Full text of Pope Francis’ prepared remarks at the Festival of Families

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 26, 2015 / 04:30 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis put aside his prepared remarks for the World Meeting of Families’ “Festival of Families” Sept. 26, at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. Here is the full text of the prepared remarks he did not give: Dear Brothers and Sisters, Dear Families, First of all, I want to thank the families who were willing to share their life stories with us. Thank you for your witness! It is always a gift to listen to families share their life experiences; it touches our hearts. We feel that they speak to us about things that are very personal and unique, which in some way involve all of us. In listening to their experiences, we can feel ourselves drawn in, challenged as married couples and parents, as children, brothers and sisters, and grandparents. As I was listening, I was thinking how important it is for us to share our home life and to help one another in this marvelous and challenging task of “being a family”. Being with you makes me think of one of the most beautiful mysteries of our Christian faith. God did not want to come into the world other than through a family. God did not want to draw near to humanity other than through a home. God did not want any other name for himself than Emmanuel (cf. Mt 1:23). He is “God with us”. This was his desire from the beginning, his purpose, his constant effort: to say to us: “I am God with you, I am God for you”. He is the God who from the very beginning of creation said: “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). We can add: it is not good for woman to be alone, it is not good for children, the elderly or the young to be alone. It is not good. That is why a man leaves his father and mother, and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24). The two are meant to be a home, a family. From time immemorial, in the depths of our heart, we have heard those powerful words: it is not good for you to be alone. The family is the great blessing, the great gift of this “God with us”, who did not want to abandon us to the solitude of a life without others, without challenges, without a home. God does not dream by himself, he tries to do everything “with us”. His dream constantly comes true in the dreams of many couples who work to make their life that of a family. That is why the family is the living symbol of the loving plan of which the Father once dreamed. To want to form a family is to resolve to be a part of God’s dream, to choose to dream with him, to want to build with him, to join him in this saga of building a world where no one will feel alone, unwanted or homeless. As Christians, we appreciate the beauty of the family and of family life as the place where we come to learn the meaning and value of human relationships. We learn that “to love someone is not just a strong feeling – it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise” (Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving). We learn to stake everything on another person, and we learn that it is worth it. Jesus was not a confirmed bachelor, far from it! He took the Church as his bride, and made her a people of his own. He laid down his life for those he loved, so that his bride, the Church, could always know that he is God with us, his people, his family. We cannot understand Christ without his Church, just as we cannot understand the Church without her spouse, Christ Jesus, who gave his life out of love, and who makes us see that it is worth the price. Laying down one’s life out of love is not easy. As with the Master, “staking everything” can sometimes involve the cross. Times when everything seems uphill. I think of all those parents, all those families who lack employment or workers’ rights, and how this is a true cross. How many sacrifices they make to earn their daily bread! It is understandable that, when these parents return home, they are so weary that they cannot give their best to their children. I think of all those families which lack housing or live in overcrowded conditions. Families which lack the basics to be able to build bonds of closeness, security and protection from troubles of any kind. I think of all those families which lack access to basic health services. Families which, when faced with medical problems, especially those of their younger or older members, are dependent on a system which fails to meet their needs, is insensitive to their pain, and forces them to make great sacrifices to receive adequate treatment. We cannot call any society healthy when it does not leave real room for family life. We cannot think that a society has a future when it fails to pass laws capable of protecting families and ensuring their basic needs, especially those of families just starting out. How many problems would be solved if our societies protected families and provided households, especially those of recently married couples, with the possibility of dignified work, housing and healthcare services to accompany them throughout life. God’s dream does not change; it remains intact and it invites us to work for a society which supports families. A society where bread, “fruit of the earth and the work of human hands” continues to be put on the table of every home, to nourish the hope of its children. Let us help one another to make it possible to “stake everything on love”. Let us help one another at times of difficulty and lighten each other’s burdens. Let us support one another. Let us be families which are a support for other families. Perfect families do not exist. This must not discourage us. Quite the opposite. Love is something we learn; love is something we live; love grows as it is “forged” by the concrete situations which each particular family experiences. Love is born and constantly develops amid lights and shadows. Love can flourish in men and women who try not to make conflict the last word, but rather a new opportunity. An opportunity to seek help, an opportunity to question how we need to improve, an opportunity to discover the God who is with us and never abandons us. This is a great legacy that we can give to our children, a very good lesson: we make mistakes, yes; we have problems, yes. But we know that that is not really what counts. We know that mistakes, problems and conflicts are an opportunity to draw closer to others, to draw closer to God. This evening we have come together to pray, to pray as a family, to make our homes the joyful face of the Church. To meet that God who did not want to come into our world in any other way than through a family. To meet “God with us”, the God who is always in our midst. Read more

For Pope Francis, it’s imperative: religious liberty is a gift from God. Defend it.

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 26, 2015 / 03:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a Philadelphia moment laden with symbolism, Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged all Americans and all religions to unite against efforts that would limit religious freedom. “May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy. And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself,” the Pope said Sept. 26. “In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others,” he said. The Pope reflected at length on religious freedom at Philadelphia’s Independence Mall. The venue includes the National Constitution Center and the Liberty Bell Center. The Pope recognized the symbolism of speaking of religious freedom there. “It was here that the freedoms which define this country were first proclaimed,” he said, citing the Declaration of Independence. “Those ringing words continue to inspire us today, even as they have inspired peoples throughout the world to fight for the freedom to live in accordance with their dignity.” He was greeted by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who reflected that the United States is “an experiment in freedom ordered by law and ordered to basic truths about the human person. The greatest goods in the American character come from our belief in a merciful God – a God who guarantees the dignity and rights of all his children.” Archbishop Chaput spoke about Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers, who was himself an immigrant. The archbishop said Hamilton’s life shows that the United States is “a nation that no single ethnic group or privileged economic class ‘owns.’ It’s a country where a person who comes from nowhere can still make a difference … He reminds us that immigrants from around the world renew this country in every generation.” Archbishop Chaput noted that “When the Church defends marriage and the family, the unborn child and the purpose of human sexuality, she’s attacked as too harsh. When she defends immigrant workers and families that are broken up by deportation, she’s attacked as too soft,” but that in fact “she is neither of those things,” but is rather a mother, “who understands and loves the whole human person; from conception to natural death; always, consistently and everywhere.” “When it comes to immigration, the Church reminds us that in the end, all of us are children of the same loving God,” the archbishop stated. “That makes us brothers and sisters, despite the borders that separate us. And in arguing over borders to keep people out, we need to be vigilant against erecting those same borders in our hearts.” Following Archbishop Chaput’s introduction, Pope Francis discussed the nature of religion and religious freedom. “Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate. But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families,” Pope Francis said. Religious traditions, he said, “call individuals and communities to worship God, the source of all life, liberty and happiness” and “remind us of the transcendent dimension of human existence and our irreducible freedom in the face of every claim to absolute power.” The religious freedom meeting’s audience included representatives of the Hispanic community and other immigrants. An estimated 50,000 people are believed to have to attend.   He said religious freedom is “a fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbors whose religious views differ from our own.” He recalled the atrocities committed in the 20th century by regimes which dominated peoples and denied them “any kind of rights.” Pope Francis also stressed the richness of religious traditions that offer meaning and direction and have “an enduring power to open new horizons, to stimulate thought, to expand the mind and heart.” “They call to conversion, reconciliation, concern for the future of society, self-sacrifice in the service of the common good, and compassion for those in need. At the heart of their spiritual mission is the proclamation of the truth and dignity of the human person and human rights,” the Pope said. Catholics in the United States have witnessed new threats to religious freedom in recent decades. Catholic adoption agencies in some states have been forced to close down because laws or other government policies would require them to place children with same-sex couples. Catholic standards for school employees are also facing challenges. The federal government has also required many religious employers to provide health insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion. Those who refuse to do so face heavy fines. Opponents of this mandate include the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns who care for the indigent poor. Their health care provider is also a Catholic organization. They have filed a legal challenge against the mandate, saying that helping to provide such drugs and procedures would violate their Catholic beliefs. Pope Francis visited a Washington, D.C. house of the Little Sisters of the Poor on Sept. 23 to show support for their cause. The visit resulted in an iconic photo of the Pope shaking the hand of a 102-year-old nun. In other parts of the world, especially the Middle East, Christians and other religious minorities have faced violence and even threats to their continued existence because of their religious beliefs. Pope Francis stressed that religious freedom is a benefit to society as a whole. “When individuals and communities are guaranteed the effective exercise of their rights, they are not only free to realize their potential, they also contribute to the welfare and enrichment of society,” he said. The Pope warned against a cultural uniformity imposed by “the egotism of the powerful,” the “conformism of the weak,” or utopian ideology, quoting Fr. Michel de Certeau, a 20th century Jesuit from France. “In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.” Citing his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, the Pope warned against the “globalization of the technocratic paradigm” which “aims at a one-dimensional uniformity and seeks to eliminate all differences and traditions in a superficial quest for unity.” In the face of such pressures, Pope Francis said that religions have the right and the duty to support a healthy pluralism that respects differences and is a “precious ally in the commitment to defending human dignity.” He cited the history of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, whose Quaker founders sought to create “a colony which would be a haven of religious freedom and tolerance.” He thanked people of all religions who have “sought to serve the God of Peace” in building cities of brotherly love, caring for neighbors in need, defending the poor and the immigrant, and defending “the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages.” “All too often, those most in need of our help are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you have faithfully made their cry heard,” the Pope said. In this witness, which frequently encounters powerful resistance, you remind American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and that society is weakened whenever and wherever injustice prevails.” Speaking of the cuff, Pope Francis then reflected on globalization, clarifying that it “is not bad – on the contrary, the tendency to globalize is good. What can be bad is the way of doing it.” When globalization attempts to impose uniformity and “would destroy the richness, the particularity of every person and people,” it is bad. But when it “seeks to unite everyone, while respecting each person in his richness, particularities, this globalization is good, and makes all of us grow, and leads to peace.” Returning to his prepared text, he greeted “with particular affection” American Hispanics in his audience and recent immigrants to the United States. “Many of you have emigrated to this country at great personal cost, but in the hope of building a new life,” he said. “Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face.” He encouraged them to never be ashamed of their traditions. “Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.” He encouraged them to continue to cultivate the virtues of “vibrant faith” and their deep sense of family life. “By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within.” The Pope also stressed the importance of memory for Americans. “A people which remembers does not repeat past errors; instead, it looks with confidence to the challenges of the present and the future. Remembrance saves a people’s soul from whatever or whoever would attempt to dominate it or use it for their interests.” He said United States history is a “constant effort” to embody the Declaration of Independence’s principles. “We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new Americans,” he said. “This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed.” ?“Never forget what happened here two centuries ago,” he implored Americans. “Don’t lose the memory of that Declaration, which declared all men and women are created equal, endowed by their creator with rights which governments exist to protect and to defend.” “Let us preserve liberty, let us take care of it: freedom of conscience, religious freedom, the freedom of every person, family, and nation, which causes other rights.” Pope Francis concluded by leading the crowd in praying the Our Father. Read more

For Pope Francis, it’s imperative: religious liberty is a gift from God. Defend it.

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 26, 2015 / 03:41 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- In a Philadelphia moment laden with symbolism, Pope Francis on Saturday encouraged all Americans and all religions to unite against efforts that would limit religious freedom. “May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy. And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself,” the Pope said Sept. 26. “In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others,” he said. The Pope reflected at length on religious freedom at Philadelphia’s Independence Mall. The venue includes the National Constitution Center and the Liberty Bell Center. The Pope recognized the symbolism of speaking of religious freedom there. “It was here that the freedoms which define this country were first proclaimed,” he said, citing the Declaration of Independence. “Those ringing words continue to inspire us today, even as they have inspired peoples throughout the world to fight for the freedom to live in accordance with their dignity.” He was greeted by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who reflected that the United States is “an experiment in freedom ordered by law and ordered to basic truths about the human person. The greatest goods in the American character come from our belief in a merciful God – a God who guarantees the dignity and rights of all his children.” Archbishop Chaput spoke about Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers, who was himself an immigrant. The archbishop said Hamilton’s life shows that the United States is “a nation that no single ethnic group or privileged economic class ‘owns.’ It’s a country where a person who comes from nowhere can still make a difference … He reminds us that immigrants from around the world renew this country in every generation.” Archbishop Chaput noted that “When the Church defends marriage and the family, the unborn child and the purpose of human sexuality, she’s attacked as too harsh. When she defends immigrant workers and families that are broken up by deportation, she’s attacked as too soft,” but that in fact “she is neither of those things,” but is rather a mother, “who understands and loves the whole human person; from conception to natural death; always, consistently and everywhere.” “When it comes to immigration, the Church reminds us that in the end, all of us are children of the same loving God,” the archbishop stated. “That makes us brothers and sisters, despite the borders that separate us. And in arguing over borders to keep people out, we need to be vigilant against erecting those same borders in our hearts.” Following Archbishop Chaput’s introduction, Pope Francis discussed the nature of religion and religious freedom. “Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate. But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families,” Pope Francis said. Religious traditions, he said, “call individuals and communities to worship God, the source of all life, liberty and happiness” and “remind us of the transcendent dimension of human existence and our irreducible freedom in the face of every claim to absolute power.” The religious freedom meeting’s audience included representatives of the Hispanic community and other immigrants. An estimated 50,000 people are believed to have to attend.   He said religious freedom is “a fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbors whose religious views differ from our own.” He recalled the atrocities committed in the 20th century by regimes which dominated peoples and denied them “any kind of rights.” Pope Francis also stressed the richness of religious traditions that offer meaning and direction and have “an enduring power to open new horizons, to stimulate thought, to expand the mind and heart.” “They call to conversion, reconciliation, concern for the future of society, self-sacrifice in the service of the common good, and compassion for those in need. At the heart of their spiritual mission is the proclamation of the truth and dignity of the human person and human rights,” the Pope said. Catholics in the United States have witnessed new threats to religious freedom in recent decades. Catholic adoption agencies in some states have been forced to close down because laws or other government policies would require them to place children with same-sex couples. Catholic standards for school employees are also facing challenges. The federal government has also required many religious employers to provide health insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including drugs that may cause abortion. Those who refuse to do so face heavy fines. Opponents of this mandate include the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of nuns who care for the indigent poor. Their health care provider is also a Catholic organization. They have filed a legal challenge against the mandate, saying that helping to provide such drugs and procedures would violate their Catholic beliefs. Pope Francis visited a Washington, D.C. house of the Little Sisters of the Poor on Sept. 23 to show support for their cause. The visit resulted in an iconic photo of the Pope shaking the hand of a 102-year-old nun. In other parts of the world, especially the Middle East, Christians and other religious minorities have faced violence and even threats to their continued existence because of their religious beliefs. Pope Francis stressed that religious freedom is a benefit to society as a whole. “When individuals and communities are guaranteed the effective exercise of their rights, they are not only free to realize their potential, they also contribute to the welfare and enrichment of society,” he said. The Pope warned against a cultural uniformity imposed by “the egotism of the powerful,” the “conformism of the weak,” or utopian ideology, quoting Fr. Michel de Certeau, a 20th century Jesuit from France. “In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others.” Citing his 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’, the Pope warned against the “globalization of the technocratic paradigm” which “aims at a one-dimensional uniformity and seeks to eliminate all differences and traditions in a superficial quest for unity.” In the face of such pressures, Pope Francis said that religions have the right and the duty to support a healthy pluralism that respects differences and is a “precious ally in the commitment to defending human dignity.” He cited the history of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, whose Quaker founders sought to create “a colony which would be a haven of religious freedom and tolerance.” He thanked people of all religions who have “sought to serve the God of Peace” in building cities of brotherly love, caring for neighbors in need, defending the poor and the immigrant, and defending “the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages.” “All too often, those most in need of our help are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you have faithfully made their cry heard,” the Pope said. In this witness, which frequently encounters powerful resistance, you remind American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and that society is weakened whenever and wherever injustice prevails.” Speaking of the cuff, Pope Francis then reflected on globalization, clarifying that it “is not bad – on the contrary, the tendency to globalize is good. What can be bad is the way of doing it.” When globalization attempts to impose uniformity and “would destroy the richness, the particularity of every person and people,” it is bad. But when it “seeks to unite everyone, while respecting each person in his richness, particularities, this globalization is good, and makes all of us grow, and leads to peace.” Returning to his prepared text, he greeted “with particular affection” American Hispanics in his audience and recent immigrants to the United States. “Many of you have emigrated to this country at great personal cost, but in the hope of building a new life,” he said. “Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face.” He encouraged them to never be ashamed of their traditions. “Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.” He encouraged them to continue to cultivate the virtues of “vibrant faith” and their deep sense of family life. “By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within.” The Pope also stressed the importance of memory for Americans. “A people which remembers does not repeat past errors; instead, it looks with confidence to the challenges of the present and the future. Remembrance saves a people’s soul from whatever or whoever would attempt to dominate it or use it for their interests.” He said United States history is a “constant effort” to embody the Declaration of Independence’s principles. “We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new Americans,” he said. “This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed.” ?“Never forget what happened here two centuries ago,” he implored Americans. “Don’t lose the memory of that Declaration, which declared all men and women are created equal, endowed by their creator with rights which governments exist to protect and to defend.” “Let us preserve liberty, let us take care of it: freedom of conscience, religious freedom, the freedom of every person, family, and nation, which causes other rights.” Pope Francis concluded by leading the crowd in praying the Our Father. Read more

The most important part of the Pope’s trip is still to come

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 26, 2015 / 03:37 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- While the Pope’s speeches to Congress and the United Nations have drawn much attention, the upcoming weekend is the main focus of the Holy Father’s trip to the U.S., said the dire… Read more

Full text of Pope Francis’ religious liberty address to Hispanics

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 26, 2015 / 01:45 pm (CNA).- Pope Francis met with the Hispanic community and other immigrants at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, where the United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution debated and adopted, this afternoon. Please find below the full text of his prepared remarks for the address:   Dear Friends, One of the highlights of my visit is to stand here, before Independence Mall, the birthplace of the United States of America. It was here that the freedoms which define this country were first proclaimed. The Declaration of Independence stated that all men and women are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, and that governments exist to protect and defend those rights. Those ringing words continue to inspire us today, even as they have inspired peoples throughout the world to fight for the freedom to live in accordance with their dignity. But history also shows that these or any truths must constantly be reaffirmed, re-appropriated and defended. The history of this nation is also the tale of a constant effort, lasting to our own day, to embody those lofty principles in social and political life. We remember the great struggles which led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of voting rights, the growth of the labor movement, and the gradual effort to eliminate every kind of racism and prejudice directed at successive waves of new Americans. This shows that, when a country is determined to remain true to its founding principles, based on respect for human dignity, it is strengthened and renewed. All of us benefit from remembering our past. A people which remembers does not repeat past errors; instead, it looks with confidence to the challenges of the present and the future. Remembrance saves a people’s soul from whatever or whoever would attempt to dominate it or use it for their interests. When individuals and communities are guaranteed the effective exercise of their rights, they are not only free to realize their potential, they also contribute to the welfare and enrichment of society. In this place which is symbolic of the American way, I would like to reflect with you on the right to religious freedom. It is a fundamental right which shapes the way we interact socially and personally with our neighbors whose religious views differ from our own. Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate. But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families. Our various religious traditions serve society primarily by the message they proclaim. They call individuals and communities to worship God, the source of all life, liberty and happiness. They remind us of the transcendent dimension of human existence and our irreducible freedom in the face of every claim to absolute power. We need but look at history, especially the history of the last century, to see the atrocities perpetrated by systems which claimed to build one or another “earthly paradise” by dominating peoples, subjecting them to apparently indisputable principles and denying them any kind of rights. Our rich religious traditions seek to offer meaning and direction, “they have an enduring power to open new horizons, to stimulate thought, to expand the mind and heart” (Evangelii Gaudium, 256). They call to conversion, reconciliation, concern for the future of society, self-sacrifice in the service of the common good, and compassion for those in need. At the heart of their spiritual mission is the proclamation of the truth and dignity of the human person and human rights. Our religious traditions remind us that, as human beings, we are called to acknowledge an Other, who reveals our relational identity in the face of every effort to impose “a uniformity to which the egotism of the powerful, the conformism of the weak, or the ideology of the utopian would seek to impose on us” (M. de Certeau). In a world where various forms of modern tyranny seek to suppress religious freedom, or try to reduce it to a subculture without right to a voice in the public square, or to use religion as a pretext for hatred and brutality, it is imperative that the followers of the various religions join their voices in calling for peace, tolerance and respect for the dignity and rights of others. We live in a world subject to the “globalization of the technocratic paradigm” (Laudato Si’, 106), which consciously aims at a one-dimensional uniformity and seeks to eliminate all differences and traditions in a superficial quest for unity. The religions thus have the right and the duty to make clear that it is possible to build a society where “a healthy pluralism which respects differences and values them as such” (Evangelii Gaudium, 255) is a “precious ally in the commitment to defending human dignity… and a path to peace in our troubled world” (ibid., 257). The Quakers who founded Philadelphia were inspired by a profound evangelical sense of the dignity of each individual and the ideal of a community united by brotherly love. This conviction led them to found a colony which would be a haven of religious freedom and tolerance. That sense of fraternal concern for the dignity of all, especially the weak and the vulnerable, became an essential part of the American spirit. During his visit to the United States in 1987, Saint John Paul II paid moving homage to this, reminding all Americans that: “The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones” (Farewell Address, 19 September 1987, 3). I take this opportunity to thank all those, of whatever religion, who have sought to serve the God of peace by building cities of brotherly love, by caring for our neighbors in need, by defending the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages, by defending the cause of the poor and the immigrant. All too often, those most in need of our help are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you have faithfully made their cry heard. In this witness, which frequently encounters powerful resistance, you remind American democracy of the ideals for which it was founded, and that society is weakened whenever and wherever injustice prevails. Among us today are members of America’s large Hispanic population, as well as representatives of recent immigrants to the United States. I greet all of you with particular affection! Many of you have emigrated to this country at great personal cost, but in the hope of building a new life. Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to your new nation. You should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land. I repeat, do not be ashamed of what is part of you, your life blood. You are also called to be responsible citizens, and to contribute fruitfully to the life of the communities in which you live. I think in particular of the vibrant faith which so many of you possess, the deep sense of family life and all those other values which you have inherited. By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within. Dear friends, I thank you for your warm welcome and for joining me here today. May this country and each of you be renewed in gratitude for the many blessings and freedoms that you enjoy. And may you defend these rights, especially your religious freedom, for it has been given to you by God himself. May he bless you all. I ask you, please, not to forget to pray for me.   Read more

Francis defended religious liberty in word and deed, Archbishop Lori says of DC visit

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2015 / 12:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis’ defense of religious freedom at the White House on Wednesday was “hugely significant,” said the chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Li… Read more

Pope Francis to priests, religious: It’s your job to inspire vocations

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 26, 2015 / 10:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Church today is called to foster among young people a sense of responsibility and enthusiasm for the Gospel mission, Pope Francis said on Saturday to group of priests and religious gather… Read more

Pope Francis hailed for transcending liberal/conservative divide

Washington D.C., Sep 26, 2015 / 10:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis rose above party politics and challenged lawmakers to a higher standard in his Thursday address to a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, Catholic members said. Just “his mere presence” commanded the respect of Congress, said. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.). “The fact that he is the successor of St. Peter validates the dignity of the institution and commands that everyone rise above petty partisanship and the rancor,” he told CNA. “This day Congress took a pause from divisions and focused on higher things.” The Pope called the members to a higher standard of governance, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said. “I love the way he set high expectations for us,” he said in a written statement after the Pope’s address. Thursday marked the first time a Pope ever addressed a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress, and members expressed their awe at the spectacle. The very event would have been “unthinkable” even two generations ago given the history of anti-Catholicism in the U.S., said Dr. Charles Comosy, a theology professor at Fordham University. “It was really almost unreal to see the Pope walking into the House Chamber,” said Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), “coming into the place that I work.” With the audience dressed mostly in dark colors and Pope Francis in white, “it was like he was glowing,” Lipinski added. Pope Francis’ lengthy address touched upon themes of dialogue and respect for human life, the environment, and the family. He was interrupted repeatedly by applause even after members had been told not to applaud or cheer during the speech. It was not a partisan speech, noted Rep. Fortenberry, but one “that pointed to the dignity of persons and the necessity of just structures that lead to the well-being of persons.” We cannot “try and parse everything that he said to see where it fits on the political spectrum,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). For example, if Pope Francis “is talking about the economy, he’s talking about the morality of an economy,” she said, not the politics of it. “He didn’t come here to talk about whether there should be a capital gains tax increase. He took our own values, and elevated them and made everyone see that the intrinsic values of our country have high moral standing, but we have to live up to that,” she added. Dr. Comosy agreed. The speech, he said, did not follow “our lazy binary categories of liberal or conservative.” As an example, he noted the Pope’s praise of Catholic social activist Dorothy Day, who “at once stood unbelievably firmly against abortion and would go to the mat against nuclear weapons and would welcome the poor into her home, a house of hospitality, but would be very skeptical of government programs.” She does not fit the traditional liberal-conservative mold, and “that’s one reason why he invoked her,” Camosy said. If viewed purely on the surface, the address could be interpreted as slightly left-leaning, said Dr. Chad Pecknold, theology professor at the Catholic University of America, in the sense that it “seemed to re-order the priorities in favor of what the left has been prioritized most” like care for the environment, immigration, and abolishing the death penalty. However, he explained, it is in fact neither liberal nor conservative because it is foremost the speech of a pastor. It is up to the members of Congress to make policy from the principles laid out by Pope Francis – care for the human person and the environment and dialogue. “Republicans on the right who can articulate conservative policy around the universal issues that Pope Francis identifies have the most to gain,” he added. Congressmen loved the Pope’s appreciation for U.S. history and culture, expressed in his praise for four Americans – President Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, and Trappist monk and spiritual author Thomas Merton – for their exemplary character in helping “build a better future.” He “really took in the history of our country,” remarked Rep. Lipinski. Pope Francis exemplified “the brilliance of the Jesuits,” said Rep. Eshoo, “in this intellect that he has, that he would have taken Lincoln, King, Day, and Merton and woven the thread of each and what they represented to our country.” By invoking these American heroes, Sen. Kaine said, Pope Francis told America that “you are a great nation and you’ve had great leaders.” “This is who we are as a people. And in a world that still has huge needs, we have a unique role to do something about it,” he said. Members were also touched by Pope Francis invoking the “Golden Rule” of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12). Pope Francis stated in his address that the rule “also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.” At a press conference later on Thursday, the head of the Holy See’s press office Fr. Fredrico Lombardi emphasized that the Pope spoke for all stages of life including the unborn. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said this defense of human life at all stages, conception until natural death, was “necessary and important.” The reference to the Golden Rule was Pope Francis “reminding us of our humility, reminding us of our obligations and responsibilities, talking about bringing people together and treating people respectfully,” said Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.). It brought a “very significant reaction” in the House Gallery, he added. Other parts of the speech touched different members of Congress. Rep. Fortenberry especially liked Pope Francis’ defense of the family. “You can’t concentrate power in Washington and Wall Street and expect to have a healthy nation. It’s the other way around,” he said. “It begins with the most intimate form of community, which is the well-being of the family.” Others saw the speech as a call to service. “He called us to selfless service, reconciliation,” said Rep. Smith, as well as “dialogue,” all of which is “much needed in modern society, especially in Washington.” For Rep. Eshoo, her takeaway was that “we are servants,” and that “the closer you are to people, the more you will see the face of God.” After the speech, Rep. Lipinski saw more clearly the connection between his Catholic faith and his job as a lawmaker, to “take care of every single person.” He said he hopes he lives up to this every day. Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) is not Catholic but “appreciated” Pope Francis’ plea for Americans to see humanity in refugees, as the world faces the largest refugee crisis since World War II. He brought up the fact that many religious minorities are persecuted around the world and suffer from lack of religious freedom, whom “we need to protect around the world” and “treat them as we want to be treated.” Read more

Full text of Pope Francis’ homily at Mass with clergy and religious

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 26, 2015 / 07:30 am (CNA).- Pope Francis is now saying Mass at Philadelphia’s Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul for clergy and religious, and has just delivered his homily. Find the full text here:   This morning I learned something about the history of this beautiful Cathedral: the story behind its high walls and windows. I would like to think, though, that the history of the Church in this city and state is really a story not about building walls, but about breaking them down. It is a story about generation after generation of committed Catholics going out to the peripheries, and building communities of worship, education, charity and service to the larger society. That story is seen in the many shrines which dot this city, and the many parish churches whose towers and steeples speak of God’s presence in the midst of our communities. It is seen in the efforts of all those dedicated priests, religious and laity who for over two centuries have ministered to the spiritual needs of the poor, the immigrant, the sick and those in prison. And it is seen in the hundreds of schools where religious brothers and sisters trained children to read and write, to love God and neighbor, and to contribute as good citizens to the life of American society. All of this is a great legacy which you have received, and which you have been called to enrich and pass on. Most of you know the story of Saint Katharine Drexel, one of the great saints raised up by this local Church. When she spoke to Pope Leo XIII of the needs of the missions, the Pope – he was a very wise Pope! – asked her pointedly: “What about you? What are you going to do?”. Those words changed Katharine’s life, because they reminded her that, in the end, every Christian man and woman, by virtue of baptism, has received a mission. Each one of us has to respond, as best we can, to the Lord’s call to build up his Body, the Church. “What about you?” I would like to dwell on two aspects of these words in the context of our particular mission to transmit the joy of the Gospel and to build up the Church, whether as priests, deacons, or members of institutes of consecrated life. First, those words – “What about you?” – were addressed to a young person, a young woman with high ideals, and they changed her life. They made her think of the immense work that had to be done, and to realize that she was being called to do her part. How many young people in our parishes and schools have the same high ideals, generosity of spirit, and love for Christ and the Church! Do we challenge them? Do we make space for them and help them to do their part? To find ways of sharing their enthusiasm and gifts with our communities, above all in works of mercy and concern for others? Do we share our own joy and enthusiasm in serving the Lord? One of the great challenges facing the Church in this generation is to foster in all the faithful a sense of personal responsibility for the Church’s mission, and to enable them to fulfill that responsibility as missionary disciples, as a leaven of the Gospel in our world. This will require creativity in adapting to changed situations, carrying forward the legacy of the past not primarily by maintaining our structures and institutions, which have served us well, but above all by being open to the possibilities which the Spirit opens up to us and communicating the joy of the Gospel, daily and in every season of our life. “What about you?” It is significant that those words of the elderly Pope were also addressed to a lay woman. We know that the future of the Church in a rapidly changing society will call, and even now calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity. The Church in the United States has always devoted immense effort to the work of catechesis and education. Our challenge today is to build on those solid foundations and to foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future of our parishes and institutions. This does not mean relinquishing the spiritual authority with which we have been entrusted; rather, it means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts which the Spirit pours out upon the Church. In a particular way, it means valuing the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities. Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you for the way in which each of you has answered Jesus’ question which inspired your own vocation: “What about you?”. I encourage you to be renewed in the joy of that first encounter with Jesus and to draw from that joy renewed fidelity and strength. I look forward to being with you in these days and I ask you to bring my affectionate greetings to those who could not be with us, especially the many elderly priests and religious who join us in spirit. During these days of the World Meeting of Families, I would ask you in a particular way to reflect on our ministry to families, to couples preparing for marriage, and to our young people. I know how much is being done in your local Churches to respond to the needs of families and to support them in their journey of faith. I ask you to pray fervently for them, and for the deliberations of the forthcoming Synod on the Family. Now, with gratitude for all we have received, and with confident assurance in all our needs, let us turn to Mary, our Blessed Mother. With a mother’s love, may she intercede for the growth of the Church in America in prophetic witness to the power of her Son’s Cross to bring joy, hope and strength into our world. I pray for each of you, and I ask you, please, to pray for me. Read more

Cardinal O’Malley to families: Want to evangelize? You’d better have these two qualities

Philadelphia, Pa., Sep 25, 2015 / 07:18 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- As thousands of Catholics descended upon Philadelphia to hear talks about family and faith, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley had a message for them: Don’t be a party pooper.   “Beauty and joy are the most powerful tools that we have to evangelize,” Cardinal O’Malley said during a September 25 keynote address at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.    “So together we want to dream of a world where the beauty of family life attracts people to make a gift of themselves in marriage, to build a domestic church that will continue to build a civilization of love.”    The cardinal spoke at the World Meeting of Families, an international gathering designed to encourage and strengthen families across the globe. Pope Francis will celebrate the final Mass at the Sept. 22-27 gathering, which has as its theme, “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”   The meeting also includes presentations, testimonies, music, and other events. The final keynote address was delivered by Cardinal O’Malley and well-known evangelical pastor and author Rick Warren.   “Joy-filled families are based on the love of God,” Warren said, adding that we only have love because we are made in the image of God, who is love.    The pastor also described joy-filled families as being filled with purpose, focused on becoming like Christ, and ultimately fulfilling God’s mission for them.   In his remarks, Cardinal O’Malley stressed the call to be missionary disciples.    The fundamental decision to love is born from an encounter with the living God, who first loved us, he said. In this encounter, we can see the world through God’s eyes and recognize what is truly beautiful and important in life.   Our response to that encounter is how we live out discipleship, the cardinal said.    “Pope Francis makes it clear that our call to discipleship is a call to be missionary disciples. We’re faithful to our mission as Christ’s family only by inviting others to be a part of that mission, by helping families to become what they are.”   Family is critical to achieving this goal, Cardinal O’Malley said. “In God’s plan, the family is the school of love where we learn to make a gift of ourselves.”   He emphasized that “marriage in God’s plan is the sanctuary of love” and “families are missionaries – they pass on the faith to new generations.”   “The parents not only communicate the Gospel to their children, but from their children they can receive the same Gospel, deeply lived by them. Such a family becomes an evangelizer of many families.”   Those families that live out this mission “change the course of history,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “They open the door that allows God’s light to enter the world and their witness helps us to be open to life.”   If the family does its job properly, it transforms crowds into communities, the cardinal said. A crowd is simply a collection of people drawn by circumstances or common interest, but generally disinterested in one another’s well-being, he elaborated, while a community cares about the other members.   He pointed to the Gospel story in which the crowd prevented a paralyzed man from getting close to Jesus, but his community of friends brought him to Christ by lowering him through a roof.    “The crowd always pushes away. Community draws people closer to Christ.”   “We inhabit the new mission territories of the Church. We need to find a way to bring the Gospel to the contemporary world,” Cardinal O’Malley said. “Our task is to change the crowd into a community. That’s what evangelization is about, and it must begin with our families.”    Read more