For Pope Francis, ‘the liturgical reform is irreversible’

August 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 5

Vatican City, Aug 24, 2017 / 12:49 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- On Thursday Pope Francis told a group of Italian liturgists that while the process of implementing the liturgical reform following Vatican II has been a long and at times bumpy task, the reform is “irreversible.”

“After this magisterium, after this long journey we can affirm with certainty and with magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible,” the Pope said Aug. 24 at the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall to participants in the Italian National Liturgical Week.

The week, which this year is exploring the theme “A living liturgy for a living Church”, is organized by the Center for Liturgical Action.

Pope Francis noted that the center has existed for 70 years, and recalled the history of the 20th century liturgical movement, saying that “in the history of the liturgy, events have occurred which are substantial and not superficial.”

“There are two directly related events, the Council and the reform, which did not blossom suddenly, but after long preparation,” Francis said.

He referenced steps taken both by St. Pius X, who aimed to restore Gregorian chant with his 1903 motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini and who formed a commission on liturgical renewal ten years later; and by Venerable Pius XII, who introduced a revised psalter, attenuated the Eucharistic fast, allowed some use of the vernacular in ritual, and reformed Holy Week.

Francis also referred to Ven. Pius XII’s 1947 encyclical on the sacred liturgy, Mediator Dei. In that document the late Pope had said, among other things, that “one would be straying from the straight path were he to wish the altar restored to its primitive tableform” and that the assertion that priests cannot offer Mass at different altars at the same time is among “certain exaggerations and over-statements which are not in agreement with the true teaching of the Church.”

These culminated, Francis argued, in Vatican II’s constitution on the sacred liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, “whose lines of general reform respond to real needs and to the concrete hope of a renewal; it desired a living liturgy for a Church completely vivified by the mysteries celebrated.”

He asserted that the direction traced by the Second Vatican Council “took form according to the principle of respect for sound tradition and legitimate progress in the liturgical books promulgated by Blessed Paul VI.”

The application of these changes is a lengthy process and is still ongoing, he said, noting that this is in part because “it is not enough to reform the liturgical books; the mentality of the people must be reformed as well.”

The reformation of liturgical texts “introduced a process that demands time, faithful reception, practical obedience, and wise implementation” not only from ordained ministers, but from all who participate in the liturgy, he said. “In truth, we know, the liturgical education of pastors and the faithful is a challenge to be faced ever anew.”

Seeming to acknowledge the varied reception of the liturgical reforms which followed Vatican II, he quoted from a 1977 address of Bl. Paul VI to a consistory of cardinals declaring that “The time has now come definitely to leave aside divisive ferments.”

“And today, there is still work to do in this direction, in particular rediscovering the reasons for the decisions made with the liturgical reform, overcoming unfounded and superficial readings, partial receptions, and practices that disfigure it,” he declared.

“It is not a matter of rethinking the reform by reviewing its choices, but of knowing better the underlying reasons, even through historical documentation, of internalizing its inspirational principles and of observing the discipline that governs it.”

This comes as Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, has in recent years called a “reform of the reform” a “spiritual necessity”, saying its possibility or desirability cannot be dismissed and that “that there has been an increasing amount of critical study by faithful sons and daughters of the Church asking whether what was in fact produced truly implemented the aims of [Sacrosanctum Concilium], or whether in reality they went beyond them.”

Having iterated the irreversibility of the liturgical reform, Pope Francis then turned to the theme of the liturgical week, “ A living liturgy for a living Church”.

The Church sought a liturgy that was “alive” and helped the Church to become “fully enlivened by the celebrated mysteries,” he said.

Quoting Sacrosanctum Concilium, he said faithful shouldn’t go to the liturgy “as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration.”

Pope Francis then outlined three key points to living the liturgy, which he said is centered on Christ, involves the entire people of God, and serves as a school of Christian life.

The liturgy “is alive” thanks to the sacrifice of Christ, who through his death and resurrection gave us new life, the Pope said, explaining that without “the real presence of the mystery of Christ, there is no liturgical vitality.”

“As without a heartbeat there is no human life, so without the beating heart of Christ no liturgical action exists,” he said.

Going on, Francis said the liturgy is also a source of life “for the entire people of the Church,” and because of this, her nature is in fact “popular” and not “clerical,” since it’s ultimately an action “for the people, but also by the people.”

Even in her many liturgical prayers the Church recalls that the liturgy itself is an action of God for the good of the people, but it’s also an action from the people, “who listen to God” and praise him through the various signs they perform.

The Church, he said, gathers together all those whose heart is open to hearing the Gospel, including “the small and the great, the rich and the poor, children and elderly, healthy and sick, the just and sinners.” Thus, in Christ the liturgical assembly surpasses “every boundary of age, race, language and nation.”

In fact, the Pope said the “popular” scope of the liturgy “reminds us that it is inclusive and not exclusive, advocating communion with all but without being homologous.”

Finally, Francis said the liturgy serves as a “school of Christian life,” which initiates a process of “transforming the way of thinking and acting, and not filling a bag of it’s own ideas about God.”

“The liturgy is life and not an idea to understand,” he said. Nor is it “a doctrine to understand or a rite to complete.”

“It’s naturally also this but in another way, it’s essentially different: it’s a source of life and light for our journey of faith.”

Pope Francis closed his address by telling attendees that the Church is only truly alive if she “brings life, is mother and is missionary, going out to meet the other, urging to service without pursuing worldly powers that make it sterile.”

He also noted that the “richness” of the liturgy extends beyond the Roman Rite, and pointed to the liturgical “harmony” the Catholic Church shares with Eastern rites.

“The harmony of the ritual traditions, from East to West, by the breath of the same Spirit gives voice to the one prayer for Christ, with Christ and in Christ, for the glory of the Father and for the salvation of the world,” he said.

Francis closes his speech noting that in the effort to promote liturgical reform, “fatigue is not lacking, but neither is joy!” and asked participants to help not only pastors, but all who participate in the liturgy,  “to cooperate so that the liturgy is the source and culmination of the vitality of the Church.”


Elise Harris contributed to this report.


The rise of the ‘alt-right’ – how should the Church respond?

August 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 4

Washington D.C., Aug 24, 2017 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- People are probably familiar with white supremacist groups like neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan – both of which made an appearance at the violent rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia that shocked the nation and the world.

But what of the self-described “alt-right” movement, which drew a younger crowd and appears to espouse some of the same tenets? Is it just the same white nationalism, re-manifested?  

And, what is white nationalism, exactly? Although there’s intense historical and contemporary disagreement over which ethnicities count as “white,” the phrase could be summed up as an ideology which holds that there is a distinct white “race.” What’s more, white nationalists advocate for the protection and advancement of so-called “white” nations and cultures against perceived threats like miscegenation, immigration and multiculturalism.

While some of the ideologies behind white nationalism are rooted in 18th and early 19th century racial politics, a large portion of the movement’s rhetoric stems from the rise of nationalism as a political model, along with common conceptions of race and eugenics popular at the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The “alt-right” movement, centered on nationalism and far right-wing politics, was named so in 2010 by self-avowed white nationalist Richard Spencer, and includes many white nationalist members.
The movement has coalesced online around an ever-evolving lexicon of memes and jokes, a focus on preserving what they call “white identity,” and vocal resistance to that identity’s perceived threats – including from immigrants, feminists, Muslims and Jews.

Alt-right blogger voxday described how he thinks the movement conceives of its goals, pointing out its “philosophy of offense” and nationalism. At “alt-right” events and in “alt-right” webspace, overtly racist terms like “The Daily Shoah” – referencing the Holocaust – and “cuck” (short for “cuckhold” – a vulgar term for miscegenation), find their way into the lexicon of terms used next to frog cartoons and Twitter screen caps.

Phillip de Mahy, a Ph.D. student studying at the Catholic University of America, researches online communities and explained some of the trends that mark the alt-right movement.

One of the most important aspects of the movement, he told CNA, is its shifting set of beliefs and alliances. “If you look at the message boards,” de Mahy explained, “there’s lots of disagreement about who’s in or out.” The tactics and political goals of the movement as a whole are also difficult to define with precision, he said.

“There’s many people in the alt-right who will say this is just the logical extension of the Republican platform,” de Mahy said, noting that in many cases, the alt-right supports many of the same policies or actions of conventional Republicans on issues like immigration or foreign policy.

However, what differentiates the two groups, he says, are the reasons that the alt-right and other white nationalist groups have for supporting these positions. They do so to “bring about the racial purity of the nation,” he said.   

“I don’t think there’s many people that would identify with the movement who would have any trouble saying that, euphemistically, it’s White Identity politics or Pro-White politics, which is, in reality, White Nationalism,” de Mahy clarified.

However, according to “Ignatius,” a former writer for Breitbart who spent time observing the alt-right, the history of the movement is slightly more complex. What differentiates the alt-right from other racist groups, he said, is its use of the internet and internet culture.

“If you look at its origins and growth, it’s almost entirely from internet forums, based on internet memes, and consequentially it has the infectious nature of the memes,” he said in a written response to CNA.

Historically, the alt-right has organized around this culture which has accepted a range of controversial anti-feminist, anti-Islam, anti-immigration and white nationalist beliefs.

However, Ignatius pointed out, many Catholics who have political beliefs that could be considered alt-right “realize the evil of racism, how race is such a malleable and meaningless concept, how opposed, to Church teaching it is.”

And many of these people have been drawn to the movement by its strong denunciation of perceived problems within modern society, he said. However, even for those who don’t initially hold racist views themselves, the alt-right could still prove dangerous, Ignatius noted.

In many places in the movement, it is “more permissible for someone to be slightly racist” than it is for them to promote monarchist or feudalist ideals, he said. Thus, when some casual members of the group’s internet meme culture seek an ideological home in the alt-right, “it’s incredibly easy to slip into all forms of horrendous racism,” he warned.

“The alt-right requires one to sublimate religion to race in a lot of ways, hence calling the pope a ‘cuck,’” or “disliking” Guinean cardinal Robert Sarah, he said.

Furthermore, many members of the alt-right who were focused on other forms of nationalism but who were not racist have left the movement in the wake of the 2016 election, he said.

During the presidential election, groups like “traditionalists, white nationalists, libertarians, civic nationalists” all coalesced, but since then “non-overtly-racist civic nationalists” have left the movement. This has allowed the more openly white nationalist elements to define what the alt-right is, both within online communities and to the outside world,” Ignatius said.

“Although I’ve said that the alt right is nebulous to the point where it’s hard to call them universally racists, it’s accurate to say it’s a racist movement.”

There are other morally reprehensible beliefs held by some in the alt-right, he noted, particularly support for abortion in non-white communities and the belief in paganism of some members.

In an April 2016 article for Radix Journal – a publication started by Richard Spencer – Aylmer Fisher pushed back against what he called the “pro-life temptation.”

Fisher argued that the pro-life position is “dysgenic” because it does not oppose birth among populations that are more likely to be below the poverty line and more likely to be of African-American or Hispanic heritage.  

“Not only is the pro-life movement dysgenic,” Fisher wrote, “but its justifications rely on principles we generally reject. The alt-right is skeptical, to say the least, of concepts like ‘equality’ and ‘human rights,’ especially as bases for policy. The unborn fetus has no connection to anyone else in the community.”

He criticized pro-lifers, saying that those who are interested in “banning abortion because it’s ‘racist’ or adopting children from Africa, are the ultimate cuckservatives.”

While it’s unclear how seriously most members of the alt-right promote abortion, or how many support abortion access, it’s been a “consistent” topic of conversation among some of the group’s most vocal leaders and on some message boards, de Mahy said.  

“They’re very explicit about the fact that this is a form of eugenics and that’s a good thing,” he said. Ultimately, “the alt-right would consider themselves to be pro-white and differing on the specifics of how to realize the furthering of the White Race. They would disagree about whether some things are pragmatic,” he said of support for abortion.

And while some members of the alt-right are Christian and while some see the Christian legacy – like historic Christian Europe – as a foundation for their worldview, others just see it as a vehicle for carrying their racist agenda. Or, they despise Christianity altogether.

“A lot of these people are very explicitly Atheist,” de Mahy said. “The overarching understanding of religion is largely instrumentalist.”

Some argue that Christianity is a compromised belief system because it is not defined by ethnic ties, and they find an alternative in paganism – particularly Nordic paganism – and its ties to the historic peoples of European descent.

Joseph Pearce, a senior editor at the Augustine Institute, has written a book about his previous involvement in the white supremacist movement and his subsequent conversion, “Race With the Devil: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love.” He recently wrote an opinion piece in the National Catholic Register, “Charlottesville Through the Eyes of an ex-White Supremacist.”

In his youth, Pearce had joined a white supremacist party in Great Britain, edited a white supremacist magazine, and was involved in violent street encounters with political opponents. Pearce twice spent time in prison, yet began reading St. Thomas Aquinas, Blessed John Henry Newman, and other Catholic authors during his second prison term on his path to conversion.

But why might young people be attracted to the white supremacist movement? Pearce told CAN that he joined it the because of “pride.” This also motivates other young men who are joining the movement today, he said, because “we live in a culture which is antithetical to Christianity, because it elevates pride.”

Younger generations are “all about self-identity now, basically constructing a cosmos in conformity with your own desires, wishes, prejudices,” he said. And they are looking to “tribalism,” which racism is a part of, because that offers a collective sense of pride.

“I think that tribalism’s on the rise because we’re not teaching generations these days about virtue, about Christianity, about humility, about love being laying down your life for the beloved, which is the other, including your enemy,” he said.

“We’re producing whole generations of people who are animated and motivated by pride, and racial pride will be one of those manifestations.”

For those who seriously believe in white nationalism, Catholics must forcefully condemn their beliefs but pray for their souls, Pearce said.

“I was a white supremacist. I went to prison twice. I was demonized by the culture, perhaps rightly so,” he said. “Certainly my ideas should have been demonized by the culture.”

“But I was a human being, and I wasn’t beyond the reach of the love of God, because God reached me in the prison cell,” he said, noting that his conversion began while he was serving his second prison sentence at the age of 24.

For one who is part of the white nationalist movement, we must be “hoping that he can be brought to the love of Christ and brought to conversion,” Pearce said. “God laid down his life for sinners, and we’re all sinners.”


Chilean court sidesteps constitution, paves way for legal abortion

August 23, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Santiago, Chile, Aug 24, 2017 / 12:25 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Chilean court ruled this week in favor of a controversial bill that allows abortion in some cases, against the objections of pro-life advocates who pointed to the Constitution’s explicit protections for the unborn.

The bill allows for abortion in cases of rape, danger to the mother’s life, and when the baby is deemed to be “unviable.” The legislation had been promoted for years by President Michelle Bachelet and was recently passed by the Senate.

However, opponents of the bill had challenged it in court, arguing that it collides with the duty in the Chilean Constitution to “protect the life of the unborn.”

After a three-day debate, the Constitutional Court of Chile ruled in a 6-4 vote that the bill did not violate the Constitution. The court will issue its final report next week, allowing the bill to be signed into law.

The country, which is predominantly Catholic, had previously had some of the most pro-life laws of any country in the world.

Patricia Gonnelle, legislative coordinator for Chile is Life, told CNA that it is hard for pro-life organizations to “hold back the pain and grief” at the ruling, which she described as being partly due to political pressure.

“We lament that the court, which listened to all the most powerful medical testimony, did not accept what the doctors said. And there was no doctor in support of the bill who came to show up for that abortion bill, and that gives you a lot to think about, it’s worrisome,” she added.

Still, Gonnelle said, the pro-life movement is not giving up.

“Pro-life organizations will carry on as always, that is, supporting women in situations of conflict and much pain. They will not change their work, as they have always done for many, many years.”

“With an abortion law, it’s getting harder, but life will always win. It’s just a matter of time, and that fills our hearts with joy,” she said.

The standing committee of the Chilean Bishops’ Conference responded to the ruling by saying that “it is the entire society that loses with the legalization of abortion in Chile, even if it be under certain conditions.”

“We are facing a new situation in which some unborn human beings are left unprotected by the State in this basic and fundamental right.”

From a legal perspective, the ruling violates the Constitution’s protections of unborn human life, while from an anthropological perspective that sees human dignity as the “center of social coexistence,” it is “incomprehensible,” the bishops said.

Meanwhile, when viewed through the lens of the faith that a large segment of Chilean society professes, “the resolution that has just been adopted and that declares the abortion bill to be in conformity with the Constitution offends the conscience and the common good of citizens,” they added.

The bishops voiced their gratitude to all individuals, groups, and lawmakers who have worked to protect human life within the legal system.

They pledged to “continue supporting women going through difficult circumstances in their pregnancy, those that decide to continue the pregnancy and those who think that abortion is a solution.”

“The Church, the people of God at the service of all, particularly the weakest, always offers its hands and extends an embrace of service to all people who need peace, protection, support and consolation.”



Catholic leaders decry brutal police killings in Philippines

August 23, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Manila, Philippines, Aug 23, 2017 / 05:01 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As police and vigilante killings continue under President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal campaign against illegal drugs, Catholic leaders in the Philippines have decried the bloodshed, begging the nation to stop support of the escalating violence.

Considered the deadliest week since Duterte’s war on drugs was launched last year, more than 70 alleged drug offenders were killed last week, including 17-year-old Kian Loyd de los Santos.

His death has sparked public outrage after surveillance footage of the attack appears to show the boy being dragged by police, and witnesses say he was beaten, handed a gun, told to run and then shot, contradicting a police report claiming he shot first.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan and Cardinal Luis Tagle of Manila both denounced public support for the killings of suspected drug offenders over the weekend, calling on the nation to be courageous and vocal in opposing the violence.

“The country is [in] chaos. The officer who kills is rewarded and the slain get the blame. The corpses could no longer defend themselves from accusations that they fought back,” Archbishop Villegas said in a pastoral exhortation Aug. 20.

“They say that if there are 32 killed every day, our lives would be better, and our countrymen nod in agreement. They applaud and cry with a smile … while counting corpses in the night, while passing wakes for the dead left and right. It’s not in our nature to be happy over the killings.”

In his own message, Cardinal Tagle said that the danger and destruction caused by illegal drugs is real, but that the problem “should not be reduced to a political or criminal issue,” but is rather “a humanitarian concern that affects all of us.”

Police officers and vigilantes have killed more than 7,000 persons in the drug trade from July 2016 through January 2017, according to numbers provided by the Philippine National Police. The alleged suspects are usually shot by police under the allegation that they attacked first.

In response, Archbishop Villegas has asked for all church bells in his archdiocese to ring for 15 minutes each night beginning Aug. 22, memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, until Nov. 27.

He said they are ringing the bells in prayer for all of the victims of the police operations in the Pampanga province and in the metro area of Manila last week. They also serve as an audible reminder each night to be brave in acting against the killings.

“Don’t we know how to weep?” Archbishop Villegas asked. “Why aren’t we shocked by the gunfire and flow of blood on the sidewalk? Why aren’t we angry at the flow of drugs from China? Why is it that it’s only the poor who are shot while if a rich person with connections with higher ups is tagged, there needs to be an investigation and affidavit first.”

Cardinal Tagle decried the illegal drug problem, saying. “We knock on the consciences of those manufacturing and selling illegal drugs to stop this activity.”

“We knock on the consciences of those who kill even the helpless, especially those who cover their faces with bonnets, to stop wasting human lives,” he continued, referring to the drug killings carried out by vigilantes who wear civilian clothes and cover their faces and heads with masks and hats.

He encouraged the nation to instead support peaceful means of drug reform, such as the parish-based rehabilitation program in Manila called Sanlakbay.

Cardinal Tagle has also asked all parishes in the archdiocese to observe nine days of special prayer at all Masses from Aug. 21-29 “for the repose of those who have died in this war, for the strength of their families, for the perseverance of those recovering from addiction and the conversion of killers.”

Elected president in May 2016, Duterte ran for office on a platform of taking strong action against the drug trade in the country, making shocking statements to underline his commitment to action.

“Forget the laws on human rights. If I make it to the presidential palace, I will do just what I did as mayor,” the BBC reported him saying. Duterte was previously the mayor of the city of Davao, where he made a name for himself as the “death squad mayor.”

“You drug pushers, hold-up men and do-nothings, you better go out. Because I’d kill you,” he said while running for president. “I’ll dump all of you into Manila Bay, and fatten all the fish there.”

Duterte, whose popularity remains high, praised the killing of 32 people in police raids across Pampanga province Aug. 14, saying, “Those who died in Bulacan, 32, in a massive raid, that’s good. If we can kill another 32 every day, then maybe we can reduce what ails this country.”


Parolin, Kirill: we have reached a ‘new stage’ in Church relations

August 23, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Moscow, Russia, Aug 23, 2017 / 12:50 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a joint meeting during Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s visit to Russia this week, both he and Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill said the trip marks “a new stage” in relations between their Churches.

This stage, they said, is thanks not only to Pope Francis’ meeting with Patriarch Kirill in Havana in February 2016, but is also due to the loaning of the relics of St. Nicholas to Russia over the summer, drawing millions of Orthodox faithful for veneration.

Cardinal Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, was welcomed to Patriarch Kirill’s residence at the monastery of St. Daniel Aug. 22, where the two met as part of Cardinal Parolin’s Aug. 21-24 visit to Moscow.

Taking place 18 months after meeting between Francis and Patriarch Kirill, Parolin’s visit marks the first time a Vatican Secretary of State has traveled to Moscow in 18 years.

According to an Aug. 23 statement from the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow, at the beginning of the meeting Patriarch Kirill said the meeting between he and Cardinal Parolin was possible due to “the development of relations between the Russian Federation and the Holy See.”

“But it is with still greater satisfaction that I see the development of relations between our Churches,” he said, noting that his meeting with Pope Francis provided new impetus for cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.

“This fact testifies that a new stage has indeed begun in our relations with events of great importance, which have been possible because in Havana we agreed our positions on many current issues,” he said, adding that “this communion of positions allows us to build plans and give them real content.”

Cardinal Parolin echoed the sentiment, offering Pope Francis’ greeting to “my brother Kirill,” and affirming the patriarch’s observation that the Havana encounter “has laid the foundation for a new stage in the relationship between our Churches, giving new impetus to these relations,” according to Vatican Radio.

A key highlight of the conversation between the two was the transfer of the relics of St. Nicholas of Bari, one of the most revered saints in the Russian Orthodox Church, to Moscow earlier this summer.

Consisting of several fragments of his ribs, the relics were flown on a chartered plane to Moscow, where they stayed in the Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior from May 22-July 12 before going to St. Petersburg from July 13-28, marking the first time in nearly 1,000 years that the relics of the 4th century saint had been moved from their resting place in Bari.

Calling the visit of the relics an “exceptional event for the story of our Churches,” Cardinal Parolin said the event is an example of “the ecumenism of sanctity, it’s true, it exists.”

“The saints unite us because they are close to God and so it is they who help us to overcome the difficulties of past relations due to previous situations, and to always walk more rapidly toward fraternal embrace and Eucharistic communion,” he said.  

According to the statement from the patriarchate, more than 2.3 million Orthodox faithful from all over Russia cued up to venerate the relics, at times waiting 6-10 hours to get in. Many elderly and sick also came, and were able to skip the long lines.  

Patriarch Kirill noted that when they waived goodbye to the relics, he told his faithful that “neither ecclesiastical diplomacy nor government diplomacy could do as much for the development of relations between the Catholic world and the Orthodox world as what St. Nicholas did.”

St Nicholas, he said, “has entered into the history of relations between our Churches as a particularly brilliant and luminous page. It is a spiritual consequence of our meeting in Havana.”

As with prior meetings Cardinal Parolin had this week, other key talking points between the two were conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, and the need to seek peaceful solutions while working together to provide humanitarian aid.

On the crisis in Ukraine, Patriarch Kirill stressed that the Church “can play no other role than that of pacification when people are in conflict with each other,” and voiced gratitude for the fact that “our Churches share much the same position on the role of the Church in the conflict in Ukraine.”

Cardinal Parolin voiced much the same point of view in his meeting with Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, President of the Department for External Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, the day before.

In his comments, Patriarch Kirill noted that “conflicts do not last forever and sooner or later they end,” but questioned that “if all social efforts are involved in the conflict, then who will pick up the stones?”

“I appreciate very much the fact that once again we have found mutual understanding on the role that our Churches must play in the reconciliation of the population in Ukraine,” he said.

When it comes to the Middle East, mention was made of the agreement the two Churches found on conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa during last year’s meeting in Havana.

“The collaboration between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church in providing humanitarian assistance to the populations suffering due to conflicts in the Middle East can be an important factor of unity,” Patriarch Kirill said, adding that cooperation in providing aid can provide a basis for common projects in the Middle East in the future.

Following his meeting with the patriarch, Cardinal Parolin visited Putin at the presidential residence in Sochi, nearly 900 miles southwest of Saratov.

During their hour-long meeting “carried out in a positive and cordial climate, one of respect and listening to each other,” they had an “open exchange of views on various subject matters relating to international and bilateral relations,” according to a statement from the Holy See press office.

They exchanged gifts, with Cardinal Parolin giving the Russian president a bronze olive branch as a symbol of peace, and Putin giving the Vatican secretary of state a set of collector coins commemorating the 2014 Olympics, which were held in Sochi.

Cardinal Parolin is travelling back to Moscow, where he will say a private Mass at the nunciature Aug. 24 before his return to Rome.


Could the canonization of Bl. Pier Giorgio happen next year?

August 23, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Aug 23, 2017 / 09:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Ahead of the 2018 synod on youth in Rome, a group of Catholic young people are asking for testimonies and signatures in support of the canonization of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.

“We ask for this canonization because Bl. Pier Giorgio is in a special way ‘one of us’ – a young person,” organizers said in a letter to Pope Francis posted on their website.

“He did not found any great congregations or rise to any powerful positions; rather, he simply lived his ordinary Christian life with extraordinary love for God and other people.”

Launched in May of this year, the site has already received 1,540 signatures from over 50 countries, and will be presented to Pope Francis before the synod on “Youth, Faith, and Discernment” expected to take place in October 2018. Next year’s synod in Rome is not only an inquiry into the background and religious experience of people aged 16 through 29, but an exploration of how the Church can best aid youth in their vocational discernment.  

The Bl. Pier Giorgio petition is receiving signatures and testimonies of Catholics around the world who have experienced his intercession and have been moved by his Christian witness. Every Sunday, the number of signatures will be updated on the site.  

Out of his zealous love for Christ, the Italian youth encountered his friendships, work, and dedication to the poor with great passion during his life at the beginning of the 20th century. However, he did so in little ways, say petition organizers.

“He did not found any great congregations or rise to any powerful positions; rather, he simply lived his ordinary Christian life with extraordinary love for God and other people.”

At the young age of 24, Bl. Pier Giorgio contracted polio and died soon after. Not only did elite crowds associated with his family attend his funeral, but also thousands of mourners, including impoverished people whom he had helped.

Many testimonies on the site spoke of being impressed by his loving nature, while relating to a man who enjoyed beer, cigars, and mountain expositions – and who also struggled with his studies and family life.

In one of the U.S. testimonies, a young person named Melanie said she decided to come back to the Church when she discovered the life of this man who “was…funny! And liked beer! And played pranks on people, and climbed mountains, and was in love with a beautiful girl.”

Another testimony from a young person, Jufre from the Philippines, described how Bl. Pier Giorgio’s witness and intercession helped him decide to join the Franciscan order, noting that “Bl. Pier is one of those who helped me to discern what kind of life God is really calling me to.”

The letter acknowledged the difficulty many youth have in living the Christian life within contemporary society, and the temptation among young people to doubt the possibility of sainthood.

“We know this is not the case, but to combat these thoughts, we need also to be shown that this is not the case. We need a saint who is ‘one of us’ – still young, not entirely sure what big plans God might have for him or her, and living not in some distant era but in our own age.”

In their letter, organizers ask that the synod bishops and Pope Francis push for the Italian’s canonization, noting that Bl. Pier Giorgio would be a perfect example of  the synod’s major theme – namely how youth discern God’s will.

“He did not wait for the big decision to be made or the concrete direction his life would take to be clear to begin making the heroic daily decisions to love that characterized his young life,” they said.

“He is thus a model for us of discernment, showing that the bigger vocational questions are often answered gradually through the daily discernment of how to love concretely those before us.”