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Vatican at UN calls for dialogue in Central African Republic

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See’s foreign minister has called for renewed dialogue in the Central African Republic, as well as more effective action to protect civilians of all religious groups.

Archbishop Paul Gallagher’s words came during a meeting at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. The Vatican Secretary for Relations with States said the Holy See is “greatly concerned” about the intensification of conflict in the CAR, which Pope Francis visited in November 2015.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen's report:

He praised the role of the UN stabilization mission (MINUSCA) which is working to bring peace to the capital, Bangui, but at the same time he called for greater protection of civilians, without distinction of rank or religious creed, in order to earn the trust of the local population.

Protect vulnerable women and children

Noting that women and children are the most vulnerable victims of the conflict, Archbishop Gallagher appealed to UN peacekeepers to defend their dignity, to guarantee their freedom of movement and to protect them from armed aggression or abuse.

International community must support CAR

While calling on the CAR government to guarantee the rule of law, to curb and combat corruption, and to ensure access to health care and education for all citizens, Archbishop Gallagher also called on the international community to support democracy and inclusive development in the country.

The financial aid promised during last autumn’s Brussels Conference must be made available, he said, in order to facilitate reconstruction and financial recovery.

Dialogue, disarmament and justice for victims

Calling for a sincere dialogue between all the political forces in the country, Archbishop Gallagher said peace also requires the disarmament and integration of former combatants, justice for the victims of crimes and the safe return of refugees, both Christian and Muslim.

Please find below the full statement by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher to the closed ministerial-level meeting on the Central African Republic during the 72th Session of the UN General Assembly

Mr. Chairperson.

            The Holy See is greatly concerned at the intensification of the conflict underway in the Central African Republic, which is causing further deaths and injuries among the civil population and aggravating the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons.

            The Holy See appreciates the role of MINUSCA [The UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic], as well as the extension of its mandate by the UN, which is directed to restoring peace to the capital, Bangui, and to neutralizing, in so far as possible, the actions of armed groups, which inflict suffering on defenseless populations. It also wishes, however, to see more effective action in protecting civilians, without distinction of religious creed or rank, in order to avoid partiality and to earn greater trust from the local population. Thus, the increase in the number of peacekeepers and the reorganization of their operations must have as its priority the protection of the security of all citizens and the restoration of peace. Well aware that those who are most vulnerable in the current conflict are women and children, I appeal to MINUSCA to defend their dignity as defenseless people, to guarantee their personal safety and freedom of movement, and to protect them from armed aggression and from any abuse or humiliation that would degrade their human dignity. As Pope Francis remarked during his visit to Bangui, dignity is a “moral value, rightly synonymous with honesty, loyalty, graciousness and honour, which characterizes men and women conscious of their rights and duties, and which leads them to mutual respect” (Address to the Authorities and to the Diplomatic Corps, 29 November 2015).

            The International Community is called to give every necessary support for the democratic and inclusive development of those structures that will permit the growth of the country. Of course, it is the national Government’s duty to guarantee the rule of law, to curb and combat corruption, which saps the trust of citizens, and to ensure access to health care and education for citizens of every level, without discrimination. But this in turn requires the coordinated action of the International Community, so that the financial aid promised during the Brussels Conference of last autumn is made available, giving an injection of resources to the country and facilitating its reconstruction as well as its financial recovery. 

            In any country, a healthy dynamic between the various political forces can be achieved only through sincere dialogue. With the help of the International Community, such a dialogue must become the privileged path to arrive at peace and to give to the Central African Republic the necessary stability for its social, economic and political renewal. Indeed, dialogue is the only solution to any armed conflict and the only way to silence the weapons of war and to give life to words of reconciliation. We might recall here the positive outcome of the pastoral visit of Pope Francis (29-30 November 2015), which gave rise to strong and clear gestures of cooperation, promoted also by the heads of the other religious confessions. Recently, the Holy Father made an appeal to all sectors of the Central African Republic: “may weapons be silenced and may the good will to dialogue prevail so as to give the country peace and development” (Pope Francis, Angelus 21 May 2017).

To reach a fruitful outcome, that process of dialogue must provide for:

-           a ceasefire between all the parties to the conflict;

-           the right means for disarming the various armed groups, while studying how best to reinsert their members into the civil and democratic community;

-           justice for the victims of heinous attacks on the unarmed population;

-           and the guaranteed return of migrants and refugees, both Christian and Muslim, who should be able to take possession of their property and return to a serene and tranquil life.

In this effort of inclusive dialogue, the Catholic Church’s commitment will not be lacking. Together with other religious confessions, the Church will seek what unites, while rejecting that which causes division or contention, since the search for peace comes before every other good.

Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.

Vatican Weekend for September 24th, 2017

Vatican Weekend for September 24th, 2017 features our weekly reflection on the Sunday Gospel reading, “There’s more in the Sunday Gospel than Meets the Eye,” and join us on a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel to explore one of the key figures in Michelangelo’s famous fresco, the Last Judgement.

Listen to this program produced and presented by Susy Hodges: 

Spotlight on first American-born martyr in Church’s history ahead of his beatification

(Vatican Radio) Father Stanley Rother, the first American-born martyr in the history of the Church is being beatified in Oklahoma City on September 23rd. The U.S. priest was gunned down in Guatamala in 1981 shortly after taking the heroic decision to return to his mission parish in the Central American nation despite knowing his name was on a death list there.

Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda is the author of a biography about this American martyr, entitled, ‘The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run.’ She spoke to Susy Hodges about Father Stanley’s life, his mission and why it made such an impact on her.

Listen to this interview by Maria Scaperlanda: 

A U.S. Catholic writer and blogger, Scaperlanda was involved in collecting documentation for Father Stanley’s beatification cause.  She described how the priest grew up in a farming family and was used to being very “hands-on” when it came to tilling the land and fixing whatever was broken and he used those same skills to help the people in his mission parish in a remote area of Guatamala.

“Heart wrenching” decision

Asked about Father Stanley’s decision to return to his parish in Guatamala following a stay with his family in his native U.S. despite the death threats made against him Scaperlanda said it must have been “really really difficult ..... and heart wrenching” for him.  She likened it to Jesus’ mental torment in the Garden of Gethsamene shortly before his arrest and crucifixion.

“The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run”

Scaperlanda explained how the title for her book about Father Stanley “The Shepherd Who Didn’t Run” was taken from the priest’s words in a letter he wrote shortly before his return to Guatamala where he wrote that “a shepherd cannot run at the first sign of danger.”

“A great model for all Americans”

By choosing “to stand with his people” Father Stanley is “a model of faithful discipleship,” she said. He was an “ordinary man” who did “an amazing thing” and as such “can teach us to live holy lives.” This first U.S.-born martyr is “a great model for all Americans,” she said. 

Vatican Weekend for September 23rd, 2017

Vatican Weekend for September 23rd, 2017 features a report on Pope Francis’ general audience, the Vatican’s Foreign Minister reviews the world’s trouble spots in an exclusive interview, Pope Francis sets up a new Pontifical Institute for the study of marriage and the family with an expanded scope and Cardinal Farrell, formerly the Bishop of Dallas, speaks to us about the aims of the new dicastery he heads and the 2018 World Meeting of Families.

Listen to this program produced and presented by Susy Hodges:

Pope: "Church will apply firmest measures against those who abuse minors"

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has reiterated his pledge to combat the evil of clerical sex abuse affirming that at all levels, the Church will continue to respond applying the firmest of measures to “all those who have betrayed their call and abused God's children.

Listen to the report by Linda Bordoni:

He was addressing members of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors gathered for their Plenary Assembly.

The Commission is an institution that was established by the Pope to propose initiatives that ensure that crimes that have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church.   

In prepared remarks and after having listened to the greetings of Commission President, Cardinal O’Malley and other members of the Commission, Pope Francis said “I wish to share with you the profound pain I feel in my soul for the situation of abused children, as I have had occasion to do recently several times”. 

Painful experience for the Church

Describing the sex abuse scandal as a terrible evil for the whole of humanity, the Pope said it has also been a very painful experience for the Church: “We are ashamed of the abuses committed by holy ministers, who should be the most trustworthy”. 

“Let me say quite clearly that sexual abuse is a horrible sin, completely opposite and in contradiction to what Christ and the Church teach us” he said. 

Recalling the fact that he has had the privilege of listening to the stories that victims and survivors of abuses have wanted to share, Pope Francis observed that meetings such as these continue to nourish the personal commitment of all involved in the Commission to do everything possible to combat this evil and eliminate it. 

The Church to respond at all levels with the firmest measures 

“That is why, I reiterate today once again that the Church, at all levels, will respond with the application of the firmest measures against all those who have betrayed their call and abused the children of God” he said. 

The Pope stressed that the disciplinary measures must apply to all those who work in the institutions of the Church, but he pointed out that “the primary responsibility lies with Bishops, priests and religious”: those who have received from the Lord the vocation to offer their lives to serving the Church and this includes “the vigilant protection of all vulnerable children, young people and adults”. 

“For this reason, the Church irrevocably and at all levels seeks to apply the principle of "zero tolerance" against sexual abuse of minors” he said.

The Pope recalled his Motu Proprio entitled “As a Loving Mother” that was promulgated on the basis of a proposal by the Commission and in reference to the principle of responsibility in the Church. He said it addresses the cases of Diocesan Bishops, Eparches and Superior Generals of religious institutes who, through negligence, have carried out or omitted acts that may have caused serious harm to others, whether individuals or a community as a whole (see Article 1).

He said that over the last three years, since its establishment the Commission has consistently emphasized the most important principles guiding the Church's efforts to protect all vulnerable children and adults, thus fulfilling the mission entrusted to it as a "consultative function in the service of the Holy Father", offering its experience "in order to promote the responsibility of particular Churches in the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults" (Statute, Article 1).

Pope Francis said he was delighted to learn that many particular Churches have adopted the Commission’s recommendation for a Day of Prayer, and for dialogue with victims and survivors of abuses, as well as with representatives of victim organizations. 

“It is also encouraging to know how many Episcopal Conferences and Conferences of Superior Generals have sought your advice regarding the Guidelines for the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults” he said. 

Value of sharing best practices

He emphasized the value of sharing best practices - especially for those Churches that have fewer resources for this crucial work of protection – and encouraged the Commission to continue its collaboration with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples “so that these practices may be inculturated in the different Churches around the world”.

Lastly, Pope Francis praised the many initiatives that offer opportunities for learning, education and training promoted by the Commission as well as the fact that a presentation made last week to new bishops has been so favorably received.

“These educational programs offer the kind of resources that will enable Dioceses, Religious Institutes and all Catholic institutions to adopt and implement the most effective materials for this work”.

The Church: a place of piety and compassion 

The Pope concluded his address highlighting the fact that the Church is called to be a place of piety and compassion, especially for those who have suffered. 

“For all of us, the Catholic Church remains a field hospital that accompanies us on our spiritual journey. It is the place where we can sit with others, listen to them and share with them our struggles and our faith in the good news of Jesus Christ. I am fully confident that the Commission will continue to be a place where we can listen with interest to the voices of the victims and the survivors. Because we have much to learn from them and their personal stories of courage and perseverance” he said.

Pope Francis receives Italian Antimafia Parliamentary Commission

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday met with the Italian Antimafia Parliamentary Commission in the Vatican.

In his prepared remarks to the group, the Holy Father began by recalling 3 high profile figures killed by the mafia, Magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino, who were killed 25 years ago and Servant of God, Rosario Livatino, killed on September 21, 1990.

Corruption

The Pope, during his address underlined how “corruption always finds a way to justify itself, presenting itself as the "normal" condition, the solution for those who are "shrewd", the way to reach ones goals.” The Pope went on to say that, “it has a contagious and parasitic nature, because it does not nourish what good produces, but how it subtracts and robs.”

Authentic Politics

Authentic politics, said Pope Francis, “the one we recognize as an important form of charity, works instead to ensure a future of hope and to promote the dignity of each person. It is precisely because of this, he added, that it sees the struggle against mafias as a priority, since they steal the common good, taking away peoples hope and dignity.

Fighting mafias, the Holy Father continued, means not only repressing them. “It also means reclaiming, transforming, building, and this entails two levels of commitment.”

The first is the political one, through greater social justice, because mafias, he said,  put themselves forward as an alternative system in the area where rights and opportunities are lacking: work, home, education, and health care.

Economic commitment

The second level of commitment, said the Pope is the economic one, through the correction or removal of those mechanisms that generate inequality and poverty everywhere.

This dual level, political and economic, noted Pope Francis, presupposes another no less essential element, that is the construction of a new civil consciousness, the only one that can lead to true liberation from mafias.

 

Pope Francis: if you want mercy, know that you are sinners

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis said Mass on Thursday – the Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist – in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta in the Vatican.

In remarks following the Readings of the Day, which included St. Matthew’s own account of his conversion and calling into discipleship, the Holy Father focused on the three stages of the episode: calling, feasting, and scandal.

Jesus had just healed a paralytic, when He met Matthew – a tax-collector, hence a figure despised by Jewish authorities and considered a traitor to his land and people – sitting at the customs desk.

Jesus looked at him and said, “Follow me,” and Matthew got up and followed Him

Recalling Caravaggio’s famous depiction of the scene, Pope Francis spoke of Matthew’s “sidelong look” with one eye on Our Savior and the other on his purse: a look that was even stand-offish, if not outright aggressive. Then, there was the merciful gaze of Jesus, which communicated such overwhelming love that the resistance of the man who wanted the money, “fails”: Matthew got up and followed Him.

Click below to hear our report

“It is the struggle between mercy and sin,” Pope Francis said

Jesus’ love was able to enter into the heart of that man, Matthew, because he “knew he was a sinner,” he knew “he was not loved by anyone,” and was even despised. It was precisely “that sinful conscience, which opened the door to the mercy of Jesus.” So, “[Matthew] left everything” and went on a new journey with Our Lord.

This is the encounter between the sinner and Jesus:

“This is the first condition of salvation: feeling oneself in danger. It is the first condition of healing: feeling sick. Feeling sinful is the first condition of receiving this gaze of mercy. But let us think of the look of Jesus, so beautiful, so good, so merciful. And we, too, when we pray, we feel this look upon us; it is the look of love, the gaze of mercy, the gaze that saves us. Do not be afraid.”

Matthew – like Zaccheus – feeling happy, invited Jesus to come home to eat. The second stage is indeed “the party” – one of festivity. Matthew invited friends, “those of the same trade,” sinners and publicans.

The Pope said this recalls the words of Jesus in Chapter XV of Luke’s Gospel: “There will be more feasting in Heaven for a sinner who converts than for one hundred just men who will remain just.” This is the feast of the Father's meeting, the feast of mercy. Pope Francis said that Jesus is profligate with mercy, mercy for all.

Then comes the third moment: that of scandal

The Pharisees saw that publicans and sinners were at table with Jesus, and said to His disciples, “How is your Master eating with publicans and sinners?” Thus, Pope Francis noted, “Always a scandal begins with this phrase: ‘But how come?’” He went on to say, “When you hear this sentence, it smells,” and “scandal follows.” They were, in essence, scandalized by “the impurity of not following the law.” They knew “the Doctrine” very well, knew how to go “on the way of the Kingdom of God,” knew “better than anyone how things ought to have been done,” but “had forgotten the first commandment, of love.” Then, "”hey were locked in the cage of sacrifices,” perhaps thinking, “But let's make a sacrifice to God, let us do all we have to do, “so we are saved.” In summary, they believed that salvation came from themselves, they felt safe. “"No,” said Pope  Francis. “God saves us, saves us Jesus Christ”:

“That ‘how come?’, which we’ve heard so many times from Catholics when they saw works of mercy. How come? Jesus is clear, He is very clear: ‘Go and learn.’ He sent them to learn, right? ‘Go and learn what mercy means. [That’s what] I want, and not sacrifices, for I did not come to call the righteous but the sinners.’ If you want to be called by Jesus, recognize yourself a sinner.”

If you would receive mercy, recognize yourselves as sinners

Francis exhorted us, therefore, to recognize ourselves as sinners, not guilty of “sin” in the abstract but guilty of “concrete sins”: so many “we all have committed them,” he said. “Let us look on Jesus with that merciful glance full of love,” he continued.

While still dwelling on the scandal, he noted that there are so many:

“There are so many, many – and always, even in the Church today. They say, ‘No, you cannot, it’s all clear, it’s all, no, no – those are sinners, we have to turn them away.’ Many saints have also been persecuted or suspected. We think of St. Joan of Arc, sent to the stake, because they thought she was a witch, and condemned her. A saint! Think of Saint Teresa, suspected of heresy, think of Bl. [Antonio] Rosmini. ‘Mercy I desire, and not sacrifices.’ And the door to meet Jesus is recognizing ourselves as we are: the truth [about orselves], [that we are] Sinners. And he comes, and we meet. It is very beautiful to meet Jesus.”

Holy See ratifies treaty on the prohibition of nuclear arms

(Vatican Radio) The Holy See on Thursday became one of the first entities to sign and ratify a new treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons. The treaty was signed by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, for the Holy See, and in the name of and on behalf of Vatican City State.

More than 40 countries signed the treaty during a high level signing ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Along with the Holy See, Thailand also ratified the treaty. More nations are expected to sign in coming days, with the treaty set to go into effect 90 days after it has been ratified by at least 50 nations.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons prohibits a full range of nuclear-weapon-related activities, such as undertaking to develop, test, produce, manufacture, acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, as well as the use or threat of use of these weapons.

More than 120 nations adopted the treaty on 7 July 2017; however, most nations that already possess nuclear arms did not take part in the negotiations.

The following press release was issued following the ceremony.

COMMUNIQUÉ

Yesterday, 20 September 2017, at the United Nations building in New York, H.E. Msgr. Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for Relations with States, signed for the Holy See and also in the name of and behalf of Vatican City State, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted on 7 July 2017 at the end of the United Nations Conference aimed at negotiating a legally binding instrument for prohibiting nuclear weapons. The signing took place during the High Level Ceremony for the opening of the signing of the Treaty. At the same time H.E. Msgr. Gallagher handed over the relative instrument of ratification.

Pursuant to Article 15, paragraph 1 of the Treaty, it will enter into force for the Holy See and for Vatican City State ninety days after the deposit of the fiftieth instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or adhesion.

 

Rescuers continue search for survivors after Mexico quake

(Vatican Radio) Mexico's president has declared three days of national mourning following the 7.1 earthquake which has killed more than 200 people, devastating large areas of Mexico City, the surrounding area, and nearby neighbouring states.

James Blears is in Mexico City. Listen to his report:

Rescue services, the armed forces, and federal police have been carefully removing rubble at the Enrique Rebsamen kindergarten, primary and secondary school in southern Mexico City.  So far it's reported that 32 children and five adults have died.  More children are still trapped and could yet be rescued alive. 

In Puebla state to the south east, which was the epicentre of the quake, a church collapsed during a service with great loss of life.  The state of Morelos to the south of Mexico City has also suffered many deaths and massive structural damage.  The quake occurred on the 32 anniversary of another earthquake which killed more than 10,000 people.  Many can hardly believe the tragic coincidence.

Pope prays for Mexican earthquake victims

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis at his weekly General Audience on Wednesday expressed his closeness to the people of Mexico after the country was hit Tuesday by a powerful earthquake.

"Here among you (in St Peter’s Square), the Pope said, there are many Mexicans; the earthquake has caused casualties and material damage and in this moment of pain I express my closeness to the whole Mexican population ".

He continued, “I ask Almighty God to welcome all those who lost their lives", and he also remembered the rescue workers involved in helping those affected.

Finally, the Holy Father, invoked the Our Lady of Guadalupe, so dear to the Mexican nation.