Vatican News

Papal vision of universal kinship is based on faith, cardinal says

Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, speaks at a news conference for the release of Pope Francis' encyclical, "Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship," at the Vatican in this Oct. 4, 2020, file photo. In recent comments, Cardinal Ayuso said the shocking thing about Pope Francis' encyclical "Fratelli Tutti" was not his assertion that all people are brothers and sisters, but the reaction of people who thought that was news. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

ROME (CNS) -- The surprising thing about Pope Francis' encyclical on human fraternity was not its affirmation that all people are brothers and sisters, but the reaction of people who found it hard to believe a pope would say that, said Cardinal Miguel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

"If the world is finding out just now that we are brothers and sisters, we are in trouble! Something is wrong. In the situation of confusion, fear and emptiness we are plunged in, we must go back to the roots of our own faith," the cardinal said in his keynote address to a conference in Rome.

Sponsored by the Jesuit journal, La Civiltà Cattolica, and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, the conference Nov. 8-9 marked the first anniversary of the pope's encyclical, "Fratelli Tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship," and was designed to explore "the implications of a culture of encounter for the future of intercultural and interreligious dialogue."

In his encyclical, "Pope Francis has simply reiterated and reminded us once again of a truth as old as the world which is at the root of our faith: We are all brothers and sisters," the cardinal wrote in his text for the event.

That truth, he said, obviously applies to "our brothers and sisters of other religious traditions, not only as objects of our love, but as companions with whom we take the first steps away from the walls built out of fear and ignorance."

"Together we can try to build bridges of friendship that are fundamental for the good of all humanity," the cardinal said. "Fraternity, insofar as it comes from above, from the one God, is universal and generates brothers and sisters rather than partners. Therefore, fraternity tends to erase the natural and historical borders separating individuals and peoples."

The obligation of love and kinship that all believers in God should feel must be translated into solidarity, he said. "Fraternity is the most effective stance against our 'throwaway culture,' which crushes and rejects the poor, causing them to die of hunger and injustice."

Interreligious dialogue has an obvious role to play, Cardinal Ayuso said. "In today's world, where God is tragically forgotten or his name is abused, people belonging to different religions are called in solidarity to defend and promote peace and justice, human dignity and environmental protection. We must offer our collaboration to the societies where we live and share with all our common values and deepest beliefs concerning the sacred and inviolable character of life and of the human person."

Sultan Al Remeithi, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Elders, which is based in Abu Dhabi, told the conference that the Muslim values of "acquaintance" and "righteous and pious cooperation" fit in with the pope's vision and can promote "understandings that bypass ignorance (and) division and transform physical meetings such as this into opportunities to open doors of cultural acquaintance between us."

"There is no doubt that successive world events and crises have emphasized our desperate need for human fraternity," he said.

John Borelli, Georgetown's special assistant to the president for Catholic identity and dialogue, noted at the conference that "Fratelli Tutti" is "the first major papal document, the first encyclical or apostolic letter after the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council arising primarily from interreligious experiences" -- the pope's meeting in Abu Dhabi in 2019 with Egyptian Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of Al-Azhar, and their signing of a document on human fraternity and interreligious dialogue.

"'Fratelli Tutti,' issued nearly 55 years after the close of Vatican II, gives us in encyclical format a confirmation of Vatican II's teachings on interreligious dialogue, a re-confirmation of the de facto religious pluralism that is acknowledged in the document 'Nostra Aetate' of the council, and a pivot, a re-direction and a new focus for the effectiveness and strength of interreligious experience for our shared planet and human journey," Borelli said.

Archbishop says closer Vatican-Russia ties could benefit the world

By  Catholic News Service

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov enters a hall with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, during their meeting in Moscow Nov. 9, 2021. (CNS photo/Yuri Kochetkov, pool via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- During his first visit to Russia, the Vatican foreign minister said relations between the two "have been steadily strengthened," but added that greater cooperation could benefit the global community.

Archbishop Paul R. Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, visited Moscow Nov. 8-10, meeting both Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

During a news conference Nov. 9 with Lavrov, Archbishop Gallagher mentioned a 2019 meeting at the Vatican with Russian officials to discuss nuclear disarmament. Then he said his meeting with the Russian officials in November was an opportunity to discuss "the many bilateral topics and international issues of mutual concern for the Holy See and the Russian Federation," recognizing both accomplishments and "steps that can be taken to give a positive response to the many problems that the world is experiencing today."

"Given the Holy See's ongoing concern for conflict situations and its commitment to peace and support for populations in need, I assured the foreign minister of the Holy See's readiness to support any peace initiatives," the archbishop said. "The Russian Federation has the capacity to alleviate tensions in conflict situations so that the people who are victims may live in safety and exercise their fundamental human rights."

Responding to a question, Archbishop Gallagher said that, regarding Syria, the Vatican sees as "vital" the U.N.-mediated discussions to draft a new constitution for the country. "We hope that all parties to that will cooperate so that they can be successful and that, ultimately, there will be a political solution" to bring peace after more than 10 years of war and allow refugees, including many Christians to return home.

Asked about the crisis involving migrants, mainly from the Middle East and Asia, trying to cross from Belarus into Poland and Lithuania, Lavrov told reporters the European Union should have a uniform policy for handling migration flows. He noted that the EU provides financial assistance to Turkey in exchange for the country preventing migrants and refugees from crossing to Greece, "so why not give this assistance to Belarus so people stay there and do not want to cross into the European Union?"

The European Union, NATO and the United States have said Alexander Lukashenko, the embattled leader of Belarus, is pushing the migrants and refugees to the border to provoke a crisis in revenge for sanctions leveled against his government by the European Union after a harsh crackdown on protesters in 2020. Russia is one of Belarus' few allies.

Regarding "the immediate crisis that is taking place on the borders between Belarus, Lithuania and Poland," Archbishop Gallagher said the Holy See's position is consistent with what it says whenever such a crisis arises: Nations must "assume their responsibilities with regard to migrants and to refugees."

With those trying to cross out of Belarus, he said, nations must respond to "what is obviously a very serious humanitarian crisis. On the church's part, we know that in Poland, for example, the church has been critical of the approach by the authorities and has been trying to encourage a more humanitarian and a more flexible approach."

Criticizing the "pushback" of the refugees by Polish military, he said the Polish church is urging people to see the migrants and refugees not as numbers but "as people, just like the rest of us, who find themselves in a very serious position."

Pope's World Day of the Poor includes listening, helping

By  Catholic News Service

Pope Francis greets people during a meeting with the poor in the archbishop's residence in Assisi, Italy, in this Oct. 4, 2013, file photo. The pope will travel to Assisi Nov. 12 for a time of listening and prayer with 500 poor people from several countries. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis plans to prepare for his celebration of the World Day of the Poor by meeting with and listening to some 500 poor people making a pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy, Nov. 12.

Two days later, on the World Day of the Poor, the pope will celebrate a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica with about 2,000 poor people and those who assist them, the Vatican said. Everyone will be offered a hot meal after Mass.

The Assisi pilgrims, assisted by a French and several Italian Catholic charitable organizations, will go home from Assisi with new backpacks containing winter sweaters, scarves, hats and jackets as well as fabric anti COVID-19 masks.

The Vatican said Nov. 8 the gifts will be packaged by the +Three project, "which promotes products made in respect of environmental and economic sustainability within an ethical and socially useful supply chain."

The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, which promotes and organizes the World Day of the Poor, said Pope Francis will pay particular attention this year to 40 groups homes that care for children or children and their mothers, delivering a two-month supply of personal care products and food, especially baby food.

With donations from a grocery store chain and a pasta manufacturer, it said, the group homes and local parishes and charities will share five tons of pasta, one ton of rice, two tons of tomato puree, 1,000 liters of oil and 3,000 liters of milk.

The Vatican also has prepared 5,000 kits filled with common over-the-counter medications for distribution to the poor through Rome parishes, the council said. And an Italian financial services company has made a donation that will allow the office of the papal almoner to help 500 families pay their gas and utility bills, the council said.

Pope: True faith known by sincerity of heart, not hypocrisy of appearances 

By Junno Arocho Esteves Catholic News Service

Pope Francis leads the Angelus from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov. 8, 2021. (CNS photo/Vatican Media) 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Christians must strive for a sincere faith that seeks to serve others rather than to exploit the weakest for personal gain, Pope Francis said.

Addressing pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square Nov. 7 for his Sunday Angelus address, the pope warned the faithful to be on guard "against hypocrisy, which is a dangerous illness of the soul."

"This is a warning for all time and for everyone, church and society: to never take advantage of a specific role to crush others, never to make money off the backs of the weakest!" he exclaimed.

After praying the Angelus prayer, the pope expressed concerns over increasing violence in Ethiopia amid reports that Tigray Defense Force rebels were approaching the outskirts of the country's capital, Addis Ababa.

The conflict, which began in Tigray Nov. 4, 2020, has killed thousands and displaced more than 1 million people, as it destroyed villages and towns.

"I invite everyone to pray for these people so sorely tried and I renew my appeal that fraternal harmony and the peaceful path of dialogue may prevail," the pope said.

The pope also prayed for victims of a deadly tanker explosion in Freetown, Sierra Leone, Nov. 5 that claimed the lives of over 100 people.

In his main talk, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel reading in which Jesus warns a crowd listening to him to be weary of those who seek "seats of honor in synagogues and places of honor at banquets."

Jesus's warning to "watch out for hypocrites" means being on guard from basing "our lives on the cult of appearances, externals, and the exaggerated care of one's own image," he said.

Departing from his prepared remarks, the pope said that this "ugly attitude" can be seen today, even in the church, when some place themselves "above the humble, exploiting them, thrashing them, (while) feeling perfect."

"This is the evil of clericalism," he said.

In the Gospel, the pope continued, Jesus also said that the actions of a poor widow who gave all that she had to the temple treasury serves as a warning about exploiting those less fortunate, especially within the church.

"How important it is to free the sacred from ties with money," the pope said.

The poor woman, he added, is a "teacher of faith" because "she does not go to the temple to clear her conscience, she does not pray to make herself seen, she does not show off her faith, but she gives from her heart generously and freely."

"Let us learn from her," Pope Francis said. "A faith without external frills, but interiorly sincere; a faith composed of humble love for God and for our brothers and sisters."

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