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A Seminarian Thanksgiving in Rome

November 22, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2017 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Seminarians studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome have a lot to be thankful for come Thanksgiving Day. Among them is their community, and also for home-baked pumpkin pie, made by their fellow students, the fifth-year student priests of the college.

Fr. Kevin Ewing, a newly-ordained priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, is the leader of this year’s seven intrepid volunteers, who during two afternoons before Thanksgiving will assemble and bake 90 pumpkin pies, to be eaten at the NAC’s annual Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.

Situated atop Janiculum hill overlooking the Vatican, the campus is home to roughly 250 seminarians and priests studying in Rome for the Church in the U.S., Canada and Australia, as well as numerous faculty members and graduate students.

Since the students aren’t able to return home for the holiday, they try to make it a big community event, especially for seminarians who may be experiencing their first time away from home for a holiday.

Fr. Daniel Hanley, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, VA and the director of admissions for the college, told CNA that his favorite part of the festivities “is the spirit that’s engendered here among the men.”

During a time usually associated with family, it can be difficult for some students to be away from home, he said, but “the whole spirit of the house is a desire to make the day good for each other.”

And the fifth-year students baking the pies? That’s gone on a long time, something Hanley remembers as already a part of long-established tradition when he was a student in Rome in the early 2000s.

This year’s seven priests have limited baking acumen, but “as long as there’s enough people there willing to lend a hand and follow the recipe and watch the oven it’ll come out alright,” Ewing said.

Part of the tradition also includes the fifth-year priests, and transitional deacons not returning to Rome the following year, serving the dinner, Ewing explained: “It’s a way of giving back to the community in a way that we’ve received now for four or five years.”

On Thanksgiving, the day’s festivities will begin around 6 am with a newer development, the NAC’s very own 5k “Turkey Trot,” which starts at the college, and winds around the outside of the Vatican, before returning, uphill, to the seminary.

“Its claim to fame is it’s the only Turkey Trot to go around a sovereign nation,” joked third-year seminarian Michael Buck.

An Australian, studying for the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Buck will be celebrating only his third Thanksgiving this year. He said that “discovering the tradition” has definitely been one of the great joys of being at the seminary.

Following the run, seminarians will meet back in their halls to enjoy a leisurely breakfast together before preparing for the noon Mass, which is “the center of our day,” stated Hanley.

The big meal will follow, including guests and friends from around Rome, especially American expats. Another tradition is for seating to be arranged according to home state, tables adorned with state-themed décor, such as sports jerseys or a papier-mâché cactus.

The Australian students – there are five – usually sit at a table together, but have decided this year to spread themselves out among the Americans, Buck said, as a way of more fully integrating into the holiday.

The dinner, which “captures most the festive atmosphere of the day,” according to Buck, will be a traditional American dinner in most ways – complete with turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy. But because they’re still in Rome, a dish of ravioli will provide an Italian twist.

After dinner there will be some free-time, and students often use that opportunity to make video calls home to their families.

Fr. Hanley noted that one of his favorite memories of Thanksgiving Day was walking into the chapel after dinner one year to offer a personal prayer of thanksgiving, and finding more than 100 seminarians praying before the Blessed Sacrament.

“It wasn’t an event, it was just that all these other men decided to go in and pray… and give thanks on Thanksgiving,” he said.

The final event of the holiday weekend will be the “Spaghetti Bowl,” an annual flag football match between a team of “new men” of the seminary, first-year and new transfer students, and a team of upperclassmen, nicknamed the “old men.”

A lot of the weekend is designed, Hanley said, to strengthen “the bond of the new men class – with each other – and then to strengthen their bond as members of this community.” Though most people would want to be home for Thanksgiving if they could, he noted that most seminarians seem to look forward to the weekend.

“There is certainly an atmosphere of thanksgiving and an atmosphere of taking stock” over the day’s celebrations, Buck explained, as well as joy for getting to spend the day together.

As an Aussie, Buck also wanted to offer his own gratitude for the holiday and getting to participate, saying he shares his own “thanksgiving for being able to share in Thanksgiving.”

 

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Pope: Ideological colonization is ‘blasphemy’ that leads to persecution

November 22, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2017 / 11:22 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Tuesday, Pope Francis blasted what he has often referred to as “ideological colonization,” which he said is a sin against God that leads to persecution.

This persecution can have both spiritual and cultural elements, and can have both religious and political motives, he said. Cultural persecution occurs when a new culture comes in and wants “to make everything new and to make a clean break with everything” that was there prior, wiping away “the cultures, the laws and the religions of a people.”

In the past, Francis has often used the term “ideological colonization” in describing what he views as the oppression of developing nations by more powerful ones, particularly in the West, who seek to impose their values on poorer countries by making the adoption of these values a condition for humanitarian aid or development money.

Two examples of this “ideological colonization” Francis has spoken of frequently are the distribution of condoms in developing nations and the promotion of gender theory.

Speaking from the chapel of the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse during his daily homily Nov. 21, the Pope centered his reflection on the martyrdom of Eleazar in the day’s first reading from the Second Book of Maccabees.

Eleazar, a wise elderly man who was well respected by his peers, was forced by the king, Antiochus Ephiphanes, to eat pork, which the Jews considered unclean and forbidden for consumption. Under penalty of death, Eleazar refused to eat it, even when friends urged him to substitute the pork with another meat, pretending to eat it while really consuming something acceptable.

To do this, Eleazar argued, would not only be dishonest and go against his own life’s convictions, but could also cause scandal for the youth, who would think that he had violated the law and may be tempted to do so as well.

He was then tortured and killed for choosing to remain faithful to God’s law, which Pope Francis said was the result of a cultural persecution.

Francis said the persecution that eventually led to Eleazar’s martyrdom began in the previous day’s reading, also from Maccabees, when some of the people, after seeing the Antiochus Ephiphanes’ power and beauty, asked the king to give them the faculty to “introduce the pagan institutions of other nations.”

Yet while many people left tradition behind and accepted the pagan way of doing things, there were some, like Eleazar and other martyrs spoken of in the Book of Maccabees, who sought to defend the “true traditions” of the people.

Francis called King Antiochus Epifanes the “perverse root” that gave birth to this persecution through a desire to cling to power.

“And this is the path of cultural colonization that ends up persecuting believers too,” he said, adding that “we do not have to go too far to see some examples: we think of the genocides of the past century, which were a new, cultural thing: ‘Everyone equal, and those who don’t have pure blood, out.’”

With this mentality, “there is no place for differences, there is no place for others, there is no place for God,” he said.

Pointing to how Eleazar died saying he wanted to leave the youth with a good example to follow, the Pope said Eleazar gave his life for love of God and of the Law, and so became “a root for the future.”

Faced with the perverse root that leads to this ideological and cultural colonization, “there is this other root that gives (his) life for the future to grow.”

Not everything new is bad, Francis clarified, pointing to the novelty of Jesus’ message in the Gospel. Because of this, he stressed the importance of knowing how to discern, asking, “Is this new thing from the Lord, does it come from the Holy Spirit, is it rooted in God? Or does this newness come from a perverse root?”

In an apparent reference to abortion, the Pope noted how in the past “it was a sin to kill children,” but now “it is not a problem, it is a perverse novelty.”

God’s novelty, he said, never “negotiates,” but rather, grows and looks toward the future, whereas ideological and cultural colonizations “only look to the present; they deny the past, and do not look to the future. They live in the moment, not in time, and so they can’t promise us anything.”

This attitude of trying to make everyone equal and eradicate differences, he said, is “a blasphemy against God the Creator,” because each time an ideological or cultural colonization comes along, “it wants to change Creation as it was made by (God).”

In the face of this, Pope Francis said there is only one remedy: “bearing witness; that is, martyrdom” of people such as Eleazar.

“Yes, I dialogue with those who think otherwise, but my testimony is thus, according to the law of God,” he said, noting that Eleazar doesn’t think about money or power, but looks to the future and “the legacy of his testimony” for the youth.

Eleazar’s witness, then, becomes a root that gives life to others, Francis said, and voiced his hope that this testimony “will help us in moments of confusion in the face of the cultural and spiritual colonization that is being proposed to us.”

 

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Pope Francis: At Mass we participate in Calvary

November 22, 2017 CNA Daily News 4

Vatican City, Nov 22, 2017 / 03:40 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Wednesday Pope Francis said that when we attend Mass, it is as if we are approaching Jesus on the Cross at Calvary, and that at every Eucharist we not only experience Christ’s redemption, but we participate in it.

“When we go to Mass, it is as if we go to Calvary, the same,” Pope Francis said Nov. 22. “This is the Mass: to enter into this Passion, death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.”

When we enter the church for Mass, we should think to ourselves: “I enter Calvary, where Jesus gives his life for me,” the Pope continued, saying he is sure we would respond to this “in silence, in weeping,” and also with joy, because we have been saved from death and sin.

At the general audience, Pope Francis continued his new catechesis on the Mass and the Eucharist by reflecting on what he said is the essential element of every Mass – that it is a “memorial of the Paschal Mystery of Christ.”

Imagine that you are actually at Calvary, he continued. In that moment, you would look up and know that the man upon the cross is Jesus. Would you allow yourself to make chit-chat or take pictures? “No, because Jesus (is there)!”

Quoting from Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council’s dogmatic constitution of the Church, Francis said that “As often as the sacrifice of the cross in which Christ our Passover was sacrificed, is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried on.”

This means, he explained, that Christ’s Passion and death are taking place every time we celebrate Mass, and our participation in the Eucharist, “brings us into the Paschal Mystery of Christ.”

And if we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist, “in faith,” he noted, then “we too can truly love God and neighbor, we can love how He loved us, giving life.”

In the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus, “pours upon us all his mercy and love, as he did on the cross, so as to renew our heart, our existence, and our way of communicating with Him and with our brothers.”

Christ’s Passion and death is the ultimate victory over death, Francis emphasized, because he transformed his death “into the supreme act of love.”

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China, Vatican use ‘diplomacy of art’ to foster relations

November 21, 2017 CNA Daily News 1

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2017 / 12:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Relations with mainland China have long been an interest for the Holy See, and the Vatican Museums have now partnered with a Chinese cultural institute in hopes of building stronger ties with the country through art.

Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums, said Nov. 21 that in recent months “we have found ourselves, perhaps unexpectedly, in a shared awareness, which is the common task that is required today, even more so in the past, of a reality such as ours: to be able to speak in a universal language.”

This language, she said, “can only be that of beauty, which is a powerful appeal to harmony (and) is an extraordinary vehicle to always speak, in every latitude and longitude (and) without fear, without barriers.”

“I think beauty – in the broadest sense of the term – is needed by everyone,”she said, and voiced her believe that beauty is “the key to what the Vatican Museums calls ‘the diplomacy of art,’ which is certainly not our discovery…but which today is up to us to carry forward and creatively reinterpret in a constant confrontation with the global scene that is in front of us.”

Jatta said she believes these are the types of initiatives the museums ought to be pursuing, and is convinced “that the activities that we present today will bring an abundant harvest and will be a positive sign of hope which, looking around, we all need!”

Jatta spoke at the presentation of an initiative being launched by the Vatican Museums and the China Cultural Industrial Investment Fund, who are joining forces to promote two different exhibits which will be displayed simultaneously in the Vatican Museums and the Forbidden City palace complex in Beijing in the spring of 2018.

The exhibits mark the first time the Vatican Museums and a Chinese cultural institution have collaborated, and are the result of a joint-project between the two called “Beauty Unites Us,” aimed at creating various forms of cultural collaboration through art.

The title of the exhibit that will be shown in the Vatican is “Anima Mundi: Human, nature and harmony,” while the exhibit on display in China is titled “Beauty Unites Us: The trip in the marvelous harmony between the Chinese people and the Vatican museums.”

According to a press release on the exhibits, they are meant to witness to how art can be an instrument of dialogue and encounter between people from different cultures.

Among the pieces selected for the simultaneous exhibit are 12 paintings from Chinese artist Zhang Yan, who has donated several of his works to Pope Francis, including one that will become a permanent addition to the Vatican’s “Anima Mundi” museum.

The Vatican will send 40 works to China for the exhibit, including 38 pieces of ancient Chinese art from the “Anima Mundi” museum, and a painting by Zhang Yan that he donated to the Pope. After its debut in Beijing, the exhibit will travel to other major cities in China.

Speaking alongside Jatta at the press conference on the exhibits were Msgr. Paolo Nicolini, Administrative Delegate of the Vatican Museums; Fr. Nicola Mapelli, Curator of the “Anima Mundi” museums; Zhu Jiancheng, Secretary General of the China Culture Investment Fund; and painter Zhang Yan.

In comments to journalists, Zhu thanked the Vatican for their “scrupulous organization and warm hospitality.”

He voiced his belief that the exhibits “will open a new chapter in the cultural exchange between the Chinese people and the Vatican, so that there is a new approach and understanding between two countries with a deep cultural tradition.”

As the first of its kind, the event holds significant meaning in terms of mutual understanding and trust between the two parties, he said, and, quoting the third century BC philosopher Han Fei, said, “relations between nations depend on the closeness of peoples, and the closeness of peoples depends on the communication of hearts.”

“We all know that this is also the thought of Pope Francis,” he said, adding that “cultural exchange precedes diplomacy.”

The exhibits, then, are an event that “crosses borders, time and unites cultures, and which will further strengthen the friendship between China and the Vatican in favor of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See.”

In his comments, Zhang said it was “a great honor” to be at the Vatican, where there is currently an increase in the “strong commitment for the development of civil relations between China and the Vatican.”

On behalf of the 1.38 million people of Chinese nationality, Zhang expressed his “sincere homage to the true friendship of Pope Francis,” and to all those who have contributed to the cultural exchanges between China and the Vatican.

The two simultaneous exhibits, he said, “represent the two ends of a bridge of civil dialogue – as a messenger of this cultural exchange, it is my pleasure and privilege to transmit the greeting and friendship of the Chinese people.”

The artist stressed that no matter what nation we come from or what creed we profess, “nothing in the world is irrelevant with us.”

“Even Chinese culture and the Vatican need communication and exchange, as with all cultures on the earth,” he said, adding that the “disinterested friendship” between China and Pope Francis and the idea that we are all one family “push men to rethink the relationship between humanity, life, society and nature.”

“The aesthetics of art,” he said, “will reveal in us the complete awareness of the environment, benevolence and tolerance. Dialogue among us is possible and inevitable because of our common sense of benevolence.”

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John Paul II relic given to 2019 World Youth Day

November 20, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- At a Nov. 17 ceremony at the Polish Embassy to the Holy See, Ambassador Janusz Kotanski delivered a relic of Pope St. John Paul II to Panama’s Ambassador to the Holy See, Miroslava Rosas Vargas.  The relic is a gift from Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz to the Church in Panama, as it prepares to host the 2019 World Youth Day.

John Paul II created World Youth Day in 1985 to harness the energy of young people and encourage them to participate in his call for a “new evangelization.” The first World Youth Day gathering took place in Rome in 1986.  The gatherings, held every three years, draw millions of participants from around the world.  The late Pope also created a special “youth section” within the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Laity, charged with coordinating World Youth Days.

In attendance at the ceremony delivering the relic were Polish Cardinal Stanis?aw Ry?ko, former head of the Pontifical Council for Laity and organizer of World Youth Day;  Panamanian Cardinal José Luis Lacunza, and Hondurian Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa and coordinator of the Council of Cardinals called by Pope Francis to advise him in the government of the Church. Cardinal Maradiaga’s presence was a reminder to many of the 2019 World Youth Day’s regional importance.

During the ceremony Cardinal Rylko called John Paul II the “Pope of the youth,” because of the focus on young people that defined his papacy and his pastoral ministry.

Ambassador Kotanski expressed hope that World Youth Day in Panama would continue the “renewed springtime of the Church” called for by the late Pope. He also noted that Polish youth have begun a prayer campaign for the success of the 2019 World Youth Day, and expressed hope that the prayer campaign and relic would be a bridge between Central American and Europe.

Ambassador Vargas of Panama remarked that “to host World Youth Day is a great privilege.” The ambassador’s memories of John Paul II included “the sweet and profound look, typical of the saints, the invitation to dialogue and to communication, the faith and missionary zeal so that humanity can live in a better world.”

John Paul II’s “values, his principles and his love live still,” Vargas added, giving thanks that the late Pope “will be always present in the prayers of us all.”

This article was originally published in Italian by our sister agency, ACI Stampa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

 

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Pope mourns death of Cardinal Montezemolo, long-time Vatican diplomat

November 20, 2017 CNA Daily News 0

Vatican City, Nov 20, 2017 / 11:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis sent a telegram Monday for the death of long-time Vatican diplomat Cardinal Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, who died in Rome Sunday at the age of 92.

His death, the Pope wrote Nov. 20, “raises in my soul a feeling of sincere admiration for an esteemed man of the Church who lived with fidelity his long and fruitful priesthood and episcopate serving the gospel and the Holy See.”

Pope Francis offered his prayers for Cardinal Montezemolo’s welcome, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul, “into joy and eternal peace,” and for those who mourn the death of this “zealous pastor.”

The Pope also expressed his gratitude for the cardinal’s many years of “generous work” as an apostolic nuncio, and the wisdom with which he devoted himself to the good of people in countries around the world.

Montezemolo’s final appointment was as Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, from 2005 to 2009.

In his telegram, Pope Francis noted how the cardinal, in his role as the first archpriest of the basilica,  “gave witness to a particularly intense and expert task.”

“Both from the pastoral point of view and from the organizational and artistic-cultural point of view, (he) aimed at restoring spiritual vitality to the whole structure and new impetus to the ecumenical vocation of that place of worship,” Francis said.

The Pope had visited the cardinal in a nursing home about one year ago, in one of his unexpected and private exits from the Vatican.

His funeral Mass will be said Nov. 21 in St. Peter’s Basilica. It will be celebrated by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, vice-dean of the College of Cardinals.

At the end of the Mass, Pope Francis will preside over the rite of Last Commendation and the Valedictus.

Montezemolo was born in Turin Aug. 27, 1925. His father, a colonel in the Italian army, was killed during the Ardeatine Massacre in the Second World War. Many years later, Montezemolo and his sister publicly expressed their forgiveness of those who had killed their father.

As a young man he also fought in World War II before studying and obtaining a degree in architecture. Feeling a calling to the priesthood, he then obtained a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a licentiate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, while working as an architect.

He was ordained a priest in 1954, and in 1959 obtained a degree in canon law at the Pontifical Lateran University.

That same year he entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See and for 42 years served as the nunciature secretary in various countries, including the apostolic delegation in Mexico, the apostolic nunciatures in Japan, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, and the Secretariat of State, as council for public affairs.

He was appointed under-secretary and then secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace and in 1977 was nominated titular Archbishop of Anglona and Apostolic Pro-Nuncio in Papua New Guinea and Apostolic Delegate in the Solomon Islands.

He was ordained a bishop June 4, 1977 and over the next 24 years was appointed to various apostolic nunciatures, first in Honduras and Nicaragua.

He was then made Apostolic Nuncio in Uruguay. In 1990 he was appointed Apostlic Delegate in Jerusalem, Palestine and Jordan, as well as Apostolic Nuncio in Cyprus.  

In 1991 he was transferred to the titular see of Tuscania and from 1994-1998 he served as Apostolic Nuncio in Israel. Finally, from 1998-2001 he served as Apostolic Nuncio in Italy and in San Marino, retiring at the age of 75 in 2001.

Four years later, he was appointed Archpriest of the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls.

As an expert in heraldry, the system by which a coat of arms is devised, he contributed to the design of Benedict XVI’s coat of arms. He was elevated to the position of cardinal by Benedict XVI in the consistory of March 24, 2006.

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Pope: Are you afraid of God? If so, you don’t really know who he is

November 19, 2017 CNA Daily News 2

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 05:52 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis on Sunday cautioned against having a “mistaken” idea of God as harsh and punishing, saying this fear will end up paralyzing us and preventing us from doing good, rather than spreading his love and mercy.

“Fear always immobilizes and often leads us to make bad choices,” the Pope said Nov. 19. “Fear discourages us from taking the initiative, and encourages us to seek refuge in safe and guaranteed solutions, and so we end up doing nothing good.”

To go forward and grow on the path of life, he said, “we must not be afraid, but we have to trust.”  

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square during his Sunday Angelus address on the first-ever World Day for the Poor, which he implemented at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy.

In his speech, the Pope turned to the day’s Gospel reading from Matthew, which recounts the parable of the talents. In the passage, a master goes on a long trip and entrusts three servants with different talents, but when he returns, only two have gained profit from it, while the third buried his out of fear.

This parable “makes us understand how important it is to have a true idea of God,” Francis said, noting that the third servant didn’t really trust his master, but but feared him, and this fear prevented him from acting.

We shouldn’t think that God is “an evil, harsh and severe master who wants to punish us,” the Pope said, explaining that if we have this “mistaken image of God, then our lives cannot be fruitful, because we will live in fear and this will not lead us to anything constructive.”

Fear, he said, paralyzes us and so is self-destructive. So when faced with the unfaithful servant in this parable, each of us is called to reflect on what our idea of God really is.

Turning to the Old Testament, Francis noted how in Exodus God is described as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”

Even in the New Testament, Jesus always demonstrated that God is not “a severe and intolerant master,” but a father full of “love and tenderness, a father full of goodness,” Francis said, and because of this, “we can and must have immense trust in him.”

Jesus, he said, shows us his generosity in various ways, through his words, actions, and his welcome towards all, especially toward sinners and the poor and vulnerable. But also with his admonishments, “which show his interest in us so that we do not waste our lives uselessly.”

This, the Pope said, is a sign of the great esteem God has for us, and having this knowledge ought to help us to take responsibility for our every action.

Concluding, Pope Francis said parable invites us to have “a personal responsibility and fidelity which become capable of continually placing ourselves on new roads, without burying the talent, which is are the gifts that God has entrusted to us and of which he will ask us to account for.”

After leading pilgrims in the Angelus prayer, the Pope made a series of appeals, the first of which was for the World Day for the Poor. He prayed that the poor and disadvantaged would be “the center of our communities” not just on special occasions, but always, “because they are the heart of the Gospel, in them we encounter Jesus who speaks to us and challenges us through their sufferings and their needs.”

He also drew attention to beatification of Fr. Solanus Casey yesterday in Detroit, saying the friar was “a humble and faithful disciple of Christ, who distinguished himself with an untiring service to the poor.”

“May his witness help priests, religious and laity to live with joy the link between the announcement of the Gospel and the love for the poor.”

Francis also offered special prayers for those living “a painful poverty” due to war and conflict, and renewed his appeal to the international community “to commit every possible effort in favor of peace, especially in the Middle East.”

He prayed especially for Lebanon, particularly for the country’s stability, “so that it may continue to be a message of respect and sharing for every religion and for the entire world.”

A final appeal he made was for the crew of an Argentine military submarine, who have been missing for several days without a trace.

After concluding the Angelus, Pope Francis made his way to the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, where he had lunch with some 1,500 poor and needy in town for the World Day of the Poor.

Before the meal, Francis said a blessing for the food and for everyone there, asking the Lord “to bless us, to bless the meal, to bless those who prepared it, to bless all of us, our hearts, our families, our desires and our lives, that he give us health and strength. Amen.”

He also offered a blessing for all those eating in other soup kitchens throughout Rome. “Rome is full of these today,” he said, and asked for “a greeting and an applause” for the thousands of others participating in the event.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/PopeFrancis?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#PopeFrancis</a> says blessing before eating lunch, prays for the cooks, the guests, their families &amp; charity organizations in <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Rome?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Rome</a>: asks that they receive &quot;health &amp; strength&quot; <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldDayofthePoor?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WorldDayofthePoor</a> <a href=”https://t.co/jRrW0dN3xc”>pic.twitter.com/jRrW0dN3xc</a></p>&mdash; Elise Harris (@eharris_it) <a href=”https://twitter.com/eharris_it/status/932212710749691905?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>November 19, 2017</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

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Pope Francis: the poor are our ‘passport to paradise’

November 19, 2017 CNA Daily News 3

Vatican City, Nov 19, 2017 / 02:34 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the first World Day for the Poor, Pope Francis said caring for the needy has a saving power, because in them we see the face of Christ, and urged Christians to overcome indifference and seek ways to actively love the poor that they meet.

“In the poor, we find the presence of Jesus, who, though rich, became poor,” the Pope said Nov. 19. Because of this, “in their weakness, a saving power is present. And if in the eyes of the world they have little value, they are the ones who open to us the way to heaven.”

“They are our passport to paradise,” he said, explaining that it is an “evangelical duty” for Christians to care for the poor as our true wealth.

And to do this doesn’t mean just giving them a piece of bread, but also “breaking with them the bread of God’s word, which is addressed first to them,” Francis said, adding that to love the poor “means to combat all forms of poverty, spiritual and material.”

Pope Francis spoke during Mass marking the first World Day of the Poor, which takes place every 33rd Sunday of Ordinary time and is being organized by the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization.

Established by Pope Francis at the end of the Jubilee of Mercy, the World Day for the Poor this year has the theme “Love not in word, but in deed.”

In the week leading up to the event, the poor and needy had access to free medical exams at a makeshift center set up in front of St. Peter’s Square.

Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Council for Evangelization, led a Nov. 18 prayer vigil at Rome’s parish of St. Lawrence Outside the Walls the night before the big event. After Mass with Pope Francis, the poor will be offered a three-course lunch at different centers and organizations around Rome, including the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall.

According to the Council for Evangelization, some 6-7,000 poor from around Europe, as well as some migrants from around the world, were estimated to attend the Mass along with the organizations that care for them.

In his homily, Pope Francis said no matter our social condition, everyone in life is a beggar when it comes to what is essential, which is God’s love, and which “gives meaning to our lives and a life without end. So today too, we lift up our hands to him, asking to receive his gifts.”

Turning to the day’s Gospel passage from Matthew recounting the parable of the talents, the Pope noted how in God’s eyes, everyone has talents, and consequently, “no one can think that he or she is useless, so poor as to be incapable of giving something to others.”

“God, in whose eyes no child can be neglected, entrusts to each of us a mission,” he said, explaining that God also gives us a responsibility, as is seen in the day’s Gospel.

Francis pointed to how in the day’s passage only the first two servants make their talent profitable, whereas the third buries it, prompting the master to call him “wicket and lazy.”

Asking what sin the servant had committed that was so wrong, the Pope said above all “it was his omission.”

Many times we believe that we haven’t done anything wrong, and so are content with the presumption that we are good and righteous, he said, but cautioned that with this mentality, “we risk acting like the unworthy servant: he did no wrong, he didn’t waste the talent, in fact he kept it carefully hidden in the ground.”

However, “to do no wrong is not enough,” Francis said, adding that God is not “an inspector looking for unstamped tickets.” Rather, he is a Father that looks for children to whom he can entrust both his property and his plans.

“It is sad when the Father of love does not receive a generous response of love from his children, who do no more than keep the rules and follow the commandments,” he said, noting that someone who is only concerned with preserving the treasures of the past “is not being faithful to God.”

Instead, “the one who adds new talents is truly faithful…he does not stand still, but instead, out of love, takes risks. He puts his life on the line for others; he is not content to keep things as they are. One thing alone does he overlook: his own interest. That is the only right omission.”

Omission, Francis said, is also a big sin where the poor are concerned, though it has a different name: indifference. This sin, he said, takes place when we feel that the brother in need is not our concern, but is society’s problem.

The sin typically shows up in our lives when we choose to turn the other way, or “change channels as soon as a disturbing question comes up, when we grow indignant at evil but do nothing about it.”

“God will not ask us if we felt righteous indignation, but whether we did some good,” the Pope said.

Asking those present how we can please God, Pope Francis said when we want to give someone a gift, we first have to get to know them. And when we look to the Gospel, we hear Jesus say “when you did it to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

These brothers, he said, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned.

In the poor, “Jesus knocks on the doors of our heart, thirsting for our love,” he said, adding that “when we overcome our indifference and, in the name of Jesus, we give of ourselves for the least of his brethren,” only then are we being faithful.

An example of this attitude is seen in the woman who opens her hand to the poor in the day’s first reading from Proverbs, he said. In her, “we see true goodness and strength: not in closed fists and crossed arms, but in ready hands outstretched to the poor, to the wounded flesh of the Lord.”

Choosing to draw near to the poor among us “will touch our lives” and remind us of what really counts, Francis said, explaining that this is love of God and neighbor.

“Only this lasts forever, everything else passes away,” he said. “What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”

Pope Francis closed his homily saying the choice we all have before us is whether “to live in order to gain things on earth, or to give things away in order to gain heaven.”

“Where heaven is concerned, what matters is not what we have, but what we give,” he said. “So let us not seek for ourselves more than we need, but rather what is good for others, and nothing of value will be lacking to us.”

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