Soul”]. In an interview with ZENIT, the Salvadorian artist talked about her passion for sonnets, her faith, her life and the situation in El Salvador.

Here is a translation of Part II of the interview with Carmen Gonzalez Huguet. Part I of the interview was published on December 27, 2017.

* * *

–Q: Is there a particular reason for your special sensibility to suffering?

–Carmen Gonzalez: Twelve years ago I was dead, and only after two hours of resuscitation did I come back to life. I reflected a lot on what happened and think there’s a reason for my survival. I had prepared myself to die; I suffered from a heart problem. There must be a reason why God let me come back to life.

–Q: Has this experience marked your way of living and working?

–Carmen Gonzalez: Yes, I realized that my time was limited. Therefore, following the motto “carpe diem” I try to live the present profoundly. In my family, friendly relations, in my affections and sentiments I don’t procrastinate, but express myself immediately and I commit myself to give always the utmost. The same is true for my work.

–Q: Are you not amazed that Cardinal Octavio Ruiz Arenas, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, so appreciated your work, described by the Cardinal himself an optimum instrument for evangelization? So, will your sonnets be published and diffused throughout the world?

–Carmen Gonzalez: In South America, the situation is difficult, marked by a grave crisis. There are few publishers and there is no network to promote publications. Only because I won the Prize will my sonnets be published in all Spanish-speaking countries. The Fernando Rielo World Prize of Mystical Poetry is very important for us writers because it gives a platform to promote mystical poetry and not only for established writers, but also for unknown poets and poetesses. Moreover, the Prize is not just accessible to Christians. The Prize is an important contribution to the Oecumene and to the inter-religious dialogue because art is a universal language and can act as a bridge between various cultures and religions.

–Q: Given the difficult situation in your country of origin, is faith important for the population?

–Carmen Gonzallez: Absolutely. Religion is a refuge for the population of El Salvador. Prayer becomes a cry of anguish. In El Salvador, the population is very religious and faith is a constituent element of its identity. The majority are Catholics; one-third of the population is Protestant.

–Q: What does El Salvador’s population think of Pope Francis?

–Carmen Gonzalez: Pope Francis  is “one of us.” It’s very important for us to have a Pope of South American origin. We see Pope Francis as a person close to us, warm and very spirited. We appreciate so much his direct and strong way. One sees that he has a close relationship with God. Pope Francis makes each one of us feel important; he takes care of us like a father.

* * *

To illustrate better Carmen Gonzalez Huguet’s work, we translate here one of the sonnets treated in the collection “The Wounded Soul.”

What solitude you have if you are asleep.

What dreadful silence in the night.

I peer into the mysterious abyss

Where there is no light, or name, or sound.

 

And I don’t find you, God.

But you name and call me in my ear, silently,

And in all your creatures,

I hear the melodious song of born love.

 

Lift me from the depth of failure.

Come with me in the midst of the people

Until the sad hour of sunset.

 

Take me, river, from your dark source

To rest with you, step by step,

Sweetly, profoundly, passionately.

 

Wait for me on the shore of the afternoon,

Divine love, in this blind appointment.

The rain enveloped in fine mist comes

And hides in the absence of the cowardly sun.

 

Don’t ask me, Friend, to wait for you

Under this sky that overwhelms my body.

Dilute perhaps the fire of the surrender

That which burns in the center of the fire?

 

I wait for you here, Lord, I always wait for you.

 

But how long you take. Emotion captivates

My poor heart of wounded love.

 

The years go by. I die of waiting.

Take me now, Lord, with you above,

And receive me in your promised heaven.

 * * *

 Biographical References:

Carmen Gonzalez Huguet was born on November 15, 1958, in San Salvador. She received her degree in Literature and is Professor at the “Jose Matias Delgado” University. In addition to eight poetry collections, the winner of many prizes has also published numerous narrative works. Moreover, she was Directress of “Publications and Prints,” <in the> cultural publishing house of the State of El Salvador, and Directress of the “Culture” review. From 1997 to 1999 she was a researcher at the “David Joaquin Guzman” National Museum of Anthropology. Since 2012, the Salvadorian and Spanish citizen has been a member of the Salvadorian Academy of Language and correspondent of the Royal Academy of Spain.

The other finalists of the 37th Fernando Rielo World Prize of Mystical Poetry, with 7,000 euros as a Prize, were Claudia Lorena Parada Turcios, compatriot of Carmen Gonzalez Huguet and finalist last year (San Salvador); Spaniards Antonio Bocanegra (Cadiz), Fernando Sanchez Mayo (Cordova) and Miguel Sanchez Robles (Murcia); Colombians Margarita Galindo Steffens (Barranquilla), Adela Guerrero Collazos (Cali) and Antonio Martin de las Mulas (Medellin); from Ecuador Eliana Cevallos Rojas; from the Dominican Republic Mikenia Vargas and from Argentina Leandro Calle (Cordoba, Argentina). The Jury was made up of Jesus Fernandez Hernandez (Spain), President of the Fernando Rielo Foundation; Jose Maria Lopez Savillano (Spain), literary critic and Permanent Secretary of the Prize; Loretta Frattale (Italy), Professor of Spanish Literature at the Tor Vergata University of Rome; Arnaldo Colasanti (Italy), poet and literary critic, and David G. Murray (USA), literary critic and philologist. Present also at the prize-giving was Cardinal Octavio Ruiz Arenas, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.

The Fernando Rielo World Prize remembers the founder of the Institute of Christ the Redeemer, <idente> men and women missionaries, Fernando Rielo Pardal. The Institute of Consecrated Life of pontifical right was founded on June 29, 1959, at Tenerife, in Spain. The Institute’s apostolate focuses on two fields: “dialogue with Intellectuals for the transmission and defense of revealed truth at the service and tutelage of Sacred Scripture, of the Tradition and of the Magisterium of the Church in the present-day world” and “the apostolate with young people that have lost the Catholic faith or never embraced it.”

The Fernando Rielo Foundation is committed in particular to Evangelization through culture, among other things through the World Prize of Mystical Poetry and the International Prize of Sacred Music, both entitled Fernando Rielo. The Fernando Rielo Publishing Foundation publishes not only Fernando Rielo’s philosophical work but also the minutes of the conferences held on arguments of philosophy, pedagogy, and literature.

* * *

Translation by Virginia M. Forrester

 

JF

 

 

Church Survival

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 5:42 PM
In Cairo, a Christmas Season Tinged With Sorrow

Young girl just observed 1st anniversary of “the martyrdom” of her father

Pope’s Address to Italian Theological Association

50th Anniversary of Their Founding

‘For an Outgoing Missionary Church, Theological Ministry Is an Urgent, Important Priority’

Pope Addresses Italian Theological Association

Twenty-three Catholic Missionaries Were Killed in the World in 2017

End of Year Statement Issued by Vatican Agency Fides

Patriarch Younan: In Syria & Iraq, Survival of One of Oldest Christian Churches Is Being Threatened

Patriarch of Antioch for Syriac Catholic Church Says Shepherds Will Continue Crying Out for Middle East Christians’ Rights to Be Defended

Pope Benedict: A Priest Never Really Retires

Emeritus Pope Writes to Emeritus Cardinal Prefect

Chaldean Patriarch’s Christmas Message

For the New Phase of Iraq, Let us Move to the Path of Hope Together

St. Thomas Becket Relics Found in Italy

In Mottola, of which he is Patron Saint

The Gospel of the Family

Sunday within the Octave of Christmas

The Gospel of the Family

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 2:19 PM

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph – Year B – December 31, 2017

Roman Rite

1 Sam 1:20-22.24-28; 1 Jn 3:1-2.21-24; Lk 2:41- 52

Ambrosian Rite

1 Jn 1:1 t- 10; Ps 96; Rm 10:8c-15; Jn 21:19c-24

Third of the eighth days of Christmas – St. John the Apostle and Evangelist

 

  • From a temple to another.

A few days after the Solemnity of Christmas, the liturgy today makes us celebrate the Holy Family of Nazareth and we are invited to contemplate and imitate the life of the “earthly” family of Jesus. What do we see? The Gospel of St. Luke shows us that in this unique family not only the figure of the Son of God, the divine Person who assumes the full humanity of His creatures, the God with us, the Prince of Peace emerges. The evangelist highlights the Mother of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, her husband, collaborator of the plan of salvation for men and “guardian of the Redemption” (Saint John Paul II).

How can such a unique family be a model for our families?  It is a family only apparently like all the others, but so unique that encourages us to think that it is inimitable: a Son who is God, a mother who is the Immaculate Virgin, and a father who is the wise person per excellence.

Jesus, God made man, gives us an example of a son in a family that becomes a model for the families of all times and all places.

Jesus did not rush to present himself as the Messiah. In a small town on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, in the seclusion of a simple family, this Son lived a normal life, growing in grace and spirit up to the moment when it was time to begin the mission that the Father had entrusted to him. It is a mission that led to his death and resurrection, making us from a people without a future to a people called to follow him in holiness and in the joy of the fullness of Life, now and forever.  I think that, looking at the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, our families are encouraged to be more and more “small domestic churches” where God is present and where we learn to live, walking in the Light of the Gospel, the Good News, the only sure guide in a world that has lost the gaze on the Light of Heaven and sees only the lights of the Earth.

To his parents who had been looking for him for three days, Jesus answers that they should have known that the path of his life was to do what is dear to his Father. He had stayed for three days in the temple of his Father, dealing precisely with the things of his Father (see Lk 2, 49). Then, because the Gospel is to be lived in everyday life, he goes back with Mary and Joseph to the daily life of Nazareth. He returns with his parents to Nazareth and he is obedient to them. He leaves the Temple for the “domestic temple”, where everything is organized for His divine presence and where his humanity grows in wisdom and grace.

The Redeemer has left the teachers of the Law who taught in the Temple of Jerusalem, to be with Mary and Joseph who are masters of life in that special school that is their home in Nazareth. The Son of God learns from them the art of being a man. He looks at his mother Mary who is tenderly strong, but never passive.  He looks at Joseph, the legal father of Jesus, for whom the putative father has, “thanks to a special gift from heaven, all that natural love, all that affectionate solicitude that a father’s heart can know” (a phrase of Pope Pius XII cited In Redemptoris Custos, 8).

 

  • The Holy Family as school and real and not just ideal model of a family.

It is a simple life that of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, who resembles very much our own. Mary is the mother, as our mothers, attentive and alert, but above all, as Immaculate and therefore all of God, educates her son to the true meaning of life, which is to carry out the mission that the Father had entrusted to him, sending him among us. The House of Nazareth was not a school only for Jesus, but it is for us, as taught by B. Pope Paul VI: “Nazareth is the school in which we begin to understand the life of Jesus. It is the school of the Gospel. Here we learn to observe, to listen, to meditate, and to penetrate the profound and mysterious meaning of that simple, humble, and lovely manifestation of the Son of God. And perhaps we learn almost imperceptibly to imitate Him. “(Homily in Nazareth – January 05, 1964).

The Gospel of St. Luke tells us about the daily and holy life of Joseph and Mary who in their hesitation, in their questions, in their attitudes, in their weakness far from perfect and ideal, look like so many parents. At the same time they are the real and the original model of family, where virginity, marriage, and parenting coexist. To the Christian couples the Lord asks that, through their union, the twofold end of marriage is realized: the good of the spouses and the transmission of life. It is not possible to separate these two meanings or values of marriage, without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the good of marriage and the future of the family. Christian couples are asked to live in marital chastity. In this regard, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “The actions within marriage by which the couple are united intimately and chastely are noble and worthy ones. Expressed in a manner which is truly human, these actions promote that mutual self-giving by which spouses enrich each other with a joyful and a ready will. “[ Gaudium et Spes,  section 49]”.

Virginity, though, strictly speaking, belongs to the consecrated and refers to eternity. But virginity is also constitutive of the original family, therefore there is an inseparable link between Christian couples and persons consecrated for the Kingdom of God and this link is the Holy Family of Nazareth.

The consecrated Virgins in the world testify that virginity doesn’t mean to be without affections, even if it involves giving up a carnal family and physical relationship to be fully available to the task of a spiritual, but concrete fruitfulness to which the Lord has called them. Christ is at the heart of Christian marriage and the consecrated Virgins testify that, if all is given to Christ, life is really fruitful. Like the Virgin Mary, they preserve in their hearts a mystery greater than themselves and carry it into the world.

St. Augustine keenly teaches that the importance of spiritual motherhood is not in conflict with carnal motherhood: “(the Church) imitates the mother of her husband, and her Lord. For the Church also is both a mother and a virgin. For whose virgin purity consult we for, if she is not a virgin? Or whose children address we, if she is not a mother? Mary bare the Head of This Body after the flesh, the Church bears the members of that Body after the Spirit. In both virginity hinders not fruitfulness: in both fruitfulness takes not away virginity. Wherefore, whereas the whole Church is holy both in body and spirit, and yet the whole is not virgin in body but in spirit; how much more holy is it in these members, wherein it is virgin both in body and spirit? It is written in the Gospel, of the mother and brethren of Christ, that is, His kindred after the flesh, that, when word had been brought to Him, and they were standing without, because they could not come to Him by reason of the crowd, He made answer, who is my mother? Or who are my brethren? And stretching forth His Hand over His disciples, He says, these are my brethren: and whosoever shall have done the will of my Father, that man is to me brother, and mother, and sister.”(De Virginitate, 2.2-3.3).

The consecrated Virgins show that the example of Mary, Virgin, and Mother, is present and can be practiced even today. They are called to live a maternity of Grace.

Mary has opened the way for all women who, after her, welcome the call of God to give their hearts to the Lord in virginity. Of course, not only women are called to the virginal life; it should be remembered that Christ has committed himself to it and has also committed his apostles too.

However, the expression “to marry God”, is more appropriate to the woman. Christian virgins were considered, since ancient times, as brides of Christ. It can be said that they represent, in the most appropriate and most complete way, the quality of bride of Christ that is attributed to the church. This relationship of bride with Christ is embodied in the consecrated Virgins.

 

Patristic Reading

Golden chain

On Lk  2, 50 – 52

CYRIL; The Evangelist having said before that the Child grew and waxed strong, verifies his own words when he relates, that Jesus with the holy Virgin went up to Jerusalem; as it is said, And when he was twelve years old, &c.

GREEK EX. His indication of wisdom did not exceed the measure of His age, but at the time that with us the powers of discernment are generally perfected, the wisdom of Christ shows itself.

AMBROSE; Or the twelfth year was the commencement of our Lord’s disputation with the doctors, for this was the number of the Evangelists necessary to preach the faith.

THEOPHYL; We may also say, that as by the seventh number, so also by the twelfth, (which consists of the parts of seven multiplied alternately by one another,) the universality and perfection of either things or times is signified, and therefore rightly from the number twelve, the glory of Christ takes its beginning, being that by which all places and times are to be filled.

THEOPHYL; Now that the Lord came up every year to Jerusalem at the Passover, betokens His humility as a man, for it is, man’s duty to meet together to offer sacrifices to God, and conciliate Him with prayers. Accordingly, the Lord as man, did among men what God by angels commended c men to do. Hence it is said, According to the custom of the feast day. Let us follow then the journey of His mortal life, if we delight to behold the glory of His divine nature.

GREEK EX. The feast having been celebrated, while the rest returned, Jesus secretly tarried behind. As it follows, And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and his parents knew not of it. It is said, When the days were accomplished, because the feast lasted seven days. But the reason of His tarrying behind in secret was, that His parents might not be a hindrance to His carrying on the discussion with the lawyers; or perhaps to avoid appearing to despise his parents by not obeying their commands. He remains therefore secretly, that he might neither be kept away nor be disobedient.

ORIGEN; But we must not wonder that they are called His parents, seeing the one from her childbirth, the other from his knowledge of it, deserved the names of father and mother.

THEOPHYL; But someone will ask, how was it that the Son of God, brought up by His parents with such care, could be left behind from forgetfulness? To which it is answered, that the custom of the children of Israel while assembling at Jerusalem on the feast days, or returning to their homes, was for the women and men to go separately, and the infants or children to go with either parent indiscriminately. And so both Mary and Joseph each thought in turn that the Child Jesus, whom they saw not with them, was returning with the other parent. Hence it follows, But they, supposing him to have been in the company, &c.

ORIGEN; But as when the Jews plotted against Him He escaped from the midst of them, and was not seen; so now it seems that the Child Jesus remained, and His parents knew not where He was. As it follows, And not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem seeking for him.

GLOSS. They were on their way home, one day’s journey from Jerusalem; on the second day they seek for Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance, and when they found Him not, they returned on the third day to Jerusalem, and there they found Him. As it follows, And it came to pass, after three days they found him.

ORIGEN; He is not found as soon as sought for, for Jesus was not among His kinsfolk and relations, among those who are joined to Him in the flesh, nor in the company of the multitude can He be found. Learn where those who seek Him find Him, not everywhere, but in the temple. And do you then seek Jesus in the temple of God. Seek Him in the Church, and seek Him among the masters who are in the temple. For if you wilt so seek Him, you shall find Him. They found Him not among His kinsfolk, for human relations could not comprehend the Son of God; not among His acquaintance, for He passes far beyond all human knowledge and understanding. Where then do they find Him? In the temple! If at any time you seek the Son of God, seek Him first in the temple, thither go up, and verily shall you find Christ, the Word, and the Wisdom, (i.e. the Son of God.)

AMBROSE; After three days He is found in the temple, that it might be for a sign, that after three days of victorious suffering, He who was believed to be dead should rise again anti manifest Himself to our faith, seated in heaven with divine glory.

GLOSS. Or because the advent of Christ, which was looked for by the Patriarchs before the Law, was not found, nor again, that which was sought for by prophets and just men under the Law, but that alone is found which is sought for by Gentiles under grace.

ORIGEN; Because moreover, He was the Son of God, He is found in the midst of the doctors, enlightening and instructing them. But because He was a little child, He is found among them not teaching but asking questions, as it is said, Sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And this He did as a duty of reverence, that He might set us an example of the proper behavior of children, though they be wise and learned, rather to hear their masters than teach them, and not to vaunt themselves with empty boasting. But He asked not that He might learn, but that asking He might instruct.

For from the same source of learning is derived both the power of asking and answering wisely, as it follows, All who heard him were astonished at his wisdom.

THEOPHYL; To show that He was a man, He humbly listened to the masters; but to prove that He was God, He divinely answered those who spoke.

GREEK EX. He asks questions with reason, He listens M with wisdom, and answers with more wisdom, so as to cause astonishment. As it follows, And they who saw it were astonished.

CHRYS. The Lord truly did no miracle in His childhood, yet this one fact St. Luke mentions, which made men look with wonder upon Him.

THEOPHYL; For from His tongue there went forth divine wisdom, while His age exhibited man’s helplessness, and hence the Jews, amid the high things they hear and the lowly things they see, are perplexed with doubts and astonishment. But we can in no wise wonder, knowing the words of the Prophet, that thus unto us a Is Child is born, that He abides the mighty God.

GREEK EX. But the ever-wonderful mother of God, moved by a mother’s feelings, as it w were with weeping makes her mournful inquiry, in everything like a mother, with confidence, humility, and affection. As it follows, And his mother said to him, Son, what have you done?

ORIGEN; The holy Virgin knew that He was not the Son of Joseph, and yet calls her husband His father according to the belief of the Jews, who thought that He was conceived in the common way. Now to speak generally we may say, that the Holy Spirit honored Joseph by the name of father, because he brought up the Child Jesus; but more technically, that it might not seem superfluous in St. Luke, bringing down the genealogy from David to Joseph. But why sought they Him sorrowing? Was it that he might have perished or been lost? It could not be. For what should cause them to dread the loss of Him whom they knew to be the Lord? But as whenever you read the Scriptures you search out their meaning with pains, not that you suppose them to have erred or to contain anything incorrect, but that the truth which they have inherent in them you are anxious to find out; so they sought Jesus, lest perchance leaving them he should have returned to heaven, thither to descend v hen He would. He then who seeks Jesus must go about it not carelessly and idly, as many seek Him who never find Him, but with labor and sorrow.

GLOSS. Or they feared lest Herod who sought Him in His infancy, now that He was advanced to boyhood might find an opportunity of putting Him to death.

 

St. Thomas Becket Relics Found in Italy

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 12:56 PM

Officials in the small Italian town of Mottola have found relics of the community’s patron saint, St. Thomas Becket, Vatican News reported December 29, 2017.

“Together with the Bishop of Castellaneta, Claudio Maniago, we have searched the sanctuaries that could contain the relics of Saint Thomas,” said Father Sario Chiarelli, the rector of the Cathedral in Mottola. “The last contact was with a church of Verona that bears his name, but nothing came of it. Then, the surprise: two relics were here in Mottola, hidden in as many holy stones [altar stones]. In short, we had been searching for what we already had.”

The two relics were discovered during restoration work in the Mottola’s Cathedral, “Mother Church of Holy Mary of the Assumption.” One was previously identified but had been lost. The second, a fragment of bone, was a new discovery. Both relics were placed in a new altar during the re-consecration of the chapel.

Thomas Becket served as Chancellor of England and later, Archbishop of Canterbury.  He was murdered in 1170 by agents of Henry II after a long dispute between the future saint and the king over Church vs. state authority.

 

Chaldean Patriarch’s Christmas Message

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 11:52 AM
The following message is republished from the website of the Chaldean Patriarch

Christmas Message: For the New Phase of Iraq, Let us Move to the Path of Hope Together

Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako

On Christmas, the angels sang: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2/14). This is a title for a real and long-term project, achieved by Jesus Christ and should be accomplished in the heart of every one of us to prevail peace in the world. This heavenly project is the only hope to change our fears and worries resulted from; terrorism and wars; as well as the economic deterioration and the deadly comprehensive arms racing.

  1. Hope of Iraqis
    After declaring the triumph over ISIS and the termination of terrorist control on Mosul and other Iraqi cities that have been invaded since June 2014, Iraqis hope is to look at this victory as a firm step forward to: attain security and stability;  deal with the consequences that affected the general situation; put things at the right track; consolidate the foundations of true citizenship; resolve outstanding matters in a peaceful ways and through dialogue especially the “Kurdistan file”; eliminate corruption; get rid of the widespread religious discrimination; reform the current legal, political, social, educational, and economical matters by changing it radically; and to schedule elections on time.

Accomplishing this hope will create sort of certainty among Iraqis; escalate the credibility of the Iraqi government; and unite Iraqis under one national roof in spite of their different affiliations, as soon as their homes are restored and the liberated towns got reconstructed. This is a “big” challenge that we need to encounter reaching out to this “New Phase” based on fundamental principles.

  1. Hope of Christians
    As a result of discrimination against Christians, threat, abduction, and expulsion from their homes in Nineveh Plain by ISIS, nearly half of their population migrated (over 1.5 million people before 2003). Hence, the liberation of Christian areas oblige the Iraqi Government “as a foster mother for all” to work seriously for; facilitating the return of Christian to their homes and properties; preserving their rights as indigenous citizens; recognizing their culture, civilization and heritage as an essential part of Iraq’s history; and preventing demographic changes in their historical geographic areas.

Nevertheless, the time has come for Christians to learn lessons from the past to get rid of their fears, pessimism and personal interests that divided them; clarify their visions, approaches, and unite their stances in order to consolidate their presence and their role in the public affairs and political process in a genuine national partnership away from dependency and custody. This way, Christians will be able to build their homeland, their future, hand in hand with their fellow Muslims, since the future cannot be built without tolerance and coexistence and as long as our strength is in such a mosaic beautiful fabric of Iraq. So, let us move to the path of hope together.

Also, it is time for Christians to communicate with their citizens and with the Church that embraced and supported them during this tragedy by informing the international community about their situation. In addition, the church is encouraging Christians always to hold onto their hope and return to their towns. This is our homeland and we insist to remain here.

  1. Role of the Church
    The Church in Iraq must read the signs of the times; renew its commitment to the Gospel and to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ; also to be directed by the frequent calls of Pope Francis in deepening the spiritual relationship away from the tendency to power and money; make genuine initiatives towards unity;  spread the good news in the society; and reform the religious discourse so that it goes beyond the traditional and formal style to come up as a meaningful and influential speech. Above all, the Chruch should follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ towards the needy, displaced and sick in order to provide them with the possible care. The Church has also to involve the lay people in a wider range of responsibilities through the pastoral councils, the parishes, and groups of service. They are all members of the Church since they have been baptized “given a royal priesthood” that makes them partners.

In regards to Muslims, an honest dialogue is a MUST, to understand the truth of each side and accept it, especially that the Vatican Council II, in 1965, paved the way for this kind of dialogue by stating: “The Church looks with respect to the Muslims who worship the one God, the living, the mighty, the Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth…” (statement on the relationship of the Church with the Islamic religion … article 3). This kind of dialogue must go beyond the formalities and put more effort on those with goodwill in order to establish peace and security as well as promoting the values of tolerance, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

In conclusion, I urge the Christians to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, who have been suffering from injustice and displacement for 70 years. I also call on them today to pray for Jerusalem to remain a holy city for Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

 

Merry Christmas and a happy new year

Baghdad 19 December 2017

 

Pope Benedict: A Priest Never Really Retires

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 11:24 AM

“A priest — and certainly a Bishop and a Cardinal — is never simply in retirement,” according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, as reported by Vatican News.

His assertion appears in the greeting to the new book by Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Muller: “The Triune God. Christian Faith in the Secular Era.”

In the greeting Benedict notes that Paul VI had the thought of limiting the service of high Vatican officials to five years. But that doesn’t mean the person leaving office would not continue to serve.

The volume (published by Herder in German) was published to coincide with the Cardinal’s 70th birthday, December 31, 2017, and of the 40th anniversary of his priestly Ordination. The 700-word book has pieces by many leading members of the Catholic leadership including Cardinals Reinhard Marx, Angelo Scola, and Kurt Koch; Archbishops Rino Fisichella and Bruno Forte, and Muller’s successor, Monsignor Luis Ladaria.

Benedict has words of high admiration for Cardinal Mueller: “He defended the clear traditions of the faith, but, in the spirit of Pope Francis, he tried to understand how they can be lived today.”

 

JF

‘For an Outgoing Missionary Church, Theological Ministry Is an Urgent, Important Priority’

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 10:40 AM

For an outgoing missionary Church, Pope Francis says theological ministry is an urgent and important priority.

The Holy Father stressed this to the Italian Theological Association which he met for the 50th anniversary of its founding, in the Vatican this morning. 

In his remarks, the Pope recalled how in these days, we are immersed in the joyful contemplation of the mystery of our God, Who “has become so involved and compromised with our poor humanity” that He sends His Son to us, taking on our flesh.

“Every Christian theological thought cannot, but always, begin incessantly from here, in a reflection that will never exhaust the living source of divine Love, which has been left to touch, watch and savor in the crib of Bethlehem.”

After 50 years of dedication, the Pope thanked the theologians for the contribution they have given to theological development and to the life of the Church.

The association, in accordance with Vatican II, the Pope observed, contributes to this ‘new stage of evangelization’ where [with Vatican II] She assumed the responsibility of announcing the Gospel in a new way, more in harmony with a deeply changed world and culture.”

It is evident, he reminded, that this effort asks the whole Church, and theologians in particular, to be received in the name of “creative fidelity,” in the awareness that in these 50 years, there have been further changes . He expressed the importance of the Gospel continuing to touch even today’s women and men.

“Therefore I ask you to continue to remain faithful and anchored in your theological work, in the Council and in the capacity that the Church has shown there to be allowed to be fertilized by the perennial novelty of the Gospel of Christ.”

In particular, it is a clear fruit of the Council and a richness not to disperse the fact that you have felt and continue to feel the need to “do theology together,” as an Association, which includes more than 330 theologians today.

“In fact, we can not think of serving the Truth of a God who is Love, eternal communion of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and whose saving plan is that of the communion of men with Him and among them, making it in an individualistic or particularistic way, or, even worse, in a competitive logic.”

“That of theologians can only be a personal search; but of people who are immersed in a theological community as wide as possible, of which they feel and are actually part, involved in bonds of solidarity and also of authentic friendship. This is not an accessory aspect of the theological ministry!”

There continues to be a great need for this ministry in the Church, the Pope said.  While stressing the importance of ‘doing theology together,’ and doing this intellectual research, the Pope warned against thinking that in order for others to be authentic believers, they must be holding theology degrees. He also warned against thinking all aspects of faith, can be easily, intelligibly explained.

Pope Francis concluded, reminding those present to pray for him, and stressing that for an outgoing missionary Church, theological ministry is particularly important and urgent.

***

On Zenit’s web page:

Full Text: to be made available shortly

Patriarch Younan: In Syria & Iraq, Survival of One of Oldest Christian Churches Is Being Threatened

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 8:53 AM

Despite hopes otherwise, Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III  Younan warns that one of the oldest Christian Churches’ survival is being threatened in Syria and Iraq, and has appealed for Christian people in the Middle East’s rights to be defended.

The Patriarch of Antioch for Syriac Catholic Church, who leads some 200,000 Syriac Catholics worldwide, stressed this to Zenit as he clarified that making progress is challenging in a region that ‘is hostile to all civil progress.’

According to the papal foundation Aid to the Church in Need, some 200 million Christians worldwide cannot practice their faith with total freedom. In 38 countries, there is reported evidence of religious freedom violations.

In the Middle East, In the birthplace of Christianity, the Middle East, Christians have lived for some 2000 years. However, after these some 15 years of persecutions, from constituting 20 percent of the population a century ago, they now constitute less than 4 percent. Christians have suffered a real genocide at the hands of terror groups like Daesh (ISIS); they have lost their homes, jobs and even their lives. Thousands of Christians have been forced to flee and become displaced or refugees.  Christians are not the only minority being discriminated against in this region, but also other religious minorities, and feel constantly threatened by fundamentalism.

The Syrian-born Patriarch, who is based in Lebanon (known for being one of the most active safe havens, for all those being forced to flee from the Middle East), and who served for more than 10 years in the United States, specifically as the first bishop of the New Jersey-based Diocese of Our Lady of Deliverance for Syriac Catholics of the United States, expressed the gravity of this reality.

Patriarch Younan provided to Zenit his Christmas message for his people in the Middle East and dispersed around the world after the diaspora. In the message, he stressed that as we contemplate the Divine Child of Bethlehem, we deepen our faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ and strive to live His message of Love and Peace. God so loved us that He became one of us to lift us up to Him, he reminded.

Solidarity & Prayer Needed

The message of Christmas Night brought down by the angel to the humble shepherds of Bethlehem, the leader of the Syriac Catholic Church reminded, still resonates year after year in our heart, as a message of peace, joy and reconciliation. “Saint James of Sarug (5th-6th century) one among the greatest fathers of the Syriac Church, gave us this following hymn:  ‘Glory to the Father who sent His Word to become flesh, adoration to the Son who, though unlimited, became limited in a manger and thanksgiving to the Spirit who chanted in the mouth of the angels: Glory in the highest and peace on earth.’”

“From the Middle East, where your Christian brothers and sisters are still enduring a lot of hardship because of the ongoing violent tribulations that undermine their future,” Patriarch Younan pointed out, “I want to remind you how much we need your solidarity and prayer.”

Lebanon, the only country of the Middle-East where all citizens enjoy the best possible liberty and equality, he also noted, had to face in the past year a lot of trials.

“Pope John Paul II had rightly called this tiny nation: ‘Lebanon is more than a country, it is a mission,’ he said, noting: “We surely thank God that the Lebanese army could finally overcome the terrorist bands that were threatening its very existence. Given the wisdom of the President of the Republic, we keep praying that Lebanon will reach the haven of peace, to fulfill its great mission in the region.”

“During this joyful season,” the leader of the Syriac Catholics reminded, “our thoughts and prayers will particularly go to our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq, who have been suffering for long, because of their steadfast faithfulness to the Gospel.”

Shepherds Will Continue to Cry for World Powers to Defend Persecuted Minorities’ Rights

He recalled that Pope Francis in his Message for the 51st  World Day of Peace 2018 wrote: ‘In a spirit of compassion, let us embrace all those fleeing from war and hunger, or forced by discrimination, persecution, poverty and environmental degradation to leave their homelands.’

“We, as the shepherds of the flock,” the Patriarch continued, “will keep speaking up as John the Baptist, ‘crying loud in the wilderness’ to defend the human rights of our Christian people in the Middle East, pleading with the world civil and political [leaders], for justice and liberty for them and for all persecuted minorities.”

Turning to Iraq specifically, he noted that after many years of being savagely uprooted from their homeland in the Plain of Nineveh in Iraq, forced into exile and scattered in many countries, many thousands of our Syriac families have now the unique opportunity to return home.

Presence of Christians Needed for Rebirth of Country

“The terrorist bands are now mostly defeated and hope has risen that at least a good percentage of those who were forced to leave would return home. Their presence as Christian minority, the truly indigenous people, that endured every kind of hardship is essential to the rebirth of their country.”

“We have to keep hoping that the local governments and the international community  will definitely expel the terrorists and restore peace and security in order to rebuild one reunified Iraq that insures justice and equality for all its citizens.”

Violent upheaval in Syria, the Patriarch asserted, “happened to be not only a ‘wrong reading’ of the nature of this country, but also a dangerous agglomerate alliance threatening the very existence of this nation, known to be a cradle of the Christian faith.”

In the name of the “so called ‘democracy,'” Patriarch Younan reminded, hundreds of thousands were killed, millions were uprooted and the land destroyed.

“Western politicians allied with regional countries known to be among the most undemocratic and retrograde regimes, kept fomenting sectarian conflicts and financing bands of terrorists in the name of Allah. Christian communities with other minorities were the easiest target of the radical jihad.”

“Economic sanctions on Syria must be lifted,” he appealed, “They are like crimes against humanity because they target the most vulnerable segments of a nation. Poor and defenseless people are the ones who pay the price. The family of nations must look for other ways to deal with a legitimate country recognized by the United Nations, even if this government happened to be taxed by some country or organization, as an outlaw regime.”

“Jesus words are for us a beacon that guides our lives” he encouraged. “We cherish to repeat to you what the Lord used to say to his disciples: ‘Do not be afraid, little flock!’ Yes, Lord, as long as you walk with us, there is nothing to fear of and nothing will be able to separate us from you!”

Patriarch Younan’s message concluded, imparting on all his faithful his Apostolic Blessing.

***

On Zenit’s Web page:

Excerpts of Patriarch Yonan’s Christmas message:

FORUM: Patriarch Younan: Jesus’ Words Are a Beacon That Guides Our Lives

 

Twenty-three Catholic Missionaries Were Killed in the World in 2017

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 7:08 AM

Twenty-three Catholic missionaries were killed in the world in 2017: 13 priests, one Religious, one nun, and eight laymen reported the Vatican Agency Fides, on Thursday, December 28, 2017.

For the eighth consecutive year, the highest number was recorded in America, where 11 Catholics on mission were killed (eight priests, one Religious, and two laymen), followed by Africa with 10 victims (four priests, one nun, and five laymen), and by Asia where one priest and one layman were killed.

According to data published by Fides, from 2000 to 2016, 424 Catholics on mission were killed in the world, of which five were Bishops.

The Agency explained that “numerous pastoral workers were killed during robbery attempts in contexts of economic and cultural poverty, of moral and environmental degradation, where violence and abuses are regarded as a rule of conduct.”

For Fides, this list is “only the tip of the iceberg,” because the list of pastoral workers or of “simple Catholics” who were “assaulted, beaten, robbed, threatened” is much longer, as well as that “of Catholic structures at the service of the whole population, which were assaulted, vandalized or pillaged.”

To the provisional lists drawn up annually by Fides, “the long list must always be added of those of whom there has been no news for a long time or whose name is unknown, who – in the four corners of the planet – suffer and pay with their life for their faith in Jesus Christ.”

The murderers of priests or Religious “are rarely identified or condemned,” deplored Fides, which gave the example of the murder of Spanish missionary Vicente Canas, killed in Brazil in 1987. During the first trial in 2006, the accused were acquitted for lack of evidence; a new trial led to the condemnation of the sponsor, sole survivor of the accused.

Fides also explained that its annual list “doesn’t concern only the missionaries ad gentes, in the strict sense of the term, but attempts to register all the pastoral workers who died in a violent way, not explicitly “out of hatred for the faith.” “For this reason, we prefer not to use the term ‘martyrs,’ except in its etymological sense of “witnesses,” so as not to anticipate the judgment that the Church might give eventually on some among them.”

Pope’s Address to Italian Theological Association

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 5:44 AM

Below is a Zenit translation of the address that Pope Francis gave to the Italian Theological Association, for the 50th anniversary of their founding, in the Vatican this morning>

***

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I welcome you and thank your President for his words. In these days we are immersed in the joyful contemplation of the mystery of our God, who involved and committed Himself to such a point with our poor humanity as to send His Son and to take, in Him, our frail flesh. Every Christian theological thought cannot but begin always and incessantly from here, in a reflection that will never exhaust the living source of divine Love, who let Himself be touched, looked at and savored in the stable of Bethlehem.

In 2017 the Italian Theological Association has existed for half a century. I’m pleased to join you in thanking the Lord for those who had the courage, fifty years ago, to take the initiative and give life to the Italian Theological Association; for all those that have adhered to it in this time, offering their presence, their intelligence and the effort of a free and responsible reflection and, above all, for your Association’s contribution to theological development and to the life of the Church, with research that was always proposed – with the critical effort that befits it – to be attuned to the fundamental stages and challenges of Italian ecclesial life.

It’s worth noting the fact that the Italian Theological Association was born, as the first Article of your Statute states, “in the spirit of service and of communion indicated by the Second Ecumenical Council.” The Church must always refer to that event, with which “a new stage of evangelization” began ((Bull Misericordiae Vultus, 4) and with which it assumed the responsibility to proclaim the Gospel in a new way, more consonant with a profoundly changed world and culture. It’s evident how that effort asks the whole Church, and the theologians in particular, to be implemented in the sign of a “creative fidelity”: in the awareness that in these 50 years further changes have happened and in the confidence that the Gospel can also continue to touch the women and men of today. Therefore, I ask you to continue to be faithful and anchored, in your theological work, in the Council and in the capacity that the Church showed there to let herself be fecundated by the perennial novelty of the Gospel of Christ, just as you have done, moreover, in these decades, as the topics attest which you have chosen and addressed in Congresses and in refresher Courses, in addition to the recent powerful work of commentary to all the Documents of Vatican II. In particular, a clear fruit of the Council and a richness not to be wasted is the fact that you perceived and continue to feel the need to “do theology together,” as an Association, which numbers today more than 330 theologians. This aspect is a fact of style, which already expresses something essential of the Truth in whose service theology places itself. In fact, one can’t think of serving the Truth of a God who is Love, eternal communion of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and whose saving design is that of the communion of men with Him and among themselves, by doing it in an individualistic, particularistic or, worse still, in a competitive logic. That of theologians cannot but be personal research, but of persons who are immersed in a theological community that is the widest possible, of which they feel and are truly a part, involved in bonds of solidarity and also of genuine friendship. This isn’t an accessory aspect of theological ministry!

It’s a ministry of which there continues to be a great need in the Church today. In fact, it’s true that to be genuinely believers it’s not necessary to have taken academic courses in theology. There is a sense of the realities of the faith that belongs to the whole people of God, also of those that don’t have particular intellectual means to express it, and which asks to be intercepted and heard – I’m thinking of the famous infallible in credendo: we must go there often  — and there are even very simple persons that are able to sharpen  the “eyes of the faith.” It’s in this living faith of the holy people of God that every theologian must feel himself immersed and of which he must know himself also to be supported, transported and embraced. However, this does not take away the necessity that there always be that specific theological work through which, as the holy Doctor Bonaventure said, one can come to the credibile ut intelligibile, to what one believes in as much as it is understood. It’s a need of the full humanity of the believers themselves, first of all, so that our believing is fully human and doesn’t flee from the thirst of conscience and of understanding, the most profound and ample possible, of what we believe. And it’s an exigency of the communication of the faith, so that it appears always and everywhere that not only does it not mutilate what is human, but presents itself always as an appeal to the freedom of persons.

It’s above all in the desire and the perspective of a Church in a missionary going forth that the theological ministry results, in this historical juncture, particularly important and urgent. In fact, a Church that rethinks itself thus is concerned, as I said in Evangelii Gaudium, to make evident to women and men what is the center and fundamental nucleus of the Gospel, or “the beauty of God’s saving love manifested in Jesus Christ, dead and risen” (n. 36). Such a task of essentiality, in a time of complexity and of unprecedented scientific and technical development, and in a culture that was permeated, in the past, by Christianity but in which today distorted visions can meander of the very heart of the Gospel, makes indispensable, in fact, a great theological work. The task of theology, with its effort to rethink the great subjects of the Christian faith within a profoundly changed culture, is indispensable, so that the Church can continue to have the center of the Gospel heard by the women and men of today, so that the Gospel truly reaches persons in their singularity and so that it permeates society in all its dimensions.

There is need of a theology that helps all Christians to proclaim and to show, above all, the saving face of God, the merciful God, especially in the presence of some unheard of challenges that involve the human today, such as that of the ecological crisis, of the development of the neurosciences or of the techniques that can modify man, such as that of the ever greater social inequalities or the migrations of entire peoples, as that of the theoretic relativism but also of the practical relativism. Therefore, there is need of a theology that, as in the best tradition of the Italian Theological Association, of Christian men and women that don’t think of talking only among themselves, but are able to be at the service of the different Churches and of the Church, and who also assume the task of rethinking the Church so that she is in conformity with the Gospel she must proclaim.

I’m pleased to know that many times and in different ways, also recently, you have already done so, addressing explicitly the subject of the proclamation of the Gospel and of the forma Ecclesiae, of synodality, of the ecclesial presence in the context of secularism and democracy, of power in the Church. Therefore, I hope that your researches will be able to fecundate and enrich the whole people of God. And I would like to add a thought that came to me while you were speaking. Don’t lose the capacity to be amazed; do theology in amazement, amazement that leads us to Christ, to the encounter with Christ. It’s like the air in which our reflection is more fruitful. And I also repeat something else I said: the theologian  is he who studies, thinks, reflects, but does so kneeling; do theology kneeling, as the great Fathers. The great Fathers who thought, prayed, adored, praised: a strong theology, which is the foundation of all Christian theological development. And I also repeat a third thing I said here, but I want to repeat it because it’s important: do theology in the Church, namely, in the holy faithful people of God, that have – I will say it with a non-theological word – that have the “smell” of the faith. I remember, once, in a confession, the conversation I had with a Portuguese elderly lady who accused herself of sins that didn’t exist, but she was that much of a believer! And I asked her some questions and she answered well. And, at the end, I said to her: “But tell me, lady, did you study at the Gregorian?” She was in fact a simple, simple woman but she had the “smell,” she had the sensus fidei, which can never err in the faith. Vatican II takes this up.

I bless you from my heart and, please, don’t forget to pray for me.

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

In Cairo, a Christmas Season Tinged With Sorrow

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 5:29 AM

MARIAN NABIL HABIB just observed the first anniversary of what she refers to as “the martyrdom of my father.” Nabil Habib was 48; he was among the 29 people who died Dec. 11, 2016, in a suicide attack claimed by ISIS. The targets were worshippers at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Coptic Church in Cairo, also known as El-Botroseya Church. Marian, who is 15, tells her story, with some of the details of that dark day gleaned from the church’s security cameras:

“That day was a watershed in my life and the life of my family. I always feared that I would lose one of my family members and then it turned out to be my father, who was a good friend to me. I will never forget the details of that day.

“We live in an apartment in the compound of St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, where El-Botroseya Church is located. My father worked as a guard of the church. I celebrated my birthday two days before the attack and I exchanged laughs and jokes with my dad that day. Then, the day before the attack, my father did not seem normal. He came back repeatedly to our apartment to check on my younger brother, Fadi, who is two years-old.

“That Saturday evening, the suicide bomber had come to the church and asked dad about religious books, saying that he wanted to know more about Christianity; a deacon overheard the conversation and told the young man to come back the next morning at 10AM.

“On Sunday morning, as soon as my father saw the young man he recognized him; the bomber was quickly making his way to the women’s pews, looking confused. My father got on the phone with my uncle to tell him about the man, but quickly ended the call to give chase. Next, the suicide bomber blew himself up.

“Just a few minutes before the explosion, my father had asked me to go to our apartment and prepare a cup of tea for him. When I heard the explosion, I thought that the kettle had exploded. But soon there was thick smoke and bricks fell from the kitchen walls. I rushed outside and found people running in all directions, screaming hysterically. There was a scene of complete destruction, but I still I did not know what had happened.

Marian holds up a photo of her father, her sister Youstina (11) and herself – ACN PHOTO

“I asked about my father but nobody knew where he was. I continued looking for him; then, at the entrance of the church, I found my father lying on the ground and bleeding heavily from his head. I took off my jacket for his head to rest on. There were wounds across his entire body; his hand looked shattered; my hair got wet with his blood.

“He was still alive and, looking me in the eyes, he told me to take care of my younger sister and brother; and he gave me the keys to the church gate and to our apartment. I will always remember his smile right before he died.

“Before all this happened I had worried for a long time that I would lose something precious. Losing my dad put me in a state of shock for more than a month and a psychiatrist visited me. Finally, it was God’s mercy, his consolation, which helped me recover.

“I feel great comfort from God and I also got support from the Church, my friends, and many of people around us; there also has been great interest from people from other countries and international bodies that visit us to this day.

I do not feel scared now—but I still long for my father and my little brother needs his hugs; we miss him very much. I do not want to leave my country and the place where my father served and lived his whole life. All my memories of my father are here.

Despite the pain, my life has changed for better: I feel stronger than before and I care more about my studies than ever before—the future no longer frightens me. I have joined the church choir, which gives me inner peace, because it is one of the things that bring me closer to God.

“My message to all those who suffer, and who might read my words: do not be afraid. God is great and I ask everyone to pray for all people facing violence and hatred; we must pray for peace around the world.

Looking farther ahead, Marian says she wants to eventually study medicine—“because that was the dream of my dad.”

—Engy Magdy

***

Aid to the Church in Need is an international papal charity, providing assistance to the suffering and persecuted Church in more than 140 countries. www.churchinneed.org (USA); www.acnuk.org (UK); www.aidtochurch.org (AUS); www.acnireland.org (IRL); www.acn-aed-ca.org (CAN)

For the Children

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 5:40 PM
Christmas Concert in the Vatican: A “Great Success” in Effort to Help Children

Second Most Watched Program after the Pope’s Mass

“Mystical Poetry Begins Where Religious Poetry Ends” (Fernando Rielo) [Part I]

Interview with Carmen Gonzalez Huguet, Winner of the 37th Fernando Rielo World Prize of Mystical Poetry

FORUM: Patriarch Younan: Jesus’ Words Are a Beacon That Guides Our Lives

Patriarch of Antioch for Syriac Catholic Church Ignatius Youssef III Younan Delivers Christmas Message Shedding Light on His People’s Situation

Pope Calls Card. Maradiaga: ‘Sorry for the Harm They Have Done to you’

Cardinal Denies Financial Issues Raised by Italian Newspaper

Holy Father Encourages Taize Youth

‘Go Together Deeply into the Sources of Joy’

Pope Tweets Prayers for Children

‘Those Who Hold Weapons Instead of Toys’

 

Pope Tweets Prayers for Children

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 1:35 PM

“Today we pray for all the children who are not allowed to be born, who cry with hunger, who hold weapons in their hands instead of toys,” Pope Francis Tweeted on December 28, 2017.

Pope Francis offered the traditional “Urbi et Orbi” blessing and appealed for peace, especially for children, on Christmas Day from the Central Loggia of St. Peter’s Basilica. Vatican officials reported there were about 50,000 of the faithful present.

‘Today, as the winds of war are blowing in our world and an outdated model of development continues to produce human, societal and environmental decline, Christmas invites us to focus on the sign of the Child and to recognize him in the faces of little children, especially those for whom, like Jesus, “there is no place in the inn” (Lk 2:7)” the Holy Father said during the Christmas address.

Twitter account Pope Francis @Pontifex has reached more than 40 million subscribers, announced the Vatican Secretariat for Communication on October 11, 2017. The Holy Father’s Tweets are issued in nine languages – about a third of the followers are English speakers.

In addition, Instagram @Francis — opened March 19, 2016 – has nearly five million followers.

 

JF

Holy Father Encourages Taize Youth

Thu, 12/28/2017 - 1:25 PM

“You are led by the desire to go together deeply into the sources of joy,” Pope Francis said in his December 28, 2017, message to the Young People Taking Part in the 40th European Meeting of the Taize Community “It’s the theme that will guide your reflections and enlighten your prayer.”

The message was signed by the Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin on the Holy Father’s behalf. , The meeting runs through January 1, 2018, in Basel, Switzerland.

“The Pope encourages you to let yourselves be inhabited by this joy, which is born of friendship lived with Jesus and which never closes us to others or to the sufferings of this world,” Cardinal Parolin wrote. “And he invites you to remain connected with the Lord, through prayer and listening to His Word…”

* * *

The Message

Dear Young People,

You have come in great numbers from the whole of Europe and also other Continents, to live in Basel, at the crossroads of Switzerland, France, and Germany, the 40th Meeting organized and animated by the Taize Community. And you are led by the desire to go together deeply into the sources of joy. It’s the theme that will guide your reflections and enlighten your prayer. In this perspective, Pope Francis wishes to assure you of his great spiritual closeness. In fact, as he wrote in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, “The joy of the Gospel fills the heart and life of those that encounter Jesus. Those who let themselves be saved by Him are freed from sin, from sadness, from interior emptiness <and> from isolation. With Jesus Christ, Joy is always born and reborn.” (n. 1.) The Holy Father also rejoices to know that you chose to take part in this Meeting to receive and reflect further on the message of Jesus, who is the source of joy for all those that open their heart to Him. And he [the Pontiff] thanks you for having responded to the appeal of the Lord, who gathers you in the joy of His love.

The Pope encourages you to let yourselves be inhabited by this joy, which is born of friendship lived with Jesus and which never closes us to others or to the sufferings of this world. And he invites you to remain connected with the Lord, through prayer and listening to His Word, so that He can help you to deploy your talents to “enhance a culture of mercy, founded on the rediscovery of the encounter with others: a culture in which no one regards the other with indifference or turns away when he sees the sufferings of brothers” (Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, n. 20).

In the course of the year that is ending, the 500th anniversary of the Reformation was recalled. The Pope also asks the Holy Spirit to help you, young Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox, to rejoice and to be enriched by the diversity of gifts made to all Christ’s disciples, to manifest that the joy of the Gospel unites us beyond the wounds that divide us. And he encourages you not to be afraid to follow the path of fraternity so that your meeting at Basel renders visible the joyous communion that springs from the source of the Lord’s brimming heart.

On entrusting you to the Lord so that you can sing with the Virgin Mary the wonders of His love, which is the source of joy, the Holy Father gives heartily his blessing to the young participants in this Meeting, to the Brothers of Taize as well as to all the persons of Switzerland, France and Germany that welcome you.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Secretary of State of His Holiness

© Libreria Editrice Vatican

[Original text: French]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

 

JF