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

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 1:00pm

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 a young man detained at the prison. Recalling his arrest and subsequent transfer to Las Garzas, the young man said that, despite the situation, "something told me, 'It isn't over.'"

"In that moment," the young man 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, the young detainee 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."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

 

 

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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.

Search for Christian unity is making progress, Vatican official says

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 11:02am

IMAGE: CNS/Giampiero Sposito

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite some new tensions, "practically the whole of Christianity is in a process of advancing beyond the controversies and competition of the past, toward greater understanding, trust and solidarity," said Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Writing in The Tablet, a London-based international Catholic weekly, Bishop Farrell said, "Pockets of mutual rejection and contention remain, but most of the world's Christians have come to recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, united in a common baptism and giving a common witness in serving the needs of suffering humanity."

The bishops' article was published Jan. 24 during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

To illustrate how "not all is plain sailing" in the search for Christian unity, Bishop Farrell pointed to the challenges posed by a dispute within Orthodoxy over the question of authority and by a controversy within the Catholic Church over allowing the husband and wife in a Catholic-Protestant marriage to receive Communion.

The tensions within the Orthodox Church, particularly between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church over the ecumenical patriarch's recognition of the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, have implications for the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue as well, the bishop said.

"Beyond any political considerations involved, the fundamental point in question is whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate by itself has the authority to do what it has done," Bishop Farrell wrote. "The Russian church has roundly rejected that claim, even accusing Patriarch Bartholomew of wanting to be a pope over all of Orthodoxy. The Russian claim is that there is no universal primacy over the whole church, only independent local churches gathered in a communion of faith, grace and brotherhood."

That claim, the bishop said, would seem to indicate that agreed statements by the official Catholic-Orthodox dialogue on the role of primacy in the universal church "are far from received and accepted."

"Whether and how the dialogue commission can effectively and usefully continue its work in the present situation is now an impelling question," he wrote.

On the Catholic side, he said, "a crucial test of ecumenical resolve" resulted from the debate over a plan by the Germany's Catholic bishops to make it easier for the Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Communion with their husband or wife.

In the end, Pope Francis asked the German bishops to shelve the plan until they could reach a fuller consensus on it.

Normally, Bishop Farrell wrote, "the sacraments should only be administered to those in full communion with the celebrating church," but the church can and has recognized that "certain situations constitute a call on her to offer the means of holiness and salvation to other baptized Christians, not her own members."

Current church law permits sacramental sharing in cases of "grave need" when it is clear the person receiving the Eucharist shares a "Catholic faith" that it is Christ's body.

Many Catholics, including several prominent German bishops, felt being in an interchurch marriage did not constitute a "grave need."

Bishop Farrell said, though, the debate and eventual suspension of the plan had ecumenical repercussions as well because "in the eyes of many ecumenical partners, too, the debate gave the impression of a new 'closure' on the part of the Catholic Church."

But the work and prayer for Christian unity made strides in 2018 as well, he said, citing Pope Francis' visit to the World Council of Churches, the dialogues the Catholic Church is involved in, the dialogues other Christian churches are pursuing and, especially, the "dialogue of life and love" conducted by many Christians of many denominations.

"For centuries the divided Christian churches used their differences to affirm their identity over against one another," Bishop Farrell said. "Consequently, the very idea of working together was practically unthinkable."

Now, not only are Christians working together to serve the poor, he said, they also are adopting "a new mindset in which legitimate differences of doctrinal formulation and liturgical and canonical tradition and practice are acknowledged and esteemed and, therefore, seen not as a denial of what we are but as gifts that complement us."

The bishop said a "turning point in the ecumenical quest" could be reached when -- as Pope Francis said Jan. 18 -- Christians realize it is "a grave sin to belittle or despise the gifts that the Lord has given" to other Christians and instead acknowledge their value.

 

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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.

Search for Christian unity is making progress, Vatican official says

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 11:02am

IMAGE: CNS/Giampiero Sposito

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite some new tensions, "practically the whole of Christianity is in a process of advancing beyond the controversies and competition of the past, toward greater understanding, trust and solidarity," said Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Writing in The Tablet, a London-based international Catholic weekly, Bishop Farrell said, "Pockets of mutual rejection and contention remain, but most of the world's Christians have come to recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, united in a common baptism and giving a common witness in serving the needs of suffering humanity."

The bishops' article was published Jan. 24 during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

To illustrate how "not all is plain sailing" in the search for Christian unity, Bishop Farrell pointed to the challenges posed by a dispute within Orthodoxy over the question of authority and by a controversy within the Catholic Church over allowing the husband and wife in a Catholic-Protestant marriage to receive Communion.

The tensions within the Orthodox Church, particularly between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church over the ecumenical patriarch's recognition of the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, have implications for the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue as well, the bishop said.

"Beyond any political considerations involved, the fundamental point in question is whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate by itself has the authority to do what it has done," Bishop Farrell wrote. "The Russian church has roundly rejected that claim, even accusing Patriarch Bartholomew of wanting to be a pope over all of Orthodoxy. The Russian claim is that there is no universal primacy over the whole church, only independent local churches gathered in a communion of faith, grace and brotherhood."

That claim, the bishop said, would seem to indicate that agreed statements by the official Catholic-Orthodox dialogue on the role of primacy in the universal church "are far from received and accepted."

"Whether and how the dialogue commission can effectively and usefully continue its work in the present situation is now an impelling question," he wrote.

On the Catholic side, he said, "a crucial test of ecumenical resolve" resulted from the debate over a plan by the Germany's Catholic bishops to make it easier for the Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Communion with their husband or wife.

In the end, Pope Francis asked the German bishops to shelve the plan until they could reach a fuller consensus on it.

Normally, Bishop Farrell wrote, "the sacraments should only be administered to those in full communion with the celebrating church," but the church can and has recognized that "certain situations constitute a call on her to offer the means of holiness and salvation to other baptized Christians, not her own members."

Current church law permits sacramental sharing in cases of "grave need" when it is clear the person receiving the Eucharist shares a "Catholic faith" that it is Christ's body.

Many Catholics, including several prominent German bishops, felt being in an interchurch marriage did not constitute a "grave need."

Bishop Farrell said, though, the debate and eventual suspension of the plan had ecumenical repercussions as well because "in the eyes of many ecumenical partners, too, the debate gave the impression of a new 'closure' on the part of the Catholic Church."

But the work and prayer for Christian unity made strides in 2018 as well, he said, citing Pope Francis' visit to the World Council of Churches, the dialogues the Catholic Church is involved in, the dialogues other Christian churches are pursuing and, especially, the "dialogue of life and love" conducted by many Christians of many denominations.

"For centuries the divided Christian churches used their differences to affirm their identity over against one another," Bishop Farrell said. "Consequently, the very idea of working together was practically unthinkable."

Now, not only are Christians working together to serve the poor, he said, they also are adopting "a new mindset in which legitimate differences of doctrinal formulation and liturgical and canonical tradition and practice are acknowledged and esteemed and, therefore, seen not as a denial of what we are but as gifts that complement us."

The bishop said a "turning point in the ecumenical quest" could be reached when -- as Pope Francis said Jan. 18 -- Christians realize it is "a grave sin to belittle or despise the gifts that the Lord has given" to other Christians and instead acknowledge their value.

 

- - -

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.

Search for Christian unity is making progress, Vatican official says

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 11:02am

IMAGE: CNS/Giampiero Sposito

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite some new tensions, "practically the whole of Christianity is in a process of advancing beyond the controversies and competition of the past, toward greater understanding, trust and solidarity," said Bishop Brian Farrell, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

Writing in The Tablet, a London-based international Catholic weekly, Bishop Farrell said, "Pockets of mutual rejection and contention remain, but most of the world's Christians have come to recognize one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, united in a common baptism and giving a common witness in serving the needs of suffering humanity."

The bishops' article was published Jan. 24 during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

To illustrate how "not all is plain sailing" in the search for Christian unity, Bishop Farrell pointed to the challenges posed by a dispute within Orthodoxy over the question of authority and by a controversy within the Catholic Church over allowing the husband and wife in a Catholic-Protestant marriage to receive Communion.

The tensions within the Orthodox Church, particularly between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Church over the ecumenical patriarch's recognition of the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, have implications for the Catholic-Orthodox dialogue as well, the bishop said.

"Beyond any political considerations involved, the fundamental point in question is whether the Ecumenical Patriarchate by itself has the authority to do what it has done," Bishop Farrell wrote. "The Russian church has roundly rejected that claim, even accusing Patriarch Bartholomew of wanting to be a pope over all of Orthodoxy. The Russian claim is that there is no universal primacy over the whole church, only independent local churches gathered in a communion of faith, grace and brotherhood."

That claim, the bishop said, would seem to indicate that agreed statements by the official Catholic-Orthodox dialogue on the role of primacy in the universal church "are far from received and accepted."

"Whether and how the dialogue commission can effectively and usefully continue its work in the present situation is now an impelling question," he wrote.

On the Catholic side, he said, "a crucial test of ecumenical resolve" resulted from the debate over a plan by the Germany's Catholic bishops to make it easier for the Protestant spouses of Catholics to receive Communion with their husband or wife.

In the end, Pope Francis asked the German bishops to shelve the plan until they could reach a fuller consensus on it.

Normally, Bishop Farrell wrote, "the sacraments should only be administered to those in full communion with the celebrating church," but the church can and has recognized that "certain situations constitute a call on her to offer the means of holiness and salvation to other baptized Christians, not her own members."

Current church law permits sacramental sharing in cases of "grave need" when it is clear the person receiving the Eucharist shares a "Catholic faith" that it is Christ's body.

Many Catholics, including several prominent German bishops, felt being in an interchurch marriage did not constitute a "grave need."

Bishop Farrell said, though, the debate and eventual suspension of the plan had ecumenical repercussions as well because "in the eyes of many ecumenical partners, too, the debate gave the impression of a new 'closure' on the part of the Catholic Church."

But the work and prayer for Christian unity made strides in 2018 as well, he said, citing Pope Francis' visit to the World Council of Churches, the dialogues the Catholic Church is involved in, the dialogues other Christian churches are pursuing and, especially, the "dialogue of life and love" conducted by many Christians of many denominations.

"For centuries the divided Christian churches used their differences to affirm their identity over against one another," Bishop Farrell said. "Consequently, the very idea of working together was practically unthinkable."

Now, not only are Christians working together to serve the poor, he said, they also are adopting "a new mindset in which legitimate differences of doctrinal formulation and liturgical and canonical tradition and practice are acknowledged and esteemed and, therefore, seen not as a denial of what we are but as gifts that complement us."

The bishop said a "turning point in the ecumenical quest" could be reached when -- as Pope Francis said Jan. 18 -- Christians realize it is "a grave sin to belittle or despise the gifts that the Lord has given" to other Christians and instead acknowledge their value.

 

- - -

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.

Panama mosque offers free water to World Youth Day pilgrims

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 10:10am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Thousands of World Youth Day pilgrims stopped by the Jama Mosque Jan. 24 en route to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis.

"Brothers, sisters, you need water," Hashim Bhana yelled at them from under a tent that announced a "hydration center" outside the mosque, a place where pilgrims could pick up free water, or catch some needed shade and a smile as they struggled to stay hydrated under the blazing sun.

"This is an event for the good of young people, it benefits them so how could we say no" to helping them, said Bhana.

While hundreds of vendors sold water to the thirsty, the Muslim community at the oldest mosque in Panama City gave it away for free near a banner that said, "Welcome Pilgrim Friends." By the time Pope Francis had arrived at Santa Maria la Antigua Field, they had handed out 15,000 bottles and were looking for more because of the demand, said Bhana.

In Panama City, people of different religions get along well, he said, so the gesture was not unusual.

"What's important to us is that we're all brothers and sisters. We don't ask about your religion, your skin color, age. We're all humans and we want everyone to be well," said Kasim Bhana, who was helping distribute water.

Having the pope in Panama City is a blessing, he said, adding that the Muslim community would be providing free water until World Youth Day was over, particularly because the venues for many of the events were near the mosque and they did not want the pilgrims to dehydrate or suffer.

The mosque has about 8,000 members, give or take, said Kasim Bhana, and many were taking turns staffing the water stations during the hottest times of the day. Others bought and delivered water and ice to keep the water bottles cold. But on the day the pope was going to be closest to the mosque, they opened earlier.

"This was the best day," he said.

 

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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.

Panama mosque offers free water to World Youth Day pilgrims

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 10:10am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Thousands of World Youth Day pilgrims stopped by the Jama Mosque Jan. 24 en route to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis.

"Brothers, sisters, you need water," Hashim Bhana yelled at them from under a tent that announced a "hydration center" outside the mosque, a place where pilgrims could pick up free water, or catch some needed shade and a smile as they struggled to stay hydrated under the blazing sun.

"This is an event for the good of young people, it benefits them so how could we say no" to helping them, said Bhana.

While hundreds of vendors sold water to the thirsty, the Muslim community at the oldest mosque in Panama City gave it away for free near a banner that said, "Welcome Pilgrim Friends." By the time Pope Francis had arrived at Santa Maria la Antigua Field, they had handed out 15,000 bottles and were looking for more because of the demand, said Bhana.

In Panama City, people of different religions get along well, he said, so the gesture was not unusual.

"What's important to us is that we're all brothers and sisters. We don't ask about your religion, your skin color, age. We're all humans and we want everyone to be well," said Kasim Bhana, who was helping distribute water.

Having the pope in Panama City is a blessing, he said, adding that the Muslim community would be providing free water until World Youth Day was over, particularly because the venues for many of the events were near the mosque and they did not want the pilgrims to dehydrate or suffer.

The mosque has about 8,000 members, give or take, said Kasim Bhana, and many were taking turns staffing the water stations during the hottest times of the day. Others bought and delivered water and ice to keep the water bottles cold. But on the day the pope was going to be closest to the mosque, they opened earlier.

"This was the best day," 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.

Panama mosque offers free water to World Youth Day pilgrims

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 10:10am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Thousands of World Youth Day pilgrims stopped by the Jama Mosque Jan. 24 en route to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis.

"Brothers, sisters, you need water," Hashim Bhana yelled at them from under a tent that announced a "hydration center" outside the mosque, a place where pilgrims could pick up free water, or catch some needed shade and a smile as they struggled to stay hydrated under the blazing sun.

"This is an event for the good of young people, it benefits them so how could we say no" to helping them, said Bhana.

While hundreds of vendors sold water to the thirsty, the Muslim community at the oldest mosque in Panama City gave it away for free near a banner that said, "Welcome Pilgrim Friends." By the time Pope Francis had arrived at Santa Maria la Antigua Field, they had handed out 15,000 bottles and were looking for more because of the demand, said Bhana.

In Panama City, people of different religions get along well, he said, so the gesture was not unusual.

"What's important to us is that we're all brothers and sisters. We don't ask about your religion, your skin color, age. We're all humans and we want everyone to be well," said Kasim Bhana, who was helping distribute water.

Having the pope in Panama City is a blessing, he said, adding that the Muslim community would be providing free water until World Youth Day was over, particularly because the venues for many of the events were near the mosque and they did not want the pilgrims to dehydrate or suffer.

The mosque has about 8,000 members, give or take, said Kasim Bhana, and many were taking turns staffing the water stations during the hottest times of the day. Others bought and delivered water and ice to keep the water bottles cold. But on the day the pope was going to be closest to the mosque, they opened earlier.

"This was the best day," 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: World Youth Day offers glimpse of church's diversity to Indiana pilgrims

Fri, 01/25/2019 - 7:59am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Panama City has skyscrapers, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and a population of 880,000 within the city limits -- more than 1.5 million in the metropolitan area. Yet a group of pilgrims from Indiana found warmth and the diversity of the Catholic Church while attending World Youth Day in the bustling city center.

From encountering friendly and welcoming Uber drivers and watching other pilgrims dance to sharing the Catholic faith and spirit, the experience has been a joyful one, said a group from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana. They spoke to Catholic News Service Jan. 23 at the FIAT Festival, an event aimed at U.S. pilgrims.

"It's a unique experience," said Leo Patino of Warsaw, Indiana, a city of about 14,700. Patino, attending World Youth Day for the first time, said he had found exactly what Archbishop Jose Ulloa Mendieta spoke about at the event's opening Mass -- the warmth of the Panamanian people.

"Everyone has been very friendly," said 17-year-old Sophia Rodriguez of South Bend.

Even when the group went looking for hard-to-find Mexican food in Panama City, particularly tortillas, which are not a staple food here, Panamanians told them to call ahead of time and they would do what they could to accommodate them.

But one of the biggest benefits has been being able to mix with pilgrims of other countries and also those who express their lives of faith a little differently.

Alexandra Castaneda, 17, said the church back home in Ligonier, Indiana, is "more conservative," so it was beautiful to watch other pilgrims express themselves differently, specifically through dance, and she appreciated the "emotion and energy" she saw in them. It was something that was "different" for her, she said.

Rodriguez said it made her realize the variety of styles within the church, but also the different nationalities that make up Catholicism.

Patino said being around pilgrims from other countries at World Youth Day has helped him see the church's richness.

The pilgrims said they met people from New Zealand, Colombia and El Salvador and, even though many of them were Latinos like them, they learned new things and appreciated meeting them.

"It makes you see the differences" in a good way, said Rodriguez.

Eduardo Arroyo, 24, said it was enriching to hear the Uber driver explain about politics and the history of his home country, a place of architectural riches, particularly when it comes to churches.

But the biggest gifts of the week came in the discernment process about what this World Youth Day will mean going forward, said Patino.

"We're on fire and we're ready to put into practice the words of (Archbishop Ulloa) ... to confront obstacles and break barriers," he said.

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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.

Keep God's love alive, pope tells young people at World Youth Day

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 7:36pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Young men and women in the church can bring the joy of the Gospel to the world by showing that God's love extends to all people and excludes no one, Pope Francis said.

"By your actions and your approach, your way of looking at things, your desires and above all your sensitivity, you discredit and defuse the kind of talk that is intent on sowing division, on excluding or rejecting those who are not 'like us,'" the pope said Jan. 24 during the official ceremony welcoming him to World Youth Day in Panama.

Arriving at the site, which sat along the picturesque Panamanian coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the pope was welcomed by an estimated 250,000 young people enthusiastically waving their country's flags as the popemobile passed.

Five young people, representing each of the five continents present at the gathering, greeted the pope. Taking those near him by the hand, Pope Francis walked toward the main stage as young people processed, carrying the World Youth Day cross.

Interspersed with festive music and dancing, the opening ceremony celebrated the universality of the church as young people dressed in the traditional outfits of their native countries entertained the multitude.

Young people from Panama presented the pope with a stole made of "mola," a handmade textile form featuring ornate designs that are part of the indigenous Guna people of Panama.

In his speech, the pope thanked the young people for coming to Panama and encouraged them to be better witnesses of the Gospel.

While World Youth Day is usually marked by festive celebrations, its goal is not to "create a parallel church that would be more 'fun' or 'cool,'" the pope said.

"That way of thinking," he said, "would not respect either you or everything that the Spirit is saying through you."

Instead, the pope continued, World Youth Day is an opportunity to reawaken "the church's constant freshness and youth" that happens only by listening and sharing with others as well as by serving others.

Acknowledging the difficulty many young men and women faced in making the journey to Panama, Pope Francis said it mirrored the life of a disciple who "is not merely someone who arrives at a certain place, but one who sets out decisively, who is not afraid to take risks and keeps walking."

In making the sacrifices that allowed them to participate in World Youth Day, he added, young people have become "true teachers and builders of the culture of encounter."

Their example, he continued, teaches that the culture of encounter "does not mean having to look alike, or think the same way or do the same things, listening to the same music or wearing the same football jersey."

Instead, young people can teach the world that the culture of encounter is built by a shared dream, "a great dream, a dream that has a place for everyone."

It is "a dream named Jesus, sown by the Father in the confidence that it would grow and live in every heart," he said. "A dream running through our veins, thrilling our hearts and making them dance whenever we hear the command: 'that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Citing the words of St. Oscar Romero, Pope Francis reminded the young pilgrims that Christianity is not merely "a collection of truths to be believed, of rules to be followed or of prohibitions. Seen that way, it puts us off."

"Christianity is a person who loved me immensely, who demands and asks for my love. Christianity is Christ. It means pursuing the dream for which he gave his life: loving with the same love with which he loved us," the pope said.

Like Mary, who was asked by the angel Gabriel if she wanted to bear the son of God in her womb, the pope said young people are still asked today if they are willing to bear Christ's love in their hearts.

The result of World Youth Day will not be a final document or a program, he said, but rather each young person returning home with "the new strength born of every encounter with others and with the Lord" to keep love alive and not let it "grow cold in the heart of our world."

"Wherever we may be and whatever we may do, we can always look up and say, 'Lord, teach me to love as you have loved us,'" Pope Francis said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

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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.

Keep God's love alive, pope tells young people at World Youth Day

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 7:36pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Young men and women in the church can bring the joy of the Gospel to the world by showing that God's love extends to all people and excludes no one, Pope Francis said.

"By your actions and your approach, your way of looking at things, your desires and above all your sensitivity, you discredit and defuse the kind of talk that is intent on sowing division, on excluding or rejecting those who are not 'like us,'" the pope said Jan. 24 during the official ceremony welcoming him to World Youth Day in Panama.

Arriving at the site, which sat along the picturesque Panamanian coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the pope was welcomed by an estimated 250,000 young people enthusiastically waving their country's flags as the popemobile passed.

Five young people, representing each of the five continents present at the gathering, greeted the pope. Taking those near him by the hand, Pope Francis walked toward the main stage as young people processed, carrying the World Youth Day cross.

Interspersed with festive music and dancing, the opening ceremony celebrated the universality of the church as young people dressed in the traditional outfits of their native countries entertained the multitude.

Young people from Panama presented the pope with a stole made of "mola," a handmade textile form featuring ornate designs that are part of the indigenous Guna people of Panama.

In his speech, the pope thanked the young people for coming to Panama and encouraged them to be better witnesses of the Gospel.

While World Youth Day is usually marked by festive celebrations, its goal is not to "create a parallel church that would be more 'fun' or 'cool,'" the pope said.

"That way of thinking," he said, "would not respect either you or everything that the Spirit is saying through you."

Instead, the pope continued, World Youth Day is an opportunity to reawaken "the church's constant freshness and youth" that happens only by listening and sharing with others as well as by serving others.

Acknowledging the difficulty many young men and women faced in making the journey to Panama, Pope Francis said it mirrored the life of a disciple who "is not merely someone who arrives at a certain place, but one who sets out decisively, who is not afraid to take risks and keeps walking."

In making the sacrifices that allowed them to participate in World Youth Day, he added, young people have become "true teachers and builders of the culture of encounter."

Their example, he continued, teaches that the culture of encounter "does not mean having to look alike, or think the same way or do the same things, listening to the same music or wearing the same football jersey."

Instead, young people can teach the world that the culture of encounter is built by a shared dream, "a great dream, a dream that has a place for everyone."

It is "a dream named Jesus, sown by the Father in the confidence that it would grow and live in every heart," he said. "A dream running through our veins, thrilling our hearts and making them dance whenever we hear the command: 'that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Citing the words of St. Oscar Romero, Pope Francis reminded the young pilgrims that Christianity is not merely "a collection of truths to be believed, of rules to be followed or of prohibitions. Seen that way, it puts us off."

"Christianity is a person who loved me immensely, who demands and asks for my love. Christianity is Christ. It means pursuing the dream for which he gave his life: loving with the same love with which he loved us," the pope said.

Like Mary, who was asked by the angel Gabriel if she wanted to bear the son of God in her womb, the pope said young people are still asked today if they are willing to bear Christ's love in their hearts.

The result of World Youth Day will not be a final document or a program, he said, but rather each young person returning home with "the new strength born of every encounter with others and with the Lord" to keep love alive and not let it "grow cold in the heart of our world."

"Wherever we may be and whatever we may do, we can always look up and say, 'Lord, teach me to love as you have loved us,'" Pope Francis said.

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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.

World Youth Day offers glimpse of church's diversity to Indiana pilgrims

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 2:30pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Rhina Guidos

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- Panama City has skyscrapers, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and a population of 880,000 within the city limits -- more than 1.5 million in the metropolitan area. Yet a group of pilgrims from Indiana found warmth and the diversity of the Catholic Church while attending World Youth Day in the bustling city center.

From encountering friendly and welcoming Uber drivers and watching other pilgrims dance to sharing the Catholic faith and spirit, the experience has been a joyful one, said a group from the Diocese of Forth Wayne-South Bend, Indiana. They spoke to Catholic News Service Jan. 23 at the FIAT Festival, an event aimed at U.S. pilgrims.

"It's a unique experience," said Leo Patino of Warsaw, Indiana, a city of about 14,700. Patino, attending World Youth Day for the first time, said he had found exactly what Archbishop Jose Ulloa Mendieta spoke about at the event's opening Mass -- the warmth of the Panamanian people.

"Everyone has been very friendly," said 17-year-old Sophia Rodriguez of South Bend.

Even when the group went looking for hard-to-find Mexican food in Panama City, particularly tortillas, which are not a staple food here, Panamanians told them to call ahead of time and they would do what they could to accommodate them.

But one of the biggest benefits has been being able to mix with pilgrims of other countries and also those who express their lives of faith a little differently.

Alexandra Castaneda, 17, said the church back home in Ligonier, Indiana, is "more conservative," so it was beautiful to watch other pilgrims express themselves differently, specifically through dance, and she appreciated the "emotion and energy" she saw in them. It was something that was "different" for her, she said.

Rodriguez said it made her realize the variety of styles within the church, but also the different nationalities that make up Catholicism.

Patino said being around pilgrims from other countries at World Youth Day has helped him see the church's richness.

The pilgrims said they met people from New Zealand, Colombia and El Salvador and, even though many of them were Latinos like them, they learned new things and appreciated meeting them.

"It makes you see the differences" in a good way, said Rodriguez.

Eduardo Arroyo, 24, said it was enriching to hear the Uber driver explain about politics and the history of his home country, a place of architectural riches, particularly when it comes to churches.

But the biggest gifts of the week came in the discernment process about what this World Youth Day will mean going forward, said Patino.

"We're on fire and we're ready to put into practice the words of (Archbishop Ulloa) ... to confront obstacles and break barriers," he said.

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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.

Resource not risk: Pope reflects on using social media for good

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 9:25am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Social media are anti-social, anti-human and anti-Christian when they are used to increase differences, fuel suspicion, spread lies and vent prejudice, Pope Francis said in his message for World Communications Day.

The Catholic Church and all people of goodwill see great potential in social media when the "net" and "networks" bring people together, help them share useful information and educate one another, he said.

But, the pope wrote, people's "social web identity is too often based on opposition to the other, the person outside the group: We define ourselves starting with what divides us rather than with what unites us, giving rise to suspicion and to the venting of every kind of prejudice -- ethnic, sexual, religious and other."

Pope Francis' message for World Communications Day, which most dioceses will celebrate June 2, cites a passage from Ephesians, "We are members one of another," and focuses on moving "from social network communities to the human community."

Although the pope was in Panama for World Youth Day, the Vatican kept its tradition of releasing the pope's message Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists.

Using social networks to form and promote "community," the pope said, implies encouraging interaction, support and solidarity.

Pope Francis' latest foray into social media aims to promote that. During his Angelus address Jan. 20, he launched a new mobile app and online platform where he shares his prayer intentions, and people around the world share theirs. Then everyone can "click to pray" with one another.

Jesuit Father Federic Fornos, international director of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, said that in the first three days, 167,000 people downloaded the Click to Pray app, and the "click to pray" button on individual prayer intentions was clicked more than 1 million times Jan. 20-22.

The online and on-phones prayer community joins the much larger papal social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

Begun under Pope Benedict XVI, the @Pontifex Twitter account operates in English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, Polish, Latin, German and Arabic. As of Jan. 23, the accounts had a combined total of almost 48 million followers.

The Instagram account, Franciscus, opened in March 2016 and has more than 5.8 million followers.

On both platforms, the pope has a higher than average "engagement rate," which goes beyond how many people see the posts to how many take the time to comment, "like," "retweet" or share.

According to Twipu, a site that tracks Twitter statistics, each of Pope Francis' tweets generates an average of 935 replies, 7,998 retweets and 36,750 likes.

In an early December article, the Twiplomacy website listed Pope Francis as No. 4 on the list of the "most followed world leaders on Instagram." He came behind Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and U.S. President Donald Trump.

More importantly from the point of view of his Communications Day focus on community, Pope Francis is also in fourth place on world leaders' Instagram interactions. Each photo or video posted by the Vatican, the site said, garners an average of 198,432 interactions.

On Twitter, Twiplomacy said, @Pontifex is the second most-followed world leader after Trump and comes in third -- behind Modi and Trump -- on the list of "most influential," which is an interaction rate based on the sum of comments, retweets and likes divided by the number of tweets and the average number of followers.

"Twiplomacy Study 2018," an annual review of diplomacy through social media conducted by the BCW international media consulting firm, said, "The U.S. president has also changed the tone of discourse on Twitter, frequently insulting his opponents and lampooning foreign leaders."

Obviously, Pope Francis' social media accounts do not do that.

In his World Communications Day message, Pope Francis said that forming strong communities, even online, requires people who are "animated by feelings of trust" and are pursuing a common objective. "The community as a network of solidarity requires mutual listening and dialogue based on the responsible use of language."

And he cautioned that while social media can promote "encounter," they also can "increase self-isolation," a risk to which young people are particularly vulnerable.

Opposing cyberbullying, isolation and division, he said, Christians are called to use online resources "to invest in relationships and to affirm the interpersonal nature of our humanity, including in and through the network."

What is more, Pope Francis said, when online "we Christians are called to manifest that communion which marks our identity as believers. Faith itself, in fact, is a relationship, an encounter, and under the impetus of God's love, we can communicate, welcome and understand the gift of the other and respond to it."

Virtual communities are worthy of the name community and of Christian participation only if they strengthen a personal encounter "that comes alive through the body, heart, eyes, gaze, breath of the other," the pope wrote.

"If a family uses the net to be more connected, to then meet at table and look into each other's eyes, then it is a resource," he said. "If a church community coordinates its activity through the network and then celebrates the Eucharist together, then it is a resource."

And, he said, "if the net becomes an opportunity to share stories and experiences of beauty or suffering that are physically distant from us in order to pray together and together seek out the good to rediscover what unites us, then it is a resource."

- - -

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

- - -

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.

Resource not risk: Pope reflects on using social media for good

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 9:25am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Social media are anti-social, anti-human and anti-Christian when they are used to increase differences, fuel suspicion, spread lies and vent prejudice, Pope Francis said in his message for World Communications Day.

The Catholic Church and all people of goodwill see great potential in social media when the "net" and "networks" bring people together, help them share useful information and educate one another, he said.

But, the pope wrote, people's "social web identity is too often based on opposition to the other, the person outside the group: We define ourselves starting with what divides us rather than with what unites us, giving rise to suspicion and to the venting of every kind of prejudice -- ethnic, sexual, religious and other."

Pope Francis' message for World Communications Day, which most dioceses will celebrate June 2, cites a passage from Ephesians, "We are members one of another," and focuses on moving "from social network communities to the human community."

Although the pope was in Panama for World Youth Day, the Vatican kept its tradition of releasing the pope's message Jan. 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists.

Using social networks to form and promote "community," the pope said, implies encouraging interaction, support and solidarity.

Pope Francis' latest foray into social media aims to promote that. During his Angelus address Jan. 20, he launched a new mobile app and online platform where he shares his prayer intentions, and people around the world share theirs. Then everyone can "click to pray" with one another.

Jesuit Father Federic Fornos, international director of the Pope's Worldwide Prayer Network, said that in the first three days, 167,000 people downloaded the Click to Pray app, and the "click to pray" button on individual prayer intentions was clicked more than 1 million times Jan. 20-22.

The online and on-phones prayer community joins the much larger papal social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram.

Begun under Pope Benedict XVI, the @Pontifex Twitter account operates in English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, Polish, Latin, German and Arabic. As of Jan. 23, the accounts had a combined total of almost 48 million followers.

The Instagram account, Franciscus, opened in March 2016 and has more than 5.8 million followers.

On both platforms, the pope has a higher than average "engagement rate," which goes beyond how many people see the posts to how many take the time to comment, "like," "retweet" or share.

According to Twipu, a site that tracks Twitter statistics, each of Pope Francis' tweets generates an average of 935 replies, 7,998 retweets and 36,750 likes.

In an early December article, the Twiplomacy website listed Pope Francis as No. 4 on the list of the "most followed world leaders on Instagram." He came behind Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and U.S. President Donald Trump.

More importantly from the point of view of his Communications Day focus on community, Pope Francis is also in fourth place on world leaders' Instagram interactions. Each photo or video posted by the Vatican, the site said, garners an average of 198,432 interactions.

On Twitter, Twiplomacy said, @Pontifex is the second most-followed world leader after Trump and comes in third -- behind Modi and Trump -- on the list of "most influential," which is an interaction rate based on the sum of comments, retweets and likes divided by the number of tweets and the average number of followers.

"Twiplomacy Study 2018," an annual review of diplomacy through social media conducted by the BCW international media consulting firm, said, "The U.S. president has also changed the tone of discourse on Twitter, frequently insulting his opponents and lampooning foreign leaders."

Obviously, Pope Francis' social media accounts do not do that.

In his World Communications Day message, Pope Francis said that forming strong communities, even online, requires people who are "animated by feelings of trust" and are pursuing a common objective. "The community as a network of solidarity requires mutual listening and dialogue based on the responsible use of language."

And he cautioned that while social media can promote "encounter," they also can "increase self-isolation," a risk to which young people are particularly vulnerable.

Opposing cyberbullying, isolation and division, he said, Christians are called to use online resources "to invest in relationships and to affirm the interpersonal nature of our humanity, including in and through the network."

What is more, Pope Francis said, when online "we Christians are called to manifest that communion which marks our identity as believers. Faith itself, in fact, is a relationship, an encounter, and under the impetus of God's love, we can communicate, welcome and understand the gift of the other and respond to it."

Virtual communities are worthy of the name community and of Christian participation only if they strengthen a personal encounter "that comes alive through the body, heart, eyes, gaze, breath of the other," the pope wrote.

"If a family uses the net to be more connected, to then meet at table and look into each other's eyes, then it is a resource," he said. "If a church community coordinates its activity through the network and then celebrates the Eucharist together, then it is a resource."

And, he said, "if the net becomes an opportunity to share stories and experiences of beauty or suffering that are physically distant from us in order to pray together and together seek out the good to rediscover what unites us, then it is a resource."

- - -

Follow Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden

 

- - -

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.

Vatican summit to create task force to aid bishops in safeguarding

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 9:15am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Since the work of child protection must continue after the February meeting at the Vatican on safeguarding, one organizer said they plan on creating a "task force" with teams on every continent.

The task force would be just one of a number of "concrete measures that we want to offer the bishops of the world," Jesuit Father Hans Zollner told the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano Jan. 24.

"One of our main ideas," he said, "is that this encounter is another step along a long journey that the church has begun and that will not end with this meeting," which will bring presidents of the world's bishops' conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men's and women's religious orders to the Vatican Feb. 21-24.

A task force made up of child protection experts "will probably be instituted in the various continents where the church is present," and they will travel from place to place, said Father Zollner, who is a member of the meeting's four-person organizing committee, president of the Centre for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

"They will be able to find out about the guidelines that the bishops' conferences are about to implement, what point they are at in this process and what they may need," he said.

"They will seek to understand how they can help (the bishops), how to provide them information," but also share with them "the most valuable solutions that have already been tried out in other continents," said Father Zollner.

That way, he said, the different "teams" of the task force should be able to help, "for years to come, to measure the success of this exercise of realizing own's own responsibility, even on the global level, in the face of public expectations."

In the newspaper interview, Father Zollner said organizers hope all those who attend the meeting will clearly understand current norms and the issues of responsibility and transparency when it comes to safeguarding minors from abuse and will "truly be able to implement what has been talked about."

"And finally, we want to see how we can make it so that they not only understand the procedures, the norms" to follow concerning safeguards and handling allegations, "but also how we can motivate people to dedicate themselves to put things into action and not dilly-dally."

Another resource available in the runup to the summit is a collection of articles published by the Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica.  

Titled "Safeguarding," it is part of the journal's "Perspectives" series and is available in English at https://laciviltacattolica.com/safeguarding/. The reprinted articles from 2002 to 2018 give readers a closer look at the scandal of sexual abuse and its psychological and spiritual aspects.

The volume outlines what has been done the past two decades, "the renewal of canonical norms, the formulation of guidelines by episcopal conferences, the development of formation projects and other initiatives, and also some significant recent letters by Pope Francis. It also enumerates a series of key issues the meeting will have to confront," said the journal's director, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro.

- - -

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.

Vatican summit to create task force to aid bishops in safeguarding

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 9:15am

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Since the work of child protection must continue after the February meeting at the Vatican on safeguarding, one organizer said they plan on creating a "task force" with teams on every continent.

The task force would be just one of a number of "concrete measures that we want to offer the bishops of the world," Jesuit Father Hans Zollner told the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano Jan. 24.

"One of our main ideas," he said, "is that this encounter is another step along a long journey that the church has begun and that will not end with this meeting," which will bring presidents of the world's bishops' conferences, the heads of the Eastern Catholic churches and representatives of the leadership groups of men's and women's religious orders to the Vatican Feb. 21-24.

A task force made up of child protection experts "will probably be instituted in the various continents where the church is present," and they will travel from place to place, said Father Zollner, who is a member of the meeting's four-person organizing committee, president of the Centre for the Protection of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

"They will be able to find out about the guidelines that the bishops' conferences are about to implement, what point they are at in this process and what they may need," he said.

"They will seek to understand how they can help (the bishops), how to provide them information," but also share with them "the most valuable solutions that have already been tried out in other continents," said Father Zollner.

That way, he said, the different "teams" of the task force should be able to help, "for years to come, to measure the success of this exercise of realizing own's own responsibility, even on the global level, in the face of public expectations."

In the newspaper interview, Father Zollner said organizers hope all those who attend the meeting will clearly understand current norms and the issues of responsibility and transparency when it comes to safeguarding minors from abuse and will "truly be able to implement what has been talked about."

"And finally, we want to see how we can make it so that they not only understand the procedures, the norms" to follow concerning safeguards and handling allegations, "but also how we can motivate people to dedicate themselves to put things into action and not dilly-dally."

Another resource available in the runup to the summit is a collection of articles published by the Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica.  

Titled "Safeguarding," it is part of the journal's "Perspectives" series and is available in English at https://laciviltacattolica.com/safeguarding/. The reprinted articles from 2002 to 2018 give readers a closer look at the scandal of sexual abuse and its psychological and spiritual aspects.

The volume outlines what has been done the past two decades, "the renewal of canonical norms, the formulation of guidelines by episcopal conferences, the development of formation projects and other initiatives, and also some significant recent letters by Pope Francis. It also enumerates a series of key issues the meeting will have to confront," said the journal's director, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro.

- - -

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.

Bishops address abuse scandal with U.S. pilgrims at World Youth Day

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 8:33pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- As Pope Francis was arriving in Panama Jan. 23, bishops from the United States wasted no time addressing the sex abuse scandal back home during a popular event aimed at American and other English-speaking World Youth Day pilgrims.

"It's not easy being Christian, it's not easy being Catholic ... especially today when things in the church are difficult," said Bishop Edward J. Burns of Dallas, addressing the sex abuse scandal in a room of hundreds of U.S. young adults attending the FIAT Festival for U.S. pilgrims at Panama's Figali Convention Center. The event was sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Knights of Columbus and FOCUS.

"How often do we hear our friends say to us: I'm done, I'm bowing out. I will have no more of this, " Bishop Burns said. "My friends, I want you to tell your friends that you'd never separate yourself from Jesus because of Judas. You'd never do that!"

Many in the room applauded.

"Yes, you look at the church today," he continued, "and there have been some who have betrayed us, some even in church leadership."

But he told the pilgrims to "stay strong, stayed focused, stay steady."

The message was well received by those in the room, including Kennedy Horter, 16, of Indiana.

"I don't let people come between me and God," said Horter, wrapped in a U.S. flag.

She said she was not going to judge priests and other good people in the church by the actions of men who likely were never priests "spiritually."

Like other pilgrims, she did not seem to be bothered by the open conversation, which was mixed in with accounts by other young people who spoke of overcoming difficulties, of lives of prayer, and challenges in life. But the situation in the U.S. church seemed to weigh on the minds of many, and the bishops stressed that, in this situation and in other moments of difficulty, Christ must be the anchor.

Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, also addressed the scandal while speaking to the pilgrims; he spoke to them about choices. He said there's one choice in life, most important above all others.

"There can be only one person who sits at the center of your life -- and mine," he said. "That person is Jesus, and anyone and anything that takes his place is not a choice worth making today. I ask you, don't be afraid to choose Jesus. Don't be afraid to choose light!"

Sister Lucia Richardson of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration said she was glad the bishops had addressed the "elephant in the room" and discussed "this ugly reality," one that she hears concerns about from young Catholics who speak with her.

Bishop Caggiano said he was deeply sorry for the times the church has "failed you, and anyone in the church has failed you. I am deeply sorry," he said.

"I ask you in this time of shadows and darkness to join with me and all others who wish to move forward and allow our church to be healed and transformed and purified," he said.

But members of the church are facing choices, he said.

"It seems to me, in the time in which we live in the church, it is a time of spiritual twilight," he said. "For there are shadows, there are sins in our midst."

The sin and crime and abuse of young people has deeply destroyed many lives and broken trust with the leadership of the church, he said.

Brian Florin, 24, a seminarian at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, told Catholic News Service it was important to be open and to talk about the scandal, even at World Youth Day, because it's a point of pain for those in the church in the U.S.

Bishop Caggiano said this is the time when many are considering choices, and he continually referred to the image of dark and light during the day.

"What do we want? The dawn or the dusk? Do we want the dawn where you and I seek holiness of life lived in ordinary ways and bring the light of Christ to whomever we meet? Or will we sit back and say 'the darkness is here and I surrender to it,'" he said. "What is it that you or I will choose? I can say to you, as my family in Christ, I stand before you, with every ounce of energy and grace God has given me, and say that I will choose the dawn and I ask you, are you ready to choose the dawn?"

Bishop Burns reminded pilgrims that the church had lived with scandal from the beginning, including the betrayal of Jesus, but reminded them of Peter and Jesus.

"We're going to survive this. Our Lord promised 'on this rock I will build my church.' Step up and continue to have the strength," he said to great applause.

 

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Marginalized take center stage at World Youth Day 2019

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 1:07pm

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Rhina Guidos

PANAMA CITY (CNS) -- One thing is clear about World Youth Day 2019: This one is not focused on convening great masses of people, or the most influential or the loudest. Instead of highlighting the problems faced by youth in the world's richest or most populous countries, one of its first events focused on the plight of populations most of the world rarely sees or comes across: the indigenous.

Edigibali Lopez, 24, and Enith Sanchez, 23, members of two different indigenous communities in Panama, spoke from experience about the loss of ancestral lands, the negative impact of climate change on their communities and the discrimination indigenous people face, including at the hands of those who share the same Catholic faith. The women shared the stage at the Atlapa Convention Center Jan. 22 to talk about indigenous youth just before the official start of World Youth Day, taking place Jan. 22-27 in Panama City.

"One of the important aspects of being at World Youth Day is to get others to acknowledge our reality, to learn about our culture and to not listen to the prejudices they have of us as indigenous people, this idea that we don't worship the same God," Sanchez, a member of the Ngabe community native to western Panama, told Catholic News Service.

That was one of the topics young indigenous people spoke about prior to the official start of World Youth Day in an event tailored for populations like theirs, the World Indigenous Youth Gathering, which took place Jan. 17 to 21 in Soloy, Panama in Sanchez' indigenous Ngabe-Bugle community. Organizers said more than 400 indigenous youth from Panama, Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia and Honduras attended, making it the first time such an event has taken place at World Youth Day.

At the meeting, those like Lopez shared how climate change has altered the faith and communal living of their people. With climate change, the islands of the Guna Yala region in northeast Panama, where her community lives, disappear as rising tides result in loss of the ancestral lands of the Guna people, she said.

"Each time the tide rises, and each time it rains, we experience flooding of the island, and we have to (physically) move to other territories," Lopez said. "We suffer because this is our land, the land of our ancestors."

Each move brings loss of habitat and natural resources that the Guna use in their lives of faith, in blessings, in daily and weekly worship, and community rituals, she said. But it's not just a physical problem for their communities.

"As indigenous people, we are focused on the care of our planet, our common home," Lopez said. "Because it affects all people, not just the indigenous, but it affects the entire world."

Communities such as the Guna and the Ngabe may be the ones feeling it first, but ultimately climate change and its negative impact will reach others, and that's a concern for them, too, the women said.

"We're focused on the care of all these resources that surround us to conserve (not just resources) but our people," Lopez said.

As indigenous communities are forced to migrate from their native lands, some end up in cities or towns, where the way they dress, or speak, or practice their faith is not welcome, Lopez said.

"Our hands are tied, and we have to start living in a different way," and that affects the young indigenous people who no longer live listening to their native language or learning about their culture from elders, who normally surround them in a traditional community setting, she said. "The children migrate to the city, the capital, and those cultural teachings from our ancestors are lost."

In non-indigenous communities, the indigenous are looked down on because of the different languages they speak, the different way they dress, Sanchez said, so some of the youth begin changing who they are -- physically and otherwise. The dispersion of their community due to climate change affects the practices that make them unique. When one person lives in one town and the other in a city or another place, the sense of community vital to keeping customs and practices alive is lost, Sanchez said.

"There is no way to come together as a people," she said.

And that affects their lives of faith.

"We, as a people, we have our faith and our way of doing things and sharing, but when we move from one place to another that's far removed, we become disconnected," Lopez said. "We're not putting into practice what is ours. This is what happens when we totally become disconnected from our people, and we're forced to face the problem of how do we make our faith grow as indigenous people?"

Lopez and Sanchez said they appreciate Pope Francis' focus on their populations, on the challenges they face and his encouragement of young indigenous men and women like themselves. The church, too, through priests such as U.S. Vincentian Father Joseph Fitzgerald, who helped organize the gathering for indigenous youth, provide spiritual support that keeps in mind the cultural realities and other conditions they face, they said.

In a video message, Pope Francis sent the gathering Jan. 18, he told them to "take charge of your culture, take charge of your roots. But don't just leave it at that."

Using those roots, he said, "grow and flower."

Panamanian Archbishop Jose Ulloa Mendieta, in his homily at the opening Mass for World Youth Day, acknowledged the marginalization faced by the indigenous and other groups, including young people who come from African ancestry.

"World Youth Day in this region would not be possible without making their situation visible because they represent a significant number of the population of these continents, these youth who live in situations of exclusion and discrimination, that can be found on the margins and in poverty," he said.

The church's acknowledgment, support and accompaniment has been important in how she feels about her culture and her roots, Sanchez said.

"I'm very proud of who I am," she said. "An indigenous woman."

 

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Swiss Guard replaces metal helmets with 3D-printed plastic headgear

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 9:20am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Vatican Media

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- While the Swiss Guard's halberds and uniforms have remained largely unchanged over the centuries, its ceremonial helmets are now a product of 21st-century technology.

The four-pound, hand-forged metal helmet has been replaced with new lightweight headgear. Still crafted in the "morion" style of the Renaissance and topped with a fluffy red or white ostrich feather, it is now made using a 3D printer and tough, weather-resistant ASA thermoplastic -- the same material often used for automotive exterior parts.

The Swiss Guards used the new helmets during a special ceremony Jan. 22 at the Vatican commemorating the 513th anniversary of their foundation. Pope Julius II requested a contingent of Swiss soldiers to protect the pope and his palace in 1505 and the first Swiss soldiers arrived at the gates of Rome Jan. 22, 1506.

The Swiss Guard -- made up of 110 soldiers -- is the smallest and oldest military corps in the world. The men guard all entrances into Vatican City State as well as keep watch over the pope and his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

They also provide security and ceremonial services during liturgical events and visits of heads of state and other dignitaries to the Vatican. A behind-the-scenes look at their ceremonial and honor duties was featured in a new video Jan. 22 as part of an ongoing series about the life and work of the guard. The series can be found on their YouTube channel "Guardia Svizzera Pontificia GSP."

 

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On flight to Panama, Pope confirms November trip to Japan

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 8:01am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

ABOARD THE PAPAL FLIGHT TO PANAMA (CNS) -- While speaking to a journalist aboard his flight to Panama, Pope Francis confirmed that he will visit Japan this year.

Greeting members of the press aboard the flight Jan. 23, the pope was asked by a Japanese journalist if he will be visiting the country.

"I will go to Japan in November. Get ready!" Pope Francis replied.

He also told another journalist aboard the flight that while there are no immediate plans to travel to Iraq, he hopes to visit one day.

"I want to go, I told them that I wanted to go, but they were the ones who told me, 'Not right now, it isn't safe,'" the pope said. "But I do want to go and I am following the situation closely."

The pope, who is visiting Panama Jan. 23-27 for World Youth Day, thanked the journalists for their work in covering the event and led them in a moment of silence and prayer for Alexei Bukalov, a journalist for the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, who died in December.

His voice trembling with emotion, Pope Francis remembered Bukalov as "a man of great humanism," whom "I cared for very much."

"He was a man capable of synthesizing reports in the style of Dostoyevsky. I am sure that we will all miss him," the pope said.

As is his custom, Pope Francis greeted each of the 70 journalists on the plane, smiling and exchanging words with each one, accepting letters and posing for photographs.

An Italian journalist told Pope Francis of a recent visit he made to Tijuana, Mexico, where he witnessed the plight of the caravan of migrants making their way to the U.S. border, only to find a wall that "reaches all the way to the ocean."

A wall that goes to the ocean "is madness," the pope said. "It is fear that makes us crazy."

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju

 

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Pope says he's pained by deaths in Colombia, the Mediterranean

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 9:15am

IMAGE: CNS photo/Luisa Gonzalez, Reuters

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When Pope Francis led the recitation of the Angelus prayer Jan. 20, he told the crowd in St. Peter's Square that he had "two pains in my heart: Colombia and the Mediterranean."

"I want to assure the Colombian people of my closeness after the serious terrorist attack" Jan. 17 outside the national police academy in Bogota.

Police said the suicide car-bomb attack left at least 20 people dead and more than 60 injured. The National Liberation Army (ELN) later claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for the government violating a cease-fire agreement by attacking rebel camps.

"I pray for the victims and for their families," Pope Francis said, "and I continue to pray for the journey of peace in Colombia."

Pope Francis also led the thousands of people gathered in St. Peter's Square in praying the Hail Mary for migrants feared drowned in the Mediterranean and for "those responsible for what happened."

Some 170 migrants were believed to have drowned in the sea in two separate shipwrecks in mid-January. "They were seeking a future" and "perhaps were victims of human trafficking," Pope Francis said.

The U.N. Refugee Agency said Jan. 19 it had been unable to verify the exact death toll, but a nongovernmental humanitarian organization reported 53 people died at sea between Spain and Morocco. "One survivor is understood to have been rescued by a passing fishing boat after being stranded for more than 24 hours at sea and is receiving medical treatment in Morocco. Moroccan and Spanish rescue vessels have been searching for the boat and survivors for several days to no avail."

In addition, the agency said, the Italian navy reported "an additional shipwreck on the central Mediterranean." Three survivors were taken to the Italian island of Lampedusa for treatment and they "reported that 117 people, who are currently dead or missing, were on board with them when they departed from Libya."

As many European governments close their ports to migrants attempting the crossing by sea and to the humanitarian organizations that rescue them, Filippo Grandi, U.N. high commissioner for refugees, said, "We cannot turn a blind eye to the high numbers of people dying on Europe's doorstep. No effort should be spared, or prevented, from saving lives in distress at sea."

The U.N. statement said it is "concerned that actions by states are increasingly deterring NGOs from conducting search and rescue operations and is calling for these to be lifted immediately."

However, the statement said, the United Nations also wants a greater focus on discouraging and preventing refugees and migrants "from taking these desperate journeys in the first place. More safe and legal pathways to access asylum in Europe are needed for those fleeing war and persecution so that no one feels they have no other choice than to put their lives in the hands of unscrupulous traffickers and smugglers."

 

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