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Updated: 11 min 14 sec ago

Next World Youth Day to be held in Portugal

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 9:51am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Lisbon, Portugal, will open its doors to the world's young people in 2022 for the next World Youth Day.

The announcement of Portugal was made by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, at the final Mass of World Youth Day Jan. 27. World Youth Day officials confirmed the year and city.

Upon hearing the location of the next celebration, Portuguese erupted in cheers, waving their country's flag and chanting "We are the pope's youth!"

Pope Francis then greeted Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who attended the Mass.

In the early morning hours, pilgrims were awakened by sounds of upbeat music as the hot Panamanian sun rose. Despite the heat, the pilgrims danced and sang along, awaiting Pope Francis' arrival.

In his homily, Pope Francis encouraged young Catholics to be engaged in the world today to ensure a better tomorrow.

"You, dear young people, are not the future but the now of God. He invites you and calls you in your communities and cities to go out and find your grandparents, your elders; to stand up and with them to speak out and realize the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you," he said.

The pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Luke in which Jesus begins his public ministry by proclaiming in the synagogue that "this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Proclaiming the Good News of God's promise to free captives and the oppressed was an important moment in Jesus' life, the pope said.

Nevertheless, he continued, many of those in the synagogue were incredulous and not prepared "to believe in someone they knew and had seen grow up."

"The same thing can also happen with us. We do not always believe that God can be that concrete and commonplace, that close and real, and much less that he can become so present and work through somebody like a neighbor, a friend, a relative," the pope said.

Young people, he warned, risk looking at their mission, vocation and even their lives as something far off in the future and "having nothing to do with the present" while adults can fall into the trap of inventing a "hygienically sealed future without consequence where everything is safe, secure and 'well insured.'"

"The Lord and his mission are not a 'meantime' in our life, something temporary. They are our life," Pope Francis said. "Do you want to live out your love in a practical way? May your 'yes' continue to be the gateway for the Holy Spirit to give us a new Pentecost for the world and for the church."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Next World Youth Day to be held in Portugal

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 9:51am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Lisbon, Portugal, will open its doors to the world's young people in 2022 for the next World Youth Day.

The announcement of Portugal was made by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, at the final Mass of World Youth Day Jan. 27. World Youth Day officials confirmed the year and city.

Upon hearing the location of the next celebration, Portuguese erupted in cheers, waving their country's flag and chanting "We are the pope's youth!"

Pope Francis then greeted Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who attended the Mass.

In the early morning hours, pilgrims were awakened by sounds of upbeat music as the hot Panamanian sun rose. Despite the heat, the pilgrims danced and sang along, awaiting Pope Francis' arrival.

In his homily, Pope Francis encouraged young Catholics to be engaged in the world today to ensure a better tomorrow.

"You, dear young people, are not the future but the now of God. He invites you and calls you in your communities and cities to go out and find your grandparents, your elders; to stand up and with them to speak out and realize the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you," he said.

The pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Luke in which Jesus begins his public ministry by proclaiming in the synagogue that "this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Proclaiming the Good News of God's promise to free captives and the oppressed was an important moment in Jesus' life, the pope said.

Nevertheless, he continued, many of those in the synagogue were incredulous and not prepared "to believe in someone they knew and had seen grow up."

"The same thing can also happen with us. We do not always believe that God can be that concrete and commonplace, that close and real, and much less that he can become so present and work through somebody like a neighbor, a friend, a relative," the pope said.

Young people, he warned, risk looking at their mission, vocation and even their lives as something far off in the future and "having nothing to do with the present" while adults can fall into the trap of inventing a "hygienically sealed future without consequence where everything is safe, secure and 'well insured.'"

"The Lord and his mission are not a 'meantime' in our life, something temporary. They are our life," Pope Francis said. "Do you want to live out your love in a practical way? May your 'yes' continue to be the gateway for the Holy Spirit to give us a new Pentecost for the world and for the church."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Next World Youth Day to be held in Portugal

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 9:51am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Lisbon, Portugal, will open its doors to the world's young people in 2022 for the next World Youth Day.

The announcement of Portugal was made by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican's Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life, at the final Mass of World Youth Day Jan. 27. World Youth Day officials confirmed the year and city.

Upon hearing the location of the next celebration, Portuguese erupted in cheers, waving their country's flag and chanting "We are the pope's youth!"

Pope Francis then greeted Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who attended the Mass.

In the early morning hours, pilgrims were awakened by sounds of upbeat music as the hot Panamanian sun rose. Despite the heat, the pilgrims danced and sang along, awaiting Pope Francis' arrival.

In his homily, Pope Francis encouraged young Catholics to be engaged in the world today to ensure a better tomorrow.

"You, dear young people, are not the future but the now of God. He invites you and calls you in your communities and cities to go out and find your grandparents, your elders; to stand up and with them to speak out and realize the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you," he said.

The pope reflected on the Sunday Gospel reading from St. Luke in which Jesus begins his public ministry by proclaiming in the synagogue that "this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Proclaiming the Good News of God's promise to free captives and the oppressed was an important moment in Jesus' life, the pope said.

Nevertheless, he continued, many of those in the synagogue were incredulous and not prepared "to believe in someone they knew and had seen grow up."

"The same thing can also happen with us. We do not always believe that God can be that concrete and commonplace, that close and real, and much less that he can become so present and work through somebody like a neighbor, a friend, a relative," the pope said.

Young people, he warned, risk looking at their mission, vocation and even their lives as something far off in the future and "having nothing to do with the present" while adults can fall into the trap of inventing a "hygienically sealed future without consequence where everything is safe, secure and 'well insured.'"

"The Lord and his mission are not a 'meantime' in our life, something temporary. They are our life," Pope Francis said. "Do you want to live out your love in a practical way? May your 'yes' continue to be the gateway for the Holy Spirit to give us a new Pentecost for the world and for the church."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Like Mary, be 'influencers' for God, pope urges at World Youth Day vigil

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 8:59pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Although Mary would not be considered an "influencer," like many social media personalities, she still became the most influential woman in history by trusting "in the love and promises of God, the only force capable of making all things new," Pope Francis told young people at the World Youth Day prayer vigil Jan. 26.

"Are you willing to be an 'influencer' like Mary, who dared to say, 'Let it be done'?" he asked. "Only love makes us more human and fulfilled; everything else is a pleasant but useless placebo."

Despite sweltering temperatures in Panama City, hundreds of thousands of young men and women made their way to St. John Paul II Park on the penultimate day of World Youth Day. They brought sleeping bags and tents, prepared to spend the night at the field -- praying the rosary, making new friends -- before celebrating Mass with Pope Francis at 8 a.m. Jan. 27. The pope did not spend the night, but returned later in the evening to the apostolic nunciature.

Arriving in his popemobile, Pope Francis made his way through a sea of colorful flags and banners people waved excitedly.

After the pope took his place on the stage, young adults from Panama and the Palestinian territories gave their experiences of finding faith and hope amid doubt, sickness and addiction.

Erika de Bucktron, a 42-year-old mother of four from Panama, spoke of the fear and difficulties she faced when doctors said her pregnancy was at high risk after diagnosing her unborn daughter with Down syndrome.

Throughout her pregnancy, she said, she and her husband abandoned themselves in God's hands and, after the birth of their daughter, decided "to love her with all our hearts, without making any difference with our other children, who also welcomed her with so much love."

Panamanian Alfredo Martinez Andrion, 20, recalled his experience of falling into a life of drugs and crime. His addiction, he said, ultimately led to a 12-month prison sentence. Despite attempts to reform following his release, he fell back again into drug use.

Ultimately, he found help at a Catholic-run halfway house that helped and encouraged him "in my path toward reintegration."

"I want to tell the young people of the world that God loves us and never abandons us. We are the masters of our own actions, but if we are with God, everything will be OK," Martinez said.

Nirmeen Odeh, a 26-year-old Palestinian woman, gave the final testimony of the evening, recalling that despite being born and raised in the Holy Land, she was apathetic to Christianity, especially coming "from a place where many of my simple rights are violated."

"I thought it was better to be distant from Christianity so as not to be bothered by others," Odeh said. "With all the struggles and weariness of daily life, I wasn't interested in faith. However, I was curious about the idea of God! It fascinated me."

After participating in World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland, Odeh said she took a "leap of faith" and began receiving the sacraments.

"And here I am today, three years later in Panama, excitedly praying for him (God) to lead me on my next journey," she said.

After listening to their experiences, Pope Francis addressed the youths, saying that their experiences reflected the risk Mary took to say "yes" to God.

The salvation that God wishes to give his children, he said, isn't a file in the cloud waiting to be downloaded or the latest app, but rather is an invitation to be "part of a love story interwoven with our personal stories; it is alive and wants to be born in our midst so that we can bear fruit just as we are, wherever we are and with everyone all around us."

However, Christians can only obtain this salvation by placing their trust in God, especially in moments of uncertainty, doubt and trial.

Recalling the experience given by de Bucktron, the pope said the fears and difficulties the couple faced with the birth of her daughter meant embracing life, even "in accepting things that are not perfect, pure or 'distilled,' yet no less worthy of love," he said.

"Is a disabled or frail person not worthy of love?" the pope asked. "Is a person who happens to be a foreigner, a person who made a mistake, a person ill or in prison, not worthy of love?"

God begins to write his great love story precisely through people's problems, frailties and flaws, the pope said. Just as he embraced Peter after his denials, Jesus helps Christians stand up when they have fallen, the pope added.

Thanking Martinez for his testimony, Pope Francis said the experience of the young Panamanian shows that, without strong roots that are firmly grounded, "it is impossible to grow."

Older people, he continued, must ask themselves what foundations they are providing to help young people grow instead of lobbing criticisms against them.

"It is easy enough to criticize and complain about young people if we are depriving them of the jobs, education and community opportunities they need to take root and to dream of a future," he said.

"Without education, it is difficult to dream of a future; without work, it is very difficult to dream of a future; without a family and community, it is almost impossible to dream of a future."

The pope said that young men and women also need to be rooted in a community and a home that prepares their hearts and give them a sense of belonging.

Odeh's experience, he explained, is proof that this belonging also gives a sense of identity that allows young people to "live the joy that comes from being found by Jesus."

Pope Francis encouraged young people to not be afraid of opening their hearts to Christ and "embrace life with all its frailty and flaws, but also with its grandeur and beauty.

"Do not be afraid," he said, "to tell him that you, too, want to be a part of his love story in this world, that you are ready for something greater."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Like Mary, be 'influencers' for God, pope urges at World Youth Day vigil

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 8:59pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Although Mary would not be considered an "influencer," like many social media personalities, she still became the most influential woman in history by trusting "in the love and promises of God, the only force capable of making all things new," Pope Francis told young people at the World Youth Day prayer vigil Jan. 26.

"Are you willing to be an 'influencer' like Mary, who dared to say, 'Let it be done'?" he asked. "Only love makes us more human and fulfilled; everything else is a pleasant but useless placebo."

Despite sweltering temperatures in Panama City, hundreds of thousands of young men and women made their way to St. John Paul II Park on the penultimate day of World Youth Day. They brought sleeping bags and tents, prepared to spend the night at the field -- praying the rosary, making new friends -- before celebrating Mass with Pope Francis at 8 a.m. Jan. 27. The pope did not spend the night, but returned later in the evening to the apostolic nunciature.

Arriving in his popemobile, Pope Francis made his way through a sea of colorful flags and banners people waved excitedly.

After the pope took his place on the stage, young adults from Panama and the Palestinian territories gave their experiences of finding faith and hope amid doubt, sickness and addiction.

Erika de Bucktron, a 42-year-old mother of four from Panama, spoke of the fear and difficulties she faced when doctors said her pregnancy was at high risk after diagnosing her unborn daughter with Down syndrome.

Throughout her pregnancy, she said, she and her husband abandoned themselves in God's hands and, after the birth of their daughter, decided "to love her with all our hearts, without making any difference with our other children, who also welcomed her with so much love."

Panamanian Alfredo Martinez Andrion, 20, recalled his experience of falling into a life of drugs and crime. His addiction, he said, ultimately led to a 12-month prison sentence. Despite attempts to reform following his release, he fell back again into drug use.

Ultimately, he found help at a Catholic-run halfway house that helped and encouraged him "in my path toward reintegration."

"I want to tell the young people of the world that God loves us and never abandons us. We are the masters of our own actions, but if we are with God, everything will be OK," Martinez said.

Nirmeen Odeh, a 26-year-old Palestinian woman, gave the final testimony of the evening, recalling that despite being born and raised in the Holy Land, she was apathetic to Christianity, especially coming "from a place where many of my simple rights are violated."

"I thought it was better to be distant from Christianity so as not to be bothered by others," Odeh said. "With all the struggles and weariness of daily life, I wasn't interested in faith. However, I was curious about the idea of God! It fascinated me."

After participating in World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland, Odeh said she took a "leap of faith" and began receiving the sacraments.

"And here I am today, three years later in Panama, excitedly praying for him (God) to lead me on my next journey," she said.

After listening to their experiences, Pope Francis addressed the youths, saying that their experiences reflected the risk Mary took to say "yes" to God.

The salvation that God wishes to give his children, he said, isn't a file in the cloud waiting to be downloaded or the latest app, but rather is an invitation to be "part of a love story interwoven with our personal stories; it is alive and wants to be born in our midst so that we can bear fruit just as we are, wherever we are and with everyone all around us."

However, Christians can only obtain this salvation by placing their trust in God, especially in moments of uncertainty, doubt and trial.

Recalling the experience given by de Bucktron, the pope said the fears and difficulties the couple faced with the birth of her daughter meant embracing life, even "in accepting things that are not perfect, pure or 'distilled,' yet no less worthy of love," he said.

"Is a disabled or frail person not worthy of love?" the pope asked. "Is a person who happens to be a foreigner, a person who made a mistake, a person ill or in prison, not worthy of love?"

God begins to write his great love story precisely through people's problems, frailties and flaws, the pope said. Just as he embraced Peter after his denials, Jesus helps Christians stand up when they have fallen, the pope added.

Thanking Martinez for his testimony, Pope Francis said the experience of the young Panamanian shows that, without strong roots that are firmly grounded, "it is impossible to grow."

Older people, he continued, must ask themselves what foundations they are providing to help young people grow instead of lobbing criticisms against them.

"It is easy enough to criticize and complain about young people if we are depriving them of the jobs, education and community opportunities they need to take root and to dream of a future," he said.

"Without education, it is difficult to dream of a future; without work, it is very difficult to dream of a future; without a family and community, it is almost impossible to dream of a future."

The pope said that young men and women also need to be rooted in a community and a home that prepares their hearts and give them a sense of belonging.

Odeh's experience, he explained, is proof that this belonging also gives a sense of identity that allows young people to "live the joy that comes from being found by Jesus."

Pope Francis encouraged young people to not be afraid of opening their hearts to Christ and "embrace life with all its frailty and flaws, but also with its grandeur and beauty.

"Do not be afraid," he said, "to tell him that you, too, want to be a part of his love story in this world, that you are ready for something greater."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Like Mary, be 'influencers' for God, pope urges at World Youth Day vigil

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 8:59pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Although Mary would not be considered an "influencer," like many social media personalities, she still became the most influential woman in history by trusting "in the love and promises of God, the only force capable of making all things new," Pope Francis told young people at the World Youth Day prayer vigil Jan. 26.

"Are you willing to be an 'influencer' like Mary, who dared to say, 'Let it be done'?" he asked. "Only love makes us more human and fulfilled; everything else is a pleasant but useless placebo."

Despite sweltering temperatures in Panama City, hundreds of thousands of young men and women made their way to St. John Paul II Park on the penultimate day of World Youth Day. They brought sleeping bags and tents, prepared to spend the night at the field -- praying the rosary, making new friends -- before celebrating Mass with Pope Francis at 8 a.m. Jan. 27. The pope did not spend the night, but returned later in the evening to the apostolic nunciature.

Arriving in his popemobile, Pope Francis made his way through a sea of colorful flags and banners people waved excitedly.

After the pope took his place on the stage, young adults from Panama and the Palestinian territories gave their experiences of finding faith and hope amid doubt, sickness and addiction.

Erika de Bucktron, a 42-year-old mother of four from Panama, spoke of the fear and difficulties she faced when doctors said her pregnancy was at high risk after diagnosing her unborn daughter with Down syndrome.

Throughout her pregnancy, she said, she and her husband abandoned themselves in God's hands and, after the birth of their daughter, decided "to love her with all our hearts, without making any difference with our other children, who also welcomed her with so much love."

Panamanian Alfredo Martinez Andrion, 20, recalled his experience of falling into a life of drugs and crime. His addiction, he said, ultimately led to a 12-month prison sentence. Despite attempts to reform following his release, he fell back again into drug use.

Ultimately, he found help at a Catholic-run halfway house that helped and encouraged him "in my path toward reintegration."

"I want to tell the young people of the world that God loves us and never abandons us. We are the masters of our own actions, but if we are with God, everything will be OK," Martinez said.

Nirmeen Odeh, a 26-year-old Palestinian woman, gave the final testimony of the evening, recalling that despite being born and raised in the Holy Land, she was apathetic to Christianity, especially coming "from a place where many of my simple rights are violated."

"I thought it was better to be distant from Christianity so as not to be bothered by others," Odeh said. "With all the struggles and weariness of daily life, I wasn't interested in faith. However, I was curious about the idea of God! It fascinated me."

After participating in World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland, Odeh said she took a "leap of faith" and began receiving the sacraments.

"And here I am today, three years later in Panama, excitedly praying for him (God) to lead me on my next journey," she said.

After listening to their experiences, Pope Francis addressed the youths, saying that their experiences reflected the risk Mary took to say "yes" to God.

The salvation that God wishes to give his children, he said, isn't a file in the cloud waiting to be downloaded or the latest app, but rather is an invitation to be "part of a love story interwoven with our personal stories; it is alive and wants to be born in our midst so that we can bear fruit just as we are, wherever we are and with everyone all around us."

However, Christians can only obtain this salvation by placing their trust in God, especially in moments of uncertainty, doubt and trial.

Recalling the experience given by de Bucktron, the pope said the fears and difficulties the couple faced with the birth of her daughter meant embracing life, even "in accepting things that are not perfect, pure or 'distilled,' yet no less worthy of love," he said.

"Is a disabled or frail person not worthy of love?" the pope asked. "Is a person who happens to be a foreigner, a person who made a mistake, a person ill or in prison, not worthy of love?"

God begins to write his great love story precisely through people's problems, frailties and flaws, the pope said. Just as he embraced Peter after his denials, Jesus helps Christians stand up when they have fallen, the pope added.

Thanking Martinez for his testimony, Pope Francis said the experience of the young Panamanian shows that, without strong roots that are firmly grounded, "it is impossible to grow."

Older people, he continued, must ask themselves what foundations they are providing to help young people grow instead of lobbing criticisms against them.

"It is easy enough to criticize and complain about young people if we are depriving them of the jobs, education and community opportunities they need to take root and to dream of a future," he said.

"Without education, it is difficult to dream of a future; without work, it is very difficult to dream of a future; without a family and community, it is almost impossible to dream of a future."

The pope said that young men and women also need to be rooted in a community and a home that prepares their hearts and give them a sense of belonging.

Odeh's experience, he explained, is proof that this belonging also gives a sense of identity that allows young people to "live the joy that comes from being found by Jesus."

Pope Francis encouraged young people to not be afraid of opening their hearts to Christ and "embrace life with all its frailty and flaws, but also with its grandeur and beauty.

"Do not be afraid," he said, "to tell him that you, too, want to be a part of his love story in this world, that you are ready for something greater."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

At lunch in Panama, U.S. pilgrim questions pope on abuse crisis

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 5:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- While sharing a private lunch with pilgrims from around the world, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy and emphasized the need for unity and prayer, a U.S. pilgrim said.

Brenda Noriega, a youth minister from the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, told journalists Jan. 26 that although the experience of sharing a meal with the pope was "amazing," she said the crisis facing the Catholic Church in the United States was an issue "that we couldn't avoid talking about."

The pope, she said, "reminded us that it was important to accompany the victims, that it is important to walk with the people and to be present to them. That it is important for us to be a church, a united church. And that for me -- as a representative of the U.S. and a minister of young people -- it means a lot."

Noriega was among the group of 10 pilgrims -- five men and five women -- chosen to share a meal with the pope at St. Joseph's Major Seminary in Panama.

The young adults who later spoke to journalists were from the United States, Australia, the Palestinian territories, Burkina Faso, India, Spain and Panama. Each participant was given the opportunity to ask Pope Francis a question.

Noriega said it was important for her to ask the pope about the abuse crisis. His affirmation of the church's support for survivors of sexual abuse, she said, was important to hear.

She also said Pope Francis emphasized the need for a more pastoral church, as well as the importance of prayer in discerning the best way to counter the culture of abuse and cover-up that has plagued the Catholic Church in the United States and abroad.

"What Pope Francis wants us to do in the United States," Noriega told journalists, "is to pray and that, before making any committees, before making any decisions, we need to pray."

She added that the pope's call to prayer was meaningful for her as a youth minister in her diocese.

"Youth ministers, we've been with the people, we've been angry, but sometimes we forget about prayer, because we react too easily and too fast," Noriega said. "What I think the Holy Father is telling us, to the church, is to first pray and to build the communion, and not forget about accompaniment."

It means keeping "in mind that all the victims of the sexual (abuse) crisis are hurt and that the church is committed to support them and that the church is committed to walk with them," Noriega said.

The sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, she recalled the pope saying, "is a horrible crime" and "the church does not support these types of crimes."

Noriega, who was born and raised in Mexico before moving to California, told journalists that representing Catholic young people in United States at the private lunch was a special moment.

"Maybe you are wondering," she told journalists, "why is the representative of the U.S. 'toda morenita' (all brown)? The new face of the Catholic Church in the United States has my face. It is Hispanic."

Noting that an estimated 60 percent of U.S. Catholics under age 18 are Hispanic, Noriega said her representing the country was a way for the U.S. church to say, "We are with the Hispanic community, we are ready to let you be protagonists of Catholicism in the United States."

The other young adults also took the opportunities to address issues facing Catholics in their homelands.

Dana George Daoud Salah, a young woman from the Palestinian territories, expressed her concerns regarding Christians leaving her country and what that would mean for the church.

"He told me, 'Palestine is the homeland of Jesus Christ. Palestine will always remain the land of Jesus, and Christians will always remain.' He said he is going to help us and unite us more so that we can preserve our existence in the land," she said.

Bedwin Taitus K of India told journalists he initially was nervous, but he became at ease and was moved when the pope told him that "he takes India in his heart and deeply cares for India."

Taitus also said his question for Pope Francis was "very different" than that of his peers.

"I asked him how many hours does he sleep," Taitus said. "He laughed and he told me he sleeps for six hours. I told him that I would pray for you that every day you sleep peacefully."

The pope's response to his offer for prayer, Taitus recalled, "was very thought-provoking."

"He told us, 'You have to take care of your Holy Father.' So, I had a very beautiful experience."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

At lunch in Panama, U.S. pilgrim questions pope on abuse crisis

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 5:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- While sharing a private lunch with pilgrims from around the world, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy and emphasized the need for unity and prayer, a U.S. pilgrim said.

Brenda Noriega, a youth minister from the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, told journalists Jan. 26 that although the experience of sharing a meal with the pope was "amazing," she said the crisis facing the Catholic Church in the United States was an issue "that we couldn't avoid talking about."

The pope, she said, "reminded us that it was important to accompany the victims, that it is important to walk with the people and to be present to them. That it is important for us to be a church, a united church. And that for me -- as a representative of the U.S. and a minister of young people -- it means a lot."

Noriega was among the group of 10 pilgrims -- five men and five women -- chosen to share a meal with the pope at St. Joseph's Major Seminary in Panama.

The young adults who later spoke to journalists were from the United States, Australia, the Palestinian territories, Burkina Faso, India, Spain and Panama. Each participant was given the opportunity to ask Pope Francis a question.

Noriega said it was important for her to ask the pope about the abuse crisis. His affirmation of the church's support for survivors of sexual abuse, she said, was important to hear.

She also said Pope Francis emphasized the need for a more pastoral church, as well as the importance of prayer in discerning the best way to counter the culture of abuse and cover-up that has plagued the Catholic Church in the United States and abroad.

"What Pope Francis wants us to do in the United States," Noriega told journalists, "is to pray and that, before making any committees, before making any decisions, we need to pray."

She added that the pope's call to prayer was meaningful for her as a youth minister in her diocese.

"Youth ministers, we've been with the people, we've been angry, but sometimes we forget about prayer, because we react too easily and too fast," Noriega said. "What I think the Holy Father is telling us, to the church, is to first pray and to build the communion, and not forget about accompaniment."

It means keeping "in mind that all the victims of the sexual (abuse) crisis are hurt and that the church is committed to support them and that the church is committed to walk with them," Noriega said.

The sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, she recalled the pope saying, "is a horrible crime" and "the church does not support these types of crimes."

Noriega, who was born and raised in Mexico before moving to California, told journalists that representing Catholic young people in United States at the private lunch was a special moment.

"Maybe you are wondering," she told journalists, "why is the representative of the U.S. 'toda morenita' (all brown)? The new face of the Catholic Church in the United States has my face. It is Hispanic."

Noting that an estimated 60 percent of U.S. Catholics under age 18 are Hispanic, Noriega said her representing the country was a way for the U.S. church to say, "We are with the Hispanic community, we are ready to let you be protagonists of Catholicism in the United States."

The other young adults also took the opportunities to address issues facing Catholics in their homelands.

Dana George Daoud Salah, a young woman from the Palestinian territories, expressed her concerns regarding Christians leaving her country and what that would mean for the church.

"He told me, 'Palestine is the homeland of Jesus Christ. Palestine will always remain the land of Jesus, and Christians will always remain.' He said he is going to help us and unite us more so that we can preserve our existence in the land," she said.

Bedwin Taitus K of India told journalists he initially was nervous, but he became at ease and was moved when the pope told him that "he takes India in his heart and deeply cares for India."

Taitus also said his question for Pope Francis was "very different" than that of his peers.

"I asked him how many hours does he sleep," Taitus said. "He laughed and he told me he sleeps for six hours. I told him that I would pray for you that every day you sleep peacefully."

The pope's response to his offer for prayer, Taitus recalled, "was very thought-provoking."

"He told us, 'You have to take care of your Holy Father.' So, I had a very beautiful experience."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

At lunch in Panama, U.S. pilgrim questions pope on abuse crisis

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 5:32pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- While sharing a private lunch with pilgrims from around the world, Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy and emphasized the need for unity and prayer, a U.S. pilgrim said.

Brenda Noriega, a youth minister from the Diocese of San Bernardino, California, told journalists Jan. 26 that although the experience of sharing a meal with the pope was "amazing," she said the crisis facing the Catholic Church in the United States was an issue "that we couldn't avoid talking about."

The pope, she said, "reminded us that it was important to accompany the victims, that it is important to walk with the people and to be present to them. That it is important for us to be a church, a united church. And that for me -- as a representative of the U.S. and a minister of young people -- it means a lot."

Noriega was among the group of 10 pilgrims -- five men and five women -- chosen to share a meal with the pope at St. Joseph's Major Seminary in Panama.

The young adults who later spoke to journalists were from the United States, Australia, the Palestinian territories, Burkina Faso, India, Spain and Panama. Each participant was given the opportunity to ask Pope Francis a question.

Noriega said it was important for her to ask the pope about the abuse crisis. His affirmation of the church's support for survivors of sexual abuse, she said, was important to hear.

She also said Pope Francis emphasized the need for a more pastoral church, as well as the importance of prayer in discerning the best way to counter the culture of abuse and cover-up that has plagued the Catholic Church in the United States and abroad.

"What Pope Francis wants us to do in the United States," Noriega told journalists, "is to pray and that, before making any committees, before making any decisions, we need to pray."

She added that the pope's call to prayer was meaningful for her as a youth minister in her diocese.

"Youth ministers, we've been with the people, we've been angry, but sometimes we forget about prayer, because we react too easily and too fast," Noriega said. "What I think the Holy Father is telling us, to the church, is to first pray and to build the communion, and not forget about accompaniment."

It means keeping "in mind that all the victims of the sexual (abuse) crisis are hurt and that the church is committed to support them and that the church is committed to walk with them," Noriega said.

The sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults, she recalled the pope saying, "is a horrible crime" and "the church does not support these types of crimes."

Noriega, who was born and raised in Mexico before moving to California, told journalists that representing Catholic young people in United States at the private lunch was a special moment.

"Maybe you are wondering," she told journalists, "why is the representative of the U.S. 'toda morenita' (all brown)? The new face of the Catholic Church in the United States has my face. It is Hispanic."

Noting that an estimated 60 percent of U.S. Catholics under age 18 are Hispanic, Noriega said her representing the country was a way for the U.S. church to say, "We are with the Hispanic community, we are ready to let you be protagonists of Catholicism in the United States."

The other young adults also took the opportunities to address issues facing Catholics in their homelands.

Dana George Daoud Salah, a young woman from the Palestinian territories, expressed her concerns regarding Christians leaving her country and what that would mean for the church.

"He told me, 'Palestine is the homeland of Jesus Christ. Palestine will always remain the land of Jesus, and Christians will always remain.' He said he is going to help us and unite us more so that we can preserve our existence in the land," she said.

Bedwin Taitus K of India told journalists he initially was nervous, but he became at ease and was moved when the pope told him that "he takes India in his heart and deeply cares for India."

Taitus also said his question for Pope Francis was "very different" than that of his peers.

"I asked him how many hours does he sleep," Taitus said. "He laughed and he told me he sleeps for six hours. I told him that I would pray for you that every day you sleep peacefully."

The pope's response to his offer for prayer, Taitus recalled, "was very thought-provoking."

"He told us, 'You have to take care of your Holy Father.' So, I had a very beautiful experience."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Hope wanes in church wounded by sin, pope tells Panama clergy, laity

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 11:01am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- A church wounded by sin can paralyze, confuse and tire the hearts of Catholic clergy and laypeople, causing them to doubt their mission in the modern world, Pope Francis said.

Celebrating Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria La Antigua Jan. 26 with priests, consecrated men and women and members of lay movements, the pope warned that the burdens and troubles in the church can lead to a "weariness of hope" that "calls into question the energy, resources and viability of our mission in this changing and challenging world."

"The weariness of hope comes from seeing a church wounded by sin, which so often failed to hear all those cries that echoed the cry of the Master: 'My God, why have you forsaken me?'" he said.

Thousands of pilgrims and Panamanians waited outside -- some camped outside since 4 a.m. -- cheering loudly as the bells of the cathedral hailed Pope Francis' arrival.

Upon entering the 220-year-old church, the pope was greeted with applause by those present, including President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama and his wife, Lorena Castillo.

The pope then spent several minutes praying before a statue of Santa Maria La Antigua, patroness of Panama. The original image, which depicts Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms and carrying a rose, was first brought into the country by Spanish conquistadors in 1510.

During the Mass, Pope Francis consecrated the altar of the newly renovated cathedral. Removing his chasuble and rolling up his left sleeve, he poured chrism oil and anointed the altar.

According to World Youth Day officials, the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria La Antigua is the first cathedral in the Americas to have an altar consecrated by a pope.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the reading from St. John's Gospel in which Christ, weary from a journey, asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water.

While many in the church seek to announce the Good News as Jesus did, he said, "we do not always know how to contemplate and accompany his weariness; it seems this is not something proper to God."

"The Lord knew what it was to be tired, and in his weariness so many struggles of our nations and peoples, our communities and all who are weary and heavily burdened can find a place," the pope said.

While priests, laity and consecrated men and women can experience physical weariness due to long work hours or "toxic working conditions and relationships," there is also another "subtle weariness" that "seems to have found a place in our communities."

This weariness of hope, he added, can lead to a "gray pragmatism" that pierces the heart of the church, making it seem that while "everything apparently goes on as usual, in reality, faith is crumbling and failing."

"Disappointed by a reality that we do not understand or that we think has no room for our message, we can open the door to one of the worst heresies possible in our time," the pope warned.

It is "the notion that the Lord and our communities have nothing to say or contribute in the new world now being born," he said. "What once arose to be the salt and light for the world ends up stale and worn."

Christians need to quench their parched hope by returning to the "deep well of our first love, when Jesus passed our way, gazed at us with mercy and asked us to follow him."

A wearied hope can be healed, he said, when people are not afraid to let their heart "return to the place of its first love and to find, in the peripheries and challenges before us today, the same song, the same gaze that inspired the song and the gaze of those who have gone before us."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Hope wanes in church wounded by sin, pope tells Panama clergy, laity

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 11:01am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- A church wounded by sin can paralyze, confuse and tire the hearts of Catholic clergy and laypeople, causing them to doubt their mission in the modern world, Pope Francis said.

Celebrating Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria La Antigua Jan. 26 with priests, consecrated men and women and members of lay movements, the pope warned that the burdens and troubles in the church can lead to a "weariness of hope" that "calls into question the energy, resources and viability of our mission in this changing and challenging world."

"The weariness of hope comes from seeing a church wounded by sin, which so often failed to hear all those cries that echoed the cry of the Master: 'My God, why have you forsaken me?'" he said.

Thousands of pilgrims and Panamanians waited outside -- some camped outside since 4 a.m. -- cheering loudly as the bells of the cathedral hailed Pope Francis' arrival.

Upon entering the 220-year-old church, the pope was greeted with applause by those present, including President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama and his wife, Lorena Castillo.

The pope then spent several minutes praying before a statue of Santa Maria La Antigua, patroness of Panama. The original image, which depicts Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms and carrying a rose, was first brought into the country by Spanish conquistadors in 1510.

During the Mass, Pope Francis consecrated the altar of the newly renovated cathedral. Removing his chasuble and rolling up his left sleeve, he poured chrism oil and anointed the altar.

According to World Youth Day officials, the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria La Antigua is the first cathedral in the Americas to have an altar consecrated by a pope.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the reading from St. John's Gospel in which Christ, weary from a journey, asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water.

While many in the church seek to announce the Good News as Jesus did, he said, "we do not always know how to contemplate and accompany his weariness; it seems this is not something proper to God."

"The Lord knew what it was to be tired, and in his weariness so many struggles of our nations and peoples, our communities and all who are weary and heavily burdened can find a place," the pope said.

While priests, laity and consecrated men and women can experience physical weariness due to long work hours or "toxic working conditions and relationships," there is also another "subtle weariness" that "seems to have found a place in our communities."

This weariness of hope, he added, can lead to a "gray pragmatism" that pierces the heart of the church, making it seem that while "everything apparently goes on as usual, in reality, faith is crumbling and failing."

"Disappointed by a reality that we do not understand or that we think has no room for our message, we can open the door to one of the worst heresies possible in our time," the pope warned.

It is "the notion that the Lord and our communities have nothing to say or contribute in the new world now being born," he said. "What once arose to be the salt and light for the world ends up stale and worn."

Christians need to quench their parched hope by returning to the "deep well of our first love, when Jesus passed our way, gazed at us with mercy and asked us to follow him."

A wearied hope can be healed, he said, when people are not afraid to let their heart "return to the place of its first love and to find, in the peripheries and challenges before us today, the same song, the same gaze that inspired the song and the gaze of those who have gone before us."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Hope wanes in church wounded by sin, pope tells Panama clergy, laity

Sat, 01/26/2019 - 11:01am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- A church wounded by sin can paralyze, confuse and tire the hearts of Catholic clergy and laypeople, causing them to doubt their mission in the modern world, Pope Francis said.

Celebrating Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria La Antigua Jan. 26 with priests, consecrated men and women and members of lay movements, the pope warned that the burdens and troubles in the church can lead to a "weariness of hope" that "calls into question the energy, resources and viability of our mission in this changing and challenging world."

"The weariness of hope comes from seeing a church wounded by sin, which so often failed to hear all those cries that echoed the cry of the Master: 'My God, why have you forsaken me?'" he said.

Thousands of pilgrims and Panamanians waited outside -- some camped outside since 4 a.m. -- cheering loudly as the bells of the cathedral hailed Pope Francis' arrival.

Upon entering the 220-year-old church, the pope was greeted with applause by those present, including President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama and his wife, Lorena Castillo.

The pope then spent several minutes praying before a statue of Santa Maria La Antigua, patroness of Panama. The original image, which depicts Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms and carrying a rose, was first brought into the country by Spanish conquistadors in 1510.

During the Mass, Pope Francis consecrated the altar of the newly renovated cathedral. Removing his chasuble and rolling up his left sleeve, he poured chrism oil and anointed the altar.

According to World Youth Day officials, the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria La Antigua is the first cathedral in the Americas to have an altar consecrated by a pope.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the reading from St. John's Gospel in which Christ, weary from a journey, asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water.

While many in the church seek to announce the Good News as Jesus did, he said, "we do not always know how to contemplate and accompany his weariness; it seems this is not something proper to God."

"The Lord knew what it was to be tired, and in his weariness so many struggles of our nations and peoples, our communities and all who are weary and heavily burdened can find a place," the pope said.

While priests, laity and consecrated men and women can experience physical weariness due to long work hours or "toxic working conditions and relationships," there is also another "subtle weariness" that "seems to have found a place in our communities."

This weariness of hope, he added, can lead to a "gray pragmatism" that pierces the heart of the church, making it seem that while "everything apparently goes on as usual, in reality, faith is crumbling and failing."

"Disappointed by a reality that we do not understand or that we think has no room for our message, we can open the door to one of the worst heresies possible in our time," the pope warned.

It is "the notion that the Lord and our communities have nothing to say or contribute in the new world now being born," he said. "What once arose to be the salt and light for the world ends up stale and worn."

Christians need to quench their parched hope by returning to the "deep well of our first love, when Jesus passed our way, gazed at us with mercy and asked us to follow him."

A wearied hope can be healed, he said, when people are not afraid to let their heart "return to the place of its first love and to find, in the peripheries and challenges before us today, the same song, the same gaze that inspired the song and the gaze of those who have gone before us."

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Prayer and silence: Pope joins World Youth Day Way of Cross

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 7:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Jasso, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- The path walked by Jesus to his passion and death on the cross is the same path of indifference and marginalization taken by those who suffer in the world today, Pope Francis said.

Addressing young men and women participating in the Way of the Cross at World Youth Day in Panama Jan. 25, the pope said the road to Calvary is "a way of suffering and solitude" that is "prolonged in a society that has lost the ability to weep and to be moved by suffering."

Jesus "walks and suffers in all those faces hurt by the complacent and anesthetizing indifference of our society that consumes and is consumed, that ignores and is ignorant, blind to the pain of our brothers and sisters," he said.

While the youthful participants expressed their joy with cheers when Pope Francis arrived, prayerful silence overcame the thousands of young people gathered as the solemn celebration began. Groups of pilgrims from different countries took turns carrying the World Youth Day cross throughout the stage at every station.

Each significant event of Jesus' crucifixion was linked to a current theme or issue affecting young people, particularly in Latin America.

Two young pilgrims from Guatemala read the reflection and prayer that connected the station -- Jesus denied by Peter -- to the suffering and marginalization of indigenous people.

"Our indigenous people represent Jesus in centuries-old pain that marks their lives," a young man prayed. "Denied and forgotten, they found in their Lord Jesus the image of their pain, the portrait of so many forgotten."

The reflection and prayer on Jesus being scourged and crowned with thorns was read by two pilgrims from Venezuela, where political and economic instability continues, causing countless men, women and children to flee the country as refugees.

Just like those migrants and refugees, said the male pilgrim, Christ, too, heard "the footsteps of those who yesterday and today, persecute with brutality those who have not only lost everything, but also those who have seen how borders and doors are closed."

He added that the boundaries separating countries today are "crowned with sharp thorns that threaten, despise and reject so many brothers and sisters."

The Venezuelan pilgrims prayed that the world may see the face of Christ in the migrants and refugees of the country and "care, heal and fill with hope the scourged and thorn-crowned hearts of many who have lost even their homeland."

After the Stations of the Cross, Pope Francis, who had watched from the stage, began his meditation by reflecting on the arduous path taken by Christ and the paralyzing temptation of indifference that causes many to look away or actively hurt those who suffer.

"How easy it is to fall into a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation. It is not like that for you, Lord: On the cross, you identified yourself with all those who suffer, with all those who feel forgotten," the pope said.

With arms outstretched on the cross, Jesus wished to "embrace all those unworthy of an embrace, a caress, a blessing or, worse yet, do not even realize that they need it."

The pope then identified the ways in which Christ's Way of the Cross continues, praying for women who are "mistreated, exploited, abandoned, and stripped of their dignity" as well as children "kept from being born" and denied the right to a childhood.

He also related the suffering path taken by Christ to the suffering of those who have been exploited and abused, especially by members of the clergy.

The suffering Christ, he said, can be seen "in the anguish of young faces, our friends, who fall into the snares of unscrupulous people -- including people who claim to be serving you, Lord -- snares of exploitation, criminal activity, and abuse which feed on their lives."

Reflecting also on the suffering of indigenous people, the abandoned, the elderly and creation, which has been profoundly wounded by many, the pope encouraged the young pilgrims to look to Mary, who stood beneath the cross and accompanied the suffering of her son.

"She shared his suffering, yet was not overwhelmed by it. She was the woman of strength who uttered her 'yes,' who supports and accompanies, protects and embraces. She is the great guardian of hope," the pope said.

"Lord, teach us to stand, at the foot of the cross, at the foot of every cross," Pope Francis prayed. "Open our eyes and hearts this night, and rescue us from paralysis and uncertainty, from fear and desperation."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Prayer and silence: Pope joins World Youth Day Way of Cross

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 7:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Jasso, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- The path walked by Jesus to his passion and death on the cross is the same path of indifference and marginalization taken by those who suffer in the world today, Pope Francis said.

Addressing young men and women participating in the Way of the Cross at World Youth Day in Panama Jan. 25, the pope said the road to Calvary is "a way of suffering and solitude" that is "prolonged in a society that has lost the ability to weep and to be moved by suffering."

Jesus "walks and suffers in all those faces hurt by the complacent and anesthetizing indifference of our society that consumes and is consumed, that ignores and is ignorant, blind to the pain of our brothers and sisters," he said.

While the youthful participants expressed their joy with cheers when Pope Francis arrived, prayerful silence overcame the thousands of young people gathered as the solemn celebration began. Groups of pilgrims from different countries took turns carrying the World Youth Day cross throughout the stage at every station.

Each significant event of Jesus' crucifixion was linked to a current theme or issue affecting young people, particularly in Latin America.

Two young pilgrims from Guatemala read the reflection and prayer that connected the station -- Jesus denied by Peter -- to the suffering and marginalization of indigenous people.

"Our indigenous people represent Jesus in centuries-old pain that marks their lives," a young man prayed. "Denied and forgotten, they found in their Lord Jesus the image of their pain, the portrait of so many forgotten."

The reflection and prayer on Jesus being scourged and crowned with thorns was read by two pilgrims from Venezuela, where political and economic instability continues, causing countless men, women and children to flee the country as refugees.

Just like those migrants and refugees, said the male pilgrim, Christ, too, heard "the footsteps of those who yesterday and today, persecute with brutality those who have not only lost everything, but also those who have seen how borders and doors are closed."

He added that the boundaries separating countries today are "crowned with sharp thorns that threaten, despise and reject so many brothers and sisters."

The Venezuelan pilgrims prayed that the world may see the face of Christ in the migrants and refugees of the country and "care, heal and fill with hope the scourged and thorn-crowned hearts of many who have lost even their homeland."

After the Stations of the Cross, Pope Francis, who had watched from the stage, began his meditation by reflecting on the arduous path taken by Christ and the paralyzing temptation of indifference that causes many to look away or actively hurt those who suffer.

"How easy it is to fall into a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation. It is not like that for you, Lord: On the cross, you identified yourself with all those who suffer, with all those who feel forgotten," the pope said.

With arms outstretched on the cross, Jesus wished to "embrace all those unworthy of an embrace, a caress, a blessing or, worse yet, do not even realize that they need it."

The pope then identified the ways in which Christ's Way of the Cross continues, praying for women who are "mistreated, exploited, abandoned, and stripped of their dignity" as well as children "kept from being born" and denied the right to a childhood.

He also related the suffering path taken by Christ to the suffering of those who have been exploited and abused, especially by members of the clergy.

The suffering Christ, he said, can be seen "in the anguish of young faces, our friends, who fall into the snares of unscrupulous people -- including people who claim to be serving you, Lord -- snares of exploitation, criminal activity, and abuse which feed on their lives."

Reflecting also on the suffering of indigenous people, the abandoned, the elderly and creation, which has been profoundly wounded by many, the pope encouraged the young pilgrims to look to Mary, who stood beneath the cross and accompanied the suffering of her son.

"She shared his suffering, yet was not overwhelmed by it. She was the woman of strength who uttered her 'yes,' who supports and accompanies, protects and embraces. She is the great guardian of hope," the pope said.

"Lord, teach us to stand, at the foot of the cross, at the foot of every cross," Pope Francis prayed. "Open our eyes and hearts this night, and rescue us from paralysis and uncertainty, from fear and desperation."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Prayer and silence: Pope joins World Youth Day Way of Cross

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 7:47pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carlos Jasso, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- The path walked by Jesus to his passion and death on the cross is the same path of indifference and marginalization taken by those who suffer in the world today, Pope Francis said.

Addressing young men and women participating in the Way of the Cross at World Youth Day in Panama Jan. 25, the pope said the road to Calvary is "a way of suffering and solitude" that is "prolonged in a society that has lost the ability to weep and to be moved by suffering."

Jesus "walks and suffers in all those faces hurt by the complacent and anesthetizing indifference of our society that consumes and is consumed, that ignores and is ignorant, blind to the pain of our brothers and sisters," he said.

While the youthful participants expressed their joy with cheers when Pope Francis arrived, prayerful silence overcame the thousands of young people gathered as the solemn celebration began. Groups of pilgrims from different countries took turns carrying the World Youth Day cross throughout the stage at every station.

Each significant event of Jesus' crucifixion was linked to a current theme or issue affecting young people, particularly in Latin America.

Two young pilgrims from Guatemala read the reflection and prayer that connected the station -- Jesus denied by Peter -- to the suffering and marginalization of indigenous people.

"Our indigenous people represent Jesus in centuries-old pain that marks their lives," a young man prayed. "Denied and forgotten, they found in their Lord Jesus the image of their pain, the portrait of so many forgotten."

The reflection and prayer on Jesus being scourged and crowned with thorns was read by two pilgrims from Venezuela, where political and economic instability continues, causing countless men, women and children to flee the country as refugees.

Just like those migrants and refugees, said the male pilgrim, Christ, too, heard "the footsteps of those who yesterday and today, persecute with brutality those who have not only lost everything, but also those who have seen how borders and doors are closed."

He added that the boundaries separating countries today are "crowned with sharp thorns that threaten, despise and reject so many brothers and sisters."

The Venezuelan pilgrims prayed that the world may see the face of Christ in the migrants and refugees of the country and "care, heal and fill with hope the scourged and thorn-crowned hearts of many who have lost even their homeland."

After the Stations of the Cross, Pope Francis, who had watched from the stage, began his meditation by reflecting on the arduous path taken by Christ and the paralyzing temptation of indifference that causes many to look away or actively hurt those who suffer.

"How easy it is to fall into a culture of bullying, harassment and intimidation. It is not like that for you, Lord: On the cross, you identified yourself with all those who suffer, with all those who feel forgotten," the pope said.

With arms outstretched on the cross, Jesus wished to "embrace all those unworthy of an embrace, a caress, a blessing or, worse yet, do not even realize that they need it."

The pope then identified the ways in which Christ's Way of the Cross continues, praying for women who are "mistreated, exploited, abandoned, and stripped of their dignity" as well as children "kept from being born" and denied the right to a childhood.

He also related the suffering path taken by Christ to the suffering of those who have been exploited and abused, especially by members of the clergy.

The suffering Christ, he said, can be seen "in the anguish of young faces, our friends, who fall into the snares of unscrupulous people -- including people who claim to be serving you, Lord -- snares of exploitation, criminal activity, and abuse which feed on their lives."

Reflecting also on the suffering of indigenous people, the abandoned, the elderly and creation, which has been profoundly wounded by many, the pope encouraged the young pilgrims to look to Mary, who stood beneath the cross and accompanied the suffering of her son.

"She shared his suffering, yet was not overwhelmed by it. She was the woman of strength who uttered her 'yes,' who supports and accompanies, protects and embraces. She is the great guardian of hope," the pope said.

"Lord, teach us to stand, at the foot of the cross, at the foot of every cross," Pope Francis prayed. "Open our eyes and hearts this night, and rescue us from paralysis and uncertainty, from fear and desperation."

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Chicago cardinal to pilgrims: Keep Mary in mind when facing life's fears

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 4:51pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- To open up a conversation about what Mary's answer to God can teach the young, Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich reached back into the life of his grandmother, an immigrant who carried a profound pain from a father who sent her away to another country with the parting words: "You're no good to me."

Life can produce moments of great pain, moments that can paralyze us with fear, Cardinal Cupich told English-speaking World Youth Day pilgrims Jan. 25 during a catechetical session at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Panama City.

During World Youth Day, cardinals, bishops and others participate in sessions that allow for teaching and sharing and give pilgrims a change to ask questions. Though the events can take many forms, the young pilgrims present for the cardinal's session sat in the room of the small church and listened intently in the pews to hear his family story, which was mixed in with the account of Mary's acceptance. Mary, as an unmarried girl, probably faced great fear when presented with the possibility of being the mother of Jesus and yet she accepted, Cardinal Cupich said.

But fear and pain cannot stop people if they trust in a God who promises to look out for them, he said. For his grandmother, being sent away in a painful manner did not stop her from creating a life, one that led to children and even grandchildren -- including one who became a U.S. cardinal.

Sometimes, one of the pilgrims told the cardinal, there are people who find it hard to believe in God's love; what happens then?

"Make sure you don't give up on God's grace," Cardinal Cupich responded, adding that whether it's pain, or whether it's a great honor, such as becoming the mother of God, a person has to get outside of him or herself and focus on a life of serving others.

Mary, for example, "didn't stay home and post on Facebook 'Hey, I'm the mother of God,'" he said to great laughter. Looking at the Gospel, one of the first things she did was to head out to help her cousin Elizabeth.

"You'll be happier if you serve others," the cardinal said.

Whether it's fear or surprise, people must believe that God is putting each person in a position he wants, the cardinal said. That means a position to help others, he added.

"The Lord calls you to join him and accompany other people," the cardinal said.

Vennera Adedjeh-Mensah of Ghana said she appreciated that the cardinal did not approach the group, which filled the church, with a lecture.

"He brought it to our times and we were able to relate to it," she said.

Sometimes the world offers a view that material goods, or a life that says the "one with the most toys wins," is what will bring people happiness, but it does the opposite, Cardinal Cupich told them. Some speak of what's called the "prosperity" gospel; "that's very dangerous," he said.

And that's not the Gospel of Jesus, he said.

But it's one that can easily call to today's young, said Adedjeh-Mensah.

"There are so many voices nowadays calling for you attention," she said. "But you have to find balance."

Cardinal Cupich told the young people to keep the model of Mary firmly in mind.

"God is calling you to a life of happiness serving others," he said.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Chicago cardinal to pilgrims: Keep Mary in mind when facing life's fears

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 4:51pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- To open up a conversation about what Mary's answer to God can teach the young, Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich reached back into the life of his grandmother, an immigrant who carried a profound pain from a father who sent her away to another country with the parting words: "You're no good to me."

Life can produce moments of great pain, moments that can paralyze us with fear, Cardinal Cupich told English-speaking World Youth Day pilgrims Jan. 25 during a catechetical session at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Panama City.

During World Youth Day, cardinals, bishops and others participate in sessions that allow for teaching and sharing and give pilgrims a change to ask questions. Though the events can take many forms, the young pilgrims present for the cardinal's session sat in the room of the small church and listened intently in the pews to hear his family story, which was mixed in with the account of Mary's acceptance. Mary, as an unmarried girl, probably faced great fear when presented with the possibility of being the mother of Jesus and yet she accepted, Cardinal Cupich said.

But fear and pain cannot stop people if they trust in a God who promises to look out for them, he said. For his grandmother, being sent away in a painful manner did not stop her from creating a life, one that led to children and even grandchildren -- including one who became a U.S. cardinal.

Sometimes, one of the pilgrims told the cardinal, there are people who find it hard to believe in God's love; what happens then?

"Make sure you don't give up on God's grace," Cardinal Cupich responded, adding that whether it's pain, or whether it's a great honor, such as becoming the mother of God, a person has to get outside of him or herself and focus on a life of serving others.

Mary, for example, "didn't stay home and post on Facebook 'Hey, I'm the mother of God,'" he said to great laughter. Looking at the Gospel, one of the first things she did was to head out to help her cousin Elizabeth.

"You'll be happier if you serve others," the cardinal said.

Whether it's fear or surprise, people must believe that God is putting each person in a position he wants, the cardinal said. That means a position to help others, he added.

"The Lord calls you to join him and accompany other people," the cardinal said.

Vennera Adedjeh-Mensah of Ghana said she appreciated that the cardinal did not approach the group, which filled the church, with a lecture.

"He brought it to our times and we were able to relate to it," she said.

Sometimes the world offers a view that material goods, or a life that says the "one with the most toys wins," is what will bring people happiness, but it does the opposite, Cardinal Cupich told them. Some speak of what's called the "prosperity" gospel; "that's very dangerous," he said.

And that's not the Gospel of Jesus, he said.

But it's one that can easily call to today's young, said Adedjeh-Mensah.

"There are so many voices nowadays calling for you attention," she said. "But you have to find balance."

Cardinal Cupich told the young people to keep the model of Mary firmly in mind.

"God is calling you to a life of happiness serving others," he said.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Chicago cardinal to pilgrims: Keep Mary in mind when facing life's fears

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 4:51pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- To open up a conversation about what Mary's answer to God can teach the young, Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich reached back into the life of his grandmother, an immigrant who carried a profound pain from a father who sent her away to another country with the parting words: "You're no good to me."

Life can produce moments of great pain, moments that can paralyze us with fear, Cardinal Cupich told English-speaking World Youth Day pilgrims Jan. 25 during a catechetical session at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Panama City.

During World Youth Day, cardinals, bishops and others participate in sessions that allow for teaching and sharing and give pilgrims a change to ask questions. Though the events can take many forms, the young pilgrims present for the cardinal's session sat in the room of the small church and listened intently in the pews to hear his family story, which was mixed in with the account of Mary's acceptance. Mary, as an unmarried girl, probably faced great fear when presented with the possibility of being the mother of Jesus and yet she accepted, Cardinal Cupich said.

But fear and pain cannot stop people if they trust in a God who promises to look out for them, he said. For his grandmother, being sent away in a painful manner did not stop her from creating a life, one that led to children and even grandchildren -- including one who became a U.S. cardinal.

Sometimes, one of the pilgrims told the cardinal, there are people who find it hard to believe in God's love; what happens then?

"Make sure you don't give up on God's grace," Cardinal Cupich responded, adding that whether it's pain, or whether it's a great honor, such as becoming the mother of God, a person has to get outside of him or herself and focus on a life of serving others.

Mary, for example, "didn't stay home and post on Facebook 'Hey, I'm the mother of God,'" he said to great laughter. Looking at the Gospel, one of the first things she did was to head out to help her cousin Elizabeth.

"You'll be happier if you serve others," the cardinal said.

Whether it's fear or surprise, people must believe that God is putting each person in a position he wants, the cardinal said. That means a position to help others, he added.

"The Lord calls you to join him and accompany other people," the cardinal said.

Vennera Adedjeh-Mensah of Ghana said she appreciated that the cardinal did not approach the group, which filled the church, with a lecture.

"He brought it to our times and we were able to relate to it," she said.

Sometimes the world offers a view that material goods, or a life that says the "one with the most toys wins," is what will bring people happiness, but it does the opposite, Cardinal Cupich told them. Some speak of what's called the "prosperity" gospel; "that's very dangerous," he said.

And that's not the Gospel of Jesus, he said.

But it's one that can easily call to the today's young, said Adedjeh-Mensah.

"There are so many voices nowadays calling for you attention," she said. "But you have to find balance."

Cardinal Cupich told the young people to keep the model of Mary firmly in mind.

"God is calling you to a life of happiness serving others," he said.

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Jesus' love does not use labels, pope tells young detainees in Panama

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 2:26pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Just like the Pharisees, many today shun Jesus' merciful love toward sinners and prefer to use labels that stigmatize a person's past, present and future, Pope Francis said.

Speaking to young detainees at a penitential liturgy in Las Garzas de Pacora Juvenile Detention Center in Panama Jan. 25, the pope said society creates "an adjective culture" that prefers to immediately label people as good or bad rather than truly getting to know them.

"Gossipers are not interested (in the person). They quickly seek to put a label to get them out of the way. The adjective culture belittles the person," he said.

Pope Francis traveled by helicopter to the industrial town of Pacora, 20 miles east of Panama City. Thousands of people lined the streets holding banners, balloons and flags welcoming the pope, who waved and smiled as he greeted them from his popemobile.

The detainees -- wearing white World Youth Day T-shirts - chanted "Esta es la juventud del papa" ("We are the pope's youths.") Many wore rosaries around their necks or held them in their hands.

In a message sent to journalists, the Vatican said the pope's drive around the neighborhood of Pacora was "a sign of closeness to the people who live in this periphery."

Upon his arrival, the pope listened to the experience of Luis Oscar Martinez, a young man detained at the prison. Recalling his arrest and subsequent transfer to Las Garzas, Martinez said that, despite the situation, "something told me, 'It isn't over.'"

"In that moment," Martinez recalled, "I understood that God my father was with me. And if I am talking to you right now, it is because of the grace and love of God and my beloved Christ."

Sharing his hopes and dreams of one day becoming an international chef, Martinez expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis for visiting him and his fellow inmates.

"I would like to thank you because, as a servant of the Lord Jesus, you took the time to listen to a poor person deprived of freedom like myself. There are no words to describe the freedom I feel at this moment. Thank you for that," he said.

During the penitential liturgy, the pope heard the confessions of five inmates -- four young men and a young woman -- in a small tent set up outside of the prison, the Vatican said. One of the young men was missing a leg and using crutches. He could not sit down, so the pope stood up to hear his confession.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's reading from the Gospel of St. Luke, which recalled the criticism by the Pharisees against Jesus because "he receives sinners and eats with them."

While the Pharisees intended to "discredit and dismiss" Christ, he explained, they instead point out Jesus' "most ordinary yet distinctive ways of relating to others."

"Jesus is not afraid to approach those who, for countless reasons, were the object of social hatred, like the publicans -- we know that tax collectors grew rich by exploiting their own people and they caused great resentment -- or like those who were called sinners because of the gravity of their faults, errors and mistakes," the pope said.

The pope added that Jesus' way of approaching and engaging others, even if it meant "putting his reputation at risk," stood in stark contrast to the Pharisees' "sterile, fruitless approach" of complaining and "blocking any kind of change, conversion and inclusion."

This attitude, he continued, spoils everything, because it creates "an invisible wall that makes people think that, if we marginalize, separate and isolate others, all our problems will magically be solved."

"When a society or community allows this," he added, "and does nothing more than complain and backbite, it enters into a vicious circle of division, blame and condemnation."

On the other hand, the pope continued, the Gospel characterizes the merciful approach of God who celebrates "when he sees his children returning home."

This love "has no time for complaining" and "initiates a process capable of providing ways and means for integration and transformation, healing and forgiveness: a path of salvation," he said.

Jesus, he said, breaks the mentality "that separates, excludes, isolates and falsely separates 'the good and the bad,'" not with slogans or sentimentality but by "creating relationships capable of enabling new processes; investing in and celebrating every possible step forward."

Through this approach, Christ also breaks the insidious whispers that haunt those who repent from their sin, that continue to tell them "You can't do it," which instills in them fear that they will never change, Pope Francis said.

"Friends, each of us is much more than our labels. That is what Jesus teaches us and asks us to believe," the pope said. "His approach challenges us to ask and seek help when setting out on the path of improvement."

Encouraging the young detainees, the pope urged them to not believe or listen to the voices that bring them down and instead listen to the voices "that encourage you to look ahead."

Society, he added, can only be fruitful when it offers a path of inclusion and integration instead of relentless, negative and heartless campaigning against young men and women looking for a second chance.

"Keep fighting, all of you, to seek and find the paths of integration and transformation." Pope Francis said. "The Lord will bless, sustain and accompany you."

After the penitential liturgy, Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, said the pope was "visibly moved by this meeting" and that he wanted to "communicate to those young people that they are not alone and that they are not separated from God's love."

"I was able to speak a bit with the pope after this visit," Gisotti told journalists. "And the pope told me this: 'The most important message I wanted to give witness to today was the mercy of God and highlight that we are all in need of God's mercy.'"

Emma Alba de Tejada, director of Las Garzas de Pacora Juvenile Detention Center, said among the five detainees whose confessions were heard was a young man who harbored anger over the death of his brother and wanted revenge.

"Today, when he finished his confession, he couldn't stop crying," Alba said. "He (finally) felt what he wanted to feel. He said, 'I am transformed; I want to change and I will change.'"

"What the pope did today for our kids was spiritually great. It was what they needed: that he would remember that there are young people who had broken the law, who deserved that he would look at them and tell them, 'I am here,'" Alba said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Update: Jesus' love does not use labels, pope tells young detainees in Panama

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 2:26pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Just like the Pharisees, many today shun Jesus' merciful love toward sinners and prefer to use labels that stigmatize a person's past, present and future, Pope Francis said.

Speaking to young detainees at a penitential liturgy in Las Garzas de Pacora Juvenile Detention Center in Panama Jan. 25, the pope said society creates "an adjective culture" that prefers to immediately label people as good or bad rather than truly getting to know them.

"Gossipers are not interested (in the person). They quickly seek to put a label to get them out of the way. The adjective culture belittles the person," he said.

Pope Francis traveled by helicopter to the industrial town of Pacora, 20 miles east of Panama City. Thousands of people lined the streets holding banners, balloons and flags welcoming the pope, who waved and smiled as he greeted them from his popemobile.

The detainees -- wearing white World Youth Day T-shirts - chanted "Esta es la juventud del papa" ("We are the pope's youths.") Many wore rosaries around their necks or held them in their hands.

In a message sent to journalists, the Vatican said the pope's drive around the neighborhood of Pacora was "a sign of closeness to the people who live in this periphery."

Upon his arrival, the pope listened to the experience of Luis Oscar Martinez, a young man detained at the prison. Recalling his arrest and subsequent transfer to Las Garzas, Martinez said that, despite the situation, "something told me, 'It isn't over.'"

"In that moment," Martinez recalled, "I understood that God my father was with me. And if I am talking to you right now, it is because of the grace and love of God and my beloved Christ."

Sharing his hopes and dreams of one day becoming an international chef, Martinez expressed his gratitude to Pope Francis for visiting him and his fellow inmates.

"I would like to thank you because, as a servant of the Lord Jesus, you took the time to listen to a poor person deprived of freedom like myself. There are no words to describe the freedom I feel at this moment. Thank you for that," he said.

During the penitential liturgy, the pope heard the confessions of five inmates -- four young men and a young woman -- in a small tent set up outside of the prison, the Vatican said. One of the young men was missing a leg and using crutches. He could not sit down, so the pope stood up to hear his confession.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day's reading from the Gospel of St. Luke, which recalled the criticism by the Pharisees against Jesus because "he receives sinners and eats with them."

While the Pharisees intended to "discredit and dismiss" Christ, he explained, they instead point out Jesus' "most ordinary yet distinctive ways of relating to others."

"Jesus is not afraid to approach those who, for countless reasons, were the object of social hatred, like the publicans -- we know that tax collectors grew rich by exploiting their own people and they caused great resentment -- or like those who were called sinners because of the gravity of their faults, errors and mistakes," the pope said.

The pope added that Jesus' way of approaching and engaging others, even if it meant "putting his reputation at risk," stood in stark contrast to the Pharisees' "sterile, fruitless approach" of complaining and "blocking any kind of change, conversion and inclusion."

This attitude, he continued, spoils everything, because it creates "an invisible wall that makes people think that, if we marginalize, separate and isolate others, all our problems will magically be solved."

"When a society or community allows this," he added, "and does nothing more than complain and backbite, it enters into a vicious circle of division, blame and condemnation."

On the other hand, the pope continued, the Gospel characterizes the merciful approach of God who celebrates "when he sees his children returning home."

This love "has no time for complaining" and "initiates a process capable of providing ways and means for integration and transformation, healing and forgiveness: a path of salvation," he said.

Jesus, he said, breaks the mentality "that separates, excludes, isolates and falsely separates 'the good and the bad,'" not with slogans or sentimentality but by "creating relationships capable of enabling new processes; investing in and celebrating every possible step forward."

Through this approach, Christ also breaks the insidious whispers that haunt those who repent from their sin, that continue to tell them "You can't do it," which instills in them fear that they will never change, Pope Francis said.

"Friends, each of us is much more than our labels. That is what Jesus teaches us and asks us to believe," the pope said. "His approach challenges us to ask and seek help when setting out on the path of improvement."

Encouraging the young detainees, the pope urged them to not believe or listen to the voices that bring them down and instead listen to the voices "that encourage you to look ahead."

Society, he added, can only be fruitful when it offers a path of inclusion and integration instead of relentless, negative and heartless campaigning against young men and women looking for a second chance.

"Keep fighting, all of you, to seek and find the paths of integration and transformation." Pope Francis said. "The Lord will bless, sustain and accompany you."

After the penitential liturgy, Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Vatican press office, said the pope was "visibly moved by this meeting" and that he wanted to "communicate to those young people that they are not alone and that they are not separated from God's love."

"I was able to speak a bit with the pope after this visit," Gisotti told journalists. "And the pope told me this: 'The most important message I wanted to give witness to today was the mercy of God and highlight that we are all in need of God's mercy.'"

Emma Alba de Tejada, director of Las Garzas de Pacora Juvenile Detention Center, said among the five detainees whose confessions were heard was a young man who harbored anger over the death of his brother and wanted revenge.

"Today, when he finished his confession, he couldn't stop crying," Alba said. "He (finally) felt what he wanted to feel. He said, 'I am transformed; I want to change and I will change.'"

"What the pope did today for our kids was spiritually great. It was what they needed: that he would remember that there are young people who had broken the law, who deserved that he would look at them and tell them, 'I am here,'" Alba said.

- - -

Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

- - -

Copyright © 2019 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

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