Tag Archives: Pope Francis

Pope marks first genocide of 20th century

11053295_1580690902207358_5340926821941576174_oToday, Pope Francis delivered spoke the world in the presence of the President of Armenia, Serž Azati Sargsyan, Catholicos Karekin II, Catholicos Aram I, and the Catholic Patriarch Nerses Bedros XIX, of the Great Evil of killing people, the first genocide of the 20th century.

Dear Armenian Brothers and Sisters,

A century has passed since that horrific massacre which was a true martyrdom of your people, in which many innocent people died as confessors and martyrs for the name of Christ (cf. John Paul II and Karekin II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001).  Even today, there is not an Armenian family untouched by the loss of loved ones due to that tragedy: it truly was “Metz Yeghern”, the “Great Evil”, as it is known by Armenians.  On this anniversary, I feel a great closeness to your people and I wish to unite myself spiritually to the prayers which rise up from your hearts, your families and your communities.

Today is a propitious occasion for us to pray together, as we proclaim Saint Gregory of Narek a Doctor of the Church.  I wish to express my deep gratitude for the presence here today of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia, and His Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, Patriarch of Cilicia of Armenian Catholics.

Saint Gregory of Narek, a monk of the tenth century, knew how to express the sentiments of your people more than anyone.  He gave voice to the cry, which became a prayer, of a sinful and sorrowful humanity, oppressed by the anguish of its powerlessness, but illuminated by the splendour of God’s love and open to the hope of his salvific intervention, which is capable of transforming all things.  “Through his strength I wait with certain expectation believing with unwavering hope that… I shall be saved by the Lord’s mighty hand and… that I will see the Lord himself in his mercy and compassion and receive the legacy of heaven” (Saint Gregory of Narek, Book of Lamentations, XII).

Your Christian identity is indeed ancient, dating from the year 301, when Saint Gregory the Illuminator guided Armenia to conversion and baptism. You were the first among nations in the course of the centuries to embrace the Gospel of Christ.  That spiritual event indelibly marked the Armenian people, as well as its culture and history, in which martyrdom holds a preeminent place, as attested to symbolically by the sacrificial witness of Saint Vardan and his companions in the fifth century.

Your people, illuminated by Christ’s light and by his grace, have overcome many trials and sufferings, animated by the hope which comes from the Cross (cf. Rom 8:31-39). As Saint John Paul II said to you, “Your history of suffering and martyrdom is a precious pearl, of which the universal Church is proud.  Faith in Christ, man’s Redeemer, infused you with an admirable courage on your path, so often like that of the Cross, on which you have advanced with determination, intent on preserving your identity as a people and as believers” (Homily, 21 November 1987).

This faith also accompanied and sustained your people during the tragic experience one hundred years ago “in what is generally referred to as the first genocide of the twentieth century” (John Paul II and Karekin II, Common Declaration, Etchmiadzin, 27 September 2001).  Pope Benedict XV, who condemned the First World War as a “senseless slaughter” (AAS, IX [1917], 429), did everything in his power until the very end to stop it, continuing the efforts at mediation already begun by Pope Leo XIII when confronted with the “deadly events” of 1894-96.  For this reason, Pope Benedict XV wrote to Sultan Mehmed V, pleading that the many innocents be saved (cf. Letter of 10 September 1915) and, in the Secret Consistory of 6 December 1915, he declared with great dismay, “Miserrima Armenorum gens ad interitum prope ducitur” (AAS, VII [1915], 510).

It is the responsibility not only of the Armenian people and the universal Church to recall all that has taken place, but of the entire human family, so that the warnings from this tragedy will protect us from falling into a similar horror, which offends against God and human dignity. Today too, in fact, these conflicts at times degenerate into unjustifiable violence, stirred up by exploiting ethnic and religious differences.  All who are Heads of State and of International Organizations are called to oppose such crimes with a firm sense of duty, without ceding to ambiguity or compromise.

May this sorrowful anniversary become for all an occasion of humble and sincere reflection, and may every heart be open to forgiveness, which is the source of peace and renewed hope. Saint Gregory of Narek, an extraordinary interpreter of the human soul, offers words which are prophetic for us: “I willingly blame myself with myriad accounts of all the incurable sins, from our first forefather through the end of his generations in all eternity, I charge myself with all these voluntarily” (Book of Lamentations, LXXII).  How striking is his sense of universal solidarity!  How small we feel before the greatness of his invocations: “Remember, [Lord,]… those of the human race who are our enemies as well, and for their benefit accord them pardon and mercy… Do not destroy those who persecute me, but reform them, root out the vile ways of this world, and plant the good in me and them” (ibid., LXXXIII).

May God grant that the people of Armenia and Turkey take up again the path of reconciliation, and may peace also spring forth in Nagorno Karabakh. Despite conflicts and tensions, Armenians and Turks have lived long periods of peaceful coexistence in the past and, even in the midst of violence, they have experienced times of solidarity and mutual help.  Only in this way will new generations open themselves to a better future and will the sacrifice of so many become seeds of justice and peace.

For us Christians, may this be above all a time of deep prayer. Through the redemptive power of Christ’s sacrifice, may the blood which has been shed bring about the miracle of the full unity of his disciples.  In particular, may it strengthen the bonds of fraternal friendship which already unite the Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. The witness of many defenceless brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives for the faith unites the diverse confessions:  it is the ecumenism of blood, which led Saint John Paul II to celebrate all the martyrs of the twentieth century together during the Jubilee of 2000.  Our celebration today also is situated in this spiritual and ecclesial context.  Representatives of our two Churches are participating in this event to which many of our faithful throughout the world are united spiritually, in a sign which reflects on earth the perfect communion that exists between the blessed souls in heaven. With brotherly affection, I assure you of my closeness on the occasion of the canonization ceremony of the martyrs of the Armenian Apostolic Church, to be held this coming 23 April in the Cathedral of Etchmiadzin, and on the occasion of the commemorations to be held in Antelias in July.

I entrust these intentions to the Mother of God, in the words of Saint Gregory of Narek:

“O Most Pure of Virgins, first among the blessed,
Mother of the unshakeable edifice of the Church,
Mother of the immaculate Word of God,


Taking refuge beneath your boundless wings which grant us the protection of your intercession, we lift up our hands to you, and with unquestioned hope we believe that we are saved”.

(Panegyric of the Theotokos)

From the Vatican, 12 April 2015

Palm Sunday 2015: Pope Francis recommends humility

Palm Sunday 2015At the heart of this celebration, which seems so festive, are the words we heard in the hymn of the Letter to the Philippians: “He humbled himself” (2:8). Jesus’ humiliation.

These words show us God’s way and the way of Christians: it is humility. A way which constantly amazes and disturbs us: we will never get used to a humble God!

Humility is above all God’s way: God humbles himself to walk with his people, to put up with their infidelity. This is clear when we read the Book of Exodus. How humiliating for the Lord to hear all that grumbling, all those complaints against Moses, but ultimately against him, their Father, who brought them out of slavery and was leading them on the journey through the desert to the land of freedom.

This week, Holy Week, which leads us to Easter, we will take this path of Jesus’ own humiliation. Only in this way will this week be “holy” for us too!

We will feel the contempt of the leaders of his people and their attempts to trip him up. We will be there at the betrayal of Judas, one of the Twelve, who will sell him for thirty pieces of silver. We will see the Lord arrested and carried off like a criminal; abandoned by his disciples, dragged before the Sanhedrin, condemned to death, beaten and insulted. We will hear Peter, the “rock” among the disciples, deny him three times. We will hear the shouts of the crowd, egged on by their leaders, who demand that Barabas be freed and Jesus crucified. We will see him mocked by the soldiers, robed in purple and crowned with thorns. And then, as he makes his sorrowful way beneath the cross, we will hear the jeering of the people and their leaders, who scoff at his being King and Son of God.

This is God’s way, the way of humility. It is the way of Jesus; there is no other. And there can be no humility without humiliation.Following this path to the full, the Son of God took on the “form of a slave” (cf. Phil 2:7). In the end, humility means service. It means making room for God by stripping oneself, “emptying oneself,” as Scripture says (v. 7). This is the greatest humiliation of all.

There is another way, however, opposed to the way of Christ. It is worldliness, the way of the world. The world proposes the way of vanity, pride, success… the other way. The Evil One proposed this way to Jesus too, during his forty days in the desert. But Jesus immediately rejected it. With him, we too can overcome this temptation, not only at significant moments, but in daily life as well.

In this, we are helped and comforted by the example of so many men and women who, in silence and hiddenness, sacrifice themselves daily to serve others: a sick relative, an elderly person living alone, a disabled person…

We think too of the humiliation endured by all those who, for their lives of fidelity to the Gospel, encounter discrimination and pay a personal price. We think too of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted because they are Christians, the martyrs of our own time. They refuse to deny Jesus and they endure insult and injury with dignity. They follow him on his way. We can speak of a “cloud of witnesses” (cf. Heb 12:1).

Let us set about with determination along this same path, with immense love for him, our Lord and Saviour. Love will guide us and give us strength. For where he is, we too shall be (cf. Jn 12:26). Amen.

Pope Francis to Communion and Liberation: the Lord alone is at the center

Pope Francis with CL 7 Mar 2015On Saturday, March 7, 2015, His Holiness Pope Francis with the Communion and Liberation to honor the 60thanniversary of the birth of the Movement and the 10th anniversary of the death of, the Servant of God Father Luigi Giussani. Conservatively there were 8oK people in Saint Peter’s Square. Here is Zenit’s translation.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I welcome you all and thank you for your warm affection! I give my cordial greeting to the Cardinals and Bishops. I greet Don Julián Carrón, President ofyour Fraternity and I thank him for the words he addressed to me on your behalf.I also thank don Julian for the beautiful letter he wrote to all, inviting you to come. Thank you so much!

My first thought goes to your Founder, Monsignor Luigi Giussani, remembering the 10thanniversary of his birth into Heaven. I am grateful to Don Giussani for several reasons. The first, more personal, is the good this man did to me and to my priestly life, through the reading of his books and his articles. The other reason is that his thought is profoundly human and reaches man’s profoundest longing. You know how important the experience of encounter was for Don Giussani: encounter not with an idea but with a Person, with Jesus Christ. Thus he educated to freedom, guiding the encounter with Christ, because Christ gives us true freedom. Speaking of encounter there comes to my mind Caravaggio’s “The Calling of Matthew,” before which I paused at length in the church of Saint Louis of the French, every time I came to Rome. None of those who were there, including Matthew avid for money, could believe the message of that finger that pointed at him, the message of those eyes that looked at him with mercy and chose him for his following. He felt that wonder of the encounter. Thus is the encounter with Christ, who comes and invites us.

Everything in your life, today as in the time of Jesus, begins with an encounter. An encounter with this Man, the carpenter of Nazareth, a man like all others, but, at the same time, different. We think of John’s Gospel, where he recounts the disciples first encounter with Jesus (Cf. 35-42). Andrew, John, Simon: felt that they had been looked at in their depth, known intimately, and this generated surprise in them, a wonder that made them feel immediately bound to Him … Or when, after the Resurrection, Jesus asks Peter: “Do you love Me?” (John 21:15), and Peter answers: “Yes”; that yes was not the result of will power, it did not come solely from the decision of the man Simon: it came first from Grace, it was that “primerear,” the preceding of Grace. This was the decisive discovery for Saint Paul, for Saint Augustine, and so many other Saints: Jesus Christ is always first He “primereas” us; He awaits us. Jesus Christ precedes us always, and when we arrive, He is already there awaiting us. He is like the flower of the almond tree: it is the one that flowers first and announces spring.

And this dynamic, which arouses wonder and adherence, cannot be understood without mercy. Only one who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy really knows the Lord. The privileged place of encounter is the caress of mercy of Jesus Christ on my sin. And it is because of this that you have heard me say sometimes that the post, the privileged place of the encounter with Jesus Christ is my sin. It is thanks to this embrace of mercy that one feels like answering and changing, and from which a different life can flow. Christian morality is not the titanic, willful effort of one who decides to be coherent and who succeeds, a sort of solitary challenge in face of the world. No, this isn’t Christian morality; it’s something else. Christian morality is an answer, it is a moved answer in face of astonishing mercy, unforeseeable, in fact, “unjust” according to human criteria, of One who knows me, knows my betrayals and loves me anyway, esteems me, embraces me, calls me again, hopes in me, expects from me. Christian morality is not ever to fall, but to get up always, thanks to his hand, which takes us. And the way of the Church is also this: to let God’s great mercy manifest itself. In past days I said to the new Cardinals: “The way of the Church is that of not condemning any one eternally; to spread God’s mercy to all persons who ask for it with a sincere heart: the way of the Church is, in fact, that of going out of her enclosure to go and seek those far away on the “peripheries” of existence; that of adopting integrally the logic of God,” which is that of mercy (Homily, February 15, 2015). The Church must also feel the joyful impulse of becoming a flower of the almond tree, that is spring, as Jesus was or the whole of humanity.

Today you also remember the 60 years of the beginning of your Movement, “born in the Church – as Benedict XVI said – not from an organizational will of the Hierarchy, but originating from a renewed encounter with Jesus and thus, we can say, from an impulse stemming ultimately from the Holy Spirit” (Address to the Communion and Liberation pilgrimage, March 24, 2007: Insegnamenti III, 1 [2007], 557).

After sixty years, the original charism has not lost its freshness and vitality. However, remember that the center is not the charism; the center is only one, it is Jesus, Jesus Christ! When I put my spiritual method at the center, my spiritual journey, my way of acting it, I leave the way. The whole spirituality, all the charisms in the Church must be “decentralized”: the Lord alone is at the center! Therefore, when in the First Letter to the Corinthians Paul speaks of charisms, of this very beautiful reality of the Church, of the Mystical Body, he ends by talking about love, that is, about what comes form God, what is proper to God, and which enables us to imitate Him. Never forget this, be decentralized.

And then the charism is not kept in a bottle of distilled water! Fidelity to the charism does not mean to “petrify it” – it is the devil who “petrifies,” don’t forget this! Fidelity to the charism does not mean to write it on a parchment and put it in a frame. The reference to the legacy that Don Giussani left cannot be reduced to a museum of memories, of decisions taken, of norms of conduct. It certainly entails fidelity to the tradition, but fidelity to the tradition – Mahler said – “means to keep alive the fire and not adore the ashes.” Don Giussani would never forgive your losing the freedom and being transformed into museum guides and adorers of ashes. Keep the fire alive of the memory of that first encounter and be free!

Thus, centered on Christ and on the Gospel, you can be arms, hands, feet, mind and heart of an “outgoing” Church. The way of the Church is to go forth to seek those that are far in the peripheries, to serve Jesus in every marginalized, abandoned person, without faith, disappointed by the Church, prisoner of his own egoism.

To go forth” also means to reject self-reference in all its forms; it means to be able to listen to one who is not like us, learning from everyone, with sincere humility. When we are slaves to self-reference, we end up by cultivating a “brand spirituality”: “I am CL.” This is the brand. And then we fall into the thousand snares that self-referent satisfaction offers us, that looking at ourselves in the mirror, which leads to disorienting us and transforming us into mere managers of an NGO.

Dear friends, I would like to end with two very significant quotes of Don Giussani, one of the beginning and one of the end of his life.

The first: “Christianity is never realized in history as fixity of positions to defend, which refer to the new as pure antithesis; Christianity is principle of redemption, which assumes the new, saving it” (Bears Hope. First Writings, Genoa,1967, 119).This was around 1967.

The second of 2004: “Not only did I not ever intend ‘to found’ anything, but I hold that the genius of the Movement that I have seen born is of having felt the urgency to proclaim the need to return to the elementary aspects of Christianity, that is to say, the passion of the Christian event as such in its original elements, and that’s all” (Letter to John Paul II, January 26, 2004, on the occasion of the 50thanniversary of Communion and Liberation).

May the Lord bless you and Our Lady protect you. And, please, don’t forget to pray for me!

Thank you.

20 new cardinals

new cards 2015We now have 20 new members of the College of Cardinals. Men who come from various parts of the world. 15 of the 20 are able to vote in a future conclave, and the 5 are honorary due to age. (Over the age of 80 a cardinal does not enter the conclave to elect a new Roman Pontiff.) The novelty in this group of cardinals is that several dioceses receive for the first time: there are 5 firsts: Agrigento (Sicily), Morelia (Mexico), David (Panama), Santiago de Cabo Verde (Cape Verde), Tonga (Kingdom of Tonga).

One of the cardinals that catches my eye is His Eminence, Berhaneyesus Demerew Cardinal Souraphiel, CM, 66, archbishop of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Cardinal Souraphiel comes from a country where Catholics number less than 1 percent of a total population and the majority are Orthodox Christian; more than 30 percent are Muslim. He also brings the Vincentian charism to the College of Cardinals.

The youngest cardinal at the age of 53 is Soane Patita Paini Mafi, bishop of Tonga, a diocese with about 15,000 Catholics. Part of his education was in the USA having spent two years in Baltimore studying psychology before returning home for parish and seminary assignments. Pope Benedict XVI named him bishop in 2007.

One of the honorary cardinals, His Eminence, Luigi Cardinal De Magistris, 88, Major Pro-Penitentiary Emeritus, is noteworthy and well-deserving.

“The greater our responsibility in serving the Church, the more our hearts have to expand according to the measure of the heart of Christ. It means being able to love without measure, but also to be faithful in particular situations and with practical gestures.”

Pope Francis told the new cardinals (but what the Pope says is applicable to all):

The cardinalate is certainly an honour, but it is not honorific.  This we already know from its name – “cardinal” – from the word “cardo”, a hinge.  As such it is not a kind of accessory, a decoration, like an honorary title.  Rather, it is a pivot, a point of support and movement essential for the life of the community.  You are “hinges” and are “incardinated” in the Church of Rome, which “presides over the entire assembly of charity” (Lumen Gentium, 13; cf. IGN. ANT., Ad Rom., Prologue).

In the Church, all “presiding” flows from charity, must be exercised in charity, and is ordered towards charity.  Here too the Church of Rome exercises an exemplary role.  Just as she presides in charity, so too each particular Church is called, within its own sphere, to preside in charity.

For this reason, I believe that the “hymn to charity” in Saint Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians can be taken as a guiding theme for this celebration and for your ministry, especially for those of you who today enter the College of Cardinals.  All of us, myself first and each of you with me, would do well to let ourselves be guided by the inspired words of the apostle Paul, especially in the passage where he lists the marks of charity.  May our Mother Mary help us to listen.  She gave the world Jesus, charity incarnate, who is “the more excellent Way” (cf. 1 Cor 12:31); may she help us to receive this Word and always to advance on this Way.  May she assist us by her humility and maternal tenderness, because charity, as God’s gift, grows wherever humility and tenderness are found.

Saint Paul tells us that charity is, above all, “patient” and “kind”.  The greater our responsibility in serving the Church, the more our hearts must expand according to the measure of the heart of Christ.  “Patience” – “forbearance” – is in some sense synonymous with catholicity.  It means being able to love without limits, but also to be faithful in particular situations and with practical gestures.  It means loving what is great without neglecting what is small; loving the little things within the horizon of the great things, since “non coerceri a maximo, contineri tamen a minimo divinum est”.  To know how to love through acts of kindness.  “Kindness” – benevolence –means the firm and persevering intention to always will the good of others, even those unfriendly to us.

The Apostle goes on to say that charity “is not jealous or boastful, it is not puffed up with pride”.  This is surely a miracle of love, since we humans – all of us, at every stage of our lives – are inclined to jealousy and pride, since our nature is wounded by sin.  Nor are Church dignitaries immune from this temptation.  But for this very reason, dear brothers, the divine power of love, which transforms hearts, can be all the more evident in us, so that it is no longer you who live, but rather Christ who lives in you.  And Jesus is love to the fullest.

Saint Paul then tells us that charity “is not arrogant or rude, it does not insist on its own way”.  These two characteristics show that those who abide in charity are not self-centred.  The self-centred inevitably become disrespectful; very often they do not even notice this, since “respect” is precisely the ability to acknowledge others, to acknowledge their dignity, their condition, their needs.  The self-centred person inevitably seeks his own interests; he thinks this is normal, even necessary.  Those “interests” can even be cloaked in noble appearances, but underlying them all is always “self-interest”.  Charity, however, makes us draw back from the centre in order to set ourselves in the real centre, which is Christ alone.  Then, and only then, can we be persons who are respectful and attentive to the good of others.

Charity, Saint Paul says, “is not irritable, it is not resentful”.  Pastors close to their people have plenty of opportunities to be irritable, to feel anger.  Perhaps we risk being all the more irritable in relationships with our confreres, since in effect we have less excuses.  Even here, charity, and charity alone, frees us.  It frees us from the risk of reacting impulsively, of saying or doing the wrong thing; above all it frees us from the mortal danger of pent-up anger, of that smouldering anger which makes us brood over wrongs we have received.  No.  This is unacceptable in a man of the Church.  Even if a momentary outburst is forgivable, this is not the case with rancour.  God save us from that!

Charity – Saint Paul adds – “does not rejoice at the wrong, but rejoices in the right”.  Those called to the service of governance in the Church need to have a strong sense of justice, so that any form of injustice becomes unacceptable, even those which might bring gain to himself or to the Church.  At the same time, he must “rejoice in the right”.  What a beautiful phrase!  The man of God is someone captivated by truth, one who encounters it fully in the word and flesh of Jesus Christ, the inexhaustible source of our joy.  May the people of God always see in us a firm condemnation of injustice and joyful service to the truth.

Finally, “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.  Here, in four words, is a spiritual and pastoral programme of life.  The love of Christ, poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, enables us to live like this, to be like this: as persons always ready to forgive; always ready to trust, because we are full of faith in God; always ready to inspire hope, because we ourselves are full of hope in God; persons ready to bear patiently every situation and each of our brothers and sisters, in union with Christ, who bore with love the burden of our sins.

Dear brothers, this comes to us not from ourselves, but from God.  God is love and he accomplishes all this in us if only we prove docile to the working of his Holy Spirit.  This, then, is how we are to be: “incardinated” and docile.  The more we are “incardinated” in the Church of Rome, the more we should become docile to the Spirit, so that charity can give form and meaning to all that we are and all that we do.  Incardinated in the Church which presides in charity, docile to the Holy Spirit who pours into our hearts the love of God (cf. Rom 5:5).  Amen.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Archbishop Georg Gänswein interview

?????Thanks to Mark de Vries who made translation of a recent interview with Archbishop Georg Gänswein by Christ & Welt (a German publication and made it available on his blog, In Caelo et in Terra.

The interview, “From the Front Row” is indeed an interesting for its frank discussion of Pope Francis petrine ministry and several matters like the Roman  Curia, the pope emeritus, the recent Synod and the like.

The Archbishop is 58, a native of Germany, and the prefect of the Papal Household and secretary to Benedict XVI. He was ordained a bishop on 6 January 2013.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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