woensdag 18 december 2013

Pope Francis celebrates his birthday with children treated at Catholic c...

Pope Francis: Jesus is God-with-us

(Vatican Radio) At his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis turned his attention to the Feast of the Nativity. “This our encounter,” he said, “is taking place in the spiritual climate of Advent, made even more intense by the Novena of the Holy Nativity that we are living in these days, and that leads us to the Christmas holidays.” The Holy Father reflected on the Nativity of Jesus, “the feast of confidence and hope, that overcomes uncertainty and pessimism.” The reason for our hope, he said, is this: “God is with us, and God still trusts us.”

“God has willed to share our human condition to the point of making himself one of us in the Person of Jesus, who is true man and true God.” But even more surprising, he said, is that Jesus becomes man not in “an ideal world, an idyllic [world], but in this real world, marked by so many things, good and bad, marked by divisions, wickedness, poverty, arrogance and wars.” In this way God shows that He is merciful towards humanity, and filled with love for us. “He is God-with-us: do you believe this?” Pope Francis asked the crowd. When they responded “Si!” the Holy Father continued “But let us make this confession: Jesus is God-with-us! All together: Jesus is God-with-us!” And he thanked the faithful for their enthusiastic response.

The birth of Jesus, the Pope said, brings us the good news that we are loved “immensely and individually” by God – and God not only helps us to know this love for each of us, but also gives and communicates this love to us.

Pope Francis concluded his Audience by pointing out two considerations we can take away from these considerations on the Nativity of Jesus: The first is that God reveals Himself not as one who remains on high and dominates the universe, but as one who humbles Himself. This shows us that in order to be like Him, we must not put ourselves above others, but must humble ourselves and serve others. He had strong words for Christians who refuse to humble themselves: “It is an ugly thing,” he said, “when you see a Christian who doesn’t want to humble himself, who doesn’t want to serve, a Christian who struts about everywhere: it’s ugly, eh? That is not a Christian: that’s a pagan!”

The second consideration is that, if Jesus has become one of us, than whatever we do for a brother or a sister, we do for Him. “Jesus Himself reminds us: He who has fed, welcomed, visited, loved one of the smallest and poorest of people, has done it for the Son of God.”

Pope Francis concluded his catechesis with greetings for the various groups who attended the Audience in Saint Peter’s Square, noting in particular pilgrims from England, Australia and the United States. He also had a word of thanks for members of the group “Up with People” for their musical entertainment during the audience.

Below, please find the complete text of the English-language summary of the Pope’s remarks, followed by his greetings for English-speaking pilgrims:
Synthesis: Dear Brothers and Sisters: In these last days of Advent we prepare ourselves spiritually to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christmas is a feast of joyful hope, for God has become one with us in the person of his Son, true God and true man. He showed his love for us by becoming part of our world, with all its conflicts, its suffering and its poverty. Jesus is truly Emmanuel: God among us. This is the great “gift” which he brings: a divine love which heals and transforms our hearts, overcoming all uncertainty and pessimism. Our joyful contemplation of the mystery of Christmas should make us realize that, as God has become one of us, we too are called to become like God: humble, close to others, especially the poor, and ever attentive to their needs. This Christmas, let us ask Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, to help us see in our neighbour the face of Jesus, God made man. May we be in this world a ray of that light which shone forth from Bethlehem, bringing the joy and peace to the hearts of all men and women.

Greetings: I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today’s Audience including those from England, Australia and the United States. I thank the members of “Up with People” for their musical entertainment. Upon you and your families I invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace!

Pope Francis celebrates Mass with 4 homeless men on his 77th birthday

Pope Francis turned 77 on Tuesday and celebrated Mass in the Santa Marta guesthouse with 4 homeless men, his closest collaborators and staff from the guesthouse, all of whom afterwards greeted him with a birthday song.

It was Pope Francis’s 77th birthday on Tuesday and those present at his morning Mass included Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State and Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Dean of the College of Cardinals, together with staff from the Santa Marta guesthouse. The congregation also included the Almoner Monsignor Konrad Krajewski who brought with him 4 homeless men who live in the streets around the Vatican. After the Mass, all those present wished the Pope a happy birthday and sang greetings to him before joining him for breakfast in the Vatican guesthouse.

Today’s reading was centered on the genealogy of Jesus and the Pope used this in his homily to reflect on God’s enduring presence in our lives throughout history. He said “God wished to live out His life alongside us” and “took His surname from each of us.”

“God,” the Pope continued, “has always walked alongside His people,” beginning with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He did not want to come to redeem us without coming to live among us and share our lives. The Pope said this long list of God’s people included “saints and sinners.” The latter included “high level sinners who committed serious sins and who didn’t listen” to God’s plans for them.

Pope Francis said in addition to accompanying us in our lives our God follows us and in this way, he displays His humility, His patience and His love for us. He concluded his homily with “a Christmas wish” for all of us “to allow God to write our lives for us.

Pope Francis: without prophecy, only clericalism

(Vatican Radio) A church without prophets falls into the trap of clericalism. These were the words of Pope Francis during his homily at Mass on Monday morning in the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta.

Commenting on the day’s readings, Pope Francis said a prophet is someone who listens to the words of God, who reads the spirit of the times, and who knows how to move forward towards the future. True prophets, the Pope said, hold within themselves three different moments: past, present, and future. They keep the promise of God alive, they see the suffering of their people, and they bring us the strength to look ahead.

God looks after his people, the Pope continued, by giving them prophets in the hardest times, in the midst of their worst suffering. But when there is no spirit of prophecy among the people of God, we fall into the trap of clericalism.

In the Gospel, for example, the priests ask Jesus: “With what authority do you do these things? We are the masters of the Temple!” They didn't understand the prophecy, Pope Francis said, they had forgotten the promise. They didn't know how to read the spirit of the times, they didn't listen to the words of God, they had only their authority.

When there is no prophecy among the people of God, the emptiness that is created gets filled by clericalism. All memory of the past and hope for the future are reduced only to the present: no past promise, no future hope. But when clericalism reigns supreme, Pope Francis said, the words of God are sorely missed, and true believers weep because they cannot find the Lord.

As we prepare for the birth of the Lord, Pope Francis concluded, let us pray: “Lord, let us not lack prophets amongst your people!” All those who are baptized are prophets: let us not forget God’s promise, let us not tire of moving forward.

zondag 15 december 2013

Interview with the Pope: Christmas is the encounter with Jesus

(Vatican Radio) “Christmas for me is hope and tenderness . . .” The latest interview with Pope Francis, given to the Italian newspaper “La Stampa” begins with a reflection on the meaning of Christmas. In an hour and a half long conversation with Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli, the Pope addressed the themes of the suffering of children and the tragedy of world hunger; the relationship between the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies; and questions about marriage and the family, the focus of next year’s Extraordinary meeting of the Synod of Bishops.

As the first Christmas of his pontificate approaches, Pope explained how to live the season with his usual simplicity: “It is the encounter with Jesus.” Christmas is an encounter between God and His people. And it is also a consolation, “a mystery of consolation.” Christmas, the Pope said, “speaks to us about tenderness and hope.” It is an invitation to all Christians to not become “a cold Church, that doesn’t know where it’s going, that is tied up in ideologies, in worldly attitudes.” Pope Francis responds to the critics and the stereotypes of those who would trivialize the celebration of Christmas with a few persuasive words: “When one doesn’t have the capacity, or is there is a human situation that doesn’t permit you to understand this joy, you live the feast with a worldly cheer. But between the profound joy and mundane cheerfulness there is a difference.”

From his reflections on Christmas, the Pope moved on to a reflection on the 50th anniversary of the historic visit of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land. Pope Francis expressed his desire to go there himself to meet with “my brother Bartholomew, the patriarch of Constantinople.”

Pope Francis then dealt with the question of the innocent suffering of children, who do not understand the reason of their suffering, and who can only entrust themselves to God, “to entrust themselves to His gaze.” And the suffering of children is seen too in situations of hunger. The Pope invites us to shake off indifference and to avoid waste. The social doctrine of the Church is the Pope’s compass, as he himself explained, referring to Evangelii gaudium, and to some criticisms that have come from some circles. To his mind, there are the poor and [there is] the economy that never seems to better their condition even in periods of prosperity. When asked if he ever feels offended by being called a Marxist, the Pope answered no: “It is a mistaken ideology, but I have known so many Marxists who as persons are good, and for this reason I am not offended.”

The unity of Christians is another priority. Today, Pope Francis says, there exists an “ecumenism of blood.” He explains that in many countries, Christians are killed without distinction, but unity is a grace that is still yet to come.

On the question of the Sacraments for the divorced and re-married, the Pope said he doesn’t take a position, but referred to the Consistory in February and the extraordinary Synod in October 2014. He emphasized the necessity of prudence, “not as a paralyzing attitude, but as a virtue of those who govern.”

Responding to a question about the proper relationship between the Church and politics, Pope Francis spoke about a relationship that moves in different environments and with different tasks, but which must converge in helping the people. “Politics is noble,” he said, citing Paul VI. “It is one of the highest forms of charity. We dirty it when we use it for business.”

Finally, Pope Francis spoke about the image of women in the Church, who must be esteemed and not “clericalized.”

Pope Francis: the Church is a house of joy

(Vatican Radio) “The Christian message is called the ‘Gospel,’ that is, ‘the good news,’ an announcement of joy for all people; the Church is not a refuge for sad people, the Church is a house of joy.”

In his Angelus message on the Third Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis reminded us that the day is also called “Gaudete Sunday,” “Rejoice Sunday.” The Liturgy, he said, is filled with calls to rejoice, to be joyful, in order to prepare us to celebrate the feast of Christmas with renewed exultation.

But, he said, the joy of the Gospel is not just any kind of joy. It is the joy that comes from knowing that you are welcomed and loved by God. Pope Francis pointed to Sunday’s reading from the Prophet Isaiah, which tells us that God is a God who comes to save us, and especially to lift up those who have lost heart. “However great our limits and our losses, we are not allowed to be weak and vacillating in the face of difficulties and our own weaknesses.” On the contrary, he said, we are called to be strong, “to strengthen the hands, to make firm the knees, to have courage and not be afraid, because our God always shows the greatness of His mercy.” With His help, we can start anew and overcome sadness and tears, we can “sing a new song.”

The Holy Father said that “Christian joy, like hope, is founded on the faithfulness of God, in the certainty that He always keeps His promises.” Isaiah, he said, calls on those who have lost their way, who are despairing, to trust in the faithfulness of the Lord, “because His salvation will not delay in breaking into their lives.” Those who trust in God, the Pope said, “experience a peacefulness in their hearts that nothing and no one can take away.” Our joy, he said, is Christ. For this reason, a Christian who becomes sad can be said, in a certain way, to be far from Christ. But precisely for that reason, we must not leave them alone, but rather we must “pray for them, and make them feel the warmth of the community.”

Pope Francis concluded his Angelus address with an appeal to the Virgin Mary to “help us hasten our steps to Bethlehem, in order to meet the Child that is born for us, for the salvation and joy of all.”

After leading the Angelus prayer, the Pope had special greetings for various groups of pilgrims, and first of all for the children of Rome. Following an old tradition, they had come to Saint Peter’s Square on Gaudete Sunday with the Baby Jesus from their Nativity sets, which are blessed by the Holy Father. “Dear children,” Pope Francis said, “when you pray before your Nativity scenes, remember me too, as I remember you. Thank you, and happy Christmas!”

He greeted too the pilgrims from Rome, from Italy, and from around the world, and in particular those from Spain and the United States. He concluded his greetings with a special wish for a happy Sunday.

Pope Francis: Friday homily focuses on scandal of preaching

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence in the Vatican this Friday morning, focusing his remarks on the attitude of some Christians who seem to be “allergic” to preachers and overly critical of those who proclaim the Gospel, suggesting that they are often afraid of letting the Holy Spirit into their lives and are therefore prone to profound sadness.

In his remarks to the faithful following the readings of the day, Pope Francis focused on the day's Gospel, drawn from that according to St Matthew (11:16-19). There, Jesus compares the generation of his time to always unhappy children, explaining that they were, “not open to the Word of God.” Their refusal, he explained, was not of the message, but of the messenger. “They reject John the Baptist,” he said, who came, “neither eating nor drinking ,” saying of him that he was “a man possessed.” They reject Jesus because they say, “He is a glutton, a drunkard, a friend of publicans and sinners.” They always have a reason to criticize the preacher:

“The people of that time preferred to take refuge in a more elaborate religion: in the moral precepts, such as the group of Pharisees; in political compromise, as the Sadducees; in social revolution, as the zealots; in gnostic spirituality, such as Essenes. They were [happy] with their clean, well-polished system. The preacher, however, was not [so pleased]. Jesus reminded them: ‘Your fathers did the same with the prophets.’ The people of God have a certain allergy to the preachers of the Word: they persecuted the prophets, [even] killed them.”

The Pope went on to say that these people claimed to accept the truth of revelation, “but the preacher, preaching, no. They prefer a life caged in their precepts, in their compromises, in their revolutionary plans or in their [disembodied] spirituality.” They are those Christians, who are always discontented with what preachers say:

"These Christians are closed, they are trapped, sad ... these Christians are not free. Why? Because they are afraid of the freedom of the Holy Spirit, which comes through preaching. This, then, is the scandal of preaching, of which St. Paul spoke: the scandal of preaching that ends in the scandal of the Cross. That God should speak to us through men with limits , sinful men, scandalizes: and what scandalizes even more is that that God should speak to us and save us by way of a man who says he is the Son of God but ends [his life] as a criminal. That scandalizes.”

“These sad Christians,” said Pope Francis, “do not believe in the Holy Spirit , do not believe in the freedom that comes from preaching, which admonishes you, teaches you – slaps you , as well – but it is the very freedom that makes the Church grow.”:

“Seeing these children who are afraid to dance, to cry, [who are] afraid of everything, who ask for certainty in all things, I think of these sad Christians, who always criticize the preachers of the Truth, because they are afraid to open the door to the Holy Spirit. Let us pray for them, and pray also for ourselves, that we do not become sad Christians, cutting off the freedom of the Holy Spirit to come to us through the scandal of preaching.”