Remembering murdered Jesuit confrere, pope appeals for peace in Syria

UPDATE: Full story on the pope’s remarks and more.

VATICAN CITY — Here is our translation of Pope Francis’ remarks today about the murder of Jesuit Father Frans van der Lugt and the continuing war in Syria:

Monday in Homs, Syria, Father Frans van der Lugt, my 75-year-old Dutch Jesuit confrere, was assassinated. He arrived in Syria about 50 years ago and always did his best for everyone with graciousness and love, and so was loved and held in esteem by Christians and Muslims.

Father Frans van der Lugt (CNS/Reuters)

Father Frans van der Lugt (CNS/Reuters)

His brutal murder filled me with with deep sadness and made me think again of all the people who suffer and are dying in that martyred country, already too long a victim of a bloody conflict that continues to sow death and destruction. I also remember the numerous people who have been kidnapped — Christians and Muslims, Syrians and people from other countries, among whom there are bishops and priests. We ask the Lord to grant that they may quickly return to their loved ones and families and communities.

From my heart, I ask you all to join my prayer for peace in Syria and in the region, and I launch a heartfelt appeal to Syrian leaders and to the international community: Silence the weapons! Put an end to the violence! No more war! No more destruction! May there be respect for humanitarian law, care for the people who need humanitarian assistance and may the desired peace be reached through dialogue and reconciliation.”

Pope Francis gives first ‘red carpet’ interview

VATICAN CITY — So far, Pope Francis has done impromptu interviews with journalists on a plane, in written correspondence and at his Vatican residence.

Now he’s done his first “red carpet” interview — responding to a TV reporter who squeezed through the throng and shouted a question over the cheering crowds.

floral carpet assisi san rufino

Screen-grab from Vatican television (CTV) coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi.

It happened in Assisi when the pope was greeting people gathered outside the Cathedral of San Rufino. However, instead of an actual red carpet, he walked along a colorful carpet made of flowers.

The clip, which aired last night on a political talk show, goes like this:

The Italian TV reporter asks:

“Your Holiness, is there hope for Italy?”

The pope approaches the reporter and replies:

“There is always hope because the Lord gives us hope, the Lord gives us the strength to go on.”

Riding his wave of good luck, the reporter continues:

“What do we have to do in order to have hope?”

The pope says:

“Well, look for it, and the Lord will inspire you!” [gives a thumbs up]

To see the clip, find it here.

 

 

Assisi: what the pope would have said

SUN SETS NEAR BASILICA IN ASSISI, ITALY

The Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) (Nov. 2007)

VATICAN CITY — We all know how the pope likes to set aside his prepared text and speak heart-to-heart to his audience. It looks like he will be doing a bit of the same during his Oct. 4 trip to Assisi.

While the things he says off-the-cuff will grab the headlines, probably not much  coverage will be given to what he had prepared on paper to say.

The Vatican says the pope’s prepared texts are still valid and can be published as if they had been delivered, so we’ll update this blog throughout the day with “What the pope would have said” with some excerpts from his written speeches. Continue reading

Assisi schedule & more

St. Francis of Assisi from detail of Cimabue fresco

St. Francis of Assisi is depicted in this fresco by Giovanni Cimabue between 1278-80, in the Basilica of St. Francis Basilica in Assisi, Italy. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran)

VATICAN CITY — On the feast of St. Francis of Assisi tomorrow, Pope Francis will be visiting the birthplace of his namesake and following in the saint’s footsteps.

For those who want to follow the all-day event Oct. 4 online, the papal schedule is below. The official liturgical booklet hasn’t been posted yet, but if it is, we’ll have it for you here.

And don’t forget that the Franciscans in Assisi have a live cam on the saint’s tomb and an email address to send your prayer requests to the friars there latuapreghiera@sanfrancesco.org.

Here is a general rundown of the pope’s rather packed itinerary:

7 a.m. (Rome time; 1 a.m. EDT) — Pope leaves the Vatican by helicopter.

7:45 a.m. — He lands in Assisi.

8 a.m. — Pope Francis meets with young people with severe disabilities at their church-run residence, “Serafico Institute.” He will deliver a short address. Continue reading

Video: Missionary pope: Francis in Brazil

Catholic News Service looks at the impact of the first Latin American pope’s visit to his native continent.

“Women in the church are more important than bishops and priests”

Pope Francis told reporters on his flight from Rio to Rome that women cannot be ordained as priests, but that they are “more important than bishops and priests.”

What does that mean? Earlier this year, the papal theologian explained the theology behind these statements in an interview with CNS.

Video: Millions on Copacabana beach conclude WYD

A Saturday night vigil and Sunday morning Mass conclude World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro.

Pope urges Brazilian elites to embrace dialogue and ‘social humility’

RIO DE JANEIRO (CNS) — Speaking to political, economic and cultural leaders of a Brazil recently shaken by mass anti-government protests, Pope Francis called for a “culture of encounter” and said dialogue is the only way to promote social peace.

The Pope made his remarks July 27 in Rio’s Municipal Theater, to an audience representing what the Vatican’s official schedule described as the “ruling class of Brazil.”

Pope Francis blesses Walmyr Junior, 28, during a meeting with political, economic and cultural leaders at Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro July 27. The young man, who overcame drug abuse and is now a youth minister, shared his story of life transform ation -- his discovery of a loving God and church. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis blesses Walmyr Junior, 28, during a meeting with political, economic and cultural leaders at Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro July 27. The young man, who overcame drug abuse and is now a youth minister, shared his story of life transform ation — his discovery of a loving God and church. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

“When leaders in various fields ask me for advice, my response is always the same: dialogue, dialogue, dialogue,” he said. “Today, either we stake all on dialogue, on the culture of encounter, or we all lose.”

The pope did not explicitly refer to the series of demonstrations in Brazilian cities that started last month, aimed at a range of grievances including government corruption, unsatisfactory public education and health services, the high cost of public transportation and police brutality. But he pointed to dialogue as a third way “between selfish indifference and violent protest.”

“A country grows when constructive dialogue occurs between its many rich cultural components: popular culture, university culture, youth culture, artistic and technological culture, economic culture, family culture and media culture,” he said.

Pope Francis also called on his listeners to share “fraternal responsibility” for Brazilian society, “rehabilitating politics, which is one of the highest forms of charity.”

“The future demands of us a humanistic vision of the economy and a politics capable of ensuring greater and more effective participation on the part of all, eliminating forms of elitism and eradicating poverty,” he said.

Noting the importance of Christianity to the country’s cultural heritage, the pope said the church offered an “integral vision of the human person” that is “true to Brazilian identity and capable of building a better future for all.”

“Christianity combines transcendence and incarnation,” he said. “It brings ever new vitality to thought and life, in contrast to the dissatisfaction and disillusionment which creep into hearts and spread in the streets.”

Yet the pope endorsed the separation of church and state, historically a volatile topic in Latin America, where the Catholic Church long held a privileged legal position in many countries, but where it has more recently clashed with governments over issues including abortion and same-sex marriage.

“Peaceful coexistence between different religions is favored by the laicity of the state, which, without appropriating any one confessional stance, respects and esteems the presence of the religious factor in society, while fostering its concrete expressions,” he said.

Before his remarks, the pope was greeted on the stage of the ornate century-old theater by Walmyr Junior, 28, a lay minister in the Rio archdiocese who recounted his upbringing as an orphan in one of the city’s notorious “favelas,” or slums, his experience of drug abuse, and his recovery with the help of the church, which led to his graduation from the city’s Pontifical Catholic University.

Junior was overcome with emotion before finishing his speech, and embraced Pope Francis to loud applause from the audience.

Later, the pope greeted representatives of some indigenous Amazonian tribes appearing in their traditional dress, and briefly posed wearing a large feathered hat they gave him.

“The pope was saying what each one of us would have wanted to say if we had been on stage,” said a member of the audience, Alvaro Siviero, a concert pianist from Sao Paolo. “We saw there a person of common sense who didn’t speak in the way that is usual in politics.”

Siviero said the pope’s decision to address them in his native Spanish instead of the national language of Portuguese — for which he asked forgiveness at the start of his speech — was welcomed as a sign of humility.

“He wanted to talk to our hearts, not our minds only,” the pianist said. “His Spanish was from the heart, it was a universal language.”

Video: Rio re-stages the Stations of the Cross

Youths follow the Way of the Cross during a World Youth Day dramatization of the Passion July 26.

The pope, WYD and the power of the cross

An actor portrays Jesus in the Stations of the Cross during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro July 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

An actor portrays Jesus in the Stations of the Cross during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro July 26. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

RIO DE JANEIRO — With his cross and resurrection, Christ promises to walk with and ease the burden of every suffering person, whether that suffering comes from violence, addiction, a broken family, hunger, persecution or the death of a loved one, Pope Francis said.

The traditional Friday mood change of World Youth Day took place July 26 as the pope and more than 1 million young people returned to Copacabana beach to meditate on the Stations of the Cross.

In his reflection, Pope Francis told the young people that in every encounter with Christ’s cross, they can draw strength from him and they can leave the heaviest part of their burden with him.

Through the cross, the pope said, Jesus also unites himself with “those young people who have lost faith in the church, or even in God, because of the counter-witness of Christians and ministers of the Gospel.”

Pope Francis did not get specific about the forms of counter-witness, but his words brought to mind the well-known Via Crucis meditations written in 2005 by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, only weeks before he became Pope Benedict XVI, in which he denounced “filth” in the church, which was widely interpreted as a reference to clerical sex abuse.

At the same time, Pope Francis also has denounced the counter-witness of clergy and other church personnel who see ministry more as career or who drive around in fancy cars or exhibit an extravagant lifestyle in other ways.

The 14 traditional Stations of the Cross in Rio were presented by actors and readers on 13 stages along the Copacabana waterfront and on the main stage where Pope Francis sat.

Young people carrying the World Youth Day cross at the opening ceremony last night. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Young people carrying the World Youth Day cross at the opening ceremony last night. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The meditations read during the service also focused on drawing strength from Christ’s cross and healing one’s wounds in the wounds of Christ. Each written from the perspective of a different person in the church — including a missionary, an engaged couple, a pro-life activist, students, those who use social networks — the meditations asked Jesus for the strength to follow and imitate his service to others.

Pope Francis began his reflection recalling the pilgrimage of the World Youth Day cross, which has been carried across oceans, mountains and plains in preparation for each international youth gathering. The cross was carried from station to station during the evening service.

“It is, as it were, almost ‘steeped’ in the life experiences of the countless young people who have seen it and carried it,” the pope said. “No one can approach and touch the cross of Jesus without leaving something of himself or herself there, and without bringing something of the cross of Jesus into his or her own life.”

At the center of the Christian faith, he said, is the certainty that “Jesus, with his cross, walks with us and takes upon himself our fears, our problems and our sufferings, even those which are deepest and most painful.”

Pope Francis did not leave his mention of the wounds vague; he said Jesus united himself “to the silence of the victims of violence, those who can no longer cry out, especially the innocent and defenseless,” to families in difficulty, to those addicted to drugs and to “every person who suffers from hunger in a world where tons of food are thrown out each day.”

The suffering Jesus walks with those persecuted for their faith or discriminated against because of the color of their skin, the pope said. And he draws close to “so many young people who have lost faith in political institutions because they see in them only selfishness and corruption.”

But it is not only the faults, violence or wrongs committed by others that Jesus takes upon himself, Pope Francis said. “The cross of Christ bears the suffering and the sin of mankind, including our own.”

Among the special guest at the Via Crucis were 35 “cartoneros,” or trash pickers, who had come from Argentina hoping to see the Argentine pope. Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said Pope Francis sent someone out to find them and give them seats near him on the stage. The pope greeted them before the prayers began.

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