Pope: Respond to suffering with eyes cleansed by tears

MANILA, Philippines — The realities of life described by young people, especially the tearful question of a 12-year-old girl about why God allows suffering, led Pope Francis to set aside the text he had prepared for a meeting Jan. 18 with the young people of the Philippines.

Pope Francis hugs Glyzelle Palomar and Jun Chura. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis hugs Glyzelle Palomar and Jun Chura. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“Certain realities in life can only be seen through eyes cleansed by tears,” the pope said Jan. 19 after listening to Glyzelle Palomar, who used to live on the streets but now has a home thanks to the foundation for street children Pope Francis had visited in Manila Jan. 16.

Palomar spoke after Jun Chura — a 14-year-old rescued from the streets by the same foundation — described life on the streets as a struggle to find enough to eat, to fight the temptation of drug use and glue sniffing, and to avoid adults looking for the young to exploit and abuse.

Covering her face with her hand as she wept in front of the microphone, Palomar asked the pope, “Why did God let this happen to us?”

As some 30,000 young people looked on at the University of Santo Tomas, the pope kissed the top of Palomar’s head and pulled her close for a big hug, then embraced her and Chura together.

He also listened to the testimony of two other young men and their questions: How do young people discover God’s will for them? What is love? and How can young people become agents of mercy and compassion?

The pope’s gathering with the youths was emotional from the beginning. Opening the encounter, the pope spoke about 27-year-old Kristel Padasas, an employee of the U.S. bishops’ Catholic Relief Services, who died after being struck by speaker stand knocked down by the wind Jan. 17 at the pope’s Mass in Tacloban.

She was “young, like yourselves,” the pope told the youths, asking them to join him in praying for her and for her parents. “She was the only daughter. Her mother is coming from Hong Kong (and) her father has come to Manila to wait,” he told them.

Although he had received the texts of the young people’s testimonies and questions in advance, and had prepared a response, he set them aside and asked Msgr. Mark Miles from the Vatican Secretariat of State to translate as he spoke off the cuff in Spanish.

One of the first things he commented on was the fact that Palomar was the only female on the program.

“Sometimes we’re too ‘machista’ and don’t allow room for the woman,” he said. “But the woman is able to see things with a different eye than men. Women are able to pose questions that we men are not able to understand.”

“Pay attention,” the pope told the young people. Palomar was “the only one who posed a question for which there is no answer. And she wasn’t able to express it in words but tears.”

“When the next pope comes to Manila,” he told them, include “more women” on the program.

Speaking directly to Palomar, he told her, “you have expressed yourself so bravely.”

While it is impossible to explain why God would allow children to suffer, he told the young people, “only when we, too, can cry” can one approach a response.

“I invite each one of you here to ask yourself, ‘Have I learned to weep and cry when I see a child cast aside, when I see someone with a drug problem, when I see someone who has suffered abuse?” the pope told them.

Being moved to tears out of compassion and in the face of the mystery of suffering is holy, he said. It is not the same thing as crying to manipulate or get something from someone.

“Jesus in the Gospel cried, he cried for his dead friend,” Lazarus, “he cried in his heart for the family that had lost its child, he cried in his heart when he saw the old widow having to bury her son, he was moved to tears of compassion when he saw the multitude of crowds without a pastor,” Pope Francis said.

“If you don’t learn how to cry you cannot be good Christians,” he told them.

In the face of suffering like Palomar’s and Chura’s, he said, “our response must either be silence or the word that is born of our tears.”

“Be courageous, do not be afraid to cry,” the pope said.

Pope in Philippines: Details and curiosities from local papers

MANILA, Philippines — Since the eve of Pope Francis’ arrival here Thursday, the first section of most Philippine newspapers has been filled with pope-related news and editorials.

“Tears and cheers” dominate the headlines as the papers recount pilgrims’ experiences — both close-up and from the motorcades routes.Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 9.54.04 AM

But there are also details that local newspapers do best.

Everyday all the papers have run articles about the government security services order that cellular telephone and data service companies block their signals neighborhood by neighborhood along the papal motorcade route. Security officials say it is to ensure that a cellphone cannot be used as a detonator.

The Philippine Star this morning reports that The Metropolitan Development Authority “has so far collected 11 truckloads of trash” from the papal motorcade routes. “The people who gathered to see the pontiff left behind plastic water bottles, food wrappers, polystyrene containers and barbecue sticks.”

This morning’s papers also carry photographs and stories on the private jet that flew government cabinet ministers to and from Pope Francis’ Mass in Tacloban yesterday. The plane tried to take off about 30 minutes after the pope’s plane and, apparently, strong gusts from the approaching tropical storm pushed the plane off the runway. It ended up in the grass with its nose tipped into the mud. A few passengers suffered bumps, but no one was seriously injured.

Perhaps as many as 6 million people were expected at this afternoon’s papal Mass at Rizal Park. Last night, officials from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines celebrated a Mass and consecrated 2.5 million hosts that will be housed in 20 Blessed Sacrament tents on the park’s perimeter so that even people in the back of the crowd may receive Communion. (It’s the only way. It would be impossible to carry that many hosts from the papal altar through the crowds and distribute them during the Mass.)

Hosts consecrated during Mass last night. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Ricardo-Veloso)

Hosts consecrated during Mass last night. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Ricardo-Veloso)

The Philippine Inquirer reported this morning that leaders of the Lumad, the indigenous people of the southern Philippines have conferred on the pope the formal title “Apo Edsila,” honoring him as an elder (apo) with the descriptive “light” (edsila).

Last night, reporters asked Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila what he, the pope and 30 survivors of Typhoon Yolanda had for lunch yesterday in Palo. The cardinal said there was some kind of soup, but he wasn’t paying attention to the food and didn’t have time to eat as he translated what the survivors were telling the pope. The Philippine Star has the menu details: moringa soup and chicken inasal “in which the meat is marinated in turmeric, lemon grass and other flavorings before being grilled.”

CRS worker who died ‘found great joy’ in recovery work

Kristel Padasas worked with a recovery project for victims of Typhoon Haiyan, so the 27-year-old traveled from the Philippines’ Samar Island to Leyte Island to volunteer at Pope Francis’ Mass for typhoon survivors.

Kristel Padasas (CNS photo/CRS)

Kristel Padasas (CNS photo/CRS)

The pope’s Jan. 17 visit was accelerated because of an approaching tropical storm. After the Mass, the wind from that storm caused scaffolding to collapse and Padasas, an employee of Catholic Relief Services, was killed.

CRS staffers were stunned and mourned the death of the Manila resident, offering prayers for her family.

“Her colleagues remember her as someone who loved to laugh and who was always ready to assist outside her normal duties,” said a statement from CRS, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency. “She found great joy in being able to contribute to the recovery effort by working directly with communities and families.”

“Her dedication to the people affected by the typhoon extended beyond her official work with CRS,” the statement added. “She traveled a great distance to volunteer at today’s papal mass and to remember the victims of Typhoon Haiyan.”

The following day, Pope Francis prayed for her family and met with her father and maternal uncle; her mother works in Hong Kong, but the pope could not reach her by phone.

A government spokeswoman said Darla Santos, 19, suffered a displaced hip in the scaffolding accident and was “doing OK.”

You are not alone, pope tells typhoon survivors

(CLICK HERE for updated version of this story, with video of the pope’s remarks)

Pope Francis celebrates Mass Jan. 17 during a downpour in Tacloban. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis celebrates Mass Jan. 17 during a downpour in Tacloban. (CNS/Paul Haring)

TACLOBAN, Philippines — Fourteen months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of the central Philippines, Pope Francis braved a tropical storm to encourage survivors in their ongoing recovery. In an emotional, off-the-cuff talk, he acknowledged their despair yet promised that, thanks to the love of Jesus and Mary, they were not alone.

Pope Francis arrived at Tacloban International Airport a little before 9 a.m. Jan. 17, after a bumpy 75-minute-long flight from Manila. For his short ride in an open-sided popemobile to the site of the open-air Mass, he donned the same kind of yellow plastic poncho worn by the hundreds of thousands of people awaiting him in the rain. He kept the poncho on while he celebrated Mass, as strong winds blew.

For his homily, the pope abandoned his prepared English text to improvise in his native Spanish with the aid of an interpreter.

He recalled his initial reaction, on Nov. 8, 2013, to the typhoon that claimed some more than 7,300 lives and destroyed more than 1 million homes.

“When I saw that catastrophe from Rome, I felt that I had to be here, and on that day I decided to be here. Now I have come to be with you — a little but late, but I am here,” the pope said.

“I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord and he never lets us down. ‘Father,’ you might say to me, ‘he defrauded me, because I lost my house, I lost what I had, I am sick.’ That’s true, if you would say that, and I respect those sentiments. But I see him there nailed to the cross and from there he does not let us down,” Pope Francis said.

Pilgrims participate in Pope Francis' Mass in Tacloban Jan. 17. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Pilgrims participate in Pope Francis’ Mass in Tacloban Jan. 17. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“So many of you have lost everything I don’t know what to say to you. But he does know what to say to you,” the pope said.

“And beside him on the cross was his mother,” the pope said, pointing to a statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus. “We are like that little child there. In moments of pain, when we no longer understand and want to rebel, all we can do is grab hold of her hand firmly and tell her ‘mom,’ as a child says to his mother when he is afraid. Maybe that is the only word we can say in such difficult times: ‘mother, mom.’”

Pope Francis concluded on a solemn yet hopeful note, drawing a link between the consolation of faith and the solidarity among those working to rebuild the area.

“We have a mother, we have our older brother Jesus, we are not alone,” the pope said. “We also have many brothers who in this moment of catastrophe came to help us. And we, too, feel more like brothers and sisters because we have helped each other.”

“Let us move forward, always forward, and walk together as brothers and sisters in the Lord,” he said, before the entire congregation observed a moment of silence.

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.

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