Vatican News

God conquers evil with love, forgiveness of sins, pope says at Angelus

By Carol Glatz Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis waves as he leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 15, 2019. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See POPE-ANGELUS-PARABLES Sept. 16, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- God forgives sins so that joy, not sadness, can flourish once again in one's heart, Pope Francis said.

"How do you conquer evil? By welcoming God's forgiveness and the forgiveness of one's brothers and sisters," the pope said Sept. 15 during his Sunday Angelus address.

With confession, God forgives and takes away the sin, "making us new inside and that way he makes reborn joy, not sadness, not darkness in the heart, not suspicion, but joy," he said.

In his address, the pope focused on the Sunday Gospel reading in which Jesus responds to those who criticized his choosing to welcome and eat with sinners.

The pope said Jesus responds with three "stupendous" parables, which everyone should read in the Gospel of St. Luke, chapter 15, to be reminded of the beauty of God's love for everyone, but especially for those who do not know him or are unable to open their hearts to him.

In the three parables -- the one lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son -- God shows that no matter what, "you have a place" in God's heart and are precious in his eyes, he said.

He will always wait for his sinning children to return home and will welcome and love them like the lost sheep, the pope said.

"Do not be afraid, God loves you, he loves you as you are and he knows that only his love can change your life," he said.

However, people might still refuse God's infinite love for them, the pope said. This can happen when someone, like the prodigal son's brother, feels righteous and believes that evil is found in others, not oneself.

"Let us not believe we are good, because alone, without the help of God, who is good, we do not know how to overcome evil," he said.

Sometimes people may mistakenly think God is more a master than a father, a God who is more strict and rigid than merciful, a God who conquers evil with force rather than with forgiveness, he said.

"That's not the way it is. God saves with love, not force, offering himself, not imposing himself," said Pope Francis.

The pope asked everyone to have courage and understand that, "with God, no sin will have the last word."

Pope urges Eastern Catholic bishops to promote ecumenism

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis greets bishops from Eastern Catholic churches during a meeting at the Vatican Sept. 14, 2019. Meeting some 40 bishops serving in Europe, the pope praised them for their fidelity to Rome and encouraged them to be more active in seeking Christian unity. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See POPE-EASTERN-CATHOLICS Sept. 16, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Praising the fidelity of Eastern Catholics, Pope Francis also urged them to be more active in the search for Christian unity, especially unity with their Orthodox counterparts.

In heaven, he said, "the Lord will not seek an account of which or how many territories remained under our jurisdiction. He will not ask how we contributed to the development of our national identities. Instead, he will ask how much we loved our neighbor, every neighbor, and how well we were able to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to those we met along the road of life."

The pope met Sept. 14 with about 40 bishops in Europe from Eastern Catholic churches; they included bishops from the Eastern-rite Ukrainian, Romanian, Greek and Slovak churches, but also those who minister to migrant communities from outside of Europe, including the Coptic, Chaldean and Syriac Catholic Churches from the Middle East and the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches of India.

The multiple expressions of Catholic liturgy, spirituality and governance are a sign of the Catholic Church's true unity, Pope Francis said. "Uniformity is the destruction of unity; Christian truth is not monotonous, but 'symphonic,' otherwise it would not come from the Holy Spirit."

Preserving their Eastern identity while holding fast to their unity with Rome came at the price of martyrdom for many of the Eastern Catholic churches, the pope acknowledged. "This fidelity is a precious gem in your treasury of faith, a distinctive and indelible sign."

Unity with the wider Catholic Church, he said, does not detract from the identity of the Eastern churches but "contributes to its full realization, for example, by protecting it from the temptation of closing in on itself and falling into national or ethnic particularisms that exclude others."

While the Eastern churches have national roots and cultures, and in many cases have contributed to preserving local languages and identity, the churches are called to proclaim the Gospel, not a national identity, he said.

"This is a danger of the present time in our civilization," the pope said, because one can see "particularisms that become populisms and seek to dictate and make everything uniform."

At the same time, he said, the witness of the saints and martyrs of the Eastern Catholic churches calls Eastern Catholics today to purify their "ecclesial memory" -- for example, the memory of knowing the Orthodox did not experience the same level of persecution under communism -- "and to aspire to ever greater unity with all who believe in Christ."

In a world where so many people sow division, he said, Catholics are "called to be artisans of dialogue, promoters of reconciliation and patient builders of a civilization of encounter that can preserve our times from the incivility of conflict."

"The way shown to us from on high is made up of prayer, humility and love, not of regional or even traditionalist claims; no. The way is prayer, humility and love," the pope said.

As churches that share a spirituality, liturgy and theology with the Orthodox churches, he said, the Eastern Catholic churches have a special role to play in promoting Christian unity.

Pope Francis encouraged shared academic programs, especially for priests "so that they can be trained to have an open mind."

But it is especially in concrete service to others that Catholics and Orthodox should join together, he said. "Love knows no canonical or jurisdictional boundaries. It pains me to see, even among Catholics, squabbles about jurisdictions."


Peace comes with prayer, opening doors, not building walls, pope says

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- People's prayers, like the trumpets before the ramparts of ancient Jericho, can bring down the walls that separate people and fuel distrust, making war more likely, Pope Francis said.

Remembering how the Berlin Wall came down 30 years ago, Pope Francis said he is certain that a contributing factor was "the prayer for peace of many sons and daughters of God."

The pope made his remarks in a message read at the Sept. 15 opening of the annual interreligious peace meeting sponsored by the Rome-based Community of Sant'Egidio. This year's meeting was in Madrid; the event has taken place every year since St. John Paul II held an interreligious peace meeting in Assisi, Italy, in 1986.

"The biblical story of Jericho," Pope Francis said, "reminds us that walls fall when they are stormed with prayer and not weapons, with the yearning for peace and not for conquest, when people dream of a good future for everyone."

Pray and dialogue for peace, Pope Francis told the Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and other religious leaders taking part in the meeting. "Do not be afraid because the Lord listens to the prayer of his faithful people."

Prayers for peace "unite us all in a common sentiment without any confusion," the pope told the religious leaders. The different religions are praying alongside each other, but not trying to pretend they have no differences, "because what is common is the yearning for peace within the variety of religious experiences and traditions."

In the past two decades "with enormous sadness, we unfortunately have seen the wasting of that gift of God which is peace," the pope said. It has been "squandered with new wars and with the construction of new walls and new barriers."

Separation, divisions and hostility to migrants and to many labeled "others" fracture humanity, he said, while the "same violence" is also used to destroy the environment.

The world does not need more walls to separate people, he said. Rather, it needs "open doors that help us to communicate, to meet one another, to cooperate in order to live together in peace, respecting diversity and weaving bonds of responsibility."

Echoing the meeting's motto, "Peace with no borders," Pope Francis said, "Peace is without borders. Always. Without exception. It is what St. John XXIII wished when -- at a difficult time -- he addressed his words to all believers and all people of goodwill, invoking 'peace in every land,'" in his 1963 encyclical, "Pacem in Terris," issued not long after the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.


Remember your politicians in prayer, pope says

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis celebrates Mass Sept. 16, 2019, in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives. After a summer break, the Mass marked the resumption of the pope inviting a small group of priests and faithful to join him for the liturgy. In his homily, Pope Francis urged Catholics to take seriously the call to pray for politicians, government leaders and all those in authority. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See POPE-MASS-PRAY-POLITICIANS Sept. 16, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pray for politicians, government officials and anyone in a position of authority, including priests and bishops, Pope Francis urged as he ended his summer schedule and resumed his celebration of morning Mass with a small congregation.

Wearing red vestments for the Sept. 16 feast of the martyred Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian, the pope said that, today, it seems that everyone is much more willing to insult leaders, inside and outside the church, rather than pray for them.

"Some deserve it," Pope Francis said of the insults. But the beginning of 1 Timothy 2 urges people to pray "for everyone, for kings and for all in authority."

Instead, politicians and government officials today seem to be offered a "rosary of insults and swear words," he said.

But a real Christian who had the good of his or her community, region and nation at heart would not leave that person alone "without asking God to bless" him or her, the pope said during Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

"Who of us has prayed for our leaders? Who of us has prayed for our parliamentarians that they can find agreement and move the country forward?" the pope asked. "It seems that a patriotic spirit doesn't get to the point of prayer; yes, it reaches demeaning them, hatred, fights and it ends there."

Some may not like their leaders' politics, thinking they are "too communist" or "corrupt," the pope said, but writing to Timothy, St. Paul does not enter that discussion, he simply says to pray for them.

Pope Francis said he thought it would be a wonderful thing if politicians and leaders prayed for the people they govern and people prayed for their leaders.

Life without parole is not a solution to crime, pope says

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis greets band members during an audience with members of the Italian Prison Police in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 14, 2019. The pope told prison guards, chaplains and officials that life sentences in prison without the possibility of parole are not the solution but a problem to be solved. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) See POPE-PRISONS Sept. 16, 2019.

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sentencing someone to life in prison without the possibility of parole is "not the solution to problems, but a problem to solve," Pope Francis told Italian prison guards, prison chaplains and officials from the Ministry of Justice.

"If you close hope in a cell, there is no future for society," the pope told thousands of guards, chaplains, volunteers and their family members Sept. 14 during an audience in St. Peter's Square.

Among those present were two detainees who are serving life sentences, but are engaged in a formal process of recognizing the gravity of their crimes, making amends as far as possible and preparing to apply for parole.

While protecting its citizens, the pope said, every society also must seek ways to rehabilitate those who have committed crimes and find ways to help them make positive contributions to society.

Making someone pay for the "errors of the past" cannot mean "canceling their hope for a future," he said. In fact, everyone has "the right to hope."

Saying he wanted to address all inmates, Pope Francis said he had one word for them: "courage."

Have courage "because you are in God's heart, you are precious in his eyes and, even if you feel lost and unworthy, don't lose heart," the pope said. "You who are detainees are important to God who wants to accomplish marvels in you."

Even behind bars, he said, "never let yourselves be imprisoned in the dark cell of a heart without hope; don't give in to resignation. God is bigger than every problem and he is waiting for you in order to love you."

"Put yourselves before the crucifix, under the gaze of Jesus, before him with simplicity and sincerity," the pope told prisoners. "There, with the humble courage of one who doesn't lie to him- or herself, peace will be reborn, and trust in being loved and the strength to go on will flourish."

Pope Francis was not speaking only figuratively. During the audience, he blessed the "cross of mercy" made by detainees in the Paliano prison, which the pope visited in 2017. The tall crucifix is decorated with "biblical scenes of liberation, ransom and redemption" and will be taken on pilgrimage to prisons throughout Italy.

Speaking to prison police, prison guards and prison staff, Pope Francis publicly thanked them for their work, which is often hidden and poorly paid.

"I know that it isn't easy," the pope said, "but when, in addition to watching over security, you are a presence close to those who have fallen into the web of evil, you become builders of the future, you lay the foundations for a coexistence that is more respectful and, therefore, for a society that is safer."

If a prison sentence has the ultimate aim of preparing detainees to return to society and contribute to their community as upstanding citizens, Pope Francis said, then the guards who spend the most time with them must be models of treating others with dignity and respect.

"I thank you for not only being vigilant, but especially for safeguarding the people entrusted to you so that in recognizing the wrong they did, they will accept avenues of rebirth for the good of all," the pope told the guards.

"You are called to be bridges between the prison and civil society," he told the guards. By "exercising a correct compassion, you can overcome the mutual fears and the drama of indifference" that separate the inmates and wider society.


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