Washington D.C., Nov 29, 2015 / 04:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- For the first time, U.S. bishops have issued a historical pastoral letter specifically addressing the global crisis of pornography, looking at how the industry is affecting the parishioners in their pews and what the Church can do to offer mercy, healing, and hope to recovering pornography users. “We offer this statement to give a word of hope and healing to those who have been harmed by pornography and to raise awareness of its pervasiveness and harms,” the statement reads, saying the Church wants to offer healing to the families destroyed by pornography and to the individuals who have been exploited by it. The USCCB officially approved the pastoral letter created by the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth called “Create in Me a Clean Heart” on Nov. 17. The letter addresses the crisis of porn and how the Church is reaching out with mercy to those who fall prey to the thriving billion-dollar pornography industry, which creates an increasing slew of victims and perpetrators every year. Pornography’s wide acceptance and even at times promotion in today’s global culture has prompted the U.S. bishops to address the crux of the issue: the failure to recognize every human’s innate call to love. According to the pastoral letter, “every man and woman, whether called to marriage or not, has a fundamental vocation of self-giving, fruitful love in imitation of the Lord.” The bishops describe pornography, however, as the opposite of love – the love for which every individual is created. Instead, pornography creates “a disordered view of the person, because it is ordered toward use, as of a thing, rather than love, which pertains to persons.” Pornography also “rejects the equal dignity and complementarity between man and woman and strikes at the heart of God’s plan for communion between persons,” the letter stated. The bishops also linked pornography as a gateway to other problems, such as: masturbation, addiction, adultery, prostitution, domestic violence, abuse, and sex trafficking. It also leads to a distorted view of human sexuality, and in some cases, damages the capacity for healthy, human intimacy. Engaging in pornography might appear to some like a harmless, private affair, but the bishops pointed to multiple victims who are involved in the making. Many individuals and children portrayed in pornography are victims of human trafficking and also forced into prostitution, the bishops wrote, citing a study by former litigation attorney and anti-porn advocacy leader Noel Bouche. The crisis of pornography inflicts deep wounds on many individuals, spouses, and families – including faithful Catholics, they said. Recognizing this danger and the reach of pornography within their own pastoral corners, the U.S. bishops were quick to point out that the Church is waiting to welcome those who are hurting. “No wound is so deep, however, as to be out of the reach of Christ’s redeeming grace. The Church as a field hospital is called to proclaim the truth of the human person in love,” the letter stated. “You are beloved sons and daughters of the Father. Be not afraid to approach the altar of mercy and ask for forgiveness. Many good people struggle with this sin. You are not alone,” the bishops said. For many, use of pornography has become an addiction, or at the very least, desensitizing. Because of this, many individuals will have to seek other help in addition to confession or spiritual direction. “We wish to specifically address Catholics in a range of circumstances and present opportunities for guidance, healing and grace,” the statement continued. The bishops recommended counseling, coaching, accountability groups, conferences, and retreats as good options for recovering pornography users. Other tools like online monitoring software, couples therapy, and chastity education are also good resources. “Freedom from pornography is a daily choice and calls for ongoing formation,” the pastoral letter noted. Parents also have a responsibility to protect their sons and daughters from the modern-day scourge of pornography. The bishops noted that the average age of children who are exposed to pornography is age eleven, meaning that there are many children who are even younger. “Parents and guardians, protect your home! Be vigilant about the technology you allow into your home and be sensitive to the prevalence of sexual content in even mainstream television and film and ease by which it comes through the Internet and mobile devices,” the letter stated. In addition, the bishops encouraged intensified seminary and priestly formation on pastoral care to treat those involved with pornography. Priests, they noted, have a crucial role to play in creating authentic relationships and fraternal support with individuals who want to defeat their struggle with porn. “God’s grace and concrete help are always available. Healing is always possible,” the bishops noted. “Trust in and be led by the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s mercy and forgiveness are abundant!” A full list of USCCB-approved resources on recovering from pornography is available at: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/pornography/index.cfm. Read more

Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov 29, 2015 / 02:33 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Reported violence near a mosque Pope Francis is slated to visit in Central African Republic caused the pontiff to reply with an immediate “can I go (be with them)?” according to a bishop who was standing close by. After hearing of the alleged death of three youth this morning in a neighborhood of Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, Pope Francis voiced his desire to go the area, though it wasn’t in the schedule. However, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Franco Coppola, advised him against going, since it’s a dangerous area. This is what the Bishop Juan José Aguirre of Bangassou told Spanish agency COPE during the lunch between Pope Francis and the country’s bishops. Bishop Aguirre asked for prayers for the nation following the tragic reports that a number of people in the Fatima neighborhood of the capitol had been killed. He explained that “this morning with all of the joy that there was in Bangui, with all of this overflowing joy… at 1.5 kilometers (from the place where Pope Francis ate with the bishops) three people were killed in the Fatima neighborhood.” “I was with the Holy Father and I told him: Holiness, this morning three people were killed in this barrio (neighborhood) where there is a parish nearby, where there are three Comboni missionaries and 500 displaced persons.” After hearing this, “the Pope immediately asked the Nuncio: ‘can I go, can I go?’ and the Nuncio replied: ‘no, Holiness, it is very dangerous.’” In a Nov. 29 report for Vatican Insider, Italian Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli reported that the youth had been killed with machine guns as they tried to leave Our Lady of Fatima parish in Bangui. The church is run by the Comboni missionaries, and is located in a Muslim area where Pope Francis is scheduled to go tomorrow morning to visit the city’s most important mosque. “They would be people hiding in the parish to avoid the Seleka militants,” Tornielli said. In his report, Tornielli said the act occurred at 8:00a.m. local time Nov. 29. According to Notre Dame Radio of Bangui, the youth were Christians who were trying to return to their houses, which had been burned by the Seleka militants who control the area. Details of the incident, however, are still unclear. Tornielli reported that the head of the Vatican Gendarmerie, Domenico Giani, said later that only two had died instead of three. UN sources said the event was an episode of common crime, and that “there is no relation to the papal visit.” Additionally, sources from the Comboni missionaries themselves later said it’s possible that no one died at all. Tornielli said the ambiguity surrounding the details of the event is “a sign of the confusion that reigns in the city and, above all, in the Muslim neighborhood, where the Fatima parish is located.” Until now, he said, “the only thing certain is the story of the Spanish bishop (Juan José Aguirre of Bangassou) and the reaction of the Pope, who would have immediately wanted to go to where the events took place. On Nov. 30, his last day in Africa, Pope Francis is scheduled for a meeting with CAR’s Muslim community at the central Mosque of Koudoukou. Though many have advised against the decision, as of now it’s still on the Pope’s slate. Read more

Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov 29, 2015 / 12:23 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During his meeting with the youth of the Central African Republic, Pope Francis gave spontaneous comments in response to a young local who asked the Holy Father’s advice about living in a war-torn country. “We have been taken by heavy winds and violence…these challenges remain numerous,” the young man told the Holy Father, pointing out that the symbol of their country was the banana tree because it is resistant and life-giving. The young man expressed that he and many of his friends are tempted to leave the violence and difficulties of their homeland in the Central African Republic. Since 2012, over 6,000 people in the CAR have died from violence spread by Muslim rebel groups challenging the country’s presidential power. Pope Francis’ visit to the CAR is the most dangerous yet, as the country is considered to be an active war zone. The pontiff held his encounter with the youth outside of Bangui’s Notre-Dame Cathedral on Nov. 29. It included a short, unprepared address and was followed by the administration of the sacrament of confession and a prayer vigil.Below is CNA’s full transcript of Pope Francis’ remarks to Central African youth: This friend who spoke in all of your name said that your symbol is the banana tree, because the banana is the symbol of life, it always grows, always produces, gives life, nutrients, energy. The banana plant is very resistant. I think that this tells us very clearly the way that’s proposed to us during this difficult time of war: the way of resistance. Dear friends, some of you want to go away, some of you want to leave. But escaping from the challenges that life presents is never a resolution. We need to resist, to have the courage to resist, to fight so that good can come. Those who flee do not have the courage to give life. The banana gives life and continues to reproduce, giving more and more life because it resists, because it remains, because it’s there. Some of you might ask me ‘but father, what can we do? how do we resist?’ I’m going to say to or three things that may be helpful for you in order to resist. First of all, prayer! Prayer is powerful, prayer conquers evil, prayer brings us nearer to God who is all powerful. I’m going to ask you a question: Do you pray? I don’t hear you! (cheers). Don’t forget. The second thing I’d like to say is work for peace. Peace is not found in a document you sign. That just remains there. Peace is found every day and peace is something that is done by hand, it’s something that artisans do, it’s done with one’s own life. But some of you might ask: ‘how can I be an artisan of peace?’ First, Never hate! And if someone does evil toward you, try to forgive – never hate. A lot of forgiveness. (Say together) ‘no hate, a lot of forgiveness.’ And if you don’t have hate in your heart, if you will be a victor. And then you will be a victor of the most important battle of life: victors of love, and out of love comes peace. Do you want to be conquered or do you want to be victors: what do you want? The path of love – and can one love an enemy? Yes. Can we pardon those who’ve done us wrong? Yes. Thus with love and with forgiveness, you will be conquerors. With love you will be victorious in life, love always wins, love will never allow you to be conquered. I wish you all the best – think of the banana. Think of resisting before difficulty. Escaping, going far away, is not a solution. You need to be courageous. Have you understood what it means to be courageous? Courageous and forgiving, courageous and loving, courageous and being peaceful. Are we agreed? (cheers). Let’s say together: courage, love, reconciliation, peace! Dear friends, I am very happy to meet with you. Today we opened this door, this means the door of the mercy of God. Entrust yourselves to God, because he is merciful, he is love. He is able to give you peace. And so I told you at the beginning to pray: in order to resist, to love, and to be artisans of peace. Thank you so much for your presence. Now I will go inside to hear some of your confessions. Are you ready to resist? Yes or no? (cheers). Are you ready to fight for peace? Are you ready in your heart? Is your heart ready to forgive? Is your heart ready to be reconciled? Is your heart ready to love this beautiful country? And now I go back to what I said in the beginning: is your heart ready to pray? And now, I ask you, to pray for me! So that I might be a good bishop. So that I might be a good Pope. Will you promise to pray for me? Now I give you my blessing. To you and to your families, a blessing, asking the Lord to give you love and peace. Good evening, and pray for me! Read more

Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov 29, 2015 / 10:35 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In the Central African Republic on Sunday, Pope Francis delivered a homily emphasizing that God’s powerful love can overcome “unprecedented devastation.” He called on Christians to be leaders in showing mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation. “The salvation of God which we await is also flavored with love,” the Pope said Nov. 29. “In preparing for the mystery of Christmas, we relive the pilgrimage which prepared God’s people to receive the Son, who came to reveal that God is not only righteousness, but also and above all love.” “In every place, even and especially in those places where violence, hatred, injustice and persecution hold sway, Christians are called to give witness to this God who is love,” he said in his homily for the First Sunday of Advent. God’s salvation has “an invincible power which will make it ultimately prevail,” he said. The Pope said Mass in Bangui’s cathedral with priests, vowed religious, catechists, and young people. Bangui is the capital of the Central African Republic, which has been an active war zone since 2012, when a violent uprising led to the overthrow of the president. About 6,000 persons have been killed in the fighting, with thousands more displaced. Elections originally scheduled for October will now be held Dec. 27. In this context, Pope Francis reflected on the “terrible signs” ahead of the Second Coming. “It is amid unprecedented devastation that Jesus wishes to show his great power, his incomparable glory and the power of that love which stops at nothing, even before the falling of the heavens, the conflagration of the world or the tumult of the seas,” the Pope said.   “God is stronger than all else. This conviction gives to the believer serenity, courage and the strength to persevere in good amid the greatest hardships,” he continued. “Even when the powers of Hell are unleashed, Christians must rise to the summons, their heads held high, and be ready to brave blows in this battle over which God will have the last word. And that word will be love!” The Pope also had special words for those involved in conflict: “To all those who make unjust use of the weapons of this world, I make this appeal: lay down these instruments of death! Arm yourselves instead with righteousness, with love and mercy, the authentic guarantors of peace.” The Pope stressed the need for “a spirit of communion.” “Having experienced forgiveness ourselves, we must forgive others in turn,” he said. He reflected on the vocation to Christian perfection and one of its essentials: “the love of our enemies, which protects us from the temptation to seek revenge and from the spiral of endless retaliation.” “Jesus placed special emphasis on this aspect of the Christian testimony,” he said. “Those who evangelize must therefore be first and foremost practitioners of forgiveness, specialists in reconciliation, experts in mercy.” Pope Francis voiced his great affection for all Central African priests, consecrated religious, and pastoral workers. He sent greetings to Central Africans who are sick, elderly, and wounded. “Some of them are perhaps despairing and listless, asking only for alms, the alms of bread, the alms of justice, the alms of attention and goodness,” he said. The Pope offered God’s “strength and power,” which can “bring us healing, set us on our feet and enable us to embark on a new life.” He encouraged Christians to free themselves from “divisive notions of family and blood” in order to “build a Church which is God’s family, open to everyone, concerned for those most in need.” In the Sunday readings, Pope Francis said, the happiness that God promises is presented as justice. “Advent is a time when we strive to open our hearts to receive the Savior, who alone is just and the sole Judge able to give to each his or her due,”  he said.  “Here as elsewhere, countless men and women thirst for respect, for justice, for equality, yet see no positive signs on the horizon. These are the ones to whom he comes to bring the gift of his justice.” The Pope said Christ “comes to enrich our personal and collective histories, our dashed hopes and our sterile yearnings.” “And he sends us to proclaim, especially to those oppressed by the powerful of this world or weighed down by the burden of their sins, that ‘Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely’,” he said, citing the Prophet Jeremiah. The Pope said that because God is righteousness and justice, “Christians are called in the world to work for a peace founded on justice.” He exhorted the congregation of Bangui’s cathedral to follow their vocation to make incarnate “the very heart of God in the midst of your fellow citizens,” and prayed that God would strengthen them in holiness. Immediately preceding the Mass, Pope Francis ‘jump-started’ the Jubilee of Mercy by opening the Holy Door of the cathedral. Though the Jubilee for Mercy doesn’t begin until Dec. 8, Francis announced earlier this month that he had decided to open the Holy Door in the Central African Republic’s capital 10 days early as a sign of prayer and solidarity with the war-torn nation. Opening the Holy Door, Pope Francis proclaimed, “We all pray for peace, mercy, reconciliation, pardon, love. Throughout the Central African Republic and in all the nations of the world which suffer war, let us pray for peace. And together we all pray for love and peace. We pray together.”   Read more

Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov 29, 2015 / 09:05 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The path to Christian unity includes shared suffering, Pope Francis told the Central African Republic’s evangelical Christian communities on Sunday, exhorting them to continue showing charity amid war and violence. “God makes no distinctions between those who suffer. I have often called this the ecumenism of blood. All our communities suffer indiscriminately as a result of injustice and the blind hatred unleashed by the devil,” he said Nov. 29. He especially expressed his closeness to a pastor whose home, which served as a meeting place for his community church, was ransacked and set on fire. “In these difficult circumstances, the Lord keeps asking us to demonstrate to everyone his tenderness, compassion and mercy,” he said. The Pope’s comments came at a gathering at the Evangelical Faculty of Theology in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui. He is in the country Nov. 29-30 at the close of his visit to Africa, having previously visited Kenya and Uganda. Pope Francis told the Evangelical communities that such suffering and shared mission are a “providential opportunity for us to advance together on the path of unity.” “How could the Father refuse the grace of unity, albeit still imperfect, to his children who suffer together and, in different situations, join in serving their brothers and sisters?” he asked. The Central African Republic suffered tensions that erupted into war in late 2012. Predominantly Muslim rebel groups in the country’s north formed an alliance and called themselves Seleka. They traveled to the capital and seized power from its then-president. In reaction, some Central Africans formed self-defense groups called the anti-balaka. Some of these groups, mainly composed of Christians, began attacking Muslims out of revenge, and the conflict took on a sectarian character. At least 6,000 people have been killed in the fighting, with many more displaced. The country is now governed by an interim president. It will hold presidential and parliamentary elections Dec. 27. The elections had been postponed in October due to violence and instability. The Pope reflected on how the violence has caused great suffering for Central Africans.   “This makes the proclamation of the Gospel all the more necessary and urgent,” he said. “For it is Christ’s own flesh which suffers in his dearest sons and daughters: the poorest of his people, the infirm, the elderly, the abandoned, children without parents or left to themselves without guidance and education. There are also those who have been scarred in soul or body by hatred and violence, those whom war has deprived of everything: work, home and loved ones.” Pope Francis characterized the lack of Christian unity as a scandal that is contrary to God’s will. “It is also a scandal when we consider the hatred and violence which are tearing humanity apart, and the many forms of opposition which the Gospel of Christ encounters.” He encouraged the Evangelicals to continue common service in charity, as “a witness to Christ which builds up unity.” He also encouraged them to commit to prayer and common reflection so as to help achieve greater mutual understanding, trust, and friendship. “All of us are here in the service of the risen Lord who assembles us today; and, by virtue of the common baptism we have received, we are sent to proclaim the joy of the Gospel to men and women of this beloved country of Central Africa.”   Read more

Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov 29, 2015 / 08:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ first stop after arriving in the Central African Republic Sunday was to a refugee camp housing thousands of persons displaced by the country’s ongoing conflict. Upon his arrival at the camp Nov. 29, the Pope  was greeted by children living there, who held up signs displaying words such as “peace,” “love,” “unity,” and “pardon.” After greeting the children, Francis made his way through the camp before speaking briefly off-the-cuff to its inhabitants. “I saw what the children have written (on the signs),” he said, explaining that “we must work and pray; do everything (possible) for peace.” However,  he cautioned that  “peace without love, without friendship, without tolerance, without forgiveness, isn’t possible. Each one of us must do something.” The Pope then expressed his desire that all Central Africans would have “great peace among you … regardless of ethnicity, culture, religion, or social status.” Located at the parish of St. Sauveur in Bangui, the camp is home to 1,000-2,000 people displaced by violence and conflict. Pope Francis’ Nov. 29-30 visit to the Central African Republic comes at the end of a larger tour of the African continent. Before arriving, he also visited Kenya and Uganda. The stop in CAR also marks the first time since his election that Francis has set foot in an active war-zone.  The conflict, which has largely religious and ethnic roots, has so far left some 6,000 dead, and many thousands of persons displaced.    Armed conflict began in late 2012 when several bands of mainly Muslim rebel groups formed an alliance, taking the name Seleka. They left their strongholds in the north of the country and made their way south, seizing power from then-president Francois Bozize. Since then, fear and uncertainty have gripped the nation, and the country’s current leadership has struggled to maintain peace, leading ordinary citizens to take up arms. The fighting has been compounded by the fact that Christians were being targeted once the rebels launched their offensive, leading to anti-Muslim sentiments and revenge attacks on Muslims. At a Nov. 19 press briefing, Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi said Pope Francis is visiting CAR precisely “to show that he’s close to the people who suffer.” This, he said, is also why the refugee camp was Francis’  first stop after meeting the authorities. In his comments to the refugees, Pope Francis stressed that no matter their religious or ethnic background, everyone must be in peace, “everyone! Because we are all brothers.” He asked those present to repeat it aloud, noting that “because we are all brothers, we want peace.” He then gave them his blessing and asked for their prayers before heading to the apostolic nunciature for a private meeting with the country’s bishops. In another symbolic gesture, Pope Francis is set to jump-start the Jubilee of Mercy by opening the Archdiocese of Bangui’s Holy Door during Mass at their cathedral the evening of Nov. 29. Though the Jubilee for Mercy doesn’t begin until Dec. 8, Francis announced earlier this month that he decided to open the Holy Door in the Central African Republic’s capital 10 days early as a sign of prayer and solidarity with the war-torn nation. Read more

Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov 29, 2015 / 04:39 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After landing in the war-torn Central African Republic, Pope Francis urged the country’s leaders to work for peace and reconciliation, particularly through disarmament an… Read more

Kampala, Uganda, Nov 28, 2015 / 10:41 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis wrapped up his public appearances in Uganda with an address to the priests, religious and seminarians of the country at the Cathedral in Kampala. In an off-the-cuff homily in the Jesuit tradition – brief, with three main points – Pope Francis reflected on three words: memory, fidelity and prayer. The greatest treasure of the memory of the Ugandan people is the witness of their martyrs, the Holy Father said.   “As I said to the young people today, through the veins of young people and all Ugandan people is flowing the blood of the martyrs,” Pope Francis said. “Please don’t lose the memory of this great seed.” Pope Francis’ Nov. 27-28 trip to Uganda, the second of three countries on his trip to Africa, comes one year after the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs. Saint Charles Lwanga and his 21 companions were killed by the king in the 1880s, alongside 23 Anglican converts to Christianity for refusing to recant their faith. They were canonized Oct. 18, 1964, by Bl. Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Ask for the grace never to forget but to keep alive their memory,” Pope Francis said. In order to keep the memory of the martyrs alive, it must live on in the faithful witness of priests and religious today, he added. “You are part of the future glory (of the Church),” the Pope said. All clergy and religious are called “to be witnesses just as the martyrs laid down their lives for the Gospel.” The Pope then reflected on fidelity, and the need for clergy and religious to be faithful to the memory of the martyrs as well as to their own vocations. One way to show this fidelity, the Pope suggested, is to keep the missionary spirit alive within the country of Uganda.   “Fidelity means having a bishop that is generous in offering priests to a neighboring diocese that needs clergy,” he said. It also means “persevering in one’s vocation, and I want to thank here especially the example of fidelity that I received in the House of Charity – fidelity to the poor, to the infirm, the disabled, because Christ is there,” he said, referencing his earlier visit to the House of Charity in Nalukolongo, Uganda. The Holy Father then emphasized the need for prayer as the only thing that makes possible the witness of memory and fidelity.  “If a religious or a priest stops praying, because he or she has too much work, then he or she has begun to lose their memory and to lose their fidelity,” he said. Prayer also means regular confession, to ensure that one is not living a double life as a religious, the Pope added.   “If you are a sinner, ask for forgiveness, but don’t keep hidden what God doesn’t want to remain hidden.” At the conclusion of his address, the Pope called on the intercession of the martyrs of Uganda, and asked all those present to pray for him. He then led the clergy and religious in the Hail Mary. The Pope will conclude his trip to Africa in the Central African Republic, which he will visit Nov. 29-30.  Read more

Kampala, Uganda, Nov 28, 2015 / 08:33 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On his last day in Uganda, Pope Francis heard testimonies of suffering from young people and praised Ugandan’s faith, which he said comes from the martyrs who have come before them. “All of you, be aware, be aware that you are a people of martyrs,” the Pope said in Spanish, with the help of an interpreter into English, during the youth encounter at the Kololo Air Strip in Kampala. “Through your own veins runs the blood of martyrs, and that’s why you have such a strong faith and life that you enjoy now.” Pope Francis reflected on the example of the martyrs, saying “in order to live, we have to die…but, through that death, there is light for all.” The pontiff’s meeting with young people was one of the last events in his Nov. 27-28 visit to Uganda, the second country in his tri-nation African tour which began Nov. 25 with his stop in Kenya, and will conclude Nov. 30 with his visit to the Central African Republic.     Young people at a meeting with Pope Francis in Uganda this morning! #PopeinUganda #popefrancis A photo posted by Catholic News Agency (@catholicnewsagency) on Nov 28, 2015 at 8:00am PST Before addressing the young people, Pope Francis heard several testimonies, including that of a young woman named Winnie who lost both parents as a child and who is herself HIV positive, and a young man named Emmanuel who had spent several months in captivity in 2003 after being kidnapped by Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.   In her testimony, Winnie, 24, spoke of the challenge of losing her parents at the age of seven, and of managing her disease. “Take charge of your life because God loves you and he wants you to continue bear witness amidst all the challenges faced by young people,” she told Pope Francis. The other testimony came from Emmanuel who shared his story of being one of 41 students kidnapped from Sacred Heart Minor Seminary, Lacor. He and his fellow prisoners were tortured, while others were killed. He managed to escape captivity after three months, and has since earned a degree in business administration, but asked for prayers for the eleven seminarians still in captivity. “To those who tortured us, am glad my heart has found love, forgiveness, peace and joy. They are all forgiven because Jesus Christ broke the power of death by suffering on the Cross,” Emmanuel said. After listening to these testimonies “with great pain in my heart,” Pope Francis spoke on the meaning of negative experiences and suffering. Reflecting on Winnie’s testimony, the Pope explained that Jesus can perform “great miracles” in life. “A wall can be transformed into a path towards the future,” he said. “There’s always the possibility of opening a door, a horizon to the future, and to open it through the Power of Jesus.” “Winnie transformed her depression and bad experiences into hope. This isn’t magic. This is the work of Jesus Christ, because Jesus is Lord. Jesus can do everything.” The pontiff said Jesus had experienced the greatest sufferings in history, having been “insulted, rejected, and murdered,” but was Risen from the dead. “He can do the same in us with every single thing that we experience, because Jesus is Lord.” Pope Francis turned his reflection to the witness given by Emmanuel who managed to escape from a brutal captivity. “A light is like a seed. In order to live, we have to die. And dying sometimes like Emmanuel’s friends – Dying as Charles Lwanga died, and the martyrs – but, through that death there is light for all. “If I can transform the negative into positive, I am triumphant in the Lord. But, that can only be done with the grace of Jesus Christ.” The Pope then issued a challenge to the young people present:  “Are you ready in life to transform all your negative experiences into positive ones? Are you ready to transform hate into love? Are you ready to transform war into peace?” At one point during the address, the interpreter’s microphone stopped working, prompting Pope Francis to use the minor mishap to illustrate his point. “When we’re not working properly (like the microphone), who do we have to turn to for help? Jesus!” “He can tear down all the walls that lie before you.” Pope Francis stressed the importance of prayer to the young people present. In the fight against oppression, in the fight against HIV, the Pope said to ask Jesus for help, and to fight against these challenges with prayer. In particular, he urged them to pray to Jesus and Mary, saying: “When we have a problem, the first thing we can do is go to our mother. Pray to Mary, our mother.” “Pray to the Lord Jesus, because he is the only Lord,” the Pope said. He went on to remind the young people: “In the Church, we are not orphans, because we have Mary our mother.” Read more

Kampala, Uganda, Nov 28, 2015 / 08:03 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The world is marked by growing indifference, but Christians cannot forget Christ’s call to serve the poor, Pope Francis stressed in his speech this afternoon at the House of Charity in Na… Read more

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