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With an excess of bad news, Pope tells media to offer a message of hope

January 24, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jan 24, 2017 / 03:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his annual message to communicators around the world, Pope Francis again condemned the tendency for media to focus on the “bad news,” saying journalists, while being accurate, must also offer a message of hope.

“We have to break the vicious circle of anxiety and stem the spiral of fear resulting from a constant focus on ‘bad news,’” such as war, terrorism, scandal and other human failures, the Pope said in his message for the World Day of Social Communications.

It was published Jan. 24 to mark the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers, journalists and the Catholic press. The actual day of communications will be celebrated May 28, and will focus on the theme of the Pope’s message: “Fear not, for I am with you: Communicating Hope and Trust in our Time.”

In his message, the Pope said steering clear of bad news “has nothing to do with spreading misinformation that would ignore the tragedy of human suffering,” and neither does in involve “a naive optimism blind to the scandal of evil.”

“Rather, I propose that all of us work at overcoming that feeling of growing discontent and resignation that can at times generate apathy, fear or the idea that evil has no limits,” he said.

Pointing to those in the communications industry who operate with the mentality that “good news does not sell,” and where evil and human suffering often become a form “entertainment,” Francis stressed that “there is always the temptation that our consciences can be dulled or slip into pessimism.”

He urged those who work in the field of communications to pursue “an open and creative style of communication that never seeks to glamourize evil,” but rather tries to focus “on solutions and to inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipients.”

“I ask everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart ‘good news,’” he said.

Pope Francis’ appeal for a more positive take on the news isn’t the first time he’s made such a request, nor is it the first time he’s condemned journalists who always focus on negativity and scandal.

In an interview with Belgian weekly magazine “Tertio” published Dec. 7, 2016, the Pope gave a stern warning to journalists to steer clear of the temptations of slander, defamation, misinformation and focusing excessively on scandal.

Using vivid language, he compared the latter to the disease of “coprophilia,” a mental illness in which a person has an abnormal interest in feces.

A few months earlier, Francis dedicated his prayer intention for October 2016, to praying for journalists, specifically asking that they be truthful and ethical in their reporting.

In his message for the world day of communications, the Pope noted that thanks to modern technology, media “makes it possible for countless people to share news instantly and spread it widely.”

“That news may be good or bad, true or false,” he said, recalling how early Christians compared the human mind to a “constantly grinding millstone.” In this image, it is up to the miller to decide what grind: “good wheat or worthless weeds.”

For those who are constantly “grinding out information” in their personal and professional lives, it’s important to engage in “constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice toward others and foster a culture of encounter,” he said, adding that this will help everyone “to view the world around us with realism and trust.”

When it comes to reporting the good news rather than always focusing on the bad, Francis said we have to change the lens thought which we view reality. For Christians, he said, this above all means viewing reality through the lens of “the Good News par excellence: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God.”

“This good news – Jesus himself – is not good because it has nothing to do with suffering, but rather because suffering itself becomes part of a bigger picture,” he said, noting that this suffering is “an integral part of Jesus’ love for the Father and for all mankind.”

With Christ, “even darkness and death become a point of encounter with light and life,” he said, adding that from here a hope “accessible to everyone” is born and “does not disappoint,” since from this hope God’s enters our hearts.

“Seen in this light, every new tragedy that occurs in the world’s history can also become a setting for good news, inasmuch as love can find a way to draw near and to raise up sympathetic hearts, resolute faces and hands ready to build anew,” he said.

Pope Francis then used Jesus’ Ascension into heaven as an example of what our hope is based on, saying that even though the Lord might appear distant at the moment, “the horizons of hope expand all the more.”

With the help and power of the Holy Spirit, we can become both “witnesses and communicators” of a renewed and redeemed humanity throughout the world, he said.

Confidence in “the seed of God’s Kingdom” spread throughout the world ought also shape the way we communicate, he said, adding that this confidence allows everyone in the communications field to carry out their work with the conviction “that it is possible to recognize and highlight the good news present in every story and in the face of each person.”

In a Jan. 24 news briefing for the publication of the Pope’s message, Msgr. Dario Eduardo Vigano, Prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications, stressed the importance of having “constructive communication,” that leans neither toward scandal nor optimism, but is realistic.

It’s important to not “make evil the protagonist,” even when reporting on tragic events, he said, and also warned journalists to steer clear of hypocrisy, which he called an “impure gaze” of reality that “impedes charity.”

Also present at the briefing was Delia Gallagher, Vatican correspondent for CNN, who said the Pope’s document was “an opportune message” that’s important for news agencies to keep in mind.

She focused specifically on the need to be accurate when reporting the news, saying one “can’t be a good journalist if they are not certain of the facts.”

Pope Francis’ message provides a path “if not of truth, precision – to give the news accurately,” she said, and used the Pope himself and how he is often reported as an example.

While it’s not always easy to convey his message due to translations and a variety of other challenges, it’s important to stick to the facts and “to give the context when he says something,” rather than just reporting on snippet of what he said without offering the reader the full picture.

“It’s a job that seems easy, but requires experience,” she said, encouraging her colleagues to be accurate and precise, adding that “from the good news can also come from this.”


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Mafia crime is ‘radically opposed’ to the Gospel, Pope says

January 23, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jan 23, 2017 / 07:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Frequently an outspoken critic against organized crime, Pope Francis again came out with harsh words for those involved in the mafia and other criminal activities, which he said are “stained with blood” and go directly against the faith.

“The phenomena of the mafia, which is an expression of a culture of death, is (something) to oppose and to fight,” the Pope said Jan. 23.

Mafia activity “is radically opposed to the faith and to the Gospel, which are important for life,” he said, adding that true followers of Christ “have thoughts of peace, fraternity, justice, welcome and forgiveness.”

Pope Francis spoke to members of the National Anti-Mafia and Anti-terrorism Bureau during an audience with the organization in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace.

He initially made headlines regarding the mafia in June 2014 during his visit to the southern Diocese of Cassano all’Jonio, during which he slammed mafia members for being “adorers of evil” and declaring that because they follow a path contrary to the Gospel, they are “excommunicated.”

While the Pope’s words didn’t necessarily imply an official canonical excommunication, they shocked many, especially given the fact that many “mafiosi” claim to be devout Christians and even go to Mass, while at the same time carrying out their crimes.

In his speech to the Anti-Mafia Bureau, Francis pointed to the three main criminal organizations that operate in Italy, mostly in the south: the Mafia, who operate mainly Sicily; the Camorra, who run criminal activities largely in Italy’s Campagna region, particularly in Naples; and the ‘Ndrangheta, who mostly work in Calabria.

In addition to these three main criminal circles in Italy, another more specific organization, the Sacra Corona Unita, operates largely in Puglia, also in the southern half of the country.

These criminal groups are “increasingly assuming a cosmopolitan and devastating aspect” by exploiting economic, social and political weaknesses, which Francis said are “fertile ground to achieve their deplorable projects.”

Now more than ever, increased effort is needed in order to combat the activity and power of these groups, “which are responsible for violence and oppression stained by human blood.”

Society needs to be healed from corruption and exploitation, he said, naming human trafficking and the drug and arms trade as examples. Francis pointed specifically to the impact these have on children, who are often “reduced to slavery.”

Calling organized crime a “social wound,” the Pope said these groups also constitute global challenges that the international community must face “with determination,” and urged greater collaboration among States.

He also turned to the plight of migrants, many of whom fall victim to traffickers, and exhorted leaders “to dedicate every effort especially in combating the trafficking of persons and of the smuggling of migrants.”

“These are very serious crimes that affect the weakest of the weak,” he said, and called for an increase in initiatives aimed at both protecting victims of trafficking and providing assistance to incoming migrants.

“Those who leave their own countries due to war, violence and the persecutions have a right to find adequate welcome and appropriate protection in the countries that call themselves civil,” he said.

All sectors of society, particularly educational programs, families, schools, Christian communities and sporting and cultural activities, ought to promote an honest and fraternal lifestyle, he said, adding that these will “little by little overcome evil and pave the way for good.”

Pope Francis closed his speech pointing to the work many parishes already do in these areas, and prayed that the Lord would give them the strength to continue going forward in their fight against mafia, violence and terrorism.

He assured of his prayers and support, asking that “the just and merciful Lord touch the hearts of the men and women of the various mafias in order to stop, to cease doing evil, to convert and to change their lives.”

“The money of dirty affairs and mafia crimes is blood money and produces an unequal power,” he said, noting that “we all know that the devil ‘enters the pockets:’ the first corruption is here.”


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On Trump presidency, Pope says we must ‘wait and see’

January 22, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jan 22, 2017 / 08:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a new interview published Saturday, Pope Francis said he will wait to see what U.S. President Donald J. Trump does before making any judgments, emphasizing God’s own patience with him and his faults.

In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais Jan. 20, the same day as the U.S. presidential inauguration, Pope Francis said he doesn’t like to get ahead of himself “or judge people prematurely.”

“We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion. But being afraid or rejoicing beforehand because of something that might happen is, in my view, quite unwise. It would be like prophets predicting calamities or windfalls that will not be either,” he said.

“We will see. We will see what he does and will judge.” The world is so upside down, that it needs a fixed point, grounded firmly in reality: “what did you do, what did you decide, how do you move. That is what I prefer to wait and see.”

Asked if he wasn’t worried about things he had heard about Trump, Francis responded again that he is waiting. “God waited so long for me, with all my sins…” he said.

In the wide-ranging interview, the Pope was questioned about issues ranging from immigration to economics to Vatican diplomacy to the Gospel, among other things.

On the issue of immigration Francis was clear about his position, that “everyone does what they can or what they want. It is a very hard judgment.”

The most important thing is that those in dire need are helped and rescued, he said. After that we should welcome migrants and refugees and help them to integrate into their new country.

In the context of 1930s Germany, where the people were “in crisis” and looking for a charismatic leader, someone who could give them a clear identity, “we all know what happened,” he said. But what is important is that people did not talk to one another, there was no conversation.

“Yes,” borders can be controlled, he said. Countries have a right to control “who comes and who goes, and those countries at risk – from terrorism or such things – have even more the right to control them more, but no country has the right to deprive its citizens of the possibility to talk with their neighbors.”

Asked about Vatican diplomacy and its image, including the public thanks of Barack Obama and Raúl Castro on the one hand, and the parties that criticize the Vatican’s interference, on the other, the Pope said that he asks the Lord “that he give me the grace of not taking any measure for the sake of image.”

“Honesty, service, those are the criteria.” Mistakes are sometimes made, your image suffers, “but it doesn’t matter if there was goodwill. History will judge afterwards,” he said.

For him, he said, the clear, guiding principle for both pastoral action and Vatican diplomacy is that they are “mediators, rather than intermediaries.”

“We build bridges, not walls. What is the difference between a mediator and an intermediary?” he said. An intermediary is someone who enters a business agreement, renders a service and then is compensated, “and rightly so, because it is his job.”

The mediator, on the other hand, “is the one who wants to serve both parties and wants both parties to win even if he loses,” the Pope said. “Vatican diplomacy must be a mediator, not an intermediary. If, throughout history, it has sometimes maneuvered or managed a meeting that filled its pockets, that was a very serious sin.”

“The mediator builds bridges that are not for him, but rather for others to cross.”

Asked if his changes to the Vatican, sometimes criticized both by the more traditional sectors of the church and by the more progressive, are a “revolution of normalcy,” or already contained in the “Gospel’s essence,” as he has said, Pope Francis responded simply that he is a “sinner and not always successful.”

“I try – I don’t know if I succeed – to do what the Gospel says. That is what I try,” he said.

“The true heroes of the Church are the saints. That is, those men and women that devoted their lives to make the Gospel a reality,” he said. “The saints are the specific examples of the Gospel in daily life!”

With the emphasis on going out to the peripheries, how would Francis respond to those Catholics that feel that he ignores the people who have remained faithful to the Church and her teachings, was also questioned.

“I know that those who feel comfortable within a Church structure that doesn’t ask too much of them or who have attitudes that protect them from too much contact are going to feel uneasy with any change, with any proposal coming from the Gospel,” he said.

“The novelty of the Gospel however astonishes because it is essentially scandalous,” he continued. “Saint Paul tells us about the scandal of the cross, the scandal of the Son of God become man. But the evangelical essence is scandalous by those days’ criteria. By any worldly criteria, it is an outrageous essence.”

Once questioned by a German journalist about why he never talks about the middle class, “those who pay their taxes…” Francis said he thinks that maybe he is always talking about the middle class, just without calling it that.

“I use a term coined by the French novelist Malègue, who talks about ‘the middle class of sanctity,’” he said.

“I am always talking about parents, grandparents, nurses, the people who live to serve others, who raise their kids, who work… Those people are tremendously saintly!” he said.

“And they are also the ones who carry the Church onward: the ones that earn their living with dignity, that raise their children, that bury their dead, that care for their elders, instead of putting them into an old people’s home: that is our saintly middle class.”

From an economic point of view, the middle class is vanishing more and more, he said. But “the father, the mother, who celebrate their family, with their sins and their virtues, the grandfather, the grandmother,” he continued. “The family. At the center. That is ‘the middle class of sanctity.’”

A final comment reflected that Francis seems to be a very happy Pope. “The Lord is good and hasn’t taken away my good humor,” he said.


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Pope Francis makes a strong call for better marriage prep

January 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Jan 21, 2017 / 09:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his annual speech to the Holy See’s main court on Saturday, Pope Francis stressed the pressing need for effective education and preparation for the sacrament of marriage – not only to guard against invalid marriages, but also to strengthen the faith of the couple as they prepare for the unique blessings and challenges of married life.

“The goal of this preparation consists, namely, in helping engaged couples to know and to live the reality of marriage as it is intended to be celebrated, so that it is possible to do so not only validly and lawfully, but also fruitfully, so that they are able to make this celebration a stage of their journey of faith,” Pope Francis said.

“In this spirit, I would reiterate the need for a ‘new catechumenate’ in preparation for marriage,” he said in his Jan. 21 address to the judges of the Roman Rota at the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.

“Welcoming the guidance of the Fathers of the last Ordinary Synod, it is urgent to implement effectively what has already been proposed in Familiaris Consortio (no. 66),” he said.

“That is, as for the baptism of adults the catechumenate is part of the sacramental process, so the preparation for marriage must become an integral part of all sacramental marriage procedure, as an antidote that prevents the increase of invalid or tenuous marriage celebrations.”

The Pope delivers a speech to the members of the Rota, a court of higher instance at the Holy See, each January to inaugurate the court’s judicial year.

In this year’s speech, Francis noted that the breakdown of faith, religious values, and belief in eternal truths, particularly regarding the family, has become widespread even among Christians, which can impact the awareness and consent with which people enter into the sacrament.

At the same time, the different backgrounds and experiences of faith of those seeking Christian marriage cannot be ignored, he said. “Some participate actively in parish life; others will come for the first time; some also have a life of intense prayer; others are, however, driven by a more generic religious sentiment.”

“Faced with this situation, we need to find valid remedies,” the Pope emphasized.

The first remedy he proposed is the training of young people: “through an adequate process of preparation aimed to rediscover marriage and the family according to God’s plan,” he said.

The meetings between a priest and an engaged couple are, of course, a fundamental and important part of their preparation. But more than that, Francis said, the period of a couple’s engagement becomes “an extraordinary opportunity for mission” for the “whole community.”

“The Christian community to which the engaged turn is called to cordially announce the Gospel to these people, because their experience of love can become a sacrament, an effective sign of salvation. In this circumstance, the redemptive mission of Jesus reaches the men and women in the concreteness of their love life.”

For many young people, the approach of marriage with all of the changes involved, can be a period of increased openness to a renewal of faith and encounter with “Jesus Christ, with the message of the Gospel and the Church’s doctrine,” the Pope said.

In this regard, teaching the truth about marriage and love becomes extremely important, Francis reminded the judges.

He quoted from Benedict XVI’s last speech to the Rota on Jan. 26, 2013, in which he said that “only in being open to the truth of God […] is it possible to understand, and to achieve in the concreteness of life, even marriage and family, the truth of man…”

“The rejection of the divine proposal,” Benedict said, “in fact leads to a profound imbalance in all human relationships […], including the matrimonial one.”

Pope Francis went on to quote from Lumen fidei, his first encyclical, which says that “Love needs truth. Just as it is based on truth, love can last in time, overcome the ephemeral moment and stand firm to support a common path.”

“If love has no relationship to the truth, it is subject to the changing feelings and does not pass the test of time,” Lumen fidei continues. “True love instead unifies all the elements of our person and becomes a new light towards a great and full life.”

From this perspective, another vital aspect of building up the truth of marriage is in continuing to support and strengthen couples even after the wedding, Francis said.

“You need to identify with courage and creativity, a training project for young married couples, with initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of the sacrament received.”

Often, he said, a young couple is left to themselves, perhaps because they are not even seen in the parish, or the birth of children keeps them busy, “but it is in these first moments of family life they must be guaranteed greater proximity and a strong spiritual support.”

“The Christian community is called to welcome, accompany and help young couples,” by offering them opportunities and tools, aside from just Sunday Mass, he said, including programs for within the parish and within the home.

The Pope concluded his speech by wishing the judges a good new year, reminding them that “it requires great courage to get married in the time in which we live. And the many who have the strength and the joy of making this important step should feel next to them the love and concrete closeness of the Church.”