This a bit of old news: the pope has a 55 acre farm, he is concerned about the environment, what and how we eat and supports Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Why? Because he knows the supreme value of living off the land, attending to God’s creation, how much of the world lives today. Plus, the Pope needs to be aware of the assault creation faces with the use of chemicals and exploitative farming and human practices.
His farm at Castel Gandolfo –the papal summer residence 15 miles south of Rome– is a working farm with cows, 8 bee hives, vegetables, an olive grove and more. At this same farm is a working Observatory where serious astrophysics takes place, but that is another story. Not only does the daily papal menu contain fresh vegetables and meets, the produce is sold at the Vatican store making about $330K per annum. Amazing? No, not really. We are used to seeing the regal side of the papacy with rich religious and civil ceremonies and only now we are more aware of the active charitable side that has been a part of the ministry of the Bishop of Rome for a very long time. In this instance, Pope Pius XI established the farm in 1929.
A well-maintained farm is a well-maintained person and environment. We need, I believe, to renew our efforts in understanding the rhythms of the land so that we understand ourselves and in doing so understand ourselves as collaborators with God in building up His Kingdom on earth.
Jason Best has an article, “The Vatican Has a Farm, and Pope Francis is Going to Open it Up to the Public.” There are other stories about the farm from some news agencies: “A Visit to the Vatican Farm,” “How Cow!” and “The pope’s land of milk and honey.”
Would you be interested in issues pertaining to food justice? Read this article.
We know that Pope Francis has a devotion to the Mother of God. No doubt strongly influenced by his Argentinian/Italian and Jesuit background. In some ways he’s no different than most faithful Catholics who have a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
Francis has become a frequent papal visitor to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major; yesterday, he went to this basilica and prayed in front of the Marian image of Salus Populi Romani. Thereafter, the Holy Father went to Piazza di Spagna for the traditional act of veneration of the Immaculate Conception. Having made the Act of Veneration of the Immaculate Conception, Francis prayed a special prayer he composed. Here is what he prayed, and this ought to be our prayer, too:
Oh Mary, our Mother,
today the people of God in celebration
venerate the Immaculate,
always preserved from the contagion of sin.
Accept the gift I offer on behalf of the Church in Rome
and throughout the world.
Knowing that You, our Mother, are completely free from sin
gives us great comfort.
Knowing that evil has no power over You,
fills us with hope and fortitude
in the daily struggle that we must fulfill against the threats of the evil one.
But we are not alone in this struggle, we are not orphans, because Jesus,
before dying on the cross,has given You to us as a Mother.
We, therefore, despite being sinners, are your children, sons of the Immaculate,
called to the holiness that shines through You
by the grace of God from the beginning.
Animated by this hope,
we pray today for Your maternal protection for us, for our families,
for this city, for the whole world.
May the power of God’s love,
that preserved You from original sin,
through Your intercession, free humanity from every spiritual and material slavery,
and make us win, in hearts and in events, God’s plan of salvation.
May grace prevail in us, Your children, over
pride and we can become merciful
as our heavenly Father is merciful.
In this time that leads us
towards the feast of the Nativity of Jesus,
teach us to go against the tide:
to divest ourselves, to lower ourselves, to give ourselves, to listen, to be silent,
to decentralize ourselves,
to make room for the beauty of God, the source of true joy.
Oh Immaculate, Our Mother, pray for us!
At work is the interface between Christian faith and public order with Pope Francis making a three day visit to Turkey. A new and concrete plan for peace is needed so that, as Francis says, conflict is not merely the daily and accepted way of life. There is nothing dignified about killing the person who thinks and prays differently from us. The Bishop of Rome calls the visit a “dialogue of friendship.” Nonetheless, his trip to this highly Islamic and fanatic country is going to be interesting in terms of relationships of peace, mutual charitable work and education the coming months (and years). Turkey has been seen as a secular country since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938) who is routinely said to be the founder of the Republic of Turkey and yet, history tells a different story. His republican views had no real place for religion in the marketplace –neither Christian nor Muslim.
Today, many take it for granted that Turkey is an Islamic country with no Christian roots. Just the opposite, Turkey was a significant home of Christians (see the initial comments of Pope Francis below).
Pope Francis is not the first Roman Pontiff to visit Turkey; all of the recent pontiffs made a visit to the land of Christians. Recall, too, that Constantinople –the historic name of the current capitol of Turkey called Istanbul — is the home of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, successor of Saint Andrew and the spiritual father of nearly 300 million Orthodox Christians.
In some ways the Pope was restrained yet clear in his message of the need for a rule of law with various freedoms and rights for ALL peoples AND that the protection of all creation is required for peace. At the moment not everyone in Turkey can claim to be equal, free, and peaceful under the current practice of law.
The Pope’s address at to the leaders of Turkey:
I am pleased to visit your country so rich in natural beauty and history, and filled with vestiges of ancient civilizations. It is a natural bridge between two continents and diverse cultures. This land is precious to every Christian for being the birthplace of St Paul, who founded various Christian communities here, and for hosting the first seven Councils of the Church. It is also renowned for the site near Ephesus which a venerable tradition holds to be the “Home of Mary”, the place where the Mother of Jesus lived for some years. It is now a place of devotion for innumerable pilgrims from all over the world, not only for Christians, but also for Muslims.
Yet, the reasons why Turkey is held with such regard and appreciation are not only linked to its past and ancient monuments, but also have to do with the vitality of its present, the hard work and generosity of its people, and its role in the concert of nations.
It brings me great joy to have this opportunity to pursue with you a dialogue of friendship, esteem and respect, in the footsteps of my predecessors Blessed Paul VI, Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI. This dialogue was prepared for and supported by the work of the then Apostolic Delegate, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, who went on to become Saint John XXIII, and by the Second Vatican Council.
Today what is needed is a dialogue which can deepen the understanding and appreciation of the many things which we hold in common. Such a dialogue will allow us to reflect sensibly and serenely on our differences, and to learn from them.
There is a need to move forward patiently in the task of building a lasting peace, one founded on respect for the fundamental rights and duties rooted in the dignity of each person. In this way, we can overcome prejudices and unwarranted fears, leaving room for respect, encounter, and the release of more positive energies for the good of all.
To this end, it is essential that all citizens – Muslim, Jewish and Christian – both in the provision and practice of the law, enjoy the same rights and respect the same duties. They will then find it easier to see each other as brothers and sisters who are traveling the same path, seeking always to reject misunderstandings while promoting cooperation and concord. Freedom of religion and freedom of expression, when truly guaranteed to each person, will help friendship to flourish and thus become an eloquent sign of peace.
The Middle East, Europe and the world all await this maturing of friendship. The Middle East, in particular, has for too long been a theatre of fratricidal wars, one born of the other, as if the only possible response to war and violence must be new wars and further acts of violence.
How much longer must the Middle East suffer the consequences of this lack of peace? We must not resign ourselves to ongoing conflicts as if the situation can never change for the better! With the help of God, we can and we must renew the courage of peace! Such courage will lead to a just, patient and determined use of all available means of negotiation, and in this way achieve the concrete goals of peace and sustainable development.
Mr President, inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue can make an important contribution to attaining this lofty and urgent goal, so that there will be an end to all forms of fundamentalism and terrorism which gravely demean the dignity of every man and woman and exploit religion.
Fanaticism and fundamentalism, as well as irrational fears which foster misunderstanding and discrimination, need to be countered by the solidarity of all believers. This solidarity must rest on the following pillars: respect for human life and for religious freedom, that is the freedom to worship and to live according to the moral teachings of one’s religion; commitment to ensuring what each person requires for a dignified life; and care for the natural environment. The peoples and the states of the Middle East stand in urgent need of such solidarity, so that they can “reverse the trend” and successfully advance a peace process, repudiating war and violence and pursuing dialogue, the rule of law, and justice.
Sadly, to date, we are still witnessing grave conflicts. In Syria and Iraq, particularly, terrorist violence shows no signs of abating. Prisoners and entire ethnic populations are experiencing the violation of the most basic humanitarian laws. Grave persecutions have taken place in the past and still continue today to the detriment of minorities, especially – though not only – Christians and Yazidis. Hundreds of thousands of persons have been forced to abandon their homes and countries in order to survive and remain faithful to their religious beliefs.
Turkey, which has generously welcomed a great number of refugees, is directly affected by this tragic situation on its borders; the international community has the moral obligation to assist Turkey in taking care of these refugees. In addition to providing much needed assistance and humanitarian aid, we cannot remain indifferent to the causes of these tragedies. In reaffirming that it is licit, while always respecting international law, to stop an unjust aggressor, I wish to reiterate, moreover, that the problem cannot be resolved solely through a military response.
What is required is a concerted commitment on the part of all, based on mutual trust, which can pave the way to lasting peace, and enable resources to be directed, not to weaponry, but to the other noble battles worthy of man: the fight against hunger and sickness, the promotion of sustainable development and the protection of creation, and the relief of the many forms of poverty and marginalization of which there is no shortage in the world today.
Turkey, by virtue of its history, geographical position and regional influence, has a great responsibility: the choices which Turkey makes and its example are especially significant and can be of considerable help in promoting an encounter of civilizations and in identifying viable paths of peace and authentic progress.
May the Most High bless and protect Turkey, and help the nation to be a strong and fervent peacemaker!