ConAltriOcchi blog – 以不同的眼光看世界-博客

"C'è un solo modo di vedere le cose finché qualcuno non ci mostra come guardare con altri occhi" – "There is only one way to see things, until someone shows us how to look at them with different eyes" (Picasso) – "人观察事物的方式只有一种,除非有人让我们学会怎样以不同的眼光看世界" (毕加索)


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Mary Queen of China Our Lady of Sheshan

Last Sunday, Pope Francis at the prayer of Queen Coeli, asked to join the prayer of Chinese Catholics, on the feast day of May 24, the World Prayer Day for the Church in China instituted by Pope Benedict XVI.

In the Sheshan Chinese Shrine, where the Virgin Mary “Help of Christians” is highly revered by Catholics in China, Mary presents her Son to the world with her arms wide open in a gesture of love and mercy. Love and mercy are the main roads where the gospel walks and incarnates in the great Chinese world.

Each year in the sanctuary thousands of Chinese pray especially at the feast of Our Lady of Sheshan, who is also the patron saint of China. Pope Benedict XVI wrote the prayer to the Virgin of Sheshan, entrusting her all over China and the church in China. Benedict XVI had entrusted in the letter to the bishops, the priests to consecrated persons, and to the lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China, requesting that the day of the liturgical memory of Our Lady of Sheshan on 24 May become a worldwide day of proximity and prayer for the Church in China.

The church dedicated to the Virgin was built in the 19th century and is located on top of a hill just a few kilometers southwest of Shanghai. The devotion to Mary in China has always been and still is today a determining factor of unity in the church.

We ask, in this Easter time, at the thresholds of Pentecost, to the Spirit to break forth once again in the beloved China Church. The Spirit calls us to an original and always new identity to which we must leavewith confidence. The Spirit tells us that Jesus Christ is not a guardian of a fortress, He is not a reference point of the past, He is not the stool of any egotism, even ecclesial, but is the guarantee for the future.

We know that even in the church in China, there is no future without memory. Our memory, however, can no longer be made by professions of faith proclaimed with the sword in hand, with the tendency to excommunicate others who do not think as us.

The unity of the Church in China cannot be done in accordance with a criterion of selfishness and with the desire to raise other barriers, widening further the “Jericho moat”. It has to be done with the help of the Spirit and with the prayer with Mary. The language of Christianity is a universal language; it is a language of unity and not of uniformity; The Spirit teach us to speak this universal language, even in the great Chinese nation

 


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Pope Francis pilgrim at the feet of Our Lady of Fatima

The plane with the pope left Rome and arrived in Fatima. This is the 19th apostolic journey of Pope Francis outside Italy. “I ask everyone to join me as pilgrims of hope and peace, and your hands in prayer continue to support me.” In a message addressed to the President of the Italian Republic, he wrote: “As I left Italy to go to Portugal for the centenary of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Fatima, iI am happy to address to you, Mr. President, my deferential greeting and, while I am going to meet pilgrims and especially sick people from all over the world  that are going to that Marian sanctuary to find light and hope, I invoke the Lord’s blessing over the entire Italian nation, especially on those who suffer in body and spirit. “

Receiving a few days ago the Pontifical Portuguese College Pope Francis has explained the deep motive of his pilgrimage: “I will bring a wish of peace and hope to the world“.

“Our Lady of Fatima gave pastors a message against the tide – said Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. We were in war time, in 1917, the prevalent thinking was hate, hostility and conflict; resumed as  ‘the useless blunder’ by Benedict XV. Our Lady instead speaks of love and forgiveness, of the ability to sacrifice oneself and to offer as gift for others. “

From the military base where he landed, the Pope will move by helicopter to the stadium of Fatima and then with the popemobile will reach the Marian Shrine where the major events will happen, culminating with the canonization of the two shepherds Francesco and Jacinta Marto. They are first children to become Saints without having suffered martyrdom. Tonight he will visit the Appearance’s Chapel, and after the vespers, we will do the blessing of the candles and the recitation of the Rosary. We too will be spiritually present in Fatima.

In the church of Saint Joseph protector of the carpenters at the Roman Forum, there is also a chapel in honour of “Our Lady of Fatima” (see photo).

image

The story of this devotion in the Roman Forum is singular. At the end of the 1950s, Brother Gino Burresi created a Marian movement of prayers devoted to the small statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The sincere prayers of the many faithful were granted many graces from the Virgin and various miracles, including one for a child,  daughter of a family friend of Pope Pius XII. The Pontiff wished to see this image, and he favored his veneration and wanted it to remain at the church of Saint Joseph’s carpenters. The Chapel is very simple and the silence inspires a deep prayer of conversion. Along with St. Joseph, the presence of Mary of Fatima helps to rediscover the family dimension of faith and the desire for peace.

Today, we will join the prayer that Pope Francis will make in Fatima for the entire humanity. Let us ask for the grace to love the Church with the same maternal love of Mary that illuminates the wonderful secret of the human life, the faith that reconciles. May the Centenary of the Appearances of Our Lady of Fatima give hope to everyone.


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Faith is a love story with God

Faith is a love story with God: “Whoever loves me will keep my Word” (Jn 14:23), reminds us John’s gospel. We have understood as if it were written, “he will keep my commandments.” and this is not true. The Word cannot be reduced to commandments, it is much more. The Word “which is now atwork in you who believe” (1 Thes 2:13) creates, generates and opens unforeseen and unpredictable paths and spaces. Sometimes we think that observing His laws we are loving God. It is not so, because we can be a Christian for fear, for seeking benefits, or for guilt. They have always said, “If you repent, God will be merciful to you. Instead, mercy prevents repentance, the time of mercy is always ahead. What does it mean to love the Lord Jesus? How do you do it? God’s love begins when we accept to be loved by Him. God does not deserve, God welcomes. Just as John’s Gospel says: “and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23).

There is a very instructive passage of the Acts of the Apostles, where Chapter 8 tells the story of the baptism of an Ethiopian eunuch by Philip. The Ethiopian was reading a passage from the prophet Isaiah, and to Philip’s question “Do you understand what you are reading? “ he answered “ how can I, unless someone instructs me? “(Acts 8:31). In the path of approach and growth of faith teaching is needed, a transmission in which who knows helps  younger and more expert.

The whole Church history is done by the effort to put into practice this true work of mercy that is to convey faith.

St. Bernard recalls the various ways in which one can approach knowledge: “There are those who want to know only to know: and this is curiosity; There are those who want to know only to be known; and this is vanity; and there are those who want to know to be built up; and this is true wisdom; there are finally those who want to know to build; and only this is charity. “

Let us entrust to John the Apostle and the Evangelist: “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.


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Abraham went out, not knowing where he was to go

Monica Romano

The season of Lent is, more than any other, a period in which the Word of God invites us to set out on a journey.  An  “important time”- our deputy parish priest, Fr. Paolo reminded us when we were young – many years ago, when he prepared a true and proper “agenda” for Advent and Lent for every one of us, with references to Readings for each day.  He aimed to give us a useful tool to encourage us to read the Bible more often than at other times during the liturgical year.

The journey, the vocation to which God calls us, does not always seem straightforward.  On the contrary, it requires us to take a “ leap in the dark”. I have always been struck by Abraham’s experience; he went out leaving everything and everyone behind and, as the Letter to the Hebrews points out subsequently, “by faith” he obeyed God “and went out not knowing where he was to go”. Here a fundamental aspect of the journey into faith comes into play:  trust, confidence, in God. Many of us have no doubt that God exists and believe that Jesus Christ is His Son, the Saviour who came into this world to redeem us, the firstfruits of the Resurrection which we, too, will experience.   But there is a huge leap to be made from our faith in Jesus Christ to unconditional trust and confidence in Him.

This is often the weakness in our faith: to trust God and entrust ourselves unconditionally to Him. Trust which God mapped out from the minute he became flesh as a defenceless child, who could only live if cared for and loved by Mary and Joseph. God himself was the first to make an act of trust towards men and women, first creating them and then descending into the womb of Mary, entrusting himself into the hands of a family, “an ordinary family”, which in turn placed its trust in God and pursued the extraordinary vocation to which it had been called. Not without times of darkness and uncertainty, some of which emerge from the stories in the Gospels.

There is a beautiful image which I keep in my heart, painted by the Little Sisters of Charles de Foucault (see image below). Mary is holding  Jesus Child in her arms and, instead of  “cuddling ” in the safe arms of His Mother,  He is stretching  out His arms as if to be taken by the first passer-by who wishes to welcome Him. This original “iconography” reminds me again of the idea of the trust the Lord has placed in men and women, to the point of giving His own life for them, for each one of us and all of us together. Trust that He has asked us Christians to live, we that have believed “even though we have not seen”. Acts of trust which are not just asked of us once in our lives. Later, Abraham was even asked to sacrifice his son Isaac. The meaning of which is that, in addition to the “small”, “daily”, acts of trust in God which we Christians are asked to do in our day to day lives, there can be many larger ones during our lifetime.

Madonna-con-Bambino

The saints are a luminous mirror of this unconditional trust in the love of the Father and followed Him always and no matter what, often persevering when the paths are dark and unclear in their souls and in their everyday lives. For me,  saints are a great consolation because they have shown us that life’s bitter moments can be overcome humanly and lived in the way the Lord asks us to do, with the aid of grace. 

But we see that the temptation of  taking “shortcuts” , the alternative to the “leap” into the dark, appears  immediately in the hearts of men and women, even those who were closest to the Lord and who gave everything, his life, for Him.  In today’s Gospel which follows the First Reading on the vocation of Abraham, the liturgy proposes the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  The Lord, Peter, James and John are walking “up a high mountain”. Often, when the Lord is preparing something special as in this case, the Gospel tells us that we start walking, generally under difficult, hostile situations or circumstances. Climbing the mountain, as in this case; the environment of the shepherds – the marginalized ones at the time – or the Magi from the East deceived by Herod when Jesus was born…..Once Jesus and the disciples reached their destination, Peter proposed to prepare three shelters and stay there, just them alone.  “Let us leave everything behind us, abandon this world with its hardships” Peter seems to be wanting to say. Or even, perhaps: “Let the three of us enjoy the company of the Lord”.  It has happened to me on more than one occasion to experience or to meet people who have experienced this temptation.  “Give everything up”, to say it in everyday language and perhaps in a more effective manner; “keep our faith only for us”, within our parish or Christian group,  far from the world that “does not know” or even worse “refuses” the Lord…. The Liturgy of the Word which was wisely “put together” by the Second Vatican Council tells us in these Readings that instead we must not stop but –paraphrasing the words of Jesus in the Gospel today – we must “rise and not be afraid”, like Abraham did. We must walk on our pathway and, after enjoying the light of Jesus, we must, in turn, bring it to the world, to light those dark paths on which we often find ourselves and walk along during our lives.  The Christian vocation does not mean to live in shelters by ourselves, but, as Pope Francis would say, it means opening the doors, go out, and bring Jesus to the world and let anyone who so desires come in.

May this Season of Lent, which I have always considered a propitious gift in my faith pathway, help us to light  the small lamp of our faith and our trust in God, which already have not been disappointed, with the promise of Resurrection.


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There are no enemies

Often our system, in order to continue standing, has to identify an enemy, it has to create one.  This is also true in children’s education.  Many of us in Italy will remember when our grandparents used the term “Austrian” in a derogatory manner: if you don’t behave properly I’ll call the Austrians, they used to say. Later we referred to “the Communists” and today, perhaps, the “Muslims.

One of the first teachings of the Gospel is that of the idea of the enemy: there are no enemies, there are men.  Even the Church has enemies – we have been taught – and therefore we must defend it from relativism, subjectivism, laicism etcetera, but Jesus never defended himself; and similarly neither did Peter and Paul. There is an entire history of enemies we have fought against while evil was in our midst: power, money, fear of losing our dominant position.

Thus, when Jesus says “«whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also»”, he is telling us to go beyond the enemy.  In the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus was slapped but he rendered it ineffective: “if I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?”

Jesus is asking us not to return violence for violence otherwise this will grow and turn into an interminable crescendo.

The logic of offering the other cheek, being stripped of one’s garments and dragged before the tribunal means recognizing violence, giving it a name and  “fighting it” like the sun conquers  the darkness which is gradually overcome by the expanding light.

We must begin to live this change by modifying the private spaces of our responsibility. Only men of the Beatitudes can build peace and integrate naturally into the great peace processes of history.  The powerful, the privileged, the lobbies will always be foreign bodies in the peace process and become, almost without realizing it, allies of war.

When I want to qualify nonviolence, I say justice, respect of diversity, peace, the common good.  I say the Beatitudes, words which give multiple names to this single truth of which Jesus was the first witness. Jesus is the witness of nonviolence, this nonviolence of the many names which are the beatitudes.

When someone has authority, a company, a position of leadership, or when a country owns resources, they should not defend them by the sword. Jesus said to Pilate: if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight. To fight with the sword is to kill, it is the violence which creates only defeats and no victors. In fact, our history is a river of blood spilt in the name of the principle that without a sword a kingdom cannot go on existing.  This is why we are always at war. «Put your sword back in its  place» said Jesus to Peter, otherwise right will always be with the strongest, the most violent, the cruellest and the best armed.

We must go back to the radical teaching of the Gospel, as St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Corinthians.  The Corinthians criticized  Paul for his simplicity in announcing the Gospel not at their level of knowledge and culture. Paul answered by comparing the announcement of the Gospel to a building: the builders will be judged by whether they have placed Jesus Christ as the cornerstone,  not by their highly cultural discourses but empty of spiritual content. Let us make the crucifix the foundation of our life and not an aggressive tool of civil religion.

 

 


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Poor Lazarus reaches out to us. Reflection on Pope Francis’s Message for Lent 2017

Yesterday, the  Holy Father’s message for Lent was  published.   Lent is a favourable season for prayer,which will lead us to the Easter Triduum, the heart of the liturgical year.On Ash Wednesday,  the start of Lent, the Church performs a simple gesture which reminds us of the frailty of human nature, of being creatures. However, the fact of being created,  in the Christian  vision,does not mean to be reduced to a negative note, or lesser than the human being,  his nature and his potentialities. To be creatures assumes the existence of a  God, a Creator, who has loved us  “from our Mother’s womb” and takes care of us. God, Creator, yes, but even before that a Father. In fact, the Creed, , the symbol of the Christian faith, recites: “I believe in one God,Father Almighty, the Makerr of Heaven and Earth”.  The word almighty describes the  “role” of God as Father. God is a father who can do everything for his children by virtue of his love which binds him to them.  In this human creature, desired, loved and looked after by God , lives the Spirit, “who is the Lord and gives life”. The Spirit – the love which binds the Father to the Son – will be with us like a comforter, remaining with us all our days  “until the end of the world”. An eternal gift. In this year’s message, Pope Francis invites us to look after these gifts, two in particular.

 The Word is a gift. Other people are a gift. Is the title of Francis’ text which reflects on the biblical parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus.  (see  Luke 16,19- 31).

“Lazarus teaches us that other persons are a gift. A right relationship with people consists in gratefully recognizing their value. Even the poor person at the door of the rich is not a nuisance, but a summons to conversion and to change. The parable first invites us to open the doors of our heart to others because each person is a gift, whether it be our neighbour or an anonymous pauper”( Message for Lent 2017)

 To live the Eucharist is to participate in the gift of mercy which becomes Bread and Wine, i.e. the food of lifein regard to a fullness of life for all men of good will. Lent can be an appropriate time to ask the Lord to give us the will to renew our relationships, to pronounce not the words which win, but those which touch people’s hearts and which take care of all those like poor Lazarus crouching in front of our doors.

The rich man’s real problem thus comes to the fore. At the root of all his ills was the failure to heed God’s word. As a result, he no longer loved God and grew to despise his neighbour. The word of God is alive and powerful, capable of converting hearts and leading them back to God. When we close our heart to the gift of God’s word, we end up closing our heart to the gift of our brothers and sisters.” ( Message for Lent 2017)

To understand properly what the Word of God says about the relationship between the Rich Men and the weak and the poor like Lazarus, it is essential to avoid living like the  «the complacent of Sion»  about whom the Prophet Amos talks and  create a system of justifications so that there could be tenthousand poor men like Lazarus in front of our doors and “the Richman” will not even know that they’re there. Our modern day glutton builds a house with gates, gives alms to the poor, makes a provision for the Third World, in order not to have the bother of Lazarus at his door.  

This papal message on Lent will be read in all the Catholic churches in the world  but tomorrow Lazarus will be like his today.  Nothing changes. And this because the Word and Pope Francis’ evangelical words risk becoming trapped in a system which wants to make them innocuous, without any efficacy on the level of reality. This is the abyss which some people wish to create.  Indeed, we can all see that the abyss between the poor men like Lazarus and the gluttons is becoming wider and wider. The gluttons decided centuries ago that they cannot allow promiscuity among those who are inside and those who are without.. Lazarus must stay outside the system, our cities.  The Bible uses the term Encampment.  Not only is Lazarus an outcast, he must also be convinced that this is normal, that it is just. Exclusion touches him within, in his conscience.

However, our society wishes to aspire to the great principles of Christianity and Enlightenment but finds itself making an impossible squaring of the circle. It pretends to include in its midst Lazarus, the outcast but doesn’t succeed because  it would be in contrast with its fundamental principles. The system excludes those who threaten its integrity.  Migrants are the Lazarus of the twenty-first century.

God however prefers Lazarus. In fact, God is Lazarus in this world. Jesus went out among the unclean to teach them to stop calling themselves unclean, to look at the encampment and discover that the encampment is unclean.. This is the revolution, the upheaval. The Beatitudes are made up of those like Lazarus. Jesus came to awaken  the consciences of the outcasts so that they stop considering themselves legitimately outcast, so that they know the future is in their hands. “The parable is unsparing in its description of the contradictions associated with the rich man (cf. v. 19). Unlike poor Lazarus, he does not have a name; he is simply called “a rich man”. His opulence was seen in his extravagant and expensive robes. Purple cloth was even more precious than silver and gold, and was thus reserved to divinities (cf. Jer 10:9) and kings (cf. Jg 8:26), while fine linen gave one an almost sacred character. The man was clearly ostentatious about his wealth, and in the habit of displaying it daily: “He feasted sumptuously every day” (v. 19). In him we can catch a dramatic glimpse of the corruption of sin, which progresses in three successive stages: love of money, vanity and pride (cf. Homily, 20 September 2013).”( Message for Lent 2017)

Many have tried to enroll Jesus as the guardian of the Encampment and have done everything they can to insert him in their own contexts, to make him an accommodating prophet, but Jesus did not accept. He never went into the Praetorium or the  Sanhedrin as a welcome guest, he represented a threat for these two structures, that of the political-religious power and the economic power. For this he was crucified like an unclean person.  «You hung him on the Cross like a criminal» said Peter, in his first sermon after Pentecost.   The future of the world is with those like Lazarus; they will inherit the earth as the Beatitudes say;  the poor will come towards us, not to destroy us  but to tell us the words of salvation.

Then let us live this period of Lent with hope, in reflection, meditation and prayer, remembering that we are frail creatures but above all loved and protected by God the Father. This will help us to live this journey not as a penitence for its own sake, both timorous and sterile, but as a reconciliation with God the Father and a conversion towards the poor like Lazarus whom we meet on our path. Return to the Lord with all your hearts, the Prophet Joel will say to us.  This means undertaking the path not to a  superficial or transitory conversion but rather a spiritual itinerary  involving the most intimate place in our person. The heart, in fact. It is the home of our feelings, the centre in which we develop our choices, our attitudes.  That  ‘come back to me with all your hearts’ does not only involve individuals but extends to the whole community.  It is a summons to everyone:“Get the people together, make the mass of the people holy, send for the old men, get together the children and babies at the breast : let the newly married man come out of his room and the bride from her tent.”(Joel 2,16)

 


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One died for all: the Ecumenical Path and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

This year marks 500 years since the Lutheran Reformation. At the end of October, Pope Francis went to Lund in Sweden to commemorate this important anniversary together with the World Lutheran Federation. In an interview with the Swedish Jesuit, Ulf Johnsson, published in the journal “CiviltàCattolica”, Pope Francis highlights the positive aspects of the Reformation, underlining in particular two words. “Scripture”,because Luther was the first to translate the Bible into the vernacular language and, said the Pope “ took a great step by putting the Word of God into the hands of the people”.  The other word is “reform”:“At the beginning, Luther’s was a gesture of reform at a difficult time for the Church”, added the Pope.  The Bishop of Rome underlined that Ecumenism must be a continuous “moving ahead, walking together! We must not stay closed in a rigid perspective because there is no possibility for reform in this”.

The Lutheran-Catholic Commission on Unity has done excellent work during these years in order to reach this commemoration together. Its report, “ From Conflict to Communion”  states that “both the traditions approach this anniversary in an ecumenical age, with the achievements of fifty years of active dialogue behind them and a renewed understanding of their history and theology”.Separating the controversial aspects, from the theological progress of the Reform, the Catholics gather the stimuli of Luther for the Church of today, recognizing him as a “witness of the Gospel” (From Conflict to Communion n. 29). For this reason, after many centuries of – even bloody – conflict, today, in 2017 for the first time in their history,  Lutheran and Catholic Christians will commemorate the inception of the Reform together.

Even with our Orthodox brothers, the path towards unity is living an historical Spring. In this new climate and with such concrete steps we are living the theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity chosen for this year: “The love of Christ compels us towards reconciliation” (see 2 Corinthians 5, 14-20). This verse summarizes the text of the Second Letter to the Corinthians, the reference chosen for Common Prayer. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the  Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches have reflected and prayed together on these verses in order to get ready for these days – in particular – and the entire year of common prayer. The traditional days for living the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are customarily from the 18th to the 25th January, the week  chosen and desired, since 1980, by Reverend Paul Watson because it included the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle and that of the Conversion of Saint Paul. No-one missed the symbolic force of this reference to the Apostles.  Peter was the first to profess his faith and Paul spread faith to the boundaries of the world.

We entrust this important week and the entire Ecumenical Path to Peter;  hewas a weak man who betrayed the Lord at the most important time, but it was because of the sincerity, the depth, the complete selflessness of his love thatthe Risen Christentrusted him to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith.

Let us entrust ourselves also to Paul; in the past he had been a violent persecutor of Christians but he experienced the power of Christ’s tendernessand felt himself to be loved by Him right from his mother’s breast.

To love and to feel loved is the fundamental ecumenical choice which overcomes any weakness and relativizes all historical wounds, in a path towards complete unity which surely has more future than past.

Eight days

The text of 2 Corinthians 5, 14-20, scans the Eight Days of Prayer, where some of the theological themes of the individual verses are developed, as follows:

First

Day:

  Onedied for all
Second

Day:

  No longer live for oneself
Third

Day:

  No longer evaluate anyone with the criteria of this world
Fourth

Day:

  Old things  have passed
Fifth

Day:

  Everything is new
Sixth

Day:

  God has reconciled the world with him
Seventh

Day:

  Annunciation of the reconciliation
Eighth

Day:

  Reconcile yourself with God

 

 


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Non violence: a style of politics for peace

Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of Peace 2017 was published with the title: “Non violence: a style of Politics for Peace” .  Fifty years have gone by since Paul VI, with an almost prophetical intuition, established that the first of January each year would be dedicated to the crucial issue of peace. This year, the Pope has proclaimed that active “non violence” is “ a peace-building strategy, the pivot on which the message revolves. The names of great, non violent peace builders come to mind such as Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Nelson Mandela and also the enormous commitment of the Italian Radical Party in such a delicate field.

The first violence is that of the eye; we work for peace and build it, learning day after day to look at the world with the eyes of the Spirit, learning how to examine the signs of our times. Fatalism, judgement without the right to appeal, are only ways to hide our disengagement, to seek shelter outside the real world.  The Pope challenges us, instead, to “construct Society and communities with the style of peace builders”. We can see it clearly even today: the repercussions of war fall above all on the poor. However, we can also see the strength of the evangelic message, which has survived through the ages and is always able to  ring out resoundingly: «blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek…». When the poor regain hope,  then war is stripped naked showing all its absurdity and uselessness. We see  many wars in these times but also much hope not defeated or annihilated by the warlords.

Moreover, we are faced with an inexorable decadence in a part of the world which has created history and is now using arms to try and stop history  changing.  History has, however, already changed and now the shadow of death, caused not by war but by self-destruction, hangs over many Western skies.  The future has migrated elsewhere and passes through those places in the world where the  outcasts, widows, orphans and the poor live; the evangelical categories of those who have never counted as anything in the eyes of the warlords and their silent and opulent accomplices. None of us can allow ourselves to stay on the outskirts of this true revolution of the poor who are seeking peace. In order to be efficient, this revolution must always begin in the private sphere and the distinction between private and public is, in this sense, a deception worked out across the board by a part of that culture of which we are heirs.  Pope Francis writes: “ may charity and non violence  govern how we treat each other as individuals, within society and in international life”.

We must begin to live the change by modifying the private spaces of our responsibilities. Only men of the Beatitudes can build peace and integrate naturally into the great peace processes of history.  The powerful, the privileged, the lobbies will always be foreign bodies in the peace process and will become, almost without realizing it, allies of war. When I want to qualify non violence, I say, justice, respect of diversity, peace, common good.  I say the Beatitudes, words which give many names to this single truth to which Jesus was the first witness.  Jesus is the witness of non violence, this non violence of the many names, which are the beatitudes.

When someone has authority, a company a position of leadership, or when a country owns resources, they should not defend them by the sword.  Jesus said to Pilate: if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight.  To fight by the sword is to kill, is the violence which creates only defeats and no victors. In fact, our history is a river of blood spilt in the name of the principle that without a sword a kingdom cannot go on existing. This is why we are always at war. «Put your sword back in its sheath» said Jesus to Peter, otherwise right will always be with the strongest, the most violent, the cruellest and the best armed.  Certainly, at times, we must even be afraid when the powerful make peace.  We must never forget and underestimate the fact that Jesus was crucified when Pilate and Herod became friends and made peace over his tortured body.

We must never ask Politics to defend religion; how many times do we hear that politician, that party defends Catholic values. We must never ask Politics to defend religion because we risk turning the Lord’s house into a market and a cavern of thieves; indeed, it is not even a risk but a certainty. We must demand instead that Politics, the kingdoms of this world that is, to defend the dignity and liberty of mankind, of every man and woman and especially today, migrants and all minorities.

Let us then  world leaders, to make peace, real peace, and not on the shoulders of the poor.  Let us pray for peace which is not a burden for the poor. For example, a peace envisaging the continuous use of arms and leads to famine in half the world is not peace. Let us pray then to our Lord Jesus Christ, King of Peace. A kingliness which, with the enormous efforts of Pope Francis, is freeing itself from all the robes and crowns of the age of Constantine, becoming a ripe seed to build a non violent world where: “we don’t need bombs and guns, to destroy to bring peace but to get together, to love each other” ( Mother Teresa of Calcutta speech when she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979).

 


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Contemplate this Holy Year, by starting from the Cross

On Mount Calvary, in front of the Cross, it is better not to talk or to cry out but only to contemplate.    Let us contemplate the Cross as a synthesis of all those who give their lives for love.  Let us also contemplate this Holy Year which has ended, by starting from the Cross; let us contemplate it, not by referring to numbers, or to major events but only to the Mystery of the Cross.   I would also like to say let us contemplate the Evangelii Gaudium, Laudato Sì, Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis’s three great documents as well, starting here, from a Pope who just like Jesus wishes to give his life for  the human family he so loves and who tells the Church “You must do this too” as he tells each and everyone of us.  We have received with joy  Pope Francis’s  Apostolic Letter  “Misericordia et Misera” in order to listen to the final words of the Bishop of Rome on the Holy Year of Mercy.

Meanwhile let us contemplate the Cross. ”Ecce Homo”.  Whoever sees this man on the cross sees God, our faith tells us.  It is Jesus on the Cross not Caifa . This point is very important.   We have to be careful of the Politics which wants to defend religion.   How often do we hear that such and such a politician or party defends  Catholic values? We must be careful because there is the risk of turning God’s house into a market or a cavern of thieves;  indeed, it is not a risk but almost a certainty. We must rather ask  Politics, the kingdoms of this world that is,  with force to defend the dignity and freedom of men and women, of all men and women and especially, today, migrants and all minorities.  Let us therefore ask Trump and Putin and other world leaders, to make peace but real peace. Not only do we have to fear when the Mighty make war but also when they make peace.  Jesus was nailed to the Cross when Pilate and Herod made peace over Him, on His suffering.

Let us pray for a peace which will never again be shouldered by the poor.   For example, a peace made  when brandishing arms is not true peace.    Nor can peace between people who in private are immoral or amoral  be called peace.

Let us pray then to Jesus with his two biblical titles.  Let us pray today to Christ the King of Peace.  A kingdom which is freeing itself of all the cloaks and crowns of Constantine as a result of the enormous missionary efforts made by Pope Francis; the kingdom of Christ  is Peace and Mercy.   Let us pray to Christ the King of Peace and Mercy. Let us then pray to the Son of Man who, even though he was the son learned obedience from the things he suffered: Jesus King of Peace and Mercy suffered the violence of Power which rebelled against him;  power, also causes the Pope to suffer, but just like Jesus, he doesn’t answer. 

It might appear that by dying on the Cross, Jesus lost;  it might appear that the Church of Mercy is destined to lose;  so mighty is Power. Instead, Christ has already won, the Pope of Mercy has already won, because mercy is not only in the hands of certain holy people whom we meet throughout history but also in the hands of Our Father who is in Heaven.

That cross, that Son of Man, was resurrected by the Father who made him the Lord!  Where? On which throne? Not on any throne. This King’s throne is the conscience of those men and women who believe in mercy, peace, dialogue, ecumenism and universal brotherhood and are prepared to give their life for this faith.   This is why the Church of Mercy has already won.   For the other worldly things, we may have many teachers but when we enter the sphere of pain and death, there is no teacher;  all voices fall silent.  Only from this Pulpit which is the Cross, can the suffering experienced by so many poor people teach us to listen and to contemplate a love  which is even greater than death.   Only a Church of Mercy is the Church of Christ.


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Escape from wolves. Pope Francis Good Shepherd

«I now realize how true it is that God shows no partiality, rather in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. .»(Acts 10,34). In this text of the Acts, Peter uses the verb αγαπάω which means to welcome with affection, love with tenderness; it is repeated many times in the Gospels and the Acts. In John’s letter, the same word is repeated ten times. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love”(1Jn 4,8).
To transmit faith means to show the same love for our brothers, indeed for all mankind. When Peter met the pagan, Cornelius the centurion and his family, he was conquered by a revelation of the Spirit, not by his own reasoning. It was revealed to Peter that the love of God does not let itself be limited by the laws or traditions of any doctrine whatsoever and does not, because of this, become do-goodism or relativism.

These simple quotations from the Scriptures seem to us sufficient to dismantle the basis of those objections from some parts which see the Catholic Church during the Pontificate of Francis on the brink of descending into relativism, delivered into the arms of a world, depicted, who knows why, in a prejudiced manner as being totally hostile to the Church.
We will try to answer some of these concerns:
1) The Pope has been accused of speaking little and badly about our Christian roots as a foundation of our freedom, as opposed to his predecessors.
The answer that can be given is twofold; first and foremost the “foundations of our freedom”, are not, strictly speaking, our Christian roots, but Christ himself and this makes the difference. The foundations are Christ himself who also respected other roots, first and foremost Judaic roots, and who, if he claimed any primacy, let us say, of foundation, it was only the primacy of love and service; Christians are the salt of the earth and the yeast in the dough and do not claim any dominant or exclusive position which would even be contrary to the Gospel.
In fact, the real problem, especially in some national churches, is that they talked, on the contrary, about Christian roots too much and badly, particularly the so-called devout atheists and conservative Catholics, who defended hanging the crucifix on walls and in their writings but whose lifestyle often contradicted the message of the crucifix in a blatant manner or theorized separation between public and private morality. To forget this is unacceptable. This certainly does not mean putting the so-called European roots before all else.
“Jesus of Nazareth, Him ye have taken and nailed to the cross “(Acts 2,23) says Peter; the devout atheists and conservative Catholics have seen fit to take him down from the wooden cross, that is to say from the humility and simplicity and from the suffering of so many poor people who carry the cross every day, in order to hang him on the walls of cheap politics and even on the shields of armies, thus depriving the crucifix of its profound meaning. Pope Francis talks about Christian roots when it is necessary and in an appropriate manner, not in an ideological way or by making sterile assertions but asks us to rediscover and truly live those roots today. In this regard, we wish to recall the long speech he made during his pontificate to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 25th November 2014, in which he quoted many passages from John Paul II and made them his own.
2) The contribution of Christianity to any culture is that of Christ with the Washing of Feet, said Pope Francis to La Croix during an interview. According to some, the Pope had forgotten to evoke the Sermon on the Mount and The Beatitudes, the basis for the Washing of Feet.
Here, we will be very brief since it is obvious that such objections are prejudiced. It is clear that the Pope places the foundations of the Gospel on Love without any ambiguousness in his actions and speeches. One of many is when he reminds us that the church is not a NGO and emphasizes the primacy of Charity in his mandate – incidentally, totally in line with Pope Benedict XVI. Moreover, we cannot, naturally, read the Gospels only with the before-and-after principle. It is clear for all to see that Pope Francis is the Pope of the Beatitudes, since he talks and writes so much about them and above all tries to live them.
3) The Pope sustains that there is no fear of Islam as such but of ISIS and its war of conquest and, the Pope continues:” it is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam but it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus sends his disciples forth to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest”. It would appear that some people have interpreted this “provocation” of Pope Francis literally, as in so many old and new fundamentalisms, as if the Pope was putting the Gospel’s message on the same level as fundamentalist violence. This is clearly another striking attempt to twist the facts. They are attributing to the Pope – and not in a particularly efficient way, expressions and convictions which clearly do not belong to him. These prophets of doom refer to Benedict XVI’s Regensburg speech in 2006 in which he sustained that Islam had a problem with violence of a religious origin and state that today instead Francis is affirming that Christianity and Islam reflect each other on the problem of religious violence. In support of this bizarre theory, they have not quoted any words used by Pope Francis other than those already mentioned. They haven’t quoted them because they simply don’t exist.
To accuse Pope Francis of putting religious violence in Christianity and Islamic fundamentalism on the same level is misleading and incorrect. The true problem in our opinion concerns those who do not wish to dialogue with Islam, those who are incapable of seeking the common ground for confrontation and who are not even able to recognize the great cultural tradition of the Arab World (let it suffice to think just of Avicenna and Averroes). To wind back the clock of history to a climate of war among religions is very dangerous and counterproductive. All the popes knew this very well and have always been careful never to refer to a scenario or a risk of this kind.
On the other hand, referring back to his previous teaching, Benedict XVI had affirmed in his Apostolic Exhortation “The Church in the Middle East”, signed in The Lebanon during his apostolic journey in 2012, that fundamentalism: “afflicts all religious communities and denies their long-standing tradition of co-existence”. He then exhorted the Lebanese young people to be:“servants of peace and reconciliation is an urgent need to make a commitment for building together a free and humane society ” (Address to the Young People of The Lebanon 2012). We know today, just how dangerous a slide there is in several Christian groups towards forms of fundamentalism in expressing their faith, above all in the more recent ones.
Let us also recall the famous words of Imam Mohammad Mehdi Chamseddine, Head of the Sciite Islamic Council in The Lebanon from 1994 to 2001 ; he declared that “ the Christians of The Lebanon are the responsibility of the Muslims”, meaning their right to exist and express themselves.
We feel that instead of exploiting the pontificates by comparing one to the other and attributing them with the presumed licence of Defenders of the Faith or of relativists, or fomenting religious fears and divisions, it would be better and more evangelical to contribute to dialogue and better knowledge between Islam and Christianity. We can take an example, in fact, from the great testimony to this proposal of the Maronite Church in the Lebanon, by sustaining also the greatest strengths existing in Islam. And we should look at ourselves and strive to be better Christians , individually and as nations and societies which profess to be coherent Christians, without merely using a facade of banner waving and revendications. Let us look at the problem of the migrants, for example. What are so many Nations in “Christian Europe” replying?
4) In Amoris Laetitia, according to some people, the logic of the et et is being replaced by that of the non solum sed etiam. In short there is a bit of everything and also its opposite in order to keep everybody happy. Let us quote as an example number 308 of the document: “the Church’s Pastors, in proposing to the faithful the full idea of the Gospel and the Church’s teaching, must also help them to treat the weak with compassion, avoiding aggravations or unduly harsh and hasty judgements”. Must we therefore deduce, comments one famous journalist that:“ the most efficient way to be compassionate is not exactly that of proposing the full ideal of the Gospel?”.
First of all, let us ask ourselves what is meant by the Gospel. In our opinion, this question does not take into account Francis’ logic of inclusion which is, naturally, fully evangelical and in the Tradition of the Church. John Paul II, when addressing the Italian bishops after the Convention of Palermo in 1995, already affirmed that:”Jesus Christ is the Truth of God which is Love and the truth of men and women who are called upon to live, together with God, in charity”. Amoris Laetitia  is a great contribution to the Church which Pope Francis made on St. Joseph’s Day on 19th March last. At the heart of the document is the Pope’s desire to :”bring help and encouragement to families in their daily commitments and challenges (AL 4). Furthermore, we must not forget that we are in the midst of the Holy Year of Mercy and we are all called upon in a special way to be the sign and instrument of Grace. It is not the weaknesses of men and women, or their inability to carry out their mission perfectly which are at the centre of Christianity , nor is it the past with its load of good and evil done. What counts is our profession of faith, to profess like Peter in front of Jesus: you are the son of the living God. As soon as we do so, that is by saying with conviction to Jesus: you are Christ, the Saviour, we discover, like Peter, the greatness of God’s project with each one of us. Whoever is used to relating to situations, happenings and people, on the basis of traditions and laws, cannot understand the face of a God who is Love.
In our parishes, we can touch the fruits of mercy with our hands, in particular for the many Zaccheos we meet. Zaccheo felt himself to be loved, like Peter and Paul felt it, as the adulteress and the man blind from birth felt it and many others as told in the Bible and in our daily life. To feel loved by God is the true beginning of any conversion which has a foundation in Christ. The “conversions” founded on rules or on moral principles result in fanaticism, inflexibility and elitist forms of pseudo Christianity.
5 ) During a visit to the Lutheran Church in Rome, in answer to a question about the possibility of taking holy communion together with a Catholic, a journalist said that the Pope assumed an ambiguous position, moreover on a crucial issue.
Rereading the Pope’s reply, we can easily see that Francis is starting from Baptism which is common to the faith of both Catholics and Lutherans, and was only and simply auguring that we continue to march at the head of which is the Holy Spirit who will guide us towards the complete truth. No-one’s conscience may be left out of this truth. The Pope doesn’t want to create divisions, nor does he want to place barriers against the Holy Spirit. There isn’t perhaps a definitive word now to define why we are marching. But we trust in the Spirit and how Christians, Catholics and Lutherans, march together, questioning each other and trying to understand the will of God for us. Anyone who knows and frequents our Lutheran brothers knows from direct experience that in dialogue we have more future than past and that the Sensus fidei of God’s People is not a marginal accessory. In this regard, we suggest reading the document issued by the International Theological Commission entitled “ il Sensus Fidei in the Life of the Church” published in 2014. And the ecumenical celebration on 31 October – 1 November last in Lund is already history overcoming by far any hysteria and misleading interpretations.
To conclude, some people are recounting that our parishes are being besieged by people who expect to be godfathers and godmothers, to take Holy Communion or to enrol their children in summer camps without having the necessary requisites. All this is happening, they say, because of the confusion into which Pope Francis has thrown us. In the past, no-one has ever berated situations where we have seen VIP’s without the basic requisites get married in church, even with “top level” celebrants, or the very bad habit, also widespread in our Church of Rome, of getting married in a “beautiful church” with exorbitant costs for flowers and decorations, far removed from a serious and coherent path towards faith.
We know many parishes, including our own, and we can affirm that today it is not the People of God who are confused, they only ask to be respected and valued, but rather the remaining devout atheists and Catholics who sit in the front pews of the Church and still, after many years, do not want to accept a Church that has made a strong 360 degree return to the Gospel and which is seeking to implement the Council (always praised at first but then often forgotten in reality, walking alongside today’s men and women, guiding them in the trustworthy company of the Church).
It is these defenders of an old church which no longer exists who are in confusion today, who have given it exclusive space for too many years, ignoring sensitivity and different voices. Many pseudo lay Catholics and clerics who behind the backs of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, reduced the Church to a cavern of thieves during their pontificates, taking care of their own interests with the current powers-that-be, selling the Gospel for a handful of coins, scheming in both the gay and financial lobbies, putting any evangelizing activities in the hands of ecclesiastic movements, humiliating parishes and the people of God; pseudo Catholics defending principles they do not follow and and making judgements on the tragedies of people to whom they don’t listen.
Worn out by an exhausting battle, Pope Benedict XVI resigned, performing an extraordinary evangelic action. Many lay and clerical lobbyists are still in their places and this is why the People of God no longer believe them and follow the good shepherds and the Gospel: : “a stranger will they not follow but will flee from him”(Gv10,5).
Thank you, Pope Francis, Good Shepherd following in Christ’s footsteps. We will always continue to pray for you.