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The Church needs you, Francis tells contemplative sisters in Peru

Lima, Peru, Jan 21, 2018 / 08:49 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Speaking to contemplative women religious Sunday, Pope Francis said that they aren’t second-class, but a necessary part of the Church, and asked them to continue to pray on behalf of the Church and sinners.

“Sisters, know something: The Church doesn’t tolerate you, it needs you!” the Pope said in off-the-cuff remarks Jan. 21.

“Be beacons of light. And pray for the Church, for the shepherds, for those who hurt others, and those who exploit their siblings. And going on with the list of sinners, don't forget to pray for me.”

Pope Francis spoke during a homily at the end of praying “Terce,” the prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours sung or said at 9a.m., with contemplative women religious in Lima's Shrine of the Lord of Miracles.

The prayer took place on the last day of his Jan. 18-22 apostolic visit to Peru, which followed a three-day visit to Chile. He will return to Rome Jan. 22.

In his homily he quoted St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who once wrote in a letter: “I was certain that love subsumes in itself all vocations, that love is everything, encompassing all times and places, in a word, that love is eternal…in the heart of the Church, who is my Mother, I will be love.”

“To be love! This means being able to stand alongside the suffering of so many of our brothers and sisters,” Francis continued. “In this way, your cloistered life can attain a missionary and universal outreach and play ‘a fundamental role in the life of the Church.’”

“For this very reason, we can state that cloistered life neither closes nor shrinks our hearts, but rather widens them in our relationship with the Lord,” he explained. “May intercession for those in need be the hallmark of your prayer.”

The Pope also noted the words of St. Paul in his Letter to Romans, where he says that we have received a spirit of adoption, making us “children of God.”

“Those few words sum up the richness of every Christian vocation: the joy of knowing we are God’s children,” Francis said. This is the experience that nourishes our lives, that seeks always to be a pleasing response to God’s love. How important it is to renew this joy day by day!”

Following his meeting with women religious, Pope Francis made a stop at the Cathedral of Lima to pray in front of relics of five Peruvian saints.

During the stop he prayed in silence for a few minutes, before offering a prayer together with those present, stating his thanksgiving for the gifts the Lord has bestowed on the Church in Lima, especially the gift of holiness, “that has flourished in our land.”

“Our Archdiocesan Church has been made fruitful by the apostolic labors of Saint Turibius of Mogrovejo, enlarged by the prayer, penance and charity of Saint Rose of Lima and Saint Martin de Porres, adorned by the missionary zeal of Saint Francisco Solano and the humble service of Saint Juan Macías,” he prayed.

After the prayer and benediction, Francis met with the bishops of Peru in the chapel of Lima's chancery.

In his speech to bishops he focused on the 16th century saint from Spain, St. Turibius of Mogrovejo, who served as the archbishop of Lima for 25 years, and is known for having upheld the rights of Peru’s indigenous peoples.

He was canonized in 1726, making him one of the first canonized saints of the Americas. During his time as archbishop, Turibius made three different visitations to the land of his diocese, crossing rugged and dangerous terrain.

“He went out to encounter everyone, along paths that, in the words of his secretary, were meant more for goats than for people,” Francis said.

“He knew that this was the one way to be a pastor: to be close to his own, dispensing the sacraments, and he constantly exhorted his priests to do the same,” not just with words, but as a witness “in the front lines of evangelization.”

The Pope noted that when St. Turibius was visiting and living with his people he learned to speak their languages so that they could really understand the Gospel, and it could touch their hearts.

This is a good lesson for bishops of the 21st century too, he pointed out, who not only sometimes need to learn new languages in the traditional sense, but also to learn the language of the digital age, in order to communicate well with young people, families and children.

St. Turibius also believed that “there could be no evangelization without charity,” Francis said. “He knew that the supreme form of evangelization is to model in our own lives the self-giving of Jesus Christ, out of love for every man and woman.”

“Dear brothers, work for unity,” Francis concluded. “Do not remain prisoners of divisions that create cliques and hamper our vocation to be a sacrament of communion.”

“Remember: what was attractive about the early church was how they loved one another. That was – and is and always will be – the best way to evangelize.”

At the end of the meeting, the Pope also held a lengthy question-and-answer session with the bishops.

Why this man says abortion isn't just a woman's issue

Denver, Colo., Jan 21, 2018 / 12:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A man who lost his own child to abortion believes men have important things to say on the issue, and their voices need to be heard.

“We are told that men shouldn’t talk about abortion,” but it's an issue that affects them too, Jason Jones told CNA in a recent interview. “It’s a man’s issue and it’s a woman’s issue.”  

“As a man, I have something in me that wants to protect the vulnerable from violence. That is what men do,” he said.

Jones, a national pro-life advocate, said when he speaks frankly in those terms, men respond to him, because “we need to say the truth.”

“When men speak about abortion, it is very effective,” he added.

It might seem natural to think that women are better pro-life “spokespersons,” or that men should have a diminished role, Jones said. But “men have their place” in the discussion.

“Men share their stories, and their stories are sorrowful. Men who are scared, and manipulated or coerced someone into having an abortion. Men who can be humble and say 'I coerced my daughter or my girlfriend or my wife into getting an abortion.' We need to hear those stories.”

When men tell the truth about their own experience with abortion, “it changes people,” he said. “No one has a happy abortion story. When people tell the truth, it influences people.”

Jones, who often shares the story of his own child’s abortion, told CNA he was 17 when he and his girlfriend Katie found out they were pregnant. Still in high school, they planned to hide the pregnancy while he dropped out and joined the army so he could take care of the baby. He was excited to be a father, he said.

However, while still in basic training and during their third trimester, Jones got a call from his girlfriend's father saying their “secret” had been discovered and “taken care of.” He was devastated.

An atheist who didn't fully understand what abortion was, Jones said he realized his daughter, whom they had already named Jessica, had been murdered.

“That was it for me. It horrified me. It was unbelievable,” he said. “I had never been to church a day in my life, I knew nothing about politics. I was just a kid who was last in his class in high school, who to me, school was just something I had to do to play football.”

However, since the moment he found out that his daughter had been aborted, he says he has committed his life “to protecting women and children from the violence of abortion.”

Jones, 46, is now a film producer, author, and human rights worker known for his pro-life activism. He remained an atheist for years, though his contact with Christian organizations and study of political philosophy eventually led him, in 2003, to the Catholic Church. 

In his comments to CNA, Jones, who is now married with seven children, said that it can be hard to discuss abortion because the friends and loved ones of someone who has had an abortion often become defensive, saying that to condemn abortion is to condemn a person they care about.

“The irony is that you know your sister had an abortion because she called you crying about it, with a broken heart. And then when that person stumbles upon a pro-life activist, they get angry because they think you are calling their sister a bad person.”

“We need to help people understand that when a woman gets an abortion it’s...an act of desperation,” he said. “She’s a victim just like the child.”

Jones said the pro-life movement needs an “apologetic” that is able to get the truth about abortion across in a simple way, and which teaches men to defend women and children.

“You do not need sophisticated arguments to tell a man: you don’t pay a stranger to kill your baby. As a man, you defend your child from violence ... you defend the woman carrying your child from violence...it’s just very simple.”

He said that much of the language used in the pro-life movement is designed for women and to talk to women who are in a crisis situation, but men interact differently and need to be approached in a different way.

“When I talk to men about abortion, I talk to them as a man. I talk to them plainly,” he said. “I talk to them as a man that has lost his child.”

Many people can be cavalier and insensitive about abortion, he said, explaining that he can become passionate and wants to remind people that “we are victims in this too.”

When speaking about abortion, he says men should just be themselves: “Don’t talk about abortion differently that you talk about everything else, don’t put it off to the side. You are allowed, as a man, to talk about an issue like a man.”

Jones said his message to people who might be in a state of fear or crisis because of an unexpected pregnancy, said his message to them would be “what are you afraid of?”

“I had that experience, I became a teen parent,” but looking back, “what was I afraid of? … Being a father is such a beautiful gift ... there is no more beautiful thing in the world than being a father.”

 

Cardinal O’Malley: Pope’s words 'a source of great pain' for abuse survivors

Boston, Mass., Jan 20, 2018 / 03:25 pm (CNA).- The chairman of the Vatican’s commission on sexual abuse has said that recent comments from Pope Francis were painful and alienating to survivors of clerical sexual abuse.

"It is understandable that Pope Francis’ statements yesterday in Santiago, Chile were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or any other perpetrator,” said Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston, in a Jan. 20 statement.  

The statement refers to a comment made by Pope Francis to a Chilean reporter Jan. 18. The Pope was asked about Bishop Juan Barros, a Chilean accused by four victims of clerical sexual abuse of colluding with their abuser to cover up his crimes. Barros, who has maintained his innocence, has been a subject of controversy since his 2015 appointment to lead the Diocese of Osorno.

“The day they bring me proof against Bishop Barros, I’ll speak," Pope Francis told the reporter. "There is not one shred of proof against him. It’s all calumny. Is that clear?”

O’Malley said that “not having been personally involved in the cases that were the subject of yesterday’s interview I cannot address why the Holy Father chose the particular words he used at that time.”

“What I do know, however, is that Pope Francis fully recognizes the egregious failures of the Church and its clergy who abused children and the devastating impact those crimes have had on survivors and their loved ones.”

The Pope has long been a defender of Barros.  

On May 6, 2015, five months after Barros was appointed to lead the Diocese of Osorno, Deacon Jaime Coiro, general secretary of the Chilean episcopal conference, told Pope Francis that the Church in Osorno “is praying and suffering for you.”

“Osorno suffers, yes,” Pope Francis said, “for silliness.” According to a video of the conversation released by Chile’s Ahora Noticias, the Pope told Coiro that “the only accusation against that bishop was discredited by the judicial court.”

“Think with your head, and do not be carried away by the noses of the leftists, who are the ones who put this thing together,” the Pope added.

O’Malley was appointed by Pope Francis to lead the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors when it was established by the Pope in 2014. He is widely lauded for his leadership in the Archdiocese of Boston after the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, amid widespread reports of clerical sexual abuse under Law’s leadership.

“Words that convey the message ‘if you cannot prove your claims then you will not be believed’ abandon those who have suffered reprehensible criminal violations of their human dignity and relegate survivors to discredited exile,” O’Malley’s statement read.

"My prayers and concern will always be with the survivors and their loved ones. We can never undo the suffering they experienced or fully heal their pain,” he added.

"In some cases we must accept that even our efforts to offer assistance can be a source of distress for survivors and that we must quietly pray for them while providing support in fulfillment of our moral obligation. I remain dedicated to work for the healing of all who have been so harmed and for vigilance in doing all that is possible to ensure the safety of children in the community of the Church so that these crimes never happen again."

Fight 'scourge' of violence against women, Pope says at Marian celebration

Lima, Peru, Jan 20, 2018 / 02:42 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- If we’re confused, facing difficulties, or struggling with sin, we can look to Mary to help guide us to the arms of her Son, Pope Francis said Saturday during a Marian celebration in Trujillo, Peru.

Quoting a homily by St. Bernard, the Pope said: “You who feel far away from terra firma, dragged down by the waves of this world, in the midst of storms and tempests: look to the Star and call upon Mary.”

“She shows us the way home. She brings us to Jesus, who is the Gate of Mercy,” he said Jan. 20.

The Pope also drew attention to a “scourge” of violence against women, decrying “many situations of violence that are kept quiet behind so many walls.”

“I ask you to fight against this source of suffering by calling for legislation and a culture that repudiates every form of violence.”

Speaking of the Immaculate Virgin of the Gate of Otuzco, a popular Marian devotion in Peru, Pope Francis declared her, “Our Lady of the Gate, ‘Mother of Mercy and Hope.’”

“Our Lady, who in centuries past showed her love for the children of this land when, placed above a gateway, she defended and protected them from the threats that afflicted them,” awakened the love of all Peruvians, the Pope said.

“Mary continues to defend us and point out the gate that opens for us the way to authentic life, to the Life that does not pass away. She walks beside every one of her children, in order to lead them home. She accompanies us all the way to the Gate that gives Life, for Jesus does not want anyone to remain outside, in the cold.”

The Immaculate Virgin of the Gate of Otuzco, also called the Virgin of La Puerta, is a popular Marian devotion of the Church in Peru. A shrine dedicated to the image is built on the location where a gate to Otuzco, an area outside Trujillo, used to stand.  

It is believed that in the 17th century, when her image was placed at the entrance to the city of Trujillo, she miraculously protected it from pirate attack. Her feast day is celebrated on Dec. 15.

Francis met with people gathered in Trujillo’s “Plaza de Armas” for a Marian celebration, part of his Jan. 18-22 trip to Peru. In addition to delivering a short message, the Pope prayed before the image of the Virgin of La Puerta. The encounter also included prayer and a reading from the first chapter of Luke.

Today, the square had “become an open-air shrine,” the Pope said, “where all of us want to let our Mother look upon us with her maternal and tender gaze.”

“If we consider that wherever there is a community, wherever there is life and hearts longing to find reasons to hope, to sing and to dance, to long for a decent life… there is the Lord, there we find his Mother, and there too the example of all those saints who help us to remain joyful in hope.”

He said that the many images and titles for Mary, of which there are many in Peru, are a sign that “in her heart all races find a place.” He also stressed that Mary is a mother “who knows the heart of her Peruvian children from the north and from so many other places.”

“How much I desire that this land, which clings to the Mother of Mercy and Hope, can abound in God’s goodness and tender love and bring it everywhere,” he stated.

“For there is no better medicine, dear brothers and sisters, to cure many wounds than a heart that has known mercy, than a heart that is compassionate before sorrow and misfortune.”

During the message, Francis also asked those present to think of their earthly mothers and grandmothers, explaining that love for Mary should lead us to feel appreciation and gratitude for all women.

Do not become 'professionals of the sacred,' Pope tells Peruvian priests, religious

Lima, Peru, Jan 20, 2018 / 02:40 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis met with Peruvian priests and religious Saturday, telling them that a sense of humor is a good remedy for the temptation to clerical self-importance.

“John [the Baptist] embodies the awareness of a disciple conscious that he is not, and never will be, the Messiah, but only one called to point out the Lord’s presence in the life of his people,” the Pope said Jan. 20.

Pointing to the passage in John's Gospel in which John the Baptist tells his disciples to “behold the Lamb of God” as he sees Jesus passing by, Francis noted that while John was a good and faithful disciple, he “was waiting for someone greater than himself.”

Those who are consecrated are not called to replace the Lord by their missions and activities, but rather, “to work with the Lord, side by side, never forgetting that we do not replace him.” Knowing they are not the Messiah, he said, frees clerics and religious “from thinking that we are overly important or too busy.”

While this temptation is real and is often present in in communities, Francis offered a remedy: laughter.

“Learning to laugh at ourselves gives us the spiritual ability to stand before the Lord with our limitations, our mistakes and our sins, but also our successes, and the joy of knowing that he is at our side,” he said.

“Laughter saves us from the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others,” he said, and urged those present to conduct a “spiritual test” to see whether or not they are able to laugh at themselves.  

He told them to laugh in their community, but never “at the community or at others,” and to be “on guard against people so important that they have forgotten to smile in their lives.”

Pope Francis spoke to some 1,000 priests, seminarians and religious during a Jan. 20 trip to the Peruvian beach town of Huanchaco, where he traveled as part of his Jan. 18-21 visit to Peru, following a three-day visit to Chile.

He was greeted by Archbishop Jose Antonio Eguren Anselmi S.C.V., who oversees the dioceses of Piura and Tumbes.  Anselmi is a member of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae, which earlier this month received a “Commissioner” from the Pope tasked with governing the community as they carry out reform following revelations of serial abuse by their founder, Luis Fernando Figari, in 2015.

The encounter with priests, religious and seminarians from all over Peru took place at the seminary college of Trujillo. According to statistics provided by the Holy See Press Office, there are currently some 3,361 priests in Peru, including diocesan and religious; 65 permanent deacons; 422 professed male religious and 5,568 professed women religious.

In his speech, Pope Francis told attendees that their vocation is one of “remembrance,” because it points to the fact that neither life, nor faith, nor the Church began with any one of them.

Rather, he said “remembrance looks to the past in order to discover the sap that nourished the hearts of disciples for centuries, and thus comes to recognize God’s presence in the life of his people.”

One of the virtues of this remembrance, he said, is a “joyful self-awareness” which recognizes, like John the Baptist, that Jesus is the Messiah and we are simply his servants, called to both follow Jesus' example and continue his work of service to others, which is “the source of our joy.”

Another aspect of this remembrance is what Francis referred to as “the time of the call,” meaning the first moment in which God's call to their vocation was felt.

In his Gospel, John remembers the exact hour in which his life changed by meeting Jesus, saying “it was about the tenth hour,” the Pope said, adding that a single encounter with Jesus “changes our lives, it establishes a 'before' and an 'after'.

He urged attendees to remember the day when they first realized that “the Lord expected something more of us.”

If this moment is forgotten, “we forget our origins, our roots,” he said, “and by losing these basic coordinates, we lose sight of the most precious part of our lives as consecrated persons: the Lord’s gaze.”

“We do well to remember that our vocations are a loving call to love in return, and to serve,” he said, and quoting the Book of Deuteronomy, said that “if the Lord fell in love with you and chose you, it was not because you were more numerous than the others, for you are the least of peoples, but out of pure love!”

Pope Francis also pointed to the influence of popular piety on the vocational call, noting that in Peru, where colorful processions and large Masses marking special feast days are common, expressions of this piety “have taken on the most exquisite forms and have deep roots in God’s simple and faithful people.”

Because of this, he told those present “not to forget, much less look down on, the solid and simple faith of your people. Welcome, accompany and stimulate their encounter with the Lord.”

“Do not become 'professionals of the sacred' by forgetting your people, from whose midst the Lord took you. Do not lose your remembrance and respect for those who taught you how to pray,” he said, explaining that to remember the moment of one's call is to celebrate Christ's entry into their lives.

Remembrance, joy and gratitude, are the three “weapons” that best defend against “all vocational pretense,” he said, because “grateful awareness enlarges the heart and inspires us to service.”

Francis then reflected on the “contagious joy” of one's vocation, which he said is another virtue of the “remembrance” he spoke of.

Pointing to the day's Gospel, he noted that Andrew, who was one of the disciples of John the Baptist that followed Jesus on that first day, returned home after spending time with Jesus and told his brother Simon Peter what he experienced, saying “we have found the Messiah.”

“Faith in Jesus is contagious; it cannot be restrained or kept within,” he said, explaining that Andrew begins his mission with those closest to him by “radiating joy,” prompting those around him to also follow Jesus.

Joy, he said, “is the surest sign that we have discovered the Messiah” and is constantly present in the hearts of the apostles.

This joy is meant to be shared and so opens us to others, he said, adding that in the “the fragmented world in which we live, a world that can make us withdrawn, we are challenged to become builders and prophets of community.”

No one is saved alone, he said, stressing that isolation and fragmentation are not things that happen only “out there” in the world, but “divisions, wars and isolation are found within our communities, and what harm they bring us!”

Jesus sends his disciples to build communion and unity, however, often times the opposite happens, and “we go about this by displaying our disunity and, worse yet, trying to trip each other up,” Francis said, explaining that to build unity “does not mean thinking everyone is the same, or doing things always the same way.”

“It means discerning what everyone has to offer, respecting their differences, and acknowledging the gift of charisms within the Church, knowing that while each of us contributes what he or she has, we also need one another,” he said.

The Pope then cautioned against the temptation of the “only child,” who wants everything for themselves since there is no one to share with.

“Only the Lord has the fullness of the gifts; only he is the Messiah,” he said, and urged those in positions of authority to “please not...become self-referential.”

“Try to care for your brothers and sisters; try to keep them happy, because happiness is contagious,” he said. “Do not fall into the trap of an authority that turns into authoritarianism by forgetting that its mission is primarily one of service.”

Francis closed his speech thanking attendees for their presence, and prayed that “this 'deuteronomic' remembrance make us more joyful and grateful to be servants of unity in the midst of our people.”