Wednesday, September 25, 2013


The Vatican has just released the Message from Pope Francis for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees observed this coming January.

Pope Francis offers us the context for looking at this issue today:

"From the Christian standpoint, the reality of migration, like other human realities, points to the tension between the beauty of creation, marked by Grace and the Redemption, and the mystery of sin.  Solidarity, acceptance, and signs of fraternity and understanding exist side by side with rejection, discrimination, trafficking and exploitation, suffering and death.  Particularly disturbing are those situations where migration is not only involuntary, but actually set in motion by various forms of human trafficking and enslavement.  Nowadays, 'slave labor" is common coin."

He points out that so often the scandal of poverty is the root cause of mass migration of peoples around the world--some 400 million people on the move each year.  Pope Francis notes:

"While encouraging the development of a better world, we cannot remain silent about the scandal of poverty in its various forms.  Violence, exploitation, discrimination, marginalization, restrictive approaches to fundamental freedoms, whether of individuals or of groups:  these are some of the chief elements of poverty which need to be overcome.  Often these are precisely the elements which mark migratory movements, thus linking migration to poverty.  Fleeing from situations of extreme poverty or persecution in the hope of a better future, or simply to save their own lives, millions of persons choose to migrate.  Despite their hopes and expectations, they often encounter mistrust, rejection and exclusion, to say nothing of tragedies and disasters which offend their human dignity."

The Pope then acknowledges yet another obstacle encountered by peoples on the move:

"Finally, in considering the situation of migrants and refugees, I would point to yet another element in building a better world, namely, the elimination of prejudices and presuppositions in the approach to migration.  Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum-seekers and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility.  There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identify and culture will be lost, that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase."

Our Holy Father points to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph as examples of migrants and refugees--forced to flee their homeland because of death threats.

He calls us to see our brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.  This attitude is so essential in our own country as the House of Representatives crafts legislation to help our 11 million unauthorized persons achieve full dignity, respect, and opportunity.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


America magazine has published an extraordinary interview with Pope Francis by Rev. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civilita Cattolica conducted in August.  One can easily find the entire interview on-line, and I encourage you to read it--actually, to reflect upon it deeply since Pope Francis signals his vision for all of us in the Church today.

While I am struck by many elements of the interview, the following are the ones which most captivated me:

I.  The Pope's Jesuit Formation       When Fr. Spadaro asks Pope Francis to identify who he is, he responds "I am a sinner.  This is the most accurate definition.  It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre.  I am a sinner."  But he hastens to add that he is a sinner with hope:  "I am one who is looked upon by the Lord." 

Pope Francis early on felt the need to be a part of a dynamic community.  He did not envision himself living alone; he loves people and needs to be in their midst.  This is the reason he resides at the Santa Marta hotel in the Vatican. 

The notion of discernment which was highlight by St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises also plays a large role in the life and ministry of Pope Francis.  "Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor.  My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times.  Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing."

He offers a good example in the life of Pope John XXIII who had as a motto:  "See everything, turn a blind eye to much; correct a little."  Living that out for all of us would create enormous positive changes in all of us!

II.  Church Government      Pope Francis explains how as a young Provincial for the Jesuits he did not carry out sufficient and broad consultation.  He points out two attributes to a fine leader:  broad consultation, and entrusting a task to someone with total trust in that person.

The image of the Church he favors "is that of the holy, faithful people of God....The people itself constitutes a subject.  And the Church is the people of God on the journey through history, with joys and sorrows.  Thinking with the Church, therefore, is my way of being a part of this people....When the dialogue among the people and the bishops and the pope goes down this road and is genuine, then it is assisted by the Holy Spirit.  So this thinking with the Church does not concern theologians only."

III.  The Church as Field Hospital      "I see clearly," the Pope continues, "that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.  I see the Church as a field hospital after battle.  It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars!  You have to heal wounds.  Then we can talk about everything else.  Heal the wounds, heal the wounds.... And you have to start from the ground up."

"I dream of a Church that is a mother and shepherdess.  The Church's ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the good Samaritan, who washes, cleans and raises up his neighbor.  This is pure Gospel....The first reform must be the attitude.

"Instead of being just a Church that welcomes and receives by keeping the doors open, let us try also to be a Church that finds new roads, that is able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to those who have quit or are indifferent.  The ones who quit sometimes do it for reasons that, if properly understood and assessed, can lead to a return.  But that takes audacity and courage."

Pope Francis then continues to spell out how the Church must know and love Jesus, must live out the Gospels, and must be the beacon for forgiveness, mercy, acceptance, and hope for the world.

IV.  Collegiality      The gift of collegiality is very important for Pope Francis, not only in the reform of the Curia but in the right relationship among all of the Particular Churches with the See of Peter.  He explains:  "We must walk together:  the people, the bishops and the pope.  Synodality should be lived at various levels.  Maybe it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic.  This will also have ecumenical value, especially with out Orthodox brethren.  From them we can learn more about the meaning of episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality.  The joint effort of reflection, looking at how the Church was governed in the early centuries, before the breakup between East and West, will bear fruit in due time.  In ecumenical relations it is important not only to know each other better, but also to recognize what the Spirit has sown in the other as a gift for us."

He emphasizes how the Second Vatican Council was a re-reading of the Gospel in light of contemporary culture.  The Council's "renewal movement simply comes from the Gospel.  Its fruits are enormous.  Just recall the liturgy.  The work of liturgical reform has been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a concrete historical situation.  Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity and discontinuity, but one thing is clear:  the dynamic of reading the Gospel, actualizing its message for today--which was typical of Vatican II--is absolutely irreversible."

Pope Francis gives his views on many other important issues, such as the important role of women in the Church; the value of art, music, and plays in bringing Christ to the world;  the need for genuine "hope" over optimism; the triumph of Jesus Christ over the mediocrity of today's culture.
Our Holy Father has given us a splendid panorama of the Church as we move forward, his vision statement, if you will.  I find his vision appealing, captivating, and inviting!  I am enthralled with how Pope Francis continues to show us the way forward towards the fullness of Christ, especially in his daily homilies and his many addresses which are filled with discernment and hope.
I hope that you reflect deeply upon this interview, and you will also capture the depth and wonder of the Successor of Peter whom the Holy Spirit has given to us.

Friday, September 6, 2013


Principles for a Just Solution to the Conflict in Syria

Vatican City, 6 September 2013 (VIS)

Yesterday Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for Relations with States, met with ambassadors to the Holy See to express the concerns of the Holy Father and the Vatican regarding the unstable situation of peace throughout the world, with special attention to the Middle East and Syria in particular.

The prelate remarked that the Holy Father has on various occasions publicly denounced the conflict in Syria which has so far claimed the lives of over 110,000 civilians, caused innumerable casualties, created four million refugees within the country, and provoked an exodus of more than two million into neighboring countries.  "Faced with facts of this type, one cannot remain silent," he said, "and the Holy See hopes that the competent institutions will clarify the situation and those responsible will be held accountable."

Archbishop Mamberti reiterated that the cessation of violence is an "absolute priority," and made an appeal to the Parties not to remain "wrapped up in their own interests, but to take with courage and decision the path of encounter and negotiation, overcoming blind opposition", and added a second plea to the international community "to make every effort to promote, without further delay, clear initiatives for peace in the Nation, always based on dialogue and negotiation."

He emphasized the importance of "the necessity and urgency of respect for human rights," and "the urgent need for humanitarian assistance for the majority of the population."  In addition he gave thanks for the generosity of many governments in favor of the suffering Syrian population.

Mamberti underlined that the Catholic Church, for her part, is committed with all the means at her disposal to the humanitarian assistance of the population, Christian or not, and mentioned some matters that the Holy See considers to be of importance in an eventual plan for the future of Syria.

The general principles he proposed for arriving at a just solution to the conflict include:  striving for the reinstatement of dialogue between the Parties and for the reconciliation of the Syrian population;  the preservation of the unity of the country, avoiding  the creation of different zones for the various components of society;  and guaranteeing, alongside the unity of the country, also its territorial integrity.

The secretary also referred to the importance of asking all groups to offer guarantees that, in tomorrow's Syria, there will be a place for all, especially minorities including Christians.  Mamberti mentioned the importance of respect for human rights and religious freedom, and he emphasized the equal importance of the concept of citizenship, on the basis of which all, independently of their ethnic origin or religious beliefs, are citizens of equal dignity, with equal rights and duties.

He concluded by drawing attention to the particularly worrying phenomenon of "the growing presence of extremist groups in Syria, often originating from other countries.  It is therefore important to urge the population and also opposition groups to distance themselves from such extremists, to isolate them and to oppose terrorism openly and clearly."