Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Francis on Conscience and Truth

2013-06-30 Vatican Radio

 (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus on Sunday with faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square. In remarks before the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, the Holy Father spoke of the conscience as the interior space in which we can listen to and hear the truth, the good, the voice of God. Pope Francis praised his predecessor, Benedict XVI, as a model of docile attention to the voice of one’s conscience. “Pope Benedict XVI has given us a great example in this sense,” he said. “When the Lord had made it clear, in prayer, what was the step he had to take, he followed, with a great sense of discernment and courage, his conscience, that is the will of God speaking to his heart.” Below, please find Vatican Radio’s translation of the Holy Father’s remarks. 

Dear brothers and sisters, This Sunday's Gospel (Lk 9:51-62) shows a very important step in the life of Christ: the moment in which, as St Luke writes, "[Jesus] steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem. (9:51 )” Jerusalem is the final destination, where Jesus, in his last Passover, must die and rise again, and so to fulfill His mission of salvation.

From that time, forth, after the steadfast decision, Jesus aims straight for the finish line, and even to the people he meets and who ask to [be allowed to] follow Him, He says clearly what are the conditions: not having a permanent abode; knowing how to detach oneself from familiar affections; not succumbing to nostalgia for the past.
Jesus also said to his disciples, charged with preceding Him on the way to Jerusalem to announce His coming, not to impose anything: if they do not find willing welcome, they are [simply] to proceed further, to move on. Jesus never imposes. Jesus is humble. Jesus extends invitations: “If you want, come.” The humility of Jesus is like this: He always invites us. He does not impose.

All this makes us think. It tells us, for example, the importance, even for Jesus, of conscience: listening in his heart to the Father's voice, and following it. Jesus, in his earthly life, was not, so to speak, “remote-controlled”: He was the Word made flesh, the Son of God made man, and at one point he made a firm decision to go up to Jerusalem for the last time - a decision taken in His conscience, but not on His own: ​​with the Father, in full union with Him! He decided in obedience to the Father, in profound intimate attunement to the Father’s will. For this reason, then, was the decision was steadfast: because it was taken together with the Father. In the Father, then, Jesus found the strength and the light for His journey. Jesus was free. His decision was a free one. Jesus wants us Christians to be free as he is: with that liberty, which comes from this dialogue with the Father, this dialogue with God. Jesus wants neither selfish Christians, who follow their egos and do not speak with God, nor weak Christians, without will: “remote-controlled” (my emphasis) Christians, incapable of creativity, who seek ever to connect with the will of another, and are not free. Jesus wants us free, and this freedom – where is it found? It is to be found in the inner dialogue with God in conscience. If a Christian does not know how to talk with God, does not know how to listen to God, in his own conscience, then he is not free – he is not free.

So we also must learn to listen more to our conscience. Be careful, however: this does not mean we ought to follow our ego, do whatever interests us, whatever suits us, whatever pleases us. That is not conscience. Conscience is the interior space in which we can listen to and hear the truth, the good, the voice of God. It is the inner place of our relationship with Him, who speaks to our heart and helps us to discern, to understand the path we ought to take, and once the decision is made, to move forward, to remain faithful.
Pope Benedict XVI has given us a great example in this sense. When the Lord had made it clear, in prayer, what was the step he had to take, he followed, with a great sense of discernment and courage, his conscience, that is, the will of God that spoke to his heart – and this example of our father does much good to all of us, as an example to follow.

Our Lady, with great simplicity, listened to and meditated deep within herself upon the Word of God and what was happening to Jesus. She followed her Son with deep conviction, with steadfast hope. May Mary help us to become more and more men and women of conscience – free in our conscience, because it is in conscience that the dialogue with God is given – men and women able to hear the voice of God and follow it with decision.

Major Insight Into the Mind of Pope Francis in Leading the Church. His address to CELAM leadership

 of Latin America
during the General Coordination MeetingRio de Janeiro – 28 July 2013

2013-07-29 Vatican Radio

Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to BrazilAddress to the Leadership of the Episcopal Conferences

1. Introduction

I thank the Lord for this opportunity to speak with you, my brother bishops, the leadership of CELAM for the four-year period from 2011 to 2015. For 57 years CELAM has served the 22 Episcopal Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean, working in a spirit of solidarity and subsidiarity to promote, encourage and improve collegiality among the bishops and communion between the region’s Churches and their pastors.
Like yourselves, I too witnessed the powerful working of the Spirit in the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopate in Aparecida, in May 2007, which continues to inspire the efforts of CELAM for the desired renewal of the Particular Churches. In many of them, this renewal is clearly taking place. I would like to focus this conversation on the legacy of that fraternal encounter, which all of us have chosen to call a Continental Mission.

2. Particular characteristics of Aparecida

There are four hallmarks of the Fifth Conference. They are like four pillars for the implementation of Aparecida, and they are what make it distinctive.
1) Starting without a document

[Blogger: This means that  instead of an objectified and abstract blueprint, they started from the subjective experiential situation of the Church as it is now. They started with openness to the Spirit, and finished with the apostolic process that is going on. There is no "Aparecida document" but a call to discipleship and mission as below.]

Medellín, Puebla and Santo Domingo began their work with a process of preparation which culminated in a sort of Instrumentum Laboris [a document] which then served as a basis for discussion, reflection and the approval of the final document. Aparecida, on the other hand, encouraged the participation of the Particular Churches as a process of preparation culminating in a document of synthesis. This document, while serving as a point of reference throughout the Fifth General Conference, was not taken as a starting point. The initial work consisted in pooling the concerns expressed by the bishops as they considered the new period of history we are living and the need to recover the life of discipleship and mission with which Christ founded the Church.

2) A setting of prayer with the people of God

It is important to remember the prayerful setting created by the daily sharing of the Eucharist and other liturgical moments, in which we were always accompanied by the People of God. On the other hand, since the deliberations took place in the undercroft of the Shrine, the music which accompanied them were the songs and the prayers of the faithful.

3) A document which continues in commitment, with the Continental Mission This context of prayer and the life of faith gave rise to a desire for a new Pentecost for the Church and the commitment to undertake a Continental Mission. Aparecida did not end with a document; it continues in the Continental Mission.

4) The presence of Our Lady, Mother of America
It was the first conference of the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean to be held in a Marian shrine.

3. Dimensions of the Continental Mission

The Continental Mission is planned along two lines: the programmatic and the paradigmatic. The programmatic mission, as its name indicates, consists in a series of missionary activities. The paradigmatic mission, on the other hand, involves setting in a missionary key all the day-to-day activities of the Particular Churches [as in the human body, the processes and functions create the  organs and  structures]. Clearly this entails a whole process of reforming ecclesial structures. The “change of structures” (from obsolete ones to new ones) will not be the result of reviewing an organizational flow chart, which would lead to a static reorganization; rather it will result from the very dynamics of mission. What makes obsolete structures pass away, what leads to a change of heart in Christians, is precisely missionary spirit. Hence the importance of the paradigmatic mission.

The Continental Mission, both programmatic and paradigmatic, calls for creating a sense of a Church which is organized to serve all the baptized, and men and women of goodwill. Christ’s followers are not individuals caught up in a privatized spirituality, but persons in community, devoting themselves to others. The Continental Mission thus implies membership in the Church.
An approach like this, which begins with missionary discipleship and involves understanding Christian identity as membership in the Church, demands that we clearly articulate the real challenges facing missionary discipleship. Here I will mention only two: the Church’s inner renewal and dialogue with the world around us.
The Church’s inner renewal
Aparecida considered Pastoral Conversion to be a necessity. This conversion involves believing in the Good News, believing in Jesus Christ as the bearer of God’s Kingdom as it breaks into the world and in his victorious presence over evil, believing in the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, believing in the Church, the Body of Christ and the prolonging of the dynamism of the incarnation.
Consequently, we, as pastors, need to ask questions about the actual state of the Churches which we lead. These questions can serve as a guide in examining where the dioceses stand in taking up the spirit of Aparecida; they are questions which we need to keep asking as an examination of conscience.

1. Do we see to it that our work, and that of our priests, is more pastoral than administrative? Who primarily benefits from our efforts, the Church as an organization or the People of God as a whole?

2. Do we fight the temptation simply to react to complex problems as they arise? Are we creating a proactive mindset? Do we promote opportunities and possibilities to manifest God's mercy? Are we conscious of our responsibility for refocusing pastoral approaches and the functioning of Church structures for the benefit of the faithful and society?
3. In practice, do we make the lay faithful sharers in the Mission? Do we offer them the word of God and the sacraments with a clear awareness and conviction that the Holy Spirit makes himself manifest in them?

4. Is pastoral discernment a habitual criterion, through the use of Diocesan Councils? Do such Councils and Parish Councils, whether pastoral or financial, provide real opportunities for lay people to participate in pastoral consultation, organization and planning? The good functioning of these Councils is critical. I believe that on this score, we are far behind.

5. As pastors, bishops and priests, are we conscious and convinced of the mission of the lay faithful and do we give them the freedom to continue discerning, in a way befitting their growth as disciples, the mission which the Lord has entrusted to them? Do we support them and accompany them, overcoming the temptation to manipulate them or infantilize them? Are we constantly open to letting ourselves be challenged in our efforts to advance the good of the Church and her mission in the world?

6. Do pastoral agents and the faithful in general feel part of the Church, do they identify with her and bring her closer to the baptized who are distant and alienated?
As can be appreciated, what is at stake here are attitudes. Pastoral Conversion is chiefly concerned with attitudes and reforming our lives. A change of attitudes is necessarily something ongoing: “it is a process”, and it can only be kept on track with the help of guidance and discernment. It is important always to keep in mind that the compass preventing us from going astray is that of Catholic identity, understood as membership in the Church.

Dialogue with the world around us
We do well to recall the words of the Second Vatican Council: “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially of those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well” (Gaudium et Spes, 1). Here we find the basis for our dialogue with the contemporary world.

Responding to the existential issues of people today, especially the young, listening to the language they speak, can lead to a fruitful change, which must take place with the help of the Gospel, the magisterium, and the Church’s social doctrine. The scenarios and the areopagi involved are quite varied. For example, a single city can contain various collective imaginations which create “different cities”. If we remain within the parameters of our “traditional culture”, which was essentially rural, we will end up nullifying the power of the Holy Spirit. God is everywhere: we have to know how to find him in order to be able to proclaim him in the language of each and every culture; every reality, every language, has its own rhythm.

4. Some temptations against missionary discipleship

The decision for missionary discipleship will encounter temptation. It is important to know where the evil spirit is afoot in order to aid our discernment. It is not a matter of chasing after demons, but simply one of clear-sightedness and evangelical astuteness. I will mention only a few attitudes which are evidence of a Church which is “tempted”. It has to do with recognizing certain contemporary proposals which can parody the process of missionary discipleship and hold back, even bring to a halt, the process of Pastoral Conversion.

1. Making the Gospel message an ideology. This is a temptation which has been present in the Church from the beginning: the attempt to interpret the Gospel apart from the Gospel itself and apart from the Church.

An example: Aparecida, at one particular moment, felt this temptation. It employed, and rightly so, the method of “see, judge and act” (cf. No. 19). The temptation, though, was to opt for a way of “seeing” which was completely “antiseptic”, detached and unengaged, which is impossible. The way we “see” is always affected by the way we direct our gaze. There is no such thing as an “antiseptic” hermeneutics. The question was, rather: How are we going to look at reality in order to see it? Aparecida replied:

With the eyes of discipleship. This is the way Nos. 20-32 are to be understood. There are other ways of making the message an ideology, and at present proposals of this sort are appearing in Latin America and the Caribbean. I mention only a few:

a) Sociological reductionism. This is the most readily available means of making the message an ideology. At certain times it has proved extremely influential. It involves an interpretative claim based on a hermeneutics drawn from the social sciences. It extends to the most varied fields, from market liberalism to Marxist categorization.

b) Psychologizing. Here we have to do with an elitist hermeneutics which ultimately reduces the “encounter with Jesus Christ” and its development to a process of growing self- awareness. It is ordinarily to be found in spirituality courses, spiritual retreats, etc. It ends up being an immanent, self-centred approach. It has nothing to do with transcendence and consequently, with missionary spirit.

c) The Gnostic solution. Closely linked to the previous temptation, it is ordinarily found in elite groups offering a higher spirituality, generally disembodied, which ends up in a preoccupation with certain pastoral “quaestiones disputatae”. It was the first deviation in the early community and it reappears throughout the Church’s history in ever new and revised versions. Generally its adherents are known as “enlightened Catholics” (since they are in fact rooted in the culture of the Enlightenment).

d) The Pelagian solution. This basically appears as a form of restorationism. In dealing with the Church’s problems, a purely disciplinary solution is sought, through the restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful. In Latin America it is usually to be found in small groups, in some new religious congregations, in tendencies to doctrinal or disciplinary “safety”. Basically it is static, although it is capable of inversion, in a process of regression. It seeks to “recover” the lost past.

2. Functionalism. Its effect on the Church is paralyzing. More than being interested in the road itself, it is concerned with fixing holes in the road. A functionalist approach has no room for mystery; it aims at efficiency. It reduces the reality of the Church to the structure of an NGO. What counts are quantifiable results and statistics. The Church ends up being run like any other business organization. It applies a sort of “theology of prosperity” to the organization of pastoral work.

3. Clericalism is also a temptation very present in Latin America. Curiously, in the majority of cases, it has to do with a sinful complicity: the priest clericalizes the lay person and the lay person kindly asks to be clericalized, because deep down it is easier. The phenomenon of clericalism explains, in great part, the lack of maturity and Christian freedom in a good part of the Latin American laity. Either they simply do not grow (the majority), or else they take refuge in forms of ideology like those we have just seen, or in partial and limited ways of belonging. Yet in our countries there does exist a form of freedom of the laity which finds expression in communal experiences: Catholic as community. Here one sees a greater autonomy, which on the whole is a healthy thing, basically expressed through popular piety. The chapter of the Aparecida document on popular piety describes this dimension in detail. The spread of bible study groups, of ecclesial basic communities and of Pastoral Councils is in fact helping to overcome clericalism and to increase lay responsibility.
We could continue by describing other temptations against missionary discipleship, but I consider these to be the most important and influential at present for Latin America and the Caribbean.

5. Some ecclesiological guidelines

1. The missionary discipleship which Aparecida proposed to the Churches of Latin America and the Caribbean is the journey which God desires for the present “today”. Every utopian (future-oriented) or restorationist (past-oriented) impulse is spiritually unhealthy. God is real and he shows himself in the “today”. With regard to the past, his presence is given to us as “memory” of his saving work, both in his people and in each of us as individuals; with regard to the future, he gives himself to us as “promise” and hope. In the past God was present and left his mark: memory helps us to encounter him; in the future is promise alone… he is not in the thousand and one “futuribles”. The “today” is closest to eternity; even more: the “today” is a flash of eternity. In the “today”, eternal life is in play.

Missionary discipleship is a vocation: a call and an invitation. It is given in the “today”, but also “in tension”. There is no such thing as static missionary discipleship. A missionary disciple cannot be his own master, his immanence is in tension towards the transcendence of discipleship and towards the transcendence of mission. It does not allow for self-absorption: either it points to Jesus Christ or it points to the people to whom he must be proclaimed. The missionary disciple is a self-transcending subject, a subject projected towards encounter: an encounter with the Master (who anoints us as his disciples) and an encounter with men and women who await the message.
That is why I like saying that the position of missionary disciples is not in the centre but at the periphery: they live poised towards the peripheries… including the peripheries of eternity, in the encounter with Jesus Christ. In the preaching of the Gospel, to speak of “existential peripheries” decentralizes things; as a rule, we are afraid to leave the centre. The missionary disciple is someone “off centre”: the centre is Jesus Christ, who calls us and sends us forth. The disciple is sent to the existential peripheries.
2. The Church is an institution, but when she makes herself a “centre”, she becomes merely functional, and slowly but surely turns into a kind of NGO. The Church then claims to have a light of her own, and she stops being that “mysterium lunae” of which the Church Fathers spoke. She becomes increasingly self-referential and loses her need to be missionary. From an “institution” she becomes a “enterprise”. She stops being a bride and ends up being an administrator; from being a servant, she becomes an “inspector”. Aparecida wanted a Church which is bride, mother and servant, a facilitator of faith and not an inspector of faith.

3. In Aparecida, two pastoral categories stand out; they arise from the uniqueness of the Gospel, and we can employ them as guidelines for assessing how we are living missionary discipleship in the Church: nearness and encounter. Neither of these two categories is new; rather, they are the way God has revealed himself to us in history. He is the “God who is near” to his people, a nearness which culminates in the incarnation. He is the God who goes forth to meet his people. In Latin America and the Caribbean there are pastoral plans which are “distant”, disciplinary pastoral plans which give priority to principles, forms of conduct, organizational procedures… and clearly lack nearness, tenderness, a warm touch. They do not take into account the “revolution of tenderness” brought by the incarnation of the Word. There are pastoral plans designed with such a dose of distance that they are incapable of sparking an encounter: an encounter with Jesus Christ, an encounter with our brothers and sisters. Such pastoral plans can at best provide a dimension of proselytism, but they can never inspire people to feel part of or belong to the Church. Nearness creates communion and belonging; it makes room for encounter. Nearness takes the form of dialogue and creates a culture of encounter. One touchstone for measuring whether a pastoral plan embodies nearness and a capacity for encounter is the homily. What are our homilies like? Do we imitate the example of our Lord, who spoke “as one with authority”, or are they simply moralizing, detached, abstract?

4. Those who direct pastoral work, the Continental Mission (both programmatic and paradigmatic) are the bishops. Bishops must lead, which is not the same thing as being authoritarian. As well as pointing to the great figures of the Latin American episcopate, which we all know, I would like to add a few things about the profile of the bishop, which I already presented to the Nuncios at our meeting in Rome. Bishops must be pastors, close to people, fathers and brothers, and gentle, patient and merciful. Men who love poverty, both interior poverty, as freedom before the Lord, and exterior poverty, as simplicity and austerity of life. Men who do not think and behave like “princes”. Men who are not ambitious, who are married to one church without having their eyes on another. Men capable of watching over the flock entrusted to them and protecting everything that keeps it together: guarding their people out of concern for the dangers which could threaten them, but above all instilling hope: so that light will shine in people’s hearts. Men capable of supporting with love and patience God’s dealings with his people. The Bishop has to be among his people in three ways: in front of them, pointing the way; among them, keeping them together and preventing them from being scattered; and behind them, ensuring that no one is left behind, but also, and primarily, so that the flock itself can sniff out new paths.

I do not wish to go into further detail about the person of the Bishop, but simply to add, including myself in this statement, that we are lagging somewhat as far as Pastoral Conversion is concerned. We need to help one another a bit more in taking the steps that the Lord asks of us in the “today” of Latin America and the Caribbean. And this is a good place to start.

I thank you for your patience in listening to me. Pardon me if my remarks have been somewhat disjointed and please, I beg that we take seriously our calling as servants of the holy and faithful people of God, for this is where authority is exercised and demonstrated: in the ability to serve. Many thanks.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pope on homosexuals: 'Who am I to judge?'
Pope Francis listens to a question from a journalist on his Monday flight back to Rome. The pope answered questions from 21 journalists over a period of 80 minutes on his return from Brazil. (CNS/pool via Reuters)

John L. Allen Jr.  |  Jul. 29, 2013NCR Today

One way to tell that a pope is feeling good at the end of a long trip is when he comes back to the press compartment and does precisely what he said at the beginning of the journey he won't, or can't, do.
On the way to Rio de Janeiro on July 22, Pope Francis told reporters, "I don't give interviews." But at the end of his seven-day tour de force in Brazil, not only did the pope give an interview, he gave a whopper of one.
He took questions from reporters traveling aboard the papal plane for a full hour and 21 minutes with no filters or limits and nothing off the record. Francis stood for the entire time, answering without notes and never refusing to take a question. The final query was an especially delicate one about charges of homosexual conduct against his recently appointed delegate to reform the Vatican bank, and not only did Francis answer, but he actually thanked reporters for the question.
On background, officials said the decision to hold the news conference aboard the 12-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome was a personal decision by Francis and that aides at one point had counseled him against it.
Not since John Paul II, prior to the debilitating effects of his illness, has a pope engaged in such a free-wheeling and spontaneous exchange with the press. Francis spoke in Italian and Spanish, the languages in which his comfort level is the greatest.
There’s more to NCR than what you read online. Preview our Spirituality special section from the July 19 edition.
Among other points, Pope Francis:
·         Replied when asked about the Vatican's alleged "gay lobby" that while a lobby might be an issue, he doesn't have any problem with the inclination to homosexuality itself: "Who am I to judge them if they're seeking the Lord in good faith?" he said.
·         Conceded he doesn't yet know what to do about the Vatican bank, saying it could become an ethical bank, an assistance fund for good causes, or be closed altogether.
·         Said he hasn't run into significant resistance to reform inside the Vatican and joked that if there really is a "gay lobby," he hasn't yet seen it stamped on anyone'sID cards.
·         Argued for the importance of women in the church, yet said John Paul II "definitively ... closed the door" to women priests. He called for a deeper "theology of women" beyond disputed questions such as whether they can be lectors at Mass or head Vatican agencies such as Caritas Internationalis.
·         Said a preliminary investigation had been conducted regarding charges of immoral conduct against his hand-picked prelate for the Vatican bank, Italian Msgr. Battista Ricca, and the investigation "found nothing."
·         Said of Msgr. Nunzio Scarano, the former Vatican accountant who was recently arrested for alleged involvement in a plot to smuggle $26 million in cash into Italy, that he's not in jail "because he resembles the Blessed Imelda" -- an Argentinian expression meaning he doesn't seem to be any saint.
·         Suggested that the Synod of Bishops may be in for a shake-up in the direction of both greater efficiency and greater collegiality.
The following are highlights of that Q&A with the pope; a full transcript has been promised soon.
The Vatican bank
"I don't know yet how to fix the IOR [Institute for the Works of Religion, better known as the Vatican bank] ... some say it should be a sort of ethical bank, others that it should be an assistance fund, others want to close it altogether. I've heard all these voices, but I don't know. I will trust the work of the persons working on it, of the commission. [Note: Francis has established a five-member commission to investigate the Vatican bank.] ... What's important is transparency and honesty. It must be like this."
"The climate [in Rio de Janeiro] was spontaneous ... I could be close to the people, greet them, embrace them, without armored cars. During the entire time, there wasn't a single incident. I realize there's always a risk of a crazy person, but having a bishop behind bulletproof glass is crazy, too. Between the two, I prefer the first kind of craziness."
Cardinals and austerity
"Everyone has to live in their own way. The cardinals in the Curia, at least the ones I know, don't live like wealthy people. They have fairly modest apartments. But in a general sense, austerity is necessarily for all those who work in the service of the church."
"There are saints in the Roman Curia, among the cardinals, priests, religious, sisters and laity. They work hard, and also do things that are often hidden. I know some who concern themselves with feeding the poor or who give up their free time to work in a parish. As always, the ones who aren't saints make the most noise ... a single tree falling makes a sound, but a whole forest growing doesn't."
Resistance to reform
"If there's resistance [in the Vatican], I haven't seen it. It's true that I haven't done a lot yet, but so far I've found helpful, loyal people. I like it when someone says, 'I don't agree with you,' and I have found that. People will say, 'I'll say what I think, but you do what you want.' I've found that attitude in the Curia. That's better than those who say, 'That's great, that's great,' but then say the opposite later ... maybe people like that are there, but I haven't run into significant resistance."
"I can tell you that I'm going to Cagliari on Sept. 22, and to Assisi on Oct. 4. I'd like to be able to join Patriarch Bartholomew I [of Constantinople] in Jerusalem, who has invited me for the 50th anniversary of Paul VI [referring to a historic meeting between Pope Paul and the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1964].' The Israeli government has also invited me, and I believe the Palestinian Authorities has done the same. We're thinking about it, but I'm not sure yet. I think a trip to Asia can be done, especially because it's a continent Benedict XVI did not get to, though he wanted to ... maybe Sri Lanka, maybe the Philippines, I'm not sure."
"I wanted to go to Constantinople for the feast of St. Andrew, but it wasn't possible."
The Charismatic Movement
"We talked about the statistics regarding Pentecostals with the bishops on Brazil in a meeting yesterday. I'll tell you something about the Charismatic Movement ... at the end of the '70s and in the '80s, I wasn't a big fan. I used to say they confused the holy liturgy with a school of samba. I was converted when I got to know them better and saw the good they do. In this moment of the life of the church, the movements are necessary. They're a grace of the Spirit, and in general, they do much good for the church. The charismatic renewal movement isn't just about winning back a few Pentecostals, but it serves the church and its renewal."
Women in the church
"A church without women would be like the apostolic college without Mary. The Madonna is more important than the apostles, and the church herself is feminine, the spouse of Christ and a mother."
"The role of women doesn't end just with being a mother and with housework ... we don't yet have a truly deep theology of women in the church. We talk about whether they can do this or that, can they be altar boys, can they be lectors, about a woman as president of Caritas, but we don't have a deep theology of women in the church."
"On the ordination of women, the church has spoken and said no. John Paul II, in a definitive formulation, said that door is closed."
Benedict XVI
"I love Benedict XVI. He's a humble man of God and a man of prayer. When he resigned, it was a great example ... some say to me, how is it possible to have two popes in the Vatican? I heard a beautiful phrase that it's like having your grandpa at home, someone who's wise, venerated, loved and listened to. If I have a problem, something I don't understand, I can ask. On the Vatican leaks scandal, for example, he explained everything with simplicity and a spirit of service."
Divorced and remarried Catholics
"This theme always comes up ... I believe this is a time of mercy, a change of epoch. It's a kairos moment for mercy ... In terms of Communion for those who have divorced and remarried, it has to be seen within the larger pastoral context of marriage. When the council of eight cardinals meets Oct. 1-3, one of the things they'll consider is how to move forward with the pastoral care of marriage. Also, just 15 days ago or so, I met the secretary of the Synod of Bishops, and maybe it will also focus on the pastoral care of marriage. It's complicated."
The Jesuits
"The Jesuits have a vow to obey the pope, but if the pope is a Jesuit, maybe he should have a vow to obey the superior general ... I feel like I'm still a Jesuit in terms of my spirituality, what I have in my heart. In three days, I'll go to celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius. Also, I think like a Jesuit."
John Paul II/John XXIII
"John XXIII was the figure of a county priest who loves all of his faithful and knows how to take care of them. He was a great bishop, and also a great nuncio. When he was in Turkey, he was responsible for so many false baptisms in order to save Jews ... he was courageous. He had a great sense of humor and a great holiness. Some in the Vatican didn't like him, and when he would come in they would make him wait, but he would always pray his rosary or read his breviary. He truly cared about the poor ... once when Casaroli [the cardinal Secretary of State] returned from a mission in Eastern Europe, he reported to the pope, who asked him if he was still working with school kids. When he said yes, John XXIII told him never to abandon them. He called the council, and was extremely docile to the call of God."
"John Paul II was a great missionary of the church. He carried the Gospel everywhere. ... How many trips did he make? He felt the need to carry the words of the Lord, like St. Paul. He was great. Putting both together is a message to the church, that both were extremely good. Causes for both Paul VI and for Papa Luciani [John Paul I] are also underway."
The date
"Dec. 8 had been talked about as the date [for the canonizations], but the problem is all the people who will want to come from Poland, not all of whom can fly. Many will take buses, and by December the roads are iced. We have to rethink the date. I've talked about it to Cardinal [Stanislaw] Dziwisz [of Krakow, Poland], who gave me a couple of possibilities. One is the feast of Christ the King this year [late November], and the other is the feast of Divine Mercy next year [shortly after Easter]. I have to talk to Cardinal [Angelo] Amato [prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints] about it."
The Ricca case
"I did what canon law requires, which is to conduct a preliminary investigation. We didn't find anything to confirm the things he was accused of, there was nothing. ... I'd like to add that many times we seem to seek out the sins of somebody's youth and publish them. We're not talking about crimes, which are something else. The abuse of minors, for instance, is a crime. But one can sin and then convert, and the Lord both forgives and forgets. We don't have the right to refuse to forget ... it's dangerous. The theology of sin is important. St. Peter committed one of the greatest sins, denying Christ, and yet they made him pope. Think about that."
Gay lobby
"There's a lot of talk about the gay lobby, but I've never seen it on the Vatican ID card."
"When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem ... they're our brothers."

Goal of WYD: Breakdown the Clericalism. Take Christ to the Streets.

Pope Francis urges Catholics to shake up dioceses


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) - Pope Francis has shown the world his rebellious side, urging young Catholics to shake up the church and make a "mess" in their dioceses by going out into the streets to spread the faith. It's a message he put into practice by visiting one of Rio's most violent slums and opening the church's World Youth Day on a rain-soaked Copacabana Beach.
Francis was elected pope on a mandate to reform the church, and in four short months he has started doing just that: He has broken long-held Vatican rules on everything from where he lays his head at night to how saints are made. He has cast off his security detail to get close to his flock, and his first international foray as pope has shown the faithful appreciate the gesture.
He's going further Friday, meeting with a small group of young convicts. He'll also hear confessions from some Catholic youth and then head back to Copacabana beach for a Stations of the Cross procession.
Dubbed the "slum pope" for his work with the poor, Francis received a rapturous welcome in the Varginha shantytown on Thursday, part of a slum area of northern Rio so violent it's known as the Gaza Strip. The 76-year-old Argentine seemed entirely at home, wading into cheering crowds, kissing people young and old and telling them the Catholic Church is on their side.
"No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world!" Francis told a crowd of thousands who braved a cold rain and stood in a muddy soccer field to welcome him. "No amount of peace-building will be able to last, nor will harmony and happiness be attained in a society that ignores, pushes to the margins or excludes a part of itself."
It was a message aimed at reversing the decline in the numbers of Catholics in most of Latin America, with many poor worshippers leaving the church for Pentecostal and evangelical congregations. Those churches have taken up a huge presence in favelas, or shantytowns such as Varginha, attracting souls with nuts-and-bolts advice on how to improve their lives.
The Varginha visit was one of the highlights of Francis' weeklong trip to Brazil, his first as pope and one seemingly tailor-made for the first pontiff from the Americas.
The surprise, though, came during his encounter with Argentine pilgrims, scheduled at the last minute in yet another sign of how this spontaneous pope is shaking up the Vatican's staid and often stuffy protocol.
He told the thousands of youngsters, with an estimated 30,000 Argentines registered, to get out into the streets and spread their faith and make a "mess," saying a church that doesn't go out and preach simply becomes a civic or humanitarian group.

Apparently realizing the radicalness of his message, he apologized in advance to the bishops at home.
"I want to tell you something. What is it that I expect as a consequence of World Youth Day? I want a mess. We knew that in Rio there would be great disorder, but I want trouble in the dioceses!" he said, speaking off the cuff in his native Spanish. "I want to see the church get closer to the people. I want to get rid of clericalism, the mundane, this closing ourselves off within ourselves, in our parishes, schools or structures. Because these need to get out!"
Later Thursday, he traveled in his open-sided car through a huge crowd in the pouring rain to a welcoming ceremony on Copacabana beach. It was his first official event with the hundreds of thousands of young people who have flocked to Rio for World Youth Day. Vatican officials estimated the crowd at 1 million.
Cheering pilgrims from 175 nations lined the beachfront drive to catch a glimpse of the pontiff, with many jogging along with the vehicle behind police barricades. The car stopped several times for Francis to kiss babies - and take a long sip of his beloved mate, the traditional Argentine tea served in a gourd with a straw, which was handed up to him by someone in the crowd.
After he arrived at the beach-front stage, though, the crowd along the streets melted away, driven home by the pouring rain that brought out vendors selling the plastic ponchos that have adorned cardinals and pilgrims alike during this unseasonably cold, wet week.
In an indication of the havoc wreaked by four days of steady showers, organizers made an almost unheard-of change in the festival's agenda, moving the Saturday vigil and climactic Sunday Mass to Copacabana Beach from a rural area 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the city center. The terrain of the area, Guaratiba, had turned into a vast field of mud, making the overnight camping plans of pilgrims untenable.
The news was welcome to John White, a 57-year-old chaperone from the Albany, New York, diocese who attended the past five World Youth Days and complained that organization in Rio was lacking.
"I'm super relieved. That place is a mud pit and I was concerned about the kid's health and that they might catch hypothermia," he said. "That's great news. I just wish the organizers would have told us."
Francis' visit to the Varginha slum followed in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II, who visited two such favelas during a 1980 trip to Brazil, and Mother Teresa, who visited Varginha itself in 1972. Her Missionaries of Charity order has kept a presence in the shantytown ever since.
Like Mother Teresa, Francis brought his own personal history to the visit: As archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio frequently preached in the poverty-wracked slums of his native city, putting into action his belief that the Catholic Church must go to the farthest peripheries to preach and not sit back and wait for the most marginalized to come to Sunday Mass.

Francis' open-air car was mobbed on a few occasions as he headed into Varginha's heavily policed, shack-lined streets, but he never seemed in danger. He was showered with gifts as he walked down one of the slum's main drags without an umbrella to shield him from the rain. A well-wisher gave him a paper lei to hang around his neck and he held up another offering - a scarf from his favorite soccer team, Buenos Aires' San Lorenzo.
"Events like this, with the pope and all the local media, get everyone so excited," said Antonieta de Souza Costa, a 56-year-old vendor and resident of Varginha. "I think this visit is going to bring people back to the Catholic Church."
Addressing Varginha's residents, Francis acknowledged that young people in particular have a sensitivity toward injustice.
"You are often disappointed by facts that speak of corruption on the part of people who put their own interests before the common good," Francis told the crowd. "To you and all, I repeat: Never yield to discouragement, do not lose trust, do not allow your hope to be extinguished."
It was a clear reference to the violent protests that paralyzed parts of the country in recent weeks as Brazilians furious over rampant corruption and inefficiency within the country's political class took to the streets.
"It is certainly necessary to give bread to the hungry - this is an act of justice. But there is also a deeper hunger, the hunger for a happiness that only God can satisfy," he said.

Francis blasted what he said was a "culture of selfishness and individualism" that permeates society today, demanding that those with money and power share their wealth and resources to fight hunger and poverty.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Millions of Muslims devoted to Our Lady and eager for exorcism

by Samir Khalil Samir

Fatima, Harissa, Damascus, Samalut, Assiut, Zeitun and many other places where the Virgin appeared are the destination of incessant pilgrimages from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Iran. Pilgrims in search of physical but also spiritual healing; spontaneous and mystical prayer and not the schematic and formal verses of official Islam. The iconoclast Salafists destroy places of pilgrimage every year. But the devotion to Mary is growing, also fueled by the stories of the Koran. The spiritual dialogue between Christians and Muslims is much more promising than cultural, theological or political dialogue.

Beirut (AsiaNews) - Each year millions of Muslims come on pilgrimage to the Catholic Marian shrines. Not only to the major shrines such as Fatima in Portugal or Harissa in Lebanon, but also to Egypt, Syria, Iran. Muslims - especially Muslim women - go to give thanks to the Madonna or great Christian saints, like St. Charbel or St. George.

In the eyes of many Westerners these gestures seem ridiculous or false:  they speak of apparitions, of prayers, but then there are massacres, killings, violence in the name of religion!

Like it or not, the religious phenomenon is alive in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia. When you see millions of Hindus go to bathe in the dirty water of the sacred river it may seem like a ridiculous thing. Yet for those who do it is an act of purification, of prayer. The West is tolerant and benevolent towards other religions, but its attitude towards Christians is increasingly hypercritical. The West is not post-Hindu, post-Islam. It is only post-Christian!
The point is that in the West, the supernatural is considered outdated, it is branded as mythology, illusion, instead the West is forever denouncing the difficulties that neither miracles nor pilgrimages can erase.

But in the rest of the world the spiritual dimension is alive and well. In the East, the religious sentiment is very much alive among Muslims, Christians and other religions. But in most of the West - especially on the part of intellectuals - the religious sentiment is seen as a thing of the past, irrational, naive. We must state this clearly: this interpretation is wrong.
The Marian devotion of Muslims

In Egypt, there are at least a dozen places of pilgrimage dedicated to the Virgin, which commemorate the journey of the Holy Family in Egypt. The tradition is very rich in the apocryphal texts of the fourth and fifth centuries. You can read some passages in the article by then Msgr. Ravasi (now Cardinal) of 28 December 2007, the feast of the Holy Innocents, published in the L'Osservatore Romano.

Every year in August, the Feast of the Dormition (Assumption of Mary) at least one million pilgrims go on pilgrimages to various shrines of Our Lady. The most famous are in Upper Egypt (in the South), at Jabal al-Tair, near Samalut, about 200 kilometers from Cairo. The festival lasts for 15 days, people pray, baptize infants (the parish priest has also built a species of baptistery, for Muslims, given the demand for baptisms from them as well) and celebrate.

More to the south, about 380 km from Cairo and 7 km from Assiut, there is another similar place of pilgrimage at Deir Dronka where tradition holds that the Holy Family stayed and the Virgin rested in a cave.
A few appearances have been reported in recent times:
  • On 22 January 1980 the Virgin appeared to a deacon.
  • On 10 January 1988 he appeared in the church tower to an Australian tourist, and Jesus appeared with a dove to the workers of the monastery.
  • On 7 August 1990, the Virgin appeared to the monks, surrounded by light, in a cave of the convent.
The annual pilgrimage is made during the "fasting of the Virgin" (7 to 21 August, the feast of the Dormition being the 22 in the Coptic rite). More than half a million pilgrims come, among them tens of thousands of Muslims. One of the monks is "specialized", so to speak, in baptisms, because he manages to make the 36 liturgical signs of the cross on the child's body in a minute (he showed me how some years ago!).
Even there, Muslims constitute a large number of participants, it is said that they are at least a quarter of the total number of pilgrims.

In Egypt, another pilgrimage to modern places of Marian apparitions is in Zeitun, near Cairo. The apparition, which began in 1968, lasted for several months. Various sociologists - not Egyptians - have called the phenomenon a kind of affective compensation, psychical consolation for the harshness of life. But people went there, Muslims and Christians, because they saw a white shape on the dome of the Church of Zeitun, which they interpreted as being Sittina Mariam, Our Lady Mary. The fact is difficult to explain, but was seen by thousands of people and there are also pictures. Another apparition of the Virgin is celebrated in Imbaba, a populous neighborhood.

From 1982 to today, reports of Our Lady's apparitions in the Damascus neighborhood of Soufanieh continue. Oil flows from the icon of the Madonna, and the hands of a normal, well-balanced girl of 18, Myrna Nazzour, also sweat oil. The parish priest of the time, quite against it at first, has become the icons' greatest enthusiasts. There too, Muslims and Christians flock in great numbers.
Near Damascus there is also a sanctuary to visit the mausoleum of Settena Zainab, the daughter of Ali and Fatima, the founder of Shiism. This is a pilgrimage to the roots. But when you go to places of apparition of the Virgin, the reasons are far deeper.

For years now plane loads of Muslim women from Iran have been landing at Fatima, Portugal.  They come to pray before Our Lady who appeared to three shepherd children. The reason is that the Madonna was named after the daughter of Muhammad and wife of Ali Ibn Abi Talib.

In Harissa, Lebanon, Iranian women constantly come to pray to Our Lady, to the point that the rector of the shrine has a chapel prepared especially for them, with icons, signs and prayers to the Virgin in Persian, to facilitate their devotion.
Last year, during the month of May, as I waited for evening Mass to begin in Harissa, I saw hundreds of Muslim families - probably Shiite - who stopped to listen to the hymns before Mass and who only left at the end.

When I was in Morocco, I found that many women, during pregnancy and after childbirth, continued the so-called "fast of Our Lady," inspired by the Koran, which speaks of this fast.
Mary in the Koran

The Muslims make their way to these shrines, knowing that Mary is the woman most praised in the Koran, the only woman mentioned by name, called "Siddīqah" (true, believer, holy), a title reserved for men (siddīq). She is the only one whom the Koran states that God has "chosen" (inna Allāh istafāqī), and twice, and that God has preferred her to all the women of the earth (wa-faddalaki 'ala nisā' al-'ālamīn); moreover that she was consecrated (innī nadhartu mā fī batnī muharraran) in her mother's womb before birth. Indeed, a scared saying (attributed to Muhammad and thus regarded as a certainty) says that every child, when born, is "touched" by Satan, with the exception of Mary and her son; a saying that draws very close indeed to the concept of the Immaculate Conception.
In the Koran Mary is "the most pure", because God has made her pure. In the Annunciation, in two different chapters, Mary says to the angel,: "How can I have a baby, when no human being has ever touched me?". Thus, in the Koran, Jesus is called: "The Christ Jesus, son of Mary" (al-Masīh 'Īsā Ibn Mariam): never in Arabic is a person referred to as "son of ... (a woman)", but always. .. a man, and therefore Jesus being born of a woman who has not known a man, could not be called "son of Joseph"!

Therefore, the last verse (12) of Chapter 66 (al-Tahrīm) of the Koran, reads: "And Mary the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout. "
When Mary is referred to in Islam, "'Alayhā l-salām" (peace be upon her) is added, a title that is not given to any saint. This title is also given by Christians to Mary. There is an entire body of literature on Mary in the Koran, written by both Muslims and Christians.

Popular devotion for Christians saints, even among Muslims

What drives Muslims to undertake these pilgrimages? First of all people are looking to rediscover their faith in the essential; they are looking for a renewal of faith.  This is also followed by a desire for physical healing. But the question of a spiritual healing is much stronger. This is very similar to the sense of Christian pilgrimages.

It must be said that pilgrimages have no value for the orthodox Muslim, apart from the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj). With the exception of Mecca, they consider this practice a kind of idolatry. This is why radical Muslims destroy all the places of pilgrimage, especially the tombs of Sufi sages, which Muslim mystics visit every year. Such destruction is typical of the Salafis, who are constantly carrying out iconoclastic raids in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Jordan, Pakistan, etc. ...
This trend in radical Islam is somewhat similar to early Protestantism: they despise popular piety as overly naive and distorted. In reality, the people seek God through everyday things, but also through certain phenomena or testimonies overtime. It does not matter that they are Christians or Muslims.

There are regular visits to St. George in Egypt, to the shrine of St. Charbel Makhlouf in Lebanon, to the house of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus, visited every day by Muslims, usually women. Sometimes these pilgrimages are made to ask for the grace to have a child at other times to ask for physical healing. And it is always the Muslims to go to the Christians.
Monk exorcists for Muslims

Another spiritual element present in the faith of the people is fear of the devil. An episode that I experienced many years ago when I was a religious, but not yet a priest, is a very significant example of this. I was at the American University in Cairo and had entered and exited the building several times during the day for some research. At a certain point the doorman stopped me and gently asked me a favor. "My sixteen year old daughter - he says - is possessed by a demon." It was the first time I heard this expression in my entire life. He told me of how this demon would fling her on the ground, and hurt her. He adds: "I took her to our imams and they could not do anything. They themselves have told me that the only one can free her is a monk." He begged me to do something.
I promise him that I would pray for them, but I saw that he was disappointed by my answer. When I told the story to my brothers, they all criticized me, because they believed I should have preformed an exorcism, according to the established liturgical rite. And I discovered that many monks and religious are approached by Muslims and asked to cast out demons from a family member and that this practice is very common.

Usually, Muslims go to Coptic Orthodox monks or priests and often these exorcisms take place in public. I once witnessed one of these in front of the station square in Cairo (Bāb al-Hadīd), today called Mīdān Ramsis, with candles and holy water. A man lying on the ground, rigid, who swore and was a cripple, at a certain point, became calm.
A few years ago, in September 1994, a Canadian priest of the charismatic movement, famous for miracles, came to Lebanon. He was Father Emilien Tardif (1928-1999) of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Tens of thousands of people, many Muslims, followed him asking for his help. His cause for beatification is proceeding. This phenomenon is a fact that I can not explain. But I think that God gives a supernatural gift to some, to be put at the service of all. These gifts are distributed only in a Christian environment, but they are certified, verified by non-Christians.
Miracles are made for the benefit of anyone who has faith, the faith that leads God to grant the miracle.

In the human being there is a need that is not satisfied in Islam, but which is alive in Christianity. There is a need for spirituality, mysticism and beauty that is offered with greater ease in the Christian world than in Islam.
Sincere piety unites people. Mary as a bridge between Christians and Muslims

The most symbolic example of this was the decision of the Lebanese parliament to set up a national holiday for all three years ago, choosing the feast of the Annunciation of Mary. It was a deliberate decision by Christians and Muslims. The Koran twice refers to the account of the annunciation (in Chapters 3 and 19), almost in the same terms of the Gospel, and with a much more elegant and solemn style. In these texts the Virgin Mary is attributed is described as being strongly submissive to God and amazed at what happens to her, so much so that God Himself comforts her. 

These experiences lead to great collaboration and a spiritual harmony with many Muslims. If it is not taken over by Islamic radicalism - which mixes religion and power, religion and state, religion and politics - the Muslim, just like any other believer, nourishes as openness to the supernatural, the spiritual, in his heart. But this aspect is not freely expressed in Islam: the spiritual is planned, the five daily prayers are predefined and must be done with pre-set words, so much so that if make a mistake while reciting them, you have to start all over again. Official Islam lacks spontaneity. For this reason, when a Muslim looks for something more intimate, they look towards Christianity.
Devotion creates feelings of friendship and not antagonism. In the West it is often said that religions, especially the monotheistic religions, are a source of wars and divisions. This thesis is false from the historical point of view and from the point of view of content. Of course, wars have been waged in the name of religion. But man has also launched wars in the name of many other ideologies, religion itself does not wage wars. We only have to think of nationalism, the divisions and the world wars fought in Europe, we are forced to admit that nationalism has been the cause of a far worse violence than any religion, and that the atheistic ideologies of the twentieth century, have produced more deaths than religions.
Even the religious wars fought in Europe were based on political phenomena that exploited religion ("cuius regio, eius religio "). It was the common view of the time, not the vision suggested by the Gospel. This connection between politics and religion is still very strong in Islam and Judaism as well. Identifying one State with a religion and an ethnic group, generating Zionism, has created a violent movement that was fueled by religion, and that creates problems for many Jews who to not back Israel's politics. On the Islamic side, the Palestinian cause has been identified with Islam and has created the same difficulty, and it is perhaps for this reason that the peace process and a possible reconciliation have stalled.
To date, it seems to me that Christianity as a religion distinctly separates faith and politics, though not always perfectly ... like everything that is human. Benedict XVI also writes about this in his Apostolic Exhortation for the Middle East: "A healthy secularity, on the other hand, frees religion from the encumbrance of politics, and allows politics to be enriched by the contribution of religion, while maintaining the necessary distance, clear distinction and indispensable collaboration between the two spheres" (Ecclesia in Medio Oriente, No. 29).
In fact, with the Muslims, as soon as you mention Mary, there is a notable change in attitude: there is an atmosphere of piety, of silence, of brotherhood, as if after chatting about many things, you were entering a place of worship, and there is silence.

Some might see this as a kind of syncretism. But in fact, devotion is a phenomenon that is open to all. Even in the West, Marian shrines do not only attract Christians, but also other believers, or people who have left the Church, even non-believers. Even though the liturgies are clearly Christian. And if I, as I pray to Our Lady, see a Muslim praying next to me, what's the problem? On the contrary: it is a great comfort because devotion is a far stronger foundation for a relationship and friendship than ideological, political or cultural bonds. Those who think the of Christian faith in an exclusive way, as do some Catholic traditionalists, have yet to fully understand Christianity.