Bishops issue voter guidelines ahead of ‘pivotal’ general election

[Austen Ivereigh] In advance of what they describe as a “pivotal” general election on 8 June, the Catholic bishops of England and Wales have issued their customary considerations to help voters decide in conscience whom to vote for, suggesting 10 issues to raise with their local candidates.

As always, the bishops urge everyone with a right to vote to do so. They say: “Please do vote. Your vote is a matter of conscience. It is your judgement about all that God wants of us, both personally and as a society.”

But in their pastoral letter to be read in all parishes this Sunday, the bishops turn to Pope Francis’s magna carta, the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, to draw out general considerations to guide voters’ thinking at this time. They stress the importance of leaving this earth in a better state than we found it, of bolstering families as the primary vehicle of God’s mercy, as well as human fraternity and solidarity.

Noting how “these broad principles impact directly on many of the practical issues being debated at this time” the bishops  point to what they call “a pivotal moment in the life of our nations as we prepare to leave the European Union”, observing that the outcome of the election will help to determine the shape not only of Brexit but of post-Brexit Britain’s place in the world — including whether the Kingdom itself remains united.

The bishops stress in particular ten issues.

On Europe, they flag the rights of UK citizens following Brexit, as well as human and workers’ rights in future trade deals. On migration and asylum they urge a “fair migration system” that is “respectful of the unity of marriage and family life” and ask future governments to commit to and expand the UK’s current pledge to take 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020.

They also urge political support for efforts to fight modern slavery and assist its victims, and say they want to see the parties committing to helping poorer countries and to assisting religious, including Christian, minorities facing persecution abroad.

The bishops also ask for candidates to protect the family and oppose euthanasia, urge urgent prison reform to deal with the unprecedented levels of suicide and violence, and call for action to help those in poor housing and struggling to make ends meet. The bishops of England and Wales also urge support for Catholic schools as part a commitment to parental choice in the education of their children.

They conclude the letter with a prayer: “Lord grant us wisdom to act always with integrity, seeking the protection and flourishing of all, and building a society based on justice and peace.”

The Catholic bishops’ letter, which can be downloaded in PDF here, follows the pastoral letter issued over a week ago signed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

They, too, stress the significance of the historical moment, arguing that the election takes place “against the backdrop of deep and profound questions of identity,” and offers a rare opportunity “to renew and reimagine our shared values as a country and a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.

A recent study by St Mary’s University in Twickenham suggests that the decline in Anglicanism has “stabilized” on the back of an upsurge in patriotism which has made it more acceptable to own up to being Christian.

Last Sunday the Bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, pre-empted the bishops’ conference pastoral by issuing his own ten-point election letter which differs substantially from it. The letter makes no mention of Pope Francis, Europe or asylum and immigration, but asks of candidates: “How will they strengthen Britain’s Christian patrimony, its history, classics and values, whilst curbing fundamentalism in its various forms, scientific and religious, and promoting a fruitful dialogue between faith and reason?”

In Scotland, meanwhile, Catholic bishops have also penned a letter to be read at all 500 Catholic churches there. According to a preview summary sent out today by the Scottish Catholic media office, the bishops say society will be judged on how it treats its poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

The letter highlights life, marriage and family, poverty, asylum, and religious freedom, while urging Catholic voters to “remind our politicians that abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia are always morally unacceptable.” The bishops will also ask voters to ensure their candidates are “committed to the right of people not to be forced to act against their conscience.” The letter concludes: “Our nation, our Parliament, and our Government will be judged on how it treats its poorest and most vulnerable citizens.”

Posted in General Election 2017

Cardinal Nichols calls for ‘prayer, solidarity & calm’ after Westminster terrorist attack

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who is Archbishop of Westminster and president of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales, said this morning:

Yesterday’s attacks in Westminster have shocked us all. The kind of violence we have seen all too often in other places has again brought horror and killing to this city.

I know you will lead people in prayer, especially for those who have lost their lives and those who have lost one they love. Pray for Aysha Frade, killed by the car on Westminster Bridge. Her two children attend St Mary of the Angels Primary School. Pray for them and for their father. And please remember the young French students who have been injured.

We remember too all who have been injured, and those who care for them.

We pray in particular as well for Keith Palmer, the police officer who died, and for his family, thanking God that so many show such brave dedication to keeping our society safe.

Let our voice be one of prayer, of compassionate solidarity, and of calm. All who believe in God, Creator and Father of every person, will echo this voice, for faith in God is not a problem to be solved, but a strength and a foundation on which depend.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis has sent a message to Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, assuring the nation of his prayers.

Deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack in central London, His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy.

Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, His Holiness invokes divine strength and peace upon their grieving families, and he assures the nation of his prayers at this time.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State

Posted in terrorist attacks

Collins’s resignation doesn’t mean pope’s anti-abuse body is not working

Marie Collins with Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston

Marie Collins with Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston

[Austen Ivereigh in Rome] The resignation of the Irish abuse survivor, Marie Collins, from the Vatican’s Commission for the Protection of Minors (see statements below), is doubtless a major blow to the perception of the pope’s commitment to creating a safeguarding environment in the Church that is a model for other institutions.

The commission was created in early 2014 to advise the Pope on developing better practices and policies in the universal Church for tackling abuse. Its credibility was doubtless assisted by the presence of Collins, who was one of the original nine members of the commission. She is a figure of considerable authority, admired for her willingness to act as a bridge between clerical sex abuse survivors and the Church, and for her dedication to the cause of reforming its culture.

Although he is still technically on leave of absence, the other survivor on the commission, Peter Saunders, stood down in February last year (see CV Comment), meaning that Collins’s departure deprives the body of the voice of those who have directly experienced abuse. Yet the other expert members of the commission have great credibility and expertise in this field, and there has been talk for some time of creating a separate body that could articulate survivors’ experiences to the commission.

But while it is a blow, it is important not to rush to the conclusion that the commission is not working. In her interview with Crux explaining the decision, Collins herself acknowledges that commission’s work has been important, and will go on. In September last year, the commission gave a summary of that work, showing it has been highly effective in a number of areas, notably education and accountability.

In her statement below, which is further spelled out in an editorial for the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), Collins blames the Vatican bureaucracy, the curia, rather than Pope Francis. Although she says she will continue to assist the Church in this area, she says she is standing down from the commission in protest at the curia “hindering and blocking” the commission’s work. She is adamant that Pope Francis has accepted all the commission’s reccomendations, but that the curia has frustrated their implementation. In a reference to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), she says that “the lack of co-operation … has been shameful.”

To NCR she has described “lack of resources, inadequate structures around support staff, slowness of forward movement and cultural resistance” before citing “the most significant problem” as “the reluctance of some members of the Vatican Curia to implement the recommendations of the Commission despite their approval by the pope.”

Because her resignation comes on the heels of an Associated Press story about Pope Francis seeking to soften certain sentences of abusive priests — a story we will return to below — a connection will naturally be made between the two. Yet her decision to resign, as is clear from the statement below, is prior to that story; and in any case, she is not blaming Pope Francis.

What, then, are the areas where she believes the curia has dragged its feet or actively obstructed the commission?

One is lack of resources. The Australian commission member, Kathleen McCormack, recently testified that the commission’s budget is far too small for the work it has to do. That is undoubtedly true, but according to commission sources the Holy See has not yet refused any of its funding requests. Some of what the commissioners would like to do — special research projects etc — will require special funding, but the applications for funding have not yet been made.

Another grievance is her belief that the commission’s proposal for a tribunal for judging bishops who have been negligent or have covered up in cases of clerical abuses was jettisoned. Yet there is confusion on this point. The tribunal — at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) — already existed; the commission proposed that it could be used for the judging of bishops in these cases; the CDF raised no objection, and the tribunal remains available for that purpose, whenever a judicial process  — that is, in cases which require a trial because there are opposing views on the evidence — is required.

Part of the confusion on this point is that in his motu propio of June last year, ‘As a Loving Mother’ (see CV Comment) the pope gave four Vatican congregations the power to investigate and ask the pope to remove bishops in cases of negligence. This appeared to some to be an alternative option to the tribunal, but it wasn’t. Rather, it made it easier for action to be taken against bishops in cases where no trial was required because the evidence was clear. Because the process would be an “administrative” one (the canonical term for a process that doesn’t involve a trial), it would be faster and easier. (Collins tells NCR that “it is impossible to know if it has actually begun work or not”).

Although at the time US-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said it was skeptical about the motu propio, Collins herself welcomed it, saying she hoped it would “succeed in bringing the accountability survivors have waited for so long.” But later, in September last year, she appeared to believe that the motu propio had in effect put paid to the tribunal. “After [the tribunal] was announced last year, I was really positive about that and then when it sort-of didn’t go anywhere I was quite down-hearted,” she told NCR. But she added that while the tribunal “is no longer on the cards, I think the new process is actually more wide-ranging”, and that this was “very positive for everyone on the commission because it’s one thing that we said at the very beginning we were going to deal with: bishops’ accountability.”

A third possible point of contention, mentioned in both the NCR and the Crux interview with Collins, is that a template for guidelines for dioceses on the prevention, detection and response to abuse has not been sent by the Vatican to dioceses around the world, as the commission had requested.

The template is available on the commission website. In fact, the commission did not ask for it to be sent to the dioceses, but for clarification on which Vatican authority will be responsible for overseeing it. The answer to this is expected “soon”, according to my sources, but the slowness of the response of the CDF has further contributed to Collins’s frustration.

Yet overall it is not true to say that the Vatican has not cooperated with the commission. In many ways, given its novelty, the cooperation that the commission has received has been notable. The commission itself is not part of the Curia; it is not a “dicastery”, as curial departments are called. It does not operate on behalf of the Holy See, and juridically other Vatican departments are not expected to work with it as if it were.

This has been particularly frustrating for Collins in the case of the CDF, which she accuses of refusing to cooperate in the case of one simple recommendation put forward by the commission, which she says Pope Francis directed all Vatican departments to follow, namely that all correspondence from survivors receives a response. The CDF’s refusal was the “last straw” that led to her handing in her letter of resignation.

“I find it impossible to listen to public statements about the deep concern in the church for the care of those whose lives have been blighted by abuse, yet to watch privately as a congregation in the Vatican refuses to even acknowledge their letters”, she said in the editorial, adding: “It is a reflection of how this whole abuse crisis in the church has been handled: with fine words in public and contrary actions behind closed doors,” she said.

However, sources in the Vatican say the request that all correspondence be acknowledged will be fulfilled in the future.

Because the commission exists as an advisory body, intended to assist the pope in improving policies and procedures, it lacks the power to hold the Vatican to account. It is not an outside auditing body, such as MoneyVal, the European Union’s anti-money laundering agency, which the Vatican brought in to help clear up its finances.

As John Allen points out at Crux, this is why it is difficult for the commission to include abuse survivors’ advocates. Such advocates are under enormous pressure from survivors to show that they are holding the Church to account and delivering change, and the relentlessness of that pressure is surely one of the factors in leading Collins to decide to resign.

The question must therefore be asked, as Allen does, whether it was ever feasible to include survivors, and the fact that they were demonstrates, again, that the status and purpose and lines of accountability of the commission and its status within the Vatican need to be better defined, and the commission itself reconstituted on a firmer and clearer basis.

A revision of its statutes and a rethinking of the commission’s role is expected at the end of this year. The commission’s work remains, predominantly, that of promoting best-practices and strict guidelines across the Church, and especially that of the developing world, and this is likely to be its future focus. As Allen says, “the exit of Marie Collins isn’t necessarily the end of the road in terms of abuse survivors being represented on the pope’s commission. It could actually mean a transition to a more honest, freer, and less personally conflicted way of doing it.”

Meanwhile, however, the question of how the Church punishes abusive priests will remain under scrutiny. The story recently by Associated Press that certain priests had their laicization sentences reduced following interventions by Pope Francis using the argument of mercy has inevitably raised concerns that the oft-touted “zero tolerance” of abusive priests is being in some way eroded by an inappropriate application of the pope’s theology of mercy.

Two points, however, need to be made here. The first is that, while the story is likely to be true, the fact that it was leaked shows that the intention of officials who spoke to AP was in some way to harm Pope Francis. The CDF’s processes are governed by the highest form of confidentiality in canon law, known as the pontifical secret, and the violation of that confidentiality is a very serious matter.

The second point is that the lesser punishment of a lifetime of prayer and penance is still a very serious form of punishment. It is the canonical punishment meted out, for example, to Maciel, the most notorious abuser of recent times, by Benedict XVI. It means that the priest can no longer function as a priest. He is removed from ministry, confined to a place of retreat, and cannot say Mass or in hear Confessions or have contact with the People of God.

The only difference between a lifetime of prayer and penance and laicization, in fact, is that in the second case, the priest is stripped of his priestly powers, and ceases to be the responsibility of the diocese or order to which he belongs. Laicization is automatic in cases where the priest has served lengthy prison sentences, but is not automatic in other cases. Mercy, in this case, allows for the possibility that a priest may convert and change and be reconciled with God, perhaps after many years. It is a hard judgement for the CDF tribunals and the pope to make, and it is not surprising that the pope has come to a different judgement in some cases.

But the important point remains. A punishment of prayer and penance is still a severe punishment, one that protects the vulnerable just as much as laicization, and arguably more so.

STATEMENTS from (1) Marie Collins, (2) The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (3) its president, Cardinal Sean O’Malley

(1) Marie Collins

I sent my letter of resignation (copied to Cardinal O’Malley), from the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, to Pope Francis on the 9th February 2017 to have effect from 1st March 2017.

Since the beginning of the Commission in March 2014 I have been impressed with the dedication of my colleagues and the genuine wish by Pope Francis for assistance in dealing with the issue of clerical sexual abuse. I believe the setting up of the Commission, the bringing in of outside expertise to advise him on what was necessary to make minors safer, was a sincere move.

However, despite the Holy Father approving all the recommendations made to him by the Commission, there have been constant setbacks.

This has been directly due to the resistance by some members of the Vatican Curia to the work of the Commission. The lack of co-operation, particularly by the dicastery most closely involved in dealing with cases of abuse, has been shameful.

Late last year a simple recommendation, approved by Pope Francis, went to this dicastery in regard to a small change of procedure in the context of care for victims/survivors. In January I learned the change was refused.

At the same time a request for co-operation on a fundamental issue of Commission work in regard to safeguarding was also refused. While I hope the Commission will succeed in overcoming this resistance, for me it is the last straw.

Cardinal Sean O’Malley has invited me to continue to be part of training projects including those for the Curia and new bishops and I am happy to accept. This will be the area on which I will now concentrate.

I wish my colleagues on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors the very best for the future.

Marie Collins

(2) The PCPM

On Monday, February 13, 2017, Mrs. Marie Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors [PCPM] advised Cardinal Sean O’Malley, President of the PCPM, of her intent to resign from the Commission effective March 1, 2017.

Mrs. Collins, a Member of the Pontifical Commission since its inception in 2014 is a survivor of clerical abuse, and consistently and tirelessly championed for the voices of the victims/survivors to be heard, and for the healing of victims/survivors to be a priority of the Church.  In discussing with the Cardinal, and in her resignation letter to the Holy Father, Mrs. Collins cited her frustration at the lack of cooperation with the Commission by other offices in the Roman Curia.

Mrs. Collins accepted an invitation from Cardinal O’Malley to continue to work with the Commission in an educational role in recognition of her exceptional teaching skills and impact of her testimony as a survivor.

The Holy Father accepted Mrs. Collins resignation with deep appreciation for her work on behalf of the victims/survivors of clergy abuse.

The Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established by Pope Francis in March of 2014. The Chirograph of His Holiness Pope Francis states specifically, “The Commission’s specific task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church. The Commission is to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches, uniting their efforts to those of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the protection of all children and vulnerable adults.

(3) Cardinal O’Malley

“On behalf of the Members of the Commission I have expressed to Marie Collins our most sincere thanks for the extraordinary contributions she has made as a founding member of the Commission.  We will certainly listen carefully to all that Marie wishes to share with us about her concerns and we will greatly miss her important contributions as a member of the Commission.  As the Commission gathers for the plenary meeting next month we will have an opportunity to discuss these matters.  With the members of the Commission I am deeply grateful for Marie’s willingness to continue to work with us in the education of church leaders, including the upcoming programs for new bishops and for the dicasteries of the Holy See.  Our prayers will remain with Marie and with all victims and survivors of sexual abuse.”

Posted in abuse, Pope Francis, Vatican reform

UK Government closing door to disabled child refugees ‘truly shocking’ — Cardinal Nichols

Lord Dubs yesterday with Catholic peer Baroness Shirley Williams delivering a protest petition against the Government reneging on its commitment to the so-called 'Dubs Amendment'.

Lord Dubs yesterday with Catholic peer Baroness Shirley Williams delivering a protest petition against the UK Government reneging on its commitment to the so-called ‘Dubs Amendment’.

The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has described his deep shock at the UK government reneging on its commitment to Parliament last year to take in 3,000 vulnerable children fleeing war zones, many of whom are disabled.

In a barely noticed move, the government of Theresa May last week decided to cap the numbers at 350, a fraction of the total pledged in April last year to Labour peer Alf Dubs. Religious leaders have united in deploring the move (see Guardian report).

Cardinal Nichols said today that in repealing the so-called Dubs Amendment, the Government is seen as “abandoning its statutory and moral duty to take effective action for the protection of vulnerable, unaccompanied child refugees.”

The cardinal called for this “truly shocking” decision to be reviewed at once by the Home Secretary, and the pledge honoured.

In a written ministerial statement last Wednesday, the immigration minister, Robert Goodwill, revealed that a government scheme to bring unaccompanied child refugees to the UK from Europe would in effect be wound up, with only 150 more due to be transferred. Around 200 lone refugee children have so far been brought to Britain under the scheme.

The total of 350 falls well short of the 3,000 that many MPs believed they were voting for when they passed the “Dubs amendment” to the Immigration Act last year.

A separate, accelerated arrangement to bring in unaccompanied refugee children who have family links in the UK under the Dublin convention will also be ended, the Home Office said.

In his statement, Cardinal Nichols added:

“The Home Office have stated that during 2016 over 900 unaccompanied children were brought to safety from Europe, including 750 from Calais. However, the need is evidently far greater and I am informed that there are a number of Local Authorities willing and resourced to take many more of these children into their care.”

“I urge the Government to look again at all available resources and to work with renewed vigour, internationally and at home, to support and enable programmes to assist these vulnerable children. Indeed, I encourage many who are expressing concern to take up the valuable  Community Sponsorship Scheme established by the Government, whereby local communities are able to provide places of welcome and safety for refugees seeking shelter in this country.”

“Our Government is rightly proud of its initiatives against human trafficking, which are appreciated around the world. Yet to neglect these unaccompanied children is to leave them extremely vulnerable to human trafficking with all its terrible consequences. I ask the Home Secretary to review urgently the decision and to honour the original intention behind the Dubs Amendment.”

Posted in Cardinal Nichols, human trafficking, migration/refugees

Bishops deplore ‘dark moment’ as Trump shuts US to refugees

c3c0tlxwqaaycrq[Austen Ivereigh] Catholic bishops have joined leaders across the faith spectrum in the United States in deploring President Donald Trump’s executive order Friday that halted the entire U.S. refugee program and banned all entries from seven Muslim-majority nations for 90 days.

Shortly after Trump signed the document at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, who is chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration, said the bishops “strongly disagree” with the action to halt refugee resettlement.

“We believe that now more than ever, welcoming newcomers and refugees is an act of love and hope,” Bishop Vasquez said.

The USCCB runs the largest refugee resettlement program in the United States, and Bishop Vasquez said the church would continue to engage the administration, as it had with administrations for 40 years.

In a letter to the president and members of Congress, more than 2,000 religious leaders representing the Interfaith Immigration Coalition objected to the action.

Although the justification for the order was security, an analysis by the Cato Institute of terrorist attacks on US soil between 1975 and 2015 found that none of them were committed by nationals of the countries banned: Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Iran.  The nation that supplied most of the September 11 killers, Saudi Arabia, was unaffected.

Protest at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 29 against US President Donald Trump's executive memorandum suspending admission of any refugees to the U.S. for 120 days and banning entry for 90 days of people from seven predominantly Muslim nations. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

Protest at the U.S. Capitol in Washington Jan. 29 against US President Donald Trump’s executive memorandum suspending admission of any refugees to the U.S. for 120 days and banning entry for 90 days of people from seven predominantly Muslim nations. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)

The order, which came into effect over the weekend, reduces the number of refugees to be admitted to the United States this year from 110,000 to 50,000 individuals, and will particularly affect the resettlement of refugees fleeing the five-year-old war in Syria.  (Syrian refugees will be banned indefinitely, beyond the 90 days applied to the seven countries).

As the news bulletins were dominated by chaos at airports, protests in cities across the U.S. and a mounting pile of legal challenges, Trump sacked the acting attorney general of the United States after she publicly questioned the constitutionality of the ban.

The leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops yesterday praised fellow bishops for speaking out against Trump’s actions and “in defense of God’s people,” and called on “all the Catholic faithful to join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity.”

“The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, and Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles, USCCB vice president, in a joint statement (reproduced below.)

“The Church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors,” they said.

Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago said last weekend was “a dark moment in U.S. history”. The executive order “to close our nation to those, particularly Muslims, fleeing violence, oppression and persecution is contrary to both Catholic and American values.” He added:

These actions impose a sweeping and immediate halt on migrants and refugees from several countries, people who are suffering, fleeing for their lives. Their design and implementation have been rushed, chaotic, cruel and oblivious to the realities that will produce enduring security for the United States. They have left people holding valid visas and other proper documents detained in our airports, sent back to the places some were fleeing or not allowed to board planes headed here. Only at the eleventh hour did a federal judge intervene to suspend this unjust action.

 

The cardinal quoted Pope Francis’ remarks to the US Congress in 2015: “If we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.”

He said Pope Francis “followed with a warning that should haunt us as we come to terms with the events of the weekend: ‘The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.'”

An Iraqi family leaves a processing center for displaced people outside Mosul, Iraq, Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

An Iraqi family leaves a processing center for displaced people outside Mosul, Iraq, Jan. 27. (CNS photo/Paul Jeffrey)

Bishop Vásquez said: “we need to protect all our brothers and sisters of all faiths, including Muslims, who have lost family, home, and country. They are children of God and are entitled to be treated with human dignity. We believe that by helping to resettle the most vulnerable, we are living out our Christian faith as Jesus has challenged us to do.”

The Archbishop of Newark, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, said the measures “are the opposite of what it means to be an American”, adding that “closing borders and building walls are not rational acts.  Mass detentions and wholesale deportation benefit no one; such inhuman policies destroy families and communities.”

Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego said the executive action was “the introduction into law of campaign sloganeering rooted in xenophobia and religious prejudice. Its devastating consequences are already apparent for those suffering most in our world, for our standing among nations, and for the imperative of rebuilding unity within our country rather than tearing us further apart.”

“This week the Statue of Liberty lowered its torch in a presidential action which repudiates our national heritage and ignores the reality that Our Lord and the Holy Family were themselves Middle Eastern refugees fleeing government oppression. We cannot and will not stand silent,” Bishop McElroy said in a statement on 29 January.

Statement by president and vice-president of US Catholic bishops’ confererence (USCCB), Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles:

Over the past several days, many brother bishops have spoken out in defense of God’s people. We are grateful for their witness. Now, we call upon all the Catholic faithful to join us as we unite our voices with all who speak in defense of human dignity.

The bond between Christians and Muslims is founded on the unbreakable strength of charity and justice. The Second Vatican Council in Nostra Aetate urged us to sincerely work toward a mutual understanding that would “promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.” The Church will not waiver in her defense of our sisters and brothers of all faiths who suffer at the hands of merciless persecutors.

The refugees fleeing from ISIS and other extremists are sacrificing all they have in the name of peace and freedom. Often, they could be spared if only they surrendered to the violent vision of their tormentors. They stand firm in their faith. Many are families, no different from yours or mine, seeking safety and security for their children. Our nation should welcome them as allies in a common fight against evil.  We must screen vigilantly for infiltrators who would do us harm, but we must always be equally vigilant in our welcome of friends.

The Lord Jesus fled the tyranny of Herod, was falsely accused and then deserted by his friends. He had nowhere to lay His head (Lk. 9:58). Welcoming the stranger and those in flight is not one option among many in the Christian life. It is the very form of Christianity itself.  Our actions must remind people of Jesus. The actions of our government must remind people of basic humanity.  Where our brothers and sisters suffer rejection and abandonment we will lift our voice on their behalf. We will welcome them and receive them. They are Jesus and the Church will not turn away from Him.

Our desire is not to enter the political arena, but rather to proclaim Christ alive in the world today. In the very moment a family abandons their home under threat of death, Jesus is present.  And He says to each of us, “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (MT 25:40).

Posted in migration/refugees, United States

Synod 2018 preparation opens with pope calling for voice of young

Catholic students Elvis Do Ceu and Federica Ceci with Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri and Bishop Fabio Fabene in at Vatican press office for the release of the preparatory document of the 2018 Synod of Bishop on young people (AP)

Catholic students Elvis Do Ceu and Federica Ceci with Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri and Bishop Fabio Fabene in at Vatican press office for the release of the preparatory document of the 2018 Synod of Bishop on young people (AP)

[Austen Ivereigh] The preparatory document for the next synod was launched by the Vatican today, together with a letter from Pope Francis to young people calling for them to make their voices heard in the run-up to October 2018.

The lineamenta, or preparatory document, entitled ‘Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment’, makes clear that the Church will for the first time be inviting young people — defined in the document as aged 16 to 29 — to help the Church work out effective ways of evangelizing in today’s world.

The Church has decided to “examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognize and accept the call to the fullness of life and love,” but also to “ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today,” the document says.

“By listening to young people, the Church will once again hear the Lord speaking in today’s world. Listening to their aspirations, the Church can glimpse the world which lies ahead and the paths the Church is called to follow.”

The Vatican also released the text of a short letter addressed to young people by Pope Francis in which he quotes the Rule of St Benedict, founder of western monasticism, in which he urges abbots to consult young people prior to any important decision, because  “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.”

“The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism,” Francis says in the letter, adding: “Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls.”

By listening carefully to what young people are saying to the Church, the synod hopes to develop new strategies for helping them discern their future.

The preparatory document invites a three-stage reflection: an analysis of the social and cultural dynamics of contemporary society, a review of the basic process of discernment, and a vocational programme for youth. It concludes with a series of questions for discussion in the local Church, leading eventually to submissions in advance of the synod.

For the first time the synod will also launch a website in March that will question young people directly about their own expectations, feeding the answers into the working document for the bishops gathered in Rome in October 2018.

Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, the synod’s general secretary, said in a press conference today that he wants responses to the questions by the end of October in order to prepare a working document for the Synod in early 2018.

(The pope’s letter is below. The text of the synod preparatory document is here, and a summary report at Crux here.)

Text of Pope Francis’s letter.

My Dear Young People,

I am pleased to announce that in October 2018 a Synod of Bishops will take place to treat the topic: “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” I wanted you to be the centre of attention, because you are in my heart. Today, the Preparatory Document is being presented, a document which I am also entrusting to you as your “compass” on this synodal journey.

I am reminded of the words which God spoke to Abraham: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” (Gen 12.1). These words are now also addressed to you. They are words of a Father who invites you to “go”, to set out towards a future which is unknown but one which will surely lead to fulfilment, a future towards which He Himself accompanies you. I invite you to hear God’s voice resounding in your heart through the breath of the Holy Spirit.

When God said to Abram, “Go!”, what did he want to say? He certainly did not say to distance himself from his family or withdraw from the world. Abram received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this “new land” for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?

But unfortunately, today, “Go!” also has a different meaning, namely, that of abuse of power, injustice and war. Many among you are subjected to the real threat of violence and forced to flee their native land. Their cry goes up to God, like that of Israel, when the people were enslaved and oppressed by Pharaoh (cf. Ex 2:23).

I would also remind you of the words that Jesus once said to the disciples who asked him: “Teacher […] where are you staying?” He replied, “Come and see” (Jn 1:38). Jesus looks at you and invites you to go with him. Dear young people, have you noticed this look towards you? Have you heard this voice? Have you felt this urge to undertake this journey? I am sure that, despite the noise and confusion seemingly prevalent in the world, this call continues to resonate in the depths of your heart so as to open it to joy in its fullness. This will be possible to the extent that, even with professional guides, you will learn how to undertake a journey of discernment to discover God’s plan in your life. Even when the journey is uncertain and you fall, God, rich in mercy, will extend his hand to pick you up.

In Krakow, at the opening of the last World Youth Day, I asked you several times: “Can we change things?” And you shouted: “yes!”. That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throw-away culture” nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: “Do not be afraid, […], because I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).

A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity. Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master. The Church also wishes to listen to your voice, your sensitivities and your faith; even your doubts and your criticism. Make your voice heard, let it resonate in communities and let it be heard by your shepherds of souls. St. Benedict urged the abbots to consult, even the young, before any important decision, because “the Lord often reveals to the younger what is best.” (Rule of St. Benedict, III, 3).

Such is the case, even in the journey of this Synod. My brother bishops and I want even more to “work with you for your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). I entrust you to Mary of Nazareth, a young person like yourselves, whom God beheld lovingly, so she might take your hand and guide you to the joy of fully and generously responding to God’s call with the words: “Here I am” (cf. Lk 1:38).

With paternal affection,

FRANCIS

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Pope to ambassadors: Peace is built on culture of mercy

[What follows is full text of Pope Francis’s speech today to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. The annual address is considered the most important foreign-policy address by the pope, and offers a state-of-the-world diagnosis. Although his strong words against religious extremism have generated most of the headlines, the speech is wide-ranging, covering nuclear weapons, Israel/Palestine, migration,  the rise of populist ideologies as well as the European Union. See report at Crux.]

Photo: AP

Photo: AP

Your Excellencies, dear Ambassadors,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I offer you a cordial welcome.  I thank you for your presence in such numbers at this traditional gathering, which permits us to exchange greetings and good wishes that the year just beginning will be for everyone a time of joy, prosperity and peace. I express particular gratitude to the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, His Excellency Armindo Fernandes do Espírito Santo Vieira, the Ambassador of Angola, for his courteous greetings on behalf of the entire Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which has recently been enlarged following the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Mauritania a month ago.  I likewise express my gratitude to the many Ambassadors resident in Rome, whose number has grown this past year, and to the non-resident Ambassadors, whose presence today is a clear sign of the bonds of friendship uniting their peoples to the Holy See.  At the same time, I would like to express heartfelt condolences to the Ambassador of Malaysia for the death of his predecessor, Dato’ Mohd Zulkephli Bin Mohd Noor, who passed away last February.

In the course of the past year, relations between your countries and the Holy See were further consolidated, thanks to the welcome visit of many Heads of State and Government, also in conjunction with the numerous events of the recently concluded Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.  So too, a variety of bilateral Agreements were signed or ratified, both those of a general nature aimed at recognizing the Church’s juridical status, with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Benin and Timor East, and those of a more specific character, the Avenantsigned with France, the Convention on fiscal matters with the Republic of Italy, recently entered into force, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretariat of State and the Government of the United Arab Emirates.  Furthermore, in the context of the Holy See’s commitment to the obligations assumed by the aforementioned Agreements, the Comprehensive Agreement with the State of Palestine, which took effect a year ago, was fully implemented.

Dear Ambassadors,

A century ago, we were in the midst of the First World War.  A “useless slaughter”,[1] in which new methods of warfare sowed death and caused immense suffering to the defenceless civil population.  In 1917, the conflict changed profoundly, taking on increasingly global proportions, while those totalitarian regimes, which were long to be a cause of bitter divisions, began to appear on the horizon.  A hundred years later, it can be said that many parts of the world have benefited from lengthy periods of peace, which have favoured opportunities for economic development and unprecedented prosperity.  For many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted, for all intents an acquired right to which not much thought is given.  Yet, for all too many others, peace remains merely a distant dream.  Millions of people still live in the midst of senseless conflicts.  Even in places once considered secure, a general sense of fear is felt.  We are frequently overwhelmed by images of death, by the pain of innocent men, women and children who plead for help and consolation, by the grief of those mourning the loss of a dear one due to hatred and violence, and by the drama of refugees fleeing war and migrants meeting tragic deaths.

For this reason, I would like to devote today’s meeting to the theme of security and peace.  In today’s climate of general apprehension for the present, and uncertainty and anxious concern for the future, I feel it is important to speak a word of hope, which can also indicate a path on which to embark.

Just a few days ago, we celebrated the Fiftieth World Day of Peace, instituted by my blessed predecessor Paul VI “as a hope and as a promise, at the beginning of the calendar which measures and describes the path of human life in time, that peace with its just and beneficent equilibrium may dominate the development of events to come”.[2]  For Christians, peace is a gift of the Lord, proclaimed in song by the Angels at the moment of Christ’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours” (Lk 2:14).  Peace is a positive good, “the fruit of the right ordering of things” with which God has invested human society;[3] it is “more than the absence of war”.[4]  Nor can it be “reduced to the maintenance of a balance of power between opposing forces”.[5]  Rather, it demands the commitment of those persons of good will who “thirst for an ever more perfect reign of justice”.[6]

In this regard, I voice my firm conviction that every expression of religion is called to promote peace.  I saw this clearly in the World Day of Prayer for Peace held in Assisi last September, during which the representatives of the different religions gathered to “give voice together to all those who suffer, to all those who have no voice and are not heard”,[7] as well as in my visits to the Synagogue of Rome and the Mosque in Baku.

We know that there has been no shortage of acts of religiously motivated violence, beginning with Europe itself, where the historical divisions between Christians have endured all too long.  In my recent visit to Sweden, I mentioned the urgent need for healing past wounds and journeying together towards common goals.  The basis of that journey can only be authentic dialogue between different religious confessions.  Such dialogue is possible and necessary, as I wished to show by my meeting in Cuba with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, as well as by my Apostolic Journeys to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, where I sensed the rightful aspiration of those peoples to resolve conflicts which for years have threatened social harmony and peace.

At the same time, it is fitting that we not overlook the great number of religiously inspired works that contribute, at times with the sacrifice of martyrs, to the pursuit of the common good through education and social assistance, especially in areas of great poverty and in theatres of conflict.  These efforts advance peace and testify that individuals of different nationalities, cultures and traditions can indeed live and work together, provided that the dignity of the human person is placed at the centre of their activities.

Sadly, we are conscious that even today, religious experience, rather than fostering openness to others, can be used at times as a pretext for rejection, marginalization and violence.  I think particularly of the fundamentalist-inspired terrorism that in the past year has also reaped numerous victims throughout the world: in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United States of America, Tunisia and Turkey.  These are vile acts that use children to kill, as in Nigeria, or target people at prayer, as in the Coptic Cathedral of Cairo, or travellers or workers, as in Brussels, or passers-by in the streets of cities like Nice and Berlin, or simply people celebrating the arrival of the new year, as in Istanbul.

We are dealing with a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power.  Hence I appeal to all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.  Fundamentalist terrorism is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and often is linked to significant social poverty.  It can only be fully defeated with the joint contribution of religious and political leaders.  The former are charged with transmitting those religious values which do not separate fear of God from love of neighbour.  The latter are charged with guaranteeing in the public forum the right to religious freedom, while acknowledging religion’s positive and constructive contribution to the building of a civil society that sees no opposition between social belonging, sanctioned by the principle of citizenship, and the spiritual dimension of life.  Government leaders are also responsible for ensuring that conditions do not exist that can serve as fertile terrain for the spread of forms of fundamentalism.  This calls for suitable social policies aimed at combating poverty; such policies cannot prescind from a clear appreciation of the importance of the family as the privileged place for growth in human maturity, and from a major investment in the areas of education and culture.

In this regard, I was interested to learn of the Council of Europe’s initiative on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue, which in the past year discussed the role of education in preventing radicalization leading to terrorism and extremist violence.  This represents an occasion for a better understanding of the role of religion and education in bringing about the authentic social harmony needed for coexistence in a multicultural society.

Here I would express my conviction that political authorities must not limit themselves to ensuring the security of their own citizens – a concept which could easily be reduced to a mere “quiet life” – but are called also to work actively for the growth of peace. Peace is an “active virtue”, once that calls for the engagement and cooperation of each individual and society as a whole.  As the Second Vatican Council observed, “peace will never be achieved once and for all, but must be built up continually”,[8] by safeguarding the good of persons and respecting their dignity.  Peacemaking requires above all else renouncing violence in vindicating one’s rights.[9]  To this very principle I devoted my Message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, with the title, “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace”.  I wished primarily to reaffirm that nonviolence is a political style based on the rule of law and the dignity of each person.

Peacemaking also demands that “those causes of discord which lead to wars be rooted out”,[10] beginning with acts of injustice.  Indeed, justice and peace are intimately linked[11].  Yet, as Saint John Paul II observed, “because human justice is always fragile and imperfect, subject as it is to the limitations and egoism of individuals and groups, it must include and, as it were, be completed by the forgiveness that heals and rebuilds human relations from their foundations…  Forgiveness is in no way opposed to justice.  It is rather the fullness of justice, leading to that tranquillity of order” which involves “the deepest healing of the wounds which fester in human hearts.  Justice and forgiveness are both essential to such healing”.[12]  Those words remain most timely, and met with openness on the part of some Heads of State or Government to my request to make a gesture of clemency towards the incarcerated.  To them, and to all those who promote dignified living conditions for prisoners and their reintegration into society, I would like to express my particular appreciation and gratitude.

I am convinced that for many people the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy was an especially fruitful moment for rediscovering “mercy’s immense positive influence as a social value.[13]  In this way, everyone can help bring about “a culture of mercy, based on the rediscovery of encounter with others, a culture in which no one looks at another with indifference or turns away from the suffering of our brothers and sisters”.[14]  Only thus will it be possible to build societies that are open and welcoming towards foreigners and at the same time internally secure and at peace.  This is all the more needed at the present time, when massive waves of migration continue in various parts of the world.  I think in a special way of the great numbers of displaced persons and refugees in some areas of Africa and Southeast Asia, and all those who are fleeing areas of conflict in the Middle East.

Last year the international community gathered at two important events convened by the United Nations: the first World Humanitarian Summit and the Summit for Refugees and Migrants.  With regard to migrants, displaced persons and refugees, a common commitment is needed, one focused on offering them a dignified welcome.  This would involve respecting the right of “every human being… to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there”,[15] while at the same time ensuring that migrants can be integrated into the societies in which they are received without the latter sensing that their security, cultural identity and political-social stability are threatened.  On the other hand, immigrants themselves must not forget that they have a duty to respect the laws, culture and traditions of the countries in which they are received.

Prudence on the part of public authorities does not mean enacting policies of exclusion vis-à-vis migrants, but it does entail evaluating, with wisdom and foresight, the extent to which their country is in a position, without prejudice to the common good of citizens, to offer a decent life to migrants, especially those truly in need of protection.  Above all, the current crisis should not be reduced to a simple matter of numbers.  Migrants are persons, with their own names, stories and families.  There can never be true peace as long as a single human being is violated in his or her personal identity and reduced to a mere statistic or an object of economic calculation.

The issue of migration is not one that can leave some countries indifferent, while others are left with the burden of humanitarian assistance, often at the cost of notable strain and great hardship, in the face of an apparently unending emergency.  All should feel responsible for jointly pursuing the international common good, also through concrete gestures of human solidarity; these are essential building-blocks of that peace and development which entire nations and millions of people still await.  So I am grateful to the many countries which offer a generous welcome to those in need, beginning with various European nations, particularly Italy, Germany, Greece and Sweden.

I vividly remember my visit to the island of Lesvos in the company of my brothers Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos.  There I saw at first hand the dramatic situation of the refugee camps, but also the goodness and spirit of service shown by the many persons committed to assisting those living there.  Nor should we overlook the welcome offered by other countries of Europe and the Middle East, such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, as well as the commitment of various African and Asian countries.  In the course of my visit to Mexico, where I experienced the joy of the Mexican people, I likewise felt close to the thousands of migrants from Central America who, in their attempt to find a better future, endure terrible injustices and dangers, victims of extortion and objects of that deplorable trade – that horrible form of modern slavery – which is human trafficking.

One enemy of peace is a “reductive vision” of the human person, which opens the way to the spread of injustice, social inequality and corruption.  With regard to this last phenomenon, the Holy See has taken on new commitments with its formal adherence, on 19 September last, to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 31 October 2003.

In his encyclical Populorum Progressio, issued fifty years ago, Blessed Paul VI noted how such situations of inequality provoke conflict.  As he stated, “civil progress and economic development are the only road to peace”,[16] which public authorities have the duty to encourage and foster by creating conditions for a more equitable distribution of resources and by generating employment opportunities, especially for young people.  In today’s world, all too many people, especially children, still suffer from endemic poverty and live in conditions of food insecurity – indeed, hunger – even as natural resources are the object of greedy exploitation by a few, and enormous amounts of food are wasted daily.

Children and young people are the future; it is for them that we work and build.  They cannot be selfishly overlooked or forgotten.  As I stated recently in a letter addressed to all bishops, I consider it a priority to protect children, whose innocence is often violated by exploitation, clandestine and slave labour, prostitution or the abuse of adults, criminals and dealers in death.[17]

During my visit to Poland for World Youth Day, I encountered thousands of young people full of life and enthusiasm.  Yet in many of them I also saw pain and suffering.  I think of the young people affected by the brutal conflict in Syria, deprived of the joys of childhood and youth, such as the ability to play games and to attend school.  My constant thoughts are with them and the beloved Syrian people.  I appeal to the international community to make every effort to encourage serious negotiations for an end to the conflict, which is causing a genuine human catastrophe.  Each of the parties must give priority to international humanitarian law, and guarantee the protection of civilians and needed humanitarian aid for the populace.  Our common aspiration is that the recently signed truce will be a sign of hope for the whole Syrian people, so greatly in need of it.

This also means working for the elimination of the deplorable arms trade and the never-ending race to create and spread ever more sophisticated weaponry.    Particularly disturbing are the experiments being conducted on the Korean Peninsula, which destabilize the entire region and raise troubling questions for the entire international community about the risk of a new nuclear arms race.  The words of Saint John XXIII in Pacem in Terris continue to ring true: “Justice, right reason and the recognition of human dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race.  The stockpiles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced all round by the parties concerned.  Nuclear weapons must be banned”.[18]  In the light of this, and in view of the forthcoming Conference on Disarmament, the Holy See seeks to promote an ethics of peace and security that goes beyond that fear and “closure” which condition the debate on nuclear weapons.

Also with regard to conventional weapons, we need to acknowledge that easy access to the sale of arms, including those of small calibre, not only aggravates various conflicts, but also generates a widespread sense of insecurity and fear.  This is all the more dangerous in times, like our own, of social uncertainty and epochal changes.

Another enemy of peace is the ideology that exploits social unrest in order to foment contempt and hate, and views others as enemies to be eliminated.  Sadly, new ideologies constantly appear on the horizon of humanity.  Under the guise of promising great benefits, they instead leave a trail of poverty, division, social tensions, suffering and, not infrequently, death.  Peace, on the other hand, triumphs through solidarity.  It generates the desire for dialogue and cooperation which finds an essential instrument in diplomacy.  Mercy and solidarity inspire the convinced efforts of the Holy See and the Catholic Church to avert conflicts and to accompany processes of peace, reconciliation and the search for negotiated solutions.  It is heartening that some of these attempts have met with the good will of many people who, from a number of quarters, have actively and fruitfully worked for peace.  I think of the efforts made in the last two years for rapprochement between Cuba and the United States.  I think also of the persevering efforts made, albeit not without difficulty, to end years of conflict in Colombia.

That approach aims at encouraging reciprocal trust, supporting processes of dialogue and emphasizing the need for courageous gestures.  These are quite urgent in neighbouring Venezuela, where the effects of the political, social and economic crisis have long burdened the civil population.  So too in other parts of the world, beginning with the Middle East, a similar approach is needed, not only to bring an end to the Syrian conflict, but also to foster fully reconciled societies in Iraq and in Yemen.  The Holy See renews its urgent appeal for the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians towards a stable and enduring solution that guarantees the peaceful coexistence of two states within internationally recognized borders.  No conflict can become a habit impossible to break.  Israelis and Palestinians need peace.  The whole Middle East urgently needs peace!

I also express my hope that there will be a full implementation of the agreements aimed at restoring peace in Libya, where it is imperative to reconcile the divisions of recent years.  I likewise encourage every effort on the local and international level to renew peaceful civil coexistence in Sudan and South Sudan, and in the Central African Republic, all plagued by ongoing armed conflicts, massacres and destruction, as well as in other African nations marked by tensions and political and social instability.   In particular, I express my hope that the recently-signed agreement in the Democratic Republic of Congo may help enable political leaders to work diligently to pursue reconciliation and dialogue between all elements of civil society.  My thoughts also turn to Myanmar, that efforts will be made to foster peaceful co-existence and, with the support of the international community, to provide assistance to those in grave and pressing need.

In Europe too, where tensions also exist, openness to dialogue is the only way to ensure the security and development of the continent.  Consequently, I welcome those initiatives favouring the process of reunification in Cyprus, where negotiations resume today, and I express my hope that in Ukraine viable solutions will continue to be pursued with determination in order to fulfil the commitments undertaken by the parties involved and, above all, that a prompt response will be given to the humanitarian situation, which remains grave.

Europe as a whole is experiencing a decisive moment in its history, one in which it is called to rediscover its proper identity.  This requires recovering its roots in order to shape its future.  In response to currents of divisiveness, it is all the more urgent to update “the idea of Europe”, so as to give birth to a new humanism based on the capacity to integrate, dialogue and generate[19] that made the “Old Continent” great.  The process of European unification, begun after the Second World War, continues to be a unique opportunity for stability, peace and solidarity between peoples.  On this occasion, I can only reaffirm the interest and concern of the Holy See for Europe and its future, conscious that the values that were the inspiration and basis of that project, which this year celebrates its sixtieth anniversary, are values common to the entire continent and transcend the borders of the European Union itself.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

To build peace also means to work actively for the care of creation.  The Paris Agreement on the climate, which recently took effect, is an important sign of the shared commitment to bequeath a more beautiful and livable world to those who will come after us.  It is my hope that the efforts made in recent times to respond to climate change will meet with increased cooperation on the part of all, for the earth is our common home and we need to realize that the choices of each have consequences for all.

Clearly, however, certain phenomena go beyond the possibilities of human intervention.  I refer to the numerous earthquakes which have struck some areas of the world.  I think especially of those in Ecuador, Italy and Indonesia, which has claimed numerous victims and left many others in conditions of great insecurity.  I was able to visit personally some of the areas affected by the earthquake in central Italy.  In addition to seeing the damage done to a land rich in art and culture, I shared the pain of many people, but I also witnessed their courage and their determination to rebuild what was destroyed.   I pray that the solidarity which united the beloved Italian people in the days after the earthquake will continue to inspire the entire nation, particularly at this delicate time in its history.  The Holy See and Italy are particularly close for obvious historical, cultural and geographical reasons.  This relationship was evident in the Jubilee Year, and I thank all the Italian authorities for their help in organizing this event and ensuring the security of pilgrims from all over the world.

Dear Ambassadors,

Peace is a gift, a challenge and a commitment.  It is a gift because it flows from the very heart of God.  It is a challenge because it is a good that can never be taken for granted and must constantly be achieved.  It is a commitment because it demands passionate effort on the part of all people of goodwill to seek and build it.  For true peace can only come about on the basis of a vision of human beings capable of promoting an integral development respectful of their transcendent dignity.  As Blessed Paul VI observed, “development is the new name for peace”.[20]

This, then, is my prayerful hope for the year just begun: that our countries and their peoples may find increased opportunities to work together in building true peace.  For its part, the Holy See, and the Secretariat of State in particular, will always be ready to cooperate with those committed to ending current conflicts and to offer support and hope to all who suffer.

In the Church’s liturgy, we greet one another with the words: “Peace be with you”.  With this same greeting, as a pledge of abundant divine blessings, I renew to each of you, distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps, to your families and to the countries you represent, my heartfelt good wishes for the New Year.

Thank you.

[1] BENEDICT XV, Letter to the Leaders of the Peoples at War (1 August 1917): AAS 9 (1917), 421.

[2] Message for the Celebration of the First World Day of Peace (1 January 1968).

[3] SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (7 December 1965), 78.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Address at the World Day of Prayer for Peace, Assisi, 20 September 2016.

[8] Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 78.

[9] Cf. ibid.

[10] Ibid., 83.

[11] Cf. Ps 85:11 and Is 32:17.

[12] Message for the Thirty-fifth World Day of Peace: There is no Peace without Justice, There is no Justice without Forgiveness (1 January 2002), 3.

[13] Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera (20 November 2016), 18.

[14] Ibid., 20.

[15] JOHN XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963), 25.

[16] Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 83.

[17] Cf. Letter to Bishops on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, 28 December 2016.

[18] Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, 112.

[19] Cf. Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016.

[20] Cf. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 87.

Posted in Holy See diplomacy, Pope Francis, Pope Francis address