Africa abuzz ahead of Pope’s visit, Ugandan archbishop says

Vatican City, Oct 29, 2015 / 07:45 am (CNA/EWTN News).- For Ugandan Archbishop John Baptist Odama, the upcoming visit of Pope Francis is like the visit of a spiritual ‘grandfather’ who offers encouragement and a sense of identity. “It is very wonderful, we are very excited in the country about the coming of the Pope,” the archbishop said. Head of Uganda’s Gulu archdiocese and president of the Ugandan Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Odama spoke with CNA about the Pope’s upcoming trip during the recent Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome. “For us, we see him as a grandfather coming to the home of the child…coming to see how this child is (living) the family life in his home.” Pope Francis’ presence will strengthen the Ugandan people, the archbishop said, “giving us a sense of identity and a sense that we belong, and he is our father and we are also his children and he is guiding us to our ultimate father, God.” The Vatican officially confirmed the Pope’s Nov. 25-30 trip to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic Sept. 10. Francis himself had first announced his intention to travel to Africa – specifically the Central African Republic and Uganda – during a news conference while returning from a trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines in January. He confirmed the plans in a June 12 meeting with hundreds of priests from around the world participating in the Third World Priests Retreat in the Basilica of St. John Lateran when he answered a question from an African priest about when he planned to visit. The Pope’s schedule for the trip – packed with interreligious encounters and focus on the poor – was released earlier this month. He will set foot in Kenya first, where he will stay from Nov. 25-27, before moving on to Uganda Nov. 27-29. His last stop will be the Central African Republic, from Nov. 29-30. His visit falls just ahead of the Central African Republic’s presidential transition, and just 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, and were canonized Oct. 18, 1964, by Bl. Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Basilica. Preparations have already begun for the celebration of the Golden Anniversary of the canonization, with the local Church holding a diocese-wide conference on the 22 saints. The Shrine of both the Anglican and Catholic martyrs at Namugongo will be Francis’ first main stop in Uganda. After arriving at the Ugandan airport of Entebbe the evening of Nov. 27, the Pope will head to the shrine the next morning, where he will celebrate Mass. Later he is scheduled to meet with youth and visit a charity center before heading back to the archbishop’s residence, where he will meet with the country’s bishops before holding an audience with priests, religious and seminarians. He will depart for the Central African Republic the next morning. In his comments to CNA, Archbishop Odama noted that the country is buzzing with preparations, both on the level of the government and the local Church. While the government of Uganda is taking care of practical things that don’t necessarily have to do with Catholics, those who practice the Catholic faith are busy organizing the Pope’s Mass at the Namugongo shrine, “where so many people will come with all the interest and enthusiasm.” Archbishop Odama said that Pope Francis will likely encourage Ugandans to be like the martyrs, and “to follow the example of his brothers and sisters who died for us.” Francis, he said, “is coming to encourage us in that one. So we look with great hope and are preparing ourselves. I think God will bless his visit and it will be a joy for us all.” Before heading to Uganda, Pope Francis will visit Kenya, where he will meet with their president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and the local authorities after his arrival in Nairobi. Over the next two days, the Pope is scheduled to hold an interreligious meeting, celebrate Mass at the University of Nairobi, pay a visit to the United Nations Office in Nairobi and hold an audience with the country’s priests, religious and seminarians. He will also travel to Nairobi’s poor Kangemi neighborhood and meet with Kenya’s bishops before departing for Uganda. After Uganda, Pope Francis will make his final stop in the war-torn Central African Republic. Once he lands in Bangui the morning of Nov. 29, he will visit with the country’s civic leaders and interim president, Catherine Samba-Panza. The Pope will then visit a refugee camp before holding separate audiences with the country’s bishops and Evangelical community. Later that day he will celebrate Mass with priests, religious, catechists and youth at the Cathedral of Bangui. After celebrating Mass, Pope Francis will hear the confessions of some young people before leading a prayer vigil in front of the cathedral. Before heading back to Rome Nov. 30, Francis will meet with the country’s Muslim community in the central Mosque of Koudoukou and celebrate Mass at the Barthélémy Boganda Sports Complex. He is expected to arrive back to Rome at close to 7 p.m. local time. Please see below for the Pope’s full schedule: Wednesday, Nov. 25, 20157:45 a.m. Departure from Rome Fiumicino to Nairobi, Kenya5:00 p.m. Arrival at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi Welcome ceremony at the State House6:00 p.m. Courtesy visit to the President of the Republic at the State House in Nairobi6:30 p.m. Meeting with the civil authorities of Kenya and with the diplomatic corps   Thursday, Nov. 26, 20158:15 a.m. Interreligious and Ecumenical Meeting in the Salon of the Apostolic Nunciature in Nairobi10:00 a.m. Holy Mass on the Campus of the University of Nairobi3:45 p.m. Meeting with clergy, religious men and women, and seminarians, at the athletic field of St Mary’s School5:30 p.m. Visit to the United Nations Office in Nairobi (U.N.O.N.)   Friday, Nov. 27, 20158:30 a.m. Visit to the poor neighborhood of Kangemi in Nairobi10:00 a.m. Meeting with young people in Kasarani Stadium11:15 a.m. Meeting with the Bishops of Kenya in the VIP room of the Stadium3:10 p.m. Farewell ceremony at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi3:15 p.m. Departure by air from Nairobi for Entebbe4:50 p.m. Arrival at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda   Saturday, Nov. 28, 20158:30 a.m. Visit to the Anglican Sanctuary of the Martyrs at Namugongo9:00 a.m. Visit to the Catholic Sanctuary of the Martyrs at Namugongo9:30 a.m. Holy Mass for the Martyrs of Uganda in the area of the Catholic Sanctuary3:15 p.m. Meeting with youth at Kololo Air Strip in Kampala5:00 p.m. Visit to the House of Charity of Nalukolongo6:00 p.m. Meeting with the Bishops of Uganda in the Residence of the Archbishop7:00 p.m. Meeting with priests, religious men and women, and seminarians in the Cathedral   Sunday, Nov. 29, 20159:00 a.m. Farewell ceremony at the Airport of Entebbe9:15 a.m. Departure by air from Entebbe for Bangui in the Central African Republic10:00 a.m. Arrival at M’Poko International Airport of Banguy and Welcome ceremony11:00 a.m. Courtesy visit to the president of the state of transition in the Presidential Palace “de la Renaissance”11:30 a.m. Meeting with civic leaders and with the diplomatic corps12:15 p.m. Visit to a refugee camp1:00 p.m. Meeting with the Bishops of the Central African Republic4:00 p.m. Meeting with the Evangelical Community at the headquarters of FATEB (the Faculty of Evangelical Theology of Bangui)5:00 p.m. Holy Mass with priests, religious men and women, catechists, and young people at the Cathedral of Bangui7:00 p.m. Confessions of some young people; and the beginning of the Vigil of Prayer in front of the Cathedral   Monday, Nov. 30, 20158:15 a.m. Meeting with the Muslim community in the central Mosque of Koudoukou in Bangui9:30 a.m. Holy Mass in the Stadium at the Barthélémy Boganda Sports Complex12:15 p.m. Departure ceremony at M’Poko International Airport of Bangui12:30 p.m. Departure by air for Rome6:45 p.m. Arrival at Rome/Ciampino Airport Read more

Researcher: Study after study finding kids do best with married parents

Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2015 / 06:51 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Three new pieces of scholarship released in recent weeks suggest that children do best with married parents and are more likely to face a host of challenges in other situations. W. Brad Wilc… Read more

Rabbi: From John XXIII to Francis, Catholic relations with Judaism have improved

Rome, Italy, Oct 29, 2015 / 03:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Fifty years ago the way the Catholic Church related with other religions changed forever when the Second Vatican Council declaration Nostra aetate sparked a wave of unprecedented welcome – a revolution one rabbi says has gained steam with every Pope since. “Saint John XXIII was the revolution. He deserves the copyright,” Rabbi David Rosen told CNA in an Oct. 28 interview. “He really transformed the relationship from one in which the Jews were seen as having no integrity and legitimacy of their own,” he said. Rather than seeking to make Jews validate Christianity through blame and suffering, the saint turned that view around. “John XXIII is probably – I would say if the Jews could have canonized him they would have done it long before the Catholic Church would have done it.” Rosen is international director of Interreligious Affairs at the American Jewish Committee as well as a member of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. He is also part of the Commission of the Holy See for Religious Relations with the Jews. The rabbi is present in Rome alongside representatives other religions from all over the globe for an Oct. 26-28 conference commemorating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Nostra aetate, the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christians religions. Sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, the conference is meant to serve as a point of interreligious dialogue and reflection. When Nostra aetate was promulgated by Bl. Paul VI Oct. 28, 1965, it marked the first time bishops had explicitly said that the Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy” in other religious traditions, urging Catholics to pursue “dialogue and collaboration” with people of all religions. In particular, the document radically reshaped Catholic relations with the Jewish world, decrying “hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone”, and stating that “what happened in [Christ’s] passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.” In his comments to CNA, Rosen said the conference has been excellent, and has so far generated “intense, sometimes passionate” discussion, as well as a strong spirit of fraternity and engagement among religions. Among the religions represented at the conference are Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Jainism and Sikhism. This type of gathering is “definitely something that was not possible before Nostra aetate,” the rabbi said. “There’s never been as much interfaith cooperation and engagement in human history as there is today and it’s an exponentially growing industry,” which is thanks in great part to the declaration. Though the document marked a significant leap in the bettering of relations between Jews and Catholics, the process had actually started before the council, with steps already put into place by St. John XXIII, Rosen said. The “Good Pope” is known to have saved thousands of Jewish lives while serving as apostolic nuncio to Turkey during World War II, creating false, though official-looking documents and papers for Jewish refugees seeking to escape into Palestine. He formed a network of other Church officials and neutral politicians whom he enlisted to assist him in his efforts to save and protect the Jewish people. While Pope, he granted roughly 120 private audiences to Jewish individuals and groups, including representatives of the government of Israel. In the early years of his papacy, which lasted from 1958-1963, he removed several prayers from the Church’s sacramental and liturgical celebrations either holding Jews responsible for Christ’s death, encouraging resentment toward the Jewish people, or praying for their conversion. In calling the Second Vatican Council, St. John XXIII provided the necessary space to re-examine the Church’s relationship with other religions, which culminated in the promulgation of Nostra aetate. Rosen noted that while Bl. Paul VI certainly followed in St. John XXIII’s footsteps in publishing the document, as well as being the first Pope to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the Church’s relationship with the Jews made “a quantum leap” during the papacy of St. John Paul II. This leap was due both to St. John Paul II’s “own personal history and for the tragedies not only of Poland, but of the Jewish tragedy which he felt in his own flesh and his own personal experiences,” the rabbi noted. One of the Polish saint’s greatest childhood friends, Jerzy Kluger, was Jewish. Kluger was also present at St. John Paul II’s meeting with Poles in Rome shortly after his election. One of the first meetings a new elected Pope holds is with the community of his home country, and the saint’s Jewish friend was not left out. St. John Paul II has a long track-record of papal-firsts in relation to the Jewish people: in 1979 he was the first Pope to go to Auschwitz and pay homage to the Jewish people who died in the extermination camps; in 1986 he became the first Pope since the first century to enter a synagogue; he was the first Pope to acknowledge the State of Israel in 1993, and was the first Pope who publicly recalled the Holocaust, at the Vatican in 1994. He was also the first Pope to host and honor a long-term Jewish friend in a Pontifical residence. Rosen pointed specifically to St. John Paul II’s 1986 visit to the Roman synagogue and his 2000 pilgrimage to the Holy Land, saying these trips “created images in the world that demonstrated this radical new relationship with the Jewish people, which he was totally passionate about.”   While Benedict XVI continued to build on St. John Paul II’s legacy, “we’ve reached a new height with Pope Francis,” the rabbi said. “There’s never been a Pope in history, probably since the first, since Peter, who knew the Jewish community as well as this Pope has done in his own adulthood,” he said, noting how as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, then-Cardinal Bergoglio often visited synagogues and Jewish celebrations. So when it comes to Pope Francis, “we’re not dealing with someone who just understands cognitively or even in his heart that this has to be done.” Francis, Rosen said, is somebody who has it “in his innards, as if it were in his intestines (that he) understands the Jewish reality and has engaged with it. And that’s very definitely a new, significant stage in the wonderful transformation of our relationship.” As part of the celebration surrounding the 50th anniversary of Nostra aetate, Pope Francis dedicated his Wednesday general audience to interreligious dialogue. In addition to the Pope’s own catechesis on the subject, other speakers at the audiende included Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. On the topic of dialogue, Rabbi Rosen said that he doesn’t accept it as just “a tool” to be used, but rather sees dialogue as “a value in and of itself.” “To know one another is essential to love one another, as we are called to do, and that love is basically what changes the world,” he said, noting that Pope Francis’ focus on dialogue is a call to address contemporary challenges together. He cited issues surrounding the environment and the defense of the sanctity of human life as areas in which all religions must work to benefit humanity. “These are areas where there’s so much to do and where we need to work more and more together, especially in the face of the terrible challenges” of growing violence, extremism and immigration, he said.   Read more

Want to implement Laudato si’? Strong families are a good start, scholars argue

Washington D.C., Oct 29, 2015 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Church teaching on marriage and family life is crucial to understanding Pope Francis’ ecology encyclical, experts insisted at a conference on Monday. “Catholic social teaching recognizes that one of the social contributions central to the common good is marriage and the family that flows from it,” said Dr. Melissa Moschella, professor of philosophy at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. at an Oct. 26 faith and science conference on Laudato si’ held at the university. “That new human ecology that [Pope Francis] wants to foster focuses importantly on fostering a healthy marriage culture as a crucial aspect of that,” she stated. Moschella was speaking about “A New and Universal Solidarity Within the Human Community.” She was one of a number of experts from a variety of fields including natural science, theology, and philosophy discussing applications of the encyclical to their fields. The 184-page encyclical Laudato si’ was published in June, and named after St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Sun”, in which he praised God for creation. Although it addresses human care for the natural environment, the letter also upholds human dignity and the need for persons to live in accord with the moral law. The family is key to understanding this encyclical, Moschella explained, because it is at the heart of the “human ecology” the Pope speaks of, the relationships of human persons. In paragraph 5 of of Laudato si’, Pope Francis emphasizes the need to preserve not only the “natural environment” but also the “human environment.” “The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life is itself a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement,” he wrote. “Human ecology,” Moschella explained, means the proper conditions “for authentic human development and fulfillment” – social, economic, political, and environmental. Pope Francis teaches that “a healthy marriage culture” best meets these conditions, she said. This is because human beings, made in the image of the “Triune God whose inner life is one of complete and reciprocal self-gift,” best practice this self-giving within family life. In marriage, the spouses must give of themselves to each other and to their children, she reflected. Children, in turn, learn from their example. and through the “daily requirements of family life” they also are “learning to share.” “This is one of the things too that our contraceptive culture forgets about,” she said, noting that people don’t want children “because of the demands that children entail.” However, she added, “it’s actually precisely in responding to the demands of children that couples grow in love.” Dr. Chad Pecknold, a theology professor at Catholic University, agreed. The family – understood also as “the whole human family” — is a “central theme in Laudato si’,” he said in his talk on “Human Responsibility for the Natural World.” The encyclical focuses on “our common home,” he said, which implies a family gathered in the home. And as human persons are all sons and daughters of God the Father, he added, we constitute a “universal family” in relation to each other. Pope Francis adds that the human family is the basic cell of society, Pecknold noted, and is at the “heart of the culture that cares for creation.” Children will first learn to care for creation in their family life. Human ecology is also directly connected to natural ecology, both Pecknold and Moschella explained. Moschella cited Pope Francis’ address at the conference on the complementarity of man and woman in November of 2014, where he said that “the crisis in the family has produced an ecological crisis.” The natural environment directly suffers as a result of poor human ecology, Pecknold explained. The widespread use of contraceptives has harmed countless families, he said, but it has also entered the water supply, harming fish and “altering the hormonal balance of our children.” Read more

A tour of Saint John Paul II’s Poland

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2015 / 06:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- St. John Paul II had just celebrated the closing Mass of his historic trip to his home country of Poland in 1979 when he turned to survey the crowd of more than a million Poles. “And so, before I leave you, I wish to give one more look at Krakow, this Krakow in which every stone and every brick is dear to me,” the future saint said. “And I look once more on my Poland.” Once more at the Debniki apartment, where he first wrestled with the mystery of suffering after the death of his father. Once more at Jagiellonian University, the seedbed of his understanding of the relationship between faith and reason. Once more at St. Florian’s and St. Catherine’s parishes, where he gave the world a model of pastoral accompaniment through his “Srodowisko” community with some 200 young Catholics. It’s no secret that St. John Paul II was indelibly marked by his Polish heritage. His life has made the country a place of pilgrimage. And next year’s World Youth Day in Krakow offers millions of Catholic youth the opportunity to walk the path of this beloved Polish Pope. Papal biographer George Weigel hopes to add to that experience through his new biographical guidebook City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Krakow. “The book is both a series of meditations on vocation and other basic themes of Christian discipleship, and a guidebook that introduces readers to the history and culture of Krakow,” Weigel told CNA in an email interview. “There’s really nothing else quite like it, and I hope the combination of catechetics and guide helps WYD 2016 pilgrims have a richer, more deeply reflective and prayerful experience.” Part biography, part guidebook, Weigel’s City of Saints effortlessly details through vivid color photographs and detailed descriptions the Polish churches, shrines and landmarks that shaped the pontificate of St. John Paul II, while simultaneously exploring the future saint’s growth as a philosopher, human rights advocate, and spiritual leader. “We never get to universal truths and goods in the abstract; they always come to us through the particular,” Weigel told CNA in an email interview. “I don’t learn to love baseball in general; I learn to love a team, and through it I learn to love the game.” “Similarly, Karol Wojtyla didn’t come to embrace Christian discipleship in general; he became a radically converted Christian disciple in a specific time and place – and then learned to see and love a broader landscape of discipleship through that experience.” Fans of Weigel’s biographies of St. John Paul II can expect the same attention to detail in City of Saints. Weigel said his previous projects and frequent travels to Krakow inspired him to pen the new book. He said he desired “to share with the world – and especially the pilgrims to World Youth Day 2016 – my affection for a great city and its unique place in the history of the modern world.” For Weigel, next year’s World Youth Day will be a coming home of sorts. “World Youth Day may have begun formally in the mid-1980’s, but it began as an idea – a new approach to youth ministry – in the late 1940s and early 1950s with Fr. Karol Wojtyla’s remarkable campus ministry in Krakow.” Read more

Princeton love and marriage event expects record-breaking attendance

Princeton, N.J., Oct 28, 2015 / 04:25 pm (CNA).- College students from across the country will gather in record-breaking numbers to attend a high-powered conference on love, marriage and fidelity this weekend – and a free webcast means anyone can… Read more

Advocates chide US – stop ignoring religiously-motivated violence

Washington D.C., Oct 28, 2015 / 01:10 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The U.S. must recognize all causes of religious freedom abuses around the world – including religious motivations where they exist, experts told members of Congress Tuesday. “This is a case that we make again and again and again, and that is that many of our most serious foreign policy and defense challenges have a key religious component to that, and we cannot hope to solve these problems if we do not address the religious dimension to these crises,” said Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. “Too often in the foreign ministries, our State Department and the other foreign ministries prefer other explanations that seem somehow more rational to them, but the world is as it is, and so we cannot succeed without addressing these religious freedoms,” she added in an interview with CNA. It is “very important to not fall into the trap of thinking religious freedom abuses are always the result of, say, poverty. Because they’re not,” stressed Princeton University law professor Robert George, who chairs the commission, an independent government watchdog that advises the State Department. George testified before the House Global Human Rights subcommittee on Oct. 27, along with the U.S. Ambassador at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Rabbi David Saperstein, on the “global crisis of religious freedom.” “International religious freedom is in jeopardy,” George told CNA, noting that 75 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where freedom of religion is restricted by the government or is threatened by social unrest. The abuses “are legion,” he said. He pointed to problems in North Korea, an “Atheist-Marxist” Chinese government’s crackdown on dissidents, a “theocracy” in Iran persecuting those who don’t believe “their particular interpretation of Shia Islam,” abuses in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and non-state actors committing grave human rights abuses in Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria. “It’s a bleak situation, and so that means we need to redouble our efforts and rededicate ourselves to religious freedom,” he continued. When asked if the global situation has improved in the last year, Swett answered bluntly, “No.” The world is “on fire” with abuses of religious freedom, she insisted. Saperstein admitted to “daunting, alarming, and growing challenges to religious freedom around the world” in his testimony, but maintained that the State Department is improving its response in promoting religious freedom abroad since he took over his ambassador position in 2014. As an example, he pointed to the appointment of Knox Thames as the State Department’s new Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia. “It used to be a fight to talk with the government” over the importance of global religious freedom, Saperstein said, but added that he is “heartened to find” that is no longer the case. “Is it still clumsy for many people? Yes. These are very hard issues to deal with in an effective manner,” he acknowledged of the agency’s efforts to promote global religious freedom. But George said there is still more work to be done in improving how the U.S. responds to global abuses of religious freedom. For instance, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommends yearly that the State Department designate certain countries as “countries of particular concern,” (CPCs) or countries where severe and ongoing abuses of religious freedom are taking place and the government is supporting them or not stopping them. These designations carry possible consequences like economic sanctions or a bilateral agreement with the governments of those countries. However, the State Department does not always act on USCIRF’s recommendations. The process “loses credibility” if “designations are erratic”, which they have been, George claimed, adding that the designations should be “made annually” by the State Department. He recommended Congress pass legislation that requires annual CPC designations by the State Department. In his testimony, Saperstein promised the process would improve. “I am pushing very hard to revamp the way that we do this,” he said. “I do not think that we’re going to have this problem in the future.”   Read more

Prayer is the treasure of all religions, says Pope

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2015 / 11:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis marked Wednesday’s anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religion by saying the world looks to religious believers for their ability to pray. “Prayer is our treasure, to which we draw in accordance with our respective traditions, to ask for the gifts for which humanity yearns,” he said at his Oct. 28 general audience at St. Peter’s Square. The world looks to believers for answers in many areas, the Pope said, such as peace, hope, environmental crisis, violence committed in the name of religion, and crises in the family and the economy. “We believers have received these problems, but we have one great resource: prayer. And we believers pray. We must pray!” Pope Francis’ remarks came on the 50th anniversary of the release of Nostra aetate, and his general audience was focused on inter-religious dialogue. Other speakers included Cardinal Jean Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The Pope extended a special welcome to those individuals and groups present in St. Peter’s Square representing other religions. He cited the the Second Vatican Council as an “extraordinary time of reflection, dialogue, and prayer for renewing the Catholic Church’s gaze upon itself and on the world.” “A reading of the signs of the times, in view of an update oriented by due loyalty: loyalty to the tradition of the Church, loyalty to Church tradition, and loyalty to the history of men and women in our times.” Pope Francis recalled the various interreligious initiatives and events that have sprung up in the years following Nostra aetate’s release. He noted in particular the interreligious encounter in Assisi in 1986, the fruit of a meeting between St. John Paul II and a group of young Muslims in Casablanca a year earlier. “The flame, ignited in Assisi, has spread around the world, and is a permanent sign of hope,” he said. Pope Francis made particular mention of the transformation in the relationship between Christians and Jews which has come about over the last fifty years. “Indifference and opposition have turned into collaboration and goodwill: from enemies and strangers, we have become friends and brothers.”Nostra aetate led the way in saying “yes” to rediscovering “Christianity’s Jewish roots,” and “no” to “every form of anti-Semitism,” while condemning “every insult, discrimination, and persecution which comes with it.” The Pope noted that Nostra aetate promoted renewed relations not only with the Jewish people, but also with persons of other religions, especially Muslims. He cited passages from the document which acknowledge the points of commonality between Christianity and Islam: reference to the paternity of Abraham, the veneration of Jesus as prophet, esteem for Mary, as well as such practices as almsgiving and fasting. The aim and condition of interreligious dialogue is “mutual respect”, Pope Francis said: “respect for the right to life of others, to physical integrity, to fundamental freedom – namely, freedom of conscience, of thought, of expression, and of religion.” Pope Francis spoke of the “violence and terrorism” which has led to religion becoming the object of suspicion and condemnation. While there is always the risks of fundamentalism or extremism in any religion, he said, we must nonetheless “look at the positive values which they live and propose, and which are  sources of hope.” The Pope reflected on the various areas of collaboration possible between persons of different religions: serving the poor, the elderly, migrants, caring for creation, etc. “All believers of every religion! Together we can praise the Creator for having given us the garden of the world to cultivate and protect as a common good,” he said, and also work together to “combat poverty and ensure secure conditions of a dignified life for every man and woman.” The Pope went on to remind those present that the upcoming Year of Mercy, beginning in December, will offer an opportunity for those works of charity. “But the mercy to which we are all called embraces all of creation,” he said. “God has entrusted (creation) to us because we are stewards, not exploiters or – worse still – destroyers.” Pope Francis concluded the audience with an appeal for victims of the earthquake which struck Pakistan and Afghanistan on Monday.The Guardian reports that more than 370 people have been killed and thousands injured in the 7.5 magnitude quake which also affected the Kashmir region. Scores of homes have also been destroyed, causing concern with the approaching winter months. “We pray for the departed and their families, for all the wounded and without shelter, imploring from God relief in suffering and courage in the adversity.” “May our concrete solidarity not be lacking for our brothers and sisters.”A group of interfaith leaders at the Wednesday general audience with #PopeFrancis in #Rome. #Catholic #Church #faith ???????????? Photo: Bohumil Petrik/CNA A photo posted by Catholic News Agency (@catholicnewsagency) on Oct 28, 2015 at 9:57pm PDT Read more

New Mexico priest, seminarians soup up car for vocations

Gallup, N.M., Oct 28, 2015 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Father Matthew Keller has always been kind of a car guy. “Actually, a lot of a car guy,” he told CNA, laughing. He went to technical school as a teenager – “vocationa… Read more

A prayer from the Pope – may Christians not be forced out of the Middle East

Vatican City, Oct 28, 2015 / 12:13 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The sufferings of the Chaldean Catholic Church were the focus of Pope Francis on Monday when he addressed a synod of Chaldean bishops. He prayed for Middle East Christians and again called for int… Read more