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Pope promises to send special message to FAO meeting in Ethiopia

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis marked World Food Day this week with a visit to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) where he called on world leaders and policymakers to work for a concrete, practical consensus to prevent the most tragic effects of climate change hitting the weakest and most defenseless.

“We need to change our lifestyles, the use of resources, production and consumption patterns,” the Pope said, and he decried what he described as the “negligence” that is damaging the “delicate balances of the ecosystems” and the “arrogance of manipulating and controlling” the planet.

Hosting the Pope at FAO’s Headquarters in Rome was FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, who immediately afterwards spoke to Vatican Radio:

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Da Silva points out that the Vatican has Permanent Observer Status at FAO but most important, he says, as the spiritual leader of the Catholic Church he represents values that FAO shares: solidarity, dignity, and hope in a better world.

“We share those values in FAO and Pope Francis is a continuing inspiration for us, and not only through ‘Laudato Sì’ where he approaches the issue of climate change – a very important common global value” he says.

He says that Pope Francis is one of those rare people who have dedicated their entire lives to promoting important values: “these people are indispensable”.

“I think that Pope Francis is one of those people who have worked hard all of their lives and that he is one of the few indispensable people in the world today” he says.

Before addressing his audience at FAO, da Silva says he had the opportunity to speak with Pope Francis personally about some of the programmes his organization shares with the Vatican.

“We discussed particularly the need to concentrate our efforts in Africa and to stop the conflicts, and also to deal with the impact of climate change” he says.

Da Silva also revealed that Pope Francis promised to send a special message for the meeting that FAO is organizing during the African Union Summit that FAO is organizing next January 2018 in Addis Ababa.      

 

Vatican hosts conference on Disability and Catechesis

(Vatican Radio) A global conference will open in Rome on Friday looking at best practices to help people with disabilities fully engage in the life of the Church.

The event entitled "Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church", is being sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization and partnered by The Kairos Forum, a UK based organization that focuses on the spiritual and religious needs of people with disabilities.

Over the course of the three day gathering 450 experts from around the world will share their insights.

Lydia O’Kane spoke to Monsignor Geno Sylva, English language official at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, about the goals of the conference.

Listen to the interview:

 

Speaking about how the conference came about, Mons Sylva said, “this international conference is the fruit that was sewn during the Jubilee (of Mercy) with all the other discussions that took place afterwards.”

He underlined that, “the aim and the goal is for us as a Church and for this Pontifical Council to really learn what are the best practices that are already taking place throughout the world in catechizing people with special needs …”

The Church and Disability

But, Mons. Sylva also added that, what this conference is also meant to do is to “highlight the responsibility that we have as a Church to take into account the special needs for each of the baptized, so that we can present to him or her the catechism, the catechesis of our Church in a way that they can receive it; they can grasp the elements of it .”

The global conference, "Catechesis and Persons with Disabilities: A Necessary Engagement in the Daily Pastoral Life of the Church", will run from the 20th to the 22nd of October at the Urbaniana University in Rome.

Pope’s condolence for death of Philippine Cardinal Ricardo Vidal

Pope Francis has expressed his condolence for Philippine Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, who passed away in Cebu on Wednesday.  The 86-year old prelate who was Archbishop of Cebu for nearly 3 decades until his retirement in 2010, died of complications from pneumonia. 

Pope Francis sent a telegram to Archbishop Jose S. Palma of Cebu, expressing gratitude for Cardinal Vidal’s  “untiring and devoted service to the Church, and for his constant advocacy of dialogue and peace for all the people in the Philippines”.

Please find below the text of the Pope’s condolence telegram: 

The Most Reverend Jose S. Palma

Archbishop of Cebu

Deeply saddened to learn of the death of Cardinal Ricardo Vidal, I extend my sincere condolences to you, and to the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Archdiocese of Cebu.  Joining with you in expressing profound gratitude for the late Cardinal’s untiring and devoted service to the Church, and for his constant advocacy of dialogue and peace for all the people in the Philippines, I commend his soul to the infinite love and mercy of our heavenly Father.  As a pledge of consolation and hope in the Lord, to all who mourn his passing in the certain hope of the Resurrection, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing

                                                                       FRANCISCUS PP.

Cardinal Ricardo J. Vidal, Archbishop emeritus of Cebu (Philippines), was born on 6 February 1931 in Mogpoc, Philippines. He did his studies at the minor seminary of the Most Holy Rosary (which later assumed the title of Our Lady of Carmel) and at the seminary of San Carlo.

He was ordained on 17 March 1956. The Bishop of Lucena entrusted him as spiritual director of the local seminary of Mount Carmel. He then became superior of the same institute and was dedicated to the formation of the young candidates to priesthood until 10 September 1971, when he was named Coadjutor Bishop of Malolos, Bulacan, and was elected to the titular church of Claterna. He received episcopal ordination on 30 November 1971. On 22 August 1973 he was named Archbishop of Lipa in Batangas.

On 13 April 1981 he was named Coadjutor with the right of succession to the Archbishop of Cebu, Cardinal Julio Rosales. He was named Archbishop on 24 August 1982.

He served as president of the Bishops’ Commission for Vocations within the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. He was also vice-president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference and then president from 1985 to 1987.

He was created and proclaimed Cardinal by John Paul II in the Consistory of 25 May 1985,with the Title of Ss. Pietro e Paolo in Via Ostiense (Sts. Peter and Paul in Via Ostiense, Rome).

In a message, Cebu archdiocese’s spokesman Msgr. Joseph Tan said the prelate died due to infection leading to septic shock at the city’s Perpetual Succour Hospital where he was hospitalized on Oct 11 when he became seriously ill. 

Requesting prayers for the prelate’s soul, Tan said the details of funeral rites will be made available as soon as possible.

A native of Mogpog, Marinduque, Vidal was ordained a priest in 1956 by Bishop and Servant of God Alfredo Maria Aranda Obviar.

Then Pope John Paul II appointed Vidal head of the Cebu archdiocese in 1982. He retired in 2011.

In a statement released shortly after Vidal’s death, CBCP president Archbishop Socrates Villegas stressed Vidal’s legacy will live on despite his passing.

“Cardinal Vidal cannot die. He who has always shared in the dying and rising of the Lord daily in his priestly life cannot die. He now joins the immortal ones who served the Lord faithfully here on earth. His wisdom and his humility, his love for priests and his devotion to the Virgin Mary must live on in us whom he has left behind,” he said. Archbishop Villegas also expressed hope in Cardinal Vidal’s intercession for the faithful. “Rest well Eminence. Pray for us in the Father’s House.”

Meanwhile Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo praised Card Vidal for being a “true servant-leader rather than a ‘prince.’”

“For me his legacy is his own outstanding character. Some of these are: Humility, low profile style; Simplicity and Approachability; Ability to listen even to opposing views; Prudence in political issues; Courage in presenting and defending the CBCP position leading to the 1986 People Power; Charity for those considered as ‘enemies,’” he said in a message to CBCPNews.

With the death of Card. Vidal, the number of cardinals worldwide now stands at 219, of whom 120 are ‎below the age of 80, hence are eligible to vote for a new pope.  Ninety-nine are non-voters.  ‎

Christian Conference of Asia marked 60 years

Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) marked its 60th anniversary on Sunday in Yangon, Myanmar with Thanksgiving Service and the Diamond Jubilee commemorative public meeting.

We are grateful to God as CCA marks the 60th anniversary of its founding at Prapat in 1957, as the first regional ecumenical organization in the world said Dr. Mathews George Chunakara, General Secretary, CCA during its Diamond Jubilee celebration.

More than 6,000 people, including 600 delegates who attended the Asia Mission Conference joined the Thanksgiving Service and the Diamond Jubilee commemorative public meeting held at the Franc Auditorium of the Baptist Church.

In his speech Dr. Chunakara  stressed the importance of ecumenical movement while giving a brief background on CCA’s inception in 1957 in Prapat, Indonesia where, for the first time Protestant churches from 23 countries, discussed the theme, “Our common evangelistic tasks in Asia’. The Diamond Jubilee commemoration is a celebration of the journeying together of the Asian Churches and all members of the wider ecumenical family and fellowship, he said.

 “The theme, “Journeying Together: Prophetic Witness to the Truth and Light, in Asia,” which was chosen for the Asia Mission Conference that coincided with the Diamond Jubilee, was linked to the role and relevance of the CCA in the Asian context.

Delivering the Diamond Jubilee message on the occasion of the founding of the CCA Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches said, “an anniversary is a benchmark on the road, a place to pause and to reflect, but not to stop. It is significant the theme begins with a description of the past that also points to the way forwards. CCA is a vibrant and living forum continuing cooperation among the churches and national Christian bodies in Asia, within the framework of the wider ecumenical movement. You are participating in the mission of God in Asia – and you are working for the benefit of the wider world,” said Rev. Dr. Tveit.

The Homily was preached by the only living participant of the1957 Prapat Conference Bishop Dr Soritua Nababan based on the Biblical text, Acts. 1: 8.

Archbishop Felix Anthony Machado of Vasai, chairman of the Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the Federation of Asian Bishop Conferences (FABC), and Dr.Ja Bu of Myanmar Council of Churches delivered greetings and felicitations at the meeting.

The Christian Conference of Asia includes the Anglican Churches in South Korea, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, northern India, Pakistan, southern India, Myanmar, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand as well as other Asian Christian confessions and organizations.(cca.org)

Pope meets students, staff of “Institution des Chartreux”‎

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Thursday urged students of a French Catholic School to watch out against the lure and slavery of money, and train themselves to be promoters and defenders of equality and justice in the world. 

Some 80 students and staff of Institution des Chartreux of Lyons, in Rome as part of their semester, met the Pope in the Vatican.  Known commonly as Les Chartreux, the private school is managed by the Carthusians. 

Lure and slavery of money

The Pope expressed satisfaction that while they were preparing themselves to enter the big commercial schools to pursue professional careers in the world of finance, their current academic formation at Les Chartreux was providing them a strong human, philosophical and cultural dimension.  “It is essential,” he said, “that from now on and in your future professional life you learn to be free from the ‘lure of money’, from the slavery into which money shuts those who worship it.”    He said it is also important that they have the “strength and courage not to blindly obey the invisible hand of the market.”  “Hence,” he said, “I encourage you to make the best of your study time to train yourselves to become promoters and defenders of growth in equity, and artisans of an upright and adequate administration of our common home, the world.” 

Just and humane world

Pope Francis further exhorted them to become responsible for this world and for the life of every man, never forgetting that “every injustice against a poor person is an open wound and belittles your very dignity.”    He told the students to find the means and the time to take on the path of brotherhood to create bridges rather than walls among men in order to add their stone to building a more just and humane society.   He concluded encouraging them to work for good and be a humble seed of a new world.  

Syria: escalating humanitarian crisis in Raqqa

(Vatican Radio)  As the city of Raqqa is recaptured from so-called Islamic State militants, aid organizations are warning that the humanitarian crisis in northeast Syria is rapidly escalating.

The international charity “Save the Children “says there are some 270,000 people who have fled the Raqqa fighting and are in critical need of aid. It says that conditions in the overcrowded camps are miserable but it is not yet safe for people to go back, and many of their homes are now turned to rubble.

Alun Macdonald, Save the Children’s Regional Media Manager for the Middle East and Eastern Europe told Vatican radio of how children in camps around Raqqa are traumatized as well as in need of food, clean water and shelter:

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Macdonald said most of the children he has been in contact with in Raqqa have fled the city and are now in camps or have been in the camps for the past 3 years or so.

He said they carry the scars of severe trauma as they have witnessed terrible violence.

Traumatized children

“Some of them tell us they have seen people beheaded or executed in the streets in front of them. They have lost friends and family. In the past few months, with the military offensive, many of them have had their homes bombed, their schools bombed, they’ve been caught up in heavy violence, they’ve been through horrific experiences” he said.

Macdonald described how when they arrive in the camps it is clear that a lot of them are very overcome with the trauma they have gone through. 

“They have nightmares, they can’t sleep, they are very deeply psychologically affected by what they have seen” he said.

Lack of food, clean water, medicines and adequate shelter


He said that inside Raqqa city in the past months there has been very little food and almost no clean water because of the fighting, and that people are struggling also to get medical supplies to sick children as most of the health facilities have been destroyed or have run-out of medicine.

They arrive in the camps and there aid agencies providing assistance “but it’s not enough”.

He said the camps are very overcrowded, “there’s more than a quarter of a million people who have fled the area” and so there are a lot of children who are desperately short of basic needs.

Concerns for the encroaching winter months

Macdonald expressed concerns for the coming months as winter approaches and temperatures in the area go below freezing point.

“We are very worried, he said, that these children are going to be stuck in the camps without adequate shelter in a freezing time of the year”.   

World Methodist Council: dialogue must reach local level

(Vatican Radio) Methodist and Catholic theologians are meeting just outside Rome this week, marking the 50th anniversary of the first ecumenical dialogue group following the Second Vatican Council. That first session of the Methodist-Roman Catholic International Commission was held in the hill town of Ariccia in October 1967.

Pope Francis met with members of the current Commission on Thursday, together with leaders of the World Methodist Council, saying that half a century of dialogue has set us free from estrangement and suspicion and helped us to recognize each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

South African Bishop Ivan Abrahams is General Secretary of the World Methodist Council. He talked to Philippa Hitchen about the concrete fruits of this ecumenical journey….

Listen:

He says two of the key ingredients that have marked this “50 year pilgrimage or journey” are the love and trust that has been built up and that are reflected in the seven joint reports that have been produced thus far.

One of the great challenges, he says, is to let the fruits of this dialogue “percolate to the local level and we need to see how we can do that much more effectively”.

'That they may be one'

He notes that the latest dialogue report entitled ‘A Call to Holiness: from glory to glory’ stresses that working for unity is “a fundamental part of our mission and our witness to the world, to see that Jesus’ high priestly prayer is made reality”.

Speaking about the situation in his native South Africa, Abrahams says that as he saw the demise of apartheid in his lifetime, “I’d hoped to see the reality of “that they may be one” in my lifetime”.

Autonomy in mission and witness

Talking about the Methodist model of governance, he says there’s no compromise on key issues of faith, but “we don’t apply the ‘one size fits all’ model”, leaving the various conferences autonomy to make their own decisions about mission and witness.

Asked about Pope Francis’ efforts to give local Catholic bishops’ conferences with more autonomy over pastoral decision making, Abrahams says “I think that it is really the only way to go, if we speak about the integrity of the Gospel, because every cultural context is uniquely different”.

Pope Francis embodies unity

While practical cooperation on issues like migration, refugees or climate change are important, he says, consensus in the theological dialogue remains crucial because “we need to clarify so we can walk together”.

Finally Bishop Abrahams praises Pope Francis’ way of reaching out to young generations, saying he is “a beacon of hope” and “somebody who embodies the unity that we’re seeking to live”.

Pope Mass: The gift of God's salvation opens the door to all

The Lord gives us the memory of  God's salvation which is “a gift” and close to the concreteness of the works of mercy he wants us to do, whether they are "material or spiritual": so we will become people who help to "open the door" to ourselves and others. That was Pope Francis’ prayer at morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. Recalling the passage from Luke's Gospel in which the Scribes and Pharisees considered themselves righteous, and Jesus makes known to them that God alone is just, the Pope explained why law practitioners had "taken knowledge away" with "the consequence of not being able to enter the Kingdom nor let others enter either".

Listen to our report:

"This leads us to understand the revelation of God, to understand God's heart, to understand God's salvation - the key to knowledge - we can say it is very neglected. One forgets the freedom of salvation; forgetting the closeness of God and forgetting God's mercy. And those who forget the gift of salvation, the closeness of God, and the mercy of God, have taken away the key to knowledge. "

Therefore, this gift was "forgotten". It is "God's initiative to save us and instead stand on the side of the law": Salvation - said the Pope - "is there for them", thus arriving in "a bunch of prescriptions" which in fact become salvation. So, "they do not receive the power of God's righteousness." The law, however, is always "an answer to God's generous love", which has taken "the initiative" to save us. And, continued Pope Francis, "when you forget the gift of salvation you fall, you lose the key to the intelligence of the history of salvation", losing "the sense of God's closeness":

"For them, God is the one who has made the law. But this is not the God of revelation. The God of revelation is a God who has begun to walk with us from Abraham to Jesus Christ, God walking with His people. And when you lose this close relationship with the Lord, you fall into this dull mindset that believes in the self-sufficiency of salvation with the fulfillment of the law. The closeness of God ".

When the closeness of God is lacking, when prayer is lacking, the Pope emphasized "doctrine cannot be taught" and not even by "studying theology", much less "moral theology": The Pope reiterated that theology "kneels down, always close to God ". And the closeness of the Lord comes "to the highest point of the crucified Jesus Christ," being "justified" for the blood of Christ, as Saint Paul said. For this reason, the Pontiff explained, the works of mercy "are the stone of the fulfillment of the law," because they touch the flesh of Christ, "touch Christ’s suffering in a person, both corporally and spiritually." Also, when the key to knowledge is lost, one also becomes "corrupt". The Pope finally noted the "responsibilities" of shepherds, now in the Church commenting that  when they lose or take away the "key of intelligence", they close  "the door on themselves and on others":

In my country, said the Pope,  "I have heard several times of parish priests who did not baptize the children of the mothers because they were not born in  canonical marriage. They closed the door, why? Because the heart of these parish priests had lost the key to knowledge.

Three months ago, in a country, in a city, a mother wanted to baptize her newly born son, but she was married civilly with a divorced man. The priest said, 'Yes, yes. Baptize the baby. But your husband is divorced. So he cannot be present at the ceremony. ' This is happening today. The Pharisees, doctors of the law are not people of the past, even today there are many of them. That is why we need prayers for us shepherds. To pray that we do not lose the key to knowledge and do not close the door to ourselves and the people who want to enter. "

Pope at General Audience: 'Jesus came to save us from death'

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Wednesday reminded Christians that Jesus came to heal us and to save us from death. He also prayed for the over 300 victims of a deadly bombing in Somalia's capital Mogadishu and condemned the terrorist attack that falls on an ravaged tortured nation. 

He was addressing the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Wednesday General Audience, during which he continued his catechesis on Christian Hope.

Noting that death is a reality that modern civilization “tends, more and more, to set aside” and not reflect upon, Pope Francis said that for believers death is actually “a door” and a call to live for something greater.  

For those “in doubt”, he added, it contains a glimmer of light that shines through a slightly open threshold.

For all of us, he continued, in the mystery of death is a grace and that light will shine for everyone.

Prepare for death

The pope invited those present to think of the moment of their death and imagine the time when Jesus will take us by hand and say: “come, rise and come with me”.

In that moment, he said, hope will end and it will become reality.

Often, he continued we find ourselves unprepared to face death, and yet for centuries past civilizations had the courage to face this inevitable reality. Older generations taught the younger to see that inescapable event as a call to live for something enduring, greater than themselves.  

Pointing out that our days, no matter how many they are, pass like a breath, Francis said “death lays bare our lives” forcing us to acknowledge that all those actions born from pride, anger and hatred” were useless and vain.

To the contrary, he said, it highlights how all the good things that we have sown have germinated and now “hold us by the hand”. 

Jesus will take us by the hand

Jesus, the Pope explained, is the one who ultimately helps us to confront the mystery of death. He shows us that it is natural to weep and to mourn the loss of a loved one, just as he wept at Lazarus’ death.  

But he did not only mourn, he also prayed to the Father and called Lazarus from the tomb pointing out that “Here is our Christian hope: Jesus has come to heal us, to save us from death”.

Recalling the gospel story of Jairus who turned to Jesus in faith asking him to save his sick daughter, and Jesus’s exhortation: “Do not fear, only believe”, the Pope urged Christians not to be afraid, but to keep the flame of faith burning.

Jesus, Francis said, puts us on this “ridge” of faith: every time death comes to tear us away from the fabric of live and our earthly ties, Jesus is there reminding us that He is the resurrection and the life.

We are all small and defenseless before the mystery of death, Pope Francis concluded, but if we keep the flame of faith alive in our hearts, Jesus will take us by the hand, just as he did with Jairus’ daughter when he said: "Talitha cum" which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise. To each of us, he concluded, he will say: “I say to you, arise.”   

Pope Francis deplores Mogadishu terror attack

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has condemned the terrorist attack that killed over 300 people, including children, in the Somali capital Mogadishu.

Speaking during the weekly General Audience in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope said he wished to express his sorrow for the massacre that took place on Saturday.

“This terrorist act , he said, deserves to be most strongly deplored, also because it falls on a population that is already suffering deeply”.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

The Pope said he is praying for the dead, for the wounded, for their families and for the whole people of Somalia.

“I implore the conversion of those who are violent and send my encouragement to those, who with enormous difficulties, are working for peace in that tortured land” he said.

On the ground in Mogadishu nearly 70 people are still missing  from Saturday's bomb blast that killed more than 300 people in one of the world's deadliest attacks in years

The death toll of 302 is expected to rise. 

Somalia’s government has blamed the attack on the al-Shabab extremist group, which has not commented.