Pope Francis signs his new encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship” after celebrating Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, Italy, Oct. 3, 2020. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Calling all people of goodwill to care for one another as brothers and sisters, Pope Francis urged people not to despair of making the world a better place, but to start creating the world they want through personal action and political lobbying.

Pope Francis signed his new social encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” at the end of Mass Oct. 3 in Assisi. The Vatican released the text the following day.

“A worldwide tragedy like the COVID-19 pandemic momentarily revived the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all,” the pope said. “Once more we realized that no one is saved alone; we can only be saved together.”

At the same time, he said, responses to the pandemic, and especially to its economic devastation, shined a light on the inequalities existing within nations and among nations.

“For all our hyperconnectivity, we witnessed a fragmentation that made it more difficult to resolve problems that affect us all,” he said. “Anyone who thinks that the only lesson to be learned was the need to improve what we were already doing, or to refine existing systems and regulations, is denying reality.”

“Fratelli Tutti,” which literally means “all brothers and sisters” or “all brothers,” are the words with which St. Francis “addressed his brothers and sisters

The front page of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano shows Pope Francis with his latest encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” at the Vatican Oct. 4, 2020. (CNS photo/Remo Casilli, Reuters)

and proposed to them a way of life marked by the flavor of the Gospel,” the pope wrote.

That flavor, explained throughout the document, involves welcoming the stranger, feeding the hungry, listening to and giving a hand up to the poor, defending the rights of all and ensuring that each person, at every stage of life, is valued and invited to contribute to the community, he said. It also means supporting public policies that do so on a larger scale.

At the heart of the new encyclical’s appeal to Catholics is a meditation on Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan and particularly on how Jesus takes a legal scholar’s question, “Who is my neighbor,” and turns it into a lesson on being called not to identify one’s neighbors but to become a neighbor to all, especially those most in need of aid.

“The parable eloquently presents the basic decision we need to make in order to rebuild our wounded world. In the face of so much pain and suffering, our only course is to imitate the good Samaritan,” he said. “Any other decision would make us either one of the robbers or one of those who walked by without showing compassion for the sufferings of the man on the roadside.”

“The parable,” he continued, “shows us how a community can be rebuilt by men and women who identify with the vulnerability of others, who reject the creation of a society of exclusion, and act instead as neighbors, lifting up and rehabilitating the fallen for the sake of the common good.”

Doing that, he said, would mean recognizing and taking concrete action against “certain trends in our world that hinder the development of universal fraternity” and acting as a neighbor to one another, including racism, extremism, “aggressive nationalism,” closing borders to migrants and refugees, polarization, politics as a power grab rather than a service to the common good, mistreatment of women, modern slavery and economic policies that allow the rich to get richer but do not create jobs and do not help the poor.

 

Pope Francis arrives to lead his general audience in the San Damaso courtyard at the Vatican Sept. 30, 2020. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

 

By Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In an apostolic letter dedicated to Sacred Scripture, Pope Francis said that even today, Christians can learn new things from the countless translations of the Bible that exist.

The variety of translations of the Bible in the world today “teaches us that the values and positive forms of every culture represent an enrichment for the whole church,” the pope said in his apostolic letter, “Scripturae Sacrae affectus” (“Devotion to Sacred Scripture”).

“The different ways by which the word of God is proclaimed, understood and experienced in each new translation enrich Scripture itself since, according to the well-known expression of Gregory the Great, Scripture grows with the reader, taking on new accents and new resonance throughout the centuries,” he wrote in the letter released by the Vatican Sept. 30.

Earlier in the day, before concluding his weekly general audience, the pope told pilgrims he had signed the document to coincide with the 16th centenary of St. Jerome’s death.

“May the example of this great doctor and father of the church, who placed the Bible at the center of his life, awaken in us a renewed love for the Sacred Scripture and the desire to live in a personal dialogue with the word of God,” he said.

The letter itself said that marking the 16th centenary of St. Jerome’s death is “a summons to love what Jerome loved, to rediscover his writings and to let ourselves be touched by his robust spirituality, which can be described in essence as a restless and impassioned desire for a greater knowledge of the God who chose to reveal himself.”

Catholics today, he said, must heed “the advice that Jerome unceasingly gave to his contemporaries: ‘Read the divine Scriptures constantly; never let the sacred volume fall from your hand.'”

In his apostolic letter, the pope delved into the history of St. Jerome’s life and his love of Scripture. His “monumental work” of translating the Old Testament from Hebrew, as well as his commentary on the Psalms and St. Paul’s letters, are an example for Catholics today, he said.

“As an enterprise carried out within the community and at the service of the community, Jerome’s scholarly activity can serve as an example of synodality for us and for our own time,” the pope said.

“It can also serve as a model for the church’s various cultural institutions, called to be ‘places where knowledge becomes service, for no genuine and integral human development can occur without a body of knowledge that is the fruit of cooperation and leads to greater cooperation,'” he said, quoting a speech he gave in 2019 to the pontifical academies.

St. Jerome’s life and work also highlight the need for true witnesses of Christ who can faithfully interpret Scripture which often seems as if it is “‘sealed,’ hermetically closed to interpretation.”

“Many, even among practicing Christians, say openly that they are not able to read it, not because of illiteracy, but because they are unprepared for the biblical language, its modes of expression and its ancient cultural traditions,” he said. “As a result, the biblical text becomes indecipherable, as if it were written in an unknown alphabet and an esoteric tongue.”

The pope said that “the richness of Scripture is neglected or minimized by many because they were not afforded a solid grounding in this area,” not even from their families, who often seem unable “to introduce their children to the word of the Lord in all its beauty and spiritual power.”

Nevertheless, the celebration of the 16th centenary of St. Jerome’s death, is a reminder of “the extraordinary missionary vitality” throughout the centuries that has led to the Bible’s translation in more than 3,000 languages, he said.

“To how many missionaries do we owe the invaluable publication of grammars, dictionaries and other linguistic tools that enable greater communication and become vehicles for the missionary aspiration of reaching everyone,” Pope Francis said.

“We need to support this work and invest in it, helping to overcome limits in communication and lost opportunities for encounter. Much remains to be done. It has been said that without translation there can be no understanding: we would understand neither ourselves nor others,” he said.

 

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The U.S. Catholic Church’s observance of October as Respect Life Month “is a time to focus on God’s precious gift of human life and our responsibility to care for, protect and defend the lives of our brothers and sisters,” said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee.

“Live the Gospel of Life” is this year’s theme for the month, prompted by commemorations of the 25th anniversary of St. John Paul II’s encyclical “The Gospel of Life” (“Evangelium Vitae”), which was issued March 25, 1995.

“Pope John Paul’s masterfully articulated defense of the right to life for children in their mothers’ wombs, the elderly, persons with disabilities and the marginalized is more relevant today than ever before,” said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Respect Life Sunday falls on Oct. 4. New parish resources for the month’s observance have been developed around the theme of “Living the Gospel of Life” and are available at www.respectlife.org.

“‘The Gospel of Life’ provides a blueprint for building a culture of life and civilization of love,” the archbishop said in a Sept. 24 statement. “The important work of transforming our culture begins by allowing the Gospel of Christ to touch and transform our own hearts and the decisions we make.”

Archbishop Naumann noted that during their fall general assembly last November, “the U.S. bishops reaffirmed that ‘the threat of abortion remains our preeminent priority because it directly attacks life itself, because it takes place within the sanctuary of the family, and because of the number of lives destroyed.'”

“While we noted not to ‘dismiss or ignore other serious threats to human life and dignity such as racism, the environmental crisis, poverty and the death penalty,’ we renewed our commitment to protect the most fundamental of all human rights — the right to live,” he said.

Archbishop Naumann also recalled how in January of this year he “shared with Pope Francis that the bishops of the United States had been criticized by some for identifying the protection of the unborn as a preeminent priority.”

Their conversation came during the “ad limina” meeting of the bishops from Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska at the Vatican.

“The Holy Father expressed his support for our efforts observing that if we fail to protect life, no other rights matter. Pope Francis also said that abortion is not primarily a Catholic or even a religious issue, it is first and foremost a human rights issue,” the Kansas archbishop said in his Sept. 24 statement.

Later this January, the archbishop relayed that story to pro-lifers gathered for the Jan. 23 opening Mass of the National Vigil for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Pope Francis “has our backs” in the pro-life cause, he said in his homily.

“May we strive to imitate Christ and follow in his footsteps, caring for the most vulnerable among us,” he said Sept. 24. “Through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, may Our Lord grant us the grace to live courageously and faithfully his Gospel of life.”

 

 

 

Pope Francis delivers a prerecorded address to the 75th session of the U.N. General Assembly; the recording from the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace was aired Sept. 25, 2020. (CNS screenshot/Chaz Muth)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis asked members of the United Nations how they think they can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and build a more peaceful, more just world when many of their countries spend billions on military weapons and when their treatment of the unborn, of refugees and of women shows so little respect for human life.

“We must ask ourselves if the principal threats to peace and security — poverty, epidemics, terrorism and so many others — can be effectively countered when the arms race, including nuclear weapons, continues to squander precious resources that could better be used to benefit the integral development of peoples and protect the natural environment,” the pope said in his video address, which was broadcast Sept. 25.

On the fifth anniversary of his visit to the U.N. headquarters in New York, Pope Francis returned to themes he has repeated since the COVID-19 pandemic began: Humanity faces a choice between trying to go back to an often unjust “normal” or taking the opportunity to rethink economic and political policies, putting the good of all people and the environment ahead of concern for maintaining the lifestyles of wealthy individuals and nations.

He drew particular attention to the pandemic’s impact on children, “including unaccompanied young migrants and refugees,” as well as to reports that “violence against children, including the horrible scourge of child abuse and pornography, has also dramatically increased.”

With millions of children still out of school, he said, there is a risk of “an increase in child labor, exploitation, abuse and malnutrition.”

“Sad to say, some countries and international institutions are also promoting abortion as one of the so-called ‘essential services’ provided in the humanitarian response to the pandemic,” he said. “It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.”

Pope Francis insisted that addressing the pandemic and building a more just and equitable world involves looking at every aspect of national and international life.

The pandemic “can represent a concrete opportunity for conversion, for transformation, for rethinking our way of life and our economic and social systems, which are widening the gap between rich and poor based on an unjust distribution of resources,” he said. Or “the pandemic can be the occasion for a ‘defensive retreat’ into greater individualism and elitism.”

The latter path, he said, “emphasizes self-sufficiency, nationalism, protectionism, individualism and isolation; it excludes the poor, the vulnerable and those dwelling on the peripheries of life. That path would certainly be detrimental to the whole community, causing self-inflicted wounds on everyone. It must not prevail.”

When companies, including those being assisted by government handouts during the pandemic, focus more on profits than on job creation, they contribute to the “throwaway culture,” which treats people as less important than wealth, he said.

“At the origin of this throwaway culture is a gross lack of respect for human dignity, the promotion of ideologies with reductive understandings of the human person, a denial of the universality of fundamental human rights, and a craving for absolute power and control that is widespread in today’s society,” he said. “Let us name this for what it is: an attack against humanity itself.”

The pope called on countries to work together to fulfill the ideals upon which the United Nations was founded 75 years ago, particular in peacemaking, defending human rights and caring for the world’s poorest and most disadvantaged.

“It is in fact painful to see the number of fundamental human rights that in our day continue to be violated with impunity,” he said, speaking of a “frightening picture of a humanity abused, wounded, deprived of dignity, freedom and hope for the future.”

“Religious believers continue to endure every kind of persecution, including genocide, because of their beliefs,” he said. “We Christians, too, are victims of this: how many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are suffering, forced at times to flee from their ancestral lands, cut off from their rich history and culture.”

But the pope also drew special attention to situation of refugees, migrants and the internally displaced fleeing conflict, persecution and extreme poverty.

In an apparent reference to the situation in the Mediterranean, he denounced how “thousands are intercepted at sea and forcibly returned to detention camps, where they meet with torture and abuse. Many of these become victims of human trafficking, sexual slavery or forced labor, exploited in degrading jobs and denied a just wage. This is intolerable, yet intentionally ignored by many!”

Nations have entered into regional and international agreements to assist migrants and refugees, but often are lacking the political support at home to make them a reality or the countries just “shirk their responsibilities and commitments,” he said.

“The pandemic has shown us that we cannot live without one another, or worse still, (be) pitted against one another,” Pope Francis insisted. “The United Nations was established to bring nations together, to be a bridge between peoples. Let us make good use of this institution in order to transform the challenge that lies before us into an opportunity to bui

 

Pope Francis leads his general audience in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Aug. 26, 2020. Christians cannot stand idly by and watch as milions of people are deprived of their basic needs because of greed, the pope said. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians cannot stand idly by and watch as millions of people are deprived of their basic needs because of others’ greed, Pope Francis said.

“When the obsession to possess and dominate excludes millions of people from having primary goods, when economic and technological inequality are such that the social fabric is torn and when dependence on unlimited material progress threatens our common home, then we cannot stand by and watch,” he said Aug. 26 during his weekly general audience.

Christians must act together, rooted in God and united in the hope of “generating something different and better” that is more just and equitable, he said.

During a livestream from the library of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis continued a series of talks on the principles of the church’s social doctrine as a guide for healing and building a better future.

Focusing on the universal destination of goods, the pope said this is “the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.”

God entrusted the earth and its resources “to the common stewardship of mankind to take care of them,” he said, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2402).

When God called on his children to “have dominion” over the earth in his name, the pope said, this was not to be interpreted as “a ‘carte blanche’ to do whatever you want with the earth.”

“No,” he said. “There exists a relationship of mutual responsibility between us and nature.”

Communities must protect the earth, take only what they need for subsistence and make sure the fruits of the earth reach everyone, not just a few people, the pope said.

A person should see his or her legitimate possessions “not only as his own but also as common in the sense that they should be able to benefit not only him but also others,” according to the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (“Gaudium et Spes”).

In fact, the catechism says ownership of any property makes the “holder a steward of providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others,” he said.

“We are stewards of goods, not masters” or lords keeping them “selfishly for yourself,” he added.

The pope said the catechism also says, “political authority has the right and duty to regulate the legitimate exercise of the right to ownership for the sake of the common good.”

This “subordination of private property to the universal destination of goods,” he said, “is a golden rule of social conduct and the first principle of the whole ethical and social order.”

Property and money are meant to be instruments that serve development, he said.

However, people easily turn property and money into ends in themselves, he added.

When that happens, he said, the human being, who was made in the image and likeness of God, “becomes deformed” and becomes individualistic, calculating and dominating, instead of social, creative, cooperative and charitable “with an immense capacity to love.”

Social inequality and environmental degradation go hand in hand, he said, and have the same root cause: “the sin of wanting to possess and dominate one’s brothers and sisters, nature and God himself,” which was not God’s plan for creation.

The inequalities in the world “reveal a social illness; it is a virus that comes from a sick economy,” which is the result of unfair economic growth that disregards fundamental human values and leaves just a handful of people with more wealth than the rest of the world, he said.

“If we take care of the goods that the creator gives us, if we put what we possess in common in such a way that no one would be lacking, then we would truly inspire hope to regenerate a more healthy and equal world,” he said.

 

 

The Atomic Bomb Dome is seen at Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan, Aug. 6, 2020, the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city. (CNS photo/Kyodo via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — For peace to flourish, weapons of war must be set aside, especially nuclear weapons that can obliterate entire cities and countries, Pope Francis said on the 75th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima.

“May the prophetic voices” of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki “continue to serve as a warning to us and for coming generations,” he said in a written message sent Aug. 6 to Hidehiko Yuzaki, governor of the Hiroshima prefecture, who led a peace memorial ceremony.

The pope’s message and others were published on the Hiroshima For Global Peace website: hiroshimaforpeace.com.

In 1945, during World War II, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima Aug. 6 and on Nagasaki Aug. 9 in an effort to get Japan to surrender. The cities were decimated and, by year’s end, at least 200,000 people had died from the blasts or the aftereffects.

Those who survived, called hibakusha, were honored at the Aug. 6 ceremony, and the pope greeted them as well as the organizers and others taking part in the ceremony.

“I was privileged to be able to come in person to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during my apostolic visit in November last year, which allowed me to reflect at the peace memorial in Hiroshima and at Hypocenter Park in Nagasaki on the destruction of human life and property wrought in these two cities during those terrible days of war three-quarters of a century ago,” the pope wrote.

“I continue to hold in my heart the longing of the peoples of our time, especially of young people, who thirst for peace and make sacrifices for peace. I carry, too, the cry of the poor, who are always among the first victims of violence and conflict,” he said.

“It has never been clearer that, for peace to flourish, all people need to lay down the weapons of war, and especially the most powerful and destructive of weapons: nuclear arms that can cripple and destroy whole cities, whole countries,” the pope said.

Reiterating what he said in Hiroshima in 2019, Pope Francis wrote that the use of atomic energy for war and the possession of nuclear weapons are both “immoral.”

The pope ended his message with “abundant divine blessings” for all those commemorating on this “solemn anniversary.”

 

Pope Francis prays before the crucifix from the Church of St. Marcellus in Rome during a prayer service in an empty St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 27, 2020. The crucifix was carried in Rome in 1522 during the “Great Plague.” At the conclusion of the service the pope held the Eucharist as he gave an extraordinary blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world). The service was livestreamed in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

Sagrato of St Peter’s Basilica
Friday, 27 March 2020

“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.

It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).

Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”?Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we founder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.

The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”?Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7).

 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis offered his early morning Mass for vulnerable people and health care workers who live in fear that they or their loved ones may fall ill to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world.

“In these days of so much suffering, there is so much fear,” the pope said March 26 at the start of the Mass, which was livestreamed from the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

Pope Francis spoke specifically of “the fear of the elderly who are alone in retirement homes or in hospitals or in their own homes and do not know what could happen; the fear of workers without a steady job who think about how they will feed their children and see hunger coming; the fear of many social servants who in these moments help society move forward and could get sick.”

But he also acknowledged “the fear — the fears — of each one of us,” and prayed that God “would help us to have trust and to tolerate and overcome fear.”

In his homily, the pope reflected on the first reading from the Book of Exodus, which recounts how the Israelites made a golden calf and began to worship it.

“It was a true apostasy!” the pope explained. “From the living God to idolatry; they did not have the patience to wait for Moses to come back. They wanted something new, they wanted something, a liturgical spectacle.”

The pope said the sin of the Israelites revealed the “idolatrous nostalgia” for the certainties they had even as slaves in Egypt.

“This nostalgia is a disease, even for us. One begins to walk with the enthusiasm of being free, but then the complaints begin,” he said. “Idolatry is always selective; it makes you think about the good things it gives you but doesn’t make you see the bad things. In this case, they thought about how they were at their table, with such good meals they liked so much, but they forgot that this was the table of slavery.”

Idolatry, he continued, also caused the Israelites to lose everything, including the gold and silver they had received from Egypt after their liberation.

“This also happens to us,” the pope said. “When we have attitudes that lead us to idolatry, we are attached to things that alienate us from God so we make another god and we make it with the gifts God has given us; with intelligence, with will, with love, with the heart. Those are the gifts of the Lord we use to do idolatry.”

Pope Francis invited Christians to ask themselves what their idols are and warned that idolatry can “lead to a mistaken religiosity,” which can “change the celebration of a sacrament into a worldly feast.”

“Take for example a wedding celebration,” he said. “You don’t know whether it’s sacrament where the newlyweds give each other everything and love each other in front of God and promise to be faithful before God and receive the grace of God, or if it’s a fashion show with the way this one or that one is dressed. It is worldliness, it is idolatry.”

The pope prayed that at the end of our lives, God would not be able to say, “You have perverted yourself. You have strayed from the path I had indicated. You have prostrated yourself before an idol.”

 

Pope Francis is seen in a window greeting a few nuns standing in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican March 22, 2020, after reciting his weekly Angelus prayer from the library of the Apostolic Palace. The pope announced he will give an extraordinary blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) at 6 p.m. Rome time March 27 in an “empty” St. Peter’s Square because all of Italy is on lockdown to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. (CNS photo/Alberto Lingria, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis said he will give an extraordinary blessing “urbi et orbi” (to the city and the world) at 6 p.m. Rome time March 27.

The formal blessing — usually given only immediately after a new pope’s election and on Christmas and Easter — carries with it a plenary indulgence for all who follow by television, internet or radio, are sorry for their sins, recite a few prescribed prayers and promise to go to confession and to receive the Eucharist as soon as possible.

After reciting the Angelus prayer March 22 from the library of the Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis announced his plans for the special blessing, which, he said, would be given in an “empty” St. Peter’s Square because all of Italy is on lockdown to prevent further spread of the virus.

With the public joining him only by television, internet or radio, “we will listen to the word of God, raise our prayer (and) adore the Blessed Sacrament,” he said. “At the end, I will give the benediction ‘urbi et orbi,’ to which will be connected the possibility of receiving a plenary indulgence.”

An indulgence is an ancient practice of prayer and penance for the remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven. In Catholic teaching, a person can draw on the merits of Jesus and the saints to claim the indulgence for themselves or offer it on behalf of someone who has died.

In addition to announcing the special blessing, Pope Francis said that at a time “when humanity trembles” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was asking Christians of every denomination to join together at noon March 25 to recite the Lord’s Prayer. The Catholic Church and many others mark March 25 as the feast of the Annunciation.

“To the pandemic of the virus we want to respond with the universality of prayer, compassion and tenderness,” he said. “Let’s stay united. Let us make those who are alone and tested feel our closeness,” as well as doctors, nurses, other healthcare workers and volunteers.

Pope Francis also expressed concern for “authorities who have to take strong measures for our good” and the police and soldiers maintaining public order and enforcing the lockdown.

 

A Haitian woman does laundry Sept. 2, 2019, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour, Bahamas. (CNS photo/Dante Carrer, Reuters)

 

As Hurricane Dorian continues to impact the southern United States, you may have already seen some of the heartbreaking images from the Bahamas where the Category 5 storm made landfall on September 1, bringing record wind, rain and storm surges.

We pray for all our Bahamian brothers and sisters who have been affected by Hurricane Dorian. We ask Our Lord to be with the responders and rescue crews and that all those in harm’s way be given the help they need.

 

 

If you are looking for ways to help, donations are being accepted by Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA.

People gather outside the Marsh Harbour Medical Clinic Sept. 4, 2019, in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. (CNS photo/Dante Carrer, Reuters)

Supporting these organizations will help people through the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian and will continue to help them as they work through the long process of recovery.

Online donations for Catholic Relief Services can be made at https://support.crs.org/donate/hurricane-dorian and Catholic Charities USA at https://app.mobilecause.com/form/RTKRvQ?vid=1snqm