Pope, in Philippines, says same-sex marriage threatens family

Pope Francis celebrates Mass with bishops, priests and members of religious orders in Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Manila, Philippines

Pope Francis with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila arrive to celebrate Mass in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Manila. (CNS/Paul Haring)

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — Appealing to the traditional values of Filipino Catholic families, Pope Francis made one of his strongest calls as pope against movements to recognize same-sex unions as marriage.

“The family is also threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage,” the pope said Jan. 16, hours after warning that Philippine society was “tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.”

“As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture,” he said.

Pope Francis made his remarks at a Mass in Manila’s cathedral and then at a meeting with families in the city’s Mall of Asia Arena.

At the latter event, the pope called on his listeners to resist “ideological colonization that threatens the family.” The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, said later that the pope was referring to same-sex marriage, among other practices. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, who was present at the reporters’ briefing, cited claims by African bishops that foreign aid to their countries is sometimes offered on the condition that they accept “alien” views of sexuality and marriage.

Civil law in the Philippines does not recognize marriages or unions between persons of the same sex.

The pope’s comments came less than a week after a speech to diplomats at the Vatican in which he criticized “legislation which benefits various forms of cohabitation rather than adequately supporting the family for the welfare of society as a whole,” saying that such legislation had contributed to a widespread sense of the family as “disposable.”

In November, Pope Francis told an interreligious conference on traditional marriage that preserving the family as an institution based on marriage between a man and a woman is not a political cause but a matter of “human ecology,” since “children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity.”

As archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Jose Maria Bergoglio opposed same-sex marriage in Argentina, calling it an “anti-value and an anthropological regression” and “destructive of the plan of God,” and writing that it expressed the “envy of the devil.” But he did not repeat such statements following his election as pope.

When asked why he had not spoken about Brazil’s legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage during his July 2013 trip to the country, the pope said the “church has already spoken quite clearly on this. It was unnecessary to return to it.”

In an interview published in September 2013, Pope Francis told Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible. I have not spoken much about these things, and I was reprimanded for that. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in a context. The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

The pope’s latest statements come during a year of preparation for the October 2015 world Synod of Bishops on the family, following an October 2014 extraordinary synod on the same topic.

At the earlier gathering, a midterm report stirred controversy with remarkably conciliatory language toward people with ways of life contrary to Catholic teaching, including those in same-sex unions. While such unions present unspecified “moral problems,” the document stated, they can exemplify “mutual aid to the point of sacrifice (that) constitutes a precious support in the life of the partners.”

That language was absent from the final report, which quoted a 2003 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “There are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family.”

In a December interview with Argentine journalist Elisabetta Pique, Pope Francis described the midterm report as “merely a first draft,” and said it had mentioned “positive factors” of same-sex unions in an effort to help families support their gay members.

“Nobody mentioned homosexual marriage at the synod; it did not cross our minds,” the pope said.

Pope calls on clergy, religious to share love with the poor

MANILA, Philippines (CNS) — At his first Mass in the Philippines, Pope Francis demonstrated that he was not simply reading English, but understood it. The prepared text of his homily began with Jesus’ words to St. Peter, “Do you love me?”

Pope Francis arrives for Mass at Manila's Immaculate Conception Cathedral. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis arrives for Mass at Manila’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral. (CNS/Paul Haring)

When the pope read those words, someone close to the front of the cathedral responded yes. The pope, laughing, responded, “Thank you,” then explained, “I was reading the words of Jesus.” Starting again, the pope said Jesus’ words to the Apostle, “Do you love me?… Tend my sheep,” are a reminder of “something essential: All pastoral ministry is born of love. All consecrated life is a sign of Christ’s reconciling love.” “Each of us is called, in some way, to be love in the heart of the church,” the pope said. The Gospel has the power to transform society, ensuring justice and care for the poor, but that can happen only if Christians — beginning with the church’s ministers — allow the Gospel to transform them, Pope Francis said. At the beginning of a Mass Jan. 16 with Filipino bishops, priests and religious in Manila’s Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Pope Francis led the congregation in a special penitential rite to ask forgiveness for ways they have failed to live up to the high ideals of their promises of poverty, chastity and obedience. Pope Francis introduced the rite with a prayer: “Unworthy though we are, God loves us and has given us a share in his Son’s mission as members of his body, the church. “Let us thank and glorify God for his great love and infinite compassion,” the pope prayed. “Let us beg for his forgiveness for failing to be faithful to his love. And let us ask for the strength to be true to our calling: to be God’s faithful witnesses in the world.” With almost a quarter of the country’s population living in poverty, with their exposure to typhoons, floods and earthquakes, and with a government plagued by corruption scandals, he said, the church must “acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ.” Individual Christians must “live lives of honesty, integrity and concern for the common good,” he said, but they also must create “networks of solidarity which can expand to embrace and transform society by their prophetic witness.” Departing from his prepared text, the pope said: “The poor. The poor are the center of the Gospel, are at the heart of the Gospel. If we take away the poor from the Gospel, we can’t understand the whole message of Jesus Christ.” Although several elderly priests and religious were present — and were greeted by the pope during the sign of peace — many in the congregation were still in their 20s, and Pope Francis gave them a special commission to reach out to their peers. Financial and social-political difficulties have left many young Filipinos “broken in spirit, tempted to give up, to leave school and to live on the streets,” the pope said. Young church workers have a special obligation to be close to their peers because, despite everything, they “continue to see the church as their friend on the journey and a source of hope.” He also urged the seminarians, young priests and religious to “proclaim the beauty and truth of the Christian message to a society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.” “As you know,” he said, “these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, greeting the pope at the end of the Mass, told him the cathedral had been repeatedly destroyed by fires, earthquakes and during war. “But it refuses to vanish. It boldly rises from the ruins — just like the Filipino people,” he said. “The Filipino has two treasures: music and faith, ‘la musica e la fede,” the cardinal told him in English and Italian. “Our melodies make our spirits soar above the tragedies of life. Our faith makes us stand up again and again after deadly fires, earthquakes, typhoons and wars.” We welcome you, successor of Peter, to this blessed land of untiring hope, of infinite music and of joyful faith,” the cardinal told the pope. “With your visit, we know Jesus will renew and rebuild his church in the Philippines.” Although the Mass was for bishops, priests and religious, tens of thousands of people gathered outside the cathedral, watching the Mass on large video screens set up on the cathedral steps.

Pope says respect for religion should limit freedom of expression

UPDATED VERSION: Pope says respect for religion should limit freedom of expression

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT FROM COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Commenting on recent killings by Islamist terrorists at a Paris newspaper, Pope Francis condemned killing in the name of God, but said freedom of expression should be limited by respect for religion and that mockery of faith can be expected to provoke violence.

Pope Francis answers questions Jan. 15 during flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Manila, Philippines. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis answers questions Jan. 15 during flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to Manila, Philippines. (CNS/Paul Haring)

The pope made his remarks Jan. 15 to reporters accompanying him on a flight from Sri Lanka to the Philippines. During the 50-minute news conference, the pope also said his encyclical on the environment will likely be published early this summer, and that he will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Franciscan missionary to North America, in the U.S. this September.

Asked by a French reporter to compare freedom of religion and freedom of expression as human rights, Pope Francis linked his answer to the Jan. 7 attacks at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, apparently in retaliation for the newspaper’s publication of cartoons mocking Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

“Let’s go to Paris, let’s speak clearly,” the pope said. “One cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s own religion, that is, in the name of God.”

The pope said freedom of expression was a “fundamental human right” like freedom of religion, but one that must be exercised “without giving offense.”

Offering a hypothetical example that referred to the Vatican’s planner of papal trips, who was standing beside him as he spoke, the pope said: “It’s true, one cannot react violently, but if Dr. (Alberto) Gasbarri, a great friend, says a swear word against my mother, then he is going to get a punch. But it’s normal, it’s normal. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith.”

The pope said those who “make fun or toy with other people’s religions, these people provoke, and there can happen what would happen to Dr. Gasbarri if he said something against my mother. That is, there is a limit. Every religion has its dignity.”

Asked about his widely awaited encyclical on the environment, Pope Francis said the document had already been through three drafts by a team under Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and reviewed by the Vatican Secretariat of State and the theologian of the papal household.

“Now I’ll take a week out in March to look at it. At the end of March, I think it will be completed. Then it will go to be translated. I think that if the translations go well, in June or July, it could come out,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said it was important the encyclical come out soon enough to influence a global climate change summit scheduled to open Nov. 30 in Paris, where he hoped leaders would show more courage on the subject than in the past.

While not explicitly replying to a question about the influence of human activity on climate change, the pope echoed earlier criticisms of man-made damage to the environment through such practices as deforestation and overexploitation of agricultural lands.

The pope opened the news conference with an unsolicited statement about his decision to canonize St. Joseph Vaz, a 17th- and 18th-century missionary to Sri Lanka, without going through the usual process, including verification of a second miracle attributed to the saint’s intercession. Pope Francis said St. Joseph was one of a series of great evangelists whom he planned to canonize without such preliminaries, in an effort to celebrate the practice of evangelization.

“Now in September, God willing, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States. He was the evangelizer of the west in the United States,” the pope said.

The pope has confirmed he will visit Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families in September, and has suggested he might travel to New York City, Washington, D.C., and Mexico City on the same trip, but no itinerary has been released. His announcement of Blessed Junipero’s canonization is bound to raise expectations that he will also visit the southwestern U.S. The Franciscan priest established 10 missions in what is now California and Mexico.

Pope Francis arrives in the Philippines

Pope Francis arrives at Villamor Air Base in Manila, PhilippinesMANILA, Philippines — Although it was not called a welcoming ceremony, Pope Francis was greeted by government and church officials and an exuberant crowd Jan. 15 at Manila’s Villamor Air Base.

The pope arrived 13 minutes earlier than scheduled at the base near Manila’s international airport following a six-hour flight from Colombo, Sri Lanka, over Vietnam and the South China Sea.

The pope’s evening arrival after such a long flight led trip organizers to schedule the formal welcoming ceremony for the next morning.

The speeches normally part of the formal ceremony were missing, as was the pope’s zucchetto. Almost as soon as he stepped out of the doors of the plane, a gust of wind blew his white skullcap away. He did get it back, eventually.

President Benigno Aquino III was on hand, as were young people from 19 different schools who choreographed a greeting with dancing and tumbling; they also used blue, red, white and yellow umbrellas to re-create the Philippine flag.

A young boy wearing the traditional barong shirt and a young girl wearing the traditional terno dress with its butterfly sleeves gave the pope flowers and a hug after he descended the stairs from the Sri Lankan Airlines plane.

After a five-minute meeting with President Aquino in the airport VIP lounge, Pope Francis traveled by popemobile the 6 miles from the air base to the Vatican nunciature where he was to stay Jan. 15-19.

Hundreds of thousands of people lined the route, often waiting hours for their quick glimpse of Pope Francis. While darkness fell over the city, the interior of the popemobile was lighted so people could see the pope standing and waving to them. The trip to the nunciature took just under 40 minutes.

A Philippine prayer: Rain, rain go away

MANILA, Philippines — The city is abuzz with expectation and preparations for Pope Francis’ arrival this evening.

The papal motorcade route from the airport is barricaded. Many streets are already closed for security reasons. The police are out in force.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has been leading this predominantly Catholic nation in prayers and reflection for months. But Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle issued a new prayer text yesterday. It reads in part:

“God our Father we pray to you for good weather and clear skies when our beloved Pope Francis lands on our shores. We pray especially that when he encounters the people of Tacloban it will be under fair and comfortable situations, so that all may experience fully the warmth of his presence. We know that nothing is impossible to you and we ask this of you with humble and contrite hearts, but confident always of your solicitude and providence.”

The cardinal’s prayer did not come out of the blue. He wrote it when meteorologists were still providing a variety of scenarios for a storm east of the Philippines and heading this way.

(Screen grab from pagasa.dost.gov.ph)

(Screen grab from pagasa.dost.gov.ph)

By the time the newspapers were published late last night, though, the weather bureau said Tropical Storm Amang, also called Mekkhala — with sustained winds of 40 miles an hour and gusts up to 50 mph — was unlikely to make landfall. However, rain is predicted in Tacloban Saturday, the day Pope Francis is planning to travel there to meet survivors of Typhoon Haiyan.

“Let us implore the God of creation to clear the skies when Pope Francis arrives and stays in Tacloban so that all who are there will experience comfort as they welcome and listen to his message,” Cardinal Tagle wrote in a note to his priests and faithful.

Prayers are important, but so is planning. The Philippine security services announced weeks ago that no one would be admitted to a papal event carrying an umbrella — not for shade, not for rain. But no fear: the Archdiocese of Palo, which includes Tacloban, has secured the donation of 1 million plastic raincoats and ponchos. They will be distributed to the crowds.

Pope proclaims Sri Lanka’s first saint, right to religious freedom

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNS) — Canonizing Sri Lanka’s first saint, who ministered to Catholics under persecution three centuries earlier, Pope Francis proclaimed what he called the “fundamental human right” of religious freedom.

“Each individual must be free, alone or in association with others, to seek the truth, and to openly express his or her religious convictions, free from intimidation and external compulsion,” the pope said Jan. 14, before a congregation of more than 500,000 in a beachfront park on the Indian Ocean.

Pope Francis gave his homily half an hour after canonizing St. Joseph Vaz, a 17th- and 18th-century missionary from India who rebuilt the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka after its suppression by Dutch Protestant colonists.

The pope called on Catholics today to emulate the new saint by spreading the Gospel with “missionary zeal.”

“Saint Joseph knew how to offer the truth and the beauty of the Gospel in a multi-religious context, with respect, dedication, perseverance and humility,” the pope said. “We are called to go forth with the same zeal, the same courage of Saint Joseph, but also with his sensitivity, his reverence for others, his desire to share with them that word of grace which has the power to build them up. We are called to be missionary disciples.”

Noting that St. Joseph had won the support of a Buddhist king by caring for victims of a smallpox epidemic, and thus “was allowed greater freedom to minister,” the pope praised today’s Sri Lankan Catholics, who make up only 7 percent of the population, for their charitable service to their neighbors.

The church in Sri Lanka today “makes no distinction of race, creed, tribe, status or religion in the service she provides through her schools, hospitals, clinics and many other charitable works. All she asks is the freedom to carry out this mission,” he said.

“As the life of St. Joseph Vaz teaches us, genuine worship of God bears fruit not in discrimination, hatred and violence, but in respect for the sacredness of life, respect for the dignity and freedom of others, and loving commitment to the welfare of all.”

The canonization Mass reflected the multicultural character of Sri Lankan society. The pope celebrated the liturgy in English and Latin, but there were readings in the local languages of Tamil and Sinhalese. Drums and sitars accompanied the choir, and dancers in traditional costume performed before the start of Mass. The altar was housed in a structure whose peaked roof recalled the Buddhist temple architecture of Kandy, the central region of the country where St. Joseph won acceptance for his ministry.

Temperatures and humidity levels were both in the high 70s and attendants held umbrellas over priests as they distributed Communion.

At the end of Mass, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo addressed the pope, thanking him for the new saint, “God’s precious gem for Sri Lanka.”

Cardinal Ranjith also asked for Pope Francis’ blessing and guidance in the search for reconciliation after Sri Lanka’s two-and-a-half decade civil war between government forces and rebels from the Tamil-Hindu minority, which ended in 2009.

“We call upon you to kindly help us in that search for a true healing of hearts, the strength to ask pardon from each other for the senseless violence unleashed then, to forgive and forget that sad past and to arrive at a process of a give and take to build bridges of understanding between the parties hurt in the conflict. We are still far from reaching that goal,” the cardinal said.

“Our nation, blessed by teachings of the great world religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Christianity, does possess the moral and spiritual strength and nobility needed to generate such peace, but we will all need to make that leap towards each other with a genuine spirit of reconciliation, trust and a sense of reciprocity,” the cardinal said.

The Mass was Pope Francis’ first public event on his second day in Sri Lanka. In the afternoon, he traveled by helicopter to the northern town of Madhu for a pilgrimage to a Marian shrine that sheltered refugees during the civil war. He was scheduled to fly to the Philippines the next day.

Pope, in Sri Lanka, says reconciliation requires ‘pursuit of truth’

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNS) — Arriving in Sri Lanka, a country recovering from two and a half decades of ethnic and religious civil war, Pope Francis said reconciliation would require exploring, not ignoring, its painful recent history.

“The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity,” the pope said Jan. 13, at an arrival ceremony at Colombo’s international airport.

Pope Francis addressed his words to Sri Lanka’s new President Maithripala Sirisena, elected Jan. 8 and sworn in the following day. During the election campaign, Sirisena promised an independent investigation into war crimes allegedly committed during the 26-year struggle between government forces and rebels belong to the country’s Tamil minority.

The war, which ended in 2009, divided Sri Lanka along religious as well as ethnic lines, since members of the Sinhalese majority are typically Buddhist and Tamils for the most part Hindu. Catholics, who make up 7 percent of the country’s population, include members of both ethnic groups.

“Sri Lanka for many years knew the horrors of civil strife, and is now seeking to consolidate peace and to heal the scars of those years,” Pope Francis said. “I am convinced that the followers of the various religious traditions have an essential role to play in the delicate process of reconciliation and rebuilding which is taking place in this country.”

The pope was scheduled to meet with local Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and other Christian leaders later in the afternoon.

Pope Francis’ plane landed at 9 a.m. He was greeted by traditional dancers and drummers, a 21-gun salute and a choir of teenagers who sang a song of welcome in English, the same language the pope and Sirisena used for their remarks. Girls in white dresses and boys in neckties and shorts waved gold-and-white Vatican flags. Nearby stood 40 elephants draped in colorful fabrics, a traditional gesture of honor for distinguished guests.

The pope’s entourage, led by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, wore white cassocks, keeping with the ecclesiastical custom in tropical climates. Temperatures were in the 80s in the bright sunshine.

The pope rode the 17-mile distance to the nuncio’s residence in an open-sided popemobile past crowds waving Vatican flags. The ride took twice as long as expected, leading the pope to cancel a meeting with Sri Lanka’s bishops planned for early afternoon.

The day marked the start of Pope Francis’ second trip to Asia, following a visit to South Korea in August. He was scheduled to spend two full days in Sri Lanka, before flying to the Philippines Jan. 15. The highlights of the Sri Lanka leg were expected to be the Jan. 14 canonization of Blessed Joseph Vaz as the country’s first saint and, later the same day, a pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Madhu, which served as a sanctuary for refugees during the civil war.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 965 other followers