Browsing News Entries

Pope Francis: Marginalizing the poor threatens ‘the very concept of democracy’

Pope Francis waves to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square on Sept. 9, 2015 for the general audience. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2021 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Monday that “the very concept of democracy is jeopardized” when the poor are marginalized and treated as if they are to blame for their condition.

In his World Day of the Poor message released June 14, the pope appealed for a new global approach to poverty.

“This is a challenge that governments and world institutions need to take up with a farsighted social model capable of countering the new forms of poverty that are now sweeping the world and will decisively affect coming decades,” he wrote.

“If the poor are marginalized, as if they were to blame for their condition, then the very concept of democracy is jeopardized and every social policy will prove bankrupt.”

The theme of this year’s World Day of the Poor is “The poor you will always have with you,” the words of Jesus recorded in Mark 14:7 after a woman anointed him with precious ointment.

While Judas and others were scandalized by the gesture, Jesus accepted it, the pope said, because he saw it as pointing to the anointing of his body after his crucifixion.

“Jesus was reminding them that he is the first of the poor, the poorest of the poor, because he represents all of them. It was also for the sake of the poor, the lonely, the marginalized and the victims of discrimination, that the Son of God accepted the woman’s gesture,” the pope wrote.

“With a woman’s sensitivity, she alone understood what the Lord was thinking. That nameless woman, meant perhaps to represent all those women who down the centuries would be silenced and suffer violence, thus became the first of those women who were significantly present at the supreme moments of Christ’s life: his crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection.”

The pope continued: “Women, so often discriminated against and excluded from positions of responsibility, are seen in the Gospels to play a leading role in the history of revelation.”

“Jesus’ then goes on to associate that woman with the great mission of evangelization: ‘Amen, I say to you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her’ (Mark 14:9).”

The pope lamented what he said was an increasing tendency to dismiss the poor against the background of the coronavirus crisis.

“There seems to be a growing notion that the poor are not only responsible for their condition, but that they represent an intolerable burden for an economic system focused on the interests of a few privileged groups,” he commented.

“A market that ignores ethical principles, or picks and chooses from among them, creates inhumane conditions for people already in precarious situations. We are now seeing the creation of new traps of poverty and exclusion, set by unscrupulous economic and financial actors lacking in a humanitarian sense and in social responsibility.”

Looking back to 2020, the year that COVID-19 swept the world, he continued: “Last year we experienced yet another scourge that multiplied the numbers of the poor: the pandemic, which continues to affect millions of people and, even when it does not bring suffering and death, is nonetheless a portent of poverty.”

“The poor have increased disproportionately and, tragically, they will continue to do so in the coming months.”

The World Bank estimated in October that the pandemic could push as many as 115 million additional people into extreme poverty by 2021. It said that it expected global extreme poverty -- defined as living on less than $1.90 a day -- to rise in 2020 for the first time in more than 20 years.

The pope wrote: “Some countries are suffering extremely severe consequences from the pandemic, so that the most vulnerable of their people lack basic necessities. The long lines in front of soup kitchens are a tangible sign of this deterioration.”

“There is a clear need to find the most suitable means of combating the virus at the global level without promoting partisan interests.”

“It is especially urgent to offer concrete responses to those who are unemployed, whose numbers include many fathers, mothers, and young people.”

Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor in his apostolic letter Misericordia et misera, issued in 2016 at the end of the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy.

The idea came about, he explained, during the Jubilee for Socially Excluded People.

“At the conclusion of the Jubilee of Mercy, I wanted to offer the Church a World Day of the Poor, so that throughout the world Christian communities can become an ever greater sign of Christ’s charity for the least and those most in need,” the pope wrote in his first World Day of the Poor message in 2017.

The Day is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the Feast of Christ the King. This year, it will fall on Nov. 14.

Coronavirus restrictions forced the Vatican to scale down its commemoration of the World Day of the Poor in 2020. It was unable to host a “field hospital” for the poor in St. Peter’s Square as it had in previous years. But it distributed 5,000 parcels to Rome’s poor and gave 350,000 masks to schools.

Pope Francis followed his custom of marking the day by celebrating a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Presenting the papal message at a Vatican press conference on June 14, Archbishop Rino Fisichella noted that the pope highlighted the example of St. Damien of Molokai.

The Belgian priest, canonized in 2009, ministered to leprosy sufferers in Hawaii.

“Pope Francis calls to mind the witness of this saint in confirmation of so many men and women, including hundreds of priests, who in this COVID-19 drama have been willing to share totally in the suffering of millions of infected people,” the president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization said.

In the message, signed on June 13, the memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, the pope argued that nowadays people in prosperous countries “are less willing than in the past to confront poverty.”

“The state of relative affluence to which we have become accustomed makes it more difficult to accept sacrifices and deprivation. People are ready to do anything rather than to be deprived of the fruits of easy gain,” he argued.

“As a result, they fall into forms of resentment, spasmodic nervousness and demands that lead to fear, anxiety and, in some cases, violence. This is no way to build our future; those attitudes are themselves forms of poverty which we cannot disregard.”

“We need to be open to reading the signs of the times that ask us to find new ways of being evangelizers in the contemporary world. Immediate assistance in responding to the needs of the poor must not prevent us from showing foresight in implementing new signs of Christian love and charity as a response to the new forms of poverty experienced by humanity today.”

The pope said he hoped that this year’s commemoration of the World Day of the Poor would inspire a new movement of evangelization at the service of disadvantaged people.

“We cannot wait for the poor to knock on our door; we need urgently to reach them in their homes, in hospitals and nursing homes, on the streets and in the dark corners where they sometimes hide, in shelters and reception centers,” he wrote.

Concluding his message, the pope cited the influential 20th-century Italian priest Fr. Primo Mazzolari, who he honored in 2017.

He wrote: “Let us make our own the heartfelt plea of Fr. Primo Mazzolari: ‘I beg you not to ask me if there are poor people, who they are and how many of them there are, because I fear that those questions represent a distraction or a pretext for avoiding a clear appeal to our consciences and our hearts... I have never counted the poor, because they cannot be counted: the poor are to be embraced, not counted.’”

“The poor are present in our midst. How evangelical it would be if we could say with all truth: we too are poor, because only in this way will we truly be able to recognize them, to make them part of our lives and an instrument of our salvation.”

Joe Biden attends Sunday Mass in English seaside town amid G7 summit

US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden leave Mass in St Ives, Cornwall during the G7 summit on June 13, 2021. / Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images.

London, England, Jun 14, 2021 / 03:30 am (CNA).

Catholics in the English seaside town of St. Ives, Cornwall, were surprised Sunday to find the President of the United States at Mass in their parish church.

Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden attended the 9 a.m. Mass on June 13 at Sacred Heart and St. Ia Church, southwest England, on the final day of the G7 summit at Carbis Bay.

Biden, America’s second Catholic President after John F. Kennedy, and his wife spent around 30 minutes at the church amid tight security as England basked in a heatwave.

The celebrant Canon Philip Dyson told the PA news agency that the couple’s presence made him feel slightly nervous.

“It’s the President of the United States of America,” he said. “It’s a great occasion to welcome him into our parish, into the church, and it’s lovely to know he made the time in his busy schedule in order to come to Mass.”

Dyson told PA that he had a short conversation with Biden.

“I welcomed him to Cornwall and he said he was enjoying his time here and there were many serious matters they were discussing and just hope it’s going to come to fruition,” he said.

The priest added that the Scripture readings for the day were fitting as they concerned “creation and climate, and things growing.”

The G7 leaders agreed to increase efforts to tackle climate change and renewed a promise to raise $100 billion a year to help developing nations cut emissions.

Dyson stressed that the day’s readings were not selected “by choice.”

“It’s just the way it always is. The word of God always fits in,” he said.

The canon is pastor of the parish of the Holy Family, which encompasses four local Catholic churches within the Diocese of Plymouth, including the Sacred Heart and St. Ia.

St. Ia was an evangelist from Ireland who died as a martyr in Cornwall in the fifth or sixth century.

A parishioner told the Associated Press that she was “gobsmacked” to see the Bidens at Mass in the town with a population of around 12,000 people.

“It’s quite amazing, we went into the church and they took some details from us and I thought this is a bit unusual,” said Annie Fitzpatrick.

"About 10 minutes into the service the doors opened up and President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden walked in and just sat in the pew just across from me.”

The reports did not touch on whether Biden received Holy Communion -- a topic of considerable controversy given his stance on abortion.

According to the parish newsletter, the Mass intention was for the G7 summit.

The newsletter included an appeal to the congregation to contact their local MP to urge the U.K. government to revoke a temporary measure allowing women up to 10 weeks pregnant to take both abortion pills at home. The measure was introduced at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Another parishioner told the AP that Biden appeared to make a “very generous donation” to the church before he left.

As he exited, Biden described the church as “beautiful.”

Father Thomas Joseph White On Leading the Angelicum, Vocations, and the Hillbilly Thomists

interview

Pope Francis: Marginalizing the Poor Threatens ‘the Very Concept of Democracy’

news

Joe Biden Attends Sunday Mass in English Seaside Town Amid G7 Summit

news

Cedars of Lebanon Proclaiming God’s Truth and Love

blog

Parents lose three children to tragic accident: ‘If Jesus can forgive me, I can forgive’

Danny and Leila Abdallah / EWTN News In Depth

Washington D.C., Jun 13, 2021 / 12:00 pm (CNA).

It was a hot summer day when Danny and Leila Abdallah found out that three of their children had perished in a car accident. 

The proud parents of six, Danny and Leila never imagined that the last time they would speak with three of their children was when they gave them permission to walk down a footpath in Sydney, Australia, for ice cream. Minutes later, a car hit their children - ages nine, 12, and 13 - and their lives changed forever. 

While the Abdallahs live in Australia, Danny and Leila first met in Lebanon, they told EWTN News In Depth on June 4. From the beginning, they were attracted to each other’s faith. 

Danny’s “first question to me was, ‘Do you pray?’ And that was my sign from God,” said Leila, who was raised in a strong Catholic family.

Likewise, Danny valued Leila’s faith. “I always say the biggest decision you make in your life is who you marry, and I know that a woman that loves and fears God will be with you in your darkest hour,” he said.

They married, and later welcomed six beautiful children: Antony, Angelina, Liana, Sienna, Alex, and Michael.

“We loved every minute, every second even when we were tired and exhausted we still – we love them so much,” Danny said. “I used to say to myself my day begins when I get home.”

But a terrible tragedy shook their family last year, in February 2020. The family was celebrating a birthday when the parents let their kids walk down the street to buy some ice cream.

“I heard my sister saying to Danny, ‘Are you sure it's okay for them to walk?’” Leila remembered. “Then he goes, ‘Yeah, they're only walking on the footpath, what's gonna happen?” 

A few minutes later, something unthinkable did happen. Danny and Leila received a phone call about an accident, and rushed to check on their children.

“What we saw was beyond our comprehension,” Danny remembered when he arrived at the scene. “When I saw them, I realized I had to surrender to God.”

Leila compared it to a “war zone.”  

“I started praying when everyone around me was screaming,” she said. “My immediate response, I'm like, ‘Why would God do that to us? No, He can't take our kids. He wouldn’t do that to us.’”

They later found out more about the tragic accident. A 30-year-old under the influence of alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs lost control of his car. He drove over the sidewalk at a high speed and hit their children.

“Sometimes you see those movies where your body comes out and you look back into the, over like a top view, of what's happening. That's how it felt,” Danny described. “I was in shock and then I just started to fix what I could.”

He grabbed Liana who was conscious, he said. Still, “I felt in my heart that I'd lost my kids that day.”

Arriving at the hospital, four priests met with Danny and Leila and broke the news to them: 13-year-old Antony, Angelina (12), Sienna (9), and their niece, Veronique (11), did not survive.

“I was screaming, I'm like no, no, they didn't die,” Leila recalled.

Despite their tremendous suffering and pain, the Abdallahs did not hate the driver, who was sentenced to 21 years in prison.

“I feel sorry for him,” Danny said. “I pray for him. The devil used him as a puppet.”

In a move that shocked the news media, Leila publicly forgave him.

“Forgiveness is something you practice, is something you practice all your life. Then eventually you can forgive on a bigger scale,” she explained. “And you forgive not because the others deserve to be forgiven. It's because you deserve to be at peace.”

Her faith, she said, inspired her.

 “If Jesus can forgive me, then of course I can forgive the driver,” she stressed. “If He died on the cross for me, then of course I can pray for that driver. Our Christianity, our faith got me to forgive him.”

She offered a special message to viewers of EWTN News In Depth

“Remember that if Jesus carried his cross, we are meant to carry our cross and follow Him,” the mother concluded. “And on this earth while we're living, enjoy every moment, hug your family tight, kiss your kids, don't take anything for granted, because anything can change in the blink of an eye.”

Amoris laetitia webinar equips leaders to build up sacramental marriages in the Church

scribbletaylor via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Rome Newsroom, Jun 13, 2021 / 08:50 am (CNA).

An online Vatican meeting on Amoris laetitia brought together hundreds of people this week to discuss how to better support sacramental marriages and families in the Catholic Church.

Organized by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, the four-day webinar centered on the question: "Where do we stand with the application of Amoris laetitia?"

Amoris laetitia is Pope Francis’ 2016 apostolic exhortation on love in the family, written following the 2014 and 2015 synods on the family.

The closed-door meeting June 9 to 12 was attended by more than 300 delegates from 30 international movements and the family offices of over 60 bishops’ conferences.

In his introduction on the first day of the forum, Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the laity, family and life dicastery, recalled a 2017 visit by Pope Francis to the offices of the Vatican department.

During that visit, Pope Francis said “Amoris laetitia must be read together, from the first to the last chapter, without ‘cherrypicking’ those sections which we consider easier to implement from those that are more challenging,” Farrell stated.

Farrell quoted the pope's words that the apostolic exhortation should "be read as an integral whole."

"The webinar should be seen within the Synodal process as a sign of the Church coming together to ensure that the family is given a central place within the missionary outreach of every institution or Parish community within the Church," the cardinal said. "The Church is at the service of the family, to work with it, to hope in its great potential, in the certainty that 'the Church is good for the family and the family is good for the Church.'"

Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández of La Plata, Argentina, a friend and known ghostwriter of Pope Francis, gave a presentation on “accompanying, discerning, and integrating fragility,” on the last day of the forum.

According to a brief summary from the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, Fernández's address began with an analysis of the controversial chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia.

Fernández said in that chapter, Pope Francis "refers to 'situations which do not yet or no longer correspond to [the Church's] teaching on marriage,' the so-called 'irregular situations.' He proposes a path of discernment for greater integration. In any case, for Pope Francis, this is a secondary issue. What interests him more are 'the two central chapters, dedicated to love.'"

Fernández also said that "the pope says that it is essential to take care of love in marriages by encouraging its growth. This is because 'Marital love is not defended primarily by presenting indissolubility as a duty, or by repeating doctrine, but by helping it to grow ever stronger under the impulse of grace.'"

The archbishop said chapter 8 of Amoris laetitia seeks to "integrate the good that is possible" and to accompany people in hard situations.

Some of the central points of the week's meetings, as summed up by Cardinal Farrell, included the need for awareness among families of the mission they have been given by the sacrament of marriage, and how that mission is shared by pastors; that the parish is a family of families; the need for more effective training for priests, deacons, religious, catechists, and lay people involved in preparing engaged couples for marriage; that Catholics must reach out to families who are estranged from the Church; that families in crisis or other difficulties need special attention; and that family pastoral ministry must be missionary.

The four days had sessions on the marriage catechumenate, the formation of those who accompany, the education of children, the spirituality of spouses, the missionary spirit of the family, and the fragility of the family.

Catholic married couples from around the world presented testimonies about their marriage and family related ministries.

One of these couples was Mary-Rose and Ryan Verret, who connected to the webinar from the United States. The Verrets are the founders of the ministry, Witness to Love: How to Help the Next Generation Build Marriages that Survive and Thrive.

In a June 11 interview with EWTN News Nightly, Ryan Verret said "we were specifically invited by the Vatican to present on the use, in Witness to Love, of mentors, or what Amoris laetitia [and] Pope Francis has referred to as 'evangelizing spouses.'"

For engaged couples, mentors "really help to fill a space of rebuilding trust, not only in the Church, but also in the Lord, and trust that marriage is a still an ongoing great gift," he said.

Mary-Rose said "Witness to Love is really a marriage movement trying to help every couple, every sacramentally married couple, to see their home as a missionary outpost of the local Church, and to really form couples to understand that and to live that, to embrace it."

"What we've found," she continued, "is there are so many great programs, there are so many great resources in the Church today, but there isn't really an infrastructure for evangelization. So Witness to Love is all about getting the materials, the witness, the tools, into couples' hands, into parishes' hands, into pastors' hands, so that that evangelization can happen."

"Because the family really is the future of our Church," she added. "Churches without families are churches that will close."

The forum was organized as part of the ongoing Amoris Laetitia Family Year.

In a video message sent on the first day of the online forum June 9, Pope Francis “the family is ‘a domestic Church,’ the place in which the sacramental presence of Christ acts between spouses and between parents and children.”

“In this sense,” he continued, “‘the experience of love in families is a perennial source of strength for the life of the Church,’ constantly enriched by the life of all the domestic Churches. Therefore, by virtue of the Sacrament of Marriage, every family becomes to full effect a good for the Church.”

“Co-responsibility for the mission therefore calls upon married couples and ordained ministers, especially bishops, to cooperate in a fruitful manner in the care and custody of the domestic Churches,” the pope said.

Pope Francis: 'All that is good belongs to God'

Pope Francis gives the Angelus address June 6, 2021. / Credit: Vatican Media/CNA.

Vatican City, Jun 13, 2021 / 06:10 am (CNA).

God asks us to trust that his love is always at work through our good deeds, even if we do not see the results we had hoped for, Pope Francis said on Sunday.

In his weekly Angelus address June 13, the pope said “even the seed of our good works may seem small; yet, all that is good belongs to God and therefore humbly, slowly bears fruit.”

From a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis commented on the two parables in the day’s Gospel reading from St. Mark.

In the first parable, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a man who scatters seed on the land; as time passes, the seeds sprout and grow, and the man “knows not how.”

In the second parable, Jesus says the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth,” which, once it is sown “springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

The pope explained that “this is how God works.”

“Sometimes, the din of the world, together with the many activities that fill our days, prevent us from stopping and seeing how the Lord leads history,” he said. “And yet -- the Gospel assures us -- God is at work, like a small good seed, which silently and slowly sprouts.”

Slowly, this small seed transforms into a luxurious tree, giving life and refreshment to everyone, he said, just like our own good works have the potential to do.

He said, “the Gospel asks us to take a new look at ourselves and at reality; it asks to have bigger eyes, which know how to see beyond, especially beyond appearances, to discover the presence of God who as humble love is always at work in the terrain of our life and in that of history.”

The good often grows in small, hidden, or even invisible ways, but “with this parable, Jesus wants to instill trust in us.”

According to the pope, it is easy to become discouraged when certain situations make evil seem stronger than goodness. Sometimes we let ourselves “be paralyzed by mistrust when we see that we are committed, but the results do not come and things never seem to change.”

“The weeds of mistrust can also take root in the Church, especially when we witness the crisis of faith and the failure of various projects and initiatives,” he said.

“But let us never forget that the results of sowing do not depend on our abilities: they depend on the action of God,” he emphasized. “It is up to us to sow, with love, commitment, patience. But the strength of the seed is divine.”

He said: “This is our trust, this is what gives us strength to go forward every day with patience, sowing the good that will bear fruit.”

Jesus “teaches us that even everyday things, those that at times all seem the same and that we carry on with distraction or fatigue, are inhabited by the hidden presence of God,” he continued.

“So, we too need attentive eyes, to be able to ‘seek and find God in all things,’ as Saint Ignatius of Loyola liked to say.”

After the Angelus, the pope prayed a “Hail Mary” for the people of the Tigray region of Ethiopia. The war, which broke out in November, has caused widespread famine. According to recent estimates from Tigray, 300,000 children may have died from hunger.

“There is famine today, there is hunger there,” Francis said. “Let us pray together for an immediate end to violence, for food and health assistance to be guaranteed for all, and for social harmony to be restored as soon as possible. In this regard, I thank all those who work to alleviate the suffering of the people. Let us pray to Our Lady for these intentions.”

Pope Francis also called attention to the exploitation of children for work. The International Labor Organization estimates there are over 150 million children exploited for work today.

“Let us all together renew the effort to eliminate this slavery of our times,” he said.

The pope noted the day’s welcoming ceremony in Augusta, Sicily, of the pieces of a ship wrecked in the Mediterranean Sea in April 2015.

Francis called the boat, which was carrying migrants when it wrecked, a “symbol of many tragedies.”

He expressed the desire that it will appeal to consciences and “encourage the growth of a more supportive humanity, that breaks down the wall of indifference.”