Pope Francis this morning lived out this Jubilee of Mercy he has proclaimed for the Church, crossing a holy door at the Shrine of John Paul II in Krakow, hearing the confessions of a handful of young people, and celebrating Mass for Polish priests and religious, encouraging them to “draw life from [God’s] forgiveness in order to pour it out with compassion on our brothers and sisters.” The Pope this evening will celebrate the prayer vigil of World Youth Day before Sunday’s closing Mass with more than a million youth expected to participate in the final events of WYD. At today’s Mass, the Holy Father reminded his fellow priests and consecrated persons and seminarians that “Jesus directs us to a one-way street: that of going forth from ourselves. It is a one-way trip, with no return ticket. It involves making an exodus from ourselves, losing our lives for his sake and setting out on the path of self-gift.” Furthermore, the Pope added, Jesus doesn’t like “journeys made halfway, doors half-closed, lives lived on two tracks. He asks us to pack lightly for the journey, to set out renouncing our own security, with him alone as our strength.” This life of service to others, Francis explained, has no “closed spaces or private property for our own use.” A priest, a consecrated person, does not choose where he lives or where they are sent; they don’t put their security in wealth or worldly power, he said. “They love to take risks and to set out, not limited to trails already blazed, but open and faithful to the paths pointed out by the Spirit. Rather than just getting by, they rejoice to evangelize.” Searching and findingFrancis also reflected on the apostle named in today’s Gospel: Thomas. Somewhat stubborn, and a bit like us, “we find him likeable,” the Pope remarked. Thomas, he said, gives us a great gift: “he brings us closer to God, because God does not hide from those who seek him.” Drawing from Poland’s St. Faustina, the Holy Father offered some concrete advice for following in Thomas’ footsteps and seeking the Lord. “For us who are disciples, it is important to put our humanity in contact with the flesh of the Lord, to bring to him, with complete trust and utter sincerity, our whole being. As Jesus told Saint Faustina, he is happy when we tell him everything: he is not bored with our lives, which he already knows; he waits for us to tell him even about the events of our day (cf. Diary, 6 September 1937). That is the way to seek God: through prayer that is transparent and unafraid to hand over to him our troubles, our struggles and our resistance. Jesus’ heart is won over by sincere openness, by hearts capable of acknowledging and grieving over their weakness, yet trusting that precisely there God’s mercy will be active.” The Pontiff suggested that Thomas’ prayer when he “found” Jesus, “My Lord and my God,” — these “magnificent words” — would be a good prayer for each day … “to say to the Lord: You are my one treasure, the path I must follow, the core of my life, my all.” Writing the GospelFinally, Pope Francis recalled an image he has offered before, drawing from the final verse of John’s Gospel, which says that the book of the gospel does not contain the “many other signs that Jesus worked.” “There is room left for the signs needing to be worked by us, who have received the Spirit of love and are called to spread mercy,” the Pope suggested. “It might be said that the Gospel, the living book of God’s mercy that must be continually read and reread, still has many blank pages left. It remains an open book that we are called to write in the same style, by the works of mercy we practise.” “Let me ask you this,” Francis said. “What are the pages of your books like? Are they blank? May the Mother of God help us in this. May she, who fully welcomed the word of God into her life give us the grace to be living writers of the Gospel.”
On his first full day in Poland today, Pope Francis formally addressed the pilgrims twice: with a homily at a Mass in Czestechowa and at the official welcome ceremony of World Youth Day in Krakow.On Wednesday, he had a special video connection with Italian young people who are in Krakow. Here’s some of what he’s been saying: Welcome ceremonyNothing is more beautiful than seeing the enthusiasm, dedication, zeal and energy with which so many young people live their lives. When Jesus touches a young person’s heart, he or she becomes capable of truly great things. Mercy always has a youthful face! Because a merciful heart is motivated to move beyond its comfort zone. A merciful heart can go out and meet others; it is ready to embrace everyone. So I ask you: Are you looking for empty thrills in life, or do you want to feel a power that can give you a lasting sense of life and fulfilment? Empty thrills or the power of grace? To find fulfilment, to gain new strength, there is a way. It is not a thing or an object, but a person, and he is alive. His name is Jesus Christ. HomilyTo be attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances, is tragically human. It is a great temptation that tries to insinuate itself everywhere. But to give oneself to others, eliminating distances, dwelling in littleness and living the reality of one’s everyday life: this is exquisitely divine. God saves us, then by making himself little, near and real. At Cana, as here in Jasna Góra, Mary offers us her nearness and helps us to discover what we need to live life to the full. Now as then, she does this with a mother’s love, by her presence and counsel, teaching us to avoid hasty decisions and grumbling in our communities. As the Mother of a family, she wants to keep us together. With Italian youthYou speak of a very common problem among children and also among persons who aren’t children: cruelty. But look, children are also cruel sometimes, and they have that capacity to wound you where they will do the most hurt: to wound your heart, to wound your dignity … Can one forgive completely? It’s a grace we must ask of the Lord. We, on are own, cannot: we make the effort, you made it, but forgiveness is a grace the Lord gives you, to forgive your enemy, to forgive the one who has wounded you, who has hurt you. Peace builds bridges; hatred is the builder of walls. You must choose in life: either to build bridges or to build walls. Walls divide and hatred grows: when there is division, hatred grows. Bridges unite, and when there is a bridge, hatred can go away, because I can hear the other, I can speak with the other.
Pope Francis gave a solemn address today in Krakow after an artistic and musical presentation of the Via Crucis, in which the 14 stations of Christ’s Passion were linked to the 14 corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Read text of Stations here: https://zenit.org/articles/way-of-cross-for-pope-youth-to-link-stations-to-works-of-mercy/ “Where is God?” Where is God, if evil is present in our world, if there are men and women who are hungry and thirsty, homeless, exiles and refugees? Where is God, when innocent persons die as a result of violence, terrorism and war? Where is God, when cruel diseases break the bonds of life and affection? Or when children are exploited and demeaned, and they too suffer from grave illness? Where is God, amid the anguish of those who doubt and are troubled in spirit?,” the Pope asked the thousands of young people in Krakow for World Youth Day, acknowledging that these are the questions that come to our hearts. “These are questions that humanly speaking have no answer,” he said. But Jesus’ answer is “‘God is in them.’ Jesus is in them; he suffers in them and deeply identifies with each of them,” the Pontiff reflected. “He is so closely united to them as to form with them, as it were, ‘one body.’” Dying on the cross, Francis said, Jesus took “upon himself and in himself, with self- sacrificing love, the physical, moral and spiritual wounds of all humanity.” The Way of the Cross prayed by the youth, the Pope continued, emphasized the importance of imitating Jesus with the works of mercy. In one of the most emphatic moments of his address, he reminded that Christians must follow this way. “In welcoming the outcast who suffer physically and welcoming sinners who suffer spiritually, our credibility as Christians is at stake.” “Unless those who call themselves Christians live to serve, their lives serve no good purpose. By their lives, they deny Jesus Christ,” he said. The Pope asked the young people to answer Jesus’ call to commit themselves to a life of service. “To enable you to carry out this mission, [Jesus] shows you the way of personal commitment and self-sacrifice. It is the Way of the Cross,” he said. “Those who take up this way with generosity and faith give hope and a future to humanity.” “Dear young people,” the Pope concluded, “on that Good Friday many disciples went back crestfallen to their homes. Others chose to go out to the country to forget the cross. I ask you: How do you want to go back this evening to your own homes, to the places where you are staying? How do you want to go back this evening to be alone with your thoughts? Each of you has to answer the challenge that this question sets before you.”
Pope Francis started off his five-day trip to Poland with a strong defense of the unborn, saying that “life must always be welcomed and protected. These two things go together – welcome and protection, from conception to natural death.” Abortion is illegal in Poland except for cases of rape/incest, or when the unborn child has a severe disability. It is also considered illegal in cases where the mother’s life is in danger, though as moral theologians explain, due to the principle of double effect, medical interventions to save the life of the mother which unintentionally bring about the death of the child are not abortion at all, since abortion is the deliberate killing of the unborn child. For the last several years, pro-life groups have sought a constitutional amendment to protect the unborn, and this summer, a new civil initiative to ban abortion was again successful and stands to be debated by government. In this context, the Pope’s first address in Poland, given to government authorities and other civil leaders just an hour after his arrival, emphasized the duty of the state to assist mothers in welcoming life. “All of us are called to respect life and care for it,” he said. “On the other hand, it is the responsibility of the State, the Church and society to accompany and concretely help all those who find themselves in serious difficulty, so that a child will never be seen as a burden but as a gift, and those who are most vulnerable and poor will not be abandoned.” Good memoryEarlier in his address, Pope Francis praised the Polish nation for letting “good memory” have the upper hand in their society. “In the daily life of each individual and society,” he said, there are “two kinds of memory: good and bad, positive and negative. Good memory is what the Bible shows us in the Magnificat, the canticle of Mary, who praises the Lord and his saving works. Negative memory, on the other hand, keeps the mind and heart obsessively fixed on evil, especially the wrongs committed by others. “Looking at your recent history, I thank God that you have been able to let good memory have the upper hand, for example, by celebrating the 50th anniversary of the forgiveness mutually offered and accepted between the Polish and German episcopates, following the Second World War. That initiative, which initially involved the ecclesial communities, also sparked an irreversible social, political, cultural and religious process that changed the history of relationships between the two peoples. “Here too we can think of the Joint Declaration between the Catholic Church in Poland and the Orthodox Church of Moscow: an act that inaugurated a process of rapprochement and fraternity not only between the two Churches, but also between the two peoples. “The noble Polish nation has thus shown how one can nurture good memory while leaving the bad behind.” The Pope said that in order to do this, there must be “solid hope and trust in the One who guides the destinies of peoples, opens closed doors, turns problems into opportunities and creates new scenarios from situations that appeared hopeless.” ProgramThe Holy Father went on to meet privately with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda. He then headed to Wawel Cathedral where he was to have a private meeting with the nation’s bishops. There are 45 dioceses in Poland and 211 living bishops. The original program for his visit included a formal speech to the prelates, but the Pontiff decided to forego an address and instead have an informal “conversation” without media attention. The Pope is expected to greet the crowds this evening from his residence in Krakow. Tomorrow, Francis will visit the Monastery of Jasna Gora and have a time of prayer at the Chapel of the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Częstochowa. He will celebrate Holy Mass for the occasion of the 1,050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland, in the Shrine of Częstochowa. In the evening, he will participate in Krakow at a welcoming ceremony with the young people of WYD2016.
Experts called for greater awareness and stronger policies to combat the roots of human trafficking among children and youth at a July 13 event at the UN sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See in collaboration with the NGO Committee to Stop Trafficking in Persons, the Salesians Missions, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, and ECPAT-USA. Entitled Eliminating the Trafficking of Children and Youth, it discussed the best methods to combat the growing scourge of children and youth who are trafficked for sex or work. “This conference seeks to make real the faces of the nearly two million children and youth who are presently being trafficked and speak about what’s working, what’s not working, and what needs to be done to free them, help them recover, and prevent other young people from suffering as they have,” Archbishop Bernardito Auza, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See Mission to the UN, noted in his opening remarks. The Catholic Church, he said, has long fought against human trafficking in its teaching and in its work on the ground. “The Second Vatican Council, St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI all spoke out passionately and forcefully against the infamy of human trafficking and the widespread hedonistic and commercial culture that encourages this systematic exploitation of human dignity and rights,” Archbishop Auza said, but he stated that Pope Francis has taken the Church’s action and advocacy “to another level,” denouncing it repeatedly in his encyclicals and exhortations, in speeches and peace letters, in promoting numerous conferences in the Vatican and more. “While human trafficking always exploits the vulnerable, the trafficking of children and youth exploits those most vulnerable of all,” Auza said. Yu Ping Chan, Program Management Officer of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said human trafficking takes many forms including sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs. She said the UNODC’s 2015 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons showed that one in three known victims of human trafficking are children, with women and girls accounting for 70 percent of all trafficking victims worldwide. Chan describes the programs and departments the UN has established to combat trafficking but said there must be more effective and robust use of the tools. Sheila McClain was subjected to sexual abuse and trafficking at the hands of her own mother as a child and now helps those who have endured similar experiences as the Director of Survivor Services for End Slavery Tennessee. She said factors such as poverty, the addiction she acquired as a result of being trafficked, as well as lack of life skills, made leaving her exploiters difficult. “We all have the stories of being duct taped, tied up and put in trunks but that is not who I am,” she said. “I am more than my story.” Mercy Sister Angela Reed from the Australian Catholic Religious Against Trafficking in Humans emphasized the importance of gathering each woman’s personal narrative to find the causes and solutions of the issue. She said demand is the main cause of trafficking, as well as the victims’ lack of basic needs including housing, food and education, which makes them particularly vulnerable to exploitation. She shared the stories of young girls who experienced severe social stigmatization in their communities after being trafficked, which fed into a deeper cycle of exploitation. Kevin Cassidy of the International Labour Organization (ILO) focused on the phenomenon of trafficking children for labor, noting the roles policy makers and the private sector have in eliminating exploitation by using consumer power and making appropriate business choices, specifically in focusing on slavery-proof supply chains. “People are pushed to the limit because we have not been smart enough to put into place the policies to assist them,” he said. “We support decent work. When you drive down the wages, you are putting people at risk.” Jayne Bigelsen, Director of Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives at the Covenant House homeless shelter in New York City, said that an overwhelming number of homeless youth are susceptible to trafficking since they are unlikely to have family looking for them. She also noted the trend among homeless youth of selling their bodies in exchange for a place to stay and other basic needs, which traffickers and pimps exploit. Carol Smolenski, who works to combat child trafficking tourism and other means of child abuse through ECPAT-USA, said the Internet creates a platform for traffickers to lure child victims as well as connect with consumers seeking child pornography and prostitution. Eighty percent of children depicted in materials seized by police are pre-pubescent, she noted, with a growing number of infants represented. “There is a huge growth in younger and younger kids being raped and having pictures and videos of it shared on the Internet,” Smolenski said. “The good news is there is mobilization by governments around the world to do something about it,” she added, noting global online databases and initiatives that aid in the identification and rescue of exploited children. The event can be watched in its entirety on UN Web TV.
Pope Francis has made a surprise phone call to Nice’s authorities to see how he can help and has suggested he will soon meet with victims’ loved ones. According to Vatican Radio, Sunday Evening, Francis called Paolo Celi, head of “Amitié France-Italie,” a national association for Italians living in France, and to Nice’s Mayor, Christian Estrosi. During a Bastille Day celebration Thursday evening, in the French city of Nice, a terrorist of Franco-Tunisian descent drove a truck into the crowds that had been watching. The attack claimed 84 lives, and wounded dozens, leaving at least 15 -18 in critical condition. After traveling two kilometers, eventually the driver was killed in a shootout with the police. During the Pope’s Angelus address Sunday at noon, Francis decried the horrific attack and said to the thousands in St. Peter’s Square, “I am close to each family and the entire French nation which is in mourning.” Following the Argentine Pontiff’s out of the blue call later that day, Celi told Vatican Radio that Francis, during his call at about 7 p.m., he “apologized because he doesn’t speak French very well”. Celi said the Pope promised to meet “as soon as possible” with the families of the victims. But, the authority specified, the date is yet to be set. “The first thing he said to me was, ‘What can I do for you?’” Celi said, while recalling the conversation before he connected the Pope to Estrosi. Estrosi, also speaking to Vatican Radio, said the Holy Father’s gesture has restored in him the energy he needs to go forward in this situation. The Pope’s telephone call, he added, has been of comfort to thousands of people who are supporting the families of the victims. “The image of all the flowers, the letters, the toys that have been put on the Promenade to pay tribute to the victims is an image that no one will be able to forget, but the Pope’s words and the comfort he brings alleviates this terrible memory and gives strength and hope to all,” the mayor expressed.
This is a modest effort at a "blog" my attempt to offer some brief reflections each day that come from various sources that I find interesting - primarily the daily reflections of Pope Francis as found on Zenit and Rome Reports. Fr. John