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Questions on sexuality loom large ahead of youth synod

Vatican City, Jun 19, 2018 / 04:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- According to the official working document for the upcoming synod of bishops on youth, the major questions for young people ahead of the October discussion surround issues of sexuality and gender, the role of women and the desire for a Church that knows how to listen.

The “instrumentum laboris” for the Oct. 3-28 Synod of Bishops on “Young People, the Faith and the Discernment of Vocation,” was published June 19, and includes contributions from both young people themselves, and bishops conferences.

Key issues highlighted in the document are not only increasing cultural instability and violent conflicts, but many young people, both inside and outside of the Church, are divided when it comes to topics related to sexuality, the role of women, homosexuality and the need to be more welcoming to members of the LGBT community.

The document pointed to a “metamorphosis of the human condition” some analysts say the world is undergoing due to the rapid pace at which cultural and anthropological changes are happening.

In this regard, a key challenge for the Church that the document cited is the body and topics related to human sexuality. The body, the text read, has always been at an “intersection between nature and culture,” yet new biomedical technologies have given rise to different concepts of the body.

On one hand, the document pointed to the trend of technological experimentation, saying there is an increasing push for the integration of “body and machine, between neuronal and electronic circuits, which find their icon in the cyborg, favoring a technocratic approach to the body.”

But on the other hand, the trend of manipulating one's body goes beyond the technical realm, and also touches on issues related to biology, the text said, pointing to surrogacy and egg donation as examples.

Things such as precocious sexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography, displaying one's body online and sexual tourism, the text said, “risk disfiguring the beauty and depth of emotional and sexual life.”

Bishops, the document continued, recognize the importance of the body and of sexuality, particularly the differences and complimentary of men and women, but are often not able to communicate the Church's teachings well.

Church teaching on issues such as abortion, contraception, homosexuality, cohabitation and marriage for many youth are up for debate, both in the Church, and in society at large.

While there are young Catholics who find Church teaching to be “a source of joy” and who wish to follow this teaching despite how unpopular it is in the public eye, others want more clarification on these and other major issues, and have asked Church authorities not to be afraid to talk to them about “taboo,” topics such as gender and women.

“No bishops conference offers solutions or recipes” to these issues, the document said, but they are convinced that “the question of sexuality must be discussed more openly and without prejudice.”

On the issue of homosexuality, the document emphasized the need to be open and welcoming to everyone, including non-believers, those of other faiths, and also the LGBT community.

Some LGBT youth who participated in the online questionnaire or offered contributions through social media, the document read, said they want to experience “greater closeness and greater care on the part of the Church.”

In their responses, bishops conferences also questioned how to respond to young people who have chosen to live a homosexual lifestyle, but who also want “to be close to the Church.”

In comments to journalists at the June 19 presentation of the synod's working document, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Synod of Bishops, said the reason the Church is engaging with members of the LGBT community is because “we are open. We don't want to be closed in on ourselves.”

In the Church, “there are many areas, there is freedom for people to express themselves – on the right, left, center, north and south – this is all possible,” he said, adding that “this is why we are willing to listen to people with different opinions.”

Young people, the document said, are also concerned that at times the Church can seem distant, and have voiced a desire to have a Church that is close, transparent and up-to-date, and which is not afraid to talk about the tough issues.

Divided into three parts plus framed by an introduction and conclusion, the document offers an overview of the state of young people throughout the world today and possible pastoral responses.

The document is a compilation of contributions from four primary sources: a questionnaire sent out to bishops conferences in June 2017; a website for the questionnaire and social media accounts where youth were able to leave testimonies and answer questions;  a September 2017 seminar on youth that took place in Rome; and the final document of the pre-synod meeting which took place in Rome in March, and drew participation from some

The first step was the questionnaire that was sent out to bishops’ conferences worldwide, and which was also posted online in order to make it more accessible to young people. It was released in June 2017 for people ages 16 to 29, of all faiths and backgrounds, asking about lives, attitudes and concerns about the world.

The answers to the questionnaire will be one of four key ingredients in the October synod, he said, with the other three being the website for the questionnaire and social media accounts where youth can leave testimonies and answer questions; a September 2017 seminar on youth that took place in Rome; and the final document of the pre-synod meeting.

The structure of the text follows a methodology frequently insisted upon by Francis in the process of discernment: recognizing, interpreting and then choosing.  

Recognize

The text noted that there are some 1.8 million people throughout the world between the ages of 16-29, however, the demographic, economic and social conditions of each country are different. Whereas youth are the majority in some countries, in others youth are a minority. In some places, lifespan does not exceed 60 years of age, whereas in others it extends well over 80.

Added to this is the disparity between rich and poor nations, and the access young people therefore have to education, healthcare and a stable home. In some areas they also face pressures such as drugs, corruption, violence and the challenges brought on by an increasingly globalized world.

For what regards the role of the family, the document said that responses to the online questionnaire showed that mothers are a key reference point for youth, while the subject of fatherhood requires a deeper reflection due to the “ambiguities and voids” left as a result of the lack of father figures, particularly in the west.

According to the document, family will be a key topic of discussion, especially in light of the conclusions on the 2014-2015 Synod of Bishops on the Family.

Bishops also noted that religion no longer holds the same weight that it did in the past, and that for many young people, simply being “spiritual” is enough.

In terms of the Catholic Church itself, the document noted that many youth are committed to the Church through different activities, and bishops conferences have affirmed that youth outreach is a key priority in most parishes.

However, on the flip side, the text also noted that in the pre-synod meeting, youth had voiced concern about feeling as if they were being put into a corner, and felt that generally they were not taken seriously, especially when it comes to leadership.

The document also touched on both the risks and benefits of technology and social media, including the dangers of the “dark web,” and the role of music, art and sport as forms of expression.

Work, young migrants and discrimination were all touched on in the document, including religious persecution, especially for Christians in areas where they are a minority, racism and discrimination against women.

Discrimination against women, even in ecclesial environments, was also addressed in the text, and was a key concern raised by youth themselves during the pre-synod meeting in March, during which they questioned how and where women can really, fully participate in the Church and in society.

The Church, according to the “can face these problems with a frank dialogue and a mind open to different ideas and experiences.”

The document also cited a growing paralysis on the part of young people when it comes to making a decision for their lives, whether it is due to a lack of opportunity, economic instability, or, at times, a the lack of a sense of meaning and purpose.

It also spoke of the need to listen to youth, who frequently lack good role models, and who want a Church which is “authentic” and which is capable of talking to them about the issues that matter.

Interpret

In the second section of the document, the text spoke of “the blessing of youth” from a biblical standpoint, emphasizing the importance of accompaniment in the discernment process.

To follow Christ, it said, “is a call to risk, to lose what has already been acquired, to trust. It is a provocation to break with the planning mentality which, if exasperated, leads to narcissism and the closing in on oneself.

The section placed a heavy emphasis on the need to accompany young people in determining what path is best for their lives, saying the task of accompaniment “is not an option with regard to the task of educating and evangelizing youth.”

Rather, “it is an ecclesial duty and the right of every young person,” the document said, adding that only the presence of a “prudent and wise” guide can help youth to correctly interpret God's will for their lives.

The text then offered a brief reflection on the different vocational paths, including the vocation to the family, to ordained ministry and to consecrated life. However, it also touched on the increasing number of people who opt to stay single, without making a move toward consecrated life or marriage.

No concrete answer to the question of “singles” was given, but due to the growing number of singles in the Church and in the world in general, the document said “it is important that the synod reflect on this question.”

In terms of discernment, the document noted that it goes well “well beyond” simply deciding whether to get married or live a consecrated life. Rather, discernment is a broader concept, and also includes helping youth to determine their profession and what sort of social or political commitments to make.

But to discern well, accompaniment is needed, the document said, noting that youth themselves have voiced their desire for an accompaniment which is both free and authentic, while bishops said they wanted to provide a “broad” and varied accompaniment for young people equivalent to a sort of “Christian coaching” in life.  

The text emphasized the need to provide both spiritual and psychological accompaniment, and a formation which reaches the family, educational and social aspects of life.

Those who accompany youth ought to be able to respect each person and what God is already doing in their lives, and who is able to influence “with who they are, before what they can do or propose.”

For youth in particular, the document said it is important that those who accompany them are committed in the Church and on the path to sanctity, but it is also crucial that they are able to recognize their own limits and who are able to walk with young people, rather than being put “on a pedestal.”

The document also stressed that accompanying young people is not a task limited to priests and religious, but is also something laity can do.

Choose

In terms of helping youth to make concrete choices that are right for their lives, the document stressed the need for an integral formation and education, and emphasized the role that Catholic schools and universities can play in helping to mold young people.

It also emphasized the importance of finding new models of development in terms of generating employment, fostering a better economy, and caring for creation. It also called for innovation in the technical sphere and for greater collaboration so that everyone has access to the resources and opportunities they need.

Faced with the challenge of modern society, bishops said it is increasingly important to form youth in politics and in how to be active citizens. Particular attention, the document said, ought to be paid to professional competence, opportunities for service, care for the environment and a better understanding of the Church's social doctrine.

Emphasis was also placed on the role of the internet and digital media outlets as a means of evangelization, and the need to accompany prisoners, young people who live in war zones or areas of conflict, especially women and migrants. The document also called for a greater attention to and accompaniment of young people who are sick or dying.

In terms of pastoral care, the document stressed the role of family and the education and formation of children. In this regard, bishops also presented their “best practices,” underlining the need to set aside daily times of prayer and silence for personal devotion, as well as pray in one's community.

Catechesis and opportunities to practice charity are also important, the document said, especially through mission trips, retreats or with movements and associations, all of which the document said help provide space for vocational discernment.

The document also stressed that those living a consecrated life live under the same cultural and societal conditions as other people their age, so a pastoral approach adapted to different local situations is needed.

It warned against the tendency to narcissism and self-sufficiency, particularly in consecrated vocations, which have a common root in “a potentially pathological concentration on oneself.”

It cautioned against the dangers of individualism, which is “centered on the autonomous subject, which excludes recognition, gratitude and the collaborating action of God,” and “emotionalism,” which the document said “closes the person in the virtual world an in a false interiority, where the need to deal with others and the community is excluded.”

The document closed emphasizing the universal call to holiness and inviting young people to become saints.

“Jesus invites each of his disciples to the total gift of life, without calculation or human self-interest,” the text said, and spoke of the need to highlight not only young Saints in the Church, but also the “youth of the Saints,” who all passed through the phase of being young.

Doing this, the document said, would make it possible “to intercept many youth situations  which are neither simple not easy, but where God is present and mysteriously active.”

“To show his grace is at work through torturous paths of the patient construction of a holiness which matures in time through many unexpected ways,” the document said, “can help all young people, no one excluded, to cultivate hope in a holiness which is always possible.”

First Reading: 1 Kings 21:17-29

17 Then the word of the LORD came to Eli'jah the Tishbite, saying,
18 "Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Sama'ria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession.
19 And you shall say to him, `Thus says the LORD, "Have you killed, and also taken possession?"' And you shall say to him, `Thus says the LORD: "In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood."'"
20 Ahab said to Eli'jah, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" He answered, "I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD.
21 Behold, I will bring evil upon you; I will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel;
22 and I will make your house like the house of Jerobo'am the son of Nebat, and like the house of Ba'asha the son of Ahi'jah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin.
23 And of Jez'ebel the LORD also said, `The dogs shall eat Jez'ebel within the bounds of Jezreel.'
24 Any one belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and any one of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat."
25 (There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jez'ebel his wife incited.
26 He did very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the people of Israel.)
27 And when Ahab heard those words, he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about dejectedly.
28 And the word of the LORD came to Eli'jah the Tishbite, saying,
29 "Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days; but in his son's days I will bring the evil upon his house."

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 51:3-6, 11, 16

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight, so that thou art justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment.
9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance.

Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48

43 "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

St. Romuald

Saint Romuald, who founded the Camaldolese monastic order during the early eleventh century, has his liturgical memorial on June 19.Working within the Western Church’s Benedictine tradition, he revived the primitive monastic practice of hermit life, allowing for greater solitude in a communal setting.Born into an aristocratic family during the middle of the tenth century, Romuald grew up in a luxurious and worldly environment, where he learned little in the way of self-restraint or religious devotion. Yet he also felt an unusual attraction toward the simplicity of monastic life, prompted by the beauty of nature and the experience of solitude .It was not beauty or tranquility, but a shocking tragedy that spurred him to act on this desire. When Romuald was 20 years old, he saw his father Sergius kill one of his relatives in a dispute over some property. Disgusted by the crime he had witnessed, the young man went to the Monastery of St. Apollinaris to do 40 days of penance for his father.These 40 days confirmed Romuald’s monastic calling, as they became the foundation for an entire life of penance. But this would not be lived out at St. Apollinaris, where Romuald’s strict asceticism brought him into conflict with some of the other monks. He left the area near Ravenna and went to Venice, where he became the disciple of the hermit Marinus.Both men went on to encourage the monastic vocation of Peter Urseolus, a Venetian political leader who would later be canonized as a saint. When Peter joined a French Benedictine monastery, Romuald followed him and lived for five years in a nearby hermitage.In the meantime, Romuald’s father Sergius had followed his son’s course, repenting of his sins and becoming a monk himself. Romuald returned to Italy to help his father, after learning that Sergius was struggling in his vocation. Through his son’s guidance, Sergius found the strength to persist in religious life.After guiding his penitent father in the way of salvation, Romuald traveled throughout Italy serving the Church. By 1012 he had helped to establish or reform almost 100 hermitages and monasteries, though these were not connected to one another in the manner of a distinct religious order.The foundations of the Camaldolese order were not laid until 1012 – when a piece of land called the �Camaldoli,� located in the Diocese of Arezzo, was granted to Romuald. It became the site of five hermits’ quarters, and a full monastery soon after. This combination of hermits’ cells and community life, together with other distinctive features, gave this monastery and its later affiliates a distinct identity and charism.Romuald’s approach to the contemplative life, reminiscent of the early Desert Fathers, can be seen in the short piece of writing known as his “Brief Rule.� It reads as follows:“Sit in your cell as in paradise. Put the whole world behind you and forget it. Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish. The path you must follow is in the Psalms – never leave it.�“If you have just come to the monastery, and in spite of your good will you cannot accomplish what you want, take every opportunity you can to sing the Psalms in your heart and to understand them with your mind. And if your mind wanders as you read, do not give up; hurry back and apply your mind to the words once more.�“Realize above all that you are in God’s presence, and stand there with the attitude of one who stands before the emperor. Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like the chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.�St. Romuald of Ravenna died in his monastic cell on June 19, 1027. Pope Gregory XIII canonized him in 1582.

Pope Francis: God works in mysterious ways – trust him

Vatican City, Jun 17, 2018 / 03:14 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Sunday Pope Francis compared the action of grace to the growth of seeds planted in a garden, saying God often works in ways that are both unknown and surprising, but which always bring fruit, and because of this it is important to always trust and never lose faith.

In his June 17 Angelus address, the pope noted that if one looks back at history, it can seem like the world is going “in an opposite direction to the design of the heavenly Father, who wants justice, brotherhood and peace for all of his children.”

Catholics, he said, are invited to live these periods “as seasons of trial, hope and of vigilant waiting for the harvest.”

Pointing to the parable of the seeds in the day's Gospel reading from Mark, Francis explained that both in the past and today, the Kingdom of God “grows in the world in a mysterious and surprising way, awakening the hidden power of the small seed and its victorious vitality.”

“Inside the wounds of personal and social events which at times seem to mark the shipwreck of hope, we must remain confident and in the subdued but powerful action of God,” he said.

Because of this, when moments of darkness and difficulty come along, “we must not break down, but remain anchored to the fidelity of God and to his presence, which always saves...Remember this: God always saves, he's the savior..”

Pope Francis spoke to pilgrims present in St. Peter's Square during his Sunday Angelus address, in which he focused on the two parables Jesus told his disciples in the day's Gospel reading, the first being about a seed which is scattered and grows of its own accord, culminating with the gathering of the harvest.

The second parable is about the mustard seed, which is the smallest seed but which grows to be one of the biggest shrubs.

In the first parable, the message conveyed is that through Jesus' preaching and action,” the Kingdom of God is announced, he made it burst into the field of the world and, like the seed, it grows and develops on its own, with its own strength and according to criteria that are not humanly understandable.”

This growth and sprouting inside history, he said, is not dependent on the work of man, but is “expressed by the power and goodness of God.”

On the parable of the mustard seed, Francis noted how the small seed grows to become one of the biggest plants in the garden, which is “an unpredictable, surprising growth.”

“It's not easy for us to enter into this logic of the unpredictability of God and to accept it in our lives,” he said, explaining that Lord encourages each person to have “an attitude of faith which overcomes our own projects, our calculations, our provisions.”

This is an invitation to open oneself with greater generosity to God's plan on both a personal and community level, Francis said, adding that every community must pay special attention to “the small and the great opportunities for goodness that the Lord offers to us, allowing  us to be involved in his dynamics of love, of welcome, and of mercy toward all.”

The authenticity of the Church's mission, he said, is not measured “by success or the gratification of results, but by going forward with the courage of trust and the humility of abandonment to God.”

“It's the knowledge of being small and weak instruments, which in the hands of God and with his grace can fulfill great works, advancing his Kingdom, which is justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” he said, and prayed that Mary would help Catholics to be attentive to God and to collaborate in helping the Kingdom of God grow “in hearts and in history.”

After leading pilgrims in the traditional Marian prayer, Pope Francis offered prayers for Yemen, as fighting continues to escalate near the port city of Hudaydah. If the port closes, desperately needed food and other aid would be cut off from thousands of people who already face starvation in the country, increasing the already dire humanitarian situation.

Francis appealed to the international community on behalf of Yemen, asking that they bring conscience “to the table of discussions in order to avoid a worsening of the already tragic humanitarian situation.” He then led pilgrims in praying a Hail Mary.

He then kicked off the “Global Action Week,” which is part of the Share the Journey initiative of the papal charity organization Caritas International, urging governments to adopt the global U.N. compacts on migrants and refugees in order to “reach an agreement to ensure the assistance and protection of whoever is forced to leave their own home.”

Pope says abortion of sick, disabled children reflects Nazi mentality

Vatican City, Jun 16, 2018 / 08:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a speech to a family association Saturday, Pope Francis again stressed that God's vision of the family is between a man and a woman, and compared the abortion of children who are sick or disabled to a Nazi mentality.

“I've heard that it's fashionable, or at least usual, that when in the first few months of pregnancy they do studies to see if the child is healthy or has something, the first offer is: let's send it away,” the pope said June 16, referring to the trend of aborting sick or disabled children.

This, he said, is “the murder of children...to get a peaceful life an innocent [person] is sent away...We do the same as the Nazis to maintain the purity of the race, but with white gloves.”

“It's an atrocity but we do the same thing,” he said, according to Italian media.

Pope Francis spoke to members of the Forum of Family Associations, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

His words on abortion come just days after his home country of Argentina voted June 14 in favor of a bill that would legalize abortion as early as the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. The comments also come just over a month ahead of his Aug. 25-26 trip to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families, which will feature Jesuit Fr. James Martin as a keynote speaker on how to be welcoming to the LGBT community.

During his speech, Francis tossed his prepared remarks, telling participants that a prepared text “seems a bit cold,” according to Italian newspaper La Stampa.

The pope, the paper reported, said it is “painful” to think that society would accept the killing of children simply because they are sick or disabled, but this is the current mentality.

On the family, he noted that in modern society “one speaks of different types of family,” defining the term in different ways.

“Yes, it's true that family is an analogous word, yes one can also say 'the family of stars,' 'the family of trees,' 'the family of animals,'” he said, but stressed that “the family in the image of God is only one, that of man and woman...marriage is a wonderful sacrament.”

Turning to his 2016 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis said that some have reduced the document to “you can, you can't,” referring to the debate surrounding access to the sacraments for the divorced and remarried in the document's eighth chapter.

“They have understood nothing,” he said, explaining that his exhortation “does not hide problems,” but goes beyond mere case studies. To understand the text, he said, one must read chapter four on the spirituality of everyday life, which he said is the “is the core” of the document.

Francis then pointed to the emphasis placed on marriage preparation in Amoris Laetitia, saying the family “is a beautiful adventure and today, I say it with pain, we see that many times we think of starting a family, getting married, as if it were a lottery. We go and if it works, it works, if not we end it and start again.”

What is needed, he said, is “a catechumenate for marriage...men and women are needed who help young people to mature.”

And this begins with small things, such as marriage preparation, he said, adding that “it's important to love each other and receive the sacrament, and then have the party you want.” However, it is never acceptable for “the second to take the place of the most important.”
 
He also spoke about the importance of educating one's children, but noted that this is not easy for parents, especially in a virtual world, which “they know better than us.”

The pope also pointed to the increasing difficulty for families to spend time with their children, especially in times of social and economic crisis.

“To earn money today one has to have two jobs, the family is not considered,” he said, and encouraged parents to take up this “cross” and the excessive hours of work, while also spending time playing with their children.

“Children are the greatest gift,” he said, even when they are sick. Children, he said, must be “received as they come, as God sends them.”

However, alluding to the growing trend to be “childless by choice,” Francis noted that there are people who simply don't want children, and pointed to a couple who did not want to have kids, but who instead had three dogs and two cats.

Francis closed his speech talking about the need for patience in married life, saying “there are life situations of strong crisis, terrible, and even times of infidelity come.”

“There are many women – but also at times men  – who in silence wait, looking the other way, waiting for their husband to return to being faithful.” This, he said, is “the holiness that forgives because it loves.”

Pope Francis says exploiting women is a 'sin against God'

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2018 / 07:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In his daily homily Friday, Pope Francis issued a scathing critique of the ways in which women are often exploited and mistreated - whether it be through a revealing television ad, or when getting a job is contingent on sexual favors.

He said there is a tendency in many environments to view women as “second class” or as an object of “waste,” and called the ways in which women are at times abused and enslaved “sins against God.”

The pope offered his June 15 daily Mass at the Vatican's Santa Marta residence as a prayer “for the women who are discarded, for the women who are used, for the girls who have to sell their own dignity to have a job.”

He took his cue from the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, in which Jesus said: “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” and “whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery.”

Women, he said, are “what is missing in every man in order to be the image and likeness of God.”

The “doctrine on women” introduced by Jesus in the Gospel, he said, “changed history,” because up to that moment, the woman was “second class...she couldn't even enjoy full freedom.”

“The woman before Jesus is one thing, the woman after Jesus is another. Jesus dignified woman and put her on the same level as man,” Francis said, stressing that “both are 'the image and likeness of God,' both; not men first and then women a bit lower, no, both.”

“And man without woman beside him – as a mother, sister, wife, colleague, friend – that man is not the image of God.”

In the Gospel a certain “desire” for women was alluded to, the pope said, explaining that this desire is not a bygone sentiment, but is something seen in everywhere in daily activities.

“In television programs, in magazines, in newspapers, they show the woman as an object of desire, of use,” he said, comparing the publications to a “supermarket.” In order to sell a certain type of tomato, he said, using food as an example, women become an object, and are “humiliated, without clothes.”

And the problem is not distant, but it happens “where we live.” It's enough to go to an office or a business and one will see that a woman is “the object of that disposable philosophy,” as if she were “waste material” and not a real person.

“This is a sin against God the creator,” the pope said, because “without her we men cannot be the image and likeness of God.”

Francis said there is currently “a fury against women, a terrible fury, even without saying it.”

“How many girls, in order to have a job, have to sell themselves as a disposable object? How many?” he asked, noting that this is not just a problem in faraway countries, but it happens “here in Rome.”

If one were to do a “night walk” in certain areas of Rome, he said, they would see that “many women, many migrants, and many non-migrants” are exploited as if they were in a marketplace. Men approach these women, he said, “not to say 'good evening,' but 'how much do you cost?'”

Pope Francis said it would do everyone good to look at these women and think about the fact that they are “slaves of this mindset of waste.”

“Everything happens here, in Rome, it happens in every city; anonymous women, women, we can say, without an expression because the shame covers her gaze, women who do not know how to laugh” and who often do not know the joy of being mothers, he said.

But even without going to these areas, in normal daily situations “there is this awful mentality” of viewing women as “a second class object.”

“We have to reflect better,” Francis said, because entertaining this mindset toward women means “we despise the image of God, who made man and woman together in his image and likeness.”

The pope closed his homily voicing hope that the day's Gospel passage would help Catholics to think more about “the market of women; yes, trafficking, exploitation, which we see,” but even in “the unseen market, what is done and not seen. The woman is trampled because she is a woman.”

He reminded Mass-goers that Jesus himself had a mother, and had “many women friends who followed him to help him in his ministry.” Jesus also found many women who were “despised, marginalized and discarded,” however, he raised them up with “tenderness,” and restored their dignity.

Pope: Migrants should be protected, especially children and families

Vatican City, Jun 15, 2018 / 12:46 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In a message to a gathering of Mexican politicians and diplomats from the Holy See, Pope Francis said the fundamental rights and dignity of migrants must be protected, and “particular concern must be shown for migrant children and their families.”

In his June 14 message to the symposium, the pope said migration is not about numbers, but people, and “these persons, our brothers and sisters, need ongoing protection, independently of whatever migrant status they may have.”

He also urged greater protection for victims of human trafficking rings, and those who have been displaced due to conflicts, natural disasters and persecution.

“All of them hope that we will have the courage to tear down the wall of comfortable and silent complicity that worsens their helplessness,” he said, adding that “they are waiting for us to show them concern, compassion and devotion.”

Pope Francis' message was sent to participants in a June 14 symposium titled “II Holy See-Mexico Colloquium on international migration,” which was organized by the Vatican Secretariat of State's section for Relations with the States and the Mexican embassy to the Holy See.

The Pontifical Academy for the Sciences hosted the discussion, which was also supported by the migrants and refugees section of the Vatican dicastery for Integral Human Development.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin opened the discussion with a keynote speech in the morning. Other speakers included Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states; Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luis Videgaray Caso; former Mexican ambassador to Italy and current Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Miguel Ruiz Cabañas Izquierdo; and current Mexican ambassador to the Holy See, Jaime del Arenal Fenochio.

Speakers highlighted the need to respect the right of people both to migrate and to stay in their own country, and to increase protection for immigrants at every stage of their journey. They also spoke of the need to identify and eliminate the root causes of forced migration, and urged nations to comply with the UN global compacts on migrants and refugees.

In his speech at the colloquium, Videgaray said both “dialogue and reflection” are needed in order to adequately respond to the migration issue, and he stressed the importance of keeping “the rights of migrants at the center of any political discussion.”

He noted a growth of nationalist sentiments in many countries, saying that a certain level of “anxiety and fear” is normal. However, “what is not advisable is that [there is] a new phenomenon which wants to label migrants as the origin of the problem,” he said, noting that many times there are social and cultural issues that prompt people to migrate in the first place.

“Migration is part of who we are,” Videgaray said, noting that Mexico itself receives many immigrants from Central America who either stay, or are in transit to the United States in order to avoid poverty and violence.

Videgaray urged greater protections for migrants at every stage of their journey. In this sense, Mexico's relationship with the United States “is increasingly more important,” he said, adding that Mexico is worried about increasing “anti-immigrant sentiments from Washington.”

“We are open to dialogue with North American authorities,” Videgaray said. Yet while Mexico respects the decision of each nation to determine their own policies, he said the government is concerned about the growing number of families who have been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border, with children being taken from their parents.

In May the Trump administration rolled out a new “zero tolerance” policy on immigration which, among other things, has enforced the separation of migrant children from their parents who have been detained by border officials.

With the new crackdown, the number of unaccompanied minors at the border has jumped 20 percent, with an estimated 10,000 migrant children being held in more than 100 shelters, most of which are at near full capacity, according to a McClatchyDC report. The Trump administration is reportedly considering the construction of a “tent city” in Texas to hold immigrant children.

Late last year, the Trump administration announced that the U.S. was pulling out of the UN global compact on migration.

Pope Francis in his message stressed the importance of the compacts, which he said promote the fundamental values of “justice, solidarity and compassion.”

“In order to acknowledge and respond to the current migration situation, the assistance of the entire international community is needed, since its transnational dimension exceeds the capacities and resources of many States,” he said.

However, “this demands a change in mindset: we must move from considering others as threats to our comfort to valuing them as persons whose life experience and values can contribute greatly to the enrichment of our society.”

In comments to journalists, Cardinal Parolin echoed the sentiment, saying the general mentality on migration is “pitifully not the most positive.” Because of this, he stressed the need to change “the image of migration.”

This is the ultimate goal of the UN compacts, he said, adding that Trump's decision to pull out of the migration compact is “not good, because we have constantly repeated that the whole world has to participate in this.”

“It's a global phenomenon which needs the contribution of everyone, no one can [hold] back.”

Parolin's comments come as Italy is currently under fire for refusing to allow a boat carrying more than 600 migrants to dock, drawing international outcry. The boat, called The Aquarius, had rescued migrants from the Mediterranean Sea and been on its way to Sicily when new Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini blocked the ship's arrival.

The decision prompted a standoff between Italy and Malta as to who would take the passengers, with Spain eventually stepping in and allowing the boat to dock.

In comments to journalists, Parolin noted that the issue is complicated. He voiced confidence that Italy's “humanitarian sensitivity has not decreased,” but said, “I think that it’s important that there is a common response to this problem so that Italy is not left alone to face the problem of migration.”

He added that the Church is concerned about the increasing number of children who are separated from their parents. “Everything that signifies violations of the rights of people and of families are shared concerns with the Holy See,” he said, noting that the Church’s role is to advocate through dialogue in order to find workable solutions.

 

Stolen copy of 1493 Columbus letter returns to the Vatican

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2018 / 10:27 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After spending more than a decade in a private collection in Atlanta, a copy of a 1493 letter written by Christopher Columbus about his experience in America has been returned to its rightful place in the Vatican library.

Columbus penned the letter to Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1493 after returning from his voyage to America, describing what he saw during his travels.

The “Columbus Letter,” unofficially titled “Letter about the Recently Discovered Islands,” was then translated and manually printed into Latin, and several copies were distributed throughout Europe. Around 80 authentic copies still exist today.

U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See, @CallyGingrich, returned this morning a recovered copy of a letter written by Christopher Columbus to its rightful home at the Vatican Library. @USinHolySee #ColumbusLetter pic.twitter.com/iQKAHND4Kg

— Vatican Library (@vaticanlibrary) June 14, 2018 One of the oldest copies of the 8-page letter, written in small, fine print, was given to the Vatican in 1921 as part of the “De Rossi Collection,” which consisted of rare books and manuscripts given to the Vatican at the request of bibliophile Giovanni Francesco Rossi upon his death in 1854.

At some point, though it is not known exactly when, the letter was stolen. It was not until 2011 that a rare book and manuscript expert became aware that the copy in the Vatican Library collection was a forgery after closely examining details in the stitching, chain lines and page size.

The expert then contacted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Homeland Security Investigations about the possible theft.

Vatican officials were informed, and the forged letter was examined by more experts, including specialists from Princeton University, who confirmed that the letter was a fake.

The original copy of the Vatican's letter was eventually traced back to David Parsons, an actuary from Atlanta, who had purchased it for $875,000 from a rare book dealer in New York City in 2004, unaware that it had been stolen from the Vatican.

In 2013 Parsons sent his letter to the expert who originally caught the forgery, and after closely examining it, the expert found it to be authentic.

It was confirmed in 2016 that the “Columbus Letter” Parsons owned had been sold to the New York book dealer he bought it from by notorious Italian book thief, Marino Massimo De Caro, who is currently serving a 7-year sentence in Italy for the theft of roughly 4,000 ancient books and manuscripts throughout Italy.

After further comparative analysis was done on both the original letter and the forgery, it was confirmed in April 2017 that Parsons' letter had in fact been stolen from the Vatican Library, and that the theft had to have taken place sometime before 2004.

In August of that year, investigators contacted David Parsons' widow, Mary Parsons, and presented her with evidence of the theft and forgery. She agreed to part with the letter, renouncing all rights, title and interest, so that it could be returned to its original home in the Vatican Library.

The letter formally exchanged hands June 14, when U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich presented it to Vatican Archivist and Librarian, Archbishop Jean-Louis Bruguès, O.P. and the Library’s Prefect, Bishop Cesare Pasini, inside the Vatican Library.

During the hand-off, Gingrich called the letter “a priceless piece of cultural history,” and said she was honored to return the letter to “its rightful owner.”

She noted that U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents since 2007 have returned more than 11,000 artifacts and pieces of art from over 30 countries as part of an ongoing investigation into the illegal sale of stolen books and manuscripts.

To date, Gingrich said, HSI has repatriated both paintings and manuscripts to Austria, Italy, France, Germany and Poland, among others, and have recovered ancient artifacts from different regions, including Europe, South America, Asia and the Middle East.

In addition to the letter recovered from Parsons, HSI has recovered and returned two other Columbus Letters as part of their ongoing investigation into the sale of stolen books and manuscripts. The two additional Columbus Letters that were confiscated have been returned to the Riccardiana Library in Florence, and the Library of Catalonia in Barcelona.

As a gesture of gratitude to Mrs. Parsons for agreeing to part with her late husband's treasured “Columbus Letter,” the U.S. Embassy earlier this week hand-delivered a personal note from Mrs. Parsons to the pope.

In remarks during the repatriation ceremony, Archbishop Bruguès voiced gratitude to all involved in recovering the letter, which he said is “a priceless artifact of cultural history which today has found its way back to its home.”

He said the library was “surprised” to find out their copy was a fake, and noted that while it is still unknown when the original letter was taken, the technique used in the forgery, called “stereotyping,” was a common during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and reproduces not only the visual characteristics of the original, but also the tactile characteristics.

“We are extremely grateful to be able to reinsert this volume in its rightful place in De Rossi's collection,” he said, adding that the letter “will remain at the disposal of researchers who come from around the world to study the collections of the Vatican Library.”

Ambassador @CallyGingrich was truly honored to repatriate the #ColumbusLetter to the @vaticanlibrary, a priceless piece of cultural history.

Read more about the Columbus Letter in Ambassador Gingrich's remarks here: https://t.co/ktHm9lnXBS pic.twitter.com/BuzPrfXVri

— U.S. in Holy See (@USinHolySee) June 14, 2018