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My People

Vol. 31, Issue 11, November 2018

"If my people, who are called by My name, humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." — 2 Chronicles 7:14


Hear The Cry Of The Poor

The second World Day of the Poor will be observed on Sunday, November 18. Pope Francis sent a message for the day, dated June 13, the memorial of St. Anthony of Padua. The message follows:

"1. 'This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him' (Ps 34:6). The words of the Psalmist become our own whenever we are called to encounter the different conditions of suffering and marginalization experienced by so many of our brothers and sisters whom we are accustomed to label generically as 'the poor.' The Psalmist is not alien to suffering; quite the contrary. He has a direct experience of poverty and yet transforms it into a song of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. Psalm 34 allows us today, surrounded as we are by many different forms of poverty, to know those who are truly poor. It enables us to open our eyes to them, to hear their cry, and to recognize their needs.

"We are told, in the first place, that the Lord listens to the poor who cry out to Him; He is good to those who seek refuge in Him, whose hearts are broken by sadness, loneliness, and exclusion. The Lord listens to those who, trampled in their dignity, still find the strength to look up to Him for light and comfort. He listens to those persecuted in the name of a false justice, oppressed by policies unworthy of the name, and terrified by violence, yet know that God is their Savior. What emerges from this prayer is above all the sense of abandonment and trust in a Father who can hear and understand. Along these same lines, we can better appreciate the meaning of Jesus' words, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven' (Mt 5:3).

"This experience, unique and in many ways undeserved and inexpressible, makes us want to share it with others, especially those who, like the Psalmist, are poor, rejected, and marginalized. No one should feel excluded from the Father's love, especially in a world that often presents wealth as the highest goal and encourages self-centeredness.

"2. Psalm 34 uses three verbs to describe the poor man in his relationship with God. First of all, 'to cry.' Poverty cannot be summed up in a word; it becomes a cry that rises to heaven and reaches God. What does the cry of the poor express, if not their suffering and their solitude, their disappointment and their hope? We can ask ourselves how their plea, which rises to the presence of God, can fail to reach our own ears, or leave us cold and indifferent. On this World Day of the Poor, we are called to make a serious examination of conscience, to see if we are truly capable of hearing the cry of the poor.

"To hear their voice, what we need is the silence of people who are prepared to listen. If we speak too much ourselves, we will be unable to hear them. At times I fear that many initiatives, meritorious and necessary in themselves, are meant more to satisfy those who undertake them than to respond to the real cry of the poor. When this is the case, the cry of the poor resounds, but our reaction is inconsistent and we become unable to empathize with their condition. We are so trapped in a culture that induces us to look in the mirror and pamper ourselves, that we think that an altruistic gesture is enough, without the need to get directly involved.

"3. The second verb is 'to answer.' The Psalmist tells us that the Lord does not only listen to the cry of the poor, but responds. His answer, as seen in the entire history of salvation, is to share lovingly in the lot of the poor. So it was when Abram spoke to God of his desire for offspring, despite the fact that he and his wife Sarah were old in years and had no children (cf. Gen 15:1-6). So too when Moses, in front of a bush that burned without being consumed, received the revelation of God's name and the mission to free his people from Egypt (Ex 3:1-15). This was also the case during Israel's wandering in the desert, in the grip of hunger and thirst (cf. Ex 16:1-6; 17:1-7), and its falling into the worst kind of poverty, namely, infidelity to the covenant and idolatry (cf. Ex 32:1-14).

"God's answer to the poor is always a saving act that heals wounds of body and soul, restores justice and helps to live life anew in dignity. God's answer is also a summons to those who believe in Him to do likewise, within the limits of what is humanly possible. The World Day of the Poor wishes to be a small answer that the Church throughout the world gives to the poor of every kind and in every land, lest they think that their cry has gone unheard. It may well be like a drop of water in the desert of poverty, yet it can serve as a sign of sharing with those in need, and enable them to sense the active presence of a brother or a sister. The poor do not need intermediaries, but the personal involvement of all those who hear their cry. The concern of believers in their regard cannot be limited to a kind of assistance - as useful and as providential as this may be in the beginning - but requires a 'loving attentiveness' (Evangelii Gaudium, 199) that honors the person as such and seeks out his or her best interests.

"4. The third verb is 'to free.' In the Bible, the poor live in the certainty that God intervenes on their behalf to restore their dignity. Poverty is not something that anyone desires, but is caused by selfishness, pride, greed, and injustice. These are evils as old as the human race itself, but also sins in which the innocent are caught up, with tragic effects at the level of social life. God's act of liberation is a saving act for those who lift up to Him their sorrow and distress. The bondage of poverty is shattered by the power of God's intervention. Many of the Psalms recount and celebrate this history of salvation mirrored in the personal life of the poor: 'For He has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and He has not hid His face from him, but has heard, when he cried to Him' (Ps 22:24). The ability to see God's face is a sign of His friendship, His closeness and His salvation. 'You have seen my affliction, you have taken heed of my adversities... you have set my feet in a broad place' (Ps 31:7-8). To offer the poor a 'broad space' is to set them free from the 'snare of the fowler' (Ps 91:3); it is to free them from the trap hidden on their path, so that they can move forward with serenity on the path of life. God's salvation is a hand held out to the poor, a hand that welcomes, protects, and enables them to experience the friendship they need. From this concrete and tangible proximity, a genuine path of liberation emerges. 'Each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society. This demands that we be docile and attentive to the cry of the poor and to come to their aid' (Evangelii Gaudium, 187).

"5. I find it moving to know that many poor people identify with the blind beggar Bartimaeus mentioned by the evangelist Mark (cf. 10:46-52). Bartimaeus 'was sitting by the roadside to beg' (v. 46); having heard that Jesus was passing by, 'he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me" ' (v. 47). 'Many rebuked him, telling him to be silent; but he cried out all the more' (v. 48). The Son of God heard his plea and said: 'What do you want Me to do for you?' The blind man said to Him, 'Master, let me receive my sight' (v. 51). This Gospel story makes visible what the Psalm proclaims as a promise. Bartimaeus is a poor person who finds himself lacking things as essential as sight and the ability to work for a living. How many people today feel in the same situation! Lack of basic means of subsistence, marginalization due to a reduced capacity for work, various forms of social enslavement, despite all our human progress... How many poor people today are like Bartimaeus, sitting on the roadside and looking for meaning in their lives! How many of them wonder why they have fallen so far and how they can escape! They are waiting for someone to come up to them and say: 'Take heart; rise, He is calling you' (v. 49).

"Sadly, the exact opposite often happens, and the poor hear voices scolding them, telling them to be quiet, and to put up with their lot. These voices are harsh, often due to fear of the poor, who are considered not only destitute but also a source of insecurity and unrest, an unwelcome distraction from life as usual and needing to be rejected and kept afar. We tend to create a distance between them and us, without realizing that in this way we are distancing ourselves from the Lord Jesus, who does not reject the poor, but calls them to Himself and comforts them. The words of the Prophet Isaiah telling believers how to conduct themselves are most apt in this case. They are 'to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke... to share bread with the hungry and bring the homeless and poor into the house... to cover the naked' (58:6-7). Such deeds allow sin to be forgiven (cf. 1 Pet 4:8) and justice to take its course. They ensure that when we cry to the Lord, He will answer and say: 'Here I am!' (cf. Is 58:9).

"6. The poor are the first to recognize God's presence and to testify to His closeness in their lives. God remains faithful to His promise; and even in the darkness of the night, He does not withhold the warmth of His love and consolation. However, for the poor to overcome their oppressive situation, they need to sense the presence of brothers and sisters who are concerned for them and, by opening the doors of their hearts and lives, make them feel like friends and family. Only in this way can the poor discover 'the saving power at work in their lives' and 'put them at the center of the Church's pilgrim way' (Evangelii Gaudium, 198).

"On this World Day, we are asked to fulfil the words of the Psalm: 'The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied' (Ps 22:26). We know that in the Temple of Jerusalem, after the rites of sacrifice, a banquet was held. It was this experience that, in many dioceses last year, enriched the celebration of the first World Day of the Poor. Many people encountered the warmth of a home, the joy of a festive meal, and the solidarity of those who wished to sit together at table in simplicity and fraternity. I would like this year's, and all future World Days, to be celebrated in a spirit of joy at the rediscovery of our capacity for togetherness. Praying together as a community and sharing a meal on Sunday is an experience that brings us back to the earliest Christian community, described by the evangelist Luke in all its primitive simplicity: 'They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers... And all who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need' (Acts 2:42.44-45).

"7. Countless initiatives are undertaken every day by the Christian community in order to offer closeness and a helping hand in the face of the many forms of poverty all around us. Often too, our cooperation with other initiatives inspired not by faith but by human solidarity, make it possible for us to provide help that otherwise we would have been unable to offer. The realization that in the face of so much poverty our capacity for action is limited, weak, and insufficient, leads us to reach out to others so that, through mutual cooperation, we can attain our goals all the more effectively. We Christians are inspired by faith and by the imperative of charity, but we can also acknowledge other forms of assistance and solidarity that aim in part for the same goals, provided that we do not downplay our specific role, which is to lead everyone to God and to holiness. Dialogue between different experiences, and humility in offering our cooperation without seeking the limelight, is a fitting and completely evangelical response that we can give.

"In the service of the poor, there is no room for competition. Rather, we should humbly recognize that the Spirit is the source of our actions that reveal God's closeness and His answer to our prayers. When we find ways of drawing near to the poor, we know that the primacy belongs to God, who opens our eyes and hearts to conversion. The poor do not need self-promoters, but a love that knows how to remain hidden and not think about all the good it has been able to do. At the center must always be the Lord and the poor. Anyone desirous of serving is an instrument in God's hands, a means of manifesting His saving presence. Saint Paul recalled this when he wrote to the Christians in Corinth who competed for the more prestigious charisms 'The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you" ' (1 Cor 12:21). Paul makes an important point when he notes that the apparently weaker parts of the body are in fact the most necessary (cf. v. 22), and that those 'we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require' (vv. 23-24). Paul offers the community a basic teaching about charisms, but also about the attitude it should have, in the light of the Gospel, towards its weaker and needier members. Far be it from Christ's disciples to nurture feelings of disdain or pity towards the poor. Instead, we are called to honor the poor and to give them precedence, out of the conviction that they are a true presence of Jesus in our midst. 'As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me' (Mt 25:40).

"8. Here we can see how far our way of life must be from that of the world, which praises, pursues, and imitates the rich and powerful, while neglecting the poor and deeming them useless and shameful. The words of the Apostle Paul invite us to a fully evangelical solidarity with the weaker and less gifted members of the body of Christ: 'If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together' (1 Cor 12:26). In his Letter to the Romans, Paul also tells us: 'Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly' (12:15-16). This is the vocation of each of Christ's followers; the ideal for which we must constantly strive is ever greater conformity to the 'mind of Jesus Christ' (Phil 2:5).

"9. Faith naturally inspires a message of hope. Often it is precisely the poor who can break through our indifference, born of a worldly and narrow view of life. The cry of the poor is also a cry of hope that reveals the certainty of future liberation. This hope is grounded in the love of God, who does not abandon those who put their trust in Him (cf. Rom 8:31-39). As Saint Teresa of Avila writes in The Way of Perfection: 'Poverty comprises many virtues. It is a vast domain. I tell you, whoever despises all earthly goods is master of them all' (2:5). It is in the measure in which we are able to discern authentic good that we become rich before God and wise in our own eyes and in those of others. It is truly so. To the extent that we come to understand the true meaning of riches, we grow in humanity and become capable of sharing.

"10. I invite my brother bishops, priests, and especially deacons, who have received the laying on of hands for the service of the poor (cf. Acts 6:1-7), as well as religious and all those lay faithful - men and women - who in parishes, associations, and ecclesial movements make tangible the Church's response to the cry of the poor, to experience this World Day as a privileged moment of new evangelization. The poor evangelize us and help us each day to discover the beauty of the Gospel. Let us not squander this grace-filled opportunity. On this day, may all of us feel that we are in debt to the poor, because, in hands outstretched to one another, a salvific encounter can take place to strengthen our faith, inspire our charity, and enable our hope to advance securely on our path towards the Lord who is to come."

Church In China At Crossroads

The Church in China was the subject of a September 26 Message Pope Francis sent to Catholics in China and to the Universal Church. His message follows:

"Dear brother bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and all the faithful of the Catholic Church in China, let us thank the Lord, for 'eternal is His merciful love! He made us, we belong to Him; we are His people, the sheep of His flock' (Ps 100:3).

"At this moment, my heart echoes the words of exhortation addressed to you by my venerable predecessor in his Letter of May 27, 2007: 'Catholic Church in China, you are a small flock present and active within the vastness of an immense people journeying through history. How stirring and encouraging these words of Jesus are for you: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Lk 12:32)! ... Therefore, "let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven" (Mt 5:16)' (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, May 27, 2007, 5).

"1. Of late, many conflicting reports have circulated about the present and, in particular, the future of the Catholic communities in China. I am aware that this flurry of thoughts and opinions may have caused a certain confusion and prompted different reactions in the hearts of many. Some feel doubt and perplexity, while others sense themselves somehow abandoned by the Holy See and anxiously question the value of their sufferings endured out of fidelity to the Successor of Peter. In many others, there prevail positive expectations and reflections inspired by the hope of a more serene future for a fruitful witness to the faith in China.

"This situation has become more acute, particularly with regard to the Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China, which, as you know, was signed in recent days in Beijing. At so significant a moment for the life of the Church, I want to assure you through this brief Message that you are daily present in my prayers, and to share with you my heartfelt feelings.

"They are sentiments of thanksgiving to the Lord and of sincere admiration - which is the admiration of the entire Catholic Church - for the gift of your fidelity, your constancy amid trials, and your firm trust in God's providence, even when certain situations proved particularly adverse and difficult.

"These painful experiences are part of the spiritual treasury of the Church in China and of all God's pilgrim people on earth. I assure you that the Lord, through the crucible of our trials, never fails to pour out His consolations upon us and to prepare us for an even greater joy. In the words of the Psalmist, we are more than certain that 'those who are sowing in tears, will sing when they reap' (Ps 126[125]:5).

"Let us continue to look, then, to the example of all those faithful laity and pastors who readily offered their 'good witness' (cf. 1 Tim 6:13) to the Gospel, even to the sacrifice of their own lives. They showed themselves true friends of God!

"2. For my part, I have always looked upon China as a land of great opportunities and the Chinese people as the creators and guardians of an inestimable patrimony of culture and wisdom, refined by resisting adversity and embracing diversity, and which, not by chance, entered into contact from early times with the Christian message. As Father Matteo Ricci, S.J., perceptively noted in challenging us to the virtue of trust, 'before entering into friendship, one must observe; after becoming friends, one must trust' (De Amicitia, 7).

"I too am convinced that encounter can be authentic and fruitful only if it occurs through the practice of dialogue, which involves coming to know one another, to respect one another, and to 'walk together' for the sake of building a common future of sublime harmony.

"This is the context in which to view the Provisional Agreement, which is the result of a lengthy and complex institutional dialogue between the Holy See and the Chinese authorities initiated by Saint John Paul II and continued by Pope Benedict XVI. Through this process, the Holy See has desired - and continues to desire - only to attain the Church's specific spiritual and pastoral aims, namely, to support and advance the preaching of the Gospel, and to reestablish and preserve the full and visible unity of the Catholic community in China.

"With regard to the importance of this Agreement and its aims, I would like to share with you a few reflections and provide you with some input of a spiritual pastoral nature for the journey we are called to undertake in this new phase.

"It is a journey that, as in its earlier stages, 'requires time and presupposes the good will of both parties' (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, May 27, 2007, 4). But for the Church, within and outside of China, this involves more than simply respecting human values. It is also a spiritual calling: to go out from herself to embrace 'the joys and the hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted' (SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 1) and the challenges of the present that God entrusts to us. It is thus an ecclesial summons to become pilgrims along the paths of history, trusting before all else in God and in His promises, as did Abraham and our fathers in the faith.

"Called by God, Abraham obeyed by setting out for an unknown land that he was to receive as an inheritance, without knowing the path that lay ahead. Had Abraham demanded ideal social and political conditions before leaving his land, perhaps he would never have set out. Instead, he trusted in God and in response to God's word he left his home and its safety. It was not historical changes that made him put his trust in God; rather, it was his pure faith that brought about a change in history. For faith is 'the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received [God's] approval' (Heb 11:1-2).

"3. As the Successor of Peter, I want to confirm you in this faith (cf. Lk 22:32) - in the faith of Abraham, in the faith of the Virgin Mary, in the faith you have received -and to ask you to place your trust ever more firmly in the Lord of history and in the Church's discernment of His will. May all of us implore the gift of the Spirit to illumine our minds, warm our hearts, and help us to understand where He would lead us, in order to overcome inevitable moments of bewilderment, and to find the strength to set out resolutely on the road ahead.

"Precisely for the sake of supporting and promoting the preaching of the Gospel in China and reestablishing full and visible unity in the Church, it was essential, before all else, to deal with the issue of the appointment of bishops. Regrettably, as we know, the recent history of the Catholic Church in China has been marked by deep and painful tensions, hurts and divisions, centered especially on the figure of the bishop as the guardian of the authenticity of the faith and as guarantor of ecclesial communion.

"When, in the past, it was presumed to determine the internal life of the Catholic communities, imposing direct control above and beyond the legitimate competence of the state, the phenomenon of clandestinity arose in the Church in China. This experience - it must be emphasized - is not a normal part of the life of the Church and 'history shows that pastors and faithful have recourse to it only amid suffering, in the desire to maintain the integrity of their faith' (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, May 27, 2007, 8).

"I would have you know that, from the time I was entrusted with the Petrine ministry, I have experienced great consolation in knowing the heartfelt desire of Chinese Catholics to live their faith in full communion with the universal Church and with the Successor of Peter, who is 'the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful' (SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 23). In these years, I have received numerous concrete signs and testimonies of that desire, including from bishops who have damaged communion in the Church as a result of weakness and errors, but also, and not infrequently, due to powerful and undue pressure from without.

"Consequently, after carefully examining every individual personal situation, and listening to different points of view, I have devoted much time to reflection and prayer, seeking the true good of the Church in China. In the end, before the Lord and with serenity of judgment, in continuity with the direction set by my immediate predecessors, I have determined to grant reconciliation to the remaining seven 'official' bishops ordained without papal mandate and, having lifted every relevant canonical sanction, to readmit them to full ecclesial communion. At the same time, I ask them to express with concrete and visible gestures their restored unity with the Apostolic See and with the Churches spread throughout the world, and to remain faithful despite any difficulties.

"4. In the sixth year of my Pontificate, which I have placed from the beginning under the banner of God's merciful love, I now invite all Chinese Catholics to work towards reconciliation. May all be mindful, with renewed apostolic zeal, of the words of Saint Paul: 'God... has reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation' (2 Cor 5:18).

"Indeed, as I wrote at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, 'no law or precept can prevent God from once more embracing the son who returns to Him admitting that he has done wrong but intending to start his life anew. Remaining only at the level of the law is equivalent to thwarting faith and divine mercy... Even in the most complex cases, where there is a temptation to apply a justice derived from rules alone, we must believe in the power flowing from divine grace'(Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera, November 20, 2016, 11).

"In this spirit, and in line with the decisions that have been made, we can initiate an unprecedented process that we hope will help to heal the wounds of the past, restore full communion among all Chinese Catholics, and lead to a phase of greater fraternal cooperation, in order to renew our commitment to the mission of proclaiming the Gospel. For the Church exists for the sake of bearing witness to Jesus Christ and to the forgiving and saving love of the Father.

"5. The Provisional Agreement signed with the Chinese authorities, while limited to certain aspects of the Church's life and necessarily capable of improvement, can contribute - for its part - to writing this new chapter of the Catholic Church in China. For the first time, the Agreement sets out stable elements of cooperation between the state authorities and the Apostolic See, in the hope of providing the Catholic community with good shepherds.

"In this context, the Holy See intends fully to play its own part. Yet an important part also falls to you, the bishops, priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful: to join in seeking good candidates capable of taking up in the Church the demanding and important ministry of bishop. It is not a question of appointing functionaries to deal with religious issues, but of finding authentic shepherds according to the heart of Jesus, men committed to working generously in the service of God's people, especially the poor and the most vulnerable. Men who take seriously the Lord's words: 'Whoever would become great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all' (Mk 10:43-44).

"In this regard, it seems clear that an Agreement is merely an instrument, and not of itself capable of resolving all existing problems. Indeed, it will prove ineffective and unproductive, unless it is accompanied by a deep commitment to renewing personal attitudes and ecclesial forms of conduct.

"6. On the pastoral level, the Catholic community in China is called to be united, so as to overcome the divisions of the past that have caused, and continue to cause great suffering in the hearts of many pastors and faithful. All Christians, none excluded, must now offer gestures of reconciliation and communion. In this regard, let us keep in mind the admonition of Saint John of the Cross: 'In the evening of life, we will be judged on love' (Dichos, 64).

"On the civil and political level, Chinese Catholics must be good citizens, loving their homeland and serving their country with diligence and honesty, to the best of their ability. On the ethical level, they should be aware that many of their fellow citizens expect from them a greater commitment to the service of the common good and the harmonious growth of society as a whole. In particular, Catholics ought to make a prophetic and constructive contribution born of their faith in the kingdom of God. At times, this may also require of them the effort to offer a word of criticism, not out of sterile opposition, but for the sake of building a society that is more just, humane and respectful of the dignity of each person.

"7. I now turn to you, my brother bishops, priests, and consecrated persons who 'serve the Lord with gladness' (Ps 100:2). Let us recognize one another as followers of Christ in the service of God's people. Let us make pastoral charity the compass for our ministry. Let us leave behind past conflicts and attempts to pursue our own interests, and care for the faithful, making our own their joys and their sufferings. Let us work humbly for reconciliation and unity. With energy and enthusiasm, let us take up the path of evangelization indicated by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council.

"To everyone, I say once more with great affection: 'Let us be inspired to act by the example of all those priests, religious, and laity who devote themselves to proclamation and to serving others with great fidelity, often at the risk of their lives and certainly at the cost of their comfort. Their testimony reminds us that, more than bureaucrats and functionaries, the Church needs passionate missionaries, enthusiastic about sharing true life. The saints surprise us; they confound us, because by their lives they urge us to abandon a dull and dreary mediocrity' (Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, March 19, 2018, 138).

"I ask you wholeheartedly to beg for the grace not to hesitate when the Spirit calls us to take a step forward: 'Let us ask for the apostolic courage to share the Gospel with others and to stop trying to make our Christian life a museum of memories. In every situation, may the Holy Spirit cause us to contemplate history in the light of the risen Jesus. In this way, the Church will not stand still, but constantly welcome the Lord's surprises' (ibid., 139).

"8. In this year, when the entire Church celebrates the Synod on Young People, I would like to say a special word to you, young Chinese Catholics, who enter the gates of the house of the Lord 'giving thanks [and] with songs of praise' (Ps 100:4). I ask you to cooperate in building the future of your country with the talents and gifts that you have received, and with the youthfulness of your faith. I encourage you to bring, by your enthusiasm, the joy of the Gospel to everyone you meet.

"Be ready to accept the sure guidance of the Holy Spirit, who shows today's world the path to reconciliation and peace. Let yourselves be surprised by the renewing power of grace, even when it may seem that the Lord is asking more of you than you think you can give. Do not be afraid to listen to His voice as He calls you to fraternity, encounter, capacity for dialogue and forgiveness, and a spirit of service, regardless of the painful experiences of the recent past and wounds not yet healed.

"Open your hearts and minds to discern the merciful plan of God, who asks us to rise above personal prejudices and conflicts between groups and communities, in order to undertake a courageous fraternal journey in the light of an authentic culture of encounter.

"Nowadays there is no lack of temptations: the pride born of worldly success, narrow-mindedness, and absorption in material things, as if God did not exist. Go against the flow and stand firm in the Lord: 'for He is good; eternal is His merciful love; He is faithful from age to age' (Ps 100:5).

"9. Dear brothers and sisters of the universal Church, all of us are called to recognize as one of the signs of our times everything that is happening today in the life of the Church in China. We have an important duty: to accompany our brothers and sisters in China with fervent prayer and fraternal friendship. Indeed, they need to feel that in the journey that now lies ahead, they are not alone. They need to be accepted and supported as a vital part of the Church. 'How good and pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together in unity!' (Ps 133:1).

"Each local Catholic community in every part of the world should make an effort to appreciate and integrate the spiritual and cultural treasures proper to Chinese Catholics. The time has come to taste together the genuine fruits of the Gospel sown in the ancient 'Middle Kingdom' and to raise to the Lord Jesus Christ a hymn of faith and thanksgiving, enriched by authentically Chinese notes.

"10. I now turn with respect to the leaders of the People's Republic of China and renew my invitation to continue, with trust, courage, and farsightedness, the dialogue begun some time ago. I wish to assure them that the Holy See will continue to work sincerely for the growth of genuine friendship with the Chinese people.

"The present contacts between the Holy See and the Chinese government are proving useful for overcoming past differences, even those of the more recent past, and for opening a new chapter of more serene and practical cooperation, in the shared conviction that 'incomprehension [serves] the interests of neither the Chinese people nor the Catholic Church in China' (BENEDICT XVI, Letter to Chinese Catholics, May 27, 2007, 4).

"In this way, China and the Apostolic See, called by history to an arduous yet exciting task, will be able to act more positively for the orderly and harmonious growth of the Catholic community in China. They will make efforts to promote the integral development of society by ensuring greater respect for the human person, also in the religious sphere, and will work concretely to protect the environment in which we live and to build a future of peace and fraternity between peoples.

"In China, it is essential that, also on the local level, relations between the leaders of ecclesial communities and the civil authorities become more productive through frank dialogue and impartial listening, so as to overcome antagonism on both sides. A new style of straightforward daily cooperation needs to develop between local authorities and ecclesiastical authorities - bishops, priests, and community elders - in order to ensure that pastoral activities take place in an orderly manner, in harmony with the legitimate expectations of the faithful and the decisions of competent authorities.

"This will help make it clear that the Church in China is not oblivious to Chinese history, nor does she seek any privilege. Her aim in the dialogue with civil authorities is that of 'building a relationship based on mutual respect and deeper understanding' (ibid.).

"11. In the name of the whole Church, I beg the Lord for the gift of peace, and I invite all to join me in invoking the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary:

"Mother of Heaven, hear the plea of your children as we humbly call upon your name!

"Virgin of Hope, we entrust to you the journey of the faithful in the noble land of China. We ask you to present to the Lord of history the trials and tribulations, the petitions and the hopes of all those who pray to you, O Queen of Heaven!

"Mother of the Church, we consecrate to you the present and the future of our families and our communities. Protect and sustain them in fraternal reconciliation and in service to the poor who bless your name, O Queen of Heaven!

"Consolation of the Afflicted, we turn to you, for you are the refuge of all who weep amid their trials. Watch over your sons and daughters who praise your name; make them one in bringing the proclamation of the Gospel. Accompany their efforts to build a more fraternal world. Grant that they may bring the joy of forgiveness to all whom they meet, O Queen of Heaven!

"Mary, Help of Christians, for China we implore days of blessing and of peace. Amen!"

New Approaches Needed To Fight Hunger

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, spoke at a September 30 conference in New York. He states:

"I am pleased to have the opportunity ... to take part in the conference organized by the International Political Economy and Development (IPED) Program of Fordham University and the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP) - USA Foundation and to offer some brief remarks on the theme of discussion, namely, 'Reduce Hunger: Pope Francis' Call for New Approaches.'

"The consideration of the 'right to food' and its implication on reducing hunger and poverty have gained considerable attention in the international scene over the past couple of decades. As we know, the United Nations 2030 Agenda dedicated one of the seventeen SDGs, namely SDG 2, to 'end hunger, achieve food security, and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.' Undoubtedly, all of these aspects are strictly interconnected, which indicates also the awareness that, notwithstanding all the technological advances, the enjoyment of the right to food remains far from the needs of millions of people.

"In addition to being affirmed in numerous international declarations and documents, the 'right to food' and its corollary, reducing hunger, have long been part of the social doctrine of the Catholic Church as is witnessed in the teaching of the past several pontificates. The basis, of course, is scriptural, 'For I was hungry and you gave Me food' (Mt. 25:35). Our Lord confirms this imperative by adding: 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of Mine, you did for Me' (Mt. 25:40). With these words, we are immediately reminded that we have a duty, in solidarity with all human beings, to be concerned with the needs of others, because we are all part of the same human family, each created in the image and likeness of God.

"The reality that every person enjoys an inviolable dignity is manifest in the specific teaching of the Church, which has always defended the right to food. Pope Benedict remarked that: 'The right to food, with all that this implies, has an immediate repercussion on both the individual and communal dimensions, which bring together entire peoples and human groups'.[1]

"The reduction of hunger and a healthy and adequate nutrition are essential elements of the 'right to food.' Therefore, they should be part of those core 'fundamental' human rights, since they are considered an integral part of the right to life proper to every human being. Furthermore, there is a growing awareness that the elimination of hunger is a common good for society. As recalled in various legal instruments on human rights, the right to food means providing those means that allow every person and community to access, at all times, adequate and safe nutrition or the use of those resources necessary for their livelihood. This security must be provided in ways that are respectful of human dignity and of all different cultures and traditions.

"For those engaged in addressing the questions related to reducing hunger on the international level, the analysis proposed by the Magisterium of Pope Francis may be an effective tool for identifying challenges related to food security and the elimination of hunger applying them to the daily reality of peoples and communities: climate change, sources of clean energy, migration, trade, and the culture of waste. This last challenge is deeply connected with two other grave issues, which affect profoundly hunger and malnutrition, namely, food waste and overconsumption. 'Consumerism has induced us to be accustomed to excess and to the daily waste of food, whose value, which goes far beyond mere financial parameters, we are no longer able to judge correctly.'[2] The Holy Father expresses his approach clearly when he says: 'Faced with the increased demand for food, it is indispensable that the fruits of the land be available to all. For some it would be enough to reduce the number of mouths to feed and in this way solve the problem; but it is a false solution if we consider the levels of food waste and models of consumption that squander many resources. Reducing is easy; sharing instead demands conversion, and this is demanding.'[3]

"In this approach of Pope Francis, we see a rejection of those approaches that might look for a 'quick fix' solution to the problem of reducing hunger by sacrificing the very values that are essential to the promotion and protection of the human person and its rights. Hence, the Holy Father speaks of another avenue, one that respects the inviolable dignity of the human person, by calling on all people and institutions on every level to exercise the 'principle of humanity.' This term, common in international and diplomatic language, is an expression of the Christian duty to love one's neighbor. 'It is to be hoped that diplomacy and multilateral Institutions nurture and organize this capacity to love, because it is the royal road that guarantees not only food security, but human security in a global sense.'

"Translating the 'principle of humanity' into a concrete course of action that calls on the engagement of national and international players is eloquently posed by Pope Francis in these terms, which, in the end, provide a beautiful summary of his approach to reducing hunger. 'To love means to contribute so that every country increases its production and reaches food self-sufficiency. To love translates into thinking of new development and consumption models, and adopting policies that do not aggravate the situation of less advanced populations, or their external dependency. To love means not continuing to divide the human family into those who have more than they need, and those who lack the essentials.'[4]

"As with many of the social and humanitarian challenges confronting the international community, Pope Francis' approach to reducing hunger is not based on mere sentiment or a vague empathy. Rather, 'it is a call for justice, not a plea or an emergency appeal. There is a need for broad and sincere dialogue at all levels, so that the best solutions can emerge and a new relationship among the various actors on the international scene can mature, characterized by mutual responsibility, solidarity and communion.'[5] ...

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Message on the Occasion of World Food Day 2007, October 4, 2007.

[2] Pope Francis, General Audience, June 5, 2013.

[3] Pope Francis, Address to the FAO on World Food Day, October 16, 2017, n. 3.

[4] Ibid, n. 3.

[5] Ibid, n. 4

[01513-EN.01] [Original text: English]

Christians Face Increasing Persecution

Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relation with states and head of the Vatican delegation spoke at the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly on September 29. The meeting focused on "Freedom from Persecution: Christian Religious Minorities, Religious Pluralism in Danger." His address follows:

"... It is an indisputable historical fact that Christianity's beginning was in the Middle East. Yet the hard truth is that the ancient Christian communities are struggling in the region of Christianity's birth. The Christian population in the Middle East has decreased dramatically in recent years and, in some places, it may not survive no matter how deep its roots are.

"Christians have always co-existed with Muslims and have been part of the fabric of the Middle East. Such a self-evident fact serves to remind the world once more that the Christians have every right to live in peace and freedom. Indeed, across two millennia, the Christian communities in the Middle East have actively contributed to their respective societies. They were instrumental in the protection and promotion of ancient cultures in the region. The Syriac community still speaks and prays Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The Christian diaspora from the Middle East has spread its culture worldwide. During long periods in history, Christians and Muslims have lived peacefully side by side, in spite of sporadic cases of violence based on a political manipulation of religion or ethnicity.

"In recent decades, however, something shattered this relatively harmonious co-existence. Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East have endured difficulties, pressures, discrimination, and even deadly persecution. As the Chaldean Patriarch testified before the Security Council in May 2015, 'The Islamic extremist groups refuse to live with non-Muslims. They are persecuting and uprooting them from their homes and destroying all traces of their history,' an immense and irreplaceable patrimony of humanity.

"This is not only a religious question; this is an issue of fundamental human rights. While for Christians those who were killed for the faith are martyrs, for all people of faith or no faith they were victims of the most outrageous human rights violations. These heinous crimes demand therefore a response not only from Christians and other people of faith; before the law, they demand a response from public authorities, whose duty is to protect their people and provide them space in which to flourish, create harmonious societies, and be law-abiding citizens.

" 'Protection' is a primary responsibility of States toward all and every one of its citizens regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. During the first part of the sixteenth century, when the concept of national sovereign States was emerging, the Spanish Friar Francisco de Vitoria described the responsibility of governors to protect their citizens as an aspect of natural reason shared by all nations, and a rule for an 'international' order whose task is to regulate relations between peoples. The United Nations rests on this bedrock principle.

" 'Protection' becomes a more specific and urgent responsibility for a State when parts of the population, simply by the fact of their being minorities, targeted for persecution, are subjected to all forms of physical violence, subjugation, false detention, expropriation of property, enslavement, forced exile, murder, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against humanity.

"The duty to defend does not only refer to the 'responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity,' as defined in the 2005 World Summit Outcome,[1] but from all violations of their fundamental human rights and of their rights as citizens.

"Violations of the religious rights of minorities extend, in fact, beyond the most egregious violations like genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity; they also include various forms of discrimination built into legal and administrative structures, resulting in bureaucratic harassment and heavy administrative burdens with regard to building houses of worship and schools.

"Such protection, therefore, must extend beyond merely preventing the intended or actual annihilation of minorities, but must include examining and addressing the root causes of discrimination and persecution against them. In this regard, I would like to mention briefly three elements, which I consider as essential in our long-term efforts to address the root causes of persecution of and discrimination against religious minorities, indeed, all minorities.

"First, I believe that the key to protecting religious or ethnic minorities from persecution is full respect of the rule of law and full equality of all before the law based on the principle of citizenship, regardless of religious, racial, or ethnic differences. Laws must unequivocally guarantee the fundamental rights of all citizens without exception, including the right to religious freedom. Even in places where the law gives a special status to a particular religion, a law that deprives an individual or a community of fundamental freedoms is not a just law.

"This December, we mark the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Declaration establishes that 'all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law' (Art. 7). It guarantees 'freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance' (Art. 18). These fundamental freedoms must apply to all peoples in every corner of the globe: in Iraq, Syria, or Libya, just as much as in the United States, Italy, or Japan. Equality for all before the law must be an essential element in our advocacy in favor of the persecuted Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities -indeed, of every person - in the Middle East.

"Second, the recent savagery against religious or ethnic minorities has been perpetrated by violent non-state actors operating in States with weak institutions. The international community has a grave responsibility in the face of such atrocities that continue even as we speak. By universally adopting the 2005 World Summit Outcome, the international community committed itself to assisting States to exercise this responsibility to protect, to helping them build capacity to safeguard their populations from atrocity crimes, and to taking collective action in a timely and decisive manner.[2] The international community has been failing to act on this commitment. We must shake it from its inertia and divisions.

"Third, if we have failed to guard the religious and ethnic minorities from having been subjected to the most egregious violations of their fundamental human rights, then we must work to restore their rights. Justice for survivors demands not only justice against the perpetrators of the crimes; it also demands that we seek to return to them, as much as possible, what had been taken from them. This means ensuring the conditions for religious and ethnic minorities to return to their places of origin and live in dignity and safety, with the basic social, economic, and political frameworks necessary to ensure community cohesion. It is not enough to rebuild homes, schools, and houses of worship, which is a crucial step, as is happening in various towns in the Nineveh Plain thanks to the generosity of governments like Hungary or charitable organizations like Aid to the Church in Need or the Knights of Columbus. It is also imperative to rebuild society by laying the foundations for peaceful coexistence on the basis of citizenship.

"This list is far from exhaustive, but achieving them would already go a long way in protecting the persecuted religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East and beyond.

"I wish to conclude by recalling the grave and specific responsibility of religious leaders to confront and condemn the abuse of religious belief and sentiment to justify terrorism and violence against believers of other religions. They must teach a firm and clear 'No!' to every form of violence, vengeance, and hatred carried out in the name of religion or in the name of God, and an equally firm and clear 'Yes!' to the right of every person in conscience to follow God as he or she believes that God is summoning him or her to worship and follow Him. If the fundamental freedom of conscience and belief were respected, we would not need any 'special' or 'specific protection' for anyone ..."

[1] 2005 World Summit Outcome, 138-139.

[2] 2005 World Summit Outcome, 138-139.

Ministry Serves Needy Children

by Michael Halm

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, Mary's Meals Founder and CEO, explains their mission as making sure "every child receives one daily meal in their place of education and that all those who have more then they need, share with those who lack even the most basic things."

It began when his family traveled from Argyll, Scotland, to Medjugorje in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1983. It renewed his family's Catholic faith and led Magnus' parents to convert their guesthouse into a retreat center or Family House of Prayer. Magnus and his brother Fergus were enjoying a pint in their local pub when they saw TV news report of the Bosnian conflict. They felt moved to help those suffering. The public support however did not stop, but spread to other countries.

He asked Edward in Malawi, what he hoped for in life. Edward replied simply, "I want to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day." Today Mary's Meals serves over a million children across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and South America.

"What's important to us is the hungry child," he explains. "When there are hungry children in front of us today, we're going to feed them, and at the same time we're going to work on the solution to getting them fed in the long term, creating a global movement of people who believe in this vision.

"Mary's Meals is a series of lots of little acts of love. If you put all those acts of sacrifice together, it creates a beautiful thing."

Patrick Aoun, 10, Izivale Private School, Montserrado, Liberia, says, "I am able to come to school every day. Before I had to stay at home because of hunger. I love studying science and I'd like to be a scientist when I grow up."

Head teacher Moses Niderema, Kagolo Primary School, Malawi, says, "Before Mary's Meals the children had nothing to eat all day at school. They were always tired and had no energy or enthusiasm. Now they are very participative indeed and their stomachs are full!"

Dossou Ninmata, a cook at Hondji School, Benin, says, "This meal is very important for the children, not only for better learning, but also for their safety, as they can stay in school during noon breaks instead of searching for food."

Many children, teachers, and volunteers observed the positive physical effects that the school feeding program is making. School attendance improved and absences attributed to hunger were eliminated completely.

Teachers reported a reduction in the number of children dropping out of school due to hunger and observed that progression and completion rates had improved. They said there are increased feelings of happiness at school and decreased levels of anxiety due to hunger.

"Generation Hope" is a short film that can be viewed on-line, filmed on location in Malawi, Haiti and india. Generation Hope shows the extraordinary difference receiving a daily meal in school can make to children growing up in some of the world's poorest communities. It comes from the same director as "Child 31," an award-winning first film, and is inspired by stories from Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow's bestselling book, The Shed That Fed A Million Children.

Hollywood actor Gerald Butler is among many celebrities that have given their support to "Child 31." He also appears in the film and has visited our project in Liberia. He says, "I've seen a lot of these communities becoming more energized and alive, and what Mary's Meals does is to help create a sense of Community that goes way beyond the feeing program itself."

"Despite our various backgrounds, races, religions, languages, and situations," he says, "we consider ourselves one big family working towards a common goal. Together, we are helping to transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of impoverished children around the world."

Light to the Nations

(A Christian Perspective on World News)

Vocation Awareness Week Encourages Young People

WASHINGTON - The Catholic Church in the United States will celebrate National Vocation Awareness Week, November 4-10. This annual event is a special time for parishes in the U.S. to foster a culture of vocations for the priesthood, diaconate, and consecrated life.

Pope Francis, in his message for the 2018 World Day of Vocations, emphasized that it is at the loving initiative of God, and by His personal encounter with each of us, that one is called. "Even amid these troubled times, the mystery of the Incarnation reminds us that God continually comes to encounter us. He is God-with-us, who walks along the often dusty paths of our lives. He knows our anxious longing for love and He calls us to joy. In the diversity and the uniqueness of each and every vocation, personal and ecclesial, there is a need to listen, discern, and live this word that calls to us from on high and, while enabling us to develop our talents, makes us instruments of salvation in the world and guides us to full happiness."

National Vocation Awareness Week, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, is designed to help promote vocation awareness and to encourage young people to ask the question: "To what vocation in life is God calling me?" Parish and school communities across the nation are encouraged to include, during the first week in November, special activities that focus on vocation awareness and provide opportunities for prayerful discernment.

Contemporary society is all too often saturated by constant activity and noise, so it is important this week to encourage young discerners to take time for silent, contemplative prayer. Results of studies conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), notes that 72% of those ordained to the Priesthood or solemnly professed within the last year cited participation in Eucharistic Adoration as a prayer experience that proved influential in their discernment. Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Chairman of the USCCB's Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations echoes this finding, stating: "Quiet reflection and prayer are essential elements for vocational discernment. It is in the interior depths of our heart where we hear the voice of Christ, where He speaks to us, and where He reveals His will for our lives."

Observance of Vocation Awareness Week began in 1976 when the U.S. bishops designated the 28th Sunday of the year for the celebration. It was later moved to the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord in January. The USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations moved the observance of National Vocation Awareness Week to November to engage Catholic schools and colleges more effectively in this effort.

More information and resources for National Vocation Awareness Week, including a prayer card, suggested prayers of the faithful and bulletin-ready quotes are available online at:

(Source: USCCB press release)

Edge To Edge

Pray The News

Because we are sons and daughters of God, saved by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we do not merely read the news but make the news. We direct the course of world events by faith expressed in action and intercession. Please pray for the stories covered in this paper. Clip out this intercessory list and make it part of your daily prayer.

  • We pray that we will hear the cry of the poor and will respond with love, compassion, and solidarity.
  • We pray for wisdom for Church and civil leaders.
  • We pray for persecuted Christians throughout the world.
  • We pray for the Church in China to be strong in faith.
  • We pray that we will live lives of joy and thanksgiving to God.
  • We pray that we will have God's heart for migrants and refugees.
  • We pray for the faithful departed and the souls in purgatory.
  • We pray for all victims of natural disasters and all first responders.
  • We pray for God's wisdom in addressing isues facing the world, including migration, hunger, and violence.
  • We pray in thanksgiving for the sacrifice of all veterans.
  • We pray for an end to violence and war and for peace throughout the world.
  • We pray for an end to abortion, euthanasia, and all attacks against life and for the victory of the civilization of love and life over the culture of death.

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